As you might expect at one of the world’s biggest mobile trade shows, Lenovo has unleashed a slew of laptops this week, not to mention a tiny server to work with a network of Internet of Things devices. Less expected is another new product the company has announced in Barcelona: an all-in-one PC that remains motionless on your desk.
While it’s a bit of a mystery why Lenovo would choose this particular week to unveil a desktop, the new IdeaCentre AIO A340 is here nonetheless. Though you won’t be lugging it around like many of the phones and other portable devices on display at MWC, the all-in-one at least will look good on your desk, with a pipe-shaped base that lends it a more minimalist vibe than some of its competitors.
The A340 is all about choices, starting with the exterior color choice: Business Black or Foggy White, or in non-marketing speak, black or white. It will be available in 22-inch or 24-inch displays with full 1080p HD resolution and thinner bezels than its predecessors. You also get to decide whether you want an AMD or Intel processor inside — the A9-9425 or the Core i5-8400T, to be specific. The A9 works with AMD’s Radeon R5 graphics, whereas the Intel can be paired with the Radeon 530 or Intel’s own integrated graphics.
One choice you won’t get is with the 24-inch A340 version — that’s an Intel-only configuration. The all-in-one will be available in the U.S. starting in April (a month earlier in Europe) for $500 for the 22-inch model, with the larger edition expected to start at about $100 more.
Dell has been the first to see its Black Friday ads leaked online in the …
When once-living tissue is preserved in a cold, dry environment, fragments of its DNA can survive for hundreds of thousands of years. In fact, DNA doesn’t even have to remain in tissue; we’ve managed to obtain DNA from the soil of previously inhabited environments. The DNA is damaged and broken into small fragments, but it’s sufficient to allow DNA sequencing, telling us about the species that once lived there.
In an astonishing demonstration of how well this can work, researchers have obtained DNA from deposits that preserved in Greenland for roughly 2 million years. The deposits, however, date from a relatively warm period in Greenland’s past and reveal the presence of an entire ecosystem that once inhabited the country’s north coast.
A different Greenland
Over the last million years or so, the Earth’s glacial cycles have had relatively short warm periods that don’t reach temperatures sufficient to eliminate the major ice sheets in polar regions. But before this time, the cycles were shorter, the warm periods longer, and there were times the ice sheets underwent major retreats. Estimates are that, around this time, the minimum temperatures in northern Greenland were roughly 10° C higher than they are now.
During this period, a set of deposits called the Kap København Formation was put in place in what was likely to be an estuary environment. Some of the layers of this deposit are likely to be sediments that washed into the area from a land-based environment, and other layers are sandy and were likely laid down by salt water.
Studies of these deposits have found pollen from various plant species and a handful of animal fossils. These indicate that more species were present in this past ecosystem than are presently found in northern Greenland, but it’s unclear how representative the finds are. Pollen can travel long distances, for example, and only a fraction of the animals are likely to be preserved.
So, a large international team decided to find out whether they could learn more about the ecosystem using environmental DNA. While Greenland remained warm for some time after these deposits, it was only relatively warm; winter lows were still well below freezing. And, for hundreds of thousands of years, the area has generally been about as cold as you would expect an area near the border between the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans would be.
The researchers then attempted to figure out just how old these deposits are. Based on a magnetic field reversal that occurred as the Kap København Formation was being laid down, they concluded that it was deposited either 1.9 or 2.1 million years ago—reasonably close to past estimates of 2.4 million years. They then plugged that age and the local climate conditions into software that estimates the amount of damage the DNA should accumulate. This suggested that there should only be a tiny fraction of the damage the DNA would have picked up in a warmer climate—damage was likely down by more than 700-fold.
The researchers argue that the minerals in the deposit interact with DNA, pulling it out of a solution and protecting it from any environmental enzymes.
A year ago, astronomers discovered a powerful gamma-ray burst (GRB) lasting nearly two minutes, dubbed GRB 211211A. Now that unusual event is upending the long-standing assumption that longer GRBs are the distinctive signature of a massive star going supernova. Instead, two independent teams of scientists identified the source as a so-called “kilonova,” triggered by the merger of two neutron stars, according to a new paper published in the journal Nature. Because neutron star mergers were assumed to only produce short GRBs, the discovery of a hybrid event involving a kilonova with a long GBR is quite surprising.
“This detection breaks our standard idea of gamma-ray bursts,” said co-author Eve Chase, a postdoc at Los Alamos National Laboratory. “We can no longer assume that all short-duration bursts come from neutron-star mergers, while long-duration bursts come from supernovae. We now realize that gamma-ray bursts are much harder to classify. This detection pushes our understanding of gamma-ray bursts to the limits.”
