Hoping to Find Life on Other Planets, Astronomers Start on Giant Chile Telescope

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet put hammer to stone on an Andean mountaintop on Wednesday evening to mark the start of construction for one of the world’s most advanced telescopes, an instrument that may help shed light on the possibility of life on distant planets.

The Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT), scheduled to be completed by 2024, will have a resolution 10 times that of the Hubble spacecraft. Experts say it will be able to observe black holes in the distant cosmos and make out planets in other solar systems with unprecedented detail.

Such technology, astronomers say, will help humans determine how the universe formed and if planets hundreds of light years away could support life.

 Hoping to Find Life on Other Planets, Astronomers Start on Giant Chile Telescope

“With this science, there are no limits to the possibilities that are open,” said Bachelet, standing on the GMT’s site, a wind-buffeted, 8,250-foot (2,500-metre) mountaintop.

“What it does is open the door to understanding,” she said.

The GMT – a collaboration of institutions in the United States, Chile, South Korea, Brazil, and Australia – will rely on seven intricately curved lenses, each almost 28 feet (8.5 meters) wide.

For the system to work, no one lens can have a blemish of more than 25 nanometers, which is some four thousand times smaller than the average width of a human hair.

“Astronomy is like archaeology; what we see in the sky happened many years ago,” said Yuri Beletsky, a Belarussian astronomer for the GMT. “The biggest expectation is that we find something that we don’t expect,” he added on a bus driving up sinuous switchbacks to the planned observatory.

Two other massive instruments – the European Extremely Large Telescope, also in Chile, and the Thirty Meter Telescope in Hawaii – are scheduled to be completed in the 2020s as well. But GMT President Patrick McCarthy says the telescope’s massive single lenses and wider observation field will allow for more precise measurements.

Among the phenomena he hopes to observe is dark matter, mysterious invisible material that makes up most of the universe’s mass.

Astronomers say Chile’s bone-dry Atacama Desert, host to the GMT and dozens of other high-powered telescopes, is uniquely suited to space observation as it has dry air, high mountains, and little light pollution.

McCarthy also points out that another advantage for astronomers in Chile is that the airflow from the nearby Pacific Ocean is smoother than that over continental deserts, meaning scientists have to contend with less atmospheric interference.

‘Superduck’ Dinosaur Provides Insight Into Elaborate Head Crests

In a warm, lush environment near a meandering river 79.5 million years ago in Montana, a dinosaur nicknamed “Superduck” munched on leaves and kept a lookout for predators related to Tyrannosaurus rex that might threaten its herd.

Scientists on Wednesday announced the discovery of fossils of the dinosaur they named Probrachylophosaurus bergei that was about 30 feet (9 metres) long, weighed more than 5 tons and donned a small, triangular bony crest atop its skull.

It was a member of a plant-eating group called duck-billed dinosaurs, known for beaks resembling a duck’s bill, common during the latter part of the Cretaceous Period.

Many duck-billed dinosaurs boasted head crests of various shapes and sizes. Probrachylophosaurus, one of the earliest with a prominent crest, offers insight into the evolution of these features, the researchers said.

'Superduck' Dinosaur Provides Insight Into Elaborate Head Crests

Its skull bones are very similar to those of Acristavus, a duck-billed dinosaur from about 81 million years ago thought to be its ancestor, and Brachylophosaurus, which lived about 78 million years ago and is thought to be its descendant.

“Acristavus does not have a crest. The top of its skull is flat. Brachylophosaurus has a large, flat, paddle-shaped crest that completely covers the back of the top of its skull,” said Elizabeth Freedman Fowler, curator of paleontology at the Great Plains DinosaurMuseum in Malta, Montana.

“It is a perfect example of evolution within a single lineage of dinosaurs over millions of years.”

Paleontologist Jack Horner of Montana State University and the Museum of the Rockies added, “Because the fossil record is very spotty and we only get glimpses of evolutionary trends, it is always exciting to find evidence of transitional species.”

Freedman Fowler said she gave Probrachylophosaurus (pronounced pro-BRAH-KEE-loh-foh-saw-rus) the nickname “Superduck” because it was pretty big for a duck-billed dinosaur, although not the largest.

