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AI Trained to Spot Heart Disease Risks Using Retina Scan

Posted: 27 Feb 2018 09:03 AM PST

The idea behind using a neural network for image recognition is that you don't have to tell it what to look for in an image. You don't even need to care about what it looks for. With enough training, the neural network should be able to pick out details that allow it to make accurate identifications.

For things like figuring out whether there's a cat in an image, neural networks don't provide much, if any, advantages over the actual neurons in our visual system. But where they can potentially shine are cases where we don't know what to look for. There are cases where images may provide subtle information that a human doesn't understand how to read, but a neural network could pick up on with the appropriate training.

Now, researchers have done just that, getting a deep-learning algorithm to identify risks of heart disease using an image of a patient's retina.

The idea isn't quite as nuts as it might sound. The retina has a rich collection of blood vessels, and it's possible to detect issues in those that also effect the circulatory system as a whole; things like high levels of cholesterol or elevated blood pressure leave a mark on the eye. So, a research team consisting of people at Google and Verily Life Sciences decided to see just how well a deep-learning network could do at figuring those out from retinal images.


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Some Black Holes Could Erase Your Past

Posted: 27 Feb 2018 07:33 AM PST

In the real world, your past uniquely determines your future. If a physicist knows how the universe starts out, she can calculate its future for all time and all space.

But a UC Berkeley mathematician has found some types of black holes in which this law breaks down. If someone were to venture into one of these relatively benign black holes, they could survive, but their past would be obliterated and they could have an infinite number of possible futures.

Such claims have been made in the past, and physicists have invoked "strong cosmic censorship" to explain it away. That is, something catastrophic -- typically a horrible death -- would prevent observers from actually entering a region of spacetime where their future was not uniquely determined. This principle, first proposed 40 years ago by physicist Roger Penrose, keeps sacrosanct an idea -- determinism -- key to any physical theory. That is, given the past and present, the physical laws of the universe do not allow more than one possible future.

But, says UC Berkeley postdoctoral fellow Peter Hintz, mathematical calculations show that for some specific types of black holes in a universe like ours, which is expanding at an accelerating rate, it is possible to survive the passage from a deterministic world into a non-deterministic black hole.

What life would be like in a space where the future was unpredictable is unclear. But the finding does not mean that Einstein's equations of general relativity, which so far perfectly describe the evolution of the cosmos, are wrong, said Hintz, a Clay Research Fellow.

Vitor Cardoso, João L. Costa, Kyriakos Destounis, Peter Hintz, Aron Jansen. Quasinormal Modes and Strong Cosmic Censorship. Physical Review Letters, 2018; 120 (3) DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.120.031103


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New Alliance Wants to Improve Terrible In-Flight Internet

Posted: 27 Feb 2018 05:56 AM PST

Things may be looking up for internet access on board commercial aircraft in the future.

The frustrations of internet access aboard commercial aircraft may soon be a thing of the past, thanks to the Seamless Air Alliance. Formed by Airbus, Delta, OneWeb, Sprint and Airtel, the group aims to improve the connectivity experience for passengers aboard aircraft by allowing mobile operators to provide internet access directly via satellite tech.

The group aims to reduce the costs and headaches associated with the installation and operation of the infrastructure required to provide connectivity on aircraft. The end goal is to work together to cut costs and provide passengers with fast, reliable internet onboard aircraft. It would combine higher speeds with a better user experience because passengers wouldn't have to pay separately for internet access once on board.

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Wine Polyphenols Could Fend Off Bacteria that Cause Cavities and Gum Disease

Posted: 27 Feb 2018 04:19 AM PST

Sipping wine may be good for your colon and heart, possibly because of the beverage's abundant and structurally diverse polyphenols. Now researchers report in ACS' Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry that wine polyphenols might also be good for your oral health.

[...] M. Victoria Moreno-Arribas and colleagues wanted to know whether wine and grape polyphenols would also protect teeth and gums, and how this could work on a molecular level.

