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Evidence of bird sacrifices to the goddess Isis in ancient Roman Empire
An archaeologist and a biologist have found evidence of birds being sacrificed to the goddess Isis in the excavated ruins of the Temple of Isis in Pompeii. In their study, reported in the International Journal of Osteoarchaeology, Chiara Assunta Corbino and Beatrice Demarchi studied frescos found at the ancient site revealing the role birds played in ritual banquets.
Is this article about Neuroscience?
The course of human history has been marked by complex patterns of migration, isolation, and admixture, the latter a term that refers to gene flow between individuals from different populations. Admixture results in a blending of genetic lineages, leading to increased genetic diversity within populations. In addition to admixture among modern human populations, ancient humans reproduced with other hominin groups, such as Neanderthals and Denisovans.


Suga of BTS’s World Tour Is Pop Subversion at Its Finest

Four hooded figures seemed to float down the stage, through the soft exhalations of a fog machine. On their shoulders, they carried a body clothed in black. Rain and lightning flashed a clean white on the screen behind them. When the man was finally laid on the ground, what followed looked like a resurrection: The spotlights found him, screams rose, and at last he stirred. Then he raised a microphone to his mouth.

This rock-star Lazarus was Min Yoongi, better known as the rapper and songwriter Suga of the Grammy-nominated, chart-topping South Korean group BTS. But none of his bandmates were onstage that night at UBS Arena, on Long Island, New York, because it was the first date of his solo world tour. Since last summer, the members have been focusing on individual projects as each prepares to complete his mandatory military service. The first in BTS to do a solo tour, Suga was also performing as Agust D, the name he adopted in 2016 for making music that was darker, more raw, and more personal than his group work. Last month, he released his studio album D-Day, the powerful conclusion to his trilogy of Agust D records, which delivered social critique and meditations on trauma, fame, mental illness, alienation, and forgiveness.

Suga’s ongoing tour, also titled D-Day, is the first real showcase of his oeuvre, and, on the sold-out U.S. leg of his tour, it felt like a declaration of artistic individuality more than a decade in the making. His concerts exploded with frontman energy and auteurist flourishes. But his most striking achievement was embracing pop music’s empathy-fueling potential while resisting its dehumanizing effects.

All 11 of his U.S. tour dates, which wrapped Wednesday night in Oakland, California, began with a short film that ended with Suga lying on a road in a thunderstorm. This was a reference to when he was hit by a car while working in Seoul part-time as a delivery boy to support himself while training to debut with BTS. The crash left him with a painful shoulder injury that continued to dog him even as BTS went on to achieve international fame. The segue from the video to the real-life Suga being carried onstage, seemingly lifeless, was smooth yet jarring—a reminder of the human vulnerability of a pop star whose fans camp outside concert venues for days.

When I saw Suga on that first night, at UBS Arena, as well as the final U.S. night, at Oakland Arena, his show challenged expectations of what a pop concert can do. On one level it was a dynamic hip-hop show, put on by a technically proficient rapper who as a kid would sample the Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto’s music to make his own beats. Suga set the tone for the evening with “Haegeum,” whose title refers both to a Korean string instrument and to the notion of lifting a ban on something that was forbidden. “Endless influx of information prohibits freedom of imagination / And seeks conformity of thought,” Suga rapped in Korean. “Slaves to capitalism, slaves to money, slaves to hatred and prejudice / Slaves to YouTube, slaves to flexin’.” The haegeum’s haunting strings and a deliciously grimy bass vibrated the air. Though the track was written entirely in Korean, the crowd roared the lyrics back to him. He practically entered a hypnotic state while running through a rap-heavy opening sequence with the defiant “Daechwita” and the earlier fan favorites “Agust D” and “Give It to Me.”

[Read: The friends who listen to BTS together stay together]

Before the audience could get too settled, Suga brought out his acoustic guitar, its body decorated with messages and drawings from the other six BTS members. He’d only learned to play the instrument during the pandemic, so his unplugged version of “Seesaw” cut a sharp contrast to previous performances of the song, which featured choreography, backup dancers, and an elaborate set. His effortless swagger during the earlier hype songs gave way to the quieter spectacle of Suga in singer-songwriter mode. Later, he sat down at an upright piano and performed his own version of the 2020 BTS track “Life Goes On” and, in a particularly emotional moment, a solo rendition of the song “Snooze,” which features the singer Woosung and the late Sakamoto. A clip of Suga and Sakamoto’s sole meeting, from late 2022, played beforehand on the big screen—the older musician playing the song on a grand piano while the younger man tries to contain his joy. Sakamoto’s presence on “Snooze,” one of his final collaborations, was especially poignant to Suga, who idolized him and wrote the song to comfort younger struggling artists.

[Read: The astonishing duality of BTS]

Again and again, D-Day allowed Suga to experiment in ways that he hadn’t been able to with BTS, and it was thrilling to see. Yes, he was still clearly a seasoned entertainer, who knew how to command the attention of tens of thousands of people, who could jump around a stage rapping without appearing to take a breath, as during the exhilarating medley of BTS rap songs in the middle of the concert. And at two Los Angeles shows, he welcomed guest appearances by the American singers Max and Halsey for their respective collaborations. But his subversive choices stood out too. The concert was interspersed with short films that evoked the dream logic of David Lynch and the grainy aesthetic of grind-house movies, telling the story of the musician’s three identities: the pop idol Suga, the shadow self Agust D, and the human Min Yoongi. The ultimate artistic aim of the concert seemed to be to clarify each of these distinct selves to the audience while recognizing that they must all exist together. Seeing him perform his solo BTS songs, including “Interlude: Shadow,” as well as his verses from tracks with the other BTS rappers, affirmed that he wasn’t looking to reject his past but instead was proud of it. After all, it had taken him to South Korea’s Blue HouseAmerica’s White House, the United Nations General Assembly, and the Grammys stage.

In another fascinating production choice, throughout the show, pieces of the extended stage were pulled to the ceiling by chains, giving Suga less and less space to perform, requiring him to navigate the platform more carefully. For his last pre-encore song, “Amygdala,” he stood on a lonely-looking square as fire blazed all around him, a terrifying prison. The centerpiece of the D-Day album, the emo-rap track serves as an origin story for the alter ego of Agust D, referencing his life’s defining traumas—the car accident, his mother’s heart surgery, and his father’s liver-cancer diagnosis—and how they shaped him. During the song’s final lines, apparently depleted, he collapsed on the ground, and the hooded figures returned to carry him away. Only this time, he wore all white, as though he’d been cleansed, his catharsis complete.

By the encore, all of the stage pieces had been removed, revealing the technical equipment that had been hiding beneath it. Scattered about were fire extinguishers, electrical cords, pyrotechnic devices. No longer elevated above the crowd, Suga performed his last few songs at ground level, right in front of fans, sometimes grabbing their phones and filming himself. These last moments were bittersweet: Much of the audience knew that after the tour ended in Seoul in late June, Suga would begin his military service for at least 18 months. That reality made the concerts feel like a temporary farewell. Fans’ glowing lightsticks rippled like a single wave throughout the arena. Every so often, carried by a feral energy, the crowd would start barking, making Suga gawk or laugh. In Oakland, he told the audience that he would return with the rest of the BTS members, asking fans to wait just a little longer.

On the tour’s first night, one more surprise awaited. I had assumed that the final song would be something sentimental or light-hearted. Instead, Suga walked over to an ominous circle of video cameras, stood right in the middle, and began murmuring the opening bars of “The Last.” This song, off his first mixtape, is one of his best and one of my favorites. It’s also a song I have a hard time listening to these days. On “The Last,” Suga raps about his OCD, depression, and social anxiety. His delivery starts out low and subdued and gradually grows more desperate; by the end he sounds like he’s somewhere between screaming and crying. When I first heard it years ago, I recalled my own unceasing panic attacks and the suffocating desire to die. The song lodged itself in my heart, a welcome shard.

[Read: I wasn’t a fan of BTS. And then I was.]

In recent years, Suga has made more music about growth, about self-love and being okay with uncertainty and suffering. He spoke early during the concert, in English, about wanting to perform with less anger, highlighting songs such as “SDL,” “People,” and “People Pt. 2”; these tracks painted a portrait of someone with a great capacity for measured reflection, forgiveness, and humility in the face of life’s challenges. I understand that too: The relief of no longer hurting so badly, of discovering healing on your own terms. So when I heard the first lines of “The Last” (“On the other side of the famous idol rapper stands my weak self, it’s a bit dangerous”), I froze. What was he doing? Those cameras—arrayed like a surveillance system, transmitting the videos to the screen above him—devoured and projected the anguish he was performing, suggesting that I was devouring it too.

But after a minute, I understood. Though he rapped with the same breathless passion he did as a striving 23-year-old, I realized that he wasn’t performing with pure fury but with an anger tempered by time. This emotion was no less powerful or sincere, but it was less damaging to the person communicating it. These days, he could stand in the flames and feel their heat, but not be consumed by them. He could connect with his younger self without fully becoming that person again.

Then the spell was over. The moment the song ended, the house lights went up so that we could see him walking in silence offstage. No goodbye, no drawn-out thank yous and waves to the cheering audience. Not even a glance backward. On the first night, people exchanged confused looks, shocked by his sudden exit. You could perhaps see this whole finale as a quiet confrontation with an audience, a grand assertion of the self by a beloved artist. But if it was a confrontation, it was one rooted in trust rather than condescension. Trust that the audience can sit with discomfort, that they’re self-aware enough not to be offended or horrified by what he’s showing them.

It was the perfect ending. A concert that began in darkness and mythmaking ended in light and exposure. Suga started the show being carried by others; he ended it by carrying himself out. What more could we want? He had just shown us everything.

How To Reduce The Cost Of Using LLM APIs by 98%
Is this article about Cloud Computing?

Budget For LLM Inference

Cost is still a major factor when scaling services on top of LLM APIs.

Especially, when using LLMs on large collections of queries and text it can get very expensive. It is estimated that automating customer support for a small company can cost up to $21.000 a month in inference alone.

The inference costs differ from vendor to vendor and consists of three components:

  1. a portion that is proportional to the length of the prompt
  2. a portion that is proportional to the length of the generated answer
  3. and in some cases a small fixed cost per query.

In a recent publication researchers at Stanford proposed three types of strategies that can help us to slash costs. The cool thing about it is that we can use these strategies in our projects independently of the prices dictated by the vendors!

Let’s jump in!

How To Adapt Our Prompts To Save Costs

Most approaches to prompt engineering typically focus only on increasing performance.

In general, prompts are optimized by providing more detailed explanations of the desired output alongside multiple in-context examples to steer the LLM. However, this has the tendency to result in longer and more involved prompts. Since the cost per query grows linearly with the number of tokens in our prompt this makes API requests more expensive.

The idea behind the first approach, called Query Adaption, is to create effective (often shorter) prompts in order to save costs.

This can be done in different ways. A good start is to reduce the number of few-shot examples in your prompt. We can experiment to find out what the smallest set of examples is that we have to include in the prompt to maintain performance. Then, we can remove the other examples.

So far so good!

Once we have a more concise prompt, there is still another problem. Every time a new query is processed, the same in-context examples and detailed explanations to steer the model are processed again and again.

The way to avoid this redundant prompt processing is by applying query concatenation.

In essence, this means that instead of asking one question in our lengthy prompt, we add multiple questions Q1, Q2, … in the same prompt. To get this to work, we might need to add a few tokens to the prompt that make it easier for us to separate the answers from the model output. However, the majority of our prompt is not repeatedly sent to the API as a result.

This allows us to process dozens of queries at once, making query concatenation a huge lever for cost savings while being relatively easy to implement.

That was an easy win! Let’s look at the second approach!

LLM Approximation

The idea here is to emulate the performance of a better, more expensive model.

In the paper, they suggest two approaches to achieve this. The first one is to create an additional caching infrastructure that alleviates the need to perform an expensive API request for every query. The second way is to create a smaller, more specialized model that mimics what the model behind the API does.

Let’s look at the caching approach!

The idea here is that every time we get an answer from the API, we store the query alongside the answer in a database. We then pre-compute embeddings for every stored query. For every new query that comes in, we do not send it off to our LLM vendor of choice. Instead, we perform a vectorized search over our cached query-response pairs.

If we find a question that we already answered in the past, we can simply return the cached answer without accruing any additional cost. This obviously works best if we repeatedly need to process similar requests and the answers to the questions are evergreen.

Now let’s move on to the second approach!

Don’t worry! The idea is not to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to fine-tune an LLM. If the overall variety of expected questions and answers is not crazy huge – which for most businesses it is not – a BERT-sized model should probably do the job.

The process could look as follows: first, we collect a dataset of queries and answers that are generated with the help of an API. The second step is to fine-tune the smaller model on these samples. Third, use the fine-tuned model on new incoming queries.

To reduce the cost even further, It could be a good approach to implement the caching first before starting to train a model. This has the advantage of passively building up a dataset of query-answer pairs during live operation. Later we can still actively generate a dataset if we run into any data quality concerns such as some queries being underrepresented.

A pretty cool byproduct of using one of the LLM approximation approaches is that they can significantly reduce latency.

Now, let’s move on to the third and last strategy which has not only the potential to reduce costs but also improve performance.

LLM Cascade

More and more LLM APIs have become available and they all vary in cost and quality.

The idea behind what the authors call an LLM Cascade is to start with the cheap API and then successively call APIs of increasing quality and cost. Once an API returns a satisfying answer the process is stopped. Especially, for simpler queries this can significantly reduce the costs per query.

However, there is a catch!

How do we know if an answer is satisfying? The researchers suggest training a small regression model which scores the reliability of an answer. Once this reliability score passes a certain threshold the answer gets accepted.

One way to train such a model would obviously be to label the data ourselves.

Since every answer needs only a binary label (reliable vs. unreliable) it should be fairly inexpensive to build such a dataset. Better still we could acquire such a dataset semi-automatically by asking the user to give feedback on our answers.

If running the risk of serving bad answers to customers is out of the question for whatever reason, we could also use one of the stronger APIs (cough GPT cough) to label our responses.

In the paper, the authors conduct a case study of this approach using three popular LLM APIs. They successively called them and used a DistillBERT (very small) to perform scoring. They called this approach FrugalGPT and found that the approach could save up to 98.3% in costs on the benchmark while also improving performance.

How would this increase performance you ask?

Since there is always some heterogeneity in the model’s outputs a weaker model can actually sometimes produce a better answer than a more powerful one. In essence, calling multiple APIs gives more shots on goal. Given that our scoring model works well, this can result in better performance overall.

In summary, strategies such as the ones described above are great because they attack the problem of high inference costs from a different angle. They allow us to be more cost-effective without relying on the underlying models to get cheaper. As a result, it will become possible to use LLMs for solving even more problems!

What an exciting time to be alive!

Thank you for reading!

As always, I really enjoyed making this for you and sincerely hope you found it useful! At The Decoding ⭕, I send out a thoughtful 5-minute email every week that keeps you in the loop about machine learning research and the data economy. Click here to subscribe!

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Water decontamination via nonradical process by nanoconfined Fenton-like catalysts

Nature Communications, Published online: 19 May 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-38677-1

There is an urgent need to develop effective heterogeneous Fenton-like catalysts for water treatment. Here, the authors demonstrate that nanoconfinement of cobalt oxide catalysts in carbon nanotubes can selectively degrade pollutants at high reaction rate.
OpenAI Annoyed by Lobbyists Seizing on ChatGPT
OpenAI has told Washington DC lobbying company FiscalNote that it can't advertise using ChatGPT for politics, Semafor reports.

Drawing a Line


 has told Washington, DC lobbying company FiscalNote that it can't advertise using ChatGPT for politics, Semafor reports.

The Sam Altman-led company jumped into action after FiscalNote proclaimed in a recent press release that it's "bringing the power of next-generation AI and workflow productivity to the multi-billion dollar lobbying and advocacy industry" by integrating ChatGPT into its platform.

The integration was supposedly meant to enhance "political participation," according to an earlier version of the press release, which clearly had OpenAI spooked. Shortly afterward, per Semafor, those last two words were replaced with "grassroots advocacy campaigns" in an editorial note, effectively putting distance between ChatGPT and any potential political use.

The incident sets a new precedent for the AI juggernaut — and possibly for the rest of the industry as well. According to Semafor, it's the first known instance of OpenAI policing how its technology is being advertised by third parties.

Getting Political

The use of AI in politics is a looming topic these days. For instance, we've already seen the Republican National Committee (RNC) make use of generative AI tech for a political ad — which doesn't bode well with a presidential election right around the corner.

According to OpenAI's usage policies, which were last updated back in March, using its products for political campaigning or lobbying is banned.

OpenAI also told Semafor that it's working on a machine learning classifier that can flag when ChatGPT is being used to generate large bodies of electoral campaign or lobbying-related materials.

As tools like ChatGPT become ubiquitous in modern society, companies like OpenAI are bound to face increased scrutiny over how their tech is being used.

And if the rocky history of social media moderation is anything to go by, policing how these products are being deployed, let alone advertised, is only going to become more difficult.

More on ChatGPT: Professor Falsely Accuses Students of Cheating Because ChatGPT Told Him To

The post OpenAI Annoyed by Lobbyists Seizing on ChatGPT appeared first on Futurism.

Why We're Worried About Generative AI
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  • Tulika Bose: Last week, Google announced the new products and features coming from the company.

From upsetting jobs and causing intellectual property issues to models that make up fake answers to questions — here's why we're concerned about Generative AI.



Athleticism and the mortality rates begin a lifelong trajectory of decline during early adulthood. Because of the substantial follow-up time required, however, observing any longitudinal link between early-life physical declines and late-life mortality and aging remains largely inaccessible. Here, we use longitudinal data on elite athletes to reveal how early-life athletic performance predicts late-life mortality and aging in healthy male populations. Using data on over 10,000 baseball and basketball players, we calculate age at peak athleticism and rates of decline in athletic performance to predict late-life mortality patterns. Predictive capacity of these variables persists for decades after retirement, displays large effect sizes, and is independent of birth month, cohort, body mass index, and height. Furthermore, a nonparametric cohort-matching approach suggests that these mortality rate differences are associated with differential aging rates, not just extrinsic mortality. These results highlight the capacity of athletic data to predict late-life mortality, even across periods of substantial social and medical change.
Is this article about Animals?


The bacterial pathogen Mycobacterium tuberculosis binds to the C-type lectin 
 (dendritic cell–specific intercellular adhesion molecule 3-grabbing nonintegrin) on dendritic cells to evade the immune system. While DC-SIGN glycoconjugate ligands are ubiquitous among mycobacterial species, the receptor selectively binds pathogenic species from the M. tuberculosis complex ( MTBC ). Here, we unravel the molecular mechanism behind this intriguing selective recognition by means of a multidisciplinary approach combining single-molecule atomic force microscopy with Förster resonance energy transfer and bioassays. Molecular recognition imaging of mycobacteria demonstrates that the distribution of DC-SIGN ligands markedly differs between Mycobacterium bovis Bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG) (model MTBC species) and Mycobacterium smegmatis (non- MTBC species), the ligands being concentrated into dense nanodomains on M. bovis BCG. Upon bacteria-host cell adhesion, ligand nanodomains induce the recruitment and clustering of DC-SIGN. Our study highlights the key role of clustering of both ligands on MTBC species and DC-SIGN host receptors in pathogen recognition, a mechanism that might be widespread in host-pathogen interactions.


Diamond shows unprecedented hardness. Because hardness is a measure of resistance of chemical bonds in a material to external indentation, the electronic bonding nature of diamond beyond several million atmospheres is key to understanding the origin of hardness. However, probing the electronic structures of diamond at such extreme pressure has not been experimentally possible. The measurements on the inelastic x-ray scattering spectra for diamond up to 2 million atmospheres provide data on the evolution of its electronic structures under compression. The mapping of the observed electronic density of states allows us to obtain a two-dimensional image of the bonding transitions of diamond undergoing deformation. The spectral change near edge onset is minor beyond a million atmospheres, while its electronic structure displays marked pressure-induced electron delocalization. Such electronic responses indicate that diamond’s external rigidity is supported by its ability to reconcile internal stress, providing insights into the origins of hardness in materials.
Is this article about Neuroscience?


Reactive oxygen species (ROS) posed a risk for the transition of vertebrates from aquatic to terrestrial life. How ancestral organisms adapted to such ROS exposure has remained a mystery. Here, we show that attenuation of the activity of the ubiquitin ligase CRL3Keap1 for the transcription factor Nrf2 during evolution was key to development of an efficient response to ROS exposure. The Keap1 gene was duplicated in fish to give rise to Keap1A and the only remaining mammalian paralog Keap1B, the latter of which shows a lower affinity for Cul3 and contributes to robust Nrf2 induction in response to ROS exposure. Mutation of mammalian Keap1 to resemble zebrafish Keap1A resulted in an attenuated Nrf2 response, and most knock-in mice expressing such a Keap1 mutant died on exposure as neonates to sunlight-level ultraviolet radiation. Our results suggest that molecular evolution of Keap1 was essential for adaptation to terrestrial life.
Is this article about Biopharma Industry?


