Bus-Size Asteroid Buzzes Earth in Close Flyby


A small asteroid the size of a city bus zoomed between Earth and the moon’s orbit Friday (Jan. 27) just days after its discovery, but it never posed a threat to our planet, NASA says.

The asteroid 2012 BX34 passed within 36,750 miles (59,044 kilometers) of Earth when it made its closest approach at 10:30 a.m. EST (1530 GMT). The space rock is about 37 feet (11 meters) wide and would have broke apart in Earth’s atmosphere long before it reached the ground, if it had reached the planet at all, NASA scientists said.

Asteroid 2012 BX34 is small,” astronomers with NASA’s Asteroid Watch at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., said in a Twitter message. “It wouldn’t get through our atmosphere intact even if it dared to try.”

The space rock passed Earth at a distance that is only about 0.17 times that between the Earth and the moon. For comparison, the moon typically orbits Earth at a distance of about 240,000 miles (386,000 km).

“Asteroids this small are hard to spot, & luckily they pose the least concern,” Asteroid Watch scientists explained. “Our goal is to find the bigger ones.” 

asteroid 2012bx34 close approach
The newly discovered asteroid 2012 BX34 (whose orbit is represented by the blue line) will come within 0.17 lunar distances of Earth on Jan. 27, 2012, experts say.
CREDIT: NASA/JPL-Caltech

A small asteroid the size of a city bus zoomed between Earth and the moon’s orbit Friday (Jan. 27) just days after its discovery, but it never posed a threat to our planet, NASA says.

The asteroid 2012 BX34 passed within 36,750 miles (59,044 kilometers) of Earth when it made its closest approach at 10:30 a.m. EST (1530 GMT). The space rock is about 37 feet (11 meters) wide and would have broke apart in Earth’s atmosphere long before it reached the ground, if it had reached the planet at all, NASA scientists said.

Asteroid 2012 BX34 is small,” astronomers with NASA’s Asteroid Watch at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., said in a Twitter message. “It wouldn’t get through our atmosphere intact even if it dared to try.”

The space rock passed Earth at a distance that is only about 0.17 times that between the Earth and the moon. For comparison, the moon typically orbits Earth at a distance of about 240,000 miles (386,000 km).

 “Asteroids this small are hard to spot, & luckily they pose the least concern,” Asteroid Watch scientists explained. “Our goal is to find the bigger ones.” [Video and image of asteroid 2012 BX34's orbit]

In September, NASA announced that it has spotted about 90 percent of the largest asteroids (the size of a mountain or bigger) that can come near Earth. About 911 such giant space rocks have been confirmed. Astronomers estimate there are about 981 big near-Earth objects that occasionally creep close to our planet.

Asteroid 2012 BX34 was the second space rock to fly relatively close by Earth this week, Asteroid Watch scientists said. On Jan. 23, another small asteroid — called 2012 BS1 — passed by the planet at a range of about 745,000 miles (1.2 million km), which is about 3.1 times the Earth-moon distance.

“Asteroid 2012 BS1 is so small (about 7 meters) it would disintegrate in our atmosphere if it were to come close to Earth,” the Asteroid Watch team wrote.

Astronomers with NASA and other science teams routinely scan the skies in search of near-Earth asteroids that could pose a danger to the planet. Experts estimate that asteroids about 460 feet (140 m) across and bigger can cause widespread devastation near their impact sites, though a larger space rock would be required to cause destruction on a global scale.

This week, scientists from around the world are also discussing how Earth should respond to the threat of an asteroid impact. The so-called NEOShield project is a European commission led by the German Aerospace Center and includes scientists from universities and industrial partners in Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Spain, the United States and Russia.

AUTHOR – Tariq Malik, SPACE.com Managing Editor

Top 10 Tea Producing Countries


Today we have this post about those particular countries which are on the top of the list to produce tea. Tea is the herbal extracts from the leaves of the tea herbs, tea leaves buds which includes other type of extractions as well from the tea containing plant called ‘Camellia sinensis’ from which the tea from which the high quality tea is manufactured after strong processing and curing measures. It is the second most preferred beverage after water in the world which is aromatic as well.

