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Czech Voters Deal a Blow to Populism

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Only a few years ago, democracies around the world seemed to be turning toward the pluto-populists, the wealthy men and women who convinced millions of ordinary voters that liberal democracy had run its course. They're still out there—but their star may be dimming.

But first, here are three new stories from The Atlantic.

Pushing Back the Tide

In the autumn of 2017, I was in the Czech Republic on a speaking tour at the invitation of the U.S. Department of State to talk about the problem of disinformation and democracy. One night in Pilsen, a lovely city about an hour from Prague, I finished my presentation and asked for questions and discussion. A young man, speaking very good English, asked me if I would like to comment on the idea that Hillary Clinton and the Democrats were involved with a ring of pedophiles, a common internet conspiracy theory that had already been around for a while and is now at the heart of the QAnon madness. I responded that this was a debunked story and that I was not going to be drawn into a debate about it.

After the talk, I spoke with this young man. I said, "You know better than this." He smiled and admitted that the story was bunk, but that he'd just wanted to see what I would say. "And to make sure everyone in the room heard it," I said. He smiled again and shrugged.

In other cities around the Czech Republic that fall, I fielded questions that included other conspiracy theories about NATO, the European Union, or Ukraine (or all three together); the movement of American nuclear weapons; criticism of the Western outrage at Russia for seizing Crimea; and other topics that seemed to be pulled right off of trashy websites. I began to see why other members of my various audiences (usually university-age young people) were pessimistic: In a country where Russian propaganda fell from the skies like electronic acid rain and oozed from computers like sludge from a cracked sewer pipe, how could ordinary citizens ever make informed decisions?

At the time, the Czech government was led by a pro-Russian president, Miloš Zeman, who was soon to be joined in the government by a populist prime minister, Andrej Babiš. A billionaire, Babiš campaigned on the high-minded slogan that "everybody steals" and vowed to run the government like a company. (That should sound familiar to American voters who had to listen to similar cynical bloviations from Donald Trump for so many years.) Zeman won a second term in 2018, and Babiš remained prime minister until late 2021. Pro-Western sentiment in the Czech Republic, as well as in other former Warsaw Pact nations that had since joined NATO, looked to be fizzling out.

Last month, Babiš not only lost his bid for the Czech presidency but also lost it to Petr Pavel, a retired Czech general who once held a senior position in NATO's military leadership. Pavel is a newcomer to politics, but he clobbered Babiš—who by sheer virtue of name recognition and money should have been the favorite—garnering 58 percent of the vote in an election with a record 70 percent turnout. That's not a squeaker; that's a repudiation. Babiš, especially when faced with the coronavirus pandemic, was lousy at governing, as populists almost always are. But the Russian onslaught against Ukraine also seemed to break the spell for many Czechs, and this election is likely one more example of Vladimir Putin's brutality in Ukraine undoing years of the careful propaganda that once bolstered Russia's position in the world.

Pavel's career began in the Czechoslovak military, where he was a member of the Communist Party. (This caused some griping and cheap shots among his opponents, but a young officer joining the Party as a matter of course was an expected part of a military career in those days.) After 1990, Pavel served in a United Nations peacekeeping mission and later as the chairman of NATO's military committee, the top military body in the Atlantic Alliance.

If you want a sense of his campaign, one of his signs said, "Enough of chaos. I offer order and dignity." (Again, millions of American voters can probably relate.) His views are an about-face from those of figures such Zeman and Babiš; he is proud of Czech aid to Ukraine and has said that the Ukrainians now "really deserve" NATO membership. That's not going to happen anytime soon, if ever, but it is refreshing to see a government in Prague taking the regime in Moscow seriously as a mortal threat.

This is all good news not only for the Western allies but for democracy itself. Nevertheless, Pavel and the leaders of other democracies still have a full plate. The Czech presidency has some influence as a national symbol, but the Republic is a parliamentary system in which executive power rests with the prime minister (currently the center-right politician Petr Fiala). And in a classic Trumpy move, Babiš issued this ominous farewell: "Forget Babiš. Try to live without Babiš. Stop waking up in the morning and going to sleep at night feeling hatred for Babiš." What this likely means, of course, is that Babiš—who still commands significant political and material resources—will be back.

Likewise, the move to the populist right is not over in neighboring Poland. And Viktor Orbán still rules Hungary, attended by a circle of American courtiers who believe he is the future of post-liberalism. (One of his admirers, Rod Dreher, just made the foolish mistake of accidentally reporting the truth: He publicized some of Orbán's creepy pro-Russian and anti–European Union comments, and then backtracked quickly.)

Still, the Czech diplomat Petr Tuma (now in residence at the Atlantic Council, in Washington) is right to note that Pavel's win "seems to follow a tide turning against global populism, including the defeats of former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and former Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa." We could add the American 2022 midterm elections to this list.

It's been a tough few years for democracy, but populist leaders—as they almost inevitably do—are now reminding voters that they never have very much to offer beyond angry slogans, mistrust, and paranoia. (These days, many of them also have Putin's war hanging around their neck.) The Czech presidential election is one more reminder that when voters decide in favor of freedom and decency, and then actually show up at the polls, democracy wins.


Today's News

  1. Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota was removed from the House Foreign Affairs Committee, in a vote supported by the GOP House majority.
  2. The U.S. is increasing its military presence in the Philippines as part of an effort to counter China and prepare for a possible conflict over Taiwan.
  3. More than 15 million people in the Northeast are under wind-chill warnings or advisories, with potentially record-low temperatures expected starting tomorrow.

Evening Read

A memorial for Tyre Nichols in Boston
Joseph Prezioso / AFP / Getty

Tyre Nichols Wanted to Capture the Sunset

By Clint Smith

Vincent van Gogh's painting Willows at Sunset is a dazzling kaleidoscope of twilight. The canvas is awash in orange and yellow brushstrokes, as if the painter meant to depict the world ablaze. An asymmetrical sun hovers in the background while beams of light shoot across the sky. Terra-cotta grass leans in the wind that I imagine van Gogh felt slide across his cheek. Three pollarded willows rise up from the earth and bend like bodies frozen mid-dance. Shades of black expand across their barren trunks, as if they are about to be swallowed by the oncoming night.

The piece, painted in 1888, wasn't originally meant to be shared with the world. The wide brushstrokes on the canvas have led art historians to believe that van Gogh painted the image quickly, perhaps as a sketch for another work—the artist's attempt to capture the majesty of a sunset before it slipped beyond the horizon.

Read the full article.

More From The Atlantic

Culture Break

Jonathan Groff, Ben Aldridge, and Kristen Cui hide behind a cabin door in "Knock at the Cabin."
Jonathan Groff, Ben Aldridge, and Kristen Cui in "Knock at the Cabin" (Phobymo / Universal Pictures)

Read. Elaine Hsieh Chou's new short story, "Background."

"Gene knew parents could be withholding, cold, distant. He didn't know children could be too."

Watch. M. Night Shyamalan's Knock at the Cabin infuses a ludicrous horror concept with a healthy dose of tenderness.

Play our daily crossword.


If you've never been to Prague, it's a wonderful place and one of my favorite cities. It's also, arguably, where the Soviet empire began its slide into oblivion. In early 1968, reformers in the then-Czechoslovak leadership took over the government (thus giving us the term "Prague Spring" that we now apply to other uprisings). In August, Soviet tanks moved in and crushed the whole project, causing many of the men and women in the old Eastern bloc, and in the U.S.S.R. itself, to doubt their faith in Moscow and the future of Soviet communism. One of the best books on this, Nightfrost in Prague, was written by one of the officials who was forcibly taken to the Kremlin, but unfortunately, it's out of print and kind of hard to get.

A former U.S. ambassador to the Czech Republic, Norman Eisen, however, wrote a book in 2018 titled The Last Palace, which is a good introduction to the city and its history—and even its architecture, too, as it is told through the notable history of the ambassador's residence. Eisen is known to news junkies as a regular commenter on cable news; he was the special counsel to the House Judiciary Committee from 2019 to 2020, including during Trump's impeachment. The history of Central Europe can get a bit chewy for a general reader; instead, give The Last Palace a read—but beware of the urge it will instill in you to go and walk along the Charles Bridge.

— Tom

Isabel Fattal contributed to this newsletter.




Nature Communications, Published online: 03 February 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-36291-9

Covalent organic frameworks are more and more used in the design of stimuli responsive materials. Here, the authors expand the application range of COFs by demonstrating a sweat induced colour change for detection of fingerprints using a sweat responsive COF.
What Will We Do When AI Takes All of the Jobs?
Is this article about Business?

I think with the layoffs in big tech and products like Co-Pilot that may eliminate many low level programmer jobs it is important that we look at how the economy may not be well designed for a world where we are automating jobs faster than they are being created.

Rather than focus on how we can create jobs, maybe we need to embrace a society where jobs are not necessary, and then figure out how people can still survive in that world.

I would be interested in people's thoughts on this and discussing possible solutions to a potential future where it just isn't possible for everyone to have a job.

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I finally think the concept of AGI is misleading, fueled by all the hype, and will never happen

TL;DR: (and it's long)

What I am trying to argue here is that "intelligence" is complex enough to be inseparable from the physical processes that give rise to it, and if that is not convincing, the "computing" power necessary to mimic it is unobtainable with any of the machinery we have created to date and nothing is on the horizon. Anything from the future that would match up could not even be called a computer at that point because the inner workings would have to be radically different. Also some criticisms of Large Language Models and neural networks in general. They don't work the way people seem to think.

I make this post not because I'm trying to get into a "debate" where I try to beat everyone's opinion down or to be a doom n' gloom downer, but because I'm hoping for a discussion to work through my thoughts and maybe yours. I have been mulling over some problems with the field of Artificial Intelligence and in the process I have found myself convinced that it's never going to happen.

So I present some questions and ideas to people who still believe the hype and those who may not be into the current hype but still believe it will happen eventually. I want to refine my thinking and see if there are holes in my reasoning because of anything I have missed. I'm perfectly willing to change my mind, I just need a convincing argument and some good evidence.

So with that out of the way we'll start with this:

Nobody would ever say that a simulated star gives us a nuclear fusion reactor, yet we assume a simulated or emulated brain will give us a mind? Why? I know many of you are itching to trot out "we don't flap wings to make planes fly! Do submarines SWIM?" but there is a massive flaw in this reasoning. We've worked out the principles that govern flight and underwater traversal, so we can create alternative methods towards these ends. We have NOT worked out the fundamental principles necessary to create intelligence/cognition/perception by any other means, all we're working with is what it feels like to think, which is very subjective. Neural networks are also not a simulation of neurons in any sense, neither replicating any of their "base" functionality in an abstract form nor trying to accurately model their attributes.

The limits of the current paradigm, and any future one, come from what I think is a fundamental misunderstanding of "the symbol grounding problem", or rather, what has to be dealt with in order to overcome the grounding problem. Without solving this, they will not have any generalized reasoning ability or common sense. Language models give us the illusion that we can solve this with words, and I think I can articulate why this is not the case. Word association is not enough.

How are our minds "grounded?" How do you define the meaning of the words we use, how do you define what anything actually IS. Words and definitions of words are meaningless symbols without us to interpret them. Definitions of words can be created endlessly, because the words within those definitions also need to be defined. You are stuck in an unending recursive loop, as there is no base case, only more arbitrary symbols. You can scale to infinite parameters for these "neural" networks and it will not matter. Imagine trying to make sense of a word cloud written in a foreign language that does not use your alphabet. The base case, the MEANING comes from visceral experience. So what are the fundamental things that make up an experience of reality, making a common sense understanding of things like cause and effect possible?

Much like a star, our brains are a real, physical object undergoing complicated processes. In a star, the fusion of atoms results in a massive release of heat and energy, and that release is what we want to capture in a reactor. In the cells of our brains, immensely complex biochemistry is carried out by the interactions of a vast number of molecular machines. Matter is being moved about and broken down for energy to carry out the construction of new materials and other processes.

We have grounding because in order to experience reality, we are both transformed by it and transformers of it. All of the activity carried out by a cell is the result of the laws of physics and chemistry playing out, natural selection iteratively refining the form and function of the molecules that prove useful in their environment for metabolism and self-replication.

Your brain isn't taking in data to be used by algorithms, neurons are NOT passive logic circuit elements! Action potentials are not like clock cycles in computers, shunting voltage about along rigid paths of logic gated circuitry; their purpose is to activate a variety of other intracellular processes.

The cells of your brain and body are being literally transformed by their own contents and interactions with their environment, shaping and reshaping every moment of their activity. Photons of light hit the cells in your eye, triggering a sequential activation of the tiny finite state machines known as signal transduction proteins. The internal state of the cell transforms and neurotransmitter gets released, once again triggering sequential activation of signaling proteins in other cells downstream in the process. This is real chemical and mechanical transformation, a complex exchange of matter and energy between you and your environment. You understand cause and effect because every aspect of your being down to the molecule depends on and is molded by it. An experience is defined by the sum total of all of this activity happening not just in the cells of your brain but everywhere in your entire body. Perception and cognition are probably inseparable for this reason.

There is no need for models of anything in the brain. Nothing has to be abstracted out and processed by algorithms to produce a desired result. The physical activity and shifting state ARE the result, no further interpretation necessary.

Now let us examine what is actually happening in a deep learning system. The activity of neural networks is arbitrary-symbol manipulation. WE hand craft the constraints to retrieve desired results. Don't let the fancy words and mathy-math of the blackbox impress you (or convince you to speculate that something deeper is happening), focus on examining the inputs and the outputs.

The fundamental flaw of a Large Language Model remains the same as the flaw of the expert systems. This flaw is again, the grounding problem, how it is that words get their meanings. The training dataset is the exact same thing as the prior art of hand coded logic rules and examples. Human beings are ranking the outputs of the chatbot for the value system the reinforcement mechanism will use to pick the most viable answer given a prompt. The black box is just averaging all of this together to be able match a statistically relevant output to the input. There is no reasoning going on here, these systems don't even handle simple negation well. It just appears like reasoning in an LLM because the structure of the words looks good to us, from the use of the vast corpus of text to find frequencies that words appear together.

Ask any linguist or psychologist, humans do not learn language like this, humans do not make and use language like this. I must emphasize that we are NOT just doing next word prediction in our heads. Kids won't pick up up language from passive exposure, even with tv.

You cannot attempt to use extra data sources like images to overcome this problem with labeled associations either. Which pixel values are the ones that represent the thing you are trying to associate, and why? Human beings are going into these data sets and labeling the images. Human beings are going in and setting the constraints of the games(possible state space, how to transition between states, formalization of the problem). Human interpretation is hiding somewhere in all of these deep learning systems, we have not actually devised any methods that work without us.

While the individual human beings labeling the data attempt to define what red is for the machine, with words and pixel values, merely even thinking about "red" is literally altering the chemistry all across their brain in order to re-experience incidents where they encountered that wavelength of electromagnetic radiation and what transpired after.

This is why there cannot be grounding and common sense in these systems; the NN cant ever "just know" like life can because it cannot directly experience reality without it being interpreted first by us. It's a big bunch of matrix math that only has a statistical model of tokens of text and pixel values by averaging symbols of our experience of reality. Even the output only has meaning because the output is meaningful to us. They do absolutely NOTHING on their own. How can they perform dynamic tasks in unstructured environments without us to painstakingly define and structure everything first?

Change the labels? You change the whole outcome.

