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    India reveals that it has returned lunar spacecraft to Earth orbit / ArsTechnica · 6 days ago - 14:56 · 1 minute

India's Chandrayaan-3 lunar spacecraft undergoes accoustic testing. The propulsion module can be seen at the bottom.

Enlarge / India's Chandrayaan-3 lunar spacecraft undergoes accoustic testing. The propulsion module can be seen at the bottom. (credit: ISRO)

A little more than three months ago the Indian space agency, ISRO, achieved a major success by putting its Vikram lander safely down on the surface of the Moon. In doing so India became the fourth country to achieve a soft landing on the Moon, and this further ignited the country's interest in space exploration.

But it turns out that is not the end of the story for the Chandrayaan 3 mission. In a surprise announcement made Monday, ISRO announced that it has successfully returned the propulsion module used by the spacecraft into a high orbit around Earth. This experimental phase of the mission, the agency said in a statement , tested key capabilities needed for future lunar missions, including the potential for returning lunar rocks to Earth.

A capable module

The primary task of the propulsion module was to deliver the Vikram 3 lander into a low-lunar orbit, 100 km above the surface of the Moon. After doing this in August, the propulsion module moved to an orbit around the Moon at an altitude of 150 km. There, its remaining operational goal was to support a science experiment, known as SHAPE, to observe the Earth.

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    Daily Telescope: An ancient galaxy behind a veil of dust / ArsTechnica · 6 days ago - 13:05

Color composite of galaxy AzTECC71 from multiple color filters in the NIRCam instrument on the James Webb Space Telescope.

Enlarge / Color composite of galaxy AzTECC71 from multiple color filters in the NIRCam instrument on the James Webb Space Telescope. (credit: J. McKinney/M. Franco/C. Casey/The University of Texas at Austin)

Welcome to the Daily Telescope . There is a little too much darkness in this world and not enough light, a little too much pseudoscience and not enough science. We'll let other publications offer you a daily horoscope. At Ars Technica, we're going to take a different route, finding inspiration from very real images of a universe that is filled with stars and wonder.

Good morning. It's December 5, and today's photo takes us very far from home to a dusty star factory of a galaxy that we need every bit of the James Webb Space Telescope's power to resolve.

This is the object AzTECC71, and astronomers say we are observing the galaxy as it existed just 900 million years after the Big Bang. And since the Universe is 13.7 billion years old, that is light from a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

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    Texas sues Pfizer with COVID anti-vax argument that is pure stupid / ArsTechnica · 7 days ago - 23:13

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.

Enlarge / Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. (credit: Getty | Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle )

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sued Pfizer last week, claiming the pharmaceutical giant "deceived the public" by "unlawfully misrepresenting" the effectiveness of its mRNA COVID-19 vaccine and sought to silence critics.

The lawsuit also blames Pfizer for not ending the pandemic after the vaccine's release in December 2020. "Contrary to Pfizer’s public statements, however, the pandemic did not end; it got worse" in 2021, the complaint reads .

"We are pursuing justice for the people of Texas, many of whom were coerced by tyrannical vaccine mandates to take a defective product sold by lies," Paxton said in a press release. "The facts are clear. Pfizer did not tell the truth about their COVID-19 vaccines."

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    What happens in Vega didn’t stay in Vega, as key rocket parts went missing / ArsTechnica · 7 days ago - 16:27

A Vega rocket rides a column of exhaust from its solid-fueled first stage, kicking off a mission to deliver 12 small satellites into orbit.

Enlarge / A Vega rocket rides a column of exhaust from its solid-fueled first stage, kicking off a mission to deliver 12 small satellites into orbit. (credit: ESA/CNES/Arianespace )

The Italy-based aerospace company Avio has not had the best of luck with its Vega rocket, which has always been something of an odd duck in the launch industry. Now, as the rocket nears its final launch, it's missing some critical components.

The European Spaceflight newsletter reports that two of the four propellant tanks on the fourth stage of the Vega rocket—the upper stage, which is powered by dimethylhydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide solid fuel—went missing earlier this year.

Now, it seems that the propellant tanks have been found. However, the newsletter says, the tanks were recovered in a dismal state, crushed, alongside metal scraps in a landfill. Someone, apparently, had trashed the tanks. This is a rather big problem for Avio, as this was to be the final Vega rocket launched, and the production lines are now closed for this hardware.

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    IBM adds error correction to updated quantum computing roadmap / ArsTechnica · 7 days ago - 15:40 · 1 minute

Image of a series of silver-covered rectangles, each representing a processing chip.

