Robert Alex

Robert Alex

The Google search snippets are reportedly being adjusted in order to provide more accurate and correct information.

Google Search Snippets

Google is by far the largest and most robust search engine, and many people rely on the service to provide them accurate and timely information. With the introduction of Google search snippets several years back, the company took the helpful yet potentially problematic step into providing a “definitive” answer at the top of the page based on what they feel is the most accurate and popular response. While Google’s algorithm for coming up with information is extremely advanced and does a good job of pulling up relevant information, it appears as if their search snippet feature has occasionally been completely wrong. As such, the Google search snippets are being updated to more accurately reflect the correct information.

Examples of potentially problematic Google search snippets include suggestions that are completely out of left field. Google stated that “Last year, we took deserved criticism for featured snippets that said things like ‘women are evil’ or that former U.S. President Barack Obama was planning a coup.” They are apparently “working hard to smooth out bumps” with Google search snippets that they “continue to grow and evolve.”

“We failed in these cases because we didn’t weigh the authoritativeness of results strongly enough for such rare and fringe queries,” said Google.

A major issue that Google is working diligently to resolve is the accuracy of search results being dependant on how a question was framed. “This happens because sometimes our systems favor content that’s strongly aligned with what was asked,” says the statement. “A page arguing that reptiles are good pets seems the best match for people who search about them being good. Similarly, a page arguing that reptiles are bad pets seems the best match for people who search about them being bad. We’re exploring solutions to this challenge, including showing multiple responses.”

The majority of the problems with the Google search snippets are due to people trying to game the system and try to get the search engine to slip up and provide inaccurate information. While the likelihood of people taking Google’s apparent insistence that women are evil at face value is quite low, it’s still a concern for the tech giant if their algorithm is prioritizing biased and inaccurate answers to queries.

A Reputation To Uphold

Google deals with an incredible amount of searches each day, and these false search snippets likely only represent a small fraction of the results. However, Google has a vested interest in maintaining their status as a reliable search engine that provides relevant and useful results. By suggesting that Obama is planning a coup, they take a hit to their credibility no matter how obvious it is that the information isn’t correct. TechCrunch reports that a study last year by Stone Temple found a 97.4 percent accuracy rate for Google search snippets and related formats such as the Knowledge Graph information, reinforcing the fact that the search engine is usually incredibly accurate.

Provided the Google snippet stating that the company “now processes over 40000 search queries every second on average” is correct, however, that 3% is not an insignificant amount. By updating the Google snippets algorithm, the company can provide a better service to their users which may translate into better profits as the company obtains more information about web searches – applying that info to targeted campaigns for their advertisers.

Source: This article was published valuewalk.com By Zachary Riley

Sometimes what helps us to be successful in our professional lives is not such a great idea in our personal lives — competition is a quality that comes to mind. At the same time, we all have a limited amount of time each day to do the things that we want to do.

So for the sake of saving time and energy, I’m sharing a list of tips that will help you be successful in both life and in business.

1. Add Value

No matter what you do and where you go, you can’t go wrong with adding value. Simply put value is anything that people are willing to pay for. In your professional life, the more value you can offer the more money you can make. In your personal life, more value translates to closer relationships and strong personal growth. The best way to add value is to find the intersection between what people are willing to pay for and what service or product you can offer that is aligned with your values, strengths and goals.

How are you adding value to your employers and loved ones today? What can you do to increase your ability to add value?

2. Follow Your Passion

Reading numerous biographies on great people and from my own personal observations and encounters, I’ve realized that those who achieve greatness professional and personally follow their passion. The reason why great people are few and far in-between is because most people don’t even know what their passion is. For those that do figure out their passion, most of them don’t follow their passion consistently. This is one of the main reasons why people don’t reach their goals.

Do you know what your passion is? If not, what are you going to do to find out? If  you do know what you passion is, are you following it?

3. Be Extraordinary

If you do the same thing as everyone else, it’s hard to be successful. It is important to find the edge and then push past it. That is how you become noticed and get what you want. Whether it is money, meaningful relationships and/or a sense of personal accomplishment, the extraordinary person attracts them all.

How are you extraordinary?  If you feel just ordinary, what are you going to do to become extraordinary? For those who don’t know, you may want to check out articles on my blog and also How to go from Ordinary to Extraordinary.

