World
Stephen Hawking, Russian billionaire to build interstellar spaceships

Hawking and Milner made the joint announcement at a press conference held at One World Observatory in New York City on Tuesday, Xinhua reported

 

World-renowned British astrophysicist Stephen Hawking on Tuesday teamed up with Russian billionaire Yuri Milner and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in a $100 million effort to make tiny spaceships capable of interstellar space travel.
 
Hawking and Milner made the joint announcement at a press conference held at One World Observatory in New York City on Tuesday, Xinhua reported.
 
The project, dubbed "Breakthrough Starshot," is a research and engineering programme that aims to build laser beam propelled "nanocrafts" that can travel at 20 percent of lightspeed -- more than 1,000 times faster than current fastest spacecraft.
 
According to Milner, once the "nanocrafts" are built, they could reach Alpha Centauri, a star 4.37 light-years away, approximately 20 years in a fly-by mission.
 
Alpha Centauri is one of the closest star systems to the solar system and the current fastest spacecraft would have to spend 30,000 years to get there.
 
The "nanocrafts" are gram-scale robotic spacecrafts consisting of two main parts: a computer CPU sized "StarChip" and a "Lightsail" made with metamaterials no more than a few hundred atoms thick.
 
Although weighing just a few grams, the "StarChip" is a fully functional space probe, which carries various equipment including cameras, navigation and communication.
 
"The 'StarChip' can be mass-produced at the cost of an iPhone," Milner said.
 
The "nanocrafts" can then be propelled into space by a powerful laser beam, which according to Avi Loeb, a theoretical physicist and panelist at the news conference, will carry a power of 100 gigawatt.
 
"This is the power needed to lift off a space shuttle," Loeb said.
 
Milner and the scientists believe that with the rising power and falling costs of lasers, the entire process is practical within a couple of years.
 
"Fifteen years ago, it would not have made sense to make this investment. Now we have looked at the numbers, and it does," Milner said.
 
The project was part of the Breakthrough Initiatives first launched in July 2015 by Hawking and Milner, including a series of research plans to scan the 100 galaxies closest to the Milky Way in search for aliens. "Starshot" is its newest endeavor.
 
Hawking believes that human's innate sense to transcend limits is the driving force behind the project. "Gravity pins us to the ground, but I just flew to America."
 
While one cannot hear the joking tone through Hawking's voice synthesizer, his humour had been easily received.
 
What the scientists are looking for is not just reaching Alpha Centauri, but what can be learned during the efforts.
 
"A lot of science will be learned by the process of going through this, making this happen," said panelist Mae Jemison, a former NASA astronaut. 
 
"There is big task ahead, there's a big leap in getting something of a micro size to go at some percentage of the speed of light. That will have all kinds of reverberations."
 
Tuesday also marked the 55th anniversary of the first human space flight by Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin.
 

 

"Today we commit to this next great leap into the cosmos because we are human and our nature is to fly," Hawking said.
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

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SC wants private airlines on less lucrative routes in Himachal, northeast

The court was hearing a petition by national carrier Air India challenging the Himachal Pradesh High Court's December 7, 2015 order asking it to commence flights on a trial basis connecting Shimla and Delhi

 

The Supreme Court on Tuesday slammed the government policy allowing private airlines to fly to lucrative destinations without putting them under the obligation of catering to less economical routes like Himachal Pradesh and the northeast.
 
"If you are giving a private operator (permission) to fly to Chennai, Hyderabad and Bengaluru, can't you ask them to fly to Himachal Pradesh, northeastern states, and Andaman and Nicobar Islands," asked the bench of Chief Justice T.S. Thakur and Justice R. Banumathi.
 
Describing as "bluff" the government's position that it has framed the guidelines and was strictly adhering to them, the bench mockingly observed that the economic interest of private operators was being taken care of without any concern for air routes like Himachal Pradesh and the northeastern states.
 
Describing it as "largesse" to the private airlines without "insisting on corresponding obligations to cater to less lucrative routes", the court said: "We will go into the system."
 
The court also mentioned a petition by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy questioning the agreement between India and the UAE allegedly permitting Etihad Airways to carry 36,670 more passengers over and above the permitted number of 13,330 passengers per week.
 
The agreement between India and Abu Dhabi was signed in April 2013 and another agreement between Jet Airways and Etihad was signed in December 2013. Swamy had in 2013 challenged the Jet-Etihad deal and its approval by the government.
 
As Additional Solicitor General P.S. Patwalia, appearing for Air India, told the court that Shimla was a small airport with all its accompanied difficulties, the court said it was not going to be carried away by all this and it would bring out some more skeletons.
 
