Archive for September, 2010

New Earth-like Exoplanet discovered that could support life

Posted September 30, 2010 By David Kolle

Astronomers have found the first alien world that could support life on its surface. It is both at the right distance from its star to potentially harbour liquid water and probably has a rocky composition like Earth.

“That’s the most exciting exoplanet I’ve seen yet,” says James Kasting of Pennsylvania State University in University Park, who was not involved in the discovery.

The planet orbits a dim red dwarf star 20 light years from Earth called Gliese 581. Four planets were already known around the star, with two lying near the innerand outer edges of the habitable zone, where liquid water – and therefore potentially life – could exist on its surface.

One of those, which travels on a 13-day orbit, seems too hot for liquid water. The other, on a 67-day orbit, may be just warm enoughMovie Camera for liquid water, but its status is not completely settled, says Kasting. Opinions “may continue to swing back and forth because it is hovering right near the outer edge”, he says.

The newly found “Goldilocks” planet, called Gliese 581 g, lies in between the hot and cold ones. “You’re smack dab in the middle of the habitable zone, so that’s perfect,” says Kasting, who has studied the two planets on the zone’s edges.

Steven Vogt of the University of California, Santa Cruz, and Paul Butler of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, DC, used the 10-metre Keck I telescope in Hawaii to measure the wobbles of the parent star in response to gravitational tugs from its planets. They combined their data with measurements published byMichel Mayor of Geneva Observatory and his colleagues using a 3.6-metre telescope at the European Southern Observatory in Chile.

Rocky super-Earth

The wobbles revealed two previously undiscovered planets around the star, for a total of six. One is about seven times the mass of Earth and in a 433-day orbit – much too far from its star to support liquid water.

The other, Gliese 581 g, lies in the habitable zone and has a 37-day orbit. Its mass is between 3.1 and 4.3 times that of Earth.

Its relatively low mass means it should be made mostly of rock, like Earth. Simulations show that planets that grow beyond about 10 Earth masses collect a lot of gas, becoming uninhabitable giants like Jupiter, with no solid or liquid surface to provide a toehold for life.

Some giant planets have previously been found in the habitable zones around their stars, but have generated less excitement because of their inhospitable structure.

Twilight zone

Conditions on the planet would be very different from those on Earth. The host star is a low-mass red dwarf that is just 1 per cent as bright as the sun.

Because it puts out so little light and warmth, its habitable zone lies much closer in than does the sun’s. At such tight distances, planets in the zone experience strong gravitational tugs from the star that probably slow their rotation over time, until they become “locked” with one side always facing the star, just as the moon always keeps the same face pointed towards Earth.

That would mean perpetual daylight on one side of the planet and permanent shadow on the other. A first approximation suggests the temperature would be 71 °C on the day side and -34 °C on the night side, though winds could soften the differences by redistributing heat around the planet.

Travelling from one side of the planet to the other, there would be a range of intermediate temperatures, says Vogt. “The most comfortable place on this planet … is along what we call the terminator, the line between light and dark,” he says. “You basically see the star sitting on the horizon – you see an eternal sunrise or sunset.”

First of many

The discovery suggests habitable planets must be common, with 10 to 20 per cent of red dwarfs and sun-like stars boasting them, the team says. That’s because Gliese 581 is one of just nine stars out to its distance that have been searched with high enough precision to reveal a planet in the habitable zone.

“If you take the number of stars in our galaxy – a few hundred billion – and multiply them by 10 or 20 per cent, you end up with 20 or 40 billion potentially habitable planets out there,” says Vogt. “It’s a very large number.”

Although the new planet is in the habitable zone, we are unlikely to find out whether it is actually inhabited anytime soon. One way to find out would be to measure the planet’s light spectrum, which could reveal molecular oxygen or other possible signs of life in its atmosphere. But the overwhelming glare from its parent star makes it impossible to do that with current instruments.

Vital signs

However, Butler says this is probably just the first of many rocky planets likely to be found in the habitable zone in the coming years, and some of these are likely to be much more amenable to follow-up observations.

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Amazon launches its ‘Kindle for the web’

Posted September 29, 2010 By David Kolle

Amazon has unveiled a program that allows Kindle electronic books to be sampled in a web browser.