Sialic acids linked to glycoproteins and glycolipids are important mediators of cell and protein recognition events. These sugar residues are removed by neuraminidases (sialidases). Neuraminidase-1 (
 or NEU1) is a ubiquitously expressed mammalian sialidase located in lysosomes and on the cell membrane. Because of its modulation of multiple signaling processes, it is a potential therapeutic target for cancers and immune disorders. Genetic defects in NEU1 or in its protective protein cathepsin A (PPCA, CTSA) cause the lysosomal storage diseases sialidosis and galactosialidosis. To further our understanding of this enzyme’s function at the molecular level, we determined the three-dimensional structure of murine NEU1. The enzyme oligomerizes through two self-association interfaces and displays a wide substrate-binding cavity. A catalytic loop adopts an inactive conformation. We propose a mechanism of activation involving a conformational change in this loop upon binding to its protective protein. These findings may facilitate the development of selective inhibitor and agonist therapies.


Chronic, pathological pain is a highly debilitating condition that can arise and be maintained through central sensitization. Central sensitization shares mechanistic and phenotypic parallels with memory formation. In a sensory model of memory reconsolidation, plastic changes underlying pain hypersensitivity can be dynamically regulated and reversed following the reactivation of sensitized sensory pathways. However, the mechanisms by which synaptic reactivation induces destabilization of the spinal “pain engram” are unclear. We identified nonionotropic -methyl- -aspartate receptor (NI-NMDAR) signaling as necessary and sufficient for the reactive destabilization of dorsal horn long-term potentiation and the reversal of mechanical sensitization associated with central sensitization. NI-NMDAR signaling engaged directly or through the reactivation of sensitized sensory networks was associated with the degradation of excitatory postsynaptic proteins. Our findings identify NI-NMDAR signaling as a putative synaptic mechanism by which engrams are destabilized in reconsolidation and as a potential means of treating underlying causes of chronic pain.
Is this article about Neuroscience?


Cytokine storm describes a life-threatening, systemic inflammatory syndrome characterized by elevated levels of proinflammatory cytokines and immune cell hyperactivation associated with multi-organ dysfunction. Matrix-bound nanovesicles (MBV) are a subclass of extracellular vesicle shown to down-regulate proinflammatory immune responses. The objective of this study was to assess the efficacy of MBV in mediating 
-induced acute respiratory distress syndrome and cytokine storm in a murine model. Intravenous administration of MBV decreased influenza-mediated total lung inflammatory cell density, proinflammatory macrophage frequencies, and proinflammatory cytokines at 7 and 21 days following viral inoculation. MBV decreased long-lasting alveolitis and the proportion of lung undergoing inflammatory tissue repair at day 21. MBV increased the proportion of activated anti-viral CD4 and CD8 T cells at day 7 and memory-like CD62L CD44 , CD4 , and CD8 T cells at day 21. These results show immunomodulatory properties of MBV that may benefit the treatment of viral-mediated pulmonary inflammation with applicability to other 
viral diseases
 such as SARS-CoV-2.


Disruption in neurogenesis and neuronal migration can influence the assembly of cortical circuits, affecting the excitatory-inhibitory balance and resulting in neurodevelopmental and neuropsychiatric disorders. Using ventral cerebral organoids and dorsoventral cerebral assembloids with mutations in the extracellular matrix gene LGALS3BP , we show that extracellular vesicles released into the extracellular environment regulate the molecular differentiation of neurons, resulting in alterations in migratory dynamics. To investigate how extracellular vesicles affect neuronal specification and migration dynamics, we collected extracellular vesicles from ventral cerebral organoids carrying a mutation in LGALS3BP , previously identified in individuals with cortical malformations and neuropsychiatric disorders. These results revealed differences in protein composition and changes in dorsoventral patterning. Proteins associated with cell fate decision, neuronal migration, and extracellular matrix composition were altered in mutant extracellular vesicles. Moreover, we show that treatment with extracellular vesicles changes the transcriptomic profile in neural progenitor cells. Our results indicate that neuronal molecular differentiation can be influenced by extracellular vesicles.
Is this article about Animals?


Detailed neuroscientific data from macaque monkeys have been essential in advancing understanding of human frontal cortex function, particularly for regions of frontal cortex without homologs in other model species. However, precise transfer of this knowledge for direct use in human applications requires an understanding of monkey to hominid homologies, particularly whether and how sulci and cytoarchitectonic regions in the frontal cortex of macaques relate to those in hominids. We combine sulcal pattern analysis with resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging and cytoarchitectonic analysis to show that old-world monkey brains have the same principles of organization as hominid brains, with the notable exception of sulci in the frontopolar cortex. This essential comparative framework provides insights into primate brain evolution and a key tool to drive translation from invasive research in monkeys to human applications.


Taking someone else’s visual perspective marks an evolutionary shift in the formation of advanced social cognition. It enables using others’ attention to discover otherwise hidden aspects of the surroundings and is foundational for human communication and understanding of others. Visual perspective taking has also been found in some other primates, a few songbirds, and some canids. However, despite its essential role for social cognition, visual perspective taking has only been fragmentedly studied in animals, leaving its evolution and origins uncharted. To begin to narrow this knowledge gap, we investigated extant archosaurs by comparing the neurocognitively least derived extant birds—palaeognaths—with the closest living relatives of birds, the crocodylians. In a gaze following paradigm, we showed that palaeognaths engage in visual perspective taking and grasp the referentiality of gazes, while crocodylians do not. This suggests that visual perspective taking originated in early birds or nonavian dinosaurs—likely earlier than in mammals.
Is this article about Neuroscience?


Cyclin-dependent kinase 12 (
) interacts with cyclin K to form a functional nuclear kinase that promotes processive transcription elongation through phosphorylation of the C-terminal domain of RNA polymerase II (Pol II). To gain a comprehensive understanding of CDK12's cellular function, we used chemical genetic and phosphoproteomic screening to identify a landscape of nuclear human CDK12 substrates, including regulators of transcription, chromatin organization, and RNA splicing. We further validated 
, a subunit of the polymerase-associated factor 1 complex (PAF1C), as a bona fide cellular substrate of CDK12. Acute depletion of LEO1, or substituting LEO1 phosphorylation sites with alanine, attenuated PAF1C association with elongating Pol II and impaired processive transcription elongation. Moreover, we discovered that LEO1 interacts with and is dephosphorylated by the Integrator-PP2A complex (INTAC) and that INTAC depletion promotes the association of PAF1C with Pol II. Together, this study reveals an uncharacterized role for CDK12 and INTAC in regulating LEO1 phosphorylation, providing important insights into gene transcription and its regulation.
Is this article about Cell?


Emphysema is a debilitating disease that remodels the lung leading to reduced tissue stiffness. Thus, understanding emphysema progression requires assessing lung stiffness at both the tissue and alveolar scales. Here, we introduce an approach to determine multiscale tissue stiffness and apply it to precision-cut lung slices (PCLS). First, we established a framework for measuring stiffness of thin, disk-like samples. We then designed a device to verify this concept and validated its measuring capabilities using known samples. Next, we compared healthy and emphysematous human PCLS and found that the latter was 50% softer. Through computational network modeling, we discovered that this reduced macroscopic tissue stiffness was due to both microscopic septal wall remodeling and structural deterioration. Lastly, through protein expression profiling, we identified a wide spectrum of enzymes that can drive septal wall remodeling, which, together with mechanical forces, lead to rupture and structural deterioration of the emphysematous lung parenchyma.
Is this article about Pharma?


Immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) have caused revolutionary changes in 
 treatment, but low response rates remain a challenge. 
Semaphorin 4A
 (Sema4A) modulates the immune system through multiple mechanisms in mice, although the role of human Sema4A in the tumor microenvironment remains unclear. This study demonstrates that histologically Sema4A-positive non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) responded significantly better to anti–
programmed cell death 1
 (PD-1) antibody than Sema4A-negative NSCLC. Intriguingly, SEMA4A expression in human NSCLC was mainly derived from tumor cells and was associated with T cell activation. Sema4A promoted cytotoxicity and proliferation of tumor-specific CD8 T cells without terminal exhaustion by enhancing mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1 and polyamine synthesis, which led to improved efficacy of PD-1 inhibitors in murine models. Improved T cell activation by recombinant Sema4A was also confirmed using isolated tumor-infiltrating T cells from patients with cancer. Thus, Sema4A might be a promising therapeutic target and biomarker for predicting and promoting ICI efficacy.


Convergent local adaptation offers a glimpse into the role of constraint and stochasticity in adaptive evolution, in particular the extent to which similar genetic mechanisms drive adaptation to common selective forces. Here, we investigated the genomics of local adaptation in two nonsister woodpeckers that are codistributed across an entire continent and exhibit remarkably convergent patterns of geographic variation. We sequenced the genomes of 140 individuals of Downy ( Dryobates pubescens ) and Hairy ( Dryobates villosus ) woodpeckers and used a suite of genomic approaches to identify loci under selection. We showed evidence that convergent genes have been targeted by selection in response to shared environmental pressures, such as temperature and precipitation. Among candidates, we found multiple genes putatively linked to key phenotypic adaptations to climate, including differences in body size (e.g., IGFPB ) and plumage (e.g., MREG ). These results are consistent with genetic constraints limiting the pathways of adaptation to broad climatic gradients, even after genetic backgrounds diverge.
For the first time, Meta opens the door to its artificial intelligence chips.
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  • The newly unveiled chips developed by Meta are expected to play a crucial role in powering more advanced applications within the metaverse.

In a recent AI infrastructure event, Meta (formerly known as 


) made a groundbreaking announcement regarding its internal silicon chip project. This revelation marked the first time that Meta publicly disclosed details about its computer chips. The company's focus on AI and data center hardware has attracted significant attention from investors, particularly as Meta enters a period of restructuring and cost reduction, which includes the termination of 21,000 employees.

The newly unveiled chips developed by Meta are expected to play a crucial role in powering more advanced applications within the metaverse. The metaverse is a concept that encompasses virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and various immersive digital experiences. With the introduction of these chips, Meta aims to enhance the capabilities and performance of metaverse-related tasks, pushing the boundaries of what is currently possible in VR, AR, and other related technologies.

Furthermore, Meta's computer chips have the potential to revolutionize the field of generative AI. Generative AI refers to artificial intelligence software that can generate compelling content, including text, images, and videos. This technology has wide-ranging applications, from creating realistic virtual environments to assisting in content creation across various industries. By leveraging their new chips, Meta intends to unlock the full potential of generative AI and drive innovation in this rapidly growing field.

Investors are closely monitoring Meta's advancements in AI and hardware as the company embarks on what it calls a "year of efficiency." This initiative involves significant workforce reductions and cost-cutting measures aimed at streamlining operations and improving overall efficiency. As Meta looks to the future, it recognizes the importance of investing in cutting-edge technologies, such as AI and silicon chips, to maintain its competitive edge in the evolving digital landscape.

The introduction of Meta's computer chips signifies the company's commitment to pushing the boundaries of technological innovation. By developing their own chips, Meta aims to have greater control over the hardware and optimize it for their specific needs, enabling them to deliver more immersive and seamless experiences within the metaverse. These advancements not only hold significant potential for enhancing VR, AR, and generative AI technologies but also pave the way for the future of digital interactions and content creation.

In conclusion, Meta's announcement about its internal silicon chip project during an AI infrastructure event marks a significant milestone for the company. These chips will serve as a crucial component in powering advanced metaverse-related tasks and driving progress in the field of generative AI. As Meta navigates its "year of efficiency," these investments in AI and hardware demonstrate its commitment to staying at the forefront of technological advancements. The unveiling of these chips showcases Meta's dedication to pushing the boundaries of what is possible in the realm of immersive digital experiences, signaling an exciting future for VR, AR, and generative AI technologies.

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It’s Not Enough for Ukraine to Win. Russia Has to Lose.
Is this article about Navy?

The United States has suffered from a deliberate fuzziness in formulating its objectives in the Russian war in Ukraine. Flaccid phrases like “helping Ukraine defend itself” or, even worse, “putting Ukraine in the best possible position for negotiations” are either meaningless or insipid. Bureaucratic mental fog is masquerading as artful policy, and it is dangerous. Strategy is the matching of means to ends. In war it is easy to become obsessed with action rather than purpose, and thereby to fall into Nietzsche’s famous description of the most common human stupidity: forgetting what one intended to do in the first place.

Ukraine knows how it defines victory: the pre-2014 borders cleansed of the invader, its exiles and refugees returned, its society and economy rebuilt, membership in the European Union and NATO attained, and some measure of justice for Russian rapists, torturers, and murderers secured. Similarly, we know how the Russians define victory: a Ukraine broken and severed from the West, much of its territory annexed; a Europe in disarray that resumes its addiction to cheap natural resources and business opportunities in Moscow; and the reconstruction of much of the old Russian imperial state.

We should want victory as Ukraine defines it. But to achieve it, the West must not only aid in the defeat of Russia—it must convince Russia that it has been defeated.

[From the June 2023 issue: The counteroffensive]

A Russia that prevails would be a Russia even further empowered to meddle in Europe and to expand its influence with unlimited violence; a Russia that will have learned that it can commit slaughter and atrocities with impunity; a Russia whose ambitions will grow with success. A Russian victory would, as well, teach the world that the West—including the United States—lacks the resolve, despite its wealth, to follow through on its commitments, offering Beijing an encouraging lesson.

Conversely, Russian defeat would put Beijing—already somewhat nervous about its partner’s incompetence and wild statements—on the defensive, consolidate the Western alliance, and help preserve some of the essential norms of decent behavior in those parts of the world most important to us. Above all, it would block the Russian imperial project for good, because without Ukraine, as the historian Dominic Lieven has noted, Russia cannot be an empire.

Russian defeat does not require a march on Moscow (rarely a good idea in the past), and it does not require a Russia that is defenseless and devastated (impossible without World War III). Rather, it will be achieved inside the heads of Russia’s leaders and population. Russia must be convinced that the military instrument, and its deployment in large-scale war, will inevitably fail, and it must realize that Ukraine is permanently and completely lost.

Such things have happened before. Israel did not occupy Arab capitals in 1967, but that war caused the Arab states to abandon the notion that they could annihilate the Jewish state through conventional means. The 1973 war forced the conclusion that even limited conventional conflict was too hazardous to attempt.

In Vietnam and Afghanistan, the United States was defeated without losing a single battle. We became convinced that fighting was both futile and painful, that our enemies were implacable and unbeatable, and that the price paid in blood, treasure, and attention was in no way worth the cost and never would be.

Carl von Clausewitz, the German philosopher of war, said that war is a trial of moral and physical forces through the medium of the latterUkraine must not only achieve battlefield success in its upcoming counteroffensives; it must secure more than orderly Russian withdrawals following cease-fire negotiations. To be brutal about it, we need to see masses of Russians fleeing, deserting, shooting their officers, taken captive, or dead. The Russian defeat must be an unmistakably big, bloody shambles.

[Hein Goemans and Branislav Slantchev: Why Ukraine shouldn’t talk to Russia—yet]

Russia’s theories of victory in Ukraine have collapsed one by one. Putin began by believing that the country would fall in a week; then that it would succumb to a month or two of hard fighting; then that Europe would abandon it during a cold winter without Russian gas; then that Ukraine could be bludgeoned into submission by attacking its cities. The final theory of victory—that the West does not have the heart to pour vast resources into Ukraine indefinitely—needs to be disproved as well, because there is nothing beyond that.

To that end, with the utmost urgency, the West should give everything that Ukraine could possibly use, including long-range missiles to break for good the 11-mile Kerch bridge between the mainland and Crimea, and cluster munitions to devastate Russian fighting vehicles and infantry. Breaking the Russian army, as we have, by spending only a small fraction of our defense budget and none of our blood is an astounding strategic bargain.

Russians must, moreover, conclude that Ukraine—formerly, in their view, a pseudo-state containing “cousins” or “little brothers”—is gone forever. That means speedy accession to the EU and NATO, but also a deep Western commitment to rebuilding Ukraine economically and, most important, arming it to the teeth for years to come.

The paltering of the administration about giving our superabundant F-16s to Ukraine is foolish and shortsighted. These jets might not make a difference on the battlefield two months from now, but the knowledge that several hundred of them are in the pipeline for the next five years would have profound symbolic importance. We should be talking about how we will rebuild Ukraine’s armed forces, the West’s largest, most combat-tested, and in some ways most determined army.

The West needs an aggressive information campaign to drive home the reality of Russian defeat. Russians need to be reminded that their faltering economy is only a tenth the size of the EU’s; that they cannot build and deploy a modern tank; that their latest high-performance jet, the Su-57, will be outnumbered by the F-35s of the four small Nordic states; that their generals are superannuated and incompetent; that their high command is indifferent to their men’s lives; that their equipment is inferior to that of Ukraine; and that their logistics are rotted by graft and corruption.

Information warfare should be reinforced by continued sanctions, whose aim is not so much to win the war as to cripple Russian war-making potential for the long run by depressing the economy and forcing Russia to make do with inferior components and spare parts.

Russia must be isolated politically and psychologically as well, thereby playing on the country’s historical ambivalence about the West, represented in its two capitals: St. Petersburg, facing Europe, and Moscow, facing Asia. But Russian literature, art, culture, and political practice are rooted in its relationship with Europe. The time may come—years or, more likely, decades from now—when a postimperial Russia will turn westward again.

This is all doable. In fact, it has happened on a smaller scale before. Russian leaders became convinced in the late 1970s and early ’80s that they could not keep up with advances in Western military technology, even as they fought and lost the war in Afghanistan. The Gorbachev upheaval was in part the result of this realization.

[David J. Kramer, John Herbst, and William Taylor: The only realistic answer to Putin]

But our expectations today should be measured. Unfortunately, a defeated Russia will still be malevolent, angry, and vengeful; it will probably still be ruled by the “vertical of power,” the hard men from the security ministries; it will be suffused with lawlessness and murder; and it will engage in subversion, political warfare, and malicious behavior of all kinds. But who would not prefer to deal with a thousand troll farms and front organizations than one Mariupol? And this Russia would be far less dangerous to us, far less useful to China, far less likely to raise monstrous new threats in the years to come.

The key to this strategy is courage. We must conquer our fears of Russian threats and escalation, of its nuclear bravado, and even of Russian collapse. We must be strategic and shrewd, but nothing can be accomplished without courage. In the words of John Paul II—the unarmed, lone old man who did so much to bring Soviet communism to its knees—“Never doubt, never tire, and never become discouraged. Be not afraid.”

This article was adapted from a speech given to the Polish Institute of International Affairs’s Strategic Ark conference on May 17, 2023.


Nature Communications, Published online: 19 May 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-38714-z

Whole genome duplication can generate new genes and support survival through mass extinctions. Here, the authors show that paddlefish and sturgeon shared a genome duplication event 200 million years ago that was previously unrecognised due to the mixed signals from independent rediploidisation.
Writers Furious When Fanfiction Site Won’t Ban AI-Generated Work
Feedly AI found 1 Leadership Changes mention in this article
  • "I think OTW’s Legal Chair Betsy Rosenblatt needs to step down," one wrote on Twitter .
Writers are furious that Archive of Our Own (AO3), one of the world's largest fanfiction websites, won't ban AI-generated fanfiction.

Fandom Fracas

Writers are threatening to pull their stories from Archive of Our Own (AO3), one of the world's largest fanfiction websites, after staff posted that they will not prohibit the publication of artificial intelligence-generated fanfiction on the website.

Typifying the anger, one Twitter user wrote that they "would rather have one hundred thousand unreadably bad human-written fics added to AO3 every day than one AI fic."

The fandom drama kicked off earlier this month when the nonprofit group Organization for Transformative Works (OTW), which oversees AO3, posted an excerpt of an interview with Betsy Rosenblatt, professor of law at The University of Tulsa and chairperson of OTW's legal committee, who expressed enthusiasm over AI scraping fanfiction on the Internet.

"One of the things that excites me — which is probably a bit off to the side of what most people are talking about with AI and copyright — is that AIs are reading fan fiction now," she said in the interview, originally published in February by the Association of Research Libraries.

Friends to Enemies

Fanfic writers expressed outrage.

"I think OTW’s Legal Chair Betsy Rosenblatt needs to step down," one wrote on Twitter. "I don't want a rep of OTW chatting happily about how great it is to train AI on fanfic."

But at least one writer was pleased that somebody, even an AI bot, was reading their smutty fanfic.

"AI CHATGPT fanfic bots scraping my AO3 and filling their neural networks with my depraved gay incest porn," one quipped.

Epilogue Ride

After deleting the interview excerpt and posting an apology, OTW published a blog post that said staff members had put in place "technical measures to hinder large-scale data scraping on AO3" in a bid to calm frayed tempers.

