Technology: NASA Discovers 10 Earth-Sized, Potentially Habitable Planets

NASA has discovered 219 new possible planets outside our solar system, including 10 near-Earth-sized candidates with potentially habitable conditions.

After four years, the Kepler Space Telescope mission has found a total of 4,034 planet candidates, with over half of them confirmed.

“With this catalog, we’re able to extend [our analysis of planets’ demographics] out to the longest periods, those periods that are most similar to our Earth,” said Susan Thompson, a Kepler research scientist for the SETI Institute in California.

“As a result, this survey catalog will be the foundation for directly answering one of astronomy’s most compelling questions: How many planets like our Earth are actually in the galaxy?”

However, Thompson said it will still take a year for the Kepler team to find out how common potentially habitable planets are in the Milky Way galaxy.

Technology: Australians Should Be Wary of Mindfulness Apps Offering ‘Quick Fix’, Doctor Says

Users of smartphone mindfulness apps are urged to be cautious of quick-fix promises, as doctors call for better regulations of the digital mental health market.

Dr Quinn Grundy, a postdoctoral researcher with the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre, said her investigation of these apps revealed a worrying trend.

“There was a lot of messages around how easy and quickly the app could solve your problems,” said Dr Grundy.

“[But] if your app has promised that you’ll get better really easily and really quickly and you don’t, consumers shouldn’t feel like there’s something wrong with them, or that their mental health can’t be treated.”

The investigation, funded by the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN), also found that only a small proportion of the apps were created by universities or healthcare professionals.

“In the end we didn’t feel comfortable in endorsing any of these apps because even the ones that were from reputable organisations didn’t provide the privacy assurances one would hope for, or if they had a great privacy policy it was unclear that the developer had any mental health expertise or that it was based on sound evidence,” Dr Grundy told AAP.

Dr Grundy also expressed concerns over the commercial nature of these apps. “We would argue that mental health consumers are perhaps in a more vulnerable position to things like targeted advertising, or in-app purchases or a subscription model,” she said.

“So for example we saw apps that would be about anxiety or depression, but at the bottom you have these banner ads advertising weight loss products.”

Dr Grundy said governments should increase regulation of the digital app market.

PhD student Jazmin Ozsvar said mindfulness apps made her anxiety worse. “At first I found the meditations useful, particularly at night,” Ozsvar said. “But the requirement for daily reporting started to get annoying, and I realised that when I rated myself as feeling down, that actually compounded those feelings, I ended up feeling worse. So I gave it up.”

Ozsvar recommended the use of these apps in conjunction with professional help.

Technology: iPhone Turns 10

This year marks the tenth anniversary of the original iPhone, which was first introduced by late Apple founder Steve Jobs in an Apple conference.

On January 9, 2007, Jobs said: “Every once in a while a revolutionary product comes along that changes everything. One’s very fortunate if you get to work on just one of these in your career. Apple has been very fortunate that it’s been able to introduce a few of these into the world. In 1984, we introduced the Macintosh. It didn’t just change Apple, it changed the whole computer industry. In 2001 we introduced the first iPod, and it didn’t just change the way we all listened to music, it changed the entire music industry. Well, today we’re introducing three revolutionary products…”

These three revolutionary products – an iPod, a phone, and an “internet mobile communicator” –  were later revealed to be “not three separate devices, and we are calling it iPhone. Today Apple is going to reinvent the phone. And here it is.”

Jobs unveiled a smartphone with a 3.5 inch touchscreen and features like web browser, music player, weather and map apps, which would turn out revolutionary for mobile and communication technology.

The touchscreen technology was the main driver in making the device a dominant force in the market, Foad Fadaghi, managing director at technology analyst firm Telsyte said. “With the arrival of the third party app store and 3G connectivity the iPhone really started to help the device take off,” Fadaghi said.

iPhone also helped drive the smartphone market to condense multiple features, such as camera and music player, into one device, said Dr Christine Satchell, mobile device expert at Queensland University of Technology. “The smartphone both democratised internet access and improved it for many millions of people,” Fadaghi said.

Although iPhone was one of Apple’s biggest moneymaker, the sales of the latest iPhone 7 have been sluggish. The company’s operating profit declined 16 percent to $60 billion due to a decline in the sales of the device for the first time since it came out a decade ago.

However, Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook said the anniversary only marks the beginning. “iPhone is an essential part of our customers’ lives, and today more than ever it is redefining the way we communicate, entertain, work and live,” Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook said in a statement. “iPhone set the standard for mobile computing in its first decade and we are just getting started. The best is yet to come.”

Technology: BlackBerry to Stop Making Its Own Phones

BlackBerry has announced that it will stop making phones in order to focus on software development.

The production of handsets will be leveraged to a new, Indonesia-based joint venture called BB Merah Putih. This venture will be led by PT Tiphone, an affiliate of Indonesia’s largest carrier, Telkomsel.

Chief operating officer and general manager at BlackBerry, Ralph Pini said the decision enables the company to continue bringing BlackBerry devices to the market and develop “state-of-the-art security software for devices”.

“BlackBerry is no longer just about the smartphone, but the smart in the phone,” said BlackBerry CEO, John Chen. “Through this strategy, there will continue to be BlackBerry-branded devices in the market; when you see our logo it means security, from our class-leading enterprise software to devices secured by BlackBerry software.”

BlackBerry smartphones have long been overtaken by Apple and Samsung, with current market share of 0.1 per cent and recorded losses of $670 million in the last quarter.

