- Tesla: Full Self Driving Is “Very Far Away” From Being Legal
- Fast Radio Bursts Could Be Signs of Alien Life — and We Just Found 13 More of Them
- Doctor Who Gene Edited Babies Rejects Death Penalty Rumor
- Physicist: Black Holes Could be Portals for Hyperspace Travel
- Americans Support Facial Recognition Tech — When It Works
- This AI Identifies Genetic Disorders by Looking at Face Shape
- This Startup Wants to Launch Giant Glowing Ads Into the Night Sky
- IBM Just Unveiled Its First Commercial Quantum Computer
Posted: 09 Jan 2019 10:18 AM PST
The Best Policy
Tesla might just kill the stereotype of the sleazy car salesperson.
On Wednesday, Electrek shared refreshingly forthright emails Tesla sales advisers sent to buyers looking to purchase the company’s Full Self Driving (FSD) package.
“Before I take your order for the FSD, I would like to point out that the legal aspect of Full Self Driving is very far away,” read the email. “Especially in Europe, the USA might be closer to get it legalized… so even when we have the hardware ready, and your car would have it, you would most likely not be able to use it for a very long time.”
The Hardest Part
Tesla first introduced the FSD package in 2016 alongside the release of its Autopilot 2.0 hardware. The idea was that people could buy the package, and as soon as Tesla finished the software and obtained the necessary regulatory approvals, it would update Autopilot remotely. Boom. The cars could now drive themselves.
More than two years later, and owners are still waiting for their fully autonomous cars. The fact that Tesla removed the FSD package from its website in October — interested buyers now have to order it “off the menu” — doesn’t exactly instill confidence that the end of that wait is nigh, either.
Money to Burn
Based on the Electrek story, though, that apparently isn’t discouraging some new Tesla buyers from ordering the $5,000 FSD package.
Perhaps they still believe CEO Elon Musk’s seemingly constant predictions that FSD is just a year away. Or maybe they anticipate a long wait, but think ordering early might decrease it slightly — signs now point to the need for a hardware update, too, and it’s unlikely Tesla will be able to roll that out to all its cars at once.
Whatever the reason people have for still buying FSD, at least Tesla is doing the right thing by setting realistic expectations.
The post Tesla: Full Self Driving Is "Very Far Away" From Being Legal appeared first on Futurism.
Posted: 09 Jan 2019 10:00 AM PST
Fast radio bursts (FBRs) are short pulses of radio waves emanating from far beyond our galaxy. Since 2007, researchers have observed more than 60 FRBs, but just one example of a repeating FBR — that is, multiple bursts coming from the same source.
Now, a Canadian-led team of scientists has added 13 new FBRs to the growing total, including the second-ever known repeater — and the discovery could change not only our understanding of the mysterious signals, but also how we look for them.
According to the team, they collected their data using the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME), a radio telescope at the Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory in British Columbia, Canada, during a three-week period in the summer of 2018.
In the weeks following that initial period, the team noticed additional pulses from one of the FBRs, making it just the second known repeater to date.
The CHIME team’s research does more than reveal that the previously discovered repeating FBR wasn’t a cosmic anomaly — it also changes what we thought we knew about detecting the phenomena and their sources.
In the past, researchers discovered most FBRs at a frequency near 1400 MHz, but CHIME operates in the 400 MHz to 800 MHz range. The researchers detected some of the new FBRs at the lower end of that range, too, meaning we might be able to detect future FBRs at even lower frequencies.
Most of the newly discovered FRBs also showed signs of a phenomenon known as “scattering,” which provides clues into the environment near the source of an FBR.
“We haven’t solved the problem [of FBRs],” CHIME team member Tom Landecker said, “but it’s several more pieces in the puzzle.”
READ MORE: Canada’s CHIME Telescope Detects Second Repeating Fast Radio Burst [EurekAlert]
The post Fast Radio Bursts Could Be Signs of Alien Life — and We Just Found 13 More of Them appeared first on Futurism.
Posted: 09 Jan 2019 09:32 AM PST
Dial it Back
On Monday, Francis Crick Institute geneticist Robin Lovell-Badge speculated that the Chinese scientist who let babies with edited genomes come to term could face the death penalty.
