Nature Communications, Published online: 01 March 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-36427-xA large proportion of recent Brazilian Amazon deforestation is occurring on untitled public forestlands through land grabbing. This emerging risk demands long-term conservation strategies. Here we propose prioritizing land tenure security, technological improvement, and law enforcement.
After losing his beloved father when he was 10, Ronald Mallett read HG Wells and Einstein. They inspired his eminent career as a theoretical physicist – and his lifelong ambition to build a time machine
Prof Ronald Mallett thinks he has cracked time travel. The secret, he says, is in twisting the fabric of space-time with a ring of rotating lasers to make a loop of time that would allow you to travel backwards. It will take a lot more explaining and experiments, but after a half century of work, the 77-year-old astrophysicist has got that down pat.
His claim is not as ridiculous as it might seem. Entire academic departments, such as the Centre for Time at the University of Sydney, are dedicated to studying the possibility of time travel. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is working on a "time-reversal machine" to detect dark matter. Of course there are still lots of physicists who believe time travel, or at least travelling to the past, is impossible, but it is not quite the sci-fi pipe dream it once was.Continue reading…
- Researchers have secured £1m in funding from the National Institute for Health and Care Research to refine the technology, known as OrQA – Organ Quality Assessment.
Researchers have secured £1m to refine method of scoring potential organs by comparing images
Artificial intelligence could help NHS surgeons perform 300 more transplant operations every year, according to British researchers who have designed a new tool to boost the quality of donor organs.
Currently, medical staff must rely on their own assessments of whether an organ may be suitable for transplanting into a patient. It means some organs are picked that ultimately do not prove successful, while others that might be useful can be disregarded.Continue reading…
Nature Communications, Published online: 01 March 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-36797-2The conformation of GPCR-arrestin complexes at the cell membrane, despite available structures, remains uncertain. This work reveals structure and dynamics of the PTH1R-arrestin2 complex, including flexible regions, in live cells.
Nature Communications, Published online: 01 March 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-36711-wMembranes with fast and selective ion transport are essential for electrochemical processes. Here the authors provide mechanistic insights into the structures of metal-ion coordinated polybenzimidazole membranes and the preferential K+ transport, and their application in an alkaline zinc-iron flow battery.
Nature Communications, Published online: 01 March 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-36412-4Here the authors develop a computational method based on the maximum entropy principle to construct the structural ensemble of genomes using imaging data. The work reveals three-way contacts between loci and extensive conformational heterogeneity.
How will we improve our skills and abilities in the AI era? What are some of the jobs that will need human creativity, empathy or judgment that AI will not be able to do? How will we prevent becoming outdated or unnecessary as automation progresses? What are some of the ways or resources that will help us adjust to the changing work environment?
Examples: Sports, Arts, Fiction, etc.
- But late last year, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a therapy that could shift the paradigm of how we treat these diseases to earlier intervention—and ultimately, prevention.
I am an MBA student in my last semester and would really appreciate your feedback to a few questions!
I am working on a research project about innovations in augmented reality (AR) that can be applied to the e-commerce industry, specifically focusing on mobile apps such as IKEA Place, Amazon AR, Nike Fit, etc. I would like to gather information regarding the experiences, thoughts, and ideas of users/consumers, innovators, and individuals that have worked with AR. This will allow me to better understand the benefits, obstacles, and potential improvements of AR technology.
The questions I have for you are: – What experience do you have with augmented reality? – Have you ever used an augmented reality shopping app? If so, what did you think of it? – What are some key benefits and obstacles to augmented reality technology? – What improvements or innovations would you like to see in augmented reality?
Thank you for taking the time to read this, all responses are valued!
On Fox News, the
director reiterated the agency's assessment that
was unleashed after a potential lab incident. That's not the consensus among intelligence and scientific communities.
(Image credit: Carolyn Kaster/AP)
This is an edition of The Atlantic Daily, a newsletter that guides you through the biggest stories of the day, helps you discover new ideas, and recommends the best in culture. Sign up for it here.
This week, my colleague Mark Leibovich made the case for a primary challenge to Joe Biden. "Somebody should make a refreshing nuisance of themselves and involve the voters in this decision," he wrote. Mark and I sat down yesterday to talk about how a primary challenger could benefit the Democratic Party.
First, here are three new stories from The Atlantic:
- The lab leak will haunt us forever.
- The shortest path to peace
- No one really knows how much COVID is silently spreading … again.
Audacious and Powerful
Isabel Fattal: Let's talk about Joe Biden and 2024. Some of us know the polls show that most Democrats don't want Biden to run for reelection, but we don't know what the Democratic officials who are close to Biden are saying. What did you hear in your reporting?
Mark Leibovich: What's going on behind the scenes around Biden is silence. Everyone has decided that this is Biden's decision to make. The only sort of conflict here is, when does he just decide to press "Go"? Everyone else is powerless. We're all just waiting for him. You have this disconnect in the party where people will obviously support him if he goes through with this and gets the nomination, but they kind of wish he wouldn't. The percentage of Democrats saying they don't want him to run is historically high. Publicly, every elected official will say, "We're with him," but privately they'll say just the opposite.
