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China's big internet firms see robust 2019 revenue growth

(Photo: China Plus)BEIJING, Jan. 22 (Xinhua) -- Firms in Chinas internet and other related service sectors reported strong revenue expansion in 2019 as new technologies and applications play increasingly bigger roles in reshaping the countrys economy.These firms, each with annual revenue over 5 million yuan (about $724,400) in 2018, raked in a total of about 1.21 trillion yuan last year, up 21.4 percent year on year, data from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) showed.The industrys operating profits rose 16.9 percent year on year, 13.1 percentage points faster than 2018.Spending on research and development outpaced that of revenue, rising 23.1 percent year on year, MIIT data showed.

UK says to proceed with digital tax despite US threat

File photo: AFPBritains planned digital tax on tech giants will proceed as planned from April, UK finance minister Sajid Javid insisted Wednesday despite US threats of retaliatory tariffs."We plan to go ahead with our digital services tax in April," Javid said at the Davos economic summit, as US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin warned that Washington would look to retaliate with a tariff on EU auto imports.Javid described Britains tax, seen as targeting especially US giants such as Amazon, Google and Facebook, as "proportionate" and "temporary".Addressing the annual World Economic Forum, he added: "It will fall away once there is an international solution."Also speaking in Davos on Wednesday, Mnuchin said: "If people want to arbitrarily put taxes on our digital companies we will consider puttingtaxesarbitrarily on car companies."Mnuchin has specified Britain and Italy, which has already introduced its digital levy on tech companies seen as paying too little tax, as nations at risk of US retaliation.Austria introduced its own digital tax in January, but France has suspended its plans.Presidents Emmanuel Macron and Donald Trump have agreed to extend negotiations on how to proceed until the end of the year.France has said it would drop its tax if an international agreement is reached under the auspices of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.OECD chief Angel Gurria has meanwhile urged Britain to "hold fire" on its tax, the BBC reported Wednesday.Gurria added that in the absence of a globally agreed tax, there would be a "cacophony and a mess" with "tensions rising all over the place".Former UK finance minister Philip Hammond announced plans to introduce a two-percent tax on profitable tech companies that would generate at least £500 million (590 million euros, $654 million) a year in global revenues.

The man behind China’s signature project to reach for the stars

Jiang Peng (File photo: Science and Technology Daily)"FAST is actually a radio telescope that works like satellite TV antennas, except it is big enough to point to all directions with a diameter of 500 meters and a clear aperture of 300 meters," Jiang Peng explained in a short video released by the Xinhua News Agency on January 13.Jiang is the chief engineer of Chinas Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope (FAST), known as the China sky eye, which started formal operation on January 11 in Southwest Chinas Guizhou Province.The astronomical telescope is made of 4,450 individual panels which move with the object thanks to its worlds largest and most accurate cable net structure. FAST is the worlds most sensitive telescope with a general performance 2.5 to 3 times better than the worlds second largest."It allows us to explore more undetected astronomical phenomena, which means more opportunities to make more significant discoveries," Jiang told Xinhua.So far, the China sky eye has found 140 candidate pulsars, among which 99 have been confirmed, according to the report.Overcoming difficultiesJiang completed his doctoral study in 2009. He was faced with choices of continuing his studies or finding something challenging and intriguing to do, Jiang said in a forum held by the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS).Then he saw a job recruitment advertisement for FAST - a project to design and build a transformable cable net structure 500 meters in diameter with millimeter scale accuracy.Jiang firstly thought the advertisement might be a fraud since it seemed impossible to design such a structure at that time. But an attached official document released by the National Reform and Development Commission told him it is a real and significant science and technology project.With the curiosity of how to bring the project to reality, Jiang walked into the construction site of FAST and began to work as an assistant to Nan Rendong, the former chief ...

Central banks join to study possible digital currencies

Clouds drift over the European Central Bank, right, in Frankfurt, Germany, Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020. (Photo: AP)Major central banks have joined together to explore whether they should issue digital currencies as the use of cash declines and more people turn to electronic forms of paying.The study group is made up of the European Central Bank, the Bank of Japan, the Bank of Canada, the Bank of England, the Swedish Riksbank and the Swiss National Bank.They said in a statement Tuesday that they will assess the potential case for digital currencies in their home jurisdictions. The Swedish central bank has already studied the issue for several years and has commissioned a pilot project as the use of cash declines in that country. No decision has been made.Existing cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin are not suited for paying for things because they can fluctuate sharply in value. Facebook has backed the Libra project for a so-called stablecoin, a digital currency linked to existing currencies. Several major partners such as Visa, Mastercard, PayPal and eBay have left the association set up to oversee Libra as it faces pushback from regulatory authorities.The group will assess technical issues and share knowledge on emerging technologies. It will be co-chaired by Benoit Coeure, a former top ECB official, and Jon Cunliffe, deputy governor of the Bank of England.

