Four Notable Things About the Most Distant Star Scientists Have Ever Glimpsed

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Between the glowing blue and yellow swirls of distant galaxies, this tiny pinprick of light doesn’t look like much: a white smudge on the infinite black of the universe.

But this tiny speck has enormous significance for astronomers. It’s the most distant star ever seen, affording astronomers a glimpse back in time.

Images showing how astronomers spotted the most distant star imaged, which was not visible in 2011 but popped up in 2016 thanks to gravitational lensing.
Icarus, the most distant star ever imaged, wasn’t visible in previous years (2011); it was only thanks to gravitational lensing that it twinkled into view (2016). Image credit: NASA, ESA, P KELLY/University of Minnesota

The star, MACS J1149+2223 Lensed Star 1 (more simply known as “Icarus”) was about 9 billion light years away when it emitted the light now reaching Earth. Most other objects spotted at this distance are either galaxies or exploding stars (AKA supernovas), which produce much more light than this distant glimmer.

Thanks to the constant expansion of the universe, Icarus would now be much further away from our planet; by now, it’s probably gone supernova itself, and formed either a black hole or neutron star. (For why we can still view it, though, see #3.)

Here are four things you should know about this distant galactic neighbor, and why we’re just seeing it for the first time.

1. Spotting Icarus was a stroke of good luck

Icarus is so far away that we technically shouldn’t be able to see it: it’s about 100 times further away than the most distant star telescopes have been able to view before now. Fortunately, astronomers got a little bit of help from the universe in spotting it (and the Hubble telescope, props to that).

Icarus was visible because of an astronomical phenomenon called gravitational lensing. In short, the gravity of large, stacked-up celestial objects (in this case, a cluster of galaxies) bend light, creating a magnifying glass-effect for anything behind them. Overall, researchers told The Guardian, Icarus was magnified more than 2,000 times.

Icarus also got a special boost from an extra-magnifying star within the galaxy cluster, making it appear four times brighter over the course of the time the astronomers studied it. Thank you, physics.

2. The star is a blue supergiant

Icarus would be an oddity in the universe — if it were still around. Analysis of the star’s light showed it was a blue supergiant, one of the hottest and highest-mass stars we know of; the blue supergiant Rigel A, the bright left “foot” of the constellation Orion, is 23 times more massive than the sun, and estimated to be several hundred thousand times brighter.

Stars like Icarus and Rigel are rare in the universe today, but in the early universe, they were common; according to io9, most of the early stars were blue supergiants at some point in their lives.

That makes sense, since Icarus’ distant light is actually somewhat like a time machine.

3. Icarus gives a view back in time

The universe is way, way bigger than you can probably comprehend. And because of this astronomical (sorry) size, it can take a really long time for light to reach Earth from the cosmic wilderness. Even traveling at its immense speeds, by the time light from this distant star reached Earth, 9 billion years had passed.

When Icarus released the photons currently hitting the Hubble’s cameras, Earth hadn’t even formed yet — it would be another 4.4 billion years before our solar system even began to coalesce from the dust of the universe. Such distant views of the universe are helping astronomers learn about what the universe was like before our time, even giving us glimpses back to the moments after the Big Bang.

4. The view let scientists test dark matter theory

The Guardian reports that the team also used their view of Icarus to test a theory about dark matter, the mysterious substance that makes up 27 percent of the universe (its counterpart, dark energy, makes up another 68 percent). One theory proposed that dark matter was made of black holes, but what the researchers saw of Icarus didn’t support that theory — looking back at a decade of Hubble images, they didn’t see Icarus’ brightness vary over time. If the black-hole-dark-matter theory was correct, the star would have appeared brighter.

In the coming years, scientists hope to peer even further into our universe’s history with more powerful telescopes, like the James Webb Space Telescope and the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST). Recent budget cuts from the White House threatened the future of WFIRST. If the government was unsure just how much these space telescopes could accomplish, this discovery from their predecessor might serve as an apt reminder.

The post Four Notable Things About the Most Distant Star Scientists Have Ever Glimpsed appeared first on Futurism.

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Bloomberg: Apple is working on iPhones with designs and features like nothing we’ve ever seen

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iPhone X Plus Release Date

Apple’s tenth-anniversary iPhone X marked the first big redesign on the company’s smartphones since 2014, when Apple finally relented and released an iPhone “phablet” with a significantly larger display. Earlier iPhone models all had screens that measured between 3.5 inches and 4 inches diagonally, even as customers clamored for an iPhone with a bigger screen. The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus would end up flying off of store shelves as a result of the pent-up demand for bigger iPhones, and their sales record would still stand today if Apple’s holiday quarter the following year didn’t include an extra week.

