Scientists Plan Huge European AI Hub To Compete With US

science - Posted On:2018-04-24 10:14:56 Source: slashdot

Leading scientists have drawn up plans for a vast multinational European institute devoted to world-class artificial intelligence (AI) research in a desperate bid to nurture and retain top talent in Europe. From a report: The new institute would be set up for similar reasons as Cern, the particle physics lab near Geneva, which was created after the second world war to rebuild European physics and reverse the brain drain of the brightest and best scientists to the US. Named the European Lab for Learning and Intelligent Systems, or Ellis, the proposed AI institute would have major centres in a handful of countries, the UK included, with each employing hundreds of computer engineers, mathematicians and other scientists with the express aim of keeping Europe at the forefront of AI research. In an open letter that urges governments to act, the scientists describe how Europe has not kept up with the US and China, where the vast majority of leading AI firms and universities are based. The letter adds that while a few "research hotspots" still exist in Europe, "virtually all of the top people in those places are continuously being pursued for recruitment by US companies." Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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On his first day, NASA’s new administrator sets an inclusive tone

Science - Posted On:2018-04-24 08:59:56 Source: arstechnica

During his lengthy confirmation process to become NASA's new administrator, Oklahoma conservative Jim Bridenstine got pilloried for being a divider rather than a uniter. Noting Bridenstine's attacks on Marco Rubio during the 2016 Presidential election, Florida Senator Bill Nelson characterized Bridenstine's politics as "divisive and extreme." Given that the space agency was apolitical, Nelson asked, “How do you keep NASA from being dragged down in a divisive political background?”

Nelson, a Democrat, was never satisfied with Bridenstine's answers, and opposed his nomination to become administrator until the end. As a result, so did the entire Democratic party, and this forced a tense, party-line vote on Bridenstine when in the past NASA administrators have largely been approved by unanimous consent.

Truthfully, no one knows how Bridenstine will lead NASA. Critics have painted him as a climate change denier and against gay rights. However, the former congressman stuck a moderate tone during his confirmation hearing, and as a pilot with a background in the US Navy, he has shown leadership on key aerospace issues during this five-and-a-half years in Congress.

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Interest in science, not ability, builds trust in climate science

Science - Posted On:2018-04-24 07:29:57 Source: arstechnica

Studies of how people perceive climate science paint a depressing picture—one in which ideology overwhelms evidence. Not only does opinion about the science break down along ideological lines, but knowledge of science seems to make matters worse, accentuating the partisan divide.

Those studies have always been somewhat dissatisfying, though, as they leave little room for anyone to dispassionately evaluate the evidence or voice trust in the researchers who have. And, in fact, they don't explain how exceptions come to exist—the significant conservative voices that are calling for action on climate change.

A study done by Matthew Motta of the University of Minnesota delves in to how people might escape ideological blinders. Motta found that people with a long-term interest in science tend to trust scientific authorities like NASA and the IPCC when it comes to climate, regardless of what their political persuasions may be. It's the latest result that indicates that a "scientific curiosity" can get people past their ideology.

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AI Trained on Images from Cosmological Simulations Surprisingly Successful at Classifying Real Galaxies in Hubble Images

science - Posted On:2018-04-23 17:15:00 Source: slashdot

A machine learning method which has been widely used in face recognition and other image- and speech-recognition applications, has shown promise in helping astronomers analyze images of galaxies and understand how they form and evolve. From a report: In a new study, accepted for publication in Astrophysical Journal and available online [PDF], researchers used computer simulations of galaxy formation to train a deep learning algorithm, which then proved surprisingly good at analyzing images of galaxies from the Hubble Space Telescope. The researchers used output from the simulations to generate mock images of simulated galaxies as they would look in observations by the Hubble Space Telescope. The mock images were used to train the deep learning system to recognize three key phases of galaxy evolution previously identified in the simulations. The researchers then gave the system a large set of actual Hubble images to classify. The results showed a remarkable level of consistency in the neural network's classifications of simulated and real galaxies. "We were not expecting it to be all that successful. I'm amazed at how powerful this is," said coauthor Joel Primack, professor emeritus of physics and a member of the Santa Cruz Institute for Particle Physics (SCIPP) at UC Santa Cruz. "We know the simulations have limitations, so we don't want to make too strong a claim. But we don't think this is just a lucky fluke." Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Was There a Civilization On Earth Before Humans?

