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I think it's very important to have a feedback loop, where you're constantly thinking about what you've done and how you could be doing it better. I think that's the single best piece of advice: constantly think about how you could be doing things better and questioning yourself.

                                                                                       - Elon Musk

 

 

Two great things happened this week - two companies announced flights to space! It started with Virgin Galactic. Virgin Galactic has signed a deal with the US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA), which will allow it to charter space flights from its base in the US state of New Mexico. The agreement lays out rules for how the flights will be integrated into US air space. In a statement, Virgin Galactic said the deal brings it "another step closer" to commercial space flights. The firm hopes to launch its first flight by the end of 2014.

 

 

It continued with incredible Elon Musk and his SpaceX. SpaceX, which has flown unmanned cargo capsules to the International Space Station, planned to unveil a spacecraft Thursday designed to ferry astronauts to low-Earth orbit. In a NASA briefing with reporters last year, Musk said the manned version would look futuristic, like an "alien spaceship" with side-mounted thrusters, landing legs that pop out and large windows for astronauts to marvel at Earth's curvature. Since the shuttle fleet retired in 2011, NASA has depended on Russian rockets to transport astronauts to orbit and back, paying nearly $71 million per seat. The space agency has said it wants U.S. companies to fill the void by 2017 and has given out seed money to spur innovation. SpaceX- short for Space Exploration Technologies Corp. - has made four cargo runs to the orbiting outpost. Just last month, its Dragon capsule splashed into the Pacific, returning nearly 2 tons of science experiments and old equipment.


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What we saw today is called Dragon v2. This is the first attempt by a private company to restore Americans' ability to send people to the orbiting space station in the wake of the space shuttle program's retirement in 2011. The shiny Dragon V2 shown on a white stage floor, as a scorched Dragon cargo capsule was suspended above, bearing the blackened markings of a capsule that had returned to Earth from orbit. Musk said a key feature of the Dragon V2 is that it will be able to "land anywhere on Earth with the accuracy of a helicopter". The crew spacecraft will be able to use rocket propulsion and deploy legs to land, instead of using parachutes to make an ocean splash-landing the way the cargo capsule does. It will however still have parachutes that it can use for a landing in case any engine problems are detected before touchdown on Earth. The V2 also carries an improved heat shield and will be able to autonomously dock with the space station, instead of needing the space station's robotic arm to catch it and pull it in. Musk touted the reusability of the Dragon V2, allowing it to cut back on expensive space journeys. Well, finally, as throwing aways rockets and ships made space journeys very expensive. SpaceX has said its crew capsule may be able to reach the ISS with astronauts aboard by 2017. Meanwhile, NASA says it is focusing on building a new deep space capsule that could take humans to Mars by the 2030s.  You can check Dragon V2: The SpaceX next generation space capsule for mode details and whole recording of presentation.

 

 

What about doing something about transportation here on the ground... No problem - check The Flying Car That Could Expedite Your Morning Commute.

 

 

Meanwhile, Google is becoming corporation as from some futuristic movie with fingers everywhere - including earthly traffic with their Google self-driving cars.

 

 

ATLAS has launched a very intriguing competition. You can participate too, if you have some programming skills; no knowledge of particle physics is needed as Tommaso says on this blog - see ATLAS Challenges You: Can You Discover The Higgs ?.  All you need to do is - go through the given data set and find Higgs.  Well, I doubt you can do this without any knowledge of particle physics.  It was funny to see some reaction on other blogs.  Tommaso, who is part of CDF @ LHC joined challenge and I was quote sure Lubos Motl would too - just to be better than him. His first blog about this was The Reference Frame: ATLAS: find Higgs, win $7k and he did quick and dirty code and got into the challenge.  Then, after just two days, he refined his code and got number 9 - see The Reference Frame: Higgs contest, top ten. Well, congratulations to Lubos.  And as expected, he didn't miss to mention Tommaso neither who holds 116th place (at least back then). Lubos message to him was - "Maybe he should try to learn some string theory if he's not too good at evaluating the data from particle physics experiments. Or better not... ;-)" It remains to be seen how this game will finish, but it is loads of fun for sure. Lubos blog also has some nice updates in comment area.

 

The recent BICEP2 observations - of swirls in the polarisation of the cosmic microwave background - have been proclaimed as many things, from evidence of the Big Bang and gravitational waves to something strange called the multiverse. Adam Falkowski, a physicist working at CERN, on his Particle Physics Blog, is claiming that researchers on the BICEP2 team that uploaded a paper to the arXiv preprint server this past March have acknowledged to some in the science community that there may be a problem with their methodology. Members of the BICEP2 research team are denying Falkowski's claim, but the assertion has led to rumors on the Internet that the team may not have found evidence of cosmic inflation after all. Now, you may remember when I wrote on this subject that this has to be confirmed first by the others - and same statement remains.  It is exciting claim and I cheer for it, but it needs to be verified first.

 

For those who might not remember, BICEP2 is a project working to detect polarized light within the cosmic microwave background (CMB). Specifically they were looking for a type of polarization known as B-mode polarization. Detection of B-mode polarization is important because one mechanism for it is cosmic inflation in the early universe, which is exactly what BICEP2 claimed to have evidence of. Part of the reason BICEP2 got so much press is because B-mode polarization is particularly difficult to detect. It is a small signal, and you have to filter through a great deal of observational data to be sure that your result is valid. But you also have to worry about other sources that look like B-mode polarization, and if you don't account for them properly, then you could get a "false positive". That's where this latest drama arises.

 

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In general this challenge is sometimes called the foreground problem. Basically, the cosmic microwave background is the most distant light we can observe. All the galaxies, dust, interstellar plasma and our own galaxy is between us and the CMB. So to make sure that the data you gather is really from the CMB, you have to account for all the stuff in the way (the foreground). We have ways of doing this, but it is difficult. The big challenge is to account for everything. Soon after the BICEP2 results, another team noted a foreground effect that could effect the BICEP2 results. It involves an effect known as radio loops, where dust particles trapped in interstellar magnetic fields can emit polarized light similar to B-mode polarization. How much of an effect this might have is unclear. Another project being done with the Planck satellite is also looking at this foreground effect, and has released some initial results, but hasn't yet released the actual data yet.

 

Now it has come to light that BICEP2 did, in fact, take some of this foreground polarization into account, in part using results from Planck. But since the raw data hadn't been released, the team used data taken from a PDF slide of Planck results and basically reverse-engineered the Planck data. It is sometimes referred to as "data scraping", and it isn't ideal, but it works moderately well. Now there is some debate as to whether that slide presented the real foreground polarization or some averaged polarization. If it is the latter, then the BICEP2 results may have underestimated the foreground effect. Does this mean the BICEP2 results are completely invalid? Given what I've seen so far, I don't think it does. Keep in mind that the Planck foreground is one of several foreground effects that BICEP2 did account for. It could be a large error, but it could also be a rather minor one.

 

The important thing to keep in mind is that the BICEP2 paper is still undergoing peer review. Critical analysis of the paper is exactly what should happen, and is happening. This type review used to be confined to the ivory towers, but with social media it now happens in the open. This is how science is done. BICEP2 has made a bold claim, and now everyone gets to whack at them like a piñata. The BICEP2 team stands by their work, and so we'll have to see whether it holds up to peer review. We'll also have to wait for the Planck team to release their results on B-mode polarization. Eventually the dust will settle and we'll have a much better handle on the results.

 

Here is Peter Woit's take on this subject: BICEP2 News. Sabine Hossenfelder had her take in Backreaction: What is direct evidence and does the BICEP2 measurement prove that gravity must be quantized? Jester was following this very closely and you can read his pieces: Is BICEP wrong?, Follow up on BICEP and Weekend plot: BICEP limits on tensor modes.  Lubos Motl has his take in BICEP2 vs Planck: nothing wrong with screen scraping. Matt Strassler joined too with Will BICEP2 Lose Some of Its Muscle? and The BICEP2 Dust-Up Continues. As Jester said, "BICEP may remain a Schrödinger cat for a little while longer".

 

One important note: even if BICEP2 results turn out to be bogus, this has no effect on inflation theory.  Read Don’t believe in cosmic inflation? You’re not alone, but you’re probably wrong for some more details.

 

New images of Earth's Moon reveal more than can be seen with the naked eye, thanks to the combined efforts of the two largest radio telescopes of their kind - the National Radio Astronomy Observatory's Green Bank Telescope (GBT) in West Virginia and the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico.

 

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The first image reveals previously hidden features around an area known as Mare Serenitatis, or the Sea of Serenity, which is near the Apollo 17 landing site. The radar observations were able to "see" approximately 10-15 meters below the lunar surface. The light and dark features are the result of compositional changes in the lunar dust and differences in the abundance of rocks buried within the soil.

 

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The second image is a similar observation of the lunar impact crater known as Aristillus. The radar echoes reveal geologic features of the large debris field created by the force of the impact. The dark "halo" surrounding the crater is due to pulverized debris beyond the rugged, radar-bright rim deposits. The image also shows traces of lava-like features produced when lunar rock melted from the heat of the impact. The crater is approximately 55 km in diameter and 3.5 km deep.

 

An El Niño is a change in Pacific Ocean and atmosphere that typically causes drought, extreme heat and bushfires in Australia. Last year was a neutral El Niño and we have been surprisingly lucky with only a few small El Niño's since the 21st century started, despite having two of the hottest years on record globally in 2005 and 2010. The last really big El Niño was in 1997/98. It is no coincidence that 1998 is the only remaining year from the past century that still sits in the top 10 for the hottest years, globally, on record. We are about to leave May and despite being seven months away from next summer in the southern hemisphere, climate researchers are seeing the beginnings of what could be the most powerful El Niño event since 1997/98. By itself, research shows an El Niño event can raise the global average temperature for the following year by 0.1 to 0.2C. It is one of the reasons many climate scientists have been concerned about what could happen if another strong El Niño was to occur.

 

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Over the past month and a half, three strong westerly wind blasts along the equator appear to have triggered ocean subsurface warming. The warming has intensified and rolled to the eastern equatorial Pacific - a strong sign of a developing El Niño. But it is not the ocean warming by itself that is significant, it is also the amount of water involved. Even at this early stage the equatorial Pacific is storing the largest amount of warm water since 1997/98. From these observations, it appears that a very strong El Niño may be initiated. Forecasters suggest the probability of an El Niño is now above 70%, which is a remarkable estimate considering the time of year.

 

 

To trigger an El Niño requires significant warming of the ocean and a number of very strong wind blasts from west to east off the coast of Papua New Guinea. These blasts push the warm ocean waters to the eastern Pacific off South America and set up El Niño conditions. This year has already seen three such powerful wind blasts. The most recent directly led to the tropical low that generated severe flooding in the Solomon Islands and later developed into Category 5 Tropical Cyclone Ita. It is only when the wind blasts pick up across the equator in winter, when the ocean and atmosphere interaction becomes stronger, that forecasters can get a better estimate of the likely strength of the El Niño by monitoring two key indicators:

  • The first is the temperature difference between water in the eastern Pacific and the western Pacific. The smaller the difference, the more likely it will be a strong El Niño event.
  • The second is the volume of warm water across the equatorial Pacific Ocean – the greater the volume, the stronger the event.

 

These indicators usually appear six months before the event which is why the winter period is important for forecasting an El Niño. But as we have seen, the amount of warm water is already large this autumn - the largest since the 1997/98 Super El Niño event. Recent research found that the Super El Niño events of 1982 and 1997 had a very distinct characteristic that didn't appear until spring. Standard El Niño events warm first in the Eastern Pacific and then spread to the west. Super El Niño events do the reverse, starting in a more westerly location and then spreading east back towards the Americas. This causes much higher sea surface temperatures over a much larger area, which in turn has powerful effects on the location of rainfall and weather systems. The research also showed that these unusual El Niño occurrences would double in frequency with global warming and new research is pointing to how El Niño events may change in the future.

 

And just to give you a clue why does this matter, check this out: up to half of the recent warming in Greenland and neighboring parts of the Canadian Arctic may be due to climate variations that originate in the tropical Pacific and are not connected with the overall warming of the planet. The other portion is likely due to global warming. For details, see here. Rising temperatures and ash from Northern Hemisphere forest fires combined to cause large-scale surface melting of the Greenland ice sheet in 1889 and 2012, contradicting conventional thinking that the melt events were driven by warming alone. For details see Climate change and forest fires synergistically drive widespread melt events of the Greenland Ice Sheet.

 

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Inspired by the Titanic ship sinking, photographer Simon Harsent's book, Melt: Portrait of an Iceberg, explores how these huge chunks of ice change over time. Often photographs of icebergs are saturated with color and bright light - looking like postcards - but Harsent took a different approach.  Please check Melt: Portrait of an Iceberg.

 

Atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations have crossed a new threshold, the UN's weather agency said Monday, highlighting the urgency of curbing manmade, climate-altering greenhouse gases. In April, for the first time, the mean monthly CO2 concentration in the atmosphere topped 400 parts per million (ppm) throughout the northern hemisphere, which pollutes more than the south, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said.

 

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New research shows the first detailed look at global land surface warming trends over the last 100 years, illustrating precisely when and where different areas of the world started to warm up or cool down. For example, from about 1910 to 1980, while the rest of the world was warming up, some areas south of the equator - near the Andes - were actually cooling down, and then had no change at all until the mid 1990s. Other areas near and south of the equator didn't see significant changes comparable to the rest of the world at all. For more details check here.

 

New research has explained why Antarctica is not warming as much as other continents, and why southern Australia is recording more droughts. Researchers have found rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are strengthening the stormy Southern Ocean winds which deliver rain to southern Australia, but pushing them further south towards Antarctica. See Ocean winds keep Australia dry, Antarctica cold for details.

 

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Scientists have revealed that Earth's mantle under Antarctica is at a lower viscosity and moving at such a rapid rate it is changing the shape of the land at a rate that can be recorded by GPS. They have explained for the first time why the upward motion of Earth's crust in the Northern Antarctic Peninsula is currently taking place so quickly. For details see Rapid bedrock uplift in the Antarctic Peninsula explained by viscoelastic response to recent ice unloading.

 

A newly-discovered source of oceanic bioavailable iron could have a major impact our understanding of marine food chains and global warming. Scientists have discovered that summer meltwaters from ice sheets are rich in iron, which will have important implications on phytoplankton growth. For details, see Study shows iron from melting ice sheets may help buffer global warming.

 

However, the biggest new most likely in past few weeks was one of a new study finding a rapidly melting section of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet to be in an irreversible state of decline, with nothing to stop the glaciers in this area from melting into the sea. The study presents multiple lines of evidence, incorporating 40 years of observations that indicate the glaciers in the Amundsen Sea sector of West Antarctica "have passed the point of no return". These glaciers already contribute significantly to sea level rise, releasing almost as much ice into the ocean annually as the entire Greenland Ice Sheet. They contain enough ice to raise global sea level by 1.2 meters and are melting faster than most scientists had expected. The good news is that while the word "collapse" implies a sudden change, the fastest scenario is 200 years, and the longest is more than 1000 years. Still, sea level rise is threatening the majority of NASA's launch pads and multi-billion dollar complexes famous for training astronauts and launching historic missions to space.

 

Three years of observations show that the Antarctic ice sheet is now losing 159 billion tons of ice each year - twice as much as when it was last surveyed. Scientists have now produced the first complete assessment of Antarctic ice sheet elevation change. For details, see Increased ice losses from Antarctica detected by CryoSat-2 - McMillan - Geophysical Research Letters - Wiley Online Libr…

 

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Three major lines of evidence point to the glaciers' eventual demise: the changes in their flow speeds, how much of each glacier floats on seawater, and the slope of the terrain they are flowing over and its depth below sea level. The glaciers flow out from land to the ocean, with their leading edges afloat on the seawater. The point on a glacier where it first loses contact with land is called the grounding line. Nearly all glacier melt occurs on the underside of the glacier beyond the grounding line, on the section floating on seawater. Just as a grounded boat can float again on shallow water if it is made lighter, a glacier can float over an area where it used to be grounded if it becomes lighter, which it does by melting or by the thinning effects of the glacier stretching out. The Antarctic glaciers studied have thinned so much they are now floating above places where they used to sit solidly on land, which means their grounding lines are retreating inland.

 

The team used radar observations captured between 1992 and 2011 by the European Earth Remote Sensing (ERS-1 and -2) satellites to map the grounding lines' retreat inland. The satellites use a technique called radar interferometry, which enables scientists to measure very precisely - within less than a quarter of an inch - how much Earth's surface is moving. Glaciers move horizontally as they flow downstream, but their floating portions also rise and fall vertically with changes in the tides. The accelerating flow speeds and retreating grounding lines reinforce each other. As glaciers flow faster, they stretch out and thin, which reduces their weight and lifts them farther off the bedrock. As the grounding line retreats and more of the glacier becomes waterborne, there's less resistance underneath, so the flow accelerates.

 

Slowing or stopping these changes requires pinning points - bumps or hills rising from the glacier bed that snag the ice from underneath. To locate these points, researchers produced a more accurate map of bed elevation that combines ice velocity data from ERS-1 and -2 and ice thickness data from NASA's Operation IceBridge mission and other airborne campaigns. The results confirm no pinning points are present upstream of the present grounding lines in five of the six glaciers. Only Haynes Glacier has major bedrock obstructions upstream, but it drains a small sector and is retreating as rapidly as the other glaciers. The bedrock topography is another key to the fate of the ice in this basin. All the glacier beds slope deeper below sea level as they extend farther inland. As the glaciers retreat, they cannot escape the reach of the ocean, and the warm water will keep melting them even more rapidly. Because of the importance of this part of West Antarctica, NASA's Operation IceBridge will continue to monitor its evolution closely during this year's Antarctica deployment, which begins in October. IceBridge uses a specialized fleet of research aircraft carrying the most sophisticated suite of science instruments ever assembled to characterize changes in thickness of glaciers, ice sheets and sea ice.

 

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The US Global Change Research Program has released the Third National Climate Assessment, the most comprehensive, authoritative, transparent scientific report on U.S. climate change impacts ever generated. The report confirms that climate change is affecting every region of the country and key sectors of the U.S. economy and society, underscoring the need to combat the threats climate change presents and increase the preparedness and resilience of American communities. The Third National Climate Assessment is available to download and can be explored interactively (http://nca2014.globalchange.gov/) through a newly redeployed website (http://www.globalchange.gov/). 

 

A new analysis of corn production in the American Midwest has determined that today's crop yields are more sensitive than ever to bad weather, and especially to drought conditions anticipated under likely climate change scenarios. For details see Greater Sensitivity to Drought Accompanies Maize Yield Increase in the U.S. Midwest. Ask American farmers about climate change and who or what is causing it, though, and you're likely to get a collective shrug in response.

 

Powerful, destructive tropical cyclones are now reaching their peak intensity farther from the equator and closer to the poles, according to a new study. The results of the study show that over the last 30 years, tropical cyclones - also known as hurricanes or typhoons - are moving poleward at a rate of about 33 miles per decade in the Northern Hemisphere and 38 miles per decade in the Southern Hemisphere. For more information see Study: Dangerous storms peaking further north, south than in past.

 

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Ozone pollution across the continental United States will become far more difficult to keep in check as temperatures rise, according to new research led by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). The detailed study shows that Americans face the risk of a 70 percent increase in unhealthy summertime ozone levels by 2050. For details see Climate change threatens to worsen U.S. ozone pollution.

 

Dryland ecosystems, which include deserts to dry-shrublands, play a more important role in the global carbon cycle than previously thought. In fact, they have emerged as one of its drivers. Surprised by the discovery, researchers urged global ecologists to include the emerging role of dryland ecosystems in their research. For more details. see here.

 

A small team of researchers from Australia and New Zealand has found that large waves caused by ocean storms appears to be playing a bigger role in breaking up polar sea ice than has been thought. In their paper published in the journal Nature, the team describes how they set up sensors to measure the impact of waves on sea ice and how their findings might help explain why sea ice is increasing in some parts of the world and decreasing in others. For more details, see here.

 

Researchers found that negative media reports seem to have only a passing effect on public opinion, but that positive stories don't appear to possess much staying power, either. This dynamic suggests that climate scientists should reexamine how to effectively and more regularly engage the public. For more information, see Public interest in climate change unshaken by scandal, but unstirred by science.

 

A new study has shown that streaming can be much better for the environment, requiring less energy and emitting less carbon dioxide, than some traditional methods of DVD renting, buying and viewing. The study's authors cite modern devices such as laptops and tablets as the reason for this improvement, as they are much more efficient than older, energy-sapping DVD players. For more information, see The energy and greenhouse-gas implications of internet video streaming in the United States.

 

And for the end - there is still hope for the climate, even if a world-wide climate accord proves to be unattainable. A new report shows that regional measures can hold the global rise in temperature within the two-degree limit. For details, see Regional cures for planetary fever.

 

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In the movies, humans often fear invaders from Mars. These days, scientists are more concerned about invaders to Mars, in the form of micro-organisms from Earth. Three recent scientific papers examined the risks of interplanetary exchange of organisms using research from the International Space Station.

 

Organisms hitching a ride on a spacecraft have the potential to contaminate other celestial bodies, making it difficult for scientists to determine whether a life form existed on another planet or was introduced there by explorers. So it's important to know what types of micro-organisms from Earth can survive on a spacecraft or landing vehicle. Currently, spacecraft landing on Mars or other planets where life might exist must meet requirements for a maximum allowable level of microbial life, or bioburden. These acceptable levels were based on studies of how various life forms survive exposure to the rigors associated with space travel. Spore-forming bacteria are of particular concern because spores can withstand certain sterilization procedures and may best be able to survive the harsh environments of outer space or planetary surfaces. Spores of Bacillus pumilus SAFR-032 have shown especially high resistance to techniques used to clean spacecraft, such as ultraviolet (UV) radiation and peroxide treatment. When researchers exposed this hardy organism to a simulated Mars environment that kills standard spores in 30 seconds, it survived 30 minutes. For one of the recent experiments, Bacillus pumilus SAFR-032 spores were exposed for 18 months on the European Technology Exposure Facility (EuTEF), a test facility mounted outside the space station - some of the spores survived for 18 months. These surviving spores had higher concentrations of proteins associated with UV radiation resistance and, in fact, showed elevated UV resistance when revived and re-exposed on Earth. For details see here.

