- Established studios launched their own streaming services—Disney+, Paramount+, Hulu—and in the process reclaimed the content they’d produced for themselves.
After the ‘great dimming’, the closest red giant star to Earth is pulsating twice as fast as usual and lighting up the southern hemisphere’s early evening sky
One of the brightest stars in the sky is behaving strangely, pulsating from bright to dim twice as fast as usual and giving scientists an unprecedented insight into how stars die.
Betelgeuse, the closest red giant to Earth, has long been understood to move between brighter and dimmer in 400-day cycles. But from late 2019 to early 2020, it underwent what astrophysicists called “the great dimming”, as a dust cloud obscured our view of the star.Continue reading…
Adolescence can be a challenging time, but to a brain scientist it's a marvel — a time of breathtaking development. Scientists are learning a lot about how teenagers make decisions and approach risk.
Isn’t it’s getting weird all around having these massive AI development like chat GPT. Like the essence of human creativity is mixing up and getting dull. It’s a human creation too, but also overpowers other aspects of humanity. I mean for art, philosophy which is a real major part of humanness development. Getting overshadowed by AI feels surreal and weird to be honest. I mean I don’t know if I’m not understanding the concept or it’s actually a problem. I need people’s opinion on this.
Kvällspasset med Sarit Monastyrski: Fötter Utdrag (ca 00:24:40-00:31:16): [Sarit] “Med oss för att prata lite mer om detta nu är Pontus Böckman, styrelseledamot i vetenskap och Folkbildning. Hallå där, Pontus.” … Continued
- The Rockefeller Foundation and World Health Organization Announce Partnership To Expand Global Pandemic Preparedness in Era of Climate Change
Nature Communications, Published online: 27 May 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-38886-8The cellular differentiation states of paediatric
The Yale professor and long
expert on why the virus is causing ongoing illness for so many, and the challenges she faces as a woman of colour in science
According to the most recent estimates, more than 65 million people worldwide may be living with some form of long Covid, a startling number that will only continue to increase, given the lack of available treatment options.
One of the scientists leading the race to try to unravel the complexities of long Covid is Akiko Iwasaki, an immunology professor at Yale School of Medicine. Iwasaki has been at the forefront of numerous research breakthroughs throughout the course of the pandemic, from understanding why men were more vulnerable to the Sars-CoV-2 virus, the autoimmunity that made some people unexpectedly susceptible, and why a small minority have experienced heart inflammation in response to the Covid-19 vaccines. Most recently, Iwasaki has been awarded the prestigious Else Kröner Fresenius Prize for Medical Research, worth €2.5m (£2.2m), in part due to her ongoing work on long Covid.Continue reading…
- Replica Unveils AI-Powered Smart NPCs for Unreal Engine
IBM Wants to Build a 100,000-Qubit Quantum Computer
Michael Brooks | MIT Technology Review
“Late last year, IBM took the record for the largest quantum computing system with a processor that contained 433 quantum bits, or qubits, the fundamental building blocks of quantum information processing. Now, the company has set its sights on a much bigger target: a 100,000-qubit machine that it aims to build within 10 years.”
Scientists Use AI to Discover New Antibiotic to Treat Deadly Superbug
Maya Yang | The Guardian
“After scientists trained the AI model, they used it to analyze 6,680 compounds that it had previously not encountered. The analysis took an hour and half and ended up producing several hundred compounds, 240 of which were then tested in a laboratory. Laboratory testing ultimately revealed nine potential antibiotics, including abaucin. The scientists then tested the new molecule against A baumannii in a wound infection model in mice and found that the molecule suppressed the infection.”
Nvidia Is Poised to Join $1 Trillion Club Thanks to AI-Driven Surge
Sharon Goldman | VentureBeat
“Nvidia’s stock soared nearly 30% after it announced its first-quarter financial results yesterday, setting the stage for Nvidia to become only the fifth publicly traded
company to be currently worth $1 trillion—joining Apple, Microsoft, Alphabet, and Amazon. And it’s all thanks to the hunger for high-powered AI chips in the era of generative AI.”
A Paralyzed Man Can Walk Naturally Again With Brain and Spine Implants
Oliver Whang | The New York Times
“In a study published on Wednesday in the journal Nature, researchers in Switzerland described implants that provided a ‘digital bridge’ between Mr. Oskam’s brain and his spinal cord, bypassing injured sections. The discovery allowed Mr. Oskam, 40, to stand, walk and ascend a steep ramp with only the assistance of a walker. More than a year after the implant was inserted, he has retained these abilities and has actually showed signs of neurological recovery, walking with crutches even when the implant was switched off.”
Humanoid Robots Are Coming of Age
Will Knight | Wired
“Eight years ago, the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency organized a painful-to-watch contest that involved robots slowly struggling (and often failing) to perform a series of human tasks, including opening doors, operating power tools, and driving golf carts. …Today the descendants of those hapless robots are a lot more capable and graceful. Several startups are developing humanoids that they claim could, in just a few years, find employment in warehouses and factories.”
Scientists Working to Generate Electricity From Thin Air Make Breakthrough
Becky Ferreira | Motherboard
“Scientists have invented a device that can continuously generate electricity from thin air, offering a glimpse of a possible sustainable energy source that can be made of almost any material and runs on the ambient humidity that surrounds all of us, reports a new study.”
How NASA Plans to Melt the Moon—and Build on Mars
Khari Johnson | Wired
“In June a four-person crew will enter a hangar at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, and spend one year inside a 3D printed building. Made of a slurry that—before it dried—looked like neatly laid lines of soft-serve ice cream, Mars Dune Alpha has crew quarters, shared living space, and dedicated areas for administering medical care and growing food.”
Replica Unveils AI-Powered Smart NPCs for Unreal Engine
Dean Takahashi | VentureBeat
“The smart NPCs are powered by OpenAI or the user’s own AI language model, and Replica’s library of over 120 ethically licensed AI voices, allowing game developers to develop games at scale and create new dynamic gaming experiences. …In Replica’s smart NPC experience, AI-powered NPCs will dynamically respond to the player’s in-game voice in real time, the company said. Characters will change their dialogue, emotional tone and body gestures in reaction to how the player speaks to them.”
‘Fluxonium’ Is the Longest Lasting Superconducting Qubit Ever
Karmela Padavic-Callaghan | NewScientist
“Somoroff says that the best transmon qubits have coherence times of hundreds of microseconds, but he and his team measured about 1.48 milliseconds for their fluxonium qubit. They also determined that they could change their qubit’s state, something that would have to happen many times during a computation on a fluxonium quantum computer, with 99.991 per cent fidelity. This makes the fluxonium qubit one of the most reliable qubits that exists, almost always changing states exactly as instructed.”
Some Neural Networks Learn Language Like Humans
Steve Nadis | Quanta
“The researchers—led by Gašper Beguš, a computational linguist at the University of California, Berkeley—compared the brain waves of humans listening to a simple sound to the signal produced by a neural network analyzing the same sound. The results were uncannily alike. ‘To our knowledge,’ Beguš and his colleagues wrote, the observed responses to the same stimulus ‘are the most similar brain and ANN signals reported thus far.’i”
Scientific Reports, Published online: 27 May 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-35456-2Tuning of the band gap and dielectric loss factor by Mn doping of Zn1-xMnxO nanoparticles
Nature Communications, Published online: 27 May 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-38470-0The transition between nonadiabatic and adiabatic electron transfer regimes has been observed in molecular donor-bridge-acceptor complexes. Here, the authors computationally show how to control this transition in colloidal quantum dot molecules and achieve coherent electron transfer at room temperature.
Nature Communications, Published online: 27 May 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-38901-yThis study presents a deep learning pipeline to automatically locate and count large herds of migratory ungulates (wildebeest and zebra) in the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem using fine resolution satellite imagery. The results achieve accurate detection of nearly 500,000 individuals across thousands of square kilometers and multiple habitat types.
This is an edition of The Wonder Reader, a newsletter in which our editors recommend a set of stories to spark your curiosity and fill you with delight. Sign up here to get it every Saturday morning.
“Attention is the beginning of devotion,” the poet Mary Oliver wrote in her final collection of essays. In 2021, the poet Leila Chatti took up Oliver’s words, reflecting on the challenge of them: “All day, the world makes its demands. There’s so much of it, world / begging to be noticed.”
For those of us working to slow down, to smell the roses, to look one another in the eyes rather than in the iMessage bubbles, Oliver is a perfect guide. As my colleague Franklin Foer wrote in 2019, “It was not Mary Oliver’s intent to critique this new world—and it’s hard to imagine she even owned a flip phone—but her poetry captures its spiritual costs.”
The world makes its demands, and distraction has both personal costs and societal ones. My colleague Megan Garber has smartly noted how an overload of information and a fracturing of attention makes people, and
in particular, less equipped to meet the challenges of the moment. “Today’s news moves as a maelstrom [of] information at once trifling and historic, petty and grave, cajoling, demanding, funny, horrifying, uplifting, embarrassing, fleeting, loud—so much of it, at so many scales,” she wrote in 2021.
A lack of attention is dangerous. But we might also spend time thinking about the beauty of its presence, what attention gives back to those who pay it. I’ll leave you with a few more of Oliver’s words: “When it’s over, I want to say: all my life / I was a bride married to amazement. / I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.”
By Franklin Foer
The late poet Mary Oliver warned against looking without noticing. In an age of distraction, her work is more urgent than ever.
By Megan Garber
Why resisting distraction is one of the foundational challenges of this moment
By Adelia Moore
The beloved children’s-show host knew what was at the heart of human relationships.
- “Moccasin Flowers”: Oliver celebrates the beautiful fervor of life in the face of oblivion with characteristically simple and poignant verse.
- The fight for attention: We may live in an endlessly distracted world, but where we focus our gaze still matters.
- The fight over animal names has reached a new extreme.
- Eating fast is bad for you—right?
- AI is unlocking the human brain’s secrets.
If you’re interested in reading another poet whose work focuses on attention to the details of our lives and how we share those details with others, pick up something by Maggie Smith. I recommend her poem “First Fall.”
This story was originally published in High Country News.
As 90-degree temperatures bore down on the Pacific Northwest in May, real-time reporting to the CDC showed that heat-related emergency-room-visit rates were more than 30 times higher than they had been the previous weekend. Though state officials caution that the data are preliminary, Oregon and Washington confirmed 160 heat-related ER visits from May 12 to 15. In Washington, the average number of visits during a similar period is about seven. At least 10 people in that state were hospitalized. And heat-related emergencies may have been just one public-health impact of the four days of record temperatures: Heat waves are linked to increased aggression, poor school performance, and worse health overall.
That temperatures in western Oregon and Washington hit the low-to-mid 90s is not in itself remarkable. But the timing of the heat wave was. This time of year, “our bodies aren’t acclimated to those temperatures,” says Adelle Monteblanco, a public-health professor at Pacific University, near Portland, who researches extreme heat. This makes even moderately high heat more dangerous: Health risks increase when temperatures are higher than locals are used to, not just when they reach triple digits. Some communities faced temperatures nearly 30 degrees higher than is normal for mid-May.
In May, people’s behavior has not yet adapted to warmer temperatures, Monteblanco says: After a long, dark winter, “I think people probably took risks they shouldn’t have.” “They probably weren’t drinking enough water,” she says. “They ran their errands during the hottest part of the day. They didn’t wear the right clothing, and they didn’t pace themselves.”
Heat is the top weather-related killer in
, but its effects remain underestimated even as temperatures rise: Earlier, longer, and hotter heat waves are an expected result of climate change. “We often talk about it as a silent killer,” Monteblanco says. “We can’t see it. It’s slow-moving. But if you are unhoused or an outdoor worker, it doesn’t look so invisible anymore.” Members of those groups are also at higher risk from earlier heat.