But the iPhone X redesign was far more substantial than the iPhone 6 and even the iPhone 6 Plus phablet. The handset’s iconic home button was completely removed so that the phone could adopt an “all-screen” design, and some fancy internal engineering allowed Apple to extend the display almost all the way to the bottom of the phone. Touch ID fingerprint authentication, which had become a staple that was copied by every other smartphone maker in the world, was also removed and replaced by a new 3D facial recognition system called Face ID.

The iPhone X was indeed a bold reimagining of the iPhone, and it looks like Apple has no plans to stop there. According to a new report, Apple is working on new iPhone designs and new features that are unlike anything we’ve ever seen before from Apple.

Bloomberg on Wednesday issued a new report that may offer some insights into Apple’s plans for the iPhone of the future. We’re not talking about the distant future here, but rather a few years from now. The site has a good track record when it comes to Apple’s unannounced plans, so this may indeed be our first taste of things to come from the most successful consumer tech company in the world.

According to the report, Apple is working on both new designs and new features for its iPhone lineup that are unlike anything we’ve seen before from the Cupertino, California-based company. Bloomberg says Apple is internally developing “touchless gesture control” features that would let an iPhone user “perform some tasks by moving [his or her] finger close to the screen without actually tapping it.”

It’s unclear what exactly would be gained by moving one’s finger in front of the screen rather than tapping it. Apple does have several patents on glasses-free 3D display technology, however, and the company has also been researching various holographic display features. It’s possible that these touchless gestures could be tied to one of those solutions, though Bloomberg’s report makes no mention of holographic displays or glasses-free 3D images. The report does cite one unnamed source as indicating that this technology won’t make its way into Apple’s iPhone lineup for “at least two years,” if at all, so we’ll undoubtedly learn more about it soon.

On the design front, the report claims that Apple is working on curved screens for future iPhone models. Again citing just one anonymous source, Bloomberg says Apple is “developing iPhone displays that curve inward gradually from top to bottom.” This is a curious claim for a few reasons, but the biggest is the claim that Apple is considering the move “to differentiate design in crowded marketplace.” Apple is not a company that has been known to do things just to differentiate its products from competitive offerings.

On top of that, phones with screens that “curve inward gradually from top to bottom” are nothing new. LG released two different smartphones with that exact design, but then abandoned the “G Flex” line due to a lack of interest from consumers.

The only way we could see this rumor making sense is if the curvature of the phone serves an important purpose. For example, if Apple is indeed working on touchless gesture control, a slight curve could help Apple better position cameras and sensors in order to detect movements close to the screen. This is just speculation on our part, however.

Bloomberg notes that the new curved iPhone design and Apple’s supposed touchless gestures are “still in the early research and development stage and Apple could choose to not go forward with the enhancements.”

Apple – BGR

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4 iPhone Apps That Make Retouching Photos Easier Than Ever

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Retouching has long been a standard practice in professional photography, but you don’t need to learn how to use Photoshop to make your selfies look better.

All you need is the right mobile photo retouching app and a bit of practice. The hardest part of retouching your headshot is knowing when to stop making adjustments.

In an endless sea of iPhone photo retouching apps, only these four are worth your time.

Advice on Using These Apps

You should feel free to edit and share your photos in any way you see fit. At the same time, you shouldn’t feel compelled to use photo retouching apps unless you really want to. Don’t let anyone tell you that your pictures don’t look good enough, or that using an app to edit a photo is inherently bad. It’s not.

With that in mind, some of these apps require a little more restraint to avoid results that can seem overdone. In particular, warping certain features will also affect background objects like straight lines. From a photo editing standpoint, the more natural and true to life your edits appear, the better.

Remember: how you choose to present yourself on social media is up to you, and only you. There’s a huge amount of pressure associated with the image we project on networks like Facebook and Instagram. This pressure has always existed in some form or another.

Though retouching apps emerged alongside this trend, that doesn’t mean they are inherently bad.

1. Best Premium Retouching App: Facetune

Facetune iPhone photo retouching app

It might not have been the first iPhone photo retouching app, but it’s arguably the best. Facetune includes a whole range of tools in one purpose-built package. It’s designed from the ground up to augment your facial features, and it’s yours for a one-off fee.

