Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Will Amazon's Indoor Rainforest Actually Benefit Its Employees?

Amazon unveiled the newest addition to its Seattle campus today — three glass and concrete domes filled with a jungle's worth of tropical plants. The Spheres, as they're called, are meant to serve as a place for meetings and collaborative work. Communal spaces, many in the shape of nests, are scattered throughout the lush interior. The $4 billion project is a chance for Amazon to flaunt its continued success and wow potential employees, but it could also function as a test of sorts. Green

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Speech Recognition Tech Falls Prey to Secret Messages

You hear one thing, but the computer hears another. What's going on here? Two researchers from the University of California, Berkeley have exploited the technique computers use to decode human speech to hide messages inside snippets of audio. When translated by a speech recognition program like Mozilla's DeepSpeech, the computer ends up transcribing the hidden message instead of the sounds we hear. Do You Hear What I Hear? The method basically involves hiding a quiet sample of the audio

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The Melded Minds of Best Friends

Good friends like to think they're on the same wavelength. They aren't wrong. Besties laugh at the same jokes, like the same movies and hate the same people. And underlying all these likes and dislikes, close friends also share strikingly similar neural activity while thinking about them. Researchers at Dartmouth College analyzed brain scans of close friends and found that their brains tend to respond to the world in similar ways. As a next step, researchers want to see if it's possibl

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Chameleons, Already Dealt Unfair Share of Cool Traits, Also Have Fluorescent Heads

Maybe their moms told them nobody likes a showoff. That would explain why many species of chameleon are hiding fluorescent bone bumps on their heads that scientists only just discovered. Chameleons also have independently moving eyeballs, superlative tongues and sophisticated color-changing skills. The animals might use their glowing head bumps as signals to each other. These patterns of dots are invisible to a human eye, but may light up deep blue to the eye of another chameleon in a shaded

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Birds like to go steady before having kids.

 Perhaps you've heard that many bird species are monogamous, including swans and whooping cranes. But have you ever wondered how these long term lovers get together? Do they "date", or is it love (and breeding) at first sight? These scientists set out to answer these questions by studying the life history of the whooping crane. They found that "a substantial portion (62%) of breeding pairs started associating at least 12 months before first breeding, with 16 of 58 breeding pairs beginning to

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Monday, 29 January 2018

Here's Your Lunar Eclipse Viewing Guide

On the morning of January 31, people with clear skies across western North America will have front-row seats to the first total eclipse of the Moon since September 2015. For 76 minutes, the full moon will lie completely immersed in the darkest part of Earth’s shadow, and the only light hitting the Moon will be the reddish glow from all of our planet’s sunrises and sunsets. But don’t fret if you live farther east — residents across the eastern half of the continent will still see an impressiv

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Naked Mole Rats Defy Mortality Mathematics

The Romantic Period of the early 1800s was marked by a morbid fascination with mortality and death. Poets, novelists and other artists tackled the eternal void head on, rather than whisking such dark topics under the proverbial rug. With death in vogue, even mathematicians took a stab on the beauty of ceasing to be. In 1825, British autodidact Benjamin Gompertz found the risk of death increases exponentially with age. After the age of 30, his depressing model shows, the risk of dying on a

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Fitness Tracker Data Exposes U.S. Military Bases

Strava is a fitness app that allows users to map their jogging routes, and recently it released a heatmap of where people are getting their fat-burn on around the world—secret military bases included. Oops. Strava released the heatmaps in November, and they showed off the fun side of generating data points while you sweat. But then someone came along and ruined all the fun. An Australian student tweeted that the route maps made United States military bases across the world easily iden

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Elon Musk's Flamethrowers Are Selling Like Hotcakes

Sick of asking people for a light? Trying to put the spark back into your life? One solution: Buy yourself a flamethrower. If you're looking to burn a hole in your pocket, Elon Musk's Boring Company is selling the fiery devices for just $500 (plus taxes and shipping), and by all indications, they're going fast. Musk has been tweeting order counts by the thousand, and he most recently pegged the number at 7,000. The Tesla and SpaceX founder says he's planning to sell 20,000 total, in what

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Scientists Create a 'Princess Leia-Style Display' With Moving Light

