The Hottest Eight Years On Record Were the Last Eight Years
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge:
The last eight years have been the eight hottest years on record, NASA and the National Oceanic Administration (NOAA) confirmed today. 2021 ranks as the sixth hottest year on record, the agencies said, as global average temperatures trend upward. Rankings aside, there were plenty of red flags throughout 2021 to show us how remarkable the year was for temperature extremes. "The fact is that we've now kind of moved into a new regime ... this is likely the warmest decade in many, many hundreds, maybe 1000s of years," says Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies. "There's enough change that it's having impacts locally."
In North America, those local impacts included epically bad summer heat, even for typically cool regions. In late June and early July, the Pacific Northwestern US and Western Canada struggled with record-smashing temperatures that buckled roads and melted power cables. In the desert further south, California's Death Valley reached a blazing 130 degrees Fahrenheit (54.4 degrees Celsius) in July, potentially breaking the world record for the hottest temperature ever recorded on the planet -- for the second year in a row. Across the Atlantic, Europe experienced sweltering heat, too. A reading of 119.8 degrees Fahrenheit (48.8 degrees Celsius) in Sicily might have broken the European record for maximum temperature. (The World Meteorological Organization is still working to vet those records.) All told, July 2021 was the hottest month humans have ever recorded, according to NOAA.
Heat trapped in the world's oceans also reached record levels in 2021, according to research published this week. Ocean heatwaves are likely twice as common now as they were in the early 1980s, and they can be devastating for marine life and coastal communities. They kill coral, take a toll on fishing and crabbing industries, and can even make droughts worse onshore. Temperatures might have been even hotter in 2021, were it not for a La Nina event. La Nina is a recurring climate phenomenon defined by cooler-than-average waters in the eastern equatorial Pacific, which has predictable effects on weather patterns worldwide.
World's Largest Fish Breeding Grounds Found Under the Antarctic Ice
sciencehabit shares a report from Science.org:
The most extensive and densely populated breeding colony of fish anywhere lurks deep underneath the ice of the Weddell Sea, scientists aboard an Antarctic research cruise have discovered. The 240 square kilometers of regularly spaced icefish nests, east of the Antarctic Peninsula, has astonished marine ecologists. "We had no idea that it would be just on this scale, and I think that's the most fantastic thing," says Mark Belchier, a fish biologist with the British Antarctic Survey and the government of South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands, who was not involved in the new work.
In February 2021, the RV Polarstern -- a large German research ship -- was breaking through sea ice in the Weddell Sea to study marine life. While towing video cameras and other instruments half a kilometer down, near the sea floor, the ship came upon thousands of 75-centimeter-wide nests, each occupied by a single adult icefish -- and up to 2100 eggs. "It was really an amazing sight," says deep-sea biologist Autun Purser of the Alfred Wegener Institute, who led the ship's underwater imaging. Sonar revealed nests extending for several hundred meters, like a World War I battlefield scarred by miniature craters. High-resolution video and cameras captured more than 12,000 adult icefish (Neopagetopsis ionah). The fish, which grow to about 60 centimeters, are adapted to life in the extreme cold. They produce antifreezelike compounds, and -- thanks to the region's oxygen-rich waters -- are among the only vertebrates to have colorless, hemoglobin-free blood.
Including three subsequent tows, the team on the RV Polarstern saw 16,160 closely packed fish nests, 76% of which were guarded by solitary males. Assuming a similar density of nests in the areas between the ship's transects, the researchers estimate that about 60 million nests cover roughly 240 square kilometers, they report today in Current Biology. Because of their sheer numbers, the icefish and their eggs are likely key players in the local ecosystem. [...] The vast colony, the researchers say, is a new reason to create a marine protected area in the Weddell Sea, an idea has been proposed five out of the past 6 years to the intergovernmental treaty organization that regulates fisheries there.
