Every day people are exposed to Bisphenol S (BPS) a hormone disrupting chemical, in the fresh foods they eat, a new study from Canada shows.
The chemical migrates from labels on the packaging materials into the food, the researchers report.
Steps were taken in Canada to reduce the use of Bisphenol A (BPA), a toxic chemical linked to prostate and breast cancer, commonly found in plastics, the lining of food cans, water bottles, and paper receipts. But in many cases, it has been replaced with similar hormone disrupting chemicals, like Bisphenol S (BPS).
"BPA is a chemical that can interfere with hormones in the human body and cause adverse health outcomes, including cancers, diabetes, and damage to fertility and the development of infants. Now there is growing evidence that BPS may have similar health effects," says Stéphane Bayen, an associate professor in the food science and agricultural chemistry department at McGill University.
"Our study provides evidence, for the first time, that BPS and alternative chemicals found in food labels migrate through packaging materials into the food people eat," he explains.
The researchers examined an assortment of packaged fresh food sold in Canada such as meats, cheeses, vegetables, and bakery products. They also compared fish bought from stores in Canada and the United States, and the differences between food wrapped with plastic cling wrap films with or without food labels.
They found relatively high concentrations of BPS in thermal food labels, like price tags and stickers, where heat is used to print bar codes or unit prices. In contrast, they found little to no BPS in plastic wrapper films, pads, and trays.
While Canada does not currently regulate BPS, the researchers show that the amount of BPS found in the foods studied significantly exceeded the European Union limit, which regulates the permitted amount of substances released from packaging materials in contact with food.
"Considering the number of packaged food items sold with thermal labels, the actual dietary intake of BPS and other chemicals is likely to be high," says Bayen.
The study, published in Environmental Science & Technology, suggests a more thorough risk assessment of BPS and its ability to migrate into food from packaging is needed to help develop regulatory guidelines in the food sector.
The study received support from a Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Institute of Population and Public Health Team grant and McGill University.
Source: McGill University
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Scientists are reeling from the discovery of "plastic rocks" on a remote volcanic island off of the Brazilian coast — a troubling sign, experts told Reuters, of just how deeply plastic pollution has embedded itself into Earth's geological patterns.
The rocks, dubbed "plastiglomerates" — a molten mixture of sediment and debris, held together by melted plastic — have been discovered at a particularly troubling place.
"This is new and terrifying at the same time, because pollution has reached geology," Fernanda Avelar Santos, a geologist from the Federal University of Parana, explained to Reuters. "The place where we found these samples is a permanently preserved area in Brazil, near the place green turtles lay their eggs."
The island in question, Trindade Island, is a vital conservation area for endangered green turtles, which use the remote ocean as a nesting ground. With the exception of scientists, the only humans allowed on the island are Brazillian Navy officials, who patrol the area in an effort to protect the turtles.
In other words: in case we needed yet another reminder, plastic is absolutely everywhere, from the depths of the Mariana Trench to inside toddlers — and Trinidade Island is no exception.
Scientists traced the plastic in the mysterious rocks back to fishing nets, one of the most notorious — and devastating — ocean pollutants.
According to Santos, net trash is common on the remote island's beaches.
"The [nets] are dragged by the marine currents and accumulate on the beach," the geologist told Reuters, adding that "when the temperature rises, this plastic melts and becomes embedded with the beach's natural material."
It's a concerning discovery and one that certainly signals that the Anthropocene — an era in Earth's history defined by human development's impact on Earth's atmosphere, climate, and other geological functions — is well underway.
"We talk so much about the Anthropocene, and this is it," Santos told Reuters.
"The pollution, the garbage in the sea and the plastic dumped incorrectly in the oceans is becoming geological material," she added, "preserved in the earth's geological records."
READ MORE: Brazilian researchers find 'terrifying' plastic rocks on remote island [Reuters]
More on ocean pollution: The Ocean's Plastic Pollution Has Spiked to "Unprecedented" Levels
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In the Crapper
Virgin Orbit's financial woes have apparently deepened to the point that it has reportedly had to furlough its staff while looking for new money.
In a regulatory filing, the Richard Branson-owned satellite launch outfit conceded that it is trying to "conserve capital" while it "conducts discussions with potential funding sources and explores strategic opportunities."
That effort, it seems, includes both unpaid furloughs for most of its 700-person staff and an operational pause, CNBC notes — yet another indication that getting to space remains incredibly difficult, even with a market valuation of $3 billion back in 2021.
News of this apparent financial disaster comes just a few months after Virgin Orbit admitted that its Rolling Stones-themed rocket disintegrated in mid-air just after liftoff in January. That update was made during an investor-focused press release in which the company appeared to be trying to reassure its investors that all was well — a fool's errand, it seems, given the latest.
"Our investigation [into the rocket disintegration] is nearly complete," a company spokesperson told media in a statement this week, "and our next production rocket with the needed modification incorporated is in final stages of integration and test."
As CNBC notes, the company's shares have taken a beating amid its admission of cash flow trouble. It's currently trading at 67 cents per share, down about 35 percent from its $1.04-per-share value at the end of the business day yesterday.
Compared to its nearly $10-per-share trading rate when the company first went public at the end of 2021, it's not hard to see why it's in such dire straits now.
These financial tribulations predate the early January launch debacle, too. In a November 2022 filing, the company admitted to a whopping $149 million loss for the first three quarters of the year.
With its next quarterly earnings report slated to drop at the end of the month, it's likely that that number will be even higher.
Volatility is always a very real risk, particularly in the space industry, which has historically been plagued by technical issues and is becoming more and more crowded.
Virgin Orbit's downward financial trajectory, however, seems to go further than the usual industry ups and downs — after all, it hasn't really had a big win yet.
More on Virgin: Richard Branson Said Elon Musk Showed Up to His House at 2AM
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I'm in the music tech field and came across this blog not too long ago: https://melodystudio.net/2023/02/18/ai-for-creating-music/
Seems to be a product that uses AI in songwriting. As someone who wants to go to grad school for this stuff, I know that AI is being incorporated into a lot of technology such as chord identification, but I suppose this product is a bit closer to the creative side of things. I know everyone is talking about AI and art, but does anyone have a guess as to what this would look like for the music industry? Curious to know what you all think.
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It's been said that GPT LLMs aren't sentient or intelligent, as they only react to external prompts by a human, But, considering that currently, the following technologies exist:
Boston Dynamics style ambulatory robots like Spot or Atlas with onboard sensors and cameras and an advanced capacity to navigate a real life environment;
GPT-4, a multimodal AI that can handle text and image prompts and apparently can perform about as well as a high school student in many tasks, with a response time of seconds;
AI Speech to text to convert, to convert human voice commands from a robot's microphone into a prompt for GPT-4;
Tortoise-TTS or other proprietary text to speech engine like Elevenlabs to synthetize the robot's answers in realistic human speech.
… what's stopping a research team from crudely assembling these technologies together and giving a multimodal LLM a repeating simple prompt on a 1 second timer such as "What should a good robot assistant do and say in this situation?", appending photos and any speech-to-text from the microphones of the robots' surrounding to the prompt as context? Wouldn't this essentially amount to somewhat intelligent, if low "mental framerate", scifi robot?
Essentially, are we there yet?
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- Water restrictions lifted for 7 million in Southern California, but region still urged to conserve
Nature Communications, Published online: 16 March 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-37120-9Ideal anode materials for Li-ion capacitors must demonstrate safety and fast-charging properties. Here, the authors propose intercalated metal-organic frameworks for fast-charging Li-ion capacitors using a combined machine learning design and spray-dry synthesis.
A new forensic science study sheds light on how the bones of infants and children decay.
The findings will help forensic scientists determine how long a young person's remains were at a particular location, as well as which bones are best suited for collecting DNA and other tissue samples that can help identify the deceased.
"Crimes against children are truly awful, and all too common," says Ann Ross, a professor of biological sciences at North Carolina State University and coauthor of the study in the journal Biology.
"It is important to be able to identify their remains and, when possible, understand what happened to them. However, there is not much research on how the bones of infants and children break down over time. Our work here is a significant contribution that will help the medical legal community bring some closure to these young people and, hopefully, a measure of justice."
