HSBC Hong Kong Introduces API for Real-Time Payments

HSBC Hong Kong has announced a new API that aims to support more advanced payment collection options. Using the new API developers will gain access to instant electronic Direct Debit Authorisation (eDDA) and real-time payment transfer functionality.

Prior to providing this service via API, HSBC Hong Kong customers had to log in and manually process transfers. Not only was this process cumbersome, but the transfers would take several days to process. With the addition of real-time transfers and an automated workflow for managing payments, the company is hoping to save customers a lot of time. 

Yvonne Yiu, Head of Global Liquidity and Cash Management for HSBC was quoted as saying that:

“When it comes to payments, simplicity and convenience make a paramount difference to customer experience. Designed to allow our corporate customers to stay ahead of the evolving demands of their clientele, this innovative cash management API also supports businesses in their digital transformation and daily operation optimization.”

This API appears to be available only to partner companies. Developers interested in other Payments APIs can check out ProgrammableWeb’s database that lists over 1100 Payments APIs

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Author: <a href="">KevinSundstrom</a>


Are planets with oceans common in the galaxy? It’s likely, scientists find

Several years ago, planetary scientist Lynnae Quick began to wonder whether any of the more than 4,000 known exoplanets, or planets beyond our solar system, might resemble some of the watery moons around Jupiter and Saturn. Though some of these moons don’t have atmospheres and are covered in ice, they are still among the top targets in NASA’s search for life beyond Earth. Saturn’s moon Enceladus and Jupiter’s moon Europa, which scientists classify as “ocean worlds,” are good examples.

“Plumes of water erupt from Europa and Enceladus, so we can tell that these bodies have subsurface oceans beneath their ice shells, and they have energy that drives the plumes, which are two requirements for life as we know it,” says Quick, a NASA planetary scientist who specializes in volcanism and ocean worlds. “So if we’re thinking about these places as being possibly habitable, maybe bigger versions of them in other planetary systems are habitable too.”

Quick, of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, decided to explore whether — hypothetically — there are planets similar to Europa and Enceladus in the Milky Way galaxy. And, could they, too, be geologically active enough to shoot plumes through their surfaces that could one day be detected by telescopes.

Through a mathematical analysis of several dozen exoplanets, including planets in the nearby TRAPPIST-1 system, Quick and her colleagues learned something significant: More than a quarter of the exoplanets they studied could be ocean worlds, with a majority possibly harboring oceans beneath layers of surface ice, similar to Europa and Enceladus. Additionally, many of these planets could be releasing more energy than Europa and Enceladus.

Scientists may one day be able to test Quick’s predictions by measuring the heat emitted from an exoplanet or by detecting volcanic or cryovolcanic (liquid or vapor instead of molten rock) eruptions in the wavelengths of light emitted by molecules in a planet’s atmosphere. For now, scientists cannot see many exoplanets in any detail. Alas, they are too far away and too drowned out by the light of their stars. But by considering the only information available — exoplanet sizes, masses and distances from their stars — scientists like Quick and her colleagues can tap mathematical models and our understanding of the solar system to try to imagine the conditions that could be shaping exoplanets into livable worlds or not.

While the assumptions that go into these mathematical models are educated guesses, they can help scientists narrow the list of promising exoplanets to search for conditions favorable to life so that NASA’s upcoming James Webb Space Telescope or other space missions can follow up.

“Future missions to look for signs of life beyond the solar system are focused on planets like ours that have a global biosphere that’s so abundant it’s changing the chemistry of the whole atmosphere,” says Aki Roberge, a NASA Goddard astrophysicist who collaborated with Quick on this analysis. “But in the solar system, icy moons with oceans, which are far from the heat of the Sun, still have shown that they have the features we think are required for life.”

To look for possible ocean worlds, Quick’s team selected 53 exoplanets with sizes most similar to Earth, though they could have up to eight times more mass. Scientists assume planets of this size are more solid than gaseous and, thus, more likely to support liquid water on or below their surfaces. At least 30 more planets that fit these parameters have been discovered since Quick and her colleagues began their study in 2017, but they were not included in the analysis, which was published on June 18 in the journal Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific.