So what I decided to do in my latest article is call for someone to make the decision for him, or at least to give voters a choice. I think voters want the choice, but because of customs, we don't give ourselves a choice. We leave it to the president to step aside when he or she wants to.
Isabel: How does Democrats' fear play in here? You wrote in your story this week, "Just as Trump has intimidated so many Republicans into submission, he also has paralyzed Democrats into extreme risk aversion."
Mark: I don't think it's deference, necessarily. I think there is a good reason for incumbents not to be primaried if you want to win. But almost overwhelmingly, incumbents are supported by their party, and polls almost always show that majorities of Democrats or Republicans want their party's president to run again. With Biden, you have these unprecedented numbers in the other direction. And the reason for this is his age.
You mentioned risk aversion. Trump has terrified Republicans. They just don't want to get on the wrong side of him. That dynamic's been entrenched for six, seven years now. But Democrats are just as scared. They're scared of doing something that might look a little unsafe. Say what you want, but Biden is familiar: He's done this before; he's beaten Trump before. But at the same time, everyone's saying, He's old.
Isabel: This parallel is so interesting—Trump inspiring fear in both parties in their own way.
Mark: Right. Fear manifests in different ways. In the Democrats' case, why is it so risky to try someone besides Biden, as long as you do it in a way that's respectful and does not beat him up? If he does run, you want to make sure that he's not damaged too much if he wins. But it seems like there's a lot of groupthink around this.
One of the things I try to do when I'm thinking of stories to write is questioning groupthink, and questioning assumptions that grow up around politics and that I think are misguided or outdated.
Isabel: At this point, do you think anyone will jump in the race against Biden?
Mark: All it takes is one. I think it would be really bold. Gretchen Whitmer is an example I use in the story. She's a popular young governor, overwhelmingly reelected for a second term in a very swing-y state. I sort of play out in the story the scenario of: What happens if she tries? What if people like her? What if she is always so deferential to Biden and makes herself impossible to dislike? Her argument could be, I'm just giving voters a choice. I think it's time for a new generation.
I think it could be a powerful statement. But it's audacious. Obama sort of did the same thing—the conventional wisdom in 2008 was that it's Hillary's turn, so let's all step aside for Hillary. And Obama caught a little bit of heat for skipping the line, but lo and behold, it took. Obviously, it's a different election, with different circumstances and personalities. But I'm all for seizing the moment, even if there are a lot of calcifying forces in the other direction.
The arc of politics bends toward inertia. I would call for someone to be audacious here. I would argue that it could go really well for them, and even go really well for the party and for Biden.
Isabel: Right, but Democrats are scared.
Mark: They are. This is probably unlikely to happen. But I would love it to happen.
Biden is also dragging this out a bit. Apparently, his announcement has been imminent for weeks now. Maybe he's having second thoughts. Either way, there is an opening now that someone could seize.
- The Supreme Court heard arguments about the legality of President Biden's student-debt-relief plan.
- Finland began construction of barriers on its eastern border with Russia.
- Former Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms is leaving her role as a top White House adviser. President Biden has appointed former Columbia, South Carolina, Mayor Steve Benjamin in her place.
The Double Life of John le Carré
By Ben Rhodes
"Spying and novel writing are made for each other," John le Carré once wrote. "Both call for a ready eye for human transgression and the many routes to betrayal. Those of us who have been inside the secret tent never really leave it." Le Carré's enigmatic gift as a writer wasn't simply that he could draw on his experience of having once been a British spy. He brought a novelist's eye into the secret world, and the habits of espionage to his writing. Far more than knowledge of tradecraft, this status—at once outsider and insider—enabled him to uncover truths about the corrupting nature of power: His novels are infused with the honesty of an outsider, but they could only have been written by a man who knows what it is like to be inside the tent.
More From The Atlantic
Read. Sebastian Barry, Ireland's fiction laureate, has a special understanding of the human heart. Pick up his latest novel, Old God's Time.
Listen. Check out the trailer for Holy Week, our new eight-episode podcast. The week that followed Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination was revolutionary—so why has it been nearly forgotten?
I asked Mark what he's been reading and watching when he's not thinking about Joe Biden (or Tom Brady). He's enjoying George Packer's book on Richard Holbrooke (and not just because George is an Atlantic colleague, Mark clarified). "Like most things, I'm years too late," he told me. He's also reading a galley copy of American Ramble, an upcoming memoir by Neil King about a walk from Washington, D.C., to New York. Mark recommends looking out for it when it's published in early April.
He's also just finished Succession—as he noted, he's often late on things! But he's just in time for the new season, which premieres at the end of March.
Remains of earwig-like insects discovered near village of Chekarda, Russia, covered in pollen
Nearly 200m years before the mosquito in Jurassic Park became trapped in amber, hundreds of ancient insects were encased in sediment along the bank of the Sylva river that flows through the Urals.
Now, scientists inspecting the flattened creatures have found a handful that appear to mark a moment in history: they are the oldest known insects to be covered in pollen, and perhaps some of the world's first plant pollinators.Continue reading…
Two U.S. intelligence agencies reportedly support the lab leak theory — with low-to-moderate confidence. No evidence has been shared. Scientists have strong evidence of animal spillover at a market..