4. Start Now

There are many factors that go into become a success in both your professional and personal life but the one factor that is required is taking action. Most people miss out on reaching their full potential because they never start. They are always preparing, planning and waiting for the best time to start. If I waited until I was ready, I would not have a coaching practice, a website, a blog, a workshop, etc. The stars rarely align and you will never be completely ready so just start now and adjust along the way.

Are you waiting for something before you start? What is your planning to doing ratio? What’s really the worse thing that can happen if you got started right now? If you are someone that’s just been waiting, stop reading this post and get started on what you have been wanting to do. This article will still be here when you get back.

5. Hunt for Good Mentors

People who “make it” usually credit their success to a mentor or a group of mentors who really helped guide them to get to where they are. Mentors have gone down the road that you want to travel and can guide you to get to your destination faster than if you went at it alone. If you want to be healthy, you would find a mentor who is already healthy. If you want to be rich, then you have to find someone who is already rich. What surprises me is how rarely people engage in mentoring relationships and those who do usually find mentors in only one aspect of their lives. If you want to be successful, be active about finding mentors that will help you achieve what you want. Jeff Goins has a nice short article on finding mentors.

Do you have a mentor in your life now? If not, ask yourself what barriers are preventing you from finding or establishing a mentoring relationship? If you do have a mentor, do you have one for the different aspects of your life (financial, health, professional, personal, spiritual, relationships, parenting etc.)?

6. Build a Support Group

While mentors serve as a guide with whom you review your past actions and plan your next steps, a support group are your companions that help you with during the actual execution of your plan. This may be in the form of a mastermind group or accountability partner where you keep each other accountable for your goals and to help each other deal with situations that may arise while you are on your journeys. It is extremely helpful to have someone you know that is willing to listen to your frustrations and self doubt and to encourage you and remind you of how far you’ve already come.

Who is in your support group?

7. Personally Know Your Finances

Numbers scare a lot of people. Start talking about assets, liabilities and net worth and people’s eyes just glaze over. If you are one of these people who run away from numbers, please stop running because you are hurting yourself. If you want to be financially independent, you need to know how to keep score. If you have your own business or want to successfully invest, finances tell you how well you are doing and reveal the health of a business. If you don’t understand finances, you have to learn. It’s easy once you get over the limiting belief that you are no good at numbers. For those interested in learning more, you may want to check out these personal finance resources.

Do you know you net worth? If you are bad at numbers, what specifically makes you believe that? How can you improve your financial intelligence?

8. Get Help

I have a tendency to try to do everything myself and in some ways it is good and in many ways it is bad. It is important to know and understand all aspects of your life and business but that does not mean having to do all the tasks involved in maximizing your potential in those areas. It is true that we can always learn new things and become competent in them but what is also true is that we are only given 24 hours each day and to live full lives, it is more effective to do what we do best and to outsource tasks that we’re not good at to people who excel at them. Delegating effectively takes trust and the ability to clearly communicate what you want. For those that want to outsource, Elance is a nice way to find some quality freelancers.

How are you spending your time? Is it doing things you are awesome at? If not, what are you doing that you can outsource or delegate so you can devote more time doing what you’re great at? What’s stopping you from outsourcing or delegating?

9. Learn Sales

Many people cringe when they hear the word sales. “I would never be in sales, that’s a sleazy job.” It is exactly this type of thinking that stops people from being their best. Sales is nothing more than persuading someone of something. When you are looking to get a date, you are selling. When you are interviewing for a job, you are selling. When you are trying to persuade your spouse or kids to go to Europe for your family vacation, you are selling. In a professional setting, sales is paramount and the lifeline for any business. If you want to get the most out of life and business, learn the skills for effective selling. I am beginning a series of blog posts on How to Sell on my blog and you can learn from other successful sales trainers by reading material from Zig Ziglar, Brian Tracey and Og Mandino.

When you hear “sales”, what associations come to mind? Are they positive or negative? Do you know the how to sell effectively? If not, how do you plan to learn?

10. Be Resilient

Things rarely work out the way you planned and there will always be distractions and stumbling blocks that you have to deal with when you are on your road to success. The key point to remember is to persist and to develop the courage to move on even when everyone around you is telling you it is ok to give up. This does not mean stubbornly holding on to your original plan but rather continuing to pursue your goal as long as the reasons for doing so is still valid (Make sure you know the “Why” of what you want). When everything seems to be going wrong, keep in mind that “the road to success is paved with a thousand failures” so each failure actually brings you closer to where you want to be. If you have trouble being resilient, check out the 6 Effective Ways to Be Persistent.