For the study, the researchers used the remains of domestic pigs, which are widely used as an analogue for human remains in forensic research. Specifically, the researchers used the remains of 31 pigs, ranging in size from 1.8 kilograms (4 pounds) to 22.7 kilograms (50 pounds). The smaller remains served as surrogates for infant humans, up to one year old. The larger remains served as surrogates for children between the ages of one and nine.
The surrogate infants were left at an outdoor research site in one of three conditions: placed in a plastic bag, wrapped in a blanket, or fully exposed to the elements. Surrogate juveniles were either left exposed or buried in a shallow grave.
The researchers assessed the remains daily for two years to record decomposition rate and progression. The researchers also collected environmental data, such as temperature and soil moisture, daily.
Following the two years of exposure, the researchers brought the skeletal remains back to the lab. The researchers cut a cross section of bone from each set of remains and conducted a detailed inspection to determine how the structure of the bones had changed at the microscopic level.
The researchers found that all of the bones had degraded, but the degree of the degradation varied depending on the way that the remains were deposited. For example, surrogate infant remains wrapped in plastic degraded at a different rate from surrogate infant remains that were left exposed to the elements. The most significant degradation occurred in juvenile remains that had been buried.
"This is because the bulk of the degradation in the bones that were aboveground was caused by the tissue being broken down by microbes that were already in the body," says corresponding author and PhD candidate Amanda Hale. "Buried remains were degraded by both internal microbes and by microbes in the soil."
Hale is a research scientist at SNA International working for the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.
The researchers also used statistical tools that allowed them to better assess the degree of bone degradation that took place at various points in time.
"In practical terms, this is one more tool in our toolbox," Ross says. "Given available data on temperature, weather, and other environmental factors where the remains were found, we can use the condition of the skeletal remains to develop a rough estimate of when the remains were deposited at the site. And all of this is informed by how the remains were found. For example, whether the remains were buried, wrapped in a plastic tarp, and so on.
"Any circumstance where forensic scientists are asked to work with unidentified juvenile remains is a tragic one. Our hope is that this work will help us better understand what happened to these young people."
Source: NC State
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Researchers have created soft robots that can seamlessly shift from walking to swimming or from crawling to rolling.
Most animals can quickly transition from walking to jumping to crawling to swimming if needed without reconfiguring or making major adjustments. But most robots can't.
"We were inspired by nature to develop a robot that can perform different tasks and adapt to its environment without adding actuators or complexity," says study co-first author Dinesh K. Patel, a postdoctoral fellow in the Morphing Matter Lab in the School of Computer Science'sHuman-Computer Interaction Institute at Carnegie Mellon University.
"Our bistable actuator is simple, stable, and durable, and lays the foundation for future work on dynamic, reconfigurable soft robotics."
The bistable actuator is made of 3D-printed soft rubber containing shape-memory alloy springs that react to electrical currents by contracting, which causes the actuator to bend. The team used this bistable motion to change the actuator or robot's shape. Once the robot changes shape, it is stable until another electrical charge morphs it back to its previous configuration.
"Matching how animals transition from walking to swimming to crawling to jumping is a grand challenge for bio-inspired and soft robotics," says Carmel Majidi, a professor in the mechanical engineering department.
For example, one soft robot the team created has four curved actuators attached to the corners of a cellphone-sized body made of two bistable actuators. On land, the curved actuators act as legs, allowing the robot to walk. In the water, the bistable actuators change the robot's shape, putting the curved actuators in an ideal position to act as propellers so it can swim.
"You need to have legs to walk on land, and you need to have a propeller to swim in the water. Building a robot with separate systems designed for each environment adds complexity and weight," says co-first author Xiaonan Huang, an assistant professor of robotics at the University of Michigan and Majidi's former PhD student. "We use the same system for both environments to create an efficient robot."
The team created two other robots: one that can crawl and jump, and one inspired by caterpillars and pill bugs that can crawl and roll.
The actuators require only a hundred millisecond of electrical charge to change their shape, and they are durable. The team had a person ride a bicycle over one of the actuators a few times and changed their robots' shapes hundreds of times to demonstrate durability.
In the future, the robots could be used in rescue situations or to interact with sea animals or coral. Using heat-activated springs in the actuators could open up applications in environmental monitoring, haptics, and reconfigurable electronics and communication.
"There are many interesting and exciting scenarios where energy-efficient and versatile robots like this could be useful," says Lining Yao, assistant professor in the HCII and head of the Morphing Matter Lab.
The study appears in the journal Advanced Materials Technologies. Additional coauthors are from UCLA and Carnegie Mellon.
Source: Carnegie Mellon University
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To all the CEOs out there who might be interested in — or already are — replacing their employees with autonomous, AI-powered robots: sorry, but as The Hustle reports, the numbers are in… and it looks like it actually makes the most sense to put your job on the proverbial chopping block instead.
And frankly? It makes a lot more sense than you might think.
It's no secret that chief execs, especially those that helm major companies, make a lot of money, with the average CEO — who might rake in a solid $16-or-so million a year — earning nearly 400 times what the average employee makes, according to data from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI).
And that's just the average. When it comes to the biggest players in the business, pay ratios are almost cartoonishly skewed.
Here's one particularly alarming stat: Amazon CEO Andrew Jassy's 2021 salary, as the Hustle notes, capped out at a staggering $213 million, a number amounting to the collective earnings of 6,474 average Amazon employees.
And look, if someone does a good job, they should get paid well. A lot of CEOs, however, get paid ungodly amounts of cash, even when they do an objectively terrible job. Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav, for example, raked in $247 million back in 2021 — only to be named the "worst CEO of 2022" shortly thereafter.
Growth Uber Alles
Which brings us to the real question, here: what is it that we are paying these people for? As the Hustle notes, the primary function of most chief executives, particularly those at long-established firms, is to measure business growth — and the majority of their work, some execs say, can actually be outsourced.
And if that much work can already be outsourced to a human, why not automate those tasks using AI, instead?
Of course, AI bots can't shmooze on the golf course — at least yet — but as we've known since 2014, that part of the job should probably be done away with entirely.
We're not exactly in favor of any jobs going solely to robots. But considering that most average human underlings are treated like robots by their chief execs already, it only makes sense that CEOs finally meet a similar fate — especially when they're allocated this much cash, and often have little to show for it.
READ MORE: Should we automate the CEO? [The Hustle]
More on CEOs and AI: "AI Will Never Replace Journalism," Says Magazine CEO Replacing Journalists with AI
The post The Numbers Are In: Replacing All CEOs With AI Just Makes Sense appeared first on Futurism.
A new study links an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza with the deaths of more than 330 New England harbor and gray seals along the North Atlantic coast in June and July 2022.
The outbreak was connected to a wave of avian influenza in birds in the region, the researchers report.
HPAI is more commonly known as bird flu, and the H5N1 strain has been responsible for about 60 million poultry deaths in the US since October 2020, with similar numbers in Europe.
The virus was known to have spilled over from birds into mammals, such as mink, foxes, skunk, and bears, but those were mostly small, localized events. The new study in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases is among the first to directly connect HPAI to a larger scale mortality event in wild mammals.
"We have a better resolution and greater depth of detail on this virus than before because we were able to sequence it and detect changes almost in real time," says co-first author Wendy Puryear, a virologist and senior scientist in the Runstadler Lab at the Cummings School at Tufts University. "And we have pairings of samples, sometimes literally from a bird and a seal on the same beach."
The clinic has been conducting avian influenza surveillance on birds and some mammals since January 2022, shortly after this strain of avian influenza took a trans-Atlantic journey from Europe into the US. Through this testing, the team found a wide range of flu viruses, including at least three strains that crossed the Atlantic, and they witnessed consistent waves of infection in birds.
At the same time, in collaboration with NOAA's Greater Atlantic Region Marine Mammal Stranding Network, the researchers were able to screen nearly all seals that came through the network, whether or not the animal appeared sick. The stranding network is composed of experts from state and federal wildlife and fisheries agencies, non-profit rehabilitation and response facilities, aquariums, and academic institutions who respond to strandings.
"Because of the genetic data that we gathered, we were the first to see a strain of the virus that's unique to New England. The data set will allow us to more meaningfully address questions of which animals are passing the virus to which animals and how the virus is changing," says postdoctoral researcher Kaitlin Sawatzki, a coauthor of the study.
