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Kodak Cryptocurrency and Blockchain Ledger Will Help Photographers Protect Their Copyright

Posted: 10 Jan 2018 09:12 AM PST

Kodak Moment

Photography giant Kodak has become the latest company to announced its intention to launch its own cryptocurrency. KODAKCoin is set to make it easier for photographers to get paid for the work, and maintain control over their intellectual property.

Kodak will also collaborate with WENN Digital to implement a platform called KODAKOne, which will use blockchain technology to underpin a digital ledger documenting who owns the rights to individual images. The KODAKCoin cryptocurrency will be used as a method of paying for permission to use these photographs.

“For many in the tech industry, ‘blockchain’ and ‘cryptocurrency’ are hot buzzwords, but for photographers who’ve long struggled to assert control over their work and how it’s used, these buzzwords are the keys to solving what felt like an unsolvable problem,” said Jeff Clarke, the CEO of Kodak, in a statement.

In the digital era, it’s more difficult than ever before for photographers to keep track of where their work is being reproduced, so it’s easy to see why content creators would welcome this platform with open arms.

Kodak is no stranger to the challenges of the medium’s transition to digital – despite accounting for as much as 90 percent of film sales and 85 percent of camera sales in the US at its peak, the company struggled with changes to the market in the late 1990s and was forced to refocus on new technologies.

Up until now, most of the cryptocurrencies that have hit the scene have been general purpose coins intended to compete with Bitcoin. Recently, some more specific use cases are emerging. Blockchain is a versatile technology, and we’re already seeing everything from stock exchanges to the trucking industry to the world of entertainment reap the benefits.

Disclaimer: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

The post Kodak Cryptocurrency and Blockchain Ledger Will Help Photographers Protect Their Copyright appeared first on Futurism.

Tesla’s Solar Roofing Tiles Have Officially Begun Production in Its Buffalo Factory

Posted: 10 Jan 2018 09:06 AM PST

Raise the Roof

Tesla’s much anticipated (and long-delayed) solar roofing tiles have finally begun production out of the company’s factory in Buffalo, New York, according to Reuters. Tesla has also begun surveying the homes of those who put down their $1,000 deposit to reserve the new power-generating roofing tiles, which should be installed in the coming months.

Image Credit: Tesla
Image Credit: Tesla

The solar tiles are expected to cost between 10 and 15 percent less than the cost of a new roof plus solar panels. They are designed to mimic a variety of roofing styles to ensure there’s an option to match the aesthetic of each home. Customers were able to place deposits on either textured or smooth tile options, while Tesla promised to have their Tuscan and slate offerings available later this year.

Clean and Cost Effective

Depending on the cost of electricity in each area, Tesla even estimates that over the 30-year life of its solar tiles, consumers could not only end up with significant savings, but even make profit. Using an example of a typical home in Maryland, Tesla calculated that with tax credits and the value of energy over 30 years, factoring in the cost of a Powerwall battery, the roof could net a positive $8,000 over its lifetime.

The environmental benefits of solar roofing are many. Not only do they help relieve the burden on fossil fuel generation, they also do so by reclaiming space that’s already utilized. New solar farms are excellent for providing increasing amounts of electricity to larger areas but developers often have to use large swaths of land to ensure their farms are economically viable. Like other solar panels used for domestic energy supply, Tesla’s solar roofing tiles take advantage of areas that are already used up by buildings, but they do it in a more cost effective way.

The post Tesla’s Solar Roofing Tiles Have Officially Begun Production in Its Buffalo Factory appeared first on Futurism.

Once And For All, Here’s What Science Says About GMOs

Posted: 10 Jan 2018 08:00 AM PST

You’ve probably heard the same conversation, in one way or another, for years: Some say genetically modified organisms (GMO) are harmful, while others say they’ll help us feed the growing billions of humans that populate our planet. People’s positions on the subject seem cemented, bound by the hard stays of emotion, and nearly impossible to change. It’s even more resonant at this intractable moment in the United States, where the division between the two sides on issues from the economy, to gun control, to healthcare — really, just politics in general — seems insurmountable. The further we move from facts and the truth, the harder it is to come to rational conclusions on these subjects. 

But to Academy Award-nominated documentary director Scott Hamilton Kennedy, there’s a way to dislodge even the most dogged opponent in these conversations: with science.

Kennedy’s latest film, Food Evolution, revisits the GMO conversation, imbuing it with science and revealing the truth through a haze of propaganda and misinformation. He recently sat down with Futurism to talk about the film, what it tells us about other controversial subjects in American society today, and what the food of the future will be like.

This interview has been slightly edited for clarity and brevity.

Futurism: Can you briefly describe what the film is about?

Scott Hamilton Kennedy: On the surface, Food Evolution is a resetting of the controversial conversation around genetically modified organisms (GMOs). It’s an important subject about food  it has issues that are first-world, that are third-world. And it wasn't being told correctly. We thought this needed to be reset.

At the end of the day, it's not a movie that's pro- or anti-GMO. It's pro-science. It's really trying to underline the importance of using science to make good decisions and the dangers of not doing so.

F: People have had the GMO conversation in many different ways at different times, and the conclusions from those conversations haven’t been the same. Why is it important to have them now? Why rehash those old arguments, why dig them up and exhume them?