How often to you quit because things got tough? Would you descrive yourself as an unshakeable optimist? Do you view problems as opportunities or warning signs? How do you view failure and are you making sure that you don’t make the one mistake people make when learning from their mistakes?

This is not an exhaustive list, but it does provide a good starting point. I would love to hear what tips you have found especially useful in both life and business in the comments section.

(Photo credit: Road with an Arrow Going Up via Shutterstock)

Source: This article was published on lifehack.org by Robert Chen

Of course you know about Google, Yahoo, Bing and AOL, but have you heard of the DuckDuckGo search engine? Well, it’s an internet search engine that emphasizes protecting searchers’ privacy and avoiding the “filter bubble” of personalized search results.

If you’re buying a used phone, there’s always been one critical thing to look out for: whether the device is stolen. And finding that out is getting a bit easier today. The US wireless industry, through its trade group the CTIA, has launched a tool called the Stolen Phone Checker, which lets you look up whether a phone has been reported lost or stolen.

The site works by looking up a device’s IMEI, MEID, or ESN — unique codes that get assigned to every phone. These are sometimes printed on the back of phones, like the iPhone, but in other cases they can be found somewhere deep in the settings menu.


Checking this out before buying a used phone is important for a handful of reasons. But perhaps the simplest is that if the phone you get turns out to be lost or stolen, it pretty much won’t work. For several years now, US phone carriers have kept a shared database of stolen phone IDs, and they won’t allow those devices to be connected to their network.The CTIA’s tool isn’t the first of its kind. There are a handful of third-party lookup tools out there — like this one from Swappa — and the big carriers have their own, too. But it sounds like the Stolen Phone Checker is being positioned as the canonical site for looking these things up. And if nothing else, it has the easiest name to remember. So if you’re buying a device off Craigslist, eBay, or some other used phone dealer, be sure to check one of these sites first.

Source: This article was published on theverge.com by Jacob Kastrenakes  

Elon Musk-led SpaceX may send two Red Dragon spacecraft to Mars in 2020 in case one of them fails to successfully land. The Red Dragon is an unmanned SpaceX capsule for low-cost Mars missions to be launched using Falcon Heavy rockets.

Nasa's Director of Planetary Science Jim Green announced during a conference that SpaceX was considering launching two Dragon probes, one at the beginning of the 2020 launch window, and the other at the end.

While the proposal has not been formally been announced by SpaceX, company spokesman John Taylor told Ars Technica they may explore the possibility. Industry sources at the same time told the website that SpaceX was indeed seriously considering two Red Dragons for the mission but no final decision had been made yet.

The idea is to have the second Dragon capsule as a backup in case the first fails to land given Mars' hazardous landing conditions primarily due to its ultra-thin atmosphere. To top it, the Dragon capsule would be the heaviest object ever to land on Mars and parachutes will not be sufficient to slow down such a massive lander. Instead, the company plans to use booster rockets to slow down the capsule.

Booster rocket landing has never been attempted before and only worked out in theory and thus Musk may want to up the mission's chances with two shots. The first shot would allow SpaceX to learn from any failure that may arise from using the supersonic boosters in the thin Martian atmosphere to slow the vehicle's descent.

Musk has repeatedly harped on future grand plans for colonisation of the red planet and wants to make sure that no attempt goes waste in achieving that. SpaceX is working closely with Nasa to chalk out its Mars plans, but the premier space agency has its own Mars Exploration Programme for 2020. Nasa's programme has different objectives from SpaceX's, whose aim is to colonise and less about studying the planet's geology.

Source: This article was published on ibtimes.co.uk by Agamoni Ghosh

Since the mid-1980s, the percentage of precipitation that becomes streamflow in the Upper Rio Grande watershed has fallen more steeply than at any point in at least 445 years, according to a new study led by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR).

While this decline was driven in part by the transition from an unusually wet period to an unusually dry period, rising temperatures deepened the trend, the researchers said.

The study paints a detailed picture of how temperature has affected the runoff ratio—the amount of snow and rain that actually makes it into the river—over time, and the findings could help improve water supply forecasts for the Rio Grande, which is a source of water for an estimated 5 million people.

The study results also suggest that runoff ratios in the Upper Rio Grande and other neighboring snow-fed watersheds, such as the Colorado River Basin, could decline further as the climate continues to warm.