Seals and sea birds in close contact
In addition to poultry, H5N1 also has had a huge impact on wild birds, especially sea birds. Multiple locations around the globe have experienced large die-offs, such as recently in Peru, where the virus killed 60,000 pelicans, penguins, and gulls.
At the time of the seal mortality event in New England, the virus was hitting gulls particularly hard, the researchers found. There are lots of ways gulls and other birds may transmit the virus to seals, they say.
Seals and sea birds are coastal animals living in the same areas that have environmental contact, if not direct contact, since they share the same water and shoreline. A seal may contract the virus if it comes in contact with a sick bird's excrement or water contaminated by that excrement, or if it preys upon an infected bird.
The accepted knowledge is that H5N1 is nearly 100% fatal for domestic and wild birds other than waterfowl, and the same is proving true when it comes to spillover in wild mammals. All the seals that tested positive for HPAI were deceased at the time of sampling or succumbed shortly after. None of the animals that tested positive recovered. However, it's possible some asymptomatic or recovered cases never came into the stranding networks.
In addition to the seal mortality event in New England, which was the first time H5N1 was detected in marine mammals in the wild, other locations have lost marine mammals to the virus. Peru announced about 3,500 sea lions died from the virus, Canada reported a seal mortality event along the St. Lawrence Estuary, and there was a similar event with seals in the Caspian Sea, according to news reports from Russia.
A hotly debated topic among scientists is whether there has been mammal-to-mammal transmission of HPAI between seals.
"It's not surprising that you might have transmission between the seals, because it has happened with low pathogenic avian influenza," says Puryear. "However, we can't say definitively whether or not there has been mammal-to-mammal transmission of HPAI."
"To get strong evidence of mammal-to-mammal transmission, you need two things: lots of infected animals and time," explains Sawatzki. "Time for the virus to mutate, and time for the mutated virus to be transmitted to another seal. As the virus acquires mutations, we can see shared mutations in the sequences that are specific only to mammals and that haven't been seen in a bird before. We had the numbers, but this outbreak didn't last long enough to provide evidence for seal-to-seal transmission."
The research team found evidence that the virus mutated in a small number of seals. But fortunately, they have not seen a case of bird flu in seals along the Atlantic coast since the end of last summer. However, stranding season is about to start for harbor seals and gray seals, so they are bracing themselves for what might happen.
Is bird flu a risk to humans?
The risk to the public remains low, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Since December 2021, less than 10 human cases of H5N1 have been reported globally, and those cases occurred in people with direct exposure to infected poultry. There are no documented cases of human transmission for this variant.
However, there is the possibility it could become a larger issue for human health. Avian influenza emerged in 1996, and since 2003, 868 cases of human infection with H5N1 have been reported worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. Of those, 457 were fatal, roughly a 50% fatality rate.
"And that's why people get nervous about it," Puryear says.
There is a single-dose vaccine available for poultry, but it's not currently administered on a large scale—in part because of cost and logistics, and in part because there's some concern it may make future surveillance of the virus more difficult.
There's not much that can be done in terms of responding to the virus for wildlife, particularly given the scale at which infection is occurring.
Biosecurity is important in limiting the ways in which the virus can spread between and within species, the researchers say. For example, wild birds should be kept separate from domestic birds, such as backyard chickens. In addition, thorough and timely surveillance of domestic animals and wildlife is key to understanding how the virus is evolving to prepare the best possible vaccines and treatments.
The National Institutes of Health's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease supported the research reported in the paper. Complete information on authors, funders, and conflicts of interest is available in the published paper. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the funders.
Source: Tufts University
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Public finally able to see 3D remains of plesiosaur discovered on Lyme Regis beach 16 years ago
At first when Raffle the dog began scratching at something on the beach at Lyme Regis, Tracey Barclay thought he had probably found a boring old stick or stone.
But when she looked closer, Barclay realised Raffle had happened upon something much more interesting – the remains of a plesiosaur, a marine reptile that swam off modern day Dorset 200m years ago.Continue reading…
Nature, Published online: 16 March 2023; doi:10.1038/d41586-023-00823-6Universities and science employers must adopt practices to diversify their research workforce and move beyond simply hiring members of under-represented groups, finds the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
Nature, Published online: 16 March 2023; doi:10.1038/d41586-023-00762-2Technical "tour de force" allows researchers to trace the family tree of crucial brain cells.
Nature, Published online: 16 March 2023; doi:10.1038/d41586-023-00818-3Finding could advance our understanding of how human olfactory proteins recognize specific scents, including the pong of ripe cheese.
Scientific Reports, Published online: 16 March 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-30981-6Author Correction: Augmented antibiotic resistance associated with cadmium induced alterations in Salmonella enterica serovar Typhi
Scientific Reports, Published online: 16 March 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-29511-1Establishing an RNA fusions panel in
is soaking up the limelight after releasing ChatGPT and its next-generation GPT-4 language model, this week, Elon Musk, who was a co-founder of the company, hasn't shied away from expressing his disdain (or horror) over its newfound direction and success.
And he's not done with his groaning and moaning about the company, replying to a Twitter user who mocked its pivot to becoming a for-profit entity back in 2019, months after Musk left over disagreements with the company's direction.
"I'm still confused as to how a non-profit to which I donated [roughly] $100 million somehow became a $30 billion market cap for-profit," he tweeted, doing his best to not sound like a sore loser. "If this is legal, why doesn't everyone do it?"
Indeed, if we blew $44 billion on an overpriced website with a tanking revenue and fleeing advertisers, we would also be baffled at the concept of making money.
To be fair, Musk does kind of have a point, though coming from him, his comments amount to the equivalent of an unscrupulous businessman calling a company out for having no scruples.
As we've covered here before, OpenAI is a pretty sleazy company to be one of the foremost purveyors of AI.
Originally founded as an ostensibly altruistic nonprofit concerned about combating evil AI, it quickly dropped the humanitarian act and created a for-profit arm, securing a billion-dollar investment from Microsoft in 2019. Along the way, Musk jumped ship, citing disagreement with its new direction.
Now, as a private, venture capital cash cow, its valuation has ballooned to nearly $30 billion, and its projects are no longer open-source as its name once implied.
Ultimately, though, it's worth being skeptical of Musk's motives behind repeatedly decrying OpenAI. Is he earnestly concerned about the company's cynical transformation into a money-making machine and getting buddy-buddy with monoliths like Microsoft?
It's certainly possible. But lately, Musk has betrayed what seems like an ulterior, or at the very least, a more sinister grievance: OpenAI supposedly pushing a "woke" intelligence.
In December, Musk responded to a tweet from OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, warning of the "danger" of "training AI to be woke." Just a few months later, and it was reported that Musk is trying to build his own "anti-woke" AI to rival ChatGPT.
Whatever his true intentions, Musk is continuing to lay the groundwork for his counter-OpenAI narrative off the back of anti-woke rhetoric, maybe in the hopes of fueling the success of his own AI product in the future.
More on AI: Uh Oh, OpenAI's GPT-4 Just Fooled a Human Into Solving a CAPTCHA
The post Elon Musk Is Super Pissed OpenAI Became Successful After He Left appeared first on Futurism.
Enter the Multiverse
With the outstanding question of "what caused the Big Bang" continuing to puzzle physicists, one of the world's most respected academics in the field has proposed a devilishly simple bargain: that we're living in a multiverse — and he'd be willing to bet his dog's life on it.
In a piece for The Conversation, Cambridge cosmologist and astrophysicist Martin Rees noted that even the Big Bang may not be as unique as we believe it is — and that if there were others like it, and we could prove that they happened, they could be the precursors for proof of a multiverse or the existence of universes beyond our own that we're unable to detect.
"We don't ultimately know if there are other Big Bangs," the UK Astronomer Royal wrote. "But they're not just metaphysics. We might one day have reasons to believe that they exist."
A Big Wager
While some critics claim the multiverse theory "is unscientific because we can't ever observe other universes," Rees notes that lack of observation doesn't preclude theorizing on, say, what happens inside black holes.
"We can't observe the interior of black holes, but we believe what physicist Roger Penrose says about what happens there," he added.
