Tag: technology

Google’s AI Found An Overlooked Exoplanet

NASA has discovered an eighth planet around a distant star, which means we’re no longer the largest solar system we know of.

The discovery was made thanks to some artificial intelligence help from Google, which found the planet by scouring previously overlooked “weak” signals in data captured by the Kepler Space Telescope.

The newly found planet is located in the solar system around Kepler-90, a star about 2,500 light-years away from Earth that was previously discovered in 2014.

The Kepler Space Telescope has been searching the galactic sky for exoplanets, or planets outside our own Solar System, since it launched in 2009.

In order to sift through all the data that it’s captured since that launch, scientists usually look at the strongest signals first.




And that process has worked well enough so far. NASA has confirmed 2,525 exoplanets in that time, a number that has changed our understanding of how common it is to find planets around the stars that make up our galaxy.

Recently, though, artificial intelligence has become a more prominent tool in astronomy.

Scientists, including ones who work on the Kepler data, have increasingly turned to machine learning to help sort through typically lower-priority data to see what they might have missed.

In the process, they found an overlooked planet that’s now named Kepler-90i.

But while we now know that Kepler-90 has the same number of orbiting planets as our Sun, the solar system is a poor candidate in the search for extraterrestrial life or at least, life as we know it.

Kepler-90 is about 20 percent bigger and 5 percent warmer than our Sun. And its eight planets dance around the star in much closer orbits than the ones in our own Solar System.

In fact, their orbits are so comparatively small that seven of Kepler-90’s eight planets would fit in between the Earth and the Sun.

The discovery of Kepler-90i, came after NASA let Google train its machine learning algorithms on 15,000 signals from potential planets in the Kepler database.

The scientists then took the trained system and set it to work on data from 670 stars that were already known to have multiple planets, as they considered those to be the most likely hiding places.

The newly discovered planet in Kepler-90, along with one other found in the Kepler-80 solar system announced today, are the first NASA was able to confirm from these new results from Google’s AI.

The inclusion of machine learning in this process shouldn’t scare humans whose livelihood revolves around discovering and studying exoplanets, according to Chris Shallue, a senior Google AI software engineer who worked on the project.

What we’ve developed here is a tool to help astronomers have more impact,” Shallue said on a conference call about the news.

It’s a way to increase the productivity of astronomers. It certainly won’t replace them at all.

Please like, share and tweet this article.

Pass it on: Popular Science

Is It Too Late To Invest In Bitcoin In 2017?

For non-financey types, the concept of Bitcoin can be daunting. Just when we were wrapping our heads around variable interest rates and term deposits, they go and create a whole new digital currency.

But with or without our approval, Bitcoin has become a thing, and for those who jumped on it early, a very profitable one.

To give you an idea of how far it’s come, in 2010 the bitcoin price was about 1.5 US cents.

Let’s all spare a moment for the guy who bought $25 worth, threw away his hard drive and then realised as of this month he essentially threw out $7.6 million. Ouch.




What is Bitcoin?

First of all, let’s start with the basics.

As defined by CoinDesk, “Bitcoin is a form of digital currency, created and held electronically.”

No one controls it. Bitcoins aren’t printed, like dollars or euros, they’re produced by people, and increasingly businesses, running computers all around the world, using software that solves mathematical problems.”

Bitcoin is traded digitally, but that’s not what’s new or exciting about it. Where it stands apart is due to the fact it’s decentralised, meaning it isn’t controlled by any one institution.

Instead, it relies on a peer-to-peer structure, by a community of people that anyone can join.

These peoples are called ‘miners‘ and they use computing power to verify bitcoin transactions. As an incentive, every time they verify a block of transactions, they get bitcoin as well.

Who invented it?

Bitcoin was invented by Satoshi Nakamoto in 2008, but it didn’t go online until 2009. Also, because it’s the internet and anything can happen, Nakamoto’s actual identity has never been able to be confirmed.

Interestingly, Australian Craig Wright has claimed he is the true Bitcoin founder, though he has failed to provide sufficient proof.

Can Bitcoin make me money?

Ah. The million dollar question.

As we’ve covered before, if you bought some bitcoin when it first started and was trading at a measly couple of cents, you probably would be sitting on a yacht right now being fanned with a palm frond and not reading this article.