"The most important variable for predicting streamflow is how much it has rained or snowed," said NCAR scientist Flavio Lehner, lead author of the study. "But when we looked back hundreds of years, we found that temperature has also had an important influence—which is not currently factored into water supply forecasts. We believe that incorporating temperature in future forecasts will increase their accuracy, not only in general but also in the face of climate change."

The study, published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, was funded by the Bureau of Reclamation, Army Corps of Engineers, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and National Science Foundation, which is NCAR's sponsor.

Co-authors of the paper are Eugene Wahl, of NOAA; Andrew Wood, of NCAR; and Douglas Blatchford and Dagmar Llewellyn, both of the Bureau of Reclamation.

Over-predicting water supply

Born in the Rocky Mountains of southern Colorado, the Rio Grande cuts south across New Mexico before hooking east and forming the border between Texas and Mexico. Snow piles up on the peaks surrounding the headwaters throughout the winter, and in spring the snowpack begins to melt and feed the river.

The resulting streamflow is used both by farmers and cities, including Albuquerque, New Mexico, and El Paso, Texas, and water users depend on the annual water supply forecasts to determine who gets how much of the river. The  is also used to determine whether additional water needs to be imported from the San Juan River, on the other side of the Continental Divide, or pumped from groundwater.

Current operational streamflow forecasts depend on estimates of the amount of snow and rain that have fallen in the basin, and they assume that a particular amount of precipitation and snowpack will always yield a particular amount of streamflow.

In recent years, those forecasts have tended to over-predict how much water will be available, leading to over-allocation of the river. In an effort to understand this changing dynamic, Lehner and his colleagues investigated how the relationship between precipitation and streamflow, known as the runoff ratio, has evolved over time.

Precipitation vs. streamflow: Tree rings tell a new story

The scientists used tree ring-derived streamflow data from outside of the Upper Rio Grande basin to reconstruct estimates of precipitation within the watershed stretching back to 1571. Then they combined this information with a separate streamflow reconstruction within the basin for the same period. Because these two reconstructions were independent, it allowed the research team to also estimate runoff ratio for each year: the higher the ratio, the greater the share of precipitation that was actually converted into streamflow.

"For the first time, we were able to take these two quantities and use them to reconstruct runoff ratios over the past 445 years," Wahl said.

They found that the runoff ratio varies significantly from year to year and even decade to decade. The biggest factor associated with this variation was precipitation. When it snows less over the mountains in the headwaters of the Rio Grande, not only is less water available to become streamflow, but the runoff ratio also decreases. In other words, a smaller percentage of the snowpack becomes streamflow during drier years.

But the scientists also found that another factor affected the runoff ratio: temperature. Over the last few centuries, the runoff ratio was reduced when temperatures were warmer. And the influence of temperature strengthened during drier years: When the snowpack was shallow, warm temperatures reduced the runoff ratio more than when the snowpack was deep, further exacerbating drought conditions. The low runoff ratios seen in dry years were two and a half to three times more likely when temperatures were also warmer.

"The effect of temperature on runoff ratio is relatively small compared to precipitation," Lehner said. "But because its greatest impact is when conditions are dry, a warmer year can make an already bad situation much worse."

A number of factors may explain the influence of temperature on runoff ratio. When it's warmer, plants take up more water from the soil and more water can evaporate directly into the air. Additionally, warmer temperatures can lead snow to melt earlier in the season, when the days are shorter and the angle of the sun is lower. This causes the snow to melt more slowly, allowing the meltwater to linger in the soil and giving plants added opportunity to use it.

The extensive reconstruction of historical runoff ratio in the Upper Rio Grande also revealed that the decline in runoff ratio over the last three decades is unprecedented in the historical record. The 1980s were an unusually wet period for the Upper Rio Grande, while the 2000s and 2010s have been unusually dry. Pair that with an increase in temperatures over the same period, and the decline in runoff ratio between 1986 and 2015 was unlike any other stretch of that length in the last 445 years.

Upgrading the old approaches

This new understanding of how temperature influences  ratio could help improve water supply forecasts, which do not currently consider whether the upcoming months are expected to be hotter or cooler than average. The authors are now assessing the value of incorporating seasonal temperature forecasts into water supply forecasts to account for these temperature influences.

The study complements a multi-year NCAR project funded by the Bureau of Reclamation and the Army Corps of Engineers that is evaluating prospects for enhancing seasonal streamflow forecasts for reservoir management.

