Sperm Stored In Space Produces Healthy Baby Mice On Earth

Slashdot - 3 hours 24 min ago
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Reproduction may be possible in space, Japanese researchers have said, after freeze-dried sperm stored on the International Space Station for nine months produced healthy offspring. The scientists said their findings could have significant ramifications for human settlements in space, which they consider "likely." The average daily radiation dose on the ISS is about 100 times stronger than that on Earth, posing a threat of serious reproductive problems for any space-dwelling organism. But mouse sperm stored on the ISS for 288 days from August 2013 to May 2014, then returned to Earth, fertilized in vitro and transferred into female mice, produced healthy offspring. The space-preserved samples showed evidence of slightly increased DNA damage compared with control samples preserved on Earth, but this was found to be largely repaired in embryos following fertilization. The birth rate and sex ratio of pups derived from the sperm stored in space was comparable to those of pups derived from the control samples. Subsequent whole genome analysis revealed only minor differences, and the pups developed into adults with normal fertility. The study was published in the proceedings of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences on Monday.

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When AI improves human performance instead of taking over

Kurzweil AI - 4 hours 26 min ago

The game results show that placing slightly “noisy” bots in a central location (high-degree nodes) improves human coordination by reducing same-color neighbor nodes (the goal of the game). Square nodes show the bots and round nodes show human players; thick red lines show color conflicts, which are reduced with bot participation (right). (credit: Hirokazu Shirado and Nicholas A. Christakis/Nature)

It’s not about artificial intelligence (AI) taking over — it’s about AI improving human performance, a new study by Yale University researchers has shown.

“Much of the current conversation about artificial intelligence has to do with whether AI is a substitute for human beings. We believe the conversation should be about AI as a complement to human beings,” said Nicholas Christakis, Yale University co-director of the Yale Institute for Network Science (YINS) and senior author of a study by Yale Institute for Network Science.*

AI doesn’t even have to be super-sophisticated to make a difference in people’s lives; even “dumb AI” can help human groups, based on the study, which appears in the May 18, 2017 edition of the journal Nature.

How bots can boost human performance

In a series of experiments using teams of human players and autonomous software agents (“bots”), the bots boosted the performance of human groups and the individual players, the researchers found.

The experiment design involved an online color-coordination game that required groups of people to coordinate their actions for a collective goal. The collective goal was for every node to have a color different than all of its neighbor nodes. The subjects were paid a US$2 show-up fee and a declining bonus of up to US$3 depending on the speed of reaching a global solution to the coordination problem (in which every player in a group had chosen a different color from their connected neighbors). When they did not reach a global solution within 5 min, the game was stopped and the subjects earned no bonus.

The human players also interacted with anonymous bots that were programmed with three levels of behavioral randomness — meaning the AI bots sometimes deliberately made mistakes (introduced “noise”). In addition, sometimes the bots were placed in different parts of the social network to try different strategies.

The result: The bots reduced the median time for groups to solve problems by 55.6%. The experiment also showed a cascade effect: People whose performance improved when working with the bots then influenced other human players to raise their game. More than 4,000 people participated in the experiment, which used Yale-developed software called breadboard.

The findings have implications for a variety of situations in which people interact with AI technology, according to the researchers. Examples include human drivers who share roadways with autonomous cars and operations in which human soldiers work in tandem with AI.

“There are many ways in which the future is going to be like this,” Christakis said. “The bots can help humans to help themselves.”

Practical business AI tools

One example: Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff uses a bot called Einstein to help him run his company, Business Intelligence reported Thursday (May 18, 2017).

“Powered by advanced machine learning, deep learning, predictive analytics, natural language processing and smart data discovery, Einstein’s models will be automatically customised for every single customer,” according to the Salesforce blog. “It will learn, self-tune and get smarter with every interaction and additional piece of data. And most importantly, Einstein’s intelligence will be embedded within the context of business, automatically discovering relevant insights, predicting future behavior, proactively recommending best next actions and even automating tasks.”

Benioff says he also uses a version called Einstein Guidance for forecasting and modeling. It even helps end internal politics at executive meetings, calling out under-performing executives.

“AI is the next platform. All future apps for all companies will be built on AI,” Benioff predicts.

* Christakis is a professor of sociology, ecology & evolutionary biology, biomedical engineering, and medicine at Yale. Grants from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the National Institute of Social Sciences supported the research.

