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New Horizons spacecraft ‘alters theory of planet formation’

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NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI/Roman Tkachenko

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The Kuiper belt object Arrokoth is a pristine remnant of planet formation in action

Scientists say they have “decisively” overturned the prevailing theory for how planets in our Solar System formed.

The established view is that material violently crashed together to form ever larger clumps until they became worlds.

New results suggest the process was less catastrophic – with matter gently clumping together instead.

The study appears in Science journal and has been presented at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Seattle.

The study’s lead researcher, Dr Alan Stern, said that the discovery was of “stupendous magnitude”.

Distant object ‘like nothing seen before’

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NASA/Bill Ingalls

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The moment Alan Stern (L) had confirmation that New Horizons had flown by the Kuiper Belt object

“There was the prevailing theory from the late 1960s of violent collisions and a more recent emerging theory of gentle accumulation. One is dust and the other is the only one standing. This rarely happens in planetary science, but today we have settled the matter,” he told BBC News.

The claim arises from detailed study of an object in the outer reaches of the Solar System. Named Arrokoth, the object is more than six billion km from the Sun in a region called the Kuiper belt. It is a pristine remnant of planet formation in action as the Solar System formed 4.6 billion years ago, with two bodies combining to form a larger one.

Scientists obtained high-resolution pictures of Arrokoth when Nasa’s New Horizons spacecraft flew close to it just over a year ago. It gave scientists their first opportunity to test which of the two competing theories was correct: did its components crash together or was there gentle contact?

The analysis by Dr Stern and his team could find no evidence of violent impact. The researchers found no stress fractures, nor was there any flattening, indicating that the objects were squashed together gently.

“This is completely decisive,” said Dr Stern. “In one fell swoop, the flyby of Arrokoth was able to decide between the two theories.”

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Lund Observatory

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The newer gentle clumping theory was developed 15 years ago by Prof Anders Johansen

He is bullish because these so-called Kuiper belt objects have largely remained the same since the formation of the Solar System. They are, in effect, perfectly preserved fossils from this distant time.

The newer gentle clumping theory was developed 15 years ago by Prof Anders Johansen at Lund Observatory in Sweden. At the time he was a young PhD student. The idea emerged from computer simulations.

After speaking to Dr Stern, I broke the news to Prof Johansen that his theory had been confirmed. There was a pause on the line before he replied that he “felt great”.

He added: “It is a special moment. I remember when I was a PhD student and feeling very nervous about these new results because they were very different to the ones before. I was worried that there was an error in my code or that I had made a calculation error.

“And then when you see these results confirmed from actual observations it is a real relief.”

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Anders Johansen

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Anders Johansen marks the confirmation of his theory with his daughter Laura

Prof Johansen commemorated the occasion with a pizza and coke with his family.

Engineer Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock, who co-presents the BBC’s Sky at Night programme, cautioned against toppling a theory based on the observation of one object, but said that Dr Stern’s interpretation “makes a lot of sense”.

“It is nice to have this evidence because the crashing together theory was a nice theory, but there were some challenges to it. Why did the objects stick together and not bounce apart. There was a lot that didn’t add up.”

When Arrokoth was discovered six years ago, it was known only by its designation 2014 MU69. At the time of the New Horizons flyby, it had been given the informal name Ultima Thule. While that name came from a classical and medieval term for a far-off place at the borders of the known world, its use by Nazi occultists as the mythical homeland of the Aryan race caused controversy.

The official name Arrokoth is a Native American term meaning “sky” in the Powhatan/Algonquian language.

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Fossil Fuels Are to Blame for Soaring Methane Levels, Study Shows

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Oil and gas production may be responsible for a far larger share of the soaring levels of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, in the earth’s atmosphere than previously thought, new research has found.

The findings, published in the journal Nature, add urgency of efforts to rein in methane emissions from the fossil fuel industry, which routinely leaks or intentionally releases the gas into air.

“We’ve identified a gigantic discrepancy that shows the industry needs to, at the very least, improve their monitoring,” said Benjamin Hmiel, a researcher at the University of Rochester and the study’s lead author. “If these emissions are truly coming from oil, gas extraction, production use, the industry isn’t even reporting or seeing that right now.”

