Titan Has Even More in Common With Earth Than We Thought

Mapping Titan

After years of sorting through data from the legendary Cassini mission, researchers from Cornell University have finally created a full map of the surface of Saturn’s largest moon, Titan. Researchers have used the new topographical map to discover something about the moon that makes it more Earth-like than we could have ever imagined: Titan has a global sea level.

Ever since Cassini gave us our first up-close look at the moon, scientists have used images from Cassini to explore its similarities to Earth. Previously, researchers had confirmed the presence of hydrocarbon oceans on the moon’s surface, but according to the new analysis, these oceans have a common equipotential surface (or sea level) — just as oceans do on Earth.

Both studies have been published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

Cassini spots a methane sea on Titan. Image Credit: NASA
Cassini spots a methane sea on Titan. Image Credit: NASA

The finding is remarkable enough on its own, but it’s also incredible to think we were able to make such an observation about a moon that’s 930 million miles away from the sun. In an interview with the Cornell Chronicle, Cornell astronomer Alex Hayes put that achievement in context, saying “We’re measuring the elevation of a liquid surface on another body 10 astronomical units away from the Sun to an accuracy of roughly 40 centimetres.”

Additionally, Hayes believes it’s possible that the hydrocarbon lakes on Titan are flowing and communicating with one another on the subsurface level — which would suggest that there could be even more liquid hydrocarbon on Titan than previously thought.

Titan v. Europa

Titan is not the only moon in the Solar System with Earth-like qualities. Observations of Europa, an icy moon of Jupiter, have led some to believe it could potentially hold extraterrestrial lifeNASA is even planning to send a lander to Europa to further explore the potential for the moon to support organic life; an effort supported by the ESA. The two space agencies will partner up with the goal of launching the mission in the mid-2020’s.

Even with the most recent discovery made about Titan, many still favor Europa in the search for extraterrestrial life. Europa’s oceans have a chemical makeup similar to oceans on Earth, but Titan is the only place in the Solar System (that we know of) other than Earth that has a dense atmosphere, a stable liquid on the surface — and now — a global sea level.

These findings could also impact the New Frontiers program, a series of space exploration missions conducted by NASA.Dragonfly, one of the final candidates for the program’s next mission, aims to send a semiautonomous quad-copter to the surface of Titan. In a teleconference announcing the finalists, Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, D.C.,  said NASA selected the finalists “based on their outstanding and visionary science,”

These findings could certainly make a mission Titan more attractive, and while the discovery of a global sea level is incredible, it may only be the tip of the iceberg. We won’t know for sure what awaits discovery on Saturn’s largest moon until we get there.

The post Titan Has Even More in Common With Earth Than We Thought appeared first on Futurism.


Building a SaaS product? Avoid these 6 common mistakes at all costs

As an up-and-coming software as a service (SaaS) business founder, you face some risks. Risk-taking is inherent to building a business and making mistakes is also often inherent to starting your own company. I’m a nontechnical founder myself who now runs the fastest growing sourcing platform that helps hundreds of companies produce products around the world. As we’ve scaled, I’ve made a ton of mistakes that I could’ve learned from others. Some of the world’s most recognizable SaaS businesses talk about their failures openly so they can help others in the industry avoid similar issues. That’s why I’m sharing my…

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10 Common Mistakes You Should Stop Making with Your iPhone

Smartphone users want their devices to run optimally for as long as they can. That’s a no-brainer. But there are, in fact, quite a few mistakes that the average iPhone user makes regularly. Here are 10 common mistakes you should be mindful of, according to Apple, Genius Bar and support staff, and other technicians. Press the right arrow to begin.

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Common Insecticides are Poisoning Songbirds

Insecticides Are Toxic to More Than Just Pests

Two of the most commonly used insecticides around the world are imidacloprid (neonicotinoid) and chlorpyrifos (organophosphate). In a new paper, published in the journal Scientific Reportsthey have been found to be toxic to seed-eating songbirds, even affecting their migration. These insecticides have previously been studied for their effects on declining bee populations, but now it is clear that other animals are also suffering as a result of the presence of these substances.

University of Saskatchewan biology professor Christy Morrissey stated in a press release, “Studies on the risks of neonicotinoids have often focused on bees that have been experiencing population declines. However, it is not just bees that are being affected by these insecticides.”

Margaret Eng, a post-doctoral fellow in Morrissey’s lab who led the research study, said, “These chemicals are having a strong impact on songbirds. We are seeing significant weight loss and the birds’ migratory orientation being significantly altered. Effects were seen from eating the equivalent of just three to four imidacloprid treated canola seeds or eight chlorpyrifos granules a day for three days.”

