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Fossil of previously unknown four-legged whale found in Egypt

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(Last Updated On: August 28, 2021)

Scientists said this week they had discovered the 43 million-year-old fossil of a previously unknown four-legged whale species in Egypt that helps trace the transition of whales from land to sea.

The newly discovered whale belongs to the Protocetidae, a group of extinct whales that falls in the middle of that transition, the Egyptian-led team of researchers said in a statement, Reuters reported.

Its fossil was unearthed from middle Eocene rocks in the Fayum Depression in Egypt’s Western Desert — an area once covered by sea that has provided a rich seam of discoveries showing the evolution of whales — before being studied at Mansoura University Vertebrate Palaeontology Centre (MUVP).

The new whale, named Phiomicetus anubis, had an estimated body length of some three meters and a body mass of about 600 kg, and was likely a top predator, the researchers said. Its partial skeleton revealed it as the most primitive protocetid whale known from Africa.

Despite recent fossil discoveries, the big picture of early whale evolution in Africa has largely remained a mystery, the researchers said. Work in the region had the potential to reveal new details about the evolutionary transition from amphibious to fully aquatic whales, Reuters reported.

The new whale has raised questions about ancient ecosystems and pointed research towards questions such as the origin and coexistence of ancient whales in Egypt, said Hesham Sellam, founder of the MUVP and another co-author.

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Tesla launches electric quad bike in U.S. for kids

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(Last Updated On: December 3, 2021)

Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) has launched an electric quad bike for kids in the United States for $1,900, two years after the electric-car maker introduced the all-terrain vehicle (ATV) along with its pickup vehicle Cybertruck, Reuters reported.

The four-wheel ATV – “Cyberquad for Kids” – is inspired by the Cybertruck model and will begin shipping in 2-4 weeks, according to the company website.

According to the report the bike, however, cannot be shipped to Hawaii, Alaska or Puerto Rico, Tesla said.

Musk had tweeted in 2019 that an electric ATV will arrive as an option for Tesla’s much-anticipated and yet-to-be-launched Cybertruck, whose production has been facing challenges due to supply chain problems.

From launching an agave-based liquor “Tesla Tequila” to a humanoid robot prototype “Tesla Bot,” the company has come up with multiple quirky products in the past, read the report.

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Google to ban political advertising ahead of Philippine election

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(Last Updated On: December 1, 2021)

Alphabet Inc’s (GOOGL.O) Google said on Wednesday it will ban political advertising on its platform in the run-up to Philippine elections in May next year to choose a successor to President Rodrigo Duterte.

The move comes amid pressure on social media platforms over their handling of political advertising during the U.S. presidential election in 2020, Reuters reported.

Social media platforms have become political battlegrounds in the Southeast Asian nation, with studies showing Filipinos top the rankings globally for time spent on social media.

Election advertisements that promote or oppose any political party or the candidacy of any person or party for public office, would not be allowed to run between February 8 to May 9, next year, Google said in an update to its political content policy.

The dates cover the period of campaigning in the Philippines up to election day on May 9.

Google said notifications would be sent to affected advertisers about the policy update.

Google has banned political advertising on its platform before, including in Canada’s federal election in 2019 and before an election in Singapore in 2020.

Social media platforms like Facebook have helped strengthen Duterte’s support base, with analysts regarding them as instrumental in his election victory in 2016.

The Philippines will choose a successor to Duterte, who under the constitution is not allowed to seek another term, but will be standing for a senator’s seat.

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Citing debris risk, NASA delays spacewalk to fix space station antenna

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(Last Updated On: November 30, 2021)

A spacewalk planned for Tuesday to repair a faulty antenna on the International Space Station was postponed indefinitely, NASA said, citing a “debris notification” it received for the orbiting research laboratory.

Two U.S. astronauts had been scheduled to venture outside the space station at 7:10 a.m. Eastern time (1210 GMT) to begin their work, facing what NASA officials had called a slightly elevated risk posed by debris from a Russian anti-satellite missile test this month.

But about five hours before the outing was to have commenced, NASA said on Twitter that the spacewalk had been called off for the time being.

“NASA received a debris notification for the space station. Due to the lack of opportunity to properly assess the risk it could pose to the astronauts, teams have decided to delay the Nov. 30 spacewalk until more information is available,” the space agency tweeted.

It was not made clear how close debris had come to the space station, orbiting about 250 miles (402 km) above the Earth, or whether it was related to the Russian missile test.

NASA TV had planned to provide live coverage of the 6-1/2-hour “extravehicular activity,” or EVA, operation by astronauts Thomas Marshburn and Kayla Brown. The outing would be the fifth spacewalk for Marshburn, 61, a medical doctor and former flight surgeon with two previous trips to orbit, and the first for Barron, 34, a U.S. Navy submarine officer and nuclear engineer on her debut spaceflight for NASA.

The objective is to remove a faulty S-band radio communications antenna assembly, now more than 20 years old, and replace it with a new spare stowed outside the space station.

According to plans, Marshburn was to have worked with Barron while positioned at the end of a robotic arm operated from inside the station by German astronaut Matthias Maurer of the European Space Agency, with help from NASA crewmate Raja Chari.

The four arrived at the space station on Nov. 11 in a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, joining two Russian cosmonauts and a NASA astronaut already aboard the orbiting outpost.

Four days later, an anti-satellite missile test conducted without warning by Russia generated a debris field in low-Earth orbit, and all seven crew members took shelter in their docked spaceships to allow for a quick getaway until the immediate danger passed, according to NASA.

The residual debris cloud from the blasted satellite has dispersed since then, according to Dana Weigel, NASA deputy manager of the International Space Station (ISS) program.

But NASA calculates that the remaining fragments continued to pose a “slightly elevated” background risk to the space station as a whole, and a 7% higher risk of spacewalkers’ suits being punctured, as compared to before Russia’s missile test, Weigel told reporters on Monday.

Although NASA has yet to fully quantify additional hazards posed by more than 1,700 larger fragments it is tracking around the station’s orbit, the 7% higher risk to spacewalkers falls “well within” fluctuations were previously seen in “the natural environment,” Weigel said.

Still, mission managers canceled several smaller maintenance tasks under consideration for Tuesday’s spacewalk, Weigel added.

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