“Well, he read the newspapers that came out overnight, which suggested that he may face the death penalty, so he sent me an email overnight to say that he's fine,” Lovell-Badge said, according to Inverse. “I think he's obviously trying to build up his own case to defend his actions.”
He has been under constant guard in an apartment on campus at Southern University of Science and Technology for at least the last few weeks. It’s unclear whether that means he’s under house arrest or whether the guards are there for his protection.
“He could be had up on all sorts of charges of corruption and being guilty of corruption in China these days is not something you want to be,” Lovell-Badge told The Telegraph Monday. “Quite a few people have lost their heads for corruption."
But based on his BBC appearance, it would seem that Lovell-Badge was merely taking a guess on He’s fate, not sharing any concrete new facts.
READ MORE: Chinese Scientist Who Gene-Edited Babies Responds to Death Penalty Rumors [Inverse]
More on He Jiankui: Those CRISPR Baby Experiments Were Just Banned By The Chinese Government
The post Doctor Who Gene Edited Babies Rejects Death Penalty Rumor appeared first on Futurism.
Posted: 09 Jan 2019 08:30 AM PST
Come Sail Away
For years, scientists have theorized that black holes could serve as portals for interdimensional travel. But there’s always been a problem: how could a hyperspace traveler ever approach a black hole without getting torn to teeny-tiny shreds by the black hole’s unholy gravitational forces?
It turns out that some black holes are gentler than others, according to University of Massachusetts Dartmouth physicists. If a black hole is large enough and rotating quickly enough, astronauts would have a nice, smooth ride the whole way down, according to research published in the journal Physical Review D.
“One of the most cherished science fiction scenarios is using a black hole as a portal to another dimension or time or universe,” wrote Gaurav Khanna, a National Science Foundation-funded physicist who worked on the project, in a new essay published Wednesday by The Conversation. “That fantasy may be closer to reality than previously imagined.”
Computer simulations show that the singularity inside a giant, rapidly-spinning black hole is far weaker than in other black holes — to the point it may not even crush a wayward spaceship. In fact, its passengers may not even notice the force exerted by the black hole, long thought to obliterate anything that comes near, at all.
In his essay, Khanna likened the hypothetical experiences to moving your hand through a candle’s flame. Sure, the fire is hot enough to melt your skin away if you leave it there too long, but you’ll only feel a fleeting warmth if you whisk it through quickly enough.
The jury is still out on whether hyperspace travel exists. But if anyone ever wanted to give it a shot, now they know where to aim.
READ MORE: Rotating black holes may serve as gentle portals for hyperspace travel [The Conversation]
More on black holes: Here's How You Could Survive Being Sucked Into a Black Hole
The post Physicist: Black Holes Could be Portals for Hyperspace Travel appeared first on Futurism.
Posted: 08 Jan 2019 02:29 PM PST
Americans aren’t as concerned about facial recognition tech as they once were.
That’s the takeaway from a newly released survey conducted by the Center for Data Innovation, a nonprofit and nonpartisan research institute.
“People are often suspicious of new technologies, but in this case, they seem to have warmed up to facial recognition technology quite quickly,” the center’s director, Daniel Castro, told Nextgov.
But just because Americans are less wary of facial recognition tech doesn’t mean regulators should be.
Between December 13 and 16, 3,151 adult internet users in the U.S. shared their feelings on facial recognition tech with the Center via a Google Surveys poll.
This poll asked each participant to rate how strongly they agreed or disagreed with 10 statements, such as “The government should strictly limit the use of facial recognition technology even if it comes at the expense of public safety” and “Police departments should be allowed to use facial recognition technology to help find suspects if the software is correct 90 [percent] of the time.”
Only 26.2 percent of participants in the Center’s facial recognition survey supported strict regulations on the technology, with that number dropping to 18.3 percent if the regulations came at the expense of public safety.
When the public policy group Brookings Institution conducted its own facial recognition survey in September, 35 percent of the 2,000 participants thought the government should regulate facial recognition “very much.”
Castro has one possible explanation for why Americans are getting over any initial wariness of facial recognition tech so quickly: their phones.
