Watch The Launch: NASA’s TESS Blasts Off From Cape

 

TESS—NASA’s newest planet-hunter—is now in space.

Sitting atop a Falcon 9 rocket, the robotic probe launched from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 6:51 PM ET.

So far, there’s not a hitch in sight.

Says Sara Seager, MIT astrophysicist and the mission’s deputy director of science: “This is a wonderful celebration.”

And only the beginning.

TESS—$337 million and about the size of a stacked washer-dryer—will see “almost the entire sky,” says NASA.

And discover more worlds than ever before.

Credit: MIT

Artist impression of NASA’s TESS spacecraft.

During the two-year mission, NASA expects TESS to find perhaps 20,000 exoplanets.

Or more. The Kepler Space Telescope looked at less than one percent of the sky—and detected nearly 5,400 planets (with about 2,700 now confirmed).

But most Kepler planets “are too distant and too dim to do any follow-up observations,” says Jeff Volosin of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

Instead, TESS will point its four cameras at 200,000 of the brightest, closest stars—30 to 100 times brighter than Kepler’s targets, and “only dozens to hundreds of light-years away,” says Volosin.

In space, that’s close—even though a single light-year equals almost six trillion miles.

Among the thousands of discoveries, NASA hopes to find hundreds of worlds reasonably near the size of Earth.

“Bigger than Earth but smaller than Neptune,” says Seager. “These planets are still a big mystery. Are they giant rocky planets? Or water worlds?”

Credit: ESO / M.Kornmesser

Artist impression of a super-Earth.

Don’t expect discoveries within days. Once in space, TESS scientists have to check out the probe. That takes two months.

Says Seager: “You have to wake up one part at a time to make sure everything works, and works together.” Detection announcements will follow, probably in a few more months.

To find a new world, TESS will look for “transits”—eclipse-like events, when a planet passes between its star and the spacecraft.

As that happens, the planet blocks a bit of the star’s light; that dip in the light, minuscule but measurable, tells scientists that something might be there.

But TESS can’t tell if the planets are life-friendly. Discerning those details will be left for future space probes.

That includes NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, launching in 2020—and ARIEL, a new mission from the European Space Agency, slated for a 2028 liftoff.

TESS, says Giovanna Tinetti, ARIEL’s principal investigator, “will clearly provide most of our exciting targets.”

Webb and ARIEL will analyze the atmospheres of TESS planets, searching for biosignatures—gases that indicate the possibility of life, like oxygen.

“Within the next decade,” says Volosin, “we hope we can identify the potential for life to exist outside our solar system.”

Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center / Chris Meaney

Artist impression. TESS in space.

But as NASA looks ahead, launch day is a time to look back.

Just two decades ago, many astronomers thought exoplanets were nearly nonexistent. Our solar system, with eight major worlds, was believed a quirk.

“Exoplanets were just considered silly,” says Seager. “Twenty years ago, it was insane to search for exoplanets.

“But the line between what’s considered mainstream and what’s considered crazy is constantly shifting.”

And now, TESS has launched. “And now,” says Seager, “it’s so mainstream.”

[“Source-forbes”]

 

Maharashtra Bets Big on AI as Global Business Conclave Kicks Off

Maharashtra Bets Big on AI as Global Business Conclave Kicks Off

Maharashtra is betting big on Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning by setting up India’s first ever centre for research in AI and the state government is collaborating with the Wadhwani Foundation which is investing over 200 crores to set up the centre in Mumbai. The centre was inaugurated by the Prime Minister on Sunday evening. It will look at solutions for traffic management, agricultural distress and rural and urban healthcare, problems that the state has been unable to resolve.

It’s being described as Maharashtra’s leap of faith in the technology domain

and this centre will put Mumbai on India’s technology map, officials say. “This is in line with the vision of the Prime Minister and the Chief Minister in order to create a future ready environment for the state,” says Kaustubh Dhavse, Officer on Special Duty to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.

The effort the founders say will be to make the centre a hub for AI in India. Co-founder and former CEO of Information Technology company iGate says the time is just right.