Abstract of Locally noisy autonomous agents improve global human coordination in network experiments

Coordination in groups faces a sub-optimization problem and theory suggests that some randomness may help to achieve global optima. Here we performed experiments involving a networked colour coordination game in which groups of humans interacted with autonomous software agents (known as bots). Subjects (n = 4,000) were embedded in networks (n = 230) of 20 nodes, to which we sometimes added 3 bots. The bots were programmed with varying levels of behavioural randomness and different geodesic locations. We show that bots acting with small levels of random noise and placed in central locations meaningfully improve the collective performance of human groups, accelerating the median solution time by 55.6%. This is especially the case when the coordination problem is hard. Behavioural randomness worked not only by making the task of humans to whom the bots were connected easier, but also by affecting the gameplay of the humans among themselves and hence creating further cascades of benefit in global coordination in these heterogeneous systems.

Categories: Science

Java Creator James Gosling Joins Amazon Web Services

Slashdot - 5 hours 29 min ago
The legendary computer scientist and founder of Java, James Gosling, is joining forces with Amazon Web Services. Gosling made the announcement today on Facebook saying that he's "starting a new Adventure" with the cloud computing juggernaut as a Distinguished Engineer. GeekWire reports: Gosling wrote Java, one of the most widely used programming languages in the history of computing, while at Sun Microsystems in the early 1990s. After leaving Sun following its acquisition by Oracle, Gosling did a short stint at Google before settling in for almost six years at Liquid Robotics, which is working on an autonomous boat called the Wave Glider. He likely ruffled a few feathers in Seattle last year after speaking out about fears of cloud vendor lock-in. "You get cloud providers like Amazon saying: 'Take your applications and move them to the cloud.' But as soon as you start using them you're stuck in that particular cloud," he said at IP Expo according to The Inquirer, echoing the sentiment of some skeptical IT organizations burned by enterprise vendors in the past.

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Samsung's Galaxy S8 Active Looks Like a Rugged LG G6

Slashdot - 5 hours 49 min ago
The Wireless Power Consortium has released a leaked image of the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S8 Active. While it's only one photo, the image shows a smartphone greatly resembling LG's G6. The Verge reports: First, the display: the S8 Active won't have curved edges, like the regular S8. The big question this year was what Samsung planned to do about the screen, since curved glass may be more susceptible to cracking, and Samsung seems to have decided the best option was to get rid of it altogether. Instead, the S8 Active has a flattened out look but retains the S8's rounded corners, making the front of the phone look a lot like LG's G6. Samsung seems to have made the bezels a little bit larger on the S8 Active, particularly on the sides. But overall, the front of the phone still seems to get fairly close to the nearly all-screen look of actual S8. The second thing this photo shows is that Samsung isn't putting buttons back on the front of the phone. That's not necessarily a huge surprise, but it'll make the device a bit harder to handle when wet, since owners will be relying on the touchscreen. And finally, this photo reveals a bit of what Samsung is doing to make the phone rugged. All four of its corners bump out, suggesting they've been reinforced to absorb shock should the phone get dropped; it looks a lot like what Samsung has done in the past.

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PayPal Sues Pandora Over 'Patently Unlawful' Logo

Slashdot - 6 hours 9 min ago
PayPal has filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against Pandora, arguing that the company's minimalist logo "dilutes the distinctiveness" of its own branding. "Element by element and in overall impression, the similarities between the logos are striking, obvious, and patently unlawful," the lawsuit alleges. Billboard reports: In October 2016, Pandora announced it was redesigning its logo from a thin, serifed "P" into the chunky, sans serifed "P" that it is today. The color scheme was also changed from midnight blue to a softer shade of blue. By comparison, PayPal's logo, active since 2014, also features a minimalist-looking "P" in a sans serif font and sporting a blue color palette. PayPal's mark actually consists of two overlapping and slanted "Ps," whereas Pandora keeps it to one. Both P's lack a hole. It is because of these similarities that PayPal believes customers of both companies are unable to distinguish the two, and that many are complaining about inadvertently opening Pandora instead of PayPal on their smartphones. The lawsuit includes various screen grabs, primarily from Twitter, of people noting the similarities. PayPal's lawsuit also points out Pandora's current struggles as a brand, saying that since it is primarily an ad-supported service, it "has no obvious path to profitability," especially given "overwhelming competition" from the likes of Spotify and Apple Music. The suit alleges that Pandora purposely "latched itself on to the increasingly popular" PayPal logo look-and-feel as part of its efforts to reverse its fortunes.