SHK: The GMO conversation has been around for almost 20 years, maybe longer. I was asking our wonderful narrator, Neil Degrasse-Tyson, “How do you think people are going to respond to the film?” He goes, “You don't get it — no one else is defending GMOs. It's not happening, and it's very important and it needs to be done.” That's why he took the film on, not to defend GMOs, but to defend science.

There are a lot of people that hear the phrase “GMOs” and say, “Oh, Monsanto, bad — GMOs bad, organic good,” and just move on to the next conversation. And it's just not right, you know? So as a journalist and as a father, I wanted to try and tell the nuance of it.

F: What were some of the things getting in the way of having a real conversation about science?

SHK: Oh boy. So I was introduced to [the concept of] confirmation bias in the making of this film. Confirmation bias is when a scientist only sees evidence that supports their hypothesis. The bad scientist will say, “I want to say that GMOs are bad,” and they'll look for evidence that will find that GMOs are bad. The good scientist will say, “I want to know what GMOs are, are they unhealthy?” And go through tests to see if they are. “What are they? [that person will ask].” “Are they significantly different than the other version of that product?” So let’s use corn  a good scientist would try to determine the differences between [a genetically modified plant and a conventional one], what are the risks, and where are the benefits.

All of us suffer from confirmation bias because we try to see things in the world that support the way we live our lives. And it's actually kind of healthy in a way. You want to be able to look out into the world and go, “I'm making good decisions as a citizen, as a parent.” But confirmation bias is also very dangerous because it can lead you to not use your natural thought and see things that go counter to your worldview. You can talk about bubbles and things like that. So we thought it was a very exciting time to be taking on a film that talked about confirmation bias because we are in a time when people have such distrust of people outside of their bubble, of science, of good communication, of even media.

One of the joys of science is that it's not political, it's not blue state or red state, it's not rich or poor. It's the best system we have for being able to make decisions, and that was one of the other exciting elements of trying to make this film.

F: It does seem like we're particularly bad at understanding nuance. What is your film doing differently than other conversations about this to, if not change minds, at least loosen them up a little?

SHK: We didn't make a film to say, “We're looking forward to changing people’s minds” — we can't, that wasn't the goal. We're trying to communicate the truth about a complicated situation that also made people think about how they are making decisions.

We told a story. That's really the biggest thing. In 90 minutes, we can take you on a journey. We can peel back what a GMO is, who the people working on GMOs are, who are the people who are against GMOs, and you can really go on a journey. The emotional journey of storytelling makes you experience the truth, and makes you experience life in a different way.

I think the thing that was effective with this film, as with many films, is that we're telling a story. There’s a term that facts don’t persuade — you can hit somebody in the face with lots and lots of facts and hope it’s going to change their mind, but if they're already dug in, it’s not going to [work]. If you tell them a story and you connect with them, you get them to see that you actually have very similar goals, and you gain their trust, then you can start to get to a point where maybe they're going to think about how they made their decisions and possibly change their mind.

A scene from Food Evolution directed by Scott Hamilton Kennedy. Photo courtesy of Black Valley Films.

F: What was one of the most surprising things you learned in the course of making this film?

SHK: I was very surprised to see how some in the organic and natural foods industries were very ruthless. They use miscommunication to foment fear to sell their products. That makes me very angry and very frustrated. As a parent, life is complicated enough, and fear-mongering does not help. Tell me the truth. Tell me the complicated truth, and then let me make decisions.

I'm very grateful that we had Dr. John Swartzberg from the Berkeley Wellness Center in the film. It’s one of those organizations that’s trying to tell us the scientific truth about things like how we eat. He says very eloquently in the film that we have great data that tells us the types of food we should be eating  whole grains, fresh fruits, and vegetables. They don’t even need to be fresh  frozen is fine, canned is fine  just eat your fruits and vegetables, along with less fat and less sugar, those kinds of things. But we don't have any evidence to say that it’s important for those foods to be produced organically.

It’s a really important part of this conversation to say that if you have an organic product that you like, and you want to consume it, or if you want to be an organic farmer, I don't want to remove anybody’s choice. But it gets into some very dangerous territory for somebody who is producing, selling, or purchasing organic food to say, “I'm doing this and I'm a better person than you. I'm doing better by my family, I'm doing better by the planet,” — that really gets into some tricky judgment, and not scientifically valid territory. So I hope we go forward with a more nuanced and clear conversation about our food.

F: One of the things your film does particularly well is show how distrust of science has been conflated with mistrust of corporations. Those two kind of merge together in people’s minds. How did that happen, and how do you parse them apart?

SHK: People distrust big corporations, which is valid. We've seen over and over again that money can lead to power, corruption, and manipulation. We have checks and balances  do we need better checks and balances for that? Of course we do. But in some people’s minds, it’s gotten tied up that big money influences science, so we can't trust science.

The good news with science is, I don't actually care who funds the science. I want to see more independent science, but anybody who’s crying out to see more independent science has to remember that it's going to come from our tax dollars. 

