Category: Science

Apple claims to have invented the white paper bag

20140517100203708Fruity tax-dodging cargo cult and inventor of the rounded rectangle Apple, claims to have just invented the white paper bag.

In its patent Apple, which uses a lot of white paper bags points out that paper bags made of recycled material tend to be flimsy due to the amount of bleach used.

To fix this problem Apple has come up with a solution  by  holding the bag together with such a high proportion of recycled material.  Apple has apparently come up with a bundle of alterations that should help its bags remain white and environmentally friendly.

Those alterations include fancy reinforcements at the folds and gussets of the bag, another one at the bottom that sticks to the sides, and a handle “formed entirely of paper fibre yarn knitted in an 8-stitch circular knit pattern”.

Of course you can expect that one day Apple will make the “brave step” of removing the handles and moving to something more wireless.

Boffins make light solid

mad scientistResearchers have worked out a way of knitting light atoms together to make it “solid”.

In Physical Review X, which we get for the “Find Schroedinger’s cat puzzle”,  Princeton University electrical engineers have locked individual photons together so that they become like a solid object.

Dr. Andrew Houck, an associate professor of electrical engineering, said that it was something that we have never seen before and a new behaviour for light.

Basically they made an “artificial atom” from 100 billion atoms engineered to act like a single unit. They then brought this close to a superconducting wire carrying photons. The photons became entangled so that properties passed between the “atom” and the photons in the wire. The photons started to behave like atoms, correlating with each other to produce a single oscillating system.

What was weird was that the photons could be in two states at once – a bit like a US murderer with a good alibi.

Dr. Darius Sadri said the team had set up a situation where light effectively behaves like a particle in the sense that two photons can interact very strongly

“In one mode of operation, light sloshes back and forth like a liquid; in the other, it freezes.”

The team is hoping to use the solid light to simulate subatomic behaviour which is jolly useful for  statistical mechanics, and often simplify by assuming no interaction between particles and a system at equilibrium.

“The world around us is rarely in equilibrium.” The solidified light offers a chance to observe a subatomic system as it starts to diverge from equilibrium, with potential for a basic understanding of how these systems operate.”

Baidu and Nvidia steal your voice

lost voiceChinese internet giant Baidu and its chum Nvidia claim to have developed an artificial intelligence system which it claims, can successfully imitate your voice after hearing you speak for only thirty minutes.

At Baidu World, the company’s annual tech expo, CEO Robin Li launched the AI project entitled ‘Baidu Brain’, a tripartite initiative which it has undertaken in partnership with Nvidia. Baidu Brain is concerned with AI algorithms, computing power, and big data.

Li said that the system had extensive speech synthesis capabilities and could imitate you completely:

“Anyone just records 50 sentences as required in 30 minutes, and our speech synthesis technology could simulate the person’s voice. We could let everyone have their own voice model.”

We have heard this before. AT&T Labs once promised to bring dead celebrities back to life with a “custom voice” product called Natural Voices. The technology was acquired by speech synthesis specialists Nuance who abandoned it.

However it could have more spooky uses. You could, for example, mimic a general giving orders on the phone by building a database of his public speeches.

So far Baidu has not said what it can do in terms of voice cloning but it might be that in a few years you may been to share some passwords so that you know who you are talking to on the phone.


Zuckerburg snarks at SpaceX

pigs in spaceMark Zuckerberg was clearly gutted after SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket exploded on the launch pad destroying one of Facebook’s satellites and he was not backward at snarking at Elon Musk’s company for stuffing it up.

SpaceX  suffered a huge setback when one of its Falcon 9 rockets exploded on the launchpad at Cape Canaveral. The accident — described by SpaceX as “an anomaly” that occurred during the fuel loading process — also resulted in the destruction of Facebook’s Amos-6 satellite.

Zuckerberg a bit hacked off with SpaceX, and Musk and focused only on Facebook’s loss. “As I’m here in Africa, I’m deeply disappointed to hear that SpaceX’s launch failure destroyed our satellite that would have provided connectivity to so many entrepreneurs and everyone else across the continent,” wrote Zuckerberg.

He said that Facebook had developed other technologies like Aquila that will connect people as well, implying that SpaceX hadn’t. “We remain committed to our mission of connecting everyone, and we will keep working until everyone has the opportunities this satellite would have provided.”

The Amos-6 satellite marked the first step in Facebook’s plans to bring internet capability to parts of Sub-Saharan Africa. It was valued at between $95-200 million.



Google using AI to spot cancer

google-apple-maps-eric-schmidtGoogle has teamed up with some British researchers to come up with a way of using AI to  automatically differentiate between cancerous and healthy tissues on patient scans.

The partnership brings together leading clinicians and researchers at University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (UCLH) with some of the UK’s top technologists at DeepMind Health, which specialises in using machine learning to solve some of the world’s most difficult problems.

At present, it can take clinicians up to four hours to identify and differentiate between cancerous and healthy tissues on CT and MRI scans of head and neck cancer patients. This process, known as segmentation, is particularly difficult in head and neck cancer patients because their tumours are situated in extremely close proximity to healthy structures such as the eyes and nerves.

