Wing Failure Blamed for Crash of Google’s Solar-Powered Drone

A massive drone Google was testing as part of a project to provide Internet service with unmanned aircraft instead of satellites crashed after it encountered an updraft and one of its wings failed, US accident investigators have concluded.

The Solara 50 had just lifted off from a remote, desert landing strip in New Mexico on May 1 when it began experiencing control problems, according to a report by the National Transportation Safety Board. As a remote pilot attempted to stabilize the plane it hit a thermal updraft that propelled it upward and increased its speed, according to the NTSB.

In spite of attempts to reduce power, the plane went faster than designed and the left wing began to fail. “The aircraft began an uncontrollable and erratic flight path roughly straight ahead in a rapid descent,” the NTSB wrote in a brief summary posted on its website. The report, dated Nov. 19, hasn’t previously been reported.

After a section of the left wing came off, the right wing also failed. The aircraft struck the ground and was destroyed at 11:07 a.m. local time after about four minutes of flight. No one was injured.

Wing Failure Blamed for Crash of Google's Solar-Powered Drone

Google didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the report.

The drone was built by Titan Aerospace, a company headed by former Microsoft Corp. executive Vern Raburn that Google bought last year. It has a wingspan of 164 feet (50 meters), according to company promotional material. It is supposed to fly above the weather for long stretches, where it could then beam Internet signals to earth as if it was a satellite.

The company is in a race with Facebook, which also attempted to buy Titan, to build new Internet services around the world. Facebook instead acquired U.K.-based Ascenta, which is designing its own high-altitude drones, for $20 million (roughly Rs. 135 crores).

Hardik Pandya Reprimanded For Aggressive Celebration in Adelaide Twenty20

Hardik Pandya, who made his international debut against Australia in the Adelaide Twenty20, celebrated aggressively after picking Chris Lynn’s wicket. The International Cricket Council officially reprimanded the Indian all-rounder as this was his first offence.

Melbourne: Hardik Pandya, India all-rounder, has been reprimanded by the International Cricket Council (ICC) for celebrating aggressively after taking a wicket during the first Twenty20 International against Australia in Adelaide.

Following the match, which India won by 37 runs, Pandya admitted the offence and accepted the sanction proposed by Jeff Crowe of the Elite Panel of ICC Match Referees. As such, there was no need for a formal hearing.

The charge was levelled by on-field umpires Simon Fry and John Ward, third umpire Paul Wilson and fourth official Gerard Abood.

Pandya was found to have breached Article 2.1.7 of the ICC Code of Conduct for Players and Player Support Personnel, which relates to “Using language, actions or gestures which disparage or which could provoke an aggressive reaction from a batsman upon his/her dismissal during an International Match”.

For all first offences, Level 1 breaches carry a minimum penalty of an official reprimand and a maximum penalty of 50 per cent of a player’s match fee.

Lyf Earth 1, Water 1, Water 2 Price, Specifications Revealed by Reliance

Reliance Retail’s Lyf branded smartphones have now been listed by the company’s online store ahead of an official announcement. Reliance Digital has listed the Lyf Earth 1 (seen above), Water 1, and Water 2 smartphones with pricing details. Unfortunately, there is no word on the availability of the handsets as of now.

The Lyf Earth 1, which was revealed by the company earlier this month, has been listed at Rs. 23,990. The Lyf Water 1 has been priced at Rs. 14,999 and Lyf Water 2 at Rs. 14,690. A report earlier this weekclaimed that Reliance’s much-anticipated Lyf series of smartphones would go on sale in the first week of February and will be available in at least 13 cities.

For specifications, the Lyf Water 1 (seen above) and Lyf Water 2 smartphones come with a lot of similar innards such as both feature 5-inch LCD display; 1.5GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 (MSM8939); 2GB of RAM; 16GB of storage, and expandable storage support via microSD card (up to 32GB). Both the handsets sport 13-megapixel rear as well as 5-megapixel front-facing cameras. Both dual-SIM smartphones support 4G LTE bands in India. Connectivity options include GPRS/ EDGE, GPS, 3G, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and Micro-USB.


There are few differences as well as Water 2 sports HD (720×1280 pixels) screen resolution while the Water 1 sports full-HD (1080×1920 pixels) screen resolution. The Lyf Water 1 runs Android 5.1.1 Lollipop out-of-the-box. The Lyf Water 2, on the other hand, runs Android 5.0.2 Lollipop. The Water 1 packs a 2600mAh battery while the Water 2 packs 2400mAh battery.

