China's facial recognition tech can ID any citizen within seconds

China is building "the world’s most powerful facial recognition system" with the power to identify any one of its 1.3 billion citizens within three seconds. Apparently, the system will be able to connect to surveillance camera networks, but it is unclear when the system will be operational.

New technology promises 40TB hard drives by 2025

Western Digital recently announced a breakthrough in ultra-high capacity storage called microwave-assisted magnetic recording (MAMR). According to the company, the technology will enable hard drives with 40TB of capacity by 2025 and will offer over four terabits-per-square-inch over time.

Source: Tech Spot

Oxford proposes plan to ban petrol and diesel vehicles from city centre

Petrol and diesel vehicles could be banned from Oxford city centre from 2020 under new proposals. A zero emission zone in the city is being backed by Oxford City Council and Oxfordshire County Council to tackle air pollution, and could be extended to include the whole city by 2035.

Source: BBC

Scientists genetically boost the nutritional value of corn

By inserting a bacterial gene in corn that causes it to produce a key nutrient called methionine, which is normally found in meat, Rutgers scientists have found an efficient way to enhance the nutritional value of the world’s largest commodity crop.

Source: Rutgers Today

Toyota tests a hydrogen fuel cell truck that emits only water vapour

A concept version of Toyota’s hydrogen fuel cell truck, which uses compressed hydrogen as its fuel and releases only water vapour as an emission, is running short-haul drayage routes at the Port of Los Angeles as part of a feasibility study.

Source: The Verge

Australian defence programme data stolen in 'extensive' hack

About 30GB of sensitive data, including details about new fighter planes and navy vessels, has been stolen in an "extensive" cyber hack. The Australian government has said that it doesn't know if the data was stolen by another nation.

Source: BBC

Asteroid passing Earth allows trackers to test impact warning systems

Asteroid trackers around the world will today test asteroid warning systems on an asteroid passing Earth.

The asteroid, named 2012 TC4, was first spotted 5 years ago, but will today pass Earth at a distance of about 42,000km (26,000 miles), which will bring it within the Moon’s orbit.

Its close approach to Earth will give trackers the chance to test a growing global observing network who will communicate and coordinate their optical and radar observations in a real scenario.

“This campaign is a team effort that involves more than a dozen observatories, universities and labs around the globe so we can collectively learn the strengths and limitations of our near-Earth object observation capabilities,” said Vishnu Reddy, an assistant professor at the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory in Tucson, who is leading the 2012 TC4 campaign.

“This effort will exercise the entire system, to include the initial and follow-up observations, precise orbit determination, and international communications.”

Orbit prediction experts say the asteroid, which measures somewhere between 15m and 30m (50-100ft) in size, poses no risk of impact with Earth.

However, when a similar sized asteroid exploded over Chelyabinsk in central Russia in 2013 it produced 30 times the kinetic energy of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima and caused a shockwave that resulted in damage to buildings and injured more than a thousand people.

Observers around the world have been tracking TC4 as it approaches Earth and reporting their observations to the Minor Planet Center, where the conclusion has been made that it poses no threat and merely provides a platform to test for real asteroid impacts.

No asteroid currently known is predicted to impact Earth for the next 100 years.

Image courtesy of Alex Alishevskikh. Feature image courtesy of  NASA/JPL-Caltech

“Asteroid trackers are using this flyby to test the worldwide asteroid detection and tracking network, assessing our capability to work together in response to finding a potential real asteroid-impact threat,” said Michael Kelley, program scientist and NASA lead for the TC4 observation campaign.

Tens of professionally run telescopes across the globe will be taking ground-based observations from visible to near-infrared to radar.

Amateur astronomers may contribute more observations, but the asteroid will be very difficult for backyard astronomers to see, as current estimates are that it will reach a visual magnitude of only about 17 at its brightest, and it will be moving very fast across the sky.