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$40bn takeover of UK chip designer Arm Holdings raises ‘serious competition concerns’



Britain’s competition and markets authority said the planned deal could mean more expensive or lower quality products in cutting-edge technologies.

The $40bn takeover of UK chip designer Arm Holdings by US tech giant Nvidia faces an in-depth probe after regulators found the deal could weaken rivals and stifle innovation.

Britain’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said it could ultimately mean more expensive or lower quality products in cutting edge technologies.

These include fields such as gaming, data centres, the “internet of things” – the use of electronic devices connected to the internet such as smart speakers – and self-driving cars.

The CMA said undertakings offered by Nvidia about the way the business is run could not allay its “serious competition concerns” and that the deal should be more closely examined in a “phase two” investigation.

It said it had worked with other competition authorities around the world to examine the impact of the takeover of Arm, which licenses its designs to most of the global semiconductor industry with customers including Apple, Samsung, Intel and Qualcomm.Advertisement

The 180 billion chips sold based on its technology are used in products ranging from smartphones to toasters.

Arm’s customers include companies that are rivals of Nvidia in the supply of semiconductor chips and related products.

It estimates that 70% of the world engages with its technology, the CMA’s report said.

The UK-based company has been put up for sale by current owner Softbank, the Japanese conglomerate, which agreed a deal with Nvidia last September.

SoftBank has agreed to buy ARM Holdings
Image:SoftBank has agreed to sell Arm Holdings

The CMA was asked, alongside its initial look at competition concerns, to investigate any UK national security implications arising from the deal.

It sent its findings last month to Oliver Dowden, secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport (DCMS), but details are only now being published.

Mr Dowden must make a formal decision on proceeding to the next stage of the probe.

CMA chief executive Andrea Coscelli said: “We’re concerned that Nvidia controlling Arm could create real problems for Nvidia’s rivals by limiting their access to key technologies, and ultimately stifling innovation across a number of important and growing markets.

“This could end up with consumers missing out on new products, or prices going up.

“The chip technology industry is worth billions and is vital to products that businesses and consumers rely on every day.

“This includes the critical data processing and datacentre technology that supports digital businesses across the economy, and the future development of artificial intelligence technologies that will be important to growth industries like robotics and self-driving cars.”

Nvidia said in a statement: “We look forward to the opportunity to address the CMA’s initial views and resolve any concerns the government may have.

“We remain confident that this transaction will be beneficial to Arm, its licensees, competition, and the UK.”

Nvidia has previously said that Arm would remain based in Cambridge and its site expanded

A DCMS spokesperson said: “We have received the CMA’s phase one report and the digital secretary will make a decision on whether to proceed to the next phase of the investigation in due course.”

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Science & Tech

Mars was doomed to become a barren lifeless planet from the beginning, says new study



Evidence that water was once present on Mars has been mounting for decades, and this month NASA’s Perseverance rover collected rock samples which have all but confirmed groundwater flowed on the red planet.

Mars was born with a fatal flaw that doomed it to become a barren lifeless place, according to new research: it was always too small to retain large amounts of water.

Evidence that water was once present on Mars has been mounting for decades and this month NASA’s Perseverance rover collected rock samples which have all but confirmed groundwater flowed on the red planet.

But the space agency’s scientists weren’t sure whether that water was present for tens of thousands of years or for millions of years. Now, more scientists believe they can contribute to the understanding of why that water disappeared.

Billions of years ago there was an abundance of water on Mars
Image:Billions of years ago there is believed to have been an abundance of water on Mars

Mars is ostensibly located within the “habitable zone”, a distance from the sun which is neither too hot nor too cold to support liquid surface water and thus life – but it appears to support neither at the moment.

The most popular hypothesis for why Mars is barren today is based on its lack of a magnetosphere.Advertisement

Unlike the Earth, where molten iron in the core of the planet created a protective magnetic shield around us, Mars’ magnetic field is too weak to protect its atmosphere from being stripped away by cosmic forces.

Now a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science suggests Mars was created with a fatal flaw that meant it was never going to be able to protect that atmosphere and its liquid water.