science - Posted On:2018-04-23 15:15:00 Source: slashdot

Adam Frank, writing for The Atlantic: We're used to imagining extinct civilizations in terms of the sunken statues and subterranean ruins. These kinds of artifacts of previous societies are fine if you're only interested in timescales of a few thousands of years. But once you roll the clock back to tens of millions or hundreds of millions of years, things get more complicated. When it comes to direct evidence of an industrial civilization -- things like cities, factories, and roads -- the geologic record doesn't go back past what's called the Quaternary period 2.6 million years ago. For example, the oldest large-scale stretch of ancient surface lies in the Negev Desert. It's "just" 1.8 million years old -- older surfaces are mostly visible in cross section via something like a cliff face or rock cuts. Go back much farther than the Quaternary and everything has been turned over and crushed to dust. And, if we're going back this far, we're not talking about human civilizations anymore. Homo sapiens didn't make their appearance on the planet until just 300,000 years or so ago. [...] Given that all direct evidence would be long gone after many millions of years, what kinds of evidence might then still exist? The best way to answer this question is to figure out what evidence we'd leave behind if human civilization collapsed at its current stage of development. Mr. Frank, along with Gavin Schmidt, Director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, have published their research on the subject [PDF]. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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“I feel whole again:” Wounded vet receives first penis-scrotum combo transplant

Science - Posted On:2018-04-23 14:45:00 Source: arstechnica

A young military veteran severely maimed by an improvised explosive device (IED) received a transplant of a large section of tissue, including the penis, scrotum, and a portion of the abdominal wall, from a deceased organ donor, according to The New York Times.

The 14-hour operation took place at Johns Hopkins Hospital last month. It marks the third successful penis transplant and the first complex penis transplant, which is to say it involved the scrotum and surrounding tissue as well as the penis. For ethical reasons, surgeons removed the testicles prior to the transplantation to prevent the possibility that the recipient could father children genetically belonging to the donor.

Though doctors expect his recovery and nerve regrowth to take some time, they’re hopeful that the patient will eventually recover the ability to urinate and have spontaneous erections and orgasms. In fact, they expect urination to be possible within a few months.

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MIT Researchers Developed a 'System For Dream Control'

science - Posted On:2018-04-23 13:15:00 Source: slashdot

dmoberhaus writes: Researchers at MIT Media Lab have adapted a centuries' old technique for inducing hypnagogia for the 21st century. Known as Dormio, this system is able to extend and manipulate the period users spend in a transitional state of consciousness between wakefulness and sleep known as hypnagogia. This state is characterized by vivid hallucinations and microdreams, and as the MIT researchers demonstrated, the contents of these microdreams can be manipulated with the system and subsequently result in heightened creativity when the user awakes. Motherboard got the exclusive details on the system. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Are we sure there wasn’t a coal-burning species 55 million years ago?

Science - Posted On:2018-04-23 12:30:00 Source: arstechnica

If you’ve ever wished that a new study came packaged with some science fiction exploring the implications, this is your lucky day. Of course, not every research paper lends itself to a short story, but a manuscript by NASA’s Gavin Schmidt and the University of Rochester’s Adam Frank asks a fun question: are we sure that humans built the first industrial civilization in Earth’s history?

In recent years, scientists have debated defining a new geologic epoch—the “Anthropocene”—based on the idea that humans have done enough to leave a recognizable mark in Earth’s geologic archives. Theoretically, if another world harbored life that produced an industrial civilization, we could find the proof written in that world’s rocks, too.

To examine that idea, Schmidt and Frank pawed through the pages of Earth’s history—after all, it’s not impossible that some earlier species built a civilization that was subsequently wiped out, right? By looking for funky signals in the rock record, you can think about how clear the signs might be on another world.