Reminding Patwalia that in the course of the last hearing on March 15, 2016, he had said, "we will do something", the court said: "We thought you will come back and tell us that this group will operate flights" to Shimla airport.
 
With the court leaving no doubt about its intentions, Patwalia said he has "understood the sentiments of the court" and would convey the same to the right quarters as the court directed the next hearing on April 21.
 
The court was hearing a petition by national carrier Air India challenging the Himachal Pradesh High Court's December 7, 2015 order asking it to commence flights on a trial basis connecting Shimla and Delhi.
 
The national carrier had earlier told the court that a flight connecting Shimla with Delhi was not economical as there were 12-15 one-way passengers only.
 
The apex court had on December 16, 2015, ordered status quo, thereby putting on hold the December 7 high court direction to Air India.
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

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COMMENTS

Param

1 year ago

what's next? asking dominos to promise 30-min delivery even to a village 50 km from the food joint?

why not let businesses run with pre-defined rules that do not change on whims of individuals or institutions?

if connecting unconnected cities was a pre-requisite for any airline to operate, why does it need a court order to enforce it?

Param

1 year ago

what's next? asking dominos to promise 30-min delivery even to a village 50 km from the food joint?

why not let businesses run with pre-defined rules that do not change on whims of individuals or institutions?

if connecting unconnected cities was a pre-requisite for any airline to operate, why does it need a court order to enforce it?

SC to examine if defaulters' names can be made public

Farmers are committing suicide for their inability to repay small loans

 

The Supreme Court will examine if the Reserve Bank of India and the central government could take shelter behind the confidentiality clause in the RBI Act and other statutes for holding back names of loan defaulters and the total quantum of money in default.
 
The court decided to examine whether this information could be made public, as it noted that rich people take loans for running their empires and on their failure to repay them, go for loans restructuring by BFIR while farmers are committing suicide for their inability to repay small loans.
 
Expressing serious concern after going through the confidential report submitted by the RBI, a bench of Chief Justice T.S. Thakur and Justice R. Banumathi said that the amount of total default is "very large" and wondered whether the information can be made public.
 
The RBI had furnished the information in pursuance to the court's February 16 order seeking to know about debtors in default of payment of amounts more than Rs.500 crore, along with an affidavit in a sealed cover.
 
The court asked counsel Prashant Bhushan appearing for petitioner, NGO CPIL to frame the questions relating to the issue that would be addressed by the court on the next hearing.
 
For "clarity and focused hearing," the court asked Bhushan, "you can formulate the issues and we will hear them." It issued notice to the finance ministry and Indian Banks Association ahead of the next hearing on April 26.
 
The court decided to address the larger issue as it noted that its concern is not that RBI is a regulator only and is meant to be a watchdog. 
 
As the court asked Bhushan to frame the issues, it, in a pointed question asked senior counsel Jaideep Gupta, appearing for the RBI, if not the names of the defaulters, whether the total amount in default could be made public.
 
"You say that amount that are in default are large. What steps you are taking for recovering them, we will like to hear on that," it said.
 
However, Gupta told the court that "these are aggregate figures (and their disclosure) will have an impact on the economy".
 
Section 45E of the Reserve Bank of India Act prohibits disclosure of any information relating to the creditors, saying: "(1) Any credit information contained in any statement submitted by a banking company under section 45C or furnished by the Bank to any banking company under section 45D, shall be treated as confidential and shall not, except for the purposes of this Chapter, be published or otherwise disclosed."
 
As Gupta stressed that under the RBI Act commercial confidentiality had to be maintained, Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar, appearing for the government, also cited the Credit Information Companies (Regulation) Act, 2005 and the Public Financial Institutions (Obligation as To Fidelity and Secrecy) Act, 1983, to buttress the argument of maintaining the commercial confidentiality of the borrowers in default.
 
As RBI's counsel tried to flag issues in support of apex bank's resistance to share information on debtors including that of fiduciary relationship, Bhushan said that the apex court by its December 16, 2015 verdict had addressed all these pleas and had rejected them.
 
In this judgment, a bench of Justice M.Y.Eqbal (since retired) and Justice C. Nagappan, while reminding the apex bank of its statutory duty, had said: "RBI is clearly not in any fiduciary relationship with any bank. RBI has no legal duty to maximize the benefit of any public sector or private sector bank, and thus there is no relationship of 'trust' between them. RBI has a statutory duty to uphold the interest of the public at large, the depositors, the country's economy and the banking sector."
 
The court is hearing a public interest litigation citing loans given by HUDCO in 2003 to some companies with questionable track records. The court has been told that there is a circle where the mortgaged assets of a defaulting company again go back to it when those assets are auctioned to recover the bad loans. 
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

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