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Apr 23, 2021

Why small planes still use leaded fuel decades after phase-out in cars

Posted by in categories: energy, engineering, government, policy, transportation

While leaded gasoline was fully phased out in 1996 with the passage of the Clean Air Act, it still fuels a fleet of 170000 piston-engine airplanes and helicopters. Leaded aviation fuel, or avgas, now makes up “the largest remaining aggregate source of lead emissions to air in the U.S.,” according to the Environmental Protection Agency.


Meanwhile residents continue to live with the air quality that comes with living near an airport where small planes burning leaded fuel fly in and out, said Alarcon, who is also a volunteer organizer with the nonprofit tenant advocacy group Vecinos Activos. It’s also unclear to air quality experts and residents what is arguably safe.

“There is no bright line that says ‘Above this concentration lead is safe and below this concentration’ that it is not. You’d have to make a policy decision,” said Jay Turner, an engineering education professor at Washington University in St. Louis and member of the EPA’s Science Advisory Board. “We’re really careful to come back to this point that just because public areas might meet the EPA standard [for lead] doesn’t mean zero risk or zero concern.”

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Apr 20, 2021

Dr. Hassan Tetteh, MD — Health Mission Chief — DoD/JAIC — The Art of Human Care For COVID-19

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, business, ethics, government, health, military, policy, robotics/AI

The Art Of Human Care For Covid-19 — Dr. Hassan A. Tetteh MD, Health Mission Chief, U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, The Pentagon.


Dr. Hassan A. Tetteh, MD, is the Health Mission Chief, at the Department of Defense (DoD) Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, serving to advance the objectives of the DoD AI Strategy, and improve war fighter healthcare and readiness with artificial intelligence implementations.

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Apr 13, 2021

Hearing AIDS for the Masses

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, government, policy

Imagine Apple, Bose or other consumer electronics companies making hearing aids more stylish and relatively affordable — with people having confidence that the devices had been vetted by the F.D.A. Bose told me that it’s working on over-the-counter hearing aid technology.


This article is part of the On Tech newsletter. You can sign up here to receive it weekdays.

On Tech is back from a spring break, and the magnolia trees are blooming outside On Tech headquarters (a.k.a., my New York apartment).

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Apr 4, 2021

Google to restrict which apps can view already installed applications on your device

Posted by in categories: mobile phones, policy

Google has announced an update to its Developer Program Policy that will help to prevent applications from viewing which other apps are installed on an Android device. The company states that they consider installed apps to be private user information and therefore, aim to protect Android users by keeping this data secure.

That is to say, Google will limit which apps can request the QUERY_ALL_PACKAGES permission, presently mandatory for application targeting API level 30 (Android 11) and above that wish to query the list of application a user has installed for an Android 11 or later .

From now on, the QUERY_ALL_PACKAGES permission will only be available when the core functionality of an app in question must query any of the device’s installed applications. Therefore, in order to dispute this , developers will have to provide reasonable evidence for how querying the API of an Android devices installed applications is absolutely necessary in order for that device to properly function.

Mar 26, 2021

Reinforcement learning with artificial microswimmers

Posted by in categories: biological, chemistry, information science, mathematics, particle physics, policy, robotics/AI

Artificial microswimmers that can replicate the complex behavior of active matter are often designed to mimic the self-propulsion of microscopic living organisms. However, compared with their living counterparts, artificial microswimmers have a limited ability to adapt to environmental signals or to retain a physical memory to yield optimized emergent behavior. Different from macroscopic living systems and robots, both microscopic living organisms and artificial microswimmers are subject to Brownian motion, which randomizes their position and propulsion direction. Here, we combine real-world artificial active particles with machine learning algorithms to explore their adaptive behavior in a noisy environment with reinforcement learning. We use a real-time control of self-thermophoretic active particles to demonstrate the solution of a simple standard navigation problem under the inevitable influence of Brownian motion at these length scales. We show that, with external control, collective learning is possible. Concerning the learning under noise, we find that noise decreases the learning speed, modifies the optimal behavior, and also increases the strength of the decisions made. As a consequence of time delay in the feedback loop controlling the particles, an optimum velocity, reminiscent of optimal run-and-tumble times of bacteria, is found for the system, which is conjectured to be a universal property of systems exhibiting delayed response in a noisy environment.

Living organisms adapt their behavior according to their environment to achieve a particular goal. Information about the state of the environment is sensed, processed, and encoded in biochemical processes in the organism to provide appropriate actions or properties. These learning or adaptive processes occur within the lifetime of a generation, over multiple generations, or over evolutionarily relevant time scales. They lead to specific behaviors of individuals and collectives. Swarms of fish or flocks of birds have developed collective strategies adapted to the existence of predators (1), and collective hunting may represent a more efficient foraging tactic (2). Birds learn how to use convective air flows (3). Sperm have evolved complex swimming patterns to explore chemical gradients in chemotaxis (4), and bacteria express specific shapes to follow gravity (5).