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Google's AR Microscope Quickly Highlights Cancer Cells

science - Posted On:2018-04-22 16:14:59 Source: slashdot

An anonymous reader quotes a report from UploadVR: Google Research this week revealed an AR microscope (ARM) capable of detecting cancerous cells in real-time with the help of machine learning. Locating cancer with a standard microscope is a difficult and time-consuming process, with a raft of information for doctors to study and investigate. With this new solution, though, the microscope is able to quickly locate cancerous cells and then highlight them as a doctor peers inside. The platform uses a modified light microscope integrated with image analysis and machine learning algorithms into its field of view. An AR display sits above a camera that communicates with the algorithm to display data as soon as it locates an issue. In order words, the microscope immediately begins looking for cancerous cells as soon as you place a sample beneath it. It's effectively doing the same job as a doctor just, according to Google, a lot faster. Google posted a video about the AR microscope on YouTube. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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NASA’s new planet finder is in space. Now what?

Science - Posted On:2018-04-22 10:14:57 Source: arstechnica

Most everyone reading this story will probably know that a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched on Wednesday carrying a NASA spacecraft into orbit—the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite—that will further the space agency's mission of searching for exoplanets.

Less well known is the TESS spacecraft's clever orbit, which will enable an on-a-budget but robust science mission of searching for planets transiting in front of nearby stars. This "lunar resonant" orbit, which has never been used by a spacecraft, will allow TESS to both observe nearby stars and transmit data back to Earth with a minimal energy expenditure. (The useful lifetime of a spacecraft is often determined by its amount of onboard propellant).

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Doctors Tried To Lower $148K Cancer Drug Cost; Makers Tripled Its Price

science - Posted On:2018-04-21 14:45:00 Source: slashdot

Slashdot reader Applehu Akbar writes: Imbruvica, a compound that treats white blood cell cancers, has until now been a bargain at $148,000 per year. Until now, doctors have been able to optimize dosage for each patient by prescribing up to four small-dose pills of it per day. But after results from a recent small pilot trial indicated that smaller doses would for most patients work as well as the large ones, its manufacturer, Janssen and Pharmacyclics, has decided on the basis of the doctors' interest in smaller dosages to reprice all sizes of the drug to the price of the largest size. This has the effect of tripling the price for patients, and doctors have now put off any plans for further testing of lower dosages. The researchers are retaliating by urging clinical investigators to test whether the expensive pill could be safely given every other day -- and by calling on America's public health regulators to investigate the drug's pricing. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Senate Confirms Climate Denier With No Scientific Credentials To Head NASA

science - Posted On:2018-04-21 09:14:57 Source: slashdot

On Thursday, the Senate confirmed Trump's NASA nominee Jim Bridenstine, seven and a half months after being nominated to lead the agency. "The Senate confirmed Mr. Bridenstine, an Oklahoma congressman, as the new NASA administrator in a stark partisan vote: 50 Republicans voting for him and 47 Democrats plus two independents against," reports The New York Times. "The vote lasted more than 45 minutes as Republicans waited for Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona to cast his lot." Slashdot reader PeopleAquarium writes about some of Bridenstine's anti-LGBT and non-scientific views: Bridenstine ran a planetarium once, and peddled a debunked argument made by climate change skeptics, claiming that global temperatures "stopped rising 10 years ago." He said "the people of Oklahoma are ready to accept" an apology from then-President Barack Obama for what Bridenstine called a "gross misallocation" of funds for climate change research instead of weather forecasting. In further news, our rockets will now be coal powered, and gay people aren't allowed in space. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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'Sea Nomads' Are First Known Humans Genetically Adapted To Diving

science - Posted On:2018-04-20 22:14:58 Source: slashdot

schwit1 shares a report from National Geographic: Most people can hold their breath underwater for a few seconds, some for a few minutes. But a group of people called the Bajau takes free diving to the extreme, staying underwater for as long as 13 minutes at depths of around 200 feet. These nomadic people live in waters winding through the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia, where they dive to hunt for fish or search for natural elements that can be used in crafts. Now, a study in the journal Cell offers the first clues that a DNA mutation for larger spleens gives the Bajau a genetic advantage for life in the deep. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Here are the types of marijuana best for stress and anxiety, according to users

Science - Posted On:2018-04-20 13:30:00 Source: arstechnica

By passively monitoring user-generated data from medical cannabis patients, researchers have glimpsed the types and amounts of marijuana that seem effective for relieving symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression. The findings could direct more detailed research into the best strains for specific conditions. But the data also hints at a danger of using marijuana to manage depression symptoms in the long term.