The researchers checked out the effect of two red wine polyphenols, as well as commercially available grape seed and red wine extracts, on bacteria that stick to teeth and gums and cause dental plaque, cavities and periodontal disease. Working with cells that model gum tissue, they found that the two wine polyphenols in isolation -- caffeic and p-coumaric acids -- were generally better than the total wine extracts at cutting back on the bacteria's ability to stick to the cells. When combined with the Streptococcus dentisani, which is believed to be an oral probiotic, the polyphenols were even better at fending off the pathogenic bacteria. The researchers also showed that metabolites formed when digestion of the polyphenols begins in the mouth might be responsible for some of these effects.


Adelaida Esteban-Fernández, Irene Zorraquín-Peña, Maria D. Ferrer, Alex Mira, Begoña Bartolomé, Dolores González de Llano, M. Victoria Moreno-Arribas. Inhibition of Oral Pathogens Adhesion to Human Gingival Fibroblasts by Wine Polyphenols Alone and in Combination with an Oral Probiotic. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2018; DOI: 10.1021/acs.jafc.7b05466

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Court Rules FTC Data-Throttling Lawsuit Against AT&T Can Proceed

Posted: 27 Feb 2018 02:42 AM PST

AT&T has been involved in a long-running battle with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). In 2014, the agency sued AT&T for throttling its customers' unlimited mobile data plans while not properly informing them it would be doing so. A few months later, the company claimed that its common carrier status meant it wasn't under the jurisdiction of the FTC and it asked a court to dismiss the agency's suit. In 2015, a judge rejected the carrier's claim, but in 2016, a three-member Ninth Circuit appeals court tossed out that ruling and the FTC's lawsuit saying that AT&T's common carrier status did indeed exempt it from the FTC's regulatory jurisdiction. And that brings us to today. As the Wall Street Journal reports, a federal appeals court has ruled that the FTC can proceed with its lawsuit, rejecting the Ninth Circuit court's earlier decision.

The ruling of the full-panel Ninth Circuit appeals court backs the FTC's original argument, which says that because the services in question weren't part of the those that fall under AT&T's common carrier status, its lawsuit is valid.

[...] FTC Chair Maureen Ohlhausen said in a statement, "I welcome the Ninth Circuit's ruling as good news for consumers. It ensures that the FTC can and will continue to play its vital role in safeguarding consumer interests including privacy protection, as well as stopping anticompetitive market behavior."

[...] An AT&T spokesperson told Reuters, "Today's decision on jurisdiction does not address the merits of the case. We are reviewing the opinion and continue to believe we ultimately will prevail."


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Birds Filmed on Racetrack to Simulate Dinosaur Movement

Posted: 27 Feb 2018 01:05 AM PST

In a quest to learn how two-legged dinosaurs moved, scientists watched their descendants — birds — run around on a race track. After all, chickens were once carnivorous dinosaurs that stalked the Earth on giant drumsticks.

For all the movies that show dinosaurs chasing after humans, we don't actually know much about what a walking or running dinosaur looked like. Footprints and fossils, for example, can't tell us whether a dino strode or strutted. "They're static records of an animal or its movement," says Peter Bishop, a scientist at the Queensland Museum. For movement, he says, "That's when you've got to study animals that are living today."

Only, there aren't any dinosaurs wandering around anymore. So Bishop and his colleagues turned to the next best thing: birds, the only surviving descendants of two-legged dinos called theropods. Bishop and his colleagues rounded up a dozen species from cute little quail and turkeys to long-legged ostriches and emus. Then they sent the birds walking and running down a racetrack.


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YouTube Live Adds Automatic Captions and Other Features

Posted: 26 Feb 2018 11:33 PM PST

YouTube Live gains automatic captions, chat replay and more

YouTube today announced several new features designed to improve the live streaming experience for both creators and viewers. The most notable additions include the ability to play back a live chat after the live stream ends, and the launch of live automatic captions on videos.