However, in the same blog post, OTW staff also wrote that AO3's Terms of Service does not prohibit AI-generated fanfiction.

"If fans are using AI to generate fanworks, then our current position is that this is also a type of work that is within our mandate to preserve," it wrote.

This isn't the first bump in the road for the fanfiction community when it comes to AI. It recently came to light, for instance, that Sudowrite, an AI writing assistant, was able to generate fiction that featured the concept "omegaverse," an erotic fanfiction trope — leading to suspicion that OpenAI's GPT, which powers Sudowrite, had trained its model on data scraped from the AO3 website, which has an ever-expanding trove of stories set in disparate worlds ranging from "Harry Potter" to Goethe's "Faust."

More on AI: Newspaper Apologizes for Accidentally Running Deranged AI-Generated Article

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Brain activity decoder translates thoughts into text
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  • A new artificial intelligence system called a semantic decoder can translate a person’s brain activity—while listening to a story or silently imagining telling a story—into a continuous stream of text.

download(size: 11 MB )
White fridge magnets with words in black text on them arranged into a thought bubble shape on a red background.

A new artificial intelligence system called a semantic decoder can translate a person’s brain activity—while listening to a story or silently imagining telling a story—into a continuous stream of text.

The system might help people who are mentally conscious yet unable to physically speak, such as those debilitated by strokes, to communicate intelligibly again.

The study in the journal Nature Neuroscience was led by Jerry Tang, a doctoral student in computer science, and Alex Huth, an assistant professor of neuroscience and computer science at the University of Texas at Austin. The work relies in part on a transformer model, similar to the ones that power Open AI’s ChatGPT and Google’s Bard.

You can listen to a short podcast about the research here:

How it works

Unlike other language decoding systems in development, this system does not require subjects to have surgical implants, making the process noninvasive. Participants also do not need to use only words from a prescribed list. Brain activity is measured using an fMRI scanner after extensive training of the decoder, in which the individual listens to hours of podcasts in the scanner. Later, provided that the participant is open to having their thoughts decoded, their listening to a new story or imagining telling a story allows the machine to generate corresponding text from brain activity alone.

“For a noninvasive method, this is a real leap forward compared to what’s been done before, which is typically single words or short sentences,” Huth says. “We’re getting the model to decode continuous language for extended periods of time with complicated ideas.”

The result is not a word-for-word transcript. Instead, researchers designed it to capture the gist of what is being says or thought, albeit imperfectly. About half the time, when the decoder has been trained to monitor a participant’s brain activity, the machine produces text that closely (and sometimes precisely) matches the intended meanings of the original words.

For example, in experiments, a participant listening to a speaker say, “I don’t have my driver’s license yet” had their thoughts translated as, “She has not even started to learn to drive yet.” Listening to the words, “I didn’t know whether to scream, cry or run away. Instead, I said, ‘Leave me alone!'” was decoded as, “Started to scream and cry, and then she just said, ‘I told you to leave me alone.'”

Beginning with an earlier version of the paper that appeared as a preprint online, the researchers addressed questions about potential misuse of the technology. The paper describes how decoding worked only with cooperative participants who had participated willingly in training the decoder. Results for individuals on whom the decoder had not been trained were unintelligible, and if participants on whom the decoder had been trained later put up resistance—for example, by thinking other thoughts—results were similarly unusable.

“We take very seriously the concerns that it could be used for bad purposes and have worked to avoid that,” Tang says. “We want to make sure people only use these types of technologies when they want to and that it helps them.”

In addition to having participants listen or think about stories, the researchers asked subjects to watch four short, silent videos while in the scanner. The semantic decoder was able to use their brain activity to accurately describe certain events from the videos.

The system currently is not practical for use outside of the laboratory because of its reliance on the time need on an fMRI machine. But the researchers think this work could transfer to other, more portable brain-imaging systems, such as functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS).

“fNIRS measures where there’s more or less blood flow in the brain at different points in time, which, it turns out, is exactly the same kind of signal that fMRI is measuring,” Huth says. “So, our exact kind of approach should translate to fNIRS,” although, he notes, the resolution with fNIRS would be lower.

Frequently asked questions

Could this technology be used on someone without them knowing, say by an authoritarian regime interrogating political prisoners or an employer spying on employees?

No. The system has to be extensively trained on a willing subject in a facility with large, expensive equipment. “A person needs to spend up to 15 hours lying in an MRI scanner, being perfectly still, and paying good attention to stories that they’re listening to before this really works well on them,” says Huth.

Could training be skipped altogether?

No. The researchers tested the system on people whom it hadn’t been trained on and found that the results were unintelligible.

Are there ways someone can defend against having their thoughts decoded?

Yes. The researchers tested whether a person who had previously participated in training could actively resist subsequent attempts at brain decoding. Tactics like thinking of animals or quietly imagining telling their own story let participants easily and completely thwart the system from recovering the speech the person was exposed to.

What if technology and related research evolved to one day overcome these obstacles or defenses?

“I think right now, while the technology is in such an early state, it’s important to be proactive by enacting policies that protect people and their privacy,” Tang says. “Regulating what these devices can be used for is also very important.”

This work was supported by the Whitehall Foundation, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and the Burroughs Wellcome Fund.

Alexander Huth and Jerry Tang have filed a PCT patent application related to this work.

Source: UT Austin

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The FDA just approved rub-on gene therapy that helps “butterfly” children
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Antonio Vento is 13 years old. He’s a tiny figure in bandages who doesn’t walk and, until recently, couldn’t see more than shadows. He has dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa, an inherited disease that makes his skin so fragile that kids with the illness are called “butterfly children.”

But now, thanks to a novel gene therapy squirted onto his skin and dripped into his eyes, things are better. His wounds have gotten smaller, and a visit to the eye doctor this week confirmed that his vision had dramatically improved.

“They said my right eye is 20/25,” he chirped in Spanish during a phone call. “Now I can see small things.” That includes the blocks and items in the video game Minecraft, which he has started to play.

And call him Anthony, he said. He prefers it.

On Friday, the 

US Food and Drug Administration

 approved the gene-replacement treatment Anthony received, making it the first gene therapy for sale that is applied to the outside of a patient’s body—as well as the first intended to be used on the same person repeatedly.

For “butterfly children” like Anthony, the problem is that their bodies don’t make the type of collagen that holds the skin’s layers together. The result is chronic, blistering wounds—all over the skin, but also inside the throat and sometimes on the eyes.

The treatment introduces a missing gene to skin cells so they can make collagen, and the novel delivery strategy is already being studied to treat other rare skin conditions. An inhaled gene therapy to treat cystic fibrosis is also being explored.

The treatment, called Vyjuvek, was developed by the Pittsburgh startup Krystal Biotech and is approved for treating anyone older than six months of age with this specific form of epidermolysis bullosa, a condition that until now has had few treatment options and affects only about 3,000 people in the US, according to the company.

“Since he was born, all I do is change bandages and heal wounds,” says Anthony’s mother, Yunielkys Carvajal, who emigrated to the US from Cuba in 2012 under a humanitarian visa to seek treatment for Anthony.

Since 2017, the FDA has approved five gene therapies for rare inherited diseases—Krystal’s will make it six—and several others for treating blood cancer.

But those earlier treatments are all delivered by injection or by altering immune cells outside the body. By formulating gene therapy into an ointment that’s rubbed on, Krystal has achieved what its CEO, Krish Krishnan, has called “a simple, convenient, patient-friendly way to provide the missing gene to these patients.”

The company did not say how much the treatment will cost, but other gene therapies have set record prices with the highest, for hemophilia B, coming in at $3.5 million.

Gene replacement for skin may also have lucrative future uses in cosmetics. A subsidiary established by Krystal has begun testing a version of the drug on volunteers to try to reverse crow’s feet and other wrinkles caused when people’s bodies make less collagen as they age.

That project, if it succeeds, could lead to a future where gene therapy is given to adults for non-medical enhancement, not just to treat dire health conditions. The subsidiary, named Jeune, refers to itself as a “gene-based aesthetics company.”

Really impressive

Evidence that the treatment works was presented in  a 2022 study carried out by Krystal in which Anthony was among 31 epidermolysis bullosa patients between the ages of one and 44 who had the gene-therapy ointment applied to their most severe wounds, while a placebo was put on other wounds they had for comparison. 

Caravajal, Anthony’s mother, says that during the study they picked a particularly big and painful wound on his heel. “We put it on and it went away and never opened again,” she says. “That was incredible. That was a big, chronic wound, and I’ve never seen it again. That really impressed me.”

The treatment made that wound go away, and others are shrinking, but it’s not a cure. One reason is that skin cells are constantly being replaced with new cells, which suffer from the same genetic defect. That means the therapy has to be reapplied by a nurse or doctor once a week.

Krystal says its treatment is the first gene therapy approved for such repeated use.

“I think it is really exciting, but I do worry about how durable the treatment is,” says Denitsa Milanova, founder of a Boston startup, Marble Therapeutics, which also works on gene therapy. She says collagen forms fibers in the skin that last about two or three months.

Milanova also believes the ointment only works because it’s applied to raw wounds, where the underlying layers, including skin stem cells, are exposed and can accept new genes. “But you can’t rub this on healthy skin, it wouldn’t work,” she says. That is because of how normal skin acts as a barrier, a fact which may explain why, in Krystal’s tests to combat wrinkles, its gene therapy is being injected into the skin with a needle.

Herpes virus

Scientists now have numerous tools to manipulate genes in their labs, where fixing cells in a dish or even curing mice of deadly conditions is commonplace. But the challenge in treating people is that it is harder to get corrected DNA into their bodies, a problem known as gene delivery.

Krystal is among dozens of companies seeking innovative ways to deliver replacement genes to more locations in the human body, including hard-to-reach organs like the brain.

“Delivery is the most important factor in genetic medicine,” says Maxx Chatsko, founder of Solt DB, a publisher and investment analysis company, who also buys and sells shares in biotech companies (including Krystal). “I think this could eventually be the first gene therapy people dose at home.”

Gene delivery usually involves placing a DNA strand inside a virus naturally equipped to enter a human cell and drop off the gene. In Krystal’s case, the company is using herpes simplex virus, the same one that causes cold sores.

HSV-1, as the virus is known, is very common—about half the people in the world are infected by it. That means it is fairly safe, but it also has the advantage that it naturally evades the immune system. Krishnan says that feature is what permits the drug to be used repeatedly, without causing negative reactions.

While the startup has been successful, Chatsko says there has also been some controversy over how it hit upon its strategy. In 2022, Krystal agreed to pay up to $75 million to another startup, PeriphaGen, which accused Krishnan and the company of pilfering its ideas and technology.  

Eye drops

Whether or not this is a case of a stolen “Eureka,” Krystal has already demonstrated the versatility of its approach by developing an eye-drop version of the drug at the request of Anthony’s ophthalmologist, Alfonso Sabater, director of the Corneal Innovation Lab at the University of Miami’s medical school.

“When I learned he was in the skin trial, I thought, why don’t we try that on the eye,” says Sabater, who reached a special agreement with the FDA to test the idea on a single patient, Anthony. First, Sabater surgically removed a layer of scar tissue that had built up on Anthony’s eyes. After that, he says, monthly use of the eye drops appears to have stopped those injuries from returning. 

“I think this is also the first time there’s a gene therapy for the cornea, and the first time it’s in an eye drop,” says Sabater.

It’s unclear whether or not Krystal intends to commercialize the eye-drop version of the drug.

Flight from Cuba

Anthony’s mother says the family’s encounter with cutting-edge gene technology couldn’t have been predicted when her son was born. By the time he was three, however, he had blisters on his eyes and found it difficult to swallow.

He later lost his vision, and as wounds formed on his joints, Anthony says, “it became scary to walk, so I stopped walking.”

Caravajal says she left her job at a telephone company to care for Anthony and then resolved to leave her country as well. “Cuba is a Third World country. They didn’t know the condition, and there was no medicine,” says Caravajal. “If we’d stayed in Cuba, I don’t know what would have happened.”

“I had two choices, and I chose to launch myself into the unknown,” she says.

Anthony’s father, Antonio Vento, holds a Spanish passport, so he was able to fly to the US and secure a humanitarian visa for Anthony and his mother. She remembers the date they arrived: the 16th of December, 2012.

The family first tried to get acclimated and sought out a team of doctors to help Anthony. But his mother was ready to try for more. “It’s a degenerative disease. It’s not something you can go to the pharmacy for, but you don’t want to sit with your arms crossed, either,” she says.

Anthony was first enrolled in a clinical trial in California with a company called Fibrocell. That treatment had no effect, but Caravajal says that’s when she met Suma Krishnan, president of Krystal (she and Krystal’s CEO are married), who encouraged her to enroll Anthony in the study of the gene-therapy ointment.

The results have been impressive. “It’s not a definitive cure, but it’s the best I have seen with his wounds. Every time we see the doctor we take pictures, and his injuries are smaller now, and some are gone,” says Caravajal

The family has remained part of the clinical study, which has continued in an open phase that allows the volunteers to keep accessing the drug. Each visit, they get to use eight small ampules of the gene cream, and they can decide where on Anthony’s body to put it.  

What happens next, when the drug needs to be purchased, is an open question for the family.

“We tell them that we need this medicine, and we don’t want it to stop,” says Caravajal. “If it were possible, we’d use more.”

Government Warns That Amazon Smoke Detector Doesn't Detect Smoke
Is this article about Tech?
A federal watchdog is warning customers that some combination smoke and carbon monoxide detectors being sold on Amazon don't work.

Fire Sale

The US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), a federal watchdog, is warning customers that certain combination smoke and carbon monoxide detectors being sold on 


 are absolutely terrible at alerting consumers that their homes are on fire.

In other words, the e-commerce giant is selling smoke detectors that can't reliably detect smoke — an astoundingly troubling finding that could put consumers at great risk.

The brand in question was selling the battery-powered safety devices for around $46 a pop, according to the CPSC. Fortunately, Amazon appears to have already intervened and a quick search on the platform of the brand now offers up no results.

Besides, the brand's letter salad name itself should've made anybody think twice about pulling the trigger.

"I'm positively shocked that a product made by the long-trusted, loyalty-inducing, stalwart brand 'BQQZHZ' turns out to be a dangerous piece of garbage,"quipped Consumer Reports investigative reporter Lauren Kirchner.

No Smoking

The incident demonstrates the very real risks Amazon exposes its customers to. Experts have long warned that the retailer has been selling thousands of banned and unsafe products, making it a dangerous flea market of mindboggling proportions.

A 2019 investigation by The Wall Street Journal found over 4,000 items for sale that had been declared unsafe, deceptively labeled, or outright banned. At least half of them were toys or medications that lacked the necessary warning labels.

In 2021, the CPSC sued Amazon in an attempt to stop it from allowing third parties of selling hazardous products to its customers. Among those products were children's pajamas that could catch on fire, hair dryers that could electrocute you if they were dropped in water — and, of course, dysfunctional carbon monoxide detectors.

As a response, Amazon simply removed the listings in question.

Unfortunately, the CPSC only has limited powers to order any recalls itself, and going to court is a costly endeavor.

But putting public pressure has already worked out for the watchdog as a strategy in the past. In 2021, fitness brand Peloton refused to recall its treadmills in light of reports that they could be dangerous to children.

After the CPSC released a graphic video of a child being sucked underneath a Peloton treadmill to up the pressure on the stationary bike brand, though, the company eventually gave in and ordered a recall.

More on Amazon: Amazon Is Being Flooded With Books Entirely Written by AI

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Is this article about Neuroscience?
The course of human history has been marked by complex patterns of migration, isolation, and admixture, the latter a term that refers to gene flow between individuals from different populations. Admixture results in a blending of genetic lineages, leading to increased genetic diversity within populations. In addition to admixture among modern human populations, ancient humans reproduced with other hominin groups, such as Neanderthals and Denisovans.
Examining puppeteer fungus' targeted takeover of zombie flies
Is this article about Neuroscience?
In a new study published in eLife, lead author Carolyn Elya, postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology at Harvard, reveals the molecular and cellular underpinnings behind the parasitic fungus, Entomophthora muscae's (E. muscae), ability to manipulate the behavior of fruit flies.
The nucleobase molecules carrying the genetic codes are the most important ingredients for life, but they are also very vulnerable. When the ultraviolet component in the sunlight irradiates these molecules, the electrons in the molecules will be excited, and the excited nucleobase molecules may result in irreversible changes or even damages to the DNA and RNA chains, leading to the "sunburn" of organisms at molecular level.
Is this article about Neuroscience?
In a new study published in eLife, lead author Carolyn Elya, postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology at Harvard, reveals the molecular and cellular underpinnings behind the parasitic fungus, Entomophthora muscae's (E. muscae), ability to manipulate the behavior of fruit flies.
New images released by Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope
Is this article about Energy?
The National Science Foundation's (NSF) Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope released eight new images of the sun, previewing the exciting science underway at the world's most powerful ground-based solar telescope. The images feature a variety of sunspots and quiet regions of the sun obtained by the Visible-Broadband Imager (VBI), one of the telescope's first-generation instruments.
Is this article about Pharma?
Polygenic scores—estimates of an individual's predisposition for complex traits and diseases—hold promise for identifying patients at risk of disease and guiding early, personalized treatments, but UCLA experts found the scores fail to account for the wide range of genetic diversity across individuals in all ancestries.
Radiant protostars and shadowy clouds clash in stellar nursery
The massive, star-forming interstellar cloud Lupus 3 is captured with the 570-megapixel US Department of Energy-fabricated Dark Energy Camera at NSF's NOIRLab's Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile. The dazzling central region of this sprawling cloud reveals a pair of infant stars bursting from their natal cocoons of dust and gas to illuminate the reflection nebula known as Bernes 149. These contrasting regions make this object a prime target of research on star formation.
The nucleobase molecules carrying the genetic codes are the most important ingredients for life, but they are also very vulnerable. When the ultraviolet component in the sunlight irradiates these molecules, the electrons in the molecules will be excited, and the excited nucleobase molecules may result in irreversible changes or even damages to the DNA and RNA chains, leading to the "sunburn" of organisms at molecular level.
A guide through the genome of crops
Plants show enormous variety in traits relevant to breeding, such as plant height, yield and resistance to pests. One of the greatest challenges in modern plant research is to identify the differences in genetic information that are responsible for this variation.
Is this article about Pharma?
Polygenic scores—estimates of an individual's predisposition for complex traits and diseases—hold promise for identifying patients at risk of disease and guiding early, personalized treatments, but UCLA experts found the scores fail to account for the wide range of genetic diversity across individuals in all ancestries.
'Mini kangaroos' hop back in South Australia
The brush-tailed bettong—a rare, very cute marsupial resembling a rabbit-sized kangaroo—is bouncing back on the South Australian mainland, more than 100 years after disappearing from the region.
Satellite-derived bathymetry continues to advance and improve rapidly. A recent study has confirmed the effectiveness of a methodology developed to obtain bathymetric data from satellite images in the Western Mediterranean. The results of this research, published in the International Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation, reaffirm the value of this tool for monitoring coastal areas with varying turbidity levels and diverse seafloor characteristics.
The Provocative Optimism of Master Gardener

Early on in Master Gardener, the taciturn, mysterious protagonist sits down and starts writing in a journal, essaying his thoughts in voice-over. I saw the film with a packed audience that immediately let out a knowing chuckle. The director Paul Schrader’s explorations of the inner life of “God’s lonely man” have included a lot of cinematic diaries over the years. Master Gardener completes a trilogy that began with 2018’s First Reformed and 2021’s The Card Counter, tales of men wrestling with chaotic guilt and seeking a modicum of redemption. The series has helped bring new attention and deserved praise to Schrader’s body of work.

Master Gardener focuses on perhaps the touchiest topic yet in Schrader’s challenging filmography: neo-Nazism and white supremacy. It’s also, surprisingly, the most optimistic of his “man in a room” movies. Is Schrader becoming a softie in his advancing age? Maybe, but I think Master Gardener’s sensitivity is provocative in and of itself, daring the audience to forgive a man whose past is steeped in profound evil.

[Read: A film that draws you into a frightening—and compelling—psyche]

The atonement arc largely succeeds, though Schrader is guilty of barreling through some moments of character development and acceptance that might take a lifetime to achieve in reality. Each film in the trilogy takes on themes of staggering weight: In First Reformed, the specter of an apocalypse hangs over the main character. In The Card Counter, the protagonist is haunted by his former identity as a torturer for the U.S. military in Iraq. In Master Gardener, Narvel Roth (played by Joel Edgerton) is a meticulous gardener on a huge estate run by the wealthy dowager Norma Haverhill (Sigourney Weaver); only she knows that he was once a violent neo-Nazi, and that his body is covered in white-supremacist tattoos.