According to the Reliance Digital listing, the Water 2 (seen above) packs a 7.7mm unibody design and sport dual tone silver matte finish. The 135 gram device is also listed to include “retina scan access”; though there are no further details about the feature. The 6.8mm measuring Water 1 smartphone sports unibody design with dual glass finish. The handset sport LED flash on both front and rear panels.

Lastly, the Lyf Earth 1, as reported earlier, features a 5.5-inch full-HD (1080×1920 pixels) AMOLED display. Much like the Water 1 and Water 2 smartphones, the Earth 1 also packs octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 (MSM8939) processor clocked at 1.5GHz clubbed with 3GB of RAM. The handset packs 32GB of storage and supports an additional 32GB of storage via microSD card. The Earth 1 smartphone sports dual rear cameras, with one 13-megapixel sensor and one 2-megapixel sensor. It also packs a 5-megapixel front-facing camera.

Connectivity options include 4G LTE, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, and GPS. The Android 5.1.1 Lollipop-based Lyf Earth 1 runs on a 3500mAh battery. Weighing 162.5 grams, it measures in at 154×76.6×7.25mm.

Heena Sidhu Secures Olympic Quota With Gold Medal at the Asia Olympic Qualifiers

New Delhi: India’s top pistol shooter Heena Sidhu secured an Olympic quota for the country after she led from start to finish and claimed the gold medal in women’s 10-m air pistol on day one of competition at the Asia Olympic Qualifiers for Shooting.

The current world record holder and former world number one, Heena shot 199.4 in the eight-women finals to finish ahead of Chinese Taipei’s Tien Chia Chen (198.1) and Gim Yun Mi (177.9) of Korea at the Dr. Karni Singh Shooting Range.

Heena shot an impressive 10.3 in the second last shot of the finals to extend her lead to 1.5 points over her rival from Chinese Taipei. The Indian shot exactly 10 in her final attempt and it was enough to get her the top prize, despite a 10.2 from Tien Chia Chen.

Heena Sidhu

This was India’s ninth quota from shooting for the upcoming Olympic Games.

However, it was a bad day at the office for the host country in men’s 50-m rifle prone and women’s trap as none of the Indian participants could clear the qualification hurdle.

In men’s rifle prone event, young Swapnil Kusale finished 14th after aggregating 617.2 over a series of six shots. Sushil Ghale was 17th, while Surendra Singh Rathod was 24th in the pecking order.

In women’s trap, where only one quota for Rio Games was on offer, Shreyashi Singh lost out in the shoot-off.

stage 1 of men’s 25-m rapid fire pistol, London Olympics silver medallist Vijay Kumar was placed seventh with a score of 285 including seven Xs. The other two Indian participants in the event, Neeraj Kumar and Harpreet Singh, were placed 13th and 16th, respectively.

From India’s point of view, the day easily belonged to Heena, whose long wait to earn a quota for the quadrennial extravaganza ended finally in front of her home crowd.

Prior to this tournament, the 26-year-old Patiala-born girl clinched a gold medal each in the Asian Air Gun Championships and Asian Shooting Championships in Kuwait last September and November, respectively.

Heena’s confidence was high as she entered the final as leader of the pack with a score of 387 in the qualification.

The other Indian participants in the women’s air pistol event, young Yashaswini Deshwal and Shweta Singh finished 11th and 12th, respectively.

“I was just concentrating on the process. I knew that I was doing well. I was confident that I would win a quota today,” Heena told reporters after the event.

Heena’s husband Ronak Pandit, who is also her coach, was as relieved as the shooter herself.

Three ISSF World Cups will be held before the Rio Games get going in August, and Heena’s preparation is going on the right track.

“There are three World Cups lined up but Heena will skip the first one. She is not a kid anymore who needs international exposure all the time,” said Ronak, who chalks out her schedule.

“After SAG (South Asian Games), she will compete in Rio World Cup which is very important,” he said.

Ronak said they will now focus on Heena’s “technical exercise” to fine tune her game.

Ocean heating doubles

The ocean is taking heat. That’s the conclusion of a new study that finds that Earth’s oceans now absorb heat at twice the rate they did 18 years ago. Around half of ocean heat uptake since 1865 has taken place since 1997, researchers also report online January 18 in Nature Climate Change.

coral reef

Warming waters are known to contribute to coral bleaching (SN Online: 10/8/15) and they take up more space than cooler waters, raising sea levels. While the top of the ocean is well studied, its depths are trickier to query. The researchers gathered 150 years of ocean temperature data in order to get a better picture of heat uptake from surface to seabed. They compiled temperature readings collected by everything from a 19th century sailing expedition of theHMS Challenger to modern automated ocean probes. The far-flung data sources, combined with computer simulations, created a timeline of ocean temperature changes, including cooling from volcanic eruptions and warming from fossil fuel emissions.

