Tag Archives | Science & Technology

Asteroid Day: A global day of awareness slated for June 30, 2015

AsteroidDay

via Astronomy.com:

Astrophysicist Brian May, founding member and lead guitarist of the rock band Queen, joined Lord Martin Rees, the UK Royal Astronomer, at the London Science Museum today to host a press conference to announce Asteroid Day, a global awareness campaign to educate the world about asteroids. The event was linked to the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, where Ryan Wyatt, director of the Morrison Planetarium and Science Visualization, hosted astronauts Tom Jones, Ed Lu, and Apollo 9 Astronaut Rusty Schweickart. Bill Nye, the Science Guy and CEO of The Planetary Society, joined via video from New York.

A central focus of the event was the release of a 100x Declaration, calling for the hundredfold increase in the detection and monitoring of asteroids. Lord Rees read the declaration, which resolves to “solve humanity’s greatest challenges to safeguard our families and quality of life on Earth in the future.”

The declaration calls for three key actions:

  • Employ the available technology to detect and track near-Earth asteroids that threaten human populations
  • A rapid hundredfold (100x) acceleration of the discovery and tracking of near-Earth objects
  • Global adoption of Asteroid Day on June 30, 2015, to heighten awareness of the asteroid hazard and efforts to prevent future impacts.
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The Day You’ll Prefer Robots to Humans

via The Singularity Hub:

Peter Diamandis on Dec 01, 2014

Finally, the robot revolution is arriving.

There’s a Cambrian explosion in robotics, with species of all sizes, shapes and modes of mobility crawling out of the muck of the lab and onto the terra firma of the marketplace, about to enter your home and your shopping experience.

Here’s why…

4 Converging (Enabling) Technologies

Four converging tech areas enable the revolution. I write about this in detail (both the technologies and business opportunities) in my next book BOLD (coming out February 2015). See if this makes sense…

  1. Sensors: The sensors that cost you $10 today would have been military secrets costing you tens of thousands of dollars 20 years ago. Sensors that listen, look, feel and navigate are plummeting in cost, size, weight and power consumption, thanks to the smartphone revolution.

Read More: http://singularityhub.com/2014/12/01/the-day-youll-prefer-robots-to-humans/

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American cultural imperialism has a new name: GAFA

Duncan Hull (CC BY 2.0)

Duncan Hull (CC BY 2.0)

via Quartz:

In France, there’s a new word: GAFA. It’s an acronym, and it has become a shorthand term for some of the most powerful companies in the world—all American, all tech giants. GAFA stands for Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon.

The phrase is used by newspapers, blogs, and talking heads on TV—see here and here and here (all links in French). It even appears in the local version of “The Internet for Dummies.” Le Monde’s economics editor, Alexis Delcambre, tells Quartz that GAFA first appeared in his newspaper in December 2012. “GAFA is not used very often, but when used, it is almost always on critical topics, including taxes or personal data,” he says.

In the US, Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon are generally praised as examples of innovation. In the French press, and for much of the rest of Europe, their innovation is often seen in a less positive light—the ugly Americans coming over with innovative approaches to invading personal privacy or new ways to avoid paying their fair share.

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Asimov’s Three Laws Are Not an International Treaty

Lima Pix (CC BY 2.0)

Lima Pix (CC BY 2.0)

via Slate:

Recently, Elon Musk voiced his concern (again) that developing artificial intelligence is “summoning the demon.” If you read his comments, though, you saw he wasn’t warning that the operating system from Hercould do more than break Joaquin Phoenix’s heart. Musk was specifically discussingdefense contractors and autonomous weapons. That’s consistent with his recent “Terminator” warnings (and that sentence fulfills my obligation to mentionTerminator in an article about artificial intelligence). It also echoes the legal position advocated by the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots (which has as unambiguous a name as you’re likely to find) that autonomous weapons “appear to be incapable of abiding by the key principles of international humanitarian law.” Opposition to killer robots seems as uncontroversial as opposition to the Killer Clown and support for “Killer Queen.” However, if you look closely at international law, it doesn’t have anything to say about artificial intelligence and autonomous weapons.

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Is AI a Myth?

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via Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies:

A few weeks back the technologist Jaron Lanier gave a provocative talk over at The Edge in which he declared ideas swirling around the current manifestation AI to be a “myth”, and a dangerous myth at that. Yet Lanier was only one of a set of prominent thinkers and technologists who have appeared over the last few months to challenge want they saw as a flawed narrative surrounding recent advances in artificial intelligence.

There was a piece in The New York Review of Books back in October by the most famous skeptic from the last peak in AI – back in the early 1980’s, John Searle. (Relation to the author lost in the mists of time) It was Searle who invented the well-know thought experiment of the “Chinese Room”, which purports to show that a computer can be very clever without actually knowing anything at all.