The relationship between Norma and Narvel is cloyingly genteel on the surface. She calls him “sweet pea” and completely trusts in his maintenance of her gardens. But she has an unspoken level of control over him, fueled by his shame; he wants his past to remain unknown, and he dresses in long sleeves and pants even on the sunniest days to hide it away. The statuesque Weaver expertly underplays Norma’s frightening WASPiness, letting out the barest hints of her true vindictiveness; meanwhile, Edgerton directs all his intensity inward, taking as much care with every brusque line reading as Narvel does with his beloved plants.

The garden landscape, a hideaway that looks prim and proper but is also a habitat for radical transformation, is a perfect metaphor for the overall story. Much like the time lapses that Schrader layers throughout the film, of flowers growing and blooming under scrupulous care, Narvel’s own progress is aided by his strict schedule and spartan lifestyle (along with, the audience learns, an arrest for violent crimes that led to a plea deal and his placement in witness protection). The final step in that journey arrives with Norma’s grandniece, Maya (Quintessa Swindell), a disaffected young biracial woman in need of a job and stability that Norma thinks the regimented Narvel can provide.

Narvel and Maya’s eventual bond is the most complicated twist in his metamorphosis. And it’s another thread that’s deeply reminiscent of First Reformed and The Card Counter, whose protagonists open up after more-grounded women enter their lives. There’s something endearing about Schrader repeating the same plot beats again and again; even his famed script for Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver back in 1976 saw a man writing in a diary and struggling with both his potential for evil and his capacity to forge a romantic bond.

That film ends extremely pessimistically, whereas this recent trilogy equivocates on whether people can genuinely better themselves. Master Gardener needs the audience to buy into Narvel and Maya’s relationship, and if they don’t, the heartfelt finale may come off to some as an unrealistic fairytale. But it worked for me, largely because of the way Edgerton’s wounded, cautious performance bumps up against Swindell’s raw nerviness. Master Gardener is a spiky and often mournful tale, but I appreciated the bits of hope Schrader mixes in to temper the bleaker realities he’s tended to for so long.

From its humble origin(s), life has infected the entire planet with endless beautiful forms. The genesis of life is the oldest biological event, so old that no clear evidence was left behind other than the existence of life itself. This leaves many questions open, and one of the most tantalizing is how many times life magically emerged from non-living elements.
A simple way to improve employee well-being without denting productivity
During the coronavirus lockdowns, 50% of European workers were estimated to engage in some form of smart working—smart working at its worst, though, because it was unplanned and in many cases full-time, with a strong potential to create a sense of social isolation. The flip side of the coin is that this experience revealed that smart working is feasible both for routine and for non-routine tasks, and agreements that allow employees to work from home one or more days per week are now common in the Western world. What is still lacking is a scientifically rigorous assessment of its effectiveness.
Could NASA resurrect the Spitzer space telescope?
Is this article about Aerospace?
Spitzer Space Telescope
 served the astronomy community well for 16 years. From its launch in 2003 to the end of its operations in January 2020, its infrared observations fueled scientific discoveries too numerous to list.
Fatty acids might exist in space
A team of physicists have discovered that the environment of a molecular cloud in interstellar space can support the existence of fatty acids, a key component of life on Earth.
Did life evolve more than once? Researchers are closing in on an answer
From its humble origin(s), life has infected the entire planet with endless beautiful forms. The genesis of life is the oldest biological event, so old that no clear evidence was left behind other than the existence of life itself. This leaves many questions open, and one of the most tantalizing is how many times life magically emerged from non-living elements.
NASA Awards Sore Loser Jeff Bezos a Consolation Prize Moon Contract
NASA officially awarded a Blue Origin-led team a $3.4 billion contract for its upcoming Artemis V mission to the Moon.

Two years after losing NASA's much-coveted Human Landing Systems (HLS) contract to SpaceX and its explosion-prone Starship spacecraft, Jeff Bezos' rocket company Blue Origin has finally scored some of its own federal funding to build a lunar lander.

After Blue Origin made a huge fuss over NASA's decision to award SpaceX — and SpaceX only — the almost $3 billion HLS contract back in 2021, the agency established a second initiative called the Sustaining Lunar Development program.

And today, NASA officially awarded a Blue Origin-led team, which also includes industry titans Lockheed Martin and Boeing, a $3.4 billion contract for its upcoming Artemis V mission.

Put simply, Bezos has finally got his consolation prize, possibly — but by no means certainly — putting an end to years of bickering between two of the richest men in the world.

Before we go on, here's a little refresher: Artemis II is the first scheduled crewed mission of NASA's Orion spacecraft and will involve a crewed lunar flyby. NASA selected SpaceX's Starship as its lunar lander — but not launch rocket — for its Artemis III mission, the first planned lunar landing mission, which is tentatively scheduled for 2025. Artemis IV will add NASA's Lunar Gateway to the mix.

And the agency's Artemis V mission is slated to launch in 2029, and will involve sending astronauts from the Lunar Gateway to the Moon's south pole inside Blue Origin's lunar lander.

"Today we are excited to announce Blue Origin will build a human landing system as NASA’s second provider to deliver Artemis astronauts to the lunar surface," said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson in an announcement, adding that "we are in a golden age of human spaceflight."

NASA backed up its decision to award Blue Origin the contract, arguing that adding a second lunar lander system partner "will increase competition, reduce costs to taxpayers, support a regular cadence of lunar landings, further invest in the lunar economy, and help NASA achieve its goals on and around the Moon in preparation for future astronaut missions to Mars."

"We want more competition," Nelson added. "It means that you have reliability. You have backups."

Much love was lost over the years leading up to today's decision, a process that was fraught with fingerpointing, mudslinging, and legal action.

The original HLS contract sent sparks flying, with Bezos and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk repeatedly butting heads over who got to enjoy the fruits of NASA's ambitious plans to return humans to the Moon.

Things really started heating up when Blue Origin called out NASA's decision to award its HLS contract to SpaceX as being "flawed," accusations that culminated in Bezos suing NASA.

Musk took the opportunity to tear into Bezos, going as far as to suggest that Bezos should be zapped "on the head with our space lasers."

"He should consider spending some money on actual lunar lander hardware, instead of shady lobbyists," Musk tweeted at the time.

Blue Origin didn't take these accusations lightly and attempted to undermine public confidence in SpaceX's Starship launch platform, arguing that it was "immensely complex and high risk."

Meanwhile, NASA was trapped in the crossfire, stuck with its own heavy-launch rocket that wasn't just years late, but billions of dollars over budget.

To its relief, NASA's Space Launch System performed admirably during the agency's first Artemis mission late last year, an uncrewed journey around the Moon and back.

The mission sets the stage for both SpaceX and Blue Origin, which now have their work cut out to live up to their promises of developing a reliable capsule capable of safely delivering astronauts to the lunar surface.

While SpaceX has made tangible progress in developing its Starship spacecraft — explosions notwithstanding — we have yet to see much of Blue Origin's "Blue Moon" lander beyond some renders and a full-scale dummy lander being delivered to NASA back in 2020.

Fortunately, Blue Origin has a bit more time, with until 2029 to get its ducks in a row.

Beyond the bitter feud between the two space companies, today's news highlights NASA's immense confidence in the private space industry to realize its goal of returning the first astronauts to the lunar surface in over half a century.

"This is an incredible pivot in history," Ars Technica's Eric Berger tweeted. "We have a private competition to build landers to put humans on the Moon, with fixed price contracts, that pits two of the richest Americans against one another."

"This is not your mama's NASA," he added.

More on Artemis: NASA's New Artemis II Graphics Are So Freaking Awesome

The post NASA Awards Sore Loser Jeff Bezos a Consolation Prize Moon Contract appeared first on Futurism.

Using mass spectrometry imaging to map fluxes quantitatively in the tumor ecosystem
Is this article about Neuroscience?

Nature Communications, Published online: 19 May 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-38403-x

Isotopologue spectral analysis was originally designed to assess metabolic fluxes from bulk samples. Here, the authors adapted this approach to infer fluxes from discrete regions in tissue by using mass spectrometry imaging, showing increased fatty acid synthesis flux in brain tumors of mice.
ChatGPT Is Already Obsolete
Feedly AI found 2 Product Launches mentions in this article

Last week, at Google’s annual conference dedicated to new products and technologies, the company announced a change to its premier AI product: The Bard chatbot, like OpenAI’s GPT-4, will soon be able to describe images. Although it may seem like a minor update, the enhancement is part of a quiet revolution in how companies, researchers, and consumers develop and use AI—pushing the technology not only beyond remixing written language and into different media, but toward the loftier goal of a rich and thorough comprehension of the world. ChatGPT is six months old, and it’s already starting to look outdated.  


That program and its cousins, known as large language models, mime intelligence by predicting what words are statistically likely to follow one another in a sentence. Researchers have trained these models on ever more text—at this point, every book ever and then some—with the premise that force-feeding machines more words in different configurations will yield better predictions and smarter programs. This text-maximalist approach to AI development has been dominant, especially among the most public-facing corporate products, for years.


But language-only models such as the original ChatGPT are now giving way to machines that can also process images, audio, and even sensory data from robots. The new approach might reflect a more human understanding of intelligence, an early attempt to approximate how a child learns by existing in and observing the world. It might also help companies build AI that can do more stuff and therefore be packaged into more products.


GPT-4 and Bard are not the only programs with these expanded capabilities. Also last week, Meta released a program called ImageBind that processes text, images, audio, information about depth, infrared radiation, and information about motion and position. Google’s recent PaLM-E was trained on both language and robot sensory data, and the company has teased a new, more powerful model that moves beyond text. Microsoft has its own model, which was trained on words and images. Text-to-image generators such as DALL-E 2, which captivated the internet last summer, are trained on captioned pictures.


These are known as multimodal models—text is one modality, images another—and many researchers hope they will bring AI to new heights. The grandest future is one in which AI isn’t limited to writing formulaic essays and assisting people in Slack; it would be able to search the internet without making things up, animate a video, guide a robot, or create a website on its own (as GPT-4 did in a demonstration, based on a loose concept sketched by a human).

[Read: ChatGPT changed everything. Now its follow-up is here.]

A multimodal approach could theoretically solve a central problem with language-only models: Even if they can fluently string words together, they struggle to connect those words to concepts, ideas, objects, or events. “When they talk about a traffic jam, they don’t have any experience of traffic jams beyond what they’ve associated with it from other pieces of language,” Melanie Mitchell, an AI researcher and a cognitive scientist at the Santa Fe Institute, told me—but if an AI’s training data could include videos of traffic jams, “there’s a lot more information that they can glean.” Learning from more types of data could help AI models envision and interact with physical environments, develop something approaching common sense, and even address problems with fabrication. If a model understands the world, it might be less likely to invent things about it.


The push for multimodal models is not entirely new; GoogleFacebook, and others introduced automated image-captioning systems nearly a decade ago. But a few key changes in AI research have made cross-domain approaches more possible and promising in the past few years, Jing Yu Koh, who studies multimodal AI at Carnegie Mellon, told me. Whereas for decades, computer-science fields such as natural-language processing, computer vision, and robotics used extremely different methods, now they all use a programming method called “deep learning.” As a result, their code and approaches have become more similar, and their models are easier to integrate into one another. And internet giants such as Google and Facebook have curated ever-larger data sets of images and videos, and computers are becoming powerful enough to handle them.


There’s a practical reason for the change too. The internet, no matter how incomprehensibly large it may seem, contains a finite amount of text for AI to be trained on. And there’s a realistic limit to how big and unwieldy these programs can get, as well as how much computing power they can use, Daniel Fried, a computer scientist at Carnegie Mellon, told me. Researchers are “starting to move beyond text to hopefully make models more capable with the data that they can collect.” Indeed, Sam Altman, OpenAI’s CEO and, thanks in part to this week’s Senate testimony, a kind of poster boy for the industry, has said that the era of scaling text-based models is likely over—only months after ChatGPT reportedly became the fastest-growing consumer app in history.


How much better multimodal AI will understand the world than ChatGPT, and how much more fluent its language will be, if at all, is up for debate. Although many exhibit better performance over language-only programs—especially in tasks involving images and 3-D scenarios, such as describing photos and envisioning the outcome of a sentence—in other domains, they have not been as stellar. In the technical report accompanying GPT-4, researchers at OpenAI reported almost no improvement on standardized-test performance when they added vision. The model also continues to hallucinate—confidently making false statements that are absurd, subtly wrong, or just plain despicable. Google’s PaLM-E actually did worse on language tasks than the language-only PaLM model, perhaps because adding the robot sensory information traded off with losing some language in its training data and abilities. Still, such research is in its early phases, Fried said, and could improve in years to come.


We remain far from anything that would truly emulate how people think. “Whether these models are going to reach human-level intelligence—I think that’s not likely, given the kinds of architectures that they use right now,” Mitchell told me. Even if a program such as Meta’s ImageBind can process images and sound, humans also learn by interacting with other people, have long-term memory and grow from experience, and are the products of millions of years of evolution—to name only a few ways artificial and organic intelligence don’t align.

[Read: AI search is a disaster]

And just as throwing more textual data at AI models didn’t solve long-standing problems with bias and fabrication, throwing more types of data at the machines won’t necessarily do so either. A program that ingests not only biased text but also biased images will still produce harmful outputs, just across more media. Text-to-image models like Stable Diffusion, for instance, have been shown to perpetuate racist and sexist biases, such as associating Black faces with the word thugOpaque infrastructures and training data sets make it hard to regulate and audit the software; the possibility of labor and copyright violations might only grow as AI has to vacuum up even more types of data.


Multimodal AI might even be more susceptible to certain kinds of manipulations, such as altering key pixels in an image, than models proficient only in language, Mitchell said. Some form of fabrication will likely continue, and perhaps be even more convincing and dangerous because the hallucinations will be visual—imagine AI conjuring a scandal on the scale of fake images of Donald Trump’s arrest. “I don’t think multimodality is a silver bullet or anything for many of these issues,” Koh said.


Intelligence aside, multimodal AI might just be a better business proposition. Language models are already a gold rush for Silicon Valley: Before the corporate boom in multimodality, OpenAI reportedly expected $1 billion in revenue by 2024; multiple recent analyses predicted that ChatGPT will add tens of billions of dollars to Microsoft’s annual revenue in a few years.


Going multimodal could be like searching for El Dorado. Such programs will simply offer more to customers than the plain, text-only ChatGPT, such as describing images and videos, interpreting or even producing diagrams, being more useful personal assistants, and so on. Multimodal AI could help consultants and venture capitalists make better slide decks, improve existing but spotty software that describes images and the environment to visually impaired people, speed the processing of onerous electronic health records, and guide us along streets not as a map, but by observing the buildings around us.


Applications to robotics, self-driving cars, medicine, and more are easy to conjure, even if they never materialize—like a golden city that, even if it proves mythical, still justifies conquest. Multimodality will not need to produce clearly more intelligent machines to take hold. It just needs to make more apparently profitable ones.



Exploring a novel way to convert heat to electricity
Is this article about Agriculture?
Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have fabricated a novel device that could dramatically boost the conversion of heat into electricity. If perfected, the technology could help recoup some of the heat energy that is wasted in the U.S. at a rate of about $100 billion each year.
Wildfire risk goes up where trees and shrubs replace grasses
Is this article about Weather?
A fire in a dense forest.

The risk of wildfire is higher in areas where trees and shrubs have replaced grasses, according to a new study.

Across the United States over the past decade, an average of over 61,000 wildfires have burned some 7.2 million acres per year.

Once a wildfire starts spreading, the firefighting task is exacerbated by issues like spot fires, where winds carry lofted sparks and start new fires outside of the original fire perimeter. The greater the potential spot fire distance, the more difficult wildfires are to monitor, control, and suppress.

The new study finds that as woody plants like shrubs and trees replace herbaceous plants like grasses, spot fires can occur farther away from the original fire perimeter. This “woody encroachment” is not only a major issue in grasslands where the study takes place, but also in wetland and savanna systems like longleaf pine, an important ecosystem in Florida.

“Spot fires are one of the most common reasons why houses burn in a wildfire,” says Victoria Donovan, an assistant professor with the School of Forest, Fisheries, and Geomatics Sciences at the West Florida Research and Education Center at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS).

“It’s not typically because the flames from wildfire reach a house, but that embers from that fire land on roofs, travel through home ventilation systems, or land on other combustible material on or near the home, and ignite the house from there. They’re a big concern for structural damage.”

The findings indicate that prescribed fire, which is commonly used in Florida to control woody plant growth, could help reduce spot fires.

The researchers looked at three phases of woody encroachment: the first a largely grassland area, the second grassland with new forested growth, and the third a dense forest.

They modeled the research using a mathematical fire simulation program and considered various conditions in Loess Canyons Experimental Landscape in south Nebraska. Donovan conducted this study as a researcher at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

“Our study shows that the risk of spot fire is much lower when you’re burning under the weather conditions used for prescribed fire, regardless of encroachment phase, compared to waiting for the potentially more extreme conditions we can see during wildfires,” Donovan says.

“This tells us that using prescribed fire early to control encroachment and reduce fuel load is a lot safer than waiting for a wildfire to occur.”

The safety concerns of woody encroachment extend beyond structures and residents to also include the firefighters battling the blaze.

“It is not only spot fire distance that increases wildfire risk from woody encroachment. Shrubs and trees can grow much taller than grasses,” Donovan says. “Think about putting out your campfire on the ground by pouring water on it, and compare that to trying to put out a fire a couple stories above you.”

The concerns are universal, she says, and reveal similarities no matter the land type where the wildfires occur.

“We’re seeing the same kind of issue here in Florida, where fire suppression has led to a lot of encroachment of shrubs,” Donovan says. “This creates these really dense forest stands rather than the open savannah systems that we would have seen historically with more frequent fire.”

Florida has become a model for prescribed burning across the country, though there is still hesitancy among some private landowners, she says. “Using prescribed fire as a controlling process for woody encroachment has far less risk than allowing woody encroachment and waiting for wildfire to occur.”

“Across the country, data has shown that fire is inevitable. Using prescribed fire allows us to decide what we want a lot of that fire to look like.”

The study appears in the journal PLOS ONE.

Source: University of Florida

The post Wildfire risk goes up where trees and shrubs replace grasses appeared first on Futurity.

Joule spectroscopy of hybrid superconductor–semiconductor nanodevices

Nature Communications, Published online: 19 May 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-38533-2

Disorder and device variability in hybrid superconductor-semiconductor devices pose challenges for their application in quantum technologies. Here, the authors show that Joule heating can provide a detailed fingerprint of such devices, uncovering different sources of inhomogeneities.

Nature Communications, Published online: 19 May 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-38550-1

Electrically switching perpendicular magnetized ferromagnets using spin-orbit torques without assisting magnetic fields is a major goal for spintronics. Recently, several works have proposed using out-of-plane spin polarized currents to achieve this, but these rely on antiferromagnetic metals with low Neel temperatures. Here, Wang et al show that such out-of-plane spin polarization driven switching can be achieved using the interface of an antiferromagnetic insulator and a heavy metal.

Scientific Reports, Published online: 19 May 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-35396-x

The relationship between heart rate variability and TNM stage, co-morbidity, systemic inflammation and survival in patients with primary operable 
colorectal cancer
Boston Isn’t Afraid of Generative AI
The city’s first-of-its-kind policy encourages its public servants to use the technology—and could serve as a blueprint for other governments.
Did Scientists Accidentally Invent an Anti-addiction Drug?
Is this article about Wellbeing?

This article was featured in One Story to Read Today, a newsletter in which our editors recommend a single must-read from The Atlantic, Monday through Friday. Sign up for it here.

All her life, Victoria Rutledge thought of herself as someone with an addictive personality. Her first addiction was alcohol. After she got sober in her early 30s, she replaced drinking with food and shopping, which she thought about constantly. She would spend $500 on organic groceries, only to have them go bad in her fridge. “I couldn’t stop from going to that extreme,” she told me. When she ran errands at Target, she would impulsively throw extra things—candles, makeup, skin-care products—into her cart.

Earlier this year, she began taking semaglutide, also known as Wegovy, after being prescribed the drug for weight loss. (Colloquially, it is often referred to as Ozempic, though that is technically just the brand name for semaglutide that is marketed for diabetes treatment.) Her food thoughts quieted down. She lost weight. But most surprisingly, she walked out of Target one day and realized her cart contained only the four things she came to buy. “I’ve never done that before,” she said. The desire to shop had slipped away. The desire to drink, extinguished once, did not rush in as a replacement either. For the first time—perhaps the first time in her whole life—all of her cravings and impulses were gone. It was like a switch had flipped in her brain.

As semaglutide has skyrocketed in popularity, patients have been sharing curious effects that go beyond just appetite suppression. They have reported losing interest in a whole range of addictive and compulsive behaviors: drinking, smoking, shopping, biting nails, picking at skin. Not everyone on the drug experiences these positive effects, to be clear, but enough that addiction researchers are paying attention. And the spate of anecdotes might really be onto something. For years now, scientists have been testing whether drugs similar to semaglutide can curb the use of alcohol, cocaine, nicotine, and opioids in lab animals—to promising results.