I don't have a problem if Monsanto or Whole Foods funds a study. I have a problem if Monsanto or Whole Foods says, “This is the result we'd like to see from this study.” That’s where the fail happens. The same thing happens with me as a filmmaker. I don't really care who funds my movies as long as I have the independence to tell the truth as best I can, just like an independent scientist.

So how do we separate [science and corporations]? I'll go into our two types of thinking. So type one thinking is fight or flight, it’s instinctual. And type two thinking is digging in deeper and really getting analytical. I beg people to think twice. With GMOs, type one thinking might be GMOs are bad. Type two thinking is, well, what is it? It's a breeding method. How is it being used? So to your point of how do we remove the conflation of science and money, you think twice. What’s the study? Who did the study? Was the study repeatable? That's one of the most beautiful elements of good science, that it gives you confidence. If a study can't be repeated, it's not good science. If it is repeated over and over again, and you still want to doubt it, you're not skeptical anymore, you're a denialist. I mean you can look at that with climate change. So, I beg people to think twice and really look at who's funding [the study], how was the funding taking place, what was the science, who was the scientist, and dig deeper. It takes more effort, but it will give you much more peace of mind in understanding what is real, what is fake, and what's been manipulated.

F: What does the debate around GMOs tell us about how we as society confront other controversial issues, scientific or otherwise?

SHK: Another reason that the GMO debate was interesting to us is, as Nathanael Johnson, a wonderful journalist from [the online environmental magazine] Grist says in the film, it's a metaphor for many things. It's a metaphor for how we look at our food system, it's a metaphor for how we make decisions, and the dangers of getting caught in our bubbles, or caught in our confirmation bias. Again, that's why we made the film — it was to use GMOs as a metaphor to say, “Look at how easy it is to get swayed by your own confirmation bias, by others’ marketing tools that might go towards your confirmation bias, and make you not hear what the actual science is telling us. And that’s a very dangerous thing.” To quote Neil Degrasse-Tyson again, “If we are not using science to make political decisions, that's the beginning of the end of an informed democracy, and we do not want to see that.”

I'm really looking for the glass half full in these very confusing times. I'm looking for the next political movement to be more scientifically-based, to get more scientists involved in politics, to get more politicians to say, “I'm going to try to not spin you — I'm going to try and tell you what the data is telling us about any individual situation, whether it be economic or social or something else.” Do we need a stoplight here? Are charter schools better than public schools? Let’s really look at what the data is telling us about these things. Then we can talk about wrestling with the difficult political situations around that.

There’s a wonderful professor, Jordan Peterson out of the University of Toronto, who says we're living in a time of chaos. And in a time of chaos, our sword and our shield is to tell the truth. That gives me great comfort.

F: What has the feedback to the film been like?

SHK: So reactions to the film have been really amazing. We knew we had a controversial film. We knew we were going to take some slings and arrows, and we have, but the film is winning. Some of the biggest slings and arrows that we've taken are from people who hadn't seen the film. Things like a letter signed by some professors starting at the University of California, Berkeley and a few other universities in California that said that the film was propaganda. That's quite a harsh thing to say, isn't it? One problem: most of them hadn't seen the film. So if that's not a fail, I don't know what is. How do you call something propaganda that you have not even seen? Now, I've also asked any of them to debate me publicly  let's play the film and let's have a conversation about what propaganda is. I feel very confident we're going to win that argument. 

One of the sad places that we're in right now is that we are having conversations and disagreeing with each other instead of listening to each other. We need to listen to what another person is communicating and look at the data underneath  do they have something to support what they're saying? We say, “I don’t agree with they're saying, so let me try and take a crap on them by calling things propaganda, or racist, or sexist.”

That's been one of the frustrating elements of some who have tried to negate the film. The good news is, that’s a very small group of people. Overwhelmingly, people who have seen the film have found it to be smart and informative, and really made them think about how they made decisions. We have two-hour Q&As that just go on and on because people are really engaged in the subject, engaged in thinking about how we make decisions. And that's just been amazing. 

One of the other ways that we can look at the effects of the film is we do a poll — a very unscientific poll, but a poll — before and after the film. We just ask people by a show of hands to tell us are they concerned about GMOs for their own safety or the safety of the planet. After the film, we ask the question again. In Seattle, Washington, we had a screening of about 120 people, and we asked, “How many of you fear GMOs for yourself or the environment?” and we had 100 percent of hands in the air. So my producing partner Trace and I looked at each other and said, “Oh boy, this is going to be a spicy Q&A.” We played the film, and in the poll we took afterward, we had zero hands in the air. We had a complete conversion.

Mostly we've been averaging about 30 to 50 percent of hands in the air at the start of the film, and we're converting between 70 and 80 percent. And then even the people whose minds we don’t change, when you start to talk to them, they're not necessarily saying things about GMOs, it's these other elements. They're concerned about monocultures and butterflies, and all these other things that are worthy of having a conversation about, but they're not inherently related to GMOs and if we should trust them. So it's been incredible to see the film make people think about how they make decisions in real time, and actually changing their minds. That's just been a great honor.

F: What does the film tell you about what our food is going to be like in 50 years?