 

In another investigation, spores of Bacillus pumilus SAFR-032 and another spore-forming bacteria, Bacillus subtilis 168, were dried on pieces of spacecraft-quality aluminum and subjected for 1.5 years to the vacuum of space, cosmic and extraterrestrial solar radiation and temperature fluctuations on EuTEF. These samples also were subjected to a simulated Martian atmosphere using EuTEF. Most of the organisms exposed to solar UV radiation in space and in the Mars spectrum were killed, but when UV rays were filtered out and samples were kept in the dark, about 50 percent or more of those subjected to other space- and Mars-like conditions survived. That makes it likely that spores could survive a trip on a spacecraft to Mars if they are sheltered against solar radiation, perhaps in a tiny pocket of the spacecraft surface or underneath a layer of other spores. For details see here.

 

The third study placed rock-colonizing cellular organisms in the EuTEF facility for 1.5 years, further testing a theory of how organisms might move from one planet to another, known as lithopanspermia. In this scenario, rocks ejected from a planet by impact with, say, a meteor, carried organisms on their surface through space and then landed on another planet, bringing that life with them. For this investigation, researchers selected organisms especially adapted to cope with the environmental extremes of their natural habitats on Earth, and found that some are also able to survive in the even more hostile environment of outer space. Lithopanspermia would require thousands or even millions of years, much longer than the experiment's duration, but results provide the first evidence of the hardiness of these organisms in space and suggest the possibility that space-traveling rocks could carry life between planets. For details see here.

 

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October 24, 2012, observatories across the world were alerted about a huge stellar explosion, the GRB121024A, which had been located just hours before in the Eridanus constellation by NASA's Swift satellite. However, only the European Southern Observatory using its Very Large Telescope (VLT) located in the Atacama desert in Chile managed to take accurate polarimetric measurements of the phenomenon. The data obtained on that explosion, which took place about 11,000 million years ago, have made it possible to reconstruct how a black hole is formed. There is no other event in the cosmos that can compete in terms of energy and intensity with stellar explosions on the outer reaches of the universe and which are known as LGRBs (Long Gamma-Ray Bursts): in just one second a single GRB can emit as many as hundreds of stars like the Sun during its 10000-million-year-lifetime. For the last decade astrophysicists have been in possession of strong evidence that LGRBs occur when the so-called massive stars burst; these are huge stars with masses of up to hundreds of times bigger than that of the Sun and which, moreover, spin rapidly on a rotation axis.

 

As these stars are massive and spin, they do not explode like a normal star, which does so radially, as a ball does when it deflates, for example. The implosion of these huge stars would produce, according to theoretical models, a huge spinning top, which would turn in the way that water rotates down the plughole of a basin, until a black hole is finally formed. The energy given off by this gigantic explosion would be emitted in two jets displaying a high level of energy and which would be aligned with the rotation axis of the dying star. What is more, all these stars have magnetic fields. And these are intensified further if they rotate rapidly, as in the case of the LGRBs. So during the internal collapse of the star towards the central black hole, the magnetic fields of the star would also swirl around the star's rotation axis. And during the collapse of the star, a powerful "magnetic geyser" would be produced and be ejected from the environment of the black hole that is being formed; the effects of this can be felt at distances of billions of kilometres.

 

This complex scenario led one to predict that the light emitted during the explosion of the star must have been circularly polarized as if it were a *****. And that is what, for the first time, the authors have detected in Chile: a circularly polarized light that is the direct consequence of a black hole "recently" created on the outer reaches of the Universe and which has been confirmed by the theoretical model. What is more, an optical circular polarization to such a high degree had never been detected, and nor had one been detected in such a distant source. All this indicates that the GRB121024A is an extraordinary event.

 

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Top left box (a): Image of the field of the GRB121024A captured by the Very Large Telescope (VLT), Chile. The GRB121024A is the point marked by the dotted lines. The glow of the GRB121024A in the image does not correspond to its distance from the Earth. In fact, as can be seen, the GRB121024A is one of the brightest objects in the field, despite being one of the most distant, if not the most distant one, in the image. So the point marked corresponds to the explosion of a star about ~11,000 million years ago when the age of the Universe was only one third of what it is now. General box (b): Artist's impression of the GRB121024A. It is possible to see the jets emerging from the dying star in the centre of which a black hole would form. The blue wave spread by the jet represents the circular polarization detected.

 

 

Quick notes:

  • Remember this October a comet will brush past Mars, giving scientists a chance to study how it possibly interacts with a planetary atmosphere? Although an impact of the comet on the surface of the Red Planet has long been ruled out, a paper in the May 2014 issue of Icarus raises the interesting possibility of possible interactions of the coma of A1 Siding Spring and the tenuous atmosphere of Mars. For more details see Perturbation of the Mars atmosphere by the near-collision with Comet C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring).
  • The stage is set for a new, super-heavy element to be added to the periodic table following research published in the latest Physics Review Letters. Led by researchers at Germany's GSI laboratory, the team created atoms of element 117, matching the heaviest atoms ever observed, which are 40 per cent heavier than an atom of lead. Initial reports about the discovery of an element with atomic number 117 were released in 2010 from a Russia-U.S. collaboration working at the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna, Russia. For details see Phys. Rev. Lett. 112, 172501 (2014).
  • Cassini spacecraft has captured its first-ever image of the pale blue ice-giant planet Uranus in the distance beyond Saturn's rings. The image is available at Space Images: Blue Orb on the Horizon.
  • Scientists have discovered a new species of long-snouted tyrannosaur, nicknamed Pinocchio rex, which stalked the Earth more than 66 million years ago. Researchers say the animal, which belonged to the same dinosaur family as Tyrannosaurus rex, was a fearsome carnivore that lived in Asia during the late Cretaceous period. The newly found ancient predator looked very different from most other tyrannosaurs. For more information see here.
  • How does Earth move through galaxy? Ethan has answer - see Ask Ethan #37: The Earth’s Motion Through The Galaxy.
  • Magnetars are a class of neutron star—both trace their origins to a supernova. What sets them apart is the strength of their magnetic fields - magnetars, as their name implies, are very strongly magnetic, with some measured at 10^11 Tesla, approximately a billion times stronger than anything found on Earth. They are also extremely dense, of course, and somewhat small - generally no more than 20km in diameter. For some time, space scientists have theorized that magnetars also have a second doughnut-shaped (torus) magnetic field surrounding their equator, perhaps even stronger than the one measured at their surface. In new effort, the researchers appear to have found evidence for just such a magnetic field surrounding magnetar 4U 0142+61. If this new theory by the team in Japan proves to be true, then the wobbling of 4U 0142+61 should be causing gravity waves to be generated, and if that is the case, then future gravity wave detectors should be able to prove that magnetars due indeed have extremely strong gravity fields hovering over their equators.
  • All of Rosetta's 11 science instruments and the lander Philae have now been successfully switched on.

 

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  • Scientists analyzed the chemical elements in the faintest known galaxy, called Segue 1, and determined that it is effectively a fossil galaxy left over from the early universe. Stars form from gas clouds and their composition mirrors the chemical composition of the galactic gas from which they were born. Results suggests that Segue 1 is the least chemically evolved galaxy known. After the initial few supernova explosions, it appears that only a single generation of new stars were formed, and then for the last 13 billion years the galaxy has not been creating stars. Because it has stayed in the same state for so long, Segue 1 offers unique information about the conditions in the universe shortly after the Big Bang. Other galaxies have undergone multiple supernova explosions since their formation. The first supernovae to blow up, from the most massive stars, produce elements like magnesium, silicon, and calcium. Later explosions of smaller stars primarily make iron. Segue 1's uniquely low iron abundance relative to other elements shows that its star formation must have stopped before any of the iron-forming supernovae occurred. This truncated evolution means that the products of the first explosions in Segue 1 have been preserved. Intriguingly, very heavy elements like barium and strontium are nearly absent from Segue 1's stars. For more information see here.
  • An eight-kilometer-wide crater suggests a meteorite strike devastated southern Alberta within the last 70 million years, experts theorize. Time and glaciers have buried and eroded much of the evidence, making it impossible at this point to say with full certainty the ring-like structure was caused by a meteorite impact, but that's what seismic and geological evidence strongly suggests. For more details see The Bow City structure, southern Alberta, Canada: The deep roots of a complex impact structure? - Glombick - 2014 - Mete…
  • The largest moon in our solar system, a companion to Jupiter named Ganymede, might have ice and oceans stacked up in several layers like a club sandwich. For more information see Ganymede׳s internal structure including thermodynamics of magnesium sulfate oceans in contact with ice.

 

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  • What is the secret to aging more slowly and living longer? Not antioxidants, apparently. Many people believe that free radicals, the sometimes-toxic molecules produced by our bodies as we process oxygen, are the culprit behind aging. Yet a number of studies in recent years have produced evidence that the opposite may be true. A team of researchers discovered that free radicals - also known as oxidants - act on a molecular mechanism that, in other circumstances, tells a cell to kill itself. For more information see here.
  • Scientists from the University of the Philippines, Los Baños have discovered a new plant species with an unusual lifestyle - it eats nickel for a living - accumulating up to 18000 ppm of the metal in its leaves without itself being poisoned. For more information, see Rinorea niccolifera (Violaceae), a new, nickel-hyperaccumulating species from Luzon Island, Philippines.
  • When the doctor gives us medicine, it is often in the shape of a pill. But when it comes to brain diseases, pills are actually an extremely inefficient way to deliver drugs to the brain, and according to researchers, we need to find new and more efficient ways of transporting drugs to the brain. Spraying the patient's nose could be one such way. For details, see β-Cyclodextrin-dextran polymers for the solubilization of poorly soluble drugs.
  • The House Appropriations Committee recommended $17.9 billion in funding for NASA, significantly boosting planetary science programs at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and continuing operation of a flying telescope. However, the committee also expressed doubts about the feasibility of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's proposed plan to capture an asteroid and tow it into orbit around the moon. Because of this, the committee said that funding for the so-called Asteroid Redirect Mission should be "carefully constrained".
  • On March 29, 2014, an X-class flare erupted from the right side of the sun ... and vaulted into history as the best-observed flare of all time. The flare was witnessed by four different NASA spacecraft and one ground-based observatory - three of which had been fortuitously focused in on the correct spot as programmed into their viewing schedule a full day in advance.

 

 

  • Short height and long life have a direct connection in Japanese men, according to new research. Shorter men are more likely to have a protective form of the longevity gene, FOXO3, leading to smaller body size during early development and a longer lifespan. Shorter men are also more likely to have lower blood insulin levels and less cancer. For details see Mānoa: Short men may live longer, according to UH-Kuakini Medical Center study.
  • Astronomers have identified the first "sibling" of the Sun - a star that was almost certainly born from the same cloud of gas and dust as our star. The newly developed methods for locating the Sun's 'siblings' will help other astronomers find other "solar siblings," work that could lead to an understanding of how and where our Sun formed, and how our solar system became hospitable for life.

 

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The solar sibling his team identified is a star called HD 162826, a star 15 percent more massive than the Sun, located 110 light-years away in the constellation Hercules. The star is not visible to the unaided eye, but easily can be seen with low-power binoculars, not far from the bright star Vega. The team identified HD 162826 as the Sun's sibling by following up on 30 possible candidates found by several groups around the world looking for solar siblings. All of these observations used high-resolution spectroscopy to get a deep understanding of the stars' chemical make-up. Combining information on both chemical make-up and dynamics of the candidates narrowed the field down to one: HD 162826. The idea is that the Sun was born in a cluster with a thousand or a hundred thousand stars. This cluster, which formed more than 4.5 billion years ago, has since broken up. A lot of things can happen in that amount of time. The member stars have broken off into their own orbits around the galactic center, taking them to different parts of the Milky Way today. A few, like HD 162826, are still nearby. Others are much farther afield. For more details see Astronomers Find Sun’s ‘Long-Lost Brother,’ Pave Way for Family Reunion.

 

 

  • Although quantum tunneling has been observed on large scales, no one has yet actually measured the tunneling of a single particle until now. Physicists report using an ion trap system to observe the Aharonov-Bohm effect with quantum tunneling. The AB effect demonstrates that a magnetic field inside a confined region can have a measureable impact on a charged particle which never traveled inside the region. For more details see here.
  • Scientists have discovered new evidence to suggest that lightning on Earth is triggered not only by cosmic rays from space, but also by energetic particles from the sun. Researchers found a link between increased thunderstorm activity on Earth and streams of high-energy particles accelerated by the solar wind, offering compelling evidence that particles from space help trigger lightning bolts. For more information see Evidence for solar wind modulation of lightning.

 

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  • Recent Hubble observations confirm that Jupiter's Great Red Spot, a swirling storm feature larger than Earth, has shrunken to the smallest size astronomers have ever measured (Jupiter's Great Red Spot is a churning anticyclonic storm). For more information see The shrinking of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot.
  • Ethan has nice article about asteroids - see Throwback Thursday: The Truth About Asteroids.
  • Using one of the world's largest telescopes, astronomers have tracked the orbit of a planet at least four times the size of Jupiter. The scientists were able to identify the orbit of the exoplanet, Beta Pictoris b, which sits 63 light years from our solar system, by using the Gemini Planet Imager's (GPI) next-generation, high-contrast adaptive optics (AO) system. For details see Giant telescope tackles orbit and size of exoplanet.

 

 

  • Physicists have discovered how to create matter from light -- a feat thought impossible when the idea was first theorized 80 years ago. In just one day over several cups of coffee in a tiny office, three physicists worked out a relatively simple way to physically prove a theory first devised by scientists Breit and Wheeler in 1934. Breit and Wheeler suggested that it should be possible to turn light into matter by smashing together only two particles of light (photons), to create an electron and a positron - the simplest method of turning light into matter ever predicted. The calculation was found to be theoretically sound, but Breit and Wheeler said that they never expected anybody to physically demonstrate their prediction. For details see Scientists discover how to turn light into matter after 80-year quest.
  • Many people are concerned that electric cars produce dangerous magnetic fields. New research shows that this is not the case. For more details see No danger from magnetic fields in electric cars.
  • Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have engineered a bacterium whose genetic material includes an added pair of DNA "letters," or bases, not found in nature. The cells of this unique bacterium can replicate the unnatural DNA bases more or less normally, for as long as the molecular building blocks are supplied. We are officially gods now.

 

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  • Preserved giant sperm from tiny shrimps that lived at least 17 million years ago have been discovered at the Riversleigh World Heritage Fossil Site by a team including UNSW Australia researchers. The giant sperm are thought to have been longer than the male's entire body, but are tightly coiled up inside the sexual organs of the fossilised freshwater crustaceans, which are known as ostracods. For details, see here.
  • Radio waves disrupt the magnetic "compass" in robins, according to a study published that is likely to fuel debate about the safety of electronic devices. For details see here.

 

 

  • Oxygen is a signal of life on our own planet, but that's not necessarily the case elsewhere. Particularly when it comes to young planets, signs of oxygen do not necessarily indicate the presence of biological processes. You can find more information by reading [1403.2713] Abiotic oxygen-dominated atmospheres on terrestrial habitable zone planets.
  • For a century biologists have thought they understood how the gooey growth that occurs inside cells caused their protective outer walls to expand. Now, using new microscopic video techniques, Stanford researchers have captured the visual evidence to prove the prevailing wisdom wrong. More information can be found in Response of Escherichia coli growth rate to osmotic shock.
  • A star was recently spotted speeding at 2.2 million km/hr, which happened to be the closest and second-brightest of the so-called "hypervelocity" stars found so far. What's interesting about the star, besides its pure speed, is it is travelling in a "dark matter" halo surrounding our galaxies. We can't see the dark matter halo, but its gravity acts on the star. We gain insight from the star's trajectory and velocity, which are affected by gravity from different parts of our galaxy.
  • Carbon-rich planets may be more common than previously thought. Some of these planets, all located far beyond Earth's solar system, could contain vast deposits of graphite or diamonds, and their apparent abundance prompts new questions about the implications of carbon-intense environments for climate, plate tectonics, and other geological processes, as well as for life.  For details, please see [1405.3253] Chemistry in an Evolving Protoplanetary Disk: Effects on Terrestrial Planet Composition.
  • Scientists have long believed an asteroid that collided with the Earth around 66 million years ago, leaving an enormous crater near Chicxulub Mexico, caused the demise of the dinosaurs and many other living things. Ash and dust thrown into the air during the impact would have caused darkness and a drop in global temperature, leading to a mass extinction. Johan Vellekoop and his colleagues have found evidence of this global cooling by studying lipids in sediment formed at the same time as the collision. For details, see Rapid short-term cooling following the Chicxulub impact at the Cretaceous–Paleogene boundary — Rapid short-term cooling …
  • A senior Russian official said that Russia will only need the International Space Station (ISS) until 2020, as previous plans by Washington to use it until 2024 were thrown into doubt amid the Ukraine crisis. I suspect Ukranian crises will be resolved by 2020 so I doubt this will happen, but Russians and Chinese might also go together on future projects.  Meanwhile Russian rocket carrying its most advanced communication satellite to date fell back to Earth minutes after lift-off in the latest blow to the country's once-proud space industry. Even worse, a Russian built rocket engine planned for future use in the first stage of Orbital Sciences Corp. commercial Antares rocket launching to the ISS failed during pre-launch acceptance testing on May 22, at NASA's Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. Semi-related, SpaceX comes to the rescue - see SpaceX: Resusable rocket flight and a lawsuit against the government.
  • This supercomputer simulation shows one of the most violent events in the universe: a pair of neutron stars colliding, merging and forming a black hole. A neutron star is the compressed core left behind when a star born with between eight and 30 times the sun's mass explodes as a supernova. Neutron stars pack about 1.5 times the mass of the sun - equivalent to about half a million Earths - into a ball just 20 km across.

 

 

  • Magnetars are the super-dense remnants of supernova explosions. They are the strongest magnets known in the Universe - millions of times more powerful than the strongest magnets on Earth. A team of astronomers using ESO's Very Large Telescope now believe they've found the partner star of a magnetar for the first time. This discovery helps to explain how magnetars form and why this particular star didn't collapse into a black hole as astronomers would expect. For details see here.
  • South African astronomers have discovered the very first known stars in the flared disk of our Milky Way Galaxy. These stars are situated on the far side of our Galaxy, 80 thousand light years from the Earth and beyond the Galactic Centre. For more information, see here.
  • After eight years in orbit, ESA's Venus Express has completed routine science observations and is preparing for a daring plunge into the planet's hostile atmosphere.

 

 

  • NASA and its international partners now have the go-ahead to begin construction on a new Mars lander, after it completed a successful Mission Critical Design Review.
  • Researchers have invented a way to wirelessly beam power to programmable devices deep inside the body. These medical chips could be as small as a grain of rice. They would sit alongside nerves, muscles and other tissues. The chips could be programmed for a wide variety of medical tasks. The wireless power recharging would enable them to be implanted once and repowered as need be. This is a platform technology to enable a new therapeutic category - electroceutical devices.

 

 

  • The intergalactic medium is an excellent recorder of the Universe's history. It retains memory of the big events that affected its properties, such as temperature and composition, during its different phases of evolution. An international team, led by researchers from Swinburne University of Technology, has found evidence that the Universe broke its rising 'fever' about 11 billion years ago. The quasar light suggests that the Universe had cooled by about 1000 degrees C within 1 billion years after reaching its maximum of 13000 degrees. This cooling trend has probably continued to the present day. Researchers think the answer why is this so is helium. Fourteen per cent of the intergalactic gas is helium and, 12 billion years ago, it was absorbing the intense radiation from active galaxies, losing electrons in the process. The electrons whizz around, heating up the gas. It's similar to the greenhouse effect on Earth: Carbon dioxide gas absorbs infrared radiation and heats our atmosphere. Once all the helium was ionized, the radiation would simply pass through the gas without heating it. Then, as the Universe expands the gas cools down, just like the cold gas sprayed from an aerosol can – it quickly cools as it expands out of the can.
  • Scientists have discovered that the earliest living organisms on Earth were capable of making a mineral that may be found on Mars. One of the paper's authors, Dr Penny King from ANU, is a science co-investigator on NASA's Mars Curiosity rover, which uncovered the presence of possible Martian stevensite. For details, see here. We were always generous with our germs, didn't we?
  • Alpha waves appear to be even more active and important than neuroscientists already thought. A new theory has been postulated on how the alpha wave controls attention to visual signals. Brain cells 'spark' all the time. From this electronic activity brain waves emerge: oscillations at different band widths. And like a radio station uses different frequencies to carry specific information far away from the emitting source, so does the brain. And just like radio listeners, brain areas tune into the wave length relevant for their functioning. For more details, see Alpha waves organize a to-do list for the brain.
  • What would you do without oxygen? Well, check this - "No Oxygen? No Problem!" Says Squid That Can Shut Down Its Metabolism.
  • A new fuel-cell concept will allow biodiesel plants to eliminate the creation of hazardous wastes while removing their dependence on fossil fuel from their production process. The platform, which uses microbes to glean ethanol from glycerol and has the added benefit of cleaning up the wastewater, will allow producers to reincorporate the ethanol and the water into the fuel-making process. For details, see New, fossil-fuel-free process makes biodiesel sustainable.

 

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  • Researchers have discovered on the Red Planet the largest fresh meteor-impact crater ever firmly documented with before-and-after images. The images were captured by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The crater spans half the length of a football field and first appeared in March 2012. The impact that created it likely was preceded by an explosion in the Martian sky caused by intense friction between an incoming asteroid and the planet's atmosphere. For more information, see here.

 

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  • Some folks believe they can hack laws of nature. Lubos Motl explains why this is not possible in his Laws of physics cannot be hacked.
  • Sean Caroll vs Lubos Motl saga continues - latest piece is Combining Boltzmann brains with additional psychotic explosions.
  • A pair of researchers in the Netherlands has found that if a running wheel is placed outdoors in a natural setting, wild animals will come and run on it. Neurophysiologists Johanna Meijer and Yuri Robbers describe in a paper they've had published , how they set up running wheels in natural settings then filmed wild animals using the wheels.





The researchers claim the animals ran on the wheels because they enjoyed it, which could be a little bit of anthropomorphizing, as no one has been able to prove that animals other than humans experience emotions. Still, the experiments should put to rest the argument about whether mice in the lab are running on wheels because they live in cages—they'll do it anywhere they find one.

