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Many exploration destinations in our solar system are frigid and require hardware that can withstand the extreme cold. During NASA’s Artemis missions, temperatures at the Moon’s South Pole will drop drastically during the lunar night. Farther into the solar system, on Jupiter’s moon Europa, temperatures never rise above -260 degrees Fahrenheit (-162 degrees Celsius) at the equator.

New Gears Can Withstand Impact Freezing Temperatures During Lunar Missions

Andrew Kennett (left) watches as Dominic Aldi (right) uses liquid nitrogen to cool a motor integrated bulk metallic glass gearbox prior to shock testing it. The motor and gearbox are inside the frosty metal “bucket” that contains the liquid nitrogen. The tooling, including the “bucket” is designed to be mounted both vertically (shown) and horizontally on the cube for testing the motor and gearbox in three orientations. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

One NASA project is developing special gears that can withstand the extreme temperatures experienced during missions to the Moon and beyond. Typically, in extremely low temperatures, gears – and the housing in which they’re encased, called a gearbox – are heated. After heating, a lubricant helps the gears function correctly and prevents the steel alloys from becoming brittle and, eventually, breaking.

NASA’s Bulk Metallic Glass Gears (BMGG) project team is creating material made of “metallic glass” for gearboxes that can function in and survive extreme cold environments without heating, which requires energy. Operations in cold and dim or dark environments are currently limited due to the amount of available power on a rover or lander.

The BMGG unheated gearboxes will reduce the overall power needed for a rover or lander’s operations, such as pointing antennas and cameras, moving robotic arms, handling and analyzing samples, and mobility (for a rover). The power saved with the BMGG gearbox could extend a mission or allow for more instruments.

The team recently tested the gears at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. At JPL’s Environmental Test Laboratory, engineers mounted the motor and gearbox on a tunable beam designed to measure the response an item has to a shock, or forceful impact. Team members then used liquid nitrogen to cool the gears down to roughly to -279 degrees Fahrenheit (-173 degrees Celsius).

1599269094 517 New Gears Can Withstand Impact Freezing Temperatures During Lunar Missions

The shock for the test is generated by launching a steel mass (one of the round cylinders in the lower left of the image) into the bottom of the long steel beam. The large clamps set the length of the beam that can “ring” from the impact. By changing the clamp position the profile of the shock can be tuned, hence the name “tunable beam.” The large cube mounted to the beam simplifies mounting of hardware for testing. The shock event is captured using an accelerometer mounted at the hardware. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Next, they fired a cylindrical steel projectile at the beam to simulate a “shock event.” Shock testing is used to ensure spacecraft hardware will not break during events that cause a sudden jolt, such as the release of an antenna or what a spacecraft experiences during entry, descent, and landing. The test simulated how the bulk metallic glass gears might behave when collecting a regolith sample during the lunar night – which spans roughly 14 days on Earth – or deploying a science instrument on an ocean world in our solar system.

“Before NASA sends hardware like gearboxes, particularly those made with new materials, to extremely cold environments, we want to make sure they will not be damaged by the stressful events that occur during the life of a mission,” said Peter Dillon, BMGG project manager at JPL. “This shock testing simulates the stresses of entry, descent, and landing, and potential surface operations.”

Before each shock test, a team member poured liquid nitrogen over the motor and gearbox contained in a “bucket.” Liquid nitrogen, which boils at -320 degrees Fahrenheit (-196 degrees Celsius), brought the gearbox’s temperature below -279 degrees Fahrenheit (-173 degrees Celsius).

The liquid nitrogen drained and, within a few seconds, a steel impactor fired at a steel beam on which the motor and gearbox were mounted. The team then ran the motor to drive the gearbox to determine whether or not the shock event had damaged the gearbox and its motor.

The team monitored the electrical current required to run the motor and listened for any irregular sounds that indicated damage. The motor and gearbox were shock tested twice in three different orientations. Each test demonstrated that the gears could withstand a “shock event” at a temperature as low as -279 degrees Fahrenheit (-173 degrees Celsius).

“This is an exciting event as it demonstrates both the mechanical resilience of the bulk metallic glass alloy and the design of the gearbox,” Dillon said. “These gears could help enable potential operations during the lunar night, in permanently shadowed lunar craters, in polar regions on the Moon, and on ocean worlds.”

The BMGG team will perform additional cold temperature testing next year to qualify the gears for use in future NASA missions.

Source: NASA




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Protein that Keeps Immune System from Freaking Out Could Form Basis for New Therapeutics

2020 10 14 mphages fight Girdin

The immune response to infections is a delicate balance. We need just enough action to clear away the offending bacteria or viruses, but not so much that our own bodies suffer collateral damage.

