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Iconic Arecibo radio telescope to be dismantled after 57-year run


The famous Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico, which has provided an invaluable service to scientists for 57 years as well as establishing itself in popular culture, will be dismantled after it incurred irreparable damage in recent months.

The enormous observatory was completed in 1963 and immediately established itself as a powerful tool for astronomers and atmospheric scientists around the world. The enormous instrument boasted a larger size and different architecture than anything before it, opening up new possibilities for monitoring the universe (and transmitting to it, not something every array can do).

Countless researchers and projects used Arecibo, which as a federally funded resource was at least partly dedicated to public proposals. Signals coming through Arecibo helped inform our understanding of stellar objects from Mercury to distant pulsars.

The Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence famously used the telescope to transmit a message at high power towards a nearby star cluster structured so that its artificial nature would be unmistakable, at least to any form of life remotely like our own. The organization also scoured years of the observatory’s data for patterns that may indicate intelligent life doing the same thing in reverse.

Arecibo’s crowning moment in pop culture, however, is certainly its appearance in the 1995 James Bond film GoldenEye — and the wildly popular Nintendo 64 game based on it. Who could forget the climactic showdown between Bond and his antagonist, suspended hundreds of feet above the dish?

Sadly, Arecibo’s infrastructure has aged and the cost of replacing some parts seems to have been too great for its custodians to attempt. Though it has survived countless storms and earthquakes, the battering it has received in recent years seems was too much for some of its cables, two out of 12 of which broke in recent months, damaging the dish itself. It is suspected that the others may be in a poor state, and if so that vastly increases the danger and cost of repairs.

Consequently it was decided by the board at the University of Central Florida, which manages Arecibo on behalf of the National Science Foundations, that a controlled decommissioning was the only reasonable path forward.

“This decision was not an easy one to make,” the NSF’s Sean Jones told press at a briefing today. “We understand how much Arecibo means to the [scientific] community and to Puerto Rico.”

No specific plan has been arrived at yet for the dismantlement of the facility, but it would need to be done fairly soon to prevent more accidents from further reducing the safety of the site.

The loss of Arecibo is a grave one, and its capabilities are not replicated exactly by other observatories in the world, but it is no longer the largest or most sensitive radio telescope out there. Many successors have been built in the six decades since Arecibo was made operational; China just took the wraps of the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope at the beginning of 2020, which promises to be an immensely important facility for astronomers worldwide.

While the famous telescope may soon be gone, Arecibo may remain as a scientific facility, suggested Arecibo’s program director at the NSF in remarks reported by “We’re discussing the decommissioning of a structure made of steel and cables,” he said, “It’s the passion of the people that work at the observatory to continue to explore, to learn, that is the true heart and soul of Arecibo. It’s not the telescope that’s the heart and soul, it’s the people.”

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The Article Was Written/Published By: Devin Coldewey

China’s digital currency aims to leave the rest of the world in the dust


China is already test-driving the future of finance while the rest of the world is stuck trying to get its learner’s permit.

What’s happening: Over the past two weeks Chinese authorities in cities like Shenzhen and Chengdu have given out the country’s brand new digital renminbi currency and are urging even faster rollout of the token nationwide.

  • The country’s central bank has distributed the currency to “lottery” winners who are reportedly spending it at thousands of retailers, including local supermarkets and pharmacies and even Walmart.

What they’re saying: “We must serve dual circulation with fintech-led innovations,” Chen Yulu, deputy governor of the People’s Bank of China, said in an article published on Sunday in the PBOC-run China Finance magazine.

  • “We must build an independent and high-quality financial infrastructure … quicken the pace of research and development of the central bank digital currency, and ensure that pilot tests show [the digital currency] is controllable and safeguards the security of payments.”

On the other side: The Bank for International Settlements and seven mostly Western central banks including the Fed, European Central Bank, Bank of Japan and the Bank of England published a report last week detailing the “foundational principles” and “core features” of a potential central bank digital currency (CBDC) in order to “guide exploration and support public policy objectives.”

  • None of the central banks committed to pursuing or producing a digital currency as part of the report.

Why it matters: The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the world’s move away from paper money and producing the world’s first CBDC could put China in the driver’s seat to steer the future of payments and currency.

Between the lines: “If you take the last 250 days what has happened is we’ve gone into a different pace of digital,” Charlotte Hogg, CEO of European operations at Visa, said during a panel at the Institute of International Finance’s annual meeting Tuesday.

  • “Everything that we can see is that people who never used digital payments before are using them. They’re going to continue to use them, particularly as those more vulnerable in our societies continue to shield and it’s going to be ever more important for our recovery for all of our business communities to be able to use forms of digital payment.”

Zoom in: Facebook attempted to produce a digital currency that would have been convertible across borders and provided users the opportunity to spend and exchange it, but was rebuffed by U.S. and international regulators concerned about a for-profit company having so much influence on the supply of money.

  • That concern is still a driving force behind central banks’ efforts — that and a desire to ensure commercial banks aren’t left out in the cold once digital payments make many of their services obsolete.

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The Article Was Written/Published By: Dion Rabouin

YouTube Wants You to Film a Day in Your Life

A person letting go of a flying paper lantern.Google

You’re a pretty interesting person, right? So are lots of people. Yet, for all our differences, we have many similarities. YouTube wants to make a feature film showing “Life in a Day” around the world. On Saturday, July 25, its inviting everyone to film their day and submit it. Directors Ridley Scott and Kai Hsuing will edit the good stuff together to make a feature film.

Ten years ago, nearly to the day, YouTube put together the original “Life n a Day” using user-submitted footage. The idea was to capture what life was like in 2010 for future generations to see. Now YouTube wants to repeat the event with “Life in a Day 2020.”

On July 25, you can film your day and upload the footage. YouTube says that you can feature special days like weddings or a typical day where you go to work. You’ll have a week, from July 25 to August 2, to submit your footage at the Life in a Day site.

Directors Ridley Scott and Kai Hsuing and a team of producers will take the next five months to sort through the footage, choose which clips to use, and tie it together into a single film. Ten years ago, YouTube received 80,000 submissions and turned the content into a 90-minute video.

YouTube is inviting everyone across the world and promises to have a 30-person team of multilingual reviewers on hand to watch the footage, translate as needed. Given the number of submissions ten years ago, the chances of making it in the final product are slim—but you can’t get picked if you don’t submit.

Source: YouTube

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The Article Was Written/Published By: Josh Hendrickson