Yahoo Tells Japan Employees They Can Work Anywhere, Commute By Plane When Necessary
Yahoo Japan is telling its 8,000 employees they can work anywhere in the country -- and
even be flown into work when the job requires it -- bucking the trend of companies looking to return workers to offices in the third year of the coronavirus pandemic. The Japan Times reports:
The program takes effect April 1 and allows employees to commute by plane, which wasn't previously an option, the company said in a statement Wednesday. While Yahoo is best known for its internet portal in Japan, it's a unit of SoftBank Group's Z Holdings, which also owns the Line messaging app and PayPay mobile payments service. Ninety percent of the company's employees are now working remotely, according to President Kentaro Kawabe, who tweeted that an overwhelming majority of them said their performance has held steady or improved at home. "So we're allowing Yahoo employees to live anywhere in Japan. This doesn't mean we're denying the benefits of the office -- you'll be able to fly in when needed," he added.
Yahoo is setting a commuting budget of $1,300 per month per worker and lifting its previous daily cap. In-person communication will still be encouraged as the initiative is also aimed at bolstering morale and well-being, with social gatherings to be subsidized by [$44] per employee a month. The company has had an "office anywhere" remote work system in place since 2014, however it had capped the number of work-from-home days before the virus took hold to five days a month.
Jack Dorsey Announces Bitcoin Legal Defense Fund
Former Twitter CEO and Block founder Jack Dorsey has
announced plans to create a "Bitcoin Legal Defense Fund" with Chaincode Labs co-founder Alex Morcos and Martin White, who appears to be an academic at the University of Sussex. CoinTelegraph reports:
The announcement was sent on a mailing list for Bitcoin developers, bitcoin-dev, at 13:45 UTC on Wednesday from an email address appearing to belong to Dorsey. The announcement stated the fund will help provide a legal defense for Bitcoin developers, who are "currently the subject of multi-front litigation." "Litigation and continued threats are having their intended effect; individual defendants have chosen to capitulate in the absence of legal support," the email stated, referencing open-source developers who are often independent and, therefore, susceptible to legal pressure.
The announcement went on to describe the Bitcoin Legal Defense Fund as a "nonprofit entity that aims to minimize legal headaches that discourage software developers from actively developing Bitcoin and related projects." "The main purpose of this Fund is to defend developers from lawsuits regarding their activities in the Bitcoin ecosystem, including finding and retaining defense counsel, developing litigation strategy, and paying legal bills," it stated. Initially, the fund will include volunteers and part-time lawyers for developers to "take advantage of if they so wish," although, the email also states that "the board of the Fund will be responsible for determining which lawsuits and defendants it will help defend." According to the email, the fund's first project will be to take over the existing defense of Ramona Ang's "Tulip Trading Lawsuit" against developers for alleged misconduct over access to a Bitcoin (BTC) fortune.
Carmakers Launch Desperate Attempt To Delay Massachusetts Right-to-Repair Law
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Gizmodo:
Major car manufacturers aren't giving up on their efforts to stymie Massachusetts' right to repair legislation. Less than two years after residents in the state voted in favor of updated right to repair laws that would let independent auto repair shops receive telematics data from vehicles, groups representing auto manufacturers are now introducing their own new proposals that would delay the law's implementation. If passed, the two new proposals, first viewed by Motherboard, would push back the starting date of Massachusetts' right to repair law to 2025, three years later than the original 2022 start date. Though supporters of the proposal argue the extra years would give automakers more time to comply with the laws, the efforts were derided by critics like Massachusetts Right to Repair Coalition Director Tommy Hickey.
"Massachusetts consumers have spoken, and the law now gives them the right to control their own repair data so that they can get their car fixed where they want," Hickey told the Gloucester Daily Times. "However, instead of listening to their customers and attempting to comply with the ballot initiative, automakers and dealers filed a baseless, anti-democratic lawsuit." For those unaware, Massachusetts' 2020 law was intended to make it easier for small auto shops to access diagnostic data about vehicles without the need for proprietary tools available only to manufacturers. When the law goes into effect, The Drive notes, it would require any automaker doing business in the state to allow this telematics data to be accessible through a smartphone app.
