Practical clinical trials can help find alternatives to opioids

Science Daily - Sat, 20/05/2017 - 12:53pm
Pressures on primary care doctors to move away from opioid pain management are increasing, but practitioners need practical, evidence-based information on how to employ multidisciplinary pain care successfully in everyday clinical practice. A senior investigator believes wider use of practical clinical trials and more emphasis on patient self-management are key solutions for achieving wider use of multidisciplinary pain care to improve patient function and help lower use and misuse of opioids.
Categories: Science

Wearable Devices Communicate Vital Brain Activity Information

Science Daily - Sat, 20/05/2017 - 12:53pm
What can we learn about emotions, the brain and behavior from a wristband? Plenty, according to a prominent engineer.
Categories: Science

Skywatcher Beams at the Starry Night Sky in Stunning Cosmic Selfie

Space.com - Sat, 20/05/2017 - 11:45am
A skywatcher is literally beaming at the night sky in this star-speckled portrait. Astrophotographer Ruslan Merzlyakov captured this cosmic selfie while stargazing on the beach in Stenbjerg, Denmark in January.
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Story of 'Almost-First' Woman Astronaut Appears Off-Broadway

Space.com - Sat, 20/05/2017 - 11:30am
A new off-Broadway play follows the early life of Jerrie Cobb, a pilot who became famous in the early 1960s as the "almost-first" woman in space.
Categories: Science

Security News This Week: Hoo-Boy, Mar-a-Lago’s Internet Is Insecure

Wired News - Sat, 20/05/2017 - 11:00am
Each weekend we round up the news stories that we didn't break or cover in depth but that still deserve your attention. The post Security News This Week: Hoo-Boy, Mar-a-Lago's Internet Is Insecure appeared first on WIRED.
Categories: Science

The Pot Startups Prepping for Jeff Sessions’ New War on Drugs

Wired News - Sat, 20/05/2017 - 11:00am
The next war on drugs will be fought by bureaucrats. A new strain of startups is making sure legal marijuana businesses are ready. The post The Pot Startups Prepping for Jeff Sessions' New War on Drugs appeared first on WIRED.
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Space Photos of the Week: Saturn, You So Pretty

Wired News - Sat, 20/05/2017 - 11:00am
A shadow on Saturn's rings, a baby star, and shoebox-sized satellites. The post Space Photos of the Week: Saturn, You So Pretty appeared first on WIRED.
Categories: Science

The Return of the Iconic Rangefinder Camera

Wired News - Sat, 20/05/2017 - 11:00am
For many serious photographers, the rangefinder camera remains the go-to window on the world. The post The Return of the Iconic Rangefinder Camera appeared first on WIRED.
Categories: Science

Chemists May Be Zeroing In On Chemical Reactions That Sparked the First Life

Slashdot - Sat, 20/05/2017 - 10:00am
sciencehabit quotes a report from Scientific Magazine: DNA is better known, but many researchers today believe that life on Earth got started with its cousin RNA, since that nucleic acid can act as both a repository of genetic information and a catalyst to speed up biochemical reactions. But those favoring this "RNA world" hypothesis have struggled for decades to explain how the molecule's four building blocks could have arisen from the simpler compounds present during our planet's early days. Now chemists have identified simple reactions that, using the raw materials on early Earth, can synthesize close cousins of all four building blocks. The resemblance isn't perfect, but it suggests scientists may be closing in on a plausible scenario for how life on Earth began. The study has been published in the journal Nature.

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Scientists Claim 'Cold Spot' In Space Could Offer Evidence of a Parallel Universe

Slashdot - Sat, 20/05/2017 - 7:00am
New submitter LCooke writes: A international research team led by the University of Durham thinks a mysterious cold spot in the universe could offer evidence of a parallel universe. The cold spot could have resulted after our universe collided with another. Physicist Tom Shanks said, [...] "the cold spot might be taken as the first evidence for the multiverse -- and billions of other universes may exist like our own." From the report via Inhabitat: "NASA first discovered the baffling cold spot in 2004. The cold spot is 1.8 billion light years across and, as you may have guessed, colder than what surrounds it in the universe. Scientists thought perhaps it was colder because it had 10,000 less galaxies than other regions of similar size. They even thought perhaps the cold spot was just a trick of the light. But now an international team of researchers think perhaps the cold spot could actually offer evidence for the concept of a multiverse. The Guardian explains an infinite number of universes make up a multiverse; each having its own reality different from ours. These scientists say they've ruled out the last-ditch optical illusion idea. Instead, they think our universe may have collided with another in what News.com.au described as something like a car crash; the impact could have pushed energy away from an area of space to result in the cold spot." The study has been published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

