Monday, December 5, 2022

Science & Technology

Mysteries of the universe: Dark Matter and Dark Energy

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Source - https://astronomy.com/news/2020/03/whats-the-difference-between-dark-matter-and-dark-energy

by Karina Bakshi

Though learning about the universe sometimes seems overwhelming, there is actually a lot that we don’t know. Only 5% of the universe is composed of “normal” matter (the stuff we see). The rest of it is composed of dark matter and dark energy. But what exactly are these substances?

We know that they exist because of various scientific discoveries and observations such as unknown forces and invisible matter that we know aren’t ones we already know about. There is an unknown force that is pulling our universe apart and expanding it at an accelerating rate. This is what is called dark energy. 

There is another type of unidentified force (besides gravity) that is keeping galaxies bound together. In a lot of galaxies, the mass of the stars, planets, black holes, and other matter just isn’t enough to keep itself bound together on its own. We cannot just dismiss this as gravity because gravity is too weak to do this all by itself. Instead, scientists have come to the conclusion that there has to be an invisible matter that is holding everything together with gravity. That matter is called dark matter. According to NASA, 68% of the universe is dark energy, 27% is dark matter, and only 5% is the matter we see! 

A theory made by scientists regarding dark energy is that it is a dynamic energy, fluid, or field that fills space and has an effect on the expansion of the universe which is the opposite of gravity and normal matter. This is called “quintessence” by many scientists but we still have no idea what this is or why it’s here so there’s not much to say.

 We know that dark matter is invisible matter because we cannot see it. We know that dark matter is not just dark clouds of regular matter because we cannot detect baryonic clouds (normal matter is made out of baryons). It isn’t antimatter either because it doesn’t give off gamma-ray signals when matter and antimatter particles annihilate each other (they annihilate each other because antimatter is matter but the particles in them have opposite charges). Another possibility is that it could just be huge black holes but that doesn’t make sense either because of the amount of gravitational lenses we see. It is likely that dark matter is made out of non-baryonic particles such as axions or Weakly Interacting Massive Particles (WIMPS)

Despite all of the discoveries we have made so far, we still know such little about dark matter and energy. Hopefully, we will learn more about them in the future but for now they remain a mystery. 

Sources: 

https://science.nasa.gov/astrophysics/focus-areas/what-is-dark-energy

SpaceX Star Link

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https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Starlink_Mission_(47926144123).jpg

By Arav Barmecha

Many of you have already heard of Elon Musk and his endeavors with SpaceX, Neurolink, and Tesla. Many people are calling him the real “Iron Man” and even the “busiest man on earth”. While these are just names, Elon Musk is living up to these speculations. Star Link was a company started by Elon Musk back in 2019. He started Starlink with the goal of providing high-speed, low-latency broadband internet across the globe. Targeting each coverage area and leaving no blind spots. 

We all can agree that a stable network was needed during the lockdown. Network issues single-handedly became the worst excuse, due to the number of network outages. The great network outage of October 12th, 2020 is a great example of this. On this day the entire city of Mumbai stopped. The city-wide outage was caused by a grid failure. 

Star Link is great for rural and remote communities. This can help rural communities gain access to network services that can betterment education. People across the globe are using Starlink to gain access to education, health services, and even communications support during natural disasters.

Recently, 40 Star link satellites were wrecked by a geomagnetic storm. This is a huge threat and could cause no network for a long period of time. This is a big risk to be taken, but the reward of high speed and low latency. 

In conclusion, Starlink has its ups and downs. It is your decision in the end. My opinion is that you should have a backup WIFI if it gets wiped out. 

Microsoft’s $68 Acquisition of Activision Blizzard

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The Ascent Claims no Ownership Over This Image.

And how they need to step up to the plate and help fix its many problems


By Arjun Mehrotra

Things got crazy this month in the gaming world. When Microsoft announced that they were going to be buying ZeniMax Media for $7.5 billion in 2020, the world shook. But now they’re back with a deal 9 times larger than their last. On January 18, 2021, Microsoft acquired Activision Blizzard, creator of World of Warcraft, Overwatch and Call of Duty, for $68.7 billion, the largest deal in gaming, EVER. Recently, Microsoft has been buying large companies in an effort to boost their own name. They were pretty far down on the gaming company by revenue list, but now they’re in third, just below Sony and Tencent. 