"[T]hese results are likely explained by the fact that consumers are increasingly familiar with facial recognition technology, such as using it to unlock their phones, so they understand its convenience,” he told FedScoop. “When they understand a technology, they are usually willing to embrace it if they come out ahead.”
Accuracy Not Included
According to the Center’s facial recognition survey, Americans are also apparently more willing to embrace the tech if it actually works the way it’s supposed to.
The percentage of participants who “agreed strongly” that police departments should be allowed to use facial recognition technology to help find suspects dropped significantly each time the hypothetical accuracy of the technology dropped — 41.1 percent strongly agreed with the tech’s use if it was 100 percent accurate, 23.4 percent if 90 percent accurate, and 17.7 percent if 80 percent accurate.
And that’s the problem with the current use of facial recognition technology — in general, it’s not terribly accurate. It’s also biased, with mistakes disproportionately involving people who aren’t white and aren’t men.
So, while lawmakers should consider the average citizen’s opinion when deciding how they should regulate facial recognition tech, they shouldn’t discount the opinion of the many experts all saying the same thing: we must regulate this technology.
READ MORE: Survey: Americans Warming to Use of Facial Recognition Tech [Nextgov]
More on facial recognition: Microsoft President Calls for Government Rules for Facial Recognition Technology
The post Americans Support Facial Recognition Tech — When It Works appeared first on Futurism.
Posted: 08 Jan 2019 01:38 PM PST
Rare genetic disorders are, by definition, rare. That can make diagnosing them difficult for clinicians, and without a proper diagnosis, a patient might not receive the best possible treatment.
A new AI-powered smartphone app called Face2Gene could change that.
Its creators say it can outperform doctors at diagnosing rare genetic disorders in children by analyzing kids’ faces. Eventually, the app could help children across the globe receive better treatment for their conditions — if it can overcome a few hurdles.
Face to Face
The Face2Gene app is the work of Boston-based digital-health company FDNA, which describes its work in a paper published in the journal Nature Medicine on Monday.
According to the paper, the team trained Face2Gene’s deep-learning algorithm to identify rare genetic disorders by first feeding it more than 17,000 images of people diagnosed with one of 216 genetic syndromes. From that data, it learned to look for distinctive facial features associated with specific disorders.
When the researchers tested the app on 502 images it hadn’t seen before, Face2Gene provided the correct diagnosis roughly 65 percent of the time. When given the option of providing 10 possible diagnoses, the correct one made Face2Gene’s list 91 percent of the time.
The team also tested Face2Gene’s disorder-identification abilities against those of 49 clinical geneticists attending a workshop on birth defects. For that unofficial trial, the researchers asked the participants to diagnose 10 children with "fairly recognizable" genetic syndromes based on a single photo of their face.
The results were striking. Only two of the clinical geneticists provided correct diagnoses for more than 50 percent of the photos. Face2Gene correctly diagnosed seven out of the 10 children.
Ideally, Face2Gene would be able to correctly identify a disorder every time. To get closer to that goal, the FDNA team needs more training data, which it hopes to generate by making the app available to healthcare professionals for free.
It also needs that training data to include more non-Caucasian faces — a 2017 study using Face2Gene to identify Down Syndrome found the healthcare app was 80 accurate in its diagnosis if a photo featured a white Belgian child, but only 37 accurate if it featured a black Congolese child.
Even at its current rate of accuracy, though, the app has already impressed at least one rare disease specialist: the University of Oxford’s Christoffer Nellåker, who was not associated with the research.
“The real value here is that for some of these ultra-rare diseases, the process of diagnosis can be many, many years,” he told New Scientist. “This kind of technology can help narrow down the search space and then be verified through checking genetic markers.”
“For some diseases, it will cut down the time to diagnosis drastically,” Nellåker continued. “For others, it could perhaps add a means of finding other people with the disease and, in turn, help find new treatments or cures.”
READ MORE: AI Can Identify Rare Genetic Disorders by the Shape of Someone's Face [New Scientist]
The post This AI Identifies Genetic Disorders by Looking at Face Shape appeared first on Futurism.