With their Earth-size planets identified, Quick and her team sought to determine how much energy each one could be generating and releasing as heat. The team considered two primary sources of heat. The first, radiogenic heat, is generated over billions of years by the slow decay of radioactive materials in a planet’s mantle and crust. That rate of decay depends on a planet’s age and the mass of its mantle. Other scientists already had determined these relationships for Earth-size planets. So, Quick and her team applied the decay rate to their list of 53 planets, assuming each one is the same age as its star and that its mantle takes up the same proportion of the planet’s volume as Earth’s mantle does.

Next, the researchers calculated heat produced by something else: tidal force, which is energy generated from the gravitational tugging when one object orbits another. Planets in stretched out, or elliptical, orbits shift the distance between themselves and their stars as they circle them. This leads to changes in the gravitational force between the two objects and causes the planet to stretch, thereby generating heat. Eventually, the heat is lost to space through the surface.

One exit route for the heat is through volcanoes or cryovolcanoes. Another route is through tectonics, which is a geological process responsible for the movement of the outermost rocky or icy layer of a planet or moon. Whichever way the heat is discharged, knowing how much of it a planet pushes out is important because it could make or break habitability.

For instance, too much volcanic activity can turn a livable world into a molten nightmare. But too little activity can shut down the release of gases that make up an atmosphere, leaving a cold, barren surface. Just the right amount supports a livable, wet planet like Earth, or a possibly livable moon like Europa.

In the next decade, NASA’s Europa Clipper will explore the surface and subsurface of Europa and provide insights about the environment beneath the surface. The more scientists can learn about Europa and other potentially habitable moons of our solar system, the better they’ll be able to understand similar worlds around other stars — which may be plentiful, according to today’s findings.

“Forthcoming missions will give us a chance to see whether ocean moons in our solar system could support life,” says Quick, who is a science team member on both the Clipper mission and the Dragonfly mission to Saturn’s moon Titan. “If we find chemical signatures of life, we can try to look for similar signs at interstellar distances.”

When Webb launches, scientists will try to detect chemical signatures in the atmospheres of some of the planets in the TRAPPIST-1 system, which is 39 light years away in the constellation Aquarius. In 2017, astronomers announced that this system has seven Earth-size planets. Some have suggested that some of these planets could be watery, and Quick’s estimates support this idea. According to her team’s calculations, TRAPPIST-1 e, f, g and h could be ocean worlds, which would put them among the 14 ocean worlds the scientists identified in this study.

The researchers predicted that these exoplanets have oceans by considering the surface temperatures of each one. This information is revealed by the amount of stellar radiation each planet reflects into space. Quick’s team also took into account each planet’s density and the estimated amount of internal heating it generates compared to Earth.

“If we see that a planet’s density is lower than Earth’s, that’s an indication that there might be more water there and not as much rock and iron,” Quick says. And if the planet’s temperature allows for liquid water, you’ve got an ocean world.

“But if a planet’s surface temperature is less than 32 degrees Fahrenheit (0 degrees Celsius), where water is frozen,” Quick says, “then we have an icy ocean world, and the densities for those planets are even lower.”

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Google Debuts Actions SDK for Google Assistant

Google this week made more tools available to developers for customizing app interactions with Google Assistant. By releasing Actions Builder and Actions SDK, Google says developers can build their own conversational actions for Assistant faster than ever. Here’s what you need to know.

Google says there are more than 500 million active users of Google Assistant across some 90 countries. Google allows developers to tie their own voice-enabled apps and services to Assistant in ways that benefit users. That’s why it wants to make improvements to the way conversational actions work. 

Actions Builder, the first of the new tools, is a web-based IDE that allows developers to develop, test, and deploy their apps straight from the Actions console. Google says the refreshed graphical interface gives developers the power to visualize conversations, manage natural language understanding, and debug. 

The Actions SDK takes the web-powered tools of Actions Builder and brings them to the local level. It offers a file-based representation of Actions projects, which lets developers create natural language understanding training data, manage conversation flows, and import training data in bulk. Google says it updated the accompanying CLI so developers can build Actions entirely with code. 