But millionaire status doesn’t only happen for those who invested at the very beginning. One Idaho teenager invested $1000 in Bitcoin just three years ago and now has over a million dollars.

But what about investing now?

Controlled supply

It’s important to note there is a limit for how many bitcoins can be created, with a maximum amount of 21 million.

However even with this cap, there won’t ever be the full amount in circulation, as some unlucky people have lost their keys along the way.

According to Quora, “As of June 1st, 2017 there were 16,366,275 BTC out of a total 21,000,000 BTC in theoretical supply, which has yet to be mined“.

So, just as there is only so much gold to be mined in the world, there is only so much bitcoin, too. And the important thing to note is there’s still some left.

Buying Bitcoin now is not too late,” CEO of digital currency management company Bron.Tech, Emma Poposka told HuffPost Australia.

If we see full adoption in the future, or mainstream adoption, the price still has to go up in value because we have a limited supply.

If you’re thinking, ‘But can’t they just make more bitcoin?’ that’s the beauty of the currency not being controlled by a single institution.

In order to change the protocol surrounding Bitcoin, every miner needs to vote on the decision.

Now, don’t forget miners are paid in bitcoin for their services, so why would they vote to decrease the value of their own assets?

Other digital currency

With all the hype surrounding Bitcoin, it’s easy to forget it’s not even the only digital currency out there. The reason it’s the most famous is because it’s the first of its kind, but it’s not alone.

Bitcoin is not the only currency today which is valuable to — I wouldn’t say invest, I don’t like the term — but to buy or hold,” Poposka said. “There are other currencies as well.”

So according to your idealistic views of the world or what you personally think is right, you can buy or hold or trade [whichever currency] you think is [promising].”

So now we have Bitcoin, and the biggest rival of Bitcoin is ethereum.”

My company as a company has a native currency The Bron, which is another currency people can buy, hold and trade.”

It’s backed by an asset which we think in the digital world is valuable, which is data.”

“Bitcoin is the most popular because it’s the oldest.”

In conclusion

Digital currency may not be mainstream just yet, but there’s plenty of arguments to say it’s not going anywhere soon. Should you invest in Bitcoin before it maxes out at 21 million?

Maybe. Both Lim and Poposka think there is potentially money still to be made.

But should you take out a second mortgage? Perhaps not.

What I tell to my friends and myself and my colleagues is yes, people should start experimenting and buying small amounts of Bitcoin. You don’t even need to buy an entire bitcoin — you can buy part of one for $10,” Poposka said.

It’s an interesting technology and I think it’s worthwhile to buy small amounts you can play with and learn from”

“But I would never recommending seriously investing in something you don’t understand — and that applies to everything, real estate or stocks or Bitcoin.”

I’d be more inclined to pay $50 for small portfolio of cryptocurrency and play with it. If everything fails you will lose $50 and that’s nothing.”

Then if you learn enough and get excited by the technology, you can decide whether to buy more.

Please like, share and tweet this article.

Pass it on: Popular Science

The Kiwi Bots Trundles Along Campus Streets And Deliver Food To Students

A Kiwibot delivers food around the UC Berkeley campus via Kiwi, a new on-demand delivery service.

UC Berkeley has a new on-demand delivery service. Unlike any of its predecessors however, this one relies on robots.

Kiwi uses a fleet of 20 terrier-sized wheeled robots to pick up and deliver food and personal-care items within a roughly one square mile area centered around campus.

The vehicles operate between Shattuck and Piedmont avenues and between Hearst Avenue and Dwight Way.




If you want to start a robot company, use a campus,” said founder and CEO Felipe Chávez, “and if you want to use a campus, use UC Berkeley.

The city and the campus were a natural fit for Kiwi.

At the most basic level, the infrastructure paved streets, well-maintained sidewalks, functioning traffic signals, crosswalks and a generally law-abiding citizenry allows for robots to operate smoothly.

In addition, UC Berkeley has a high concentration of residents pressed both for time and space to prepare meals at home.

Finally, there’s Berkeley’s abundance of local dining options and a generally favorable attitude towards innovation.

Though Chávez started Kiwi in his native city of Bogotá, Colombia in 2015, using people as couriers, he switched to robots when he brought Kiwi north to Cal in January of 2017 as part of UC Berkeley’s LAUNCH program, an incubator for promising startups.