Semaglutide and its chemical relatives seem to work, at least in animals, against an unusually broad array of addictive drugs, says Christian Hendershot, a psychiatrist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine. Treatments available today tend to be specific: methadone for opioids, bupropion for smoking. But semaglutide could one day be more widely useful, as this class of drug may alter the brain’s fundamental reward circuitry. The science is still far from settled, though researchers are keen to find out more. At UNC, in fact, Hendershot is now running clinical trials to see whether semaglutide can help people quit drinking alcohol and smoking. This drug that so powerfully suppresses the desire to eat could end up suppressing the desire for a whole lot more.  

The history of semaglutide is one of welcome surprises. Originally developed for diabetes, semaglutide prompts the pancreas to release insulin by mimicking a hormone called GLP-1, or glucagon-like peptide 1. First-generation GLP-1 analogs—exenatide and liraglutide—have been on the market to treat diabetes for more than a decade. And almost immediately, doctors noticed that patients on these drugs also lost weight, an unintended but usually not unwelcome side effect. Semaglutide has been heralded as a potentially even more potent GLP-1 analog.

Experts now believe GLP-1 analogs affect more than just the pancreas. The exact mechanism in weight loss is still unclear, but the drugs likely work in multiple ways to suppress hunger, including but not limited to slowing food’s passage through the stomach and preventing ups and downs in blood sugar. Most intriguing, it also seems to reach and act directly on the brain.

GLP-1 analogs appear to actually bind to receptors on neurons in several parts of the brain, says Scott Kanoski, a neurobiologist at the University of Southern California. When Kanoski and his colleagues blocked these receptors in rodents, the first-generation drugs exenatide and liraglutide became less effective at reducing food intake—as if this had eliminated a key mode of action. The impulse to eat is just one kind of impulse though. That these drugs work on the level of the brain—as well as the gut—suggests that they can suppress the urge for other things too.

In particular, GLP-1 analogs affect dopamine pathways in the brain, a.k.a the reward circuitry. This pathway evolved to help us survive; simplistically, food and sex trigger a dopamine hit in the brain. We feel good, and we do it again. In people with addiction, this process in the brain shifts as a consequence or cause of their addiction, or perhaps even both. They have, for example, fewer dopamine receptors in part of the brain’s reward pathway, so the same reward may bring less pleasure.  

In lab animals, addiction researchers have amassed a body of evidence that GLP-1 analogs alter the reward pathway: mice on a version of exenatide get less of a dopamine hit from alcohol; rats on the same GLP-1 drug sought out less cocaine; same for rats and oxycodone. African vervet monkeys predisposed to drinking alcohol drank less on liraglutide and exenatide. Most of the published research has been conducted with these two first-generation GLP-1 drugs, but researchers told me to expect many studies with semaglutide, with positive results, to be published soon.

In humans, the science is much more scant. A couple of studies of exenatide in people with cocaine-use disorder were too short or small to be conclusive. Another study of the same drug in people with alcohol-use disorder found that their brain’s reward centers no longer lit up as much when shown pictures of alcohol while they were in an fMRI machine. The patients in the study as a whole, however, did not drink less on the drug, though the subset who also had obesity did. Experts say that semaglutide, if it works at all for addiction, might end up more effective in some people than others. “I don’t expect this to work for everybody,” says Anders Fink-Jensen, a psychiatrist at the University of Copenhagen who conducted the alcohol study. (Fink-Jensen has received funding from Novo Nordisk, the maker of Ozempic and Wegovy, for separate research into using GLP-1 analogs to treat weight gain from schizophrenia medication.)  Bigger and longer trials with semaglutide could prove or disprove the drug’s effectiveness in addiction—and identify whom it is best for.

Semaglutide does not dull all pleasure, people taking the drug for weight loss told me. They could still enjoy a few bites of food or revel in finding the perfect dress; they just no longer went overboard. Anhedonia, or a general diminished ability to experience pleasure, also hasn’t shown up in cohorts of people who take the drug for diabetes, says Elisabet Jerlhag Holm, an addiction researcher at the University of Gothenburg. Instead, those I talked with said their mind simply no longer raced in obsessive loops. “It was a huge relief,” says Kimberly Smith, who used to struggle to eat in moderation. For patients like her, the drug tamed behaviors that had reached a level of unhealthiness.

The types of behaviors in which patients have reported unexpected changes include both the addictive, such as smoking or drinking, and the compulsive, such as skin picking or nail biting. (Unlike addiction, compulsion concerns behaviors that aren’t meant to be pleasurable.) And although there is a body of animal research into GLP-1 analogues and addiction, there is virtually none on nonfood compulsions. Still, addictions and compulsions are likely governed by overlapping reward pathways in the brain, and semaglutide might have an effect on both. Two months into taking the drug, Mary Maher woke up one day to realize that the skin on her back—which she had picked compulsively for years—had healed. She used to bleed so much from the picking that she avoided wearing white. Maher hadn’t even noticed she had stopped picking what must have been weeks before. “I couldn’t believe it,” she told me. The urge had simply melted away.

The long-term impacts of semaglutide, especially on the brain, remain unknown. In diabetes and obesity, semaglutide is supposed to be a lifelong medication, and its most dramatic effects are quickly reversed when people go off. “The weight comes back; the suppression of appetite goes away,” says Janice Jin Hwang, an obesity doctor at UNC School of Medicine. The same could be true in at least certain forms of addiction too. Doctors have noted a curious link between addiction and another obesity treatment: Patients who undergo bariatric surgery sometimes experience “addiction transfer,” where their impulsive behaviors move from food to alcohol or drugs. Bariatric surgery works, in part, by increasing natural levels of GLP-1, but whether the same transfer can happen with GLP-1 drugs still needs to be studied in longer trials. Semaglutide is a relatively new drug, approved for diabetes since 2017. Understanding the upshot of taking it for decades is, well, decades into the future.

Maher told me she hopes to stay on the drug forever. “It’s incredibly validating,” she said, to realize her struggles have been a matter of biology, not willpower. Before getting on semaglutide, she had spent 30 years trying to lose weight by counting calories and exercising. She ran 15 half marathons. She did lose weight, but she could never keep it off. On semaglutide, the obsessions about food that plagued her even when she was skinny are gone. Not only has she stopped picking her skin; she’s also stopped biting her nails. Her mind is quieter now, more peaceful. “This has changed my thought processes in a way that has just improved my life so much,” she said. She would like to keep it that way.

Senators Complain That NASA Isn’t Allowed to Be Racist Anymore
Is this article about Space?
Gone are the good old days of homophobia and racism at NASA — and to some Republican senators, that's a problem. 

Space Race

Gone are the good old days of homophobia and racism at NASA — and to some senators, that's a problem.

During a budgetary hearing this week, a pair of Republicans on the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee criticized NASA's efforts to both combat climate change and increase diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), calling the initiatives "woke."

As Space Policy Online breaks it down, the senators — onetime presidential hopeful Ted Cruz of Texas and Eric Schmitt of Missouri, both ranking members of the committee — spoke in broad, Fox News-friendly terms when denouncing NASA's DEI and environmental proposals.

For his part, Schmitt trashed the agency's "obsession with misguided woke policies related to climate change and diversity, equity, and inclusion." He also opined that "China has no interest in out-DEIing us and they’re not intimidated at all by this divisive radical policy that’s found its way into this budget."

"If NASA is seen as partisan, that is very bad for space and space exploration," Cruz added. "So I hope NASA will continue its tradition of staying out of those battles."

NAS Ackwards

As Futurism and other outlets have reported, the American space agency has long been a white boys' club. During the race to the Moon in the 1960s, it had the opportunity to select a highly accomplished Black astronaut for the Apollo program — but ultimately didn't. And though the contributions of numerous Black women as mathematicians during the agency's formative years were well documented in the 2016 book "Hidden Figures," it took decades for their efforts to be recognized.

Strides have been made, but the agency has never had a female administrator and has only had one Black man at its helm. It took until last year for a Black woman to become a crew member on the International Space Station.

So to the contrary of Cruz and Schmitt's grandstanding, it's clear that DEI is still very much needed at NASA. And needless to say, the climate isn't a partisan issue either.

Besides, anyone familiar with current right-wing rhetoric knows that "woke" has become a sort of catch-all code word for progressive anti-bigotry ideals and efforts. From attempts to use more inclusive language in reproductive healthcare to debates about artificial intelligence guardrails, the fear of a "woke" planet has much of the country veritably frothing at the mouth and pining away for the days when there were no consequences for being a bigot — and that outlook, it seems, has made its way to the lawmakers overseeing NASA.

Bottom line? Instead of worrying about the very real ways racism harms America financially, Cruz and Schmitt are instead invoking the "woke" boogeyman to score political points — and frankly, it's pretty embarrassing to witness.

More on NASA: New NASA Goddard Director Explains Why She Was Sworn In On a Carl Sagan Book

The post Senators Complain That NASA Isn’t Allowed to Be Racist Anymore appeared first on Futurism.

Ancient writing reveals the earliest recorded kiss
Is this article about Neuroscience?
Two people hold each other and kiss.

Written sources from Mesopotamia suggest that kissing in relation to sex was practiced by the peoples of the ancient Middle East 4,500 years ago, researchers report.

Recent research has hypothesized that the earliest evidence of human lip kissing originated in a very specific geographical location in South Asia 3,500 years ago, from where it may have spread to other regions, simultaneously accelerating the spread of the herpes simplex virus 1.

But according to a new study in Science that draws on a range of written sources from the earliest Mesopotamian societies, kissing was already a well-established practice 4,500 years ago in the Middle East. And probably much earlier, moving the earliest documentation for kissing back 1,000 years compared to what was previously acknowledged in the scientific community.

“In ancient Mesopotamia, which is the name for the early human cultures that existed between the Euphrates and Tigris rivers in present-day Iraq and Syria, people wrote in cuneiform script on clay tablets,” says Troels Pank Arbøll, assistant professor in the cross-cultural and regional studies department at the University of Copenhagen.

“Many thousands of these clay tablets have survived to this day, and they contain clear examples that kissing was considered a part of romantic intimacy in ancient times, just as kissing could be part of friendships and family members’ relations.

“Therefore, kissing should not be regarded as a custom that originated exclusively in any single region and spread from there but rather appears to have been practiced in multiple ancient cultures over several millennia.”

“In fact, research into bonobos and chimpanzees, the closest living relatives to humans, has shown that both species engage in kissing, which may suggest that the practice of kissing is a fundamental behavior in humans, explaining why it can be found across cultures,” says Sophie Lund Rasmussen, junior research fellow at Linacre College and Aalborg University.

In addition to its importance for social and sexual behavior, the practice of kissing may have played an unintentional role in the transmission of microorganisms, potentially causing viruses to spread among humans.

However, the suggestion that the kiss may be regarded as a sudden biological trigger behind the spread of particular pathogens is more doubtful. The spread of the herpes simplex virus 1, which researchers have suggested could have been accelerated by the introduction of the kiss, is a case in point.

“There is a substantial corpus of medical texts from Mesopotamia, some of which mention a disease with symptoms reminiscent of the herpes simplex virus 1,” Arbøll says.

He adds that the ancient medical texts were influenced by a variety of cultural and religious concepts, and it therefore must be emphasized that they cannot be read at face value.

“It is nevertheless interesting to note some similarities between the disease known as bu’shanu in ancient medical texts from Mesopotamia and the symptoms caused by herpes simplex infections. The bu’shanu disease was located primarily in or around the mouth and throat, and symptoms included vesicles in or around the mouth, which is one of the dominant signs of herpes infection.”

“If the practice of kissing was widespread and well-established in a range of ancient societies, the effects of kissing in terms of pathogen transmission must likely have been more or less constant”, Rasmussen says.

Arbøll and Rasmussen conclude that future results emerging from research into ancient DNA, inevitably leading to discussions about complex historical developments and social interactions—such as kissing as a driver of early disease transmission—will benefit from an interdisciplinary approach.

Source: University of Copenhagen

The post Ancient writing reveals the earliest recorded kiss appeared first on Futurity.

Hollywood Writers on Strike Against A.I

As technology continues to advance at an unprecedented pace, it's no secret that many jobs that were once considered safe from automation are now at risk of being replaced by artificial intelligence (AI). One such profession that is facing this risk is writing.

With AI-generated content becoming increasingly sophisticated and lifelike, there is growing concern among writers and publishers alike that AI may soon be able to produce written content that is virtually indistinguishable from that of human authors.

As we are speaking more than 11,000 writers in hollywood are on strike, demanding more payment and regulation on language model AIs such as ChatGPT.

Driving all the TV shows and late night talk shows to the ground, the last time something like this happened was back 2007 and it cost hollywood 2 billion dollars in damages.

So is it really a danger, can AI really carry on without any creative biological mind backing it up, writing shows and driving an already underpaid career choice to non-existence?

In this video, we will explore the potential implications of AI taking over writers' jobs, examining both the benefits and drawbacks of this emerging technology.

Watch this:

So what do you guys think? Are We reaching a self-inflicted doom?

How many careers will survive the A.I revoloution?

How would you define creativity?

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The incredible creativity of deepfakes — and the worrying future of AI | Tom Graham
AI-generated media that looks and sounds exactly like the real world will soon permeate our lives. How should we prepare for it? AI developer Tom Graham discusses the extraordinary power of this rapidly advancing technology, demoing cutting-edge examples — including real-time face swaps and voice cloning — live from the TED stage. In conversation with head of TED Chris Anderson, Graham digs into the creative potential of this hyperreal content (often referred to as "deepfakes") as well as its risk for exploitation and the new legal rights we'll need in order to maintain control over our photorealistic AI avatars.
Is The Creator the first (or last) in a new wave of sci-fi movies about AI?
Is this article about Tech?

The trailer for Gareth Edwards’ new film shows humanity being outsmarted by AI – and is released just as our overlords-to-be are rearing their terrifying heads

It’s been a while since we had a truly great movie about devious, dystopian AIs priming themselves to take over the world, in which the key choices made by mere humans will decide whether we end up as just an organic footnote in histories written by our machine conquerors. Alex Garland’s Ex-Machina (2014) springs to mind, while 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron was a fun comic book romp, if lacking the spiky gravitas and sly intellectual thrust of Garland’s debut. Grant Sputore’s I Am Mother explored similar territory in 2019 with a rather more claustrophobic, yet devastatingly incisive touch. Now there’s Gareth Edwards’ The Creator, the first trailer for which debuted this week, arriving just as very real concerns about the ability of artificial intelligence to really muck things up for us humans are rearing their terrifying digital heads.

At first glance, it looks as if Edwards has thrown in all our favourite sci-fi tropes. The basic scenario – tooled up military man fails in mission to wipe out robot child because she is just too cute – reminds us of kind-hearted Din Djarin’s inability to bounty hunt Grogu in early episodes of The Mandalorian.

Continue reading…
Is this article about Energy?
Reduce fossil fuel use and air quality will improve, right? It might not be as straightforward as it appears, according to a Penn State-led research team. They explored almost 30,000 simulated future scenarios and found that some climate mitigation efforts could lead to harmful health impacts in certain geographic areas.
Is this article about Tech & Scientific Innovation?
We know a lot about mosquito preferences up close, but how do mosquitoes find us from up to a hundred meters away? Using an ice-rink-sized outdoor testing arena in Zambia, researchers found that human body odor is critical for mosquito host-seeking behavior over long distances. The team also identified specific airborne body-odor components that might explain why some people are more attractive to mosquitoes than others. The work appears May 19 in the journal Current Biology.
Scientists found weak, biologically-rich layers of sediments hundreds of meters beneath the seafloor which crumbled as oceans warmed and ice sheets declined. The landslides were discovered in the eastern Ross Sea in 2017, by an international team of scientists during the Italian ODYSSEA expedition, and scientists revisited the area in 2018 as part of the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) Expedition 374 where they collected sediment cores to understand what caused them.
Land use linked to water quality and quantity
Researchers recently published a study that focuses on the Sudbury-Assabet and Concord watershed in eastern Massachusetts, and which links hydrological changes, including floods, drought and runoff, to changing patterns of land use.
How You, or Anyone, Can Dodge Montana’s TikTok Ban
Feedly AI found 5 Regulatory Changes mentions in this article
 ban will be impossible to enforce. But it could encourage copycat crackdowns against the social media app.
Facebook Has Crowbarred Open the Pandora’s Box of AI, Experts Warn
Is this article about Machine Learning?

Open Sesame!

Meta is cracking the AI arms race wide open. Literally.

According to a report from The New York Times, Meta-formerly-


 is doubling down on its decision to make its large language model called LLaMA (Large Language Model Meta AI) — which competes with the likes of OpenAI's GPT-4 — open source.

"The platform that will win will be the open one," Yann LeCun, Meta's chief AI scientist, told the NYT, adding that he believes keeping powerful models behind closed doors is a "huge mistake."

It's a remarkably different strategy compared to those of Meta's competitors Google, Microsoft, and OpenAI, which have argued that due to the potential for large-scale misuse, society is safer when the metaphorical Krabby Patty Formula is kept behind closed doors.

But according to LeCun, that code-hoarding strategy is dangerous and a "really bad take on what is happening."

"Do you want every AI system to be under the control of a couple of powerful American companies?" LeCun told the NYT.

No Good Option

As the NYT points out, Meta began to dip its toes into the open-source waters back in February, when it made the underlying code for its advanced large language model available for download via email to anyone that Meta deemed safe.

The code, however, was leaked to 4Chan almost immediately. In an experiment, researchers at Stanford used the renegade LLM to build an AI system to capture how it behaved. But they were shocked to find that it was able to generate some seriously problematic text.

Stanford researcher Moussa Doumbouya reportedly told colleagues that making this technology widely available would be like making "a grenade available to everyone in a grocery store," according to the NYT.

LeCun, for his part, seems to disagree with that conclusion.

"You can't prevent people from creating nonsense or dangerous information or whatever," LeCun told the NYT. "But you can stop it from being disseminated."

"Progress is faster when it is open," he added. "You have a more vibrant ecosystem where everyone can contribute."

But considering that at-scale content moderation is imperfect enough as it is even without generative AI, LeCun's argument isn't exactly bulletproof.

Whether Meta's open-source — or OpenAI and Microsoft's secrecy — approach will turn out to be the winning strategy remains to be seen.

As the AI war is really starting to heat up, companies are drawing their lines in the sand — and the stakes are higher than ever before.

The post Facebook Has Crowbarred Open the Pandora’

s Box

 of AI, Experts Warn appeared first on Futurism.

We know a lot about mosquito preferences up close, but how do mosquitoes find us from up to a hundred meters away? Using an ice-rink-sized outdoor testing arena in Zambia, researchers found that human body odor is critical for mosquito host-seeking behavior over long distances. The team also identified specific airborne body-odor components that might explain why some people are more attractive to mosquitoes than others. The work appears May 19 in the journal Current Biology.
Team sequences tart cherry genome for first time
Red cherries on a tree.

Researchers have sequenced the genome of the Montmorency tart cherry for the first time.

The scientists were searching for the genes associated with the tart cherry trees that bloom later in the season to meet the needs of a changing climate.

They started by comparing DNA sequences from late-blooming tart cherry trees to the sequenced genome of a related species, the peach. However, in a surprise, the genetic discrepancies between the species outweighed the similarities, leading the team to create the first annotated Montmorency tart cherry genome and identify the DNA segments that code for each gene.

“I naively thought that this would be an easy endeavor; we would simply sequence a few early and late-blooming cherry trees and align the sequences to the peach genome and get an answer in just a few weeks,” says Courtney Hollender, an assistant professor in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources at Michigan State University. “I couldn’t have been more wrong.”

Genomes contain all the genes and genetic instructions for an organism’s development. Sequencing it provides a map for researchers when they are trying to, for example, grow a cherry tree that will bloom later in the season.

For Charity Goeckeritz, Hollender’s doctoral candidate, an exercise in frustration piqued her curiosity.

“I was trying to align the tart cherry DNA sequences with the peach genome and they just weren’t aligning very well,” says Goeckeritz. “I was complaining about it to everyone and, finally, one of my friends suggested we just sequence the tart cherry genome.”

Doing so showed the Montmorency tart cherry genome was more intricate than the researchers originally thought.

The complexities come from the tart cherry’s parental plant chromosomes. Tart cherries are allotetraploids meaning instead of having two sets of chromosomes like humans, they have four sets from at least two different species.

“Not only does tart cherry have four copies of every chromosome, but it also is the product of a natural cross between two different species,” says Goeckeritz. “The ground cherry, Prunus fruticosa, and the sweet cherry, Prunus avium, that may have happened almost two million years ago.”

While Goeckeritz is using the genome to study bloom time, doctoral student Kathleen Rhoades, who conducted the RNA sequencing or gene expression analysis for the project, is working to identify genes that are associated with specific fruit traits, such as color and firmness.

Having the Montmorency tart cherry genome sequence opens the possibilities for a tremendous amount of future research that will ultimately benefit the industry and the consumer by growing more trees that can withstand varying spring weather and produce more cherries.