Together, these two tools should cover the bases developers need when creating Actions for Google Assistant. Moreover, Google says developers can switch from one environment to the other to suit changing workflow needs. Codelabs, samples, and documentation are available to assist developers.

Google has more in store for developers and Assistant. It also added functionality to Home Storage and updated the Media API and Continuous Match Mode. 

Home Storage is a brand new feature that provides communal storage for Assistant devices connected to the home graph. Developers can save content for each individual user of the Assistant device, allowing for things such as saving the last played point in a game for every individual in a household. 

The updated Media API now supports longer-form media sessions. This means users can resume playback of select content across devices. For example, people can resume playback from a specific spot of a song or video, or choose to commence playback from a certain spot. 

Last, Continuous Match Mode lets Assistant respond immediately to users’ speech. This is meant to facilitate more fluid experiences, as Assistant can recognize defined words and phrases set by developers. This impacts the hardware, such as the mic, which will stay open temporarily so users can speak when they are ready without requiring them to sit through additional prompts from Assistant or the app.

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Author: <a href="">EricZeman</a>


Black hole’s heart still beating

The first confirmed heartbeat of a supermassive black hole is still going strong more than ten years after first being observed.

X-ray satellite observations spotted the repeated beat after its signal had been blocked by our Sun for a number of years.

Astronomers say this is the most long lived heartbeat ever seen in a black hole and tells us more about the size and structure close to its event horizon — the space around a black hole from which nothing, including light, can escape.

The research, by the National Astronomical Observatories, Chinese Academy of Sciences, China, and Durham University, UK, appears in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

The black hole’s heartbeat was first detected in 2007 at the centre of a galaxy called RE J1034+396 which is approximately 600 million light years from Earth.

The signal from this galactic giant repeated every hour and this behaviour was seen in several snapshots taken before satellite observations were blocked by our Sun in 2011.

In 2018 the European Space Agency’s XMM-Newton X-ray satellite was able to finally re-observe the black hole and to scientists’ amazement the same repeated heartbeat could still be seen.

Matter falling on to a supermassive black hole as it feeds from the accretion disc of material surrounding it releases an enormous amount of power from a comparatively tiny region of space, but this is rarely seen as a specific repeatable pattern like a heartbeat.

The time between beats can tell us about the size and structure of the matter close to the black hole’s event horizon.

Professor Chris Done, in Durham University’s Centre for Extragalactic Astronomy collaborated on the findings with colleague Professor Martin Ward, Temple Chevallier Chair of Astronomy.

Professor Done said: “The main idea for how this heartbeat is formed is that the inner parts of the accretion disc are expanding and contracting.

“The only other system we know which seems to do the same thing is a 100,000 times smaller stellar-mass black hole in our Milky Way, fed by a binary companion star, with correspondingly smaller luminosities and timescales.

“This shows us that simple scalings with black hole mass work even for the rarest types of behaviour.”

Lead author Dr Chichuan Jin of the National Astronomical Observatories, Chinese Academy of Sciences, said: “This heartbeat is amazing!

“It proves that such signals arising from a supermassive black hole can be very strong and persistent. It also provides the best opportunity for scientists to further investigate the nature and origin of this heartbeat signal.”

The next step in the research is to perform a comprehensive analysis of this intriguing signal, and compare it with the behaviour of stellar-mass black holes in our Milky Way.

The research was funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China, the Strategic Pioneer Program on Space Science, Chinese Academy of Sciences, and the Science and Technology Facilities Council, UK.

Story Source:

Materials provided by Durham University. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

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Drug researcher develops ‘fat burning’ molecule

Obesity affects more than 40 percent of adults in the United States and 13 percent of the global population. With obesity comes a variety of other interconnected diseases including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and fatty liver disease, which makes the disease one of the most difficult — and most crucial — to treat.

“Obesity is the biggest health problem in the United States. But, it is hard for people to lose weight and keep it off; being on a diet can be so difficult. So, a pharmacological approach, or a drug, could help out and would be beneficial for all of society,” said Webster Santos, professor of chemistry and the Cliff and Agnes Lilly Faculty Fellow of Drug Discovery in the College of Science at Virginia Tech.