(Image credit: Noel Celis/AFP via Getty Images)
Nature, Published online: 28 February 2023; doi:10.1038/d41586-023-00568-2Paired hurricanes within 15 days of each other are likely to become more frequent as Earth warms.
Nature, Published online: 28 February 2023; doi:10.1038/d41586-023-00558-4Corals, sturgeon and other aquatic creatures harbour signs of
In April 2022, Ioannis Kalpouzos, a professor at Harvard Law, received an invitation to join the editorial board of the newly-launched American Yearbook of International Law. But something gave him pause.
"The title sounded a bit dodgy – it sounded like something I should have heard of," Kalpouzos told Retraction Watch, adding that with some Googling he "found that it wasn't really a thing."
"If somebody's not in the know, it's easier for them to be duped, I suppose," Kalpouzos said, but his instincts told him that such a yearbook would most likely be published by an established law review.
So he declined.
Citing our coverage of Liakopoulos from July 2020, Kalpouzos tweeted:
Saeed Bagheri, a professor at Reading Law School in Reading, England, responded by posting his editorial board invitation letter, and several other legal scholars noted they had received similar invitations:
The title is one of three new journals launched by Dimitris Liakopoulos, a legal researcher who at the time of this writing sits on our leaderboard with 33 retractions.
As we've previously reported, Liakopoulos had falsely claimed to be a professor at several universities, including Columbia Law School, Stetson University, and various European institutions. In 2020, a representative of Tufts University, where Liakopoulos had claimed to be on faculty, told us that he had never been affiliated with the school.
Some of the retraction notices on Liakopoulos's work cite concerns about his stated affiliations, and they often note plagiarism, such as the note retracting an entire book Liakopoulos co-authored.
Under the auspices of the putative non-profit Center of European and International Justice, Liakopoulos has recently launched the American Yearbook of International Law, the Yearbook of European Union and Comparative Law, and the Yearbook of International & European Criminal and Procedural Law.
As yearbooks, the volumes appear annually rather than publishing articles throughout any given year. All three yearbooks have one volume so far, from 2022.
The web site for the Center of European and International Justice states its address as 777 UN Plaza, which is across the street from the United Nations building in New York City. That address is the home of the Church Center for the United Nations, which boasts a chapel regularly used for weddings.
In addition, the web address for the center includes the clause jimdofree.com. This indicates it is from a web domain service that gives people free online hosting, rather than the .org domain one would expect from a legitimate non-profit.
Besides the dubious affiliation, at least two yearbook articles, both by Liakopoulos, have had concerns raised about plagiarism.
A PubPeer sleuth notes that one article in the American yearbook lifts from a doctoral thesis originally published in Italian, while an article from one of the European yearbooks pulls text from a previously published Italian paper.
The yearbooks are published by the National Documentation Center of Greece, a cultural heritage organization sponsored by the Greek government. We contacted the Documentation Center to ask about how they had vetted the reliability of the yearbooks but did not hear back.
We also used the contact email provided on the yearbook web pages (purportedly directed to a person named Sara Cristain) to ask Liakopoulos some questions about the journals.
A few days later, we received a vituperative note from one Klaus Volger, who assured us that the yearbooks are legitimate, citing among other things – all without evidence – the imprimatur of the Greek government. Volger also asserted that no article in the yearbooks is plagiarized, and said that Retraction Watch is only interested in this topic for "money and publicity."
Volger, or someone using his name, had responded similarly after our previous posts.
Like Retraction Watch? You can make a tax-deductible contribution to support our work, follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, add us to your RSS reader, or subscribe to our daily digest. If you find a retraction that's not in our database, you can let us know here. For comments or feedback, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Denmark, which produces up to 40 percent of the world's mink pelts, temporarily banned mink breeding in 2020 after a spate of COVID outbreaks, but the ban expired last month, and farms are returning, albeit in a limited capacity .
Bird flu, at this point, is somewhat of a misnomer. The virus, which primarily infects birds, is circulating uncontrolled around much of the world, devastating not just birds but wide swaths of the animal kingdom. Foxes, bobcats, and pigs have fallen ill. Grizzly bears have gone blind. Sea creatures, including seals and sea lions, have died in great numbers.
But none of the sickened animals has raised as much concern as mink. In October, a bird-flu outbreak erupted at a Spanish mink farm, killing thousands of the animals before the rest were culled. It later became clear that the virus had spread between the animals, picking up a mutation that helped it thrive in mammals. It was likely the first time that mammal-to-mammal spread drove a huge outbreak of bird flu. Because mink are known to spread certain viruses to humans, the fear was that the disease could jump from mink to people. No humans got sick from the outbreak in Spain, but other infections have spread from mink to humans before: In 2020, COVID outbreaks on Danish mink farms led to new mink-related variants that spread to a small number of humans.
As mammals ourselves, we have good reason to be concerned. Outbreaks on crowded mink farms are an ideal scenario for bird flu to mutate. If, in doing so, it picks up the ability to spread between humans, it could potentially start another global pandemic. "There are many reasons to be concerned about mink," Tom Peacock, a flu researcher at Imperial College London, told me. Right now, mink are a problem we can't afford to ignore.