Chinese company releases self-developed MMW chips

Millimeter wave phased array antenna. (Photo: Global Times)Chinas self-developed millimeter wave (MMW) phased array chip will be put into mass production in February with low-cost silicon technology, the chips research team said. An industry expert said that its low cost will greatly boost popularization of 5G in China and beyond.Industry experts believe that the technology breakthrough that enables mass production of the 5G MMW phased array chip will effectively launch the product into the global market at a reasonable price and with a better performance.The chip, unveiled to the public on Sunday, was jointly developed by Chengdu Xphased Technology Co (Xphased), Purple Mountain Laboratories, and a research team from Southeast University in Nanjing, East Chinas Jiangsu Province.Zhang Chengjun, general manager of Xphased, told the Global Times on Tuesday that the company has significantly reduced its production cost and made commercialization possible, and mass production of the MMW chips is expected to start on February 1."In the past, MMW chips in III-V compound semiconductors were priced at several hundred or even thousands of yuan. Given these high prices, it is basically impossible to commercialize chips," Zhang said."The new chip has a much lower price compared with the same kind of chips in the global market, but the quality of the new chip is at world-class levels," he said.The innovation project involving the MMW chip was initiated in March 2016. After some years of research and development, small-scale trial production began last October, and 50,000 chips were made.Xphased has already received orders from companies worldwide, including some in France, and it is discussing with companies in the US about future deals regarding phased-array chips and antennas, Zhang said.The launch of the chip is a late-stage advantage for Chinas 5G development, Zhao Dixian, a professor at Southeast University, told the Globa...

NASA identifies oldest known meteor crater on Earth

(Photo: xinhuanet.com)WASHINGTON, Jan. 21 (Xinhua) -- An international team led by a NASA scientist identified the oldest known meteor crater in Australia, which lends more clues to the formation of the Earth.The study, published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications, showed that the Yarrabubba meteor crater in a remote part of western Australia was 2.229 billion years old.The Earth is pocked with roughly 190 major meteor craters, yet scientists only know the age of just a few."Its 200 million years older than the previously oldest known crater, which was the over 200-kilometer Vredefort Dome crater in South Africa," said Timmons Erickson, a research scientist at NASAs Johnson Space Center.The original size of the crater is believed to have been 70 kilometers across, though its remnant today is only 20 kilometers. It is so old that it doesnt look like the typical impact crater that would have a clearly visible rim and deep bowl, according to the researchers.To date the crater, Ericksons team gathered rock samples that contain zircon and monazite. The two mineral crystals contain uranium and lead, the ratio of which can be measured to determine the age of rock.The timing of Yarrabubbas impact coincides with the formation of some of Earths earliest icecaps and glaciers, shortly after the emergence of oxygen in the atmosphere."The great thing about this project is it shows how we can determine the age of ancient, deeply eroded craters," said Erickson.

Google CEO calls for regulation of artificial intelligence

Googles chief executive Sundar Pichai addresses the audience during an event on artificial intelligence at the Square in Brussels, Monday, Jan. 20, 2020. (Photo: AP)Google’s chief executive called Monday for a balanced approach to regulating artificial intelligence, telling a European audience that the technology brings benefits but also “negative consequences.”Sundar Pichai’s comments come as lawmakers and governments seriously consider putting limits on how artificial intelligence is used.“There is no question in my mind that artificial intelligence needs to be regulated. The question is how best to approach this,” Pichai said, according to a transcript of his speech at a Brussel-based think tank.He noted that there’s an important role for governments to play and that as the European Union and the U.S. start drawing up their own approaches to regulation, “international alignment” of any eventual rules will be critical. He did not provide specific proposals.Pichai spoke on the same day he was scheduled to meet the EU’s powerful competition regulator, Margrethe Vestager. She’s also due to meet Microsoft President Brad Smith separately on Monday.Vestager has in previous years hit the Silicon Valley giant with multibillion-dollar fines for allegedly abusing its market dominance to choke off competition. After being reappointed for a second term last autumn with expanded powers over digital technology policies, Vestager has now set her sights on artificial intelligence, and is drawing up rules on its ethical use.Pichai’s comments suggest the company may be hoping to head off a broad-based crackdown by the EU on the technology. Vestager and the EU have been the among the more aggressive regulators of big tech firms, an approach US authorities have picked up with investigations into the dominance of companies like Google, Facebook and Amazon.“Sensible regulation must also take a proportionate approach, balancing potential harms with social opportunities,” he said, a...