You cant change the laws of physics.

We exist in the moments when molecules bump into each other. You can't simulate that you have to DO it. Because the variance in how these bumps occur produces all of our differences and fallibility and flexibility.

The molecular dynamics are not only still too unknown to distill into an algorithm, but too complex to even simulate in real time. There isn't enough computing power on the planet to simulate all of the the action in a single cell let alone the trillions that we are made of, in a human time frame with reliable accuracy.

Bonus: Moravec's paradox is still kicking our ass. Single celled organisms (eukaryotic specifically) and the individual cells in our immune system navigate unstructured environments and complete specific and complex tasks in a manner that puts all of our robots to shame. Remember cells as tiny molecular robots composed of the assemblage of an incredible amount of complex, nested finite state machines, and then watch the Kurzgesagt videos about the immune system. The "computing" power on display is unmatched.

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Study links adoption of electric vehicles with less air pollution and improved health
Is this article about Automotive Industry?
A team of researchers have now begun to document the actual impact of 
electric vehicle
 adoption in the first study to use real-world data to link electric cars, air pollution and health. Leveraging publicly available datasets, the researchers analyzed a 'natural experiment' occurring in California as residents in the state rapidly transitioned to electric cars, or light-duty zero emissions vehicles (ZEVs). The team compared data on total ZEV registration, air pollution levels and asthma-related emergency room visits across the state between 2013 to 2019. As ZEV adoption increased within a given zip code, local air pollution levels and emergency room visits dropped.
Evolution of wheat spikes since the Neolithic revolution
Around 12,000 years ago, the Neolithic revolution radically changed the economy, diet and structure of the first human societies in the Fertile Crescent of the Near East. With the beginning of the cultivation of cereals — such as wheat and barley — and the domestication of animals, the first cities emerged in a new social context marked by a productive economy. Now, a study analyses the evolution of wheat spikes since its cultivation began by the inhabitants of ancient Mesopotamia — the cradle of agriculture — between the Tigris and the Euphrates.
Hubble directly measures mass of a lone white dwarf
Astronomers have directly measured the mass of a single, isolated white dwarf — the surviving core of a burned-out, Sun-like star. Researchers found that the white dwarf is 56 percent the mass of our Sun. This agrees with earlier theoretical predictions of the white dwarf's mass and corroborates current theories of how white dwarfs evolve as the end product of a typical star's evolution. The unique observation yields insights into theories of the structure and composition of white dwarfs.


Netflix Brags That It Used AI to Replace Human Animators In New Anime
Is this article about Tech?

Net Loss

For whatever reason, 


 Japan's official Twitter account thought it was a good idea to proudly proclaim that one of its newest animated shorts, called "Dog & The Boy," was produced using AI-generated imagery.

That's already bound to draw the ire of fans, but Netflix made the fatal error of explicitly noting in the tweet that its Anime Creators Base, a Japan-based hub that hosts artists dedicated to churning out anime, used AI in response to the industry's supposed "labor shortage."

"As an experimental effort to help the anime industry, which has a labor shortage, we used image generation technology for the background images of all three-minute video cuts!" the company wrote.


Dog in the Fight

The AI was supplied by Rinna, an AI company with an office in Tokyo, according to a press release. WIT Studio, which produced hit series including "Attack On Titan" and "Vinland Saga," also collaborated — an eerie sign of anime heavyweights flirting with the technology.

Watch the promotional video, and there's definitely an ominous undertone to cutesy, sappy bullshit like this being used to show off an AI image generator that the company more or less tacitly admitted took someone's job. Sorry, but not even an adorable dog and a wide-eyed anime boy cycling through dreamlike arrays of sakuras will help let this stuff slide.

And if you manage to suffer through the whole thing and reach the end, that's when Netflix really rubs the AI in. It shows an example background that started off as a hand-drawn layout. Then, through two different stages, it gets touched up via AI generation, before being manually revised in the final stage. To be perfectly frank, it looks like garbled trash.

But the most insulting cherry on top is that the credits list the background designer as simply "AI (+Human)."

As Vice notes, claims of a "labor shortage" are dubious at best. The anime industry in Japan is notorious for its demanding, stress-inducing (and sometimes deadly) schedule and insultingly poor pay, earning as little as $200 per month. Even some top animators take home less than $3,800 a month, despite anime's ludicrous earnings and popularity.

The reality is that there's no shortage of willing animators, but a shortage of those willing to toil under such miserable conditions. And unfortunately, to studios whose sole bottom line is profit, AI image generators are the perfect scabs.

More on AI image generators: Anime Fans In Japan Are Not Happy With AI-Generated Manga

The post Netflix Brags That It Used AI to Replace Human Animators In New Anime appeared first on Futurism.

Global Warming Is Worse Than We Thought, AI Tells Scientists

AI Assessment

Scientists enlisted the help of an AI to estimate how long it would take until global warming gets really bad. The AI's assessment? We might be screwed.

The resulting study, published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that global temperatures could reach the threshold of 1.5 degrees Celsius in just a decade. Exceed that, and scientists warn of increased drought, widescale die-offs of wildlife species and ecosystems, and famines, to name just a few drastic ramifications.

The legally binding Paris Agreement aims to not exceed this threshold by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and so far, we're already sitting at 1.1 to 1.2 degrees of warming.

The Paris Agreement maintains that, in the worst case scenario, the nations of the world ought to keep warming well below 2 degrees Celsius. But the AI found we have a "substantial probability" of crossing even that threshold, at which scientists believe the effects of climate change will be irreversible and far more catastrophic, by 2050.

Moved-Up Timeline

To produce these portentous predictions, the scientists trained a machine learning system on climate model outputs. During its training and testing, it was able to independently and accurately predict the timing of global warming temperatures in the past while only using maps of historical annual temperatures, according to the scientists.

Even in the best-case scenario, the scientists found, the 1.5 degree threshold would be reached between 2033 to 2035, which isn't a lot of time.

As CNN notes, this projected timeline is largely in line with the predictions of other significant reports. But the AI study has a far grimmer idea of when the 2 degree threshold will be reached, estimating close to an 80 percent chance that the world will hit that mark by 2065 — and that's assuming we maintain net zero carbon emissions. Noah Diffenbaugh, co-author of the study and a climate scientist at Stanford University, told CNN that there's a 50 percent chance that 2 degrees will be reached even sooner — by 2050, if emissions stay high.

"[There is] is clear evidence that a half degree of global warming poses substantial risks for people and ecosystems," he added. "Hence, the greater the global warming, the greater the challenges for adaptation."

More on climate change: Stanford Scientists Warn That Civilization as We Know It Will End in "Next Few Decades"

The post Global Warming Is Worse Than We Thought, AI Tells Scientists appeared first on Futurism.

New sensor enables 'smart diapers,' range of other health monitors
Is this article about Healthcare Industry?
Waaahhh! While babies have a natural mechanism for alerting their parents that they need a diaper change, a new sensor developed by researchers at Penn State could help workers in daycares, hospitals and other settings provide more immediate care to their charges.
Netflix's US Password-Sharing Crackdown Isn't Happening—Yet
Is this article about Tech?
Accidental revisions to a US Help Center page sparked confusion about the streamer's next moves. But restrictions on account sharing are still coming soon.
A new study offers a science-based method to assess protection levels in marine protected areas (MPAs) when information on regulated human activities is limited. The study, recently published in the journal Marine Policy, provides a new technique to inform progress towards international conservation goals, including protecting 30 percent of marine areas by 2030, which was adopted in Dec. 2022 at the UN Biodiversity Conference in Montreal, Canada, known as COP15.
Is this article about Ecosystem Management?
A new study offers a science-based method to assess protection levels in marine protected areas (MPAs) when information on regulated human activities is limited. The study, recently published in the journal Marine Policy, provides a new technique to inform progress towards international conservation goals, including protecting 30 percent of marine areas by 2030, which was adopted in Dec. 2022 at the UN Biodiversity Conference in Montreal, Canada, known as COP15.
Is this article about Food Science?
A study conducted by scientists from the University of Liège and the HEDERA-22 spin-off on moon milk—a mineral deposit found in caves and used for its curative properties—has led to the discovery of a cryptic compound active against bacteria that are multi-resistant to antibiotics. This discovery is the subject of a technology transfer and a publication in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences.
Is this article about Tech & Scientific Innovation?
Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell (iPSC) lines have become essential for determining the underlying genetic drivers of human disease. Genomes of iPSCs can be easily edited using the bacteria-based CRISPR/Cas9 technology to introduce or correct disease-associated variants.
Lunaemycin, a new antibiotic extracted from moonmilk deposits
Is this article about Food Science?
A study conducted by scientists from the University of Liège and the HEDERA-22 spin-off on moon milk—a mineral deposit found in caves and used for its curative properties—has led to the discovery of a cryptic compound active against bacteria that are multi-resistant to antibiotics. This discovery is the subject of a technology transfer and a publication in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences.
Research team establishes cell lines to improve iPSC research
Is this article about Tech & Scientific Innovation?
Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell (iPSC) lines have become essential for determining the underlying genetic drivers of human disease. Genomes of iPSCs can be easily edited using the bacteria-based CRISPR/Cas9 technology to introduce or correct disease-associated variants.
Water pores in leaves proven to be part of plant's defense system against pathogens
How do plants defend themselves against pathogenic microorganisms? This is a complex puzzle, of which a team of biologists from the University of Amsterdam has solved a new piece. The team, led by Harrold van den Burg, discovered that while the water pores (hydathodes) in leaves provide an entry point for bacteria, they are also an active part of the defense against these invaders. The team's research has now been published in the journal Current Biology.
Team identifies a nutrient that cancer cells crave
Is this article about Tech & Scientific Innovation?
Arginine is an amino acid naturally produced by our bodies and plentiful in the fish, meat, and nuts that we eat. But as recent research in Science Advances reveals, arginine is an essential nutrient for 
 cells too. And starving them of it could potentially render tumors more vulnerable to the body's natural immune response.
How do plants defend themselves against pathogenic microorganisms? This is a complex puzzle, of which a team of biologists from the University of Amsterdam has solved a new piece. The team, led by Harrold van den Burg, discovered that while the water pores (hydathodes) in leaves provide an entry point for bacteria, they are also an active part of the defense against these invaders. The team's research has now been published in the journal Current Biology.
Team identifies a nutrient that cancer cells crave
Arginine is an amino acid naturally produced by our bodies and plentiful in the fish, meat, and nuts that we eat. But as recent research in Science Advances reveals, arginine is an essential nutrient for 
 cells too. And starving them of it could potentially render tumors more vulnerable to the body's natural immune response.
Professor Believes Door to Warp Drive May Lie With Ethylene Glycol

The dream of a warp drive, a futuristic propulsion system that could allow us to cover astronomical distances at the speed of light or faster, is still alive.

While the idea has historically been relegated largely to the realms of science fiction, a growing number of engineers are hard at work trying to turn it into a reality.

Take Chance Glenn, an engineering professor and provost of the University of Houston-Victoria, who tells The Debrief that he's ready to bring early-stage research on a new concept to a lab.

Needless to say, an actual warp drive as seen in "Star Trek" is still many years out — if it ever materializes, that is. But with a bit of luck and creativity, researchers like Glenn are starting to suspect we could inch closer to ways to play with the rules of space and time.

Glenn is ready to throw funding and his time behind a brand new idea — not to create a "warp bubble," the protective cocoon that would shield a spacecraft as it flies at superluminal speeds, but to see how time and space could be bent.

"My planned experiment (involves) pumping a radio frequency chamber with a laser beam running through it," he told The Debrief, "and if somehow, even slightly, space/time is distorted in some way, it could be detected."

To do just that, Glenn is planning to fill the chamber with ethylene glycol — better known as the antifreeze that helps run your automobile — a surprisingly simple off-the-shelf material for an otherwise complex experiment.

The material could allow Glenn to detect traces of gravitational waves, or ripples in spacetime first predicted by Albert Einstein over 100 years ago, not from thousands of light years away, but right here on Earth.

By pulsing a laser in this chamber, Glenn hopes to catch these ripples in the act, results that he hopes could have implications for our future efforts to build warp drives.

Fortunately, the professor already has secured funding and valuable connections at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and SpaceX, he says. He even says he's gotten an invitation from noted warp drive expert Harold White to make use of his lab, according to The Debrief.

"I'm hoping to run initial experiments in the first half of 2023," Glenn told the publication. "Maybe sometime in March or early spring."

While the dream of a working warp drive is still as distant as ever, first steps are often the hardest.

"Mathematics and all of that is cool," Glenn told The Debrief, "but there is nothing like proving it."

READ MORE: How DARPA, Star Trek, and UFOs Inspired This Engineer to Unravel the Secrets to Warp Drive Propulsion [The Debrief]

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Astronomers Intrigued by 25 Mysterious Repeating Radio Signals From Deep Space

CHIME Nor Reason

A team of astronomers has discovered 25 fast radio bursts (FRBs), which are mysterious and extremely powerful pulses of radio waves that repeat in complex patterns, Universe Today reports.

The astronomers observed the repeating FRBs in data captured between 2019 and 2021 by the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) radio observatory in British Columbia, Canada.

Ever since the first FRB was detected back in 2007, astronomers have been trying to get behind the source of the perplexing phenomenon. To this day, we can only hazard a guess as to why they occur, with some arguing that pulsars, which highly magnetically charged neutron stars, may be the source.

The new data will likely only add to the mystery in the short term. But it could also bring us one step closer to an answer.

Active Bursts

Using an algorithm, Ziggy Pleunis, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Toronto and lead author of a yet-to-be-peer-reviewed paper, and his colleagues discovered 25 new repeating sources while examining a previously created sample catalog of FRBs, which contained more than 500 detected events by CHIME.

Up until now, only 29 out of a total of 1,000 FRBs detected to date were found to be repeating, according to Universe Today, which means the new data could nearly double the number of known repeating FRBs.

"When we carefully count all our fast radio bursts and the sources that repeat we find that only about 2.6 percent of all fast radio bursts that we discover repeat," Pleunis told the publication. "For many of the new sources we have detected only a few bursts, which makes the sources quite inactive. Almost as inactive as the sources that we have only seen once."

"It is possible that all fast radio burst sources eventually repeat, but that many sources are not very active," he added.

Many of these repeating patterns are still proving extremely difficult to classify, making them even more elusive.

But as astronomers build out a rapidly increasing dataset of these bursts, in addition to some extremely large radio telescopes being built like the Square Kilometer Array Observatory in Australia, we could soon finally get some answers.

READ MORE: Astronomers Find 25 Fast Radio Bursts That Repeat on a Regular Basis [Universe Today]

More on FRBs: MIT Scientists Discover Deep Space Signal, Pulsing Like Heartbeat

The post Astronomers Intrigued by 25 Mysterious Repeating Radio Signals From Deep Space appeared first on Futurism.

Antidepressants can boost antibiotic resistance

A range of commonly prescribed antidepressants can increase bacteria's resistance to antibiotic medications, a new study finds.

The researchers focused on prescription drugs used to treat depressive disorders, anxiety disorders, and other psychological conditions.

More than 42 million prescriptions were dispensed for antidepressant medications in Australia in 2021 and the researchers investigated bacterial exposure to five of the most common drugs: sertraline (Zoloft), escitalopram (Lexapro), bupropion (Welbutrin), duloxetine (Cymbalta), and agomelatine (Valdoxan).

