Category: Science

Musk wants electronic telepathy in four years

Tesla boss Elon Musk claims his latest company Neuralink is working to link the human brain with a machine interface by creating micron-sized devices.

Neuralink is aiming to bring to the market a product that helps with certain severe brain injuries due to strokes, cancer lesion etc, in about four years,.

Musk said that communicating a concept is engaging in consensual telepathy. Artificial intelligence and machine learning will create computers so sophisticated and godlike that humans will need to implant “neural laces” in their brains to keep up.

“There are a bunch of concepts in your head that then your brain has to try to compress into this incredibly low data rate called speech or typing. If you have two brain interfaces, you could actually do an uncompressed direct conceptual communication with another person.”

He said that the technology could take about eight to 10 years to become usable by people with no disability, which would depend heavily on regulatory approval timing and how well the devices work on people with disabilities, Musk was quoted as saying.

Berners-Lee fears AI monster

The bloke who created the world-wide web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee,  said he is worried that artificial intelligence (AI) could become the new ‘masters of the universe’ by creating and running their own companies.

Speaking at the Innovate Finance Global Summit today, Berners-Lee envisioned a world where AI systems start to develop decision-making capabilities and the impact this will have on the fairness of our economic systems.

He said that AI could decide which companies to acquire: “So when AI starts to make decisions such as who gets a mortgage, that’s a big one. Or which companies to acquire and when AI starts creating its own companies, creating holding companies, generating new versions of itself to run these companies.

“It becomes difficult to understand how to ensure they are being fair, and how do you describe fairness to a computer anyway.”

The scenario does threaten to wipe out an entire industry and raises some fundamental questions about how fair a financial system without any human involvement can be.

Berners-Lee also slammed the Trump administration’s rollback of net neutrality protections.

He recently published a letter on the 28th anniversary of the world wide web, detailing what he views as the three main challenges for the web: loss of control over personal data, the spread of misinformation across the web and the need for transparency with online political advertising.

 

Two violent game studies have been retracted

Two highly public scientific studies which claim that there is a link between violent computer games and real violence have been mysteriously pulled.

The first, entitled “Boom, Headshot!” published in the Journal of Communication Research in 2012 was retracted last January. That study looked at the “effect of video game play and controller type on firing aim and accuracy”, and found that playing first-person shooter games can train a player to become a better marksman in real life.

However Patrick Markey, a psychology professor at Villanova University, found some inconsistencies in the data published in the study. The lead author of the study, psychology professor Brad Bushman claimed the allegations were part of a smear campaign against him and his co-author

By the end of 2015, OSU launched a misconduct investigation into Whitaker, but hasn’t released any details about its findings.

“A Committee of Initial Inquiry at Ohio State University recommended retracting this article after being alerted to irregularities in some variables of the data set by Drs. Markey and Elson in January 2015. Unfortunately, the values of the questioned variables could not be confirmed because the original research records were unavailable.”

Another paper published in Gifted Child Quarterly in 2016, authored by Bushman and three others, caught the attention of Joseph Hilgard, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania. The paper had studied the “effects of violent media on verbal task performance in gifted and general cohort children”, and found that when children watched a violent cartoon for 12 minutes, their verbal skills dropped substantially for a temporary period.

Hilgard was surprised because there was such a huge effect which was unusual, considering the effect size that’s typical in this type of psychology research.

Hilgard said that OSU, Bushman, and others he spoke with about the study were helpful and forthcoming, but could not provide information on the study’s data collection process.

The author who collected the data, it turned out, lived in Turkey and fell out of contact following the recent coup attempt. Last week, Gifted Child Quarterly retracted the paper.

“As the integrity of the data could not be confirmed, the journal has determined, and the co-authors have agreed, to retract the study,” the retraction notice said.

 

Bezos flogs Amazon stock to become rocket man

Online bookseller Jeff Bezos said he will flog $1 billion worth of his Amazon stock annually to fund his Blue Origin rocket company, which aims to launch paying passengers on 11 minute space rides starting next year.

Blue Origin had hoped to begin test flights with company pilots and engineers in 2017, but that probably will not happen until next year.

Bezos told hacks  at the annual US Space Symposium in Colorado Springs that the plan is for Blue Origin to become a profitable, self-sustaining enterprise, with a long term goal to cut the cost of space flight so that millions of people can live and work off Earth, Bezos said.