Santos and his colleagues have recently identified a small mitochondrial uncoupler, named BAM15, that decreases the body fat mass of mice without affecting food intake and muscle mass or increasing body temperature. Additionally, the molecule decreases insulin resistance and has beneficial effects on oxidative stress and inflammation.

The findings, published in Nature Communications on May 14, 2020, hold promise for future treatment and prevention of obesity, diabetes, and especially nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), a type of fatty liver disease that is characterized by inflammation and fat accumulation in the liver. In the next few years, the condition is expected to become the leading cause of liver transplants in the United States.

The mitochondria are commonly referred to as the powerhouses of the cell. The organelle generates ATP, a molecule that serves as the energy currency of the cell, which powers body movement and other biological processes that help our body to function properly.

In order to make ATP, nutrients need to be burned and a proton motive force (PMF) needs to be established within the mitochondria. The PMF is generated from a proton gradient, where there is a higher concentration of protons outside of the inner membrane and a lower concentration of protons in the matrix, or the space within the inner membrane. The cell creates ATP whenever protons pass through an enzyme called ATP synthase, which is embedded in the membrane. Hence, nutrient oxidation, or nutrient burning, is coupled to ATP synthesis.

“So anything that decreases the PMF has the potential to increase respiration. Mitochondrial uncouplers are small molecules that go to the mitochondria to help the cells respire more. Effectively, they change metabolism in the cell so that we burn more calories without doing any exercise,” said Santos, an affiliated member of the Fralin Life Sciences Institute and the Virginia Tech Center for Drug Discovery.

Mitochondrial uncouplers transport protons into the matrix by bypassing ATP synthase, which throws off the PMF. To reestablish the gradient, protons must be exported out of the mitochondrial matrix. As a result, the cell begins to burn fuel at higher than necessary levels.

Knowing that these molecules can change a cell’s metabolism, researchers wanted to be sure that the drug was reaching its desired targets and that it was, above all, safe. Through a series of mouse studies, the researchers found that BAM15 is neither toxic, even at high doses, nor does it affect the satiety center in the brain, which tells our body if we are hungry or full.

In the past, many anti-fat drugs would tell your body to stop eating. But as a result, patients would rebound and eat more. In the BAM15 mouse studies, animals ate the same amount as the control group — and they still lost fat mass.

Another side effect of previous mitochondrial uncouplers was increased body temperature. Using a rectal probe, researchers measured the body temperature of mice who were fed BAM15. They found no change in body temperature.

But one issue arises concerning the half-life of BAM15. The half-life, or the length of time that a drug is still effective, is relatively short in the mouse model. For oral dosing in humans, the optimal half-life is much longer.

Even as BAM15 has some serious potential in mouse models, the drug won’t necessarily be successful in humans — at least not this same exact molecule.

“We are essentially looking for roughly the same type of molecule, but it needs to stay in the body for longer to have an effect. We are tweaking the chemical structure of the compound. So far, we have made several hundred molecules related to this,” said Santos.

The penultimate goal of the Santos lab is to transition the anti-fat treatment from animal models to a treatment for NASH in humans. The lab has used their better compounds in animal models of NASH, which have been proven to be effective as anti-NASH compounds in mice.

Working alongside Santos is Kyle Hoehn, an assistant professor of pharmacology from the University of Virginia and an associate professor of biotechnology and biomolecular sciences at the University of New South Wales in Australia. Hoehn is a metabolic physiology expert who is in charge of conducting the animal studies. Santos and Hoehn have been collaborating for several years now and they even founded a biotech company together.

Co-founded by Santos and Hoehn in 2017, Continuum Biosciences aims to improve the ways in which our bodies burn fuel and fight back against our bodies ability to store excess nutrients as we age. These promising NASH treatment compounds are licensed by their company and are patented by Virginia Tech.

The company is looking to use mitochondrial uncouplers for more than just obesity and NASH. The molecules also have a unique anti-oxygen effect that can minimize the accumulation of reactive oxygen species, or oxidative stress, in our bodies, which ultimately results in neurodegeneration and aging.

“If you just minimize aging, you could minimize the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. All of these reactive oxygen species-related or inflammation-related diseases could benefit from mitochondrial uncouplers. So, we could see this heading that way,” said Santos.