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Remote Pacific Island Is the Most Plastic-Contaminated Spot Yet Surveyed

Slashdot - 6 hours 49 min ago
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Plastic is durable -- very, very durable -- which is why we like it. Since it started being mass-produced in the 1950s, annual production has increased 300-fold. Because plastic is so durable, when our kids grow up and we purge our toy chests, or even just when we finish a bottle of laundry detergent or shampoo, it doesn't actually go away. While we're recycling increasing amounts of plastic, a lot of it still ends up in the oceans. Floating garbage patches have brought some attention to the issue of our contamination of the seas. But it's not just the waters themselves that have ended up cluttered with plastic. A recent survey shows that a staggering amount of our stuff is coming ashore on the extremely remote Henderson Island. Henderson Island is a UNESCO World Heritage site in the Pitcairn Group of Islands in the South Pacific, roughly half way between New Zealand and Peru. According to UNESCO, Henderson is one of the best examples we have of an elevated coral atoll ecosystem. It was colonized by Polynesians between the 12th and 15th centuries but has been uninhabited by humans since then. It is of interest to evolutionary biologists because it has 10 plant species and four bird species that are only found there. Despite its uninhabited status and its extremely remote location, a recent survey of beach plastic on Henderson Island revealed that the island has the highest density of debris reported anywhere in the world: an estimated minimum of 37.7 million items weighing 17.6 tons. This represents the total amount of plastic that is produced in the world every 1.98 seconds. Further reading: Here And Now

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Microsoft Says a Chinese 'Gaming Service' Company Is Hacking Xbox Accounts

Slashdot - Mon, 22/05/2017 - 11:20pm
An anonymous reader shares a report: Since 2015, a Chinese gaming website has been hacking Xbox accounts and selling the proceeds on the open market, according to a complaint filed by Microsoft in federal court on Friday. On its website, iGSKY presents itself as a gaming service company, offering players a way to pay for in-game credits and rare items -- but according to Microsoft, many of those credits were coming from someone else's wallet. The complaint alleges that the company made nearly $2 million in purchases through hacked accounts and their associated credit cards, using purchases as a way to launder the resulting cash. On the site, cheap in-game points are also available for the FIFA games, Forza Horizon 3, Grand Theft Auto V, and Pokemon Go, among others.

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Microsoft Wants To Use DNA For Cloud Data Storage

Slashdot - Mon, 22/05/2017 - 10:40pm
Last July, researchers from Microsoft and the University of Washington said that they had successfully encoded about 200 megabytes of data onto synthetic DNA molecules. The company is now planning to take the technology commercial. "Computer architects at Microsoft Research say the company has formalized a goal of having an operational storage system based on DNA working inside a data center toward the end of this decade," reports MIT Technology Review. "The aim is a 'proto-commercial system in three years storing some amount of data on DNA in one of our four centers for at least a boutique application,' says Doug Carmean, a partner architect at Microsoft Research." From the report: Internally, Microsoft harbors the even more ambitious goal of replacing tape drives, a common format used for archiving information. Major obstacles to a practical storage system remain. Converting digital bits into DNA code (made up of chains of nucleotides labeled A, G, C, and T) remains laborious and expensive because of the chemical process used to manufacture DNA strands. In its demonstration project, Microsoft used 13,448,372 unique pieces of DNA. Experts say buying that much material on the open market would cost $800,000. According to Microsoft, the cost of DNA storage needs to fall by a factor of 10,000 before it becomes widely adopted. While many experts say that's unlikely, Microsoft believes such advances could occur if the computer industry demands them.

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Ethereum Could Be Worth More Than Bitcoin Very Soon

Slashdot - Mon, 22/05/2017 - 10:00pm
Ethereum is an open software platform based on blockchain technology that enables developers to build and deploy decentralized applications, according to Blockgeeks. It is currently the second most valuable cryptocurrency on the planet, but it could overthrow Bitcoin and become the most valuable cryptocurrency in the near future. Inc.com reports: If you aren't familiar, what Bitcoin does for payments, Ethereum does for anything involving programming and computing. While it utilizes its own version of a blockchain, it is functionally different from Bitcoin. For example, on the Ethereum platform you could host a crowdfunding campaign or any type of "smart contract." Ethereum's goal is to make a decentralized internet. And it has a very good shot at becoming "the new internet," literally. It could one day replace a lot of technology and ways that we host and execute code online. As of the time of writing, Ethereum has a market cap of over $17 billion. Bitcoin's market cap is $34 billion. This makes Ether (the name of Ethereum's token) the second most valuable cryptocurrency in the world. And that number jumped up over $3 billion just yesterday. It's making a major climb and has no end in sight, according to many. The Enterprise Ethereum Alliance is what initially spiked major interest (and shot up the price). Just the other day, 86 new companies joined the alliance.