Effects on Songbirds

According to Morrissey, how insecticide is currently used is making it more likely to affect birds now than in the past. While it used to be sprayed on fields with crop dusters, farmers are now able to plant seeds coated with neonicotinoids. Birds not only eat the toxic seeds, but might mistake chlorpyrifos pellets for grit, which they eat to help their body digest seeds.

You might think that, while bees are an obvious loss to the ecosystem, songbirds might not be as important. However, songbirds are an integral and irreplaceable part of forest environments. In a still relevant study from 1994, researchers showed that different types of songbirds eat bugs that eat leaves, which in turn protects the plants. They are critically important to the productivity and health of the trees and forests.

Insecticides have detrimental effects on songbirds like this sparrow.
Researchers captured sparrows to test the effects insecticides have on songbirds. Image Credit: David Friel via Wikimedia Commons

The insecticides have devastating and quick-acting effects on songbirds. They lost up to 25% of both their body mass and fat stores in addition to becoming lethargic and not eating as much (both signs of acute poisoning). They also became confused when attempting to migrate, unable to successfully orient themselves.

Eng added, “We were encouraged that most birds survived, and could recover following the cessation of dosing. But the effects we saw were severe enough that the birds would likely experience migratory delays or changes in their flight routes that could reduce their chance of survival, or cause a missed breeding opportunity.”

Morrissey stated that Canada is considering a ban on both types of pesticides that were involved in the study, and we still don’t know what the long-term ramifications of their use on humans and the environment will be. Hopefully the team’s research will have a positive impact on regulating these toxic substances.

The post Common Insecticides are Poisoning Songbirds appeared first on Futurism.


2 Most Common iPhone X Issues Reported by Reviewers

Since reports of its existence began circulating earlier this year, all eyes have been focused on Apple’s high-end iPhone X. Whether it was one of the near-weekly leaks, analyst predictions, or updates on the latest production delays, there’s little doubt that Apple’s iPhone X is among its most highly-publicized and highly-anticipated devices on record.

Of course, now that it’s just days away from launching, some of the web’s most prominent reviewers have gotten a chance to spend some hands-on time with the radically-redesigned handset — and while the majority of first impressions are saturated with praise for the expectedly awesome iPhone X, we couldn’t help but wonder if there was anything at all that they didn’t like about it.

1 Gestures Learning Curve

Perhaps the most poignant of early iPhone X reviews was published earlier this week by Slate, whose bold title “The iPhone X Takes Hand Gestures Too Far” fittingly sums up the scope of how they feel about it. While correspondent Christina Bonnington expressed how she believes that iPhone X is “a big step in the evolution of the product,” she also pointed to annoyances such as Apple’s apparent over-implementation of hand gesture-based navigation controls, citing how it’s an issue which “could be one of the rare instances that Apple eventually backpedals on a major feature.”

Bonnington notes specifically that even some of the iPhone X’s more basic hand gestures can be “difficult to learn,” while CNN correspondent Heather Kelly echoed those sentiments, indicating in a separate report how she thought the hand gesture-based method of accessing Control Center on iPhone X, particularly, is “its biggest inconvenience.”

In all fairness, we knew iPhone X was going to lack a hardware Home button from the get-go. And while its omission obviously entails that users will have to learn and adjust, it’s more likely that your experience “getting acquainted” with the device will vary based on several factors — ultimately how patient and understanding you are.

2 Face ID Isn’t Perfect

In another early review of the high-end handset, CNET’s tech correspondent, Scott Stein, offers a wealth of praise for the iPhone X, lauding its most notable new features like Face ID and Animoji, its gorgeous edge-to-edge AMOLED display, and superior camera quality through both the front- and rear-facing lenses.

However while Stein notes that “Face ID works pretty well,” ultimately, in his testing, “it’s far from perfect.” He mentions while the biometric facial recognition feature “worked well in early tests” and was quick to set-up, adding that it worked perfectly in “an almost completely dark room,” to boot, Stein asserts that certain elements of the iPhone X UI make Face ID slightly less intuitive.

“By design, the iPhone X doesn’t unlock with just a glance,” Stein says, noting “once you’ve identified yourself with your face, you need to swipe up with your finger to get to your apps.” Not only does this “remove the immediacy of Face ID,” but “it means you need your hand” to do just about anything on the device. “Quick access to the phone wasn’t quite as quick as I expected.”

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