About 35 percent of the heat taken in by the oceans during the industrial era now resides at a depth of more than 700 meters, the researchers found. They say they’re unsure whether the deep-sea warming offset warming at the sea’s surface.

Time running out on comet lander

Time is running out for the Philae comet lander. The latest attempts to communicate with the probe have failed. And with temperatures plummeting as the comet races from the sun, it will soon be too cold for the robotic explorer to keep its computer running.

On January 10, engineers sent a command to spin Philae’s reaction wheel, which helped stabilize the lander during its descent. They hoped to nudge the lander into sunlight or at least shake several months of comet dust off its solar panels. Philae did not respond.

“It’s a bit sad,” says Stephan Ulamec, Philae’s manager at the German Aerospace Center in Cologne. “But it would be sad if we concentrated so much on what we couldn’t achieve and not on what we did.”

Philae’s mission got off to a rough start (SN: 12/13/14, p. 6). After separating from the Rosetta spacecrafton November 12, 2014, Philae bounced across comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko and settled against cliffs where there was not enough sunlight to keep the power on. Philae spent just 55 hours investigating its new home before shutting down. As the comet moved along its orbit, Philae’s solar panels spent more time in the sun. Seven months after going quiet, Philae phoned home after its batteries recharged (SN Online: 6/14/15). Contact with the lander has since been intermittent, with its last communication — a 12-minute burst of data from its radar instrument.


“The situation gets worse every day,” says Ulamec. “There’s little reason to believe that if the lander doesn’t wake now, it will wake in worse conditions in a few weeks.” As the comet travels farther from the sun, less solar power is available to the lander. By the end of January, temperatures will have dropped below −51° Celsius, Ulamec says, at which point the computers will no longer boot up.

“The fact that it worked at all is miraculous,” says Jessica Sunshine, a planetary scientist at University of Maryland in College Park. Before Rosetta launched in 2004, researchers knew very little about what comets are like up close. Landing on a comet “was a gutsy thing,” she says.

During its brief active tenure on the comet, Philae got the first intimate pictures of any comet and detected a fog of organic compounds. Its radar found that 67P is porous and uniform throughout. “That was a fantastic measurement,” says Sunshine. The lack of layers in the comet’s interior suggests that 67P was put together gently, which means the nucleus is a time capsule carting around a preserved sample of detritus from which the solar system formed 4.6 billion years ago (SN: 8/22/15, p. 13).

Philae and Rosetta showed that features both tiny and enormous look similar on the comet, says Sunshine. Without context, it’s hard to distinguish between the rugged terrain around the lander and the cliffs towering about 900 meters over the comet’s midsection. “That’s telling us something about how this comet was put together and evolved,” she says. “These datasets are going to stand the test of time.”

Philae might be done exploring, but it won’t be forgotten. Ulamec hopes to get some images of Philae this summer as Rosetta cozies up to get a closer look at how 67P changed during its closest approach to the sun. At the end of the mission in September (SN Online: 6/23/15), engineers will direct Rosetta to crash on the comet, snapping pictures all the way down. “It won’t be a proper landing,” says Ulamec. But at least Philae will finally have some company.

1 hookah session has 25 times more tar than a cigarette

There’s a common misconception that hookahs aren’t very dangerous. A recent Rutgers University study revealed that 24 percent of both smokers and nonsmokers under age 25 believe hookahs— shared pipes that allow users to inhale tobacco smoke that’s been passed through a water basin—are safer than cigarettes. But according to a new study from the journal Public Health Reports, this is an even bigger myth than thought.

Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine found that one hookah session produces 2.5 times more nicotine, 10 times more carbon monoxide, 25 times more tar, and 125 times more smoke than a single cigarette.

To get their results, the team analyzed the results of 17 studies looking at the toxins inhaled through each type of tobacco product.

REUTERS/Susana Vera

“It’s not a perfect comparison because people smoke cigarettes and hookahs in very different ways,” lead author Dr. Brian A. Primack, PhD, explained in a press release about the study. For example, cigarette smokers might smoke upwards of 20 cigarettes a day, whereas even frequent hookah smokers may engage in far fewer sessions throughout the same time period.

