Farmers have always looked to the weather and the progress of their crops to try to predict how the harvest will go, but a new tool uses NASA satellite imagery to take the predictions to a whole new level — to near-perfect, in fact.
“What distinguishes us is, we’re taking the meteorological data and building models that are in some senses similar to more traditional crop forecasting models, but we’re adding the dimension of the space-based observation,” explains TellusLabs cofounder Mark Freidl.
In its first year, the beta version of TellusLabs’ Kernel consistently predicted final 2016 yields on U.S. corn and soy crops ahead of all publicly available in-season forecasts, the company says. And it wasn’t just first, it was also right. Months before harvest, Kernel’s projections were all within 1 percent of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s actual reported yields, predicting 173.1 bushels per acre, compared to the actual 174.6 bushels per acre.
So, How Does it Work?
NASA has been taking pictures of Earth from space for as long as the space agency has been around — but the earliest grainy pictures of Earth from space come from before the agency was even founded. In 1946, a team of scientists and soldiers launched a rocket from the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico equipped with a camera set to snap frames every 1.5 seconds.
When NASA was established a dozen years later, it almost immediately began snapping more photos of Earth. These early images are said to have been the inspiration for the Landsat program, which, in 1972 launched the first satellite designed specifically to observe and collect data about Earth’s land surface.
It was followed by numerous successors, including most recently Landsat 8, a NASA collaboration with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) that collects data in more spectral bands than ever before. That satellite, now operated by USGS, captures images of the entire planet every 16 days, offset eight days from Landsat 7, which has been in operation since 1999.
NASA’s Moderate-Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instruments, two of which now orbit Earth on separate satellites, also provide high-quality Earth images, covering the entire planet every one to two days and acquiring data in 36 spectral bands.
The Big Picture
The huge trove of data from these decades of Earth-observing missions aren’t just for NASA researchers. The agency also makes the information available to the public. In 2013, NASA teamed up with Amazon Web Services to make the sharing even easier. “They’re hosting the data because they know people will use it,” Freidl says.
The remote sensing scientist, who works in Boston University’s Earth and Environment Department in addition to his work at TellusLabs, is one of those people. His academic work — often involving or funded by NASA — has included mapping global land cover and seasonal variability in growth using MODIS and Landsat imagery.
“This is incredibly valuable data NASA has been collecting over the years, certainly for science but also for a whole range of applications,” he says.
As the quality and capabilities of NASA’s space instruments have improved and historical records continue to get longer, and as the tools to manipulate and analyze the images they capture get more powerful, “that has kind of put us in a different place than we were even five or 10 years ago with respect to these types of data and the types of things we can do with them,” Freidl says.
Knowing the Past to Model the Future
During weekends, evenings and vacation, Freidl and TellusLabs cofounder David Potere built a crop-prediction model that combines current NASA and USGS data streams with historical data and then blends them with a variety of other data sources, including weather models.
Within a year, TellusLabs already had more than 600 subscribers from a wide range of fields. The key groups, the company says, are large institutional investors, individual investors and advisors, and a variety of organizations engaged up and down the agricultural value chain, as well as individual farmers and farming consortia.
“Our thesis right now is that there’s a lot of value in the really high-quality measurements that the space agency missions provide,” Friedl says.
NASA has a long history of transferring technology to the private sector. Each year, the agency’s Spinoff publication profiles about 50 NASA technologies that have transformed into commercial products and services, demonstrating the wider benefits of America’s investment in its space program. Spinoff is a publication of the Technology Transfer Program in NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate.
To learn more about this NASA spinoff, read the original article from Spinoff 2018.
For more information on how NASA is bringing its technology down to Earth, visit
To learn more about other technologies you use in everyday life that originated with NASA, please visit Spinoff.