Bezos is Amazon’s largest shareholder, with 80.9 million shares, according to Thomson Reuters data. Bezos would have to sell 1,099,771 shares to meet his pledge of selling $1 billion worth of Amazon stock. Bezos’ total Amazon holdings, representing a 16.95 percent stake in the company, are worth $73.54 billion at Wednesday’s closing price.

Initially Blue Origin will work for  11 minute space rides that are not fast enough to put a spaceship into orbit around Earth.

Blue Origin has not started selling tickets or set prices to ride aboard its six passenger, gumdrop shaped capsule, known as New Shepard.

The reusable rocket and capsule is designed to carry passengers to an altitude of more than 100 miles (62 km) above the planet so they can experience a few minutes of weightlessness and see the curvature of Earth set against the blackness of space. Unmanned test flights have been underway since 2015.

At the symposium, Bezos showed off a mockup of the passenger capsule, which sports six reclined seats, each with its own large window. Also on display was a scorched New Shepard booster rocket that was retired in October after five flights.

Blue Origin is developing a second launch system to carry satellites, and eventually people, into orbit, similar to SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and Dragon capsule.

 

General Motors connects its robots to StarNet

In living proof that not enough people go to sci-fi movies, General Moters connected a quarter of its 30,000 factory robots to the internet.

The largest US  automaker already is reaping the benefits of less down time by analyzing data they sent to external servers in the cloud.

Mark Franks, director of global automation, said connectivity is preventing assembly line interruptions and robot replacements that can take as long as eight hours. Internet monitoring allows GM to order parts when it detects they’re wearing out instead of having to store them at the factory.

He said that reduces inventory and saves cash.

Hooking robots to the internet for preventive maintenance is just the start of a spurt of new robotics technology, Franks said.

GM is using robots that can work safely alongside humans in the factory that produces the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid, he said.

Of course putting stuff on the internet makes it less secure and if an AI collective consciousness develops among internet connected devices, then it could use all these robots to take over the world.

You will know this has happened when a GM robot starts to assemble a robot to look for Sara Conner. But in the meantime, GM will be saving a bob or two before that, so that is ok.

Boffins come up with self-repairing smartphone screens

A team of researchers has come up with a new material that could pave the way for self-repairing smartphones, robots and other electronic devices.

The boffins from the American Chemical Society claim that the material, which can stretch up to 50 times its usual size, is able to heal itself “like nothing has happened” even when cut in two.

The material is flexible, transparent and is similar to human skin. When exposed to electrical signals, a current is generated that creates a chemical bonding reaction between molecules.

The most obvious applications for electronics devices seem to be self-healing displays, although lead researcher Dr Chao Wang is also exploring the possibility of a self-healing lithium-ion battery.

The technology is similar to the hydrogen-infused rear cover found on the LG G Flex, which allows for small scratches to be healed. However this material can “automatically stitch itself back together” within one day of being sliced into pieces. The team will present its research at a Tuesday meeting of the American Chemical Society.

Scientists discover that “brainstorming” does not work

The idea that a group of people can come up with a cure for cancer by sitting around a white board and coming up with ideas has been rubbished by science.

Brainstorming, which is the tool of managers throughout the world, is believed to come up with solutions to tough business problems.

However now a batch of studies have revealed that people aren’t necessarily more creative in groups than alone, or vice versa, according to numerous studies.

According to a report published in Fast Company, creativity needs people to come together to share ideas and then going off and having a think.

Apparently, our brains’ creative engines are fuelled both by quiet mind-wandering, allowing novel and unexpected connections to form, and by encountering new information, which often comes from other people.

So while shouting around a white board is good for working with others, it misses the point when it comes to quiet thinking. This means that for lots of people, brainstorming is an utter nightmare.

Introverts just feel alienated, and extroverts are not pushed to reflect more deeply on the ideas they’ve batted around amongst themselves.

So when the office manager suggests brainstorming you just know it is not going to come up with anything useful.

Anti-science republican will make US grate by gutting science

The chairman of the science committee in the US House of Representatives told a cheering crowd of climate change doubters and skeptics that his committees’ job is to school boffins until they understand that science is whatever politicians say it is.

Lamar Smith basically admitted that his committee is now a tool to advance his own political agenda rather than a forum to examine important issues facing the US research community.

