Science & Technology
India loses touch with lander on its final approach to moon
pictures of Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) scientists
reacting are displayed on a big screen at their Telemetry, Tracking and
Command Network. (AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi)
Aijaz Rahi & Sheikh Saaliq
Bangalore, India (AP) —
India’s space agency said it lost touch with its Vikram lunar lander on
Saturday, Sept. 7, as it made its final approach to the moon’s South
Pole to deploy a rover to search for signs of water.
The fate of the lander — whether it
crashed or landed — wasn’t immediately known. A successful landing would
have made India just the fourth country to land a vessel on the lunar
surface, and only the third to operate a robotic rover there.
The space agency said the lander’s
descent was normal until 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) from the lunar
“Let us hope for the best,” said
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was at Mission Control in the
southern city of Bangalore.
Trajectory graphics of India’s unmanned spacecraft are displayed on a
big screen at a media center set up at Indian Space Research
Organization (ISRO)’s Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network facility
in Bangalore, India, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019. (AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi)
The entire control center was
jubilant during the first 10 minutes of the lander’s descent, with
scientists breaking out in occasional cheers. The mood suddenly turned
somber and then dejected when the lander stopped sending data during its
final minutes of descent.
“I can understand the sadness in
your face,” Modi later told gathered scientists after being briefed by
the space agency’s chairman. “I have lived the moment with you when
communication with the spacecraft was lost.”
K. Sivan, the agency chairman, said
the data was being analyzed to find out what happened.
The roughly $140 million mission,
known as Chandrayaan-2, was intended to study permanently shadowed moon
craters that are thought to contain water deposits that were confirmed
by the Chandrayaan-1 mission in 2008.
India’s achievements in space have
been hailed by Modi as a symbol of the country’s rising ambition as a
Even after communication was lost,
scientists at mission control chanted “Victory for Mother India” in
response to Modi’s speech.
The space agency’s chairman had
earlier called Chandrayaan-2 the “most complex mission ever” undertaken
by the agency.
The mission lifted off on July 22
from the Satish Dhawan space center in Sriharikota, an island off the
coast of the southern state of Andhra Pradesh.
After its launch, Chandrayaan-2
spent several weeks making its way toward the moon, ultimately entering
lunar orbit on Aug. 20.
On Sept. 2, Vikram separated from
the mission’s orbiter, and the lander began a series of braking
maneuvers to lower its orbit and ready itself for landing.
Only three nations — the United
States, the former Soviet Union and China — have landed a spacecraft on
Last January, China achieved the
first landing on the far side of the moon. In April, an Israeli
spacecraft attempting to land crashed moments before touchdown.
Apple apologizes for use of
contractors to eavesdrop on Siri
San Francisco (AP) —
Apple is apologizing for allowing outsiders to listen to snippets of
people’s recorded conversations with its digital assistant Siri, a
practice that undermined its attempts to position itself as a trusted
steward of privacy.
As part of the apology posted
Wednesday, Apple reiterated an earlier pledge to stop keeping audio
recorded through Siri unless consumers give their permission.
When permission is granted, Apple
said only its own employees will be allowed to review audio to help
improve the service. Previously, the company hired contractors to listen
to some recordings.
“We realize we haven’t been fully
living up to our high ideals, and for that we apologize,” Apple said.
Apple would not say how it will
seek permission. In the past, the Cupertino, California, company has
typically requested permissions through prompts during software update
In recent months, Facebook, Google,
Amazon, Microsoft and Apple have all acknowledged that people have been
reviewing users’ interactions with artificial intelligence assistants in
order to improve the services. But users aren’t typically aware that
humans and not just computers are reviewing audio.
The use of humans to listen to
audio recordings is particularly troubling to privacy experts because it
increases the chances that a rogue employee or contractor could leak
details of what is being said, including parts of sensitive
The backlash to the industry
practice prompted Facebook and Google to stop relying on people to
transcribe recorded conversations. Amazon is continuing the practice
unless users of its digital assistant Alexa explicitly demand that
humans be blocked from listening. Microsoft also is still doing it, too,
contending it has adequate privacy safeguards in place for the Cortana
Apple intends to continue to rely
upon computer-generated transcripts of what’s being said to Siri as part
of effort to improve services, even if a user hasn’t explicitly granted
permission, or opted in.
Unlike Facebook, Google and Amazon,
which track what people are doing and where they are going to sell ads
and merchandise, Apple has conspicuously emphasized that that it has no
interest in peering into its customers’ lives.
CEO Tim Cook repeatedly has
declared the company’s belief that “privacy is a fundamental human
right,” a phrase that cropped up again in Apple’s apology.
Sharks to saiga, nations up support
for endangered wildlife
elephants rub their trunks against a tree at the David Sheldrick
Wildlife Trust Elephant Orphanage in Nairobi, Kenya Wednesday, Aug. 28.
Countries that are part of an international agreement on trade in
endangered species agreed to limit the sale of wild elephants,
delighting conservationists but dismaying some of the African countries
involved. (AP Photo/Khalil Senosi)
Geneva (AP) —
From towering giraffes to bottom-feeding sharks and many species in
between, endangered species got new protections under an agreement
finalized Wednesday by most of the world’s countries at a conference on
saving plants and animals from the ravages of international trade.
The 11-day World Wildlife
Conference on updating a convention known as CITES, which aims to ensure
that trade doesn’t threaten the survival of endangered fauna and flora,
adopted an array of measures and decisions about elephants, otters, star
tortoises, saiga antelope, and rosewood — a cherished material for
guitar makers — among many others.
The conference occurs every three
years and took on added importance this year following a U.N. report on
biodiversity in May warning that extinction looms for over 1 million
species of plants and animals.