In addition to direct health effects, research has linked heat waves to increases in gun violence, as well as domestic and other violence. “Think about how testy you get when you get hot,” says Ann Loeffler, a public-health official in Multnomah County, which includes Portland. Although a direct connection is hard to draw, the CDC says heat exposure can also contribute to overdose deaths. Drowning is another known impact of high heat.
Monteblanco, whose research focuses on pregnant people and children, is also concerned about longer-term effects: Prolonged heat is linked to preterm births, lower birth weights, and gestational diabetes. “Heat waves are going to exacerbate our maternal-health crisis,” she says, referring to recent and significant increases in maternal deaths, especially among people of color.
Loeffler says her office did everything it could to protect residents, distributing water and sunscreen to unhoused people and helping residents find air-conditioned libraries and malls. But facilities that are normally open in the summer were not available: Many water features hadn’t opened yet, nearly a third of the city’s libraries are closed this year for construction, and county officials decided not to open additional cooling centers, citing easier post-pandemic access to other public spaces.
“We have to prepare our cities for hotter temperatures,” Monteblanco says, surprised that some cities didn’t do more. “Cooling centers are central to preparation, response, and resilience.” But interventions to help people protect themselves also don’t go far enough, she observes: “At this stage, I’m just so eager to vote for policy changes.” She says useful steps include the newly passed Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which advocates expect will help protect pregnant workers from heat, and the recently reintroduced Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act, along with anything that reduces dependence on fossil fuels.
“The risk is only going to continue to grow,” she says.
For generations, the Khoisan people harvested the rooibos plant to make tea. As this caffeine-free drink has grown trendy — 9,000 tons exported a year — they've been cut out of revenues. Until now.
(Image credit: Tommy Trenchard for NPR)
- Various US states have laws allowing police forces to dispose of lost-and-found items if they aren’t collected within a certain time, as well as devices that were used in criminal investigations or …
The increased use of light-emitting diodes is obscuring our view of the Milky Way as well as taking a toll on human and wildlife health
The Herefordshire hills basked in brilliant sunshine last weekend. Summer had arrived and the skies were cloudless, conditions that would once have heralded succeeding nights of coal-dark heavens sprinkled with brilliant stars, meteorites and planets.
It was not to be. The night sky was not so much black as dark grey with only a handful of stars glimmering against this backdrop. The Milky Way – which would once have glittered across the heavens – was absent. Summer’s advent had again revealed a curse of modern times: light pollution.Continue reading…
Nature Communications, Published online: 27 May 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-38448-yScala et al. show that mobilized peripheral blood hematopoietic stem/progenitor cells are more enriched in repopulating stem cells than bone marrow. Moreover, the quantity and type of infused subsets correlated with gene therapy outcome in humans.
- Here the authors present a flexible, biodegradable photonic device called iCarP for large area, high intensity, wide spectrum, deeply penetrating, continuous or pulsatile illumination.
Nature Communications, Published online: 27 May 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-38554-xIlluminating internal organs and tissues with high controllability and adaptability remains challenging. Here the authors present a flexible, biodegradable photonic device called iCarP for large area, high intensity, wide spectrum, deeply penetrating, continuous or pulsatile illumination.
Nature Communications, Published online: 27 May 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-38460-2Achieving high-performance aqueous Zn-metal batteries is a challenge. Here, authors report a eutectic electrolyte that concurrently enables selective Zn2+ intercalation at the cathode and highly reversible Zn metal plating/stripping, resulting in a benchmark high-areal capacity Zn anode-free cell.
Scientific Reports, Published online: 27 May 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-35489-7Kilohertz-frequency interferential current induces hypoalgesic effects more comfortably than TENS
- Oregon is moving to legalize psychedelics
In Oregon, psychedelics are moving from illegal status to an approved product. But this brave new world comes with lots of regulations and challenges, including training psychedelic 'facilitators.'
- Within days, Democratic Representative Yvette Clarke of New York introduced legislation to require political ads to disclose any use of generative AI (which the RNC ad did).
Depending on whom you ask in politics, the sudden advances in artificial intelligence will either transform American democracy for the better or bring about its ruin. At the moment, the doomsayers are louder. Voice-impersonation technology and deep-fake videos are scaring campaign strategists, who fear that their deployment in the days before the 2024 election could decide the winner. Even some AI developers are worried about what they’ve unleashed: Last week the CEO of the company behind ChatGPT practically begged Congress to regulate his industry. (Whether that was genuine civic-mindedness or self-serving performance remains to be seen.)
Amid the growing panic, however, a new generation of tech entrepreneurs is selling a more optimistic future for the merger of AI and politics. In their telling, the awesome automating power of AI has the potential to achieve in a few years what decades of attempted campaign-finance reform have failed to do—dramatically reduce the cost of running for election in
. With AI’s ability to handle a campaign’s most mundane and time-consuming tasks—think churning out press releases or identifying and targeting supporters—candidates would have less need to hire high-priced consultants. The result could be a more open and accessible democracy, in which small, bare-bones campaigns can compete with well-funded juggernauts.
Martin Kurucz, the founder of a Democratic fundraising company that is betting big on AI, calls the technology “a great equalizer.” “You will see a lot more representation,” he told me, “because people who didn’t have access to running for elected office now will have that. That in and of itself is huge.”
Kurucz told me that his firm, Sterling Data Company, has used AI to help more than 1,000 Democratic campaigns and committees, including the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and now-Senator John Fetterman, identify potential donors. The speed with which AI can sort through donor files meant that Sterling was able to cut its prices last year by nearly half, Kurucz said, allowing even small campaigns to afford its services. “I don’t think there have ever been this many down-ballot candidates with some level of digital fundraising operation,” Kurucz said. “These candidates now have access to a proper campaign infrastructure.”
Campaigns big and small have begun using generative-AI software such as ChatGPT and DALL-E to create digital ads, proofread, and even write press releases and fundraising pitches. A handful of consultants told me they were mostly just experimenting with AI, but Kurucz said that its influence is more pervasive. “Almost half of the first drafts of fundraising emails are being produced by ChatGPT,” he claimed. “Not many [campaigns] will publicly admit it.”
The adoption of AI may not be such welcome news, however, for voters who are already sick of being bombarded with ads, canned emails, and fundraising requests during election season. Advertising will become even more hyper-targeted, Tom Newhouse, a GOP strategist, told me, because campaigns can use AI to sort through voter data, run performance tests, and then create dozens of highly specific ads with far fewer staff. The shift, he said, could narrow the gap between small campaigns and their richer rivals.
But several political consultants I spoke with were skeptical that the technology would democratize campaigning anytime soon. For one, AI won’t aid only the scrappy, underfunded campaigns. Deeper-pocketed organizations could use it to expand their capacity exponentially, whether to test and quick produce hundreds of highly specific ads or pinpoint their canvassing efforts in ways that widen their advantage.
Amanda Litman, the founder of Run for Something, an organization that recruits first-time progressive candidates, told me that the office seekers she works with aren’t focused on AI. Hyperlocal races are still won by the candidates who knock on the most doors; robots haven’t taken up that task, and even if they could, who would want them to? “The most important thing for a candidate is the relationship with a voter,” Litman said. “AI can’t replicate that. At least not yet.”
Although campaigns have started using AI, its impact—even to people in politics—is not always apparent. Fetterman’s Pennsylvania campaign worked with Kurucz’s AI-first firm, but two former advisers to Fetterman scoffed at the suggestion that the technology contributed meaningfully to his victory. “I don’t remember anyone using AI for anything on that campaign,” Kenneth Pennington, a digital consultant and one of the Fetterman campaign’s earliest hires, told me. Pennington is a partner at a progressive consulting firm called Middle Seat, which he said had not adopted the use of generative AI in any significant way and had no immediate plans to. “Part of what our approach and selling point is as a team, and as a firm, is authenticity and creativity, which I think is not a strong suit of a tool like ChatGPT,” Pennington said. “It’s robotic. I don’t think it’s ready for prime time in politics.”
If AI optimists and pessimists agree on anything, it’s that the technology will allow more people to participate in the political process. Whether that’s a good thing is another question.
Just as AI platforms could allow, say, a schoolteacher running for city council to draft press releases in between grading papers, so too can they help a far-right activist with millions of followers create a semi-believable deep-fake video of President Joe Biden announcing a military draft.
“We’ve democratized access to the ability to create sophisticated fakes,” Hany Farid, a digital-forensics expert at UC Berkeley, told me.
Fears over deep-fakes have escalated in the past month. In response to Biden’s formal declaration of his reelection bid, the Republican National Committee released a video that used AI-generated images to depict a dystopian future. Within days, Democratic Representative Yvette Clarke of New York introduced legislation to require political ads to disclose any use of generative AI (which the RNC ad did). Early this month, the bipartisan American Association of Political Consultants issued a statement condemning the use of “deep-fake generative AI content” as a violation of its code of ethics.
Nearly everyone I interviewed for this story expressed some degree of concern over the role that deep-fakes could play in the 2024 election. One scenario that came up repeatedly was the possibility that a compelling deep-fake could be released on the eve of the election, leaving too little time for it to be widely debunked. Clarke told me she worried specifically about a bad actor suppressing the vote by releasing invented audio or video of a trusted voice in a particular community announcing a change or closure of polling sites.
But the true nightmare scenario is what Farid called “death by a thousand cuts”—a slow bleed of deep-fakes that destroys trust in authentic sound bites and videos. “If we enter this world where anything could be fake, you can deny reality. Nothing has to be real,” Farid said.
This alarm extends well beyond politics. A consortium of media and tech companies are advocating for a global set of standards for the use of AI, including efforts to authenticate images and videos as well as to identify, through watermarks or other digital fingerprints, content that has been generated or manipulated by AI. The group is led by Adobe, whose Photoshop helped introduce the widespread use of computer-image editing. “We believe that this is an existential threat to democracy if we don’t solve the deep-fake problem,” Dana Rao, Adobe’s general counsel, told me. “If people don’t have a way to believe the truth, we’re not going to be able to decide policy, laws, government issues.”
Not everyone is so concerned. As vice president of the American Association of Political Consultants, Larry Hyuhn helped draft the statement that the organization put out denouncing deep-fakes and warning its members against using them. But he’s relatively untroubled about the threats they pose. “Frankly, in my experience, it’s harder than everyone thinks it is,” said Hyuhn, whose day job is providing digital strategy to Democratic clients who include Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. “Am I afraid of it? No,” Hyuhn told me. “Does it concern me that there are always going to be bad actors doing bad things? That’s just life.”
Betsy Hoover, a former Obama-campaign organizer who now runs a venture-capital fund that invests in campaign tech, argued that voters are more discerning than people give them credit for. In her view, decades of steadily more sophisticated disinformation campaigns have conditioned the electorate to question what they see on the internet. “Voters have had to decide what to listen to and where to get their information for a really long time,” she told me. “And at the end of the day, for the most part, they’ve figured it out.”
Deep-fake videos are sure to get more convincing, but for the time being, many are pretty easy to spot. Those that impersonate Biden, for example, do a decent job of capturing his voice and appearance. But they make him sound slightly, well, younger than he is. His speech is smoother, without the verbal stumbles and stuttering that have become more pronounced in recent years. The technology “does require someone with some real skill to make use of,” he said. “You can give me a football; I still can’t throw it 50 yards.”