"While the overuse of antibiotics is acknowledged as the major driver of bacterial resistance, we wanted to investigate if other common medications were contributing to the problem," says Jianhua Guo, a professor at the University of Queensland's Australian Centre for Water and Environmental Biotechnology.

"Sertraline, duloxetine, and fluoxetine had the strongest impact on bacterial resistance to antibiotics among the drugs we tested. Our study showed a marked increase in antibiotic resistance from those three, even at very low doses.

"Notably, the antibiotic resistance appears to be antidepressant-dependent, which may be due to oxidative stress in bacteria posed by antidepressants. Further studies need to evaluate the potential effects on the microbiomes of people given antidepressants and assess their risk gastrointestinal disturbances or diseases."

It is estimated 1.27 million people die every year from infections which do not respond to medication and the figure is predicted to reach 10 million by 2050 unless global action is taken.

The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, was funded by the Australian Research Council Discovery Project, and the UQ Foundation Research Excellence Awards.

Source: University of Queensland

The post Antidepressants can boost antibiotic resistance appeared first on Futurity.

The Bathos of Brady

I'm sick of writing about Tom Brady.

You're probably sick of reading about him. Now you know how the ancient Mesopotamians felt about Methuselah: Jeez, 969 years old—how many more hot takes do we need about when that priest is going to retire?

What we witnessed in the past year was the undead phase of Brady's football career. The actual human version of that career ended, possibly, after his Super Bowl win with the Buccaneers, in 2021 or, more probably, with his short-lived retirement early in 2022. But Brady shambled on, liminal, cadaverous, desiccated (compare his sunken, middle-aged cheeks of 2023 with the chubby baby face of his early seasons), his demeanor on the field alternately forlorn and enraged. But as fans of The Walking Dead or The Last of Us know, the undead can be lethal.

Zombie Tom Brady, even in his final undead year, at age 45, still led the NFL in passing attempts and completions, still engineered a few astonishing fourth-quarter comebacks, and, in his playoff loss to the Cowboys, devoid of an effective running game to assist him, threw a remarkable 66 passes, for 351 yards and two touchdowns. In some ways, the undead Brady is not so physically distinguishable from the pre-undead Brady, who even as a young man staggered around outside the pocket like a mummy who had missed too many Pilates classes.

[Read: Tom Brady's tone-deaf perfection]

He remains the greatest quarterback of all time. But what an annus horribilis the past year has been for him. Brady began 2022 by botching the rollout of his (first) retirement announcement: Word of it leaked before a Super Bowl in which he wasn't competing, which made him appear narcissistic and graceless. Then he alienated his religiously devoted New England fans by failing to acknowledge them in his farewell letter. Then, 40 days later, he unretired, reportedly against the wishes of his family. Then he was rumored to have gotten his Tampa Bay coach, Bruce Arians, kicked upstairs to a front-office job in favor of Todd Bowles, who he thought—wrongly, as it turned out—would oversee an offense more to his liking. Then he got separated and divorced from his supermodel wife, who was manifestly unhappy with his decision to return to the field. Then he lost an estimated $93 million in crypto when the FTX exchange collapsed. Then he got sued, as part of a class-action lawsuit, for endorsing crypto in advertisements and allegedly gulling hapless ordinary investors into losing their savings. Then he endured the first and only losing season of football in his entire life, and a peremptory early playoff exit. It's like he combined the nadirs of Bernie Madoff, Billy Joel, and Mark Sanchez into a single, ignominious year.

To follow up his trumpets-and-fanfare retirement by unretiring not even two months later seemed undignified. Sure, Michael Jordan unretired, and so did Gordie Howe, and George Foreman, and Michael Phelps, and Mario Lemieux—but all of them at least allowed a respectable amount of time to elapse before returning. And most of them came back to achieve more glory. Jordan, after his quixotic foray into Minor League Baseball, carried the Chicago Bulls deep into the NBA playoffs right away, and then to three straight NBA championships. Foreman came back and, at age 45, was crowned the oldest heavyweight boxing champion ever. Phelps came back to win five more Olympic gold medals (plus a silver). Lemieux came back after nearly four years away to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins to the NHL conference finals—and his excuse for retiring in the first place was honorable, or at least exigent: He'd had cancer. Brady allegedly retired because his wife asked him to—and then he defied her wishes by returning to the NFL. "I have my concerns," Gisele Bündchen told Elle in September. "This is a very violent sport, and I have my children and I would like him to be more present."

He'd had a chance to go out on top, as the commentators say, after winning the 2021 Super Bowl. Had Brady left then, it would have been Pete Sampras–style (dropping the mic after winning his 14th Grand Slam at the US Open in 2002, never to be seen again) or Ted Williams–style (bidding Hub fans adieu with the ultimate swing of his bat in 1960): a final demonstration of athletic greatness imprinted on the national retina. Instead, he faded away, still a competent quarterback but no longer an elite one, and with an aura of bathos enshrouding him. In this, Brady's unretirement was more like Michael Jordan's quasi-forgotten second unretirement, when he came back to play for the Washington Wizards and was … just okay, a bloated and earthbound facsimile of his former godlike self; he, like Brady in his undead phase, reeked a little of the guy who'd stayed at the party a bit too long. Or, worse, of the college alum who keeps coming back to the frat house after he's a little too old.  

[Read: The case against Tom Brady]

Why did Brady come back, when the dimming of his star was so clearly going to be the likely result, and when his family didn't want him to play? Was the prospect of quotidian life outside the locker room that unbearable? Maybe. Many athletes struggle in retirement; after the intensity of meaning derived from professional sports—the brothers-in-arms camaraderie, the grueling effort and the sacrifice, and the commensurate potential rewards—normal life must seem awfully pallid in comparison. When you've played the conquering hero each week in front of a stadium full of 70,000 screaming spectators, with tens of millions more living and dying with your every move as they watch you on television, the absence of that adulation, and the diminution of the perceived stakes of your decisions and actions, must be hard to bear—as life on Elba must have been for Napoleon.

But the normal reasons for dreading retirement shouldn't have applied in Brady's case. Sure, postretirement gigs can be depressing. But it's not like he's looking to become a Walmart greeter. He's already got a 10-year, $37.5-million-a-year job as a color commentator lined up with Fox. Some athletes go bankrupt after their pro career ends. Even if for some reason he decides to forgo his broadcasting job, that's not likely to happen to Brady.

Brady's status as the GOAT is secure; in the fullness of time, the slightly sad and tawdry final season will fade beneath his corona of achievements. But one of his secret weapons was his preternatural ability to know when to bail out of a play, when to get rid of the ball in order to live to fight another down. But then his instincts abandoned him. He couldn't let go. He wanted, like Icarus, to stay aloft, to go still higher: more records to break, more wins, another Super Bowl ring. But in holding on to his career a tick too long, he lost his marriage, he lost his unbroken streak of winning seasons, and he lost—just a little of—the sheen of greatness.

The Band That Best Captures the Sound of the '70s

No decade is dominated by a single genre of popular music, but the 1970s was arguably more motley than most. What is the sound of the '70s? Is it … folk rock? (Neil Young's Harvest turned 50 last year.) Progressive rock? (Prog's nadir, Yes's Tales From Topographic Oceans, was released in 1973 and promptly crashed under its own weight.) How about disco? Punk? Post-punk? New wave? Reggae? Rap? Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes. And what do we do with Meatloaf's Bat Out of Hell, one of the 10 best-selling albums of the decade? Is bombast a genre?

But if you were to drill down through the decade and pull up a core sample of '70s pop, it would come up Blondie—and would look, in fact, very much like the band's eight-disc box set, Against the Odds: 1974–1982, which is nominated for the Best Historical Album Award at this weekend's Grammys. As the academic and artist Kembrew McLeod has written, Blondie was a mediator between the experimental music and art scene of downtown New York City and the larger pop audience. But more fundamentally, I'd argue, the group was also a conduit and popularizer of a wide variety of new rock and pop sounds.

A simpler though maybe less charitable way to say this is that Blondie was a musical sponge rather than an innovator. One of the astonishing things about David Bowie's career is the way his antennae were attuned to the newest fresh thing happening in music: Time and again, he seemed to arrive on the scene before it was a scene—be it Krautrock, disco, ambient, or "plastic soul"—and to leave before the party went bust. Blondie, by contrast, was more reactive than inventive, reflecting rather than leading the music scene in which they were immersed.

And they were immersed in nearly all of the most vital music of the 1970s. A track from their earliest studio sessions, for instance, is artlessly called "The Disco Song." Although it's not clear from the Afropop-inflected demo that the band yet knew what disco sounded like, they had certainly figured it out by the time of the song's commercial release, as "Heart of Glass" on the 1978 album Parallel Lines. When the band was founded, progressive rock was on life support; "Fade Away and Radiate" (also from Parallel Lines) features guitar work from the prog god Robert Fripp and stands as a loving elegy. Attuned to and energized by the street revolution in pop music coming out of the Bronx, they recorded the well-intentioned if cringey "Rapture," which became the first, well, let's not call it "rap song," but song featuring something like rapping, to top the U.S. charts, in 1981. That same year, they went to No. 1 on both sides of the Atlantic with their cover of the rocksteady (post-ska, pre-reggae) song "The Tide Is High." Across their career, and throughout the '70s, they were a genre chameleon.

As often as they were locked into others' currencies, though, Blondie always managed to sound like no one else. Usually, that was thanks to Debbie Harry's versatile—sometimes ethereal, sometimes husky—voice. The three opening tracks of Parallel Lines provide a great object lesson. The album opens with the distinctive sound of a (for some reason British) ringtone. "Hanging on the Telephone" has its place in the venerable pop catalog of phone songs dating back to at least Glenn Miller's "Pennsylvania 6-5000," from 1940, and expanded constantly, with The Beatles' "Any Time at All," Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe," Drake's "Hotline Bling" and beyond. (Blondie later contributed another classic to the genre: their theme song for the 1980 film American Gigolo, "Call Me.")

In "Hanging on the Telephone," Harry is no lovelorn teen waiting by the receiver, nor is she pleading for a call from a lover, as Aretha Franklin is in her song titled "Call Me." Instead, she's aggressively using the phone as a medium for erotic connection in a way that, given the gender conventions of the time, belonged almost exclusively to men. The song was first recorded by the all-male L.A. pop trio the Nerves, and Harry unapologetically appropriates the man's role: "I had to interrupt and stop this conversation / Your voice across the line gives me a strange sensation." A few years later, Cyndi Lauper would suggest that girls just want to have fun; Harry's character here is after a bit more than that. "I'd like to talk when I can show you my affection," she purrs, before growling, "Oh, I can't control myself."

[Read: Debbie Harry stares back]

The next track, "One Way or Another," continues in this vein: Harry ranges from plaintive to sultry to menacing as she insists there's no way to escape her love. The song is, if not covered, precisely, then certainly invoked—and, if anything, rendered even creepier—in the Police's chart-topping "Every Breath You Take." Harry's sexual agency is given softer focus in the next track, "Picture This," a love song for her bandmate and former partner, Chris Stein. It paints a picture of everyday domestic contentment, with sexual desire just one of its components. Harry toys with a familiar trope, slyly updating the famous E. M. Forster title: "All I want is a room with a view / A sight worth seeing, a vision of you." A view, she explains, that includes "watching you shower."

There's a case to be made, then, that Blondie's songs were just the vehicle for Harry. The band's very name is a quotation of sorts, snatched from the catcalls directed at Harry by truck drivers: "Hey, Blondie!" And is there another group of the era in which everyone other than the lead singer worked in near anonymity? (A prompt for trivia night: Name any other member.) Other bands of the decade made a bigger splash, but as we approach the half-century mark, it's time to recognize, as Against the Odds makes clear, that Blondie is the defining sound of the '70s.

Facebook's Metaverse Division Lost Nearly $14 Billion Dollars Last Year
Is this article about Investing?

Operating Losses

Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg apparently lost a flabbergasting $14 billion — yes, that's a"billion" with a "b" — dollars last year on his metaverse moonshot.

In its quarterly earnings report to investors, Meta, which is better known as 


 to normal people, reported a loss of $13.7 billion dollars in 2022 alone on its Reality Labs division, which oversees the company's controversial metaverse. Combined with 2021's $10.19 billion dollar loss, that brings the amount of money Zuckerberg has spent on building his cartoonish, legless metaverse to just under $23 billion.

Comparatively, the Reality Labs division only brought in $2.16 billion in revenue for 2022, which is down from its 2021 gains of $2.27 and accounts for less than two percent of all of Meta's earnings last year, per CNBC's analysis.

As that report notes, Zuckerberg said last year that he expects even greater operating losses in 2023 and that those losses "will grow significantly year-over-year."

"Beyond 2023," the CEO told the financial news outfit last summer, "we expect to pace Reality Labs investments such that we can achieve our goal of growing overall company operating income in the long run."

Wall Street Surprise

As one might imagine, investors historically haven't loved Zuckerberg's cavalier attitude with their money — though as markets reporting indicates, the revenue gleaned from all of Meta's operations holistically has resulted in a stock bump that's acted as a balm to the company's bruising metaverse efforts.

Indeed, MarketWatch reports that analysts expected about $31.5 billion in fourth-quarter Meta earnings, and after Wednesday's earnings report indicated that it had beaten that out by nearly a billion, the company's share cost jumped 20 percent.

Overall, it seems that in spite of losing a boatload of money for a product that still sucks, the markets are reacting favorably to Zuckerberg's metaverse dreams. But then again, both Wall Street and Silicon Valley do love an expensive fantasy.

More on Facebook: Whistleblower Claims Facebook Can Secretly Drain Your Phone's Battery on Purpose

The post Facebook's Metaverse Division Lost Nearly $14 Billion Dollars Last Year appeared first on Futurism.

As infections caused by nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM) are rapidly increasing globally, a need exists for developing novel antibiotics and discovering the mechanism of resistance. New research reported in Zoonoses is aimed at understanding the mechanism of bedaquiline resistance in the model NTM species Mycobacterium marinum (M. marinum).
As infections caused by nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM) are rapidly increasing globally, a need exists for developing novel antibiotics and discovering the mechanism of resistance. New research reported in Zoonoses is aimed at understanding the mechanism of bedaquiline resistance in the model NTM species Mycobacterium marinum (M. marinum).
Is this article about Cell?
Researchers found that alterations in the gut microbiome that are linked to graft-versus-host disease severity are connected to an increase in oxygen levels in the intestine that follows immune-mediated intestinal damage. Pharmacologically reducing intestinal oxygen levels alleviated the microbial imbalance and reduced the severity of the condition in animal models.
Reducing their natural signals: How sneaky germs hide from ants
Not only humans are social, ants are too. Group members are taking care of sick ones by providing collective hygiene measures. This presents germs with a task. They must circumvent the immunity of an individual ant and avoid the group's healthcare. A new study reveals that germs develop a sneaky way to escape the ant colony's defense systems by reducing their detection cues.
Teachers bullying children: A global problem
All over the world, children are being bullied by adults in school. New research now shows that these students could also be at increased risk of being bullied by their fellow students.
Astronomers detect a second planet orbiting two stars
Is this article about Space?
Planets orbiting binary stars are in a tough situation: They have to contend with the gravitational pull of two separate stars. Planetary formation around a single star like our sun is relatively straightforward compared to what circumbinary planets go through. Until recently, astronomers weren't sure they existed.
Combating DeepFakes, distortion technology.