SHK: That's a very difficult question. I'm definitely on the positive side of this. While we know that agriculture has a huge effect on things like climate change, it does also feed us. So we have to weigh these things. There’s no such thing as zero carbon footprint with what you eat — there's not a system of food that isn't going to have an effect. So the question is: How can we have safer food, more nutritious food, more sustainable food? The good news is that we already have incredibly safe and nutritious food. Do we always consume the healthiest food? That’s a different question.

How to make our food more sustainable is really what we’re going to be looking at in the next 50 years. And there’s a lot of smart people doing great things. So does that mean that we do all huge farming? No. We can have a variety of farming, but, done well, large-scale farming is much more efficient and adds much less damage to the soil. Should we communicate with all types of farmers about the best ways to do this? Absolutely. If those tools have been tested and they’re safe, should we give those farmers the choice to use them? Absolutely.

So I'm actually very positive about where we're going to go with this, because we’ve solved these problems before, and I think we're going to solve them again. 

Food Evolution is now available online at Amazon, iTunes, Hulu, Google Play, and YouTube.

The post Once And For All, Here’s What Science Says About GMOs appeared first on Futurism.

This Year, We’ll See a Black Hole for the First Time in History

Posted: 10 Jan 2018 07:17 AM PST

First Look At A Black Hole

Within the next 12 months, astrophysicists believe they’ll be able to do something that’s never been done before, and it could have far-reaching implications for our understanding of the universe. A black hole is a point in space with a gravitational pull so strong that not even light can escape from it. Albert Einstein predicted the existence of black holes in his theory of general relativity, but even he wasn’t convinced that they actually existed. And thus far, no one has been able to produce concrete evidence that they do. The Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) could change that.

The EHT isn’t so much one telescope as it is a network of telescopes around the globe. By working in harmony, these devices can provide all of the components necessary to capture an image of a black hole.

“First, you need ultra-high magnification — the equivalent of being able to count the dimples on a golf ball in Los Angeles when you are sitting in New York,” EHT Director Sheperd Doeleman told Futurism.

Next, said Doeleman, you need a way to see through the gas in the Milky Way and the hot gas surrounding the black hole itself. That requires a telescope as big as the Earth, which is where the EHT comes into play.

The Large Millimeter Telescope in Mexico at sunrise. Image Credit: Ana Torres Campos
The Large Millimeter Telescope in Mexico at sunrise. Image Credit: Ana Torres Campos

The EHT team created a “virtual Earth-sized telescope,” said Doeleman, using a network of individual radio dishes scattered across the planet. They synchronized the dishes so that they could be programmed to observe the same point in space at the exact same time and record the radio waves they detected onto hard disks.

The idea was that, by combining this data at a later date, the EHT team could produce an image comparable to one that could have been created using a single Earth-sized telescope.

In April 2017, the EHT team put their telescope to the test for the first time. Over the course of five nights, eight dishes across the globe set their sights on Sagittarius A* (Sgr A*), a point in the center of the Milky Way that researchers believe is the location of a supermassive black hole.

Data from the South Pole Telescope didn’t reach the MIT Haystack Observatory until mid-December due to a lack of cargo flights out of the region. Now that the team has the data from all eight radio dishes, they can begin their analysis in the hopes of producing the first image of a black hole.

Proving Einstein Right (or Wrong)

Not only would an image of a black hole prove that they do exist, it would also reveal brand new insights into our universe.

“The impact of black holes on the universe is huge,” said Doeleman. “It’s now believed that the supermassive black holes at the center of galaxies and the galaxies they live in evolve together over cosmic times, so observing what happens near the event horizon will help us understand the universe on larger scales.”

In the future, researchers could take images of a single black hole over time. This would allow the scientists to determine whether or not Einstein’s theory of general relativity holds true at the black hole boundary, as well as study how black holes grow and absorb matter, said Doeleman.

Still, the April observations of Sgr A* are just the first using the EHT, and Doeleman is keeping expectations in check.

“Of course, we have no guarantee of what we’ll see, and nature could throw us a curve ball. However, the EHT is now up and running, so over the next several years, we will work towards making an image to see what a black hole really looks like,” he told Futurism.

While the entire team is excited about the prospect of producing that never-before-seen image, they are also making sure to work carefully and deliberately on the data, said Doeleman, and have, therefore, not set a date for when results will be ready.

Still, we’re closer than ever before to finally capturing an image of a black hole, and there’s no harm in hoping the EHT team crosses the finish line in 2018.

The post This Year, We’ll See a Black Hole for the First Time in History appeared first on Futurism.

What We’ve Seen So Far at CES 2018

Posted: 09 Jan 2018 02:47 PM PST

CES 2018: Status Report

The 2018 Consumer Electronics Show is now in full swing. Between now and Friday, January 12, all kinds of technology — both conceptual and practical — will be unveiled and trotted out in front of audiences. We’ve already written about what you can expect to see from CES 2018, but as day one draws to a close, it’s a good time to check-in on what’s already trending.

Quantum Computing

Intel announced a 17-quantum bit (qubit) chip last October, but during the company’s keynote address on January 8, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich unveiled a 49-qubit chip — the company has taken a big step towards quantum supremacy. Code-named “Tangle Lake,” Intel explained in a press release that the chip will “allow researchers to assess and improve error correction techniques and simulate computational problems.” Specific details regarding when the quantum chip would be available for use were not given.