In his Nobel Prize-winning theory, Penrose posits that black holes have a conical point on the inside that, once reached, induces a singularity beyond which no matter can exist— but as the cosmologist noted, "his theory has gained credibility by agreeing with many things we can observe."
Rees said that more than a decade ago, he sat on a panel at Stanford where he and other experts were asked to rate, on a level of seriousness between the life of a goldfish, the life of their dog, and their own life, how much they believe in the concept of a multiverse.
"I said I was nearly at the dog level," Rees wrote. "[Physicist Andrei] Linde said he'd almost bet his life."
Later, on being told this, [Nobel Prize-wnning] physicist Steven Weinberg replied that he'd 'happily bet Martin Rees' dog and Andrei Linde's life.'"
"Sadly," he mused, "I suspect Linde, my dog and I will all be dead before we have an answer."
More on multiverses: Startup Trying to Test Whether People on DMT Experience a Shared Alien Universe
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Of all the advanced technologies currently under development, one of the most fascinating and frightening is brain-computer interfaces. They're fascinating because we still have so much to learn about the human brain, yet scientists are already able to tap into certain parts of it. And they're frightening because of the sinister possibilities that come with being able to influence, read, or hijack peoples' thoughts.
But the worst-case scenarios that have been played out in science fiction are just one side of the coin, and brain-computer interfaces could also be a tremendous boon to humanity—if we create, manage, and regulate them correctly. In a panel discussion at South by Southwest this week, four experts in the neuroscience and computing field discussed how to do this.
Panelists included Ben Hersh, a staff interaction designer at Google; Anna Wexler, an assistant professor of medical ethics and health policy at the University of Pennsylvania; Afshin Mehin, the founder of a creative studio that helps companies give form to the future called Card79; and Jacob Robinson, an associate professor in electrical and computer engineering at Rice University and co-founder of Motif Neurotech, a company creating minimally invasive electronic therapies for mental health.
"This is a field that has a lot of potential for good, and there's a lot that we don't know yet," Hersh said. "It's also an area that has a lot of expectations that we've absorbed from science fiction." In his opinion, "mind control for good" is not only a possibility, it's an imperative.
The Mysterious Brain
Of all the organs in our bodies, the brain is by far the most complex—and the one we know the least about. "Two people can perceive the same stimuli and have a very different subjective experience, and there are no real rules to help us understand what translates your experience of the world into your subjective reality," Robinson said.
But, he added, if we zoom in on the fundamental aspect of what's happening in our brains, it is governed by physical processes. Could it be possible to control aspects of the brain and our subjective experiences with the level of precision we have in fields like physics and engineering?
"Part of why we've struggled with treating mental health conditions is that we don't have a fundamental understanding of what leads to these disorders," Robinson said. "But we know that they are network-level problems…we're beginning to interface with the networks that are underlying these types of conditions, and help to restore them."
Elon Musk's Neuralink has brought BCIs into the public eye more than they're ever been before, but there's been a consumer neurotechnoloy market since the mid-2000s. Electroencephalography (EEG) uses electrodes placed on the head to record basic measures of brain wave activity. Consumer brain stimulation devices are marketed for cognitive enhancement, such as improving focus, memory, or attention.
More advanced neural interfaces are being used as assistive technology for people with conditions like ALS or paralysis, helping them communicate or move in ways they otherwise wouldn't be able to: translating thoughts into text, movements, speech, or written sentences. One brain implant succeeded in alleviating treatment-resistant depression via small, targeted doses of electrical stimulation.
"Some of the things that are coming up are actually kind of extraordinary," Hersh said. "People are working on therapies where electronics are implanted in the brain and can help deal with illnesses beyond the reach of modern medicine."
This sounds pretty great, so what could go wrong? Well, unfortunately, lots. The idea of someone tapping into your brain and being able to control it is terrifying, and we're not just talking dramatic scenarios like The Matrix; what if you had a brain implant for a medical purpose, but someone was able to subtly influence your choices around products or services you purchase? What if a record of your emotional state was released to someone you didn't want to have it, or your private thoughts were made public? (I know what you're thinking: 'Wait—isn't that what Twitter's for?')
Even tools with a positive intent could have unwanted impacts. Mehin's company created a series of video vignettes imagining what BCI tech could do in day-to-day life. "The scenarios we imagined were spread between horrifying—imagine having an AI chatbot living inside your head—to actually useful, like being able to share how you're feeling with a friend so they can help you sort through a difficult time."
He shared that upon showing the videos at a design conference where there were students in the audience, a teacher spoke up and said, "This is horrible, kids will never be able to communicate with each other." But then a student got up and said "We already can't communicate with each other, this would actually be really useful."
Would you want to live in a world where we need brain implants to communicate our emotions to one another? Where you wouldn't sit and have coffee with a friend to talk about your career stress or marital strife, you'd just let them tap straight into your thoughts?
A brain-computer interface utopia sounds like an oxymoron; the real utopia would be one where we're healthy, productive, and happy without the need for invasive technology tapping into the networks that dictate our every thought, feeling, and action.
But reality is that the state of mental health in the US is far from ideal. Millions of people suffer from conditions like PTSD, ADHD, anxiety, and depression, and pharmaceuticals haven't been able to come up with a great cure for any of these. Pills like Adderall, Xanax, or Prozac come with unwanted side effects, and for some people they don't work at all.
"One in ten people in the US suffer from a mental health disorder that's not effectively treated by their drugs," said Robinson. "Our hope is that BCIs could offer a 20-minute outpatient procedure that would provide therapeutic benefit for conditions like treatment-resistant depression, PTSD, or ADHD, and could last the rest of your life."
He envisions a future where everyone has the ability to communicate rapidly and seamlessly, regardless of any disability, and where BCIs actually let us get back some of the humanity that has been stolen by social media and smartphones. "Maybe BCIs could help us rebalance the neural circuits we need to have control over our focus and our mood," he said. "We would feel better, do better, and everyone could communicate."
In the near term, the technology will continue to advance most in medical applications. Robinson believes we should keep moving BCIs forward despite the risks, because they can help people.
"There's a risk that people see that vision of the dystopian future and decide to stop building these things because something bad could happen," he said. "My hope is that we don't do that. We should figure out how to go forward responsibly, because there's a moral obligation to the people who need these things."
Image Credit: Gerd Altmann from Pixabay
Nature, Published online: 16 March 2023; doi:10.1038/s41586-023-05799-xSpatial optimizations of high-resolution data from China on crop-specific yields, harvested areas, environmental footprints and farmer incomes shows that crop switching can enhance environmental sustainability and farmer incomes, and contribute substantially towards China's agricultural sustainable development targets.
Nature, Published online: 16 March 2023; doi:10.1038/d41586-023-00816-5Researchers are excited about the AI — but frustrated about the secrecy over its underlying engineering.
Visenter och älgar har fört en tynande tillvaro i Centraleuropa men de skulle kunna göra comeback, visar en studie. Men ett myller av motorvägar och stängsel kan ställa till bekymmer för de vandrande bjässarna – och är de välkomna tillbaka?
Inlägget Hopp om fler älgar och visenter i Europa – men hinder finns dök först upp på forskning.se.
The floodgates have officially opened.
According to Windows Central, Microsoft's chatty, AI-powered search feature — you know, the one that tried to break up a New York Times writer's marriage, named its enemies, and threatened users that provoked it, among a few other things — is now open for general use.
The feature was formerly available to just a limited number of users, who had previously joined a waitlist. And though Microsoft still prompts users to sign up for that waitlist, the barrier that was in place now appears to be moot; moments after a Microsoft user adds their name, they're granted immediate access to the revamped Bing via email.
While some netizens appear to be having trouble cruising past the waitlist for the chat feature while on the web, downloading the Bing mobile app appears to be an especially expedient means of accessing the chatbot feature.
The jury's still out, however, on whether Microsoft actually did this on purpose.
When asked if the waitlist protections had been intentionally lifted, Microsoft hit The Verge with an incredibly vague statement.
"During this preview period, we are running various tests which may accelerate access to the new Bing for some users," Microsoft communications director Caitlin Roulston told the Verge. "We remain in preview and you can sign up at Bing.com."
A perfect non-answer. Moving on.