People think they want holograms, but they (usually) don’t. These are illusions, images trapped on two-dimensional surfaces that give the impression of a three-dimensional object. What people really want are “volumetric images” — a display of free-floating light that actually takes up 3-D space, visible from all angles. (Bonus points if you can interact with it.) Many of the coolest movies have them, from Tony Stark’s displays in Iron Man, to the projection table in Avatar, and perhaps th

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Saturday, 27 January 2018

Psychopaths May Be Immune to Contagious Laughter

Having a good laugh is, among other things, a great way to bond socially. In fact, we’re much more likely to crow when we’re with other people than we are when we’re alone. And once you hear someone start, it’s hard not to crack up, too. However, a recent study in the journal Current Biology posits that this phenomenon might not be contagious for everyone, specifically for teen boys at risk of psychopathy. Elizabeth O’Nions of the University College London and her team tested three gro

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Friday, 26 January 2018

Does Psychology Need SWaG? The Ethics of Naturalistic Experiments

Diederik Stapel. Brian Wansink. Nicolas Guéguen. Anyone who's been following recent debates over research integrity in psychology will recognize these as three prolific and successful academic psychologists who have suffered a total (Stapel) or ongoing (Wansink, Guéguen) fall from grace in the past few years. If you're not familiar with these cases, you can start by reading over Nick Brown's blog. Brown has been at the centre of the investigations into irregularities in Wansink and Guéguen, a

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Your Weekly Attenborough: Prethopalpus attenboroughi

These goblins don't work in banks, nor do they lurk in basements. They do, however, creep through the underbrush and conceal themselves in forest canopies in the hopes of waylaying oblivious passers-by. Goblin spiders are tiny, usually on the order of just a few millimeters long, but they can be ferocious hunters. One paper describes them leaping onto the backs of springtails and biting them into submission, despite their unfortunate steed's attempts to throw them off. There are many spec

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What Is "Social Priming"?

"Social priming" has recently been one of the most controversial topics in psychological science. With failures to replicate proliferating, the field has been called a train-wreck. But what exactly is it? Here's how I defined social priming in a 2016 post: “Social priming” has been the punching-bag of psychology for the past few years. The term “social priming” refers to the idea that subtle cues can exert large, unconscious influences on human behaviour. The classic example of a

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How the Challenger Disaster Changed NASA

By January of 1986 America was already bored with spaceflight. It was, in part, NASA’s own fault. The government agency had debuted the space shuttle program five years earlier with an aggressive public-relations message that the reusable vehicles would make access to space both affordable and routine. Projected frequency: more than 50 flights a year. But had space flight become… too routine? Even as the shuttle undertook fewer than one-tenth that many flights, excitement quickly wa

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No, the "Ring of Fire" is Not More Active or Even a Real Thing

"The Ring of Fire is really active!" Yup, that's what the headlines say. The supposed "Ring of Fire" -- the chain of volcanoes and earthquakes that sits at edge of the Pacific Ocean -- appears to be in the news a lot right now because of the eruptions in the Philippines and Indonesia and earthquakes in Alaska and California. However, this is all normal for these parts of the world, so let's not get all worked up about it. Let's start off with the basics: the "Ring of Fire" is not a thing,

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Flashback Friday: Psychologists can give you false memories of having committed a crime.

Photo: flickr/phphoto2010 You’ve probably heard of “false confessions,” when pressure from the police and long interrogations can make someone confess to a crime they didn’t actually commit. According to this study, it’s actually not that difficult to give someone a false memory of a serious crime. Here, researchers tried to make undergraduate volunteers believe they had committed a crime when they were younger by conducting interviews in which the researchers used “suggestive memory-retr

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In Memoriam: Conversations with my Grandpa

For several months, my grandfather—Ralph Bianchi—has been battling stage four kidney cancer. On Monday, that battle ended when he passed peacefully in his sleep. While you can read his obituary in today's Boston Globe, a few hundred words cannot wholly capture his legacy. Ralph Bianchi was an engineer and pioneer who dedicated his career to cleaning up the messes of others.  I wrote the following post in June of 2010, when an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil platform led to the larg

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Oldest Human Fossils Outside Africa Push Back Our Timeline...Again