Intel’s announcements included details regarding a neuromorphic research chip code-named "Loihi." The chip is designed to mimic the way neurons communicate in the brain. Loihi is meant to make machine learning more efficient, and could one day be used to make better security cameras, and enable smart-city infrastructure to communicate with autonomous vehicles.

TVs and Voice Assistants Unite

Get ready to talk to your TVs even more than you already do, as both Samsung and LG are implementing digital voice assistants into their 2018 TV lineup. Samsung is using its own Bixby assistant, which will allow users to search for movies and TV shows, play a song from Spotify, and even check the weather.

As reported by CNET, LG has decided to go with the Google Assistant, allowing users to command select TVs to search for the soundtrack from a movie, or turn off the TV when a show has finished. All of this can be done with voice commands via the remote.

Voice assistants are also being added to even more products. Bixby, for example, is making its way into Samsung’s Family Hub Refrigerator, while Amazon’s Alexa will be incorporated into LG’s InstaView ThinQ fridge and HiMirror’s Mini mirror. Google, meanwhile, is launching several Google assistant-powered smart displays to compete with the Amazon Echo Show.

HTC Vive Pro VR Headset

In Futurism’s “Five Things to Expect from This Year’s Biggest Tech Show,” we said HTC would be attending CES 2018 and could have something to reveal. Turns out, that something was the HTC Vive Pro headset. According to HTC, the Vive Pro is meant for hardcore VR enthusiasts who want the best audio and video possible. The new headset utilizes dual-OLED displays to provide a resolution of 2880 x 1600 — roughly a 78 percent improvement over the current Vive headset. Details regarding pricing and release date were not given.

Alongside the Vive Pro, HTC also unveiled the Vive wireless adapter. Compatible with the Vive Pro as well as the original Vive headset, the wireless adapter will enable wireless VR experiences — eliminating the possibility of getting tangled up in cables or unplugging the headset by accident. Like the Vive Pro, a price was not set, but the wireless adapter is scheduled to be released sometime later in 2018.

Robots Take One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

Hanson Robotics’ Sophia, the robot that Saudi Arabia granted citizenship to in 2017, took her first steps at CES 2018 using a new pair of legs designed by the DRC-Hubo team at the University of Las Vegas, Nevada.

But the story of LG’s Vice President of Marketing David VanderWaal having a less-than-ideal time with the company’s CLOi robot made a far bigger splash. As reported by Mirror, during the live demonstration, VanderWaal attempted to show how CLOi is supposed to help control various home appliances and organize everyday tasks. Things went smoothly at first, but then CLOi seemed to malfunction, failing to respond to VanderWaal’s prompts. In the end, VanderWaal had to continue the presentation using a touchscreen.

LG has yet to disclose when CLOi will be available for purchase, or how much it will cost, but based on its unexpected performance at the event, it may be a way’s off.

The Toyota e-Palette

Toyota debuted its e-Palette autonomous vehicle at CES 2018, and while the conceptual product looks like a high-tech rectangle on wheels, the company’s plans for the vehicle are ambitious, to say the least.

The company wants to create a multi-purpose transportation and mobility platform for itself and its partners, which include Amazon, DiDi, Mazda, Pizza Hut, and Uber. Toyota explained that the interior of the e-Palette can by outfitted to suit a company’s needs, be it for package delivery, a ride-sharing service, or a mobile food truck.

Toyota and its aforementioned partners have formed an e-Palette Alliance to determine the best ways of using autonomous technology to forward their respective businesses and  improve on the e-Palette design. Toyota intends to begin testing in 2020, which aligns with the company’s previous declaration that they would test AI-powered cars in the same year.

An Electric Car With a 400-Mile Range

We heard about Fisker’s EMotion electric vehicle in 2017, but the company officially revealed the car at this year’s CES. The car has some notable specifications: a 400-mile range, 9-minute charging, autonomous driving capabilities, and a sleek exterior and interior design. If Fisker ends up incorporating its solid-state battery into the vehicle, the company could improve on the EMotion’s already impressive range and charging time.

$130,000 is a steep asking price, but anyone who wants one of the vehicles has time to save up. The car isn’t supposed to go into production until later this year, with a release to follow in 2019. Electrek suggests people temper their excitement, however, until it goes into production and people get to put the EMotion through its paces. Fisker’s last car, the Karma Revero, didn’t review well.

Radiation-Blocking Underwear

You can’t say CES 2018 doesn’t have something for everyone. According to Slate, the  Spartan underwear company was showcasing its cellphone radiation-proof boxers at the event. Spartan sold more than 30,000 boxers in 2017, so there’s clearly a market for underwear with an “electromagnetic shield that blocks radiation” among men who feel the need to offer their sensitive areas some additional protection.

The post What We’ve Seen So Far at CES 2018 appeared first on Futurism.

J.P. Morgan Chase CEO Says He Regrets Calling Bitcoin a Fraud

Posted: 09 Jan 2018 01:22 PM PST

Bitcoin Regret

After the highs and lows seen by bitcoin in 2017, J.P. Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon has publicly changed his opinion of the cryptocurrency. Back in September, Dimon called bitcoin a fraud and elaborated: “it’s just not a real thing, eventually it will be closed,” and “if you’re stupid enough to buy it, you’ll pay the price for it one day.”  But Dimon has changed his tune, now saying on Fox Business that “the Blockchain is real,” and he regrets calling bitcoin a fraud.

