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As autonomy stalls, lidar companies learn to adapt

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Lidar sensors are likely to be essential to autonomous vehicles, but if there are none of the latter, how can you make money with the former? Among the industry executives I spoke with, the outlook is optimistic as they unhitch their wagons from the sputtering star of self-driving cars. As it turns out, a few years of manic investment does wonders for those who have the wisdom to apply it properly.

The show floor at CES 2020 was packed with lidar companies exhibiting in larger spaces, seemingly in greater numbers than before. That seemed at odds with reports that 2019 had been a sort of correction year for the industry, so I met with executives and knowledgeable types at several companies to hear their take on the sector’s transformation over the last couple of years.

As context, 2017 was perhaps peak lidar, nearing the end of several years of nearly feverish investment in a variety of companies. It was less a gold rush than a speculative land rush: autonomous vehicles were purportedly right around the corner and each would need a lidar unit… or five. The race to invest in a winner was on, leading to an explosion of companies claiming ascendancy over their rivals.

Unfortunately, as many will recall, autonomous cars seem to be no closer today than they were then, as the true difficulty of the task dawned on those undertaking it.

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Olympics, International Olympic Committee Twitter accounts hacked

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Twitter said on Saturday that an official Twitter account of the Olympics and the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) media Twitter account had been hacked and temporarily locked.

The accounts were hacked through a third-party platform, a spokesperson for the social media platform said in an emailed statement, without giving further details.

READ MORE: Kenney government’s energy ‘war room’ chief apologizes for tweets attacking New York Times

“As soon as we were made aware of the issue, we locked the compromised accounts and are working closely with our partners to restore them,” the Twitter spokesperson said.

A spokesperson for the IOC separately said that the IOC was investigating the potential breach.

Twitter advises Android users to update their app
Twitter advises Android users to update their app

Twitter also said Spanish soccer club FC Barcelona’s account faced a similar incident on Saturday.

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“FC Barcelona will conduct a cybersecurity audit and will review all protocols and links with third party tools, in order to avoid such incidents,” the soccer club said in a tweet after the hack.

READ MORE: Twitter accounts belonging to Facebook hacked

Last month, the official Twitter accounts of several U.S. National Football League (NFL) teams, including the San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs, were hacked a few days ahead of the Super Bowl.

Earlier this month, some of Facebook’s official Twitter accounts were briefly compromised.

The top Canadian Twitter trends of 2019
The top Canadian Twitter trends of 2019

© 2020 Reuters

Source: Global News

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Astronauts get cravings too: International Space Station to receive candy, cheese

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A cargo ship rocketed toward the International Space Station on Saturday, carrying candy and cheese to satisfy the astronauts’ cravings.

Northrop Grumman launched its Cygnus capsule from the Virginia seashore. The nearly 4-ton shipment should arrive at the orbiting lab Tuesday. It took three tries over the past week to get the Antares rocket off the pad, with it finally taking flight at 3:21 p.m. — an auspicious 3-2-1.

READ MORE: All-female NASA astronaut team wraps up battery improvements outside ISS

“Awesome launch,” Joel Montalbano, NASA’s deputy space station program manager, said once the capsule reached orbit.

Besides the usual experiments and gear, the capsule holds cheddar and manchego cheeses, fresh fruit and vegetables, chocolate and three kinds of gummy candy expressly requested by the three station astronauts: Skittles, Hot Tamales, and Mike and Ike’s.

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Record-setting astronaut receives warm welcome home from 4-legged friend
Record-setting astronaut receives warm welcome home from 4-legged friend

Periodic supply runs by Russia, Japan and NASA’s two private shippers, Northrop Grumman and SpaceX, usually provide more than experiments, equipment, clothes and freeze-dried meals. The capsules also bring family care packages, as well as fresh food to offset the run-of-the-mill station grub.

This latest delivery should have arrived well before Valentine’s Day. But last-minute equipment concerns at the Wallops Island launch pad halted last Sunday’s countdown for the Antares rocket, then bad weather moved in. Dangerously high wind scuttled Friday’s attempt.