Time keeps marching on...backwards, at least when it comes to telling the story of human evolution and migration. The oldest human fossils found outside of Africa suggest our species may have left that continent 200,000 years ago. You may recall that 2017 was the year that the conventional timeline for human evolution and migration finally toppled thanks to overwhelming archaeological and paleogenetic evidence. Our species is much older, and left its ancestral continent of Africa much e

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Robots to the Rescue: Saving Lives with Unmanned Vehicles

Last week’s sea rescue of Australian swimmers by an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) is just the start of a robotics revolution. On January 18, an Australian lifeguard piloted a drone over the turbulent ocean off the far north coast of New South Wales to rescue two teens in distress. As thrilling as it was to watch a tiny drone drop a flotation device to the two struggling swimmers, the rescue was relatively easy, using proven robotic technology in an ideal, wide-open environment. #RESCUE

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Remembering the Columbia Space Shuttle Disaster

NASA is holding its annual Day of Remembrance today to honor the crew members of Apollo 1 and space shuttles Challenger and Columbia, as well as other NASA employees who have lost their lives while advancing space exploration. This year marks the 15th anniversary of Columbia’s last space shuttle mission, which suffered a catastrophic and fatal end. The unfortunate event shook the science community and the public, but the lessons taken away from the incident overhauled NASA’s approach to s

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What's Going On Inside Your Home Assistant?

This past holiday season, you may have been one of the millions who either gave or received a home assistant like the Google Home or Amazon Echo. Voice-activated assistants are helpful, increasingly affordable, and make you feel like you’re truly living in the future. But, like, any new technology, there’s some reason to be cautious of our newest roommates. In a recent article exploring the social impact of the technology, Jennifer Yang Hui and Dymples Leong explain that much of the conce

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Trophy marks new era for citizen science in the classroom

By Egle Marija Ramanauskaite, Citizen Science Coordinator at EyesOnALZ December 21st, 2017, just might enter the history books as the first day a citizen science trophy was ever awarded to a school. The trophy, bestowed to 250 students for contributing to Alzheimer’s research, is now proudly displayed next to sports trophies & special achievement awards at a middle school in Boise, ID. But the story really begins back in May, 2017. By a happy coincidence, Erin Davis, a technolo

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KFC Chicken Box Turns Into DIY Drone

What pairs well with chicken wings? Maybe you're thinking buffalo sauce, beer or even celery sticks, but one company wants you to finish your wings with a fun drone flight (or crash, really depends). KFC announced Tuesday that customers can get a limited edition KFO (Kentucky Fried Object), which is a DIY drone, with select orders of Smoky Grilled Wings. Sure, it’s a lovely PR stunt, but exposing people to drone tech nonetheless. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nQVgmwQGBT0 The onlin

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Just Like Dolly: Scientists Clone 2 Monkeys

The world recently welcomed a pair of monkeys that were created using the same method used to clone Dolly the sheep. In a study published Wednesday in Cell, researchers successfully produced two genetically identical, long-tailed crab-eating macaques. Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua were born eight and six weeks ago, respectively, at the Chinese Academy of Sciences Institute of Neuroscience in Shanghai. It’s a technical benchmark that could have future applications in clinical research. Specie

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Could Personal 'Carbon Accounts' Decelerate Climate Change?

A recent call from British Member's of Parlaiment to put a 25 pence levy on disposable coffee cups, and bans on plastic products cropping up across the country, show that the UK is getting serious about tackling collective individual behavior which threatens the environment. Large-scale programs aimed at changing people’s behavior are rare – but they do happen. Take Britain’s various carrier bag charges, for example, which led to plastic bag use in England falling by 80 percent in just on

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Mayon Eruption Is Producing Lava Fountains and Pyroclastic Flows

In the Philippines, Mayon is erupting spectacularly, creating a lava flow that stretches over 3 kilometers (2 miles) from the crater, 600-meter lava fountains, pyroclastic flows that followed gullies for 5 kilometers (~3 miles) from the summit and explosions that are sending ash and volcanic debris over 3-5 kilometers (10,000-15,000 feet) into the air. Videos (below) show ash plumes and glowing debris spewing from the crater during these blasts and lava fountaining episodes. It's a notabl

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Do you know what's growing in your dishwasher? Do you want to?