For months leading up the deal, Blizzard had been facing some problems. Around summer of 2021, they were sued by the California State Department of Fair Employment and Housing, or DFEH, for an alleged “frat-boy” and toxic culture. In their investigations, they found that Activision Blizzard, “Discriminated against female employees in terms and conditions of employment, including compensation, assignment, promotion, termination, constructive discharge, and retaliation.”  They also found that many female employees were being abused and sexually harrased by higher ups. Frances Townsend, an executive vice president for corporate affairs at Blizzard, sent out a reply, stating that the DFEH had “rushed to file an inaccurate complaint,” and that they were “sickened” by their claims. The backlash was immediate. The next day, many employees organized a walkout claiming that the note was  “abhorrent and insulting to all that we believe our company should stand for.”

Employees at a protest outside of Blizzard HQ in California.

This spread of corruption has started right with the core, CEO of Activision, Bobby Kotick. For years he knew about the allegations of sexual misconduct, but he did nothing. In 2006, one of his assistants said that he had harassed her, and had even sent a voicemail threatening to have her killed. The DFEH later found that Activision’s response was not made by Townsend, but had been drafted by Kotick and sent under her name. She later revoked her statement and was part of a revolt led by female employees at Activision. Over the years, many women have come forward to protest against Bobby Kotick and the model he was setting for other employees. 

In August of 2021, Activision named Jennifer Oneal, an employee who had worked at Blizzard for years, the co-head of Blizzard. She resigned within three months however, because she and her male counterpart were being paid different amounts. She sent a message out to the Blizzard legal team, saying “It was clear that the company would never prioritize our people the right way.” She remembers being harassed earlier in her career, being Asian-American and gay, “I have been tokenized, marginalized, and discriminated against.” She sent a resignation letter to all Blizzard employees, ending by saying, 

“And to everyone at Blizzard, thank you–for your honesty, your belief in a better future, and your incredible work ethic, creativity, and passion. You inspired me to find my own path in championing the cause for equality and my hope is that you inspire our players to do the same.” – Jennifer Oneal

It is clear that it was not the staff that Oneal was frustrated with, they were equally mad, it was the upper management who refused to lift their hands or remained oblivious to blatant inequality and harassment. So what do all these scandals mean for the deal? Well, it’s now Microsoft’s duty to conduct serious investigations and rebrand Activision as a safer, more equal place.

This acquisition also has major implications for the gaming industry. Having two major companies merge means less diversity in terms of games. It also brings up issues about monetization. If Microsoft now have a monopoly on games like Call of Duty and Candy Crush, they can add an insane amount of microtransactions and end up like EA. They could also make Blizzard games Xbox-exclusive, forcing PS players to make the switch.On the other hand, if Microsoft has less restrictions on Blizzard employees, then we could get some innovative and exciting games.

This deal has been huge for the Microsoft v Sony battle. The day after the announcement, Sony’s stock value plummeted by $20 billion. Microsoft’s game pass now has the opportunity to offer dozens more games, and until Sony’s Project Spartacus comes out, they will be losing money. That’s not to say that the great console war is over, however. Over the last few years, Sony has bought many companies as well, and will probably bounce back with their next console. They also recently bought Bungie for $3 billion, so they probably have big plans.

What we should probably worry about is industry consolidation. All of these larger companies are swallowing up indie devs like the big fish they are, and we might eventually find ourselves in a spot similar to the TV industry. These days, it seems like every movie company is coming out with their own subscription service, and companies like Disney own pretty much everything. This makes it extremely hard for anyone else to step into the industry, and continues the vicious cycle. Games are, however, more resistant to consolidation because they don’t require the massive budgets that movies do.

There is a whole bunch of controversy surrounding this deal, but there is also opportunity. Microsoft might turn out like a microtransaction filled company, but they might also nurture their game developers. We can’t say much for sure. But what we can say is that Microsoft needs to step up to the plate, deal with Activision’s problems, and keep pumping out games that the community loves.