Before treatment can begin, clinicians identify the cancerous areas on the scans, and the areas that must be protected from radiation. It is essential that cancerous and healthy tissues are identified accurately so that radiotherapy treatment can be effectively targeted, giving the highest radiation dose possible to the tumour, while preserving healthy, surrounding structures and reducing possible side effects.

The purpose of the research collaboration between UCLH and DeepMind is to develop artificial intelligence technology to assist clinicians in the segmentation process so that it can be done more rapidly but just as accurately. Clinicians will remain responsible for deciding radiotherapy treatment plans but it is hoped that the segmentation process could be reduced from up to four hours to around an hour.

The research involves anonymised radiotherapy images of up to 700 former head and neck cancer patients who have consented to their data being used for research purposes.

Dr Yen-Ching Chang, clinical lead for radiotherapy at UCLH, said: “This is very exciting research which could revolutionise the way in which we plan radiotherapy treatment.

“Developing machine learning which can automatically differentiate between cancerous and healthy tissue on radiotherapy scans will assist clinicians in planning radiotherapy treatment. This has the potential to free up clinicians to spend even more time on patient care, education and research, all of which would be to the benefit of our patients and the populations we serve.

“This collaboration also means our patients continue to benefit from the most cutting-edge developments in healthcare technology.”

Professor Kathy Pritchard-Jones, chief medical officer of London Cancer, the integrated cancer system that serves a population of more than 3.5 million, said: “Head and neck cancer is rare and is one of the most complex tumour sites to treat. Therefore, if we can develop technology to assist in planning radiotherapy treatment for these tumours, we would expect that such a breakthrough would be transferable to other types of cancer. This would not only benefit UCLH patients, but patients across the country.”

DeepMind Co-Founder Mustafa Suleyman said: “This real-world application of artificial intelligence (AI) technology is exactly why we set up DeepMind. We’re incredibly excited to be working with the radiotherapy team at UCLH to explore how AI can help to reduce the time it takes to plan radiotherapy treatment for head and neck cancer patients. We hope this work could lead to real benefits for cancer patients across the country and for the clinicians who treat them.”

Princeton boffins come up with open source super-chip

mad scientistPrinceton University researchers have emerged from their smoke filled labs with a new open source computer chip that promises to boost the performance of data centres.

Dubbed “Piton” after the metal spikes driven by rock climbers into mountainsides to aid in their ascent the chip was shown off at the Hot Chips conference.

The Princeton researchers designed their chip specifically for massive computing systems. Piton could substantially increase processing speed while slashing energy usage. The chip architecture is scalable — designs can be built that go from a dozen to several thousand cores.

The architecture enables thousands of chips to be connected into a single system containing millions of cores.

David Wentzlaff, a Princeton assistant professor of electrical engineering and associated faculty in the Department of Computer Science said that Piton was based on a new thinking about computer architecture.  It was built specifically for data centers and the cloud.

“The chip we’ve made is among the largest chips ever built in academia and it shows how servers could run far more efficiently and cheaply.”

The current version of the Piton chip measures six millimetres by six millimetres and has 460 million transistors, each of which are as small as 32 nanometres.

The bulk of these transistors are contained in 25 cores. Most personal computer chips have four or eight cores.

In recent years companies and academic institutions have produced chips with many dozens of cores — but the readily scalable architecture of Piton can enable thousands of cores on a single chip with half a billion cores in the data centre, Wentzlaff said.

“What we have with Piton is really a prototype for future commercial server systems that could take advantage of a tremendous number of cores to speed up processing,” Wentzlaff said.

At a data centre, multiple users often run programs that rely on similar operations at the processor level. The Piton chip’s cores can recognise these instances and execute identical instructions consecutively, so that they flow one after another. Doing so can increase energy efficiency by about 20 percent compared to a standard core, the researchers said.

Piton chip parcels out when competing programs access computer memory that exists off of the chip so they do not clog the system. This approach can yield an 18 percent increase in performance compared to conventional means of allocation.

The Piton chip also gains efficiency by its cache memory management. In most designs, cache memory is shared across all of the chip’s cores. But when multiple cores access and modify the cache memory it is less efficient. Piton assigns areas of the cache and specific cores to dedicated applications. The researchers say the system can increase efficiency by 29 percent per chip.

Wentzlaff said. “We’re also happy to give out our design to the world as open source, which has long been commonplace for software, but is almost never done for hardware.”

Data based law investment is with us

stupid-lawyer1Two Harvard undergraduates have come up with an evil service which uses data to work out if a civil litigation is worthwhile fighting.

The process allows investors to cover the cost of a lawsuit in exchange for a share of the financial settlement which was what billionaire Peter Thiel did when he secretly funded a lawsuit from Hulk Hogan against Gawker Media.

The new start-up is called Legalist and uses an algorithm  to look at civil lawsuits to predict case outcomes and determine which civil lawsuits are worth investing in.

Legalist cofounder Eva Shang has received a $100,000 investment from Thiel’s foundation to build the startup. She told Business Insider that the Gawker lawsuit is something that the company would be staying away from. Instead, the company will be focusing on commercial and small-business lawsuits.

