NASA Telescopes Capture Birth of Black Hole or Neutron Star

An international team of astronomers, using NASA telescopes, have captured the first ever image of a star that collapsed to form a compact object, and are debating whether it is a black hole or a neutron star.

NASA’s Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System telescope in Hawaii picked up a brief and unusual burst in the night sky on June 16, 2018, the US space agency said in a statement

The celestial outburst -called AT2018cow and nicknamed “the Cow” – occurred inside or near a star-forming galaxy known as CGCG 137-068, located about 200 million light-years away in the constellation Hercules. 

For over three days, the Cow produced a sudden explosion of light at least 10 times brighter than a typical supernova, and then it faded over the next few months, NASA said. 

The stellar debris, approaching and swirling around the object’s event horizon, caused the remarkably bright glow.

Using data from multiple NASA missions, including the Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory and the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR), a team of scientists speculate that the Cow is a monster black hole shredding a passing star. 

In a paper forthcoming in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, they say that the shredded star was a white dwarf – a hot, roughly Earth-sized stellar remnant marking the final state of stars like our Sun. 

“The Cow produced a large cloud of debris in a very short time,” said Paul Kuin, an astrophysicist at University College London (UCL). 

“Shredding a bigger star to produce a cloud like this would take a bigger black hole, result in a slower brightness increase and take longer for the debris to be consumed.” 

Another team of scientists, analysing data from multiple observatories, including NASA’s NuSTAR, ESA’s (the European Space Agency’s) XMM-Newton and INTEGRAL satellites, and the National Science Foundation’s Very Large Array, claimed that it is a supernova — a stellar explosion — could be the source of the Cow. 

“We saw features in the Cow that we have never seen before in a transient, or rapidly changing object,” said Raffaella Margutti, an astrophysicist at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.

In the study, forthcoming in The Astrophysical Journal, they propose that the bright optical and ultraviolet flash from the Cow signalled a supernova and that the X-ray emissions that followed shortly after the outburst arose from gas radiating energy as it fell onto a compact object.

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Two Cages, Camera Trap To Capture Leopard Who Killed Monk In Maharashtra


Forest rangers have launched a hunt for a leopard that killed a monk meditating under a tree deep in a jungle.

The monk, Rahul Walke Bodhi, had been meditating in the Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve in Maharashtra for the last month, and was attacked while offering morning prayers on Tuesday, a forest official said.

Two other monks who were on their way to give him food said they witnessed the attack but Walke was dead by the time they reached him, according to a second forest official.

“I would like to tell everyone not to go into the forest,” Gajendra Narwane, deputy director of the reserve, told the BBC Marathi-language service.

Forest rangers have set up two cages and a camera trap to try to capture the animal. It was not clear what they would do with it if they caught it.

The forest, some 825 km (510 miles) east of Mumbai, is in a reserve for big cats where four other fatal attacks have occurred in the last few weeks, according to media.

Forest officials have cordoned off the area where the monk was killed and are restricting the timing of visitor access to a Buddhist temple there.

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Netflix’s Mowgli: Andy Serkis, Christian Bale on India Focus, Performance Capture, and More

In some ways, Andy Serkis is the modern father of performance capture art. Not only has he played some incredibly popular characters brought to life with computer animation — Gollum in Lord of the Rings trilogy, Caesar in Planet of the Apes reboot prequels, Snoke in the Star Wars sequels, and Kong in the King Kong remake — but he’s founded a studio on the back of his experience called The Imaginarium, which assists leading film and video game studios in the field. Serkis turned director last year with the biopic Breathe, starring Andrew Garfield and Claire Foy, but technically, that was filmed after his actual directorial debut, Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle, which is out on Netflix in December.

Serkis called his time as the second unit director of The Hobbit trilogy as his “big learning curve”, which he said helped him prepare for Mowgli. And picking Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book for his first film feels like a natural fit, given his talents and expertise would be put to good use. While director Jon Favreau minimised the use of motion capture with the 2016 Disney version of the same story, worried about the uncanny valley effect, Serkis wasn’t perturbed in the least, he explained in an interaction with Gadgets 360 in Mumbai earlier this week.