"Forecast users and stakeholders are increasingly raising questions about the reliability of forecasting techniques if climate is changing our hydrology," said Wood, who led the effort. "This study helps us think about ways to upgrade one of our oldest approaches—statistical  supply forecasting—to respond to recent trends in . Our current challenge is to find ways to make sure the lessons of this work can benefit operational streamflow forecasts."

Because the existing forecasting models were calibrated on conditions in the late 1980s and 1990s, it's not surprising that they over-predicted streamflow in the drier period since 2000, Lehner said.

"These statistical models often assume that the climate is stable," Lehner said. "It's an assumption that sometimes works, but statistical forecasting techniques will struggle with any strong changes in hydroclimatology from decade to decade, such as the one we have just experienced."

Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2017-05-warmer-temperatures-decline-key-runoff.html#jCp

Comparing your site to your biggest competitors is useful for a variety of reasons. First, it helps you find missed opportunities. It also clues you into shifts in your industry which could help you stay ahead of the curve. It also gives you a benchmark for growth goals.

Reaching the top of the SERPs and staying there is more challenging now than ever. Although Google webmaster guidelines haven’t changed much over the years, the core algorithm has.

Thanks to regular updates, in addition to major ones like Knowledge GraphHummingbird, and RankBrain, Google is better able to filter out websites that don’t meet their standards and boost up sites that best satisfy those guidelines.

I’m not suggesting that you can “reverse engineer” Google’s algorithm. It’s far too complex. Still, a review of top ranking websites can be a good starting point for determining best practices. At the most basic level, a website can be broken down into these components:

  • Technology
  • Content
  • Backlinks

Here are three ways to compare your site to your competitors to see where your SEO could be doing better.

1. Website Technology

A well-structured website that is fast, easy to use, and easy to crawl should be every webmaster’s goal. You don’t need a specific technology to accomplish this, but if you’re starting with a new site or considering a redesign, it’s certainly worth checking out the competition.

My favorite resource for this is BuiltWith.com.

SEJ technology profile using BuiltWith

They provide a ton of technology information, including:

  • Web Server
  • Email Services
  • Hosting Providers
  • Nameserver Providers
  • SSL Certificate
  • Content Management System (CMS)
  • Advertising
  • Analytics & Tracking
  • JavaScript Libraries
  • Mobile
  • Widgets
  • Content Delivery Network (CDN)
  • Aggregation Functionality
  • Document Information
  • Encoding
  • CSS Media Queries

Website Architecture

Knowing your competitors’ website architecture can be useful in terms of establishing parent and child page hierarchy as well as discovering potential product or content gaps. The best and easiest way to determine this is by creating a sitemap. There are several great sitemap tools available, but if you want a free tool that has stood the test of time, it’s hard to beat Xenu Link Sleuth as shown below:


Page Speed

With mobile devices being the most popular access point to the web, page speed is incredibly important. Google has specifically mentioned it as a ranking factor. The WebPageTest tool shows how you stack up against your competition:

Website Performance Tester

If you find your site is underperforming, head over to Google’s PageSpeed Insights for specific recommendations on how to speed up performance. In fact, even if you are best in class, you should still run the PageSpeed test and address any problems cited by Google.

2. Website Content

Organic Keyword Research

Developing the right list of keywords is still important. Chances are, your competitors have already invested a lot of time in developing a killer keyword strategy. Don’t let all that hard work go to waste. Use this competitive intelligence to drive traffic to your site.

My tool of choice for competitor organic keyword research is Ahrefs. They have a large database of search rankings by website. They also make it easy to determine which phrases drive traffic and their potential for ranking.

keyword explorer

In addition to listing keywords and rankings, they also list top pages. Better still,  they include the number of keywords that a particular page ranks for as well as a list of those phrases:

Ranking KWs on Pages

It fairly common to find a single page, like the one highlighted above, ranking for hundreds (even thousands) of related keywords. It can often be much more efficient to concentrate on creating a better version of a top-performing page than to focus on a single keyword or phrase.

One question in the back of nearly every webmaster’s mind is, “What opportunities are being missed?” What are competitors ranking for that you are missing out on? That doesn’t need to remain a mystery. Just plug your competitors into the Content Gap Tool, as shown below:

content gap analysis
You have the option of filtering to:

  • Show keywords that any of the targets rank for, but you don’t
  • Show keywords that at least two of the targets rank for, but you don’t
  • Show keywords that all the targets rank for, but you don’t

This is a great way to find both highly relevant keyword opportunities as well as some potentially new business opportunities.