  • A team of researchers with members from several European countries has published a paper arguing that new archeological evidence suggests not all deep sea creatures evolved in shallow waters and then moved deeper. Fossil discoveries in the Austrian Alps, they claim, offer evidence that some deep sea creatures actually evolved in the deep sea and are the ancestors of many modern deep sea creatures. For more details, see First glimpse into Lower Jurassic deep-sea biodiversity: in situ diversification and resilience against extinction
  • University of Cambridge physicist Luke Butcher has uploaded a paper to the arXiv preprint server suggesting that there might exist some type of wormhole that is capable of staying open long enough for a photon to pass through—which of course suggests the possibility of sending messages backwards or forwards in time. For more details, see [1405.1283v1] Casimir Energy of a Long Wormhole Throat
  • Exotic sea creatures called comb jellies may reshape how scientists view early evolution - as their genes suggest nature created more than one way to make a nervous system. For details, see The ctenophore genome and the evolutionary origins of neural systems.
  • Like a bullet wrapped in a full metal jacket, a high-velocity hydrogen cloud hurtling toward the Milky Way appears to be encased in a shell of dark matter, according to a new analysis. Astronomers believe that without this protective shell, the high-velocity cloud known as the Smith Cloud would have disintegrated long ago when it first collided with the disk of our Galaxy. For more information, see Failed Dwarf Galaxy Survives Galactic Collision Thanks to Full Dark-Matter Jacket. Speaking of dark matter, if you wish to see current state of affairs, check Dark Matter Debates by Matt Strassler. And, historically, you may be interested to read also The Death of Dark Matter’s #1 Competitor and Throwback Thursday: The Whole Story on Dark Matter. Actually, Ethan expands this also with The Temperature of Dark Matter.
  • Astronomers have created the most advanced simulation to date of the evolution of the universe over billions of years. The simulation, called the Illustris, begins just 12 million years after the Big Bang and illustrates the formation of stars, heavy elements, galaxies, exploding supernovae and dark matter over the 14 billion years since. The simulation encapsulates the universe in a cube roughly 350 million light years on each side.



  • At the European Lunar Symposium held at the Museum earlier this month, NASA officials revealed that the Moon could be used as a practice ground for sending humans to Mars within 20 years.
  • The Martian volcano Arsia Mons may have been home to one of the most recent habitable environments yet found on the Red Planet, geologists say. The research shows that volcanic eruptions beneath a glacial ice sheet would have created substantial amounts of liquid water on Mars's surface around 210 million years ago. Where there was water, there is the possibility of past life. For more information, see Volcano–ice interactions in the Arsia Mons tropical mountain glacier deposits.
  • Worldwide, there has been a startling increase in rates of obesity and overweight in both adults (28% increase) and children (up by 47%) in the past 33 years, with the number of overweight and obese people rising from 857 million in 1980 to 2.1 billion in 2013, according to a major new analysis. However, the rates vary widely throughout the world with more than half of the world’s 671 million obese individuals living in just ten countries - the USA, China and India, Russia, Brazil, Mexico, Egypt, Germany , Pakistan, and Indonesia. For more information, see here. With that in mind, I suggest also to read Want to lose weight? Try playing Tetris. No, really.
  • When electrical pulses are applied to the ventral tegmental area of their brain, macaques presented with two images change their preference from one image to the other. The study is the first to confirm a causal link between activity in the ventral tegmental area and choice behavior in primates. As I said many times before, no such thing as free choice. For more details, see here.
  • A robot developed by researchers at Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland adjusts on the fly to catch a variety of objects tossed in its direction. Empty and half-full bottles, hammers, tennis rackets and ***** - of course - were all safely snatched out of midair by the 1.5-meter-long robotic arm.



  • On February 15 2013, an asteroid exploded about 30 kilometers above Chelyabinsk, Russia. The explosion, shared on video around the world, was the Earth's second largest recorded airburst. By analyzing fragments of the meteorite that fell to Earth, Shin Ozawa at Tohoku University in Sendai, Japan and colleagues determined that the asteroid formed when a parent asteroid collided with another asteroid and then broke apart. For more details, see Jadeite in Chelyabinsk meteorite and the nature of an impact event on its parent body
  • he way that algae and plants respond to light has been reinterpreted based on results from experiments studying real-time structural changes in green algae. Under particular lighting conditions during photosynthesis, the well-ordered stacking and alignment of light-sensitive membranes in the algae are disrupted. There is no significant movement of the membrane embedded light harvesting proteins, which rather become largely inactive. These new findings challenge widely accepted views of how algae respond to light where the light harvesting proteins were thought to move around the membranes. For more details, see Chloroplast remodeling during state transitions in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii as revealed by noninvasive techniques in vi…
  • China's troubled Jade Rabbit moon rover is still alive after more than five months on the moon but is heading for an icy death. The rover launched in December can still send data back to Earth, but it is unable to move after its wheels broke down and is suffering from chills after solar panels for thermal insulation during freezing lunar nights stopped working.
  • Did you know that Sabine Hossenfelder from Backreaction is also doing sing&song?  Check it out:








Hrvoje Crvelin

EMC redefined - day 4

Posted by Hrvoje Crvelin May 22, 2014

My first EMC World dates back to 2010 in Boston.  Since then, EMC decided to host this event in Las Vegas which makes EMC World 2014 5th EMC World I attend and 4th one in Las Vegas.  And for those who do not know it yet, EMC World 2015 will be in - Las Vegas. With that said, I decided to write small thought diary with some distance of 1 week and cover what I can remember.  You can find first part of the story in:

EMC redefined - day 0

EMC redefined - day 1

EMC redefined - day 2

EMC redefined - day 3

 

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The world is upside down - we must redefine it!

 

Thursday typically does is departure day and after party night out on Wednesday, many folks are not so eager to wake up early on Thursday. Still, EMC placed session with Scott Harrison (charity: water) on Thursday morning at 8:30am.  If you missed it (just as I did), check it out by watching EMC World 2014 - EMC TV (it's sad to see empty seats there). You can also check their web site charity: water. Scott story was amazing - you just must hear it. It is amazing combination of his own childhood and experience in Africa where he escaped from his own daemons which led him to his path he is chasing today - provide clean water to those in need in Africa. As we speak (or you read), there is 800 million people in world without any access to clean water.  I expect this number to jump in forthcoming years as climate shifts will cause many areas to be flooded. This inevitably leads to various diseases and human tragedy. On global scale.

 

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Looks distant, but it's not!

 

I live in part of the world where I do not have any issues with water. I can drink it from pipe - that's how clean it is. I never ever had to buy water in shops. But just as I write this, there are never seen before floods in Balkan regions where whole villages are swiped by floods and major issue is with distribution of water as well. And this seems to be tomorrow's normal. But what about Africa?  Remember Live Aid in 1985? I do and it felt as we were changing something, but there is so much to be changed. And one thing is that what you see above in picture should never ever be today's normal. It is not normal, but there are whole regions who need help. It might be easier to browse **** than pictures of people who got ill due to dirty water, but instead of buying some dummy app click and donate where needed. The story of Scott is full of stories that will move you and perhaps even make angry, but that's reality (but still and should never be normal). While watching Scott's presentation I could not stop to ask myself how many bottles of water did only I drink during EMC World - not because thirsty, but because it was just there. Doesn't make you feel good at all. And it is not that these affected areas do not have water, they do as you just have to dig enough - but there's no money.  Here is what UN study says:

 

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I'm very glad that Scott touched the subject of charities too.  As he himself mentioned, back in States, his friends all had the story in their back pocket about how charities can't be trusted and would have excuse not to donate. So, Scott had to re-invent the charity. The ideas behind were that 100% of public donations would go for cause (and never for overhead), make sure that they can provide crystal clear feedback on how and where money is spent and create brand that would be identifiable along with using local resources. charity: water (Facebook) also took advantage of social media to spread the information and collect donations. This approach succeeded and Scott gave few examples.  Rachel's example was rather moving one and the one that can get you down to tears.

 

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So what did EMC do?  They had setup charity walk where you would carry 2 full canisters of water around rather short path and for every completed walk EMC would donate $5 (and Brocade other $5). That's not much walking. I did my walk in perhaps 20 seconds. People in affected areas walk for 8 hours. Day after day. Think about that. EMC said 5917 people completed walks (actually, I'm not sure if this number applies to number of people or number of walks to be honest). That alone was enough to deliver 6 water wells. I think initiative likes this are cool - it sound scary, but people were doing it for t-shirts and picture I guess. Many would do it just to show off (marketing way) so why simply not take advantage of it.  It just crossed my mind that if we have 150 EMC Elect folks (we got a bit less, but include those from first year and we are ok) and if each would donate $50 that is already $7500. We heard Scott saying in some areas $6000 is enough for single water well. Small step for your yearly budget, life changing donation for someone else.  Following in Twitter and liking on Facebook is not enough. What is bigger than EMC Elect community - ECN. VMware forum geeks. Professional community. And so on. Shell we do match with between EMC and NetApp forum users in donating money? Why not I say. Many ways to motivate people no matter how silly in its essence it is as all that it really matters is to get money to get things going.

 

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If you wish to make a difference, head over to EMC Gives Back or charity main page and make donation.  One I did above runs until end of June and goal is to collect $100000. Just as Bob Geldof said during Live Aid back in 1985, "Give us the money NOW!" Interesting enough, I checked EMC Gives Back again today and goal of $100000 went down to $30000. Not sure which one is correct.

 

Thirty-five member countries of the United Nations have now officially agreed to common guidelines for sharing and managing freshwater resources that cross international borders. With Vietnam's ratification, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses (UNWC) will go into effect in August, transforming the way governments share fresh water and settle water-related disputes. Why does this matter? There are 276 international rivers worldwide, with 60 per cent of the planet's freshwater flows. What one country does with its water impacts all others that share the same freshwater system. The UNWC will help countries manage local water concerns in a way that protects freshwater resources and ecosystems throughout an entire basin.

 

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Save our planet - NOT

 

While writing above I remembered something else. Remember how all these hotels have notes about reusing towels?  Well, I always put it back as I wish to reuse it. I don't wipe my *** with it, but only dry myself so what is the big deal of reusing it again after all. Still, my experience is that cleaning staff always replaces it regardless of my wishes.  Venetian is no exception.  Always they take away my used towel which I placed nicely back and they put the new one.  LEAVE MY TOWEL ALONE!!!

 

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Cityville condos in Las Vegas


So, if I didn't go to see Scott, what did I do really?  As always, it started with breakfast.  And then I went around 9am on mission. As you might be aware, when you are married you may fool once or twice your partner, but that's where it stops.  Once upon the time I was at Oktoberfest in Munich. My wife, girlfriend at that time, asked me to bring her back one of those typical glasses they use to pour beer inside. I ended up enjoying beer so much that I forgot about it and then I told her there weren't any. Silliest thing I could say, but I survived. Then 2 years ago I told her of Harley Davidson I saw in Las Vegas and she just gave me that look "What?  And you didn't bring me anything back?". So, my mission was last year to bring her something back. Which I failed. Again.  So, this time message was clear - either t-shirt from Harley Davidson or don't bother coming back home. So, it was crucial for me to get there. Things didn't really look good as shop which was on second floor of Venetian was gone.  But, I traced another one and I check the route in Google maps - it looked closed enough to say that I would walk there and back. And I picked up Michael Meissner too as shop was just "around the corner". It turned out to be around the corner plus 4 miles. And yet another 4 miles back. With really really hot sun. I'm happy Michael didn't kill me, but I'm also happy my wife won't kill me (this remains to be seen as I might have got wrong t-**** size).


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Icons


On our way back we managed to grab lunch package (yeah, kind of cheating) and took the break. Michael went to do shopping while I was reading the book.  In early afternoon we paid visit to MGM shops.


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Gallery

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Coffee break


I didn't manage to find what I was looking for, but nevertheless I found something else:


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It's going to be neverending fight with my daughter over this t-shirt...


For the evening we set the plan to visit Fremont Street. This is something I wanted to do for couple of years, but I never did it. While waiting evening to see this, I got myself into reflection mood about this year's event so perhaps before sharing final story it makes sense to share that here. Back in 2010, when I attended first EMC World of mine, I was a bit surprise by topics and it sounded more like Sci-Fi what they were saying about Big Data than something around the corner. Couple of years later everyone was into this. What I find nice is that EMC didn't do any turns left of right but they are steady on this journey to third platform - journey to IT as service.  Here is short overview of what that EMC World journey was about:


EMC World yearMain topic
2010 in BostonCloud
2011 in Las VegasBig Data
2012 in Las VegasTransform IT
2013 in Las VegasSDDC
2014 in Las VegasThird platform


It really is part of the same story - like the river where EMC World is the stop and we each year we get to hear developments and what EMC has done to help customers on this journey. However, this year I had that SciFi feeling once again.  So, I really had a thought about it and these whole business with third platform is real and behind the corner, but I do not see many enterprises being ready for it. And the key here is that managers are not ready for it and they might be steering the companies in directions which may be costly afterwards. We do live in times of tight budgets, but we also need fresh blood in IT from managers to engineers. Not that we need to replace old ones, but there are too many of those who do not develop themselves and take this whole agenda too easy.

 

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Third platform, Internet of the Things, etc - you probably heard of this before and you probably have seen increasing trend of people talking about it. Depending on which analysts you talk to, forecasts range from estimates of seeing 25 billion to 50 billion connected devices worldwide by 2020. In UK, they are building a network dedicated to the Internet of Things. They will get data, they will process data most likely in cloud and their result of processing will make your life better. An app, or a Thing, can connect with the Cloud and store more data and use the ever-increasing processing power of the devices themselves to retrieve the data nowadays. It's much more than next generation of distributed computing. And it's all going so fast. This development is happening at crazy speeds.  Scary if I may add.

 

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Archived...

 

And while tape is surely dead for operations backups, it might be very well alive for Big Data. IBM just announced they have demonstrated a new record of 85.9 billion bits of data per square inch in areal data density on low-cost linear magnetic particulate tape. In plain English, this means a standard LTO size cartridge could store up to 154 TB of uncompressed data - a 62 fold improvement over an LTO6 cartridge. IBM breaks Big Data into four dimensions: volume, variety, velocity and veracity and by 2020 these so-called Four V's of Big Data will be responsible for 40ZB of data. Much of this data is archival, such as video archives, backup files, replicas for disaster recovery, and retention of information required for regulatory compliance. Because tape systems are energy efficient and more cost-effective than hard disks they are the ideal technology to store, protect and access archival Big Data. Take for example LHC: by the end of the LHC first 3 year running period, more than 100PB of physics data had been stored. Most of this data is archived on more than 52000 tape cartridges of different types which could someday answer fundamental questions about the universe. It's data lake on magnetic tape.

 

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Famous Fremont street roof show

 

So all these developments are nice, but I see also a bottleneck - people.  I find that vision and awareness within many companies seems to be somewhere in the past. Pretty much as IT managers would put their head into the sand and wait for storm to be over. But technology advance is neverending avalanche. It never stops. It's like spin in particle physics. And either you ride the wave or you get carried away. And if you are not prepared - you are done.  Just the other day I saw how I can use Google search to search images by supplying image. How cool is that? Now, think about it in respect to magic triangle Paul was talking about. In 10 years (or so) I expect I will be able to supply my image and intelligent algorithm will find all pictures on net with me. I'm not talking about pics I sent, but pics taken by some tourist where I just happen to be somewhere in the frame. Take it to the next level and add more intelligence - say algorithms that can predict how you change with ages based on your photos.  All those photos on Internet are data lakes (or data oceans if you wish given that lake is something within enterprise). Now, I can search pictures with me and perhaps find photos with me in frame I never knew existed. I can find missing friend, my wife and her lover together, and so on.  And this is just casual example based on social trivia. Think about enterprises. Think about potential and service to service. The world is changing - no doubt.  It was always changing, but today pace is faster than ever and reason we talk about it that this wave of change brings (yet another) disruption. And it is much broader than software in IT.  Hardware too. Flash, next generation of flash, 3D and 4D printers. I wish I was younger today so I can enjoy the show more than I will be able to.

 

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Beautiful patterns


So where is future going?  That's easy to answer - to present.  It's running towards us so it is essential to keep ourselves in shape for forthcoming challenges. I remember as it was yesterday when I was working with VMware for the first time and thought this is easy. Today VMware is so many things in one and it's not so easy.  It's hardly one man show system. Little octopussy has grown and now wants to be DC and then finally cloud (well, with a little help of Pivotal). I recently watched Brian David Johnson who doea future casting (he is resident at Intel). Check following video.



Brian mentioned chips inside us. It's quite simple really. We start with injecting nano probes which will deliver information required to keep our bodies healthy. We'll have bunch of sensors inside of us (just as we do now around us). Will master technology in such way that we won't have to do much except plug ourselves to the computer system as we will reach such level where our natural capabilities alone won't be good enough for any progress.  We will have to extend ourselves with machines. Scenario with attaching our brains to Internet sounds like Matrix, but virtualizing us and having machines to keep an eye on our bodies is ultimate goal and something you may call fifth platform. Why fifth?  Because before that we must master at least yet another big thing - quantum technology which will represent fourth platform. And it is not just quantum computing in classical sense - thing about quantum storage where data with replication via quantum entanglement. It's going to be big ride. I firmly believe that within next 50 years we will reach fourth platform. For the fifth, I really don't know.


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Plastic is fantastic


Anyway, back to Las Vegas. Fremont Street is a street in Las Vegas, Nevada, and is the second most famous street in the Las Vegas Valley after the Las Vegas Strip. Prior to the construction of the Fremont Street Experience, the western end of Fremont Street was the picture of Las Vegas that was included in virtually every television show and movie that wanted to display the lights of Las Vegas. The abundance of neon signs, like cowboy Vegas Vic, earned the street the nickname of Glitter Gulch. Michael Meissner and I went with bus as we had daily ticket and it is much cheaper that in any combination with taxi (make sure to calculate return too).



G spot


Compared to Strip, this place is much easier to walk, but it offers more sinish kind of view. After all, it is Sin City. However, it is all business. Show some skin, order a drink, make a photo and next one please.  Here is small photo snap of the area.

 

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Vegas Vicky

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Vegas Vic

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Rob, Allen Ward Jon Klaus Michael Meissner some tourists

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Jon Klaus and split decision scenario

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Photo opportunities #1

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Photo opportunities #2

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Live commercial

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Starting point

 

One thing I've been promising for past 2 years is visit to HEART ATTACK GRILL. This place is pretty much where Fremont street is so you can't miss it.  You can avoid it, but that was no my goal.


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355ml


This is classic place promoting unhealthy food. The establishment is a hospital theme restaurant: waitresses ("nurses") take orders ("prescriptions") from the customers ("patients"). Each patient dons a hospital gown before ordering and those who do not finish their meal receive a paddling by one of the "nurses" with the option to buy the paddle afterwards.

 

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Spank girls

 

The menu includes "Single", "Double", "Triple", "Quadruple", "Quintuple", "Sextuple", "Septuple" and "Octuple Bypass" hamburgers, ranging from (230 to 1820 g) of beef (up to about 16000 calories), all-you-can-eat "Flatliner Fries" (cooked in pure lard), beer and tequila, and soft drinks such as Jolt and Mexican-bottled Coca-Cola made with real sugar. Both Michael Meissner and myself went for rookie approach and took Double with Coke. Just to make clear, "Single" comes with 5 slices of bacon, "Double" with 10 and so on... until "Octuple" which comes with 40 slices of bacon.  I went for chilli instead and Michael went for bacon.  I think he made better call.

 

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It is kind of pathetic to open blog post with rant about clean water and close it with dirty food

 

Customers over 160 kg in weight eat for free if they weigh in with a doctor or nurse before each burger. Beverages and to-go orders are excluded and sharing food is also not allowed for the free food deal.


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Double with chili instead of 10 slices of bacon


The Quadruple Bypass Burger with 9982 calories has been identified as one of the "world's worst junk foods". It consists of four half-pound beef patties, twenty strips of bacon, eight slices of American cheese, a whole tomato and half an onion served in a bun coated with lard. Since then these folks come up extended the offering with Octuple Bypass Burger.  Obviously it can get worse.

 

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Leaving Las Vegas

 

Time has come very quickly to say goodbye to rest of the gang as both Michael and I travelled next day. I was just hoping my trip will not be as the one by Joerg Krause who got stuck in New York. After packing my stuff, I went out for few more shots - mostly of those cookies which troubled me from Day 1.

 

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Shot in dark I

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Shot in dark II

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I want it all

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So hungry now...

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More or less classic

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Next year - you're mine... you're all mine!

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Hot

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I really love these ones...

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In between...

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Little army

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Time to go to sleep

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Dreaming of cookie fields...

 

Friday morning we checked out and went to airport.  Check control was fast and we were in time to check in into Ruby's where I took burger and Michael Meissner took boring healthy food.  Time went slow, but eventually arrived and we took off for Chicago. 

 

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Until next time...

 

I really like flying over Ohio and New Mexico (and most likely some other regions as well) as surrounding is as on Mars or some other planet.  Below photo, just as the one above, were all made with oldish mobile phone.

 

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Last two photos above may explain why I was puzzled where we are as we approached airport in Chicago.  I knew Chicago is not at the sea, but when opening my eyes after short nap this did look like a sea as I just could not sea where it ends. Lake Michigan managed to fool me.  While our airplane landed 20 minutes earlier than planned, we were at the end 20 minutes later out.  This silly situation happened because first we could not get any gate assigned to dock and then this went on and on. Really strange situation. Once out, M and me went separate ways - he went for Frankfurt and later on Berlin while I went for Amsterdam.  We both had small delays, but nothing serious (especially since I was able to compensate that with yet another air-burger).

 

TV system in this airplane was very old and weak so I just tried to sleep which I managed at the end.  Upon arrival to Amsterdam (which was Saturday morning by local time) I was welcomed by cold weather and rain.  I was probably only person in shorts and flip-flops. Jet lag did its share so I overslept whole Saturday afternoon and night.  Upon waking up on Sunday I felt fresh, but then again I fell asleep on Sunday afternoon.  This resulted in situation where I could not fall asleep whole night so I went to work on Monday without any sleep from previous night.  Finally, I managed to get into old rhythm on Monday evening and Tuesday morning was business as usual.

 

This concludes my EMC World 2014 story.  Next year I plan to focus on vLabs, key notes and roadmaps only.  Sessions as such are more for general audience which I think is not me. See you next year!