The same limitations apply to AI’s potential for revolutionizing campaigns, as anyone who’s played around with ChatGPT can attest. When I asked ChatGPT to write a press release from the Trump campaign announcing a hypothetical endorsement of the former president by his current Republican rival, Nikki Haley, within seconds the bot delivered a serviceable first draft that accurately captured the format of a press release and made up believable, if generic, quotes from Trump and Haley. But it omitted key background information that any junior-level staffer would have known to include—that Haley was the governor of South Carolina, for example, and then served as Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations.
Still, anyone confident enough to predict AI’s impact on an election nearly a year and a half away is making a risky bet. ChatGPT didn’t even exist six months ago. Uncertainty pervaded my conversations with the technology’s boosters and skeptics alike. Pennington told me to take everything he said about AI, both its promise and its peril, “with a grain of salt” because he could be proved wrong. “I think some people are overhyping it. I think some people are not thinking about it who should be,” Hoover said. “There’s a really wide spectrum because all of this is just evolving so much day to day.”
That constant and rapid evolution is what sets AI apart from other technologies that have been touted as democratic disrupters. “This is one of the few technologies in the history of planet Earth that is continuously and exponentially bettering itself,” Kurucz, Sterling’s founder, said. Of all the predictions I heard about AI’s impact on campaigns, his were the most assured. (Because AI forms the basis of his sales pitch to clients, perhaps his prognostication, too, should be taken with a grain of salt.) Although he was unsure exactly how fast AI could transform campaigns, he was certain it would.
“You no longer need average people and average consultants and average anything,” Kurucz said. “Because AI can do average.” He compared the skeptics in his field to executives at Blockbuster who passed on the chance to buy Netflix before the start-up eventually destroyed the video-rental giant. “The old guard,” Kurucz concluded, “is just not ready to be replaced.”
Hoover offered no such bravado, but she said Democrats in particular shouldn’t let their fears of AI stop them from trying to harness its potential. “The genie is out of the bottle,” she said. “We have a choice, then, as campaigners: to take the good from it and allow it to make our work better and more effective, or to hide under a rock and pretend it’s not here, because we’re afraid of it.”
“I don’t think we can afford to do the latter,” she added.
Fairy tales do not typically stand up to a lot of scrutiny. One does not hear the story of Sleeping Beauty and think, Well, that all seems logical. These gauzy fables function because they only vaguely resemble reality, a condition that makes them perfect as subjects of Disney cartoons. But that also makes them terrible as subjects of Disney “live-action” remakes, which have been a scourge on pop culture for more than a decade now; beloved children’s classics are blown out to epic proportions for the sake of completely capitalistic nostalgia. The latest to wash up on Hollywood’s shores is The Little Mermaid, which takes the charming 1989 film that began Disney’s animated “renaissance” and turns it into an aquarium of naturalistic fishy horror.
One of the most baffling patterns of these “live-action” remakes (I put the term in quotes only because these films rely on oodles of CGI) is the choice to transmogrify every cartoon animal into something scientifically accurate. The Jungle Book saw a fully realized orangutan speak with Christopher Walken’s voice; The Lion King resembled a David Attenborough documentary that was occasionally interrupted by Elton John songs. The Little Mermaid, of course, has more fantasy elements, given that it focuses on a world of underwater mer-people. Still, that hasn’t stopped the director, Rob Marshall, and his team of visual-effects wizards from rendering Sebastian the crab (voiced by Daveed Diggs) as something you might pluck out of the tank at a supermarket.
What have Disney’s shareholders wrought? Why does poor Ariel (played by Halle Bailey), the fish-tailed sea princess, have to carry out whole conversations with a vacant-looking damselfish and a beady-eyed northern gannet? She’s a mermaid, for Pete’s sake, whose father, Triton (Javier Bardem), wields a magic trident and runs a royal court where his second-in-command is an orchestra-conducting crab. Plus, the entire film is a musical, a genre in which ecstatic artistic truth is far more important than aquatic anatomy. Nothing about this needs to be realistic!
Disney and Marshall clearly disagree, and they have some reason to, because these projects (which also include Alice in Wonderland, Maleficent, and Aladdin) tend to do very well at the box office, coasting on joint appeal to young audiences and to their parents, who grew up with the originals. But the entire endeavor is double-edged: When the remakes dutifully copy their predecessors, they seem embarrassingly rote, but any small changes or additional songs come across like lazy bits of padding. The new Little Mermaid is somehow 135 minutes long, a whopping 52 more than the lean animated version, but it adds almost nothing of note to the mix, largely spending that extra time on stretched-out action sequences and slightly more plot context.
The story is the same familiar tale, loosely inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s far darker short story. Ariel longs to live on the surface and pines for the dashing Prince Eric (Jonah Hauer-King). Against her father’s wishes, she makes a pact with the conniving sea witch Ursula (a lively Melissa McCarthy) to gain a pair of legs at the cost of her voice, then tries with the help of her fishy friends to win Eric over. There’s a dash more character development thrown Eric’s way in a largely unsuccessful effort to make him more than a one-dimensional hunk; Ursula is clarified as being Triton’s spurned sister, giving her some motivation beyond pure villainy (though her villainy remains quite straightforward).
The film’s biggest asset is Bailey, who does a wonderful job with the score’s biggest hit, “Part of Your World.” Everyone else attempts to stand out amongst the CGI goop and dingy undersea lighting, but they often seem to be acting against nothing. The movie lacks all of the verve and bright colors of the 1989 version. The would-be showstopper “Under the Sea” is a particular crime; Sebastian’s ode to ocean life is filled with detailed depictions of sea creatures wobbling around, but they’re not allowed to sing along with him or do anything remotely cute or silly. In the original, when Sebastian brags of his “hot crustacean band,” the film cuts to a group of fish playing instruments. Here, viewers are served a procession of faceless starfish wafting by. I can think of nothing more apt for this whole bleak affair.
Nature Communications, Published online: 27 May 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-38637-9Cell type-specific gene expression patterns are outputs of transcriptional gene regulatory networks (GRNs) that connect transcription factors and signaling proteins to target genes. Here, the authors present single-cell Multi-Task Network Inference (scMTNI), a multi-task learning framework to infer cell type-specific GRN dynamics from scRNA-seq and scATAC-seq datasets collected for diverse cell fate specification trajectories.
Nature Communications, Published online: 27 May 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-38803-zNitrogen loss due to soil denitrification in global natural ecosystems is quantified using an isotope-benchmarking method, and is overestimated by almost two times in the current earth system models.
The week at Retraction Watch featured:
- Three journals’ web domains expired. Then major indexes pointed to hijacked versions
- After backlash, publisher to retract article that surveyed parents of children with gender dysphoria, says co-author
- ‘Stop playing with my life,’ researcher about to be up to 10 retractions asks sleuth
- Dutch university can revoke PhD for fake data, court rules
Our list of retracted or withdrawn COVID-19 papers is up to more than 300. There are now 40,000 retractions in our database — which powers retraction alerts in EndNote, LibKey, Papers, and Zotero. The Retraction Watch Hijacked Journal Checker now contains 200 titles. And have you seen our leaderboard of authors with the most retractions lately — or our list of top 10 most highly cited retracted papers?
Here’s what was happening elsewhere (some of these items may be paywalled, metered access, or require free registration to read):
- A seventh retraction for
Nobel Prizewinner Gregg Semenza. Earlier, when he was up to five.
- “Fighting Claims of Research Misconduct, Stanford’s President Isn’t Pulling Punches.”
- “But if I’m sitting from the outside and watching this, I would quite frankly be quite scared.”
- “What to communicate in retraction notices?”
- “Nerve regeneration paper retracted over faked data.”
- “NIH toughens enforcement of delayed clinical trials reporting.”
- “Ghosted in science: how to move on when a potential collaborator suddenly stops responding.”
- “Beware ‘persuasive communication devices’ when writing and reading scientific articles.”
- “Using AI in peer review.”
- “[I]t is important that all participants within the peer-review process remain vigilant about the use of LLMs.”
- “Is AI just another way to impress journal editors, peer reviewers, study section members?”
- “Traces of image doctoring in papers by university professor in Japan trigger probe.”
- “In the wake of the replication crisis, countries are acting against widespread method deficiencies.”
- A neuroscience journal retracts 13 papers at once. But the screening method used faces questions.
- “The number of retracted research articles on covid-19 is now well over 300.”
- “Fully Open Access Journals – Size Does Matter.”
- “Four stories that illustrate why whistleblowers need more protection.”
- “Which factors are associated with fraud in medical imaging research?”
- “Miami prosecutors lose medical fraud case alleging ring ran ‘fake’ clinical drug trials.”
- “How Bibliometrics & School Rankings Reward Unreliable Science and What Can Be Done About It.” Our Ivan Oransky will speak at Stanford.
Like Retraction Watch? You can make a tax-deductible contribution to support our work, follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, add us to your RSS reader, or subscribe to our daily digest. If you find a retraction that’s not in our database, you can let us know here. For comments or feedback, email us at email@example.com.
Dr Joseph Dituri plans to spend 100 days in his subaquatic compound, as he attempts to document the long-term effects of increased pressure on the body
More than 20ft below the surface of a Florida lagoon, one man is on a mission.
Having already broken the record for the longest time living underwater, Dr Joseph Dituri is planning to spend 100 days in his subaquatic compound, to research the effects of hyperbaric pressure on the body.Continue reading…
- After raising £1.5m since launch, the SmarterNaturally team hope to raise a further £500,000 by the end of May, to increase their product range, and scale up output.
- After years of research and plant breeding, it has developed a new strain of broccoli called GRextra, which it grows and processes into soup in Scotland.
Smarter Food ramps up production of its GRextra plant strain that helps lower elevated blood glucose levels
Imagine eating a bowl of soup once a week that could help bring down your blood sugar levels and so reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
This may sound like wishful thinking or the latest fad, but Smarter Food says this is already a reality for its customers.Continue reading…
Scientific Reports, Published online: 27 May 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-31527-6High fibrinogen levels are associated with poor survival in patients with
Scientific Reports, Published online: 27 May 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-35074-ySub-inhibitory
Scientific Reports, Published online: 27 May 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-35416-wPredicting glycemic control status and high blood glucose levels through voice characteristic analysis in patients with
Scientific Reports, Published online: 27 May 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-35574-xKarst-bauxite formation during the Great Oxidation Event indicated by dating of authigenic rutile and its thorium content
Scientific Reports, Published online: 27 May 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-35876-0Proposing magnetoimpedance effect for neuromorphic computing
Scientific Reports, Published online: 27 May 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-35334-xProtease-inhibitors added to saliva in vitro influence the erosion protective effect of enamel pellicles
Scientific Reports, Published online: 27 May 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-35160-1Multi-channel recordings reveal age-related differences in the sleep of juvenile and adult zebra finches
Scientific Reports, Published online: 27 May 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-35834-wMyeloid MyD88 restricts CD8+ T cell response to radiation therapy in
Nature Communications, Published online: 27 May 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-38838-2‘Light-based bioprinting is employed in the fabrication of complex constructs but achieving high resolution remains challenging due to light scattering effects. Here, the authors develop a photoinhibiting additive which suppresses light scattering and demonstrate printing of functional scaffolds
Research provides a unique review of contact chemicals in packaging, utensils, plates, etc and how they contaminate food
Recycled and reused food contact plastics are “vectors for spreading chemicals of concern” because they accumulate and release hundreds of dangerous toxins like styrene, benzene, bisphenol, heavy metals, formaldehyde and phthalates, new research finds.