The auto industry has argued making such tools more widely available could come with cybersecurity and vehicle safety risks, though that line of argument has often come across as more akin to fearmongering than actual concern for consumers' well-being. (One ad paid for by the Alliance for Automotive Innovation tried to convince viewers a sexual predator could use vehicle data to stalk and prey upon their victims). Industry groups representing carmakers even went as far as to file a lawsuit in U.S. District Court arguing the law was unconstitutional. The ruling on that suit has yet to be determined.
More Than 1 Million Fewer Students Are In College, the Lowest Numbers In 50 Years
1 million fewer students are enrolled in college now than before the pandemic began. NPR reports:
According to new data released Thursday, U.S. colleges and universities saw a drop of nearly 500,000 undergraduate students in the fall of 2021, continuing a historic decline that began the previous fall. Compared with the fall of 2019, the last fall semester before the coronavirus pandemic, undergraduate enrollment has fallen a total of 6.6%. That represents the largest two-year decrease in more than 50 years.
The nation's community colleges are continuing to feel the bulk of the decline, with a 13% enrollment drop over the course of the pandemic. But the fall 2021 numbers show that bachelor's degree-seeking students at four-year colleges are making up about half of the shrinkage in undergraduate students, a big shift from the fall of 2020, when the vast majority of the declines were among associate degree seekers. Graduate program enrollment, which saw an increase in the fall of 2020, declined slightly, down by nearly 11,000 in the fall of 2021. Overall, enrollment in undergraduate and graduate programs has been trending downward since around 2012, but the pandemic turbocharged the declines at the undergrad level. "The easiest assumption is that they're out there working," says Doug Shapiro, who leads the research center at the National Student Clearinghouse, where the new data comes from. "Unemployment is down. The labor market is good. Wages are rising for workers in low-skilled jobs. So if you have a high school diploma, this seems like a pretty good time to be out there making some money."
"It's very tempting for high school graduates, but the fear is that they are trading a short-term gain for a long-term loss," Shapiro says. "And the longer they stay away from college, you know, life starts to happen and it becomes harder and harder to start thinking about yourself going back into a classroom."
Fortnite Sneaks Back Onto iPhone By Way Of GeForce Now
It's been 518 days since Apple kicked Fortnite off of the App Store after Epic Games tried to bypass its payment system. Now the popular free-to-play battle royale is
once again playable on iPhones, sort of. From a report:
Starting next week, Fortnite will be available on iOS by way of streaming, as part of an upcoming closed beta for Nvidia's GeForce Now game streaming program. "Fortnite on GeForce NOW will launch in a limited-time closed beta for mobile, all streamed through the Safari web browser on iOS and the GeForce NOW Android app," Nvidia announced on its blog today. "The beta is open for registration for all GeForce NOW members, and will help test our server capacity, graphics delivery and new touch controls performance."
GeForce Now, subscriptions for which range from free to $200 a year for the premium tier, lets users stream games they already own to PCs, tablets, and smartphones. It's one way to make blockbuster PC games portable, or to play them on rigs with beefier specs than the ones people already have at home. In Fortnite's case, GeForce Now subscribers will soon be able to stream the shooter to iOS devices and play it using touch controls via Apple's Safari. The browser workaround is one way companies like Microsoft have been able to get their game streaming platforms on iPhones despite Apple's ban on allowing them inside its App Store. Now its bringing back the game that kicked off a massive, messy, year-long legal battle that's still raging to this day.
Epstein-Barr Virus Found To Trigger Multiple Sclerosis
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Scientific American:
A connection between the human herpesvirus Epstein-Barr and multiple sclerosis (MS) has long been suspected but has been difficult to prove. Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is the primary cause of mononucleosis and is so common that 95 percent of adults carry it. Unlike Epstein-Barr, MS, a devastating demyelinating disease of the central nervous system, is relatively rare. It affects 2.8 million people worldwide. But people who contract infectious mononucleosis are at slightly increased risk of developing MS. In the disease, inflammation damages the myelin sheath that insulates nerve cells, ultimately disrupting signals to and from the brain and causing a variety of symptoms, from numbness and pain to paralysis. To prove that infection with Epstein-Barr causes MS, however, a research study would have to show that people would not develop the disease if they were not first infected with the virus. A randomized trial to test such a hypothesis by purposely infecting thousands of people would of course be unethical.