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For university classrooms, are telepresence robots the next best thing to being there?

Telepresence robots help university students learning remotely to feel more a part of the class, new research by Oregon State University suggests.

The findings are particularly important given the nationwide shift to online instruction caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, forcing many students who otherwise would be in classrooms and labs to pursue their education from a distance.

The National Science Foundation study led by Naomi Fitter of the OSU College of Engineering examined the experiences of university students attending classes in three formats: in person; through a telepresence robot; and via distance learning tools such as livestreaming, recorded lectures and calling into class with questions.

Findings were published in Robotics and Automation Letters.

The preferences of the 18 engineering students who were studied were split between distance learning tools, or DLTs, and attending in person. Instructors of the four courses in the study uniformly preferred teaching students in person.

But the instructors felt telepresence robots were preferable to distance learning tools for remote learning, and the students noted the robots’ ability to keep them more engaged, expressive and self-aware.

Even before the pandemic, Fitter notes, 14% of university students in the United States were pursuing degrees exclusively online, and another 15% were using distance learning technologies at least some of the time.

“Students engage in distance learning for many reasons,” she said. “There are fundamental challenges in distance learning, such as the need to find a way to train students in the time management and active listening skills typically developed during higher education. Distance learners are also susceptible to missing out on benefiting from their peers — effective social interaction while learning leads to better critical thinking and longer-term information retention.”

The user interface for the robots in the study included forward- and downward-facing camera views, zooming options, mouse- and keyboard-based robot driving, and menus for adjusting audiovisual elements.

“Past research has explored the use of telepresence robots in a wide variety of contexts including hospitals, offices, museums and professional conferences,” Fitter said.

Participants in the study, which also included researchers Nisha Raghunath and Christopher Sanchez of the OSU College of Liberal Arts, attended class via each assigned method for a two-week period. The courses were four medium-sized, upper-level engineering classes — machine learning, software architectures, analysis of algorithms, and computer systems organization — consisting mainly of traditional lectures in a classroom, with student participation encouraged.

The OSU researchers and collaborators at the University of Southern California and the University of California, Santa Cruz, entered the study with three hypotheses:

  • Attending class in person will lead to better self-reported learning outcomes for students.
  • Using the telepresence robot will lead to greater feelings of presence and self-expression than the distance learning technologies — the feelings of presence when using a robot will be closer to the feelings of presence when attending class in person than through distance learning methods.
  • When students are unable to attend class in person, they and their instructors will prefer telepresence robots as a remote learning solution over distance learning methods.

“Participants generally used the robots to view the lecture, ask questions during the lecture, and move around during breaks to talk to friends or instructors,” Fitter said. “When asked to choose a single favorite method for attending class, nine participants chose in-person attendance, eight chose the DLT resources, and one chose the telepresence robot.”

In-person learning ranked higher than the other attendance methods in every aspect of a daily survey completed by participants except for ease of learning, in which it tied with distance learning technologies. In-person learning was described as more social and individually expressive compared to other learning methods, and feelings of presence and interaction abilities were also better in person.

“Not all students had realized the value of in-person learning before the study,” Fitter said. “Instructors uniformly preferred in-person attendance by students. But there were drawbacks to in-person learning too, such as ‘a person sits beside me and is always talking.'”

In their post-study interviews, student participants generally offered positive comments about the robots but noted imperfections like “there were times when I was not able to read from the screen properly” and “I wasn’t sure about my speaking volume.”

“If a telepresence robot doesn’t have sufficient camera quality, investing in other new features for it may be futile,” Fitter said.

Instructors for the most part appreciated being able to see students’ faces and nonverbal expressions while expressing a preference for remote students attending class using a telepresence robot.

“Despite reporting certain challenges, participants seemed to have overall positive experiences using the telepresence robots,” Fitter said. “Understanding how to use technologies to keep people connected will increase in importance in this world of increasingly spread-out families, teams and classes.”

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Silicon ‘neurons’ may add a new dimension to computer processors

When it fires, a neuron consumes significantly more energy than an equivalent computer operation. And yet, a network of coupled neurons can continuously learn, sense and perform complex tasks at energy levels that are currently unattainable for even state-of-the-art processors.