Those familiar with NetWorker know that each NetWorker code tree gets patch released one month apart (approximately).  Currently we have following code trees:

8.0SP3 with latest patch just being released as 8.0.3.5 (build 364)

8.1SP1 with latest patch being 8.1.1.5 (build 306)

 

8.2 was announced, but this is still away from GA waters so this is why you have two code streams listed above.

 

Now, good old custom of NetWorker engineering is that they place in public places only list of escalations fixed - not bug nor RFEs which sometimes end up in patch releases.  If you are partner, you should have release to full list.  For the rest of the world, only escalation fix list is available. Here is the public list:

 

IDDescription
NW161043nsrjobd is trying to create duplicate resid in the jobsdb. This happens under specific conditions. One of those conditions happens when two or more groups start a single second, and one of the ends within that second.  This is typical of 'probe based group' backups where the group has nothing to backup.  This is related to NW160582 - see below.
NW158511nsrim -X does not delete expired saveset on DDBOOST devices
NW158889nsrjobsd creating coredumps on 8.1.0.4 (and later).
NW157967Completed group shows with status 'Interrupted' in NMC Group Details window.  This is related to skip schedule and incorrect showing in NMC.  Those long-time NetWorker users might find this as deja vu (I certainly did).
NW160582

Groups are scheduled to start every 30 minutes and run a probe script on the client.  If 'backup is needed' is returned from the probe (exit 0), then it backs up. If 'backup is not needed' is returned (exit 1) then group does not backup the client.  Most groups have 'backup is not needed' most of the time.  What happens next is that savegrp hangs and waits for nsrjobd indefinitely when several 'probe based groups' run. Error in daemon.log with nsrjobd in Debug=3:

 

 

nsrd NSR info Savegroup Info: (group name) is probing

...

nsrjobd NSR notice (date) Error encountered while creating a resource: Error returned on resource creation: column resid is not unique

nsrjobd NSR notice (date) Failed to create database entry for job record 129862: Error returned on resource creation: column resid is not unique

nsrjobd NSR notice (date) probe job job 129862 won't be queued to start

nsrjobd NSR warning Failed to write job status of jobid 129862 to jobsdb with err: Unable to find job record

...

nsrd NSR info Savegroup Alert: Group (group aborted, savegrp is already running

nsrd NSR info Savegroup Alert: Group (group aborted, savegrp is already running

nsrd NSR info Savegroup Alert: Group (group aborted, savegrp is already running

...

group hangs indefinitely with above messages till killed manually with kill -9.

NW158987NetWorker 8.0.2.3 nsrindexd core dumps on Linux 64bit server. This issue was reported on Linux 64 bit operating system but is not specific to it.  It can apply to all operating systems where NetWorker server can reside.
NW160164Unresponsive nsrsnmd on NW sever causes NetWorker server hung

 

To get fully working installation packages for all supported OS platforms (at least for NetWorker core package), visit ftp://ftp.legato.com/pub/NetWorker/Cumulative_Hotfixes/8.0/8.0.3.5

 

And that's the memo.

Hrvoje Crvelin

EMC redefined - day 3

Posted by Hrvoje Crvelin May 18, 2014

My first EMC World dates back to 2010 in Boston.  Since then, EMC decided to host this event in Las Vegas which makes EMC World 2014 5th EMC World I attend and 4th one in Las Vegas.  And for those who do not know it yet, EMC World 2015 will be in - Las Vegas. With that said, I decided to write small thought diary with some distance of 1 week and cover what I can remember.  You can find first part of the story in:

EMC redefined - day 0

EMC redefined - day 1

EMC redefined - day 2

 

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Waterfalls in front of Wynn

 

Day started just as any other day - with morning. This morning was what usually would be my later afternoon due to time difference, but I was still coping very well with jet lag. It usually hits me on the way back. With morning knocking on Vegas door, it was time for me to hit the road with schedule today.  My first session - and the one most important - was breakfast. That was handled very efficiently as always. My next two sessions were "NetWorker: What's New in 2014" at 8:30am and "Improving RTO/RPO With Snapshot Management For NAS & SAN" at 10:00am.

 

So, what's new with NetWorker in 2014?  Or should I say in 8.2?  Obviously this session was focussed on NetWorker 8.2 which has been announced by end of March (see Announcing EMC NetWorker 8.2), currently is beta and it is expected to hit DA waters by end of Q2. One big thing about NW 8.2 is that SAN snapshots have been now extended to NAS (Isilon, VNX and NetApp).  We are talking about file system (NDMP) backup here (no application awareness yet). You can get some more information in following video:

 

 

What is really cool is that NetWorker will use filer API to learn about existing snapshots and place them into its own catalog. Those snapshots that were made by NetWorker will be marked as Managed while those not managed by NetWorker will be marked as Discovered. At any point in time, you can execute secondary action against discovered snapshot.  Why does this mean?  It means you can backup discovered snapshot.  One thing to keep in mind is that when NetWorker creates snapshot (managed by NetWorker, remember), the expiration time on snapshot on filer is set to forever and it only gets removed once it is expired in NetWorker.  Now, is this cool or what? I don't know. I think it is useful feature, but when Q&A session started I asked following question (for the sake of uneducated readers I did extend it a bit here):

 

Each discovered snapshot is represented by ssid number in media database as it can be seen from demo slides. Now, performance guide tells us following:

 

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So, if you decide to add this snapshots (or enable discovery), then you might have to pay some penalty.  My question was: was mdb changed in any way in 8.2 to have this changed?

 

The answer is - no.  But, surprisingly (and without any commitment), we were told that mdb will change in what EMC calls at the moment NetWorker 8.5.  Is this something we can expect around next year?  I don't know, but it is either next one or the one after that.  What will be new mdb?  Again, no idea and obviously 8.5 or whatever else is down the roadmap was not subject of this session.

 

Just as VMware got nicely supported in 8.1, now it's turn for Hyper-V in 8.2. EMC already started with this in 8.1 and now this got a bit better by supporting a Data Protection add-in for Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager that enables flexible, cloud-aware recovery options for the Hyper-V Administrator.  Another thing EMC started in 8.1 (well, NMM 3.0) was integration with SQL Management Studio in a way that SQL admin could kick in SQL backup from the only thing he knows how to operate. While this was nice, it was a bit ridiculous to see that this applied only to backup and not restore. Now you can do restore too.  Not only that, but Aszure hybrid cloud is supported as well.  You can find SQL related news in following video.

 

 

Enhanced support for SAP HANA has been also introduced.  New NMSAP, which will be released along with NetWorker 8.2 will support SAP HANA using native SAP HANA tools. MEDITECH users also got their five minutes as NetWorker is first in market in supporting the next generation MEDITECH Backup Facility (MBF) with EMC arrays (which are used in 80% of hospitals today). Latest support for MEDITECH includes Client Direct with DD Boost too. DD Boost over Fibre Channel is also supported.

 

NetWorker now supports now supports what Avamar got in previous release - instant VMware access.  It means it can start VM on DD and you can quickly get machine up and going and copy data if you want. VMDK level backup and restore is supported too. BRM users might be intrigued by the fact there is mobile support to (iOS and Android).

 

In Q&A session people as always tried to get some things which are not part of 2014 release.  Some interesting notes:

  • you can't use BBB for snapshot backups
  • Avamar's NDMP accelerator will be merged to NetWorker
  • application consistent snapshots on NAS are pending design view; product management was interested to hear if crash consistency would be enough and majority in audience said yes
  • support for VMAN<->Data Domain will be there in 2016 (surprise as I was expecting this earlier)

 

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I wish airplane windows were so clean...

 

I had to leave last session before Q&A ended as I had exam at 11am which is pity as I liked the questions (and I myself had few of them). Now, you might remember from Day 1 that I did NetWorker Specialist for Storage Administrators and passed.  Today I had NetWorker Specialist Exam for Implementation Engineers. The preparation test which is available via ECN (see Dell EMC Proven Professional: Certification Exams and Practice Tests) has identical questions for both (with shuffled answers).  To my surprise this exam was the same story - questions were almost the same (there were 5-6 different questions out of 66 and reshuffled answers).  A bit of a disappointment as I can easily think of difference between Storage Administrator and Implementation Engineers, but who am I to say anything. I knew I could use same answers I made on first test and that most likely I will pass. Not only did I pass, but I also scored better than last time - I guess those 5-6 new questions made difference. Hopefully EMC will redesign this soon as it is a bit silly to be honest.  Anyway, after 20 minutes I was done and it was time for yet another lunch.

 

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Phone booth, toilet, ATM and Internet Station (!?)

 

After lunch Michael Meissner and I went to SuperNAP 8 Wednesday visit.  Monday one was for Elect only and I wanted to go with Michael so I ended up in Wednesday batch. What is SuperNAP 8?  First, let's start with what is SuperNAP or better said - Switch.

 

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Switch, a privately held company based in Enterprise (Nevada), is the developer of the SUPERNAPS and provides colocation, connectivity, cloud and content ecosystems. Switch CEO and Founder Rob Roy’s 218 patented and patent pending claims address data center challenges including cooling, power, density, environmental impacts, safety and security.  Even the chairs and tables you see on picture above are his design. When I think of this guy Elon Musk comes to mind.

 

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Screenshot from SUPERNAP web page - in live taking pictures like these could cost you your life

 

SUPERNAPS are unlike anything else in the realm of data center design. They are the world’s most powerful ecosystem data centers. The applied solutions include unrivaled colocation, connectivity, cloud and collaboration environments. You can find general information if you visit SUPERNAP - The World's Leader in Data Center Ecosystem Development. The facility hosts servers and storage for many of the world’s leading technology companies, including more than 40 cloud computing companies and a dense concentration of network carriers.

 

Our tour started with SuperNAP 7 - something I have seen last year, but it is still a place that will take your breath away. I think it would be fair to say that any person who would come at this place would like to use it.  And these guys are not expensive at all.  They just have vision and resources and make things work. Just as last year our tour guide was Missy Young (MissyByte on Twitter). Because Sean ordered return buses earlier (to be able to attend Happy Hour by EMC Elect) we didn't had enough time to visit SuperNAP 8, but in short here is what is new. Last year when I was at SuperNAP 7 they were just building SuperNAP 8.  It was opened in February this year and now they are already building SuperNAP 9.  EMC World 2015?  For technical details, please see following article - Inside SuperNAP 8: Switch's Tier IV Data Fortress.  This explains pretty much well what we could see.

 

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This facility is guarded by armed personnel with license to kill if necessary. This is because all known and unknown state agencies also keep their data there. During tour there was interesting question if Switch is worried to become target of terrorist attack. Answer we got was no because even terrorists know customers keep data at two locations at least. Terrorists do not want to destroy data - they just want access. Therefore terrorists are not a threat for digital universe growth

 

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Is that a ancient data bucket?

 

During the tour, from what I could see, two storage options dominated: EMC and Teradata. It was interesting to correlate some of the stories we heard with what we have just been listening on EMC World.  For example, eBay keep all their data saved.  When query arises, they provide data to customers (for a fee of course). If you think about, this can be easily be linked to what Paul Moritz was talking when speaking of "magic triangle" (see EMC redefined - day 2). In essence, companies create data lakes which they probe all the time via analytic engines and they serve new generations of apps.

 

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These folks were Elect once upon the time...

 

Back at EMC World quarter EMC Elect joined once again to have final snack in what has be titled Happy Hour.  Everyone mostly sat we the ones it knew and we started to chit chat about impressions so far.  I didn't stick for long as there was evening party yet to survive and I wanted to check what happened during backup session by Guy. So what did Guy Churchward say?  Not too much as Stephen Manley took fair amount of the time with naive sounding talks. Here is wrap up. Guy spoke about change and draw parallels to shifts seen in the music industry.

 

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However, changing backup is not as linear as riding the wave.  As in the music where you have different medias, so do you have different applications and infrastructure in your enterprise.  And you have to protect everything. So Guy draw parallel between mainframes and vinyl where EMC has DL product, then CDs and standard backup applications - dominant force on the market even today, and finally online subscriptions which are your cloud protections.  People use all these stuff (and Guy reminded that number of vinyls sold last year rose actually) so EMC is determined to keep everyone supported. No men left behind.  Guy showed audience how much of innovation EMC has placed into their own CD stock - backup application driven products.  He also mentioned project Harmony which is project targeting Avamar and NetWorker merger (note that from what I heard this is not pure mix and let's see what do we get - it is more third product rising on ashes of both Avamar and NetWorker).

 

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Wild thing...

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Ride the wild thing...

 

Now, to enable transition of current backup and restore models, EMC went from BRS which is no longer BRS, but rather DPAD - Data Protection and Availability Division.  We got new members too; they are called RecoverPoint and VPLEX.  Expect these to integrate and become software defined backup solutions within ViPR. Data Domain has also go through transformation in terms of number of supported objects within file system. This pretty much gives an idea where EMC is moving too and how they plan to execute.

 

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Light forest

 

After last guest, Guy spoke of things to come briefly and those are things like REST APIs, VMAX to Data Domain communication and HA for Data Domain.  Last one might make you remember of GDA, but surely head failover is needed.  Why?  Because of 24/7, you stupid! If I want to update Data Domain, installation manual says do preventive reboot and then do firmware upgrade.  This may take some time and think only about different sources this might affect? It gets even worse in multi-tenant environment.  So, it is no rocket science to see EMC working on head failover as this is crucial.  I want to be in position to switch over the head and do my maintenance work without worries and interruptions for the customer. After all, isn't that what Joe Tucci said in his speech - all updates under cloud are done online and there is no downtime?  Therefore Data Domain has to deliver this as well.

 

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Tree of light

 

What makes it exciting is that what Guy talked of is pretty much inline with what they have been saying for past 2-3 years - which is good as it assure consistency and feeling that EMC is on right track.  In essence it is shown by picture below:

 

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At the end Stephen Manley joined the stage, but this time without guest and when asked by Guy where is the future of data protection he offered single word as an answer - metadata.  To me that sounded like Google search appliance.  So, what exactly does metadata as an answer mean here?  It is information about your data (application and content) and infrastructure.  Stephen said:

By collecting, analyzing, and taking action on the metadata, IT will enable hybrid cloud mobility, analytics-driven automation, and public cloud data management.

 

I must admit this part was a bit unclear to me.  Stephen went into details of each and I could easily understand analytics-driven automation, but others were a bit fuzzy.  Luckily, Stephen made blog post about this with more details - see The ‘Journey to Redefine’ Hinges on Metadata.  Above quote becomes more clear after reading following:

There are three categories of metadata:

 

 

  • Infrastructure metadata. Each element of the infrastructure generates vast amounts of data describing their status and behavior.
  • Application metadata. Data generated by applications describing their state and relationship to other applications.
  • Content metadata. User content is accompanied by information like the data owner, those who have permission to access data, and keyword tags about the data.

 

Together, the three types of metadata enable three key new workflows: hybrid cloud mobility, analytics-driven automation, and cloud-centric data management.

 

Read rest in Stephen's blog entry. Now, you may wonder how is this related to backup and restore? Well, you might be still living in the bubble. Remember BRS went into DPAD.  It is much more as now availability mechanisms are becoming your protection divas so things do change a bit with 3rd platform.

 

At the end we have been shown "UI of the future" we could expect in next 18-24 months. It looks as following:

 

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Overview panel - we have 7 unoptimized systems

 

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We see those 7 and first seems to have poor de-dupe ratio due to video records

 

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Based on data characteristics, we are offered new data targets

 

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We move it to vCHS where we already have folder for video files

 

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We run simulation before actual move

 

Above demo shows 3rd platform application, big data, crowdsourcing - all in one to give you optimized environment through predictive management tool. You can find whole keynote video at EMC World 2014 - EMC TV.

 

To finish with backup which actually just a small piece of data protection (and availability) picture - it seems as if EMC is pushing into fifth gear and tends to be there before many others.  We'll see.  Going back to individual components, I tried to see how this will work for just plain NetWorker user and I remembered one EMC user on ECN mentioned that in future on x86 based backup servers will be developed. I checked it out with person who should know things like this and I was confirmed this to be a option - option you may already see next year.

 

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So, let's wrap up:

  • NetWorker and Avamar merging together with features more and more - grand finale in 2 years from now as it seems
  • Project Harmony is work mentioned above, but most likely within next 2 years we are looking about new product to which both Avamar and NetWorker users will migrate as I doubt poor merger will happen
  • DD & VMAX integration also happening in 2 years. I didn't get more information that this though there was session, but I didn't attended. I believe most likely DD might get block device properties and DD Boost over FC might be used. I think that is easier than messing around Enginuity to add DD Boost and support it over IP.
  • Backup and Availability go hand in hand together now - VPLEX, RecoverPoint, Avamar, NetWorker and Data Domain
  • VLEX, RecoverPoint, Avamar and Data Domain started their life as hardware appliance - if not already, they will be virtualized
  • NetWorker 8.5 will have different media database, but not sure if this is next year or in two years to be released
  • Future development of backup server platform will be x86.  This makes sense from development point of view for two reasons:
    • x86 is leading in CPU and CPU instruction set development. One should not discard IBM and their take, but Intel seems to be winning the hearts of majority.
    • If you look at above bullets, it seems as if there is allot of work in next 2 years to be done - simplifying development and getting rid of other platforms' porting enables also quicker development and release cycles. Just as data centers see less HPUX, AIX and Solaris, so do vendors do less dev work on them.

 

In short, next year and year behind, might really really be busy as backup (and availability) world will be also disrupted by this change to 3rd platform.

 

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Will these stores be last to be digitalized?

 

With some time left at my disposal, I decided to check what was there during session by Brian Gallagher. He heads now division where VMAX and VNX are. Will those become digitalized too? At certain point I'm quite sure everything will be, but has that time come?  Brian's speech can be seen at EMC World 2014 - EMC TV - here is wrap up.

 

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Maze or Cloud

 

Obviously Brian in his session focussed on classic storage offerings from EMC: VMAX and VNX.  These two are different. How different? Pretty much, see slide below.

 

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However, Brian states that going towards the cloud we will see these two being more and more connected by common dots, like:

 

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Stage was taken then by Fidelma Russo who led us through presentation further and got some exciting news. When talking about DC we have different applications and each of them has unique performance requirements.

 

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Now, you can't assign flash to everyone due to economics and this is where hybrid arrays play key role.  What you really want is to give application storage performance on demand through disk, disk&flash and flash pools. With this came first announcement - availability of 800GB flash drive on VMAX. Second one was availability of flash packs with discounts now of 40% on average. Third one was known as project Wow and actually it is called Flash Boost - redesign flash software within VMAX which will give you 1.5x more IOPS. But that's not all!

 

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If previous was Wow, here comes OMG Engineering took advantage of large caches on VMAX which results in:

 

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Best thing?  If you already have deployed VMAX with Enginuity 5876 code then this is available free. Wow, indeed. So, now with optimized economics, it is time to optimize allocation of the storage to various applications. What EMC plans to offer is possibility to manage applications based on SLO (service level objectives) via policy based automation.  For example:

 

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This was more discussed in separate session about future of FAST, but I didn't see that one available yet. Next on the menu was VNX. We heard EMC has passed 100000 mark for VNX (and VNXe) systems and 10000 for VNX2. The story behind VNX2 is interesting one. According to presentation, customer have said they buy equipment for 5 years.

 

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However, in those 5 years 10x growth happens and budgets do not follow 10x growth. So, to match this, EMC thought of innovate new software way how to provide this and after 3 years of work they came up with MCx which runs VNX2 and provides expected growth due to its ability to grow with core density (horizontal core scaling). So, to get more IOPs, you can either scale nodes or cores.  EMC went for cores obviously and came up with this:

 

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I think it is not a rocket science to figure out who the brand N is, right? Obviously, from latency point of view this is very important and today applications are hungry for low latencies.

 

Next, Data@Rest encryption was announced to be supported on VNX (so fat, that was VMAX only). It supports all data (file and block), all drives, all services and has built-in key management in array itself. This is coming as software update for all VNX2 customers.

 

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It's all flowers..

 

Finally, VNXe 3200 has been shown on stage. FAST, MCx, FC - all that in this small entry level box. Nice move. But that's not all! In software defined world, you would expect soon or later to get VNX engine digitized. And it is there!  It is called Project Liberty. This is targeting test and development tiers, RABO and cloud service providers.

 

Brian at the end reminded us of IT journey.  By beginning of this century centralized IT started to dominated. Centralized IT meant centralized decision making elongating whole process and bringing up some frustration. , For the past few years this is changing to next model - model of self service.  And I think this is the key beyond this whole transformation EMC is taking,  This transformation will certainly hit the bottleneck with people.

 

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Where am I?


Times flies and it is time for the party.  On Wednesday EMC traditionally makes farewell party.  For last two years acts have been pretty good.  We had Maroon 5 in 2012 and Bruno Mars in 2013. Last year I express my hope to see Adam Lambert and given Adam and Queen are on US tour just month later I thought that would be fantastic.  However, it was another act knows as Imagine Dragons.  This is raising start band and those who attended VMware World in San Francisco were already familiar with them. I didn't.  I checked Youtube and found that I knew of one song - Radioactive, but rest was rather unknown to me. Well, let's be open minded and see what happens.  What happened first was huge queue to get into the hall - just as any other year.  And suddenly there was also bunch of ladies in night dresses.

 

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In the middle of the crowd


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Radioactive I

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Radioactive II


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These shoes were made for walking...


Just as every year, there are some goodies to collect to make better atmosphere.  For example, last year we had blinking hats and glasses and this year we had blinking dragon crests. Welcome Imagine Dragons! One thing I noticed early on was that they start every song in a same way (or at least very similar) which was a bit of a let down. I didn't find them exciting as last years acts, but these could be also because unlike previous years I didn't try to mix with the crowd to be part of massive hysteria.  Here is small mix of few songs from the event.



As you can see it is not that people didn't have fun - they did. But my memory says they had more fun previous years and mostly this was because previous performances had more interaction with public and songs were more known to wider (radio) audience. Alternative rock band might not be everyone's cup of tea no matter how promising they may be. But hey, for a startup band they are very good. They do remind me of someone, but I still didn't figure out who. What I really liked is their drum performance live which is quite different from studio sound (studio wise it is more electronic and reminds of early Muse experimenting with distortion). This powerful drum sound made me think of Native Americans immediately. While Imagine Dragons have several knowns songs (released as singles), the one I liked the most is called Who We Are.