Growth rings in its leg bones, akin to annual growth rings in trees, showed it was 14 years old, still not fully grown.

“We think that the crests of dinosaurs were visual signals so that they could recognize members of their own species, and also tell whether the animal was mature or not,” Freedman Fowler said.

The scientists unearthed most of its skull, its pelvis, hind legs, vertebrae and ribs near the north-central Montana town of Rudyard. They unearthed less-complete remains of a second Probrachylophosaurus, more of an adolescent in age.

ZTE Schedules October 17 Nubia Event; New Nubia Z11 mini Variant Expected

ZTE Schedules October 17 Nubia Event; New Nubia Z11 mini Variant Expected

Chinese handset maker ZTE has confirmed an event on October 17 in China where it is expected to launch a new Nubia smartphone. Rumours suggest that the new ZTE Nubia smartphone may be a new variant of the Z11 mini.

Some of the new additions expected on the new ZTE Nubia Z11 mini variant are in terms of camera. The new Nubia smartphone is said to pack dual-rear cameras. Unfortunately, there are not many details on the new Nubia smartphone available at the moment.

To recall, ZTE unveiled the Nubia Z11 mini back in April priced at CNY 1,499 (approximately Rs. 15,000) in China. One of the biggest highlights of the smartphone was touted to be the 16-megapixel rear camera with f/2.0 aperture, 6P lens, autofocus, and LED flash. The smartphone also came with an 8-megapixel front camera also on board. The handset sports a fingerprint scanner at the back which could be used for more functions other than just unlocking the device.

For specifications, the ZTE Nubia Z11 mini features a 5-inch full-HD (1080×1920 pixels) IPS display; dual-SIM support with hybrid dual-SIM slot; powered by an octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 (MSM8952) processor; 3GB of RAM; 64GB of inbuilt storage; expandable storage support via microSD card (up to 200GB), and a 2800mAh non-removable battery.

Back in July, the ZTE Nubia N1 was unveiled at CNY 1,699 (roughly Rs. 17,200). The smartphone ran on Android 6.0 Marshmallow-based Nubia 4.0 UI; featured a 5.5-inch (1920×1080 pixels) full HD display with 401ppi pixel density; powered by a 1.8GHz Mediatek Helio P10 octa-core SoC; 3GB of RAM, and 64GB of inbuilt storage.

Lenovo P2 Detailed Specifications Leaked Alongside Moto M Retail Packaging [Updated]

Lenovo P2 Detailed Specifications Leaked Alongside Moto M Retail Packaging [Updated]

The Lenovo P2, a massive battery smartphone that was unveiled at IFA 2016, is all set to launch next month. While the company had detailed most specifications at the trade show last month, the complete specifications have now been leaked. Alongside, the retail packaging of the frequently-leaked Moto M (seen above), which was last seen in live images, has allegedly been spotted.

Update: A previous version of the story incorrectly associated the leaked specifications to the Moto M, when in fact they are for the Lenovo P2, which was unveiled at IFA 2016 earlier this year.

As per a new leaked image of specifications, shared by Krispitech, the Lenovo P2 will run Android 6.0 Marshmallow out-of-the-box. It is also said to be powered by a 2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor, coupled with either 3GB or 4GB of RAM. The smartphone is also reported to pack an Adreno 506 for graphics capabilities in it. Krispitech adds the Lenovo P2 will be launched in November.

The metal unibody Lenovo P2 packs either 32GB or 64GB inbuilt storage, with expandability via microSD card (up to 128GB). It adds the 4GB LPPDR4 RAM and 64GB storage variant will be launched in China, while a 3GB/4GB LPDDR3 RAM and 32GB storage variant will be made available in the rest of the world.

The P2 is also said to have Lenovo-configured 1.5W speakers with SMART amplifier. It should also have 2 microphones, one is audio receptor while the other is the noise cancelling unit. A massive 5100mAh battery with rapid charging is also mentioned, which matches the specifications revealed at IFA. The battery is rated to deliver a talk time of up to 78.69 hours, and a standby time of 768.61 hours.