What does a neuron do to save energy that a contemporary computer processing unit doesn’t?

Computer modelling by researchers at Washington University in St. Louis’ McKelvey School of Engineering may provide an answer. Using simulated silicon “neurons,” they found that energy constraints on a system, coupled with the intrinsic property neurons have to move to the lowest-energy configuration, leads to a dynamic, at-a-distance communication protocol that is both more robust and more energy-efficient than traditional computer processors.

The research, from the lab of Shantanu Chakrabartty, the Clifford W. Murphy Professor in the Preston M. Green Department of Systems & Electrical Engineering, was published last month in the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience.

It’s a case of doing more with less.

Ahana Gangopadhyay, a doctoral student in Chakrabartty’s lab and a lead author on the paper, has been investigating computer models to study the energy constraints on silicon neurons — artificially created neurons, connected by wires, that show the same dynamics and behavior as the neurons in our brains.

Like biological neurons, their silicon counterparts also depend on specific electrical conditions to fire, or spike. These spikes are the basis of neuronal communication, zipping back and forth, carrying information from neuron to neuron.

The researchers first looked at the energy constraints on a single neuron. Then a pair. Then, they added more. “We found there’s a way to couple them where you can use some of these energy constraints, themselves, to create a virtual communication channel,” Chakrabartty said.

A group of neurons operates under a common energy constraint. So, when a single neuron spikes, it necessarily affects the available energy — not just for the neurons it’s directly connected to, but for all others operating under the same energy constraint.

Spiking neurons thus create perturbations in the system, allowing each neuron to “know” which others are spiking, which are responding, and so on. It’s as if the neurons were all embedded in a rubber sheet; a single ripple, caused by a spike, would affect them all. And like all physical processes, systems of silicon neurons tend to self-optimize to their least-energetic states while also being affected by the other neurons in the network.

These constraints come together to form a kind of secondary communication network, where additional information can be communicated through the dynamic but synchronized topology of spikes. It’s like the rubber sheet vibrating in a synchronized rhythm in response to multiple spikes.

This topology carries with it information that is communicated, not just to the neurons that are physically connected, but to all neurons under the same energy constraint, including ones that are not physically connected.

Under the pressure of these constraints, Chakrabartty said, “They learn to form a network on the fly.”

This makes for much more efficient communication than traditional computer processors, which lose most of their energy in the process of linear communication, where neuron A must first send a signal through B in order to communicate with C.

Using these silicon neurons for computer processors gives the best efficiency-to-processing speed tradeoff, Chakrabartty said. It will allow hardware designers to create systems to take advantage of this secondary network, computing not just linearly, but with the ability to perform additional computing on this secondary network of spikes.

The immediate next steps, however, are to create a simulator that can emulate billions of neurons. Then researchers will begin the process of building a physical chip.

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Asymmetry found in spin directions of galaxies

An analysis of more than 200,000 spiral galaxies has revealed unexpected links between spin directions of galaxies, and the structure formed by these links might suggest that the early universe could have been spinning, according to a Kansas State University study.

Lior Shamir, a K-State computational astronomer and computer scientist, presented the findings at the 236th American Astronomical Society meeting in June 2020. The findings are significant because the observations conflict with some previous assumptions about the large-scale structure of the universe.

Since the time of Edwin Hubble, astronomers have believed that the universe is inflating with no particular direction and that the galaxies in it are distributed with no particular cosmological structure. But Shamir’s recent observations of geometrical patterns of more than 200,000 spiral galaxies suggest that the universe could have a defined structure and that the early universe could have been spinning. Patterns in the distribution of these galaxies suggest that spiral galaxies in different parts of the universe, separated by both space and time, are related through the directions toward which they spin, according to the study.

“Data science in astronomy has not just made astronomy research more cost-effective, but it also allows us to observe the universe in a completely different way,” said Shamir, also a K-State associate professor of computer science. “The geometrical pattern exhibited by the distribution of the spiral galaxies is clear, but can only be observed when analyzing a very large number of astronomical objects.”