Atmospheric concentrations of methane have more than doubled from preindustrial times. A New York Times investigation into “super emitter” sites last year revealed vast quantities of methane being released from oil wells and other energy facilities instead of being captured.

The extent to which fossil fuel emissions, as opposed to natural sources, are responsible for the rising methane levels has long been a matter of scientific debate. Methane seeps from the ocean bed, for instance, and also spews from land formations called mud volcanoes.

To shed light on the mystery, researchers at Rochester’s Department of Earth and Environmental Studies examined ice cores from Greenland, as well as data from Antarctica stretching back to about 1750, before the industrial revolution.

They found that methane emissions from natural phenomena were far smaller than estimates used to calculate global emissions. That means fossil-fuel emissions from human activity — namely the production and burning of fossil fuels — were underestimated by 25 to 40 percent, the researchers said.

The scientists were helped in their analysis by different isotopes found in methane emissions from natural sources, compared to emissions from the production of fossil fuels. Isotopes are versions of an element that have very slight differences, allowing the researchers to differentiate between them.

Daniel J. Jacob, professor of atmospheric chemistry and environmental engineering at Harvard University, also described the findings as significant. Current estimates of methane from geological sources “were widely considered too high by atmospheric modelers such as myself,” he wrote in an email.

But he took issue with the suggestion that emissions from fossil fuel production were larger than previously estimated. Fossil fuel emissions are “based on fuel production rates, number of facilities, and direct measurements if available. The natural geological source is irrelevant for these estimates,” he said.

The disagreement reflects an overall discrepancy between what are called “bottom-up” measurements of emissions, those from individual oil and gas sites, as opposed to “top-down” calculations like the ones carried out by the Rochester researchers. “Bottom-up” measurements can be unreliable because of a lack of data from individual oil and gas sites. With “top-down” measurements, on the other hand, the exact source of emissions can be hard to pin down.

The findings come as oil and gas companies face increased pressure to rein in greenhouse gas emissions from their operations to address rising concerns about climate change.

Methane, the main component of natural gas, is of particular concern, because it can warm the planet more than 80 times as much as the same amount of carbon dioxide over a 20-year period. On top of fossil fuel production, livestock, landfills and other sources linked to human activity also emit methane.

Last week, the British oil giant BP set an ambitious climate change goal, saying it aimed to eliminate or offset by 2050 all planet-warming emissions from its oil and gas production, as well as emissions caused by the burning of the oil and gas it pumps from the ground. The company provided few details on how it would achieve that feat, however.

Adding to climate concerns, the Trump administration is moving forward with a plan that effectively eliminates requirements that oil companies install technology to detect and fix methane leaks from oil and gas facilities. By the Environmental Protection Agency’s own calculations, the rollback would increase methane emissions by 370,000 tons through 2025, enough to power more than a million homes for a year.

Dr. Petrenko, one of the Rochester study’s authors, said that the huge undertaking of studying giant ice cores meant the study relied on a small sampling of data. “These measurements are incredibly difficult. So getting more data to help confirm our results would be very valuable,” he said. “That means there’s quite a bit more research to be done.”

For more climate news sign up for the Climate Fwd: newsletter or follow @NYTClimate on Twitter.





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Rising Kashmir

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Feb 19, 2020 | Dr. Rajkumar Singh

The United States of America took a lion’s share of interest in Kashmir because New Delhi and Islamabad were face to fact on the issue. US policy makers are highly pragmatic, highly cynical. They believed that through an intelligent exploitation of the Pakistani card they can exercise pressure on India. India is democratic, and tolerant; a society that wished not to confront or attack US policies and also hopes to receive from it hitech technology transfers.

Regarding the “core” issue of Kashmir there is a wide gulf between New Delhi and Islamabad on the one hand and New Delhi-Washington on the other. Pakistan’s single minded and unchanging pursuit had been to oppose and damage India in whatever manner feasible. India insists that the access of Kashmir to India is final and irrevocable.

While the US, similar to Islamabad has maintained that it is a disputed territory. India asserts that Maharaja Hari Singh acceded to India of his own free will and that in any case he had the sovereign right to decide which domination he wished to join.