You may or may not agree with me, but bare in mind that tastes are not unique property.  I'm just saying what I feel.  Imagine Dragons are definitely an act worth following and I assume allot will depend on how their second album will work out (expected somewhere this year).

 

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Sweet break


Of course, during concert and surely before, you could warm up using some nice beverages and food. Congratulations to chef - especially for tandoori chicken.

 

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Half of Allen Ward, half of Jon klaus, RRR full size and Roy Mikes from back


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Taking positions (and food)


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One of the beautiful cooks - she was preparing delicious meat


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Almost there...


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Selfie momentum


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Boys will be boys: Jon klaus, Roy Mikes, Allen Ward and I think RRR is hidden there somewhere too


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Zombies Inc. - Allen Ward and RRR


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Table with sweets to Allen... over!

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Allen Ward to table with sweets... over over!


I was tired a bit and I call it for a day.  Not sure if other did too, but Las Vegas never sleeps so whatever you wanted to do that night - you could - just as any night or day too.  Good night Day 3 - tomorrow morning Day 4 starts.

Hrvoje Crvelin

EMC redefined - day 2

Posted by Hrvoje Crvelin May 15, 2014

My first EMC World dates back to 2010 in Boston.  Since then, EMC decided to host this event in Las Vegas which makes EMC World 2014 5th EMC World I attend and 4th one in Las Vegas.  And for those who do not know it yet, EMC World 2015 will be in - Las Vegas. With that said, I decided to write small thought diary with some distance of 1 week and cover what I can remember.  You can find first part of the story in:

EMC redefined - day 0

EMC redefined - day 1

 

6:15am and I hear my phone playing wake up tune.  I'm usually so used to that sound that my subconscious can ignore at levels where I switch off phone and continue to sleep which inevitably leads to cases of me being late for early morning stuff.  This is why I placed it in bathroom - walking from bed to bathroom should awake me.  Second reason is that I have another power outlet there so I can charge phone during the night. So, here I'm walking to bathroom and it is time for morning ritual: washing hands, teeths, splashing face with cold water and screaming loud as someone is torturing me, doing funny faces while looking at myself in the mirror and other silly things we men do. My morning was mostly empty (until 10am) so this was my chance to visit Encore and Wynn.  In the middle of splashing water all over the place, I checked my phone and I had text message from colleague saying we had trouble in one data center.  Great, there goes my morning To cut the story short, I lost 3 hours on fixing the things and verifying all is really well.  In process of doing that I also managed to skip the breakfast. Thank you network team.  Do you also always blame network guys?  Do they also always say it's everyone else, but not them?

 

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2nd day photo shot from 1st generation of 3rd platform devices made by 4th world workers

 

Around 9:30am I met with Michael Meissner - he also skipped breakfast as he just went on to sleep. Lucky bustard. After we had small gossip party and walk around the place, we were headed to ground floor where we would have Data Domain usability test. How did this happen?  Well, we saw If you are Going to EMC World, please schedule time to give us feedback about Data Domain! and we applied. Originally session was supposed to be 30 minutes, but just before event started this has been extended to 1 hour. This session focussed on Data Domain Management Center and multi-tenancy features brought in DDOS 5.5 (and later). We met Magnus Berglund so we did this session jointly and had quick chit chat.

 

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Harsh working conditions

 

I had to run at 11am as my EMC World app was showing I have E20-593 exam on agenda. On my way to Proven Professional room (which was on the same ground floor) I was wondering if I will pass this test. Well, this test is same as the one I did previous day except that it is targeting implementation engineers and not storage engineers. And my test results showed I sucked at implementation so I was really curious to see what happens today. Minutes later, I was back to my room. It turned out I have updated my schedule wrongly so test was not on Day 2, but rather Day 3.  And I did try to change that on the spot, but there was no way to change it as all slots were booked and waiting list was already long anyway.  So, this was postponed for tomorrow.  Good news was that correct time slot was not in collision with any other activity so I was happy with development. Michael Meissner and I went for coffee (I do not drink coffee so I went for hot chocolate). While standing outside, first I managed to spill over whole cup and soon Michael followed the same pattern with his coffee.  At that point I was not sure if this would be a good day.

 

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Lunch time (picture taken in front of one of the many galleries hosted by hotels)

 

It was time for lunch so we went for dining hall.  Lunch was ok and we only missed those nice cookies they had on Monday, but diversity is more important. Next on schedule was NetWorker & Data Domain: An Enterprise Solution for VMware Protection, but we skipped that session. While roaming EMC Elect longue I met few guys who were told us about SuperNAP 8 visit they did on Day 1.  I opted out for Day 3 visit to SuperNAP 8.  One thing I found interesting was fact that during the tour someone asked about what kind of boxes they see the most and trends there when it comes to hosting. It turns out everyone is switching to Intel and departing from Oracle Solaris, IBM AIX and HPUX. This is something I see more and more everywhere too, but I'm also aware of environments where certain management levels keep renewing existing contracts in shadow of corrupted minds and vendor-decision maker relationship with benefits. I like to use strong language sometimes and I coined phrase IT fascism for such cases where decisions beyond reasonable business cases are pushed. Needless to say, I despise such situations and IT (and business at the end) suffers inevitably.  For the past two years I've been reading about hosting trends and developments as I had to deploy some new servers and by reading what Gartner says it was clear that Intel is leading - period. This is not to say others are not in the game and not developing, but Intel is on fire and their development dwarfs everyone else. And from application point of view, we see more and more new features being introduced which requires faster pace of hardware development to meet demands imposed. In such scenario, Intel is much better swimmer. IDC predicted last year that Unix server revenue will slide from $10.2 billion in 2012 to $8.7 billion in 2017, and Gartner saw Unix market share slipping from 16% in 2012 to 9% in 2017. Jean Bozman, research vice president at IDC Enterprise Server Group, attributes the decline to platform migration issues, competition from Linux and Microsoft, more efficient hardware with more powerful processor cores which is less expensive and requires less maintenance, and the abundance of Unix-specific apps that can now also run on competitor’s servers. Errol Rasit, research director at Gartner, concurs that the primary cause of Unix weakness over the past decade is migration from the RISC platform to x86-processor based alternatives, which can run many Unix workloads, usually at attractive price/performance ratios. Today, x86 technology attracts most new deployments and innovation, such as cloud computing and fabric-based computing, which further validates the technology as a preferred platform. However, being down does not mean being out. I think everyone will agree that reliability is the key feature of any big UNIX system. Intel is aware of that and by checking future workloads, they also design their infrastructure giving developers time to build stable kernels to use it. Think of Oracle Exadata or SAP Hana - they all run on x86 and run mission critical stuff nowadays. And in typical modern (SD)DC, x86 hypervisor revolution is at peaks. I'm not saying one should just surrender and switch to x86, but it is pointless to ignore as standard and you should be very well into testing it already now. UNIX won't disappear for sure and as numbers of Gartner and IDC show - it will be slow but steady decline.

 

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Just a random photo - Palazzo

 

At 1:30pm both Michael and I went to instruction led vlab: The Data Protection Continuum: Getting More With EMC Data Protection & Availability.  This in essence is NetWorker and RecoverPoint. I was surprised to see them use NetWorker 8.2 which is beta as we speak. Either EMC does feel confident about this version (or at least features used during vLab) or this is convenient way of beta testing. We had some initial problems with getting vLab starting (but this was really individual thing) and once in the pace was really fast (too fast). I never did vLab before so to me this was new.  However, after 60 minutes of vLab I can say following:

  • this vLab is designed to last 2 hours - pushing it into 60 minutes is kind of pointless as you do not get to test most interesting parts and participants are left a bit disappointed
  • why not use eval license for NetWorker instead of Enterprise one? I don't care, but someone might just ****** it - you get it?

 

Because we had this "fast and furious" tempo, there was not so much time for interaction, but I noticed two anomalies:

  • I delete file (folder actually) and after that I did snap in NetWorker.  When checking on proxy server, mounted snapshot still contained delete data (!?). I had to do extra third snapshot to get one consistent with picture I had on "production host". I'm not sure why this discrepancy which should not be there.
  • When mounting snapshot to do restore from it, my first attempt failed (using NetWorker wizard).  By just clicking Back button and trying again it worked.  Not sure if this is due to beta code or some other environment based influence (bare in mind that vLabs are huge and there are so many going on at the same time).


I really liked vLabs.  Actually, as EMC Elect we have some benefits.  First, if there was a queue we could bypass it during EMC World (does not apply to instructor led vLabs as the one I did).  Second, we also get access to some vLabs ourselves remotely.  I can't stress out how good these are - really.  You must try it.  For certain things, I wish documentation was clear as vLab instruction are.  If I would be EMC, I would video all vlabs and publish them on youtube - people really need information like this.  Interesting enough, in my review of EMC World 2013 I said that in 2014 I would just do vLabs - I didn't, but surely I will in 2015 (I will explain this more in detail in Day 4 article).


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If life is mosaic, what picture would your life be? (picture taken in either Encore or Wynn)


Next on menu was Guy Churchward and his presentation.  I decided to skip that because day so far not as I thought it would be and I wanted to check things back home (network guys, remember?). Besides, it would be abstractive talk and Stephen Manley would do something irritating and the Guy would come over him and there would be little bit of information I could really use - deja vu. I can watch that online later where I can skip boring stuff.  It was time to go back to room and get back to senses.  While there I decided to check what has been said by Pat Gelsinger and Paul Maritz.  If you missed these two, click on EMC World 2014 - EMC TV.


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I always liked the way Pat talks as he makes it so clear and natural. He started with nowaday challenges - move from legacy client-server infrastructure onto cloud based one. To illustrate magnitude of change he went back to 1989 and listed couple of changes in world. At that time, Digital was 2nd technology company in the world and they were even challenging IBM. They also saw PCs as toys. Only 9 years later they have been bought by PC maker (Compaq) in fire sale. Why? Shift has happened and they failed to see it. Pat claims same if not bigger shift of such magnitude is also happening today. As he said, there are two path forward; HDDC and SDDC:


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Obviously VMware is going down the software defined approach and Pat says there are 3 strategic priorities:

  • SDDC (virtualize whole DC with power of software - EMC World 2013 as you might remember)
  • Hybrid Cloud (moving from on to off premise - EMC World 2014 has this hybrid cloud announced)
  • End-user computing (think of VMware Horizon - Pat didn't had time for this topic - EMC World 2015?)


Speaking of SDDC, there are four legs to VMware strategy:

  • compute (expand virtual compute to all applications and that's done via vSphere)


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This is where VMware actually started - it is their core. According to data, target is to see 100% of virtualized systems - today we see some 70%. Embedded systems, high-performance mission critical systems and similar - they all need to follow.  Therefore as next major step seen is the announcement that SAP HANA support on vSphere 5.5. This is important as up to date production use of SAP HANA was limited to physical hosts only - VMware now provides first ever hypervisor able to do this for production tier.  Benefits are seen the best in following slide:


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  • network (virtualize network for speed and efficiency and that's done via NSX)

NSX is something VMware announced just last year at VMworld in San Francisco. It supports any application, both virtual and physical clients, not just VMware but other hypervisors too. Last week Gartner published magic quadrant for network and this is first time ever software company has showed up there - clearly a success for "startup". Now, why would you virtualize your network? Pat offers following answers:

    • Speed - targeting on demand apps and services
    • Economics - OPEX efficiency and CAPEX cost savings
    • Security - re-architect DC security model as you approach new models like microsegmentation, overlaid networks, etc.
  • storage (transform storage by aligning it with application demands and that's done via vSAN)

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One thing to observe here is role of hypervisor.  Hypervisor sits on IO path, had knowledge of application demands, but knows also about storage.  This is why vSAN makes sense. This is why VMware and EMC are working on software defined storage.  This is done by abstracting data plane from control plane, then defining data services (cache, replication, etc) and finally policy based management.

  • Management (tools give way to automation and that's done via cloud apps)

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Goal here is obviously to bring IT as service.  So how does this work with EMC.  This is interaction map:

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With SDDC story ended and Pat shifted to Hybrid cloud topic. Market shows that growth is in off-premise, but spend stays within on-premise today.  Actually, it is so bigger that it dwarfs off-premise quite a bit - this is something we already heard on Day 1. This is why future operation lays on both on- and off-premises. This is why hybrid cloud. Public cloud today offers very different picture than what private cloud had and introduced additional complexity.  EMC take is hybrid cloud by introducing vCloud hybrid services (vCHS) which serves as extension of your private cloud.


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Having extension instead of something completely different is something that 500000 customers of VMware will certainly know how to appreciate. And from what I have seen from slides, object storage as service is coming soon too. Pat mentioned to expand across the market.  It's interesting he mentioned that as I was about to think about the same; I see cloud taking place in US, but not so much in Europe.  And when it comes to market, you can't ignore Asia which is on its way to dwarf anyone else.  EMC already has good ties with Lenovo and I suspect this collaboration will continue in this segment too.  Pat only said they plan to involve their partners in building success story in other markets too. Cloud DR service is already available now. And as time was approaching for Pivotal to take stage, Pat made last announcement: availability of Pivotal Cloud Foundry on vCHS which delivers industry's first enterprise-ready hybrid PaaS.


Path didn't talk about end-user computing, but I suspect this will be next touch and perhaps one of the topics next year.  I see this as an important step in further and much stronger expansion of BYOD models and overall distribution of input stations in cloud.


Next, Paul Maritz took stage. Paul too made accent on importance of 3rd platform and fact that Federation firmly believe business value will come from it.


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This is opportunity, but the threat at the same time.  For Pivotal it is not the question how you transition infrastructure, but how do you transition applications and data. Pivotal took a look at pioneers and found magic triangle with 3 components in:

  • applications
  • data
  • analytics


As an example Paul named Google and Facebook - running around circle and gaining more business value as they pass each cycle again and again. Now, big guns can do it in hours. Big enterprise can do it in weeks or months. Just as developers didn't have to think about CPU cycles when moving from 1st to 2nd platform, same analogy applies to storage and memory when moving from 2nd to 3rd platform. Big guns found a way to use cheap machines and storage. Data is stored forever and used on-demand by analytic engines. Pivotal is now asking themselves how can they bring this model to enterprises. So how does this vision work? Imagine this new cloud, either VMware, Google, Amazon or whatever via OpenStack as giant machines (mainframes of 21st century as Paul said). That's your new hardware. 


If so, what is your new software, your new operating system? So, we need cloud OS. Then we have data lake too.  What is data lake? Data Lake is a place to store practically unlimited amounts of data of any format, schema and type that is relatively inexpensive and massively scaleable. Data processing software is then available to transform the data from its raw state to a finished product. Finally, you need to design good development environment too.  Indeed, we are talking about whole platform here. And this is what Pivotal has been doing since it has been created.  Cloud OS is called Pivotal Cloud Foundry. Paul stressed out this must be open and named known names in industry with whom they've working together. Data Lake takes HDFS by Hadoop (which, in case you didn't know, is nothing else than Google File System or at least from where it was derived). As per Paul, databases of tomorrow will be made to use this storage and data and run multiple different semantics. Pivotal thus created Pivotal Big Data Suite by using experience of Greenplum and GemFire.


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Licensing model is also interesting.  Usually you get taxed for storing data even if you don't use it. For example, you pay per TB of storage. Greenplum recently changed that and they went from TB model to license per core of processing node only. So you are licensed based on your processing power.  With to get data faster - get more processing power and - pay more too for license. This model encourage users to store everything - no dark data is licensed after all. No one knows if you will use this data so why tax it then.  So, only when you pull it out into memory on processing node - that this data being processed is actually taxed through cores doing processing. It is interesting mode for sure.


How do you enable rapid application development to run on this? Obviously software development will need to be re-invented as this will know place signature on how does customer perceives data/service you are offering. Pivotal is working with customers to be able to develop this framework as much as possible. And to make it more exciting, it is not just core EMC and VMware who joined this framework, but also IIG (surprise) and RSA (more or less expected).  At the end, Logan Lee joined the stage and made demo (4 of them to be precise).  I was in particular impressed by example of power grid outage prevention - rather nice touch.  After demo, keynote supersession was over.

 

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Time travels fast (with speed of light, right) so it was time for Area 53. While I expected Chad again, this time we had Jeremy Burton as our host. The show started with agents J and H - kind of silly, but ok. Jeremy showed video in which he had accident and provided insight on how insurance of the future will operate (driven by 3rd platform of course). Some more Pivotal things have been shown by Pivotal guy joining the stage and how this future is now (though not yet released - after all, it is Area 53).

 

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Then we had ViPR demo using VMAX, VNX and VPLEX. VLEX now is part (if deployed) of vCenter.

 

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Home Alone @ Area 53

 

What about data protection.  It has been said we might need to use different options with different data types, but EMC was working on something called Project Charon. We were demonstrated the GUI, but to be honest I forgot what exactly it was doing. You can pic by clicking on http://t.co/pAEbFI5euE. I believe this is future ViPR with backup services like Avamar, RecoverPoint and Data Domain virtualized and connected together. Then, it was time for something different - it was time for Jon Landau.

 

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Most of the time story was going on around Avatar.  However, it is not really Avatar and EMC technologies that Jon's team is using why Jon was here.  Jon, along with his team, made change (disruption if you like) with his approach in many movies he made and certainly with Avatar. You can draw parallels between his work and what EMC was showing us on event so far so this was rather nice touch. We were very honored to see some never seen scenes before and from forthcoming Avatar movie(s) - but the way, it seems as if there will be 3 more and not 3 in total.

 

Finally, for the end, we have been shown Syncplicity on Isilon and Syncplicity iOS client - rather nice thing.  I really really liked that one. Very end went to iOS only app and what could be done with it, but I didn't really get the point (most likely Pivotal thingy). This ended up official part of the day and I could focus on ECN party.

 

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Party started one hour earlier for EMC Elect folks and their guests.  Soon as we entered we were approached by gentleman by the name of Robb Weinstock. This guy is CRAZY!! He is guru of optical illusion and he was doing all sorts of tricks in front of our eyes and you just don't see it.  I mean, he is standing in front of you, barely 30cm away and cards are changing, money is disappearing, people are getting drunk - you name it.

 

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Anyway, party was Dal Toro which is nice restaurant in Palazzo. I recognized people I knew and no one else. Well, almost no one else.  I finally met Karsten Bott who is great author of NetWorker2Go package and experienced Hyper-V guy.  If you don't know what I'm talking about you should check The Hyper-V Guy's Blog. He is also EMC Elect. As dinner was progressing, super magician was doing crazy tricks and one which really set the roof on fire was when he took $20 from Allen Ward.

 

The surprise of the evening was ECN's got talent show.  Here is from how I remember it... Mark Browne Browne took stage to say thanks and then

 

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Mark: Sean Thulin what are you doing!?

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Sean Thulin: I'm going to sing now.

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<silence>

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<with squeaky voice>: O sooleee mioooooo...

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This is not happening...

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Picture says more than 1000 words...

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Karsten Bott: God bless EU...

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Jay Leclerc: I... I... I... I...

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Annette Marzolf: Hey Michael, I have something yours

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Michael Meissner: I love you too Annette

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Allen Ward: OK, where is my $20???

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Robb (short for robbery): It's all illusion Allen...

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Kate H.: And now something completely different!

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You see these rings?

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Magic blow and...

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Argh, they don't listen!

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Maybe this...

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Maybe that...

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Do they split for you?

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Oh, they do split for you...

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Henriwithani: How many glasses do you see?

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Jørg Krause: Time to go home....

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AZ: You will be all banned!

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Game Over

 

I could go on, but I would hit the limit of the pics per post so I will stop here. I will use some pics for Day 4 too. Party lasted until 10pm and then everyone hit the road.  Some people went to other parties and some people went to bed.  I went to take snaps to Encore and Wynn - something I missed to do in the morning (pics from will be in Day 4 I guess). On our way out we had group photo with Chad (I believe this pic was taken by Annette's phone, but I could be wrong - I know Rob distributed it on Facebook):

 

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dynamox, RRR, Chad Sakac, Hrvoje Crvelin, Annette and Heineken

 

This concludes Day 2 report.

Hrvoje Crvelin

EMC redefined - day 1

Posted by Hrvoje Crvelin May 13, 2014

My first EMC World dates back to 2010 in Boston.  Since then, EMC decided to host this event in Las Vegas which makes EMC World 2014 5th EMC World I attend and 4th one in Las Vegas.  And for those who do not know it yet, EMC World 2015 will be in - Las Vegas. With that said, I decided to write small thought diary with some distance of 1 week and cover what I can remember.  You can find first part of the story in EMC redefined - day 0.

 

Monday has began early as breakfast starts at 7am.  Michael Meissner and I met in front of the brasserie and went along with flood of other people.  Monday start is always special as you get to hear new things coming.  Though I did know almost everything via EMC Elect pre-announcements, there was still number of things to be learn.

 

Before starting with sessions, Michael and I started with charity work. charity:water is a non-profit organization bringing clean and safe drinking water to people in developing nations. Founded in 2006 by Scott Harrison, charity has helped fund 11771 water projects in 22 countries, benefiting over 4 million people. The organization's goal is to bring clean water to 100 million people by 2022. EMC is committed to help them achieve this goal and the way they involved crowd at EMC World was by having them carry the water around. Every time you did this, EMC would give away $5.

 

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I know, I should lose some weight...

 

On our way back we visited EMC Elect longue to pick up the wristband for ECN party on Day 2.

 

Our schedule started with RecoverPoint: Accelerated Recovery For Virtual Environments.  I expected this session to be about RecoverPoint and VMware.  There was one caveat.  First, it was in combination with VNX and vRPA.  I was looking for RPA option.  vRPA is limited to VNX and it is not storage agnostic as such.  Presenters took advantage of the session and announced what is new in RecoverPoint 4.1.  In short, new stuff are:

  • MetroPoint Topology (replication will continue even with metro site loss)
  • Smart Bandwidth Utilization (RP will automatically switch to snap and replicate on high loads)
  • WAN Optimization (works under less stable and high packet loss networks)

 

What is the difference between RPA and vRPA (where RPA stands for RecoverPoint appliance)?  In short:

 

FeaturevRPARPA
Array supportVNXAny
Distributed consistency groupNoYes
Replication over FCNoYes
# of volumes for cluster2K8K
RPA-splitter connectivityiSCSIFC

 

Given that content of this session didn't match our expectations, we left earlier and went to get some nice seats for first keynote sessions. While it was expected we would be able to listen to this in Elect area, there was some issue with audio feed so we had to go to big hall room as where this year this keynote would be held.  On the way there, I saw something interesting.

