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NASA rover helps scientists find signs of megafloods on Mars

“The planet had the conditions needed to support the presence of liquid water on the surface — and on Earth, where there’s water, there’s life.

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NASA Curiosity rover

New York: Analysing data collected by NASA’s Curiosity rover, scientists have found that floods of unimaginable magnitude once washed through Gale Crater on Mars’ equator around four billion years ago.

The finding, published in the journal Scientific Reports, hints at the possibility that life may have existed on the Red Planet.

The raging megaflood — likely touched off by the heat of a meteoritic impact, which unleashed ice stored on the Martian surface — set up gigantic ripples that are tell-tale geologic structures familiar to scientists on Earth.

“We identified megafloods for the first time using detailed sedimentological data observed by the rover Curiosity,” said co-author Alberto Fairen, a visiting astrobiologist at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York.

“Deposits left behind by megafloods had not been previously identified with orbiter data.”

As is the case on Earth, geological features, including the work of water and wind have been frozen in time on Mars for about four billion years. These features convey processes that shaped the surface of both planets in the past.

This case includes the occurrence of giant wave-shaped features in sedimentary layers of Gale crater, often called “megaripples” or antidunes that are about 30-feet high and spaced about 450 feet apart, according to study lead author Ezat Heydari, Professor of Physics at Jackson State University in Mississippi, US.

The antidunes are indicative of flowing megafloods at the bottom of Mars’ Gale Crater about four billion years ago, which are identical to the features formed by melting ice on Earth about two million years ago, Heydari said.

The most likely cause of the Mars flooding was the melting of ice from the heat generated by a large impact, which released carbon dioxide and methane from the planet’s frozen reservoirs.

The water vapour and release of gases combined to produce a short period of warm and wet conditions on the red planet.

Condensation formed water vapour clouds, which in turn created torrential rain, possibly planetwide.

The Curiosity rover science team has already established that Gale Crater once had persistent lakes and streams in the ancient past.

These long-lived bodies of water are good indicators that the crater, as well as Mount Sharp within it, were capable of supporting microbial life.

“Early Mars was an extremely active planet from a geological point of view,” Fairen said.

“The planet had the conditions needed to support the presence of liquid water on the surface — and on Earth, where there’s water, there’s life.

“So early Mars was a habitable planet,” he said.

“Was it inhabited? That’s a question that the next rover Perseverance … will help to answer.”

Perseverance, which launched on July 30, is scheduled to reach Mars on February 18, 2021.

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Twitter acts on inactive accounts, new verification soon

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Micro-blogging platform Twitter has started removing blue verification badges from inactive and incomplete accounts and will begin the new verification process for its users in few weeks.

Twitter, which paused its public verification process or that elusive Blue Badge three years ago, in November announced to relaunch verification, including a new public application process, in early 2021.

“Last call! As part of our new verification policy, we’ll remove verification badges from inactive and incomplete accounts,” Twitter Safety said in a tweet.

The company is reading out directly to users who have issues with their accounts.

“We’ve reached out directly to those who need to take action to stay verified,” it added.

Twitter had said it would relaunch verification, including a new public application process, in early 2021.

Verified accounts on Twitter will have a blue check next to the display name throughout the app.

“When we relaunch the public application process in early 2021, there will be a link to the application in the Twitter apps and on twitter.com”.

Over three years ago, the platform paused the public verification programme after hearing feedback that it felt arbitrary and confusing to many people.

A year later, the company deprioritised this work further to focus on protecting the integrity of the public conversation around critical moments like the 2020 US election.

The company has identified six types of accounts in its draft policy as Notable Accounts — government; companies, brands and non-profit organisations; news; entertainment; sports and activists/organisers and other influential individuals.

According to the proposed policy, “the blue verified badge on Twitter lets people know that an account of public interest is authentic. To receive the blue badge, your account must be notable and active.”

Twitter had admitted that there are many verified accounts on its platform that should not be there.

The new verification policy is a starting point, and “we intend to expand the categories and criteria for verification significantly over the next year”.

The draft verification policy is available in English, Hindi, Arabic, Spanish, Portuguese, and Japanese.

“We are also working with local non-governmental organisations and our Trust and Safety Council to ensure as many perspectives are represented as possible,” Twitter said.

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Twitter locks account of Chinese Embassy in US over Uyghur tweet

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Twitter has locked the official account of China’s Embassy in the US over a controversial post that referred to Muslim Uyghur women as “baby-making machines” prior to government intervention.

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Microsoft brings Surface Laptop Go to India

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Microsoft on Thursday announced the Surface Laptop Go will be available in India from January 22 via commercial authorised resellers, authorised retail and online partners at a starting price of Rs 63,499.

According to the company, the Surface Laptop Go extends the Surface line-up by delivering standout design along with the features most loved by our Surface Laptop customers at a more affordable price.

“With the new Surface Laptop Go, we want to give every person in the household or organisation a laptop that’s not just something you need to use, but something you want to use. The Surface Laptop Go is our lightest and most affordable Surface laptop yet that offers the perfect balance of performance, battery life and style,” Rajiv Sodhi, Chief Operating Officer, Microsoft said in a statement.

The Surface Laptop Go runs on Windows 10 Home in S mode. It features a 12.45-inch PixelSense Display with 3:2 aspect ratio and 1,536×1,024 pixels resolution.

Under the hood, the Surface Laptop Go is powered by 10th-Gen Intel Core i5-1035G1 processor and comes with Intel UHD graphics.

It can be equipped with 4GB, 8GB, or 16GB of LPDDR4x RAM. The base model carries 64GB of eMMC storage but comes with options for 128GB and 256GB SSDs.

Connectivity options include a USB Type-C port, a USB Type-A port, a 3.5mm headphone hack, Wi-Fi 6: 802.11ax, and Bluetooth 5.0.

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