It is said to sport a 5.5-inch full-HD Super AMOLED display, bear a 13-megapixel rear camera, and a 5-megapixel front camera. The Lenovo P2 is mentioned to have dimensions of 153x76x8.3mm, and weigh in a 177 grams. The dual-SIM (Nano+Nano) smartphone is also mentioned to have 4G LTE support.

In the meanwhile, Techdroider, which has in the past provided several leaked images and renders of the Moto M smartphone, has leaked an image of the smartphone’s retail packaging. The site’s founder tweeted the retail packaging out, and, the Moto M name is clearly visible.

Huawei Enjoy 6 With 13-Megapixel Camera, 4100mAh Battery Launched

Huawei Enjoy 6 With 13-Megapixel Camera, 4100mAh Battery Launched

The Chinese company Huawei has launched its new smartphone – Enjoy 6 – in its home market China. The Huawei Enjoy 6 is low-end smartphone that has an AMOLED display as its biggest highlight. The smartphone will start selling in the Chinese market from November 1 at a price of CNY 1,299 (roughly Rs. 12,800). It’s available in White, Gold, and Grey colour variants.

The Huawei Enjoy 6 supports dual SIM (Micro+Nano) cards with 4G VoLTE connectivity and runs on Android 6.0 Marshmallow with Huawei’s Emotion UI 4.1. It is powered by an octa-core MediaTek MT6750 processor, with four Cortex-A53 cores clocked at 1.5GHz, and another four Cortex-A53 cores clocked at 1.0GHz, coupled with 3GB of RAM. It also houses a Mali-T860 MP2 GPU unit for graphics. The smartphone packs a 5-inch HD (720×1280) AMOLED display with a pixel density of 293 ppi, which is good considering the price.

For photography purposes, Huawei Enjoy 6 has a 13-megapixel rear camera with an aperture of f/2.2 and flash support. For selfies, it packs a 5-megapixel camera. The Huawei Enjoy 6 has an inbuilt storage of 16GB that can be expanded via microSD card (up to 128GB). The smartphone also has a fingerprint scanner at the back.

The connectivity options in the Huawei Enjoy 6 include Bluetooth v4.0, Wi-Fi (802.11 b/g/n), GPS, A-GPS, Glonass, USB OTG, and a 3.5mm headphone jack in addition to 4G VoLTE capability. Huawei says that the Enjoy 6 is water and dust resistant with IP52 certification, which provides some measure of protection from dust and water ingress.

The Huawei Enjoy 6 packs a 4100mAh battery that is said to give up to 11 hours of talktime. The smartphone measures 143.2×70.4×7.9mm and weighs 145 grams.

ZTE Axon 7 Max With 3D Viewing Display, 13-Megapixel Dual Cameras Launched

ZTE Axon 7 Max With 3D Viewing Display, 13-Megapixel Dual Cameras Launched

Chinese telecommunications giant ZTE has launched a new entrant in its Axon lineup of smartphones – the ZTE Axon 7 Max. The ZTE Axon 7 Max comes with a display that is designed to support 3D viewing capabilities with naked eyes (also known as an auto-stereoscopic display), which is also the USP of the smartphone. The smartphone is available in the Chinese market at a price of CNY 2,999 (roughly Rs. 29,600) starting November, while the pre-orders are already running.

The ZTE Axon 7 Max joins the line of ZTE’s previously launched ZTE Axon 7 and ZTE Axon 7 mini. The smartphone supports dual SIM (Nano+Nano) cards with 4G LTE capability. It runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow out-of-the-box with ZTE’s customised MiFavor 4.0 UI on top. It is powered by an octa-core 2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 CPU coupled with 4GB of RAM. For graphics, the smartphone packs an Adreno 506 GPU. The ZTE Axon 7 Max sports a 6-inch full-HD (1080×1920) IPS display with a resolution of 367ppi.

For the optics, the ZTE Axon 7 Max sports dual 13-megapixel cameras at the back with laser autofocus feature and a dual-LED flash module. The front-facing camera in the device is an 8-megapixel shooter for selfies. The ZTE Axon 7 Max has an inbuilt storage of 64GB that is expandable via a microSD card (up to 200GB). At the rear side of the smartphone sits the circular fingerprint scanner.

