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UPI NewsTrack Science and Technology News

June 29, 2012 at 7:05 PM   |   Comments

Chinese astronauts return from mission

BEIJING, June 29 (UPI) -- Three Chinese astronauts have successfully completed the country's first manned space docking mission and returned to Earth Friday.

The return capsule of the Shenzhou-9 spacecraft carrying mission commander Jing Haipeng, Lu Wiang and China's first woman astronaut Liu Yang parachuted to the ground in north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region as planned, the state-run Xinhua News Agency reported.

Medical staff entered the capsule after touchdown and confirmed the astronauts were in good condition.

After brief physical examinations at the landing site the astronauts were flown to Beijing.

Chinese leaders including Premier Wen Jiabao had arrived at the Beijing Aerospace Flight Control Center Friday morning to watch the return of the Shenzhou-9 spacecraft.

It had separated from the Tiangong 1 prototype space module Wednesday.

The astronauts spent 13 days in space on a historic mission that saw China become only the third nation to successfully dock a manned spacecraft to another in orbit.

"It was like a home in Tiangong and I feel very happy and proud of my country," Liu Yang told reporters after landing.


Tomato color comes at expense of taste

WASHINGTON, June 29 (UPI) -- The reason bright, uniformly red tomatoes in supermarkets lack the flavor to match their intense color is genetics, U.S. plant researchers say.

A gene mutation that makes a tomato uniformly red, favored by farmers as it produces a visually attractive product, stifles genes that would contribute to its taste, scientists said.

The chance mutation discovered by tomato breeders has been deliberately bred into almost all tomatoes for the color it provides.

Researchers writing in the journal Science report the gene that was inactivated by that mutation -- resulting in a brighter uniform color -- plays an important role in producing the sugar and aromas that are central to a flavorful tomato.

The wide adoption of tomatoes with the genetic mutation is "a story of unintended consequences," said study co-author James J. Giovannoni of the United States Department of Agriculture Research Service.

The discovery "is one piece of the puzzle about why the modern tomato stinks," said Harry Klee, a tomato researcher at the University of Florida in Gainesville who was not involved in the research, told The New York Times.

"That mutation has been introduced into almost all modern tomatoes. Now we can say that in trying to make the fruit prettier, they reduced some of the important compounds that are linked to flavor."


Test: Drones' GPS navigation can be hacked

AUSTIN, Texas, June 29 (UPI) -- Researchers at the University of Texas say they've demonstrated the Global Positioning System signals of unmanned aerial vehicles can be hacked.

Engineering Professor Todd Humphreys and his students were invited by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to attempt the demonstration in New Mexico in late June.

Using hardware and software they developed, the UT team repeatedly took control of navigational signals going to a small but sophisticated UAV, a university release reported Friday.

Known as "spoofing," the technique creates false GPS signals to trick the vehicle's GPS receiver into steering a navigational course chosen by the outside hacker.

Humphreys said his research team wanted to demonstrate the potential risks associated with spoofing as the Federal Aviation Administration considers mandated rules that would allow government and commercial drones in U.S. airspace by 2015.

"We're raising the flag early on in this process so there is ample opportunity to improve the security of civilian drones from these attacks, as the government is committed to doing," Humphreys said.


Use of smartphones for phone calls falling

LONDON, June 29 (UPI) -- People are using smartphones more to surf the Web, check social networks or play games, and making fewer phone calls with the devices, a British survey found.

Research by British mobile network O2 found making phone calls was only the fifth-most popular use for smartphones.

The average smartphone owner spends spend 25 minutes daily using the phone to browse the Web, 17 minutes on social networking, 13 minutes playing games and 16 minutes listening to music.

Phone calls account for just 12 minutes of use, the survey found.

"Smartphones are now being used like a digital 'Swiss Army Knife,' replacing possessions like watches, cameras, books and even laptops," David Johnson, general manager of devices for O2 in the UK, told The Daily Telegraph. "While we're seeing no let-up in the number of calls customers make or the amount of time they spend speaking on their phones, their phone now plays a far greater role in all aspects of their lives."

Fifty-four percent of the survey respondents said they use their smartphone instead of an alarm clock, while almost half said their phone has replaced their watch.

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