Original US views on Kashmir

There is a widely held view in the US, shared by the State Department that the accession took place under duress and at the very least needs to be revalidated by some sort of reference to the people. Pakistan had been famous, for the decades, as an ally of US, and eventually a frontline state in its crusade against communism.

The fallout of this on the Kashmir dispute was to distort each and every interpretation of events in Kashmir in a way that weakened India’s case at the UN and strengthened Pakistan’s. There is thus a well-founded backlog of distrust that has to be dispelled if the US is to be accepted as a mediator by the Indian public.

On several occasions the US has offered mediation and Pakistan sought Washington’s mediation/intervention in solving the problem. But New Delhi has been of the opinion that bilateral issues should not be solved through mediation of the third party. Coinciding with the Male meeting between Gujral and Sharif, in May 1997 reports from London and Washington spoke of Jammu and Kashmir being on the agenda of the Blair-Clinton talks.

The Beijing regime made extra loud promises of augmented military supplies during the Pakistani President’s visit to China. In an effort to patch-up the differences between India and Pakistan having accepted New Delhi’s position Clinton proposed a meeting with I.K. Gujral to be held during the UN General Assembly session.

Since Pakistan has long been insisting on US intervention in the Kashmir “dispute” the entire rescheduling appeared to be a ploy to hold some kind of a tripartite meeting of the heads of Government of three countries. 

Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Gohar Ayub Khan, as a part of its strategy paid his four-day visit to China where he discussed the Kashmir issue with China, who has been carefully watching the Indo-Pak talks had expressed optimism that New Delhi and Islamabad would make unremitting efforts to seek a peaceful resolution of the Kashmir issue, thereby normalising  bilateral relations.

US Presidential efforts

President Clinton, before his scheduled meeting with I. K. Gujral on 22 September 1997 laid stress on good Indo-Pak ties. He was also urged in a letter by Dan Burton, a Republican Congressman and  other that his administration should devote “greater attention” to South Asia and help “facilitate a resolution of the Kashmir problem on the basis of the relevant UN resolutions and the wishes of the Kashmiri people”.

Clinton and Gujral had an extremely warm and cordial 30-minute-plus meeting that engendered a pleasantly amiable ambience for the discussions. The US President sought to remove India’s apprehensions by declaring that his country had no intention to interfere in its problems with Pakistan, an apparent reference to the Kashmir issue.

When asked to a specific query, a senior State Department official said the two leaders were aware of the sensitivities on the subject. He made it quite clear that the US was very careful not to interfere in any way in the outstanding issues India had with Pakistan, although the US strongly supported the Indo-Pak dialogue that was underway.

Washington made a fresh offer when Pakistan Foreign Minister visited USA, to assist India and Pakistan to resolve their differences but reaffirmed that it has “no intention to interfere” in the on-going bilateral dialogue.

The United States of America in an important decision branded the Harkat-ul-Ansar, the Pakistan based terrorist group promoting terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir. Hailing the decision as a “welcome recognition” of the ground realities in Jammu and Kashmir the External Affairs Ministry hoped that Washington would follow up the decision by recognising “the true nature” of other similar terrorist groups operating from Pakistan.    

The Indian officials also felt that as a next logical step Pakistan should at least be returned to the US State Department’s watch-list of states which are believed to sponsor terrorism if not declare it a ‘rogue’ nation. In an Indo-US dialogue held in October 1997 the US Government acknowledged the seriousness of the problem of cross-border terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir.

Other supportive factors

Further in a fresh move Nawaz Sharif during his visit to China in February 1998 reiterated in familiar Pakistani stand on Kashmir and said Jammu and Kashmir was the primary cause of conflict between India and Pakistan. “It remains the flash point threatening regional peace and security.” 

However, Pakistani premier failed to garner Beijing’s support against New Delhi and Kashmir issue never figured in any of the statements made by top Chinese leadership during the visit. Perhaps, Beijing was careful not to annoy India too much in the wake of renewed political and trade ties between Beijing and  New Delhi after painstaking efforts from both sides.