YouTube began offering automatic captioning back in 2009, and has since added captions to a billion videos, the company says. Live captioning a video in real-time is a bit more complicated, but advancements in speech recognition technology are making features like this possible. (Similarly, a new startup launched an app called Otter today, that live transcribes meeting and conversations – also thanks to advancements in voice technologies.)

Also at VentureBeat.

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Rydberg Polarons Reportedly Created

Posted: 26 Feb 2018 10:01 PM PST

Scientists have reported the creation of "Rydberg polarons":

What is inside an atom, between the nucleus and the electron? Usually there is nothing, but why could there not be other particles too? If the electron orbits the nucleus at a great distance, there is plenty of space in between for other atoms. A "giant atom" can be created, filled with ordinary atoms. All these atoms form a weak bond, creating a new, exotic state of matter at cold temperatures, referred to as "Rydberg polarons".

A team of researchers has now presented this state of matter in the journal "Physical Review Letters". The theoretical work was done at TU Wien (Vienna) and Harvard University, the experiment was performed at Rice University in Houston (Texas).

Two very special fields of atomic physics, which can only be studied at extreme conditions, have been combined in this research project: Bose-Einstein condensates and Rydberg atoms. A Bose-Einstein condensate is a state of matter created by atoms at ultracold temperatures, close to absolute zero. Rydberg atoms are atoms, in which one single electron is lifted into a highly excited state and orbits the nucleus at a very large distance.

[...] First, a Bose-Einstein condensate was created with strontium atoms. Using a laser, energy was transferred to one of these atoms, turning it into a Rydberg atom with a huge atomic radius. The perplexing thing about this atom: the radius of the orbit, on which the electron moves around the nucleus, is much larger than the typical distance between two atoms in the condensate. Therefore the electron does not only orbit its own atomic nucleus, numerous other atoms lie inside its orbit too. Depending on the radius of the Rydberg atom and the density of the Bose-Einstein condensate, as many as 170 additional strontium atoms may be enclosed by the huge electronic orbit.

Creation of Rydberg Polarons in a Bose Gas (DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.120.083401) (DX)

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Genomes of Living and Extinct Elephant Species Sequenced

Posted: 26 Feb 2018 08:30 PM PST

Complete genomes of extinct and living elephants sequenced

An international team of researchers has produced one of the most comprehensive evolutionary pictures to date by looking at one of the world's most iconic animal families -- namely elephants, and their relatives mammoths and mastodons-spanning millions of years.

The team of scientists-which included researchers from McMaster, the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Harvard Medical School, Uppsala University, and the University of Potsdam-meticulously sequenced 14 genomes from several species: both living and extinct species from Asia and Africa, two American mastodons, a 120,000-year-old straight-tusked elephant, and a Columbian mammoth.

The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, sheds light on what scientists call a very complicated history, characterized by widespread interbreeding. They caution, however, the behaviour has virtually stopped among living elephants, adding to growing fears about the future of the few species that remain on earth.

A comprehensive genomic history of extinct and living elephants (DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1720554115) (DX)

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Jolla Announces Sailfish 3 OS

Posted: 26 Feb 2018 07:00 PM PST

What, it's not Android?

Jolla Announces Sailfish 3 With Feature Phone Support – MWC 2018

Finnish mobile OS developer Jolla is attending Mobile World Congress 2018 in Barcelona, Spain, where the company has officially announced Sailfish 3, the next-generation independent mobile OS built on a five-year software legacy. The company also announced a handful of new devices that have joined the Sailfish ecosystem and it revealed its plans for a new branch of its mobile operating system which was designed specifically for 4G-enabled feature phones as it sets out to allow select Android app access on low-spec hardware for consumers who don't need or want a full-fledged smartphone.

