Tag Archives: awesome

#440253 This Week’s Awesome Tech Stories From ...

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE
Deepmind Says Its New Language Model Can Beat Others 25 Times Its Size
Will Douglas Heaven | MIT Technology Review
“DeepMind’s main [new] result is an AI with a twist: it’s enhanced with an external memory in the form of a vast database containing passages of text, which it uses as a kind of cheat sheet when generating new sentences. Called RETRO (for ‘Retrieval-Enhanced Transformer’), the AI matches the performance of neural networks 25 times its size, cutting the time and cost needed to train very large models.”

ROBOTICS
A Quadruped Humanoid Robot Might Be Able to Do It All
Evan Ackerman | IEEE Spectrum
“Swiss-Mile’s robot can stand on two legs, walk on four legs, and drive like a car. Last year, we wrote an article arguing that for legged robots, motorized wheels offer a number of significant advantages over feet. Locked wheels can behave similarly to point feet, and unlocking them gives legged robots the ability to travel both faster and more efficiently.”

NEUROSCIENCE
New Brain Maps Can Predict Behaviors
Monique Brouillette | Quanta
“Large-scale connectomics could give neuroscience the same kind of huge boost that fast, simple genome sequencing brought to genomics. …Recent work with C. elegans has demonstrated the power of large-scale connectomics. One experiment showed that it’s sometimes possible for scientists to predict the behavior of an animal from a knowledge of its connectome; another hinted at rules governing the linkage of neurons into working circuits.”

CRYPTOCURRENCY
A Bitcoin Boom Fueled by Cheap Power, Empty Plants and Few Rules
Corey Kilgannon | The New York Times
“Soaring Bitcoin values may be the investment talk of Wall Street, but a few hours north, in upstate New York, the buzz is about companies that are scrambling to create the digital currency by ‘mining’ it virtually with all types and sizes of computer farms constantly whizzing through transactions. In just a few years, a swath of northern and western New York has become one of the biggest Bitcoin producers in the country.”

SPACE
How Spacex’s Massive Starship Rocket Might Unlock the Solar System—and Beyond
Jonathan O’Callaghan | MIT Technology Review
“Much has already been made of Starship’s human spaceflight capabilities. But the rocket could also revolutionize what we know about our neighboring planets and moons. ‘Starship would totally change the way that we can do solar system exploration,’ says Ali Bramson, a planetary scientist from Purdue University. ‘Planetary science will just explode.’i”

SCIENCE
To See Proteins Change in Quadrillionths of a Second, Use AI
Karmela Padavic-Callaghan | Wired
“Researchers have long wanted to capture how protein structures contort in response to light. But getting a clear image was impossible—until now. …[Researchers] have combined machine learning and quantum mechanical calculations to get the most precise record yet of structural changes in a photoactive yellow protein (PYP) that has been excited by light. Their study, published in Nature in November, showed that they were able to make movies of processes that occur in quadrillionths of a second.”

FUTURE
Optimism Is the Only Way Forward’: The Exhibition That Imagines Our Future
David Smith | The Guardian
“i‘It’s a needle we tried to thread throughout the whole exhibition,’ says Rachel Goslins, director of the Arts and Industries Building. ‘How do we be hopeful without being naive and how do we surface challenges without creating more anxiety? Everybody wanted to be part of this exhibition because there’s a real hunger on the part of artists, designers and scientists to be part of a narrative that allows people to imagine the future they want and not the future they fear.’i”

ENVIRONMENT
We’re a Step Closer to Geoengineering the Oceans
Brian Kahn | Gizmodo
“The US government has moved one step closer to turning science fiction into reality. On Wednesday, the federally funded National Academy of Sciences released a new report laying out six avenues to alter the oceans in an attempt to suck more carbon dioxide out of the sky and store it for centuries to come.”

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#440200 This Week’s Awesome Tech Stories From ...

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE
AI Training Is Outpacing Moore’s Law
Samuel K. Moore | IEEE Spectrum
“The increase in transistor density would account for a little more than doubling of performance between the early version of the MLPerf benchmarks and those from June 2021. But improvements to software as well as processor and computer architecture produced a 6.8-11-fold speedup for the best benchmark results.”

SENSORS
Tiny Salt-Grain-Sized Camera Snaps Hi-Res Full-Color Images
Michael Irving | New Atlas
“Researchers at Princeton and the the University of Washington have developed a tiny camera, the size of a grain of salt, which can snap sharp, full-color images. It’s made with a metasurface that captures light, which could be scaled up to turn entire surfaces into sensors. …The resulting images are far more crisp than other small sensors.”

ROBOTICS
Grasping Robotic Drone Can Land on a Branch Like a Freakin’ Bird
George Dvorsky | Gizmodo
“SNAG’s feet and legs were modeled after those of peregrine falcons, but instead of wings, this robot achieves flight with a quadcopter drone. Made from lightweight materials, it can carry 10 times its own weight. The bot’s ‘bones’ are made from 3D-printed plastic, while its muscles and tendons are built from motors and fishing line.”