Instead researchers at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health and Harvard Medical School turned to what they call "an experiment of nature." They used two decades of blood samples from more than 10 million young adults on active duty in the U.S. military (the samples were taken for routine HIV testing). About 5 percent of those individuals (several hundred thousand people) were negative for Epstein-Barr when they started military service, and 955 eventually developed MS. The researchers were able to compare the outcomes of those who were subsequently infected and those who were not. The results, published on September 13 in Science, show that the risk of multiple sclerosis increased 32-fold after infection with Epstein-Barr but not after infection with other viruses. "These findings cannot be explained by any known risk factor for MS and suggest EBV as the leading cause of MS," the researchers wrote. In an accompanying commentary, immunologists William H. Robinson and Lawrence Steinman, both at Stanford University, wrote, "These findings provide compelling data that implicate EBV as the trigger for the development of MS." Epidemiologist Alberto Ascherio, senior author of the new study, says, "The bottom line is almost: if you're not infected with EBV, you don't get MS. It's rare to get such black-and-white results."
China To Create Own NFT Industry Based on State-backed Blockchain Infrastructure
China's state-backed Blockchain Services Network (BSN) plans to roll out infrastructure at the end of this month to support the deployment of non-fungible tokens (NFTs), a major step to creating a Chinese NFT industry that is
not linked to cryptocurrencies. From a report:
Although Beijing has banned cryptocurrencies, He Yifan, chief executive of Red Date Technology, which provides technical support to BSN, told the South China Morning Post that NFTs "have no legal issue in China" as long as they distance themselves from cryptocurrencies like bitcoin. The infrastructure, named the BSN-Distributed Digital Certificate (BSN-DDC), to differentiate it from crypto-transacted NFTs, will offer application programming interfaces for businesses or individuals so they can build their own user portals or apps to manage NFTs. Only Chinese yuan is allowed for purchases and service fees. "NFTs in China will see annual output in the billions in the future," He said in an interview.
January 6 Committee Subpoenas Social Media Giants In Probe of Capitol Attack
The House select committee investigating the deadly Capitol riot has
subpoenaed social media giants Twitter, Reddit and the parent companies of Facebook and Google, the panel's chairman said Thursday. CNBC reports:
The select committee had asked a trove of records last summer from those and other social companies, but received "inadequate responses" from four of the largest platforms, according to a press release Thursday. The committee is once again demanding that Google parent company Alphabet, Twitter, Reddit and Meta -- formerly known as Facebook -- hand over a slew of records relating to domestic terrorism, the spread of misinformation and efforts to influence or overturn the 2020 election.
"Two key questions for the Select Committee are how the spread of misinformation and violent extremism contributed to the violent attack on our democracy, and what steps -- if any -- social media companies took to prevent their platforms from being breeding grounds for radicalizing people to violence," Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., said in the press release. "It's disappointing that after months of engagement, we still do not have the documents and information necessary to answer those basic questions," Thompson said. "The Select Committee is working to get answers for the American people and help ensure nothing like January 6th ever happens again. We cannot allow our important work to be delayed any further."