One of the biggest changes introduced with the latest Sailfish 3 OS lies in the way the software can be distributed through regional licensing, providing full support for regional infrastructure which should lead to steady upgrade releases and more. As for the mobile operating system itself, Sailfish 3 should provide 30-percent faster performance, improved multitasking with the ability to quickly switch between applications, as well as a redesigned top menu containing actions and settings. The mobile operating system employs a new visual style comprising new ambiances, light themes, and animations, while also offering new security solutions including revised architecture, fingerprint support, encryption, remote locking and wiping capabilities, as well as enablers for blockchain-based services.

Sailfish OS.

Press release. Also at TechCrunch, Engadget, and NDTV.

Related: Jolla Tablet Ship Date Slips
Sailfish OS Maker Jolla: Funding Delay Results in "Temporary Layoffs"
Android is a Dead End
Jolla to Sell OS Image for Sony Phone

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U.S. Cattlemen's Association Wants an Official Definition of "Meat"

Posted: 26 Feb 2018 05:37 PM PST

The U.S. Cattlemen's Association has asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture to develop an official definition for terms like "meat" and "beef", as plant-based alternatives to meats continue to grow in popularity and lab-grown/cultured meat may be coming soon:

Companies like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat are combining plant-based ingredients and science, rather than animals, to create fake-meat burgers and other products that taste like the real thing.

Now U.S. Cattlemen's Association is looking to draw a line in the sand. The association launched what could be the first salvo in a long battle against plant-based foods. Earlier this month, the association filed a 15-page petition with the U.S. Department of Agriculture calling for an official definition for the term "beef," and more broadly, "meat."

"While at this time alternative protein sources are not a direct threat to the beef industry, we do see improper labeling of these products as misleading," said Lia Biondo, the association's policy and outreach director. "Our goal is to head off the problem before it becomes a larger issue."

[...] While these foods are commonly dubbed "fake meat," there's a little more to the meat-substitute market than that. The Good Food Institute, which advocates a sustainable food supply, breaks it down into two categories: clean meat and plant-based meat. Clean meat refers to "meat" grown in a lab from a small amount of animal stem cells. This kind of meat isn't on the market yet, but it's in development. Plant-based meat is anything that mimics traditional meat but is made mainly using plant ingredients.

Here's an idea: define "meat" for the Cattlemen's Association, then tax it with an exemption for "lab-grown meat".

Related: Lab-Grown Pork Closer to Reality
Lab-Grown Chicken (and Duck) Could be on the Menu in 4 Years
Inside the Strange Science of the Fake Meat that 'Bleeds'
Impossible Foods Just Raised $75 Million for Its Plant-based Burgers
Cargill, Bill Gates, Richard Branson Backed Memphis Meats Expects Meat From Cells in Stores by 2021
Meat Tax Proposed for Sake of Human and Environmental Health.

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Receiving Messages from Aliens Could Pose a Security Risk

Posted: 26 Feb 2018 04:05 PM PST

Two astrophysicists warn that passive SETI could be dangerous due to malicious code, blueprints, or ultimatums sent to Earth by aliens or alien AIs:

With all the news stories these days about computer hacking, it probably comes as no surprise that someone is worried about hackers from outer space. Yes, there are now scientists who fret that space aliens might send messages that worm their way into human society — not to steal our passwords but to bring down our culture.

How exactly would they do that? Astrophysicists Michael Hippke and John Learned argue in a recent paper that our telescopes might pick up hazardous messages sent our way — a virus that shuts down our computers, for example, or something a bit like cosmic blackmail: "Do this for us, or we'll make your sun go supernova and destroy Earth." Or perhaps the cosmic hackers could trick us into building self-replicating nanobots, and then arrange for them to be let loose to chew up our planet or its inhabitants.

But don't worry?

