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Bacteria build “Iron Man” suits by soaking up toxic cobalt

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Bacteria may seem like pretty simple lifeforms, but their ingenuity keeps surprising scientists. The latest example is a species called Geobacter sulfurreducens, which has now been found to survive exposure to toxic cobalt by building a metal “suit” like a tiny Iron Man.

The Geobacter genus is made up of some particularly resourceful bacteria. They can “breathe” rust, build conductive nanowires and even produce electricity, meaning they could be useful for creating microbial fuel cells that generate electricity from mud or humidity.

And now scientists at Michigan State University have uncovered a new ability. Geobacter sulfurreducens appears to be able to protect itself from cobalt, which is toxic to most bacteria and other organisms. The bugs essentially mine cobalt from rust, and instead of letting it penetrate through their membranes they wrap themselves in it.

“They form cobalt nanoparticles on their surface,” says Gemma Reguera, lead author of the study. “They metallize themselves and it’s like a shield that protects them. It’s like Iron Man when he puts on the suit.”

The researchers demonstrated the ability in the lab, exposing Geobacter to high levels of cobalt. The bacteria shrugged it off, with microscope images clearly showing the bugs shrouding themselves in the metal and continuing to thrive.

The team says that this newfound talent means the bacteria could eventually be put to work extracting cobalt from discarded lithium-ion batteries for reuse, or to soak it up in the environment. The next steps in the research are to investigate if Geobacter could also soak up other toxic metals – in particular, cadmium.

The research was published in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology.

Source: Michigan State University

Source: https://newatlas.com/biology/geobacter-bacteria-iron-man-cobalt/

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Sony reveals pro-focused Alpha 1 full-frame mirrorless flagship

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Sony has pulled back the curtain on what it’s calling the most technologically advanced camera that the company has ever released. The Alpha 1 leads the pack with a newly developed 50-megapixel sensor, 30 fps continuous shooting and 8K/30p video.

“We are always listening to our customers, challenging the industry to bring new innovation to the market that goes far beyond their expectations,” said Sony’s deputy president of Imaging Products and Solutions Americas, Neal Manowitz. “Alpha 1 breaks through all existing boundaries, setting a new bar for what creators can accomplish with a single camera. What excites us the most – more than the extensive product feature – is Alpha 1’s ability to capture that which has never been captured before. This camera unlocks a new world of creative possibilities, making the previously impossible now possible.”

With professional users in mind, Sony has treated the Alpha 1 to a brand new 50.1-MP Exmor RS full-frame stacked CMOS image sensor that comes with its own memory. When paired with the company’s Bionz XR processing engine, that combination makes continuous shooting at up to 30 frames per second (fps) possible, with Sony promising zero blackouts between shots thanks to a 0.64-type quad-XGA OLED viewfinder with a 9.44 million-dot resolution and a 240 fps refresh rate.

The Alpha 1 is home to a new 50.1-megapixel Exmor RS full-frame stacked CMOS image sensor
The Alpha 1 is home to a new 50.1-megapixel Exmor RS full-frame stacked CMOS image sensor

Sony

And there’ll be no flicker from either the mechanical shutter or the silent and vibration-free electronic shutter in continuous shooting mode. Rolling shutter has been reduced too, by 1.5x compared to the Alpha 9 II. A large buffer and high-speed sensor readout also mean that up to 155 full-frame compressed RAW images can be snapped at 30 fps using the electronic shutter with autofocus/auto-exposure tracking engaged, or 165 full-frame JPEGs. Light sensitivity runs from ISO100 to 32,000, which can extend down to ISO50 or up to ISO102,000.

The autofocus system rocks 759 phase detection points with about 92 percent frame coverage, and the camera can keep track of fast-moving subjects with double the AF/AE speed compared to the Alpha 9 II, at 120 calculations per second – even during full-tilt continuous shooting. Sudden changes in brightness shouldn’t be a problem either thanks to an AE response latency of just 0.033 seconds.

Sony says that real-time tracking keeps subjects in the frame automatically, and real-time Eye AF for human and animal subjects has been improved. An Eye AF for birds has been added too – which will maintain tracking even if the feathered subject takes flight.

A Pixel Shift Multi Shooting mode moves the sensor in full- or half-pixel increments to capture up to 16 images, resulting in a total of 796.2 million pixels of image data being gathered. This can then be used to form a single 199 million-pixel image composite in Sony’s Imaging Edge desktop processing app.

Photo professionals can choose between compressed and uncompressed RAW image formats, as well as a lossless RAW compression option for the promise of smaller files with no quality degradation. The High Efficiency Image File (HEIF) format is onboard “for smooth 10-bit gradations that provide more realistic reproduction of skies and portrait subjects where subtle, natural gradation is essential,” and there’s a new addition to the JPEG camp too, in the shape of a “Light” JPEG/HEIF setting for image files sizes that are smaller than “Standard” images.