“Never,” Serkis said flatly. “I’ve never had that problem in anything I have ever done, so it would never be a problem. I think people say that when they have never used performance capture. It’s a bandied around word that people use, and that’s because I think they haven’t really experienced it to the level we’ve been working with.”

“Over the last 18 years, performance capture has been adopted into mainstream filmmaking,” Serkis said at an event earlier in November. “When we started working with it on Lord of the Rings, the perception of it was unclear. People didn’t really understand the potential for it. But as years have passed, it has become one of the great 21st-century tools for an actor, to become anything. And that’s why I’m very passionate about it.”

Serkis’ adaptation of The Jungle Book has been in the making for a while. Filming with its A-list cast — Christian Bale, Benedict Cumberbatch, Cate Blanchett, and Serkis among others — finished nearly four years ago, with the rest of the time spent in post-production and in leaving some space between the Favreau version and his. “It’s been an extraordinary few years, because at one point, I was acting in the Apes movies, editing Breathe, and cutting Mowgli — all at the same time,” he added with a short laugh. “It was kind of crazy.”


While the likes of Cumberbatch and Blanchett had worked with performance capture tools before, it was entirely new for others such as Bale. “When we sat and did the read-through for the very first day, there were a lot of questions about performance capture and what’s the secret,” Serkis said. “And I said, ‘Look, there is no secret. It’s acting. There is no difference.’”

“Performance capture is not about puppeteering, over-acting or pantomiming a character. It’s really about the internal psychology and emotion, as any live-action character. It’s finding their link to the animal. And the way that we design the animals, really do reflect the facial expressions that our actors used to express themselves.”

Bale recalled that Serkis’ initial pitch to him was simply ‘How do I feel about playing a panther?’ which drew him in, as he wanted to try out performance capture and see what it was like, he told us: “I recognise this is an era of advancing technology and […] I think you should maintain the things that work, but also not be fearful of experimenting with the new. It’s quite remarkable, performance capture. I have made a film since Jungle Book about [former US Vice President] Dick Cheney [called Vice], and one day perhaps I won’t need to put on weight and do lots of make-up and prosthetics. Perhaps, it will be performance capture.”

To differentiate from previous adaptations, Serkis adopted a darker, more mature tone on Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle, something both Bale and he feel hews closer to Kipling’s original works. And that’s likely why Warner Bros. ended up selling the film to Netflix, as it was likely not confident in its theatrical prospects.

“It was slightly older and darker, and it wasn’t for that 4-year-olds up in the full four-quadrant family way,” Serkis said. “That is a formula that seems to be the holy grail for studios, in order to be able to open big, to have that big opening weekend, it’s important to be inclusive and include everyone. But that does mean you’ve to slightly tailor the darker end of the story, make it more palatable for younger audience perhaps.”

mowgli bagheera christian bale Mowgli Christian Bale Bagheera

Bagheera, voiced by Christian Bale, in Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle
Photo Credit: Netflix

“I think we all really enjoy the musical adaptations and the warmer, fuzzy fairy-tale of that,” Bale added. “But this was more a fantasy of running wild and living with animals, bringing out the savage nature and the joy of liberation from the constraints of what it is to be human. The pure adventure of it, but also the deeper themes that exist within Kipling’s writings of belonging and the nature of who we are as a people.”

A few choice words in the books — ‘brown men with drums, and white men with guns’ — informed how Serkis saw his adaptation, as he wished to focus on the story’s British India roots. “I don’t think any other version has really acknowledged it,” he added. “Maybe [Zoltan] Korda’s version in the 1940s did. In taking on the story, you can’t deny the world in which Rudyard Kipling was writing this story. And I think we go some way in our production. Within the realms of magic realism and a metaphorical language, we are looking at the misappropriation of the jungle, man and his expansion, and colonialism.”

For all of Serkis’ intentions, Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle is still entirely a non-India production. It was neither filmed in India, nor does it have any Indian stars — unless you count Freida Pinto, who works mostly in Hollywood — and all of the film’s central characters speak in English, with a British accent. That creates a duality, what with the heavy use of Indian instruments in background music, composed by musician Nitin Sawhney, and the nondescript Indian setting.

Serkis justifies that contrast in wanting to keep the two worlds – the jungle and the village – separate for Mowgli, which for him meant separate languages. (It’s another matter that very little Hindi is spoken on-screen in the film.) That also helps build the allusions and themes in Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle, Serkis believes.