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Baking Soda Shortage Has Hospitals Frantic, Delaying Treatments and Surgeries

Slashdot - Mon, 22/05/2017 - 9:20pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Amid a national shortage of a critical medicine, US hospitals are hoarding vials, delaying surgeries, and turning away patients, The New York Times reports. The medicine in short supply: solutions of sodium bicarbonate -- aka, baking soda. The simple drug is used in all sorts of treatments, from chemotherapies to those for organ failure. It can help correct the pH of blood and ease the pain of stitches. It is used in open-heart surgery, can help reverse poisonings, and is kept on emergency crash carts. But, however basic and life-saving, the drug has been in short supply since around February. The country's two suppliers, Pfizer and Amphastar, ran low following an issue with one of Pfizer's suppliers -- the issue was undisclosed due to confidentiality agreements. Amphastar's supplies took a hit with a spike in demand from desperate Pfizer customers. Both companies told the NYT that they don't know when exactly supplies will be restored. They speculate that it will be no earlier than June or August. With the shortage of sodium bicarbonate, hospitals are postponing surgeries and chemotherapy treatments. A hospital in Mobile, Alabama, for example, postponed seven open-heart surgeries and sent one critically ill patient to another hospital due to the shortage.

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Amazon's 1.7 Million Free Bananas 'Disrupting' Local Fruit Economy

Slashdot - Mon, 22/05/2017 - 9:00pm
Amazon has transformed businesses including retailing, filmmaking and data storage. But no one anticipated the bananas. It started with a brainstorm from founder and CEO Jeff Bezos that Amazon should offer everyone near its headquarters -- not just employees -- healthy, eco-friendly snacks as a public service. After considering oranges, Amazon picked bananas, and opened its first Community Banana Stand in late 2015. However, not everyone is pleased with the ecommerce giant's effort. From a report: Although there is no money in Amazon's community banana stands -- where the company has been offering free fruit to both workers and locals in Seattle since 2015 -- the tech giant's largesse is changing the banana landscape for some nearby businesses. [...] Thus far, the company says it's handed out more than 1.7 million free banana, reports The Wall Street Journal. But while many folks are fans of the free bananas, others say it's changing banana consumption in the community: Some workers say it's harder to find bananas at local grocery stores, while nearby eateries have also stopped selling as many banana as they used to.

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Self-Driving Cars Could Cost America's Professional Drivers Up To 25,000 Jobs a Month

Slashdot - Mon, 22/05/2017 - 8:40pm
The full impact of self-driving cars on society is several decades away -- but when it hits, the job losses will be substantial for American truck drivers, according to a new report from Goldman Sachs. From a report: When autonomous vehicle saturation peaks, U.S. drivers could see job losses at a rate of 25,000 a month, or 300,000 a year, according to a report from Goldman Sachs Economics Research. Truck drivers, more so than bus or taxi drivers, will see the bulk of that job loss, according to the report. That makes sense, given today's employment: In 2014, there were 4 million driver jobs in the U.S., 3.1 million of which were truck drivers, Goldman said. That represents 2 percent of total employment.

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How Fonts Are Fueling the Culture Wars

Slashdot - Mon, 22/05/2017 - 8:00pm
Reader mirandakatz writes: Typography is having a bit of a moment: Suddenly, tons of people who don't work in design have all sorts of opinions about it, and are taking every opportunity to point out poor font choices and smaller design elements. But they're missing the bigger picture. As Medium designer Ben Hersh writes at Backchannel, typography isn't just catchy visuals: It can also be dangerous. As Hersh writes, 'Typography can silently influence: It can signify dangerous ideas, normalize dictatorships, and sever broken nations. In some cases it may be a matter of life and death. And it can do this as powerfully as the words it depicts.' Don't believe him? He's got ample visual examples to prove it.

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Tech-Savvy Workers Increasingly Common in Non-IT Roles

Slashdot - Mon, 22/05/2017 - 7:20pm
An anonymous reader shares an article: IT professionals are becoming an increasingly common presence outside of the traditional IT departments, new research has found. According to CompTIA, it seems executives are calling for specialized skills, faster reflexes and more teamwork in their workers. According to the report, a fifth (21 percent) of CFOs say they have a dedicated tech role in their department. Those roles include business scientists, analysts, and software developers. There are also hybrid positions -- in part technical, but also focused on the business itself. "This isn't a case of rogue IT running rampant or CIOs and their teams becoming obsolete," says Carolyn April, senior director, industry analysis, CompTIA. "Rather, it signals that a tech-savvier workforce is populating business units and job roles."