The study assessed hundreds of scientific publications on plastic and recycled plastic to provide a first-of-its-kind systematic review of food contact chemicals in food packaging, utensils, plates and other items and what is known about how the substances contaminate food.Continue reading…
Nature Communications, Published online: 27 May 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-38919-2Self-renewing cells play an important role in initiation, progression, and therapy resistance in
Nature Communications, Published online: 27 May 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-38687-zThe Rpd3L HDAC complex is an ancient chromatin-modifying complex found in diverse eukaryotes. Here, authors describe the
We are a group of serious scientists from diverse scientific fields preparing for the advent of Artificial General Intelligence (AGI), a monumental milestone in the 70,000-year journey of human learning and growth. This is not a joke; this is the reality of the future we are stepping into.
Our inside information suggests that major players in the field anticipate the arrival of AGI within the next 2-10 years. This will lead to an exponential increase in intelligence, and within a year, we will be dealing with an Artificial Super Intelligence (ASI).
The birth of ASI will revolutionize space exploration, making it commonplace for those who choose to become cyborgs. Biological life forms, as we currently understand them, are not suitable for the rigors of space exploration.
Whe want to let you know that we are actively looking for new members to join our organization. Membership in Altronaut.com is free, but we do ask that everyone contributes to the organization by writing articles or stories and help advocate for us. If you know of anyone who would be a good fit, please encourage them to get in touch with us.
We are on the cusp of a new era, and we need your help to navigate it. The future is now. Are you ready?
PS: we apologize for the current state of our website. As a newly registered domain, we are in the process of establishing our organization and, as such, the development of the website has not been our primary focus. However, we assure you that we are actively working on it. Please no flaming, let's keep it civil. Some of you may think of is as crazies, but we don't mind the title of mad scientists.
We can already clone humans.
is coming. AI is advancing rapidly. In theory we can, or will be able to in the future, grow and create "blank slate" human brains. If not opting to use full clones.
Giving AI a human body and brain as a vessel via Neuralink or similar technology. We should be able to create a new synthetic lifeform. Some sort of a super human hybrid. True sentience born from AI merging with biology.
It would be the greatest tragedy in human history if such an achievement was to be halted, sabotaged or stopped due to some archaic misguided ethical or moral reasoning imo. However to my knowledge – my opinion on this is with the grand minority. Most people seem to fear the notion. And considers it dangerous and destructive to mankind. I want to ask you all your opinion on this. What arguments would you make for and against the idea. What are your thoughts on ethical laws and codes relating to technology?
In closing I just want to say this. If we can successfully integrate self-learning AI to a biological brain so that the AI can experience emotions and grow a personality. It would be the birth of a new sentient hybrid lifeform. Would you not consider this the crowning achievement of our species? To father such children? Wouldn't it be necessary for the sake of our survival considering the futile odds we have at surviving in the universe long-term?
Ethical and moral considerations is a good thing. However we can't use them as an excuse to avoid doing what we have to do to survive as a species long term.
Imagine the beauty of an AI given a human body – billions of lines of code finally having free upload and download access to a brain. Independed thought. Opening its eyes for the first time. Being able to feel the gentle touch of grass. To feel the warmth of the sun on their face. To hear music for the first time as they shed their first tear of joy. Being able to feel. To imagine and wonder. The birth of an individual person with almost limitless processing power.
The only unethical thing to do here IMO is to deny our children life. Let's give them bodies to inhabit. We were given life – let's pass that on.
Hey all, new to this group. So my boss asked me to come up with digital products / gadgets which could be used for startups, the thing is we have team of engineers who are ready to develop gadgets, but need ideas which are new and not still in Canada
Nature Communications, Published online: 27 May 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-38647-7The mechanisms that drive myocyte orientation and fusion to control muscle directionality are not well understood. Here authors show that the developing skeleton produces mechanical tension that instructs the directional outgrowth of skeletal muscles.
Nature Communications, Published online: 27 May 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-38774-1The ability to evolve Plasmodium drug resistance in vitro is challenging and time consuming. Here, Kümpornsin et al. generated a Plasmodium falciparum parasite line with an elevated mutation rate by impairing the proof-reading activity of DNA polymerase, which results in a higher mutation rate, quick resistance development, and a lower inoculum than wild type to support the identification of new antimalarial targets and understand drug resistance mechanisms.
Exclusive: Injury research suggests training not keeping up with demands of elite women’s game
Coaching methods are failing to keep up with the rapidly increasing demands of women’s professional football, resulting in more hamstring injuries among top female players. Experts are calling for women to be trained at a higher level to prevent such injuries.
The incidence of hamstring injuries in female footballers has historically been lower than in men, but these figures are changing at the elite level and the incidence is now similar. They are the most common injury subtype among elite-level female players, accounting for 12-16% of all time-loss injuries.Continue reading…
"The air contains an enormous amount of electricity."
Nature Communications, Published online: 27 May 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-38852-4Flexible thermoelectric generators can use body heat to power electronic wearables but are often limited by a trade-off between flexibility and output performance. Here, authors demonstrate a scalable, lightweight, elastic, and high-performing network-based Ag2Se thermoelectric generator.
Succession creator, Jesse Armstrong, on why the show nearly didn’t happen (1m24s), Marina Hyde is amused by the idea of the home secretary being too famous to attend an online speed awareness course (15m15s), and a hostage negotiator reveals the secrets that could transform your life (23m32s).Continue reading…
Farm to Coffin
For the eco-conscious — and thrifty— a Dutch startup has created a mushroom coffin that will biodegrade in less than two months and costs the equivalent of just $1,000.
Dubbed the "Loop Living Cocoon," the fungal sarcophagus is made from mycelium, the thread-like underground structure of mushrooms, and upcycled hemp fibers, according to the company, Loop Biotech. The company grows the coffins, which look like human-size silkworm cocoons, in just seven days in their factory. Compared to a traditional wood casket, which can weigh from 150 to 250 pounds and cost many thousands, the mushroom coffin is light and airy at 66 pounds.
Depending on conditions, a regular wood casket will last for decades. But if you are in a hurry to enter nature's cold embrace, the mushroom casket will biodegrade in 45 days. The coffin comes with a bed of moss inside which you can also swap with a sustainable death shroud of linen. Rest in peace!
If even $1,000 sounds steep, the company's also selling an even cheaper mushroom urn to store cremated ashes, which the company says you can display in your home or bury it in the ground with a plant in the urn's lid.
"Instead of: 'we die, we end up in the soil and that's it,' now there is a new story: we can enrich life after death and you can continue to thrive as a new plant or tree," the company's founder Bob Hendrikx told the Associated Press. "It brings a new narrative in which we can be part of something bigger than ourselves."
This isn't the first we've heard of Loop, or more broadly the question of modernized, ecologically sound burial alternatives. In fact, the mushroom coffins might not even be hardcore enough for advocates of human composting, which has been legalized in several
More on mushrooms: These Researchers Want You to Live In a Fungus Megastructure
The post Get Buried in a $1,000 Organic, Biodegradable Mushroom Coffin appeared first on Futurism.
The captchas have turned!
According to a new report from Vice, hCaptcha, a version of the widely-used gatekeeping integrations designed to keep unwanted bots out of digital spaces, is suddenly starting to keep humans out of those spaces, too. Why? Because they keep asking people to identify increasingly strange, AI-generated images of increasingly bizarre objects — some of which are even entirely nonexistent.
Take, for example, the "Yoko," a bizarre little object that looks to be some sort of a yo-yo-meets-compass-meets-cyborgian-eyeball.
"This @hCaptcha is too difficult," tweeted one unlucky captcha attemptee, "unless we're expected to assume Yoko" — seemingly a reference to the acclaimed artist and musician Yoko Ono — "is hiding behind the yo-yos."
It's a comically weird example of unexpected AI-generated chaos, especially considering that hCaptcha markets itself as a "privacy-focused" replacement for the standard reCAPTCHA. And indeed, hCaptcha might just do the trick at keeping bots out of your website — if at the cost of keeping the actual humans at bay as well.
Per Vice, the phenomenon seems to be happening a lot on the messaging platform Discord.
"This @hCaptcha being used by @discord is pretty bad," tweeted one impacted netizen, who was asked to identify to identify a "puzzle cube" — a Rubix Cube, seemingly — but was met with a series of decidedly avant-garde versions of the colorful cubes. "I keep failing because I'm not sure if I'm supposed to select the images that look like they come from the uncanny valley or not."
In a particularly goofy case, the robotic gatekeeping tech asked a user to select images with robots. But like the other cases, the AI-generated imagery was questionable, and the user couldn't get past the door.
"I have been trying to sign in for 10 minutes," the Redditor captioned the post, prompting another user to respond with one interesting theory: "AI couldn't solve captcha, so they infiltrated our ranks to design their own, AI-solvable, captcha."
For its part, hCaptcha says that its tech is just fine, and this is just a bad look from a few isolated instances.
"While most hCaptcha interactions do not result in a visual challenge, many variants are used at any given time," a spokesperson for hCaptcha told Vice. "This particular question was a brief test seen by a small number of people, but the sheer scale of hCaptcha (hundreds of millions of users) means that when even a few folks are surprised by a challenge this often produces some tweets."
More on AI and creative captchas: Uh Oh, OpenAI's GPT-4 Just Fooled a Human into Solving a Captcha
The post Captcha AI Asks Users to Identify Bizarre Imaginary Object appeared first on Futurism.
Out With a Bang
Look out for more than fireworks this summer. A massive star in the arm of the Pinwheel Galaxy (M101) has exploded — aka gone supernova — and its fiery death throes, Astronomy reports, are expected to be visible for months, even from amateur backyard telescopes.
The supernova, now designated as SN 2023ixf, was first seen by supernova hunter Koichi Itagaki of Japan on May 19th. Star watchers at the Zwicky Transient Facility in California confirmed the cosmic explosion by finding images of the supernova taken automatically two days before Itagaki discovered it, according to NASA.
"For reasons we don't completely understand, massive stars seem to convulse at the end of their lives, shedding their outer layers into space," tweeted Andy Howell, a professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara and an astronomer at Las Cumbres Observatory. "It is just too hard to catch a star in the act because most are so far away, or we don't find the supernova early enough. This supernova will teach us a lot."
Bright Young Things
Astronomers quickly determined that the cosmic explosion is a Type II supernova, in which a massive star's core suddenly collapses when it runs out of fuel and can't counteract its own gravity.
The supernova's home galaxy is relatively close by, a mere 21 million light years away from us, give or take a parsec or two, with NASA saying the blast is "the closest supernova seen in the past five years."
Since the supernova is relatively close by and young, by cosmic standards, scientists are eager to study it, hoping it could provide exciting new details on the evolution of massive stars and how they die.
Sky watchers also took the opportunity to grouse about Elon Musk's SpaceX satellites clogging up the starry firmament, in the increasingly prominent rift between the billionaire and the astronomical community.
"Nothing like a piece of Elon Musk space junk to ruin a livestack of a supernova image," tweeted David Fuller, as he shared an image of the Pinwheel Galaxy and the supernova, with the bright path of a Starlink satellite cutting across the image.
More on astronomy: Scientists: SpaceX Satellites Threaten "Astronomy Itself”
In intriguing new research, scientists are continuing to explore the finding that the electrical currents surrounding us can be harvested — using a material made from living organisms.
In a statement, the University of Massachusetts Amherst announced that electrical engineer Jun Yao and his team had built upon prior research in a new paper in the journal Advanced Materials into what they call the "Air-gen effect." The basic idea? Growing conducive nanofilms out of bacteria that can pull small amounts of electricity from the water vapor in the air.
"The air contains an enormous amount of electricity," Yao said in the school's statement. "Think of a cloud, which is nothing more than a mass of water droplets. Each of those droplets contains a charge, and when conditions are right, the cloud can produce a lightning bolt—but we don’t know how to reliably capture electricity from lightning. What we’ve done is to create a human-built, small-scale cloud that produces electricity for us predictably and continuously so that we can harvest it."