“This would be the perfect time to take the power of AI and apply it to accelerating social development. Interestingly with all of this AI work being done all over the world all of it is being designed for commercial interests and very little is done being done to help people at the bottom of the pyramid and that is what our institute will focus on,” Sunil Wadhwani, Founder of Wadhwani Initiative for Sustainable Health (WISH Foundation) told NDTV.

The institute will be headed Dr. P Anandan, a renowned researcher in computer vision and artificial intelligence with a career spanning over 30 years in academia and industry. “AI is the cutting edge of high tec technology. Moreover, AI for social good is not being done anywhere. There is no institute anywhere in India or abroad whose primary focus is to develop AI technology and apply it to social good. So in that sense, Mumbai becomes a leader right away,” Dr. Anandan said.

The industry too believes that India can become a hub for AI…given its big data potential. Bob Lord, Chief Digital Officer at global technology giant, IBM says “That data will allow you to have different insights than not being able to monitor it all and allow us to make better decisions for our consumers, businesses and schools.”

“I think it’s really exciting and we would like to have more of it in our school and give more access to it so that we can also give birth to future innovations and disruptions,” said Radha Kapur, Founder & ED of Dice Districts.

As the magnetic Maharashtra Business conclave kicks off, the technology sector is going to be key in terms of investments and Maharashtra is keen to showcase its potential in the technology sector to put Mumbai on India’s technology map.

[“Source-gadgets.ndtv”]

Off Broadway Review: ‘Pipeline’ by Dominique Morisseau

Pipeline review

Karen Pittman is giving a sensational performance in the new play at Lincoln Center Theater, “Pipeline,” starring as a mother who fights tooth and nail to save her son from the “school-to-prison pipeline” that bedevils students of inner-city public high schools. Dominique Morisseau has written some quietly devastating social dramas (“Skeleton Crew”) on her way up, but now the playwright has definitely arrived with this emotionally harrowing, ethically ambiguous drama that raises barbed questions about class, race, parental duty, and the state of American education.

Credit Lileana Blain-Cruz, who recently directly “The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World” at the Signature Theater, for the excellent tech work, as well as for the terrific ensemble work of a small, tight company starring the underappreciated Pittman (“Disgraced”).  The actress plays Nya, a dedicated African-American teacher at an overcrowded public school that looks totally menacing in the giant projections that Hannah Wasileski splashes across the cinderblock back wall of Matt Saunders’ barely-there set. As for the costumes, Montana Levi Blanco has found casual but elegant work outfits to flatter Pittman’s tall, lean frame, and make the point that teachers don’t dress to be dowdy.

The congested, dangerous, mostly black high school where Nya teaches has its share of committed teachers like herself. Tasha Lawrence is painfully funny as Laurie, a seasoned veteran of the public school system. “I’m a white chick who has never had the luxury of winning over a class full of black and Latino kids,” she says. Having just returned to the classroom from a long absence for reconstructive face surgery (the family of a failing student cut her up), this tough cookie has no illusions about race relations in public schools. “This is war,” she says of the hostilities between white educators like herself and their black and brown students.

It’s a war that Nya is determined to keep her own teenaged son, Omari (Namir Smallwood, a find) from fighting on his own home turf. But Omari has carried his seething rage all the way upstate, to the expensive private academy where his protective mother enrolled him. A sensitive kid, he’s picked up the unacknowledged but ingrained racism of his privileged environment — and now he’s in danger of being expelled for hitting a teacher.

Omari tries to explain to his girlfriend Jasmine (Heather Velazquez, a jolt of pure energy) why he’s so edgy and tense. “Truth is, I got too many worries,” he tells her. “You feel me?” But she’s so keen, this little bombshell, that she gets right to the heart of the issue. “You sayin’ I’m addin’ to your stress level?” she demands. “I’m sayin’ I got stresses,” Omari snaps back. “Real ones. And hidin’ out in your dorm ain’t doin’ nothin’ but prolonging the inevitable.” The kicker to this fantastic exchange of idiomatic teen talk comes from Jasmine. “Maybe you your own stress problem,” she smartly throws at Omari, “and I ain’t got nothin’ to do with it.”