The camera also benefits from 5-axis optical in-body image stabilization for up to 5.5 EV stops, as well as super-fast flash synch from both the electronic and mechanical shutters (1/200 sec and 1/400 sec, respectively). And there are 15 stops of dynamic range for stills and more than 15 stops for video.

The Alpha 1 is capable of 30 fps continuous stills shooting and 8K/30p video recording
The Alpha 1 is capable of 30 fps continuous stills shooting and 8K/30p video recording

Sony

In a video first for the Alpha series, the new flagship boasts 8K/30p video chops at 10-bit 4:2:0 using the XAVC HS format and oversampling at 8.6K for eye-popping resolution. Thanks to a heat-dissipation structure, movie-makers can safely record 8K/30p video for around half an hour at a time.

Lowering the resolution to 4K ups the frame rate to 120p at 10-bit 4:2:2 quality, and 5.8K oversampling with full pixel readout (no pixel binning) is available in Super 35-mm mode. Users can also employ the S-Cinetone color matrix for a cinema-like tonal vibe.

Elsewhere in the magnesium alloy chassis you’ll find a tilting 3-inch, 1.44 million-dot LCD touch display, two media card slots that support both UHS-I and UHS-II SD cards, as well as CFExpress Type A cards, dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi, USB-C, Gigabit Ethernet, and support for 16-bit RAW output to an external recorder over HDMI. Sony has also added a digital interface to the camera’s shoe for improved audio when using a compatible external microphone.

The new Alpha flagship goes on sale in March for US$6,500, the rather lengthy product announcement video below has more.

Product Announcement Alpha 1 | Sony | α [Subtitle available in 22 languages]

Product page: Alpha 1

Source: https://newatlas.com/photography/sony-alpha-1-full-frame-mirrorless-camera/

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Sony Xperia Pro smartphone shoots for the creative market

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Sony has launched a new Xperia phone – but with the ability to act as an external monitor for a camera, 5G connectivity, a mini-HDMI port and a hefty price tag, the Xperia Pro is very different to a lot of the smartphones we’re going to see in 2021.

The new phone is aimed squarely at serious digital photographers and videographers, doing the jobs of both an external screen for framing shots more accurately and viewing clips at a larger size, and a portable modem so that images and footage can be uploaded to the web from just about anywhere.

All this comes with a steep price tag of US$2,499.99, but Sony’s argument is that it’s still less money than you would spend on a separate external monitor and portable modem for professional use – and here you get both devices in one. If this is your business, then the Xperia Pro could be a worthwhile investment.

With on-board 5G, you can stream footage directly to YouTube, as well as to Twitch and Facebook Live through third-party apps. Sony says the phone has a specially configured 360-degree antenna design to make sure you’re always getting the best cellular signal possible from your location.

The HDMI input sits alongside a USB-C connector and can accept video streams up to 60 frames per second in 4K with HDR processing. It should work with any cameras that have an HDMI output, though Sony is keen to advertise it as a companion device for its own Alpha range.

The Xperia Pro is based on the Xperia 1 Mark II launched last year
The Xperia Pro is based on the Xperia 1 Mark II launched last year

Sony

Once the Sony Xperia Pro is hooked up, it offers a few benefits over the standard viewfinder of the camera that it’s connected to: you can zoom in on the action, for example, or put grid lines on top of the frame.

In terms of the rest of the camera specs, this is very much an adapted version of the Xperia 1 Mark II we saw launched last year. The phone features a Snapdragon 865 processor, 12 GB of RAM, 512 GB of on-board storage, and a 4,000-mAh capacity battery, plus a 6.5-inch OLED display that Sony is advertising as 4K but which actually has a technically not-quite-4K resolution of 3,840 x 1,644 pixels.

There’s IP68 waterproofing here and Corning Gorilla Glass 6 on the screen, so it should be able to take some knocks and drops. The phone has a camera of its own too of course: a triple-lens 12-MP+12-MP+12-MP affair with ultrawide and 3x optical zoom capabilities.

“Combining the speed of 5G and the connectivity of an HDMI input, Xperia Pro is designed to empower creators with real-time content sharing and distribution, opening up a new world of possibilities for professional workflow,” Sony Electronics executive Neal Manowitz said in a press statement.

If you want to spend $2,500 on your next bit of kit, the Sony Xperia Pro is available to buy now, from “a select group of Sony’s authorized dealers” in North America. Sony’s promotional video of the phone in action can be seen below.

Xperia PRO – empowering photographers to work smarter

Product page: Sony Xperia Pro

Source: https://newatlas.com/mobile-technology/sony-xperia-pro-smartphone/

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Heatherwick Studio plans pair of curvaceous Canadian towers

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Following its Little Island and The Cove parks in NYC, British firm Heatherwick Studio’s North American invasion continues with a pair of towers slated for Vancouver, Canada. Defined by an eye-catching tapering design that narrows just above their base before widening again as they rise, the “curvaceous” high-rise buildings would make significant use of wood and incorporate lots of greenery.