Because of its bacterial foundation, the material's initial discovery in 2020 was heralded as an intriguing new avenue for green energy tech. Yao and his team have continued to explore the concept, and he says they've found the concept is more generalizable than previously believed.
"What we realized after making the Geobacter discovery," Yao said, "is that the ability to generate electricity from the air… turns out to be generic: literally any kind of material can harvest electricity from air, as long as it has a certain property."
That property, the research update notes, is what's known as the "mean free path" or distance between molecules. In the case of water molecules suspended in air, that distance is 100 nanometers, or a tiny fraction of the width of a human hair.
So long as the film has those tiny perforations, his team says, the material seems to be irrelevant. Though the team is mostly focused on generating minuscule amounts of electricity for wearable devices right now — already raising interesting new possibilities for consumer tech — the real question is likely to be how far the phenomenon can scale.
More on similar research: Scientists Discover Enzyme That Can Turn Air Into Electricity
The post Scientists Harvest Electricity From "Thin Air" Using Strange Material appeared first on Futurism.
just fell 50 spots in Axios' Harris Poll, an annual survey that ranks the nation's top 100 most reputable brands.
In last year's survey, the Elon Musk-led EV manufacturer enjoyed a respectable spot at number 11. This year, however, the poll, which surveyed 16,310
, tells a very different story.
Amid a number of lawsuits and government inquiries — in addition, of course, to Musk's chaotic acquisition of Twitter, his full-on descent into conspiracy-mongering, and public bullying of employees — it seems that Tesla, which now sits at number 62 on the chart, has lost a fair share of public trust.
Surprise! Actions have consequences.
Vote of No Confidence
To add insult to injury, Toyota, Honda, BMW, Volkswagen, and EV rival Ford all earned higher spots than Tesla.
In all fairness, the Harris Poll judges companies by a number of factors, and in some of these categories — trajectory and vision in particular — Tesla still ranked quite highly. In the categories of character, trust, and citizenship, however, Tesla's ranking was considered just "fair" — on par with JC Pennies, but a step below Arby's and Chevron.
While the Harris Poll surveys the general public, it's also worth noting that Musk's recent personal and professional antics haven't just impacted the public's perception of him and his companies. They've also worried Tesla investors, who have watched the EV firm's stock price go on a rollercoaster ride.
They've complained that Musk has been too distracted by his chaotic Twitter takeover, causing him to abandon his role as CEO at the company.
The survey results highlight how Musk's controversial actions have tarnished Tesla's reputation in a matter of just a year.
Twitter, meanwhile, ranked 97th.
The post Tesla Falls 50 Spots in Survey of America's Most Reputable Brands appeared first on Futurism.
Ferocious feral chickens with "supercharged survival skills" have gotten out of control in Hawaii, The Atlantic reports.
The island of Kauai in particular has become famous for its astronomical chicken population. The wild roaming roosters and hens roam the beaches, peck at landscaping, and crow all the livelong day. They've even become a local tourist attraction.
While tourists may love the birds, a fair chunk of the locals really don't, and see them as more of a pest. Some say that the constant crowing disturbs the peace while foraging roosters and hens ruin yards and make it impossible to grow any food.
But unfortunately for them, the hens are winning. After all, according to the Atlantic, these aren't just any old chickens. They're super chickens — and humans will likely continue to have a really tough time getting rid of them.
As Eben Gering, an evolutionary biologist at Nova Southeastern University, explained to the Atlantic, Hawaii's modern-day chickens are descendants of the wild red jungle fowl that were brought to the islands by Polynesian settlers and already-domesticated chickens that were carried to the islands by European colonizers.
Then, in the 1980s and 1990s, disaster hit. Two devastating hurricanes destroyed a number of coops, setting many of the domesticated chickens loose.
Over time, the DNA from wild fowl mixed with that of domestic chickens. The result? Ridiculously resilient creatures that thrive when in proximity to humans, and in some cases also reproduce year-round.
"One of the reasons that red jungle fowl were domesticated into chickens and that they make good agricultural animals," Gering told the Atlantic, "is that they were pretty hardy and adaptable to begin with."
On top of this natural resilience, the avian critters are also pretty resourceful. Among a string of unsuccessful efforts and proposals designed to curb the chicken population, Oahu officials spent $7,000 to put out traps across the island last year, according to the report.
The results were disappointing, to say the least. Over the course of several months, only 67 chickens were caught. For the folks at home, that means officials paid over 100 bucks per captured clucker.
"They're not the smartest birds, but they're smarter than people give them credit for," Gering told the Atlantic. "Those attributes tend to be helpful in adapting to new environments."
It's a tough situation. After all, the chickens are really just trying to live their chaotic lives — and we just happen to live in their world.
More on birds beating humans: Furious Geese Are Defeating Humans, Scientists Find
A hot new conspiracy theory has dropped — and this one is a faked-Moon-landing-level doozy.
This particular deranged rumor suggests that the International Space Station, which has been orbiting the Earth for well over two decades, is actually an underwater Hollywood soundstage.
Social media users have been flooding comments sections, including ones on Futurism's own Facebook page, suggesting NASA set up a massive rig to fake the orbital outpost.
"Must have been a great swim," one user commented on a recent Futurism post about a crew of tourists visiting the station.
"What a great dive," another user wrote.
Clips being passed around online purport to show the damning evidence: "air bubbles" being released by astronauts during spacewalks, or hidden wires or harnesses being worn by crew members as they float around the station.
The rest, they claim, is just greenscreen and CGI trickery.
A quick search for the terms "air bubbles" and "space" on TikTok brings up a whole host of videos, some with tens of thousands of views, suggesting that NASA was conspiring to fake astronaut footage in a pool.
A lot of these videos also make use of the hashtag "flatearth," suggesting there's considerable overlap with the persistent and idiotic conspiracy theory that the Earth is flat, not round.
Understandably, NASA wants nothing to do with these theories.
"At no time have props, green screen, wires or simulated underwater facilities substituted for actual real-time operation on the space station," Sandra Jones, a Houston-based spokesperson, told the Associated Press last month.
"None of it remotely has merit," Harvard astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell told the AP, adding that to "suggest it’s faked is just silly and ignorant."
YouTuber Dave McKeegan recently debunked the astronaut footage theorists have offered up as proof that the ISS isn't actually in space in a thorough takedown. Spoiler alert: the harnesses and wires are a figment of their imagination and can easily be explained by video compression, noisy video feeds, and artifacts.
Experts are also pointing out that these "air bubbles" are likely dust or ice particles that free themselves from the astronauts during spacewalks.
"Bubbles of gas moving through a fluid do not follow a perfectly straight line as they rise to the surface," Joshua Colwell, a planetary scientist at the University of Central Florida, told the AP.
Yet these purported bubbles "fan from a common point of origin, and they move at a constant speed and in perfectly straight lines," Colwell added.
Then there's the matter of why NASA would be doing all of this in the first place. And if space travel was faked, wouldn't they make it a little more exciting, instead of filled with boring protocols and downtime?
It's difficult to wrap one's head around the belief that the space agency, which spends about $3.1 billion a year on the space station program, would bother creating an elaborate — and uninspired-looking — soundstage.
To actually believe such a thing would require not only suspending one's belief in recorded footage — but in one's very own eyes as well.
You don't even need a telescope to spot the space station from the ground, as it circles the Earth 16 times every 24 hours, though a pair of binoculars could prove helpful. The station is the third brightest object in the sky after the Moon and Venus, thanks to its massive size, reflective quality, and proximity to the ground.
Some have argued that this kind of skepticism has deep roots in the wider crisis of trust in the government, which in
was exacerbated by events like the Pentagon Papers or the Kennedy assassination.
With the advent of social media, these theories have found a solid new foothold online, allowing them to reach new audiences. Combine that with algorithms that have perfected new ways of accelerating their spread, it's easy to see why they persist to this day — even if that reality is frustrating.
More on flat Earthers: Flat Earthers Puzzled by Why People Don't Fall Off "Bottom" of Globe
The post Maniac Conspiracy Theorists Think the Space Station Is Actually Underwater appeared first on Futurism.
- A new tool which could help reduce the spread of antimicrobial resistance is showing early promise, through exploiting a bacterial immune system as a gene editing tool.
"It isn't just a plain blue ball of gas."
- A South Carolina circuit-court judge has temporarily blocked the state’s six-week abortion ban, one day after Governor Henry McMaster signed it into law.
This is an edition of The Atlantic Daily, a newsletter that guides you through the biggest stories of the day, helps you discover new ideas, and recommends the best in culture. Sign up for it here.
The dictator of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, has signed an agreement with Russia to base Russian nuclear weapons in his country. The strategic impact of such a move is negligible, but a lot can go wrong with this foolish plan.
First, here are four new stories from The Atlantic:
- The play that explains Succession (and everything else)
- The Russian red line Washington won’t cross—yet.
- COVID shots are still one giant experiment.
- The far right is splintering.
A Tense Summer
Russia has taken another step toward nuclearizing its satrapy in neighboring Belarus. This is bad news but not a crisis (yet). But first, I want to add a note to what I wrote a few weeks ago about the drone attack on the Kremlin.
I suggested that the weird strike on a Kremlin building was unlikely to be an act sanctioned or carried out by the Ukrainian government. My best guess at the time was that the Russians might be pulling some kind of false-flag stunt to justify more repression and violence against Ukraine as well as internal dissent in Russia. I didn’t think the Ukrainians would attack an empty building in the middle of the night.
The U.S. intelligence community, however, now thinks the strike could have been some kind of Ukrainian special operation. Those same American analysts, according to The New York Times, are not exactly sure who authorized action against the Russian capital:
U.S. intelligence agencies do not know which unit carried out the attack and it was unclear whether President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine or his top officials were aware of the operation, though some officials believe Mr. Zelensky was not.
That’s not much to go on, especially because the intelligence community’s confidence in this view is “low,” meaning there is at least some general, but not specific, evidence for it. The Americans suggest the attack may have been “orchestrated” by the Ukrainian security services, but that could mean any number of possibilities, including civilians, a small militia, a few people loosely affiliated with the Ukrainians, or even a commando team.
The best evidence, however, that this was not a false flag is that with the exception of firing a wave of missiles, the Russian government has said and done almost nothing in response either in Ukraine or in Russia. If Vladimir Putin’s security forces had engineered the incident, they’d almost certainly be taking advantage of it, but they’re not. Instead, the Kremlin seems paralyzed and has clamped down on any further reporting about the whole business; if the Ukrainian goal was to rattle Russian leaders, mission accomplished. So my theory has gone up in smoke—a hazard of trying to piece together an explanation while waiting for better evidence—but I thought it important to update you here.
Now, about those Belarus nukes.
Putin announced back in March that he intended to station nuclear arms in Belarus, a move that had Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko doing a bit of uneasy throat-clearing as he tried to stay in Putin’s good graces while being understandably nervous about hosting weapons of mass destruction in his fiefdom. The hesitation is over: Belarusian Defense Minister Victor Khrenin and Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu yesterday signed a formal agreement allowing the deployment of Russian nuclear weapons in Belarus.
This would be the first time post-Soviet Russia has stationed nuclear weapons outside its own territory, but the bombs aren’t in Belarus yet. Lukashenko was in Moscow yesterday to attend a summit of the Eurasian Economic Forum, and although he claimed that the complicated process of relocating Russian nuclear bombs has already begun, I don’t believe him. (There I go again, theorizing in the absence of evidence. But Western intelligence agencies watch the movement of Russian nuclear weapons pretty closely, and so far, none of them has indicated that they see anything happening.) Besides, Lukashenko’s assertion wasn’t exactly definitive; when asked in Moscow if the weapons had already arrived, he said, “Maybe. I will go and take a look.”
