Hello, and welcome to The Edge, the newsletter that brings you groundbreaking stories from the frontiers of technology and science.
We’ve got some great stories for you today, including Tom Cruise making movies in space, Microsoft’s Surface Book 3 and Earth’s new neighbour. As always, we’ve added extra stories under each article should you find yourself in a curious state of mind.
We just moved in down the road
Image credit: ESO
In the Milky Way, only a few black holes have ever been discovered, although scientists believe there may be as many as a billion in our galaxy alone.
Astronomers at the European Souther Observatory (ESO) in Chile have discovered the nearest black hole to Earth though, located ‘only’ 1000 light-years from our planet. The black hole is so close that the stellar system of which it is part could be observed with the naked eye, although the hole itself is not visible as the light required to see it gets swallowed by the hole itself.
Interestingly, the discovery is based on a stellar observation more than a decade old. Originally observing a binary star system called HR 6819, the team behind the discovery noticed evidence for an invisible, third object. They were able to determine that the object is a black hole, which the pair of stars orbits every 40.3 days.
There are some bangers in space
The plan to find black holes in the Milky Way
Cameras rolling on the ISS
Image credit: NASA
According to NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine, NASA is planning to make an astronaut of Tom Cruise. The actor is well-known for performing a lot of his own stunts - the pinnacle of his career might well be a trip to the International Space Station.
The now-confirmed project will see Cruise make a movie on the ISS. The specifics haven’t been released, but a NASA spokesperson has confirmed that Cruise will indeed launch to space and stay on board the ISS for recording.
A Deadline report suggested that Cruise was working with SpaceX on the project. Neither NASA nor SpaceX confirmed that speculation, though. SpaceX has announced that it will launch four private citizens into space on board its newly developed Crew Dragon spacecraft in late 2021/early 2022. Now, we know for sure that Cruise will indeed be the first actor ever to make a movie in space.
A space tourist shares his experience
Microsoft comes out guns blazin’
Image credit: Microsoft
Microsoft’s Surface Book 2 was pretty damn impressive, a genuine MacBook Pro competitor. That was a while ago, though. That’s why Microsoft have released their new Surface Book 3.
Cosmetically and functionally, the Surface Book 3 is very similar to its predecessor. The screen can still be popped out and can still be used as a very large tablet, which works great with the Surface Pen. There’s still a gap around the hinge and both the 13.5-inch and 15-inch models are heavier than their respective MacBook Pro counterparts.
In terms of internals, things are pretty good. It’s in the processing department where the Surface Book 3 is a bit underwhelming. For the 13.5-inch model, you have the choice between Intel's Core i5-1035G7 CPU with Iris Plus integrated graphics, or the i7-1065G7 with GeForce GTX 1650 Max-Q graphics. At the same time, the 15-inch model sports the Core i7 CPU and NVIDIA's GTX 1660 Ti Max-Q, with the possibility to upgrade to NVIDIA's Quadro RTX 3000 GPU. Of course, it must be kept in mind that, because the Surface Book 3 is meant to be a laptop and a tablet, Microsoft have no choice but to put the CPU in the detachable display. At the same time, the GPU is housed in the keyboard base. Because of this, the overall performance falls slightly behind the MacBook Pro 16-inch model, against which it is competing. Nonetheless, the Surface Book 3 is still a powerful, capable machine.
Shopping? Check out this laptop buying guide
Delays at the Android camp
Image credit: Android
Google has announced that, instead of releasing a beta version of the 11th iteration of Android, a fourth developer review will be released instead. This sets the beta launch back by about a month.
Google’s Android team cite the coronavirus pandemic and the changes it has brought as the main cause for the delay. This is understandable as many people are now working from home, which includes Android developers. This adds to the challenge of building an operating system.
Google has said that developers should target June 3rd as the Beta 1 release date.