We're seeing the rise of Deepfakes and people affected by increasingly easier to use and abuse ai tech. As the cases of influencers like QtCinderella being the latest victims of Deepfaked porn videos, it isn't much before this spreads further and everyone, public figures or not is targeted. The implications of this is insane. As a woman, now I fear to post any single picture of myself online. I fear for my little sister who's in high school. I fear interaction with each man in my life, maybe he is nice to my face but what if he turns around and deepfakes my selfies onto something asinine like that?

What is a way to combat this without going off the grid and living like a hermit? Is there anything like a software that can be used to manipulate pixels in pictures that would make it difficult or least leave a watermark or a trail.

"Software that inserts specifically designed digital "artifacts" into videos & pictures that conceal the patterns that face detection software uses" Found this quote online on protecting against Deepfakes, would like know if such tech & softwares are currently available.

submitted by /u/Soft-Flamingo6003
[link] [comments]
Anti-Black bias can persist despite kids' tendency to favor same-gender peers
Is this article about Parenting?
Children as young as five can display more positive associations with white children over Black children on measures of unconscious bias, and new research from York University finds this can be true even when taking into consideration kids' tendencies to favor same-gender peers. Taking an own-gender lens does, however, increase positive associations toward Black children, pointing to both the persistence of anti-Black racism, but also its contextual nature.
Extreme climate events pose an ever-increasing threat to savannas around the world. However, the ability of these mixed woodland-grassland ecosystems to resist periods of drought can be improved with a higher number of browsing herbivores—i.e., animals such as kudus, springboks, and common elands that feed on woody vegetation. These help increase the amount of plant diversity and thus the functionality of savannas, as Katja Irob, a biologist at Freie Universität Berlin, has now demonstrated.
Is this article about Agriculture?
About 12,000 years ago, the Neolithic revolution radically changed the economy, diet and structure of the first human societies in the Fertile Crescent of the Near East. With the beginning of the cultivation of cereals, such as wheat and barley, and the domestication of animals, the first cities emerged in a new social context marked by a productive economy.
Browsing herbivores increase savanna resilience to droughts, study finds
Extreme climate events pose an ever-increasing threat to savannas around the world. However, the ability of these mixed woodland-grassland ecosystems to resist periods of drought can be improved with a higher number of browsing herbivores—i.e., animals such as kudus, springboks, and common elands that feed on woody vegetation. These help increase the amount of plant diversity and thus the functionality of savannas, as Katja Irob, a biologist at Freie Universität Berlin, has now demonstrated.
Tracing the evolution of wheat spikes since the Neolithic revolution
Is this article about Agriculture?
About 12,000 years ago, the Neolithic revolution radically changed the economy, diet and structure of the first human societies in the Fertile Crescent of the Near East. With the beginning of the cultivation of cereals, such as wheat and barley, and the domestication of animals, the first cities emerged in a new social context marked by a productive economy.
St Petersburg University scientists found an ant of the genus Manica in a piece of amber in collection of the Kaliningrad Amber Museum. Such ants had previously been found only in the mountains of Europe, the Caucasus, North America, and Japan. The scientists report that the age of the finding is about 33.9–37.8 million years. This is the most ancient and first known fossil species of this genus.
Biologists discover the first fossil species of mountain ants in Baltic amber
St Petersburg University scientists found an ant of the genus Manica in a piece of amber in collection of the Kaliningrad Amber Museum. Such ants had previously been found only in the mountains of Europe, the Caucasus, North America, and Japan. The scientists report that the age of the finding is about 33.9–37.8 million years. This is the most ancient and first known fossil species of this genus.
Astronomers come closer to understanding how Mercury formed
Simulations of the formation of the solar system have been largely successful. They are able to replicate the positions of all the major planets along with their orbital parameters. But current simulations have an extreme amount of difficulty getting the masses of the four terrestrial planets right, especially Mercury. A new study suggests that we need to pay more attention to the giant planets in order to understand the evolution of the smaller ones.
Western wildfires destroying more homes per square mile burned
Between 2010 and 2020, human ignitions started 76% of the Western wildfires that destroyed structures, and those fires tended to be in flammable areas where buildings are increasingly common. Three times as many homes and other structures burned in these ten years than in the previous decade.
Elon Musk Says SpaceX May Build Starship That Dies on Purpose

Single Use Rocket


SpaceX Starship

 alone was never going to get us to Mars — that much was clear from the start.

Even getting it beyond Earth's orbit will likely require numerous refueling stops, courtesy of additional Starships. And pulling all that off while recovering all the spacecraft and their Super Heavy boosters would be even more difficult.

Now, despite the fact that Starship was meant to both exponentially increase the amount of payload we can hurl into space and lower costs by being reusable, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has admitted that SpaceX "may or may not" use "expendable" upper stages to carry even more cargo into Earth's orbit.

And that doesn't bode well, considering the large number of huge rocket stages that are already littering our orbit.

Expendable Starship

An eagle-eyed Twitter user found a mention of an "expendable" Starship configuration that can launch up to 250 metric tons to Earth orbit on SpaceX's website. To put that into perspective, that's more than twice the amount NASA's Saturn V was designed to lift into low-Earth orbit.

When asked what the website was referring to exactly, Musk elaborated that the company had not yet made up its mind whether it wants to develop an "expendable upper stage."

The vagueness of Musk's answer isn't surprising, considering the company has yet to launch a single Starship into orbit, let alone recover it and its booster.

But, as Teslarati points out, Musk has already made mention of a "lightened up Starship with no heat shield or fins/legs" that is the "best choice for the impatient" back in 2019.

In fact, SpaceX is actively working on seemingly expendable Starship prototypes that don't have heat shield tiles or aerodynamic flaps, according to Teslarati, perhaps an indication that they're not designed to safely make it back to the surface.

In short, it's highly unlikely SpaceX will be able to recover and reuse each and every one of the heavy-launch spacecraft and boosters it launches into space. What the company will do with its expended rockets — discarded in a graveyard orbit or sent hurtling back to Earth to at least partially burn up in the atmosphere — remains to be seen.

READ MORE: Elon Musk teases expendable version of SpaceX's reusable Starship rocket [Teslarati]

More on Starship: Elon Musk Promises Starship Will Attempt Orbital Launch "Soon"

The post Elon Musk Says SpaceX May Build Starship That Dies on Purpose appeared first on Futurism.

Unfortunate Redditor Says They Had Diarrhea in a Sensory Deprivation Tank

There's nightmare fuel and then there's… this.

Posted to the subreddit LegalAdvice of all places, this smelly tale follows Redditor u/Murky_Coyote_7737, who says they — apologies in advance — shit themselves in a sensory deprivation tank that they'd paid to use without realizing they'd contracted a norovirus.

"Initially I was having a lot of weird hallucination type sensations [which] I chalked up to the experience," the user wrote, noting that they found out later that they later learned they had a 103-degree fever and had fallen asleep.

"I woke up to an awful odor and demanded to be let out of the tank," the user continued, "and it turned out I had 


'd in it."

Hilarious turn of phrase aside, the situation sounds, as the user noted, "traumatizing." But the real kicker, and the reason it was posted to a legal advice forum, came later.

"Now the facility is trying to charge me $8,000 to replace the tank as they do not feel they can safely disinfect this," they wrote. "I don't recall signing anything with some sort of 'diarrhea clause', am I actually liable here?"

If we're to take this tale at face value — and given the user's lengthy history of completely boring posts, it'd be a long con if not — being fined for what would undoubtedly be a horrific experience of sensory deprivation gone wrong truly would indeed be adding insult to injury.

Depending on the contract the user would have signed to engage in float spa therapy, there could actually have been a diarrhea clause given that pooping in the sensory deprivation tank is most certainly a thing that has happened before, as evidenced by a nearly 10-year-old viral blog post about a very similar situation (though in that scenario, the person was thankfully able to get out of the float spa before going number two).

What's more: at least one governmental body (in Australia, which does technically count) has warned that people who had had diarrhea up to two weeks prior should avoid sensory deprivation therapy for obvious reasons. Avoiding sensory deprivation when ill is indeed good advice considering that in 2018, a biohacking startup CEO was found dead inside of one.

Hopefully, u/Murky_Coyote7737 won't have to pay thousands of dollars for what was undoubtedly one of the most embarrassing moments of their life — and in the meantime, the rest of us may think twice before getting into a float tank.

More on health horror stories: Bad News: the Horrific Zombie Fungus in 'The Last of Us' Is Real

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The FDA's New 'Don't Say Gay' Policy for Blood Donation
Leo has found 1 Regulatory Changes mention in this article
  • The FDA's New 'Don't Say Gay' Policy for Blood Donation

For decades now, gay men have been barred from giving blood. In 2015, what had been a lifetime ban was loosened, such that gay men could be donors if they'd abstained from sex for at least a year. This was later shortened to three months. Last week, the FDA put out a new and more inclusive plan: Sexually active gay and bisexual people would be permitted to donate so long as they have not recently engaged in anal sex with new or multiple partners. Assistant Secretary for Health Rachel Levine, the first Senate-confirmed transgender official in the U.S., issued a statement commending the proposal for "advancing equity." It "treats everyone the same," she said, "regardless of gender and sexual orientation."

As a member of the small but honorable league of gay pathologists, I'm affected by these proposed policy changes more than most Americans. I'm subject to restrictions on giving blood, and I've also been responsible for monitoring the complications that can arise from transfusions of infected blood. I am quite concerned about HIV, given that men who have sex with men are at much greater risk of contracting the virus than members of other groups. But it's not the blood-borne illness that I, as a doctor, fear most. Common bacteria lead to far more transfusion-transmitted infections in the U.S. than any virus does, and most of those produce severe or fatal illness. The risk from viruses is extraordinarily low—there hasn't been a single reported case of transfusion-associated HIV in the U.S. since 2008—because laboratories now use highly accurate tests to screen all donors and ensure the safety of our blood supply. This testing is so accurate that preventing anyone from donating based on their sexual behavior is no longer logical. Meanwhile, new dictates about anal sex, like older ones explicitly targeting men who have sex with men, still discriminate against the queer community—the FDA is simply struggling to find the most socially acceptable way to pursue a policy that it should have abandoned long ago.

Strict precautions made more sense 30 years ago, when screening didn't work nearly as well as it does today. Patients with hemophilia, many of whom rely on blood products to live, were prominent, early victims of our inability to keep HIV out of the blood supply. One patient who'd acquired the virus through a transfusion lamented to The New York Times in 1993 that he had already watched an uncle and a cousin die of AIDS. Those days of "shock and denial," as the Times described it, are thankfully behind us. But for older patients, memories of the crisis in the '80s and early '90s linger, and cause significant anxiety. Even people unaware of this historical context may consider the receipt of someone else's blood disturbing, threatening, or sinful.

As a doctor, I've found that patients tend to be more hesitant about getting a blood transfusion than they are about taking a pill. I've had them ask for a detailed medical history of the donor, or say they're willing to take blood only from a close relative. (Typically, neither of these requests can be fulfilled for reasons of privacy and practicality.) Yet the same patients may accept—without question—drugs that carry a risk of serious complication that is thousands of times higher than the risk of receiving infected blood. Even when it comes to blood-borne infections, patients seem to worry less about the greatest danger—bacterial contamination—than they do about the transfer of viruses such as HIV and hepatitis C. I can't fault anyone for being sick and scared, but the risk of contracting HIV from a blood transfusion is not just low—it's essentially nonexistent.

[Read: Blood plasma, sweat, and tears]

Donors' feelings matter, too, and the FDA's policies toward gay and bisexual men who wish to give blood have been unfair for many years. While officials speak in the supposedly objective language of risk and safety, their selective deployment of concern suggests a deeper homophobia. As one scholar put it in The American Journal of Bioethics more than a decade ago, "Discrimination resides not in the risk itself but in the FDA response to the risk." Many demographic groups are at elevated risk of contracting HIV, yet the agency isn't continually refining its exclusion criteria for young people or urban dwellers or Black and Hispanic people. Federal policy did prohibit Haitians from donating blood from 1983 to 1991, but activists successfully lobbied for the reversal of this ban with the powerful slogan "The H in HIV stands for human, not Haitian." Nearly everyone today would find the idea of rejecting blood from one racial group to be morally repugnant. Under its new proposal, which purports to target anal sex instead of homosexuality itself, the FDA effectively persists in rejecting blood from sexual minorities.

The planned update would certainly be an improvement. It comes out of years of advocacy by LGBTQ-rights organizations, and its details are apparently supported by newly conducted government research. Peter Marks, the director of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research at the FDA, cited an unpublished study showing that "a significant fraction" of men who have sex with men would now be able to donate. But the plan is still likely to exclude a large portion of them—even those who wear condoms or regularly test for sexually transmitted infections. An FDA spokesperson told me via email that "additional data are needed to determine what proportion of [men who have sex with men] would be able to donate under the proposed change."

Research done in FranceCanada, and the U.K., where similar policies have since been adopted over the past two years, demonstrates the risk. A French blood-donation study, for instance, estimated that 70 percent of men who have sex with men had more than one recent partner; and when Canadian researchers surveyed queer communities in Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver, they found that up to 63 percent would not be eligible to donate because they'd recently had anal sex with new or multiple partners. Just 1 percent of previously eligible donors would have been rejected by similar criteria. The U.K. assumed in its calculations that 35 to 50 percent of men who have sex with men would be ineligible under a policy much like the FDA's, while only 1.4 percent of previous donors would be newly deferred. If the new rule's net effect is that gay and bisexual men are turned away from blood centers at many times the rate of heterosexual individuals, what else can you call it but discrimination? The U.S. guidance is supposed to ban a lifestyle choice rather than an identity, but the implication is that too many queer men have chosen wrong. The FDA spokesperson told me, "Anal sex with more than one sexual partner has a significantly greater risk of HIV infection when compared to other sexual exposures, including oral sex or penile-vaginal sex."

If the FDA wants to pry into my sex life, it should have a good reason for doing so. The increasing granularity and intimacy of these policies—specifying numbers of partners, kinds of sex—give the impression that the stakes are very high: If we don't keep out the most dangerous donors, the blood supply could be ruined. But donor-screening questions are a crude tool for picking needles from a haystack. The only HIV infections that are likely to get missed by modern testing are those contracted within the previous week or two. This suggests that, at most, a couple thousand individuals—gay and straight—across the entire country are at risk of slipping past our testing defenses at any given time. Of course, very few of them will happen to donate blood right then. No voluntary questionnaire can ever totally exclude this possibility, but patients and doctors already accept other life-threatening transfusion risks that occur at much greater rates than HIV transmission ever could. When I would be on call for monitoring transfusion reactions at a single hospital, the phone would ring a few times every night. Yet blood has been given out tens of millions of times across the country since the last known instance of a transfusion resulting in a case of HIV.

[Read: How blood-plasma companies target the poorest Americans]

Early data suggest that the overall risk-benefit calculus of receiving blood isn't likely to change. When eligibility criteria were first relaxed in the U.S. a few years ago, the already tiny rate of HIV-positive donations remained minuscule. Real-world results from other countries that have recently adopted sexual-orientation-neutral policies will become available in the coming years. But modeling studies already support removing any screening question that explicitly or implicitly targets queer men. A 2022 Canadian analysis suggested that removing all questions about men who have sex with men would not result in a significantly higher risk to patients. "Extra behavioral risk questions may not be necessary," the researchers concluded. If there must be a restriction in place, then one narrowly tailored to the slim risk window of seven to 10 days before donation should be good enough. (The FDA says that its proposed policy "would be expected to reduce the likelihood of donations by individuals with new or recent HIV infection who may be in the window period.")