Moon Bases

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Setting up a future lunar base could be made much simpler by using a 3D printer to build it from local materials. Industrial partners including renowned architects Foster+Partners joined ESA to test the feasibility of 3D printing using lunar soil.

by Karina Bakshi

Humans have been dreaming of space colonization for many years, and we have already gotten started on it. The best way to make our first settlement would be to make a Moon Base. Some space companies are already planning to start working on one, so we might even start as soon as 2024. 

The best place to build a Moon Base would be the south pole, as there are very few temperature fluctuations there. The south pole also gets light 90% of the time, which means that solar panels would be very efficient there. Some people have also thought about building it on the far side of the Moon, as we could install several telescopes there to allow further space research without Earth getting in the way. But that would require a very complex satellite system so the south pole would be better to start with; and from there, we could expand it into the far side. 

It might seem like we need very advanced technology to build a Moon Base; but we almost have the technology needed. With the invention of 3D printers, making the base would be much easier. Materials could also be transported to the Moon via rockets. 

According to many space organizations like NASA, Moon Bases will start getting made in 2024. Currently, we do not have the technology to build a Moon Base; but we are very close to it and we will have it in 3-5 years. We would need around 50 rocket launches, and it would cost a whole $10 billion. However, space organizations get a lot of funding from the government so it is still possible. 

The climate of the Moon is way too hostile for humans to live there, so the base might have to be occupied by robots rather than humans initially. The Moon only has 1/6 of the gravity that is on Earth; and in the Zero-G environment of Space Stations, the astronauts have to maintain high fitness levels by exercising a lot to remain healthy. Obviously, the effect would be reduced a bit on the Moon; but it would still be very harmful to our muscles and bones as we are not meant to live there. We might have to come up with some system to create Artificial Gravity; but that seems way too advanced so the astronauts might have to adopt a lifestyle similar to those in Space Stations in order to keep themselves healthy. The Moon also receives a lot of radiation from the Sun due to it not having a very weak atmosphere. We would need a Radiation Shield which isn’t really that hard to make as we could 3D print them using lunar soil. The Moon also has some water-ice so that wouldn’t be an issue either. We could build artificial farms to grow food. We could also get Oxygen by splitting up the water-ice found there and removing the Hydrogen from it, leaving the Oxygen which we can breathe. 

In conclusion, seeing a Moon Base come up in the next 10 years definitely seems like a plausible idea; as we almost have the technology needed and organizations have a solid plan. Building a Moon Base will definitely help us and it is a great place to start in space exploration and colonization. 

Sources:
https://www.sciencefocus.com/space/how-to-build-a-Moon-base/ 

Building a Dyson Sphere: We’re not that far away

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By Karina Bakshi

Earth has a very limited supply of energy. The main sources of energy are non-renewable sources such as fossil fuels and coal. Although some companies are using renewables and nuclear energy they are not able to produce the amount of energy required. However, this isn’t permanent and we will need a better solution sooner or later. 

The Dyson Sphere is a hypothetical model of a megastructure made to harness solar energy. If made, we will practically have unlimited energy. Even a small portion of the sun is enough to fuel our planet for millions of years. However, the technology needed to build a Dyson Sphere seems way beyond our current technology. 

But it is not completely Sci-Fi. We could get started on this project in around 50 years when humans are close to becoming a full Type 1 civilization. Dyson Spheres are sometimes depicted as a solid sphere encompassing the entire star. However, that model is not possible as the sun’s gravity, heat, and solar flares will probably damage and shatter the sphere. Humans on earth wouldn’t be getting light from the sun either, which would end life (unless the spheres are transparent, which probably also would not work out as the light inside them would reflect). 