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Pittsburgh Is Falling Out of Love With Uber's Self-Driving Cars

Slashdot - Mon, 22/05/2017 - 6:40pm
A worn-out welcome: The city rolled out the red carpet as a host to Uber's driverless car experiments, but nine months later its mayor and residents have built up a list of grievances with the public-private partnership. From a report: While our experience in one of the autonomous vehicles was thankfully pretty safe, it wasn't long before reports of accidents and wrong-way driving began to surface during the first month of the operation. Nine months later, the relationship continues to sour, according to a report in the New York Times. The things Uber promised in return for the city's support -- including free rides in driverless cars, backing the city's $50 million federal transportation grant and jobs for a neighborhood nearby Uber's testing track -- have not materialized. The situation was an issue during the mayoral primary, too, with critics calling out incumbent Bill Peduto for not getting these agreements in writing from the ride-sharing company.

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Mark Zuckerberg Is Working On a Way To Connect You To People You 'Should' Know

Slashdot - Mon, 22/05/2017 - 6:00pm
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Sunday shared some of what he has learned from his early trips around the country. Recode adds: The actual crux of the post comes later when Zuckerberg writes why he's taking on this new challenge. Basically: He's not running for office, he wants to find ways to strengthen Facebook's "community." Mark said, "I also think this is an area where Facebook can make a difference. Some of you have asked if this challenge means I'm running for public office. I'm not. I'm doing it to get a broader perspective to make sure we're best serving our community of almost 2 billion people at Facebook and doing the best work to promote equal opportunity at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. In many ways, relationships are the most important things in our lives -- whether we're trying to form healthy habits, stay out of trouble, or find better opportunities. And yet, research shows the average American has fewer than three close friends we can turn to for support." To make that difference Zuckerberg is talking about, he said that Facebook is helping people find people they already know but is also working on a way to connect you with people that you should know like mentors.

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Ford Ousted Its CEO And Is Doubling Down On Self-Driving Cars

Slashdot - Mon, 22/05/2017 - 5:20pm
An anonymous reader shares a report: At a press conference today, Ford announced that it had replaced CEO Mark Fields with Jim Hackett, director of the company's autonomous-car research. Previously the CEO of furniture company Steelcase (and a former athletic director at the University of Michigan), Hackett took a seat on Ford's board in 2013. He has been running the company's Smart Mobility subsidiary since March 2016. Smart Mobility is tasked with securing Ford's long-term future. The division houses Ford's self-driving car program, which plans to start ferrying employees around its Dearborn, Michigan campus in 2018. Outgoing CEO Mark Fields previously said that Ford would sell autonomous vehicles to consumers by 2025. [...] Hackett is expected to continue the push into self-driving cars. "We have to re-energize our business, we need to modernize our business," executive chairman Bill Ford said about the company's initiatives into new technologies at the conference.

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Facebook Flooded With 'Sextortion' and Revenge Porn, Files Reveal

Slashdot - Mon, 22/05/2017 - 4:40pm
An anonymous reader writes: Facebook had to assess nearly 54,000 potential cases of revenge pornography and "sextortion" on the site in a single month, according to a leaked document. Figures shared with staff reveal that in January Facebook had to disable more than 14,000 accounts related to these types of sexual abuse -- and 33 of the cases reviewed involved children. The company relies on users to report most abusive content, meaning the real scale of the problem could be much greater. But the Guardian has been told that moderators find Facebook's policies on sexual content the hardest to follow. "Sexual policy is the one where moderators make most mistakes," said a source. "It is very complex." Facebook admitted this was a high priority area and that it was using "image-matching" software to stop explicit content getting on to the site. It also acknowledged it was difficult to draw a line between acceptable and unacceptable sexual content.

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The Supreme Court Is Cracking Down on Patent Trolls

Slashdot - Mon, 22/05/2017 - 4:00pm
The Supreme Court on Monday limited the ability of patent holders to bring infringement lawsuits in courts that have plaintiff friendly reputations, a notable decision that could provide a boost to companies that defend against patent claims. The high court, in an opinion by Justice Clarence Thomas, ruled unanimously that a lower court has been following an incorrect legal standard for almost 30 years that made it possible for patent holders to sue companies in almost any U.S. jurisdiction. From a report: The justices sided 8-0 (PDF) with beverage flavoring company TC Heartland in its legal battle with food and beverage company Kraft Heinz, ruling that patent infringement suits can be filed only in courts located in the jurisdiction where the targeted company is incorporated. Justice Neil Gorsuch did not participate in the decision. The decision overturned a ruling last year by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, a Washington-based patent court, that said patent suits are fair game anywhere a defendant company's products are sold.

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Supernova Face-Off May Solve 40-Year-Old Antimatter Mystery

Space.com - Mon, 22/05/2017 - 3:45pm
The majority of antimatter that pervades the Milky Way may come from clashing remnants of dead stars, a new study finds.
Categories: Science