“Kindle for the Web” is featured on the online retail giant’s website, Amazon.com, and book samples can be embedded on other websites or shared through Facebook and Twitter.

Users can click on a “Read First Chapter Free” button on selected Amazon books and a browser window opens featuring the sample chapter. The book can also be purchased directly from the browser.

“With Kindle for the Web, it’s easier than ever for customers to sample Kindle books – there’s no downloading or installation required,” Amazon Kindle director Dorothy Nicholls said in a statement.

“Kindle for the Web is also a great way for bloggers and authors to promote books on their websites by letting visitors read a chapter without leaving their site.”

Bloggers or website owners who sign on to “Kindle for the Web” can earn referral fees from Amazon when customers buy books using the links on their websites, Amazon said.

Amazon has already made Kindle books accessible on a host of devices beyond the company’s own Kindle e-reader.

Earlier this week, Amazon announced a Kindle application for an upcoming tablet computer from Blackberry maker Research in Motion.

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Company creates a customisable $23,000 PC Xbox 360 hybrid

Posted September 29, 2010 By David Kolle
Origin

HARD core gamers rejoice. An American computing company has created a customisable PC-Xbox hybrid that can set you back nearly $23,000.

American computing company Origin PC has announced the release of a liquid cooled, high-end, customisable gaming system for computer geeks and gamers with money to burn.

The PC-Xbox 360 hybrid gaming system fuses the fastest computing hardware on the planet with the Xbox 360 Slim to create the ultimate gaming weapon, albeit with the price tag of a small car.

The Big O incorporates Origin’s overclocking hardware with the game console built directly into the case and starts at $10,699.

Add customisable features such as Intel‘s Xeon processors and a second CPU and you could pay up to $22,799 and have a system overclocked to 4.5GHZ.

Kevin Wasielewski, CEO and Co-Founder of Origin said the computer will satisfy any power hungry gamer.
“But when you create the ultimate personal computer system it has to be designed to go above and beyond gaming.”

Liquid cooling reduces heat and fan noise and the company provides a team of specialists to work with the gamer assembling a tailor made gaming system.

The case is also customisable for those who value aesthetics as well as raw power.

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Salesforce to release Chatter 2

Posted September 29, 2010 By David Kolle

Less than six months after the release of Salesforce‘s corporate social-networking platform, Chatter, the customer relationship software provider is set to release its sequel, the aptly named Chatter 2.

Image representing Salesforce as depicted in C...

Image via CrunchBase

Jeremy Cooper, regional vice president of marketing for Salesforce Asia-Pacific, said that the region was Salesforce’s fastest growing market.

“Customer numbers have grown to around 82,000 worldwide, with the strongest growth region being the Asia-Pacific.”

Some of the new features include a Chatter Central tab, which brings in a way to monitor and manage incoming feeds and information, as well as a recommendation engine for new followers and feed filtering of groups and projects.

Chatter 2 also embeds an analytical dashboard into the environment, as well as a way to find new opportunities and deals to follow.

Cooper said that Salesforce originally modelled its enterprise software development strategy on Amazon.com, asking itself why customer relationship management techniques couldn’t be as simple as using the online shopping site.

“Over the last 12 months, we have observed the ‘megatrends’ starting to make their way into the market. Amazon is no longer the lighthouse in terms of enterprise software development, as Facebook and Twitter have changed the way we use the internet,” Cooper said.

“At the end of last year, the number of people collaborating on social sites surpassed the number of people using email globally. We’re now asking ourselves ‘why isn’t all enterprise software just like Facebook’?” he added.

Chatter embodies much of Salesforce’s new “Cloud 2″ vision.

Salesforce’s Cloud 2 strategy looks to capture the “new method” around how people are getting their information online, with a specific push towards the mobile collaboration space.

As a result, Chatter 2 will launch onto every major mobile device at launch, including iPad, iPhone, BlackBerry and Android platforms.

Chatter was first released on 22 June, with 20,000 customers signed on within the first 90 days.

According to Salesforce, all existing Chatter customers will be upgraded to Chatter 2 at its release in October.

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