“Before this genome, there were some sequences for tart cherries but it wasn’t a complete picture, and I just wanted to have the genome for research and breeding purposes,” says Hollender.

“Now we have a complete picture, and this research will have a major impact on all future tart cherry research and breeding efforts worldwide.”

The study is published in the journal Horticulture Research.

Source: Michigan State University

The post Team sequences tart cherry genome for first time appeared first on Futurity.

Book Excerpt: How the Iron Lung Transformed Polio Care
In 1928, Philip Drinker and Louis Agassiz Shaw Jr. invented a giant metal respirator that enabled them to solve the problem of respiratory failure in 
 patients. In the process, their unwieldy creation fundamentally altered the relationship between human and machine.
How does sunscreen work?
Feedly AI found 1 Regulatory Changes mention in this article
  • Chemical UV filters approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are recognized as safe for use in topical cosmetics.
Sunscreens work in two ways: either by blocking harmful UV rays from reaching the skin, or by converting the rays into heat that can be released from the body.
Is this article about Sustainable Alternative Fuels?
The never-ending demand for carbon-rich fuels to drive the economy keeps adding more and more carbon dioxide (CO2) to the atmosphere. While efforts are being made to reduce CO2 emissions, that alone cannot counter the adverse effects of the gas already present in the atmosphere.
How the Right and the Left Switched Sides on Big Business
Feedly AI found 2 Regulatory Changes mentions in this article

In a bygone era, Americans could be confident that conservatives, like the former General Electric pitchman Ronald Reagan, were friendlier to corporations than their ideological opponents, and that the most aggressive efforts to rein in corporate power were coming from the left.

Today, the relationship that the American left and right each have with Big Business is different. When corporations advance voting rights or acceptance of gays and lesbians, or oppose racism or laws that restrict the ability of trans people to use the bathroom where they feel most comfortable, many progressives are happy to see corporate power exerted as a counter to majorities in state legislatures or even views held by a majority of voters in red states. And some Republicans who pass socially conservative measures into law, like Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida, have responded to corporate opposition with retaliatory rhetoric and actions that cast dissenting corporate speech as illegitimate and antidemocratic.

[From the May 2023 issue: How did America’s weirdest, most freedom-obsessed state fall for an authoritarian governor?]

These changing relationships to corporate power are shaped by the left’s increasing focus on race and gender relative to class and by the rise of populism on the right. They also reflect the never-ending push and pull between public and private power that is found in all healthy free societies. Politicians on both sides of the aisle sometimes get overzealous in the behavior they try to restrict. Though the right and the left both lose sight of this whenever a company takes a stand they don’t like, non-state actors—including corporations—play an important role in tempering excesses of the state. Absent such counterweights to state power, liberty would be at greater risk.

The right has long understood the value of corporate speech when defending free markets and economic liberty. The left now appreciates it more clearly on social issues.

To understand all that has recently changed, recall the world as it looked during President Barack Obama’s first term. Before Black Lives Matter or the #MeToo movement or mainstream support for trans rights or the push for diversity, equity, and inclusion bureaucracies, Occupy Wall Street was the focus of grassroots energy on the left. Bernie Sanders, the senator most aligned with that protest movement, introduced a constitutional amendment with radical implications. Constitutional rights “are the rights of natural persons and do not extend to for-profit corporations,” it declared in part. On the contrary, corporations are “subject to regulation by the people through the legislative process,” it continued, “so long as such regulations are consistent with the powers of Congress and the States and do not limit the freedom of the press.”

Sanders’s attempt to end corporate influence on politics by stripping corporations of free-speech rights was a response to the 2010 Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission, which said that First Amendment rights extend to corporations. “If the First Amendment has any force,” the majority held, “it prohibits Congress from fining or jailing citizens, or associations of citizens, for simply engaging in political speech."

Many progressives were furious about Citizens United. If corporations have the same free-speech rights as people, the decision’s opponents argued, they will be free to marshal power and resources far greater than most people to influence American democracy, calling the integrity of government by the people into question. Conservatives, in turn, argued that corporations were invariably made up of many people, just like labor unions and think tanks and foundations and institutions of higher education. Why should the state have more power to censor associations of people than individuals?

Of course, Sanders and his allies never came close to amending the Constitution and overturning Citizens United. But if they had, I wonder how the left would feel about the change now, as Republican politicians go after companies that take progressive stands.

This brings us back to one of the most powerful state officials opposed to progressivism, DeSantis, who pushed the Parental Rights in Education Act through the Florida legislature last year. Progressives called it a “Don’t Say Gay” bill and were upset with Disney, the most powerful corporation in Florida, for declining to use its power in the fight against the bill. Blasted by progressive activists, socially liberal employees, and left-of-center journalists and celebrities, who objected to the corporation’s disinclination to influence the political process, Disney reversed course. The company declared that it would use its corporate speech to advocate for the law’s repeal while giving millions of dollars to political opponents of the law.

DeSantis was apoplectic, responding as if corporate political advocacy and political giving were affronts to representative democracy. “You’re a corporation based in Burbank, California, and you’re gonna marshal your economic might to attack the parents of my state,” DeSantis said, sounding a bit like Sanders. “We view that as a provocation, and we’re going to fight back against that.”

Thus began a campaign by DeSantis to retaliate against Disney for its political speech. That retaliation ultimately caused Disney to file a lawsuit alleging a violation of the First Amendment rights that the corporation enjoys, rights affirmed in that 2010 Citizens United decision––rights that Sanders and others tried and failed to strip from corporations. Because Sanders failed, the GOP is far more limited now in how much it can constrain what the right calls “woke capital.” Just like “woke” persons, “woke” corporations have free-speech rights (and the right to shift jobs away from any state where the political leadership is not to their liking).

And if the Disney lawsuit goes to the Supreme Court, many progressives will be rooting for the corporation’s victory––rooting, in effect, for the Citizens United precedent to stand––in part because the most common progressive view in 2023 is not that corporations should stay out of the American political process but that corporations are obligated to intervene on the side of progressives. As Joni Madison, then the interim president of the Human Rights Campaign, one of the largest LGBTQ-advocacy organizations in the United States, put it during the legislative fight in Florida, “We need Disney’s partnership in getting the bills heading to DeSantis’s desk vetoed. And if that doesn’t happen, to get these bills repealed. But this is not just about Bob Chapek [then the CEO of Disney] and Disney. This is about every CEO and company in America.”

[Edward Wasserman: My newspaper sued Florida for the same First Amendment abuses Desantis is committing now]

Progressive nonprofit corporations are wildly successful at lobbying their corporate cousins on some issues. In 2016, the business community largely opposed a North Carolina bill that sought to restrict which bathrooms trangender people could use. In 2021, as Republican-controlled state legislatures sought new restrictions on voting, hundreds of companies, including Amazon, Coca-Cola, and General Motors, publicly opposed the GOP. Meanwhile, as The New York Times reported, “Senior Republicans, including former President Donald J. Trump and Senator Mitch McConnell, have called for companies to stay out of politics.” Of course, even when progressives applaud and conservatives denounce corporate influence on a particular issue, politicians from both ideological camps continue to eagerly seek and accept corporate contributions.

None of this is to say that the right and left have completely switched places. There are many issues on which the GOP remains more aligned with corporate interests and many elected Republicans who remain sympathetic to corporate power. But neither coalition is reliably aligned with or opposed to the power of corporations. The relationship, on both sides, tends to be issue-specific, transactional, and opportunistic, with the left more likely to be closely aligned on social issues and the right more likely to be aligned on fiscal issues.

Principled stands against all corporate influence are few.

Take corporate influence on the education system. As recently as 2016, leftist outlets like AlterNet that were sounding the alarm when the Walmart Family Foundation exerted money and influence to change the public-education system, particularly when it supported the often right-coded solution of charter schools. Today, however, Walmart and the nonprofits associated with it are using their money and influence to support the expansion of left-coded diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts in Arkansas schools, according to the right-leaning Washington Free Beacon, which is raising concerns, even as most progressives don’t seem to mind.

Corporations wield cultural power, too, apart from electoral contests and legislative fights. And there, too, the left and right coalitions are adopting noticeably different postures than before.

Consider the past and present of major beer brands.

In the late 1960s and 1970s, labor disputes at Coors Brewing and opposition to the conservative politics of the Coors family fueled a beer boycott that lasted into the ’80s.

“Women’s groups are joining labor unions, Chicanos and homosexuals in an informal but increasingly powerful boycott,” the Copley News Service reported in March 1978. “Though the National Organization of Women is not participating in the anti-Coors campaign, local chapters of NOW are carrying ‘Don’t Drink Coors’ banners in their newsletters.”

By the mid-’80s the company worked to end the boycott by making concessions to the left. “The boycott stirred up negative feelings for a long time, and the job now is to wipe them away,” Peter H. Coors, then president of the Coors brewery division, told the Los Angeles Times. “Who wants to drink a beer when the guy on the next bar stool might say, ‘The people who make that beer are anti-union, or anti-this or that’?”

The beer industry, especially its advertising, was a common target of feminist critique that same decade. By the ’90s, such critiques of sexism in beer advertising were sufficiently common and well known for The Simpsons to spoof the conflict in a 1993 episode. As recently as 2015, Anheuser-Busch was under fire from feminist critics for its “Up for Whatever” campaign, which included the slogan “The perfect beer for removing ‘no’ from your vocabulary for the night” on bottle labels.

Across all those years, a premise of the feminist critiques was: Beer advertising matters in that it shapes American culture. And those critiques got results. In 2016, The New York Times reported that beer companies were moving away from misogynistic advertising messages. “It was fine to show a frat party making fun of girls five or eight years ago,” a brand consultant told the Times. “But it’s ineffective and potentially damaging to do today.” In March of this year, at Forbes, Jeanette Hurt wrote that Miller Lite had launched a new campaign to “collect sexist advertisements and turn it into compost to grow hops for women brewers.”

In April, Bud Light partnered with the transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney in a social-media promotion. “Some conservative commentators and celebrities began calling for a boycott,” The New York Times reported soon after. The conservative boycotters believed that beer ads matter in that they shape American culture––and they, too, got results. The Times wrote, “After Bud Light’s sales slumped and the brand found itself thrust into the nation’s culture wars, Anheuser-Busch, the beer’s brewer, announced last week that two of its executives were taking a leave of absence. The company also said on Thursday that it would focus its marketing campaigns on sports and music.”

I have tended to believe that beer advertisements pander to existing attitudes in society rather than shaping future attitudes, so I don’t know if this change in Bud Light’s marketing strategy really matters. But some on the right consider it a major victory. “I’m not sure if most people fully appreciate the significance of this Bud Light stuff,” the socially conservative, anti-transgender-rights commentator Matt Walsh declared. “We made an iconic American brand toxic, virtually overnight, because it endorsed gender ideology. This is a pivotal moment. A map to follow going forward.”

What are the next 10 years likely to bring in the left’s and right’s relationship with corporations? I’d wager that corporations will continue to side with progressives and against democratic majorities on some social issues, even as they continue making campaign contributions to many Republicans.

As Josh Barro once explained at Business Insider, “Free markets are not small-d democratic. Some consumers matter more than others.” That is to say, many corporations want to attract consumers who are young and affluent, two demographics that are trending progressive on most social issues. “And that’s why ‘woke capitalism’ is likely to persist even if it’s not an effective strategy for getting Democratic lawmakers to stay away from tax increases and new regulations,” Barro wrote. “As long as companies’ core customer demographics remain opposed to cultural conservatives on these issues, companies will end up in opposition to cultural conservatism––not as a lobbying strategy, but as a customer retention strategy.”

In turn, I suspect that the more those corporations articulate values that Republicans dislike, the more Republican politicians will try to use the power of the state to constrain corporations, even as they themselves keep raising as much as they can from corporate donors. Finally, corporations will sometimes be targeted by both the right and the left, as when conservatives and progressives scrutinize content-moderation policies at big social-media companies.

As the left and right coalitions change their positioning relative to Big Business, it will be tempting––perhaps even fruitful––to point out instances of hypocrisy. But those instances should also serve as an opportunity for people on all sides of American politics to better understand why well-meaning fellow citizens have always been on all sides of the questions of if, when, and how corporations should influence America’s political and cultural disagreements. When corporations wield power, they do so undemocratically. They might be acting to advance the interests, values, or opinions of shareholders, their board of directors, their CEO, their employees, or some complicated combination thereof. Regardless, the general public doesn’t get a say. And corporations often succeed in influencing government in a way that serves their special interests rather than the general interest. Such rent seeking can fuel unjust inequality. And no matter what stances a corporation takes, there is never a moment when any citizen can go to the ballot box and replace it.

There are good reasons, in other words, to have checks on corporate power. But one can go too far in that direction. “Corporations are fundamentally illegitimate,” the leftist intellectual Noam Chomsky declared in an interview that appears in the 1998 book Common Good. “Just as other oppressive institutions—slavery, say, or royalty—have been changed or eliminated, so corporate power can be changed or eliminated,” Chomsky continued, championing the power of the state. “What are the limits? There aren’t any. Everything is ultimately under public control.” The Italian fascists had a similar formulation: “everything for the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.” But it is actually better for a society if power is not concentrated wholly in the state. A healthy society has many power centers, including undemocratic ones like churches, media outlets, universities, fraternal organizations, and, yes, corporations.

None of those alternative repositories of power are fully unaccountable.

For-profit corporations are all accountable to consumers and all corporations are subject to  laws––but also benefit from the limits on state power set forth in the Constitution. The Obama administration could not force Hobby Lobby to fund contraceptives for its employees because of the company’s religious-freedom rights. The Trump administration could not force Nike to nix relations with athletes who kneeled during the national anthem because of that company’s free-association rights. Such limits on the state enable America to have a thriving civil society and a private sector that generates wealth and innovative goods that Americans enjoy as much as Disney World and use as often as Google Search. The result isn’t perfect but is better than systems where businesses are powerless to dissent, whether fascism or communism or an alternate America where Senator Sanders and Governor DeSantis could suppress corporate speech. If you don’t like the status quo, you can boycott a corporation or start your own.

Can We Really Know the Figures of the Past?

Can hands that look like lobster claws hold a secret that could upend the artistic canon? The historian Benjamin Binstock thinks so. He has a controversial theory: Several of the paintings attributed to Johannes Vermeer were in fact made by his young daughter Maria. A set of late-career works don’t match the artist’s established style, and the hypothesis hinges on their dates, the identities of their subjects, and the clumsily painted hands—sometimes stubby, pudgy, or absent altogether. Could they have “come from someone else’s hand?” Lawrence Weschler posits. Could the little-known Maria have been an artist in her own right? Might she have stared at herself with a slack jaw while painting the self-portrait that became Girl With a Red Hat?

Revising settled history is a juicy prospect. Even more tempting is the urge to flesh out the people who made that history—to picture Maria at the mirror, with parted lips. That desire sometimes ignores the constraints of actual archives. In our June 2023 issue, the scholar Mary Beard examined a biography of Cleopatra’s daughter and the risks of turning a figure from antiquity into a thoroughly modern hero. “To hold up as an ideal for today’s young people a woman about whom we know next to nothing is to promote fantasy over fact,” she writes. Yet, as Beard acknowledges, publishers tend to prefer narratives of the past that are as elaborate and convenient as fantasy.

The biographer Lois Leveen fell for the seduction of a too-convenient story—as did NPR, and U.S. Army Intelligence, when they all circulated an image that misidentified a subject as the Black Union spy Mary Bowser. The event diagnosed “how much our expectations of history are products of the way we live in the 21st century,” Leveen writes. When we don’t properly contextualize figures from the past, we can also miss their most revolutionary acts; Tiya Miles revisits Phillis Wheatley’s overlooked politics and cites a biography that finally takes seriously the poet’s subtle critiques of slavery.

Biographies, at their best, uncover the mechanics at work beneath a known story—the hidden truths that don’t just conform to surface expectations. In this way, Saidiya Hartman’s Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments “exhume[s] the often-buried stories of working-class black women in the early 20th century,” Giovanni Russonello writes. Hartman pinpoints outcast women who liberated themselves, women who weren’t aiming to be heroes of our modern age, but simply of their own lives.

Every Friday in the Books Briefing, we thread together Atlantic stories on books that share similar ideas. Know other book lovers who might like this guide? Forward them this email.

When you buy a book using a link in this newsletter, we receive a commission. Thank you for supporting The Atlantic.

What We’re Reading

Vermeer's "Girl With a Pearl Earring" painting, with circles containing details from "Girl With a Red Hat" superimposed

Illustration by The Atlantic. Sources: Girl With a Pearl Earring, Johannes Vermeer / Mauritshuis; Girl With a Red Hat, Johannes Vermeer / National Gallery of Art.

Did Johannes Vermeer’s daughter paint some of his best-known works?

“We may never know the absolute truth one way or the other—and for myself, I can live in a perhaps necessary state of uncertainty.”

📚 Vermeer’s Family Secrets, by Benjamin Binstock

watercolor illustration of woman with two figures behind

Ángel Hernández

Who was Cleopatra’s daughter?

“The young Cleopatra may be an extreme case, but there is [almost] no character in antiquity … for whom we have enough information to create a biography that satisfies the expectations of modern readers and publishers.”

📚 Cleopatra’s Daughter, by Jane Draycott

A photograph from 1900 of a Black woman in a dress and hat

Wikimedia Commons

The spy photo that fooled NPR, the U.S. Army Intelligence Center, and me

“The subsequent century and a half of technological advances in capturing and reproducing images have so substantially increased our expectation—our demand—for reliable, historic visual sources that it can be difficult for us to understand how ahistoric this desire is.”

📚 The Secrets of Mary Bowser, by Lois Leveen

The front pages of a book of Wheatley poetry

Heritage Art / Heritage Images / Getty

The great American poet who was named after a slave ship

“[The author’s] painstaking interpretations equal Wheatley’s own intentional verse, making it a joy to follow along as he unpacks her words and their arrangement, instructing us to read a line of Wheatley’s and then read it again with an eye roll to see how the meaning changes.”

📚 The Odyssey of Phillis Wheatley: A Poet’s Journeys Through American Slavery and Independence, by David Waldstreicher

Jazz musicians Jason Moran and Alicia Hall Moran holding hands and smiling as they take their bows on a stage

Fadi Kheir

How art can double as historical corrective

“Through deep archival work, Hartman managed to recover the powerful subjectivity of her characters, often by giving voice to their thoughts and desires—and to the music and art they made.”

📚 Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments, by Saidiya Hartman

About us: This week’s newsletter is written by Nicole Acheampong. The book she’s reading now is Age of Vice, by Deepti Kapoor.

Comments, questions, typos? Reply to this email to reach the Books Briefing team.

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A team of atmospheric and climatic scientists from several institutions in Europe has found that even if all human management of forestry land stopped immediately, it would not be sufficient to offset global carbon emissions. In their study, reported in the journal Science, the group used mapping and AI applications to model how much forest regrowth, and by extension, sequestration of CO2, would occur under such a plan.
New Jersey Ponders Whether Meteor Damage Is Covered by Insurance
After an alleged meteor struck a house in New Jersey, residents began wondering whether insurance covers extraterrestrial damage.

Am I Covered?

After what scientists say was a meteorite smashed through a family's roof in New Jersey, Garden State residents began wondering whether insurance covers extraterrestrial damage.

In an advice column published to, a Jersey insurance specialist said that in the extremely unlikely case of meteorite or other space debris damage, residents who have homeowners' or business property insurance should be covered.

"Based on the feedback from our members and other industry partners, it seems that a falling object, such as a meteor or falling satellite, would typically be covered by a standard homeowners or business property insurance policy," Gary La Spisa, the vice president of the Insurance Council of New Jersey, told the outlet.

"Of course," La Spisa added, "it is always critical to read your policy and familiarize yourself with any exclusions that your policy may have."

Scientifically Speaking

While South Jersey astronomy expert Chris Bakley said that it's very unlikely for a piece of space debris to make its way down to the tri-state area, it nevertheless did happen last week in Hopewell Township, NJ, when a chunk of what is probably a meteorite crashed through resident Suzy Kop's roof and "ricocheted" around a blessedly-uninhabited bedroom.

Uncommon as it is, Bakley said that the apparent Hopewell Township meteorite "excites the science community" because this sort of impact makes it "easier to identify and confirm that it undeniably came from the sky."

He added that there may be more bits of space rock "lodged and scattered in the roof and ceiling of the impacted house," though given that the homeowner didn't respond to's request for comment, the public doesn't yet know if more pieces have been recovered.

So there you have it, folks: if you own a house in New Jersey, you should be covered in case of falling space junk.

More on space junk: Cosmonauts Caught Littering Directly Into Space During Spacewalk

The post New Jersey Ponders Whether Meteor Damage Is Covered by Insurance appeared first on Futurism.