Realme Q Series Phone Allegedly Spotted on TENAA, Key Specifications Tipped
Realme Q series seem to be getting a new smartphone and it allegedly been spotted on TENAA, offering a glimpse of the possible specifications. A Realme smartphone with model number RMX2117 was spotted on the regulator’s website and it is being speculated that the phone could be a part of the company’s Q series that already includes one phone. The TENAA listing shows the phone sporting a 6.5-inch display and powered by an octa-core SoC clocked at 2.4GHz. The listing also hints that the phone may carry up to 8GB of RAM and up to 256GB of onboard storage. Realme hasn’t officially confirmed any of the specifications.
As per the listing on TENAA, the smartphone with model number RMX2117 sports a 6.5-inch full-HD+ (1,080×2,400 pixels) display with a 20:9 aspect ratio. Allegedly belonging to the rumoured Realme Q series, the smartphone supports 5G and is powered by an octa-core SoC clocked at 2.4GHz.
The Realme Q series phone may be launched in China in three RAM options – 4GB, 6GB, and 8GB, that may be coupled with three inbuilt storage configurations – 64GB, 128GB, and 256GB. The listing also shows a microSD card slot for storage expansion. It may be launched in four colour options – Black, Blue, Gray, and Silver.
The phone is seen featuring a rectangular camera module that includes a 48-megapixel primary sensor, an 8-megapixel snapper, and a 2-megapixel shooter. For selfies and video calls, the phone features a 16-megapixel camera at the front. The Realme RMX2117 smartphone packs a 4,900mAh battery. The handset runs on Android 10 and features a side-mounted fingerprint scanner. The smartphone measures 162.2 x 75.1 x 9.1mm and weighs 194 grams.
The development comes a week after Realme vice president Xu Qi Chase teased the arrival of a new series, including the Q series, V series, and X series, with in a poster. Chase noted that the upcoming phone will be powered by a 5nm flagship chipset.
Redmi Note 8 or Realme 5s: Which is the best phone under Rs. 10,000 in India right now? We discussed this on Orbital, our weekly technology podcast, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts or RSS, download the episode, or just hit the play button below.
How to remove the 3D Objects folder from File Explorer in Windows 10
The 3D Objects folder is not useful for many users but removing it from File Explorer in Windows 10 requires a tweak of the Registry File. We show you how.
In addition to the traditional Paint application, which has been a part of Windows since its beginning, Microsoft has also added Paint 3D to its list of standard Windows 10 applications. When combined with a touch display and a stylus or pen, Paint 3D can be a powerful tool for creating three-dimensional objects, a feature many artists and designers find useful.
SEE: 30 Excel tips you need to know (TechRepublic Premium)
However, if you are not inclined to use Paint 3D, you may find the prominence of a 3D Objects folder, and possibly several other folders, on the This PC screen of File Explorer obtrusive and unnecessary. Unfortunately, you cannot remove those folders from File Explorer with a simple change to default settings. That procedure requires an edit of the Windows 10 Registry File.
This how-to tutorial shows you how to remove the 3D Objects folder, and other folders, from the This PC screen of the Windows 10 File Explorer.
How to remove 3D Objects folder from File Explorer
Disclaimer: Editing the Windows Registry file is a serious undertaking. A corrupted Windows Registry file could render your computer inoperable, requiring a reinstallation of the Windows 10 operating system and potential loss of data. Back up the Windows 10 Registry file and create a valid restore point before you proceed.
To get a better idea of what we are talking about, open File Explorer in Windows 10 and then navigate to the This PC screen, as shown in Figure A. Take note of the default listing of folders in the right-hand window.
We are going to concentrate our efforts on the 3D Objects folder, but this technique will work for any of the default folders listed in that section of File Explorer, if you know the code. Further, if you are running the 64-bit version of Windows 10, you will have to perform two edits.
Type “regedit” into the search box on the Windows 10 desktop and select the appropriate result to start the Registry Editor application. As shown in Figure B, navigate to this key (it’s a deep dive):
To complicate matters, the subkeys in the NameSpace section are coded, so you have to carefully choose the key with this code (on my computer, it was in the second position, see Figure C):
Right-click the key and select “Delete” from the context menu and confirm your action.