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Planet Classification: How to Group Exoplanets

Space.com - Sat, 20/05/2017 - 5:52am
With thousands of exoplanet candidates discovered, astronomers are starting to figure out how to group them in order to describe them and understand them better.
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Robots Could Wipe Out Another 6 Million Retail Jobs

Slashdot - Sat, 20/05/2017 - 3:30am
According to a new study this week from financial services firm Cornerstone Capital Group, between 6 million and 7.5 million retail jobs are at risk of being replaced over the course of the next 10 years by some form of automation. "That represents at least 38% of the current retail work force, which consists of 16 million workers," reports CNN. "Retail could actually lose a greater proportion of jobs to automation than manufacturing has, according to the study." From the report: That doesn't mean that robots will be roving the aisles of your local department store chatting with customers. Instead, expect to see more automated checkout lines instead of cashiers. This shift alone will likely eliminate millions of jobs. "Cashiers are considered one of the most easily automatable jobs in the economy," said the report. And these job losses will hit women particularly hard, since about 73% of cashiers are women. There will also be fewer sales jobs, as more and more consumers use in-store smartphones and touchscreen computers to find what they need, said John Wilson, head of research at Cornerstone. There will still be some sales people on the floor, but just not as many of them. Rising wages are also helping to drive automation, as state and city governments hike their minimum wages. Additionally, several major retailers including Walmart, the nation's largest employer, have increased wages in order to find and retain the workers they need. The increased competition from e-commerce is also a factor, since it requires retailers to be as efficient as possible in order to compete.

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Uber Starts Charging What It Thinks You're Willing To Pay

Slashdot - Sat, 20/05/2017 - 1:25am
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Uber drivers have been complaining that the gap between the fare a rider pays and what the driver receives is getting wider. After months of unsatisfying answers, Uber is providing an explanation: It's charging some passengers more because it needs the extra cash. The company detailed for the first time in an interview with Bloomberg a new pricing system that's been in testing for months in certain cities. On Friday, Uber acknowledged to drivers the discrepancy between their compensation and what riders pay. The new fare system is called "route-based pricing," and it charges customers based on what it predicts they're willing to pay. It's a break from the past, when Uber calculated fares using a combination of mileage, time and multipliers based on geographic demand. Daniel Graf, Uber's head of product, said the company applies machine-learning techniques to estimate how much groups of customers are willing to shell out for a ride. Uber calculates riders' propensity for paying a higher price for a particular route at a certain time of day. For instance, someone traveling from a wealthy neighborhood to another tony spot might be asked to pay more than another person heading to a poorer part of town, even if demand, traffic and distance are the same.

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Even If Dana Rohrabacher Was a Russian Asset, Would He Know?

Wired News - Sat, 20/05/2017 - 1:24am
Congressman Dana Rohrabacher is totally onto the Russian spies trying to recruit him. But knowing he's a target doesn't necessarily protect him from their influence. The post Even If Dana Rohrabacher Was a Russian Asset, Would He Know? appeared first on WIRED.
Categories: Science

Princeton/Adobe technology will let you edit voices like text

Kurzweil AI - Sat, 20/05/2017 - 12:46am

Technology developed by Princeton University computer scientists may do for audio recordings of the human voice what word processing software did for the written word and Adobe Photoshop did for images.

“VoCo” software, still in the research stage, makes it easy to add or replace a word in an audio recording of a human voice by simply editing a text transcript of the recording. New words are automatically synthesized in the speaker’s voice — even if they don’t appear anywhere else in the recording.

The system uses a sophisticated algorithm to learn and recreate the sound of a particular voice. It could one day make editing podcasts and narration in videos much easier, or in the future, create personalized robotic voices that sound natural, according to co-developer Adam Finkelstein, a professor of computer science at Princeton. Or people who have lost their voices due to injury or disease might be able to recreate their voices through a robotic system, but one that sounds natural.