The bot roamed free-range on the plaza as Chávez sat on a bench for our interview.

He looked ahead, unconcerned as the robot made several turns around the fountain, then headed off under an alley of trees, almost out to Sather Gate before turning back and circling the plaza again.

The Kiwibot’s motions appear self-directed but it uses the same technology as Roomba, the robot vacuum cleaner.

It recognizes boundaries and avoids obstacles by using lidar sensors and has a smartphone mounted to its hood.

Please like, share and tweet this article.

Pass it on: New Scientist

How To Master Any Language On Your Next Vacation With This Application

uTalk is an app available for iPhone users and supports over 120 languages.

It offers a free introduction to all languages; from there, the basic package is $9.99, and the premium package is $15.99.

If you can swing it, premium package recommend, as it comes with an extensive phrasebook, so you’re never without a dictionary.

A huge advantage to uTalk is that it’s fully functional offline, so if you’re in an area without internet or don’t want to rack up huge data fees while away from WiFi, you can still use it to your heart’s content.

uTalk lessons are structured similarly. They are organized by topics, the majority of which are centered around real-life themes, such as going shopping or spending a day at the beach.

These topics are especially useful for those who are in a foreign country for business or vacation, as they deal with things that travelers frequently encounter.




uTalk also includes lessons on basic features of language, such as the alphabet and numbers.

As mentioned above, premium users are armed with an extensive phrasebook, which can be of great utility when you see a sign with a word you don’t recognize.

The most favorite use of the phrasebook was in conjunction with reading foreign-language books: simply read at your leisure, and when you encounter a word you don’t know, quickly look it up in the phrasebook.

Though the lessons cover useful topics, they don’t seem to be organized in any meaningful way, which means they should be viewed as standalone lessons rather than part of a sequence.

In the future, we’d like to see a bit more structure regarding the order of the lessons (e.g., learning basic numbers before asking for directions).

Please like, share and tweet this article.

Pass it on: Popular Science

Drone Race: Human Versus Artificial Intelligence

JPL engineers recently finished developing three drones and the artificial intelligence needed for them to navigate an obstacle course by themselves.

In October, NASA’s California-based Jet Propulsion Laboratory pitted a drone controlled by artificial intelligence against a professional human drone pilot named Ken Loo.

According to NASA’s press release, it had been researching autonomous drone technology for the past two years at that point, funded by Google and its interest in JPL’s vision-based navigation work.

The race consisted of a time-trial where the lap times and behaviors of both the A.I.-operated drone and the manually-piloted drone were analyzed and compared. Let’s take a look at the results.

NASA said in its release that the company developed three drones; Batman, Joker, and Nightwing.

Researchers focused mostly on the intricate algorithms required to navigate efficiently through a race like this, namely obstacle avoidance and maximum speed through narrow environments.




These algorithms were then combined with Google’s Tango technology, which JPL had a significant hand in as well.

Task Manager of the JPL project, Rob Reid said, “We pitted our algorithms against a human, who flies a lot more by feel.”

“You can actually see that the A.I. flies the drone smoothly around the course, whereas human pilots tend to accelerate aggressively, so their path is jerkier.”

As it turned out, Loo’s speeds were much higher, and he was able to perform impressive aerial maneuvers to his benefit, but the A.I.-infused drones were more consistent, and never gave in to fatigue.

“This is definitely the densest track I’ve ever flown,” said Loo. “One of my faults as a pilot is I get tired easily. When I get mentally fatigued, I start to get lost, even if I’ve flown the course 10 times.”

Loo averaged 11.1 seconds per lap, while the autonomous unmanned aerial vehicles average 13.9 seconds.

In other words, while Loo managed to reach higher speeds overall, the drones operating autonomously were more consistent, essentially flying a very similar lap and route each time.

Our autonomous drones can fly much faster,” said Reid. “One day you might see them racing professionally!

Of that latter statement, there’s certainly no doubt.

A future where companies like Google and NASA square off in public arenas where their autonomous drones compete against one another is definitely plausible.

It wouldn’t be shocking to see such an event televised, either, as we’re already seeing similar results with the Drone Racing League.

Please like, share and tweet this article.

Pass it on: Popular Science

Facebook Is Developing A Harry Potter-Style System That Makes Your Profile Pictures Smile And Wink

Facebook is developing new ‘reactive profile pictures‘ that pull faces like the cheeky portraits at Hogwarts in Harry Potter.