Tea Plants Top 10 Tea Producing Countries
Following countries listed below produces the top quality tea from Bangladesh ranking at 10th and China ranking at 1st, Top 10 Tea Producing Countries

10). Iran:

Iran produces one of the top quality teas in terms of the flavor, aroma and variety. There are 107 tea manufacturing countries. The latest recoded amount of tea production in 2008 of Bangladesh was 59,000 tons.

09). Argentina:

Tea produced in Argentina happens in the North-Eastern side of the country and it is known for its best quality ‘true tea’. The country exports about 50 million kilograms of tea each year. 76,000 tons of tea was the recorded amount of tea produced in 2008.

08). Japan:

In the past few years, Japanese green tea has attracted many people who are really fond of tea from different countries. The country produced 94,100 tons of tea recorded lastly in 2008.

07). Indonesia:

The tea beverage has been part of the lifestyle culture of the Indonesian people from 200 years and is still the most usual and most preferred type of beverage in Indonesia. This country produced 150,851 tons of tea recorded in 2008 lastly.

06). Vietnam:

This country region produces tea on commercial and industrial scale with a large amount. 174,900 tons was the total tea produced in 2008 by Vietnam.

05. Turkey:

The most important part of the Turkish culture is to offer tea to the guests at home or may be people in offices etc. Offering tea is assumed to be the sign of friendship and hospitality among the Turkish people. The lastly recorded total tea in 2008 by Turkey was 198,046 tons.

04). Sri Lanka:

The highly essential part of the economy of Sri Lanka is the production of tea. The tea produced in this country is done by the professional manufacturers. The latest recorded amount of tea in 2008 in tons was 318,470.

03). Kenya:

The tea is the major foreign exchange earner in Kenya. It is one of the major tea producers. The total recorded amount of tea in 2008 was 345,800 tons in Kenya.

02). India:

Tea is naturally used beverage in India as a part time enjoyment and relaxation. The total amount of tea in India produced in 2008 was 805,180 tons.

01). China:

The production of tea in China is both on the small scale and on the main scale. The amount of production of tea is still increasing day by day in China. The tea produced in China in 2008 was 1,275,384 tons.

Carmakers deploy more robots as job loss fears gain ground


hree hundred robots whirr to life every morning all over Hyundai‘s Sriperumbudur plant near Chennai, rubbing shoulders with 1,500 employees and 7,000 contract workers. Together, man and machine churn out one car in less than a minute; over 600,000 cars roll out of the factory every year. The number of robots inhabiting the factory has increased more than 10-fold in a decade.

This alliance between man and machine is an uneasy one even as automotive companies from Chennai to Chakan, Gurgaon to Sanand, slowly deploy more robots. Honda Siel, in its journey from 30,000 cars a year to 120,000, has almost tripled automation levels – from 20% to 55%. Maruti Suzuki‘s Manesar plant is highly automated compared with its older Gurgaon facility. Ford India deployed 90 robots to meet high demand for its small car Figo.

There is no full-blown man-machine confrontation yet, only a gnawing fear among 200,000 employees at auto factories across the country. “Automation is also one of the points of differences with the management,” says A Soundararajan, general secretary of trade union Citu, who has fought many a battle with Hyundai India’s management in recent years. “Automation will result in job losses and retrenchment.”

Car companies directly or indirectly employ over five workers for every car produced. All automobile and component companies together employ over 1.3 crore workers directly and indirectly.

Many companies – and Hyundai is a good example of that – are taking care to preserve and progress human workers. Still, growing automation is forcing the latter to engage with existential questions about their future.

“Our greatest fear is when large number of workers are substituted by machines,” says Harjeet Grover, union leader at Honda Motorcycle and Scooter India.

Kuldeep, who leads the union at Sona Koyo Steering, a major supplier to Maruti Suzuki, gives an example. Fifteen machines would have needed 15 operators a few years ago, he points out. Now, one man can run 10 machines.

At Hyundai, gone are the part-bypart way of putting together a car; today, 40% of the value of the car comes to Hyundai by way of pre-arranged modules, de-skilling the job at the shop floor.

COMPONENT MAKERS DOING IT TOO
Yet, against the backdrop of these robots, sourced from sister company Hyundai Heavy Industries, Hyundai employees aren’t letting things drift in favour of their inanimate factory mates. They have been working hard on improvements. These range from tools to detect the welding quality to an energy saver system that switches off power automatically during the breaks.