 

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Swipe to continue: Big data mobility

 

Rewind time to 2 years ago and think about phones.  They started to get bigger and that time everyone was smart saying this doesn't make sense.  That didn't stop vendors from releasing ever bigger phones since. Fast forward to present day.  All high-end models are big phones. They do come with mini variant too, but big ones are now accepted and new normal.  You place them in the bag and you connect to them via one of those wearable gear units. They will have more sensors, they will generate more data. What do you with iPad dinosaurs?  While mini can fit the pocket (well, not really, but it does fit some), those bigger units will require some wearable place too.  I guess none of us wants to become robocop equipped person, but this just might be the future.  On the other hand, things are getting smaller and big power comes in small packages more and more.  This is why I bet more on possibility of wearable sensors and cloud attached devices.

 

This reminded me of youth.  Back in days of university I used to work at local club and one day we had visit by artist called Stelarc. Back in those days he has been obsessed with idea of extending capabilities of human bodies and one of ideas he had was to attach third ear. While possible, no one was ready to take surgery and grant him a wish. That was somewhere by the end of last century.  According to wiki, in 2007, Stelarc had a cell-cultivated ear surgically attached to his left arm. Nowadays medical implants not only help suppress disabilities, but they also collect information and based on intel trigger appropriate actions to be taken. Future?  Not at all. Not available to everyone for sure, but the way of life your children we have. Perhaps even ourselves.  Again, amazing power of data and analytics to be served by cloud. Yes, you can even call it matrix if you want. Anyway, time to step down from my dream cloud and enter EMC World and first keynote session.

 

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If you missed this, you can always take a look at EMC World 2014 - EMC TV. It was time for Joe Tucci and David Goulden. As expected, Joe gave quick intro into latest study by IDC and their digital universe.  Their previous estimate that it would take 10 years for data to grow 10 times has been now corrected to only 7. Yes, by 2020 expect 44ZB of data. Mapped to EMC itself, Joe showed how this looks from delivery point of view inside the house:

 

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What above picture shows is that EMC delivered first EB of storage in 2005.  It took them some time, but hey - those were days of small data. In 2010 they had first EB year.  In 2011, they had first EB quarter and only last year they had first EB month. Joe didn't say how this has been driven, but I suspect is not just new customers. You might have heard last year that EMC got job scanning and archiving of whole Vatican library.  That alone is huge amount of digital bits.  But regardless, it shows pattern. Few weeks ago I found group on facebook which groups folks from place were my parents are born and they started to scan all those old black and white photos to digitize memories forgotten. Even cigarettes have gone digital. Everything is becoming digital and what is already digital is getting additionally enhanced. By that same 2020, according to IDC, we will have 8 million more IT professionals. That's alot of certificates to be obtained. Put data and number of IT pros in companionship and you learn that today you have around 230 GB per IT professional; in 2020 that will be 1230 GB per IT professional. That means more tools and automation will be needed. Joe spent some time on talking about what causes this growth and how EMC Federation is fighting it. He also revealed numbers behind R&D and acquisitions. Big money (around 22% of revenue each year). And then when I expected David Goulden to take stage, Joe did something else - he announced new acquisition.

 

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DSSD. What is DSSD?  I admit I had no clue. But Joe referred to one of founders, quoting one TV channel, to be Steve Jobs of hardware. These are pretty strong words. And there is reason behind it.  Gentleman in question is Andy Bechtolsheim who has rather rich background in innovation. Wikibon has nice piece on this - please read EMC To Acquire DSSD. I wonder if someone will go after Fusion-IO now. Whatever happens next, war in field of very low latency storage has started and EMC acquired rather powerful horse. Andy had short speech on stage and announced product to be ready in 2015. One of targets mentioned was SAP HANA.  And, then over video link SAP CEO and president joined too. He spoke shortly of SAP strategy and if anyone had any doubts, he was rather clear - it is based on HANA. There was a hint SAP working with DSSD already (and EMC) on future moves.  Hmm... Is this EMC sending strong message out that prefered platform for SAP should be no one else than EMC itself and only?  I'm not an expert in this field, but you may check Tim Nguyen's blog on virtualized SAP HANA in Production & why the future is bright for very large HANA model.

 

Time to move on and time for David to step on the stage.  Between keynote speakers EMC has this little and annoying jingles. I don't get them.  I mean, I know what they show, but why? Simply not my cup of tea. David message is simple: new applications will redefine storage. And in shift between 2nd and 3rd platform, EMC plans to build the bridge for the customers too.

 

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Why does above matter?  Remember how many times competition says that EMC has bunch of products confusing customers what to use? EMC policy has been somewhat different.  They do not believe in one size fits all and believe they must provide best solution across the spectrum of requirements as seen above.  For example:

 

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According to the market stats, EMC leads each of this.  Not only those, but also converged infrastructure too (VSPEX and VBLOCK). David spent some time explaining why all-flash array matters. I encourage you to watch the video - it is very nice talk. Message is: EMC data services are always on and always inline. Not only that, they guarantee it. And they do that with 1 million dollars. First customer who manages to shut down data services gets 1 million dolar. How to test it?  IDC had guide how to test all-flash arrays - be EMC's guest and get rich if you can. Not only that, but EMC offers not trade in program in case you went for something else and now you changed your mind. XtremIO is your friend. David also gave hint of what to expect from DSSD technology.

 

David showed how cloud scale storage (running on commodity hardware and right now this is only HP SL4540, but more is in pipeline) may give you big savings even when it comes to 10 cents per GB. It doesn't sound much as such, but at those huge scales you can feel it. This is where Atmos fits, but this is also where ViPR kicks in and David announced ViPR 2.0.  Now, ViPR is something which has only be announced last year and work which has been made into this product is impressive.  What's new?  There is support now for data services running on commodity hardware. Existing compatibility for storage arrays has been enhanced - see following picture.

 

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ViPR 2.0 supports now block services too; not just file and object as before. This is based on ScaleIO technology EMC has bought previously. This means you can now create virtual pools of storage with varying performance tiers. This scales up to 1000 nodes which is more than enough.

 

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One thing David didn't mention was support for IPv6 in ViPR 2.0. Multiprotocol access in ViPR can be seen as following:

  • Object: S3, Swift, Atmos
  • HDFS: PivotalHD, Cloudera and Apache Hadoop
  • Block (iSCSI)
  • File (NFS and CIFS)

 

There is probably more (I know there is CAS support for Centera), but it escapes me at the moment. See Try ViPR Software-only Solution for more details (this is also a place where you can download it). David also skipped to mention active-active RW architecture which in combination with single global namespace is nice thing customers want.

 

Mentioned also was EMC role in HDFS segment (Hadoop) and picture with just released ViPR 2.0 looks as following:

 

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Rack scale is SDDS product to be announced in 2015. DC scale is Isilon and cloud scale is ViPR. Once again, this indicates there is no one size fits all models as each of them is positioned based on either performance, capacity or cost. Finally, last new thing in ViPR is geo-replication and geo-distribution support. This is EMC vision of SDDC. What will future bring? We already now have project Liberty where VNX has been ported to software and vOneFS where Isilon has been brought to software world. Future wise we will see backup components joining ViPR as data services (Avamar and RPA as practically there and Data Domain going virtual is something I heard already last year). And all this pictures can easily fit VMware via VSAN.

 

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And it is not just VMware, but Microsoft (Hyper-V) and OpenStack too. ViPR can be downloaded and used free for academic and non production environments. Chad, man from inside, has nice piece on this - check his ViPR 2.0 = Crazy Awesome SDS Data Plane Services, Free and Open.

 

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Another announcement made by David was elastic cloud storage appliance (ECS). This, to many, was known as project Nile previously. It's made by using ViPR and commodity hardware. You can build it yourself or use EMC predefined and ready-to-go configurations. ECS does redefine storage economics - at least at this very moment - as it provides lower cost than Amazon and Google do.  Below picture is based on 5.7PB of usable storage.

 

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I'm quite sure we won't have to wait for other vendors to jump in. Actually, I just read of IBM combining GPFS and Watson into elastic storage.

 

So, you have this, you have that, you have overlaps... where do we go from here? I mean, it is rich selection and you don't wish to make mistake.  David used Gartner data to show that currently companies are spending 2 trillion dollars in on-premises infrastructure and only 44 billion dollars for external cloud infrastructure. However, cloud thingy investments in its frequency are dwarfing on-premises for factor of 6. What does this give us?  According to David, the world is (and will be for quite some time) hybrid.  Think of the hybrid cars if it helps. This is why EMC plans to have foot everywhere and plans to enable this transition to customer to be as easy as possible.   And this is also why EMC announced hybrid cloud solution. It is referenced architecture using VMware and EMC technologies.  And to show how easy is to get it up and running (and using), EMC folks decided to build one from the scratch in just two days on premises of EMC World for everyone to see and feel this thing.

 

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It may sound as too many components, but this is modular approach (think of project Ara by Google) and as this is EMC World it certainly does use all EMC components. What is really nice is that this can be built now in days. Nice thing about vCLOUD Hybrid is that this offering is designed to act and feel as extension of your private cloud (DC) and not as yet another external cloud.  This surely helps. Obviously more about this was to expect on Day 2 by Pat Gelsinger who now leads VMware unit.  So, what the message here was is that EMC wishes to provide best storage infrastructure for 2nd and 3rd platform and bring these two together via ViPR. This pretty much closes first keynote session.

 

I personally liked this first keynote, but I would lie if I would say I did get everything in first go.  I had to watch it once more to keep up with pace by David and have or more less thought about each of his sentence. I strongly suggest you check it out too by clicking on EMC World 2014 - EMC TV. Now, one thing I have seen (and heard) is that there are still customers who are trapped in I-bought-this-4-years-ago-and-heck-what-is-going-on-here feel who would rather refresh they current offering and let be as the world is static.  I'm afraid that world of IT transformation is like climate change and denial is understable to me and surely there are those taking advantage of it.  However it is real. For those waking up I can recommend light reading by Gartner who last year released paper titled "Decision Point for Storage Resources: Block, File, Object or Unified Architectures?" (this is the link, but you will need login for it). Enterprise environments (and not just them) will most likely have need for more than two of those and EMC picture and effort in this space via ViPR makes perfect sense.  There are surely customers where just one of those may play key role.  I will finish this block by including Gartner's decision point guide which may or may not be your cup of tea - you are strongly advised to read their document to get full picture.

 

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Our next session was "Best Practices For Oracle Backup With Data Domain".  This session covered all possible scenarios you may have (like with and without DD Boost, with and without backup application).  This was more general session and than technical one so we left the room before Q&A session started.  I'm big fan of Caitlin Gordon and the way she speaks and leads sessions for couple of years now so I found irritating when her partner in session (Jeff?) started to talk in the middle she was talking.  At the moment they looked like married couple.  Another reason to leave this session was that in my packed schedule I didn't calculate lunch and since I knew all they were about to say, decision was easy. I won't talk about the lunch here, but I will mention I like it (I will come back to the topic of food on Day 4).

 

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This guy was playing some really nice tunes.  I really loved his version of Rihanna's We Found Love and Daft ****'s Get Lucky

 

After lunch next session and with semi-same presenters (Caitlin was there again) and subject was "Data Domain: What's New in 2014". Though I was aware of what is new through previous announcements and EMC Elect, I usually check this sessions as they have good Q&A and sometimes question pops up in middle which reveals some roadmap details. I have no objections on this session - both presenters did good job.

 

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There are two new things in world of Data Domain: Data Domain 2200 and DDOS 5.5. With DD 2200 EMC is extending entry level protection storage layer as they still keep DD160. What's the deal?  New DD 2200 is powered by Intel Sandy Bridge processors, enabling up to 4x faster performance than the DD160 and with 2 TB drives, the DD2200 offers 4x the capacity of the DD160. Finally, DD2200 is much more cost effective by offering up to a 57% lower $/GB compared to the DD160 (however, for price sensitive customers, the DD160 remains in the family to offer a starting ASP below $10000).  How about specs?  This comes as surprise to me as that little fellow is give quite some punch.  As you could see from picture above, DD2200 enables users to backup 36 TB in under 8 hours with up to 4.7 TB/hr aggregate ingest performance with DD Boost. This system enables customers to protect up to 860 TB logical capacity.  It is available at two capacity points: first one is a 7 drive system with 7.5 TB usable, and the second one is a 12 drive system with 17.2 TB usable.  But here is the real deal: DD2200 can be the target for up to 60 backup or archive streams.  For entry level machine that is alot! And, there is more.  DD2200 also offers a new feature - power-loss data persistence - that was designed to optimize reliability for the midmarket. Finally, DD2200 is a channel-only product that will be primarily available to customers via channel partners (just as DD160 is).

 

 

What about DDOS 5.5?  Two things are highlights here - multitenancy and archiving. Multitenancy is something I do not use, but I can see this being a must feature for any product as world moves on towards self-service setup.  So, it makes perfect sense to have it in product such as Data Domain which represents your protection end. Second improvement is archiving features which started to be enhanced already in DDOS 5.4.  Now, DDOS 5.5 they support 1 billion small files.  That's alot of small files. This is made possible through various file system enhancements, including more efficient cleaning and replication. Another new thing is something called litigation hold, which enables users to protect their compliance archive data during legal discovery by lengthening data retention policies.  With litigation hold, the administrator can set the new retention period through the archiving application and DD Retention Lock enforces the new retention period on the DD system. Other nice things are:

  • DD systems have been certified as a VMware NFS Datastore opening up the opportunity for VM Archive, which can reduce VM sprawl by archiving VMs directly to a Data Domain system via NFS.
  • Two other integrations have been added with new support of Hyland OnBase software for enterprise content management archiving and Index Engines for archive storage migrations.

 

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I've been using DD Boost for quite some time now (over IP) so my interest was to hear what is new there.  In short, we have enhancements in multi-user support, deeper integration with the EMC Data Protection Suite and an expanded ecosystem.  Following multi-tenant wave, now you can have multiple DD Boost users as well. What I see more than welcome introduction is that DD Boost is now supported over the WAN. Truth is, that this worked so far as well and there was no additional change to code from what I understand, but this case has just been qualified to be ok. At least it is supported now. Along with previous announcements for NetWorker and Avamar in April, we know following:

  • DD Boost for Avamar in-flight encryption from the client, which establishes a secure connection between the Avamar agent and Data Domain system over LAN or WAN.  This adds to existing support for in-flight encryption between systems via DD Replicator software and data at rest encryption via DD Encryption software.  So data can be encrypted from the client all the way to the DR site, which is ideal for security conscious environments.
  • NetWorker 8.1 includes support for "VM Instant Access", which enables VM images that are backed up with NetWorker to Data Domain to be accessed instantly and run from the Data Domain system just like the existing VMware feature with Avamar.
  • With NetWorker 8.1, DD Boost for NetWorker now supports SAP HANA.
  • MEDITECH support has been enhanced with DD Boost for NetWorker by adding the ability to backup directly from the application client to a Data Domain system.

 

Also, there is now new support for HP Data Protector.

 

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After this session it was time for something different.  Last year Rob Koper did number of exams as they were free for folks who attended EMC World (given that you registered and got spot in time).  I decided to check this out so I booked two exams I could find for NetWorker. First I tested myself against test exams - you will find them in Dell EMC Proven Professional: Certification Exams and Practice Tests. Two which did fit what I do and know best were NetWorker Specialist Exam for Implementation Engineers and NetWorker Specialist Exam for Storage Administrators. I'm aware there have been more interesting titles (like backup architect), but I did this really on short notice and really within 5 minutes so I just searched for NetWorker. One thing I noticed was when doing this preparation tests that questions were the same.  That was surprise, but I just didn't care (there was difference in fact that answers to questions were reshuffled).  Anyway, Monday was a day I did NetWorker Specialist for Storage Administrators.  It is rather misleading title as this is not what storage administrator should know about NetWorker in the first place.  But ok, I did it well and at the end I passed with 0 preparations.  I'm type of guy who does not believe much in these certificates as I have met more people who have entire collection of certificates and know nothing at the end, but ok - you must sometimes swim as the current goes.  Did it, passed it - case closed.  Interesting enough, at the end of exam you get overview per module and I did score 100% only on databases.  I was worst at installation - my colleagues already joke I must reinstall whole environment we have.

 

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Next on the menu was mystical Area 52.  What it is?  It is Chad's world of course. Chad Sakac moved up the hierarchy of EMC, but he didn't change (though he is a suit person now). If you missed Area 52 worry not - just read Chad's A new, 5th Branch in the Storage Tree of Life (and his earlier version known as Understanding Storage Architectures). As title suggests, there are 4 branches in storage tree of life and fifth one is emerging.  But let's stick to this four first.  Here is qualifications:

 

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Chad spent some time explaining each type and of course positioning EMC components in each. Along the story, he had guests and spoke of new things and things to come.

 

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I was too far away when I did this snap, but cropping saved the day

 

So what could we see.  Here is brief list:

  • VNXe 3200 with FAST Cache - a little monster hiding behind just 2U
  • Unisphere Central
  • Storage Integrator for Exchange
  • Project Liberty - virtual VNX that is
  • oh-no-moment - Stephen Manley joining the stage... he was quick at least - showing integration between Data Domain and VMAX in something called ProtectPoint
  • demonstrating XtremIO and how it performs with vLabs and later on SLOB
  • demonstrating ScaleIO in relation to vCloud Hybrid Services
  • demonstrating Isilon, but this time virtual one with OneFS across multiple sites (this is not GA product, but virtual Isilon is and you can get it via Isilon Simulator Download)
  • Jonas Rosland joined stage to show uploads to cloud via ViPR - it was funny as he used Chad's account for AD and Facebook which made Chad consider changing it

 

Anyway, type by type, EMC storage/hardware with some insights into things coming and it was time to arrive to mysterious fifth element. Those still remembering Joe's keynote could guess it easily - DSSD.  Something new, never seen and now part of EMC family. So, what is it? Well, not preview was give, but hints and direction were there.

 

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Ugly pic, I know - see Chad's referenced post above for clean and normal version and whole story

 

So, what Chad did was to show picture as above with real times, but since humans are kind of slow in getting microseconds, nanoseconds and similar he kept the ratios, but started with seconds to illustrate time consumed between components.  You can see that if your CPU has to talk to flash over fabric it does wait quite allot - you never thought of that, now did you?  Nice touch Chad! Now, this is how you build up your latency. It certainly does give different perspective than when talking about nanoseconds.  Instead of using my own dictionary, I will just quote Chad:

 

You have 10’s of KB of registers, and an on-die SRAM L1, L2, L3 cache – with latencies in nanoseconds. When you leave the CPU itself, you have an Direct Memory Interface to DRAM, with latencies in 10’s of nanoseconds, and an “inter-CPU core” NUMA architecture with huge bandwidth and relatively low latencies.

When you leave the CPU complex (but are still “in the server”) and transit the PCIe bus – latencies pop up to 10’s of microseconds.

When you then are getting in an out of the flash itself (still “inside the server” hanging off the PCIe bus), you add many tens of microseconds to read/write to the flash itself – call it 50 microseconds.  There’s also a ton of hardware innovation happening around the flash media handling (and software innovation on top of that).

If god forbid, you leave the server entirely and get into an all-flash array (almost regardless of protocol – RDMA, FC, etc – because it’s not about the link, it’s about the target) you are talking 100’s of microseconds in practice.   This isn’t so much about “cables” and “media” but the SOFTWARE STACKS inside the AFAs.  Even those that use direct object mapping (like XtremIO) have latecies that are in hundreds of microseconds (inevitably they have some block stack).  Those are those that use journalling and other filesystem or pseudo filesystem layout mechanics.  It’s not a coincidence that their latencies pop up to MANY hundreds of microseconds – in some cases, breaking the millisecond barrier.  And of course, some suffer more than others as utilization climbs, and system-level garbage collection kicks in.   Furthermore – FC is plenty fast, but it serializes things much more than PCIe.  Serialization + Latency = bad when the goal is system-level latency behavior.  But hey, 100’s of microseconds (even a millisecond) doesn’t sound like much, right?

 

It surely does sound like much once you translate this to other units and you put yourself into position of CPU. Do you really wish to wait 1 week?  Do you see where this is going?  DSSD, right?  But how? Chad does spend some time on his blog explaining this, but I will just include slide from his presentation which shows target audience and why this is not something to replace XtremIO:

 

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Want to know more? Wait for 2015. With that, Area 52 finished. Obviously tension is rising around what DSSD was working on and I wonder if they were the only one doing it.  If not, who else will be bought by whom?  Or how close are they to what DSSD was doing under cover for 3 or so years? Other stuff was ok and "ProtectPoint" as new addition to EMC backupware (that's how I call it) is long time awaited feature. However, do not expect it so soon (more on that in Day 3). I was nevertheless pleasantly surprised to see this finally.  It was probably 3 or 4 years ago when I spoke with EMC about this first. I was sorry to see this taking so much time, but it is not so simple as adding DD Boost to VMAX. I do not have details about about ProtectPoint, but I have my guess about it (more on that when I will write about Day 3). I only found one reference to ProtectPoint and that was live coverage twitter post by Mark May.

 

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Don't lose your head

 

It was time to visit Solution Arcade (formerly known as Solution Pavilion). It provides booths with various EMC (and partner) solutions. When opening on Monday, it provides food and beverage too so everyone is there.  This time too many people were there so I didn't stick for long, but I managed to play some archaic games which were there for display, When this openings happen, there is whole gallery of strange characters whose job is to attract your attention and get you near booth where nice lady will take you over and before you know it you will listen to some short presentation. It felt like birthday party by Freddie Mercury.

 

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Play the game

 

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Miss: I just missed write moment when white ball hit orange one which you see headed for the hole

 

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Backup area air guitar thingy, but most of the people I have seen there didn't really got into the mood.

 

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vBlockMan

 

There were obviously more announcements that day, but I was not there so more on those during Day 4. After Solution Arcade I went out for a walk and was headed towards Wynn and Encore. Why them? Because these two are twins and I heard Encore is most expensive one on Strip so I just had to take a look inside. I decided I would so most of look around tomorrow morning (Day 2) in the morning as I had empty space in the morning, but I just had to check what to expect.