COMPUTING
Microsoft Makes Breakthrough in Quest to Use DNA as Data Storage
Phillip Tracy | Gizmodo
“The company announced in a new research paper the first nanoscale DNA storage writer, which the research group expects to scale for a DNA write density of 25 x 10^6 sequences per square centimeter, or ‘three orders of magnitude’ (1,000x) more tightly than before. What makes this particularly significant is that it’s the first indication of achieving the minimum write speeds required for DNA storage.”

ENERGY
Renewables Are Set to Soar
James Temple | MIT Technology Review
“New renewable electricity capacity will set another record this year, at 290 gigawatts, according to a new report from the International Energy Agency. …By 2026, global capacity from these carbon-free sources will rise more than 60% over last year’s levels, the intergovernmental research organization now projects. …In addition, renewables will account for 95% of the overall capacity growth in the power sector over that period.”

SCIENCE
Quantum Simulators Create a Totally New Phase of Matter
Charlie Wood | Quanta
“Today the Cambridge group unveiled their most significant discovery yet: the detection of an elusive state of matter known as a quantum spin liquid, which exists outside the century-old paradigm outlining the ways in which matter can organize. It confirms a nearly 50-year-old theory predicting the exotic state. It also marks a step toward the dream of building a truly useful universal quantum computer.”

COMPUTING
How Much Has Quantum Computing Actually Advanced?
Dan Garisto | IEEE Spectrum
“Lately, it seems as though the path to quantum computing has more milestones than there are miles. …For a measured perspective on how much quantum computing is actually advancing as a field, we spoke with John Martinis, a professor of physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and the former chief architect of Google’s Sycamore.”

ETHICS
The Movement to Hold AI Accountable Gains More Steam
Khari Johnson | Wired
“New York’s City Council last month adopted a law requiring audits of algorithms used by employers in hiring or promotion. The law, the first of its kind in the nation, requires employers to bring in outsiders to assess whether an algorithm exhibits bias based on sex, race, or ethnicity. Employers also must tell job applicants who live in New York when artificial intelligence plays a role in deciding who gets hired or promoted.”

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#440047 This Week’s Awesome Tech Stories From ...

NEUROSCIENCE
Can Digital Reality Be Jacked Directly Into Your Brain?
Adam Rogers | Wired
“The idea of uploading a synthetic experience into a mind has been a load-bearing member in science fiction for at least 75 years… But in real life (that’s what this is, right?), we’re a long way from a data port in the nape of every neck. Neuroscientists can decode the signal coming out of the brain well enough to move a cursor or a robotic arm, though they can’t achieve the fluid elegance of a biological connection. Signal going in is even trickier.”

VIRTUAL REALITY
Someone Just Bought a Strip of Virtual ‘Land’ for Over $2.4 Million
Shoshana Wodinksy | Gizmodo
“For that mega-investment, the firm got 116 virtual land ‘parcels,’ which adds up to about 6,090 square feet of land—a little larger than the size of your average basketball court. For reference, while prices for IRL plots of land vary wildly by state, some estimates put the average price per square foot in the US at around $123, meaning that the real-world equivalent of this purchase would have cost about $750,000, instead of…$2.4 million.”

HEALTH
Could One Shot Kill the Flu?
Matthew Hutson | The New Yorker
“Until recently, it’s been beyond the reach of molecular biology. But new technologies are extending our abilities, and researchers are learning how to see through the flu’s disguises. Without knowing it, we’re living on the cusp of a remarkable scientific achievement. One of the world’s longest pandemics could soon be coming to an end.”

COMPUTING
Supercomputers Flex Their AI Muscles
Samuel K. Moore | IEEE Spectrum
“MLCommons, the industry organization that’s been setting realistic tests for AI systems of all sizes…released results from version 1.0 of its high-performance computing benchmarks, called MLPerf HPC, this week. …Compared to MLPerf HPC version 0.7, basically a warmup round from last year, the best results in version 1.0 showed a 4- to 7-fold improvement.”

CRYPTOCURRENCY
Japanese Firms Will Test a Bank-Backed Cryptocurrency in 2022
I. Bonafacic | Engadget
“Japan is about to take a significant step toward developing a digital currency. Per Reuters, a consortium made up of approximately 70 Japanese firms said this week they plan to launch a yen-based cryptocurrency in 2022. What’s notable about the project, tentatively called ‘DCJPY,’ is that three of the country’s largest banks will back it.”