All this is part of a focussed programme called ACT 302, wherein workers have been urged to suggest ways to improve productivity by 30% in two years (that’s why the number 302).

Hyundai has never had to do such a focussed programme to get workers to ideate and collaborate until now; not even in its global mother plant at Ulsan, South Korea. The fact that India’s No. 2 carmaker decided to break tradition had largely to do with how workers were reacting to automation all around them.

As T Sarangarajan, Vice President in charge of production, puts it, the workers were getting panicky. There was a need to engage them, he says. Thus, ACT 302. “We have to make use of BOB ( best of both),” says Rajan Wadhera, chief of technology, product development and sourcing, Mahindra & Mahindra.

It’s not just carmakers, even component vendors are automating factories. The level of automation in Apollo Tyres’ brand-new Chennai plant is the highest among all its plants. “Our Chennai unit was built with automation as an intrinsic part of its operations and, therefore, it is part of the plant culture,” says Satish Sharma, chief (India operations).

“Automating may seem more expensive in terms of initial investment, but the advantages outweigh the capital costs over a short period of time.” Apollo has already set in motion an automation deployment plan for all its four India facilities.

For Indian firms, the first steps are always through the low-hanging fruit of automation – found in three areas. One, areas that require extremely high precision. Two, where hazard levels are high. Three, where human fatigue can be a factor. That should actually gladden workers at the shop floor. It has, in some measure.

But it has also spooked them. That’s because there is a likely future for automation beyond the low-hanging fruit. Already, work done by a group of workers earlier is now managed easily by a robot. Also, to be in the game, workers would need more advanced skills.

THE RE-SKILL MANTRA
The Indian auto shop floor isn’t as automated as those in the more mature markets. So, while German carmaker Volkswagen’s Chakan plant has an automation of 30% in its body shop, the comparative number back home would be 90%.

In the West, the biggest leap in automation happened “in the welding shop where robots were introduced to practically all welding by the 1980s”, says Cambridge-based lean expert James Womack, who predicted Toyota’s ascent in the auto world way back in the early 1980s in The Machine That Changed the World. Then, the paint shop was fully automated.

“The remaining area is the final assembly of the car. Here automation has progressed only very slowly,” Womack says. In low-wage countries like India, the question Womack asks is whether rising wages and rising production volumes will lead to the levels of automation as in mature economies. “And the answer is yes.” Yet, he reckons, Indian workers can breathe easy for now. That’s because volume growth will more than make up for the increasing automation levels.

India’s car output, Crisil Research predicts, is set to double from current levels to about 4 million units by 2015-16. Labour does remain an alluring option, despite recent problems. That’s why, Abdul Majeed, auto practice leader, PricewaterhouseCoopers, reckons, “The growth of automation will be slow in India.” This is despite robots enabling efficiency improvement between 25% and 30%, he says.

M&M’s Wadhera gives more reasons as to “why the decision to go for robotic automation is sometimes not easy to make in India.” Enormous shortage of skilled personnel is one. Another is the high cost of maintenance.

Automakers don’t have to make hard choices at this point of time. They can increase automation levels and then redeploy the workforce. The high rate of growth in the industry makes this possible. So, although there is no immediate threat to workers in the Indian shop floor, the demands on them aren’t the same anymore. Their roles are changing.

Says Apollo’s Sharma: “We do not have what has traditionally been referred to as ‘workers’ at the Chennai plant.” Apollo, instead, has shop floor engineers who are not just in charge of running machinery but also its upkeep, maintenance and effecting innovation.Volkswagen India has launched the Mechatronics Apprenticeship Programme, based on the German dual system of vocational training.

This three-year programme seeks to provide modern automation technologies to apprentices. “More automation requires more skilled force,” says John Chacko, president and MD, Volkswagen India.

A Maruti official talks of multi-skilling on the shop floor. Mahindra’s Wadhera emphasises the need to re-skill. Hyundai’s Sarangarajan says there’s a clear career road map from worker to supervisor, the latter role isn’t vulnerable to technological advances.

In a June 2010 analysis, Hyung Je Jo, professor of sociology at the University of Ulsan, ascribed Hyundai’s global success in recent years to, among other things, a production model that has reduced dependence on direct labour but increased automation levels.

