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Potatoes can grow on Mars : Study

Raghu Kshitiz

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CubeSat indicator experiments prove potatoes can grow on Mars. The International Potato Center (CIP) launched a series of experiments to discover if potatoes can grow under Mars atmospheric conditions.

Scientists with the CIP created Mars-like growing conditions inside a CubeSat designed by engineers at the University of Engineering and Technology (UTEC) in Lima, Peru and advice provided by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in Ames Research Center (NASA ARC), California. The potato plants inside the experimental box are reportedly thriving.

The findings show potatoes can also grow under extreme conditions on Earth too.

The box mimics the day-night patterns of Mars, as well as its temperature, air pressure and atmospheric composition. Sensors inside the hermetically-sealed box monitor the progress of the tubers.

“Growing crops under Mars-like conditions is an important phase of this experiment,” Julio Valdivia-Silva, a research associate with the SETI Institute, said in a news release.

“If the crops can tolerate the extreme conditions that we are exposing them to in our CubeSat, they have a good chance to grow on Mars. We will do several rounds of experiments to find out which potato varieties do best. We want to know what the minimum conditions are that a potato needs to survive.”

The CubeSat houses a container holding soil and the tuber. Inside this hermetically sealed environment the CubeSat delivers nutrient rich water, controls the temperature for Mars day and night conditions and mimics Mars air pressure, oxygen and carbon dioxide levels.

Sensors constantly monitor these conditions and live streaming cameras record the soil in anticipation of the potato sprouting.

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One advantage, potato has great genetic capacity for adaptation to extreme environment, according to CIP potato breeder Walter Amoros.

“The results indicate that our efforts to breed varieties with high potential for strengthening food security in areas that are affected, or will be affected by climate change, are working,” Amoros said.

 

 

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Android apps may be illegally tracking children, study finds

Gorkha Post

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Over 3300 free and popular children’s Android apps available on the Google Play Store could be violating child privacy laws, according to a new, large-scale study, highlighting growing criticism of Silicon Valley’s data collection efforts.

Researchers using an automated testing process have discovered that 3,337 family and child oriented Android apps on Google Play were improperly collecting kids’ data, potentially putting them in violation of the US’ Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA law (which limits data collection for kids under 13).

Only a small number were particularly glaring violations, but many apps exhibited behavior that could easily be seen as questionable.

Researchers analyzed nearly 6,000 apps for children and found that 3,337 of them may be in violation of the COPPA, according to the study report. The tested apps collected the personal data of children under age 13 without their parent’s permission, the study found.

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“This is a market failure,” said Serge Egelman, a co-author of the study and the director of usable security and privacy research at the International Computer Science Institute at the University of California, Berkeley.

“The rampant potential violations that we have uncovered points out basic enforcement work that needs to be done.”

The researchers are adamant that they’re not showing ‘definitive legal liability.’ These apps may be running afoul of the law, but it’s up to regulators at the FTC to decide if they are. Without iOS data, it’s also unclear how common this problem is across platforms.

The potential violations were abundant and came in several forms, according to the study. More than 1,000 children’s apps collected identifying information from kids using tracking software whose terms explicitly forbid their use for children’s apps, the study found.

The researchers also said that nearly half the apps fail to always use standard security measures to transmit sensitive data over the Web, suggesting a breach of reasonable data security measures mandated by COPPA. Each of the 5,855 apps under review was installed more than 750,000 times, on average, according to the study.

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Unfortunately for parents, there’s little consumers can do to protect themselves since the policies and business practices of app developers and ad tracking companies are often opaque, Egelman said.

The study also points to a breakdown of so-called self-regulation by app developers who claim to abide by child privacy laws, as well as by Google, which runs the Android platform, he said.

Agencies

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