The ZTE Axon 7 Max boasts of a 4100mAh battery that supports Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 2.0 for faster charging. For connectivity, ZTE Axon 7 Max has got Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, GPS, A-GPS, Glonass, a 3.5mm audio jack, and a USB Type-C port. Apart from the above specifications, the ZTE Axon 7 max also packs dual Hi-Fi AK4962 audio chips for better audio output.

As we mentioned, the company says that the Axon 7 Max supports 3D viewing and to add to that delight, ZTE is offering 3D content of worth CNY 360 for free with every purchase.

Galaxy S8 to Sport Slick Design, Improved Camera, and Enhanced AI Service

Galaxy S8 to Sport Slick Design, Improved Camera, and Enhanced AI Service, Says Samsung

Samsung has already taken a major hit with the Galaxy Note 7 fiasco that has caused the company a 30 percent profit plunge and also adversely affected its reputation globally. The South Korean company however is very positive about its upcoming Galaxy flagship, believed to be dubbed Galaxy S8.

According to Lee Kyeong-tae, Samsung’s Vice President for Mobile Communications, the upcoming Galaxy high-end smartphone will feature “slick design” while also sport “an improved camera.” One of the biggest hints that Lee dropped while speaking to WSJ was the upcoming smartphone will come with “an enhanced artificial-intelligence service.” Unfortunately, Lee didn’t detail any specifics.

Samsung is widely expected to leverage its Viv Labs acquisition which is a US-based artificial-intelligence software company. The developers at Viv previously founded Siri which is now Apple’s digital voice-assistant on mobile devices. To recall, Samsung acquired Viv Labs earlier this month.

Based on preliminary leaks, the Samsung Galaxy S8 is expected to feature a 5.5-inch 4K (2160×3840 pixels) Super Amoled display and will boast of an impressive pixel density of 806ppi. It is expected to feature the company’s in-house Exynos 8895 SoC while sports 6GB of RAM. The Galaxy S8 is also rumoured to come with 16-megapixel and 8-megapixel dual-rear camera setup. A recent report also suggested that Samsung may not embed the fingerprint scanner in the home button, and will instead have it under the rumoured 4K screen. If this comes out to be true, then the Samsung Galaxy S8 may be the company’s first smartphone to sport an optical fingerprint technology.

Some reports have pointed that work on the Galaxy S8 has been delayed as all focus is on finding the fault in the Galaxy Note 7.

Oppo Uses Sales Rep Army, Ad Blitz to Leapfrog Over Smartphone Rivals

Oppo Uses Sales Rep Army, Ad Blitz to Leapfrog Over Smartphone Rivals

Chinese smart phone company Oppo doesn’t believe in subtle marketing.

It has built a massive network of 320,000 retail outlets across China and other parts of Asia, its sales representatives earn commissions on every phone they sell, and it has filled the airwaves and covered thousands of billboards with advertising based on the endorsement of some of the hottest Asian pop stars.

The company also keeps total control of just about everything, from design to distribution, and making the phones itself rather than farming production out to contract manufacturers. Oppo also sells a lot of devices through its own stores, deals directly with any retail partners rather than through layers of middlemen, and provides them with sales reps and generous incentives.

The aggressive strategy has been working, allowing Oppo to leap ahead of some of its largest rivals who rely much more on online marketing and the network providers to flog their products.

From nowhere a few years ago, Oppo has jumped into fourth place in smart phone sales in the world. In the third quarter, it jumped into first place in China with 17 percent market share, according to research firm Counterpoint. It is No. 2 in Indonesia, and is rapidly growing in India.

In many ways Oppo’s marketing success is a testament to how commoditised the smart phone market has become and how the big Asian markets have become increasingly important.

Oppo’s phones aren’t much different from the medium-priced range of products made by rivals, such as Samsung and Xiaomi. Oppo, though, has managed to generate a lot of buzz for its phones, such as the R9 “Selfie Expert” that targets Asia’s mass of social media users with a relatively powerful camera, making it the best selling smart phone in China in the third quarter.

It has been helped by recent stumbles by Apple, which posted its third successive quarter of declining iPhone sales on Tuesday, and Samsung, which halted production of its fire-prone Galaxy Note 7 phones.

