Versailles, Nov 15 (AP/UNB) — In a historic vote, nations unanimously approved Friday a ground-breaking overhaul to the international system of measurements, coming together in a way that they fail to do on so many other issues behind new definitions for the kilogram and other key units vital for trade and science.
Scientists for whom the update represents decades of work clapped, cheered and even wept as the 50-plus nations one by one said "yes" or "oui" to the update.
Since 1884, the #kilogram has been defined by an artefact - from 2019, it will be defined by fundamental constants of nature:#SIRedefinition @beisgovuk @BipmMetrology https://t.co/Z3Qp51IiIP pic.twitter.com/bBk0jpoviJ— NPL (@NPL) November 13, 2018
Nobel prize winner William Phillips called it "the greatest revolution in measurement since the French revolution," which ushered in the metric system of meters and kilograms.
The so-called "Grand K" kilogram, a cylinder of polished platinum-iridium alloy that has been the world's sole true kilo since 1889, is to be retired.
Nations gathered in Versailles, west of Paris, instead approved the use of a scientific formula to define the exact weight of a kilogram. Scientists at the meeting were giddy with excitement: some even sported tattoos on their forearms to mark the moment.
The change will have no discernable impact for most people. Their bathroom scales won't get kinder and kilos and grams won't change in supermarkets.
But it will mean redundancy for the Grand K and its six official copies. The new formula-based definition of the kilogram will have multiple advantages over the precision-crafted metal lump that has set the standard for more than a century.
Unlike a physical object, the formula cannot pick up particles of dust, decay with time or be dropped and damaged. It also is expected to be more accurate when measuring very, very small or very, very large masses.
Even in retirement, the "Grand K" and its six official copies — collectively known as "the heir and the spares" — will still be kept in the high-security vault on the outskirts of Paris where they are stored. That's because scientists want to keep on studying them, to see whether their masses gradually change over time.
Only exceedingly rarely have they seen the light of day since 1889, when they were taken out on a very few occasions to check whether other master kilograms that nations around the world use were still accurately calibrated, give or take the mass of a dust particle or two.
The metal kilo is being replaced by a definition based on Planck's constant, which is part of one of the most celebrated equations in physics but also devilishly difficult to explain.
Suffice to say that the updated definition will, in time, spare nations the need to occasionally send their kilos back to France for calibration against the "Grand K." Scientists instead should be able to accurately calculate an exact kilo without having to measure one lump of metal against another.
Sydney, Nov 5 (Xinhua/UNB) -- A team of astronomers in Australia have found what could be one of the universe's oldest stars, almost entirely made of materials formed by the Big Bang, research revealed on Monday.
Residing in the same part of the Milky Way galaxy as our own solar system, the star is believed to be up to 13.5 billion years old which is evidenced by its extremely low metal content, or metallicity.
According to study co-author Dr. Andrew Casey, it was previously believed that the first stars that formed in the universe could not possibly still exist today.
"The findings are significant because for the first time we have been able to show direct evidence that very ancient, low mass stars do exist, and could survive until the present day without destroying themselves," Casey said.
The metallicity of stars increases as they are born and die, in a cycle which results in the creation of more and more heavy metals, with the Earth's sun being around 100,000 generations down that line and holding a metal content roughly equal to 14 Jupiters.
Stars created at the beginning of the universe, however, would have consisted entirely of elements like hydrogen, helium and small amounts of lithium - meaning the extremely low metallicity of the newly discovered star, about the same as the planet Mercury, suggests that it could be as little as one generation removed from the beginning of the universe.
Up until around 1990, scientist believed that only massive stars could have formed in the early stages of the universe, and could never be observed because they burn through their fuel so quickly and die.
However new information has shown that it is possible for low mass stars to last as long as the 13 billion years since the Big Bang - Red Dwarf stars for instance, which have a fraction of the mass of the sun, are thought to live for trillions of years.