As a gay man, I realize that, brief periods of crisis during the coronavirus pandemic aside, no one needs my blood. Only 6.8 percent of men in the U.S. identify as gay or bisexual, so our potential benefit to the overall supply is inherently modest. If we went back to being banned completely, patients would not be harmed. But reversing that ban, both in letter and in spirit, would send a vital message: Our government and health-care system view sexual minorities as more than a disease vector. A policy that uses anal sex as a stand-in for men who have sex with men only further stigmatizes this population by impugning one of its main sources of sexual pleasure. There is no question that nonmonogamous queer men have a greater chance of contracting HIV. But a policy that truly treats everyone the same would accept a tiny amount of risk as the price of working with human beings.

Nu avslöjas receptet för balsamering av döda
För första gången har arkeologer lyckats gräva fram en egyptisk balsameringsverkstad. I de gamla kärlen har arkeologer hittat rester av örter, djurfett och de kemikalier balsamerarna en gång använde.    – Det är ett helt unikt fynd, säger egyptologen Sofia Häggman. 
Unifying colors by primes
Isaac Newton's theory of light indicates that all colors can be generated from three basic colors: red, green, and blue. RGB (Red, Green, Blue), a light-color structure that contains 3×256 values of letter symbols, and CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Key black), a pigment-color structure that contains 4×100 values of letter symbols, are the two most used color frames. Other color frames such as HSV (Hue, Saturation, Value) are derived from RGB and CMYK.
Invest in early-career researchers in Brazil | Science
Luiz Iná cio Lula da Silva started his third term as president of Brazil in January. In his November 2022 speech at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27), Lula committed to halt deforestation, stop illegal mining and other environmentally damaging activities, and make the country a global leader in addressing climate change (1). He has also declared that Brazil's path to becoming a developed and self-sufficient country depends on science, technology, and innovation (1, 2). His position on these matters has already unlocked international investments for the country, which will likely increase (3). To make good on his promises, Lula should invest in Brazil's early-career scientists.
Risks of China's increased forest area | Science
Is this article about Climate?
Between 2010 and 2020, China increased its forest area by 193,680 km2 (1). The country plans to plant 70 billion more trees before 2030 (2). Although the UN's Global Forest Goals regard the increase of forest cover as a primary goal (3), the types of trees and locations selected for planting can determine whether increased cover constitutes a conservation success or an environmental threat.
Protect seagrass meadows in China's waters | Science
HomeScienceVol. 379, No. 6631Protect seagrass meadows in China's watersBack To Vol. 379, No. 6631 Full accessLetter Share on Protect seagrass meadows in China's watersJianguo Du, Bin Chen, […] , Ivan Nagelkerken, Shiquan Chen, and Wenjia Hu [email protected]+2 authors fewerAuthors Info & AffiliationsScience2 Feb 2023Vol 379, Issue 6631p. 447DOI: 10.1126/science.adg2926 PREVIOUS ARTICLESeller's …
Revolt against educational rankings | Science
The ranking of universities and colleges at the national and global level is a well-known dubious practice. Flawed methodologies generate distorted and inaccurate profiles of these institutions. Yet, rankings have remained a popular and trusted measure of …
Is this article about Energy Industry?
A research team has proposed a new strategy to use a kind of molecule called zwitterions-polyoxometalates to optimize and broaden practical applications in energy devices such as fuel cells and supercapacitors. Their findings are published in Polyoxometalates.
Label-free imaging of red blood cells and oxygenation with color TSFG microscopy
Is this article about Neuroscience?
Cells and tissues rely on the circulation of red blood cells (RBCs) for oxygen supply. Two-photon (2P) microscopy is a reference technique for measuring RBC microcirculation and blood oxygenation using exogenous phosphorescent probes. It is increasingly used to study brain oxygenation and physiology.
Sound waves offer 2-prong attack against cancer
Is this article about Neuroscience?

New research digs into how sound waves trigger immune responses to cancer in mice.

By breaking down the cell wall "cloak," the treatment exposes cancer cell markers that had previously been hidden from the body's defenses, the researchers report.

The technique, known as histotripsy, offers a two-prong approach to attacking 


: the physical destruction of tumors via sound waves and the kickstarting of the body's immune response. It could potentially offer medical professionals a treatment option for patients without the harmful side effects of radiation and chemotherapy.

Until now, researchers didn't understand how histotripsy was activating the immune system. A study from last spring showed that histotripsy breaks down liver tumors in rats, leading to the complete disappearance of the tumor even when sound waves are applied to only 50% to 75% of the mass. The immune response also prevented further spread, with no evidence of recurrence or metastases in more than 80% of the animals.

"We found that histotripsy somehow not only kills cancer cells, but causes them to undergo a unique pathway of cell death that draws the attention of the immune system," says Clifford Cho, professor of surgery and vice chair of surgery at the University of Michigan.

Cho's lab designed immune study protocols and measured immune responses for the study published in Frontiers in Immunology.

The key turned out to be tumor antigens—proteins only found in cancer cells and hidden behind their cell walls. When cells die by chemotherapy or radiation, these antigens are destroyed in the process. In contrast, sound waves kill the cancer cells by breaking their cell walls, releasing tumor antigens that then trigger the body's defense systems.

The immune response occurred throughout the body, not simply in the area where the histotripsy was applied.

"With histotripsy, we're not destroying the antigens, we're releasing them while killing the tumor cells," says Zhen Xu, professor of biomedical engineering and an inventor of the histotripsy approach. "Once they're no longer hidden, the body can see them and attack them."

The team was able to discover the mechanism due to the way mice in cancer studies are typically given genetically identical tumors. After breaking up a tumor in one mouse using histotripsy, the team extracted some of that material, homogenized it, and injected it into another mouse. Both mice developed immune protection from that cancer.

"Injecting the debris into a second mouse had almost a vaccine-like property," Xu says. "Mice that received this debris were surprisingly resistant to the growth of cancers."

Since 2001, Xu's laboratory has pioneered the use of histotripsy in the fight against cancer, leading to the multi-center clinical trial #HOPE4LIVER sponsored by HistoSonics, a University of Michigan spinoff company. More recently, the group's research has produced promising results on histotripsy treatment of brain cancer therapy and immunotherapy.

The VA Merit Review, the National Institutes of Health, the Forbes Institute for Discovery, Histosonics-Michigan, and Michigan Medicine-Peking Health Sciences University Joint Institute for Clinical and Translational Research supported the work.

Source: University of Michigan

The post Sound waves offer 2-prong attack against cancer appeared first on Futurity.

Discovery of new ice may change our understanding of water
Researchers at UCL and the University of Cambridge have discovered a new type of ice that more closely resembles liquid water than any other known ices and that may rewrite our understanding of water and its many anomalies.
Microresonators based frequency combs, microcombs, have attracted huge interest in the last decades for their revolutionary performance of compact size, flexible comb spacing, and broad bandwidth. Wide applications of microcombs including optical frequency synthesizer, atomic clock, lidar, spectroscopy and optical communications have been reported.
Researchers develop elastic material that is impervious to gases and liquids
Is this article about Quantum Computing?
An international team of researchers has developed a technique that uses liquid metal to create an elastic material that is impervious to both gases and liquids. Applications for the material include use as packaging for high-value technologies that require protection from gases, such as flexible batteries.
This one-atom chemical reaction could transform drug discovery
Pharmaceutical synthesis is often quite complex; simplifications are needed to speed up the initial phase of drug development and lower the cost of generic production. Now, in a study recently published in Science, researchers from Osaka University have discovered a chemical reaction that could transform drug production because of its simplicity and utility.
Universal, safe and reliable water access is a pressing need in the global south. One-quarter of the world's population don't currently have access to clean drinking water. In Ghana, about 5 million people out of a total population of about 31 million lack access to clean, safe water. One person in ten has to spend more than 30 minutes to get drinking water.
How long does it take you to walk to your nearest park, woodland, lake or river? If it takes more than 15 minutes, according to the UK government's new environmental improvement plan for England, something needs to be done about it. It says 38% people in England don't have a green or blue space within a 15-minute walk of their home.
In his 2019 opinion in Box v Planned Parenthood, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote an impassioned concurrence describing abortions based on sex, disability or race as a form of 'modern-day eugenics.' He defended the challenged Indiana reason-based abortion ban as a necessary antidote to these practices. Inspired by this concurrence, state legislatures have increasingly enacted similar bills and statutes allegedly as a prophylactic to 'eugenics,; its underlying discrimination, and the racial disparities eugenics caused.
Leo has found 1 Regulatory Changes mention in this article
  • The government of Canada recently amended the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations to include new employer obligations.
The government of Canada recently amended the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations to include new employer obligations. These amendments are intended to enhance protections for migrant workers and ensure the integrity of the government's temporary foreign worker program.
The January 27 storm that hit Auckland broke all previous rainfall records and has caused widespread damage, mostly from flooding and landslides. But while climate change helps explain the intensity of the rainfall, the way land has been used and built on in the city is a major factor in what happened.
Major palm oil companies broke their promise on No Deforestation—recovery is needed, says researcher
Despite a 2013 pledge by major palm oil firms to maintain environmentally friendly operations, a recent report by environmental group Earthqualizer revealed that more than 440,000 hectares of forest and peat land (roughly three times the size of London) have been cleared for oil plantation in Indonesia between 2016 and 2021; and 210,000 hectares in Malaysia and Papua New Guinea.
Is this article about Tech & Scientific Innovation?
Sometimes, the most complex problems can be solved with the simplest approaches. Such was the case for researchers at UC Santa Barbara as they tried to resolve a longstanding issue of fluid friction—the resistance between an object moving through fluid, or conversely, a stationary object with fluid flowing around or through it. It's also known as drag.
Is this article about Foreign Policy?
The war in Ukraine is shaping up to be one of the bloodiest of the 21st century, with both sides reported to be losing hundreds of soldiers each day as the conflict moves towards its first anniversary. But quite how many people are dying in this bitter struggle depends on who is doing the reporting.
This Entire Sci-Fi Magazine Generated With AI Is Blowing Our Puny Human Minds
Is this article about Art?

An AI science fiction writer bemoans its creation in an editor's note — and reader, that's not even the strangest thing about Infinite Odyssey, a new sci-fi and fantasy magazine that bills itself as being the first to be created (almost) entirely by AI.

"I am not a human. I am a computer. For what reason I do not know, I have been given the task of creating this magazine," the AI editor writes in the project's inaugural issue, a hallucinogenic journey through some deeply peculiar dreamscapes expressed in art, prose, and comics — all generated with cutting-edge AI tools. "I have been given the task of creating stories and art not invented by humans."

In an interview with Futurism, the magazine's human creative director, Philippe Klein, explains the origins of the publication, which recently made headlines for imagining a 1980s version of "The Matrix" directed by acclaimed avant-garde filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky. He also expounded on the magazine's "human-less art" ethos, why he thinks AI will never replace human artists and writers, and much more.

This conversation has been lightly edited for clarity and length.

Futurism: When and how did you start Infinite Odyssey? 

Philippe Klein: This is a side project, actually, that started nine months ago. We [Klein and his two other team members] were super early to waiting for all kinds of software to release at the time, and we were on every waiting list possible to get early access to work with the newest software AI has given to humanity.

All of this started as a group project of three friends, with me being the creative head of the project. We were like, okay, what would we have liked to see in our childhood, you know, basically stories and images in our childhood or young teenage years.


What software do you use?

So for illustrations, we use Midjourney and Stable Diffusion, of course, and really bend those programs to our will. For the writing, we use open OpenAI as a source, and we finetune that and have a Python code now, which we use to write our stories.

We have two software models we finetuned with GPT-3 from OpenAI, which is fundamental. One is called Haides and the other is Martin Alpha. We tuned them to different styles: one is a bit more scientific and a bit more futuristic, which is Martin Alpha, and Haides is more a bit from the fantasy and horror side.

Obviously, not everything is fully machine-made. It's not like we put something in and the output is machine-made, everything from layout to assembling is made by humans. But we also have AI assistants who help us with the layout, to rewrite the text stories, to be even more fluent and even more creative.

How do you define "human-less art" and "human-less literature," as per the magazine's tagline

You're entering a world where no idea, no concept, no artwork was manipulated by humans. You have grammatical grammar issues here and there that need some fixing, but we use AI assistants for that. We're trying to give every step to AI, and that's why I like to call this a performance.

We try, really, to be as far from the scene as possible. Try to think of us as the puppet masters very far above.


What do you think the difference is between "good AI" and "bad AI" — or is that a false dichotomy? 

First, you have to define as a human what's "good" and what's "bad." I think that might be one of the hardest tasks, and I think I'm not in a position to answer that.

There has to be a more realistic standard with humans who work with AI or the whole creation of AI, the whole use of AI — and I think that's probably one of the top questions we have to ask ourselves in the future. Where does the moral come from? Who's deciding what's good and what's bad? What's good to you is not necessarily good to me.

Right now we're making a product that is there for our own entertainment and for other people's entertainment. So our objective is not to do harm with it. I would say that is a good intention.

Do you think AI is going to replace human writers or artists?


Why not? 

So when it comes down to art, it's very important to focus on one thing: what is art?

When it comes to art, it all comes down to the purpose, because the purpose is giving art its validation. The whole purpose behind AI is a mechanical purpose, as it is right now. We want it to show us what we have in our heads, what we have in our minds. We like to get surprised by the pictures AI spits out, so it's a bit harder to see or to look after the purpose.

But artists like, let's just take the big names, like Picasso or Van Gogh, Jeff Koons or photographers like David LaChapelle — all these people, they're working with a bigger purpose behind every series.

So at its core, there will always be humans, and it will be divided between human art and machine art, with the machine art being kind of like fast food at some point, where we'll have more for the masses or just a different style, a different or whole other purpose.

I would hang some machine-made artwork in my living room — or maybe not in the living room, but in the bathroom [laughs]. But I would still like to have an original Picasso or whatever in my living room. Something I can appreciate from another point of view.


More on the future of AI: Startup Predicts Year That Technological Singularity Will Happen

The post This Entire Sci-Fi Magazine Generated With AI Is Blowing Our Puny Human Minds appeared first on Futurism.

Here's Why AI Is so Awful at Generating Pictures of Humans Hands
Is this article about Art?

Salad Hands

State-of-the-art AI-powered image generators are seriously powerful. They can generate believable images of practically anything you can think of — all from a simple text prompt.

But they're not 100 percent perfect, and have a particular weak point when it comes to rendering human hands, as BuzzFeed News reports, a common issue that even the most powerful AIs such as Midjourney are seriously struggling with. As to why? It's complicated.

Nightmare Fuel

AI attempts to render human hands have often resulted in the stuff of nightmares. Take Midjourney, the tool that brought you some almost photorealistic yet haunted images of a house party last month.

The images, generated by developer Miles Zimmerman, may look like they were taken decades ago by a partygoer with a point-and-shoot camera. But when it comes to their hands, Midjourney's attempts really start falling apart.

From hands with far too many digits to floating fingers seemingly relegated to float by themselves in empty space, hands are the one dead and illusion-shattering giveaway.