For two animals with very different body types, mink and humans have some unusual similarities. Research suggests that we share similar receptors for COVID, bird flu, and human flu, through which these viruses can gain entry into our bodies. The numerous COVID outbreaks on mink farms during the early pandemic, and the bird-flu outbreak in Spain, gravely illustrate this point. It's "not surprising" that mink can get these respiratory diseases, James Lowe, a veterinary-medicine professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, told me. Mink are closely related to ferrets, which are so well known for their susceptibility to human flu that they're the go-to model for flu research.
Mink wouldn't get sick as often, and wouldn't be as big an issue for humans, if we didn't keep farming them for fur in the perfect conditions for outbreaks. Many barns used to raise mink are partially open-air, allowing infected wild birds to come in contact with the animals, sharing not only air but potentially food. Mink farms are also notoriously cramped: The Spanish farm, for example, kept tens of thousands of mink in about 30 barns. Viral transmission would be all but guaranteed in those conditions, but the animals are especially vulnerable. Because mink are normally solitary creatures, they face significant stress in packed barns, which may further predispose them to disease, Angela Bosco-Lauth, a biomedical-sciences professor at Colorado State University, told me. And because they're often inbred so their coats look alike, an entire population may share a similar genetic susceptibility to disease. The frequency of outbreaks among mink, Bosco-Lauth said, "may actually have less to do with the animals and more to do with the fact that we raise them in the same way … we would an intensive cattle farm or chickens."
So far, there's no evidence that mink from the Spanish farm spread bird flu to humans: None of the workers tested positive for the virus, and since then, no other mink farms have reported outbreaks. "We're just not very susceptible" to bird flu, Lowe said. Our bird-flu receptors are tucked deep in our lungs, but when we're exposed, most of the virus gets caught in the nose, throat, and other parts of the upper respiratory tract. This is why bird-flu infection is less common in people but is often pneumonia-level severe when it does happen. Indeed, a few humans have gotten sick and died from bird flu in the 27 years that the current strain of bird flu, known as H5N1, has circulated. This month, a girl in Cambodia died from the virus after potentially encountering a sick bird. The more virus circulating in an environment, the higher the chances a person will get infected. "It's a dose thing," Lowe said.
But our susceptibility to bird flu could change. Another mink outbreak would give the virus more opportunities to keep mutating. The worry is that this could create a new variant that's better at binding to the human flu receptors in our upper respiratory tract, Stephanie Seifert, a professor at Washington State University who studies zoonotic pathogens, told me. If the virus gains the ability to infect the nose and throat, Peacock, at Imperial College London, said, it would be better at spreading. Those mutations "would worry us the most." Fortunately, the mutations that arose on the Spanish mink farm "were not as bad as many of us worried about," he added, "but that doesn't mean that the next time this happens, this will also be the case."
Because mink carry the receptors for both bird flu and human flu, they could serve as "mixing vessels" for the viruses to combine, researchers wrote in 2021. (Ferrets, pigs, and humans share this quality too.) Through a process called reassortment, flu viruses can swap segments of their genome, resulting in a kind of Frankenstein pathogen. Although viruses remixed in this way aren't necessarily more dangerous, they could be, and that's not a risk worth taking. "The previous three influenza pandemics all arose due to mixing between avian and human influenza viruses," Peacock said.
While there are good reasons to be concerned about mink, it is hard to gauge just how concerned we should be—especially given what we still don't know about this changing virus. After the death of the young girl in Cambodia, the World Health Organization called the global bird flu situation "worrying," while the CDC maintains that the risk to the public is low. Lowe said "it's certainly not very risky" that bird flu will spill over into humans, but is worth keeping an eye on. H5N1 bird flu is not new, he added, and it hasn't affected people en masse yet. But the virus has already changed in ways that make it better at infecting wild birds, and as it spreads in the wild, it may continue to change to better infect mammals, including humans. "We don't understand enough to make strong predictions of public-health risk," Jonathan Runstadler, an infectious-diseases professor at Tufts University, told me.
As bird flu continues to spread among birds and in domestic and wild animal populations, it will only become harder to control. The virus, formally seasonal, is already present year-round in parts of Europe and Asia, and it is poised to do the same in the Americas. Breaking the chain of transmission is vital to preventing another pandemic. An important step is to avoid situations where humans, mink, or any other animal could be infected with both human and bird flu at the same time.
Since the COVID outbreaks, mink farms have generally beefed up their biosecurity: Farm workers are often required to wear masks and protective gear, such as disposable overalls. To limit the risk to mink—and other susceptible hosts—farms need to reduce their size and density, reduce contact between mink and wild birds, and monitor the virus, Runstadler said. Some nations, including Mexico, Ecuador, have recently embraced bird-flu vaccines for poultry in light of the outbreaks. H5N1 vaccines are also available for humans, though they aren't readily available. Still, one of the most obvious options is to shut mink farms down. "We probably should have done that after SARS-CoV-2," Bosco-Lauth, at Colorado State, said. Doing so is controversial, however, because the global mink industry is valuable, with a huge market in China. Denmark, which produces up to 40 percent of the world's mink pelts, temporarily banned mink breeding in 2020 after a spate of COVID outbreaks, but the ban expired last month, and farms are returning, albeit in a limited capacity.