I'll go ahead and answer that for you -- it's a definite "no." At least according to this study, which looked at what grows in the biofilms ("goop") that form along dishwasher door seals. First of all, it's kind of amazing that anything can survive the crazy environmental fluctuations of a dishwasher: from heat to salts and detergents, dishwashers are designed to destroy organic matter. But life finds a way, and apparently in biofilms, which in this case included large numbers of bacterial a

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A Tractor Beam for Human Levitation?

Light as a feather, stiff as a board: It's a game you may have played growing up, anxiously repeating the phrase in the hopes that your friend would start levitating. Thanks to new research published Monday in Physical Review Letters you might have an alternative means to lift you and your friends' besides fingertips and witchcraft. Researchers from the University of Bristol demonstrated that it’s possible to steadily trap particles larger than a wavelength in an acoustic tractor beam. If

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Norwegian Flight Rides a Blustery Jet Stream to New Record

Passengers aboard jetliners making transatlantic flights are getting from point A to B much far faster. On Thursday, a Norwegian 787 Dreamliner reached a speed of 779 mph after getting some help from a vigorous, 224 mph tailwind. The flight, DY7014, set a new subsonic transatlantic record, flying from JFK Airport in New York to London’s Gatwick airport in 5 hours, 13 minutes. That’s roughly 30 minutes faster than average, and three minutes faster than the record set in 2015. “The passe

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The Hunt for Space Viruses

Considering viruses are thought to be the most prevalent biological entities on Earth, you would expect that plenty of research has focused on finding them in space, right? Wrong. To date, almost no research has looked into the possibility of viruses “living” in space or on other worlds. But now, Portland State University biology professor Ken Stedman wants to kick-start the search. According to an article published in the February 2018 issue of Astrobiology, Stedman and his colleag

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Largest Earthquake in 3 Years Strikes Alaska

While many people in the lower 48 states were asleep, Alaska experienced its largest earthquake in over 3 years. A M7.9 earthquake occurred 280 kilometers to the Southeast of Kodiak Island ... or, in other words, in the middle of the ocean near almost nothing. However, when it comes to earthquakes, occurring in the middle of the ocean has the potential of being just as dangerous as on land as there is the potential for a tsunami. Directly after the earthquake, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Cen

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Unexpected Eruption at Japan's Kusatsu Triggers Avalanche

An eruption at Japan's Kusatsu triggered an avalanche at a ski area on the volcano, injuring at least 25 with possibly more people missing. UPDATE 1/23: One person has died and at least 15 were injured. The eruption was unexpected, with so far no evidence of any warning signs from the volcano. News reports say that rocks littered the upper slopes of the volcano and the ski lodge was hit by volcanic debris as well. Additionally, the blast "triggered an avalanche". Although the reports I've se

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If We Start Geoengineering, There's No Going Back

When it comes to climate change, speed kills. The temperature changes that are causing heat waves, intense storms and other climate aberrations are dangerous today because they're happening so fast. The climate has indeed been as warm, and warmer even, in the past, but it reached those temperature levels over the course of thousands or millions of years — long enough for the changes to occur gradually. This time around, the climate is being altered too fast for animal and plant life to ad

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Sushi's to Blame for a Man's 5-Foot Tapeworm

A Fresno, Calif. man is rethinking his diet after one of his favorite dishes came back to bite him in the butt. Dr. Kenny Banh who works in the emergency room in the Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno shared a horrifyingly fascinating story about one of his patients on a recent episode of "This Won't Hurt a Bit," a podcast where experts of medicine share strange and fascinating medical stories. As Banh explained, a young man came into the emergency department complaining of b

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Thursday, 25 January 2018

Remembering the Columbia Space Shuttle Disaster


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Remembering the Columbia Space Shuttle Disaster

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Flu Season Has Exposed Life-Threatening Flaws in Medical Supply Chains


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What Happened the Last Time Antarctica Melted?


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Droning While Drunk Is Now Illegal in New Jersey


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Flu Season Has Exposed Life-Threatening Flaws in Medical Supply Chains

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What Happened the Last Time Antarctica Melted?

