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Zapier launches Canvas, an AI-powered flowchart tool

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Zapier today announced the launch of Canvas, a new tool that aims to help its users plan and diagram their business-critical processes — with a fair bit of AI sprinkled in there to help them turn those processes into Zapier-based automations. Canvas is now in early access.

In addition, the company also today announced that Tables, its automation-first database service, is now generally available to all users.

The 11-year-old company is hosting its (virtual) ZapConnect user conference today. Over the years, Zapier has moved from offering its customers the basic tools to connect one web service to another to allowing them to build rather complex integrations and workflow automations. In a way, Zapier was low-code/no-code before that moniker ever became popular. Today, Zapier co-founder and CEO Wade Foster told me, people are building entire projects — and sometimes entire businesses — on top of Zapier. But that has also led to a number of challenges that the company is now trying to address with, among other things, Canvas and Tables.

Image Credits: Zapier

“One of the things we started to notice is that as you adopt these tools [you built with Zapier], you’re quite happy in the early days, because you’re like, ‘Wow, this is great. This is awesome. It was so fast. I didn’t need any help. This is great. This is awesome.’ And then, there’s this pit of success that comes next. Your project starts to grow and all of a sudden, you’re stitching together all these things, you’re starting to invite collaborators, and things start to get turned into a bit of a hairball. You’re like, ‘oh, no, what am I going to do?’ And Tables and Canvas both fit into helping solve this problem.”

Foster noted that currently, you can use Zapier’s virtual editor to visualize all of the components that you have stitched together in Zapier, but for most users, that only covers a part of their workflow. If it’s not connected to Zapier, it won’t show up there. With Canvas, the idea is to allow users to map out their entire workflows — no matter whether they are connected to Zapier or not.

Image Credits: Zapier

“Canvas is a visual diagramming tool where you can start to map out those processes end-to-end. And then the components that Zapier connects to, you can then actually edit those pieces within Canvas,” Foster explained. “Now, over time, the vision is that you can edit any of the components, whether they connect to Zapier or not, within the Canvas as well.”

That means there are essentially two components to Canvas: You can use it as a basic flowchart diagramming tool to document processes and — for the components that are already connected — it becomes the interface to edit those processes.

Of course, there is an AI component to this as well. You will also be able to tell Canvas what kind of problem you are trying to solve and then have the service generate a process for you, no matter whether you are planning an elaborate birthday party or setting up a complex business problem. Canvas will also include a more standard template library.

Image Credits: Zapier

Like virtually every other company, Zapier is looking into how it can build AI — and generative AI in particular — into its services. “LLMs are a good opportunity to go back and look at all the hardest problems you’ve had in your business, the things that you maybe haven’t quite been able to solve yet — and just see if an LLM can make this problem easier to solve,” Foster said about his overall philosophy of how he thinks about the use of AI.

In addition to the launch of Canvas and making Tables generally available, Zapier is also launching a number of smaller feature updates today. These include a new interactive editor that can handle up to 10 paths, new admin controls and more integrations (which now number more than 6,000).



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Melting Polar Ice Caps Are Making The Days Longer, New Study Finds

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A new research from ETH Zurich indicates that climate change is significantly influencing Earth’s rotation and axis. As polar ice melts and water redistributes towards the equator, the planet’s mass distribution is altered, causing a deceleration in Earth’s rotation and resulting in slightly longer days.

Historically, the primary cause of the gradual lengthening of Earth’s days has been the moon’s tidal friction. However, the researchers discovered that if greenhouse gas emissions persist at their current rate, the impact of climate change could soon surpass the moon’s influence.

The study, led by Professor Benedikt Soja and published in Nature Geoscience and PNAS, draws a parallel between this phenomenon and a figure skater extending their arms to slow their spin. When mass moves away from Earth’s axis, it increases inertia, thus slowing down rotation.

“Human activities are having a more profound effect on our planet than we realize,” Soja stated.

Visual representation of the Artic and the Antarctic. Image: NASA

Additionally, the melting ice sheets are causing shifts in Earth’s rotational axis. By combining physical laws with artificial intelligence, the research team created models to show how interactions within Earth’s core, mantle, and surface influence the axis’s movement.

ALSO SEE: What Is ISRO’s Mission TRISHNA? Here’s All About The Revolutionary Climate Change Monitor

Lead author Mostafa Kiani Shahvandi highlighted that their work provides a comprehensive explanation for long-period polar motion. Their model accurately reconstructed pole movements since 1900 offering predictions for future changes.

“Ongoing climate change could be affecting processes deep inside the Earth and have a greater reach than previously assumed,” Shahvandi said. Although, there shouldn’t be a cause for concern as the changes are very unlikely to pose a risk.