Mink are far from the only animal that poses a bird-flu risk to humans. "Frankly, with what we're seeing with other wildlife species, there really aren't any mammals that I would discount at this point in time," Bosco-Lauth said. Any mammal species repeatedly infected by the virus is a potential risk, including marine mammals, such as seals. But we should be most concerned about the ones humans frequently come into close contact with, especially animals that are raised in high density, such as pigs, Runstadler said. This doesn't pose just a human public-health concern, he said, but the potential for "ecological disruption." Bird flu can be a devastating disease for wildlife, killing animals swiftly and without mercy.
Whether or not bird flu makes the jump into humans, it isn't the last virus that will threaten us—or mink. The era we live in has become known as the "Pandemicene," as my colleague Ed Yong has called it, one defined by the regular spillover of viruses into humans, caused by our disruption of the normal trajectories of viral movement in nature. Mink may never pass bird flu to us. But that doesn't mean they won't be a risk the next time a novel influenza virus or coronavirus comes around. Doing nothing about mink essentially means choosing luck as a public-health strategy. Sooner or later, it will run out.
This Ain't a Scene
The artificial intelligence arms race is barging ahead at full speed — and now, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is getting in on the game.
In a Facebook post — how antiquated that feels now! — Zuckerberg announced that Meta is "creating a new top-level product group at Meta focused on generative AI to turbocharge our work in this area" in a statement confirming his previous comments about his interest in the AI gold rush.
The new venture comes less than 18 months after the founder and CEO changed the company's name to Meta in his obsessive pivot to the capital-M metaverse. And it seems, for all intents and purposes, to be in response to the overwhelming pressure to compete with OpenAI after its ChatGPT AI changed the game at the end of last year.
Indeed, as The Atlantic's Charlie Warzel noted in response to the news of the company's most recent pivot, Zuckerberg "laid out his view of the future with very little mention of generative [AI]" during a lengthy interview with Joe Rogan last year, which seems to indicate that something changed his mind between when the interview aired last August and now.
While companies like Microsoft and Snapchat are releasing their own AI chatbots, Meta's AI offerings won't be quite so on the nose — at least, not initially.
"In the short term, we'll focus on building creative and expressive tools," the Meta CEO wrote. "Over the longer term, we'll focus on developing AI personas that can help people in a variety of ways."
While there will be chat components with its WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger services, Zuckerberg added that the company plans to also introduce "creative Instagram filters and ad formats," as well as "video and multi-modal experiences," the latter of which could be a nod to the expensive and cartoonishly glitchy virtual reality services Meta has been developing since late 2021.
"We have a lot of foundational work to do before getting to the really futuristic experiences," the CEO continued in one of the biggest understatements of 2023 thus far, "but I'm excited about all of the new things we'll build along the way."
More on Big Tech's AI sprint: Fired Google Engineer Doubles Down on Claim That AI Has Gained Sentience
The post Mark Zuckerberg Bows to Peer Pressure, Announces Pivot to AI appeared first on Futurism.
|submitted by /u/MajorTom360
Many of you have probably noticed that social media algorithms are designed in such a way that passively skews toward things that release maximum amounts of dopamine. Oftentimes those are funny but stupid memes, soft pornography, or emotionally charged political content.
Unfortunately, this means that people who are actually taking action on doing awesome things for the world are left out of sight amidst the meaningless noise. This phenomenon is important to be aware of going into the future because even now I am starting to see lots of uninspired, non-passionate, and nihilistic people. What is shown is not reality but people take it as such, especially the impressionable youth. In reality, there is a plethora of amazing people working on doing awesome things and working on solutions to the world's toughest problems. This idea was also mentioned in terms of climate change by u/civilrunner in his earlier thread but this extends to so many other fields.
Now, I am not here to just state the problem, I would like to actually work on solutions. Some people already making progress in this field are Veritasium, Quanta Magazine, VSauce, Sci-Show, and other similar YouTube channels. They are actively bringing out interesting topics and people into the light of the public.
The real question is how do we get this type of content to the maximum number of people? keeping in mind that the algorithms are not in our favor on this one.
If we are to move towards a bright future we need to address this problem. I would love to hear your thoughts and potential solutions.
I am currently working on a project at my university to tackle this challenge, if anyone is interested I can share it in a future post!
A "biocomputer" powered by human brain cells could be developed within our lifetime, researchers say.
The technology could exponentially expand the capabilities of modern computing and create novel fields of study.
The team outlines their plan for "organoid intelligence" in the journal Frontiers in Science.
"Computing and artificial intelligence have been driving the technology revolution, but they are reaching a ceiling," says Thomas Hartung, a professor of environmental health sciences at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Whiting School of Engineering who is spearheading the work. "Biocomputing is an enormous effort of compacting computational power and increasing its efficiency to push past our current technological limits."
"The brain is still unmatched by modern computers."
For nearly two decades scientists have used tiny organoids, lab-grown tissue resembling fully grown organs, to experiment on kidneys, lungs, and other organs without resorting to human or animal testing. More recently Hartung and colleagues have been working with brain organoids, orbs the size of a pen dot with neurons and other features that promise to sustain basic functions like learning and remembering.
"This opens up research on how the human brain works," Hartung says. "Because you can start manipulating the system, doing things you cannot ethically do with human brains."