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Droning While Drunk Is Now Illegal in New Jersey

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Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Largest ever yellow star is 1300 times bigger than sun

A monster version of our sun has been found, the largest known member of the family of yellow stars to which our sun belongs.
The whopper sun emits light in similar wavelengths as our sun but its diameter is over 1300 times larger. That means it would engulf all the planets between Mercury and Jupiter if placed at the centre of our solar system. The star’s size also means it is touching its smaller, companion star (see diagram, below).
Largest ever yellow star is 1300 times bigger than sun
(Source: ESO)
Dubbed HR 5171 A, the star is located in the constellation Centaurus around 12,000 light years from Earth. It was already known to be a hypergiant, the largest class of stars, but its exact size hadn’t been well studied.
Now a team led by Oliver Chesneau of the Côte d’Azur Observatory in Nice, France, has taken a closer look with the Very Large Telescope in Atacama, Chile. They report that it is twice as large as expected.
It still isn’t the largest star we know about – that crown goes to UY Scuti, which is around 1700 times larger than our sun. But UY Scuti is in a different stage of stellar evolution and so belongs to a different family of stars called red stars.

Peanut sun

Both red and yellow stars can be hypergiants, but yellow hypergiants were previously thought to be at most 700 times the size of the sun. The new measurement of HR 5171 A shows they can be much bigger. HR 5171 A is 50 per cent larger than the red hypergiant Betelgeuse, which is located in the constellation Orion and is the ninth brightest star in the night sky.
Another surprise for Chesneau’s team was the discovery that HR 5171 A has a little brother. Previous observations suggested the star varied in brightness. Now the team has shown that this is due to a companion star that is around one third its size.
The two stars orbit each other, forming a binary system. However, though their centres are separated by more than the distance between our sun and Saturn, HR 5171 A is so large that the two are touching, forming a continuous peanut-shaped structure. Guess this star system ain’t big enough for two.

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

'Top five physics discoveries' chosen by magazine

Four-qubit quantum device (E Lucero)
Image captionQuantum computing - one of five physics discoveries that could "improve the everyday lives of ordinary people around the world"
Five physics discoveries with the potential to transform the world have been selected by a leading science magazine for its 25th birthday issue.
Quantum computing and science that could enable shoes to charge a mobile phone are among the list compiled by Physics World.
A potential new tumour treatment called hadron therapy and the "wonder-material" graphene also feature.
The magazine also picked its top five breakthroughs of the last 25 years.
In all, the publication compiled five lists of five to examine different aspects of physics.

Eternal riddles

Graphene has been one of the most talked-about discoveries in the last decade.
Its strength, flexibility and conductivity make it a potentially ideal material for bendable smartphones and superior prosthetic limbs.
But graphene has another, less-heralded property which could help it transform the everyday lives of people around the world.
Despite being just one atom thick, it is impervious to almost all liquids and gases.
Generating holes in sheets of graphene could therefore create a selective membrane - "the ultimate water purifier" - which might someday create drinking water from the sea.
"Predicting the future is a mug's game. Of course, we expect to get a few of them wrong," Hamish Johnston, editor of physicsworld.com told BBC News.
"Grandiose, utopian predictions that never materialise always look faintly ridiculous in years to come - have you seen anyone recently flying to work on a nuclear-powered jet-pack?"
Physics World is the monthly magazine of theInstitute of Physics and was first published in October 1988.
Selecting the five most important breakthroughs of its lifetime was "harder than choosing Nobel laureates", according to reporter Tushna Commissariat.
Cat's Eye Nebula
Image captionThe Cat's Eye Nebula is one of the "five best images" chosen by Physics World
"There have been so many eye-popping findings that our final choice is, inevitably, open to debate," she wrote.
"Yet for us, these five discoveries stand out above all others as having done the most to transform our understanding of the world."
They are, in chronological order:
The magazine's 25th anniversary issue also highlights five images that have allowed us to "see" a physical phenomenon or effect.
They range from the microscopic - electrons on a copper crystal - to the enormous - the Cat's Eye Nebula, as photographed by the Hubble Space Telescope.
The list of five "biggest unanswered questions" features some eternal riddles - "is life on Earth unique?" Another is: "what exactly is time?"
The final top five is a set of "fiendish physics-themed puzzles" devised by the British signals intelligence agency GCHQ.
The first has already appeared online - a jumbled set of letters on a page which need to be deciphered before arriving at a physics-themed answer.
A similar puzzle was recently used by GCHQ to attract potential employees.
It will be followed by another four problems, one per week throughout October, which will become progressively more challenging.
"We think the puzzles are going to really stretch even the brightest minds," says Matin Durrani, editor of Physics World.
"You won't need any physics to solve them, but they are certainly going to make you think and they're a fun way to celebrate our 25th anniversary.
"I also hope our top fives in the birthday issue will remind everyone just how vital, enjoyable and interesting physics can be."