Although it may be rational for us to engage trade with this alien AI, the researchers ponder the consequences if the cure for cancer involves, say, building an army of nanobots from blueprints provided by the AI. In a sort of reverse-Contact scenario, the researchers imagine a scenario in which the machine blueprints turn out to be malicious. Perhaps humans build these cancer-curing nanobots and they are actually programmed to deplete Earth of certain vital resources.

The scenarios offered by the researchers are pretty far out, but are worth taking seriously in the event we ever establish contact with an extraterrestrial intelligence. Still, that's not necessarily a reason to refrain from opening the message. "Our main argument is that a message from ETI cannot be decontaminated with certainty," Hippke and Learned conclude in their paper. "Overall, we believe that the risk is very small (but not zero), and the potential benefit very large, so that we strongly encourage to read an incoming message."

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$8.5 Billion Expansion Planned at Chicago's O'Hare Airport

Posted: 26 Feb 2018 02:33 PM PST

Source: City Hall close on $8.5 billion O'Hare expansion deal

Chicago is on the verge of striking a historic $8.5 billion deal with airline carriers at O'Hare to give the airport its largest-ever terminal expansion, adding dozens of gates and 3 million square feet to its footprint. Central to the plan to modernize and grow the airport is the construction of a new Global Terminal, which would replace Terminal 2 and serve larger aircraft for international flights, according to a source with knowledge of the deal.

[...] The expansion would be complete by 2026, and the work could potentially create tens of thousands of jobs over the next eight years, the source said. It could also give O'Hare a chance to rise above its routinely dismal ranking for on-time flights.

[...] [The] mayor has said he could deliver on the long-elusive dream of a high-speed rail line between downtown and O'Hare. Four powerhouse firms, including Elon Musk's The Boring Company, have shown interest in designing, building, financing, operating and maintaining an express train.The city is hoping for a travel time of 20 minutes or less, with express trains running every 15 minutes for most of the day at fares cheaper than a taxi or Uber ride.

Also at the Chicago Tribune.

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10,000-Year-Clock Being Installed in Texas

Posted: 26 Feb 2018 01:05 PM PST

Construction begins on Jeff Bezos' $42 million 10,000-year clock

Installation has finally begun on Jeff Bezos' 10,000-year clock, a project that the Amazon CEO has invested $42 million in (along with a hollowed-out mountain in Texas that Bezos intends for a Blue Origin spaceport), with the goal of building a mechanical clock that will run for 10 millennia.

It's a monumental undertaking that Bezos and the crew of people designing and building the clock repeatedly compare to the Egyptian pyramids. And as with the pharaohs, it takes a certain amount of ego — even hubris — to consider building such a monument. But it's also an unparalleled engineering problem, challenging its makers to think about how to keep a machine intact, operational and accurate over a time span longer than most human-made objects have even existed.

Consider this: 10,000 years ago, our ancestors had barely begun making the transition from hunting and gathering to simple agriculture, and had just figured out how to cultivate gourds to use as bottles. What if those people had built a machine, set it in motion, and it was still running today? Would we understand how to use it? What would it tell us about them?

The actual idea for the clock comes from Danny Hillis, who originally proposed a 10,000-year clock in 1995 in Wired as a way to think about the long-term future of humanity and the planet. That idea grew into the Clock of the Long Now, a project by the Long Now Foundation, which Hillis went on to co-found to build an actual, working version of the proposed clock.

Also at CNBC.

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Swedish PM Does Not Rule Out Use of Army to End Gang Violence

Posted: 26 Feb 2018 11:34 AM PST

Sweden will do whatever it takes, including sending in the army, to end a wave of violence that has seen a string of deadly shootings, Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said in Wednesday.

Sweden's murder rate is relatively low in international terms, but gang violence has surged in recent years and Swedes are worried that the police are unable to cope.

In 2016, the latest year for which official statistics are available, 106 people were murdered in Sweden, a country of 10 million.

But Swedish TV reported there were over 300 shootings, mostly in turf battles between gangs over drugs, protection rackets and prostitution.

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