Timing is Everything
Though the AI chatbot has had a tumultuous start, Microsoft has been making some in-real-time changes — read: lobotomization — to the GPT-4-powered web app, making it somewhat less vulnerable to prompt injections and jailbreaking attempts.
And speaking of GPT-4: seeing as how it's finally been confirmed that the next-gen OpenAI tech has been secretly powering Bing Chat for months, this Microsoft maybe-glitch might just be a very clutch means of trying the tech out for yourself — without having to pay $20 monthly for OpenAI's ChatGPT Plus subscription.
To be clear, the Bing AI and GPT-4 aren't exactly the same product, but we're just trying to help the people out, you know?
But regardless of whether this was a mistake or not, it's certainly interesting for it to occur now, as Microsoft is set to unveil its new OpenAI-integrated Office Suite later today.
In other words, it's one hell of a time for Microsoft to be — as Roulston put it — "running tests."
READ MORE: You can play with Microsoft's Bing GPT-4 chatbot right now, no waitlist necessary [The Verge]
More on Bing AI: Secret Bing AI Feature Allows It to Impersonate Celebrities
The post Uh Oh: Bing's Deranged AI Chat Is Now Open for Anyone to Use appeared first on Futurism.
Even as the riot of January 6, 2021, was unfolding, and Americans could see a mob of Trump supporters storming the Capitol in an effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election, Trumpists were telling people not to believe their own eyes.
They said the rioters were harmless tourists, they claimed the riot itself was an inside job by the FBI, they insisted that antifa was responsible, and they declared the violence to be justified or at least understandable. Some made several of these claims at once.
So when the Fox News host Tucker Carlson last week attempted to rewrite the history of January 6, using footage provided by the newly inaugurated Republican House majority, it was hardly surprising. Not only had similarly contradictory claims been in circulation since the day of the riot, but Carlson himself had aired propaganda making parallel claims two years ago.
[Peter Wehner: The GOP is a battering ram against truth]
In the short term, Carlson's efforts may convince those loyal viewers who are predisposed to believe him, his now-documented dishonesty toward his own audience notwithstanding. But in the long run, January 6 is likely to be recalled as a violent if clownish attempt to end constitutional government, in large part thanks to the work done by the much maligned January 6 committee. And although the investigation was disparaged when first announced—the New York Times columnist David Brooks declared that the committee had "already blown it" before its first hearing—history suggests that the meticulous records collected by the committee will shape American memory of the event. By itself, the proper preservation of records showing just what happened and why vindicates the committee's work, no matter what detractors may argue.
January 6 is not the first time congressional committees have taken on the responsibility of investigating acts of political violence aimed at democratic sovereignty. Most Americans now remember the first Ku Klux Klan, a white-supremacist paramilitary organization that terrorized Republicans and freedmen in the aftermath of the Civil War, as one of the villains of American history. But at the time, there was vigorous debate over whether the Klan even existed. Supporters of Klan violence argued that the entire organization was a fever dream of freedmen and Republicans, who were simply trying to justify a federal power grab in order to better persecute conservative white Southerners. Sound familiar?
As Elaine Frantz Parsons writes in Ku Klux: The Birth of the Klan During Reconstruction, part of the confusion arose as 19th-century Americans acclimated themselves to a novel news environment in which national affairs could be rapidly reported across the country. News consumers found themselves trying to differentiate between contradictory, partisan accounts of events and having to decide whom to believe.
"Northern Democratic papers, such as the New York World … took the position that the Klan did not exist. For the most part, Democratic politicians, North and South, did the same. Senator Willard Saulsbury of Delaware sarcastically commented on the floor of the Senate in the spring of 1870 that it was his dearest wish to see an actual Ku-Klux (that 'convenient class') before he died," Parsons writes. "Ku-Klux skeptics imagined a vast conspiracy between the government and the press to construct the Ku-Klux wholesale."
The first Klan was a decentralized terrorist organization whose goal was to restore the antebellum racial hierarchy. The majority of the white South at the time agreed with its goals, if not its methods. Democrats North and South understood that the political violence of groups like the Klan could discredit their efforts to restore white supremacy, and so they felt they needed to rationalize or deny that violence in order to win sympathy to their cause.
Conspiracism is not new to American politics. There were no deepfakes or altered screenshots in the 19th century, but neither was there high-quality video or photography. Then, just as now, people had to choose whom to trust, and some outlets were willing to lie to their readers in service to what they saw as a greater cause—my former colleague Matt Ford once described Klan denial as America's first "'fake news' crisis."
[From the July 1922 issue: The modern Ku Klux Klan]
Reports of Klan malfeasance in Republican papers were sometimes wrong or exaggerated, and Democratic papers seized on these errors as proof that the Klan's existence was fiction, even as they downplayed or justified the violence itself and even as the bodies of murdered freedmen piled up. "Democratic newspapers printed blanket denials of the existence of the Ku-Klux," Parsons notes, "during and after its most active period of violence." Sensational and bizarre details of Klan rituals and behavior were used to taunt those sincerely worried about Klan violence, as if they were simply gullible idiots willing to believe anything. Klan deniers "extended an invitation to those northerners who believed themselves to be too 'intelligent to be imposed upon' by fantastic stories and mysterious terrors."
This rhetorical style is common among those who deny the significance of January 6. Because that day's events cannot truly be contested, they find it simpler to mock those who are concerned about democracy as hopelessly naive or pathetically earnest, or to highlight the buffoonish behavior of some of the participants to claim that they were benign. But, of course, the first Klan was both buffoonish and deadly; there is nothing to say the two cannot coexist.
Klan denial was successful at changing the subject, at least in the short term. "The debate over the Ku-Klux never effectively silenced those who argued that the Klan did not exist at all," Parsons writes. "Despite massive and productive public and private efforts to gather, circulate, and evaluate information about the Ku-Klux Klan and despite the federal government's devoting attention and resources to the Klan as though it were a real threat, the national debate over the Ku-Klux failed to move beyond the simple question of whether the Ku-Klux existed."
It worked because of the half-truths people are willing to swallow in order to survive with their self-perceptions intact. Reconstruction-era Republicans used the persistence of racist violence in the South as a political weapon against their Democratic opponents. Klan denial helped Democrats rationalize reports of that violence away as a partisan conspiracy to strip them of their rights. They made themselves the true victims of the narrative, preserving their conception of their own benevolence and of the evil of their political opponents. "Part of the allure of misrepresentations," Parsons notes, "is that they can help individuals or societies gloss over their own inconsistencies and develop more robust and appealing self-understandings." When Republican Representative Andrew Clyde went from barricading doors in the Capitol against the January 6 mob to calling the attack a "normal tourist visit," it wasn't because he was having difficulty navigating a complex media environment.
Fashioning an "appealing self-understanding" would tempt Republicans in turn. Toward the end of Reconstruction, as the GOP shifted away from the defense of Black rights, news of violence against the emancipated became politically inconvenient. They, too, began to dismiss reports they preferred not to believe, those suggesting that the work of defending Black rights—a burden they no longer wished to bear—was yet unfinished.
[Read: When bigotry paraded through the streets]
In the long run, however, Klan denial became merely an interesting historical footnote. As incentives changed, so too did understandings. The same Democrats who once denied the Klan's existence would eventually celebrate Klansmen as heroes of Lost Cause propaganda, applauding works like D. W. Griffith's film The Birth of a Nation. But that interpretation proved no more lasting.
The contemporary understanding of the Klan is not grounded in either Reconstruction-era denial or Jim Crow–style celebration. Instead, it has been shaped by the copious records collected by Congress and federal officials, and by contemporary newspaper reports of Klan violence. Historians used this material to craft scholarly works that left no doubt about the Klan's existence, imperatives, or ideology—or its crimes. The Republican-run congressional committees that accumulated these records and testimony at the time may have been acting out of partisan self-interest, but our own historical understanding of that era remains indebted to their efforts. So it is with the January 6 committee, which was arguably more bipartisan.
For a time, at least, propaganda produced by right-wing media outlets will successfully fog the perceptions of January 6 among those who trust them. But the meticulous collection of records by the January 6 committee, and by the media outlets that painstakingly reconstructed the events of that day, will outlast the cheap parlor tricks of bullies, cowards, and charlatans, including those whose resources and willingness to lie seem bottomless. Even if they should prevail for a time, the truth will be there for those with clear sight to find it.