Source: BBC

Friday, 5 January 2018

5 Futuristic Technologies Set to Change Our Lives Really Soon

From flying warehouses to smart toilets.
Flying warehouses, robot receptionists, smart toilets… do such innovations sound like science fiction or part of a possible reality? Technology has been evolving at such a rapid pace that, in the near future, our world may well resemble that portrayed in futuristic movies, such as Blade Runner, with intelligent robots and technologies all around us.
But what technologies will actually make a difference? Based on recent advancements and current trends, here are five innovations that really could shape the future.
1. Smart homes
Many typical household items can already connect to the internet and provide data. But much smart home technology isn't currently that smart.
A smart meter just lets people see how energy is being used, while a smart TV simply combines television with internet access.
Similarly, smart lighting, remote door locks or smart heating controls allow for programming via a mobile device, simply moving the point of control from a wall panel to the palm of your hand.
But technology is rapidly moving towards a point where it can use the data and connectivity to act on the user's behalf.
To really make a difference, technology needs to fade more into the background – imagine a washing machine that recognises what clothes you have put into it, for example, and automatically selects the right programme, or even warns you that you have put in items that you don't want to wash together.
Here it is important to better understand people's everyday activities, motivations and interactions with smart objects to avoid them becoming uninvited guests at home.
Such technologies could even work for the benefit of all.
The BBC reports, for example, that energy providers will "reduce costs for someone who allows their washing machine to be turned on by the internet to maximise use of cheap solar power on a sunny afternoon" or "to have their freezers switched off for a few minutes to smooth demand at peak times".
A major concern in this area is security. Internet-connected devices can and are being hacked – just recall the recent ransomware attack.
Our home is, after all, the place where we should feel most secure. For them to become widespread, these technologies will have to keep it that way.
2. Virtual secretaries
While secretaries play a very crucial role in businesses, they often spend large parts of their working day with time-consuming but relatively trivial tasks that could be automated.
Consider the organisation of a "simple" meeting – you have to find the right people to take part (likely across business boundaries) and then identify when they are all available. It's no mean feat.
Tools such as doodle.com, which compare people's availability to find the best meeting time, can help. But they ultimately rely on those involved actively participating. They also only become useful once the right people have already been identified.
By using context information (charts of organisations, location awareness from mobile devices and calendars), identifying the right people and the right time for a given event became a technical optimisation problem that was explored by the EU-funded inContext project a decade ago.
At that stage, technology for gathering context information was far less advanced – smart phones were still an oddity and data mining and processing was not where it is today.
Over the coming years, however, we could see machines doing far more of the day-to-day planning in businesses.
Indeed, the role of virtual assistants may go well beyond scheduling meetings and organising people's diaries – they may help project managers to assemble the right team and allocate them to the right tasks, so that every job is conducted efficiently.
On the downside, much of the required context information is relatively privacy-invasive – but then the younger generation is already happily sharing their every minute on Twitter and Snapchat and such concerns may become less significant over time.
And where should we draw the line? Do we fully embrace the "rise of the machines" and automate as much as possible, or retain real people in their daily roles and only use robots to perform the really trivial tasks that no one wants to do?
This question will need to be answered – and soon.
3. AI doctors
We are living in exciting times, with advancements in medicine and AI technology shaping the future of healthcare delivery around the world.
But how would you feel about receiving a diagnosis from an artificial intelligence? A private company called Babylon Health is already running a trial with five London boroughs which encourages consultations with a chatbot for non-emergency calls.
The artificial intelligence was trained using massive amounts of patient data in order to advise users to go to the emergency department of a hospital, visit a pharmacy or stay at home.
The company claims that it will soon be able to develop a system that could potentially outperform doctors and nurses in making diagnoses.