High technology and jollity feature in China’s 2020 Spring Festival Gala

A worker hangs up red lanterns to greet the coming Spring Festival at Shijingshan Amusement Park in Beijing, capital of China, Jan. 19, 2020. (Photo: Xinhua)An array of high-tech including 5G, Virtual Reality (VR) and 3D effects are expected to be used in the upcoming 2020 Spring Festival Gala, to dazzle viewers with new year entertainment.The preparation work for the annual Spring Festival Gala is in full swing. It will be hosted by the state-run television network China Media Group (CMG), and will be broadcast on Chinese Lunar New Years Eve on January 24 to welcome the Year of the Rat.This years gala aims to dazzle viewers with cutting-edge high technologies, which will bring users a brand-new viewing experience, according to a ceremony launched by CMG on January 14.5G networks will cover all venues for the Spring Festival Gala, including the main venue in Beijing, and sub-venues in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, as well as Zhengzhou, Central Chinas Henan Province.4K signals for mobile shooting based on 5G networks have already been connected to the production system for the gala, providing strong support for full 4K intelligent live broadcasting of the event, which means viewers will be able to enjoy a visual feast brought by 8K Ultra HD.The virtual network interactive production mode (VNIS) will also be applied in the Spring Festival Gala for the first time. Users can watch the VR live broadcast and multi-perspective panoramic live broadcast of the gala through the apps of China Central Television (CCTV).This years gala stage setting has richer functions and will strive to achieve a naked eye 3D effect for the audience, said Yang Dongsheng, chief director of the 2020 gala, in a recent TV program."I think it is a very good idea to update the gala in a technological way. It is going to be a brand new and exciting viewing experience for the audience, especially the old generation, like my paren...

2 female NASA astronauts complete spacewalk to upgrade battery

In this image take from NASA video, astronauts Christina Koch, left, moves away as Jessica Meir, right, exits a hatch as they prepare to install batteries for the International Space Stations solar power grid during a space walk, Monday, Jan. 20, 2020. (Photo: AP)WASHINGTON, Jan. 20 (Xinhua) -- Two female US astronauts wrapped up a spacewalk out of the International Space Station (ISS) on Monday, upgrading the battery for one channel on one pair of the stations solar arrays.Astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir finished their spacewalk at 1:33 p.m. US Eastern Time (0633 GMT), which lasted about six hours and 58 minutes, according to the US space agency NASA.This is the third all-female spacewalk. Koch and Meir completed their first one in October last year. They conducted their second one last week, also to replace batteries.They removed the last two nickel-hydrogen batteries from the stations backbone near the port solar array and moved them to an external platform. The batteries will be stored there until they can be disposed of in the next Japanese cargo spacecraft.The duo also installed the sixth and final new lithium-ion battery, according to NASA. The ground controllers verified the new batteries powered up successfully to provide an improved and more efficient power capacity for station operations.The lithium-ion batteries provide an improved power capacity for operations with a lighter mass and a smaller volume than the nickel-hydrogen batteries, according to NASA.The International Space Station crew members have now conducted 226 spacewalks in support of the assembly and maintenance of the orbiting laboratory.NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan and space station commander Luca Parmitano of European Space Agency will conduct the next spacewalk on Jan. 25, to finish installing the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometers new cooling apparatus and lines and to verify they are ready for use.