You won’t find a better assembly of tools for the job. You can whiten your teeth, smooth over your skin, highlight details like eyes, and correct blemishes with patch healing. There’s a liquify effect that allows you to reshape your features, plus skin tone adjustment, selective defocusing, and some built-in filters.

Facetune includes a tutorial for each tool, complete with video showing the effect in action. There are a ton of included pictures to try out, and not a single in-app purchase or subscription in sight. You can undo changes and preview the original image while you work.

Best of all, since Facetune holds your hand while performing edits, you don’t need to show quite as much restraint as you do with the other apps on the list. It’s harder to create a monster, but it’s still fun.

Download: Facetune ($ 4)

2. Best Free Retouching App: Photoshop Fix

Photoshop Fix iPhone photo retouching app

If you like the look of Facetune but aren’t into paying $ 4 for the privilege, Photoshop Fix is the app for you. This version of Photoshop isn’t quite as straightforward as Facetune is. You’ll need to learn how to use a few of the included tools before you put them to best use.

Adobe includes a good range of retouching tools, and you don’t need a Creative Cloud subscription to use any of them. The Lighten tool is great for teeth whitening, the Smooth tool makes light work of uneven skin, and correcting spots and blemishes is easy with the Healing brush.

The real standout feature is Adobe’s Liquify tool, which allows you to make subtle (and not-so-subtle) adjustments to your features. Use it to widen a smile or tuck your chin, but don’t go too far and keep an eye on any straight lines or objects in the background.

You’ll also get some handy basic photo editing tools, a saturation brush, selective defocusing, vignetting, and a standard paint brush. You’ll need a (free) Adobe account to use this one.

Download: Photshop Fix (Free)

3. Worth Consideration: Pixlr

Pixlr iPhone photo editor

Pixlr is a web-based photo editor, and this is the iOS version of that web app. It’s completely free, with no in-app purchases or restrictions. Like Photoshop Fix, this isn’t purpose-built face tuning software. You’ll be left to your own devices when applying edits.

There’s a brighten tool for whitening teeth and a darken tool to add contrast or deepen shadows. You can retouch skin with the smoothing tool and fix blemishes with the healing tool. There’s also a blur brush for selective defocusing, and red eye removal if ever you need it.

Since Pixlr is more of a general photo editor, you’ll also get some more standard tools that are great for all kinds of editing. You can add filters, overlays, or stylize your image with the included presets. There’s also a good number of frames and text effects, which might come in handy sometime.

Download: Pixlr (Free)

4. Worth Consideration: Photo Editor by Aviary

Photo Editor by Aviary iPhone photo editor

Aviary is an ordinary photo editor, but it includes a few tools which make it a perfect selfie-retouching app. The standout feature is a foolproof teeth whitener, but there’s also red eye correction, blemish removal, and selective defocusing too.

You can use the blur tool on skin with decent results, or sharpen eyes and other features to draw attention to them. Additionally, auto-enhance scene modes designed for night and portrait shots might help somewhat.

Unfortunately Aviary lacks a liquify tool, so you can’t make warp adjustments to your image. Combined with the full set of standard photo editing tools, though, Aviary is a great app to keep around.

Download: Aviary (Free)

Other iPhone Retouching Apps We Tried

There are a lot of photo retouching apps available on the App Store, but the vast majority aren’t worth your time. Most are free with in-app purchases, others use a credit system to limit free usage, and some even have a subscription model.

You’ll want to skip the freemium Facetune 2 since paying $ 4 for the standard version is a better deal. Microsoft’s two “enhanced” iOS cameras, Pix and Selfie, are lacking in features. ModiFace Photo Editor has not been optimized for larger iOS devices, so the interface is ugly.

That developer’s other app, Modiface Live, is better but ultimately more of a toy for trying out cosmetics than a serious photo tool. Facetune and Photoshop Fix remain the best options.

And don’t forget these tips for taking a great selfie!

iPhone and iPad – MakeUseOf

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With the Most Reused Parts Ever, SpaceX’s Mission Successfully Sent Its Cargo to the ISS

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Unlike the hit song played nonstop on the radio or your mother questioning you about when you’re going to give her grandchildren, rocket launches are one thing that never gets old. That’s lucky, because SpaceX has done two in the span of just four days. Today, the company again launched its Falcon 9 rocket, this time with 2,630 kilograms (5800 pounds) of deliveries to the International Space Station, from the base in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

The theme for this launch: reusable. One of the Falcon boosters first flew on the CRS-12 mission in August 2017. And this particular Dragon module flew in April 2016, on the CRS-8 mission. It’s the first time two reused (or, as SpaceX calls it, “flight-proven”) components have been combined in a single mission.