“The village, as a metaphor, represents India. The village is also represented in the animal world,” he added. “Mowgli could almost be considered a colonialist in the world of the animals. But he’s brought up in that world, much like Rudyard Kipling was brought up in India and spoke Hindi before he went to England.”

Disclosure: Netflix sponsored the correspondent’s travel and accommodation for the event in Singapore.

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Government Wants To Capture RBI, Control Precious Reserves: P Chidambaram

He claimed that the government and the RBI was heading towards a “confrontation”.

New Delhi: 

Ahead of RBI Board meeting, Congress leader P Chidambaram on Sunday alleged that the central government was determined to “capture” the bank to gain control over its Rs 9 lakh crore reserves.

In a series of tweets, the former finance minister also claimed that the government and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) was heading towards a “confrontation” in the Monday’s board meeting of the bank.

“Government is determined to ‘capture’ RBI in order to gain control over the reserves. The other so-called disagreements are only a smokescreen (sic),” he said on microblogging site Twitter.

The senior Congress leader said, “Nowhere in the world is the central bank a board-managed company. To suggest that private business persons will direct the governor is a preposterous idea.”

“November 19 will be a day of reckoning for central bank independence and the Indian economy,” he tweeted.

The RBI has a massive Rs 9.59 lakh crore reserves and the government, if reports are to be believed, wants the central bank to part with a third of that fund — an issue which along with easing of norms for weak banks and raising liquidity has brought the two at loggerheads in the recent weeks.

The government on November 9 had said it was discussing an “appropriate” size of capital reserves that the central bank must maintain but denied seeking a massive capital transfer from the RBI.    Economic Affairs Secretary Subhash Chandra Garg had also clarified that the government wasn’t in any dire needs of funds and that there was no proposal to ask the RBI to transfer Rs 3.6 lakh crore.

“There is no proposal to ask RBI to transfer (Rs) 3.6 or (Rs) 1 lakh crore, as speculated,” he had said. “The government’s FD (fiscal deficit) in FY 2013-14 was 5.1%. From 2014-15 onwards, the government has succeeded in bringing it down substantially. We will end the FY 2018-19 with FD of 3.3%. The government has actually foregone (Rs) 70,000 crore of budgeted market borrowing this year.”

Mr Garg said the only proposal “under discussion is to fix appropriate economic capital framework of RBI”.

Economic capital framework refers to the risk capital required by the central bank while taking into account different risks.

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Fortnite Nintendo Switch Video Capture Disabled for Performance and Stability, Says Epic Games

Fortnite developer Epic Games has confirmed that it disabled video capture on Nintendo Switch to improve performance and stability. The feature was removed with Fortnite v5.40.2 for Switch. In a thread on the Nintendo Switch subreddit, Epic said it would look at bringing it back as an optional feature in the future. This was likely the fix Epic talked about last week.

Here’s the full statement:

Hey folks,

You may have noticed we’ve disabled the Video Capture feature on Nintendo Switch as of the v5.40.2 client update. This was done for performance and stability reasons as we’ve been seeing a high rate of Out of Memory related crashes. Disabling this feature saves a significant amount of RAM while also having a positive effect on overall performance across the board.

We’ve since added a line about this in the Patch Notes and we’re considering the possibility of making this feature optional in the future for players who don’t mind taking a hit on their performance.

Meanwhile for other platforms, Fortnite v5.40 introduced sub-region matchmaking for South-East Asia, adding a new data centre in Singapore on Monday.

On mobile, Fortnite for Android recently passed 15 million installs, alongside adding support for more devices from manufacturers such as HTC, Motorola, Sony, and Essential.

If you’re a fan of video games, check out Transition, Gadgets 360’s gaming podcast. You can listen to it via Apple Podcasts or RSS, or just listen to this week’s episode by hitting the play button below.

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Cameras Capture Every Angle Of Canadian Couple’s Snack-Throwing, Ceiling-Shattering Arrest

The female suspect comes crashing spectacularly through the ceiling.

Like a Charlie Chaplin film, modern-day surveillance videos can unspool a story without making a sound.

And in the case of an attempted criminal activity at a convenience store in Canada, footage from that incident tells . . . quite the tale.