GENOMICS
The UK Government Wants to Sequence Your Baby’s Genome
Grace Browne | Wired
“In October, the government announced that Genomics England, a government-owned company, would receive funding to run a research pilot in the UK that aims to sequence the genomes of between 100,000 and 200,000 babies. Dubbed the Newborn Genomes Programme, the plan will be embedded within the UK’s National Health Service and will specifically look for ‘actionable’ genetic conditions—meaning those for which there are existing treatments or interventions—and which manifest in early life…”

BIOTECH
The Gene-Synthesis Revolution
Yiren Lu | The New York Times
“If the first phase of the genomics revolution focused on reading genes through gene sequencing, the second phase is about writing genes. Crispr, the gene-editing technology whose inventors won a Nobel Prize last year, has received far more attention, but the rise of gene synthesis promises to be an equally powerful development. Crispr is like editing an article, allowing us to make precise changes to the text at specific spots; gene synthesis is like writing the article from scratch.”

ROBOTICS
Robots Won’t Close the Warehouse Worker Gap Anytime Soon
Will Knight | Wired
“A rush to adopt more automation does not mean that artificial intelligence and robots will solve the worker shortage. Amazon’s prototype robots are not yet capable of doing the most challenging, and important, work inside its fulfillment centers: picking the many products stored on its shelves. They’re simply not smart enough.”

TRANSPORTATION
The Hyperloop Is Hyper Old
Vaclav Smil | IEEE Spectrum
“The artist, William Heath (1794–1840), shows many futuristic contraptions, including a four-wheeled steam-powered horse called Velocity, a suspension bridge from Cape Town to Bengal, a gun-carrying platform lifted by four balloons, and a giant winged flying fish conveying convicts from England to New South Wales, in Australia. But the main object is a massive, seamless metallic tube taking travelers from East London’s Greenwich Hill to Bengal, courtesy of the Grand Vacuum Tube Company.”

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#439893 This Week’s Awesome Tech Stories From ...

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE
Are We on the Verge of Chatting With Whales?
Christoph Droesser | Hakai Magazine
“An ambitious project is attempting to interpret sperm whale clicks with artificial intelligence, then talk back to them. …If Bronstein’s idea works, it is quite realistic to develop a system analogous to human language models that generates grammatically correct whale utterances. The next step would be an interactive chatbot that tries to engage in a dialogue with free-living whales.”

COMPUTING
Brain Implants Could Be the Next Computer Mouse
Antonio Regalado | MIT Technology Review
“While other brain-interface researchers grabbed the limelight with more spectacular demonstrations, Shenoy’s group has stayed focused on creating a practical interface that paralyzed patients can use for everyday computer interactions. …’if you can click, then you can use Gmail, surf the Web, and play music.’ Shenoy says he is developing the technology for people with ‘the worst afflictions and the most need.’i”

ROBOTICS
Boston Dynamics Wants You to Know Its Spot Robot Has Moves Like Jagger
I. Bonifacic | Engadget
“Is this what TikTok will look like when the robots take over? …In a new solo display, we get to see [Spot] move to ‘Start Me Up’ from The Rolling Stones in honor of the 40th anniversary of their 1981 album Tattoo You. And if you thought Spot dancing was too close to the uncanny valley, wait until you see it lip-sync.”

AUTOMATION
This Chemist Is Reimagining the Discovery of Materials Using AI and Automation
Simon Lewson | MIT Technology Review
“i‘In the Matter Lab, we only attack a problem after asking three questions,’ says [Alán] Aspuru-Guzik. ‘Does it matter for the world? If not, then fuck it. Has somebody else already done it? If the answer is yes, there’s no point. And is it remotely possible?’ Here, the word ‘remotely’ is key. Aspuru-Guzik wants to tackle challenges that are within the range of feasibility, but barely so. ‘If a material is too easy,’ he says, ‘let other people find it.’i”

SPACE
A Once-Quiet Battle to Replace the Space Station Suddenly Is Red-Hot
Eric Berger | Ars Technica
“A Houston-based company called Axiom Space has been most public about its intentions, talking for a few years now about developing the world’s ‘first commercial space station.’ But this week, two other options emerged for NASA: Nanoracks and Lockheed Martin announced their intent to build a space station called ‘Starlab,’ and another team led by Blue Origin and Sierra Space revealed plans to construct an ‘Orbital Reef.’i”

ETHICS
‘Yeah, We’re Spooked’: AI Starting to Have Big Real-World Impact, Says Expert
Nicola Davis | The Guardian
“i‘The AI community has not yet adjusted to the fact that we are now starting to have a really big impact in the real world,’ [Stuart Russell] told the Guardian. ‘That simply wasn’t the case for most of the history of the field—we were just in the lab, developing things, trying to get stuff to work, mostly failing to get stuff to work. So the question of real-world impact was just not germane at all. And we have to grow up very quickly to catch up.’i”

IMPACT
Alphabet Designed a Low-Cost Device to Make Drinking Water From Air. Now It’s Open-Sourced
Adele Peters | Fast Company
“Because larger water infrastructure projects, like desalination plants, take many years to plan and build, the small devices could help fill the gap in the meantime. ‘This can leapfrog a lot of that and go directly to the source with a small device that’s solar powered,’ says Jackson Lord, lead author of the paper, who previously worked at X on the project.”