While these changes may seem insignificant in daily life, they hold considerable importance for space navigation. Small deviations in Earth’s rotation can lead to substantial errors over vast distances. Soja stressed that understanding and accounting for these shifts is essential for precise planetary landings.

“We humans have a greater impact on our planet than we realise and this naturally places great responsibility on us for the future of our planet,” the expert said.

ALSO SEE: Scientists Just Spotted Unnerving Melting Beneath The ‘Doomsday Glacier’

(Image: NASA)





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SpaceX Shares Glimpse Of Spacecraft That Will Crash The International Space Station

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SpaceX has been assigned the job to crash the International Space Station (ISS) into the Pacific Ocean in 2030. To get it done, the former will be designing a ‘deorbit vehicle’ that will tug the orbital lab down from its orbit. SpaceX has now shared an illustration of what the said spacecraft will look like.

The picture features the spacecraft which has a similar build like SpaceX’s trademark Dragon capsule. It also has massive solar panels to power the components of the vehicle. According to SpaceX, it will be four times more powerful and have six times the propellant of today’s Dragon spaceceraft.

In a statement in June, NASA said it has awarded the company a contract worth $843 million (excluding launch costs) to design and build the vehicle. The agency plans to retire the station by 2030.

Crashing the ISS will be a lengthy process

During a press conference on July 17, NASA officials shared details about the deorbiting of the space station which will begin when the new spacecraft docks at one of its ports. According to Dana Weigel, ISS program manager, the vehicle will pull the station down 12 to 18 months after it drifts down from its normal orbit.

The official said that astronauts will occupy the station until six months before the station’s reentry and will vacate it after the ISS reaches about 200 kilometres in orbit. It currently circles the Earth at over 400 kilometres.

Sarah Walker, director of Dragon mission management at SpaceX, revealed the key features of the deorbit vehicle. The spacecraft will have an enhanced trunk section that will have additional propulsion tanks along with engines, avionics and power generation purposes, Space.com reported.

ALSO SEE: Astronaut Gives Tour Of The International Space Station In Never Seen Before Video; Watch

The station is currently being managed by five space agencies from the US, Russia, Canada, Japan and Europe. Its replacement will be filled by commercial habitats that will ensure human presence in the low-Earth orbit and continued experiments in microgravity.

Many US companies like Blue Origin and Sierra Space are together building Orbital Reef and Axiom Space is planning to launch the first module of its Axiom Station later this decade. Currently, China is the only country to have its own space station –Tiangong – and Russia is also working toward developing one for itself.

Steve Stich, the manager of the commercial crew program at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, reportedly said earlier this year that the ISS wil be “out of the way” only if the commercial ones are successful.

ALSO SEE: SpaceX To Launch Historic Private Mission Polaris Dawn On July 31





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NASA Beams Hip-Hop Song By Missy Elliot To Venus For The First Time Ever

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NASA just beamed a song to Venus at light speed. The agency used the massive Deep Space Network (DSN) to transmit the song by hip-hop star Missy Elliot to Earth’s twin, which happens to be artist’s favourite planet.

The experiment was conducted at 10:35 pm IST on July 12 using the 34-meter-wide (112-foot) Deep Space Station 13 (DSS-13) radio dish antenna, located at the DSN’s Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex in California.

According to NASA, the song “The Rain” (Supa Dupa Fly) travelled about 254 million kilometres and it took the signal 14 minutes to reach Venus at the speed of light. The DSN is managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and it is used to track space probes, send them commands and communicate with them.

This is the first time NASA has transmitted a hip-hop song into space. The only other instance when DSN was used for such purpose was the transmission of “Across The Universe” by The Beatles in February 2008.

“I still can’t believe I’m going out of this world with NASA through the Deep Space Network when “The Rain” (Supa Dupa Fly) becomes the first ever hip-hop song to transmit to space!,” Elliot stated. She revealed that she chose Venus because it “symbolises strength, beauty, and empowerment.”

ALSO SEE: Despite Titan Tragedy, OceanGate Co-Founder Is Fixed On Sending Humans To Venus; ‘It Is Very Doable’

Although, Venus is named after the ancient Roman goddess of love and beauty.

The idea of sending songs into space is not new and it dates back to the 70s. Arguably the most iconic examples are the Voyager probes which are carrying 27 songs in the Golden Records along with greetings in several languages and sounds from planet Earth.

Meanwhile, Venus has become an interesting subject of exploration and NASA has two missions planned to investigate the planet.

The first is DAVINCI (Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble gases, Chemistry, and Imaging) scheduled for launch in 2029 and the other is VERITAS (Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, InSAR, Topography, and spectroscopy) which is scheduled to launch no earlier than 2031.

ALSO SEE: New Study Reveals Venus Might Have Hosted Life Billions Of Years Ago





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