Posted: 08 Jan 2019 12:06 PM PST
Russian startup StartRocket says it wants to display enormous billboard-style advertisements in the night sky using arrays of cubesats, a vision it illustrates in a concept video featuring what appear to be the McDonald’s and KFC logos hovering in the sky like new constellations.
According to project leader Vlad Sitnikov, this commodification of the night sky is the next logical step in advertising.
“We are ruled by brands and events,” he told Futurism. “The Super Bowl, Coca Cola, Brexit, the Olympics, Mercedes, FIFA, Supreme and the Mexican wall. The economy is the blood system of society. Entertainment and advertising are at its heart. We will live in space, and humankind will start delivering its culture to space. The more professional and experienced pioneers will make it better for everyone.”
StartRocket says it will launch what it calls the Orbital Display by 2020, and start displaying ads in the night sky by 2021. Its cubesats will orbit at an altitude between 400 and 500 kilometers (about 250 to 310 miles) and will only be visible from the ground for about six minutes at a time, a company representative told Futurism.
The company didn’t share how much a space advertisement might cost, but a pitch deck sent to Futurism opined that brands will pay for the ads because the “ego is brighter than the sun.”
Randy Segal, an attorney who specializes in space and satellite law at the firm Hogan Lovells, told Futurism that the project may be technically feasible, but that StartRocket could run into regulatory hurdles around the world.
“Is it technologically possible? Yes,” Segal said. “Is it something that regulators will permit? Questionable.”
Segal said it’s likely that the company will allow particular jurisdictions to request that the satellites not display ads overhead. The primary regulatory challenge the company might face, she predicted, would be whether its satellites will interfere with aviation safety.
The concept isn’t without precedent, Segal pointed out. A Japanese startup plans to launch a pair of microsatellites that will fire off artificial shooting stars on command.
It’s easy to imagine public outcry at the idea of brands hijacking the night sky as more marketing real estate.
But Alexey Skorupsky, another member of the StartRocket team, pushed back at those criticisms. He pointed to the New Zealand company that launched a disco ball into orbit last year, a move that annoyed scientists — though, Skorupsky said, it was only visible for a few minutes at a time.
“I think scientists can use this time for peeing or having a coffee,” Skorupsky told Futurism.
And in the end, he argued, the commercialization of space is inevitable.
“If you ask about advertising and entertainment in general — haters gonna hate,” Skorupsky said. “We are developing a new medium. At the advent of television no one loved ads at all.”
More on small satellites: Newly Created Tiny Satellites Are Key to Space Exploration
The post This Startup Wants to Launch Giant Glowing Ads Into the Night Sky appeared first on Futurism.
Posted: 08 Jan 2019 11:53 AM PST
While we’re still trying to figure out the possible advantages and applications of quantum computing, IBM has unveiled a sleek commercial quantum computer at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
The 20-qubit system, called the IBM Q System One, is essentially a nine-foot glass box that houses the components needed to make quantum computations work, including a cooler that keeps the qubits at just above absolute zero, around -460 Fahrenheit. IBM touts the Q as the “world’s first fully integrated universal quantum computing system.”
Rather than selling the Q System One, IBM is planning to hook it up to the internet, allowing researchers, scientists, and engineers to take advantage of it remotely.
The System One isn’t the most powerful quantum computer out there. In fact, IBM itself already built a more poweful 50-qubit machine back in 2017.
A quantum bit — or qubit for short — is the equivalent of the zeros and ones that form a “bit” in a classic binary computing system. The more qubits, the more computations the machine can do at a time.
20 qubits is not powerful enough to replace the big number-crunching computations a traditional data center has to take care of these days. Researchers believe quantum computers would actually need far more to outperform their binary counterparts.
But that’s not the point. IBM is emphasizing that the Q is mostly a symbolic first step into the world of commercial quantum computing. It could also help researchers find applications for quantum computing in the world of science, and business that could make it actually, you know, useful one day.
READ MORE: IBM unveils its first commercial quantum computer [TechCrunch]
More on quantum computers: The World's First Practical Quantum Computer May Be Just Five Years Away
The post IBM Just Unveiled Its First Commercial Quantum Computer appeared first on Futurism.
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