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DNA survives critical entry into Earth’s atmosphere

Kevin Dooley (CC BY 2.0)

Kevin Dooley (CC BY 2.0)

via Phys.org:

The genetic material DNA can survive a flight through space and re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere—and still pass on genetic information. A team of scientists from UZH obtained these astonishing results during an experiment on the TEXUS-49 research rocket mission.

Applied to the outer shell of the payload section of a rocket using pipettes, small, double-stranded DNA molecules flew into space from Earth and back again. After the launch, space flight, re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere and landing, the so-called plasmid DNA molecules were still found on all the application points on the rocket from the TEXUS-49 mission. And this was not the only surprise: For the most part, the DNA salvaged was even still able to transfer genetic information to bacterial and . “This study provides experimental evidence that the DNA’s genetic information is essentially capable of surviving the of space and the re-entry into Earth’s dense atmosphere,” says study head Professor Oliver Ullrich from the University of Zurich’s Institute of Anatomy.

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Enthusiasts and Skeptics Debate Artificial Intelligence

Eddi van W. (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Eddi van W. (CC BY-ND 2.0)

via Vanity Fair:

Kurt Andersen wonders: If the Singularity is near, will it bring about global techno-Nirvana or civilizational ruin?

THE GREAT SCHISM

Artificial intelligence is suddenly everywhere. It’s still what the experts call “soft A.I.,” but it is proliferating like mad. We’re now accustomed to having conversations with computers: to refill a prescription, make a cable-TV-service appointment, cancel an airline reservation—or, when driving, to silently obey the instructions of the voice from the G.P.S.

But until the other morning I’d never initiated an elective conversation with a talking computer. I asked the artificial-intelligence app on my iPhone how old I am. First, Siri spelled my name right, something human beings generally fail to do. Then she said, “This might answer your question,” and displayed my correct age in years, months, and days. She knows more about me than I do. When I asked, “What is the Singularity?,” Siri inquired whether I wanted a Web search (“That’s what I figured,” she replied) and offered up this definition: “A technological singularity is a predicted point in the development of a civilization at which technological progress accelerates beyond the ability of present-day humans to fully comprehend or predict.”

Siri appeared on my phone three years ago, a few months after the IBM supercomputer Watson beat a pair of Jeopardy!

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Facebook threats and the Supreme Court: a guide to today’s case

John Marino (CC BY 2.0)

John Marino (CC BY 2.0)

via Gigaom:

The Supreme Court on Monday will hear the appeal of a man who went to prison for posting violent rants on Facebook. The case will shape the future of what people can and can’t say online, and is being closely watched by the tech industry, domestic violence groups, and civil libertarians.

Here’s a short overview of the facts and the law, and where to learn more.

What did the man write on Facebook to land in such trouble?

Anthony Elonis, a 31-year-old man from a small town in Pennsylvania, served more than 3 years in prison over a series of Facebook posts in which he threatened to kill his ex-wife, strap a bomb to his chest and shoot up a kindergarten class. Elonis says he never intended to harm anyone, and the Facebook posts — many of them rap lyrics quoting Eminem — were just a way of  a venting, and that the violence he described was no more than hip hop-inspired hyperbole.

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High school girls build kick-ass robots

Rebecca Selah (CC BY 2.0)

Rebecca Selah (CC BY 2.0)

via The Verge:

Girls don’t like robots.

Fredi Lajvardi heard that a lot. As a high school science teacher in urban Phoenix, he ran into roadblocks whenever he tried to recruit girls to the school’s robotics club. Male students and even some teachers offered a variety of excuses: they’re not good at building things; they don’t care about engineering; they don’t know how to use power tools.

Lajvardi didn’t believe it, even when female students said they weren’t interested in the robot team. To Lajvardi, it was a puzzle that needed a solution. He was born in Iran but his family moved to the US when he was one year old. As a high school student in Phoenix during the Iran hostage crisis in the early 1980s, he got beat up for being Iranian. It didn’t matter that he’d left Iran as an infant; the bullies just saw his otherness and hurt him for it.

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Flight of the RoboBees

opensource.com (CC BY-SA 2.0)

opensource.com (CC BY-SA 2.0)

via AdBusters:

Colony Collapse Disorder (ccd), initially referred to as “mystery disease” when it surfaced at the beginning of the 20th Century, remains mysterious. Here’s what we know: Bee populations around the world are falling to pieces and the implications are cataclysmic. No more honey for your toast, nor pollen for your flowers, which means no more flowers. Or plants. Or food. Or life.

The most convincing theory as to the root cause of CCD is the decades-old use of neonicotinoid insecticides — a class of neuroactive pest killers that are chemically similar to nicotine and were initially developed by Shell Oil as an “environmentally friendly” alternative to traditional pesticides. And while these chemicals have been kinder to the mammalian class, they’ve ravaged the anthophilous.

As the rapid advancement of CCD began to reach feverish levels in June of this year, President Obama created a task force charged with solving the mystery within 180 days.

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