A viable option, however, would be to make a Dyson Swarm. Many mirrors, satellites, and solar energy collectors surrounding the sun, made out of many different pieces instead of just 1 giant sphere. But we would need an almost endless supply of materials to make this. The most logical solution would be to mine Mercury, as it is closest to the sun and 70% of Mercury consists of metals. Around half the planet is usable. However, to start building a Dyson Sphere, we would need a lot of energy. So how do we build a Dyson Sphere if we need the energy of a Dyson Sphere to build it? We could first build a small portion of the Dyson Sphere and using the energy we get from it, we could expand it. 

To build a full Dyson Sphere, however, we might need to mine all 4 terrestrial planets. We could mine Mercury, as we probably won’t be able to terraform it, and it also has a lot of metal. Instead of the others, mine asteroids instead. Although that method would be slower, it would be better for humans in the long run. 

We could start building the Dyson Sphere by making settlements on the poles of Mercury, as it has extreme temperature fluctuations and orbits very slowly. The process would have to mostly be automated as the climate is too hostile for humans. Mining robots can be placed on Mercury. The mirrors would be made and then catapulted towards the sun using electromagnetic mass drivers. We could then expand our bases to make and launch more mirrors. The mirrors would be designed to reflect the energy to a generator. 

However, a big problem is the number of supplies we would need to build the Dyson Sphere. We would need an enormous amount of materials to build the Dyson Sphere so the plan may seem unrealistic. But we could build replicating robots to gather materials so with the technology of the future it will be possible. 

Our plan of building a Dyson Sphere could actually be accomplished in the next few thousand years. Building a Dyson Sphere would help us in many problems. We could use the energy to terraform planets like Venus and Mars, or even leave the solar system to search for new worlds. 

Building a Dyson Sphere will be a big accomplishment for humanity and a transition to becoming a type 2 civilization. We could actually achieve this goal sooner than we think!

The Rise and Fall of SEGA. How The Makers of Sonic fell out of the stars

By Akshat Ambekar

Sega is well known for its video game characters and consoles like the Sonic franchise and Prince of Persia. What you might not know is how the company began. 

The franchise Sega originated as a game makers company for the US army in 1946. The name is an abbreviation of Service Games the service, for military service, and the Games, because they made slot machines and pinball machines at US military bases.

However, in 1952 the US banned slot machines at their bases as they were too distracting for the soldiers. So they started making them in Japan and were bought by the Japanese company Rosen Enterprises, becoming SEGA Enterprises or just SEGA. Then in 1965, the arcade machine gag began and everyone started making more and more machines. Games like Space Invaders, Dig Doug, and Donkey Kong were all the rage at that time. 

This went on for Sega, the most successful game company until 1983 when in Japan, the company known as Nintendo created the Famicom at home console and Sega decided to compete. They provided Nintendo’s only competition until 1994. But this is about SEGA and when they saw Nintendo’s success with the Famicom, they released the SG-1000. 

This is where it’s going to get a bit technical. The first console (SG-1000) used 8-bit graphics (and I’m mostly going to be focusing on the graphics and storage capabilities of the consoles in comparison to the sales games and other stuff that isn’t technologically based, so keep that in mind). It was a high-quality graphic design for the time because no other medium could even produce anything near the scope of the SG-1000 and the NES, but it was still very limited as it consumed too much storage and the graphics, while unavailable anywhere else, we’re still not the greatest.

 However, this changed when Nintendo put up ads for their newest consoles, the SNES in the west and Super Famicom in the east. They used 16-bit graphics instead of 8 bit and that was a HUGE STEP-UP from 8 bit. It would be like if they went from 440p to 4k. That’s how much of a difference it was. 

In response, SEGA made the Sega master system which used 16-bit graphics as well. This was around the time that Sega started to fall behind Nintendo. released the SEGA Game Gear which flopped, and was their first handheld device but with 8-bit graphics. Then SEGA released its final console that sold over 10 million copies, The Sega Genesis. The SEGA Genesis used 16-bit graphics which were even better than the master systems. They also started using CDs with the CD Addon for the SEGA Genesis, because of its better storage capabilities, and because they were smaller than cartridges. The cartridge could store a lot of games but it was tedious to keep around and CD’s were overall just much more compact.

They also released the SEGA Saturn and the SEGA Dreamcast but they didn’t sell nearly as much as the SEGA Genesis.