READ MORE: Canada’s newest astronauts finish basic training at NASA in Texas

This was the company’s 13th space station delivery for NASA. The Cygnus capsules get their name from the Swan Constellation.

This particular Cygnus has been christened the SS Robert H. Lawrence in honor of America’s first black astronaut. Lawrence, an Air Force major, was chosen in 1967 as an astronaut for a classified military space program known as the Manned Orbiting Laboratory. He was killed five months later in a plane crash and never flew in space.

NASA-ESA Solar Orbiter launches on historic mission to the sun
NASA-ESA Solar Orbiter launches on historic mission to the sun

The space station is now home for Americans Jessica Meir and Andrew Morgan and Russian Oleg Skripochka. Morgan has been up there since July and the two others since September; they’ll remain on board until April. Three other astronauts returned to Earth earlier this month.

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Until astronaut launches resume from Florida — possibly by SpaceX this spring — the station crew will be limited in size to three. NASA astronauts now launch on Russian rockets from Kazakhstan.

Boeing, NASA’s other commercial crew provider, is struggling with software problems in its astronaut capsule. A December test flight was marred by coding errors.

© 2020 The Canadian Press

Source: Global News

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Experts are scanning the stars for ‘technosignatures’ from alien civilisations

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Milky way rising behind Radio Telescope Observatory
The Milky Way rising behind the Radio Telescope Observatory (Getty Images)

Alien hunters are scaling up their efforts in the search for an intelligent civilisation somewhere out in the void of space.

Experts at the SETI Institute, an organisation dedicated to tracking extraterrestrial intelligence, are developing state-of-the-art techniques to detect signatures from space that indicate the possibility of extraterrestrial existence.

These so-called ‘technosignatures’ can range from the chemical composition of a planet’s atmosphere, to laser emissions, to structures orbiting other stars, among others, they said.

Dr Tony Beasley, director of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) telescope based in Virginia, US, said: ‘Determining whether we are alone in the universe as technologically capable life is among the most compelling questions in science.’

SETI scientists plan to develop a system that will ‘piggyback’ on the Very Large Array (VLA) telescope based in Mexico and provide data to their technosignature search system.

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Dr Beasley added: ‘As the VLA conducts its usual scientific observations, this new system will allow for an additional and important use for the data we’re already collecting.’

Life forms, whether intelligent or not, can produce detectable indicators such as large amounts of oxygen, smaller amounts of methane, and a variety of other chemicals, the experts said.

Conceptual image of a group of aliens
Aliens may be sending signals through the stars to us (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

MORE: Extraterrestrial life is out there and SETI is busy looking for it

So in addition, scientists are also developing computer models to simulate extraterrestrial environments that can help support future searches for habitable planets and life beyond the solar system.

Victoria Meadows, principal investigator for Nasa’s Virtual Planetary Laboratory at the University of Washington, which studies to detect exoplanetary habitability, said: ‘Upcoming telescopes in space and on the ground will have the capability to observe the atmospheres of Earth-sized planets orbiting nearby cool stars, so it’s important to understand how best to recognise signs of habitability and life on these planets.

‘These computer models will help us determine whether an observed planet is more or less likely to support life.’

Meanwhile, SETI’s Breakthrough Listen Initiative, which launched in 2015 to ‘listen’ for signals of alien life, has released nearly two petabytes of data from the most comprehensive survey yet of radio emissions from the plane of the Milky Way galaxy and the region around its central black hole.

The organisation is now inviting the public to search the data, gathered from various telescopes around the world, and look for signals from intelligent civilisations.

Explorer looking to star on sky at night. Concept astronaut, astronomer, discovery and space study
Are we alone in the universe? (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

MORE: Confirmation of alien life ‘now seems inevitable’ claims researcher

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Yuri Milner, an entrepreneur and founder of the Breakthrough initiative, said: ‘For the whole of human history, we had a limited amount of data to search for life beyond Earth.

‘So, all we could do was speculate.

‘Now, as we are getting a lot of data, we can do real science and, with making this data available to general public, so can anyone who wants to know the answer to this deep question.’

The initiatives and strategies in expanding the search for extraterrestrial life were presented at the the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Seattle.

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Source: Metro News

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