SciTech Briefs

Google to offer high-speed Internet

Google announced on Wednesday that it would extend gigabit Internet (over 100 times the average speed in the United States) to as many as 500,000 people. The company has positioned the project as a way of demonstrating to the telecom industry and consumers that such improvements can be made at a reasonable cost. This move may force existing Internet providers to improve their own products. Google, however, does not intend to become a full-fledged Internet service provider (ISP).

As a large Internet company, Google has been hampered by the fact that its users do not have access to relatively inexpensive, fast Internet. Becoming an ISP and any subsequent developments that arise from it are likely to benefit Google as people begin to use more and more of its services.

Some areas may have access to this service by the end of the year, while others will have to wait longer. Its offering will also be different from other ISPs’ because the network will be open to other providers, a practice prevalent in other developed countries, but not in the United States.

Source: The New York Times

Scientists sequence ancient genome

The genome of a man who died 4000 years ago in Greenland has been sequenced, and the results have provided great insight into both minor physical traits and ancient human migration patterns. Found in the 1980s, Inuk, as he has been named by scientists, was ignored until recently. Because he was relatively uncontaminated by modern human DNA, he was a good candidate for genome sequencing. Studies detailed his various traits, such as a predisposition to going bald, and also indicated that Inuk and his descendants are not closely related to the people who lived in Greenland in later years. Indeed, he is more closely related to people in Siberia than to the Inuit and Native Americans.

While Inuk’s genome is the first ancient genome to be sequenced, gene sequncing is still fairly expensive. However, the cost of gene sequencing technology is decreasing, and scientists believe this trend will ensure that Inuk’s sequenced genome is far from the last.

Source: Scientific American

NASA launches new solar probe

At 10:23 p.m. last Thursday, NASA launched an Atlas V rocket carrying the Solar Dynamics Observatory, a probe that is meant to study the sun in much greater detail than ever before. As the first mission in NASA’s Living With a Star program, the probe will be used to develop models to predict solar weather patterns.

Many solar phenomena related to the sun’s magnetic field, such as solar flares, have a direct impact on life on Earth. Some of the more violent solar activities can damage satellites, disrupt power grids, and harm astronauts. Our increasing dependence on technologies that can be influenced by the sun means that the understanding provided by probes such as this one is becoming more and more important.

The technology behind the probe is in the form of three sensors that will take snapshots of the sun every 10 seconds and measure eight different parameters during each snapshot. This in turn will result in an immense amount of data, on the order of 1.5 terabytes per day, which will be interpreted in order to improve our methods of predicting solar weather patterns.

Source: CNN