Despite taking back last year’s inflammatory statements, Dimon still has some reservations about the cryptocurrency. He is unsure of how “governments are going to feel about bitcoin when it gets really big,” a widely shared concern as the currency has gone up over 1,500 percent within the past year alone.

Crypto Opinions

Dimon is not alone in his controversial opinions about bitcoin and the concept of cryptocurrency. Recently, Morgan Stanley analyst James Faucette publicly stated that the true value of bitcoin may well be zero and it cannot even be considered a true currency because it doesn’t have an associated interest rate. He believes that because only few retailers currently accept payments in bitcoin, its real value would plummet should the number shrink further, possibly reaching zero.

Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz told Bloomberg that bitcoin “ought to be outlawed.” He doesn’t see the crypto serving any useful social function and noted that it could easily be taken down by regulation alone.

There is certainly a host of legitimate criticisms of cryptocurrency as a concept. For instance, it was found that mining bitcoin uses more energy than what is consumed yearly by 159 individual countries. Also, there is still a sizable gap between the currency and consumer use in a retail environment. However, cryptocurrencies like bitcoin do have the potential to contribute to sustainable living and advancing technologies, like autonomous vehicles, that may one day contributing to saving lives.


Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

The post J.P. Morgan Chase CEO Says He Regrets Calling Bitcoin a Fraud appeared first on Futurism.

Marine Food Webs Are on the Brink of Collapse Because of Climate Change

Posted: 09 Jan 2018 01:09 PM PST

Marine Food Webs

The consequences of climate change are emerging in more visible and more disastrous ways. From climate refugees to diminishing habitats, it seems as though just about every species on planet Earth is suffering as a result of our changing climate. One new study bears the latest grim news, showing that climate change could cause the collapse of marine food webs by restricting the energy that flows from producers to herbivores to carnivores.

The research was conducted by scientists at the University of Adelaide and published January 9 in the journal PLOS Biology. Their work shows that increasing temperatures restrict this sustaining energy flow, as do increased levels of dissolved carbon dioxide (CO2), which lower ocean pH in a phenomenon called ocean acidification.

“Healthy food webs are important for maintenance of species diversity and provide a source of income and food for millions of people worldwide,” said lead author Hadayet Ullah in a press release. “Therefore, it is important to understand how climate change is altering marine food webs in the near future.”

Climate Collapse

To come to this conclusion, the research team used an “advanced mesocosm” approach. The team set up twelve large, 1,800-liter tanks simulating various ecosystems around South Australia. They populated these model ecosystems with a variety of species to create realistic mini-food webs, and then altered groups of three tanks to one of four treatments: elevated temperature, elevated CO2, elevated CO2 and temperature, or a control, using the normal summer conditions of South Australia over the past 5 years.

The elevated temperatures of +2.8° Celsius (5° Fahrenheit), and a CO2 concentration that brought the water pH down to 7.89, mimicked the conditions predicted for the end of the 21st century if the planet continues on its current rate of greenhouse gas emissions.

Swaying yellowish kelp and a school of silver sardines shown in blue-green water. Marine food webs like this one could potentially collapse due to climate change.
Image Credit: NOAA’s National Ocean Service

To create the food web model that led them to their final results, they observed and measured the survival, growth, biomass, and productivity of all plants and animals within the tanks for six months. They found that higher temperatures limited the flow of energy from producers to plant-eaters, while the combination of increased temperature and increased CO2 both decreased energy flow from plants to their grazers and from plant-eaters to predators.

This is largely because warmer temperatures increased the productivity of inedible blue-green algae at the expense of marine plants, which form the vital base of the marine food chain.

This waning energy suggests that top consumers could be left with dwindling food resources under climate change. Less productive marine plants will mean less energy is passed to plant-eaters, which will slowly dwindle the population of these grazers for predators to eat up the line. This could lead to a cascade of negative effects for a great many species. Just as adequate producers are an important part of any food web, so are the top predators, which remove sick or injured animals and keep overpopulation in check.

The research team concluded that given their drastic results, this type of research must continue, and with even larger and more advanced mesocosm approaches and models. The better we understand how the changing climate will affect these webs and ecosystems, the better we may be able to take action to make these systems more resilient against the change to come.

The post Marine Food Webs Are on the Brink of Collapse Because of Climate Change appeared first on Futurism.

We Now Have Direct Proof That Human Activity Can Heal the Ozone Hole

Posted: 09 Jan 2018 12:47 PM PST

Healing the Ozone

According to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC), scientists have, for the first time, produced proof that the recovery of the ozone hole is attributable to human action.

Every September, the Antarctic ozone hole forms after rays from the Sun catalyze ozone destruction cycles. These cycles involve chlorine and bromine, which mostly come from chlorine-containing human-made chemicals called chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which were banned in 1996.

Past research on the ozone has focused on the hole’s size, but for their research, the GSFC team actually measured the chemical composition within the ozone hole.