Ground Temperatures Hit 129F as Argentina Suffers Blackouts
climbed above 129 degrees Fahrenheit (54 degrees Celsius) in parts of Argentina this week as the country suffers through a shockingly hot start to summer. Air temperatures were equally suffocating, leading to widespread blackouts as the Southern Cone attempts to beat the heat. From a report:
Copernicus's Sentinel 3 satellite recorded the extreme ground temperatures. Those temperatures are different than air temperatures, which is our usual way of conveying how hot a place is. The surface of the Earth tend to be hotter than air temperatures, given that heat can more easily dissipate in the air. But air temperatures are still pretty unbearable in Argentina. On Tuesday, temperatures rose to 106.7 degrees Fahrenheit (41.5 degrees Celsius) in Buenos Aires, the second-highest reading in the city in more than 100 years of records. Other parts of the country saw temperatures as high as 113 degrees Fahrenheit (45 degrees Celsius). The heat was so bad in Argentina on Tuesday that it was briefly the hottest place in the world, surpassing parts of Australia that usually have that honor during austral summer. "This is a heat wave of extraordinary characteristics, with extreme temperature values ââthat will even be analyzed after its completion, and it may generate some historical records for Argentina temperatures and persistence of heat," meteorologist Lucas Berengua told Reuters.
Asia's Richest Man Plans To Invest $76 Billion in Green Projects
The conglomerate led by Mukesh Ambani, Asia's richest man, announced plans to
invest $76 billion toward clean energy projects, dwarfing an earlier commitment of $10 billion by the world's biggest fossil-fuel billionaire. From a report:
Reliance Industries, controlled by Ambani, has signed pacts with the state government of Gujarat for a total investment of 5.96 trillion rupees ($81 billion), according to an exchange filing Thursday. Of this, about 5 trillion rupees would be used over the next 15 years to build 100 gigawatts of renewable power projects and a green hydrogen network while 600 billion rupees will be for factories making solar modules, hydrogen electrolyzers, fuel cells and storage batteries, the filing said. The remaining sum is to be spent in the retail-to-refining group's new and existing projects, including the upgrade of its telecom network for 5G services and expansion of its consumer retail businesses. Reliance has already "started the process of scouting land" for its renewable energy power projects and has requested the Gujarat administration for 450,000 acres (182,110 hectares) in the arid Kutch region. Though the investment pact is just a memorandum of understanding right now, it outlines the scope of Ambani's green ambitions and is a big step up from the $10 billion investment over three years he had announced in June. Ambani is in the midst of transforming his fossil fuel-fed empire and pivoting it toward green energy and digital technology.
Adhole, the Massive Public Pi-hole Instance, Shuts Down
I've been running Pihole for years (for myself), but this guy was running one for everybody! Since 2017, those not so savvy who still wanted the experience of Pi-hole, could turn to Adhole.org. That is, until now. Adhole.org is shutting down, citing issues with maintenance and stability
Second Life Founder Returns To Revamp His Original Metaverse
An anonymous reader
shares a report:
The metaverse isn't a new concept. Not only did Neal Stephenson coin the idea in 1992, but some of us were literally living in virtual spaces with virtual currency and virtual storefronts nearly 20 years ago. The virtual place many people went back then was Second Life. Philip Rosedale, Second Life's founder, has decided to task a core team to work on evolving Second Life now that the metaverse has become a buzzword yet again. His hopes are that developing community-focused worlds like Second Life will solve some metaverse problems that aren't necessarily being solved in VR headsets... yet. After Second Life, Rosedale became focused on VR technology in 2013, co-founding a company called High Fidelity that promised high-end, low-latency VR. But High Fidelity started to pivot from VR to other technologies over the last few years, focusing on spatial audio most recently.
In 2019, Rosedale published a goodbye of sorts to VR, stating that VR hadn't reached a form that was good enough for most people to want to use. Talking with him over Google Meet in 2022, he still feels that way, calling VR headsets a blindfold to the real world that only some people feel comfortable enough to use. Rosedale thinks VR headsets could hit an iPhone moment, but maybe not for another few years. In the meantime, he's shifting focus to a metaverse platform that doesn't require headsets: namely, Second Life. He isn't the only person to feel this way: Even VR/AR software companies like Spatial have recently pivoted away from VR headsets as a way to reach more people.