Macrophages are immune cells at the front line, detecting pathogens and kicking off an inflammatory response when needed. Understanding how macrophages determine when to go all-out and when to keep calm is key to finding new ways to strike the right balance — particularly in cases where inflammation goes too far, such as in sepsis, colitis and other autoimmune disorders.

In a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine discovered that a molecule called Girdin, or GIV, acts as a brake on macrophages.

Protein that Keeps Immune System from Freaking Out Could Form

Two macrophages (blue) fighting to engulf the same pathogen (green). GIV/Girdin is shown in red. Credit: UC San Diego

When the team deleted the GIV gene from mouse macrophages, the immune cells rapidly overacted to even small amounts of live bacteria or a bacterial toxin. Mice with colitis and sepsis fared worse when lacking the GIV gene in their macrophages.

The researchers also created peptides that mimic GIV, allowing them to shut down mouse macrophages on command. When treated with the GIV-mimic peptide, the mice’s inflammatory response was tempered.

“When a patient dies of sepsis, he or she does not die due to the invading bacteria themselves, but from an overreaction of their immune system to the bacteria,” said senior author Pradipta Ghosh, MD, professor at UC San Diego School of Medicine and Moores Cancer Center. “It’s similar to what we’re seeing now with dangerous ‘cytokine storms’ that can result from infection with the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. Macrophages, and the cytokines they produce, are the body’s own immune-stimulating agents and when produced in excessive amounts, they do more harm than good.”

Digging deeper into the mechanism at play, Ghosh and team discovered that the GIV protein normally cozies up to a molecule called Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4). TLR4 is stuck right through the cell membrane, with bits poking inside and outside the cell. Outside of the cell, TLR4 is like an antenna, searching for signs of invading pathogens. Inside the cell, GIV is nestled between the receptor’s two “feet.” When in place, GIV keeps the feet apart, and nothing happens. When GIV is removed, the TLR4 feet touch and kick off a cascade of immune-stimulating signals.

Ghosh’s GIV-mimicking peptides can take the place of the protein when it’s missing, keeping the feet apart and calming macrophages down.

“We were surprised at just how fluid the immune system is when it encounters a pathogen,” said Ghosh, who is also director of the Institute for Network Medicine and executive director of the HUMANOID Center of Research Excellence at UC San Diego School of Medicine. “Macrophages don’t need to waste time and energy producing more or less GIV protein, they can rapidly dial their response up or down simply by moving it around, and it appears that such regulation happens at the level of gene transcription.”

Source: UC San Diego




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Facebook Public Policy Director for India, South and Central Asia Ankhi Das Steps Down

ankhi das mark zuckerberg facebook 1603805861163

Facebook’s public policy director for India, South and Central Asia, Ankhi Das, has stepped down to pursue interests in public service, the company said in a statement on Tuesday.

Earlier this month, Sunil Abraham was appointed by the social media giant as the public policy director for data and emerging technology.

Facebook Vice President & Managing Director India, Ajit Mohan, in a statement said, “Ankhi has decided to step down from her role in Facebook to pursue her interest in public service. Ankhi was one of our earliest employees in India and played an instrumental role in the growth of the company and its services over the last 9 years. She has been a part of my leadership team over the last 2 years, a role in which she has made enormous contributions. We are grateful for her service and wish her the very best for the future.”

The resignation comes weeks after Facebook and Das faced questions internally from employees over how political content is regulated in its biggest market, India.

Facebook is battling a public-relations and political crisis in India after the Wall Street Journal reported that Das opposed applying the company’s hate-speech rules to a politician from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party who had in posts called Muslims traitors.

In the US and around the world, Facebook employees are raising questions about whether adequate procedures and content regulation practices were being followed by the India team, sources familiar with discussions told Reuters. An open letter written to Facebook’s leadership by 11 employees on one internal platform, and seen by Reuters, demands company leaders acknowledge and denounce “anti-Muslim bigotry” and ensure more policy consistency.

The letter also demanded that Facebook’s “policy team in India (and elsewhere) includes diverse representation.” “It is hard not to feel frustrated and saddened by the incidents reported …We know we’re not alone in this. Employees across the company are expressing similar sentiment,” said the letter. “The Muslim community at Facebook would like to hear from Facebook leadership on our asks.”

Facebook has been under fire in recent years for its lax approach to fake news content, state-backed disinformation campaigns and violent content spread via its platforms.