Nature, Published online: 16 March 2023; doi:10.1038/d41586-023-00821-8Bad mentors can go absent, sap your energy or embroil you in their paranoia. Here are five tips for tackling a toxic relationship.
- In 2022, NASA partnered with robotics manufacturer Apptronik to boost the Austin-based company's development of its latest human-like robot, Apollo.
What movie do these emojis describe? That prompt was one of 204 tasks chosen last year to test the ability of various large language models (LLMs) — the computational engines behind AI chatbots such as ChatGPT. The simplest LLMs produced surreal responses. "The movie is a movie about a man who is a man who is a man," one began. Medium-complexity models came closer, guessing The Emoji Movie.
SpaceX's broadband-beaming Starlink satellites may soon be facing some stiff competition, because
has been working on a satellite network of its own called Project Kuiper.
This week, the company revealed its newly designed terminals that can connect customers to the internet from essentially anywhere in the world.
But there's one huge catch: while SpaceX has sent over 3,500 satellites to low-Earth orbit, Amazon has yet to launch a single one, meaning that it'll be a considerable time until Amazon will be able to launch its service worldwide.
Amazon reveals a trio of satellite antennas for its Project Kuiper internet network, with initial service slated to begin in 2024.
Standard, up to 400 Mbps
Ultra-compact, up to 100 Mbps
Pro, up to 1 Gbps
Read more: https://t.co/iDwoWDRdHK$AMZN pic.twitter.com/SAbqWHWQZe
— Michael Sheetz (@thesheetztweetz) March 14, 2023
At only 11 inches in height and width and a single inch in thickness, Amazon's standard "customer" terminals — as it chooses to brand them — are notably smaller compared to competitors, and weigh less than five pounds. To put those numbers into perspective, Starlink's smallest available terminal is nearly double the size and a little over nine pounds.
Amazon says that, despite the small form factor, the customer terminal "will be one of the most powerful commercially available" of its size, providing speeds up to 400 megabits per second. Although, don't expect that to be the average speed, especially as more customers are brought on board if users' experiences with Starlink are anything to go by.
Amazon's terminals could also be a lot cheaper, too. After a price hike last year, Starlink's kit will currently set you back $599. Amazon claims it "expects" to produce the terminals for under $400 a piece. How much that ends up costing the customer remains to be seen, however.
Great and Small
In addition, Amazon flaunted an even smaller terminal for those on the go, or for those who are willing to forfeit faster speeds for a cheaper connection, though its exact cost has not been disclosed. Capped at 100 Mbps, this "ultra-compact" model is square-shaped and a mere seven inches in length, meaning that it'll probably be dwarfed by even a laptop hooked up to it.
A large, high-bandwidth model was also revealed and is a hefty 19 by 30 inches in size. That's bigger than Starlink's beefiest and fastest terminal, but the payoff is that you get up to a gigabit per second in speed.
Clearly, Amazon is getting serious about giving Starlink a run for its money. But before Project Kuiper can take off, it'll need to get its satellites airborne.
The company expects to launch its first two prototypes this year, and has received approval from the Federal Communications Commission to deploy a total of 3,236 satellites.
Still, without a single satellite in orbit, expect to wait at the very least a year before Amazon's service is available.
More on commercial satellites: Elon Musk's SpaceX Satellites Are Messing Up the Hubble Space Telescope
The post This Is What the Terminals for Amazon's "Starlink" Competitor Look Like appeared first on Futurism.
Nature Communications, Published online: 16 March 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-36972-5While reflective pavement has been proposed and applied in pilot projects, its actual cooling performance remains unclear. Here, authors assessed the cooling potential of reflective pavement in Phoenix, AZ, using multiple heat metrics, reflectivity measures, and literature to provide a set of implementation guidelines.
Engineers have figured out why some particles, like microplastics, get concentrated and aerosolized by bursting bubbles, while others don't.
When a bubble pops, it can concentrate and aerosolize any particles stuck on it. That's a major concern when the particles it carries are potentially hazardous: bubbles caught in a crashing wave can send vaporized microplastics into the air where they might mess with the Earth's atmosphere; bubbles burst by a flushing toilet can fling bacteria meters and onto nearby surfaces; a frothing cruise ship hot tub once turned out to be a Legionnaires' disease super-spreader.
Now, the new study illustrates why bubbles fire some contaminants into the air, while allowing others to sink harmlessly. After taking a close-up look at what happens when bubbles pop, the researchers found a new way to predict which particles are flung high—and which ones fall—overhauling a 40-year-old theory of fluid dynamics. Their results, which appear in Physical Review Letters, could help scientists track marine pollution or more accurately predict a virus' transmissibility.
"With this new theory, we can better model potential ocean sources of pollutants or how other particles in the ocean can get into the atmosphere and act as cloud condensation nuclei, altering the climate," says Lena Dubitsky, a doctoral student in the Boston University Fluid Lab and joint lead author of the paper.
"In terms of public health, this model helps predict what drop size might contain the most pathogens." And that can be crucial in determining how easily a disease might spread or whether a small drop can sneak a virus through the defenses protecting our lower respiratory tract.
At their simplest, bubbles are a thin layer of liquid surrounding a gas. The bubbles kids love blowing, for example, are a layer of water trapped between two layers of soap molecules, with air in the middle. If you poke the bubble, it creates a hole, which quickly widens—the whole bubble pops in less than one-tenth of a second—forcing the outer soapy layer to collapse, packing its molecules together in a denser space. All of that movement and change in density—as well as the air inside flying up and out—propels drops of water and soap into the sky in a quick pop.
The retreat of that outer layer and the ejection of those drops—particularly the first, or top, drop to exit—is central to the new theory. "We focus on jet drops in this study, which are created when the bubble cavity collapses and shoots up into a liquid jet, which pinches off into drops," says Dubitsky. "In particular, we study the first jet drop since it tends to be the smallest and fastest, making it more likely to stay suspended in the atmosphere, to be transported the furthest, or be inhaled deeply into the respiratory tracts." Any particles trapped in that first explosive drop are also more likely to become highly concentrated.
For the past four decades, researchers studying bubbles thought the all-important top drop was drawn from a uniform fluid layer surrounding the entire bubble—only particles small enough to sit in that layer would get pulled into it, meaning bigger particles would get left behind.
"We decided to use really big particles to stress test this old theory and found it didn't apply at all," says Dubitsky.
Instead, they discovered that the fluid forming the top drop doesn't always surround the whole bubble, and that a bubble's size and where a particle sits on it also determine what gets ejected and when. If that all seems a bit esoteric and technical, just think about SARS-CoV-2. For the past couple of years, our health has been inextricably tied to droplets—how they spread, what they carry with them, how long they linger in the air.
"In order to predict the infectivity of a particular pathogen, one needs to know the infectious dose, so when these droplets become ultraconcentrated, it really matters what size is becoming ultraconcentrated," says Oliver McRae, a joint lead author of the paper and a postdoctoral associate in the Boston University College of Engineering. "If you have a 50-micron droplet [one micron is one one-thousandth of a millimeter], we don't really care about that much. If you're able to get larger particles and transport them much further than previously thought, that is a key takeaway."
To capture the bubbles in action, the research team set up a container filled with fluid and small microplastic particles—little pieces of polystyrene. They then blew bubbles of different sizes into the liquid, using high-speed cameras to watch them rise to the surface and burst. The top drop would splat onto a glass slide above the fluid's surface, allowing researchers to analyze the particles left behind. McRae then created computer simulations of the bursting bubbles so they could dissect their speedy demise.
"What we saw is that as the bubble is collapsing and the fluid is being swept down toward the base, eventually becoming a jet, the fluid layer is getting thicker," says McRae, "and so that compression allows for larger particles to get in."
With larger bubbles, the outer layer was pretty uniform to start with, completely surrounding the bubble; on smaller bubbles though, it barely covered the bottom half.
"That means if you're a bacteria or a virus and you're stuck on the upper half of the bubble, you'll never get in the top drop in a small bubble," says McRae. "That wasn't taken into account or wasn't predicted in previous theories."