 

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Bridge over troubled water

 

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Happy

 

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Paradise City

 

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Highway to Sin

 

On my way back I checked my emails and send couple of them too. Being -9 hours now was ideal to do morning checks of environment I take care of. Time to sleep now and get some energy for Day 2.

 

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Da Vinci the Exhibition Las Vegas - last shot for Day 1 and something I missed to visit at the end

Hrvoje Crvelin

EMC redefined - day 0

Posted by Hrvoje Crvelin May 11, 2014

My first EMC World dates back to 2010 in Boston.  Since then, EMC decided to host this event in Las Vegas which makes EMC World 2014 5th EMC World I attend and 4th one in Las Vegas.  And for those who do not know it yet, EMC World 2015 will be in - Las Vegas. With that said, I decided to write small thought diary with some distance of 1 week and cover what I can remember.

 

For some time now, I've been part of eCC (eServices Customer Council) and we traditionally now have yearly gathering and meeting day before event. This means we work on Sunday and travel on Saturday.  I started my travel on Saturday morning by leaving Croatia's main airport and headed for Heathrow.  This didn't started really well.  I forgot to buy $$$ from my bank so I tried to buy some on airport, but they only had it as $50.  You don't see anyone using more than $20 in US, but I took it and will change it later in casino or elsewhere. Then security check had be put out every single lens and cable I had.  While I was used to lenses, I was not used to cables and certainly not to batteries in every single piece of electronics I had. This made me worry a bit as my time on Heathrow was not awfully big for connection flight and I was wondering how much time will I waste there. To my surprise, security check on Heathrow was very easy and hassle free (I even managed to passed with USB wristband on my hand through beep-beep scanner which I only realized later on). Not only that, my Heathrow-Houston flight was in 787 Dreamliner which was really fancy - shades of color on window, USB sockets everywhere, power outlets in each seat, rich movie selection (I enjoyed Shadow Recruit).  I was happy man.

 

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Dirty glass plus mobile phone - quick shot as we leave UK

 

As always, you think a bit about what to expect from the event itself. It also helps to think about something else and not woman next to you who keeps staring into Zombie magazine and watches World War Z on screen. This year new buzzword was - REDEFINE.  And it was already known that this goes hand in hand with 3rd platform. You remember the story?  It started with big data.  Then big data found its home in cloud. Meanwhile evolution was going fast in world of electronics and we got Internet of Things (IoT). So, nowadays we have electronics everywhere and sometimes we even do not think about it that way.  Think of RFID chips, various medical implants, wearable gadgets which are flooding your hands as we speak, your newest fridge, etc. It doesn't have to be direct interaction; think of smart meters, think of transactions you did in the past, think of archived data which is getting digitalized now and analytic engine will use it to identify patterns.  All these devices generate data and all that data has to live somewhere. Storage right?  But, it not just storage as that is too cold, a bit without soul.  EMC has been now talking for years they are on journey of transformation and that they see themselves as software company. And admit it, majority of users does see EMC as hardware company thanks to their core business they are known about.  But already last year things started to change within EMC itself and they created EMC Federation. At that time, my thought was that they split the business into smaller units to be more efficient. Obviously this is no brainer and it does help survive, coordinate and lead.  This is what EMC did in 2013:

 

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EMC II is what most of folks I knew were into.  Pivotal was new thing and direction which showed EMC wanted to create something new for big data.  VMware everyone knows and there is nothing to be said there - except that I see this becoming more and more control center of the future data center. Finally, security matters and here we have RSA.  Combine all this pieces together and your have complete infrastructure solution for what we have now and most importantly for what we have tomorrow. And it is tomorrow why EMC took this step in the first place. During discussion at Ask the Expert: Creating the 3rd Platform Customer Experience with EMC TCE I asked question which in own world was limited to specific area of EMC, but got much broader answer, which I quote:

 

The 3rd Platform is defined as the next phase of the IT revolution and includes mobile computing, social networking, cloud services, and big data. It was actually International Data Corporation (IDC) who coined the phrase. IDC predicts that from 2013 through 2020, these technologies will drive around 90% of all the growth in the IT market. It is expected to grow to include billions of users and millions of apps.

 

The Third Platform is a significant part of EMC strategy. For the past several years, EMC has been developing Third Platform technologies based around cloud, big data, and trust. We’ve been working to ensure that we align our products and services to support the industry’s transition to the Third Platform. For example, our recent investment in Pivotal illustrates how EMC is evolving our products and R&D.

 

This pretty much illustrates what I said before. So, with this in mind, and knowing EMC did this move one year ago, it was time to see what they were up to for past 365 days or so.

 

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Fast lane.  You might think this guys was passing was, but we were kind of criss-crossing each other. Truth to be told, this was already when in plane for Las Vegas.

 

My landing to Houston was ok (though I hate big birds landing in combination with turbulence) and soon after I hopped on Las Vegas flight. Seating next to window kill my urge to think about it and I just enjoyed the landscape.  This year, as last year, my attention was caught by circles in ground.  See it for yourself:

 

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This picture was takes through dirty window glass - don't be too harsh in criticising

 

Last year I didn't really wasted much of brainpower to figure it out what it is. After seeing there are thousands of those, it was obvious this was not some crazy Englishman doing it for fun. While talking to some eCC members later, I was told this could be the way to measure land, but why then different size of circles? So, I took photo above as reminder to dig this up.  And so I did.  These are called pivot irrigation. Essentially they are farmlands. There's a well at the center of each one and then a long arm with sprinklers on it. So it's sprinkling all aorund the well. At a landscape level you're seeing a map of the aquifer. In other words, this kind of irrigation only works over aquifers, so the larger patterns of circles show where groundwater is easily accessible in the midwest. Pivot irrigation exists all over the world, but is the most common in the US midwest. Mystery solved. You can find more at Window Seat: The Art of the Circle Field.

 

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Another mobile quickshot - filling up 3rd plafform storage. When I see mountains, I know I'm approaching the target.

 

Anyway, time flew slow. While on paper it was 3 hours flight I didn't calculate in the difference for time zone so this turned out to be 5-6 hour flight at the end. Landing was nice - no shakes at all.  I still remember two years ago being caught by really strong winds and praying to stay alive.  This time it was easy peasy.  Getting off the airport was also stroke of luck; I took $8 shuttle and despite being only passenger it went right away thanks to fight event at MGM (I guess they wanted as many vehicle as possible in Strip area). While chatting with driver I found he was Croatian too by roots, Encore was most expensive hotel, North Carolina had business going strong, saving in banks was risky and end of May would see some really high temperatures.

 

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You will never guess where this picture was taken from...

 

Checking in at Venetian was easy too.  Just as last year, I got the room in part of hotel near the event itself so my walkaround experience was minimized.   My travel highlight was seeing meteor impact crater - something I do not see every day obviously.  Ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce to you Meteor Crater known as Barringer Crater.

 

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Sitting next to window pays off as scenery is close to shots you see from other planets.

 

If you look closely, you will see road leading to impact place (Winslow, Arizona). This crater was created 50000 years ago (yes, that is much more than what considerable amount of American believes Earth is old). During the 1960s, NASA astronauts trained in the crater to prepare for the Apollo missions to the Moon. On August 8, 1964, a pair of commercial pilots in a Cessna 150 flew low over the crater. After crossing the rim, they could not maintain level flight. The pilot attempted to build up speed by circling in the crater to climb over the rim. During the attempted climb out, the aircraft stalled, crashed, and caught fire. It is commonly reported that the plane ran out of fuel, but this is incorrect. Both occupants were severely injured but survived their ordeal. A small portion of the wreckage not removed from the crash site remains visible to this day.

 

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Hoover dam as seen from (dirty) window seat

 

After checking out with Michael Meissner about whereabouts, I learned so far arrived members were already meeting at Wolfgang Puck place (this is on second level where shoppers canal is at Venetian). This is yet another celebrity chef place and my eye for details saw he had corner on Las Vegas airport too. I went there and could see number of folks like Joerg Krause, Allen Ward, dynamox, Roy Mikes, Vincze, Rob Koper, Michael Meissner and SusanE. By the time I joined people started to go back to the rooms as some of them really had to wake up early (Michael at 3am and much sleep during entire trip).  I didn't much during Friday to Saturday night and during travel none (except short nap between Houston and Vegas), but I had enough energy to pay visit to next bar.  Gang on four was: Joerg, Roy, Sergey and myself.

 

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Unlike last year, circle bar in casino is now surrounded by game machines. Pitty...

 

Sergey and Roy first gave up stimulating drinks by converging to Coca Cola light infrastructure.  Soon they were off, but then we saw Henriwithani and made few more rounds. Rest of the time I spent on writing document I promised to colleague as I wanted to sleep only next night. This model worked so far nice each year and helped me adjust to time zone difference of -9 hours rather nicely (bare in mind that Henri had difference of -10 hours which makes those guys speaking of jet lag due to 2-3 hours TZ difference sound a bit silly).  Day 0 was about to start.

 

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Being awake all night I had to take walk every little a while and from time to time I got to see some things you do not see regularly - even in Las Vegas.

 

Being here for 4th year made me sure of one thing - Saturday nights are wild (so are Fridays too). What you get to see there is just beyond belief and most likely good spot for anyone interested in behavioral science. While majority here has embraced nudity as style to go out, few do push this much further.  Still, minority only while majority still tends to stand within definition of style.

 

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Black box - you never know what will walk out of it.

 

My morning road to meeting of eService Customer Council was plagued with temptation. Not because of drunk girls (or women if you want, but I beg to differ), but rather shamelessly and tactically placed source of sweet next to the path from/to my room.  Let me show you.

 

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Usually you can't resist the desire and you feel sorry later.  I could, but I feel sorry for that now.

 

As was still to early for meeting (9am) I made my walk around the place.  We were located in Pinot Brasserie just as last year, but in different (larger) room so I left my stuff and started wondering around. Registration for EMC World was scheduled for later afternoon, but despite early hour you could see people involved with organisation of event were already there. I thought main keynote would be held as last year in the same room so I made quick snap of the room while still under construction:

 

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3D glasses?

 

As last year EMC had this huge as stadium screens and as this year they had posters with glasses, I thought they would repeat the same thing except one would be given 3D glasses and would enjoy 3D show. Voice in my head was telling me that I should ignore my thoughts as glass is just here to remind you Google glasses (and many likes to come) as representative of 3rd platform generating big data in cloud.

 

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Ready? Steady? Go!

 

Time until 9am passed quickly and our meeting could start.  Being under NDA, I won't disclose much - well, I won't disclose anything except:

  • this meeting was highlight of the day
  • I enjoyed role play where we got to swap roles and design
  • was great to see friends again
  • we all (except grumpy old Rob) agreed that we might need more than 1 day (of course, Rob likes it too, but he is too shy to admit)

 

As Sue noticed, last note is interesting one since this originally started as 1h meeting several years ago.  It is just amazing how compact group is and how we continue to evolve.

 

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Above picture was taken by member of brasserie stuff - I had to crop it to make it usable

 

After our meeting it was time to do registration and pick up the materials (mostly this material was marketing stuff to get you around booths in Solution Arcade). As I was tired and wanted to be sharp for next day, I skipped all the plans for wild evening out and went with Michael for a short walk.  As this was his first EMC World it would silly to leave him on his own so went to Bellagio which I still find to be beautiful hotel and place to be.  I like their interior decoration.

 

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Inside Bellagio...

 

But Bellagio is not just about inside, but also outside. This hotel is owned by MGM and inspired by the Lake Como town of Bellagio in Italy. One of the most notable features is large lake between the building and the Strip, which houses the Fountains of Bellagio, a large dancing water fountain synchronized to music. I'm not sure when the show starts as I have seen it at least once during the day, but once it runs it runs every 15 minutes.  And each time water will dance to different tunes.  It is one of those attraction which always attracts many people.

 

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Outside Bellagio...

 

Next was, on our way back, Caesars Palace which also does offer breathtaking views during both night and day.

 

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Watersports...

 

One thing which Day 0 brought to me was my new lens which I bought back in February, but did pick up only now.  It was 105mm f/2.8 macro lens by Nikon and as little kid I just had to test it on something.  My test subject become wristlet usb drive which each EMC Elect 2014 member was given and was supposed to be (one of) ID to get you in Elect longue.

 

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Yes, I used wrong settings when shooting, but still managed to get usable shot

 

EMC Elect community this year had rich schedule, but I made one which would cover subjects Michael could be interested so I focussed on public sessions (those at Elect longue were mostly closed type). Just as last year, Elect community could not only listen to dedicated and more in-depth sessions, but also visit SuperNAP data center (SuperNAP 8 this year) and enjoy few more privileges.  This closes day 0 as I was allowing sleep to take over, but only until Day 1 has come.

 

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Don't you forget about me...

Those familiar with NetWorker know that each NetWorker code tree gets patch released one month apart (approximately).  Currently we have following code trees:

8.0SP3 with latest patch being 8.0.3.4 (build 356)

8.1SP1 with latest patch just being released as 8.1.1.5 (build 306)

 

8.2 was announced, but this is still away from GA waters so this is why you have two code streams listed above.

 

Now, good old custom of NetWorker engineering is that they place in public places only list of escalations fixed - not bug nor RFEs which sometimes end up in patch releases.  If you are partner, you should have release to full list.  For the rest of the world, only escalation fix list is available. Here is the public list:

 

IDDescription
NW158511nsrim -X does not delete expired saveset on DDBOOST devices
NW158692Windows 2003 recoveries with NW 8.1.1.1 does not recover registry components together
NW156913NetWorker 8.1 Immediate cloning hangs and causes savegroup to hang when group has a 'skip' level backup. This has been reported couple of times on ECN.
NW158889nsrjobsd creating coredumps on 8.1.0.4
NW155770VBA timing policy discrepancies. VBA policy backups are set the browse the retention to 2106 if non-default timing policy is applied. Moreover, if you change the number of periods in the built-in timing policy, it is not taken.
NW159896

NetWorker savesets which are expired in the NetWorker media database are not automatically deleted from a NetWorker Cloud Device.

 

NetWorker cloud devices, for the purposes of data retention on the device itself, work in a similar way to NetWorker tape devices, and not in a similar way to NetWorker disk devices. Metadata is expired in the normal way from the NetWorker media database, but the actual removal of the data from the cloud device only takes place after that cloud volume has been removed from the NetWorker media database and a new cloud volume has been labelled using the same Atmos account. There will no disk space on the Atmos freed up by the expiry of a saveset from NetWorker. This disk space will only be liberated by a removal of the cloud volume from NetWorker's media database and a subsequent labelling of a new cloud volume. This is the way that NetWorker has been designed to function.

NW151525Save set all-local doesn't work on Solaris 11 non-global zone backup
NW157899'NSR Group' left as "status: running" when savegroup finished with "exited with return code 2"
NW157907Tapes getting marked Full prematurely with message " posix async write: Error 0"
NW157066nsrexecd fails to start Error: nsrexecd is already running. I wonder if this is related to Run, baby, run.
NW158768VADP: Restored VM from Image Level backup is not bootable
NW160615nsrvba_save daemon intermittently dumps core during backup through a Linux server
NW153818Tape drives doesnt go to service mode even after maximum consecutive error reached
NW160142Include IBM Silo Support in NetWorker 8 versions for all platforms including AIXPower as per NetWorker Compatibility Guide.
NW160090PSR: nsrclone daemon cored

 

To get fully working installation packages for all supported OS platforms (at least for NetWorker core package), visit ftp://ftp.legato.com/pub/NetWorker/Cumulative_Hotfixes/8.1/8.1.1.5/

 

And that's the memo.

I believe the process of going from confusion to understanding is a precious, even emotional, experience that can be the foundation of self-confidence.

                                                                        - Brian Greene

 

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Few Americans question that smoking causes cancer. But they have more skepticism than confidence in global warming, the age of the Earth and evolution and have the most trouble believing a Big Bang created the universe 13.8 billion years ago. Just 4% doubt that smoking causes cancer, 6% question whether mental illness is a medical condition that affects the brain and 8% are skeptical there's a genetic code inside our cells. More - 15% - have doubts about the safety and efficacy of childhood vaccines. About 4 in 10 say they are not too confident or outright disbelieve that the Earth is warming, mostly a result of man-made heat-trapping gases, that the Earth is 4.5 billion years old or that life on Earth evolved through a process of natural selection, though most were at least somewhat confident in each of those concepts. But a narrow majority questions the Big Bang theory. Actually, the reality of the Big Bang 13.8 billion years ago was the least believed proposition, getting about 20%. That's vastly lower than the number of Americans who believed in various religious insights such as the resurrection of ***** ******. Depressing. For get more depressed, see here. Lubos Motl was motivated by this so first he made 21% of Americans believe the Big Bang. As that was not enough, he had later guest post by Kashyap Vasavada in form of Hinduism for physicists.

 

News broke of the first (again) Earth-sized exoplanet orbiting within the habitable zone of another star has been confirmed by observations with both the Keck Observatory and the Gemini Observatory. The initial discovery, made by Kepler telescope, is one of a handful of smaller planets found by Kepler and verified using large ground-based telescopes. It also confirms that Earth-sized planets do exist in the habitable zone of other stars.

 

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The host star, Kepler-186, is an M1-type dwarf star relatively close to our solar system, at about 500 light years and is in the constellation of Cygnus. The star is very dim, being over half a million times fainter than the faintest stars we can see with the naked eye. Five small planets have been found orbiting this star, four of which are in very short-period orbits and are very hot. The planet designated Kepler-186f, however, is earth-sized and orbits within the star's habitable zone.

 

 

What did not make the news, however, is that this discovery also slightly increases how much credence we give to the possibility of near-term human extinction. This because of a concept known as The Great Filter. The Great Filter is an argument that attempts to resolve the Fermi Paradox: why have we not found aliens, despite the existence of hundreds of billions of solar systems in our galactic neighborhood in which life might evolve? As the namesake physicist Enrico Fermi noted, it seems rather extraordinary that not a single extraterrestrial signal or engineering project has been detected. This apparent absence of thriving extraterrestrial civilizations suggests that at least one of the steps from humble planet to interstellar civilization is exceedingly unlikely. The absence could be caused because either intelligent life is extremely rare or intelligent life has a tendency to go extinct. This bottleneck for the emergence of alien civilizations from any one of the many billions of planets is referred to as the Great Filter. Are We Alone?

 

What exactly is causing this bottleneck has been the subject of debate for more than 50 years. Explanations could include a paucity of Earth-like planets or self-replicating molecules. Other possibilities could be an improbable jump from simple prokaryotic life (cells without specialized parts) to more complex eukaryotic life - after all, this transition took well over a billion years on Earth. Proponents of this “Rare Earth” hypothesis also argue that the evolution of complex life requires an exceedingly large number of perfect conditions. In addition to Earth being in the habitable zone of the sun, our star must be far enough away from the galactic centre to avoid destructive radiation, our gas giants must be massive enough to sweep asteroids from Earth’s trajectory, and our unusually large moon stabilizes the axial tilt that gives us different seasons. These are just a few prerequisites for complex life. The emergence of symbolic language, tools and intelligence could require other such "perfect conditions" as well.

 

Or Is the Filter Ahead of Us? While emergence of intelligent life could be rare, the silence could also be the result of intelligent life emerging frequently but subsequently failing to survive for long. Might every sufficiently advanced civilization stumble across a suicidal technology or unsustainable trajectory? We know that a Great Filter prevents the emergence of prosperous interstellar civilizations, but we don’t know whether or not it lies in humanity’s past or awaits us in the future. For 200000 years humanity has survived supervolcanoes, asteroid impacts, and naturally occurring pandemics. But our track record of survival is limited to just a few decades in the presence of nuclear weaponry. And we have no track record at all of surviving many of the radically novel technologies that are likely to arrive this century. When the Fermi Paradox was initially proposed, it was thought that planets themselves were rare. Since then, however, the tools of astronomy have revealed the existence of hundreds of exoplanets. That just seems to be the tip of the iceberg. But each new discovery of an Earth-like planet in the habitable zone, such as Kepler-186f, makes it less plausible that there are simply no planets aside from Earth that might support life. The Great Filter is thus more likely to be lurking in the path between habitable planet and flourishing civilization.

 

If Kepler-186f is teeming with intelligent life, then that would be really bad news for humanity. For that fact would push back the Great Filter’s position further into the technological stages of a civilization’s development. We might then expect that catastrophe awaits both our extraterrestrial companions and ourselves. In the case of Kepler-186f, we still have many reasons to think intelligent life might not emerge. The atmosphere might be too thin to prevent freezing, or the planet might be tidally locked, causing a relatively static environment. Discovery of these hostile conditions should be cause for celebration. As philosopher Nick Bostrom once said: "The silence of the night sky is golden … in the search for extraterrestrial life, no news is good news. It promises a potentially great future for humanity."  I tend to agree with Lubos Motl on this subject as he described in There's probably no industrial civilization on Kepler-186f.

 

Last November, a gargantuan iceberg broke free from the Pine Island Glacier in Antarctica. Six times larger than Manhattan and possibly 500 meters thick, iceberg B31 is now drifting slowly toward the Southern Ocean.

 

 

The time-lapse by NASA above starts in early November, just as the iceberg was calving from the glacier, and it continues through mid-March, tracking B31 as it moves through Pine Island Bay. Pine Island Glacier has accelerated dramatically in 40 years, according to a study published in March in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. It is one of six giant glaciers in West Antarctica that the study shows are moving considerably faster now, dumping increasing amounts of ice into the ocean and thereby causing global sea level to rise. For more details see As Antarctic Glaciers Flow Faster, an Iceberg Six Times Larger than Manhattan Drifts Toward the Open Sea.

 

The majority of the stars in our Galaxy, the Milky Way, reside in a single huge disc, known as the Galactic Plane, spanning 100000 light-years across. The Sun also resides in this crowded stellar hub, lying roughly halfway between its centre and its outer edges. Be aware, what you see below is huge image

 

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This disc is filled with a diffuse mixture of gas and dust (so called the interstellar medium) that pervades space, filling the large gaps found between stars. Occasionally, these clouds of gas and dust cool, becoming denser and denser until they spark star formation, giving rise to new generations of stars. Image above is part of Hi-GAL, a survey of the Galactic Plane completed with ESA's Herschel. The image combines observations from the PACS and SPIRE instruments on Herschel. It spans about 12º on the longer side, corresponding to some 24 times the diameter of the full Moon. And just to be realistic - this is only 1/30th of the entire Galactic Plane survey. And if you like galaxies, do not forget to check Hubble galaxies: Deep image reveals thousands of weird galaxies.