After the release of the SEGA Dreamcast, SEGA’S decline turned into an avalanche, and they just couldn’t keep up with the demand, especially with the new PlayStation and Xbox. So finally, in 2004, they were bought by Sammy Corp for 2 billion dollars with Nintendo buying the rights to Sonic and its other games in 2007.

SEGA isn’t nearly as prominent as they were but they do still release games like Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games, and other titles mostly to do with Sonic.

The story of SEGA is a quick one that nonetheless has a sad ending, at least we can be satisfied knowing that Nintendo kept on going with SEGA’S IP.

Sources

“Evolution of Sega Consoles.” YouTube, YouTube, 24 Apr. 2021, www.youtube.com/watch?v=jpYBdZkpYg4&t=80s.

Robbs, Matt. “Was Sega Bought by Nintendo? (Who Owns Them?).” Retro Only, Retro Only, 31 Aug. 2021, retroonly.com/was-sega-bought-by-nintendo/#:~:text=After%20that%2C%20in%202004%2C%20the,of%20investors%20for%20%2438%20million.

Saberspark. “What Ruined Sega? – the Fall of an Empire.” YouTube, YouTube, 8 Dec. 2017, www.youtube.com/watch?v=GH7R2PEvzXo. 

Nuclear Energy

The Ascent claims no ownership over this image.

by Arav Barmecha

Since the industrial age, humans have released over 1.5 trillion tonnes of carbon dioxide or CO2 into the Earth’s atmosphere. In the year 2019, we were still pumping out around 37 billion more. That’s 50% more than the year 2000 and almost three times as much as 50 years ago. And it’s not just CO2. We are also pumping outgrowing volumes of other greenhouse gasses such as Methane and Nitrous Oxide. Combining all our greenhouse gases we are emitting the equivalent of 51 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide in the year 2017. Our emissions are rising rapidly, but emissions need to go down to 0. 

In recent years the consequences of rapid climate change have become more visible, with severe wildfires in Australia and the lowest amount of ice ever recorded in the north pole. To slow rapid climate change the world needs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero. In 2018, 76% of global emissions were released through energy production namely, fossil fuels. Currently, 84% of the world’s primary energy consumption comes from fossil fuels. 33% from oil, 27% from coal, and 24% from gas. Only 16% of our energy comes from low emission sources such as hydroelectric, solar, wind, and nuclear energy. This means we rely on coal, oil, and gas to keep our civilization going. 

To have a chance of escaping fossil fuels we need to electrify as many sectors as possible. We should switch to using electricity from electric cars to electric furnaces. Electricity might be the key to letting go of our carbon emissions. We would be switching because we can produce electricity from low emission technologies like solar, wind, and nuclear energy.  Consider carbon emissions like an addiction to cigarettes, to quit it you need something to replace it with something like chewing gum. In the same way, we need to replace carbon emissions with electricity.

Considering the risks climate change poses for the biosphere and humanity, any technology that has a chance of contributing to a solution should be pursued. That’s just good risk management and strategy. If we start seeing nuclear energy as an opponent and not a teammate, we might have no hope to come out of climate change. If we take nuclear energy offline right now then that missing energy capacity will be replaced by fossil fuels. I think that nuclear energy is the missing piece to combat climate change.

Why are the rich competing to go to Space?

The Ascent claims no ownership over this image.

by Arjun Mehrotra

The CEO of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, announced that he would be going to space earlier this year. After stepping down as CEO of Amazon he announced that he, along with his brother, would fly to space on July 20. 

This is Blue Origin’s first time sending humans to space so the fact that Jeff Bezos is coming on the first trip is a little surprising. He said in an Instagram post that “To see the Earth from space, it changes you”. 

The total flight time will last about 10 minutes, and it will cost millions of dollars for a seat, a price which is likely to decrease in the future. His announcement has been met with mixed reactions, with 150,000 people signing a petition for him to “stay in space”.

Meanwhile, Richard Branson founder of Virgin Group has recently announced that on Jun 11 he too will be going to space, almost 10 days before Bezos. It seems that these two billionaires are competing to go to space. Elon Musk also has an interest in going to space and while SpaceX has sent people to space, he has yet to go himself.