On-page Optimization

Google may not be as dependent on meta tags since the introduction of Knowledge Graph, but having a clear roadmap for both users and search engines is still important. One way to see how your pages stack up against the competition is by using SEOBook’s free WebPage Similarity Comparison Tool:

Webpage similarity comparison

This tool outputs a comparison of:

  • Page title
  • Meta description tag
  • Keywords (good for competitor intel, not so much for SEO)
  • Text and word count
  • Top two- & three-word keyword phrases

The most effective way to use this tool is to look for patterns. In this case, each title tag leads with the brand and includes mentions of SEO and search marketing in at least two of the three pages with optimized title tags.

Some would argue this makes you the same as everybody else. That may be true, but if that’s what Google is rewarding, I’m OK with that.

3. Backlinks

There was a time when SEOs would chase after every backlink a competitor had to neutralize the advantage that link might provide. That all changed with the introduction of Penguin in April 2012.

Links that once held zero value suddenly had a negative value. All the garbage links acquired through indiscriminate backlink mining became dangerous to have in a link profile.

Penguin 4.0 is much more forgiving, but who knows what the future may bring? That doesn’t mean competitor backlink mining is a bad idea. It just means you need to use your head and “score” prospective links to determine if they are worth the necessary effort to acquire. (Pro tip: If no effort is necessary, it’s almost never worth getting.)

Once again, I find the Ahrefs Link Intersect tool to be highly effective in mining competitor links. (For the record, I have no affiliation with Ahrefs except for a paid subscription.)

Competitior Backlink Mining

The tool offers two different filtering options:

  • Show who is linking to all the targets
  • Show who is linking to any of the targets

Final Takeaways on Competitor Analysis

Content and links will continue to be the backbone of Google’s algorithm for some time. Understanding what you are up against and neutralizing any competitor advantages is an important step when developing an effective marketing campaign. Follow that up with the development of unique and useful content and nothing can stop you from ruling the SERPs.

Source : This article was published searchenginejournal.com By Chuck Price

As far as we know the universe is not infinite, there's actually a place where it ends. While astronomers have never actually seen the edge of the universe, they know it's out there. Theoretical physicist and director of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, Robbert Dijkgraaf explains how scientists know there's an edge of the universe.

Following is a transcript of the video: 

It’s a fascinating question, “How far can you see in the universe?”

And the point is that if you look at very distant objects, it takes a lot of time for the light to travel all the way to us. And since the universe was kind of created 13.8 billion years ago, there's a finite distance that we can see.

We can almost see the edge of the visible universe. In fact, the earliest thing that we can see is the first light that was created just after the Big Bang.

Well, just 380,000 years after the Big Bang. At that point the universe was kind of transparent enough for light to escape.

So using our satellites we can pick up a signal that was emitted at this very brief moment after the Big Bang.

While in the meantime the universe has expanded and so that first light has kind of cooled down and it's now a microwave signal.

In fact what you can do, if you take an old-fashioned television set and you just unplug the cable, there will be static noise on your screen. Roughly 1% of that static noise is actually coming from the very edge of the universe.

Source: This article was published on businessinsider.com by Darren WeaverJessica Orwig and Alana Kakoyiannis

NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has snapped a stunning image of structures known as recurring slope lineae (RSL) in the slopes of the Valles Marineris canyon system located near Mars’ equator. The image, snapped using the MRO’s HiRise camera, shows several RSL that appear as dark lines extending downslope.

“Here, the RSL are active on east-facing slopes, extending from bouldery terrain and terminating on fans. Perhaps the fans themselves built up over time from the seasonal flows,” NASA said in a statement accompanying the image. “Part of the fans with abundant RSL are dark, while the downhill portion of the fans are bright.”

The presence of RSL on Mars was first announced in 2015, when NASA called the discovery the strongest evidence yet that liquid water still flows — or at least seeps — intermittently on the red planet. 

However, since then, several studies have cast doubts over whether water really plays a role in the formation of RSL.

A study published last July, in which scientists examined thousands of RSL in 41 sites in the central and eastern portions of Valles Marineris, concluded that in some cases, water pulled from the atmosphere by salts, or mechanisms with no flowing water, may explain the presence of the RSL.