This marks SpaceX’s 14th successful flight for Dragon, and 15th flight overall (CRS-7, in 2015, failed before reaching orbit). It’s the end of the line for this particular first stage — SpaceX did not attempt to recover it, though the engineers did gather information about it to improve future missions.

Today’s launch was perfectly choreographed, no surprises. It’s a testament to how efficiently SpaceX now operates with missions like these. They’ve really got it down to a science. Things can still happen, of course, but nothing abnormal did today.

Screencap of the livestream of April 2, 2018 SpaceX Falcon 9 launch. Image Credit: Alexandra Ossola

The Dragon is en route to deliver food, gear, and other supplies to the ISS, according to Space.com. It also contains materials for 50 science experiments conducted there, one fifth of the total experiments on board (more info about research on board the ISS can be found here). According to the Kennedy Space Center website and Space.com, those include:

  • An Earth observatory that will study thunderstorms and how they affect Earth’s atmosphere and climate. 
  • An investigation about how to best make products from metal powders in low gravity in order to improve manufacturing techniques. 
  • Experiments on how to best give plants the proper nutrients as part of continued studies to grow food in space.
  • Studies that analyze how fruit flies and wasps interact in microgravity
  • A study that assesses how space affects bone marrow, blood production, and wound healing

It’s not necessarily as exciting as, say, launching a cherry red sports car into the ether. But it’s still pretty dope.

If everything continues to go according to plan, the Dragon will get within docking range of the ISS around 7 AM ET on Wednesday, April 4, at which point “ISS crew members will use the station’s 57.7-foot (17.6- meter) robotic arm to reach out and capture the Dragon spacecraft and attach it to the orbiting laboratory,” notes a SpaceX press release. And you thought those claw machine games were stressful.

Dragon will be back again. After a month-long stint at the ISS, it’s slated to return to Earth, where, if its descent goes well, it will plop right into the Pacific near Baja California.

The post With the Most Reused Parts Ever, SpaceX’s Mission Successfully Sent Its Cargo to the ISS appeared first on Futurism.

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The dizzying story of Symphony of the Seas, the largest and most ambitious cruise ship ever built

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New Google Maps mini-game makes finding Waldo easier than ever

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Starting today you can use Google Maps on Android, iOS, and desktop to assist you in finding everyone’s favorite hide-and-seek champion, Waldo. To start the search, you’ll need to update the mobile app (or visit Google Maps on the web) and press play when presented with a waving Waldo. For Android users, you can also ask Google Assistant “Where’s Waldo” to start. Once spotted, you’ll be transported to various locations around the globe where you can win badges and level up throughout the journey. Aside from Waldo, there’s Wenda, Wizard, Whitebeard, Odlaw, and Woof, the dog. When you spot Waldo,…

This story continues at The Next Web
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Tesla issues its largest recall ever over faulty Model S steering

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Tesla said Thursday it was recalling a huge number of its Model S sedans around the world over a power steering issue. It told customers in an email that it was a proactive move and none of the company’s other vehicles were affected.

The automaker said 123,000 Model S vehicles built before April 2016 were affected. No injuries or crashes have been reported in connection with the problem. Before today, its largest Model S recall was when 90,000 of the vehicles were affected in 2015 by a faulty seat belt. And last year, it recalled 53,000 Model S and Model Xs over a parking brake fault.

In the email, Tesla said it had, “observed excessive corrosion in the power steering bolts,” but that the problem was most prevalent in colder climates…

Continue reading…

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Grab the lowest price ever on Apple’s 13″ Touch Bar MacBook Pro, plus last call for $105 Apple TV 4K & 15% off at eBay

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Readers this week can exclusively save $ 300 on Apple’s Mid 2017 13" MacBook Pro with Touch Bar (3.1GHz, 16GB, 512GB), now $ 1,899 with coupon. The popular free Apple TV 4K with 3 months of DirecTV Now promo also ends this week — and eBay just launched a 15% off coupon valid on a variety of tech items.
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Berkeley researchers unveil “most dexterous robot ever created”

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Berkeley robot is dexterous in mind and body

Researchers at UC Berkeley have developed and unveiled a first in robotics: a robot that matches two highly versatile limbs with the ability to reason and simulate different outcomes via two onboard neural networks.

The university team claims that this combination of technologies makes it the world’s most dextrous robot.