An earlier version of VoCo was announced in November 2016. A paper describing the current VoCo development will be published in the July issue of the journal Transactions on Graphics (an open-access preprint is available).

How it works (technical description)

VoCo allows people to edit audio recordings with the ease of changing words on a computer screen. The system inserts new words in the same voice as the rest of the recording. (credit: Professor Adam Finkelstein)

VoCo’s user interface looks similar to other audio editing software such as the podcast editing program Audacity, with a waveform of the audio track and cut, copy and paste tools for editing. But VoCo also augments the waveform with a text transcript of the track and allows the user to replace or insert new words that don’t already exist in the track by simply typing in the transcript. When the user types the new word, VoCo updates the audio track, automatically synthesizing the new word by stitching together snippets of audio from elsewhere in the narration.

VoCo is is based on an optimization algorithm that searches the voice recording and chooses the best possible combinations of phonemes (partial word sounds) to build new words in the user’s voice. To do this, it needs to find the individual phonemes and sequences of them that stitch together without abrupt transitions. It also needs to be fitted into the existing sentence so that the new word blends in seamlessly. Words are pronounced with different emphasis and intonation depending on where they fall in a sentence, so context is important.

Advanced VoCo editors can manually adjust pitch profile, amplitude and snippet duration. Novice users can choose from a predefined set of pitch profiles (bottom), or record their own voice as an exemplar to control pitch and timing (top). (credit: Professor Adam Finkelstein)

For clues about this context, VoCo looks to an audio track of the sentence that is automatically synthesized in artificial voice from the text transcript — one that sounds robotic to human ears. This recording is used as a point of reference in building the new word. VoCo then matches the pieces of sound from the real human voice recording to match the word in the synthesized track — a technique known as “voice conversion,” which inspired the project name, VoCo.

In case the synthesized word isn’t quite right, VoCo offers users several versions of the word to choose from. The system also provides an advanced editor to modify pitch and duration, allowing expert users to further polish the track.

To test how effective their system was a producing authentic sounding edits, the researchers asked people to listen to a set of audio tracks, some of which had been edited with VoCo and other that were completely natural. The fully automated versions were mistaken for real recordings more than 60 percent of the time.

The Princeton researchers are currently refining the VoCo algorithm to improve the system’s ability to integrate synthesized words more smoothly into audio tracks. They are also working to expand the system’s capabilities to create longer phrases or even entire sentences synthesized from a narrator’s voice.

Fake news videos?

Disney Research’s FaceDirector allows for editing recorded facial expressions and voice into a video (credit: Disney Research)

A key use for VoCo might be in intelligent personal assistants like Apple’s Siri, Google Assistant, Amazon’s Alexa, and Microsoft’s Cortana, or for using movie actors’ voices from old films in new ones, Finkelstein suggests.

But there are obvious concerns about fraud. It might even be possible to create a convincing fake video. Video clips with different facial expressions and lip movements (using Disney Research’s FaceDirector, for example) could be edited in and matched to associated fake words and other audio (such as background noise and talking), along with green screen to create fake backgrounds.

With billions of people now getting their news online and unfiltered, augmented-reality coming, and hacking way out of control, things may get even weirder. …

Zeyu Jin, a Princeton graduate student advised by Finkelstein, will present the work at the Association for Computing Machinery SIGGRAPH conference in July. The work at Princeton was funded by the Project X Fund, which provides seed funding to engineers for pursuing speculative projects. The Princeton researchers collaborated with scientists Gautham Mysore, Stephen DiVerdi, and Jingwan Lu at Adobe Research. Adobe has not announced availability of a commercial version of VoCo, or plans to integrate VoCo into Adobe Premiere Pro (or FaceDirector).

Abstract of VoCo: Text-based Insertion and Replacement in Audio Narration

Editing audio narration using conventional software typically involves many painstaking low-level manipulations. Some state of the art systems allow the editor to work in a text transcript of the narration, and perform select, cut, copy and paste operations directly in the transcript; these operations are then automatically applied to the waveform in a straightforward manner. However, an obvious gap in the text-based interface is the ability to type new words not appearing in the transcript, for example inserting a new word for emphasis or replacing a misspoken word. While high-quality voice synthesizers exist today, the challenge is to synthesize the new word in a voice that matches the rest of the narration. This paper presents a system that can synthesize a new word or short phrase such that it blends seamlessly in the context of the existing narration. Our approach is to use a text to speech synthesizer to say the word in a generic voice, and then use voice conversion to convert it into a voice that matches the narration. Offering a range of degrees of control to the editor, our interface supports fully automatic synthesis, selection among a candidate set of alternative pronunciations, fine control over edit placements and pitch profiles, and even guidance by the editors own voice. The paper presents studies showing that the output of our method is preferred over baseline methods and often indistinguishable from the original voice.

