Tech/science update

vivo launches Z1x smartphone variant at Rs 21,990
Chinese smartphone maker vivo on Wednesday launched a new Z1x variant with 8GB RAM in its Z-series portfolio that will cost Rs 21,990. The 8GB+128GB device in ‘Fusion Blue’ variant is an extension to the recently-launched Z1x smartphone and is equipped with Qualcomm Snapdragon 712AIE chipset, 4,500mAh battery with “22.5W vivo FlashCharge” technology. The device is equipped with AI-enabled triple rear camera setup with 48MP primary camera, 8MP super wide-angle camera and 2MP depth camera. The device with 16.20cm (6.38) FHD+ Super AMOLED display offers 32MP selfie camera. Customers can purchase the new vivo Z1x 8GB at 5 per cent cashback offer with HDFC and ICICI banks. (IANS)


Speak to Alexa and pay bills via Amazon Pay in India
In an India-first feature, Amazon on Wednesday announced that users can now pay their utility bills with Amazon Pay just by speaking to its digital assistant Alexa in the country. The new Alexa feature supports payment of bills across categories such as electricity, water, post-paid mobile, cooking gas, broadband, DTH and more. Users of Amazon Echo, Fire TV Stick and other devices with Alexa built-in, can just give commands such as “Alexa, pay my mobile bill” or “Alexa, pay my electricity bill” to get started. “The integration of Amazon Pay with Alexa will help reduce both time and effort for customers who use Amazon Pay for bill payments and repeat similar transactions every month. “We are excited to share that this is an India-first feature which Alexa customers in India can enjoy before any other international customers,” Puneesh Kumar, Country Manager for Alexa Experiences and Devices, said in a statement. Alexa will retrieve the amount due for bills from their registered Amazon account and ask for customer confirmation before processing the payment. Customers can enable a voice pin on the Alexa app to make transactions more secure. Once approved, Alexa will complete the transaction using Amazon Pay, and send a notification to the customer’s registered mobile phone number, confirming the transaction. Alexa will also send a link to register their bill details on the Amazon shopping app before proceeding for the payment, said the company.


Possible to grow crops on Mars, Moon for future explorers: Study
Scientists have produced crops in Mars and lunar soil simulant developed by NASA, supporting the idea that it is possible to grow food on the Red Planet and the Moon to feed future settlers. The researchers at Wageningen University & Research in the Netherlands also suggests that it is also possible to obtain viable seed from crops grown on Mars and the Moon. They cultivated ten different crops, including garden cress, tomato, radish, rye, quinoa, spinach, chives, and peas. “We were thrilled when we saw the first tomatoes ever grown on Mars soil simulant turning red. It meant that the next step towards a sustainable closed agricultural ecosystem had been taken,” said Wieger Wamelink from Wageningen University & Research. The researchers simulated the properties of Lunar and Martian regolith and “normal” soil — potting soil from Earth — as a control. Nine of the ten crops sown grew well and edible parts were harvested from them. Spinach was the exception, according to the study published in the journal Open Agriculture. Total biomass production per tray was the highest for the Earth control and Mars soil simulant that differed significantly from Moon soil simulant, the researchers said. The seeds produced by three species — radish, rye and garden cress — were tested successfully for germination. The researchers said that if humans are going to establish a base on the Moon or on Mars they will have to grow their own crops. An option is to use Lunar and Martian regolith. These regoliths are not available for plant growth experiments, therefore NASA has developed regolith simulants, they said. (PTI)


Global ice age 600 million years ago changed face of Earth: Study
A global ice age over 600 million years ago dramatically altered the face of the planet, leaving a barren, flooded landscape and clear oceans, according to a study that may have important implications for the evolution of complex life.
The research, published in the journal Terra Nova, examined how distinctive carbonate sedimentary rocks formed over the course of millions of years after the Snowball Earth. The sedimentary rocks, much like the limestone in tropical oceans today, formed in oceans starved of sand and mud eroded from the land, the researchers said. The study calls into question previous suggestions that the formation of the characteristic rocks took place over a much shorter period of time, they said. “It was previously thought that these distinctive carbonate rocks were deposited over less than 10 thousand years, as the sea level rose when the ice that covered the entire globe melted, but we have shown that they were likely deposited over hundreds of thousands to millions of years following the sea-level rise,” said lead author Adam Nordsvan, a PhD candidate at Curtin University in Australia. “There is already some evidence that suggested these rocks took a long time to form, but no one had been able to explain why this might have occurred,” Nordsvan said. “What is intriguing about the period following Snowball Earth is that the planet surface was essentially completely renovated. “It appears that the extended glacial period removed all the beaches, deserts, rivers and floodplains, and reset important Earth systems that took millions of years to recover,” said Nordsvan. Milo Barham, also from Curtin’s School of Earth and Planetary Sciences, said the findings may have important implications for the evolution of complex life. “The melting of ice sheets after Snowball Earth caused a dramatic rise in sea level, ultimately flooding the continents, driving a remarkable retreat of shorelines and the development of clearer ocean water,” Barham said. “Researchers have long been aware that the timing of Snowball Earth and the development of more complex life seem to have coincided, but no one has really thought about how the oceans being starved of sediment might have helped ancient organisms thrive in the oceans,” he said. (PTI)

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