Legalist says it uses an algorithm of 58 different variables including, the presiding judge is and the number of cases the judge is currently working on. The algorithm has been fed cases dating back to 1989 and helps people figure out how long a case will last and the risks associated with it.

In a presentation at Y Combinator’s Demo Day on Tuesday, the founders claimed that the startup funded one lawsuit for $75,000 and expects a return of more than $1 million. Shang says the $1.40 is earned for every $1 spent in litigation financing, which can prove to be a profitable enterprise when you’re spending hundreds of thousands of dollars.

So it looks like there will be a world where investors can invest in lawsuits and clean up.  Has the world gone stark raving mad? [Yes.ed]

Boffins come up with octobot

2016_rt_mw_octobot_001A team of Harvard boffins has invented the world’s first soft bodied robot which is modelled on an octopus.

Apparently designers have a lot to learn from cephalopods. They can squeeze themselves into and around nearly any obstacle.

The team built a robot with an exterior made of silicone. It uses a small reservoir of hydrogen peroxide as fuel and when it washes over flecks of platinum embedded within the octobot, the resulting chemical reaction produces gas that inflates and flexes the robot’s arms.

According to Nature magazine, the gas flows through a series of 3D-printed pneumatic chambers that link the octobot’s eight arms and by flexing it is propelled through water.

At the moment the weak point is the fuel which lasts between four and eight minutes. It also has no sense of direction. The researchers are now working to add sensors to the robot, which would allow it to detect objects in its environment and navigate toward or away from them.

The scientists envision these robots being used for marine search and rescue, oceanic temperature sensing, and military surveillance.

Cern boffins stage human sacrifice to Kali

MURDER_AT_CERN_-_DISTURBING_HUMAN_SACRIFICE_VIDEO_SURFACES_-_YouTube_Bosses at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (Cern) are not amused as a video has tipped up showing staff conducting a mock ritual human sacrifice to the goddess Kali.

The video includes the staged “stabbing” of a woman. It is filmed from the perspective of a secret viewer watching from a window above who, as the ceremony reaches its climax, lets out a string of expletives and flees with the camera still running.

The video, which circulated online, shows several individuals in black cloaks gathering in a main square at Europe’s top physics lab.

The statue of the Hindu deity Shiva is on permanent display at the complex, home of the Large Hadron Collider.

A Cern spokeswoman told Agence France-Presse that the scenes were filmed on its premises but without official permission or knowledge.

“Cern does not condone this type of spoof, which can give rise to misunderstandings about the scientific nature of our work.”

The “investigation” under way was an “internal matter”,  she said.

Those responsible for the prank had access badges.  But at the end of the day, boffins have a weird sense of humour.

Geneva police told AFP they had been in contact with Cern about the video but were not involved in an official investigation.

Cern hosts machinery carrying out some of the world’s most elaborate particle research, including an enormously powerful proton smasher trying to find previously undiscovered particles.

Kali was not available for comment, but everyone knows she does not want her sacrifices stabbed and the ritual needs to be conducted in a grave yard. Plus it is men who are sacrificed to her – never women.

Technology might be making humans stupid

The digital revolution might be making us stupid according to boffins who have been worried about the long term effects of using gadgets rather than thinking.

Studies on sat-nav use have found that while they helped motorists on their journey, they affected memory.  While sat-nav users have found that while they helped motorists on their journey, they affected memory and drivers remembered less about what they have seen along the way – and could not retrace the route when asked to drive it again.

Another study found that museum-goers given digital cameras remembered objects they had photographed less well than other exhibits.

Evan Risko, a professor of cognitive psychology at the University of Waterloo, warned: ‘If you are allowed to store some to-be-remembered information on a computer, chances are you won’t devote cognitive real estate to remembering it. ‘As a result, your ability to remember that information without the computer will likely be reduced.

‘There’s little doubt that these new technologies are affecting what we remember.’

In a paper co-authored by University College London neuroscientist Sam Gilbert, Dr Risko reviewed studies into cognitive offloading – or using the outside world to save on brainpower.

Professor Risko and Dr Gilbert said: ‘It was argued that the act of taking a photograph led individuals to offload the memory for the object onto the camera.’

One study found that people who searched for information on the internet had an over-inflated sense of their own intelligence afterwards. Asked questions on completely unrelated topics, they maintained they knew more than others.

Technology could be causing ‘digital dementia’ in children wcan’t memorise basic maths.

Writing in the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences, the academics said cognitive offloading is not new.

Something as simple as twisting the head to view an upside down picture or writing dates in a diary takes strain away from the brain.

In some cases, it is helpful, with technology allowing us to ‘subvert our cognitive limits’.

However, the long-term consequence of living in a modern, hi-tech environment in which we ‘constantly offload our cognition’ are unknown.

Professor Risko said: ‘Cognitive offloading undoubtedly brings huge benefits but also potential costs.

One study found that people who searched for information on the internet had an over-inflated sense of their own intelligence afterwards
‘We are just beginning to understand these effects.

All this explains Brexit and the rise of Donald Trump and why music today is such rubbish.