Game Maker Says Apple, Google Selling Rip-offs in New Lawsuit
The maker of the popular game "PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds" says in a new U.S. lawsuit that a Singapore-based company
made rip-off versions of its game, and Apple and Google have refused to stop selling them. From a report:
Krafton alleged Monday in a Los Angeles federal court complaint that Garena Online's "Free Fire" games copy several copyrighted aspects of PUBG: Battlegrounds, including its game structure and in-game items, equipment, and locations. Released in 2017, Battlegrounds was one of the first and most successful "battle royale" games, a popular genre that now includes "Fortnite" and "Call of Duty: Warzone." Korea-based Krafton's complaint said Battlegrounds has sold more than 75 million copies. The complaint said Garena, owned by Singapore-based Sea Ltd, began selling Free Fire through Apple and Google's app stores in 2017, and started selling another infringing game called "Free Fire MAX" last year. According to Krafton, Apple and Google have distributed hundreds of millions of copies of the Free Fire games. The complaint says Garena generated more than $100 million in revenue from Free Fire sales in the U.S. in the first three months of 2021. Krafton also named Google's YouTube as a defendant for allegedly hosting videos of Free Fire gameplay, as well as a Chinese film that Krafton says is a live-action dramatization of its game.
Crypto-Savings Lawsuit Puts Principles of DeFi To the Test
The emerging world of decentralized finance offers the holders of cryptocurrency many of the amenities of a modern financial system, under the premise that blockchain technology can cut out the middlemen, replacing flesh-and-blood bankers with autonomous, self-governing computer programs. The model promises lower costs and greater access. It also begs the question:
Who's responsible when things go wrong? From a report:
That is the question being raised by a class-action lawsuit filed in New York federal court against one such novel DeFi service, a cryptocurrency savings application called PoolTogether. The application, described as a "no loss prize game," incentivizes users to save their cryptocurrencies by offering them the chance to win awards from the interest generated by the collected funds. The lawsuit, filed by a software engineer named Joseph Kent, has challenged the legality of PoolTogether's operation, saying the scheme is essentially a lottery and prohibited under New York law.
Although Mr. Kent's lawsuit, supported by two plaintiffs' law firms, is nominally focused on winning a potentially large pot of financial damages, it also appears to be a deliberate effort to put some of the DeFi community's core doctrines to the test. A former technology lead for Sen. Elizabeth Warren's 2020 presidential campaign, Mr. Kent is described in his lawsuit as someone "gravely concerned" at the prospect that cryptocurrency, which consumes voluminous amounts of electricity, could contribute to climate change, besides enabling bad actors to circumvent financial sanctions. The size of the DeFi market has grown precipitously in the last year, bringing closer attention from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and other regulators. The total value of assets deposited as collateral on DeFi platforms climbed to more than $111 billion in November, up feverishly from about $10 billion at the beginning of 2020, according to DeFi Pulse.
Microsoft Has Discontinued All Xbox One Consoles
Microsoft has stopped manufacturing all Xbox One consoles. The software giant originally discontinued the Xbox One X and digital Xbox One S ahead of the Xbox Series X launch, then
quietly stopped manufacturing the Xbox One S at the end of 2020, leaving retailers to sell out their remaining stock. From a report:
"To focus on production of Xbox Series X / S, we stopped production for all Xbox One consoles by the end of 2020," says Cindy Walker, senior director of Xbox console product marketing, in a statement to The Verge. Microsoft's confirmation comes just as a Bloomberg report suggested Sony had planned to end PS4 production at the end of 2021, but that the company will now manufacture around a million PS4 consoles in 2022. Sony has confirmed PS4 production is still ongoing, amid struggles by both Microsoft and Sony to meet demand for their latest Xbox Series X and PS5 consoles.
Deep Learning Can't Be Trusted, Brain Modeling Pioneer Says
During the past 20 years, deep learning has come to dominate artificial intelligence research and applications through a series of useful commercial applications. But underneath the dazzle are
some deep-rooted problems that threaten the technology's ascension. IEEE Spectrum:
The inability of a typical deep learning program to perform well on more than one task, for example, severely limits application of the technology to specific tasks in rigidly controlled environments. More seriously, it has been claimed that deep learning is untrustworthy because it is not explainable -- and unsuitable for some applications because it can experience catastrophic forgetting. Said more plainly, if the algorithm does work, it may be impossible to fully understand why. And while the tool is slowly learning a new database, an arbitrary part of its learned memories can suddenly collapse. It might therefore be risky to use deep learning on any life-or-death application, such as a medical one.