Enlarge / The family portrait of IBM's quantum processors, with the two new arrivals (Heron and Condor) at right. (credit: IBM)

On Monday, IBM announced that it has produced the two quantum systems that its roadmap had slated for release in 2023. One of these is based on a chip named Condor, which is the largest transmon-based quantum processor yet released, with 1,121 functioning qubits. The second is based on a combination of three Heron chips, each of which has 133 qubits. Smaller chips like Heron and its successor, Flamingo, will play a critical role in IBM's quantum roadmap—which also got a major update today.

Based on the update, IBM will have error-corrected qubits working by the end of the decade, enabled by improvements to individual qubits made over several iterations of the Flamingo chip. While these systems probably won't place things like existing encryption schemes at risk, they should be able to reliably execute quantum algorithms that are far more complex than anything we can do today.

We talked with IBM's Jay Gambetta about everything the company is announcing today, including existing processors, future roadmaps, what the machines might be used for over the next few years, and the software that makes it all possible. But to understand what the company is doing, we have to back up a bit to look at where the field as a whole is moving.

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    New algorithm finds lots of gene-editing enzymes in environmental DNA / ArsTechnica · Saturday, 2 December - 13:00 · 1 minute

A dark blue background with light blue ribbons, and yellow nucleic acids in front.

Enlarge / The protein structure of CAS, shown with nucleic acids bound. (credit: Bang Wong, Broad Institute )

CRISPR—Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats—is the microbial world’s answer to adaptive immunity. Bacteria don’t generate antibodies when they are invaded by a pathogen and then hold those antibodies in abeyance in case they encounter that same pathogen again, the way we do. Instead, they incorporate some of the pathogen’s DNA into their own genome and link it to an enzyme that can use it to recognize that pathogenic DNA sequence and cut it to pieces if the pathogen ever turns up again.

The enzyme that does the cutting is called Cas, for CRISPR associated. Although the CRISPR-Cas system evolved as a bacterial defense mechanism, it has been harnessed and adapted by researchers as a powerful tool for genetic manipulation in laboratory studies. It also has demonstrated agricultural uses, and the first CRISPR-based therapy was just approved in the UK to treat sickle-cell disease and transfusion-dependent beta-thalassemia.

Now, researchers have developed a new way to search genomes for CRISPR-Cas-like systems. And they’ve found that we may have a lot of additional tools to work with.

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    Roar of cicadas was so loud, it was picked up by fiber-optic cables / ArsTechnica · Saturday, 2 December - 11:10


Enlarge / BUZZ BUZZ BUZZ BUZZ (credit: astrida via Getty Images )

One of the world’s most peculiar test beds stretches above Princeton, New Jersey. It’s a fiber optic cable strung between three utility poles that then runs underground before feeding into an “interrogator.” This device fires a laser through the cable and analyzes the light that bounces back. It can pick up tiny perturbations in that light caused by seismic activity or even loud sounds, like from a passing ambulance. It’s a newfangled technique known as distributed acoustic sensing, or DAS.

Because DAS can track seismicity, other scientists are increasingly using it to monitor earthquakes and volcanic activity . (A buried system is so sensitive, in fact, that it can detect people walking and driving above .) But the scientists in Princeton just stumbled upon a rather … noisier use of the technology. In the spring of 2021, Sarper Ozharar—a physicist at NEC Laboratories, which operates the Princeton test bed—noticed a strange signal in the DAS data . “We realized there were some weird things happening,” says Ozharar. “Something that shouldn’t be there. There was a distinct frequency buzzing everywhere.”

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    The Universe in a lab: Testing alternate cosmology using a cloud of atoms / ArsTechnica · Friday, 1 December - 20:04 · 1 minute

Multicolored waves spread out within a pill-shaped area.

Enlarge / Density waves in a Bose-Einstein condensate. (credit: NASA )

In the basement of Kirchhoff-Institut für Physik in Germany, researchers have been simulating the Universe as it might have existed shortly after the Big Bang. They have created a tabletop quantum field simulation that involves using magnets and lasers to control a sample of potassium-39 atoms that is held close to absolute zero. They then use equations to translate the results at this small scale to explore possible features of the early Universe.

The work done so far shows that it’s possible to simulate a Universe with a different curvature. In a positively curved universe, if you travel in any direction in a straight line, you will come back to where you started. In a negatively curved universe, space is bent in a saddle shape. The Universe is currently flat or nearly flat, according to Marius Sparn, a PhD student at Kirchhoff-Institut für Physik. But at the beginning of its existence, it might have been more positively or negatively curved.

Around the curve

“If you have a sphere that's really huge, like the Earth or something, if you see only a small part of it, you don't know—is it closed or is it infinitely open?” said Sabine Hossenfelder, member of the Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy. “It becomes a philosophical question, really. The only things we know come from the part of the Universe we observe. Normally, the way that people phrase it is that, for all we know, the curvature in this part of the Universe is compatible with zero.”

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