Professor Ken Goldberg and one of his graduate students, Jeff Mahler, displayed the results of their work at EmTech Digital, an AI event in San Francisco organised by MIT Technology Review.

The two-armed robot relies on software called Dex-Net, which gives it the ability to reason and make decisions with as much dexterity as its arms are capable of moving. Via this onboard system, the robot is capable of quickly determining how best to grasp objects, based on simulations that take place within two separate, deep neural networks.  

The robot can be seen in action here.

Read more: Ocado bots offer safe pair of hands for packing shopping

Mean picks per hour 

The potential for dexterous robots in industrial, commercial, and other settings is obvious. That’s one of the reasons why companies such as Ocado are pouring resources into developing sophisticated warehouse robots.

To move on from looking at dexterity in a simple or binary sense, the Berkeley researchers use the preferred metric of ‘mean picks per hour’. This is calculated by multiplying the average time per pick with the average probability of success for a consistent set of objects.

The Dex-Net system can determine how to grasp an object based on what it has seen before. It can even nudge an item to gain more insight into how to handle it.

The system has gone through several iterations over the past year. The latest version combines a high-resolution 3D sensor with two arms – one with a robot gripper, and the other with a suction system. Each is controlled by its own neural network. The Dex-Net software scans an object and uses both networks to determine which approach is best for that particular object.

The new machine is already capable of between 200 and 300 mean picks per hour, according to Goldberg. That’s substantially more than the winner of a recent Amazon robotics contest. Humans are capable of between 400 and 600 mean picks per hour, so the machines are fast catching up.

Internet of Business says

While the mass-media has grown more hostile to robots and AI in recent months – and arguably more hostile to technology overall – robots’ ability to work quickly, safely, and non-stop among human beings is fast developing. ‘Cobots’ are rapidly becoming smart, programmable platforms, rather than dumb, single-task machines – following the smartphone model of the apps being the most important factors, not the hardware.

And while many people may be misinformed about the threat to humanity from intelligent, dextrous machines, most will enjoy the lower costs, faster services, and cheaper products that automated production will bring.

However, buy-side organisations need to consider the application of robotics carefully from both a strategic and an operational angle. Flippy, the burger-flipping robot in the US, was removed from service after less than one week because it was working so fast that human employees were unable to keep up with it.

Read more: Disney researches safe human-robot interactions

The post Berkeley researchers unveil “most dexterous robot ever created” appeared first on Internet of Business.

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The Apple Watch is about to get its first ever redesign

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Apple Watch Features

Anchored by the release of the Apple Watch Series 3 — a device which finally introduced cellular connectivity to Apple’s smartwatch lineup — Apple earlier this year disclosed that its wearables business is almost as big as a Fortune 300 company. To put this factoid into context, consider this: revenue from Apple’s wearables division is on pace to surpass revenue from blue-chip companies like Netflix and eBay.

During Apple’s most recent earnings report, Apple CEO Tim Cook boasted that Apple Watch sales during the recent 2017 holiday quarter were record-breaking. Nonetheless, Apple still refuses to disclose specific sales figures, a position that becomes all the more curious as the device only continues to grow in popularity.

That said, a new research note from reputed analyst Ming-Chi Kuo (via StreetInsider) claims that Apple Watch shipments this year may increase by as much as 30% year-over-year. As far as specific figures are concerned, Kuo claims that Apple this year may sell as many as 24 million units, up from an estimated 18.5 million units the company sold in 2017.

Beyond that, Kuo anticipates that Apple Watch sales are poised to increase drastically over the next few years. In a best case scenario, Kuo writes that annual Apple Watch unit sales may fall somewhere in the 40-50 million range by 2021.

Kuo’s note reads in part:

We think that once the following requirements are met (within three years), annual shipments of Apple Watch will grow to 40-50mn units: (1) LTE Apple Watch is supported in more countries; (2) besides heartbeat monitoring, more health monitoring functions are added; (3) more FDA approvals are awarded; (4) a more trendy form factor design; and (5) continued lowering of prices for older models.

Specifically, Kuo adds that new Apple Watch models will likely feature improved battery life and a “15% bigger display size.” If true — and Kuo’s track record suggests that it is — this will mark the Apple Watch’s first major redesign since the original model was released.

Beyond that, there have been reports that forthcoming models may incorporate advanced heart-rate monitoring technology. There have even been rumblings that Apple is working on a potential Apple Watch feature that would allow users to take quick EKG and ECG measurements.

Apple – BGR

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