High-quality 2D films could be one-drop away
Is this article about Quantum Computing?
A research group led by Professor Minoru Osada and postdoctoral researcher Yue Shi at the Institute for Future Materials and Systems (IMaSS), Nagoya University in Japan, has developed a new technology to fabricate nanosheets, thin films of two-dimensional materials a couple of nanometers thick, in about one minute.
Molecular mechanism of hyperactivation conferred by a truncation of TRPA1

Nature Communications, Published online: 19 May 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-38542-1

A drastic 
 mutant was identified in patients with CRAMPT syndrome, but it has not been functionally characterized. Here, the authors find this mutant confers gain-of-function by co-assembling with wild type protein to form hyperactive channels.
A team of chemical and environmental engineers at the University of California, Riverside, has found a way to use microbial degradation to break down chlorinated PFAS in wastewater. In their paper published in the journal Nature Water, the group describes how they tested the ability of microbes in waste water to degrade some PFAS compounds and what they found by doing so.
Quantum Biology Could Revolutionize Our Understanding of How Life Works
Is this article about Neuroscience?

Imagine using your cell phone to control the activity of your own cells to treat injuries and disease. It sounds like something from the imagination of an overly optimistic science fiction writer. But this may one day be a possibility through the emerging field of quantum biology.

Over the past few decades, scientists have made incredible progress in understanding and manipulating biological systems at increasingly small scales, from protein folding to genetic engineering. And yet, the extent to which quantum effects influence living systems remains barely understood.

Quantum effects are phenomena that occur between atoms and molecules that can’t be explained by classical physics. It has been known for more than a century that the rules of classical mechanics, like Newton’s laws of motion, break down at atomic scales. Instead, tiny objects behave according to a different set of laws known as quantum mechanics.

For humans, who can only perceive the macroscopic world, or what’s visible to the naked eye, quantum mechanics can seem counterintuitive and somewhat magical. Things you might not expect happen in the quantum world, like electrons “tunneling” through tiny energy barriers and appearing on the other side unscathed, or being in two different places at the same time in a phenomenon called superposition.

I am trained as a quantum engineer. Research in quantum mechanics is usually geared toward technology. However, and somewhat surprisingly, there is increasing evidence that nature—an engineer with billions of years of practice—has learned how to use quantum mechanics to function optimally. If this is indeed true, it means that our understanding of biology is radically incomplete. It also means that we could possibly control physiological processes by using the quantum properties of biological matter.

Quantumness in Biology Is Probably Real

Researchers can manipulate quantum phenomena to build better technology. In fact, you already live in a quantum-powered world: from laser pointers to GPS, magnetic resonance imaging and the transistors in your computer—all these technologies rely on quantum effects.

In general, quantum effects only manifest at very small length and mass scales, or when temperatures approach absolute zero. This is because quantum objects like atoms and molecules lose their “quantumness” when they uncontrollably interact with each other and their environment. In other words, a macroscopic collection of quantum objects is better described by the laws of classical mechanics. Everything that starts quantum dies classical. For example, an electron can be manipulated to be in two places at the same time, but it will end up in only one place after a short while—exactly what would be expected classically.

In a complicated, noisy biological system, it is thus expected that most quantum effects will rapidly disappear, washed out in what the physicist Erwin Schrödinger called the “warm, wet environment of the cell.” To most physicists, the fact that the living world operates at elevated temperatures and in complex environments implies that biology can be adequately and fully described by classical physics: no funky barrier crossing, no being in multiple locations simultaneously.

Chemists, however, have for a long time begged to differ. Research on basic chemical reactions at room temperature unambiguously shows that processes occurring within biomolecules like proteins and genetic material are the result of quantum effects. Importantly, such nanoscopic, short-lived quantum effects are consistent with driving some macroscopic physiological processes that biologists have measured in living cells and organisms. Research suggests that quantum effects influence biological functions, including regulating enzyme activitysensing magnetic fieldscell metabolism, and electron transport in biomolecules.

How to Study Quantum Biology

The tantalizing possibility that subtle quantum effects can tweak biological processes presents both an exciting frontier and a challenge to scientists. Studying quantum mechanical effects in biology requires tools that can measure the short time scales, small length scales, and subtle differences in quantum states that give rise to physiological changes—all integrated within a traditional wet lab environment.

In my work, I build instruments to study and control the quantum properties of small things like electrons. In the same way that electrons have mass and charge, they also have a quantum property called spin. Spin defines how the electrons interact with a magnetic field, in the same way that charge defines how electrons interact with an electric field. The quantum experiments I have been building since graduate school, and now in my own lab, aim to apply tailored magnetic fields to change the spins of particular electrons.

Research has demonstrated that many physiological processes are influenced by weak magnetic fields. These processes include stem cell development and maturationcell proliferation ratesgenetic material repair, and countless others. These physiological responses to magnetic fields are consistent with chemical reactions that depend on the spin of particular electrons within molecules. Applying a weak magnetic field to change electron spins can thus effectively control a chemical reaction’s final products, with important physiological consequences.

Currently, a lack of understanding of how such processes work at the nanoscale level prevents researchers from determining exactly what strength and frequency of magnetic fields cause specific chemical reactions in cells. Current cell phone, wearable, and miniaturization technologies are already sufficient to produce tailored, weak magnetic fields that change physiology, both for good and for bad. The missing piece of the puzzle is, hence, a “deterministic codebook” of how to map quantum causes to physiological outcomes.

In the future, fine-tuning nature’s quantum properties could enable researchers to develop therapeutic devices that are noninvasive, remotely controlled, and accessible with a mobile phone. Electromagnetic treatments could potentially be used to prevent and treat disease, such as brain tumors, as well as in biomanufacturing, such as increasing lab-grown meat production.

A Whole New Way of Doing Science

Quantum biology is one of the most interdisciplinary fields to ever emerge. How do you build community and train scientists to work in this area?

Since the pandemic, my lab at the University of California, Los Angeles and the University of Surrey’s Quantum Biology Doctoral Training Centre have organized Big Quantum Biology meetings to provide an informal weekly forum for researchers to meet and share their expertise in fields like mainstream quantum physics, biophysics, medicine, chemistry, and biology.

Research with potentially transformative implications for biology, medicine, and the physical sciences will require working within an equally transformative model of collaboration. Working in one unified lab would allow scientists from disciplines that take very different approaches to research to conduct experiments that meet the breadth of quantum biology from the quantum to the molecular, the cellular, and the organismal.

The existence of quantum biology as a discipline implies that traditional understanding of life processes is incomplete. Further research will lead to new insights into the age-old question of what life is, how it can be controlled, and how to learn with nature to build better quantum technologies.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Image Credit: ANIRUDH / Unsplash

Recently, a research team led by Prof. Chen Chunying from the National Center for Nanoscience and Technology (NCNST) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) revealed that gut microbiota can ferment exogenous carbon nanomaterials (CNMs) as carbon sources into short chain fatty acids. The study was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and was reported as a Nature Highlight.
Study combines quantum computing and generative AI for drug discovery
Is this article about Semiconductors?
Insilico Medicine, a clinical stage generative artificial intelligence (AI)-driven drug discovery company, today announced that it combined two rapidly developing technologies, quantum computing and generative AI, to explore lead candidate discovery in drug development and successfully demonstrated the potential advantages of quantum generative adversarial networks in generative chemistry.
Using microbial degradation to break down chlorinated PFAS in wastewater
A team of chemical and environmental engineers at the University of California, Riverside, has found a way to use microbial degradation to break down chlorinated PFAS in wastewater. In their paper published in the journal Nature Water, the group describes how they tested the ability of microbes in waste water to degrade some PFAS compounds and what they found by doing so.
AI powers second-skin-like wearable tech
Feedly AI found 1 Product Launches mention in this article
  • A new ultra-thin skinpatch with nanotechnology able to monitor 11 human health signals has been developed by researchers at Monash University.
A new ultra-thin skinpatch with nanotechnology able to monitor 11 human health signals has been developed by researchers at Monash University.
Feedly AI found 1 Product Launches mention in this article
  • Biophysicists design new cell-like transport system, important milestone for synthetic biology
Creating artificial cells with life-like characteristics out of a minimal set of components is a major goal of synthetic biology. Autonomous motion is a key capability here, and one that is difficult to reproduce in the test tube. A team led by physicist Erwin Frey, Professor of Statistical and Biological Physics at LMU, and Petra Schwille from the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry, has now made an important advance in this area, as the researchers report in the journal Nature Physics.
Feedly AI found 1 Product Launches mention in this article
  • Biophysicists design new cell-like transport system, important milestone for synthetic biology
Creating artificial cells with life-like characteristics out of a minimal set of components is a major goal of synthetic biology. Autonomous motion is a key capability here, and one that is difficult to reproduce in the test tube. A team led by physicist Erwin Frey, Professor of Statistical and Biological Physics at LMU, and Petra Schwille from the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry, has now made an important advance in this area, as the researchers report in the journal Nature Physics.
Chemists discover intriguing property of new bismuth complexes
To be able to exploit the advantages of elements and their molecular compounds in a targeted manner, chemists have to develop a fundamental understanding of their properties. In the case of the element bismuth, a team from the Max Planck Institut für Kohlenforschung has now taken an important step.
Innovative imaging technique uses the quantum properties of X-ray light
An international team of researchers including scientists from FAU has, for the first time, used X-rays for an imaging technique that exploits a particular quantum characteristic of light. In their article, which has now been published in the journal Physical Review Letters, the researchers detail how this process could be used for imaging non-crystallized macromolecules.
Is this article about Quantum Computing?
Semicrystalline polymers are solids that are assumed to flow only above their melting temperature. In a new study published in Science Advances, Chien-Hua Tu and a research team at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research in Germany and the University of Ioannina Greece confined crystals within nanoscopic cylindrical pores to show the flowing nature of semicrystalline polymers below their melting point, alongside an intermediate state of viscosity to the melt and crystal states.
Is this article about Tech & Scientific Innovation?
Researchers at the University of California San Diego have identified the conditions for cell metabolism to emerge on the early Earth, shedding new light on the origins of life itself, along with the fundamental nature of biological carbon fixation.

Nature Communications, Published online: 19 May 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-38538-x

The development of three-dimensional (3D) covalent organic frameworks (COFs) with novel topologies is of both fundamental and practical interest but the construction of highly crystalline 3D COF remains challenging. Here, the authors report highly crystalline 3D COFs with pto and mhq-z topologies by rationally selecting rectangular-planar and trigonal-planar building blocks with appropriate conformational strains.

Nature Communications, Published online: 19 May 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-38590-7

The authors report on a quasi-one-dimensional organic-inorganic hybrid perovskite, DMAGeI3 (DMA = Dimethylamine), with notable ferroelectric attributes at room temperature including large spontaneous polarisation, low coercive field, and strong second harmonic generation response.
Is this article about Semiconductors?
Optical imaging and metrology techniques are key tools for research rooted in biology, medicine and nanotechnology. While these techniques have recently become increasingly advanced, the resolutions they achieve are still significantly lower than those attained by methods using focused beams of electrons, such as atomic-scale transmission electron spectroscopy and cryo-electron tomography.
Is this article about Tech & Scientific Innovation?
Researchers at the University of California San Diego have identified the conditions for cell metabolism to emerge on the early Earth, shedding new light on the origins of life itself, along with the fundamental nature of biological carbon fixation.
Environmental memory propels collective cell migration, shows study
Throughout their lives, cells encounter environments that vary in terms of how stiff or soft they are. These mechanical conditions impact just how quickly cells can grow, move and carry out basic functions like repairing damaged tissue. Though scientists have long known that cells can sense and respond to different environmental conditions, what isn't clear is whether cells hold onto memories of those past conditions and whether previous experiences might lend them some advantage in future growth.
To Save Downtowns, Destroy Them
Remote work revealed that core areas of San Francisco and other cities are overreliant on offices. It’s time to reimagine what—and who—downtowns are for.
My Novel Is a Love Letter My Mother Can’t Read

My mother and I don’t speak the same language. Her English is sparse, and my Mandarin stalled at the picture-book level on the day I started kindergarten in California, when I realized that the few English words I knew—hello, please, thank you—weren’t going to get me very far. I immersed myself in strange grammar and new vocabulary, eventually devouring books with a religious fervor. My mother tongue withered, but I found power in my new vernacular. Reading, which made the world legible to me, inevitably led to writing, which made me legible to the world. It gave me a way to articulate my personhood and imagination, and to refute the narrative that I was just a timid, inscrutable Asian.

Wanting to write, however, made me unintelligible to my mother. I couldn’t explain how I would survive on a career in words, and she couldn’t fathom why I would squander the chance at prosperity my parents had contorted to give me. By moving me to another country, she’d moved me beyond her understanding. I’d plod along in her language, groping for sentences that were wildly inadequate: How could I describe my gratitude for a path to self-fulfillment when all I could say was “kai xin,” or “happy”? How could she communicate the trauma and instability of growing up under Mao if all she could say was “difficult”? Without the words to bridge the gulf between our worldviews, our resentment and fear ossified, making even mundane disagreements devolve into tearful fights.

[Read: The lesson I wish I never had to learn about motherhood]

I landed a day job editing a design magazine, but for seven years, I worked on my debut novel, Holding Pattern, in my off-hours. As its main characters, Marissa and Kathleen, collided on the page, their mother-daughter relationship unconsciously began to resemble my own. Their bond is strangled by the narratives they’ve internalized about each other and cleaved by cultural difference—though always resuscitated by love. But the book is in English, so my mom won’t be able to read it. I’ve essentially written a love letter that the recipient can’t decipher.


In a way, this is a familiar problem for us. So much of our relationship is rooted in the unsaid or the unsayable. She once explained that in China, it’s rare to hear “I love you”—to this day, we say it in English. Although she is rarely sentimental, her fierce devotion has always been tangible, expressed through plates of cut fruit, piles of folded laundry, and haircuts given in the kitchen despite our ringing argument an hour before. And though my mom is notoriously loquacious, she seldom spoke about her youth in 1960s and ’70s Shanghai. When she did, connecting the dots among the anecdotes was hard. When I put off washing the dishes, she scolded me with a story about lining up at dawn for a ration of eggs. When I moaned about school, she recalled ridiculing her teacher for being bourgeois.   

Writing Holding Pattern gave me a reason to mine for details about that time and place, and a tool with which to dig. I’d spent so much of my adolescence shedding my Chineseness as a way to assimilate—refusing the weekend Mandarin classes the other kids were taking, cruelly correcting my parents’ accents—that by the time I’d reached adulthood, I was unmoored from our history. I started asking questions, hoping to find a new understanding of us. In doing so, I unearthed family dramas I was shocked to have never known about: My grandfather’s coal business was shuttered by Mao. My grandmother’s affair with a fellow doctor was exposed in a “big-character poster,” a handwritten condemnation hung at the hospital where she worked. My great-aunt was tarred and tortured for being a landlord’s daughter.

Read: The questions we don’t ask our families but should

Amid these revelations were joyful memories too, like the fragrant musk of the white champac flowers my mother would pin to her blouse, or the hubbub of visiting her cousins in the countryside. As the texture of her world became clearer to me, so did the contours of the tragedies and banalities that remain obscure. With each morsel, I came closer to knowing who she is, why she left, and what it cost her.

My mom has always been forward-looking. Perhaps she swallowed these histories for my protection and benefit. But researching the book has been a way to penetrate that silence and find, through storytelling, a way to convey and recognize our love. Her memories are embroidered throughout the novel, and I gave the main characters the same opportunities for healing that I had longed for. When I showed my mother a galley copy, she marveled at her Chinese name in the acknowledgements and said, in Mandarin, “Now I know you truly love me.” I wish it hadn’t taken this long to find a way to tell her. She may not understand it word for word, but I know she gets the message.

Throughout their lives, cells encounter environments that vary in terms of how stiff or soft they are. These mechanical conditions impact just how quickly cells can grow, move and carry out basic functions like repairing damaged tissue. Though scientists have long known that cells can sense and respond to different environmental conditions, what isn't clear is whether cells hold onto memories of those past conditions and whether previous experiences might lend them some advantage in future growth.
Forget Jurassic Park: inside the gorgeous David Attenborough series that’s redefining dinosaurs

Prehistoric Planet’s intimate, moving CGI footage is revolutionising natural history – and it’s presented by a national treasure. We meet the creators of a unique TV series

Jurassic Park was released 30 years ago, but in those three decades our perception of dinosaurs has largely remained static. In the public consciousness, they were giant, scaly beasts with huge claws and teeth who spent their days chasing down victims and ripping them apart in brutal fashion. Think dinosaur and you will probably picture a primal, primitive force of unbelievable fury.

And then along comes the new series of Prehistoric Planet (Apple TV+), which, in a single instant, undoes almost everything we thought we knew. The instant in question concerns the Hatzegopteryx: a vast, vicious-looking, giraffe-sized pterosaur. Had the Hatzegopteryx been depicted on screen at any point until now, it would undoubtedly have been to swoop down like a monster and gobble up its prey.

Continue reading…
Researchers report technique to fabricate nanosheets in one minute
A research group led by Professor Minoru Osada (he, him) and postdoctoral researcher Yue Shi (she, her) at the Institute for Future Materials and Systems (IMaSS), Nagoya University in Japan, has developed a new technology to fabricate nanosheets, thin films of two-dimensional materials a couple of nanometers thick, in about one minute.
The Download: preserving digital lives, and more sensitive prostheses

This is today’s edition of The Download, our weekday newsletter that provides a daily dose of what’s going on in the world of technology.

Your digital life isn’t as permanent as you think it is

Earlier this week, Google announced its intention to start deleting personal accounts that haven’t been active in over two years in December. Photos, emails, and docs attached to inactive accounts will all be eradicated.

The announcement follows a similar one from Twitter last week, pledging to purge accounts that have been inactive for several years. It caused an uproar among people who don’t want their deceased loved ones’ accounts to be deleted. 

With developments like cloud storage, we’ve developed an expectation, or fantasy, that data is infinite and that our digital spaces will last forever. Such policy changes are a reminder of how fragile our digital lives are and just how little control we have over their preservation. Read the full story.

—Tate Ryan-Mosley


A soft e-skin mimics the way human skin can sense things

The news: A soft electronic skin could allow people with prosthetics to sense pressure and temperature, helping them to more easily interact with their surroundings. It contains sensors to measure external temperature and pressure, which it converts into electrical signals to help the brain tell the difference between sensations like a softer touch and a firm handshake, or a strawberry and an apple. 

Why it matters: Lack of sensory feedback is one of the main reasons people stop wearing a prosthesis, as it can leave users feeling frustrated. Flexible e-skins could lead to better prosthetics, and could also pave the way for robots that can feel human-like sensations. Read the full story.

—Rhiannon Williams


I just met the founders of a would-be longevity state

What if I told you there’s a group of people who think death is morally bad—that we have a moral duty to find ways to slow or reverse aging? Who seek to create a new state with its own laws that expedite the development of longevity drugs, partly by encouraging biohacking and self-experimentation?

A community of such individuals have been living together in a resort in Montenegro for the past seven weeks. They’ve been sharing ideas, collaborating on projects, running hackathons, and having plenty of parties. They call their gathering Zuzalu. Jessica Hamzelou, our senior biotech reporter, went to check out the community for herself last week. Read about her experience and the colorful characters she met.

This story is from The Checkup, Jessica’s weekly newsletter giving you the inside track on all things biotech. Sign up to receive it in your inbox every Thursday.


The must-reads

I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most fun/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology.

1 The US Supreme Court won’t dismantle Section 230 after all 
Social media firms and other internet companies will be breathing a sigh of relief. (WP $)
The court ruled that social media sites weren’t liable for hosting terrorist content. (WSJ $)
It also declined to blame algorithms for pushing recommended content. (FT $)

2 Your iPhone can now run ChatGPT 
It still requires an internet connection, though. (Ars Technica)
The fallout from Meta’s chatbot leak is still reverberating. (WSJ $)
Apple doesn’t want its workers spilling secrets to the chatbot. (The Verge)
The inside story of how ChatGPT was built. (MIT Technology Review)

3 Robotic surgery is already saving lives
Doctors separated by oceans are able to guide each other through tricky operations. (Wired $)

4 Extremism is rife in gaming chat rooms
While communities can be small, they’re incredibly influential. (NYT $)
Pro gaming streamers receive constant abuse, too. (The Guardian)

5 Apple’s repair partners are losing out
The smaller businesses claim Apple is reluctant to cooperate with them. (The Guardian)

6 Advertisers are cautiously considering working with Twitter again
It’s no longer considered “high risk” by a major advertising group. (FT $)

7 Crypto fraud is still fraud
It’s the same old tricks, dressed up in a shiny tech interface. (Vox)
Disgraced crypto fugitive Do Kwon is facing trial in Montenegro. (NY Mag $)
It’s okay to opt out of the crypto revolution. (MIT Technology Review)

8 US soldiers are turning to Reddit for help at work
When official channels can’t resolve their issues, they head to the internet. (Slate $)

9 We’re firmly in our exothing era 🪐
We’re learning more and more about the stuff in space that’s not a planet. (The Atlantic $)
Earth is probably safe from a killer asteroid for 1,000 years. (MIT Technology Review)

10 How to reduce your pet’s carbon pawprint 🐶
Feeding them insects is certainly one solution—if they’ll oblige. (Fast Company $)


Quote of the day

“Everyone knows we are lagging behind.”