SRIRAM SRINIVASAN, SANJAY VIJAYAKUMAR & LIJEE PHILIP

Americans Love Their Coffee So Much, They Spend Over $1000 A Year On It


Just how much does that cup of coffee cost? And how much are Americans willing to spend on it? Accordingly, a new research has found that Americans are not giving up their coffee addiction, even when the economic and job climate are weak.

Coffee culture is strong in America, and Americans are still paying for little indulgences like a cup of coffee.

But if you’re looking to save over a $1000 annually, cutting back on coffee might just help.

A recent research has found that Americans do not have a habit of tracking their expenses, and indulgences can add up. Nearly half of all American workers buy coffee regularly during working hours, spending almost $25 a week on coffee, or an average of $1000 a year.

The survey also found that men not only buy more coffee than women, but they also spend nearly twice as much as their female counterparts.

When it comes to lunch, two-thirds of those surveyed said they buy it instead of bringing their own, spending an average of nearly $2,000 a year on the midday meal.

Such spending habits may be changing soon, as nearly half of the younger respondents aged between 19 and 34 have made it a financial goal to save by packing lunch into the office.

Jodi Chavez, senior vice president of Accounting Principals, research firm behind the survey told the New York Times:

“They budget in new furniture or their commute, but not a coffee here or there. So over the course of a week or month people don’t realize what this expense is. A $3 cup of coffee is a little way to reward yourself and it’s a nice little pick-me-up and a guilty pleasure. People tend to have an easier time dismissing those small expenses as a means to reward themselves. It’s a little easier to hide the evidence of a cup of coffee than a big shoebox in the closet.”

Indian PM on Twitter, 50 followers every minute


PMOIndia has taken Twitter by a storm although it is just 4 tweets old. The account refers to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and will be handled by Manmohan Singh’s media team, PMO sources said. With followers increasing at an exponential rate of 50 per minute the account’s existing fan base is 12,000-strong and growing.

“The Prime Minister’s Office is now on Twitter @PMOIndia. Thank you for your support,” Manmohan Singh’s newly appointed communications advisor Pankaj Pachauri said on his own Twitter account.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has joined Twitter to capture the attention of young Indians and inform people about the work done by his office through 140 characters on the popular microblogging site. The account attracted 10,000 followers within hours of being set up. The prime minister’s opponents have been criticizing him for maintaining a silence over burning issues and remaining inaccessible to the media. A close aide told IANS that the work done by his office was not being “reflected properly”. “The Twitter account may help in sending out the information to larger, particularly young, audiences,” the aide told IANS.

Within hours of the account being opened late Monday, Manmohan Singh attracted nearly 10,000 followers with three tweets by Tuesday afternoon. Manmohan Singh  joined the elite club of world leaders on Twitter with this move.

US President Barack Obama was among the first to use the micro-blogging service to communicate with his electorate in 2008. His Twitter account @BarackObama, is among the most followed of all world-leader accounts, with more than 12 million followers. Other world leaders on Twitter include Australian prime minister @JuliaGillard, her New Zealand counterpart @JohnKeyPM, Israel’s prime minister Benjamin @Netanyahu, and UAE Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed Al Maktoum.

His first three tweets were about a function on bravery awards. This included his picture with the winners. PMO sources said the account was presently managed by his communication team but there was a possibility that Manmohan Singh would send out tweets personally.

“You make all of us proud…PM tells young brave hearts,” said his last tweet, which provided a link to his public speech at the bravery awards function.

The account, trending fast on the site, has already invited a barrage of reactions from people.

Said @rajennair: “Now our PM will speak through tweets, no one can blame him anymore of silence.”

“The #PMOIndia twitter account is a brilliant attempt to tweet silence in 140 characters,” said @RoflIndian.

Soumya Mukherjee @i1_2ramble commented: “So #PMOIndia is a brilliant example of ventriloquism if I am not wrong?”.

Rupee: Most Undervalued Among all Currencies


The Economist’s latest Big Mac Index has come up with a survey and declared Indian rupee to be the most undervalued currency. Currently rupee trades at around 61 percent below its actual price against dollar. 8 out of 10 Asian currencies are undervalued. The currency rating was done by analyzing how a particular good will carry different values in different countries. McDonald’s popular burger was t he chosen one to evaluate the costs of the same burger in different countries. Through this the effective purchasing power of different currencies is measured.

