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Scientists to reveal findings from Ultima Thule, most distant object visited by a spacecraft

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Just over a day after NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft zipped by Ultima Thule, scientists are ready to reveal their preliminary findings of the distant object.

Ultima Thule, or more formally 2014 MU69, is a member of the Kuiper Belt, a ring-shaped region of icy objects orbiting the sun. The area begins just beyond the orbit of Neptune, more than 4.4 billion kilometres away, and is believed to extend to about eight billion kilometres from sun.

On Facebook, Stern posted: “Planetary science fans — I think you definitely want to tune in to our press conference about Ultima Thule today, 2 pm Eastern. Just one thing, before you do, fasten your seat belts!”

Data from the New Horizons flyby of Ultima Thule will be coming in for about two years. Wednesday’s findings will be the first data analyzed by the team.

“This mission has always been about delayed gratification,” said New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute​ in a news conference on Tuesday. “It took us 12 years to sell it. It took us five years to build it. It took us nine years just to get to the first target.”

Next week, the spacecraft will be unable to transmit any data due to radio interference from the sun. Stern said the spacecraft will once again begin transmitting in mid-January.

The main priorities for the research is mapping Ultima Thule’s surface, as well as looking for any potential moons and rings.

The first images returned from New Horizons have been pixelated and difficult to make out. So far, it appears that Ultima Thule is an irregularly shaped object that is rotating on an axis, or perhaps two objects in close orbit with one another.

New Horizons was launched in 2006 on a mission to fly by Pluto. In 2015, the spacecraft passed the planet providing the first images of a world once considered our ninth planet.

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More groups join in support of women in STEM program at Carleton

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OTTAWA — Major companies and government partners are lending their support to Carleton University’s newly established Women in Engineering and Information Technology Program.

The list of supporters includes Mississauga-based construction company EllisDon.

The latest to announce their support for the program also include BlackBerry QNX, CIRA (Canadian Internet Registration Authority), Ericsson, Nokia, Solace, Trend Micro, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, CGI, Gastops, Leonardo DRS, Lockheed Martin Canada, Amdocs and Ross.

The program is officially set to launch this September.

It is being led by Carleton’s Faculty of Engineering and Design with the goal of establishing meaningful partnerships in support of women in STEM.  

The program will host events for women students to build relationships with industry and government partners, create mentorship opportunities, as well as establish a special fund to support allies at Carleton in meeting equity, diversity and inclusion goals.

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VR tech to revolutionize commercial driver training

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Serious Labs seems to have found a way from tragedy to triumph? The Edmonton-based firm designs and manufactures virtual reality simulators to standardize training programs for operators of heavy equipment such as aerial lifts, cranes, forklifts, and commercial trucks. These simulators enable operators to acquire and practice operational skills for the job safety and efficiency in a risk-free virtual environment so they can work more safely and efficiently.

The 2018 Humboldt bus catastrophe sent shock waves across the industry. The tragedy highlighted the need for standardized commercial driver training and testing. It also contributed to the acceleration of the federal government implementing a Mandatory Entry-Level Training (MELT) program for Class 1 & 2 drivers currently being adopted across Canada. MELT is a much more rigorous standard that promotes safety and in-depth practice for new drivers.

Enter Serious Labs. By proposing to harness the power of virtual reality (VR), Serious Labs has earned considerable funding to develop a VR commercial truck driving simulator.

The Government of Alberta has awarded $1 million, and Emissions Reduction Alberta (ERA) is contributing an additional $2 million for the simulator development. Commercial deployment is estimated to begin in 2024, with the simulator to be made available across Canada and the United States, and with the Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA) helping to provide simulator tests to certify that driver trainees have attained the appropriate standard. West Tech Report recently took the opportunity to chat with Serious Labs CEO, Jim Colvin, about the environmental and labour benefits of VR Driver Training, as well as the unique way that Colvin went from angel investor to CEO of the company.

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Next-Gen Tech Company Pops on New Cover Detection Test

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While the world comes out of the initial stages of the pandemic, COVID-19 will be continue to be a threat for some time to come. Companies, such as Zen Graphene, are working on ways to detect the virus and its variants and are on the forefronts of technology.

Nanotechnology firm ZEN Graphene Solutions Ltd. (TSX-Venture:ZEN) (OTCPK:ZENYF), is working to develop technology to help detect the COVID-19 virus and its variants. The firm signed an exclusive agreement with McMaster University to be the global commercializing partner for a newly developed aptamer-based, SARS-CoV-2 rapid detection technology.

This patent-pending technology uses clinical samples from patients and was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. The test is considered extremely accurate, scalable, saliva-based, affordable, and provides results in under 10 minutes.

Shares were trading up over 5% to $3.07 in early afternoon trade.

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