The new feature will make your photo smile and wink in response to likes and comments on your page.

The tool can take a single image of a face and animate it with happy, sad or angry expressions by mapping it to the movement of real people’s faces.

Researchers at Tel Aviv University, Israel, developed the software, called ‘bringing portraits to life‘, alongside Facebook.




While the effect looks slightly bizarre, a study found half of people who saw the animations were tricked into thinking they were real.

The system is improving all the time, the researchers said. “I think eventually they will be completely indistinguishable from real videos,” lead researcher Hadar Averbuch-Elor said.

The tool creates animations using a ‘base‘ video of a completely different person. The ‘model‘ does not have to be the same gender or look anything like the person in the profile photo.

The expression the model makes is mapped directly onto the eyes, mouth, cheeks and other parts of the profile photo’s face so that it looks like animated movement.

But the animations aren’t perfect – when people smile their mouth often goes from tight-lipped to a toothy grin.

But from a single image the software doesn’t know what the subject’s teeth look like.

It therefore has to map the pearly whites of the base video onto the profile photo to match up the expressions.

We found that if we change the teeth people don’t notice too much,” Ms Averbuch-Elor, who is a PhD student at the university, said.

In a set of videos about the new feature, the tam showcased several ways Facebook could use the moving pictures in future.

Ahead of the project’s Facebook collaboration, in future the tool could be linked with AI language processing when you are messaging someone.

This means that, rather than a static image, your recipient will see an animated version of the person reacting to what’s being said.

The software will be presented at the Conference on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques in Bangkok, Thailand later this month.

Please like, share and tweet this article.

Pass it on: New Scientist

Smartphone Addiction Can Lead To Chemical Imbalance In Brain

Smartphone and internet addiction can cause a chemical imbalance in the brain, especially in young people, according to new research released this week at the Radiological Society of North America.

As scientists continue to evaluate the physical and emotional effects of an increasingly screen-dependent population, researchers in South Korea found that teenagers addicted to their smartphones had increased levels of two types of neurotransmitters involved in a number of emotional and cognitive functions.




They included gamma aminobutyric acid, or GABA, which slows down brain signals and is involved in vision and motor control and helps regulate emotions including anxiety.

The second chemical is glutamate-glutamine (Glx) and is known to cause neurons to fire more rapidly.

The study evaluated 19 young people with an average age of 15, who were diagnosed with an internet or smartphone addiction, compared to 19 healthy-controls.

The addicted youth also reported higher instances of depression, anxiety, insomnia severity and impulsiveness, in comparison with the “healthy” controls.

Using a Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy (MRS) brain scan, researchers found that the addicted youth had higher elevations of both GABA and Glx compared to the controls, although the researchers said more study is needed to understand the exact implications of the imbalance.

Please like, share and tweet this article.

Pass it on: New Scientist

Graphene Could Soon Make Your Computer 1000 Times Faster

Researchers from several universities have teamed up to develop a radical kind of transistor.

Instead of using silicon, the team used graphene to build a logic gate series that uses less power but could work 1,000 times faster than current ones.

The discovery of graphene in 2004 began a flurry of studies to isolate other two-dimensional materials. Graphene was found to be a wonder material, possessing a set of unique and remarkable properties.

One of these is its ability to conduct electricity ten times better than copper, the most commonly used conductor in electronics.

At room temperature, graphene is also capable of conducting electricity 250 times better than silicon, a rate faster than any other known substance.




These properties led a team of researchers from Northwestern University, The University of Texas at Dallas (UT Dallas), University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and University of Central Florida (UCF) to consider developing a graphene-based transistor.

In a study published in the journal Nature Communications, the team found that a graphene-based transistor could actually work better than silicon transistors used in today’s computers.

A quick explanation first: Transistors are key in today’s computer circuits, as these act as on and off switches that allow electronic signals and electrical power through.

When put together, transistors form logic gates — the core of microprocessors, serving as input and output and acting either as 0s or 1s (so-called binary bits).

These are what allow microprocessors to solve logic and computing problems.

If you want to continue to push technology forward, we need faster computers to be able to run bigger and better simulations for climate science, for space exploration, for Wall Street,” co-author Ryan Gelfand, an assistant professor at UCF, said in a press release.