Now, in a new book, IEEE Fellow Stephen Grossberg argues that an entirely different approach is needed. Conscious Mind, Resonant Brain: How Each Brain Makes a Mind describes an alternative model for both biological and artificial intelligence based on cognitive and neural research Grossberg has been conducting for decades. He calls his model Adaptive Resonance Theory (ART). Grossberg -- an endowed professor of cognitive and neural systems, and of mathematics and statistics, psychological and brain sciences, and biomedical engineering at Boston University -- based ART on his theories about how the brain processes information. "Our brains learn to recognize and predict objects and events in a changing world that is filled with unexpected events," he says. Based on that dynamic, ART uses supervised and unsupervised learning methods to solve such problems as pattern recognition and prediction. Algorithms using the theory have been included in large-scale applications such as classifying sonar and radar signals, detecting sleep apnea, recommending movies, and computer-vision-based driver-assistance software.
[...] One of the problems faced by classical AI, he says, is that it often built its models on how the brain might work, using concepts and operations that could be derived from introspection and common sense. "Such an approach assumes that you can introspect internal states of the brain with concepts and words people use to describe objects and actions in their daily lives," he writes. "It is an appealing approach, but its results were all too often insufficient to build a model of how the biological brain really works." The problem with today's AI, he says, is that it tries to imitate the results of brain processing instead of probing the mechanisms that give rise to the results. People's behaviors adapt to new situations and sensations "on the fly," Grossberg says, thanks to specialized circuits in the brain. People can learn from new situations, he adds, and unexpected events are integrated into their collected knowledge and expectations about the world.
The PC Market Just Had Another Big Year Thanks To Pandemic Demand
The PC market experienced its first big growth in a decade during 2020, when the pandemic began to force people to work and learn from home. Market research firms Gartner and IDC are now reporting that the worldwide PC market has
grown again throughout 2021, as demand for traditional PCs continued during a global chip shortage. From a report:
Nearly 340 million PCs were shipped in 2021, according to Gartner. That's a nearly 10 percent increase over the already unprecedented numbers seen in 2020. IDC puts the figure at 348.8 million, up nearly 15 percent. "2021 has truly been a return to form for the PC," said Jitesh Ubrani, a research manager at IDC. "Consumer need for PCs in emerging markets and global commercial demand remained strong during the quarter with supply being a gating factor." Ongoing supply issues relating to a global chip shortage mean the PC market "could have been even larger than it was in 2021," according to Tom Mainelli, an executive at IDC. Gartner reports that 2021 saw the highest shipment volume of PCs since 2013, after a 2017 milestone of five years of PC decline.
Study Finds Cannabinoids Prevent COVID-19 Infection
MachineShedFred shares a report from Forbes:
Compounds in cannabis can prevent infection from the virus that causes Covid-19 by blocking its entry into cells, according to a study published this week by researchers affiliated with Oregon State University. A report on the research, "Cannabinoids Block Cellular Entry of SARS-CoV-2 and the Emerging Variants," was published online on Monday by the Journal of Natural Products. The researchers found that two cannabinoid acids commonly found in hemp varietals of cannabis, cannabigerolic acid, or CBGA, and cannabidiolic acid, also known as CBDA, can bind to the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19. By binding to the spike protein, the compounds can prevent the virus from entering cells and causing infection, potentially offering new avenues to prevent and treat the disease.