China's space station core module, manned spacecraft arrive at launch site

WENCHANG, Hainan, Jan. 20 (Xinhua) - A core module prototype of Chinas space station and a prototype of Chinas new-generation manned spacecraft arrived at the launch site in south Chinas Hainan Province after a week of ocean and rail transport, the China Manned Space Engineering Office (CMSEO) announced Monday.(Photo:youth.cn)The core module will take part in joint rehearsals with the Long March-5B carrier rocket at the Wenchang Space Launch Center while the new manned spacecraft will be launched by the rockets maiden flight in the first half of this year.This means the building of Chinas space station in space will begin soon, the CMSEO said.The core module, named Tianhe (harmony of the heavens), will function as the command and control center of the space station. It is 16.6 meters long with a diameter of 4.2 meters and a takeoff weight of 22.5 tonnes.As the largest spacecraft ever developed by China, Tianhe will accommodate three astronauts and serve as a space laboratory to carry out scientific research and technological verifications, the CMSEO said.The new-generation manned spacecraft is 8.8 meters long and has a takeoff weight of 21.6 tonnes. It will be used for transporting crew to the space station and to conduct Chinas future manned lunar missions.China is scheduled to complete the construction of the space station around 2022.The Long March-5B rocket is scheduled to arrive at the launch site in early February, the CMSEO said.

SpaceX launches, destroys rocket in astronaut escape test

A Falcon 9 SpaceX rocket lifts off from pad 39A during a test flight to demonstrate the capsules emergency escape system at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Sunday, Jan. 19, 2020. (Photo: AP)SpaceX completed the last big test of its crew capsule before launching astronauts in the next few months, mimicking an emergency escape shortly after liftoff Sunday.No one was aboard for the wild ride in the skies above Cape Canaveral, just two mannequins.A Falcon 9 rocket blasted off as normal, but just over a minute into its supersonic flight, the Dragon crew capsule catapulted off the top 12 miles (20 kilometers) above the Atlantic. Powerful thrusters on the capsule propelled it up and out of harm’s way, as the rocket engines deliberately shut down and the booster tumbled out of control and exploded in a giant fireball.The capsule reached an altitude of about 27 miles (44 kilometers) before parachuting into the ocean just offshore to bring the nine-minute test flight to a close and pave the way for two NASA astronauts to climb aboard next time.Everything appeared to go well despite the choppy seas and overcast skies. Within minutes, a recovery ship was alongside the capsule and preparing to pull it from the water.“I’m super fired up,” Elon Musk, the company’s founder and chief executive, said at a news conference. “It’s just going to be wonderful to get astronauts back into orbit from American soil after almost a decade of not being able to do so. That’s just super exciting.”NASA astronauts have not launched from the U.S. since 2011 when the space shuttle program ended.Recycled from three previous launches, the SpaceX rocket was destroyed as it burst apart in flight and slammed in pieces into the sea. SpaceX normally tries to recover its boosters to drive down launch costs, landing them upright on a floating platform or back at the launch site.NASA’s commercial crew program manager, Kathy Lueders, said the launch abort test was “our last open mile...

World's first large, three-engine drone takes to sky

Developed by Chengdu-based Tengden Technology Co, the worlds first large, three-engine utility drone makes its first flight in Southwest China on January 16, 2020. (Photo: CNS)Independently developed by China, the worlds first large, three-engine utility drone recently made its first flight, with experts saying on Sunday that the drone is very reliable and versatile thanks to the extra engine, and can be used in transport and attack missions.Developed by Chengdu-based Tengden Technology Co, the drone took off and landed on Thursday morning at an airfield in Southwest China, marking its successful maiden flight, Chengdu Daily reported on Friday.The drone is a three-engine variant of Tengdens twin-engine TB Twin-tailed Scorpion, as this design is a world first for drones, Chengdu Daily said, without introducing the designation of the new variant.The drone has a width of 20 meters and a length of 11 meters. It is equipped with three piston engines, with one under each wing and one on its tail, enabling it to have a maximum takeoff weight of 3.2 tons and an endurance of 35 hours, according to the report.The drone has a flight ceiling of 9,500 meters, a max climb rate of 10 meters a second and a top speed of more than 300 kilometers an hour, the report said, noting that it is very adaptable and can be deployed in airfields in plateau areas.Because the drone uses piston engines, which are low cost but have long lifespans, it is also very cost efficient.The extra engine makes this new drone more powerful, capable of carrying more payload and taking off at shorter ranges, a military expert who asked not to be named told the Global Times on Sunday.This enables the drone to be used for a wider range of purposes, such as logistics and transport, in addition to traditional drone purposes including patrols, reconnaissance and attack, the expert said.The drone can also be used in areas such as disaster relief, forest firefighting, geographic mapping, meteorological...