BlackBerry was known as the inventor of smartphones, with the launch of BlackBerry 850 in 1999. It was popular among business executives and heads of state, with President Barack Obama as one of the world’s most prominent fans of the phone product.

Technology: Construction Delays In Transformative Technologies

It has been reported from Sourceable, that there has been a powerful wave of new technologies said to be sweeping across the AEC sector. Along with the traditional industrial tools and machinery available, there are new devices which have impacted upon the way firms are involved in the development of built environments and do business.

According to Marc Howe, “These technologies cover a range of different areas and functions, including unmanned drones, building information modelling (BIM), reality capture, big data, as well as augmented and virtual reality platforms.

Mobile data in particular is having a highly “disruptive” impact on the AEC sector, with workers carrying levels of computing power on their person that were all but inconceivable for even the largest mainframe devices only one or two generations ago.

It’s this extraordinary level of mobile computing power in tandem with surging levels of connectivity that underlies the ability of other disruptive technologies to make critical contributions to the AEC sector.

Mobile technology means that drones, embedded sensors and portable smart devices can channel vast amounts of data from building sites or built assets to cloud computing hubs, supplying them with all the information they need to fuel or enhance other key technological processes such as BIM, augmented and virtual reality, or predictive analytics that rely upon the accumulation of big data lakes.

A recent white paper published by Viewpoint Construction Software on mobile technology and data notes that this ongoing trend is set to accumulate momentum, leading to further profound changes in the development and operation of built environments.

The white paper foresees the development of “better telecommunications, more connected mobile devices, increased integration of enterprise and project-based software, growing reliance on data-rich BIM(M) approaches and the explosion of data-emitting, interactive systems in and around our built assets.”

The authors of the paper further observe that “the successful construction business of the future will be one that can harness the power of this data, working with its supply chain partners and its customers to extract intelligence from its processes and from the assets it helps deliver so that it can add real value.”

If the effective adoption of new paradigm-changing technologies is essential to the success of construction companies in future, Australian firms will need to overcome prevailing levels of trepidation and conservatism about these shifts in order to flourish in years to come.

According to Lynne Edwards, ANZ marketing manager, Viewpoint Construction Software, many in the construction sector remain laggards when it comes to the adoption of new technologies.

“The construction sector isn’t making the most yet of the new technologies that are now on offer,” said Edwards. “There’s the technology out there, yet many people remain nervous about using it and making it work for them, because they either don’t like change, or they don’t want to disrupt the status quo.”

Firms at the mid-market level can often feel that they’re not large enough or sufficiently prepared to embrace new technologies.

Edwards notes, however, that it’s often the size of construction projects rather than the companies themselves that should determine the types of tools or technologies that are adopted.

“The products that can really help construction companies are designed to foster collaboration in larger and often complex projects ,” she said.

“While a company might feel a bit overwhelmed by having to deal with a huge project, the only way they’re going to grow is by enlisting the help of those technologically based resources.”

Another issue impeding the use of key emerging technologies by the construction sector is the Catch 22 dilemma of companies never having an appropriate time or situation to forge ahead with their adoption.

“Companies feel they’re either too busy at the moment to think about it, and so they say to themselves they’ll do this when we’re less busy,” said Edwards. “When they’re less busy however their conservatism creeps back in and they say they don’t want to make an investment now that they have the time because of the risks involved.”

Technology: Blackhole Discovered in Markarian 1018 Galaxy

An international team of astronomers has found a black hole in the Markarian 1018 galaxy, cracking the code behind the galaxy’s changing brightness throughout the decades.

Markarian 1018, located 555 million light-years away from Earth, was first discovered in the 1980s emitting little light. A few years after, it became categorized as a Seyfert type, a galaxy with very high brightness.

However, the astronomers found that the galaxy once again dimmed in 2015 using the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope along with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory.

“When we re-observed [Markarian 1018] last year we found that it had returned to this dimmer state that it was in when it was first observed in the 1980s,” said study lead author Rebecca McElroy, a Ph.D. student at the University of Sydney and the ARC Centre of Excellence for All-Sky Astrophysics.

McElroy said this decline in brightness was because the black hole was starved of fuel or accretion material. “It’s possible that this starvation is because the inflow of fuel is being disrupted,” Ms. McElroy said. “This could be because of interactions with a second supermassive black hole.”

McElroy said the findings provide new knowledge on active galaxies. Previously, active galaxies have been categorized into two static types: obscured and unobscured. However, Markarian 1018 challenged this classification.

“Future research on the galaxy will allow us to explore the exciting world of starving black holes and changing active galaxies in more detail,” Fellow at the European Southern Observatory, Bernd Husemann said.

Technology: Space Tour Guide and Other Jobs in 2025

In 2025, you can apply for the job of space tour guide, according to a report released in August by The Future Laboratory and Microsoft.

The report claims that 65 percent of today’s students will be doing jobs that don’t exist yet at the moment due to “technological change, economic turbulence, and societal transformations”.

“A new wave of automation, with the advent of true artificial intelligence, robots, and driverless cars, threatens the future of traditional jobs, from truck drivers to lawyers and bankers,” the report reads. “But, by 2025, this same technological revolution will open up inspiring and exciting new career opportunities in sectors that are only in their infancy today.”

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The report predicts that space tour guides, among other jobs, would be needed in 2025 as earth orbit trip will become a popular choice for “intrepid travellers”.

Other jobs that the report predicts will employ current students include virtual habitat designer, ethical technology advocate, digital cultural commentator, sustainable power innovator, and more.