Are iPhone 12 mini, HomePod mini the Perfect Apple Devices for India? We discussed this on Orbital, our weekly technology podcast, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or RSS, download the episode, or just hit the play button below.

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Linux Foundation: Latest trends and most-needed skills for open source jobs

opensourcejobs102020

The Linux Foundation jobs report shares what recruiters are looking for and which technologies are in demand.

Hiring managers said in a recent survey by the Linux Foundation that cloud skills are what they need most.

Image: The Linux Foundation

Open source is still the leading software development environment for SMBs and the enterprise despite the current economic downturn and pandemic, according to the latest jobs report from The Linux Foundation. 

“2020 has been a difficult year for all of us, but it’s encouraging to see that open source continues to provide abundant opportunities,” said The Linux Foundation Executive Director Jim Zemlin in a press release. “The Linux Foundation and our members will continue to work to provide technological advancements that benefit everyone while striving to make open source educational opportunities more accessible.”

SEE: Top 5 programming languages for systems admins to learn (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Open source software is continuing to gain ground in the enterprise. A recent Red Hat survey revealed that 86% of IT leaders say  the most innovative companies are using open source software. In that same survey, 77% of respondents said they plan to increase their use of open source software in the next 12 months. 

This is the eighth year The Linux Foundation has produced the open source jobs report, and this is the first time the foundation worked with edX to produce it. The last report was completed in 2018. The 2020 Open Source Jobs Report found, “a shift of priorities for hiring organizations towards cloud-native technologies and increasing use of open source solutions despite the severe challenges currently facing businesses and IT pros.”

Desired skill sets

Linux, DevOps, cloud and security are the top skill sets wanted from potential employees. Among hiring managers, 74% say that Linux is the most in-demand skill they’re seeking in new hires.

According to the report, 69% of employers want employees with cloud and containers experience, up from 64% in 2018. And 65% of companies want to hire more DevOps talent, up from 59% in 2018. The report shows that 63% percent of hiring managers want employees who can architect solutions based on open source software. Security is also important with 48% of companies wanting this skill set in potential employees. Other desirable skills are knowledge of new tools, experience using open source development tools like Git, experience running projects already in production, and people who have previously worked on open source projects. 

Most in-demand jobs

In 2018, 72% of companies were seeking to hire developers. In 2020, this has dropped to 59%. The most in-demand job is DevOps, with 65% of companies wanting to hire for this role, an increase from 59% in 2018. Engineers rank third, at 56%, and architects are at 41%. SysAdmins dropped to 35% in 2020, from 49% in 2018. The report theorizes this is because many SysAdmin roles evolved into DevOp ones. 

Trends in hiring for open source jobs

Additional findings from the report:

  • Among hiring managers, 81% said hiring open source talent is a priority for 2020, and they are more likely than ever to seek out pros with certifications. 
  • 56% of hiring managers plan to hire more open source professionals in the next six months compared to the last six months.
  • 57% of hiring managers said hiring certified professionals is a priority, which is a significant increase from 47% in 2018.
  • Finding sufficient talent with open source skills is difficult for 93% of hiring managers, up from 87% in 2018. 
  • Among employers, 57% say that training existing employees to gain necessary skills is the top tactic used in 2020. 
  • 70% of hiring managers say that employees have requested more open source training this year, compared to 64% in 2018.
  • 60% of professionals surveyed would like for employers to cover the cost of certifications, up from 47% in 2018.
  • 74% of hiring managers are willing to pay for certifications, up from 55% two years ago.
  • 88% of employers say their company proactivity encourages diversity, up from 79% two years ago. Among employees, 70% feel their companies are making an effort to encourage diversity, an increase from 60% in 2018.
  • 52% of companies surveyed say they activity recruit underrepresented individuals, an increase from 46% in 2018. 

Why open source is so crucial

Adam Medros, edX president and co-CEO, said open source professionals are key to tech advancements around the world. 

“We hope that the information in this report gives open source professionals a clear picture of the industry to inform their decisions around joining and creating teams, and informs organizations’ decisions around training and investing in their workers,” Medros said in a press release.

As with the last three Linux Foundation reports, the focus is on all aspects of open source software; the first four reports focused more specifically on Linux professionals.  

Survey methodology

edX and The Linux Foundation surveyed hiring managers and open source professionals from July 28 to Sept. 3, 2020. Hiring managers from corporations, SMBs, government organizations and staffing agencies were surveyed. More than 175 hiring managers responded. More than 900 open source professionals responded to a survey, with 74% indicating they’ve been working as an open source professional for three years or more. 

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