A spiral galaxy is a unique astronomical object because its visual appearance depends on the observer’s perspective. For instance, a spiral galaxy that spins clockwise when observed from Earth, would seem to spin counterclockwise when the observer is located in the opposite side of that galaxy. If the universe is isotropic and has no particular structure — as previous astronomers have predicted — the number of galaxies that spin clockwise would be roughly equal to the number of galaxies that spin counterclockwise. Shamir used data from modern telescopes to show that this is not the case.

With traditional telescopes, counting galaxies in the universe is a daunting task. But modern robotic telescopes such as the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, or SDSS, and the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System, or Pan-STARRS, are able to image many millions of galaxies automatically as they survey the sky. Machine vision can then sort millions of galaxies by their spin direction far faster than any person or group of people.

When comparing the number of galaxies with different spin directions, the number of galaxies that spin clockwise is not equal to the number of galaxies that spin counterclockwise. The difference is small, just over 2%, but with the high number of galaxies, there is a probability of less than 1 to 4 billion to have such asymmetry by chance, according to Shamir’s research.

The patterns span over more than 4 billion light-years, but the asymmetry in that range is not uniform. The study found that the asymmetry gets higher when the galaxies are more distant from Earth, which shows that the early universe was more consistent and less chaotic than the current universe.

But the patterns do not just show that the universe is not symmetric, but also that the asymmetry changes in different parts of the universe, and the differences exhibit a unique pattern of multipoles.

“If the universe has an axis, it is not a simple single axis like a merry-go-round,” Shamir said. “It is a complex alignment of multiple axes that also have a certain drift.”

The concept of cosmological multipoles is not new. Previous space-based observatories — such as the Cosmic Background Explorer, or COBE, satellite; the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe, or WMAP mission; and the Planck observatory — showed that the cosmic microwave background, which is electromagnetic radiation from the very early universe, also exhibits multiple poles. But the measurement of the cosmic microwave background is sensitive to foreground contamination — such as the obstruction of the Milky Way — and cannot show how these poles changed over time. The asymmetry between spin directions of spiral galaxies is a measurement that is not sensitive to obstruction. What can obstruct galaxies spinning in one direction in a certain field will necessarily also obstruct galaxies spinning in the opposite way.

“There is no error or contamination that could exhibit itself through such unique, complex and consistent patterns,” Shamir said. “We have two different sky surveys showing the exact same patterns, even when the galaxies are completely different. There is no error that can lead to that. This is the universe that we live in. This is our home.”

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10 Most Popular APIs for Photos

Digital cameras and mobile phones have transformed the photography world. It is estimated more than 1.2 trillion photos were taken during 2017, and an estimated 300 billion photos are uploaded to the internet every day. Many of the most popular applications these days are organized around photographs.

Developers wishing to create applications for this enormous trend with photos can tap into Application Programming Interfaces, or APIs, to get the job done.

What is a Photos API?

A Photos API enables developers to integrate photo related functions into applications, including adding enhancements to social media photo applications, retrieving data from stock photos platforms, integrating photo editing services, connecting with photo hosting services, and much more.

Developers can find a comprehensive list of APIs for photograph related applications in the Photos category of ProgrammableWeb. Residing there are APIs for applications such as social media photo sharing, social video, photo editing and retouching, panoramas, mapping images, satellite imagery, drone imagery, special effects, print photos, organizing media, museums, bulk image hosting, stock photos, identification services, cameras, celebrity and fan photos, watermarking, humorous photos, and dozens of other sub-categories.

This article features ten of the top Photos APIs based on visitor traffic on the ProgrammableWeb website.

1. Instagram Graph API

Instagram is a photo sharing iPhone app and service. Users take photos and can share them with Instagram contacts, as well as friends on other social networks like Twitter and Facebook. The Instagram APITrack this API provides access to user authentication, friend connections, photos and all the other elements of the iPhone app–including uploading new media. The Instagram Graph API is built on the Facebook Graph APITrack this API.

2. A View from my Seat API

A View from my Seat connects fans to their favorite teams by letting fans upload photos from their seats and showing them in seating charts on the team’s website. The A View from my Seat API provides a RESTful interface for developers to enhance their sites and applications with fan photos. API returns venue, image, section, row, seat, notes, timestamp and more.