“No other brand could match Oppo’s sales bombardment tactic,” said a Shijiazhuang, Hebei-based executive with a mobile phone distributor that sells many rival brands.

The big question is whether the strategy is sustainable. Oppo’s marketing cost base is higher than brands focused more on online selling, and increasing at a rapid clip. That is fine while it is expanding quickly but may not work if the growth rate slows either because it in any way lags rivals on product development or there is a wider economic dislocation, analysts say.

“I think the model is stable, but the growth going forward may be slow and require more investment,” said CK Lu, an analyst at research firm Gartner.

Another issue is that in some markets where sales are dominated by the network operators the strategy doesn’t work – one reason why it hasn’t yet made a play for the United States market.

It failed in Mexico after selling through local carriers. Low brand awareness and pricing that was higher than rivals contributed to its problems there, said Strategy Analytics analyst Woody Oh.

Big commissions
The blitz marketing tactics were on full show at a shopping mall in Jakarta one recent morning. As well as boasting spacious and flashy stores, the company sent at least a dozen sales representatives – mostly young women – around the mall to ask shoppers if they want to try an Oppo phone.

The incentives help to create a driven workforce. One Oppo sales representative said in his best month he can earn commissions of $1,500 – six times the minimum wage in Jakarta.

Its big physical presence across a country such as Indonesia also works well in smaller cities and towns where online shopping is less developed and people are more likely to want to walk into a shop to buy a new phone, analysts say.

“We manufacture all our phones ourselves…We don’t engage distributors, we want to make sure we have end-to-end control over the consumer experience,” said Sean Deng, chief executive of Oppo Singapore, who also introduced Oppo to Indonesia.

Oppo’s strategy can be traced back to BBK Electronics, a main street retail brand and manufacturer of phones, DVD players and other electronics goods, that has been a household name in China since the 1990s.

Set up to target the overseas market by BBK’s founder Duan Yongping and his right-hand man Tony Chen, Oppo entered the mobile market in China in 2008 when smart phone sales started to soar following Apple’s iPhone launch.

Altogether, the combined sales of the four phone brands that come under the BBK-Duan umbrella – Oppo, Vivo, OnePlus and imoo – put the group in the No. 2 sales position in the world behind Samsung, according to research firm IHS Markit. Vivo was No.2 in the China market, just behind Oppo, in the third quarter, according to Counterpoint.

US-based Duan, nicknamed “Duanfett” in China because of both his own success and his admiration for American billionaire investor Warren Buffett, built his fortune from BBK and on successful investments in Chinese Internet technology company NetEase and US online media company Yahoo in the early 2000s.

He has since shifted part of his focus to philanthropy, and he is no longer engaged in the day-to-day operation of the companies, according to people familiar with him.

Oppo’s rapid ascent has caught its Chinese rivals who rely more on online marketing, such as Xiaomi and LeEco, flatfooted.

Xiaomi, once China’s most valuable tech startup on the back of the online buzz surrounding its affordable products, has seen its fortunes steadily decline over the past three years, as its online-focused marketing failed to penetrate deep into rural areas, while its growth in big cities sharply slowed.

The Microsoft-Apple Rivalry Is Alive and Well

Microsoft is trying to rekindle a rivalry with Apple, introducing two new computers this week that are aimed squarely at the creative set of customers that Apple has long-claimed as its own.

A few years ago, Microsoft was an afterthought for most in the tech world. Having all but missed the mobile revolution, it was hard to believe chief executive Satya Nadella when he said last year that Microsoft would focus on making innovative products people loved.

But he meant it. And Microsoft, still looking to shake off its image as the default option for the world’s cubicle workers, took to a New York City stage Tuesday to show off a generation of products designed to promote passion and creativity – not just productivity.

Microsoft introduced a new desktop, reimagined with touchscreen and pen technology that have earned it a following for its Surface tablets. The 28-inch computer, called the Surface Studio, sits on sleek chrome arms and can adjust to a flat angle for writers and sketchers who want to use it as an enormous piece of paper. Its minimalist design brought to mind the obsessive simplicity of Apple’s thinnest Macs.

The Surface Studio also comes with a hockey puck-like dial, in addition to a mouse. Users can place the dial on the screen to change things, such as paint color, mid-stroke. It can also be used off-screen, on your desk.