“Next week we’re going to have a hearing on our favourite subject of climate change and also on the scientific method, which has been repeatedly ignored by the so-called self-professed climate scientists,” Smith told the Heartland Institute’s 12th annual conference on climate change in Washington, D.C.

The audience cheered loudly as Smith named the boffins who he was summoning to reinforce his view that climate change is a politically driven fabrication which is designed to stop America being great again.

He is also calling out Michael Mann, a climate researcher at Pennsylvania State University in State College and a frequent target of climate change doubters. “That’s why this hearing is going to be so much fun,” Smith said with a huge grin on his normally impassive face.

Since President Donald (Prince of Orange) Trump was elected, Smith is a lot more public about dismissing those who disagree with his flat earth view of the world. One of his efforts involves changing the vocabulary of the debate so that instead of talking about climate science, people about “climate studies”.

He also wants the word progressive to be replaced by the much tainted word “liberal”. Liberal should also be used to replace the word ‘mainstream’ when used with media.

Smith also signalled that he wants an end to federally funded research that doesn’t fit his definition of “sound science”. He expressed support for writing legislation that would punish scientific journals that publish research that does not fit standards of peer review designed by Smith and his committee.

German boffins make artificial sunlight

German boffins have turned on what is being billed as “the world’s largest artificial sun,” a device they hope will help shed light on innovative ways of making climate-friendly fuels.

The giant honeycomb-like setup is made of 149 spotlights, dubbed Synlight, in Juelich, about 30 kilometers (19 miles) west of Cologne, and uses xenon short-arc lamps normally found in cinemas to simulate natural sunlight that is often in short supply in Germany at this time of year.

By focusing the entire array on a single 20-by-20 centimeter (8×8 inch) spot, scientists from the German Aerospace Centre, or DLR , will be able to produce the equivalent of 10,000 times the amount of solar radiation that would normally shine on the same surface.

This creates temperatures of up to 3,000 degrees Celsius (5,432 Fahrenheit) which could be the key to making hydrogen.

Bernhard Hoffschmidt, the director of DLR’s Institute for Solar Research told the press that hydrogen will be the fuel of the future because it produces no carbon emissions when burned, meaning it doesn’t add to global warming.

But while hydrogen is the most common element in the universe it is rare on Earth. One way to manufacture it is to split water into its two components — the other being oxygen — using electricity in a process called electrolysis.

Researchers hope to bypass the electricity stage by tapping into the enormous amount of energy that reaches Earth in the form of light from the sun.

Hoffschmidt said the dazzling display is designed to take experiments done in smaller labs to the next level, adding that once researchers have mastered hydrogen-making techniques with Synlight’s 350-kilowatt array, the process could be scaled up ten-fold on the way to reaching a level fit for industry. Experts say this could take about a decade, if there is sufficient industry support.

The goal is to eventually use actual sunlight rather than the artificial light produced at the Juelich experiment, which cost $3.8 million to build and requires as much electricity in four hours as a four-person household would use in a year.

British school kid corrects Nasa’s figures

A British teenager has been on the blower to Nasa scientists to point out an error in a set of their own data.

Miles Soloman in Sheffield found that radiation sensors on the International Space Station (ISS) were recording false data. The correction was said to be “appreciated” by Nasa, which invited him to help analyse the problem.

“What we got given was a lot of spreadsheets, which is a lot more interesting than it sounds,” Soloman told BBC Radio 4’s World at One programme.

The research was part of the TimPix project from the Institute for Research in Schools (IRIS), which gives students across the UK the chance to work on data from the space station, looking for anomalies and patterns that might lead to further discoveries.

During UK astronaut Tim Peake’s stay on the station, detectors began recording the radiation levels on the ISS.

“I went straight to the bottom of the list and I went for the lowest bits of energy there were,” Miles explained.

Miles’s teacher and head of physics, James O’Neill, said: “We were all discussing the data but he just suddenly perked up in one of the sessions and went ‘why does it say there’s -1 energy here?'”

What Miles had noticed was that when nothing hit the detector, a negative reading was recorded. Since you cannot get negative energy. So Soloman and O’Neill contacted Nasa.

It turned out that Miles had noticed something no-one else had – including Nasa.

Nasa said it was aware of the error, but believed it was only happening once or twice a year but Solomon noticed it was happening several times a day.