The study, published this week in the Journal of Affective Disorders by researchers at Washington State University, is based on data from a medical cannabis app called Strainprint, which lets patients track symptom severity after medical cannabis use. Before that, users enter detailed information about the strain of marijuana used, including selecting specific products from a list of those sold by licensed medical cannabis distributors in Canada. Health Canada has uniquely strict production and quality control guidelines for products sold there. But if a patient is using a product not on the list, they can manually input information about the strain, including cannabinoid content.

The researchers looked at data from nearly 1,400 medical cannabis users, analyzing outcomes from almost 12,000 inhalation sessions. The researchers kept their analysis just to sessions involving inhalation (smoking, vaping, concentrates, dab bubbler, dab portable), to try to control—at least a little—for efficacy and timing of the onset of effects.

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AI Helps Grow 6 Billion Roaches at China's Largest Breeding Site

science - Posted On:2018-04-20 11:30:00 Source: slashdot

With the help of AI, folks at a Chinese pharmaceutical company are breeding cockroaches by the billions every year, South China Morning Post reports. From a report: Their purpose: To make a "healing potion" that can cure respiratory, gastric and other diseases. The "potion," consumed by over 40 million people in China, is made by crushing the cockroaches once they reach a desired weight and size, according to the publication. There is a "slightly fishy smell" to the potion, which tastes "slightly sweet" and looks like tea, it added. Some insects are known to have potential health benefits. Besides China's cockroach potion, scientists are also exploring how milk-like protein crystals in roaches could be an excellent source of calories and nutrition. Chewing down on bugs like crickets and mealworms can also give us more protein, according to studies. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Tiny krill appear to mix up the ocean

Science - Posted On:2018-04-20 10:14:57 Source: arstechnica

If you've heard of krill at all, it's probably in the context of their role as whale food. Nature programs love to point in amazement to the fact that the largest animals on the planet subsist on some of the smallest, namely the krill. But these tiny animals exist independently of their function as food, and a new study suggests that they and their peers may have a significant role in their ecosystems: mixing up the top layers of the ocean.

Krill are crustaceans, as a careful look at them will indicate (although Wikipedia tells us that the cool-sounding name "krill" is simply Norwegian for "small fry of fish"). They don't tend to grow much larger than a couple centimeters in length, and they feed on even smaller creatures, taking tiny photosynthetic plankton and moving them up the food chain.

But what they lack in size, they make up for with truly astonishing numbers, with some species estimated as having one of the largest total biomasses of anything on Earth. It's these vast numbers that make them a viable food for the world's largest creatures and give them the ability to replace the vast numbers gulped down by whales. It's also at the heart of the new results.

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After 15 months, NASA finally has an administrator [Updated]

Science - Posted On:2018-04-19 15:00:00 Source: arstechnica

Thursday update: It took awhile, but after eight months of consideration—and a key flip of Florida Senator Marco Rubio to "yes"—the United States Senate confirmed Jim Bridenstine to be NASA's next administrator on Thursday afternoon. The vote was 50 for, and 49 against, for Bridenstine. Vice President Mike Pence, the head of the National Space Council, was in the Capitol had a tie-breaking vote was necessary.

Like many other nominations from the Trump White House, this vote played out along party lines (Sen. John McCain, of Arizona, was absent). Historically, however, such nominations for NASA administrator have not been partisan affairs. For example, in 2009, the nomination of Charles Bolden as administrator, and Lori Garver, as deputy administrator, was approved with unanimous consent by the Senate. NASA's previous administrator, Mike Griffin, nominated by George W. Bush in 2005, was also unanimously approved.

Immediately after the vote, Bridenstine released the following statement: "It is an honor to be confirmed by the United States Senate to serve as NASA Administrator. I am humbled by this opportunity, and I once again thank President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence for their confidence. I look forward to working with the outstanding team at NASA to achieve the President’s vision for American leadership in space."