Inspired by these optimization processes, learning strategies that reduce the complexity of the physical and chemical processes in living matter to a mathematical procedure have been developed. Many of these learning strategies have been implemented into robotic systems (7–9). One particular framework is reinforcement learning (RL), in which an agent gains experience by interacting with its environment (10). The value of this experience relates to rewards (or penalties) connected to the states that the agent can occupy. The learning process then maximizes the cumulative reward for a chain of actions to obtain the so-called policy. This policy advises the agent which action to take. Recent computational studies, for example, reveal that RL can provide optimal strategies for the navigation of active particles through flows (11–13), the swarming of robots (14–16), the soaring of birds , or the development of collective motion (17).

Mar 17, 2021

Low Earth Orbit Slotting for Space Traffic Management Using Flower Constellation Theory

Posted by in categories: mathematics, policy, satellites

5 january 2020.


This paper proposes the use of Flower Constellation (FC) theory to facilitate the design of a Low Earth Orbit (LEO) slotting system to avoid collisions between compliant satellites and optimize the available space. Specifically, it proposes the use of concentric orbital shells of admissible “slots” with stacked intersecting orbits that preserve a minimum separation distance between satellites at all times. The problem is formulated in mathematical terms and three approaches are explored: random constellations, single 2D Lattice Flower Constellations (2D-LFCs), and unions of 2D-LFCs. Each approach is evaluated in terms of several metrics including capacity, Earth coverage, orbits per shell, and symmetries. In particular, capacity is evaluated for various inclinations and other parameters. Next, a rough estimate for the capacity of LEO is generated subject to certain minimum separation and station-keeping assumptions and several trade-offs are identified to guide policy-makers interested in the adoption of a LEO slotting scheme for space traffic management.

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Mar 12, 2021

The EU is launching a market for personal data. Here’s what that means for privacy

Posted by in categories: governance, policy

The European Union has long been a trendsetter in privacy regulation. Its General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and stringent antitrust laws have inspired new legislation around the world. For decades, the EU has codified protections on personal data and fought against what it viewed as commercial exploitation of private information, proudly positioning its regulations in contrast to the light-touch privacy policies in the United States.

The new European data governance strategy (pdf) takes a fundamentally different approach. With it, the EU will become an active player in facilitating the use and monetization of its citizens’ personal data. Unveiled by the European Commission in February 2020, the strategy outlines policy measures and investments to be rolled out in the next five years.

This new strategy represents a radical shift in the EU’s focus, from protecting individual privacy to promoting data sharing as a civic duty. Specifically, it will create a pan-European market for personal data through a mechanism called a data trust. A data trust is a steward that manages people’s data on their behalf and has fiduciary duties toward its clients.

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Mar 12, 2021

Irakli Beridze, Head, Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics — UNICRI — United Nations

Posted by in categories: government, law, policy, robotics/AI, security, sustainability

AI And Robots For Law And Order — Irakli Beridze — Head, Artificial Intelligence and Robotics, UNICRI – United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute.


Irakli Beridze is the Head of the Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics at The United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI).

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Mar 12, 2021

‘Liftoff’ Offers Inside Look Into SpaceX’s Desperate Early Days

Posted by in categories: Elon Musk, policy, space, space travel

Half a century after the last astronauts left the Moon, the idea of sending crews to Mars still seems like some sort of vague space policy notion. After all, crews have yet to revisit the Moon. So, even today, talk of getting astronauts to Mars seems largely confined to PowerPoint presentations.

Thus, it was precisely that sense of inexactitude that prompted a young South African-born entrepreneur named Elon Musk to begin his quest to make the dream of boots on Mars a reality.

It’s a notion that is chronicled with alacrity in Eric Berger’s page-turning new book “Liftoff: Elon Musk and the Desperate Early Days that Launched SpaceX.” Berger, senior space editor at Ars Technica, writes with the kind of hard-won insider authority that only comes through covering the nuts and bolts of the commercial space industry for the past twenty years.

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Mar 11, 2021

Dr Emanuele Capobianco, MD, Director, Health And Care, Int Red Cross & Red Crescent Societies — IFRC

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, health, policy

Saving Lives; Changing Minds — Dr. Emanuele Capobianco, MD, Director for Health and Care, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.


Dr. Emanuele Capobianco, MD, MPH, is the Director for Health and Care at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), where he leads the IFRC Global Health and Care Team and provides strategic and operational support to 192 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies around the world in the areas of community health, emergency health and water/sanitation. He currently also leads the IFRC global response to COVID19 and the IFRC response to the Ebola outbreaks in DRC.

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