“Mars’ fate was decided from the beginning,” explained Kun Wang, an assistant professor at Washington University and senior author of the study.

“There is likely a threshold on the size requirements of rocky planets to retain enough water to enable habitability and plate tectonics, with mass exceeding that of Mars,” he explained.

Wang’s team analysed potassium isotopes on Mars, something which can be used to trace volatile elements such as water, and compared them to Earth, the moon and an asteroid called 4-Vesta.

They found there was a clear correlation between the size of the cosmic body and the presence of potassium isotopes.

As the only Martian samples available on Earth are those from meteorites, they also often function a little like capsules showing what the planet was like at different stages in its history.

“This study emphasises that there is a very limited size range for planets to have just enough but not too much water to develop a habitable surface environment,” said co-author Klaus Mezger of the Centre for Space and Habitability at the University of Bern. “These results will guide astronomers in their search for habitable exoplanets in other solar systems.”

Wang now thinks that, for planets that are within habitable zones, planetary size probably should be more emphasised and routinely considered when thinking about whether an exoplanet could support life.

“The size of an exoplanet is one of the parameters that is easiest to determine,” Wang added. “Based on size and mass, we now know whether an exoplanet is a candidate for life, because a first-order determining factor for volatile retention is size.”

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Science & Tech

New mobile phone museum to launch online next month



The platform will chart the evolution of the mobile phone from 1984 to the present day, containing more than 2,000 unique handsets from 200 different manufacturers.

A new museum dedicated to the history of the mobile phone will launch online next month.

The Mobile Phone Museum will chart the evolution of the technology from 1984 to the present day, showcasing more than 2,000 handsets from 200 different manufacturers.

Ben Wood, who is chief analyst at technology research firm CCS Insight, has created the project alongside fellow mobile phone industry veteran Matt Chatterly.

The pair are also aiming to build pop-up physical exhibitions in the future in order to bring the handset collection to as many people as possible.

The Mobile Phone Museum, which will chart the evolution of the mobile phone from 1984 to the present day, has also been backed by mobile operator Vodafone through a five-year sponsorship deal.Advertisement

It will feature some of the earliest mobile phones – often large, heavy devices which were barely portable.

They will be included alongside the latest foldable smartphones, which house screens that can be folded in half as well as high-end cameras for photos and video.

Mr Wood, who has been collecting phones for more than 25 years, said: “Over the last three decades the mobile phone has become part of the fabric of society and the design diversity, from early transportable phones to the latest smartphones with flexible displays, is something to behold.

“When the online museum launches later this year, we want it to be a rich learning resource and a way to inspire young people to go on to create incredible mobile innovations of their own in the future.”

He added that the pair are “delighted” to welcome Vodafone as the first major sponsor who are helping to “bring the museum to a wider audience”.

Max Taylor, UK consumer director at Vodafone, said: “More than 35 years ago, Vodafone made the UK’s first mobile phone call on the Vodafone Transportable VT1, a handset which was the size of a car battery and weighed even more.

“Looking back at those early devices and everything which came later tells a fascinating story, not only of the technology itself and how it has evolved, but also of how we communicate.

Mr Taylor added: “We hope that by supporting Ben and Matt’s unique museum collection, the most comprehensive collection anywhere in the world, we’ll be able to help people reminisce about the devices they’ve had over the years, and get excited about what devices might be able to do for them in the future.”

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SpaceX Inspiration4 mission: All-civilian crew touch down on Earth after historic three days in orbit



Commander Jared Isaacman, pilot Sian Proctor, medical officer Hayley Arceneaux and mission specialist Chris Sembrosk took part in the Inspiration4 mission, making them the first to circle the world without a professional astronaut.

A SpaceX capsule carrying the first all-civilian crew into space has touched back down on Earth after three days in orbit.

The four amateur astronauts orbited the planet every 90 minutes at a speed of more than 17,000mph and an altitude of up to 363 miles – higher than the International Space Station and Hubble Telescope – during their time in space.

