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Apr 13, 2017

This college dropout says he’s cracked the crucial component for self-driving cars

Posted by in categories: robotics/AI, transportation

Most companies working on autonomous vehicles consider lidar sensors mandatory for vehicles to safely navigate alone and distinguish objects such as pedestrians and cyclists. But the best existing sensors are bulky, extremely expensive, and in short supply as demand surges (see “Self-Driving Cars’ Spinning Laser Problem”). Alphabet and Uber have both said they were forced to invent their own, better-performing sensors from scratch to make self-driving vehicles viable. Luminar hopes to serve automakers that would rather not go to that effort.

Russell doesn’t have a college degree—he dropped out of Stanford in return for a $100,000 check under a program started by venture capitalist Peter Thiel to encourage entrepreneurship. But Russell says a (short) lifetime of tinkering and building with electronics helped him design a new lidar sensor that sees farther and in more detail than those on the market.

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Apr 13, 2017

AI picks up racial and gender biases when learning from what humans write

Posted by in categories: information science, robotics/AI

Artificial intelligence picks up racial and gender biases when learning language from text, researchers say. Without any supervision, a machine learning algorithm learns to associate female names more with family words than career words, and black names as being more unpleasant than white names.

For a study published today in Science, researchers tested the bias of a common AI model, and then matched the results against a well-known psychological test that measures bias in humans. The team replicated in the algorithm all the psychological biases they tested, according to study co-author Aylin Caliskan, a post-doc at Princeton University. Because machine learning algorithms are so common, influencing everything from translation to scanning names on resumes, this research shows that the biases are pervasive, too.

“Language is a bridge to ideas, and a lot of algorithms are built on language in the real world,” says Megan Garcia, the director of New America’s California branch who has written about this so-called algorithmic bias. “So unless an alg is making a decision based only on numbers, this finding is going to be important.”

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Apr 13, 2017

NASA: Nearby ocean worlds could be best bet for life beyond Earth

Posted by in category: space

Fascinating stuff!

NASA has new evidence that the most likely places to find life beyond Earth are Jupiter’s moon Europa or Saturn’s moon Enceladus. In terms of potential habitability, Enceladus particularly has almost all of the key ingredients for life as we know it, researchers said.

New observations of these active ocean worlds in our solar system have been captured by two NASA missions and were presented in two separate studies in an announcement at NASA HQ in Washington today.

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Apr 13, 2017

Tesla Semi all-electric truck to be unveiled in September and be ‘next level’, says Elon Musk

Posted by in categories: Elon Musk, robotics/AI, transportation

Tesla CEO Elon Musk revealed today, on the eve of the New York International Auto Show that the company plans to unveil its all-electric semi truck, called ‘Tesla Semi’, in September.

Tesla Semi truck unveil set for September. Team has done an amazing job. Seriously next level.

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Apr 13, 2017

Synopsis: A Room-Sized Linear Accelerator for Proton Therapy

Posted by in category: biotech/medical

A proton beam can kill cancer cells, and the accelerators used for treatment are always the circular kind. Linear accelerators (“linacs”) allow more control of the beam; for example, the energy can be varied rapidly to match a patient’s breathing. But linacs take up a lot of space. Now researchers propose a design that could fit in a room 10 m x 20 m, potentially making linacs practical for patient therapy. Research from CERN.

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Apr 13, 2017

At 2pm ET: Get the latest on new discoveries made about #OceanWorlds beyond Earth

Posted by in category: space


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Apr 13, 2017

NASA’s New Horizons Surprises With Whole New View Of Cosmos

Posted by in category: space travel

New Horizons has made observations it was never tasked with making; serendipity of the sort that may lead to new and better astronomical missions to observe the distant cosmos from the outer fringes of the solar system, where it’s darkest and astronomers would have the clearest, dust-free view of our own galaxy and the optical light from the universe as a whole.

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft has unexpectedly made observations of optical light from beyond our Milky Way galaxy. Astronomers are ecstatic and hoping for more.

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Apr 13, 2017

Climate change, other concerns fuel scientists’ in-your-face activism

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

While many scientists have shied away from explicitly political actions in recent decades, the community throughout history has spoken publicly on a wide variety of social, technological and ideological issues.

That has included everything from opposing fascism, nuclear proliferation and the Vietnam War to sitting on government panels that advise elected leaders on stem-cell research involving human embryos.

In U.S. history, scientists have been vocal about fascism, nuclear proliferation, the Vietnam War, stem cells and more.

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Apr 13, 2017

The gravity and light-sucking monster weighs as much as 4 million suns

Posted by in category: cosmology

AFTER training a network of telescopes stretching from Hawaii to Antarctica to Spain at the heart of our galaxy for five nights running, astronomers said Wednesday they may have snapped the first-ever picture of a black hole.

It will take months to develop the image, but if scientists succeed the results may help peel back mysteries about what the universe is made of and how it came into being.

“Instead of building a telescope so big that it would probably collapse under its own weight, we combined eight observatories like the pieces of a giant mirror,” said Michael Bremer, an astronomer at the International Research Institute for Radio Astronomy (IRAM) and a project manager for the Event Horizon Telescope.

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Apr 13, 2017

The endgame for cameras is having no camera at all

Posted by in categories: computing, internet, mobile phones

I’ve been reading about Gcam, the Google X project that was first sparked by the need for a tiny camera to fit inside Google Glass, before evolving to power the world-beating camera of the Google Pixel. Gcam embodies an atypical approach to photography in seeking to find software solutions for what have traditionally been hardware problems. Well, others have tried, but those have always seemed like inchoate gimmicks, so I guess the unprecedented thing about Gcam is that it actually works. But the most exciting thing is what it portends.

I think we’ll one day be able to capture images without any photographic equipment at all.

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