Islamabad was mainly assisted by Beijing in the manufacturing of armaments as well as development of nuclear technology. Washington too, had been second to none in providing Pakistan’s defence system a strong footing.

Even today despite its efforts for disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation, US continued to be an important ally of Islamabad. The United States, even evades toreact when Beijing used to supply defence related equipments to Pakistan.

At present it is an established fact that Islamabad is being helped by China and USA, for the reasons, suited to each country. With active support of the Beijing, Pakistan is making serious efforts to tip its missiles with nuclear warheads and is building a missile factory. Chinese experts were working on guidance and control systems, solid fuel and M-11 missile variants. It had also trained Pakistani personnel on assembling and use of the M-11 missile.

In the series Pakistan test fired two missile systems—a surface-to-air missile named Azna and another anti-tank guided missile, Baktar Shikan at a firing range. Even earlier, in June 1997, Pakistan test fired its medium range surface-to-surface Hatf-III missile which reportedly had a range of nearly 800 kms.  Although Pakistani spokesman in a statement said that they were a routine affair and it has no high military significance.

 

 

Author is head of Department of Political Science, B.N.Mandal University, Main Campus, Madhepura. Bihar

 





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Olay says it will stop skin retouching in its ads by the end of the year

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Olay Regenerist video.

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Procter & Gamble skincare brand Olay said Wednesday it will stop retouching skin in its advertising by 2021.

As part of the commitment, which Olay announced at an event in New York City on Wednesday, the company will kick off a new print campaign called “My Olay” featuring unretouched images of Busy Philipps, Denise Bidot and Lilly Singh. Olay works with ad agency Badger & Winters, which made Olay’s recent Super Bowl ad featuring all women.

Olay’s “Skin Promise” mark will appear on ads in the U.S. and Canada to show that the skin on women featured has not been retouched, the brand said. The “Skin Promise” will expand to all of the brand’s ads on print, digital, out-of-home and with influencer partners by 2021.

Kate DiCarlo, Olay’s senior communications leader, said during a panel at the announcement that the brand had tested out the new no-retouching policy in its Super Bowl ad. “We tested ourselves with the Super Bowl shoot; Our Super Bowl shoot was also unretouched,” she said. 

Brands have been criticized in the past for editing photos in ad imagery. Just over ten years ago, Olay came under fire in the UK for a magazine ad for a beauty product featuring English model and actress Twiggy, which the company admitted had been retouched. Unilever and its agency Ogilvy & Mather came under similar scrutiny after claims that it too had retouched photos of models as part of “Real Beauty” ad campaign for Dove (Unilever later told Ad Age that photos in one campaign had been altered to “remove dust and do color correction,” but not to change the “women’s natural beauty”).

But in the years since, some companies have been moving away from altered photos in their ad imagery. CVS Pharmacy said in January 2018 it would require disclosure for beauty imagery that has been “materially altered” by the end of 2020. It also introduced a “Beauty Mark,” or watermark to show imagery that had not been materially altered, referring to changing a person’s size, shape, proportion, skin color, eye color, wrinkles or other characteristics. Olay says its new standards align with those of CVS’s “Beauty Mark.”

In 2018, Dove launched its “No Digital Distortion Mark” for all branded content globally to represent that images are not distorted to make changes like removing wrinkles or cellulite (though it says it can remove a few things like lipstick or food particles from teeth). The company made its Dove Real Beauty Pledge in 2017 to declare that it never makes alterations to distort the physical appearance of the people in its ads or brand visuals.

Other companies have seen success with Photoshop-free ad imagery, including American Eagle’s Aerie, which started running campaigns with unedited photos models in 2014. The brand’s body-positive messaging helped it gain ground from competitor Victoria’s Secret. 

During the panel, actress Philipps spoke about working with the brand after having images of her edited in the past. 

“Contractually, I am not allowed to have Botox or filler,” she said. “They’re not only just not retouching, but this is my face as it’s lived and as it is, and I’m really proud of that. I love that part of the contract. So when I saw that, I knew they’re really serious about representing lots of different women at different ages with different types of skin, and that’s what I would like to be a part of.” 



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