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Mammals are smaller than they used to be, and it’s our fault

Science - Posted On:2018-04-19 14:15:00 Source: arstechnica

When the first modern humans ventured beyond Africa during the late Pleistocene, roughly 120,000 years ago, they stepped into a world filled with giants: the 6-ton giant ground sloth in South America, the 2- to 3-ton wooly rhino in Europe and northern Asia, the 350- to 620-pound sabertooth cat in North America, and the 6-ton wooly mammoth in Eurasia and North America. It's hard to imagine a world filled with animals that large: the giants of the Pleistocene quickly vanished, and the animals that survived were, in general, two or three times smaller than those that went extinct. A new study indicates that the late Pleistocene decrease in mammal size coincided with the geographical spread of humans around the world—and the authors say that's not just happenstance.

Human involvement in the disappearance of the Pleistocene megafauna is still the subject of intense debate, but this is hardly the first time we've been implicated. To provide a different perspective on these extinctions, a team of biologists led by Felisa Smith of the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, decided to look for changes in the pattern of extinctions since the beginning of the Cenozoic period 65 million years ago—the end of the dinosaurs and the beginning of the rise of mammals. Species go extinct all the time at a steady background rate of about one to five species per year. If that rate or the kinds of animals dying off changed after humans started colonizing the world beyond Africa, that could imply that we had something to do with it.

The biologists examined two large datasets. One listed the global distribution and body size of animal species in the late Pleistocene and Holocene, starting 125,000 years ago. The other listed similar information for species spanning the whole Cenozoic. Starting at around 125,000 years ago, the datasets traced a decrease in both the mean and the maximum body size of mammals on every continent, coinciding with the spread of humans into each region. Wherever humans went, mammals got smaller, and big ones tended to die off.

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Pasta Is Good For You, Say Scientists Funded By Big Pasta

science - Posted On:2018-04-19 14:00:00 Source: slashdot

Earlier this month, numerous news outlets reported on a study which concludes that eating pasta is good for health. In fact, the reports claimed, eating pasta could help you lose weight. Except, there is more to the story. BuzzFeed News reports: What those and many other stories failed to note, however, was that three of the scientists behind the study in question had financial conflicts as tangled as a bowl of spaghetti, including ties to the world's largest pasta company, the Barilla Group. Over the last decade or so, with the rise of the Atkins, South Beach, paleo, and ketogenic diets, Big Pasta has battled a societal shift against carbohydrates -- and funded and promoted research suggesting that noodles are good for you. At least 10 peer-reviewed studies about pasta published since 2008 were either funded directly by Barilla or, like the one published this month, were carried out by scientists who have had financial ties to the company, which reported sales of 3.4 billion euros ($4.2 billion) in 2016. For two years, Barilla has publicized some of these studies, plus others favorable to its product, on its website with taglines like "Eat Smart Be Smart...With Pasta" and "More Evidence Pasta Is Good For You." And the company hired the large public relations firm Edelman to push the latest study's findings to journalists. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Doctors tried to lower $148K cancer drug cost; makers triple price of pill

Science - Posted On:2018-04-19 13:00:01 Source: arstechnica

A drug that treats a variety of white blood cell cancers typically costs about $148,000 a year, and doctors can customize and quickly adjust doses by adjusting how many small-dose pills of it patients should take each day—generally up to four pills. At least, that was the case until now.

Last year, doctors presented results from a small pilot trial hinting that smaller doses could work just as well as the larger dose—dropping patients down from three pills a day to just one. Taking just one pill a day could dramatically reduce costs to around $50,000 a year. And it could lessen unpleasant side-effects, such as diarrhea, muscle and bone pain, and tiredness. But just as doctors were gearing up for more trials on the lower dosages, the makers of the drug revealed plans that torpedoed the doctors’ efforts: they were tripling the price of the drug and changing pill dosages.

The drug, ibrutinib (brand name Imbruvica), typically came in 140 mg capsules, of which patients took doses from 140 mg per day to 560 mg per day depending on their cancer and individual medical situation. (There were also 70 mg capsules for patients taking certain treatment combinations or having liver complications.) The pills treat a variety of cancers involving a type of white blood cell called B cells. The cancers include mantle cell lymphoma, which was approved for treatment with four 140 mg pills per day, and chronic lymphocytic leukemia, approved to be treated with three 140 mg pills per day. Each 140 mg pill costs somewhere around $133—for now.

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