Rough seas delay escape test for SpaceX crew capsule

This photo provided by SpaceX shows a SpaceX rocket stands on the launch pad on Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020 at Cape Canaveral in Florida. SpaceX delayed a planned test launch Saturday because of windy weather and rough seas off Cape Canaveral, Florida. (Photo: AP)Rough seas prompted SpaceX on Saturday to delay the emergency escape test of its new crew capsule by a day.Liftoff is now set for Sunday at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.The Falcon rocket was supposed to blast off Saturday on a 10-minute flight to demonstrate the capsule’s emergency escape system before astronauts climb aboard in a few months. But the wind and waves were too high in the recovery area out in the Atlantic.Once launched, the capsule will catapult off the rocket and, if all goes well, parachute into the ocean with a pair of mannequins. The rocket - being recycled after three previous flights - will end up being destroyed.The test is the last major hurdle for SpaceX before launching two NASA astronauts to the International Space Station. NASA officials said that could happen as soon as March.Boeing, meanwhile, is still investigating why its Starliner crew capsule ended up in the wrong orbit last month following liftoff. It was the Starliner’s first test flight, with no one on board, and the mishap prevented the capsule from flying to the International Space Station.NASA is looking for SpaceX and Boeing to start flying astronauts to the space station this year. The last time NASA astronauts launched from the U.S. was in 2011; they’ve been riding Russian rockets in the interim for hefty prices.

Amid hacking fears, key caucus states to use app for results

In this Nov. 1, 2019, file photo, Iowa Democratic Party Chair Troy Price speaks during the Iowa Democratic Partys Liberty and Justice Celebration in Des Moines, Iowa. (Photo: AP)Two of the first three states to vote in the Democratic presidential race will use new mobile apps to gather results from thousands of caucus sites — technology intended to make counting easier but that raises concerns of hacking or glitches.Democratic Party activists in Iowa and Nevada will use programs downloaded to their personal phones to report the results of caucus gatherings to the state headquarters. That data will then be used to announce the unofficial winners. Paper records will later be used to certify the results.The party is moving ahead with the technology amid warnings that foreign hackers could target the 2020 presidential campaign to try to sow chaos and undermine American democracy. Party officials say they are cognizant of the threat and taking numerous security precautions. Any errors, they say, will be easily correctable because of backups.“We continue to work closely with security experts to test our systems and identify incidents, including disinformation monitoring, and we are confident in the security systems we have in place,” said Iowa Democratic Party Chair Troy Price.The technology aims to produce a more efficient and reliable way of calculating and releasing results to the public than the complicated math and thousands of phone calls that the caucus system has long relied upon.But the use of a new app by an unidentified developer, coupled with the high stakes of the contests, has concerned some observers. They worry that unofficial results could be inaccurate if hackers or other problems taint the data. That’s a problem even if the paper backups eventually provide an accurate tally.“Scary would be a darn good word,” said Brandon Potter, chief technology officer of ProCircular, an Iowa company that has done vulnerability assessments for local elections offi...

China at forefront of global blockchain boom

Visitors learn about the future applications of the combination of 5G and blockchain technology at a recent industrial expo in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province. (Photo: China Daily)Wealth, talent pour in as strong government support for technology, industrial innovation accelerates development of sectorChina is bullish on the blossoming blockchain sector, seeing it as the next frontier for national competitive advantages as well as a digital future.As one of the first major countries to acknowledge the potential of the blockchain technology, China is ramping up efforts to push toward global dominance over blockchain, the underlying technology behind digital currencies like bitcoin and a wide range of applications.The country is moving rapidly ahead in constructing a robust blockchain network, as President Xi Jinping highlighted the key role of blockchain technology in the new round of technological innovation and industrial transformation last October, urging more efforts to accelerate the development of blockchain technology and industrial innovation.Xis speech unleashed a wave of activity and now the country is in the midst of a blockchain boom.Experts and entrepreneurs believe the governments strong support for blockchain technology will boost the future development of the sector, but cautioned that it is necessary to be rational and not hype the concept.Combining the application of distributed data storage, encryption algorithms and other advanced technologies, blockchain offers an open and decentralized database of any transaction involving money, goods and property among others. It provides a high level of security by creating a record whose authenticity can be verified by the whole community.Wei Kai, deputy director of the Cloud Computing and Big Data Research Institute of the China Academy of Information and Communication Technology, said as wealth and talent pour into the blockchain sector, the technology will be applied to a wide range of real-world s...

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