 

What about intergalactic medium? Caltech astronomers recently have taken unprecedented images of the intergalactic medium (IGM) - the diffuse gas that connects galaxies throughout the universe - with the Cosmic Web Imager (instrument designed and built at Caltech). Until now, the structure of the IGM has mostly been a matter for theoretical speculation. However, with observations from the Cosmic Web Imager, astronomers are obtaining our first three-dimensional pictures of the IGM. The Cosmic Web Imager will make possible a new understanding of galactic and intergalactic dynamics, and it has already detected one possible spiral-galaxy-in-the-making that is three times the size of our Milky Way.

 

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Since the late 1980s and early 1990s, theoreticians have predicted that primordial gas from the Big Bang is not spread uniformly throughout space, but is instead distributed in channels that span galaxies and flow between them. This "cosmic web" - the IGM - is a network of smaller and larger filaments crisscrossing one another across the vastness of space and back through time to an era when galaxies were first forming and stars were being produced at a rapid rate. As you know 96% of the mass and energy in the universe is dark energy and dark matter, whose existence we know of only due to its effects on the remaining 4% that we can see: normal matter. Of this 4% that is normal matter, only 1% is made up of stars and galaxies. The remainder, which amounts to only about 3% of everything in the universe, is the IGM. Two papers describing the initial data from the Cosmic Web Imager have been published

 

Light has some well-established dynamical properties that have defined our understanding of electromagnetic radiation for over a century. Two of the most fundamental of these properties are that photons of light carry momentum in the direction of propagation, and a 'spin' about the propagation axis defined by the electromagnetic wave's circular polarization. These properties play critical roles in a range of everyday phenomena and experimental interactions between light and matter.

 

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RIKEN Interdisciplinary Theoretical Science Research Group and Center for Emergent Matter Science scientists have now made the remarkable discovery that a particular type of light known as evanescent waves possesses unexpected dynamical properties that are in sharp contrast with previous knowledge about light and photons. Evanescent waves are produced, for example, when light undergoes total internal reflection at a boundary with another medium. In such situations, the main electromagnetic wave is reflected back into the originating medium and an evanescent wave is produced in the second medium. The evanescent wave decays rapidly away from the boundary but can propagate along the interface. By investigating the dynamic characteristics of evanescent waves, team discovered that the momentum and spin of these waves have transverse components that are oriented at right angles to the plane of propagation. Equally surprising, they also found that the transverse momentum, and not the transverse spin, is determined by the wave's circular polarization - precisely the opposite to the dependence seen in normal light.  You can find more details here.

 

Quick notes:

  • The Y chromosome, which distinguishes males from females at the genetic level, appeared some 180 million years ago. It originated twice independently in all mammals. Scientists have managed to date these events that are crucial for both mammalian evolution and our lives, because the Y chromosome determines whether we are born as a boy or girl. For details, see here.
  • If you read my previous posts you know I'm pro-nuclear guy.  Perhaps (surely) plutonium is not good as thorium is, but current anti-nuclear hysteria is nonsense.  And you don't have to agree with me, but just read What is the Future for Eco-Pessimists and Pro-Nuke Greens? and think about it.
  • Brian Greene is amazing with words and has power to translate complex topics into understandable paragraphs. He is also very talented theoretical physicist.  He made beautiful article on recent gravitational waves with history perspective as well - please check Listening to the Big Bang.
  • I'm big fan of 2048 game.  Now, on similar principle there is a game where you can build your own star - check Build your own Iron-rich star!
  • Matt Strassler is back with The Amazing Feat of Quantum Tunneling.  Needless to say, it is recommended reading.
  • Ten things you might not know about particle accelerators?  Click here for more details.
  • While setting out to fabricate new springs to support a cephalopod-inspired imaging project, a group of researchers stumbled upon a surprising discovery: the hemihelix, a shape rarely seen in nature. This made the researchers wonder: were the 3D structures they observed randomly occurring, or are there specific factors that control their formation? The scientists answered that question by performing experiments in which they stretched, joined, and then released rubber strips. Below is an illustration of a helix (top), a hemihelix with one perversion marked by an arrow (middle), and a hemihelix with multiple perversions (bottom). The scale bar is 5 cm for each image. For details, see Scientists characterize a new shape using rubber bands | Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

 

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  • NASA's Cassini spacecraft has documented the formation of a small icy object within the rings of Saturn that may be a new moon, and may also provide clues to the formation of the planet's known moons. See here for more details.
  • Despite light pollution you see some start, but from the airplane not - despite being above the clouds - why?  Ethan has answer for you in his Ask Ethan #33: A Flight Without Stars.
  • Mysteries of one of the most fascinating nearby planetary systems have been solved. The study presents the first viable model for the planetary system orbiting one the first stars discovered to have planets. Illustration below shows the orbital distances and relative sizes of the four innermost planets known to orbit the star 55 Cancri A (bottom) in comparison with planets in own inner Solar System (top).  Both Jupiter and the Jupiter-mass planet 55 Cancri "d" are outside this picture, orbiting their host star with a distance of nearly 5 astronomical units (AU), where one AU is equal to the average distance between the Earth and the Sun. For details, see Solved: mysteries of a nearby planetary system.

 

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Those who care most passionately about climate change belong to opposing camps. One camp believes global warming is much ado about nothing and the other believes it is an existential threat to civilization. These two camps are at war. The rest of us who chime in every so often risk being caught in the crossfire. Remember, there are no bystanders in war. If you don’t choose a side, it’ll be chosen for you.

You may also read his Is Climate Change Making You Wobbly in the Head?

  • Scientists have discovered new relationships between deep-sea temperature and ice-volume changes to provide crucial new information about how the ice ages came about. The researchers found, for the first time, that the long-term trends in cooling and continental ice-volume cycles over the past 5.3 million years were not the same. In fact, for temperature the major step toward the ice ages that have characterized the past two to three million years was a cooling event at 2.7 million years ago, but for ice-volume the crucial step was the development of the first intense ice age at around 2.15 million years ago. Before these results, these were thought to have occurred together at about 2.5 million years ago. For details see here.
  • Scientists were greatly surprised to discover an ancient tundra landscape preserved under the Greenland Ice Sheet, below two miles of ice. This finding provides strong evidence that the ice sheet has persisted much longer than previously known, enduring through many past periods of global warming. For details see Preservation of a Preglacial Landscape Under the Center of the Greenland Ice Sheet.
  • Parts of ancient Antarctica were as warm as today's California coast, and polar regions of the southern Pacific Ocean registered 21st-century Florida heat, according to scientists using a new way to measure past temperatures. See Pronounced zonal heterogeneity in Eocene southern high-latitude sea surface temperatures for details.
  • New research has found that increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere cause soil microbes to produce more carbon dioxide, accelerating climate change. This research challenges our previous understanding about how carbon accumulates in soil. For details, see Faster Decomposition Under Increased Atmospheric CO2 Limits Soil Carbon Storage.
  • Despite overwhelming scientific evidence for the impending dangers of human-made climate change, policy decisions leading to substantial emissions reduction have been slow. New research shows that even as extreme weather events influence those who experience them to support policy to address climate change, waiting for the majority of people to live through such conditions firsthand could delay meaningful action by decades. For details, see Climate change: Don't wait until you can feel it.
  • From food shortages to global weather changes, there are ways to mitigate the risks of climate change, experts say. A new muli-national report outlines what we can expect as the planet continues to change with regard to climate patterns, and offers recommendations that focus on strategies from adaptation to mitigation. For details, see Latest IPCC report: Climate change poses risks to the well-being of nature and people – but there are ways of mit…
  • New NASA research on natural ozone cycles suggests ozone levels in the lowest part of Earth's atmosphere probably won't be affected much by projected future strengthening of the circulating winds that transport ozone between Earth's two lowest atmospheric layers. The finding is good news, since human and plant health are harmed by exposure to ozone near the ground. Significant increases in ozone in Earth's lowest atmospheric layer, the troposphere, would also lead to additional climate warming because ozone is a greenhouse gas.
  • Mystery of [1302.0009] PS1-10afx at z=1.388: Pan-STARRS1 Discovery of a New Type of Superluminous Supernova is over.  We now know anomalies observed were due to gravitational lensing. See Mystery Solved: Supernova Lies Behind Cosmic 'Magnifying Glass' for details.
  • The universe we can see is made up of thousands of millions of galaxies, each containing anywhere from hundreds of thousands to hundreds of billions of stars. Large numbers of galaxies are elliptical in shape, red and mostly made up of old stars. Another (more familiar) type is the spiral, where arms wind out in a blue thin disk from a central red bulge. On average stars in spiral galaxies tend to be much younger than those in ellipticals. Now a group of astronomers has found a (relatively) simple relationship between the color of a galaxy and the size of its bulge: the more massive the bulge, the redder the galaxy.

 

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Images of a small fraction of the galaxies analysed in the new study. The galaxies are ordered by total mass of stars (rising from bottom to top) and by ‘bulge to total stellar mass ratio’ (rising from left to right). Galaxies that appear redder have high values for both of these measurements, meaning that the mass of the bulge - and central black hole - determines their colour. For details see Red stars and big bulges: how black holes shape galaxies.

 

 

  • Discovering the secret to a long and healthy life has always intrigued humanity - you need look no further than the nearest magazine rack to see that that fascination is today alive and well. And now scientists have some new hints, thanks to blood samples from one of the longest-lived humans yet to walk this Earth: Hendrikje van Andel-Schipper, who was 115 when she died in 2005. A new genetic analysis of blood and tissue samples collected during her autopsy indicates that life’s outer limits might be set by our cells’ finite ability to divide.
  • For the first time, astronomers have seen a double star brighten rather than fade when one star passes in front of its companion. Predicted decades ago, the phenomenon arises from gravitational microlensing as the great surface gravity of a white-dwarf star magnifies its partner's light.  For more details see Dignity, Impudence, And General Relativity and KOI-3278: A Self-Lensing Binary Star System.
  • According to a new study by British researchers, not only can music help men attract mates, but more complex the song, the greater the composer’s chances of getting a woman to sleep with him. See Women Prefer Complex Composers for Sexual Flings
  • Fermilab director speaks of fascination about Higgs and neutrinos in Quantum Diaries
  • Multi-sensory technology that creates soap bubbles, which can have images projected onto them or when the bubbles are burst release a scent, is being unveiled at an international conference. The research could be used in areas such as gaming or education and encourage a new way of thinking about multi-sensory technologies. See video below.

 

 

  • People blog, they don't lbog, and they schmooze, not mshooze. But why is this? Why are human languages so constrained? Can such restrictions unveil the basis of the uniquely human capacity for language? New research shows the brains of individual speakers are sensitive to language universals. Syllables that are frequent across languages are recognized more readily than infrequent syllables. Simply put, this study shows that language universals are hardwired in the human brain.  For details see Language Universals Engage Broca's Area.
  • Research into Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a type of bacteria common in water and soil, shows that they can communicate in a way that was previously thought to be unique to humans and perhaps some other primates. The bacteria used combinatorial communication, in which two signals are used together to achieve an effect that is different to the sum of the effects of the component parts. For details, see Combinatorial Communication in Bacteria: Implications for the Origins of Linguistic Generativity.
  • Birds in the exclusion zone around Chernobyl are adapting to - and may even be benefiting from - long-term exposure to radiation, ecologists have found. The study is the first evidence that wild animals adapt to ionizing radiation, and the first to show that birds which produce most pheomelanin, a pigment in feathers, have greatest problems coping with radiation exposure. You can read further in Chernobyl, 28 years later: birds mostly benefit.

 

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  • The idea that entanglement might explain the arrow of time first occurred to Seth Lloyd about 30 years ago, when he was a 23-year-old philosophy graduate student at Cambridge University with a Harvard physics degree. Lloyd realized that quantum uncertainty, and the way it spreads as particles become increasingly entangled, could replace human uncertainty in the old classical proofs as the true source of the arrow of time.  For more see here.
  • The concept of maximizing happiness has been explored by researchers, who have found that pursuing concrete 'giving' goals rather than abstract ones leads to greater satisfaction. One path to happiness is through concrete, specific goals of benevolence - like making someone smile or increasing recycling - instead of following similar but more abstract goals - like making someone happy or saving the environment.
  • Synapses are the points of contact at which information is transmitted between neurons. Without them, we would not be able to form thoughts or remember things. For memories to endure, synapses sometimes have to remain stable for very long periods. But how can a synapse last if its components have to be replaced regularly? New research shows that synapses remain stable if their components grow in coordination with each other.
  • A new look at the Human Microbiome Project shows wide variation in the types of bacteria found in healthy people. Based on their findings, there is no single healthy microbiome. Rather each person harbors a unique and varied collection of bacteria that’s the result of life history as well their interactions with the environment, diet and medication use.  For more details see here.
  • A new study pins down a major factor behind the appearance of superconductivity -- the ability to conduct electricity with 100 percent efficiency - in a promising copper-oxide material. Scientists used carefully timed pairs of laser pulses to trigger superconductivity in the material and immediately take x-ray snapshots of its atomic and electronic structure as superconductivity emerged.

 

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In equilibrium (top), the charge stripe "ripples" run perpendicular to each other between the copper-oxide layers of the material. When a mid-infrared laser pulse strikes the material (middle), it "melts" these conflicting ripples and induces superconductivity (bottom). The experimenters used a carefully synchronized x-ray laser to take this femtosecond–fast "movie" to reveal how quickly the charge stripes melt.

  • Geologists analyzed 40 meteorites that fell to Earth from Mars to understand the history of the Martian atmosphere. Their new article shows the atmospheres of Mars and Earth diverged in important ways early in the solar system's 4.6 billion year evolution. For details see here.
  • Eliminating chocolate milk from elementary schools decreased total milk sales by 10%, and increased milk waste by 29%, a study has shown. Additionally, the ban may have been a factor in a 7% decrease in Lunch Program participation. Nutritionally, after the milk substitution, students on average consumed less sugar and fewer calories, but also consumed less protein and calcium. Go choco milk, go! For details see Chocolate Milk Consequences: A Pilot Study Evaluating the Consequences of Banning Chocolate Milk in School Caf…
  • Next time you play a computer at chess, think about the implications if you beat it. It could be a very sore *****! A new study reflects upon the growing need for autonomous technology, and suggests that humans should be very careful to prevent future systems from developing anti-social and potentially harmful behavior. For details see here.
  • Like a balloon bobbing along in the air while tied to a child's hand, a tracer has been found in the sun's atmosphere to help track the flow of material coursing underneath the sun's surface. For details see here.

 

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  • Scientists have successfully identified the age of 120000-year-old Antarctic ice using radiometric krypton dating - a new technique that may allow them to locate and date ice that is more than a million years old. This will allow them to reconstruct the climate much farther back into Earth's history and potentially understand the mechanisms that have triggered the planet to shift into and out of ice ages. See Radiometric 81Kr dating identifies 120,000-year-old ice at Taylor Glacier, Antarctica for details.
  • Slowly but surely, astronomers have been making huge strides in understanding planets around other stars. From just proving they existed about 20 years ago, we're now at the point where they can determine the composition of an exoplanet, its weather patterns and - as of this week - even the length of its day. Researchers announced today that they've calculated the spin of gigantic planet β Pictoris b, about 63 light-years away. A day on the planet lasts just eight hours - spin of 25 kilometers per second. This is yet another confirmation of astronomers' current models that indicate that larger worlds should spin more quickly. For details, see Beta Pic b: Astronomers determine the length of an exoplanets day.
  • Scientists have shown that anatomically modern humans spread from Africa to Asia and Europe in several migratory movements. The first ancestors of today’s non-African peoples probably took a southern route through the Arabian Peninsula as early as 130000 years ago, the researchers found. See Genomic and cranial phenotype data support multiple modern human dispersals from Africa and a southern route into Asia for details. Picture below show the first migration along the Indian Ocean rim occurred as early as 130 thousand years ago (green arrow) and was followed by a second, more recent migration wave into Eurasia (red arrow).

 

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  • Getting your "space legs" in Earth orbit has taken on new meaning for NASA's pioneering Robonaut program. Thanks to a successful launch of the SpaceX-3 flight of the Falcon 9/Dragon capsule, the lower limbs for Robonaut 2 (R2) are aboard the International Space Station (ISS). Safely tucked inside the Dragon resupply vehicle, R2's legs are to be attached by a station crew member to Robonaut's torso already on the orbiting outpost. For details, see Robonaut: Home.
  • A new image from Curiosity (Mars rover) is the first ever from the surface of Mars to show an asteroid, and it shows two: Ceres and Vesta. These two - the largest and third-largest bodies in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter - are the destinations of NASA's Dawn mission. Dawn orbited Vesta in 2011 and 2012, and is on its way to begin orbiting Ceres next year. Ceres is a dwarf planet, as well as an asteroid. Image version below includes Mars' moon Deimos in a circular, exposure-adjusted inset and square insets at left from other observations the same night.

 

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  • New research has shown that there was liquid water on Mars as recently as 200000 years ago. The southern hemisphere of Mars is home to a crater that contains very well-preserved gullies and debris flow deposits. The geomorphological attributes of these landforms provide evidence that they were formed by the action of liquid water in geologically recent time.
  • Not only above, but geochemical calculations by researchers at Tokyo Institute of Technology to determine how the water content of Mars has changed over the past 4.5 billion years suggest as yet unidentified reservoirs of water on the planet. See [1403.4211] Evolution of Water Reservoirs on Mars: Constraints from Hydrogen Isotopes in Martian Meteorites for details.
  • Nearly one-third of breast cancer survivors who were working when they began treatment were unemployed four years later. Women who received chemotherapy were most affected, according to a new study. Many of these women reported that they want to work: 55 percent of those not working said it was important for them to work and 39 percent said they were actively looking for work. Those who were not working were significantly more likely to report they were worse off financially. People make me sick sometimes.
  • A brown dwarf star that appears to be the coldest of its kind - as frosty as Earth's North Pole - has been discovered by astronomers. The object's distance at 7.2 light-years away, making it the fourth closest system to our Sun. Brown dwarfs start their lives like stars, as collapsing ***** of gas, but they lack the mass to burn nuclear fuel and radiate starlight. The newfound coldest brown dwarf, named WISE J085510.83-071442.5, has a chilly temperature between minus 48 to minus 13 degrees Celsius. Previous record holders for coldest brown dwarfs, also found by WISE and Spitzer, were about room temperature. See Nearby brown dwarf: WISE sees very cold and faint neighbor for more details.
  • Why is top quark so important?  See following article.
  • Nice display in the sky - Halos and arcs: Optical effects photographed by Göran Strand.
  • NASA has issued a Request for Information (RFI) to science and engineering communities for ideas for a mission to Europa that could address fundamental questions of the enigmatic moon and the search for life beyond Earth. The RFI's focus is for concepts for a mission to Europa that costs less than $1 billion, excluding the launch vehicle that can meet as many of the science priorities as possible recommended by the National Research Council's 2011 Planetary Science Decadal Survey for the study of Europa. To view the RFI in its entirety, visit go.nasa.gov/1lp693R
  • Image below is from Navcam on Curiosity rover and it shows a sandstone slab on which the rover team has selected a target, "Windjana", for close-up examination and possible drilling. The target is on the approximately 60-centimeter-wide rock seen in the right half of this view.

 

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  • It's official (in the horned beetle world at least), females prefer courtship over competitiveness – and it doesn't matter about the size of your mandibles either. For details, see here.
  • About one in 25 inmates sentenced to death in the United States was likely wrongly convicted.  See Rate of false conviction of criminal defendants who are sentenced to death for details.
  • The soil on Mars may be suitable for cultivating food crops - this is the prognosis of a study by plant ecologist Wieger Wamelink. This would prove highly practical if we ever decide to send people on a one-way trip to the red planet. In a unique pilot experiment Wieger tested the growth of 14 plant varieties on artificial Martian soil over 50 days. NASA composed the soil based on the volcanic soil of Hawaii. To his surprise, the plants grew well; some even blossomed. The analysis showed Mars soil contains more nutrients than expected. In addition to phosphorus and iron oxides, the scientist found nitrogen, essential to plant nutrient.

 

 

  • A quasiparticle called an exciton - responsible for the transfer of energy within devices such as solar cells, LEDs, and semiconductor circuits - has been understood theoretically for decades. But exciton movement within materials has never been directly observed. Now scientists at MIT and the City College of New York have achieved that feat, imaging excitons' motions directly.
  • Did BICEP2 observe gravitational waves directly or indirectly?  Matt Strassler discusses it in his Did BICEP2 Detect Gravitational Waves Directly or Indirectly?
  • Is Jupiter a friendly planet, Earth's enemy, or perhaps both? For decades, scientists have talked about how the giant gas planet keeps some asteroids from striking our small world, while others have pointed out that Jupiter's gravity could send some civilization-shattering asteroids our way. While that debate goes on, a subtler question arises about how influential Jupiter was in the early Solar System. Jupiter is by far the heavyweight planet in the Solar System, weighing in at 320 Earth masses. Its gravity not only influences small asteroids that go by, but also tugs on other planets in the solar system - including our own. What if Jupiter had had a more eccentric orbit? Could that have affected the habitability of Earth? Check [1401.6741] The role of Jupiter in driving Earth's orbital evolution.
  • Scientists supported by the Astrobiology Technology for Exploring Planets (ASTEP) and Astrobiology Instrument Development Programs (ASTID) have outlined the proposed 'Icebreaker' mission to Mars in a recent paper in the Journal of Field Robotics.  Btw, did you know this existed - Outer Space Treaty?
  • Hubble's cosmic firepower was recently put to a new purpose: searching for a billowing cloud of water vapor on Jupiter's moon Europa. The plumes are a sign that extraterrestrial life could be lurking within our own Solar System. Before we head way out there, we need to know a little about the eruptions happening at home.  For that, see Transient Water Vapor at Europa’s South Pole.
  • The team operating NASA's Curiosity Mars rover plans to proceed in coming days with the third-ever drilling into a rock on Mars to collect a sample for analysis.

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