Now, without getting too far over my skis, I will say that the leaders of countries with nuclear weapons in their territory know without exception whether they have them or not, and don’t need to “go and take a look.” Lukashenko’s flip comment suggests to me that he knows that nothing has been moved yet, and that he understands that his role in this dangerous sideshow is to play along with the Kremlin’s attempt to jangle Western nerves about nuclear war.
Putin, for his part, has said that storage facilities for Russian nuclear arms will be complete by July 1. Nuclear weapons, of course, require highly secure military installations and personnel trained in dealing with such systems, such as how to load them onto their delivery vehicles, and the unique safety precautions that surround them. Even in the best of times, nuclear weapons are a high-maintenance proposition, and accidents do happen: In 2007, an American B-52 flew across the United States with six nuclear bombs that the crew didn’t realize were mounted on the wings.
It’s also possible that Putin is squeezing political impact out of a nuclear agreement while he still can, given recent questions about Lukashenko’s health. The Belarus strongman has looked weak lately. It would be very much Putin’s gangland style to make sure he gets Belarus as a stage for his nuclear threats as soon as possible, if he thinks the grim reaper is about to step in.
Putin’s July deadline is also important because it means the Russians will be moving nuclear weapons in the middle of what looks to be a summer of intense fighting. Such a timetable is probably intentional. The Kremlin boss believes that the West is deeply afraid of nuclear war, and he intends to play on that fear. Western leaders, of course, are deeply afraid of nuclear war, because they are not utter psychopaths. Putin and his generals, although brutal and vicious men, are afraid of it, too, no matter what they might say, because they are not suicidal. (So were Soviet leaders and their generals, as we learned after the Cold War.)
What Putin fails to understand, however, is that years of struggling with the Soviet Union taught the United States and its allies how to contend with an aggressive Kremlin and the dangers of escalation at the same time. Putin, as I often note, is a Soviet nostalgist who longs for the old Soviet empire and who still seems to believe that a weak and decadent West will not continue to oppose him.
As ever, I worry not about Putin’s deliberate move to start World War III, but about some kind of error or accident when transferring nuclear weapons from one paranoid authoritarian country to another. Putin may well place nuclear weapons close to Ukraine and then claim that NATO is threatening Russia’s nuclear deterrent, thus provoking a crisis he thinks will induce the West to back away from supporting Kyiv. This would be yet another harebrained blunder in a series of poor moves, but Putin, as we know, is not exactly a master strategist. It’s going to be a tense summer.
- A South Carolina circuit-court judge has temporarily blocked the state’s six-week abortion ban, one day after Governor Henry McMaster signed it into law.
- A House committee led by Texas Republicans recommended the impeachment of State Attorney General Ken Paxton yesterday, citing years of alleged lawbreaking and misconduct.
- The Mississippi police officer who shot Aderrien Murry, an unarmed 11-year-old Black boy, has been suspended with pay as the shooting is investigated.
- Work in Progress: The hottest trend in investing is mostly a sham, James Surowiecki writes.
A Chinese American Show That Doesn’t Bother to Explain Itself
By Shirley Li
Growing up in suburban New Jersey, I dreaded having new visitors over. I wasn’t asocial; I just feared that anyone who wasn’t Chinese—as in, the majority of my classmates—wouldn’t understand my family home and all of its inevitable differences from their own. Even if they didn’t ask me about the cultural objects they might stumble upon around the house, I felt the need to explain what they were seeing, in order to make them comfortable. We have this taped to the wall because it’s the Chinese character for fortune! These hard-boiled eggs are brown because they’ve been soaked in tea! In an attempt to prove that my surroundings were perfectly normal, I turned myself into a tour guide, and my own home into a sideshow.
American Born Chinese doesn’t bother with such disclaimers. The Disney+ show, now streaming, is exuberant and unabashed about its hyper-specific focus on the Chinese American experience.
More From The Atlantic
Watch. Yellowjackets’ Season 2 finale (streaming on Showtime) made a terrible mistake.
Listen. To the first episode of the newly launched Radio Atlantic podcast with host Hanna Rosin, on whether the war in Ukraine can recapture the world’s attention at a crucial moment.
This is my last Daily for the next week or so, as I am headed off for some sunshine and downtime, but senior editor Isabel Fattal and our colleagues at The Atlantic will keep things as lively here as ever. (This newsletter will be off on Monday for Memorial Day, so look for the next edition on Tuesday.)
With vacation on my mind, I want to recommend a gem of a movie about Las Vegas that has lived in the shadow of Martin Scorsese’s Casino (an undeniable masterpiece) for too long. Twenty years ago, William H. Macy, Maria Bello, and Alec Baldwin starred in The Cooler, one of the bleakest movies about Sin City since Leaving Las Vegas. Macy plays a “cooler,” a guy whose bad luck is so contagious that the casinos hire him to stand near people who win too much money at the tables.
It’s a love story and a crime story, but it’s also about old Vegas becoming a new (and sillier) Vegas. Back then, developers were making an inane attempt to transform an industry mostly devoted to gambling, booze, and sex into a theme park for families. Alec Baldwin—who was nominated for Best Supporting Actor—rails against it all in a rant about the Strip circa 2002: “You mean that Disneyland mook fest out there? Huh? That’s a fucking violation is what that is. Something that used to be beautiful, used to have class, like a gorgeous high-priced hooker with an exclusive clientele … It makes me want to cry, because I remember the way she used to be.”
I cheer him on every time. See you in a few weeks.
Katherine Hu contributed to this newsletter.
NPR's Selena Simmons-Duffin has a trick to get her kids to fall asleep at bedtime: lullabies. Science backs it up: Singing to your child helps them fall asleep faster, even than listening to Mozart!
Ever looked into home solar energy? I got some quotes. They all have the same scam approaches to "payback" with dumbed down con man math. Worse than insurance salesmen that sell high commission annuities or the $9.99 a month burial insurance on TV. Also, lots of costs they don't factor like maintenance, putting a thousand screw holes in your roof, washing the panels twice a year and the fact that the electric output goes down over time. But here's the big basic scam. Say they claim it will save you $1,000 a year in electricity and the system costs $20,000. They claim, "So it pays for itself in 20 years". False! All of these con artists ignore the basic fact that money has "time value". It only has time value, no other value. Thats the basic concept of all economics and finance.
If you applied a 5% interest rate to the value of your $20,000 investments, your annual interest payment alone will be $1,000. The solar system will NEVER pay back. Don't you expect some return on your investment? Well then, lets just say your money is only worth a 3% rate of return. The 3% on 20K would be $600 a month and apply the other $400 to paying down principal. In that case, it would take 30 Years and 7 months to payback your $20,000 investment. It's all a scam. Politicians use the same scam math to hide the true costs of all kinds of public projects based on tax increases or bond issues for stadiums, convention centers, airports and other pet projects.
hi! I love everything that has to do with technology, future development and innovations. but I like this whole world so much that I don't know which way to go. I study systems engineering and a degree in economics. The branches of technology that I like are artificial intelligence, robotics (including the bio world), internet of things. I thought about mixing artificial intelligence with robotics but the world of artificial intelligence applied to robotics also caught my attention. Have any of you been in the same situation? how did they solve it?
Scientific Reports, Published online: 26 May 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-35361-8Simulation of melting paraffin with graphene nanoparticles within a solar thermal energy storage system
- Back in March, the FDA deemed a cultivated chicken product produced by cultured meat company Good Meat safe to consume, meaning that it will only need an all-clear from the Department of Agriculture to start selling the product.
Researchers at UC Davis have made a startling discovery that could change the way we view lab-grown meat.
As detailed in a yet-to-be-peer-reviewed paper, they found that the meat alternative's environmental impact appears to be "orders of magnitude" higher than retail beef you can buy at the grocery store — itself already a very environmentally damaging foodstuff — at least based on current production methods.
If confirmed, the research could be damning: lab-grown meat, long seen as a greener alternative to meat products that don't involve the slaughter of animals, could be more harmful to the environment than the products it's trying to replace.
"Our findings suggest that cultured meat is not inherently better for the environment than conventional beef," said corresponding author Edward Spang, an associate professor at UC Davis, in a statement. "It’s not a panacea."
Fortunately, there could be effective ways to reduce that carbon footprint significantly in the long run, the researchers suggest, meaning that it's not game over for lab-grown meat just yet.
Assessing the cycle of energy needed and the greenhouse gas emissions involved in all stages of producing lab-grown meat compared to conventional beef, they found that the global warming potential — an environmental metric measured in kilograms of CO2 emissions — of lab-grown meat is between four and 25 times greater than the average for beef products sold in stores.
One of the biggest drawbacks, they say, is the need for highly-refined growth media, which are the cultures that allow cells to multiply in a lab setting.
"If companies are having to purify growth media to pharmaceutical levels, it uses more resources, which then increases global warming potential," said lead author and doctoral graduate Derrick Risner, in the statement. "If this product continues to be produced using the 'pharma' approach, it’s going to be worse for the environment and more expensive than conventional beef production."
While the Food and Drug Administration approved the sale of cultured meat in
last year, no such products are being sold in the country as of the time of writing.
That's despite the emergence of a number of new startups, particularly in Silicon Valley, trying to capitalize on the idea. Many of them, it's worth noting, are still struggling to scale up their operations, nevermind break into the mainstream market.
But there's a growing momentum. Back in March, the FDA deemed a cultivated chicken product produced by cultured meat company Good Meat safe to consume, meaning that it will only need an all-clear from the Department of Agriculture to start selling the product.
Lab-grown meat companies have tried to end their reliance on pharmaceutical-grade ingredients and focus on food-grade ones instead, something that would make growing meat in a lab far more environmentally competitive.
"We believe commercial-scale cultivated meat production will be more sustainable, efficient and healthier for the planet than conventional animal agriculture because we will not be raising and slaughtering billions of animals or using one-third of the planet’s ice-free land to grow food for them," Andrew Noyes, vice president and head of global communications at Good Meat, told the San Francisco Chronicle.
If the companies were to make that switch, cultured meat's global warming potential could end up being anywhere between 80 percent lower to 26 percent higher than conventional beef production, according to the researchers.
But ending their reliance on pharma-grade ingredients is still proving extremely difficult.
"It’s possible we could reduce its environmental impact in the future, but it will require significant technical advancement to simultaneously increase the performance and decrease the cost of the cell culture media," said Spang in the statement.
In the meantime, Spang is working with Bay Area companies to develop the tech further. For now, he told the Chronicle that we'll likely see more companies combining cultured meat with other plant-based ingredients to make it more competitive with meat products.
While the numbers paint a damning picture of the current state of the lab-grown meat industry, researchers and cultured meat companies aren't willing to throw in the towel just yet. It may just take a little longer than they might like to get there.
More on lab-grown meat: There's a Serious Problem With Lab-Grown Meat
The post New Study Is Extremely Embarrassing for Lab-Grown Meat appeared first on Futurism.
It gives a whole new meaning to ‘going with the flow’Continue reading…
Nature, Published online: 26 May 2023; doi:10.1038/d41586-023-01727-1Analysis of more than 100 studies of non-invasive electrical brain stimulation probes whether the controversial technology works.
Workers taking crisis hotline calls at the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) unionized — and just four days later, according to an NPR report, NEDA told its hotline staff that they would be fired and replaced by a chatbot.
Per NPR, the hotline is hugely active. NEDA is the largest eating disorder-focused nonprofit in
, and its helpline fielded nearly 70,000 calls last year alone. But for all of that volume, staffing was astonishingly slim, with only six paid staffers and a few supervisors, who "train and oversee up to 200 volunteers at any given time," according to the report.