Hartung began to grow and assemble brain cells into functional organoids in 2012 using cells from human skin samples reprogrammed into an embryonic stem cell-like state. Each organoid contains about 50,000 cells, about the size of a fruit fly's nervous system. He now envisions building a futuristic computer with such brain organoids.
Computers that run on this "biological hardware" could in the next decade begin to alleviate energy-consumption demands of supercomputing that are becoming increasingly unsustainable, Hartung says. Even though computers process calculations involving numbers and data faster than humans, brains are much smarter in making complex logical decisions, like telling a dog from a cat.
"The brain is still unmatched by modern computers," Hartung says. "Frontier, the latest supercomputer in Kentucky, is a $600 million, 6,800-square-feet installation. Only in June of last year, it exceeded for the first time the computational capacity of a single human brain—but using a million times more energy."
It might take decades before organoid intelligence can power a system as smart as a mouse, Hartung says. But by scaling up production of brain organoids and training them with artificial intelligence, he foresees a future where biocomputers support superior computing speed, processing power, data efficiency, and storage capabilities.
"It will take decades before we achieve the goal of something comparable to any type of computer," Hartung says. "But if we don't start creating funding programs for this, it will be much more difficult."
Organoid intelligence could also revolutionize drug testing research for neurodevelopmental disorders and neurodegeneration, says Lena Smirnova, assistant professor of environmental health and engineering who co-leads the investigations.
"We want to compare brain organoids from typically developed donors versus brain organoids from donors with autism," Smirnova says. "The tools we are developing toward biological computing are the same tools that will allow us to understand changes in neuronal networks specific for autism, without having to use animals or to access patients, so we can understand the underlying mechanisms of why patients have these cognition issues and impairments."
To assess the ethical implications of working with organoid intelligence, a diverse consortium of scientists, bioethicists, and members of the public have been embedded within the team.
Source: Roberto Molar Candanosa for Johns Hopkins University
The post Will brain organoids soon become biocomputers? appeared first on Futurity.
Watch out, Pixel phone users: there's a spooky video afoot — and it's crashing phones.
Android Authority reports that watching a certain YouTube video through the official app will inexplicably cause various versions of Pixel 6 and Pixel 7 phones to abruptly reboot without warning.
Countless users in a Reddit thread attested to the baffling glitch. Some even found that the video-induced reboot can cause issues with connecting to their cellular network, but it appears that can be fixed with a manual restart.
A staffer at The Verge also confirmed that their Pixel 6 crashed upon watching the pesky video.
But so far, Google is yet to comment on the situation or respond to any outlets — but give it a few days and we might hear from someone on the Android team.
And what could such a YouTube clip capable of forcing Google smartphones to restart possibly be?
As it turns out, it's a 4K clip from the classic sci-fi horror movie "Alien." That's right: Ridley Scott's sophomore feature starring Sigourney Weaver is so terrifying that it continues to find new ways to haunt unsuspecting audiences over 40 years later.
In all seriousness, though, the real reason the YouTube clip crashes
is unknown, but many speculate it may be due to how the phones process the rich colors of High Dynamic Range (HDR) formatting. That's because a similar issue already cropped up in 2020 that crashed Google and Samsung phones when setting a specific "cursed wallpaper" as their background image.
And just like with that wallpaper, jokesters are already sending the video to people as a mischievous prank, with many in the YouTube comments joking that the video looks great on their Pixel phones.
You can watch the clip here if you're curious, but you should probably hold off if you own a Pixel. Actually, screw a grainy YouTube clip — just go watch the damn movie, which is a masterpiece.
In the meantime, Google must answer for the crime of preventing Pixel users from beholding Sigourney Weaver in glorious 2160p.
More on phones: Whistleblower Claims Facebook Can Secretly Drain Your Phone's Battery on Purpose
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Expectant lemur dads may experience hormonal changes during their mates' pregnancies that help prepare them for parenting, a new study of their feces shows.
Red-bellied lemurs, one of only a handful of mammal species in which the males are active participants in caring for their young, are monogamous, tree-dwelling primates found throughout Madagascar's eastern rainforests.
They live together in close family units, with offspring going off on their own at about three to four years old.
When a female is pregnant, her male partner sees a significant increase in estradiol—an estrogen steroid hormone and major female sex hormone that, in several mammalian species, is associated with increased maternal sensitivity and responsiveness.
The hormone spike mainly occurs in the third trimester of pregnancy, with lemurs' typical gestation period lasting about 126 days, or a little over four months.
In that final trimester, males see a fourfold increase in estradiol, according to the new study, published in the journal Hormones and Behavior.
"Males, when they're expecting, even when they're not carrying the infant, are responding to the developing fetus," says lead author Stacey Tecot, an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Arizona, who is also a member of the university's BIO5 Institute. "I was shocked by how much of a change there is in estradiol when their partner is pregnant."
Tecot and her colleagues suspect that the hormonal shift is part of nature's way of preparing male lemurs for fatherhood.
"We were interested in estradiol because there have been some experimental lab studies with rodents showing it's required for paternal care and it's important for maternal care," Tecot says. "We wanted to see if there are changes that occur in wild, male lemurs before infants are born, and whether levels of estradiol are associated with how much care they provide for their infants."