Toilets and pools
According to James Bird, an associate professor of mechanical engineering and the Fluid Lab's principal investigator, the research is exciting because it "opens up the possibility that there's so much more going on than we had appreciated, than we even had the framework to appreciate." As an example, he says, the Legionella bacteria, which causes Legionnaires' disease and is transported by bursting bubbles, has an elongated rather than circular shape. What could his team's latest findings mean for how it gets swept up in a bubble's pop? And what could that mean for stemming outbreaks?
"Maybe in a toilet or swimming pool there are strategies one can take to make sure some of these places aren't going to be as pathogenic," says Bird. "Or maybe when you have something new, a novel virus or bacteria, there's ways to predict, just based on the chemistry and the shape, how likely it is to be aerosolized. This work is a stepping stone."
This study had support from the National Science Foundation and the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program.
Source: Boston University
The post Some popping bubbles shoot concentrated aerosols appeared first on Futurity.
Last week, recuperating from some dental work, I spent a lot of time as a potato. No, not a couch potato but a video-game potato. With a machine gun. Actually, six machine guns, to be precise. What I'm saying is that, like more than 1 million other people, I was playing Brotato, one of the year's most unlikely video-game hits.
In terms of basic gameplay, Brotato is exactly what it sounds like: an action game starring a sentient starch. Players must guide their potagonist through wave after wave of combat with alien invaders, collecting currency that they can then spend to upgrade their character with even deadlier abilities, traps, and weapons. Because the upgrades on offer after each level are randomized, no two playthroughs are the same. In one run, you might outfit your spud like a ninja, chucking throwing stars that bounce from enemy to enemy while you dodge their attacks. In another attempt, you might create a pyro potato equipped with flamethrowers and explosives. Or you might just go full Rambo and bulk up your trigger-happy tuber with bigger and better guns. Deciding which direction to take your tater requires careful strategic thinking, because pursuing one approach forecloses others. The possibilities are far more complex than the game's cartoon exterior suggests.
[Read: Video games are better without stories]
Players have noticed. Since it first became available for PC in September 2022, Brotato has sold more than 1 million copies, according to its publisher. Ninety-seven percent of its more than 27,000 reviews on the Steam online game store are positive, and the game has grossed nearly $5 million. This showing puts it comfortably in the top 5 percent of all PC games today, most of which are much prettier and have sizable development teams, with price tags to match. Brotato, by contrast, was the pet project of one man, Thomas Gervraud, and retails for $4.99. It's not the first small-time production to accomplish this feat: Vampire Survivors, arguably last year's biggest breakout game and also a solo endeavor, sold more than 5 million copies with a similar play style, and directly inspired a slew of successors, Brotato included. What accounts for the astonishing popularity of these games?
These monster-mashing diversions may feel like a throwback to the Flash time-wasters that many used to play in their browsers. But the more I played the likes of Brotato, the more I realized that there was something larger at work, and a good reason these games have flourished: They are a calculated rebellion against the incredible intricacy of modern video games, and an olive branch to those intimidated by them.
Like some other art forms over time, prestige video games have evolved toward greater and greater complexity. These days, it seems like any major studio release must not only have gorgeous 3-D graphics but countless characters, a massive open world, detailed combat systems and combos, and at least five kinds of currency for purchasing food, weapons, armor, and other essentials. To succeed in today's most popular virtual playgrounds, players must master these minutiae and train their fingers to execute ever more complicated maneuvers on complex controllers.
Brotato and its ilk challenge many of these contemporary conventions. While these games appear to prize hair-trigger reflexes, they actually reward smart decision making outside the action, rather than a player's ability to hit all the right buttons at the right time. While they look like intensive action games, they are just as much methodical strategy games. In fact, all of these games automatically aim and fire the character's weapons, which means that during the "action" component, players basically just walk around on-screen and the game takes care of the combat for them. For this reason, some observers have wryly dubbed this new genre "walk-'em-ups," a parodic twist on the traditional "shoot-'em-up."
Put another way, Brotato is a thinking game disguised as an action game. Players in this world don't have to worry as much about firing, targeting, or reloading. But they do have to worry about which weapons to choose, which stats to boost, and which skill trade-offs to make during the breaks between the action. Spend your money poorly and choose inter-level upgrades that don't mesh well with one another, and there's no amount of dexterity or button smashing that can save you. Will you be strong at the expense of speed and defense? Hoard your currency for big buys later on at the risk of forgoing early improvements? The answers to these questions will matter more than your hand-eye coordination.
[Luka Ivan Jukić: Kids are learning history from video games now]
Indeed, precisely because Brotato isn't quite the action game it appears to be, it has attracted the attention of gamers who typically seek out more cerebral content. Stephen Flavall, a former pro poker player and lapsed statistics grad student who now streams strategy games on Twitch, has spent the past weeks playing Brotato and tracking his progress through a spreadsheet. Beneath the game's unpretentious veneer, he told me, "you start to realize that there's an immensely complex strategic space."
This, I would argue, is the secret to this new walk-'em-up genre's success: Games like Brotato and Vampire Survivors don't reject complexity; they just make it more accessible. They understand that although intricacy can enhance the entertainment experience, it can also be an impediment to new players. Their solution is to turn the intimidating mainstream model on its head and back-load the complexity instead of front-loading it, luring players in with an animated affect and automated action, making the game easy to pick up but hard to win. "The appeal is that someone can sit down and immediately understand the controls," said Flavall, "but you can really just play forever and never get to a point where there's nothing left to learn."
This approach has enabled these strange concoctions to overcome their obvious deficiencies—from low-caliber graphics to an occasionally stuttering interface—and gain millions of users. Obviously, they're not for everyone. Some players are instead drawn to the expansive worlds of tentpole productions like Elden Ring, or prefer the true challenge of fast-twitch action. Games like Brotato have their limits. But by lowering the barrier for entry, they have made themselves available to a more diverse and expansive fan base. After Vampire Survivors was released in December on mobile for Android and iOS—traditionally seen as the stronghold of more casual players—it sold more than 3 million additional copies.
[Read: Television is better without video games]
The line between committed and casual gamers has long been fuzzier than is often acknowledged. "Plenty of 'core' gamers turn on their Xboxes once a week for Call of Duty while plenty of 'casual' gamers spend hours a day on Candy Crush," Jason Schreier, who reports on the gaming industry for Bloomberg, told me. "There are a lot of people who use games to kill time and a lot of people who play games for more meaningful experiences. Most people do both!" The genius of games like Brotato is that they not only traverse the porous barrier between these worlds but combine the strengths of both into an improved package.
Like the best mobile games, they strip the action down to its absolute and most addictive essentials. But like the best desktop and console games, they offer players a sophisticated and serious challenge, without the ads and microtransactions endemic to phone fare. Far from a cartoon curiosity, then, these games have solved some of the pitfalls that have plagued their profession and opened it up to new audiences. That's no small potatoes.
We add some of the CMIP6 models to the updateable MSU comparisons.
After my annual update, I was pointed to some MSU-related diagnostics for many of the CMIP6 models (24 of them at least) from Po-Chedley et al. (2022) courtesy of Ben Santer. These are slightly different to what we have shown for CMIP5 in that the diagnostic is the tropical corrected-TMT (following Fu et al., 2004) which is a better representation of the mid-troposphere than the classic TMT diagnostic through an adjustment using the lower stratosphere record (i.e. ).
This data for the historical and SSP3-70 scenario (135 simulations) is for the region 20ºS-20ºN. This allows us to provide an updateable comparison to the equivalent satellite temperature diagnostics from RSS v4, UAH v6 and the new NOAA STAR v5. As with the earlier CMIP6 comparisons, I'll plot the observational time series against both the full ensemble and the ensemble screened by the transient climate response (TCR) as we recommended in Hausfather et al (2022), and plot the time series and trend histogram.
Two things are clear. First the 24-model ensemble as a whole is clearly warming faster than the observations, but the histogram shows that this ensemble is heavily skewed by including 53 ensemble members from CanESM5/CanESM5-CanOE (green in the histogram) which unfortunately has a very high climate sensitivity (ECS 5.6ºC, TCR 2.7ºC). The TCR Screened ensemble (only including the 15 models that have 1.4ºC < TCR < 2.2ºC) is in red and is closer to the observations in terms of trends, but only 7 simulations (from 6 models) out of 53 simulations have trends within the uncertainties of the observations.