Categories: Science

UK Conservatives Pledge To Create Government-Controlled Internet

Slashdot - Sat, 20/05/2017 - 12:45am
Martin S. writes: Theresa May, the leader of the UK Conservative Party has pledged to create new internet that would be controlled and regulated by government on re-election. An early lead in the polls appears to be slipping but not slowly enough to change the result. Social Media has rapidly become an intense political battlefield. Known as #Mayhem in some circles, but seemingly able to command significant support from new and old media. Also, applying new social media analytics. According to the manifesto, the plans will allow Britain to become "the global leader in the regulation of the use of personal data and the internet." It states, "Some people say that it is not for government to regulate when it comes to technology and the internet... We disagree."

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Categories: Science

BlackBerry Working With Automakers On Antivirus Tool For Your Car

Slashdot - Sat, 20/05/2017 - 12:05am
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: BlackBerry is working with at least two automakers to develop a security service that would remotely scan vehicles for computer viruses and tell drivers to pull over if they were in critical danger, according to a financial analyst. The service, which would also be able to install security patches to an idle car, is being tested by luxury automakers Aston Martin and Range Rover. The service could be launched as early as next year, generating about $10 a month per vehicle for BlackBerry, according to Papageorgiou, who has followed BlackBerry for more than 15 years. Vehicles increasingly rely on dozens of computers that connect to each other as well as the internet, mobile networks and Bluetooth communications systems that make them vulnerable to remote hacks.

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London City First In UK To Get Remote Air Traffic Control

Slashdot - Fri, 19/05/2017 - 11:42pm
New submitter lifeisshort writes: "Instead of sitting in a tower overlooking the runway, controllers will be 80 miles away, watching live footage from high-definition cameras," reports BBC. "The new system, due to be completed in 2018, will be tested for a year before becoming fully operational in 2019. The technology has been developed by Saab, the Swedish defense and security company, and will be introduced as part of a 350 million EUR development program to upgrade London City Airport. It will also include an extended terminal building, enabling it to serve two million more passengers a year by 2025.The remote digital system will provide controllers with a 360-degree view of the airfield via 14 high-definition cameras and two cameras which are able to pan, tilt and zoom. The cameras will send a live feed via fibre cables to a new operations room built at the Hampshire base of Nats, Britain's air traffic control provider." As far as reliability is concerned, "the system will use three different cables, taking different routes between the airport and the control centre, to ensure there is a back up if one of those cables fails." In spite of recent large scale hacks, what could possibly go wrong? And the next obvious step is giant Bangalore ATC outsourcing company...

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Sweden Drops Julian Assange Rape Investigation

Slashdot - Fri, 19/05/2017 - 11:20pm
rmdingler writes: "Sweden is dropping its investigation into WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on rape allegations, according to a prosecution statement released Friday," reports CNN. "Assange, who has always denied wrongdoing, has been holed up at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since 2012, in an effort to avoid a Swedish arrest warrant." Despite Friday's announcement, he's unlikely to walk out of the embassy imminently. There is no apparent change in the risk of being detained in the west, particularly in the U.S., but it's definitely a win for Assange. Joshua.Niland adds: The pressure on Julian Assange may have lifted ever so slightly with Swedish prosecutors dropping their investigation into the allegations of rape. A brief statement ahead of a press conference by the prosecutor later on Friday said: "Director of Public Prosecution, Ms Marianne Ny, has today decided to discontinue the investigation regarding suspected rape (lesser degree) by Julian Assange." This will not likely deter the United States from pursuing their own charges against him for publishing tens of thousands of military documents leaked by Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning. After describing the development as "an important victory," Assange said, "[...] it by no means erases seven years of detention without charge under house arrest and almost five years here in this embassy without sunlight. Seven years without charge while my children grow up without me. That is not something I can forgive. It is not something I can forget."

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