Jiuquan, Oct 29 (Xinhua/UNB) -- China sent an ocean-observing satellite successfully into space on Monday, a joint mission pursued under close Sino-French space cooperation that will enable scientists to study, for the first time, ocean surface winds and waves simultaneously.
The China-France Oceanography Satellite (CFOSat), atop a Long March-2C carrier rocket, took off at 8:43 a.m. from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, in northwest China's Gobi Desert, and entered a sun-synchronous orbit 520 km above the Earth.
Jointly developed by the China National Space Administration (CNSA) and the Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales, the French space agency, the satellite will conduct 24-hour observations of global wave spectrum, effective wave height, and ocean surface wind field, said Zhao Jian, a senior official with CNSA.
As the first satellite cooperation between China and France, the CFOSat is equipped with the world's most advanced technologies.
It carries two innovative radar instruments -- a wind scatterometer developed by China to measure the strength and direction of winds and a wave spectrometer developed by France to survey the length, height, and direction of waves, according to Wang Lili, chief designer of the satellite with the China Academy of Space Technology.
The two instruments will help scientists collect data about winds and waves of the same location simultaneously for the first time, Wang said.
Winds generate waves, and waves, in turn, modify the surface layer of the atmosphere above the ocean. Therefore, more and more often, meteorological and wave forecasts take into consideration the modeling and prediction of both ocean surface winds and waves.
Related forecasts have been enhanced significantly in the last decade, but the prediction accuracy still needs to be improved, especially in extreme events, such as hurricanes, typhoons, and rapidly evolving storms.
The CFOSat, complementing other existing oceanography satellites, will study the dynamics of waves and how they interact with surface winds, and deepen our understanding of their formation and physical mechanism, said Zhao Jian with CNSA.
"It will help increase the observation and prediction of catastrophic sea states, such as huge waves and tropical storms, and provide security support for offshore operations and engineering, ship navigation, fisheries, and coastal management," Zhao said.
By gaining new insights into the impacts of winds and waves on the atmosphere-ocean exchanges that play a key role in the climate system, the satellite will also provide basic information for global climate change research, he added.
China has previously launched six oceanic satellites, with the first officially approved to be developed in 1997. Two other satellites, the HY-1C and the HY-2B, were also sent into space this year ahead of the CFOSat.
"There are now five China-developed oceanic satellites in orbit, each having its own strength in monitoring ocean color, dynamics or sea states. They will complement each other and form a comprehensive observation network to continuously cover the global oceans for various statistics and with high resolution," Zhao said.
"The data they acquire, of remarkable social and economic benefits, will play an important role in protecting ocean environments, exploiting marine resources, preventing and reducing marine disasters, as well as improving marine science research," he said.
Beijing, Oct 28 (AP/UNB) — The first attempt by a private Chinese company to send a rocket into space has failed.
Beijing-based Landscape said late Saturday that the first and second stage of its ZQ-1 rocket worked normally but something went wrong with the final of the three-stage rocket.
It was the first three-stage rocket built by a private company in China.
Video posted by a Chinese news site shows the 19-meter- (62-foot-) tall red-and-white rocket lifting off Saturday against clear blue skies.
Landscape said that "cowling separation was normal but something abnormal happened after the second stage." The statement posted on its social media account did not elaborate.
Chinese media reports say the rocket was carrying a satellite for state broadcaster CCTV.
Cape Canaveral, Oct 16 (AP/UNB) — One of NASA's space telescopes is back in business after a two-day shutdown.
NASA said Monday that the Chandra X-ray Observatory came back online Friday. Chandra's trouble occurred less than a week after the Hubble Space Telescope was sidelined. In both cases, the problem was in the pointing system.
Officials say a glitch in one of Chandra's gyroscopes generated three seconds of bad computer data last Wednesday. That was enough for the 19-year-old telescope to go into so-called safe mode, during which science observations cease. Flight controllers restored Chandra's pointing by switching to a backup gyroscope.
Observations are expected to resume with Chandra by the end of this week. Hubble, meanwhile, remains out of action with a more serious gyroscope issue that cropped up Oct. 5.