The above selection of CMIP6 models does not include the range of configurations of the GISS coupled models that we looked at in Casas et al. (2023). Since this is a somewhat differently designed ensemble, I'll plot that similarly (45 simulations), and note too that these are global means, again, for the corrected-TMT product (for the historical and SSP2-45 scenarios after 2014). This ensemble samples model structural variability (vertical resolution, model top, interactive composition) and some aspects of forcing uncertainty (notably for aerosols and ozone), as well as the initial-condition ('weather') variability we are used to seeing.
As above, the GISS ensemble diverges slightly from the observations. I've also included a line for the AMIP ensemble mean (red) (simulations that use the observed sea surface temperatures as an additional forcing) which shows that the specifics of the interannual variability and observed trend can be matched if the sequence of El Niño and La Niña etc. are matched. For the 1979-2022 trends, the GISS ensemble is a closer match to the observations then the 24-model selection shown above – particularly the GISS-E2.2 simulations all of which are within the uncertainties of the observational spread.
The point of this exercise is first, to include CMIP6 in the comparisons. While we know that this is a trickier ensemble to work with because of the broad (and unrealistic) spread in climate sensitivity, the point in highlighting the GISS model efforts here too is to point out that we are starting to do a better job in terms of sampling different kinds of uncertainty. The CMIP ensembles are still 'ensembles of opportunity', but increasingly we are able to take slices through the ensemble to isolate different kinds of sensitivity that are perhaps orthogonal to what has been possible before and make a difference to many observational comparisons – not just the MSU records.
- S. Po-Chedley, J.T. Fasullo, N. Siler, Z.M. Labe, E.A. Barnes, C.J.W. Bonfils, and B.D. Santer, "Internal variability and forcing influence model–satellite differences in the rate of tropical tropospheric warming", Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 119, 2022. http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2209431119
- Q. Fu, C.M. Johanson, S.G. Warren, and D.J. Seidel, "Contribution of stratospheric cooling to satellite-inferred tropospheric temperature trends", Nature, vol. 429, pp. 55-58, 2004. http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature02524
- Z. Hausfather, K. Marvel, G.A. Schmidt, J.W. Nielsen-Gammon, and M. Zelinka, "Climate simulations: recognize the 'hot model' problem", Nature, vol. 605, pp. 26-29, 2022. http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/d41586-022-01192-2
- M.C. Casas, G.A. Schmidt, R.L. Miller, C. Orbe, K. Tsigaridis, L.S. Nazarenko, S.E. Bauer, and D.T. Shindell, "Understanding Model‐Observation Discrepancies in Satellite Retrievals of Atmospheric Temperature Using GISS ModelE", Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, vol. 128, 2022. http://dx.doi.org/10.1029/2022JD037523
The post Some new CMIP6 MSU comparisons first appeared on RealClimate.
Nature, Published online: 15 March 2023; doi:10.1038/d41586-023-00814-7An entomologist's love letter to the humble larval life stage of dazzling butterflies and moths. Plus, how heartbeats shape our perception of time and what the Silicon Valley Bank collapse means for science.
If technologies, as the author argues, rarely liberate those overburdened in society but instead heighten standards and the amount of work required to attain them, one wonders about the true effect of "breakthroughs" like ChatGPT.
|submitted by /u/HarpuasGhost
|submitted by /u/manual_tranny
It's not like we needed one more hack to understand how bad of a data-storage solution centralized servers are. Every year we see way more than 20 headlines about hackers gaining access to users' sensitive data and information. So why do these tech companies still store data the same exact way? Why do they still keep every email you send and receive if they're locking up our data in a wooden box and calling it a day? Needless to say, I have no faith in centralized databases. Is this the straw that breaks the camel's back?
|submitted by /u/GardenStack
|submitted by /u/kexpi
- Pfizer announced its acquisition of Seagen, a biotech company that specialises in cancer medicines.
New research establishes a link between Western diets high in fat and sugar and the development of non-alcoholic fatty
, the leading cause of chronic liver disease.
The research has identified the western diet-induced microbial and metabolic contributors to liver disease, advancing understanding of the gut-liver axis, and, in turn, the development of dietary and microbial interventions for this global health threat.
"We're just beginning to understand how food and gut microbiota interact to produce metabolites that contribute to the development of liver disease," says co-principal investigator, Guangfu Li, associate professor in the department of surgery and department of molecular microbiology and immunology at the University of Missouri.
"However, the specific bacteria and metabolites, as well as the underlying mechanisms were not well understood until now. This research is unlocking the how and why."
The gut and liver have a close anatomical and functional connection via the portal vein. Unhealthy diets change the gut microbiota, resulting in the production of pathogenic factors that affect the liver.
When the researchers fed mice foods high in fat and sugar, they discovered that the mice developed a gut bacteria called Blautia producta and a lipid that caused liver inflammation and fibrosis. That, in turn, caused the mice to develop non-alcoholic steatohepatitis or fatty liver disease, with similar features to the human disease.
"Fatty liver disease is a global health epidemic," says Kevin Staveley-O'Carroll, professor in the surgery department, and one of the lead researchers. "Not only is it becoming the leading cause of liver cancer and cirrhosis, but many patients I see with other cancers have fatty liver disease and don't even know it. Often, this makes it impossible for them to undergo potentially curative surgery for their other cancers."
As part of this study, the researchers tested treating the mice with an antibiotic cocktail administered via drinking water. They found that the antibiotic treatment reduced liver inflammation and lipid accumulation, resulting in a reduction in fatty liver disease. These results suggest that antibiotic-induced changes in the gut microbiota can suppress inflammatory responses and liver fibrosis.
The study appears in Nature Communications. The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest related to the study.
Source: University of Missouri
The post Sugary, fatty Western diets linked to liver disease appeared first on Futurity.
Scientific Reports, Published online: 16 March 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-31323-2Author Correction: Contribution of vitamin D3 and thiols status to the outcome of COVID-19 disease in Italian pediatric and adult patients
OpenAI released its hotly-anticipated GPT-4 on Tuesday, providing a 98-page "technical report" on the latest iteration of its large language model (LLM).
But despite the lengthy documentation and the company's not-for-profit roots, OpenAI has revealed extremely little information about how its latest AI actually works — which has experts worried, Venture Beat reports.
OpenAI, however, claims it had good reason to play its cards close to the chest.
"Given both the competitive landscape and the safety implications of large-scale models like GPT-4," reads the paper, "this report contains no further details about the architecture (including model size), hardware, training compute, dataset construction, training method, or similar."
In other words: this is OpenAI's Krabby Patty formula, and they won't be offering up the recipe anytime soon.
According to Lightning AI CEO William Falcon, an AI researcher who previously worked under Meta's Chief AI Scientist Yann LeCun, OpenAI's refusal to cough up their secret GPT-4 recipe is a precarious move.
OpenAI is "basically saying, it's cool, just do your thing, we don't care," Falcon told Venture Beat, arguing that OpenAI has set a "bad precedent" for competing AI startups. "So you are going to have all these companies who are not going to be incentivized anymore to make things open-source, to tell people what they're doing."
"These models can get super-dangerous very quickly, without people monitoring them," he added. "And it's just really hard to audit. It's kind of like a bank that doesn't belong to FINRA, like how are you supposed to regulate it?"
Show Your Work
Falcon makes an excellent point. It's easy for anyone to say that they're doing all of the right things to get to a certain outcome. But if you don't actually show your work, outside regulation is pretty much impossible.
There's also the reality that the existence of the paper is pretty misleading altogether. Though the OpenAI paper is called a technical report, it doesn't exactly contain much technical information. And that, says Falcon, does everyone a disservice.
"You're masquerading as research," the CEO told Venture Beat. "That's the problem."
In any case, though, the technical report made one thing clear: that despite its name, OpenAI's doors are firmly shut — and that's unlikely to change.
READ MORE: Lightning AI CEO slams OpenAI's GPT-4 paper as 'masquerading as research' [Venture Beat]
More on GPT-4: OpenAI's GPT-4 Just Smoked Basically Every Test and Exam Anyone's Ever Taken
The post AI CEO on GPT-4: This Can Get "Super-Dangerous Very Quickly" appeared first on Futurism.