If you are running the 32-bit version of Windows 10, you have completed the procedure, however, if you are running the 64-bit version, you will have to perform a second edit. As shown in Figure D, navigate to this key:
As before, locate this coded key in the NameSpace folder, as shown in Figure E:
Right-click the key and select “Delete” from the context menu and then confirm your selection to complete the process. Exit out of the Registry File editor. The change should take effect the next time you open File Explorer.
The 3D Objects folder is located in the Users folder and will still be there after implementing this procedure, but it will no longer be displayed so prominently in the This PC section of File Explorer, as shown in Figure F.
To restore the 3D Objects folder to File Explorer, add the coded key back into the two NameSpace Folders using the Registry File Editor.
Twist on CRISPR Gene Editing Treats Adult-Onset Muscular Dystrophy in Mice
Myotonic dystrophy type I is the most common type of adult-onset muscular dystrophy. People with the condition inherit repeated DNA segments that lead to the toxic buildup of repetitive RNA, the messenger that carries a gene’s recipe to the cell’s protein-making machinery. As a result, people born with myotonic dystrophy experience progressive muscle wasting and weakness and a wide variety of other debilitating symptoms.
CRISPR-Cas9 is a technique increasingly used in efforts to correct the genetic (DNA) defects that cause a variety of diseases. A few years ago, University of California San Diego School of Medicine researchers redirected the technique to instead modify RNA in a method they call RNA-targeting Cas9 (RCas9).
In a new study published in Nature Biomedical Engineering, the team demonstrates that one dose of RCas9 gene therapy can chew up toxic RNA and almost completely reverse symptoms in a mouse model of myotonic dystrophy.
“Many other severe neuromuscular diseases, such as Huntington’s and ALS, are also caused by similar RNA buildup,” said senior author Gene Yeo, PhD, professor of cellular and molecular medicine at UC San Diego School of Medicine. “There are no cures for these diseases.” Yeo led the study with collaborators at Locanabio, Inc. and the University of Florida.
Normally, CRISPR-Cas9 works by directing an enzyme called Cas9 to cut a specific target gene (DNA), thereby allowing researchers to inactivate or replace the gene. RCas9 works similarly, but Cas9 is guided to an RNA molecule instead of DNA.
In a 2016 study, Yeo’s team demonstrated that RCas9 worked by using it to track RNA in live cells. In a 2017 study in lab models and patient-derived cells, the researchers used RCas9 to eliminate 95 percent of the aberrant RNA linked to myotonic dystrophy type 1 and type 2, one type of ALS and Huntington’s disease.
The current study advances RCas9 therapy further, reversing myotonic dystrophy type 1 in a living organism: a mouse model of the disease.
The approach is a type of gene therapy. The team packaged RCas9 in a non-infectious virus, which is needed to deliver the RNA-chewing enzyme inside cells. They gave the mice a single dose of the therapy or a mock treatment.
RCas9 reduced aberrant RNA repeats by more than 50 percent, varying a bit depending on the tissue, and the treated myotonic dystrophy mice became essentially indistinguishable from healthy mice.
Initially, the team was worried that the RCas9 proteins, which are derived from bacteria, might cause an immune reaction in the mice and be rapidly cleared away. So they tried suppressing the mice’s immune systems briefly during treatment. As a result, they were surprised and pleased to discover that they prevented immune reaction and clearance, leaving the viral vehicle and its RCas9 cargo to persist, and get the job done. What’s more, they did not see signs of muscle damage. In contrast, they saw an increase in the activity of genes involved in new muscle formation.
“This opens up the floodgates to start testing RNA-targeting CRISPR-Cas9 as a potential approach to treat other human genetic diseases — there are at least 20 caused by buildup of repetitive RNAs,” Yeo said.
It remains to be seen if RCas9-based therapies will work in humans, or if they might cause deleterious side effects, such as eliciting an undesired immune reaction. Preclinical studies such as this one will help the team work out potential toxicities and evaluate long-term exposure.
In 2017, Yeo co-founded a company called Locanabio to accelerate the development of RNA-targeting CRISPR-Cas9 through preclinical testing and into clinical trials for the treatment of myotonic dystrophy and potentially other diseases.
Source: UC San Diego
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