Named 1700 Alberni, the towers’ vaguely corn cob-like form is a little reminiscent of Zaha Hadid’s Gold Coast towers and would rise to a height of 105 m (344 ft) and 117 m (383 ft).

According to the City of Vancouver’s planning application, they would comprise 39,337 sq m (roughly 423,400 sq ft) of floorspace, spread over more than 400 residential units, many boasting private balconies, plus retail and restaurant space, a childcare facility, over 500 vehicle parking spaces, and 524 bicycle parking spaces.

Finer details are still a little light at this early stage, though the renders depict the use of wood, concrete, and glass, plus lots of greenery on the lower floors. There would also be a focus on maximizing daylight inside and the two adjacent towers would be joined by a glazed podium.

1700 Alberni would rise to heights of 105 m (344 ft) and 117 m (383 ft)
1700 Alberni would rise to heights of 105 m (344 ft) and 117 m (383 ft)

Picture Plane for Heatherwick Studio

“Heatherwick Studio has proposed designs for a new residential project in Vancouver, its first high-rise project in Canada,” says the firm. “Commissioned by Bosa Properties and Kingswood Properties in partnership, the concept aims to bring a new level of global design excellence to Vancouver, featuring two curvaceous, light-filled towers and a publicly accessible ground level plaza for community engagement.”

1700 Alberni is currently being considered for planning permission by Vancouver authorities and there’s no word yet on when the project is slated to be completed.

Source: Heatherwick Studio

Source: https://newatlas.com/architecture/heatherwick-studios-1700-alberni/

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Tesla rival XPeng P7 gets significant self-driving software updates

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China’s closest Tesla Model 3 competitor, the XPeng P7, launched in April last year, loaded to the gills with enough self-driving sensors and computers to achieve full autonomy once the software is ready. Today, an OTA update gives the P7 more than 40 new capabilities.

The P7 puts together a pretty solid case for itself with a nice smooth look, decent performance and impressive battery ranges at an eyebrow-raising price point that starts at US$32,000. Pay a little more at around US$40,000, and you’ll get the Premium version capable of running XPeng’s XPILOT 3.0 software, through Nvidia Drive AGX Xavier self computers.

On launch, it was capable of adaptive cruise, lane-keeping even through tight curves, self-parking, navigation-guided highway autopilot and traffic light recognition.

As of today, the cars get smarter with a new “Navigation Guided Pilot” (NGP) system, now in “public beta” state. It gives them automatic lane changes and overtaking with collision avoidance, letting them make their own decisions on which lanes are the best to be in. They can now recognize speed limits and adjust accordingly, enter and exit highway ramps, and switch between highways. They’ll start recognizing roadworks, construction, traffic cones, trucks and stationary vehicles. This is all still highway stuff; urban autopilot is slated for somewhere around 2022 with the release of XPILOT 4.0.

The Xpeng P7: Level 3 autonomous capable at launch, and due to be upgraded with urban autopilot systems in 2022
The Xpeng P7: Level 3 autonomous capable at launch, and due to be upgraded with urban autopilot systems in 2022

Xpeng

Like a Tesla, the P7 can display what it’s seeing around you on the dash display when it’s self-driving, to give you some peace of mind that it’s not missing anything. In this case, however, it’s not a blank computer simulation – the XPeng “surrounding reality” display shows a top-down 360-degree surround view from the cameras, with vehicles, speed limits, safety warnings and other information overlaid on it.

While you’re doing your own driving, the P7 now gets a bunch of new driver assist warnings for forward and rear collisions, lane departures, cross traffic as you reverse and door opening warnings in case you’re about to whack a cyclist. Traffic signs will pop up on the screen, and the car gains a full auto-emergency braking system. There are a lot of other improvements, too, including a faster-responding AI voice control assistant and more accurate self-parking.

This is, of course, still some years behind what Tesla’s cars are currently doing, and as quickly as XPeng seems to be getting up to speed (the company was only founded in 2014), it’s hard to see anyone in the industry catching up with Tesla for many years yet. Tesla’s key advantage here is numerical; as of Q1 2020 there were more than 825,000 cars on the road running Tesla’s Autopilot hardware. By now they’re approaching five billion miles of self-driving, phoning home constantly so the entire fleet can learn from every mistake and every weird edge case.

XPeng has done a great job with design; the P7 looks sleek and
XPeng has done a great job with design; the P7 looks sleek and tasteful

Xpeng

The P7 is a promising machine, for sure, but XPeng is going to have to move a ton more units to get some data through its own system. Up to January this year, it had sold 15,062 units in six months – impressive for such a young company, but about what Tesla sold every 11 days in 2020. Now, if there’s one thing China can bring to any equation, it’s massive numbers, and it’ll sure be interesting to watch how this Guangzhou-based company grows. It’s already delivering cars in China and Norway, and plans to bring the P7 to the USA are underway.

Source: Xpeng

Source: https://newatlas.com/automotive/xpeng-p7-self-driving/

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