Using the Microwave Limb Sounder (MLS) aboard the Aura satellite, the researchers were able to measure hydrochloric acid, which is created when chlorine, after it destroys almost all available ozone, reacts with methane.

They concluded that chlorine levels declined by approximately 0.8 percent each year and noted a 20 percent decrease in ozone depletion in the Antarctic winter than there was in 2005.

“We see very clearly that chlorine from CFCs is going down in the ozone hole, and that less ozone depletion is occurring because of it,” said Susan Strahan, the study’s lead author and an atmospheric scientist at GSFC, in a news release.

The study has been published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

Eliminating CFCs

Two years after the Antarctic hole was discovered in 1985, a number of nations signed the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, a series of regulations that took action against ozone-depleting compounds.

Global Warming Scenarios
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Later, amendments were added to the protocol to entirely phase out the production of CFCs, and the researchers attribute the decrease they observed to this international ban.

“[The 20 percent decrease] is very close to what our model predicts we should see for this amount of chlorine decline,” said Strahan. “This gives us confidence that the decrease in ozone depletion through mid-September shown by MLS data is due to declining levels of chlorine coming from CFCs.”

While promising, the battle to reverse the damage we’ve done to the planet is far from over. “CFCs have lifetimes from 50 to 100 years, so they linger in the atmosphere for a very long time,” said Anne Douglass, a fellow GSFC atmospheric scientist and the study’s co-author. “As far as the ozone hole being gone, we’re looking at 2060 or 2080. And even then there might still be a small hole.”

Still, these recent findings on the ozone hole’s size are a reminder that significant action can have a significant impact. Climate change can seem like a problem too massive to realistically tackle, but if we can reduce ozone depletion in Antarctica through the relatively simple measure of eliminating CFCs, there is no telling what else we could accomplish.

The post We Now Have Direct Proof That Human Activity Can Heal the Ozone Hole appeared first on Futurism.

For Coastal Communities, the 1.5C Climate Goal Is a Matter of Life or Death

Posted: 09 Jan 2018 12:43 PM PST

A Clear Need

Coastal communities all over the world are already facing the double whammy of sea level rise and extreme weather events that in some cases are threatening the very existence of entire island states. Now a new study adds weight to the argument that for the sake of these communities we need to ramp up efforts and achieve what many think almost impossible, keeping global warming below 1.5° C (2.7° F).

A team from Tufts University, Rutgers University, and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany found that if countries managed to stabilize global temperatures within this threshold by 2150, the impact of sea level rise would be significantly reduced. The global average sea level would be about 17.7 centimeters (7 inches) less than under a 2° C scenario (3.6° F), which is conventionally considered more achievable. The paper is published in the journal Environmental Research Letters and will be included in the landmark special report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on the 1.5° C goal, which will collate the available literature on the topic.

The Paris Agreement controversy

With ratification from over 170 countries, the historic Paris Climate Agreement has been in force since November 2016. Its goals are quite clear: to keep global temperature rise to “well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5.”

Our Warming World: The Future of Climate Change [INFOGRAPHIC]
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"Some people might argue there will be no sizable difference between the two targets, so we should aim for the higher one, because it's easier," lead author Klaus Bittermann, a postdoctoral student in the Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences at Tufts, said in a United Nations report.

"Those differences turn out to be significant,” Bittermann added. “For example, salt marshes and mangroves can be drowned if the local rate of relative sea-level rise exceeds their ecological ability" for adaptation.

Reaching the Goal

Limiting global average temperatures to well below 2° C — or, even better, to 1.5° C — requires a tremendous amount of effort on the part of the nations that signed the Paris deal. These include various programs that cut down on fossil fuel consumption in favor of renewable energy sources, as well as plans that favor more environmentally efficient means of transportation.

Already, a number of countries have put sweeping programs to this effect. Yet, some worry that reaching the Paris agreement’s goals would be impossible, with one study arguing that the probability is only 5 percent. In a comment piece published in Nature Geoscience, Kevin Anderson, chair of energy and climate change at the University of Manchester in the U.K., says that the 2° C goal is only achievable through mass deployment of negative emission technologies such as carbon capture and storage. These technologies are still in their infancy and nowhere near ready to be rolled out at scale.

Still, others remain hopeful, especially since global emissions have stabilized in the past three years and because carbon emissions have now “decoupled” from economic growth in some countries. That means that lowering carbon emissions no longer affects a country’s prosperity. It’s doable, but it won’t be easy.

Nevertheless, the survival of coastal communities depends on not only reaching but overshooting the Paris deal’s goals.

“To those who want to know what the difference from a global sea level point of view is if you lower the temperature by just another 0.5° C, I think that our paper provides a very clear answer, and I think it is a difference that is worth fighting for,” Bittermann said.

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2017 Saw the Costliest Disasters in U.S. History

Posted: 09 Jan 2018 12:24 PM PST

Record-Breaking Disasters

In 2017 there were 16 weather and climate disasters in the United States, which cost more than $1 billion each. This marks 2017 as the costliest year on record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI).

The NECI evaluate climate events that have significant economic and societal influence both in the U.S. and abroad. According to the NECI, there have been 219 climate events between 1980 and 2017, and the cumulative cost of those events is more than $1.5 trillion. The average number of events per year during that time period is about six, but within just the last five years (2013 to 2017), that average nearly doubled.

