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UPI NewsTrack Science and Technology News

  |   March 25, 2013 at 7:12 PM
Lawmaker calls for 'virtual' Congress

WASHINGTON, March 25 (UPI) -- Congress should create a telecommuting plan using videoconferencing and other remote work technology to create a "virtual Congress," a U.S. lawmaker says.

U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M., has introduced a resolution that would allow lawmakers to hold hearings, debate and vote on legislation virtually from their district offices, The Hill reported.

Such a system would ease the need for members to jet back and forth from their districts to Washington each weekend, and would give them more to spend time with their constituents, Pearce said.

"Thanks to modern technology, members of Congress can debate, vote, and carry out their constitutional duties without having to leave the accountability and personal contact of their congressional districts," he said in a statement. "Keeping legislators closer to the people we represent would pull back Washington's curtain and allow constituents to see and feel, first-hand, their government at work."

Telecommuting is becoming more common, although not everyone is happy with it; recently-appointed Yahoo boss Marissa Mayer has eliminated the policy that had allowed some employees to work at home for at least part of the workweek.

But the trend is something Congress should look at, Pearce said.

"Corporations and government agencies use remote work technology; it's time that Congress does the same."


'Tatooine' planet found orbiting two stars

GRENOBLE, France, March 25 (UPI) -- European astronomers say they've captured the first image of a planet orbiting two suns, like the fictional "Tatooine" of the Star Wars films.

Philippe Delorme of the Joseph Fourier University in Grenoble, France, and colleagues took the picture of the massive world, dubbed 2MASS0103(AB)b, using a telescope in Chile, NewScientist.com reported

Astronomers said they aren't sure exactly how to classify the object orbiting the binary pair of stars at a distance of about 7.7 billion miles

That's close enough to suggest it may have been born from a disc of dust surrounding them, like a planet forms, but at 12 to 14 times the mass of Jupiter it is near the dividing line between planets and failed stars called brown dwarfs.

"It's either one of the most massive planets you can form or the lowest-mass star you can imagine," Delorme said.

The dividing line between the two, based on studies of bodies' mass, "is more of a working definition, as it is easier to measure the mass of an object than its past formation history," he said.

Confirming its true nature could yield new clues to how stars and planets form, the researchers said.


Cameras said reason for HTC One delay

NEW YORK, March 25 (UPI) -- The delay of the HTC One smartphone, the Taiwanese company's eagerly awaited flagship device, is down to a shortage of camera parts, a company executive says.

HTC Chief Marketing Officer Benjamin Ho confirmed the component shortage in an interview Sunday with The Wall Street Journal.

"Our friends in the media have been asking why there has been a delay in shipments for the new HTC One, whether there is a component shortage," Ho said. "There is some shortage, because the phone's camera was designed specifically for us, and production cannot be ramped up so quickly."

The Taiwanese manufacturer is facing supply problems with some components as a result of being downgraded by some of its suppliers, another executive said last week.

"The company has a problem managing its component suppliers as it has changed its order forecasts drastically and frequently following last year's unexpected slump in shipments," the executive told the Journal. "HTC has had difficulty in securing adequate camera components as it is no longer a tier-one customer."

HTC said the smartphone would be shipping in North America, Europe, the Asia-Pacific region and most other markets by the end of April, CNET reported.


Meteor storm shaped early solar system

BOULDER, Colo., March 25 (UPI) -- Movement of the solar system's giant outer planets created a massive meteor storm that rocked the inner solar system 3.9 billion years ago, researchers say.

The migrations of the giant planet created what astronomers call the Late Heavy Bombardment, the biggest meteor storm in our solar system's history.

Scientists have long suspected the bombardment was triggered as Jupiter and Saturn moved closer in towards the Sun while Neptune and Uranus moved further out from where they formed, with the resulting gravitational effects flinging large numbers of meteors towards the inner solar system where they collided with the inner planet including the Earth and with our moon.

It would have also pushed asteroids and comets into the orbits they have today, the researchers said.

The study by researchers including lead author Simone Marchi from the Southwest Research Institute, in Boulder, Colo., based on analysis of moon rocks and two classes of meteoroids, was published in the journal Nature Geoscience.

Simon O'Toole from the Australian Astronomical Observatory, who was not involved in the study, said it was compelling support for the theory of planetary migration in our solar system.

"[The study] provides us with a good foundation stone for a better understanding of the early solar system and how it got to look the way it does now," he told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

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