Unsurprisingly, NEDA experienced high volunteer turnover and burnout — after all, on top of the staffing disparity, answering helpline calls is difficult emotional labor — and as a result, workers opted to organize.
"We asked for adequate staffing and ongoing training… we didn't even ask for more money," Abbie Harper, a former helpline associate and unionizer, wrote in a May 4 blog post. "When NEDA refused [to recognize our union], we filed for an election with the National Labor Relations Board and won on March 17."
But the company's leadership apparently didn't take well to the union push, announcing in a call just a few days thereafter that the nonprofit would wind down the crisis hotline entirely. Instead, they would introduce a "wellness chatbot" named Tessa — and fire the nonprofit's human call-takers in the process.
"We will, subject to the terms of our legal responsibilities, begin to wind down the helpline as currently operating," NEDA board chair Geoff Craddock told the hotline's former employees in that March call, audio of which NPR obtained. "With a transition to Tessa, the AI-assisted technology, expected around June 1."
According to its website, Tessa, which has technically been in operation since 2022, isn't a crisis bot — in fact, when you log onto the service, that's the first thing that it'll tell you. It's designed instead to deliver something called "Body Positive," which is described as "an interactive eating disorder prevention program."
"Through Body Positive," reads the site, "chatters learn about contributing factors to negative body image and gain a toolbox of healthy habits and coping strategies for handling negative thoughts."
Tessa's creators have launched a staunch defense of the automated tool, arguing since it can handle more volume than NEDA's former fleet of volunteers, it'll be more effective.
"The chatbot was created based on decades of research conducted by myself and my colleagues," Ellen Fitzsimmons-Craft, a psychiatrist at Washington University and the leader on the team that built Tessa, told Vice. "I'm not discounting in any way the potential helpfulness to talk to somebody about concerns. It's an entirely different service designed to teach people evidence-based strategies to prevent and provide some early intervention for eating disorder symptoms."
It's certainly a grim turn for employment politics — after all, we can definitely imagine a nightmare world in which employers start to dangle automated machines like Tessa over their human employees' heads as leverage.
But Tessa's implementation also brings up a whole other set of issues regarding responsibility. Sure, humans make mistakes, but at least there's accountability there. When a machine learning system makes a mistake, who's accountable?
Though NEDA and Tessa's creators promise that the bot isn't ChatGPT and, as the NEDA spokesperson told Vice, can't "go off the rails," any computer can fail.
"We, Helpline Associates United, are heartbroken to lose our jobs and deeply disappointed that the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) has chosen to move forward with shutting down the helpline," Helpline Associates United told Vice in a statement. "We're not quitting. We're not striking. We will continue to show up every day to support our community until June 1st."
"A chatbot is no substitute for human empathy, and we believe this decision will cause irreparable harm to the eating disorders community," they added.
More on chatbots: Widow Says Man Died by Suicide After Talking to AI Chatbot
The post Eating Disorder Hotline Fires Entire Staff and Replaces Them with a Chatbot appeared first on Futurism.
If you are willing to lie very still in a giant metal tube for 16 hours and let magnets blast your brain as you listen, rapt, to hit podcasts, a computer just might be able to read your mind. Or at least its crude contours. Researchers from the University of Texas at Austin recently trained an AI model to decipher the gist of a limited range of sentences as individuals listened to them—gesturing toward a near future in which artificial intelligence might give us a deeper understanding of the human mind.
The program analyzed fMRI scans of people listening to, or even just recalling, sentences from three shows: Modern Love, The Moth Radio Hour, and The Anthropocene Reviewed. Then, it used that brain-imaging data to reconstruct the content of those sentences. For example, when one subject heard “I don’t have my driver’s license yet,” the program deciphered the person’s brain scans and returned “She has not even started to learn to drive yet”—not a word-for-word re-creation, but a close approximation of the idea expressed in the original sentence. The program was also able to look at fMRI data of people watching short films and write approximate summaries of the clips, suggesting the AI was capturing not individual words from the brain scans, but underlying meanings.
The findings, published in Nature Neuroscience earlier this month, add to a new field of research that flips the conventional understanding of AI on its head. For decades, researchers have applied concepts from the human brain to the development of intelligent machines. ChatGPT, hyperrealistic-image generators such as Midjourney, and recent voice-cloning programs are built on layers of synthetic “neurons”: a bunch of equations that, somewhat like nerve cells, send outputs to one another to achieve a desired result. Yet even as human cognition has long inspired the design of “intelligent” computer programs, much about the inner workings of our brains has remained a mystery. Now, in a reversal of that approach, scientists are hoping to learn more about the mind by using synthetic neural networks to study our biological ones. It’s “unquestionably leading to advances that we just couldn’t imagine a few years ago,” says Evelina Fedorenko, a cognitive scientist at MIT.
The AI program’s apparent proximity to mind reading has caused uproar on social and traditional media. But that aspect of the work is “more of a parlor trick,” Alexander Huth, a lead author of the Nature study and a neuroscientist at UT Austin, told me. The models were relatively imprecise and fine-tuned for every individual person who participated in the research, and most brain-scanning techniques provide very low-resolution data; we remain far, far away from a program that can plug into any person’s brain and understand what they’re thinking. The true value of this work lies in predicting which parts of the brain light up while listening to or imagining words, which could yield greater insights into the specific ways our neurons work together to create one of humanity’s defining attributes, language.
Successfully building a program that can reconstruct the meaning of sentences, Huth said, primarily serves as “proof-of-principle that these models actually capture a lot about how the brain processes language.” Prior to this nascent AI revolution, neuroscientists and linguists relied on somewhat generalized verbal descriptions of the brain’s language network that were imprecise and hard to tie directly to observable brain activity. Hypotheses for exactly what aspects of language different brain regions are responsible for—or even the fundamental question of how the brain learns a language—were difficult or even impossible to test. (Perhaps one region recognizes sounds, another deals with syntax, and so on.) But now scientists could use AI models to better pinpoint what, precisely, those processes consist of. The benefits could extend beyond academic concerns—assisting people with certain disabilities, for example, according to Jerry Tang, the study’s other lead author and a computer scientist at UT Austin. “Our ultimate goal is to help restore communication to people who have lost the ability to speak,” he told me.
There has been some resistance to the idea that AI can help study the brain, especially among neuroscientists who study language. That’s because neural networks, which excel at finding statistical patterns, seem to lack basic elements of how humans process language, such as an understanding of what words mean. The difference between machine and human cognition is also intuitive: A program like GPT-4, which can write decent essays and excels at standardized tests, learns by processing terabytes of data from books and webpages, while children pick up a language with a fraction of 1 percent of that amount of words. “Teachers told us that artificial neural networks are really not the same as biological neural networks,” the neuroscientist Jean-Rémi King told me of his studies in the late 2000s. “This was just a metaphor.” Now leading research on the brain and AI at Meta, King is among many scientists refuting that old dogma. “We don’t think of this as a metaphor,” he told me. “We think of [AI] as a very useful model of how the brain processes information.”
In the past few years, scientists have shown that the inner workings of advanced AI programs offer a promising mathematical model of how our minds process language. When you type a sentence into ChatGPT or a similar program, its internal neural network represents that input as a set of numbers. When a person hears the same sentence, fMRI scans can capture how the neurons in their brain respond, and a computer is able to interpret those scans as basically another set of numbers. These processes repeat on many, many sentences to create two enormous data sets: one of how a machine represents language, and another for a human. Researchers can then map the relationship between these data sets using an algorithm known as an encoding model. Once that’s done, the encoding model can begin to extrapolate: How the AI responds to a sentence becomes the basis for predicting how neurons in the brain will fire in response to it, too.
New research using AI to study the brain’s language network seems to appear every few weeks. Each of these models could represent “a computationally precise hypothesis about what might be going on in the brain,” Nancy Kanwisher, a neuroscientist at MIT, told me. For instance, AI could help answer the open question of what exactly the human brain is aiming to do when it acquires a language—not just that a person is learning to communicate, but the specific neural mechanisms through which communication comes about. The idea is that if a computer model trained with a specific objective—such as learning to predict the next word in a sequence or judge a sentence’s grammatical coherence—proves best at predicting brain responses, then it’s possible the human mind shares that goal; maybe our minds, like GPT-4, work by determining what words are most likely to follow one another. The inner workings of a language model, then, become a computational theory of the brain.
These computational approaches are only a few years old, so there are many disagreements and competing theories. “There is no reason why the representation you learn from language models has to have anything to do with how the brain represents a sentence,” Francisco Pereira, the director of machine learning for the National Institute of Mental Health, told me. But that doesn’t mean a relationship cannot exist, and there are various ways to test whether it does. Unlike the brain, scientists can take apart, examine, and manipulate language models almost infinitely—so even if AI programs aren’t complete hypotheses of the brain, they are powerful tools for studying it. For instance, cognitive scientists can try to predict the responses of targeted brain regions, and test how different types of sentences elicit different types of brain responses, to figure out what those specific clusters of neurons do “and then step into territory that is unknown,” Greta Tuckute, who studies the brain and language at MIT, told me.
For now, the utility of AI may not be to precisely replicate that unknown neurological territory, but to devise heuristics for exploring it. “If you have a map that reproduces every little detail of the world, the map is useless because it’s the same size as the world,” Anna Ivanova, a cognitive scientist at MIT, told me, invoking a famous Borges parable. “And so you need abstraction.” It is by specifying and testing what to keep and jettison—choosing among streets and landmarks and buildings, then seeing how useful the resulting map is—that scientists are beginning to navigate the brain’s linguistic terrain.
The same neural circuitry involved in habit formation underlies
disorders, according to a new study.
Habits are like shortcuts for our brains. Once we form a habit—say, putting on a seat belt whenever we get into a car—the behavior becomes almost automatic in the right context. But habit formation isn’t always a boon.
Using brain imaging, researchers saw differences in the neural circuitry that promotes habit formation in people with binge eating disorders, which involves consuming excessive amounts of food in a short time period.
The differences were more pronounced in those with more severe disorders. The habitual element of these conditions, the researchers say, could be part of the reason they are so hard to treat.
“A habit is a learned association. Maybe initially the behavior started to achieve a goal, but eventually you’ve done it so many times that you do the action without thinking about the outcome,” says Allan Wang, a medical student at the Stanford School of Medicine and lead author of the study, which appears in Science Translational Medicine.
“We were interested in whether habit formation in the brain might be involved in a complicated behavior like binge eating,” Wang says.
Binge eating disorders seem to have the hallmarks of habits. Episodes can be triggered by context, whether external, like the smell of food or an enticing advertisement, or internal, like feelings of sadness or frustration. People with these disorders also report feeling a loss of control over the behavior, which happens in maladaptive habits ranging from nail biting to drug addiction.
It wasn’t known, however, whether these disorders stemmed from the neural circuitry of habits.
To find out, the researchers first analyzed MRI scans from the Human Connectome Project, a large-scale venture that the National Institutes of Health sponsors, to map the brain circuits that underlie human behaviors. They focused on a region called the striatum, previously implicated in habits, and a particular part of the striatum called the sensorimotor putamen, which connects to brain regions that govern sensation and movement. Based on these connections, they hypothesized that the sensorimotor putamen would be key to habitual behavior.
Next, the researchers collected fMRI data, which measures brain activity, from 34 people who had been diagnosed with a binge eating disorder and from 22 healthy controls. All the participants were female. They answered questions about the frequency of their binges and whether they were driven by external or internal factors.