In countries where there is a shortage of medical staff, this could significantly improve health provision, enabling doctors to concentrate on providing treatment rather than spending too much time on making a diagnosis.
This could significantly redefine their clinical role and work practices.
Elsewhere, IBM Watson, the CloudMedx platform and Deep Genomics technology can provide clinicians with insights into patients' data and existing treatments, help them to make more informed decisions, and assist in developing new treatments.
An increasing number of mobile apps and self-tracking technologies, such as Fitbit, Jawbone Up and Withings, can now facilitate the collection of patients' behaviours, treatment status and activities.
It is not hard to imagine that even our toilets will soon become smarter and be used to examine people's urine and faeces, providing real-time risk assessment for certain diseases.
Nevertheless, to enable the widespread adoption of AI technology in healthcare, many legitimate concerns must be addressed. Already, usability, health literacy, privacy, security, content quality and trust issues have been reported with many of these applications.
There is also a lack of adherence to clinical guidelines, ethical concerns, and mismatched expectations regarding the collection, communication, use, and storage of patient's data.
In addition, the limitations of the technology need to be made clear in order to avoid misinterpretations that could potentially harm patients.
If AI systems can address these challenges and focus on understanding and enhancing existing care practices and the doctor-patient relationship, we can expect to see more and more successful stories of data-driven healthcare initiatives.
4. Care robots
Will we have robots answering the door in homes? Possibly. At most people's homes? Even if they are reasonably priced, probably not. What distinguishes successful smart technologies from unsuccessful ones is how useful they are.
And how useful they are depends on the context. For most, it's probably not that useful to have a robot answering the door. But imagine how helpful a robot receptionist could be in places where there is shortage of staff – in care homes for the elderly, for example.
Robots equipped with AI such as voice and face recognition could interact with visitors to check who they wish to visit and whether they are allowed access to the care home.
After verifying that, robots with routing algorithms could guide the visitor towards the person they wish to visit. This could potentially enable staff to spend more quality time with the elderly, improving their standard of living.
The AI required still needs further advancement in order to operate in completely uncontrolled environments. But recent results are positive.
Facebook's DeepFace software was able to match faces with 97.25 percent accuracy when tested on a standard database used by researchers to study the problem of unconstrained face recognition.
The software is based on Deep Learning, an artificial neural network composed of millions of neuronal connections able to automatically acquire knowledge from data.
5. Flying warehouses and self-driving cars
Self-driving vehicles are arguably one of the most astonishing technologies currently being investigated. Despite the fact that they can make mistakes, they may actually be safer than human drivers.
That is partly because they can use a multitude of sensors to gather data about the world, including 360-degree views around the car.
Moreover, they could potentially communicate with each other to avoid accidents and traffic jams.
More than being an asset to the general public, self-driving cars are likely to become particularly useful for delivery companies, enabling them to save costs and make faster, more efficient deliveries.
Advances are still needed in order to enable the widespread use of such vehicles, not only to improve their ability to drive completely autonomously on busy roads, but also to ensure a proper legal framework is in place.
Nevertheless, car manufacturers are engaging in a race against time to see who will be the first to provide a self-driving car to the masses. It is believed that the first fully autonomous car could become available as early as the next decade.
The advances in this area are unlikely to stop at self-driving cars or trucks. Amazon has recently filed a patent for flying warehouses which could visit places where the demand for certain products is expected to boom.
The flying warehouses would then send out autonomous drones to make deliveries. It is unknown whether Amazon will really go ahead with developing such projects, but tests with autonomous drones are already successfully being carried out.
The ConversationThanks to technology, the future is here – we just need to think hard about how best to shape it.
Leandro L. Minku, Lecturer in Computer Science,University of Leicester; Nervo Xavier Verdezoto D, Lecturer in Computer Science, University of Leicester, and Stephan Reiff-Marganiec, Senior Lecturer, University of Leicester

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