“We had to conduct the analysis this way—comparing a single hookah session to a single cigarette—because that’s the way the underlying studies tend to report findings. So, the estimates we found cannot tell us exactly what is ‘worse,'” he added. “But what they do suggest is that hookah smokers are exposed to a lot more toxicants than they probably realize.”

What makes this even more troubling is that while smoking rates among U.S. adults recently dipped to a new low of just 14.9 percent, hookah and e-cigarette use is way up. According to the 2014 National Youth Tobacco Survey, hookah use actually doubled between 2011 and 2014—even as teen cigarette use dropped from 16 percent to 9 percent.

GTA V Machinima Brings Vice City to Los Santos

Ever wondered what the setting of Grand Theft Auto V – Los Santos – looked like back in the 80s? British gamer and GTA enthusiast Pab Jones has produced and recorded an 11-minute compilation of Rockstar’s latest open-world third person crime adventure inspired by the clothes, cars, and neon of 80s USA.

2002’s GTA Vice City was an ode to those times, and Jones’ work is replete with call-backs to the music videos of those times, from the random fast-forwards to sound glitches to framing.

GTA V Machinima Brings Vice City to Los Santos

“It take so long because so much goes into making a GTA video and I think I speak for most people who make GTA videos when I say that,” said Jones, speaking in the comments on YouTube. “You have to think about locations, clothing, time of day, vehicles guns, positioning, camera angles, the weather and if you have actors helping out you have to work around their gaming times and that’s just for the filming then it’s on to the Rockstar Editor, camera angles, effects, sound, DOF, after a month in the editor it’s on to Sony Vegas for the final touches and music editing.”

Apart from Vice City, Jones also cited Michael Mann-produced TV series Miami Vice that ran for five seasons between 1984 and 1989, the rise and style of music cable channel MTV and technologies such as VHS and Betamax as inspiration for his work.

Mumbai Travellers Log On as Google Starts Railway Station Wi-Fi

Google Inc. has begun offering free Wi-Fi to Mumbai train passengers in hopes of boosting its role in the Indian market.

Giggling groups of students, bored commuters and snack-shop vendors were all logging on Friday at Mumbai Central Train Station, the first of 400 stations the company plans to eventually reach with the service.

“If my train is leaving, and I need to search, don’t know where to go, then immediately I will get the answer,” student Divya Patel said excitedly while waiting for a train to her hometown of Ahmedabad in the western state of Gujarat. “This is very good, and good for everyone.”

Free Wi-Fi is rare across India. Most of the country’s 300 million Internet users pay for personal access and often rely on slow-loading smartphone connectivity.

With a massive 1.25 billion population in India, including 6 million new Internet users every month, Silicon Valley tech giants such as Google, Facebook and Microsoft have set sights on expanding in the Indian market. Online retailers Amazon and eBay have also launched services in the country.

Indian also has homegrown online commerce companies but small businesses are still catching on. Fewer than 5 percent of the 50 million or so small businesses in India have a web page.

With more than 23 million people riding Indian railways every day, Google said free Internet in train stations will give high-speed access that many can’t afford. It also hopes to diversify India’s user base, given that less than a third of Internet users in India are women, and has been upgrading its services in Hindi and other languages spoken across India.

“Most of India is still not online,” Google CEO Sundar Pichai told reporters last month in New Delhi. “We want to bring access to as many people as possible,” he said.

China Plans Supercomputer Capable of More Than a Billion Billion Calculations per Second

China is planning a supercomputer 1,000 times more powerful than its groundbreaking Tianhe-1A within two years as it faces rising demand for next-generation computing.

The National Supercomputer Centre in Tianjin will release a prototype in 2017 or 2018 of an “exascale” computer – one capable of at least a billion billion calculations per second, Meng Xiangfei, head of the applications department, said on Friday.

Exascale computing is considered the next frontier in the development of supercomputers and it would represent a significant achievement in computer engineering.

China Plans Supercomputer Capable of More Than a Billion Billion Calculations per Second

Tianhe-1A was recognised as the world’s fastest computing system in 2010. Though it has since been superseded by Tianhe-2, Tianhe-1A is being more widely used.

Computer scientists are finding it challenging to run contemporary applications at their optimum on faster supercomputers.

With its uses including oil exploration data management, animation and video effects, biomedical data processing and high-end equipment manufacturing, Tianhe-1A’s capacity is being stretched, Meng was quoted as saying by state-run Xinhua news agency.

It is carrying out more than 1,400 computing tasks and serving about 1,000 users per day.

The exascale computer will be wholly independently developed by the National Supercomputer Centre, according to Meng.

About a seventh of Tianhe-1A’s CPU chips are Chinese.