"Orally bioavailable and with a long history of safe human use, these cannabinoids, isolated or in hemp extracts, have the potential to prevent as well as treat infection by SARS-CoV-2," the researchers wrote in an abstract of the study. The study was led by Richard van Breemen, a researcher with Oregon State's Global Hemp Innovation Center in the College of Pharmacy and Linus Pauling Institute, in collaboration with scientists at the Oregon Health & Science University. Van Breeman said that the cannabinoids studied are common and readily available. "These cannabinoid acids are abundant in hemp and in many hemp extracts," van Breemen said, as quoted by local media. "They are not controlled substances like THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, and have a good safety profile in humans."
Van Breemen added that CBDA and CBGA blocked the action of emerging variants of the virus that causes Covid-19, saying that "our research showed the hemp compounds were equally effective against variants of SARS-CoV-2, including variant B.1.1.7, which was first detected in the United Kingdom, and variant B.1.351, first detected in South Africa." [...] Although further research is needed, van Breemen noted that study shows the cannabinoids could be developed into drugs to prevent or treat Covid-19. CBDA and CBGA are produced by the hemp plant as precursors to CBD and CBG, which are familiar to many consumers. However, they are different from the acids and are not contained in hemp products." Van Breeman also noted that the research showed the cannabinoids were effective against new variants of the virus, which he said are "one of the primary concerns" in the pandemic for health officials and clinicians.
AI Unmasks Anonymous Chess Players, Posing Privacy Risks
silverjacket shares a report from Science.org:
[A]n AI has shown it can tag people based on their chess-playing behavior, an advance in the field of "stylometrics" that could help computers be better chess teachers or more humanlike in their game play. Alarmingly, the system could also be used to help identify and track people who think their online behavior is anonymous. [...] To design and train their AI, the researchers tapped an ample resource: more than 50 million human games played on the Lichess website. They collected games by players who had played at least 1000 times and sampled sequences of up to 32 moves from those games. They coded each move and fed them into a neural network that represented each game as a point in multidimensional space, so that each player's games formed a cluster of points. The network was trained to maximize the density of each player's cluster and the distance between those of different players. That required the system to recognize what was distinctive about each player's style.
The researchers tested the system by seeing how well it distinguished one player from another. They gave the system 100 games from each of about 3000 known players, and 100 fresh games from a mystery player. To make the task harder, they hid the first 15 moves of each game. The system looked for the best match and identified the mystery player 86% of the time, the researchers reported last month at the Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems (NeurIPS). "We didn't quite believe the results," says Reid McIlroy-Young, a student in Anderson's lab and the paper's primary author. A non-AI method was only 28% accurate. [...] The researchers are aware of the privacy risks posed by the system, which could be used to unmask anonymous chess players online. With tweaks, McIlroy-Young says, it could do the same for poker. And in theory, they say, given the right data sets, such systems could identify people based on the quirks of their driving or the timing and location of their cellphone use.
Expect Sonic Booms In Central Florida As Falcon 9 Booster Lands At Cape Canaveral, SpaceX Warns
set to launch a Falcon 9 rocket Thursday from Florida's Space Coast with a scheduled booster landing back at Cape Canaveral, which means
there could be sonic booms heard in the area. From a report:
As the first stage of the Falcon 9 booster plummets back to Earth just under 10 minutes after launch, it creates shockwaves that make a thunderous sonic boom -- which can be heard across Central Florida depending on weather conditions. Usually SpaceX lands its Falcon 9 booster out at sea. But for this launch of a handful of commercial and scientific payloads, the company is directing the rocket booster back to Cape Canaveral.
The mission will launch southward, a departure from usual eastward launches. It's the second of a planned five polar launches heading southward just this month. While there weren't any issues with wayward boats or planes for a launch last week, SLD 45 is asking boaters and pilots to continue to pay attention to new hazard areas issued for this launch. "These trajectories are different," said [Lt. Col. Brian Eno, Commander of the 1st Range Operations Squadron]. "We must make sure that we're vigilant as a community on reviewing those notices. SpaceX's Transporter-3 mission has a 29-minute launch window which opens Thursday at 10:25 a.m. ET. Space Fore forecasters said there's a 70 percent chance of favorable launch weather.