ART
Making This Album With AI ‘Felt Like Wandering in and Enormous Labyrinth’
James Vincent | The Verge
“The end result of this three-way trade [between humans and AI] is Shadow Planet, an atmospheric album in which snippets of folk songs and electronic hooks emerge like moss-covered logs from a fuzzy bog of ambient loops and disintegrating samples. It is a complete album in and of itself: a pocket musical universe to explore.”

TECHNOLOGY
Eight Things We Learned From the Facebook Papers
Russell Brandom, Alex Heath, and Adi Robertson | The Verge
“For months, Facebook has been shaken by a steady leak of documents from whistleblower Frances Haugen, beginning in The Wall Street Journal but spreading to government officials and nearly any outlet with an interest in the company. Now, those documents are going much more public, giving us the most sweeping look at the operations of Facebook anyone not directly involved with the company has ever had.”

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#439853 This Week’s Awesome Tech Stories From ...

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE
Facebook Is Researching AI Systems That See, Hear, and Remember Everything You Do
James Vincent | The Verge
“[Facebook’s AI team] imagines AI systems that are constantly analyzing peoples’ lives using first-person video; recording what they see, do, and hear in order to help them with everyday tasks. Facebook’s researchers have outlined a series of skills it wants these systems to develop, including ‘episodic memory’ (answering questions like ‘where did I leave my keys?’) and ‘audio-visual diarization’ (remembering who said what when).”

ROBOTICS
Drone Delivers Lungs to Transplant Recipient, a Medical First
George Dvorsky | Gizmodo
“As the Canadian Press reports, some 80% of donated lungs cannot be used owing to problems having to do with insufficient oxygenation or a failure to meet minimal functional standards. And like any transplanted organ, time is of the essence; the quicker an organ can be brought to the patient, the better. Hence the desire to ship organs through the air, rather than through congested city traffic.”

SPACE
At 90, William Shatner Becomes the Oldest Person to Reach ‘the Final Frontier’
Daniel E. Slotnick | The New York Times
“The actor spoke of how the experience of seeing the blue earth from space and the immense blackness of outer space had profoundly moved him, demonstrating what he called the ‘vulnerability of everything.’ The atmosphere keeping humanity alive is ‘thinner that your skin,’ he said.”

SECURITY
Fraudsters Cloned Company Director’s Voice in $35 Million Bank Heist, Police Find
Thomas Brewster | Forbes
“What [the bank manager] didn’t know was that he’d been duped as part of an elaborate swindle, one in which fraudsters had used ‘deep voice’ technology to clone the director’s speech, according to a court document unearthed by Forbes in which the U.A.E. has sought American investigators’ help in tracing $400,000 of stolen funds that went into US-based accounts held by Centennial Bank.”

CRYPTOCURRENCY
This Is the True Scale of China’s Bitcoin Exodus
Gian M. Volpicelli | Wired UK
“The figures, gathered by the Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance (CCAF) found that by the end of August 2021, the percentage of bitcoin mining taking place in China had ‘effectively dropped to zero.’ That is a staggering reversal for a country that, as late as September 2019, was believed to be home to 75.53 percent of global bitcoin mining operations.”

TRANSPORTATION
90% of New Cars Sold in Norway Are Now Electric or Plug-in Hybrids
Adele Peters | Fast Company
“In 2012, electric and plug-in hybrid cars made up just 3% of new car sales in Norway. By 2019, that had jumped to 56%. Now, the country wants to get to 100% EV sales by 2025—and it might actually succeed. The Norwegian Automobile Federation recently reported that if past trends continue, it’s possible that the last fossil fuel-powered vehicle in Norway might be sold as soon as next year.”

FUTURE
Pentagon Wants AI to Predict Events Before They Occur
Natasha Bajema | IEEE Spectrum
“What if by leveraging today’s artificial intelligence to predict events several days in advance, countries like the United States could simply avoid warfare in the first place? It sounds like the ultimate form of deterrence, a strategy that would save everyone all sorts of trouble and it’s the type of visionary thinking that is driving U.S. military commanders and senior defense policymakers toward the rapid adoption of artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled situational awareness platforms.”

DIGITAL MEDIA
AI Fake-Face Generators Can Be Rewound to Reveal the Real Faces They Trained On
Will Douglas Heaven | MIT Technology Review
“In a paper titled This Person (Probably) Exists, researchers show that many faces produced by GANs bear a striking resemblance to actual people who appear in the training data. The fake faces can effectively unmask the real faces the GAN was trained on, making it possible to expose the identity of those individuals.”

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