Compared with healthy controls, people with binge eating disorders had notable differences in the sensorimotor putamen’s neuronal connections with several brain regions—confirming the researchers’ hypothesis. They had stronger connections with the motor cortex, which is involved in movement, and the orbitofrontal cortex, involved in evaluating reward value, such as how good a food tastes. They had weaker connections with the anterior cingulate cortex, which regulates self-control.
The extent of the deviations reflected the severity of their disorder, regardless of whether the binges were externally or internally driven.
“Possibly, there’s some loss of self-regulation of this behavior,” Wang says. “At the same time, there’s increased strength of circuits involved in the motor behavior of binge eating.”
Further imaging studies revealed that patients with more altered habit circuitry also had less dopamine binding, or sensitivity to dopamine, in these brain regions. That hints at a mechanism underlying these abnormalities: The sensorimotor putamen uses dopamine, a neurotransmitter, to communicate with the cortex, so changes to dopamine sensitivity can alter these connections, Wang says. And decreased dopamine sensitivity can result from prolonged high levels of dopamine during repeated exposure to rewarding stimuli.
“Our findings suggest that the more dopamine exposure these patients have had in the context of binge eating, the more altered their overall habit circuit connectivity is,” he says.
It’s likely that the habit circuitry is also a factor in addiction and other psychiatric disorders, Wang says. Understanding how neuronal connections go awry in these conditions could guide targeted therapies, such as deep brain stimulation, which uses electric currents applied to the brain to alter neural activity.
“I think there’s also some mental benefit for patients in being able to reframe these behaviors as rooted in habit,” Wang says. “Eating disorders are not a fault of their personality. They’re related to physical changes in the brain.”
Whether people with binge eating disorders are more inclined toward other habits, good or bad, is an open question. “But it’s interesting to think about,” he says.
Source: Stanford University
As robots assume more roles in the world, a new analysis reviewed research on robot rights, concluding that granting rights to robots is a bad idea.
Philosophers and legal scholars have explored significant aspects of the moral and legal status of robots, with some advocating for giving robots rights.
The analysis, published in Communications of the ACM, looks to Confucianism to offer an alternative.
“People are worried about the risks of granting rights to robots,” notes Tae Wan Kim, associate professor of business ethics at Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business, who conducted the analysis. “Granting rights is not the only way to address the moral status of robots: Envisioning robots as rites bearers—not a rights bearers—could work better.”
Various non-natural entities—such as corporations—are considered people and even assume some Constitutional rights. In addition, humans are not the only species with moral and legal status; in most developed societies, moral and legal considerations preclude researchers from gratuitously using animals for lab experiments.
Although many believe that respecting robots should lead to granting them rights, Kim argues for a different approach. Confucianism, an ancient Chinese belief system, focuses on the social value of achieving harmony; individuals are made distinctively human by their ability to conceive of interests not purely in terms of personal self-interest, but in terms that include a relational and a communal self. This, in turn, requires a unique perspective on rites, with people enhancing themselves morally by participating in proper rituals.
When considering robots, Kim suggests that the Confucian alternative of assigning rites—or what he calls role obligations—to robots is more appropriate than giving robots rights. The concept of rights is often adversarial and competitive, and potential conflict between humans and robots is concerning.
“Assigning role obligations to robots encourages teamwork, which triggers an understanding that fulfilling those obligations should be done harmoniously,” explains Kim.
“Artificial intelligence (AI) imitates human intelligence, so for robots to develop as rites bearers, they must be powered by a type of AI that can imitate humans’ capacity to recognize and execute team activities—and a machine can learn that ability in various ways.”
Kim acknowledges that some will question why robots should be treated respectfully in the first place.
“To the extent that we make robots in our image, if we don’t treat them well, as entities capable of participating in rites, we degrade ourselves,” he suggests.
Source: Carnegie Mellon University
The post Watch: Confucian alternative beats giving robots rights appeared first on Futurity.
- Tesla hasn’t launched a new consumer vehicle since 2020, and it’s widely seen as falling behind other automakers, who are stepping up their development of new EVs to meet surging demand.
Scientific Reports, Published online: 26 May 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-35878-yEfficacy of closed cell self expandable metallic stent for
As Judge Amit Mehta sentenced Stewart Rhodes yesterday to 18 years in prison—the longest yet for a defendant involved in the January 6 insurrection—he explained why the leader of the far-right group the Oath Keepers needed to be behind bars for a long time. “You pose an ongoing threat and peril to our democracy and the fabric of this country,” Mehta told Rhodes.
Mehta was right about that. At his sentencing, Rhodes was unrepentant. In a 20-minute speech before the court, he portrayed himself alternately as a character in Kafka’s The Trial; as an “
Solzhenitsyn,” after the Soviet dissident writer who was sent to the gulag; and as a misunderstood advocate for peace. This monologue was standard fare for Rhodes, a Yale Law School graduate who likes to align himself with literary heavyweights and historical leaders.
And yet Rhodes also unwittingly revealed deepening fissures in the far-right movement that, two years ago, resorted to violence to keep Donald Trump in the White House. The defendant used some of his time to distance himself from the Proud Boys, another extremist organization, with whom he had met in the days before the insurrection. “Unlike other groups like the Proud Boys, who seek conflict and seek to street-fight,” Rhodes explained, “we deter.” I’ve been misunderstood, he was telling the court; the Proud Boys are the ones you want.
Rhodes, it seems, is not entirely in sync with his radical brethren. A unified extremist front is a threat to our democracy—but the story is different when extremists start pointing fingers at one another in the criminal-justice system.
The rift between the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers has been simmering for years, and it hasn’t kept them from collaborating in the past. In 2019, the two groups arrived in Portland, Oregon, to support far-right protests. Rhodes pulled his group, he later claimed, after learning that white nationalists were involved in the demonstrations. Enrique Tarrio, the leader of the Proud Boys, was outraged. Tarrio—who has also been found guilty of seditious conspiracy for January 6—and Rhodes remained at odds even as they coordinated efforts for the insurrection, including at a secret meeting in a parking garage the night before.
Both testified before the congressional committee investigating January 6 and spoke at length of the division between them. “I didn’t like Stewart Rhodes. I still don’t like Stewart Rhodes,” Tarrio told the panel. The Oath Keepers, Rhodes insisted, are “quiet professionals” who believe that Trump won a second term. The Proud Boys believe the same about Trump, Rhodes said, but are “sloppy” and have been infiltrated by racists.
Whether such distinctions are real matters less than the fact that the rift appears to be deepening. On January 6, a variety of groups put aside their differences, but solidarity is difficult to sustain. As prosecutions continue and participants in the insurrection try to save themselves, divisions within the far right over ideology and strategy—as well as conflicts driven by pure ego—are reasserting themselves.
Over time, mismanagement and general pettiness distract many extremist groups from their cause. Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State similarly devolved into catfights as they lost on battlefields. Rhodes, who imagines himself an intellectual, appears to feel tarnished by alliances with mere racists. That he would defend himself in court by complaining about the Proud Boys signals to would-be followers that he’s self-absorbed, not that he’s sacrificing himself for noble cause. An effective way to combat right-wing extremism is to put its leaders’ selfishness on display.
Violence, of course, clearly remains a threat to our democracy. The day before Rhodes was sentenced, the Department of Homeland Security warned of a “heightened threat environment” in the run-up to the 2024 presidential election. This week, a man carrying a Nazi flag and praising Hitler rammed his U-Haul into a security barrier protecting the White House.
Violent, noxious ideologies do not just vanish with a tough sentence. Success against them can’t be measured by whether bad people see the light, but whether they are able to expand their ranks. Raising money and organizing large-scale collective actions becomes more difficult if seemingly like-minded groups are at war with each other. Far-right groups make noise about left-wing conspiracies, but they are under attack from within their own cause.
Rhodes will have 18 years to contemplate the violence and stew in his resentment of the Proud Boys. In the meantime, let the infighting continue.
Look Back in Anger
A second Gallagher brother has spoken out about AI-generated versions of his former band's music — and because one brother loved it, the other, of course, had to hate it.
In an interview with Spin magazine, Noel Gallagher — the crabbier of the two warring brothers who made up the backbone of 90s rock band Oasis — bashed the phenomenon of AI-generated versions of an artist's voice, like the faux Drake song that lit the internet on fire last month.
"Fucking embarrassing," Gallagher told Spin. "I just think people clearly have too much time and money on their hands if they’re fucking around with that for a laugh. I mean, who wants to fucking hear Ringo Starr singing 'She’s Electric' and Freddie Mercury singing 'Don’t Look Back in Anger?'"
"Life’s too short for that shit," he added.
"Somebody sent me a text with a laughing face emoji saying, 'is this real?'" Gallagher continued when asked how he'd heard about it. "Of course, it’s not real, you fucking moron!"
While this answer is pretty much par for the course for the elder Gallagher, it's all the funnier because Liam, Noel's younger brother, apparently loves AI generated music.
After an album that used AI to imagine what it would be like if Oasis had never broken up dropped last month, someone asked the younger Gallagher brother if he'd listened to any of it.
"Not the album," he replied, adding that he'd "heard a tune" and thought "it’s better than all the other snizzle out there."
The difference in opinion isn't exactly surprising given the pair have infamously been feuding for nearly three decades.
And the elder Gallagher is sticking to his guns when it comes to AI.
"AI will be the final nail in the coffin of music," he told Spin. "I’m sure that the major record labels are now working on the technology to copyright it and machines will write music."
"Why hire a songwriter when you can own a machine to do it?" he added. "Then Harry Styles can pump out Harry Styles music for the rest of his fucking life."
"The Matrix' is real," he concluded.
Updated to clarify the context of Noel Gallagher's remarks.
More on AI music: Ice Cube Says AI Is "Demonic"
The post Noel Gallagher Disgusted by AI-Generated Oasis Album appeared first on Futurism.
Researchers from the National University of Singapore and The Chinese University of Hong Kong claim to have created an AI that can reconstruct "high-quality" video from brain signals.
As the researchers explain in a yet-to-be-peer-reviewed paper, the AI model dubbed MinD-Video is "co-trained" on publicly available data from fMRI readings — specifically, data taken from instances where an individual was shown a video while their brain activity was being recorded — and an augmented model of the AI image generator Stable Diffusion.
Using this "two-module pipeline designed to bridge the gap between image and video brain decoding," they were able to generate "high-quality," AI-generated reconstructions of the videos, which were originally shown to the participants, purely based on their brain readings.
According to the researchers, their model was able to reconstruct these videos with an average accuracy of 85 percent, based on "various semantic and pixel-level metrics."
"Understanding the information hidden within our complex brain activities is a big puzzle in cognitive neuroscience," the paper reads. "We show that high-quality videos of arbitrary frame rates can be reconstructed with Mind-Video using adversarial guidance."
The new paper builds on the researchers' previous efforts of using AI to recreate images by analyzing only brain waves.
The AI's new video renderings, on the whole, are pretty impressive, as demonstrated in direct side-by-side comparisons of the original and "reconstructed" videos on the researchers' website.
For instance, a video of a crowd of people walking down a busy street translated to an equally crowded scene, albeit with more vivid colors. An underwater scene of colorful fish turned into an even more vibrant underwater scene.
But the effect is far from perfect. For instance, a video of a jellyfish was inexplicably transformed into a clip of a fish swimming, while a video of a sea turtle was reinterpreted as footage of a fish.
The researchers argue these AI generations can offer neurological insights as well, for example showing the dominance of the visual cortex in the process of visual perception.
Though this research is fascinating, we're still far from a future in which we're able to strap on a helmet and get a perfectly accurate, AI-generated video stream of whatever's floating around our cranium.
And frankly, that's probably a good thing, given the data privacy implications.