The bare facts of the case, as laid out by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, are as follows: On Monday afternoon, the owners of the Spruce Grove Reddi Mart in Alberta called police after encountering a couple who had apparently tried to use stolen credit cards.

An officer with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police arrived at the convenience store. In the video, the officer can be seen talking with the couple, before the male suspect shoves the female suspect toward the officer.

An honest-to-goodness melee ensues. The male suspect tries to run for the door, but is stopped by two forces: The officer, who somehow still has a hand on him, and another person identified by CTV News as one of store owners.

canadian couple

The male suspect and the officer have continued their cat-and-mouse chase with the female suspect wandering through the store.

Soon, the male suspect loses his white T-shirt in the struggle and runs back into the store. He darts into a backroom, through aisles of snacks and then encounters the officer again next to what appears to be a display of nuts and trail mix. Grabbing a couple pouches, the male suspect appears to briefly consider throwing them at the officer.

While the male suspect and the officer have continued their cat-and-mouse chase, the female suspect has been wandering through the store. She eventually slips into the same backroom that the male suspect ran through earlier. The woman climbs up a ladder, over some shelves and ascends into some unknown place, disappearing from the frame.

The footage shifts back to the male suspect, who at this point has been subdued by the officer.

Then the video, perhaps oddly, turns to an empty section of the store. For nearly three full seconds, the camera focuses on a seemingly undisturbed aisle of motor oils, firewood, toys and auto accessories.

richard pariseau

The male suspect loses his white T-shirt in the struggle and runs back into the store.

The calmness is enough to make one wonder if the incident is over. And then, pieces of building material begin fluttering down.

Soon, the female suspect comes crashing spectacularly through the ceiling.

“It was scary,” store owner Bhagwant Chauhan told CTV News Edmonton. “You’re thinking the person is in the back but she’s up in the roof. Thank god everybody is OK.”

The couple was arrested and identified as Richard Pariseau, 28, and Brittany Burke, 29, according to RCMP. Between them, the two face a variety of charges, including obstructing a police officer, assaulting a police officer and mischief.

No one was injured, police said.

Footage of the incident has since gone viral, thanks in part to a widely shared version of the video published by Slate that added “Yakety Sax” music to the background. But the real comedy comes from the video’s remarkable original edit, which alternated perfectly between the male and female suspects’ scenes, conveying unintended slapstick with nary a sound. Chaplin would have been proud.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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Online Platforms Capture 38 Percent of Smartphone Sales in India, Flipkart Leads: Counterpoint

Driven by exclusive online launches and strong promotions, e-commerce platforms captured a record 38 percent share of the total smartphone channels in India in the first quarter of 2018, a new report said on Friday.

According to Counterpoint Research’s “Market Monitor” service, Flipkart continued its dominance in the online smartphone market with 54 percent share, with Amazon at second place with 30 percent followed by with 14 per cent market share.

Xiaomi led online platforms with a share of 57 percent during Q1 2018, followed by Samsung (14 percent) and Huawei (Honor) (8 percent).

“The E-commerce segment grew faster than the offline segment during Q1 2018. While the smartphone shipments in offline segment declined by 3 percent, online segment grew by 4 percent (Year-on-Year),” said Karn Chauhan, Research Analyst at Counterpoint.

This was driven by the increase in the number of models launching on online platforms coupled with aggressive offers.

“Additionally, smartphone brands have now adopted a multi-channel strategy instead of relying on a single channel for distribution of their products and this has increased the competition over the past few quarters,” Chauhan added.

Close to 30 exclusive smartphone models were launched in Q1 2018. Attractive full-screen displays, high capacity batteries and AI features like face recognition were key differentiators for new launches.

“In an effort to target first-time shoppers, both Flipkart and Amazon have scaled up their operations in recent quarters, especially in the smartphone segment which is a major value driving category for these platforms,” said Tarun Pathak, Associate Director at Counterpoint.

Top online smartphones in Q1 2018 were Xiaomi Redmi 5A, Redmi Note 5, Redmi 4, Huawei Honor 9 Lite, and Redmi Y1 respectively.

“Top five smartphones contributed to close to half of the smartphone shipments through online channels. Huawei Honor 9 Lite was the only model in top 5 slowing down Xiaomi’s full dominance,” said the report.

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