As we’ve reported previously, gamma-ray bursts are extremely high-energy explosions in distant galaxies lasting between mere milliseconds to several hours. The first gamma-ray bursts were observed in the late 1960s, thanks to the launching of the Vela satellites by the US. They were meant to detect telltale gamma-ray signatures of nuclear weapons tests in the wake of the 1963 Nuclear Test Ban Treaty with the Soviet Union. The US feared that the Soviets were conducting secret nuclear tests, violating the treaty. In July 1967, two of those satellites picked up a flash of gamma radiation that was clearly not the signature of a nuclear weapons test.
Just a couple of months ago, multiple space-based detectors picked up a powerful gamma-ray burst passing through our solar system, sending astronomers worldwide scrambling to train their telescopes on that part of the sky to collect vital data on the event and its afterglow. Dubbed GRB 221009A, it was the most powerful gamma-ray burst yet recorded and likely could be the “birth cry” of a new black hole.
There are two types of gamma-ray bursts: short and long. Classic short-term GRBs last less than two seconds, and they were previously thought to only occur from the merging of two ultra-dense objects, like binary neutron stars, producing an accompanying kilonova. Long GRBs can last anywhere from a few minutes to several hours and are thought to occur when a massive star goes supernova.
Astronomers at the Fermi and Swift telescopes simultaneously detected this latest gamma-ray burst last December and pinpointed the location in the constellation Boötes. That quick identification allowed other telescopes around the world to turn their attention to that sector, enabling them to catch the kilonova in its earliest stages. And it was remarkably nearby for a gamma-ray burst: about 1 billion light-years from Earth, compared to around 6 billion years for the average gamma-ray burst detected to date. (Light from the most distant GRB yet recorded traveled for some 13 billion years.)
“It was something we had never seen before,” said co-author Simone Dichiara, an astronomer at Penn State University and a member of the Swift team. “We knew it wasn’t associated with a supernova, the death of a massive star, because it was too close. It was a completely different kind of optical signal, one that we associate with a kilonova, the explosion triggered by colliding neutron stars.”
As two binary neutron stars begin circling into their death spiral, they send out powerful gravitational waves and strip neutron-rich matter from each other. Then the stars collide and merge, producing a hot cloud of debris that glows with light of multiple wavelengths. It’s the neutron-rich debris that astronomers believe creates a kilonova’s visible and infrared light—the glow is brighter in the infrared than in the visible spectrum, a distinctive signature of such an event that results from heavy elements in the ejecta which block visible light but lets the infrared through.
That signature is what subsequent analysis of GRB211211A revealed. And since the subsequent decay of a neutron star merger produces heavy elements like gold and platinum, astronomers now have a new means of studying how these heavy elements form in our universe.
Several years ago, the late astrophysicist Neil Gehrels suggested that longer gamma-ray bursts could be produced by neutron star mergers. It seems only fitting that NASA’s Swift Observatory, which is named in his honor, played a key role in the discovery of GRB 211211A and the first direct evidence for that connection.
“This discovery is a clear reminder that the Universe is never fully figured out,” said co-author Jillian Rastinejad, a Ph.D. student at Northwestern University. “Astronomers often take it for granted that the origins of GRBs can be identified by how long the GRBs are, but this discovery shows us there’s still much more to understand about these amazing events.”
A federal judge has sentenced Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani, 58, to nearly 13 years in federal prison for fraud related to the defunct blood-testing startup Theranos, which promised to perform more than 200 medical tests with just a few drops of blood despite its technology never working properly.
Balwani, who served as Theranos’ chief operating officer, was convicted of all 12 counts of fraud in a unanimous verdict in July. Unlike Holmes, Balwani was convicted of defrauding investors and patients. Holmes’ conviction on four counts of fraud only related to defrauding investors; she was acquitted of counts related to defrauding patients.
Holmes and Balwani, who were previously romantic partners, were co-conspirators in Theranos’ fraud and were indicted together four years ago. However, US District Judge Edward Davila in San Jose, California, separated their cases in 2020.
During Holmes’ trial, she testified that she suffered sexual, physical, and emotional abuse from Balwani. The two met in 2002 during a language-immersion program in China, while Holmes was an 18-year-old senior in high school and Balwani was in his late 30s pursuing a master’s degree. Their subsequent decade-long relationship occurred in the background as they started Theranos.
Last month, Holmes was sentenced to 11 years and three months for her role in the fraud. Last Friday, she filed notice that she was appealing her case, despite legal experts saying she has slim chances of overturning her conviction.
Federal prosecutors had sought 15 years for Balwani and an order that he pay $804 million in restitution. Balwani’s legal team, meanwhile, requested that he only get probation.
In the sentencing today, Davila found that Theranos’ premise was promising, but Balwani knew of its lies and fraud and chose to go forward with the deception.
Davila sentenced Balwani to 155 months—12 years and 11 months—in federal prison with three years of probation. He is ordered to surrender to the US Bureau of Prisons on March 15, 2023.