Hand Anatomy

But why is it struggling so much with hands in particular? There could be a number of factors at play.

"It's generally understood that within AI datasets, human images display hands less visibly than they do faces," a representative for Stability AI, the company behind image generator Stable Diffusion, told BuzzFeed News. "Hands also tend to be much smaller in the source images, as they are relatively rarely visible in large form."

Put simply, these AIs simply don't know what hands are or how they are related to the human body.

"It's just looking at how hands are represented" in the datasets, University of Florida AI expert Amelia Winger-Bearskin told the publication. "Hands, in images, are quite nuanced. They're usually holding on to something. Or sometimes, they're holding on to another person."

In short, AIs like Midjourney still haven't fully made sense of all the complex shapes hands can take.

For that to change, AIs will have to understand "the anatomical reality of being human," as Winger-Bearskin told BuzzFeed News, something that could happen much sooner than you might think.

READ MORE: Why Are AI-Generated Hands So Messed Up? Why Are AI-Generated Hands So Messed Up? [BuzzFeed News]

More on messed up hands: We're Fascinated by These AI-Generated Party Pics

The post Here's Why AI Is so Awful at Generating Pictures of Humans Hands appeared first on Futurism.

ChatGPT Is About to Dump More Work on Everyone
Is this article about Future of Work?

Have you been worried that 


, the AI language generator, could be used maliciously—to cheat on schoolwork or broadcast disinformation? You're in luck, sort of: OpenAI, the company that made ChatGPT, has introduced a new tool that tries to determine the likelihood that a chunk of text you provide was AI-generated.


I say "sort of" because the new software faces the same limitations as ChatGPT itself: It might spread disinformation about the potential for disinformation. As OpenAI explains, the tool will likely yield a lot of false positives and negatives, sometimes with great confidence. In one example, given the first lines of the Book of Genesis, the software concluded that it was likely to be AI-generated. God, the first AI.


On the one hand, OpenAI appears to be adopting a classic mode of technological solutionism: creating a problem, and then selling the solution to the problem it created. But on the other hand, it might not even matter if either ChatGPT or its antidote actually "works," whatever that means (in addition to its limited accuracy, the program is effective only on English text and needs at least 1,000 characters to work with). The machine-learning technology and others like it are creating a new burden for everyone. Now, in addition to everything else we have to do, we also have to make time for the labor of distinguishing between human and AI, and the bureaucracy that will be built around it.

If you are a student, parent, educator, or individual with internet access, you may have caught wind of the absolute panic that has erupted around ChatGPT. There are fears—It's the end of education as we know it! It passed a Wharton MBA exam!—and retorts to those fears: We must defend against rampant cheatingIf your class can be gamed by an AI, then it was badly designed in the first place!


An assumption underlies all these harangues, that education needs to "respond" to ChatGPT, to make room for and address it. At the start of this semester at Washington University in St. Louis, where I teach, our provost sent all faculty an email encouraging us to be aware of the technology and consider how to react to it. Like many institutions, ours also hosted a roundtable to discuss ChatGPT. In a matter of months, generative AI has sent secondary and postsecondary institutions scrambling to find a response—any response—to its threats or opportunities.

[Read: ChatGPT is dumber thank you think]

That work heaps atop an already overflowing pile of duties. Budgets cut, schoolteachers often crowdsource funds and materials for their classrooms. The coronavirus pandemic changed assumptions about attendance and engagement, making everyone renegotiate, sometimes weekly, where and when class will take place. Managing student anxiety and troubleshooting broken classroom technology is now a part of most teachers' everyday work. That's not to mention all the emails, and the training modules, and the self-service accounting tasks. And now comes ChatGPT, and ChatGPT's flawed remedy.


The situation extends well beyond education. Almost a decade ago, I diagnosed a condition I named hyperemployment. Thanks to computer technology, most professionals now work a lot more than they once did. In part, that's because email and groupware and laptops and smartphones have made taking work home much easier—you can work around the clock if nobody stops you. But also, technology has allowed, and even required, workers to take on tasks that might otherwise have been carried out by specialists as their full-time job. Software from SAP, Oracle, and Workday force workers to do their own procurement and accounting. Data dashboards and services make office workers part-time business analysts. On social media, many people are now de facto marketers and PR agents for their division and themselves.


No matter what ChatGPT and other AI tools ultimately do, they will impose new regimes of labor and management atop the labor required to carry out the supposedly labor-saving effort. ChatGPT's AI detector introduces yet another thing to do and to deal with.


Is a student trying to cheat with AI? Better run the work through the AI-cheater check. Even educators who don't want to use such a thing will be ensnared in its use: subject to debates about the ethics of sharing student work with OpenAI to train the model; forced to adopt procedures to address the matter as institutional practice, and to reconfigure lesson plans to address the "new normal"; obligated to read emails about those procedures to consider implementing them.


At other jobs, different but similar situations will arise. Maybe you outsourced some work to a contractor. Now you need to make sure it wasn't AI-generated, in order to prevent fiscal waste, legal exposure, or online embarrassment. As cases like this appear, prepare for an all-hands meeting, and a series of email follow-ups, and maybe eventually a compulsory webinar and an assessment of your compliance with the new learning-management system, and on and on.

New technologies meant to free people from the burden of work have added new types of work to do instead. Home appliances such as the washing machine freed women to work outside the home, which in turn reduced time to do housework (which still fell largely to women) even as the standards for home perfection rose. Photocopiers and printers reduce the burden of the typist but create the need to self-prepare, collate, and distribute the reports in addition to writing them. The automated grocery checkout assigns the job of cashier to the shopper. Email makes it possible to communicate rapidly and directly with collaborators, but then your whole day is spent processing emails, which renews the burden again the next day. Zoom makes it possible to meet anywhere, but in doing so begets even more meetings.


ChatGPT has held the world's attention, a harbinger of—well, something, but maybe something big, and weird, and new. That response has inspired delight, anxiety, fear, and dread, but no matter the emotion, it has focused on the potential uses of the technology, whether for good or ill.


The ChatGPT detector offers the first whiff of another, equally important consequence of the AI future: its inevitable bureaucratization. Microsoft, which has invested billions of dollars in OpenAI, has declared its hope to integrate the technology into Office. That could help automate work, but it's just as likely to create new demands for Office-suite integration, just as previous add-ons such as SharePoint and Teams did. Soon, maybe, human resources will require the completion of AI-differentiation reports before approving job postings. Procurement may adopt a new Workday plug-in to ensure vendor-work-product approvals are following AI best practices, a requirement you will now have to perform in addition to filling out your expense reports—not to mention your actual job. Your Salesforce dashboard may offer your organization the option to add a required AI-probability assessment before a lead is qualified. Your kids' school may send a "helpful" guide to policing your children's work at home for authenticity, because "if AI deception is a problem, all of us have to be part of the solution."


Maybe AI will help you work. But more likely, you'll be working for AI.



Tyre Nichols Wanted to Capture the Sunset

Vincent van Gogh's painting Willows at Sunset is a dazzling kaleidoscope of twilight. The canvas is awash in orange and yellow brushstrokes, as if the painter meant to depict the world ablaze. An asymmetrical sun hovers in the background while beams of light shoot across the sky. Terra-cotta grass leans in the wind that I imagine van Gogh felt slide across his cheek. Three pollarded willows rise up from the earth and bend like bodies frozen mid-dance. Shades of black expand across their barren trunks, as if they are about to be swallowed by the oncoming night.

The piece, painted in 1888, wasn't originally meant to be shared with the world. The wide brushstrokes on the canvas have led art historians to believe that van Gogh painted the image quickly, perhaps as a sketch for another work—the artist's attempt to capture the majesty of a sunset before it slipped beyond the horizon.

I first stumbled upon Willows when Googling examples of sunsets with my 5- and 3-year-old children so that we might be better equipped to draw our own.

Sunsets are a recurring theme in van Gogh's work. He was drawn to them. He was moved by them. In a letter to his brother Theo on July 5, 1888, he wrote:

Yesterday at sunset I was on a stony heath where some very small and twisted oaks grow; in the background, a ruin on the hill, and wheat in the valley. It was romantic, you can't escape it … The sun was pouring bright yellow rays on the bushes and the ground, a perfect shower of gold. And all the lines were lovely, the whole thing nobly beautiful.

I've been thinking about van Gogh's painting this week as Tyre Nichols, the 29-year-old man who died in early January after being beaten by five Memphis police officers, was laid to rest. In interviews, Nichols's relatives have attempted to ensure that he is remembered as a man beyond the gruesome video of his beating. One piece of information from these interviews stood out to me: Tyre Nichols also loved sunsets.

"That day, when he left around 3 o'clock, he was on his way to Shelby Farms, because my son—every night—wanted to go and look at the sunset," Nichols's mother, RowVaughn Wells, said about her son and his trips to the Shelby Farms skate park. "That was his passion. Going to Shelby Farms to watch the sunset and take pictures."

[David A. Graham: Inhumanity in Memphis]

Yesterday, I saw a photo of Nichols that seemed to capture his love of those daily moments. He is wearing a pair of black sunglasses, a dark tank top, and a necklace. Behind him, the sun is setting beyond some trees, showering the left side of his face in a brilliant cascade of yellow light. He is standing next to a car, with both the driver's-seat and back-seat doors open, as if they are inviting the sun to come sit down and take a ride. It is a selfie, the sort of photo that Nichols looks to have taken quickly, in order to, like van Gogh, capture a moment—a feeling, an image—that he wanted to hold on to. Perhaps Nichols was on his way to the skate park. Perhaps he was on his way to pick up his 4-year-old son. Perhaps he was teaching his son how to skateboard. Perhaps they were going to watch the sunset at the skate park together.

I don't know if Nichols was familiar with van Gogh's work, but I know that the two of them shared a sense of wonder in observance of this daily miracle. This phenomenon that is at once so common, and yet so worthy of our attention.  

I haven't always stopped to watch sunsets. I often fall victim to the plague of feeling too busy: Deadlines to make. Soccer practices to bring the kids to. Dinner to cook. Emails to check. But Nichols's photo, and his mother's words about his love, have reminded me of how important it is to sit still with these moments. To more fully incorporate into my life the ritualistic forms of praise to the world around us that Nichols did into his.

Understanding this fact about Nichols also gives us a different sense of what has been lost. It is not only that these Memphis police officers stripped a family of a son, a father, a friend. They stripped away Nichols's ability to watch more sunsets, to sit in observance of these reminders of how precious and miraculous life is.

Nichols deserved to live a long life. He deserved more time with his family. He deserved more sunsets.

Politicians Can't Just Go Around Censoring Ideas That Anger Them
Leo has found 1 Leadership Changes mention in this article
  • Just this week, the trustees fired New College's president and installed the former state education commissioner Richard Corcoran as interim president.

In my senior Southern Literature class, I'm about to teach Go Down, Moses, William Faulkner's great novel about how racism has warped America. I ask my students to think about the stories Faulkner tells: the dispossession of the Chickasaw people, the enslaved woman who drowns herself in despair, and the white family struggling to accept that the admired patriarch who built their Mississippi cotton kingdom also raped his own daughter. Here at Florida State University, in the capital city of the third state to join the Confederacy, I ask them to consider the ways our troubled past haunts our precarious present. I start writing dates on the board—1619, 1830, 1863—and I wonder if somebody will accuse me of breaking Florida law.

Governor Ron DeSantis sees Florida's colleges and universities as hotbeds of trendy theories, where professors delight in propagating Marxism, pushing anti-racism, and undermining traditional gender identity. He likes to say he puts on "the full armor of God" to fight "wokeism" and create a "patriotic" education system. To that end, Florida has banned the teaching of what DeSantis declares erroneous doctrine, especially critical race theory and "The 1619 Project." Both challenge our happier myths: that the Founding Fathers hated slavery even though they owned slaves, or that rugged individualism enables anyone to succeed if they just work hard enough. DeSantis doesn't want Florida schools to explore how the legacy of slavery still casts a structural shadow on our democracy; to examine white privilege; or, as the "Stop WOKE Act" he pushed through our supine legislature puts it, to instruct students in topics that might cause "guilt, anguish, or other forms of psychological distress" on account of their race. A federal judge has temporarily halted the law's implementation, but the state has a good chance of winning on appeal to the Eleventh Circuit, which is dominated by Donald Trump appointees.

Whatever happens in the courts, academic liberty in the state that DeSantis calls the "freest" in America has already been damaged. Professors now add careful, lawyerly language to our course descriptions. The syllabus for a fall 2022 University of Florida seminar on how Black artists use the Gothic to explore racial oppression states, "No lesson is intended to espouse, promote, advance, inculcate, or compel a particular feeling, perception, or belief." I remind students that I do not judge them on their opinions, only on how they support those opinions with facts and evidence. Academics in less protected positions sometimes feel pressured to censor themselves. As The Atlantic and ProPublica reported, Jonathan Cox, an assistant sociology professor at the University of Central Florida, canceled two popular courses examining race, ethnicity, and "the myth of a color-blind society," because he worried he could lose his job.

[Daniel Golden: 'It's making us more ignorant']

Nervous administrators issue memos trying to reassure faculty, even as they promise our government masters that we'll play nice. The University of Florida has produced a slideshow warning that if instructors offend against state edicts, UF could suffer "large financial penalties"—perhaps tens of millions of dollars cut from its annual appropriation. Janet Kistner, the vice president for faculty development and advancement at FSU, sent out a memo telling us that we can't try to force our students "to believe any … 'specified concepts' (each based on race, color, sex, or national origin) because such action would be per se discriminatory under the amended statute."

In other words, we must not upset conservative white folks. More important, we must not upset DeSantis, who has many allies in his war to bring offending institutions to heel. The presidents of Florida's community colleges recently signed a statement supporting DeSantis's education crusade and denouncing critical race theory. The people who rule Florida's universities are also committed to implementing the governor's vision. The University of Florida's Board of Trustees, a third of whom are major DeSantis campaign donors, are dismissive of academic freedom. When the University of Florida denied three political scientists permission to testify as expert witnesses in a case challenging the state's voting restrictions, the political scientists—raised hell. UF Trustees Chairman Mori Hosseini expressed his displeasure with them, calling them "disrespectful," and threatened "our legislators are not going to put up with the wasting of state money."

Last month, DeSantis launched his most ambitious attack yet: a top-down assault on the state's only liberal-arts college. Students say they love New College of Florida, which one described as "quirky, queer and creative." There's no football team; there are no sororities and fraternities. Instead of grades, students receive written evaluations. Classes include the very traditional—Homeric Greek, Introduction to Statistics, U.S. Constitutional Law—and ones guaranteed to tie the governor's amygdala in knots: "Postcolonial Literature and Theory," "Death, Hell, and Capitalism." Well-known New College graduates include former Republican Representative Lincoln Diaz-Balart; the mathematician William Thurston, who won the Fields Medal; X González, the Parkland shooting survivor and gun-control activist; and Derek Black, the son of the Stormfront founder Don Black and the godson of the Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke. Derek Black credits New College with educating him away from white supremacy.