It’s no wonder that Morisseau is a co-producer on Showtime’s bleak comedy series “Shameless.” She respects the raw power of the emotionally loaded street language that she puts into the mouths of young people like Omari and Jasmine.

Although Nya teaches English, not Drama, some of her desperate pleas to Omari feel self-consciously literary. But for the most part, Nya loves the language of poetry and is determined to unlock its beauty and pain to her students. It was Morisseau’s brilliant idea to have Nya teach Gwendolyn Brooks’ “We Real Cool: The Pool Players Seven at the Golden Shovel,” a poem so powerful it shocks the class into paying attention.

In a less excoriating tone, the play also picks at the painful scab of social class. There’s a sense of insecurity about Nya, who lives with the constant threat that a poorly paid teacher, a divorcee, and the single mother of a kid with big problems could lose her own middle-class professional status. She visibly shrinks when her ex-husband, Xavier, makes an entrance in the formidable person of Morocco Omari. The classy suit helps, but his deep voice and overpowering stature clearly announce that his job is to make money. Nya needs some of that money, which makes her financially dependent on her ex-husband and emotionally in thrall to her son. No wonder she has a panic attack.

[“Source-variety”]

Lights off, coffee: How IIT Kharagpur aims to tackle student depression

IIT

 

Every now and then, one of India’s most prestigious engineering colleges cuts off power to its hostels for an hour in the evening.

The practice, at IIT Kharagpur, is not to save electricity or cut costs. It is instead part of efforts to get students to mingle — contact that officials hope will help cut stress after three of its students killed themselves between January and April this year.

IIT Kharagpur is part of the country’s marquee Indian Institutes of Technology colleges that lakhs vie for each year. Only a few thousands make it, entering a college of intense competition with some of the best minds to vie for top jobs at the end of their four-year course.

“Students are meeting increasingly less. This naturally creates a lot of problems as they end up being alone. This small step will help them connect when they take a 10-minute coffee or tea break,” said Manish Bhattacharya, dean of students affairs of IIT Kharagpur, while explaining another effort to draw students out by installing vending machines for free tea and coffee.

The machines, for which a Japanese company has been roped in, will be in place from the academic year beginning this summer.

The blackout hours are helping, students say. “It was like an outreach programme where the administration wanted to speak to us… tell us what had happened and how it was important to be connected with fellow students. Many came out of compulsion but realised that it helped. Students interacted with each other, even discussing the suicides that had been troubling for many of us,” said Anisha Sharma, a student.

The latest suicide was on April 8, when a fourth-year student was found hanging in his hostel room.

Other efforts include a programme for parents with psychiatric professionals, courses on happiness mental well-being, and reaching out to alumni who faced depression during their college days.

Depression is seen as among the main reasons and students say the institute lacks adequate number of counsellors.

Mental health professionals on campus reported depression, adjustment disorders and, in some cases, personality disorders as among the cases they often come across.

“The first thing that parents ask us when they come to drop their children to the institute is about placements and package. They need to stop this. It puts unnecessary pressure on the students. This is the reason we have decided to have an orientation programme with the parents too,” said PP Chakrabarti, IIT Kharagpur’s director.

Officials said they will also turn a microcredit elective on “the science of happiness well-being” into a 3-credit course for all students from the next academic year.

“We are evolving more courses so students will be able to go for micro-specialisation in science and happiness. The subjects that they take up include depression, grief, so these projects that they take up to engineer happiness are meaningful,” said Prof P Patnaik, IIT Kharagpur.

The courses are run by the institute’s Rekhi Centre of Excellence for the Science of Happiness.

IIT Kharagpur has also decided to collaborate with an agency to identify the strength of students instead of their weaknesses, as is the case with current evaluation systems.

Officials are in touch with alumni for campaigns that will prod students to open up.

“Some of the alumni have approached us and they will share their experiences by recording it and circulating it on the website and Facebook page of the institute. There is a stigma attached with depression and this will address that,” the spokesperson said.

 

 

[“source-hindustantimes”]