To get there, we can’t rely on silicon transistors anymore.

Please like, share and tweet this article.

Pass it on: New Scientist

Tesla Just Built The World’s Biggest Battery In Record Time

Elon Musk has won. The Tesla CEO made a bet that he could install the world’s biggest battery in South Australia within 100 days, and the whole installation would be free if the company failed.

Last November 23, Thurday, it was revealed that the project has been completed with 46 days to spare.

Congratulations to the Tesla crew and South Australian authorities who worked so hard to get this manufactured and installed in record time!” Musk said on his Twitter page Thursday.

The batteries are designed to provide reliable power to a part of Australia that desperately needs it. South Australia has dealt with 18 months of blackouts.

A 50-year storm event in September 2016 knocked out pretty much the entire state’s elect.




The Powerpack system provides 100 megawatts of storage to renewable energy firm Neoen’s Hornsdale wind farm near Jamestown in South Australia, holding enough power for 30,000 homes.

The two companies will join engineering company Consolidated Power Projects and state premier Jay Weatherill next week to officially unveil the battery.

The project forms part of a AU$530 million ($404 million) state plan to improve renewable energy production.

Last September, South Australia suffered from severe blackouts after a storm cut off production.

The state receives around a third of its energy from renewables, but the plan will boost this by building a solar thermal power plant and emergency generators along with the battery.

The world’s largest lithium-ion battery will be an important part of our energy mix and it sends the clearest message that South Australia will be a leader in renewable energy with battery storage,” Weatherill told the Associated Press.

Tesla first set itself the 100 days goal after a discussion between Musk and Australian software-billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes.

In March, Cannon-Brookes asked if Lyndon Rive, Tesla’s vice-president for energy products, was telling the truth when he said the company could install between 100 to 300 megawatt-hours of storage in 100 days.

This led to a bidding process where the state government agreed to fund $113 million of battery storage. Tesla beat out a number of competitors to score the contract.

Musk was a bit sly with the deadline, though. Tesla started counting down 54 days ago from September 30, the point at which the Australian energy regulator gave clearance to the project.

The company was building the battery for a while prior to this. The project came well under the January 8, 2018 deadline, but Tesla did not build a battery in less than two months.

Between now and next week’s unveiling, the battery will undergo a series of checks to ensure it meets state and energy regulations.

Please like, share and tweet this article.

Pass it on: Popular Science

This Behemoth Of A Scientific Instrument Was Launched Into Orbit So It Could Look Down On Earth To Monitor Its Climate

NCEI’s Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) Climate Raw Data Record (C-RDR) is an intermediary product between the Raw Data Record (RDR) product and the many Sensor Data Record (SDR) products for the VIIRS instrument.

The VIIRS instrument is a key element of the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (Suomi NPP) satellite, which was launched in October 2011.

VIIRS collects data in 22 spectral channels, from visible to longwave infrared, at two different spatial resolutions: 375 m and 750 m at nadir.

The VIIRS C-RDR contains all the raw measurements from the VIIRS RDR collected into time series variables. This simplifies access to the data for reprocessing using alternative calibration and geolocation methods.

The VIIRS C-RDR also provides the coefficients and tables used by the NESDIS Interface Data Processing Segment (IDPS) to convert the raw measurements to science units and calibrate them.




These data are all written to files using the Network Common Data Form 4 (netCDF-4) format, which is platform-independent, binary, hierarchical, and self-describing.

Each variable within a VIIRS C-RDR file is annotated with a description of the measurement, information about the source, and specifications of valid limits and fill values.

Each VIIRS C-RDR file also contains file-level metadata conforming to the Climate and Forecast (CF) metadata conventions, the Attribute Convention for Dataset Discovery (ACDD), and the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) standards for Suomi NPP data products.

Metadata elements, such as granule IDs, which are found in Suomi NPP data product files, are also present in C-RDR files as an aid to understanding the provenance and processing history of the VIIRS C-RDR files.

A number of existing software applications (IDL, MATLAB, etc.) can easily read the variables contained within VIIRS C-RDR files.

Users can also easily access the file contents in their own applications by employing netCDF libraries that are available for FORTRAN, C, C++, Java, or Python.

Please like, share and tweet this article.

Pass it on: New Scientist