Some dads are better than others
While the researchers did not observe a direct link between dads' estradiol levels and the frequency of their specific infant parenting behaviors—which, in the lemur community, include holding, carrying, grooming, playing, and huddling—Tecot suspects that the spike in estradiol may occur to prepare the animals for the overall task of parenting.
"These hormonal changes may be priming them, preparing them to perform care," Tecot says.
Lemur dads' estradiol levels don't immediately drop after birth, instead fluctuating up and down until the infant is weaned, the researchers found. Infants, regardless of when they are born, are all weaned in the spring when food in their natural habitat is more abundant.
To measure estradiol levels in expectant dads, Tecot and her colleagues collected fecal samples dropped by wild lemurs living in Ranomafana National Park in Madagascar. The droppings were dried by a fire and carefully stored in sealed plastic bags before being shipped to Tucson for analysis in Tecot's Laboratory for the Evolutionary Endocrinology of Primates, housed in the School of Anthropology in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences.
In addition to collecting fecal samples, the researchers also observed the wild lemurs' behaviors and interactions and documented what they saw over a nearly two-year period spanning two reproductive seasons.
It's worth noting that not all lemur dads showed themselves to be stellar parents, and just like in humans, there is variation in how involved they are. Tecot and her colleagues give thematic names to the different lemur families they observe, and in the "Authors" family, for example, a dad dubbed Tolstoy went above and beyond as a parent.
But, across the tree canopy in the Star Wars family, a dad they called Vader—true to his name—was much less exemplary. Tecot and her colleagues hope to learn more about what causes such variation and what role hormones might play.
Lemur pregnancy is a family affair
Red-bellied lemurs are among an estimated 5% of mammal species in which males share infant care responsibilities. And they aren't the only species in which males seem to have a hormonal response to pregnancy and birth.
Previous research has shown that expectant human, tamarin monkey, and certain rodent fathers also undergo hormonal changes that appear to occur in response to their partners' pregnancies. During the last trimester and shortly after the birth of an infant, cortisol, oxytocin, prolactin, and androgen levels have been found to change significantly in these species. However, estradiol has not been studied extensively in males, Tecot says.
Better understanding hormonal responses to pregnancy and birth in any species could shed new light on how moms and dads prepare for infant care, Tecot suggests.
"We put a lot of pressure on pregnant individuals as the influencers of infant outcomes instead of thinking about the environment, including everyone who interacts with them," she says. "If male lemurs are interacting with the pregnant female and their hormones are responding, that suggests this is a group effort. Something is happening to both parents as they're all preparing for the baby to arrive."
Source: University of Arizona
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On Feb. 28, 1953, two scientists named James Watson and Francis Crick had a flash of insight that changed the world. They discovered the double helix structure of DNA.
- Passage of laws preempting local action on transgender rights and race and racism in schools accelerates since 2019
A carjacker assaulted a 34-year-old pregnant woman in Illinois, stealing her Volkswagen, along with her two year old boy trapped in the back seat, and running her over on the way out. Although badly injured, the woman managed to call 911. With little idea of where the carjacker fled, Lake County sheriffs rushed to call Volkswagen's Car-Net service to track down her car.
But Volkswagen Car-Net refused to play ball — not because it had any qualms with forking over information to the police, but because the mother hadn't renewed her subscription.
Instead, VW insisted someone pay the $150 fee to reactivate the tracking service. Sheriffs pleaded with the company, explaining the gravity of the situation — but VW didn't budge.
While the fee was eventually paid by a relative, the dispute ended up causing a costly delay, which deputy chief Chris Covelli described as "16 minutes of hell," according to the Chicago Tribune.
And by the time it was over the information ended up being "worthless," Covelli said, because the child, alive and well, had been dumped at a parking lot, where a bystander found him and called the police. The stolen car was also recovered not long after.
Thankfully the child was found safe and sound in this case, but what if the carjacker managed to switch cars with the child because VW was too busy pinching pennies?
In response to the blunder, Volkswagen has tried shifting blame for the faux pas to its third party subcontractor responsible for running the Car-Net service.
"Volkswagen has a procedure in place with a third-party provider for Car-Net Support Services involving emergency requests from law enforcement," a VW spokesperson said in a statement. "They have executed this process successfully in previous incidents."
"Unfortunately, in this instance, there was a serious breach of the process," they added.
But if the automaker's find-my-car service isn't even available during an actual child kidnapping, what good is it for?
Not for much, apparently. Last year, many VW customers found out that their cars' Car-Net systems no longer even worked because they were lousily built on now obsolete 3G technology, even though the automaker knew it was already being replaced with 4G LTE, according to a lawsuit. The suit further alleges that VW never informed customers that Car-Net would be "rendered obsolete" by the switch from 3G to 4G.
Adding to that list of grievances against Volkswagen's services: in 2021, VW experienced a massive breach of its data — once again, through a third party — that compromised the personal information of over 3 million customers. VW sure doesn't sound like the safest pair of hands to keep your location data with.
More on German engineering: BMW Now Selling Drivers Access to Their Cars' Heating Systems for $18 Per Month
The post Volkswagen Refused to Track Car with Kidnapped Child Until
Renewed GPS Subscription appeared first on Futurism.