Thomas Jemmi, CITES Cop18 Chair, Ivonne Higuero,
CITES Secretary-General (Convention on International Trade in Endangered
Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), Rod Hay, Chair Committe I, Craig
Hoover, Chair Committe II, from left, speak during a press conference
for the closing session of the World Wildlife Conference - CITES CoP18,
in Geneva, Switzerland, Wednesday, August 28. (Martial Trezzini/Keystone
There are growing concerns that
policymakers aren’t acting quickly enough to stop it.
Attendees agreed on protections for
18 more shark species that, while stopping short of a full ban, requires
any trade in them to be sustainable.
Nations did ban trade of two types
of otters, which are coveted as pets in places like Japan, and the
popular Indian star tortoise — one of the most heavily trafficked
illegally of all the tortoises for pet trade.
Rod Hay, chairman of a committee
that handles new listing proposals, said that “we had a large number of
reptile proposals and quite a significant number of reptiles and
amphibians that were added to the list of CITES.”
“That’s a reflection of pressure,
particularly in pet trade, on strange and interesting reptiles,” he
said, alluding to efforts by non-governmental organizations,
animal-rights groups and conservationists.
Controversy erupted over
interpretation about science — the supposed guidepost for
decision-makers — amid emotional and political pleas put forward by some
NGOs and animal rights activists as well as cash-strapped African
Frustrations emerged among
countries like Zimbabwe, which denounced international mandates about
its 84,000-strong African elephant population without enough help from
abroad in managing it, and Japan, which argued that mako sharks are only
facing declining populations in the North Sea and not near the seafaring
“There are a lot of controversies —
particularly around the elephant,” said Susan Lieberman of the Wildlife
Conservation Society. “The populations are in better shape and are
well-managed in southern Africa. Those countries would like to trade
ivory. But CITES parties have decided that countries should close their
ivory markets and efforts here to open the ivory trade were rejected.”
The fallout was continuing from a
measure, spearheaded by the European Union, passed Tuesday to restrict
exports of wild-caught African elephants beyond their home countries or
natural habitats — with a few exceptions.
“We would have liked a near-total
ban on the export of wild baby elephants, but the proposal that was put
through, with the eventual backing of the EU is much better than the
status quo,” said Kirsty Smith, administrator at the David Sheldrick
Wildlife Trust in Nairobi. “It is much better than nothing and we are
very excited. It is a fantastic win.”
Israel withdrew a proposal to list
the woolly mammoth in CITES conventions after countries like Russia and
Canada, which have many remains of the long-extinct animals, aired
reservations about the unprecedented idea. Israel had argued that
elephant tusk, which faces trade restrictions, can be too easily
confused with mammoth tusk, which can be traded legally. The issue
Eco search engine sees surge in downloads as Amazon burns
stump glows with fire amid smoke along the road to Jacunda National Forest,
near the city of Porto Velho in the Vila Nova Samuel region which is part of
Brazil’s Amazon, Monday, Aug. 26, 2019. Can you save the rainforest from
your desk? A spike in downloads for a search engine that’s contributing
profits to planting trees shows people are looking for ways to help as fires
rage across the Brazilian Amazon. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)
New York (AP) —
Can you save the rainforest from your desk? A spike in downloads for a
search engine that’s contributing profits to planting trees shows people are
looking for ways to help as fires rage across the Brazilian Amazon.
But experts say that while such efforts
won’t hurt, there are better ways to contribute.
Ecosia, a search engine founded in
2009, works with about 20 tree-planting organizations around the world in
hopes of planting a billion trees by 2020. The Berlin-based company has
pledged to plant an additional 2 million trees in Brazil in response to the
Ecosia uses Microsoft Bing’s search
engine technology and sells ads just like many other tech companies. But
instead of rewarding mostly shareholders, the company said it is
contributing 80% of its profits to tree-planting efforts and keeping just a
small amount for itself. The company estimates it can plant one tree for
every 45 searches that people do.
Other companies and even celebrities
are also taking action in response to the fires. Apple, for example, has
pledged aid, though it has not given many details. Leonardo DiCaprio’s
foundation has pledged $5 million.
Can a typical person help the
rainforest by simply changing search engines or supporting certain
While switching to Ecosia requires
little effort and “might make a difference,” the best way to respond is to
give directly to a charity that specializes in a cause and spends donations
wisely, said Larry Chiagouris, a professor of marketing at Pace University.
Art Markman, professor of psychology
and marketing at the University of Texas, said disaster relief tends to be
reactive and driven by the news cycle. He said charitable organizations can
capitalize on that by making it easy to give money.
“Generally speaking, doing something is
better than doing nothing,” said Art Markman, professor of psychology and
marketing at the University of Texas. “We tend to do things that are easy.”
A nonprofit called B Lab has certified
Ecosia as a for-profit company with a social mission. Ecosia’s bigger goal
is to combat climate change. It works with such nonprofit groups as The
Nature Conservancy and the Eden Reforestation Projects.
Although it’s possible to use Ecosia
from a standard web browser, people can download an “extension” tool to make
it the default search engine on traditional personal computers. Ecosia also
has an app for iPhones, iPads and Android devices.
Since the fires began, Ecosia has seen
downloads of the apps and extensions spike 10-fold, to about 250,000 a day,
much for it from the U.S., Brazil, Latin America, Canada and Europe. Ecosia
has also gotten 100 million searches a week, which the company says is a
“huge increase,” though it isn’t saying by how much. The company said the
spike has come through word of mouth via social media and media reports.
“We’re very sad about what’s happening,
but at the same time we’re really overwhelmed by all of the positive energy
from people coming our way who want to do something,” Ecosia founder
Christian Kroll said..