—Taro Kono, Japan’s digital minister, speaks frankly about his struggle to digitize Japan’s paper-based bureaucracy to the Financial Times.


The big story

The big new idea for making self-driving cars that can go anywhere



May 2022

When Alex Kendall sat in a car on a small road in the British countryside and took his hands off the wheel back in 2016, it was a small step in a new direction—one that a new bunch of startups bet might be the breakthrough that makes driverless cars an everyday reality.

This was the first time that reinforcement learning—an AI technique that trains a neural network to perform a task via trial and error—had been used to teach a car to drive from scratch on a real road. It took less than 20 minutes for the car to learn to stay on the road by itself, Kendall claims.

These startups are betting that smarter, cheaper tech will let them overtake current market leaders. But is this yet more hype from an industry that’s been drinking its own Kool-Aid for years? Read the full story.

—Will Douglas Heaven


We can still have nice things

A place for comfort, fun and distraction in these weird times. (Got any ideas? Drop me a line or tweet ’em at me.)

+ I enjoyed this sweet homage to the writer’s poker playing mom.
+ Let’s celebrate the incredible skills of Andy Rourke, bassist with The Smiths, who’s sadly died.
+ Tag yourself in this endlessly entertaining list of wild early Quaker names—I’m Temperance Poor.
+ What solitude can really teach us.
+ This is a very fun look over the weird and wonderful metaphors we’ve used for the internet (thankfully there’s no mention of ‘interwebs.’)

The Hidden Dangers of the Decentralized Web
From social networks to crypto, independently run servers are being touted as a solution to the internet’s problems. But they’re far from a magic bullet.
Interrogating the Complexities of the Tumor Microenvironment
Feedly AI found 1 Partnerships mention in this article
  • A unique collaboration forged between Taube and Szalay led to the development of the AstroPath platform, which enables the comprehensive analysis of multispectral imaging datasets in tumor tissue sections at single-cell resolution.
Gaining a better understanding of the dynamic and reciprocal interactions between 
 cells and the tumor microenvironment is essential for improving patient diagnosis and treatment.
Making Fuel from Sunshine
Is this article about Tech & Scientific Innovation?


When it comes to big problems it’s generally a good idea to remember some basic principles. One is that there is no free lunch. This is a cliche because it’s true. Another way to put this is – there are no solutions, only trade offs. Sometimes there is a genuine advance that does improve the calculus, and there are certainly more or less efficient ways to do things. But when making decisions that affect the technological infrastructure for a world-spanning civilization of billions of people, everything has consequences.

As I have been writing about frequently, perhaps the biggest such decisions we face involve where we get the energy to power our civilization. On the one hand we have the technology of what’s possible. On the other we have economics, which will tend to favor the cheapest option regardless of other concerns. But then we also have – other concerns. That is generally where governments and regulations come in, ways for the public to exert their common interests other than making individual purchasing decisions. Free market forces are powerful at generating information and homeostatic systems, but are generally blind to long term or strategic planning. In my opinion, we need to have an optimal blend of both.

But in the background, science and technology is slowly, incrementally, advancing. We no longer have the luxury of just waiting for technology to solve our problems, but we do want to keep pushing the ball forward and make sure we include scientific progress in our strategic planning, and efficiently incorporate new technology when it’s available. That is partly why I like to peek a little ahead at potential technologies that might be coming down the pike.

In that vein, here is an incremental advance that is at the proof-of-concept stage – using solar energy to make liquid fuels directly from CO2 and H2O. This kind of technology is sometimes referred to as “artificial leaf” technology, since it makes high energy compounds powered by sunshine. Such systems involve a mechanism to capture photons and a catalyst that promotes a specific chemical reaction. In this case:

Here we assembled artificial leaf devices by integrating an oxide-derived Cu94Pd6 electrocatalyst with perovskite–BiVO4 tandem light absorbers that couple CO2 reduction with water oxidation.

The catalyst is made from copper and palladium. The light absorber is perovskite, which is actively being developed as perhaps the next type of solar panel to replace silicon. The process makes multicarbon alcohols ethanol and n-propanol. This is an advance over current technology, which can make either hydrogen or syngas, which then needs another step to make liquid fuel. Going directly to liquid fuel in one step is a huge efficiency gain.

Ethanol is already a fuel additive, making up about 10% of fuel in American cars. The problem with ethanol is that it is currently sources mostly from corn, taking up a significant amount of agricultural land. Also, the energy advantage is pretty marginal – it does have a positive energy balance, by about a thirdN-propanol is actually better than ethanol. It has a high octane and energy density, and is the most desirable alcohol for use in gasoline engines, but is currently too expensive for general use. Blends of up to 50% n-propanol are available. Flex fuel vehicles are designed to use alcohol blends, and can burn up to 83% alcohol mixed with gasoline. There are also flex fuel cars with small batteries that can run on 100% ethanol. Pure ethanol has problems in the winter, but this can be fixed with hybrids.

The advantage of alcohol fuels is that they can immediately be mixed into our transportation infrastructure, with existing cars burning 10-20% ethanol or 30-50% n-propanol. Flex fuel cars and hybrids can burn 80-100% alcohol fuel. Gasoline, in other words, can be phased out without too much infrastructure disruption. Biofuels are not suitable for this application because of the land-intensive and energy intensive nature of their manufacture. But we could replace oil fields with solar fields making ethanol and n-propanol.

The technology currently is not ready for prime time. Again, we are at the proof of concept stage. One challenge is that the Faradaic efficiency is only 7.5%. That is the percentage of energy that could theoretically be converted to fuel that is actually converted. This efficiency needs to go up. And second, the technology needs to be scaled up from the lab. Unless we can make millions of gallons per day, this will not make a dent in our carbon footprint (the US alone burns 369 million gallons of gasoline per day).

Finally, for any new technology we need to consider the trade-offs and the alternatives. Is using a field of solar panels to make liquid fuel better than just making electricity for battery electric vehicles? I don’t know the answer, but that would be an illuminating calculation. I suspect that will depend on the efficiency of the whole process, and at 7.5% it probably cannot compete with photovoltaics. But, using sunlight to make liquid fuel can be a useful part of the whole system. It can be a way to store energy when excess electricity is available. Zero carbon liquid fuel cars may also have a niche for situations in which BEVs are not optimal, such as in rural areas or for long-haul applications.

There is also something to be said for spreading out our technology, rather than relying on any single solution. First, this can help phase our fossil fuel faster. And second, this may reduce the demand for raw material for car batteries.

What about using technology like this to make hydrogen instead of liquid fuel? We already have working hydrogen fuel cell cars. All of my previously stated concerns about hydrogen still apply. Hydrogen would require a new infrastructure, and compressing gas has inherent problems. Liquid fuels are better, and can be fed into our existing infrastructure much more easily.

As always, the devil is in the details. If this kind of technology can become mature so that it has reasonable efficiency and can scale up economically for widespread industrial use, I can envision a role for it. At least for the next 20-30 years, while battery technology is still improving, it may be a way to more quickly get to net zero while releasing the least amount of CO2. It may also have a longer term niche for certain applications – trucks, big equipment, aircraft, remote areas. There are certain advantages to energy dense liquid fuel that would probably give such technology long utility.

And of course, this technology may go nowhere if it cannot be scaled up efficiently. Or it may take so long that it gets eclipsed by other technology.


The post Making Fuel from Sunshine first appeared on NeuroLogica Blog.

The Most Dangerous Democrat in Iowa
Feedly AI found 3 Regulatory Changes mentions in this article

The third graders were not interested in meeting the state auditor.

It was career day at Samuelson Elementary School in Des Moines, and Rob Sand had assembled a table in the gymnasium alongside a dozen other grown-ups with jobs. All the other adults had brought props: the man from the bathroom-remodeling company handed out yellow rubber ducks, a local doctor let the kids poke and prod a model heart, and an engineer showed off a long, silly-looking tube that had something to do with the mass production of hot dogs.

Sand had packed only a stack of fliers, and for an hour, the rail-thin auditor stood alone while most of the children gave him a wide berth. At one point, a little girl with braids approached him cautiously: “What’s auditing?” she asked. Sand was excited. “Auditing, well, it’s about finding the truth,” he told her, crouching down. “And it usually has to do with where money’s going or whether people are following the rules.” But the little girl wasn’t listening anymore. She was staring at the hot-dog tube.

Sand has spent the past two months practically begging people to care about his job. Iowa Republicans passed a bill in March limiting the auditor’s access to information, against the Democrat’s loud objections, and the governor is expected to sign it soon. People on both sides of the political aisle told me that the bill is a blatantly partisan move meant to defang the last remaining Democrat in a statewide elected position. Republicans in Iowa are so determined to crush their opponents, in other words, that they’re going after a man whose office most of their constituents don’t even know exists.

But as the lone Democrat in state office, Sand is a glimmer of hope for his party in Iowa, where the past several years have brought only defeat after miserable defeat. “They’re trying to clip his wings, but they paid him a compliment,” David Yepsen, a former chief political reporter at the Des Moines Register, told me, referring to Sand’s Republican adversaries. “He’s [got] an early leg up to be the Democratic nominee” for governor.

Sand’s office in the Capitol building occupies a stately chain of rooms decorated with the heads of dead animals. I gasped when I walked in, suddenly face-to-face with an enormous bison. “North Star Preserve, Montour, Iowa,” Sand said. He pointed at the other trophies mounted on the walls and recited where in Iowa he’d shot them with his compound bow. “Madison County. Madison County. Des Moines city limits.”

Sand is a Democrat, but he is a Democrat who hunts. Bowhunting may be a genuine passion, but it’s also part of the myth he’s built up around himself: a duty-bound centrist, who will hold everyone in government to account, no matter their party. He wears camo and seed-company hats. He goes to church every Sunday. He went out of his way to appoint a Republican, a Democrat, and an independent to serve on his leadership team in the auditor’s office.

[Read: A fresh, bouncy brand of Trumpism]

Sand often says that he hates political parties, and he constantly paraphrases John Adams: “My greatest fear is two great parties united only in their hatred of each other.” Sand registered as a Democrat in 2004 because of his Christian faith’s social gospel, he said; they do “a better job of looking out for those that are on the bottom rungs of society.”

The auditor is 40 but looks 20. He’s lanky, with eyes that crinkle at the corners and a big forehead. Good-looking in an impish way, and a little preachy aside from the occasional expletive, Sand is part Pete Buttigieg, part youth pastor. Like Buttigieg, he was a young achiever. He grew up in Decorah, Iowa, then moved East to major in political science at Brown University. Somewhat incongruously, given his down-to-earth image today, Sand did some fashion modeling in college, appearing in runway shows in Paris and Milan. Today, he likes to say that he chose the University of Iowa over Harvard Law for his law degree. He worked for seven years under Democratic Attorney General Tom Miller, for whose office Sand successfully prosecuted, in his 30s, the Hot Lotto scandal, in which a man had rigged lottery tickets in five states.

Sand can sometimes sound self-righteous—his wife’s brothers refer to him as “Baby Jesus.” But the job of auditor requires being a Goody Two-Shoes about the rules—and having a solid backbone. Sand seems to fit that bill. He didn’t drink until he was 22, and he stopped again for more than a decade as part of a commitment to a friend who was struggling with alcoholism. “He’s kind of a square, and he can come across as a little bit arrogant,” a personal friend of Sand’s, who asked for anonymity to speak more candidly, told me. “But he’s a hugely decent person.”

Sand’s wife, Christine, the CEO of an agri-science business, comes from a wealthy family; her relatives have provided much of the funding for his campaigns. When Sand first ran, in 2018, his bid was notable for its dad humor—and his pledge to “wake up the watchdog,” bringing more action to the auditor’s office and cracking down hard on waste, fraud, and abuse. He did that: During the coronavirus pandemic, Sand’s office discovered that the Republican governor, Kim Reynolds, had misspent federal relief money on two occasions. But he also defended the governor on other occasions: When some residents accused the Iowa Department of Public Health of fudging COVID numbers, Sand’s office reported that the state’s data were accurate.

Last year was not a good one for Democrats in Iowa. Sand won his reelection campaign by two-tenths of a percentage point; the two other Democrats in state office—the attorney general and the treasurer, each the longest-serving in their office in Iowa history—were knocked out of their seats. Reynolds was heard on tape in the spring of 2022 saying that she wanted her “own” attorney general and “a state auditor that’s not trying to sue me every time they turn around.”

The governor got the former. Now her party’s working to deliver the latter.

GOP lawmakers claimed that the new auditor bill was about protecting privacy. But the final version of the legislation prevents Sand from being able to subpoena state agencies for records. Disputes over information would instead be settled by an arbitration panel comprising one representative from Sand’s office, one from the governor’s office, and one from the agency being audited—most likely someone appointed by the governor. Sand would be outnumbered every time.

The bill was the punctuation mark at the end of the most consequential legislative session Iowans have seen since 1965, Yepsen said, in which Republican lawmakers dutifully passed almost every item on the governor’s wishlist, including bans on gender-affirming care for minors, prohibitions on sexuality and gender discussions in school, and new limits on SNAP and Medicaid eligibility. Republicans have a lock on the legislature now in Iowa, and they’re using it.

The auditor bill stands out most, though, for its almost comically obvious targeting of Sand. It is, in the phrase of my colleague David A. Graham, another example of “total politics”—a growing phenomenon in which politicians “use every legal tool at their disposal to gain advantage” without regard for democratic norms or long-term effects. We’ve seen similar moves in Tennessee, where Republicans in the state House expelled two Democrats over their gun-violence protests, and in Montana, where GOP lawmakers are trying to rewrite election laws for a single cycle to make it easier to defeat Democratic Senator Jon Tester.

[Read: Nikki Haley’s dilemma is also the Republicans’ problem]

Well-respected, nonpolitical organizations such as the American Institute of CPAs and the National State Auditors Association have spoken out against the Iowa bill affecting Sand. Even six Republicans in the Iowa statehouse voted against it: “It opens the door to corruption,” one of them, Luana Stoltenberg, who represents the Davenport district and who attended the pro-Trump Stop the Steal protest near the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, told me. “It doesn’t matter who’s in [the office]—that’s wrong.”

“If Rob Sand were a Republican, would this bill have been introduced, and would it have passed?” Mike Mahaffey, a former chair of the Iowa Republican Party who endorsed Sand in 2022, told me. “I think we all know—or we can plausibly argue—it probably wouldn’t have.” The legislation is shortsighted, he and other Republicans I talked to agreed. “Some of these Republican legislators (and it’s not just Iowa) are acting like they’ll never be in the minority again,” one Iowa GOP strategist, whom I agreed to grant anonymity so they could speak candidly, texted me.

But for many Democrats, the Republicans’ targeting of Sand seems less about owning the libs than about neutralizing any political threat, however slight. Right now the auditor “is the entire Democratic bench. He’s their main hope,” Sand’s friend told me. “He’s their Luke Skywalker.”

The Iowa Democrats’ Luke Skywalker drives a white Ford F-150 pickup, because of course he does. Sand picked me up in it last weekend on his way to two events in the conservative southwest corner of the state. Every year, he holds a town hall for each of Iowa’s 100 county seats; auditors don’t normally do that kind of thing. But Sand thinks it’s important for Iowans to hear what his office is up to. Or maybe he feels it’s important for people to know who he is.

We stopped in Treynor, population 1,032, for what was billed as a bipartisan fundraising event; most attendees were Republicans, and Sand was one of three Democrats invited to speak. When he walked in, people flocked to him with questions. “Oh, Rob,” Shawnna Silvius, the mayor of nearby Red Oak, said. “You’ve really been going through it out there. You’re like a lone swan.” Sand laughed: “I haven’t gotten ‘lone swan’ before.”

I watched as the auditor mingled for a while, looking fairly comfortable despite the fact that at least two of the lawmakers who’d voted to limit his power were sitting at a nearby table. People were finishing up their pork chops and cheesy potatoes when it was Sand’s turn to speak. He walked up to the podium, and went for it.

[Read: Iowans knew this day would come]

The auditor bill “is a disaster in waiting for this state,” Sand told the room. Everyone was silent. He laid out the changes that the new legislation would make, and the consequences those changes would have. “The purpose of the Office of the Auditor of State is to prevent abuses of power that destroy our trust in our ability to have a system where we govern ourselves,” Sand concluded. “That was a revolutionary idea a little while back. If we want to keep it, we need to maintain those checks and balances.”

When Sand finished, everyone clapped. A few Republicans came up to ask questions. They had no idea the bill did this, they said. How could they help? Was it too late? Sand wrote down his email and handed out business cards. He urged them all to reach out to the governor, share their concerns, and ask her not to sign the bill. “I didn’t vote for you,” one woman told Sand. “But I would have.”

When we got back in the truck, I asked Sand what the point of all of it was. Of course Reynolds would sign. Was he possibly that naive? “Even if it’s finished, and the bill is done, this is really fucking important,” Sand said. People “need to know what is going on.” We sat while he thought out loud about whether anyone in that room would actually reach out to the governor, or email him to ask more questions—whether they’d care enough to follow through. “How else do I do this?” he asked me. “What else am I supposed to do?”

Sand has been making many such speaking visits lately—and posting regularly on Twitter and Instagram—to broadcast his concerns to Iowans. But this moment has also provided an opportunity for Sand to broadcast himself. It’s obvious that he has bigger political ambitions. You can tell, in part, because he’s so eager to market himself. When a New York Times reporter asked him for suggestions of interesting Iowans to profile in 2020, Sand proposed that she write about him. He has taken at least two national reporters with him on hunting trips, just as he invited me along to watch as he stood up for his current cause. When I met Sand last week, he told me he was reading The Man From Ida Grove, the autobiography of Harold Hughes, a former Democratic senator and governor of the state—a little on the nose.

Sand said he had thought about challenging Reynolds in 2022, but didn’t run because he didn’t want to miss out on time with his two young sons. Left unsaid was the political reality that last year would have been a terrible year to run. Reynolds crushed her Democratic opponent, Deidre DeJear, by nearly 20 points. Sand would probably have done better, but maybe not by much.

He doesn’t have to decide now. Reynolds isn’t up for reelection until 2026, and by then, she may have decided not to run again—or maybe, if a Republican becomes the next president, she’ll have accepted a federal appointment. If Sand does run, he’ll have some trends in his favor: Most Iowa governors also grew up in small towns and served at least a term in public office. “In the field of Iowa Democrats, he’s the shiny light, and we don’t have a lot of light switches on right now,” Jan Norris, the chair of the Montgomery County Democrats, told me.

[Read: A world without Chuck Grassley in the Senate?]

But the broader political current would be pushing against him. For decades, Iowa was purple. Voters here sent Democrat Tom Harkin and Republican Chuck Grassley to the Senate, together, every chance they had. But in 2016, 31 counties that Barack Obama had won twice swung to Donald Trump—more than in any other state in the union. Six years later, Iowa elected an entirely Republican delegation to Congress for the first time in more than 60 years. Sand might have had a good shot at the governor’s mansion in that old version of Iowa. Whether he would in this one is not clear.

“His fate is tied to the macro picture of what’s going on in the Midwest,” Yepsen, the former reporter, told me. Rural America is getting redder, and that’s a serious problem for Democrats, even one as demonstrably centrist as Sand. “Harry Truman couldn’t get elected anymore in Missouri,” Yepsen said. “George McGovern couldn’t win in South Dakota.”

Our final stop on the truck tour of southwest Iowa was a church in Red Oak, population 5,362, where Sand gave a quick pep talk to the Montgomery County Democrats. He was casual, calm. He rolled up his sleeves and sat on the edge of a folding table to face them—youth-pastor mode. “Losing sucks—and that is what we have been doing at the top of the ticket for the last 10 years,” Sand acknowledged to the group of mostly older Iowans.

One man asked what three issues Sand would emphasize if he were in charge of messaging for the Iowa Democratic Party. The auditor bill, Sand replied. People nodded. Plus the private-school vouchers and the way that Republicans are “criminalizing abortion.” The attendees took notes as Sand described an app they could download called MiniVAN that would help them with their door-knocking efforts.

Sand urged the group of Democrats to have hope. He rattled off some stats: There were more split-ticket voters in Iowa than in any other competitive state in 2022, outside of Vermont. More than 48 percent of Iowans voted for three Democrats for statewide office in November. Iowa Democratic Party Chair Rita Hart lost her race in the Second Congressional District by only six votes in 2020—one of the closest House races in American history. Hearing it all, group members seemed to sit up taller in their chairs, like wilting plants getting a little water.

“Democrats can win in the state of Iowa,” Sand said. “I’m not a unicorn.” But in Iowa, right now, he sort of is.