The cumulative cost of disasters in the U.S. was a staggering $306.2 billion in 2017, a new annual record. The previous record was $214.8 billion (Consumer Price Index-adjusted) in 2005, thanks to back-to-back Hurricanes Katrina, Dennis, Rita, and Wilma that battered the U.S.

2017 saw some of the costliest disasters in the nation's history.
2017 saw some of the costliest disasters in the nation’s history. Image Credit: NOAA

The increase in what NOAA has termed “billion-dollar disasters” is both notable and frightening, and it begs the question whether or not this trend of more disasters, and more expensive disasters, will continue.

Preparing For The Future

It is unlikely that this sharp spike of climate events — and their financial impact — is just a coincidence. According to NOAA, 2017 was the third-warmest year on record in the United States. In fact, five U.S. states had their warmest year ever in 2017. While NOAA did not explicitly state that the direct cause of these disasters was global warming, there is evidence that climate change exacerbates disasters like flooding and wildfiresNew Scientist reported that unprecedented hurricanes in the Arabian Sea were more likely thanks to climate change.

What steps can the U.S. take to minimize the impact of these disasters when they do occur? Prevention should be a primary priority. It is essential that individuals, corporations, and governments continue to work towards mitigating the effects of climate change and reducing carbon emissions. Hiroyuki Murakami, an associate research scholar at Princeton University’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, told New Scientist, "We're seeing that human activity affects not only climate, but shorter events like rainfall and cyclones."

But local, state, and federal governments also need to solidify and fund emergency preparedness plans. From electrical generators to potable water and shelter,  distributing much needed resources in a crisis is a task the requires extensive preparation. Furthermore, educating the public about evacuation routes and crisis management could save countless lives in the wake of a disaster.

It is clear that our impact on the environment and the growing realities of climate change are affecting not only the planet, but also the humans who live on it.

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A New AI That Detects “Deception” May Bring an End to Lying as We Know It

Posted: 09 Jan 2018 10:32 AM PST

An AI That Detects Deception

Being able to tell when a person is lying is an important part of everyday life, but it’s even more crucial in a courtroom. People may vow under oath that they will tell the truth, but they don’t always adhere to that promise, and the ability to spot those lies can literally be the difference between a verdict of innocent or guilty.

To address this issue, researchers from the University of Maryland (UMD) developed the Deception Analysis and Reasoning Engine (DARE), a system that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to autonomously detect deception in courtroom trial videos. The team of UMD computer science researchers led by Center for Automation Research (CfAR) chair Larry Davis describe their AI that detects deception in a study that’s still to be peer-reviewed.

Understanding Machine Learning [INFOGRAPHIC]
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DARE was taught to look for and classify human micro-expressions, such as "lips protruded" or "eyebrows frown,” as well as analyze audio frequency for revealing vocal patterns that indicate whether a person is lying or not. It was then tested using a training set of videos in which actors were instructed to either lie or tell the truth.

So, just how accurate is DARE?

According to UMD researcher Bharat Singh, “accurate” might not be the best word to describe the system. “Some news articles misunderstood [Area Under the Curve to mean] accuracy,” he told Futurism. AUC refers to the probability of a classifier ranking a randomly chosen positive instance higher than a randomly chosen negative one.

AI that detects deception
Image Credit: Larry Davis, et al./UMD

Ultimately, DARE did perform better than the average person at the task of spotting lies. “An interesting finding was the feature representation which we used for our vision module,” said Singh. “A remarkable observation was that the visual AI system was significantly better than common people at predicting deception.”

DARE scored an AUC of 0.877, which, when combined with human annotations of micro-expressions, improved to 0.922. Ordinary people have an AUC of 0.58, Singh pointed out.

The researchers will present their study on this AI that detects deception at the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI) 2018 Conference on AI this February.

Bringing out the Truth

While some existing lie-detecting technologies can produce fairly reliable results, they aren’t particularly useful in a courtroom setting. Truth serums, for example, are usually illegal, while polygraphs are inadmissible in court. DARE could prove to be the exception to the rule, but the researchers don’t see its applications as limited to the courtroom.

“The goal of this project is not to just focus on courtroom videos but predict deception in an overt setting,” said Singh, noting that DARE could be used by intelligence agencies in the future.

“We are performing controlled experiments in social games, such as Mafia, where it is easier to collect more data and evaluate algorithms extensively,” he told Futurism. “We expect that algorithms developed in these controlled settings could generalize to other scenarios, also.”

According to Raja Chatilla, executive committee chair for the Global Initiative for Ethical Considerations in Artificial Intelligence and Autonomous Systems at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), DARE should be used with caution.

“If this is going to be used for deciding […] the fate of humans, it should be considered within its limitations and in context, to help a human — the judge — to make a decision,” Chatilla told Futurism, pointing out that “high probability is not certainty” and not everyone behaves the same way. Plus, there’s a chance of bias based on the data used to train the AI.

Chatilla did note that image and facial expression recognition systems are improving. According to Singh, we could be just three to four years away from an AI that detects deception flawlessly by reading the emotions behind human expressions.

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