An unusual whale feeding technique first documented by scientists in the 2010s may have actually been described in ancient texts two millennia ago, researchers say. Researchers from Flinders University identified striking parallels between the behaviour of tread-water feeding and a sea creature named hafgufa from 13th century Old Norse texts. It is thought hafgufa can be traced back to the aspidochelone, a sea monster that first appeared in the ancient Greek text Physiologus. 'Definitive proof for the origins of myths is exceedingly rare and often impossible, but the parallels here are far more striking and persistent than any previous suggestions,' the researchers noted.
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Nature, Published online: 28 February 2023; doi:10.1038/d41586-023-00569-1Modelling suggests that the Sun's 'birth cluster' could have contained as many as 20,000 stars.
In an apparently inadvertent meta-commentary, an artificial intelligence stan seems to have passed off someone else's tweet as his own — while hyping up AI's potential for replacing human workers.
"RIP website designers," begins the tweet posted by Rowan Cheung, who per his LinkedIn is the founder of a newsletter about AI called The Rundown. "This new tool is ChatGPT for UI design. What's even more amazing: it's all editable in Figma."
Embedded in the tweet is a video from Galileo AI, a text generator that can spit out lines of user interface design code that actually launched nearly a year ago, putting it months ahead of ChatGPT as far as release dates are concerned.
The whole premise would barely be enough to register on our radar beyond perhaps an irritated eye roll — except that Cheung appears to almost certainly have copied the tweet nearly word-for-word from another self-described AI enthusiast.
The apparent original version of the tweet was posted by marketing industry expert Lorenzo Green more than two weeks prior, back on February 10 — and as you can see, it's clear that Cheung's version is substantively identical.
"R.I.P web designers," he wrote. "This is basically ChatGPT for UI design AND is editable in Figma."
Meta, No Zuck
Beyond just being an annoying hazard of using Twitter, this tweet-lifting is also a kind of ironic meta-commentary on AI itself, given that both text and image generators have a nasty habit of copying their source material so closely that it amounts to plagiarism.
Indeed, when Futurism contacted Green, he pointed to Getty Images' "mega lawsuit against Stability AI" over copyright infringement that accuses the Stable Diffusion maker of "scraping" data from its archive without permission — an ongoing debacle that could set legal precedents for how these sorts of cases are treated in the future.
"The key is in the training data," the marketing guru told Futurism of the AI scraping issue. "If developers use ethical data sources they shouldn't have a problem. If they use copyrighted data sources they will have a problem."
While ripping off a tweet isn't exactly the same as stealing a company or individual's intellectual property — which is a very good thing for kleptomaniac meme accounts like Fuckjerry — it's still a curious happenstance given the current, and currently shifting, public perception of plagiarism in the wake of our apparent AI renaissance.
As for Cheung himself, Green had but one quip: "It seems like he doesn't know about the Retweet button."
More on AI: Elon Musk Recruiting Team to Build His Own Anti-"Woke" AI to Rival ChatGPT
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is capable of churning out workable crochet patterns, The Guardian reports. That's impressive. Just one catch: the finished product might not be exactly what you were looking for.
Per the Guardian, the trend was first popularized by crochet enthusiast Alexandra Woolner, who went viral back in January with a TikTok video showcasing the results of their first attempt to bring a ChatGPT-suggested crochet pattern to life. They prompted the OpenAI chatbot to draft a pattern for a crochet walrus, and the AI provided — but the crochet creature that resulted can really only be described as narwhal-ish.
"The consensus among people who have seen it is that it looks wrong and ugly," Woolner told the paper, "but also very cute."
Indeed, with its more-than-cartoonishly massive eyeballs and delightfully bulbous tusk, the resulting creature is both wrong and ugly, unhinged to the point of disturbing. Still, it's got a little bit of alien charm. (In a comment, one TikTokker characterized the nightmare narwhal as a "manatee in witness protection," a description that we simply must stan.)
Importantly, this chaos narwhal isn't an outlier. Woolner has made a series of these wonderfully monstrous crochet beasts, each as bizarre as the next, a reality that seemingly speaks to two very important characteristics of ChatGPT: one, that the device is built to predict — rather than perfectly recall information — and two, that it's bad with numbers.
Crochet patterns rely heavily on proper ratios, which ChatGPT can't produce with reliable accuracy. And besides, it's still an approximation of what a crochet narwhal — or cat or newt — might look like based on the chatbot's training data, and not a true representation. As such, chaotic, almost dream-like representations of the requested animals ensue.
The narwhal "came out shockingly very accurate while still being very, very wrong," Woolner told the Guardian. "It's a weird mix, kind of an uncanny valley."
Though the crochet monsters might be a little disturbing, other folks can't help but join in on the fun.
"After I finished the head, it was pretty apparent that this was not going to be anything resembling an animal in nature," Diana Ramirez-Simon, a Guardian copy editor, said of her own attempt at a ChatGPT-designed crochet narwhal.
"My daughter named him Blinky, because he can't blink," she added. "His eyes are too big."
READ MORE: Crochet enthusiasts asked ChatGPT for patterns. The results are 'cursed' [The Guardian]
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Nature Communications, Published online: 28 February 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-36779-4A class of inexpensive aminoanthraquinone organic dyes are shown to facilitate visible-light-drive