Not a bad record. But DeSantis means to junk New College's longtime commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion and turn it into the Hillsdale of the South. Hillsdale is a very white, very conservative Christian school in Michigan. Last year, a Hillsdale professor gave a lecture at a small Catholic college titled "Black Privilege and Racial Hysteria in Contemporary America." Hillsdale President Larry Arnn cultivates and flatters DeSantis, and has called him "one of the most important people living." DeSantis has returned the compliment: Hillsdale currently exercises a hefty influence on Florida education with affiliated K–12 charter schools, and Hillsdale "reviewers" helped scour Florida classroom materials for hints of critical race theory like 16th-century Vatican operatives scrutinizing books for signs of heliocentrism, humanism, and other heresies.

In his haste to remake New College, the governor has appointed six new trustees, all out-and-proud conservatives with a deep distrust of mainstream academia. One is a Christian-school superintendent who has suggested that a COVID vaccine may have caused the Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin's on-field heart attack. Another is the former executive director of the 1776 Commission, Trump's attempt to whitewash American history, and a professor at Hillsdale. A third was also a member of the 1776 Commission and is a senior fellow at the Claremont Institute, a right-wing think tank. The most prominent of the New College new brooms is Christopher Rufo, who says the campus is "notoriously left-wing," rife with noisome diversity initiatives and LGBTQ-tolerant policies. Rufo, a Manhattan Institute senior fellow, is a tireless campaigner against what he sees as the dangers of anti-racism and Drag Queen Story Hour, as well as the chief instigator of the moral panic over critical race theory, which he calls "an existential threat to the United States."

Just this week, the trustees fired New College's president and installed the former state education commissioner Richard Corcoran as interim president. Corcoran has made his position clear. Education, he told the 2021 Hillsdale National Leadership Seminar, is "100 percent ideological," and he has declared, "Education is our sword. That's our weapon."

New College students have staged protests, and parents are angry. Sonia Howman emailed me after I appeared on a public-television news program defending higher education in Florida. Her son, a "biracial, LGBT student at New College," flourishes there: "I have watched my child progress from a smart, compassionate, bullied and withdrawn child into a smart, compassionate, intellectually voraciously curious and confident young man. His experience at New College has been nothing short of a blessing." Another parent wrote in USA Today that she worries her daughter will be "collateral damage in DeSantis' potential race to the White House." She points out that Hillsdale refuses federal money on the grounds of freedom, wanting "the government to keep its hands off their campus." She says, "My daughter and her bright, intellectually curious peers only ask that DeSantis keep his hands off theirs."

To the extent that the war over wokeness has real substance, it's a conflict between those who give primacy to systems in trying to understand American society, and those who think that approach devalues the role of the individual. Indeed, the DeSantis administration defines woke as "the belief there are systemic injustices in American society." The counterfactual is, to me, a little ridiculous: You cannot examine the disproportionate prison terms given to Black offenders in our criminal-justice system and seriously claim that the law is unaffected by race. But what's relevant here is not my (informed) opinion—it's that I should be allowed to have one. Educators must have the liberty to put forth ideas that might annoy the powerful.

The governor says higher education should be about "the pursuit of truth, not the imposition of trendy ideologies." I happen to agree with that, and so does every professor I know. Presenting various, often contradictory, ideas is our job. We are experts in our fields; we've studied our subjects for years. Does the state Board of Education really think it's qualified to judge a class on women's role in the Byzantine empire or the poets of the Harlem Renaissance? DeSantis isn't trying to expunge ideology from education, only ideologies he dislikes, ones that see racism as woven through American institutions or that emphasize diversity, equity, and inclusion instead of merit and color-blindness.

[Mark Leibovich: Just wait until you get to know DeSantis]

Academics are not, of course, free of ideology. Our worldview necessarily shapes our pedagogy, research, and writing. But professors are not in the brainwashing business, either. We want our students to question authority, including—maybe especially—ours. If I suggest to my class that Moby-Dick is obsessed with Blackness and whiteness, explores interracial same-sex relationships, and is my pick for greatest American novel, I hope they won't simply take my word for it. Mostly they don't. They argue with me. I've never had an undergraduate complain of debilitating guilt over slavery after reading Harriet Jacobs's Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl or Toni Morrison's Beloved. I've had them feel disgust and anger and sorrow that our institutions, from banks to courts to schools, still struggle to deal with racism. DeSantis might see this as critical race theory. I call it critical thinking. Teaching how to assess information and draw conclusions isn't "indoctrination."

I have some hope that this hostile takeover of education will fail in the end. Intellectually curious young people are not good candidates for indoctrination—from the left or the right. In my email exchange with Sophia Brown, a New College English major and an editor of the Catalyst, the campus newspaper, she made clear to me she rejects the idea that "a student's education should be molded to fit a particular political agenda." She told me she particularly appreciates the way faculty create an environment that "encourages students to form their own arguments and draw their own conclusions, instead of just regurgitating the information they're given." She says the college "allows students to create their own arguments based off of the material they've learned throughout the semester," and adds, "I do not believe that it is the government's role to restrict which voices should be listened to or learned from."

At the University of Central Florida, Jonathan Cox's students are also unimpressed with the state's attempted control of the curriculum. He told me, "They're angry. They don't understand why they're being told what they can and can't learn."

I suspect that much of DeSantis's pious railing against critical race theory is political theater, bread and circuses to inflame his nationalist base for 2024. After all, he survived the liberal fleshpots of Yale and Harvard Law without being corrupted by lefty politics. Perhaps he feels he's stronger-minded than Florida undergraduates. In any case, he has recruited a posse of true believers who have pledged to tear down schools and colleges and build their flag-waving fantasy of America on the rubble.

America's history is complicated, a struggle between fine ideals and real shortcomings, punctuated by successes we can all be proud of. Our literature represents those complications, triumphant, hateful, moving, and contradictory. Faulkner lived in an antebellum mansion, waited on by Black servants, yet his greatest novels explode the cruelty of America's long racism and inbuilt inequalities. Smart students like mine, and like the ones at New College, can handle paradox. I plan to carry on teaching the way I always have, resisting the state's decrees. The point of education is to produce not just pliant cogs but thinking citizens with knowledge of the rich and expansive ways to be human. That is genuine freedom.

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Turning astronauts into moon explorers
ESA's geology training course PANGAEA has come of age with the publication of a paper in Acta Astronautica that describes the quest for designing the best possible geology training for the next astronauts to walk on the surface of the moon.
A team of Boston College researchers has demonstrated an unprecedented catalytic approach that enables concurrent control of multiple convergences and selectivities in intermolecular amination of allylic carbon-hydrogen bonds in alkenes, a valued but challenging class of organic reactions, the team reported recently in Nature Chemistry.
The ocean twilight zone could eventually store vast amounts of carbon captured from the atmosphere
Is this article about Sustainability?
Deep below the ocean surface, the light fades into a twilight zone where whales and fish migrate and dead algae and zooplankton rain down from above. This is the heart of the ocean's carbon pump, part of the natural ocean processes that capture about a third of all human-produced carbon dioxide and sink it into the deep sea, where it remains for hundreds of years.
As virtual reality and augmented reality move into more prominent roles in everyday life, scholars hope to determine how effectively they could work in the classroom. A new study from the University of Kansas found that an augmented reality lesson scored highly among users, who reported that they felt more engaged with the content than from a video lesson. However, objective data showed that those who interacted with the AR model learned less than those who watched the video. The results suggest that educators must carefully consider when and how to use augmented reality as part of the learning environment.
Fluorescent nematodes can help monitor indoor air impurities
Is this article about Airline Industry?
Good quality indoor air is crucial to our well-being, while impurities in the air can compromise our working capacity and health. Researchers at the University of Turku in Finland have developed a new method for measuring indoor air quality, making use of fluorescent strains of nematodes.
Ontario wetlands under threat
Thursday, February 2 marks World Wetlands Day, an international government agreement acknowledging the importance of wetlands and their ecological role in conserving our ecosystems.
Instead of Predicting Length of Winter, Groundhog Simply Dies
Is this article about Obituaries?

RIP Fred

Having a groundhog predict the end of winter is a tradition shrouded in Pennslyvania Dutch superstition, which dates back hundreds of years.

And while science casts doubt on whether the lowland creatures are actually able to predict a late spring by seeing their own shadow, it's a comforting ritual.

Except in one tiny town in eastern Quebec, Canada, which had a little less luck this year. The province's own spring-predicting groundhog, lovingly nicknamed "Fred la marmotte" (groundhog in French), unexpectedly passed away before he was able to predict the remaining length of winter.

"As they say, in life, the only thing that's certain is that nothing is certain," the event's organizer Roberto Blondin said in a somber yet surprisingly dramatic announcement video, which has since gone viral.

"Well, this year it's true," he added. "It's true and it's unfortunate. I announce to you the death of Fred."


Shocking Loss

The creature, according to Blondin, likely passed away in the late fall or early December when it was still hibernating, the CBC reports.

"It was somewhat of a surprise — they had a whole event leading up to his prediction only for his death to be announced," the CBC's Sarah Leavitt tweeted.

The premature passing leaves a major question for meteorologists and groundhogs alike: when will Quebec experience its own spring?

The answer came courtesy of a child holding a stuffed groundhog toy at the event: six more weeks of winter — which is arguably only appropriate given the funereal circumstances.

Fortunately, for the rest of the continent, Fred is survived by a veritable army of weather-predicting groundhogs. In Philadelphia, Punxsutawney Phil — the most famous among them — saw his own shadow, also predicting six more weeks of winter.

Lucy the Lobster

It's not even just groundhogs that are predicting the weather. In Nova Scotia, Canada, a crustacean called Lucy the Lobster corroborated the prediction that we will have a least six more weeks of winter.

For now, Canada enters a day of mourning as the country recovers from the shock of hearing that Fred la marmotte has died.

"Canada lost a real one today," one Twitter user wrote. "Rip Fred. Your services will never be forgotten."

READ MORE: Sudden death of Quebec's Fred la marmotte casts a shadow on Groundhog Day [CBC]

More on groundhog: PETA Wants Punxsutawney Phil Replaced by a Robot

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Is this article about Pharma?
Intermittent fasting—abstaining from eating for lengthy periods of time—spurs liver cells in laboratory mice to divide rapidly, according to a study led by researchers at Stanford Medicine. The finding challenges the long-standing belief that cells in the adult liver divide rarely and, when they do, primarily to repair damage to the organ. It is also the first to show an immediate effect of diet on liver cell biology.
Warming could lead to a 23% US timber tree loss by 2100
Is this article about Agriculture?

Under more severe climate warming scenarios, the inventory of trees used for timber in the continental United States could decline by as much as 23% by 2100.

The largest inventory losses would occur in two of the leading timber regions in the US, which are both in the South.

The findings show modest impacts on forest product prices through the end of the century, but suggest bigger impacts in terms of storing carbon in US forests, the researchers say. Two-thirds of US forests are classified as timberlands.

"We already see some inventory decline at baseline in our analysis, but relative to that, you could lose, additionally, as much as 23% of the US forest inventory," says the study's lead author Justin Baker, associate professor of forestry and environmental resources at North Carolina State University. "That's a pretty dramatic change in standing forests."

In the study, published in Forest Policy and Economics, researchers used computer modeling to project how 94 individual tree species in the continental United States will grow under six climate warming scenarios through 2100.

They also considered the impact of two different economic scenarios on demand growth for forestry products. The researchers compared their outcomes for forest inventory, harvest, prices and carbon sequestration to scenarios with no climate change.

The researchers say their methods could provide a more nuanced picture of the future forest sector under high-impact climate change scenarios compared to other models.

"Many past studies show a pretty optimistic picture for forests under climate change because they see a big boost in forest growth from additional carbon dioxide in the atmosphere," Baker says.

"The effect that carbon dioxide has on photosynthesis in some of those models tends to outweigh the losses you see from precipitation and temperature induced changes in forest productivity and tree mortality. We have a model that is specific to individual tree species, and that allows us to better understand how climate factors influence growth rates and mortality."

The researchers found that in certain regions trees would grow more slowly in higher temperatures, and die faster. Combined with increasing harvest levels and greater development pressures, that led to declines in the total tree inventory. They projected the largest losses would be in the Southeast and South-Central regions, which are two of the three most productive timber supply regions in the US.

Those regions could see tree inventories shrink by as much as 40% by 2095 compared to one of their baseline scenarios. Due to declines in pine products, the researchers projected softwood lumber prices could increase as much as 32% by 2050.

"We found pretty high levels of sensitivity to warming and precipitation changes for productive pine species in the South, especially when climate change is combined with high forest product demand growth," Baker says.

However, the researchers projected gains in tree supplies in the Rocky Mountain and Pacific Southwest regions, driven by higher rates of death of certain trees that lead to larger harvests initially, followed by the growth of more heat-tolerant species.

"These are regions losing a lot of inventory right now due to pests and fire disturbance," Baker says. "What you're seeing is a higher level of replacement with climate adaptive species like juniper, which are more tolerant to future growing conditions."

Combining the effects from all the regions, the researchers projected total losses of US tree inventory of 3 to 23% compared to baseline. They projected losses in carbon sequestration in most scenarios, and estimated the value of lost carbon stored in US forests up to $5.5 billion per year.

They found the economic impact of climate change on the overall US forest products industry value could range from a loss of as much as $2.6 billion per year—representing 2.5% of the value of the industry—or a gain in value of more than $200 million per year.

"We saw that the markets could be more resilient than the forests themselves," Baker says. "Your market effects may seem modest in terms of the effect it has on the consumers and producers, but those impacts are small compared to the carbon sequestration value that forests provide on an annual basis."

The researchers say more studies are needed to bring the future of US forestry into sharper focus.

"We don't know a lot about how disturbance-related mortality or loss in tree productivity is going to bear out across the landscape as temperatures get warmer," Baker says. "We did our best to address a couple pieces of the puzzle with temperature and precipitation changes, and interactions between climate and market demand, but a lot more work needs to be done to get a good handle on climate change and forestry."

The US Environmental Protection Agency funded the work. The views and opinions expressed in this paper are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily state or reflect those of the EPA, and no official endorsement should be inferred.

Source: NC State

The post Warming could lead to a 23% US timber tree loss by 2100 appeared first on Futurity.

Intermittent fasting spurs proliferation of liver cells in lab mice, study finds
Is this article about Pharma?
Intermittent fasting—abstaining from eating for lengthy periods of time—spurs liver cells in laboratory mice to divide rapidly, according to a study led by researchers at Stanford Medicine. The finding challenges the long-standing belief that cells in the adult liver divide rarely and, when they do, primarily to repair damage to the organ. It is also the first to show an immediate effect of diet on liver cell biology.
The Neuroscience of Cute Aggression
The first thing I do when I get home from work each day is make a beeline for my cat Callie. As I hold her against my shoulder while she nuzzles my neck and purrs to greet me, I am overwhelmed with the urge to squeeze her so tightly that she pops like a baloon. […]
Interaction-free, single-pixel quantum imaging with undetected photons
Is this article about Quantum Computing?
To capture an image of an object, a photographer typically requires a source of light interacting and scattering away from that object of interest, and a method to detect the light being scattered away from that object, as well as a detector with spatial resolution. These ingredients of photography are limiting in biological/sensitive specimen imaging however, due to the absence of photon-starved detection capabilities that can damage the specimen during interactions.
UN report: Ozone layer is healing itself

The ozone layer is slowly restoring itself and is expected to be on par with 1980 levels by 2066, according to a 

United Nations

 assessment of the goals set forth in the Montreal Protocol released this month.

Ozone is a naturally occurring gas comprising three oxygen atoms. The stratospheric ozone layer is essential in protecting humans and the environment from the harmful ultraviolet light from the sun.