The authors of the study argued that it is highly unlikely for underground water to create the RSL in the canyon ridges and isolated peaks of Valles Marineris — where a lot of these streaks have been observed. On the other hand, if it is salts that are pulling water from the atmosphere, they would have to extract 10 to 40 Olympic-size swimming pools worth of water each year — something that is a near impossibility.

“The role of water in RSL activity is a matter of active debate,” NASA said in its statement.

An image snapped using the MRO’s HiRise camera showing several RSLs that appear as dark lines extending downslope. Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

Even if the RSL were not created by the action of water, it does not prove that water does not exist on the red planet — a lot of it could still be trapped below the surface, maybe in the form of a vast, frozen underground lake.

Data previously collected by the MRO and Curiosity has bolstered the theory that roughly 4.3 billion years ago, Mars had enough water to cover its entire surface in a liquid layer about 450 feet deep. Evidence also suggests that long after solar winds stripped the red planet of its atmosphere, turning it into the cold, arid world it is today, lakes of water and snowmelt-fed streams still existed on its surface.

Some studies have even suggested that about 3.8 billion years ago, Mars had enough liquid water to form an ocean occupying almost half of its northern hemisphere.

The MRO has been orbiting the red planet since 2006, and has beamed back striking photos of Mars to Earth every month. Last August, NASA published its largest dump of images captured by the MRO’s HiRise camera, releasing a cache of over 1,000 photos that show the Martian surface in all its glory — from dunes and craters to mountains and ice caps.

The entire collection of images captured so far by the HiRise camera can be viewed here

Source: This article was published on ibtimes.com by Avaneesh Pandey

NASA's Space Poop Challenge has awarded $30,000 in prizes to space tech pioneers for their spacesuit toilet innovations.
Credit: NASA

Turns out, space poop is a problem that puzzles thousands of people. After NASA asked for solutions to let astronauts urinate and defecate inside a spacesuit for up to six days, more than 5,000 entries (representing 20,000 people) answered the call.

The winner of the $15,000 Space Poop Challenge prize was Thatcher Cardon, for a solution called "MACES Perineal Access & Toileting System (M-PATS)." Details on the system were not immediately available.

Cardon explained how he devised the idea for the system.

"I was really interested in the problem, though, and spent some time lying down, eyes closed, just visualizing different solutions and modelling them mentally," Cardon, a colonel and commander of the 47th Medical Group at Laughlin Air Force Base in Texas, said in a statement by HeroX, which oversaw the challenge for NASA. [How Astronauts Use the Bathroom in Space: A Guide]

"Over time, the winning system of ideas coalesced," Cardon said. "Then, I packed up the family, and we drove around Del Rio, Texas, to dollar stores, thrift stores, craft stores, clothing and hardware stores to get materials for mock-ups."

The second-place prize of $10,000 was awarded to a system dubbed "Space Poop Unification of Doctors (SPUDs) Team – Air-powered," by Katherine Kin, Stacey Marie Louie and Tony Gonzales. The $5,000 third-place prize went to Hugo Shelley's "Spacesuit Waste Disposal System."

NASA scientists said they were pleasantly surprised by the public's interest in the challenge.

"The response to the Space Poop Challenge exceeded all of our expectations," Steve Rader, NASA tournament lab deputy director, said in a statement. "The level of participation and interest went far beyond what we expected for such a short competition." [In Space, Everyone Can Hear You Poop (Video)]

"It was wonderful to see the global response from our crowdsourcing challenge," added Kirstyn Johnson, NASA spacesuit technology engineer. "We enjoyed seeing the innovative approaches that were sent in given such a demanding scenario. Others at NASA are now thinking about ways we can leverage a crowdsourcing approach to solve some more of our spaceflight challenges."

The contest opened in October and invited participants to create a system inside a spacesuit to flush away urine, feces and menstrual fluid. The goal is to make the system function for 144 hours — long enough to keep an astronaut alive for a rescue if his or her spacecraft were to be disabled and out of breathable air.

NASA astronauts' current method of waste disposal involves using a diaper during spacewalks and launch and entry, but these systems can be used only for about a day. The agency noted that it is difficult to design pooping systems for microgravity, where fluids and other things float. Maintaining good hygiene for these systems was among the primary challenges participants were tasked with solving.

In a description of the challenge, NASA said it was looking for technologies that have a "technical readiness level of 4" on its "ready for flight" scale, meaning that the solution could be tested in one year and be ready for space in three years. NASA added that it would consider solutions that would need more time if they were considered breakthroughs.

This article was originally published on space.com By Elizabeth Howell

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