The Dragon capsule safely parachuted into the ocean just before sunset on Saturday, off the Florida coast where the private flight began three days ago. Upon re-entry through the Earth’s atmosphere, Dragon’s surface reached temperatures 3,500F (1,926C).

Commander Jared Isaacman, pilot Sian Proctor, medical officer Hayley Arceneaux and mission specialist Chris Sembrosk took part in the Inspiration4 mission, making them the first to circle the world without a professional astronaut.

The all-amateur crew was the first to circle the world without a professional astronaut. Pic: Inspiration4 via AP
Image:The capsule returns to Earth with a splash. Pic: Inspiration4 via AP
inspiration4x  Twitter pictures
Image:(L-R) Jared Isaacman, Hayley Arceneaux, Chris Sembroski, and Dr Sian Proctor seemed in good spirits after their first day in space. Pic Twitter/Inspiration4x

“Your mission has shown the world that space is for all of us,” SpaceX Mission Control radioed as the capsule landed.Advertisement

“It was a heck of a ride for us… just getting started,” replied trip sponsor Mr Isaacman, hinting at more private flights in the future.

Mr Isaacman, a billionaire, paid undisclosed millions for the trip for himself and his three guests – all of whom were strangers to him beforehand.

The passengers aboard a SpaceX capsule react as the capsule parachutes into the Atlantic. Pic: Inspiration4 via AP
Image:The passengers aboard the SpaceX capsule react as it parachutes into the Atlantic. Pic: Inspiration4 via AP

The group wanted to show that ordinary people could blast into orbit by themselves, and SpaceX founder Elon Musk took them on as the company’s first rocket-riding tourists.

Following the landing Mr Musk, who is worth an estimated $196.3bn, tweeted, “congratulations!”

Mr Isaacman, a 38-year-old entrepreneur and experienced pilot, aimed to raise $200m (£145m) for St Jude Children’s Research Hospital through the trip.

Donating $100m himself (£72.5m), he held a lottery for one of the four seats. He also held a competition for clients of his Allentown, Pennsylvania payment-processing business, Shift4 Payments, for another of the spots.

These were won by Mr Sembroski, 42, a data engineer in Everett, Washington, and Ms Proctor, 51, a community college educator, scientist and artist from Tempe, Arizona.

Ms Arceneaux, 29, a St Jude physician assistant who was treated at the Memphis, Tennessee hospital nearly two decades ago for bone cancer, took the last seat.

Ms Arceneaux, 29, a St Jude physician assistant who was treated at the Memphis, Tennessee hospital nearly two decades ago for bone cancer, took the last seat.

Together they spent six months training and preparing for potential emergencies during the flight but did not have to undergo the rigorous preparations that astronauts go through.

During the trip, the group was treated to unparalleled views of Earth through a large bubble-shaped window added to the top of the capsule.

They spent the time chatting with St Jude patients, conducted medical tests on themselves, rang the closing bell for the New York Stock Exchange, and complete some drawing and ukulele playing.

inspiration4x  Twitter pictures
Image:The amateur astronauts orbited the Earth every 90 minutes. Pic Twitter/Inspiration4x
Chris Sembroski shows off his ukulele before his performance among the stars
Image:Chris Sembroski shows off his ukulele before his performance among the stars

Ms Arceneaux, the youngest American in space and the first with a prosthesis, told her patients: “I was a little girl going through cancer treatment just like a lot of you, and if I can do this, you can do this.”

The four also took calls from Tom Cruise, interested in his own SpaceX flight to the space station for filming, and the rock band U2’s Bono.

They ate untypical space food: Cold pizza and sandwiches, pasta Bolognese and Mediterranean lamb.

Nearly 600 people have reached space – a scorecard that began 60 years ago and is expected to soon skyrocket as space tourism heats up.

The group is the first to end their flight in the Atlantic since Apollo 9 in 1969. SpaceX’s two previous crew splashdowns – carrying astronauts for NASA – were in the Gulf of Mexico.

NASA had little to do with the mission, only lending the use of its Kennedy Space Centre launchpad.

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