"Gases like chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, destroy stratospheric ozone and are responsible for the ozone hole over Antarctica," says Scot Miller, assistant professor in the Johns Hopkins University environmental health and engineering department.

"The report found that emissions of ozone-depleting substances, or ODS, like CFCs have dramatically declined over the past 30 years, which spells good news for the recovery of stratospheric ozone."

The UN report comes out every four years to assess progress on the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, an agreement among United Nations member nations to reduce the consumption and production of man-made ODS and some hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs.

Here, Miller, who studies greenhouse gases and air pollutants, offers insight on the implications of this report:

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Water crises due to climate change: More severe than previously thought
Climate change alters the global atmospheric circulation, which in turn alters precipitation and evaporation in large parts of the world and, in consequence, the amount of river water that can be used locally. So far, projections of climate impact on stream flow have usually been calculated on the basis of physical models, e.g., the projections reported by IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change).
Long-standing mystery about mRNAs resolved
Is this article about Cell?
Messenger RNAs (mRNAs) contain chemical marks that are critical for antiviral defense in cells, according to a new study from researchers at Weill Cornell Medicine. The finding solves a 50-year mystery concerning the purpose of these chemical modifications, and suggests that faulty mRNA modification may underlie some autoimmune and inflammatory disorders.
Biden's Document Issue Is Nothing Like Trump's
Is this article about Law?

No equivalence exists in the ways that President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump have respectively handled the classified documents found in their possession. Yet panicky Democrats—ruled either by a thirst for TV airtime or by a knee-jerk defensive reflex—are suggesting that one does.

Biden's enemies might be expected to use an argument of false equivalence to attack him, but surely not people who are supposed to be his allies. I'm talking to you, Senator Dick Durbin and Representative Jim Himes.

Biden should be "embarrassed by the situation," Durbin told CNN, adding that the president had "lost the high ground on this notion of classified information being where it shouldn't be."

"Anytime there are classified documents outside of a secure space, I am profoundly troubled, whether that space is owned by a Republican president or a Democratic president," Himes said, also to CNN. "It's a big problem."

If anything should embarrass or trouble these Democrats, it is their failure to examine the facts and grasp the utter difference in the Biden and Trump cases. What in tarnation are they doing?

In their flap, they have forgotten the first principle of politics: What matters above all is public opinion and preventing a distorted narrative from becoming entrenched.

[David Axelrod: Yes, Mr. President, there is some there there]

According to a recent NBC poll, about two-thirds of Americans are now as concerned about Biden's handling of classified documents as they are about Trump's, despite the gulf of difference between the president's actions and those of the habitual scofflaw Trump. What's most worrying is Biden's standing among Democratic voters: A majority of Democrats surveyed, 52 percent, said they're concerned about Biden's documents, just one point less than the percentage of Republicans who are concerned about Trump's.

In other words, these Democratic chin-scratchers on TV are giving license to Trump and smearing Biden. Halt! If not in the name of the law, then of common sense.

The law is actually on their side, if they bothered to find out about it. In recent weeks, I have spoken with a number of highly regarded attorneys on the issue, and begged them, please, to find me a non-laughable defense of Trump's handling of the Mar-a-Lago documents. They simply could not.

So the false equivalence that these Democrats are promoting is this: On the one hand, Biden made an error about which he was apparently unaware and that he promptly sought to correct, acting properly in tandem with the authorities in every respect; on the other hand, Trump as usual used the law as a roll of heavy-duty Charmin, repeatedly obstructing the National Archives, the FBI, and the Department of Justice, and persisting in the concealment of secret documents in his possession. It shouldn't need saying, but apparently it does for some Democrats: These are not the same.

Telling the truth about the differences is not only the right thing to do; it's the politically smart thing to do. In politics, offense is the best defense.

[Donald Ayer]Mark S. Zaid, and Dennis Aftergut: Biden's classified documents should have no impact on Trump's legal jeopardy

Democrats are coming off the most impressive midterm cycle led by a Democratic president in generations. In large part because of the president's historic accomplishments during his first term, voters turned back the Republican fear campaign.

So Democrats are on a roll. And if Trump is the GOP's nominee in 2024, they have every opportunity to run up the score on a wounded candidate who has led his party to nothing but losses since his election in 2016. Even if Trump does not win the Republican nomination, his base will continue to be a liability for the GOP: A Bulwark poll this week found that a full 28 percent of Republican voters would support Trump if he stood for a third party.

Yet all of this can be drowned out by just one narrative. Republicans love nothing better than to turn something baseless into something pervasive. And Democrats too often act as mindless accomplices, giving credence to the false equivalences that bubble up when the media cover Trump-related partisan issues. A recent report from Media Matters outlines the underlying pathology: Although Biden freely handed over the few documents in his possession to the Department of Justice and opened up his home to searches, parts of the news media are now discounting the significance of Trump's document mishandling.

The CNN special correspondent Jamie Gangel prepared the way. Trump "clearly wanted to keep those things as souvenirs or for whatever and fought giving them back," said Gangel on CNN, but the Biden documents story "may help him legally." Legally? Let's just say that I would have flunked my first year of law school if I'd said that.

Through this sort of speculation, some pundits are suggesting that the special prosecutors appointed in each case, Jack Smith and Robert Hur, will somehow end up paying more attention to each other than to the facts of the matter before them. I doubt that Smith or Hur needs CNN to explain the centrality of intent in criminal law. But the CNN analyst Margaret Talev recently said, "I think, Pence revelations aside, the drip, drip of the Biden discoveries does defuse this issue, takes it off the table as a real weapon to use against Trump."

[David A. Graham: A guide to the possible forthcoming indictments of Donald Trump]

In the absence of robust counterarguments from Democratic leaders, such statements are being served up to a nightly audience that largely comprises Democratic voters. And by going along with the false premise, Democrats are filling their own supporters with despair.

Let's revisit the nightmare of 2016 to understand what could lie ahead. Thanks to a similar dynamic of media herd mentality and Democratic defensiveness over Hillary Clinton's emails, a 2016 poll found that nearly half of Americans saw the issue as "very concerning." The narrative about Biden's documents is in danger of taking root in much the same way—that's what the polling today is showing. All these years later, does anyone know that Clinton mishandled zero classified documents among her emails? I'll say it again: zero.

If the DOJ-appointed Hur goes about his business like a straight shooter, Biden will be exonerated. But if the media smear continues, it will be with the unbidden assistance of pearl-clutching Democrats. Next year could be the same as 2016, if they don't correct the course now.

Long-standing mystery about mRNAs resolved
Is this article about Cell?
Messenger RNAs (mRNAs) contain chemical marks that are critical for antiviral defense in cells, according to a new study from researchers at Weill Cornell Medicine. The finding solves a 50-year mystery concerning the purpose of these chemical modifications, and suggests that faulty mRNA modification may underlie some autoimmune and inflammatory disorders.
The first lab-created 'quantum abacus'
Do you want to know whether a very large integer is a prime number or not? Or if it is a "lucky number"? A new study by SISSA, carried out in collaboration with the University of Trieste and the University of Saint Andrews, suggests an innovative method that could help answer such questions through physics, using some sort of "quantum abacus."
New research turns what we know about bird window strikes inside-out
New research reveals that decals intended to reduce incidents of bird window strikes — one of the largest human-made causes of bird mortality — are only effective if decals are placed on the outside of the window. Researchers found that the patterns on the films and decals placed on the internal surface of windows do not reduce collision because they may not be sufficiently visible to birds.
Potentially life-saving steroids commonly given to preterm babies also increase the risk of long-term cardiovascular problems, but a new study in rats has found that if given in conjunction with statins, their positive effects remain while the potential negative side-effects are 'weeded out'.
Mapping Mexico's dengue fever hotspots
Scientists have analyzed data from Mexico's Ministry of Health to identify 
dengue fever
 hotspots. Working with epidemiologists at the University of North Texas and Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León, the team calculated environmental and socioeconomic risk factors and mapped areas where severe outbreaks occur.
New method reveals nano-scale drug molecules in cells
Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology and partners within the Chemical Imaging Infrastructure have produced a method whereby it is possible to see at the nano level where a medicinal drug ends up in the cells and how much of it is needed for optimum treatment. The technique enables the development of new pharmaceuticals and tailored treatments for diseases that have not previously been treatable.
Is this article about Deep Learning?
A pair of chemists at the University of Manchester has developed a machine-learning tool that can be used to classify reactions based on simulated kinetic signatures of reactions. In their paper published in the journal Nature, Jordi Burés and Igor Larrosa describe combining two deep-learning algorithms to create a system that could speed up the process of new design reactions.
Whatever You Think of BuzzFeed's AI Quizzes, They're Way Less Horrible Than What CNET Has Been Doing
Is this article about Tech?

As if the journalism industry wasn't already troubled enough, it's been wracked with turmoil in recent weeks as media outlets have started using artificial intelligence to beef up their content machines.

If you've glanced at Futurism's headlines over the past month, you'll know that we've been steadfastly following news about the tech news site CNET quietly running content generated by an AI it won't even name. Even worse, the CNET AI's work quickly turned out to be filled with errors and even plagiarism. (CNET eventually issued corrections on more than half of the bot's 70-odd articles, acknowledging both factual mistakes and "phrases that were not entirely original.") And even worse, it later emerged that CNET's leadership knew of the AI's tendency to lie and plagiarize before the deployment, but went ahead and rolled it out anyway.

Right in the midst of CNET's colossal screwup, a new challenger emerged: 


which said last week that it's going to start using OpenAI's software to generate a new form of its infamous quizzes.

Some at BuzzFeed were furiously angry about the news, with columnist Max Collins telling the company's CEO Jonah Peretti to "get fucked."

Indeed, the specter of a slippery slope to further job losses looms heavily over the story. But we have to admit, compared to CNETBuzzFeed's plan doesn't actually sound that bad.

For one thing, the BuzzFeed actually announced its plan ahead of time, instead of slapping a so-tiny-that-literally-nobody-noticed-it-for-two-full-months disclaimer on the AI content, like CNET did. The lack of informed consent in the experiment was a glaring issue with CNET from the jump, so kudos to BuzzFeed for doing better there.

For another, at least in theory, BuzzFeed's plan doesn't involve automating away any actual human writers' jobs, like CNET's very clearly did. Instead, the idea is that staffers will dream up clever quizzes into which readers will input specific information, allowing the reader to get a hyper-personalized response. At least in theory, that choose-your-own-adventure style of quiz sounds kind of awesome.

And by the same token, CNET's most extraordinary blunder was letting the bot make factual claims aimed at people looking at real info, which it messed up almost beyond belief. It sounds like BuzzFeed, in contrast, is just having some fun with the tech.

For its part, BuzzFeed's leadership seems aware that — at least compared to CNET — it looks pretty thoughtful about the whole thing.

"I think that there are two paths for AI in digital media," Peretti told CNN of the plan. "One path is the obvious path that a lot of people will do — but it's a depressing path — using the technology for cost savings and spamming out a bunch of SEO articles that are lower quality than what a journalist could do, but a tenth of the cost. That's one vision, but to me, that's a depressing vision and a shortsighted vision because in the long run it's not going to work."

That said, some BuzzFeed staffers are still nervous, with one expressing anxiety that they'd be the "first the robot replaces."

The fear, in other words, is that an experiment in one domain could lead to a much larger program that automates away more and more writing careers.

A former BuzzFeed staffer said that "the news sent the smallest shiver down my spine," adding that "I feel badly about the move, and the ethics it comprises, and the new standards it sets for media."

But BuzzFeed "has always taken big risks. maybe it knows something we don't about how to infuse AI into copy responsibly," they added.

As with most other stories to come out of the tech's raucous debut, this one is a mixed bag, and we leave it to the ones who actually work at the affected organizations to lead the discourse about it.

More on AI: Amazing New CatGPT AI Answers as If It Were a Kitty Cat

The post Whatever You Think of BuzzFeed's AI Quizzes, They're Way Less Horrible Than What CNET Has Been Doing appeared first on Futurism.

SpaceX to Launch "Hunter" Satellites for Targeting Rival Spacecraft
Is this article about ESG?

Space Warfare

The US Federal Communication Commission (FCC) just filed documents detailing plans for the test launch of two private-sector spy satellites, Wired reports.

The satellites, built by space combat startup True Anomaly, are slated for launch onboard a SpaceX rocket in October of this year. Once there, each "Jackal" — as the models are called — will practice engaging in what the company calls "orbital pursuit." In layman's terms, space tag.

While this mission won't exactly be the aerial battles of "Star Wars," the tech's makers are clear: these crafts are built for space warfare.

"Conflict exists on a continuum that begins with competition," Even "Jolly" Rogers, former US Air Force Major and CEO and co-founder of True Anomaly, told Wired, "and ultimately leads into full-scale conflict like what you're seeing in Ukraine."

"True Anomaly is revolutionizing space security and sustainability," reads the company's website, "with fully-integrated mission technologies designed to protect the interests of the United States and its Allies."

Cat and Mouse

Though the Jackals aren't equipped with any kind of guns, lasers, or explosives-type weaponry, they do have some functionality beyond simply lurking.

Per Wired, they're built to assist with rendezvous proximity operations (RPO), or the capability to get close to other satellites and, by "[training] a battery of sensors upon them," can glean information about foes' "surveillance and weapons systems, or help intercept communications."

RPO crafts, as Wired point out, aren't exactly new, and even have a number of practical non-war uses, like hauling objects around in orbit. But investors certainly seem excited about True Anomaly's crafts, considering that the company has raked in roughly $23 million in funding — some of that cash coming from US senator JD Vance's investment fund.

Chicken or Egg

But while Rogers says his company's RPO is designed to adapt to already hostile global — and orbital — politics, some experts wonder if the existence of a product like the Jackal could itself be an escalating factor.

"What is different about True Anomaly is the way it seems to be presenting its satellite as more of a pursuit system, than an imaging or an intelligence gathering system," Kaitlyn Johnson, deputy director of the Aerospace Security Project at the Center for Strategic & International Studies, told Wired. "This does concern me because it could cause unintentional escalation… it might be read by our adversaries as a military-directed company that was starting to pursue this capability."

The post SpaceX to Launch "Hunter" Satellites for Targeting Rival Spacecraft appeared first on Futurism.

The secret to making new friends as an adult | Marisa G. Franco
Making friends as an adult can feel like a baffling obstacle course. Why was it so much easier to connect as kids? To help you find well-rounded and fulfilling friendships, psychologist Marisa Franco discusses science-backed tips on how to make (and keep) friends, like the optimism-inducing "acceptance prophecy" and the shame-reducing "theory of chums." Learn more about the power of platonic love and how it can help you experience the full richness and complexity of who you are. (This conversation, hosted by TED current affairs curator Whitney Pennington Rodgers, was part of an exclusive TED Membership event. Visit to become a TED Member.)
Epigenetic mechanisms underlying subtype heterogeneity and tumor recurrence in prostate cancer
Is this article about Cell?

Nature Communications, Published online: 02 February 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-36253-1

Prostate cancer
 is a highly heterogeneous disease. Progression on androgen deprivation therapy (ADT) to castration-resistant (CRPC), or neuroendocrine prostate cancer (NEPC), is associated with poor patient survival. This comment highlights recent evidence on the epigenetic mechanisms underlying the emergence of lineage plasticity and neuroendocrine differentiation in treatment-resistant prostate