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UPI NewsTrack Science and Technology News

Nov. 9, 2012 at 7:04 PM   |   Comments

NASA tests 'interplanetary Internet'

WASHINGTON, Nov. 9 (UPI) -- NASA and the European Space Agency say they have tested an "interplanetary" communication network replicating some of the functions of the Internet.

As part of the experiment, the crew of the International Space Station Expedition used a NASA-developed laptop to operate a small LEGO robot at the European Space Operations Center in Darmstadt, Germany.

"The demonstration showed the feasibility of using a new communications infrastructure to send commands to a surface robot from an orbiting spacecraft and receive images and data back from the robot," said Badri Younes, deputy associate administrator for space communications and navigation at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

The experiment was a test of a Disruption Tolerant Networking protocol that allows standardized communications similar to the Internet technology.

Unlike the TCP/IP protocol used for worldwide Internet connections, DTN was designed to deal with disconnections, errors and delays of signal that would be experienced during interplanetary communication, NASA said in a release Friday.

"In DTN, data move through the network 'hop-by-hop.' While waiting for the next link to become connected, bundles are temporarily stored and then forwarded to the next node when the link becomes available," NASA said.

Eventually the DTN system could eventually become the prime method of communicating with deep space missions as well as a way to control unmanned missions from long distances, the space agency said.


S. Korea reactor shut down due to cracks

SEOUL, Nov. 9 (UPI) -- A South Korean nuclear power plant will be shut down for weeks as regulators investigate cracks found in control rod tunnels, officials said.

The Korean Hydro & Nuclear Power Co. said there is no risk of radiation leaks but the shutdown of the Yonggwan reactor will present problems for the country's already stretched power supply going into the winter months.

The company said it detected microscopic cracks in tunnels for six control rods -- used to regulate the speed of nuclear reactions taking place inside reactors -- at its nuclear plant in the southwest of the country, CNN reported Friday.

The discovery follows a recent scandal involving the use of unverified parts in two other nuclear plants, where thousands of parts were supplied with forged quality certificates.

The shutdown of those two plants, along with the Yonngwan reactor, could create an "unprecedented level" of strain on the nation's power supply, experts said.

"Winter here is brutal, and I am now very concerned that the unexpected shutdowns of three nuclear units will cause power shortages," Huh Kyun-young, a nuclear engineering professor at Kyung Hee University, said.


Britain says no calculators for math tests

LONDON, Nov. 9 (UPI) -- The British government says 11-year-old students taking primary school math tests will be banned from using calculators beginning in 2014.

Education and Childcare Minister Elizabeth Truss said an over-reliance on calculators meant children were not being given a strong grounding in mental and written arithmetic, and students should only use calculators once they have a grasp of basic mathematical skills.

"All young children should be confident with methods of addition, subtraction, times tables and division before they pick up the calculator to work out more complex sums," Truss said.

Teaching unions responded, calling the ban "a retrograde step."

"It is entirely appropriate for children in primary school to learn to use a range of tools to solve math problems and the skill of deciding which tool and method to use for a particular problem is an important one," said Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers.

"It may not be appropriate to use calculators for the whole of the math test paper, but it is a retrograde step to ban them completely as it will diminish the skills set for primary pupils and leave them floundering in secondary school," she said.

The government's move follows its review of calculator use in primary schools, the BBC reported.


Wikipedia adds video capability

SAN FRANCISCO, Nov. 9 (UPI) -- Wikipedia says it has added video technology to its website, allowing users to add multimedia content to articles on the online encyclopedia.

The video player, based on the HTML5 video protocol, has been in the works since 2008, but its introduction has suffered numerous delays caused by infrastructure upgrades and personnel changes, AllThingsD reported.

Video start-up Kaltura and Google have partnered with Wikipedia to launch the service with around 15,000 videos.

"Wikipedia has more than half a billion unique monthly visitors, so any new feature that is deployed needs to be really sustainable and foolproof," Kaltura President Michal Tsur said.

Wikipedia said all footage must first go through Wikimedia Commons to ensure it does not infringe upon the site's terms and conditions or violate licensing laws or copyrights.

Once videos are uploaded, Wikipedia said, people will be able to add captions, translations and more.

© 2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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