Rupee: Most Undervalued Currency Among all Currencies

Swiss Franc and the Norwegian Krone which had a currency index more than 60 percent were the two countries which were overvalued compared to the U.S. dollar. Further down were Sweden Brazil with over 40 and 30 percent overvaluation.

Indian Rupee has been hitting the ground for the last two years. Ukraine, Hong Kong and Malaysia are close at over 40 percent undervaluation. China’s Yuan is the fifth most undervalued currency with over 40 percent overvalued with regard to U.S. dollar.

The last six months have witnessed 17 percent value depreciation of the rupee, which makes it more undervalued than Chinese Yuan, which is estimated to be standing at 41 percent. China has been under continuous pressure from U.S. to appreciate its currency and shift to a market-based exchange rate mechanism.

Big Mac has come up with a comparison between the prices of burger in the U.S., where it’s currently sold for $4.20. But in India the Maharaja Mac is priced at 84. The exchange rate of 51.90 to a dollar costs a burger in India for $1.62. The purchasing power parity (PPP) comes out at 20 when we divide the local price i.e. 84 by the U.S. price, i.e. $4.20. The currency is overvalued or undervalued can easily be calculated through the difference between PPP and the exchange rate. Previously when Big Mac Index came up with this statistics, the Indian rupee was trading at around 44.40 percent to a dollar, and was undervalued by 53 percent.

However, cheap burgers cannot be the deciding factor to know if a currency is overvalued or undervalued. There are different factors which states why a currency is overvalued or undervalued such as government policies hinder normal equilibration of exchange rates. Also the labor costs come into picture which plays a vital role in different countries.

Ajit Ranade, Chief Economist at Aditya Birla Group tweeted, “Reversal inevitable.” D K Joshi, Chief Economist at rating agency CRISIL added, “It is a proxy indicator and it does not signify much. But given our growth potential, capital inflows are expected to increase and there will be an appreciation bias.” An appreciation is on bet by most of the foreign exchange dealers, but the situation in Europe is under a close watch. The slower growth rate and perception of policy paralysis has shied off many foreign investors from Indian stock market, FIIs has withdrawn around 3,800 crore from the share market.

India has More to it than Poverty, Feels Oprah Winfrey


The traffic manners may have left her aghast, but the world’s most celebrated talk show host Oprah Winfrey says she was impressed by India‘s “glorious” family tradition and would love to return to the country which had much more to it than filth and poverty.

“What most impressed me here was the family tradition in the country and the fact that you take care of your parents, your grandparents,” said the 57-year-old media moghul, who turned up at the Jaipur Literary Festival wearing a yellow-green embroidered salwar paired with ankle grazing western styled pyjamas.

Her first visit to India, she said, was driven by her first image of the country – a picture featuring a woman on a camel – which she put on her visit board reading ‘Come to India’.

And after witnessing first hand the “paradox” that is India, and being left “awestruck” by the traffic manners of the country, she would definitely like to return, she said.

“Having been to a family of four generations, I got a sense of how glorious it is,” she said.

The media moghul spent time in Mumbai, visiting a slum, an ashram for widows, besides attending a high-profile dinner with Bollywood personalities before coming to Jaipur.

While she got a glimpse of both the extremes of India, she said, she would like to portray the country as a whole and not “just show the filth”.

“It was important to go to slums but not necessary to show the the worst of the worst, what I wanted to portray is that there is poverty but there is still a sense of hope,” she said.

And while she was much impressed by many things in India, traffic manners was not one of them.

“What is it with the red lights here. Is it there just for your entertainment? she asked to bursts of laughter from the audience.

“There is a red light on and everybody just keeps going,” she said.

And she returned to the subject before finishing her talk. “Texting while driving is stupid. But in India it is insane,” she said, tongue in cheek.

Oprah’s meeting with the widows too left her quite moved and according to her “caused a shift in my consciousness”.

She said she was all the more surprised by the fact that women who lose their husbands can be discarded in a country where families do so well to take care of their elders.

“I couldn’t understand this paradox that a country where families have so much love for their elders could discard its women just because they did not have husbands,” she said.
Source: PTI