It seems that these billionaires are extremely focused on going to space, maybe too focused in my opinion. Going to space will definitely provide more publicity but are we really ready to be sending humans to space? While companies like SpaceX have been sending people to space for many years, Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic have not yet undergone the thorough testing that SpaceX has. 

While safety issues are still a worry concerning space travel. These billionaires are quite literally reaching for the stars.

The Future of Genetic Engineering

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Source - https://barmstrong.medium.com/the-pros-and-cons-of-genetically-engineering-humans-49973778c349

by Anoushka Kumar

Genetic Engineering is the process of using rDNA technology, a technology that uses enzymes (proteins that accelerate chemical reactions) to alter the genetic makeup of an organism.

And it is far more prominent in our lives than most believe. In medicine it is used to mass-produce human-growth hormones, drugs, insulin, vaccines, and many more vital essentials.

In agriculture, genetic engineering is used to create genetically-modified crops to withstand harsh conditions, and other genetically-modified organisms. 

In research, organisms are genetically engineered to discover the functions of certain genes.It is used in industry by transforming microorganisms such as bacteria or yeast, or insect mammalian cells with gene coding for a useful protein. The genetic code is a set of rules detailing how the four-letter code of DNA is translated into the 20-letter code of amino acids, which are structural units that make up proteins.

Genetic engineering has already established itself as an integral part of our world. In fact, The BLS (Bureau of Labour Statistics) has reported that biomedical engineers can anticipate to see a 23% growth in demand for years between 2014 and 2024. 

And now, due to biotechnology’s rapid advancement, what were questions based on sci-fi movies, like genetically engineered humans, has become an ethics question. Genetic Engineering is something that might even reshape humanity; Jamie Metzl, author of the book ‘Hacking Darwin’ said ‘’Genetic engineering, in other words, could easily shift from being a health or lifestyle choice to becoming an imperative for survival.’’ 

Sources: https://www.economist.com/open-future/2019/04/25/how-genetic-engineering-will-reshape-humanity

https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2017/2/15/14613878/national-academy-genome-editing-humans

Plastic Eating Bacteria

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Source - https://theconversation.com/how-plastic-eating-bacteria-actually-work-a-chemist-explains-95233

by Arjun Mehrotra

Plastic is one of the most ubiquitous materials ever. From our phones to our water bottles, plastic is all around us. It has a long life span, making it useful for storage. But what was once its biggest strength, is now its most fatal flaw. 

Plastic releases toxic chemicals into the air and takes thousands of years to decompose. Decomposition is the process by which substances are broken down naturally, meaning that they eventually turn into soil and are good for the environment. When materials such as plastic cant decompose, it means that they will stay there, in our landfills and our oceans taking up space and releasing harmful chemicals. This leads to an unhealthy ecosystem that can be downright dangerous. According to plasticoceans.org, more than 10 million tons of plastic are dumped into our oceans annually. More than a million marine animals are killed each year, due to this substance and the poisons it releases into their homes. Scientists estimate that by 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. 

However, while things don’t look good for the Earth, there are still a few more solutions that may help us combat this evil polymer. Introducing Ideonella Sakaiensis, more commonly called the plastic-eating bacteria. The enzyme was first discovered in Japan,| in 2016, and has since then undergone many experiments to test the ropes and limits of its usage. . The bacteria is famously known due to its ability to eat polyethylene or PET, a very common plastic. Scientists have in recent years combined the plastic-eating bacteria with one that can eat cotton, thus producing a sort of “super enzyme” that could eat anything in a landfill. This is important because due to the lack of space in landfills most of them eventually get dumped into the ocean, so preventing this is essential.

A french company called Carbios has begun producing this enzyme and making demonstration plants to break down plastics. Carbios has partnered with companies such as Nestle and PepsiCo and could provide them with the necessary materials to recycle materials into their products.

While larger-scale industrial solutions using this bacteria are a few years away, its discovery could definitely help save our planet from plastic.

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