3. Microsoft Azure Cognitive Services Face API

Microsoft Cognitive Services are APIs that are powered by algorithms to perform computer vision, speech recognition, text analytics, recommendations, and other cognitive tasks. The Microsoft Cognitive Services Face APITrack this API offers cloud based human face recognition. Its main functionalities include face verification, similar face searching, automatic face grouping, and person identification. Microsoft Cognitive Services is formerly known as Project Oxford.

4. Flickr API

Flickr photo hosting platform and sharing service. The Flickr APITrack this API can be used to retrieve photos from the Flickr photo sharing service using a variety of feeds, such as public photos and videos, favorites, friends, group pools, discussions, and others. The API can also be used to upload photos and video.

5. Car Imagery

The Car Imagery service allows users to include licensed stock images of cars on their websites. Developers can utilize the Car Imagery APITrack this API to enable applications with the function to search got stock photographs of cars by make, model, options, year and trim. The API is available in both free (with query limits) and paid versions.

6. The Cat API

How can a list of photo APIs could be complete without an API for cat photos? The Cat API provides developers with free access to random cat pictures. With The Cat API, users can specify the number of returned results, image type, image size, and the category of the cat picture. The API also allows an application to vote on images, retrieve votes, favorite images, list categories, and more.

Add random cat photos to applications with The Cat API. Image: The Cat API

7. UI Faces API

UI Faces aggregates photos from several web sources to provide avatars with real looking photos. Developers who use the UI Faces APITrack this API can specify several parameters such as age, gender, and emotion, so that users may filter and sort the photos according to their needs.

8. Google Photos API

Google Photos allows users to back up their photos and lets users use Google Assistant to create albums and collages. The Google Photos Library APITrack this API will allow developers to port Google Photos, with all its tools, into their own application. The API enables applications to read, write, share photos and more.

9. Lorem Picsum API

Lorem Picsum APITrack this API provides random or specific uploaded images as placeholders. Developers need to specify a desired image size (width & height) at the end of the request URL. Grayscale and blur effects can be applied to any image.

10. API provides a tool to remove background areas from images. The APITrack this API is an image editing service that removes the background of photos of persons, and products. The maximum output resolution is 10 megapixels.

In addition to the popular APIs above, the Photos category on ProgrammableWeb contains about 500 APIs, 240 SDKs, and 113 Source Code Samples, among other resources for developers.

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Wolf Administration: Manufacturing PA Innovation Program Awards More Than $2.8 Million to Advance Manufacturing Technology – PA Department of Community & Economic Development

Harrisburg, PA – Today, the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) announced the approval of more than $2.8 million in grants through the Manufacturing PA initiative. The 43 projects receiving funding will spur new technologies and processes in the manufacturing sector.

“Manufacturing PA allows for collaboration between incredible minds and incredible manufacturing companies,” said DCED Secretary Dennis Davin. “These partnerships engage Pennsylvania’s educational facilities and the business sector across the commonwealth to position our state for continued manufacturing innovation and success.”

The approved projects are part of Manufacturing PA’s fellowship program. The program unites the commonwealth’s best and brightest graduate and undergraduate students with local manufacturers. Once paired, the students embark on research projects to develop new technologies and advance innovation statewide. Universities that have partnered with a manufacturer can apply for and receive between $25,000 and $70,000 in funding for specific student research projects.

View the complete list of 43 projects including funding amounts and manufacturing partners.

The approved projects help advance innovation in several sectors of manufacturing, from advanced medical, to energy, to consumer goods. Drexel University, The Pennsylvania State University – Harrisburg, University of Pittsburgh, Lehigh University, Temple University, The Pennsylvania State University, Widener University, The Pennsylvania State University – The Behrend College, Erie, University of Pennsylvania, Villanova University, Robert Morris University, Thomas Jefferson University, Gannon University, Carnegie Mellon University, and The Pennsylvania State University – Dubois partnered with local manufacturing companies to pair student fellows with the 43 projects. Additional details about many of the projects approved through the program can be found on the Manufacturing PA Innovation Program website