“Every single one of us is a creator,” said Microsoft’s Panos Panay, the company’s corporate vice president of devices. “We want people to use this product to help everyone create.”

Microsoft also introduced a new version of the Surface Book, its high-end laptop, which boasts 16 hours of battery life and, according to Panay, has three times the performance of the highest-end MacBook Pro.

That was a not-so-subtle dig that hints at the resurgence of an old rivalry. Microsoft’s push into a space that has traditionally been Apple’s domain – devices for creative types – comes at the same time as Apple has been touting the productivity of its own devices. Both are trying to frame their devices as products that can take customers seamlessly from work to play, at a time when the line between the two domains is blurring more than ever.

Apple is also expected to introduce new laptops this week, at a Thursday event at its Cupertino, Calif., headquarters. But the MacBook maker has already made clear that it has its eye on the business world that has been Microsoft’s domain for many years, particularly with the introduction of its large iPad Pro tablet, which supports a keyboard and is sold as a possible laptop replacement – similar to Microsoft’s Surface.

Of course, it remains to be seen how well either company’s attempts to alter their images stick with consumers. And both Microsoft’s new products are pricey – $6,000 (roughly Rs. 4 lakhs) for the Studio, $2,400 (roughly Rs. 1,60,000) for the Surface book – which makes it for high-end buyers. But it seems as if both firms are increasingly marketing to the same group of people.

Hardware isn’t the only place where Microsoft is trying to change its image. The firm also showed ways it plans to bring 3D-modeling, virtual reality and augmented reality into the mainstream. The company’s new “Creators” version of its Windows 10 operating system, due out in the spring, lets anyone scan and manipulate 3D objects into their computers to place in sketches and PowerPoint presentations.

The Windows 10 Creators edition also has more user-centric features such as a “people bar” powered by Microsoft’s Skype, that will give users easy access to their most-used contacts. Users can also edit emoji, to fit their own personalities. Microsoft also showed off a native program called Beam that lets users stream video games from their PCs.

Visa CEO Charles Scharf to Resign, Former American Express President Alfred Kelly to Take Over

Visa CEO Charles Scharf to Resign, Former American Express President Alfred Kelly to Take Over

Visa Inc said Chief Executive Charles Scharf, who orchestrated the company’s reunion with its European affiliate, is stepping down and will be succeeded by former American Express Co President Alfred Kelly.

Kelly, who already sits on Visa’s board of directors, will take over as CEO following Scharf’s resignation, which is effective December 1.

Kelly said in an interview with Reuters that he “got a front row seat to the various opportunities and issues the company faces” as a Visa board member since January 2014.

“I don’t come in here expecting to make a lot of big changes,” he said.

Scharf said in a letter to employees that he could no longer spend the time in San Francisco necessary to do his job properly and is resigning to spend more time with his family.

Visa’s shares, which have more than doubled in value under Scharf’s watch, were down 1.2 percent at $81.19 in after-market trading.

Kelly takes over at a time when Visa faces multiple challenges, including a federal appeals court decision in June to throw out a settlement with retailers that accused Visa and MasterCard Inc of improperly fixing credit and debit card fees.

Visa also has an ongoing legal battle with Wal-Mart Stores Inc over the use of PINs to verify transactions made over the company’s payment networks.

Kelly will have to look to consolidate Visa’s position as the largest payments network operator in the world, even as non-traditional competitors such as PayPal Holdings Inc try to capture market share.

Kelly said on a conference call with analysts that he will be spending a significant amount of time in San Francisco, where Visa is headquartered, in addition to spending time in Europe to supervise integration with Visa Europe and in China.

Under Scharf, Visa closed a deal to combine with former unit Visa Europe in June.

Scharf has been CEO since November 2012, after working with JPMorgan Chase & Co’s retail banking business and its private equity arm.

“He has helped transform Visa .. into a technology-driven digital commerce company and has led a strategy that will benefit this company for years to come,” Robert Matschullat, the company’s independent chairman, said in a statement.

Kelly is also the CEO of Intersection Co, a firm partly owned by Sidewalk Labs, an Alphabet Inc company.