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Accenture to acquire German firm umlaut

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Bengaluru: Global professional services company Accenture will acquire umlaut, an engineering consulting and services firm headquartered in Aachen, Germany for an undisclosed amount. The acquisition will scale Accenture's deep engineering capabilities to help companies use digital technologies like cloud, artificial intelligence, and 5G to transform how they design, engineer and manufacture their products as well as embed sustainability. The acquisition of umlaut will add more than 4,200 industry-leading engineers and consultants across 17 countries to Accenture's Industry X services, and expand the company's capabilities across a range of industries, including automotive, aerospace & defense, telecommunications, energy and utilities, Accenture said in a statement. Industry X combines Accenture's powerful data and digital capabilities with deep engineering expertise to offer clients the broadest suite of services for digitizing their engineering functions, factory floors and plant operations, improving productivity, speeding up the transformation of hardware into software-enabled products, and allowing for faster and more flexible product development. "We predicted that digital would ultimately be applied at scale to the core of a company's business - the design, engineering and manufacturing of their products. And, for nearly a decade Accenture has been building the unique capabilities and ecosystem partnerships to combine the power of digital with traditional engineering services," said Julie Sweet, chief executive officer, Accenture.


News at a glance

Science

SCI COMMUN### Planetary science The Wright brothers' storied flight at Kitty Hawk had a sequel this week more than 288 million kilometers away: Ingenuity, NASA's $80 million minihelicopter, took a 1-minute test hop on Mars, the first controlled flight of a powered aircraft on another planet. The autonomous 1.8-kilogram machine, the size of a tissue box, spun up its 1.2-meter rotors to more than 2500 revolutions per minute before ascending about 3 meters and hovering in the thin martian air. Ingenuity rotated and took a picture before alighting back on the surface. NASA plans to send Ingenuity, which first landed on Mars on 18 February with the Perseverance rover, on four more flights of increasing height and distance and to use the resulting data to build larger, more ambitious helicopters to explore the Red Planet. 14 of 15 —U.S. states not requiring people to wear masks in public recorded relatively high rates of new COVID-19 cases from May to October 2020. None of eight states with high mask wearing had high rates of infection. ( PLOS ONE ) ### Natural resources Just 19% of Earth's lands are truly wild, with no history of human impact, a new study shows. In other parts of the globe, however, biodiversity hot spots have survived even where humans thrived, thanks in part to millennia of beneficial land management practices by Indigenous people, these researchers conclude. By 10,000 years ago, humans had already spread across three-quarters of the globe, and their controlled burns, small-scale farming, and other practices may have sustained or even improved biodiversity, according to the analysis of past and present land use, published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences . The finding sheds light on a long debate between archaeologists, who cited evidence of this lengthy history, and conservationists, who have insisted that humans did not significantly affect biodiversity until intensive agriculture, urbanization, and deforestation began 200 years ago. Because of the present-day overlap between biodiversity hot spots and lands occupied by Indigenous people, the study bolsters the idea that the growing push to help them regain and retain control over their lands might help protect biodiversity. ### Astronomy The Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) collaboration, which in 2019 produced the first image of a black hole's shadow, this week completed another observing campaign, its first in 3 years. Organizers hope their network of radio telescopes will reveal more of the dark heart of the nearby M87 galaxy as well as the Milky Way's center and the quasar 3C 273. EHT must synchronize 10 observatories across the globe in good weather, so its observing window each year is short. Three observatories joined the network this year (including the Kitt Peak 12-meter telescope in Arizona, below), which will sharpen images. Researchers gathered data for more than seven full nights over 2 weeks this month, and EHT spokesperson Eduardo Ros called the results “excellent.” Now begins a long wait as recorded data are shipped to Boston and Bonn, Germany, for months of processing before an image might be revealed. ### Scientific societies The 90-year-old American Association of Physical Anthropologists (AAPA) has rechristened itself in order to separate today's association from the field's racist and colonial past. At AAPA's virtual annual meeting last week, an overwhelming majority of members voted to delete the word “physical” and become the American Association of Biological Anthropologists. They acknowledged that the old name has roots in the 19th century, when early anthropologists helped create damaging concepts of race by quantifying physical differences among people. The new name conveys that anthropology is now a multidisciplinary biological science that deals with the adaptations, variability, and evolution of humans and their living and fossil relatives, as well as their culture and behavior, according to a statement by the current and past AAPA presidents. “Importantly, the change allows us to reflect deeply on issues of racism and colonialism, which, at times, permeated the field of ‘physical anthropology,’” they wrote. ### Climate science California and its partners announced plans last week to launch two satellites by 2023 to spot plumes of planet-warming carbon dioxide and methane. The $100 million Carbon Mapper project, financed by publisher Michael Bloomberg and other philanthropists, will advance efforts to track concentrated emissions of greenhouse gases that rise from sources such as fossil fuel power plants and leaky pipelines. Previous satellites have lacked the resolution, sensitivity, and focus to collect the data officials need in order to regulate the emissions effectively. The new spacecraft will rely on “hyperspectral” imaging spectrometers that can record more than 400 visible and infrared wavelengths, whose patterns can reveal the abundances of certain gases in the atmosphere below. ### Public health A tiny fraction of the U.S. residents fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by 14 April have become infected, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said last week. The agency said it expected some “breakthrough” infections and that the low numbers support the value of the inoculations. CDC said it received 5814 reports of such infections in 75 million people vaccinated in 43 U.S. states and territories. Of the infected people, 65% were female, 45% were 60 or older, and 29% were asymptomatic. Seven percent were hospitalized, and 1% died, some from causes unrelated to COVID-19. CDC cautioned that the data from the states reporting might be incomplete. Public health specialists say the infections were more likely to have resulted from weak immune responses to vaccination than to mutations in the virus that let it evade those defenses. ### COVID-19 Researchers at the University of Oxford will intentionally reinfect people previously infected by the virus that causes COVID-19 to study their immune responses and symptoms. The “human challenge trial,” announced on 19 April, will initially re-expose up to 64 volunteers who previously tested positive for the virus and measure what viral dose triggers new infections. A U.K. government ethics panel approved the study and a similar one led by Imperial College London scientists who are evaluating the performance of COVID-19 vaccines. Such experiments may provide results faster than other trial methods allow. ### Anthropology More than 1300 skulls held in a museum collection that was used to justify racism will now be available for return to communities of the people's descendants, the University of Pennsylvania said last week. Samuel Morton started the collection in the 19th century and used studies of its contents to support the idea of white superiority. Many of the crania belonged to enslaved Africans and Indigenous people. In a statement, Christopher Woods, director of the university's Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, where the Morton Cranial Collection is held, apologized for the “unethical possession of human remains.” The museum will work to identify descendant communities and accept requests for the return of any crania in the collection. Repatriation of human remains, especially Black and Indigenous ancestors, “is part of a cultural and social reckoning” about how to address anthropology's history of racism, Woods says. ### Scientific meetings A talk last week at the virtual annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology (SAA) sparked criticism for arguing against a key U.S. law giving Native Americans rights to the human remains and artifacts of their ancestors. Many society members were outraged that SAA gave a platform to what they considered a racist and anti-Indigenous presentation. Some note that this incident comes after a sexual harassment scandal at the organization's 2019 conference. In her talk, SAA member and anthropologist Elizabeth Weiss of San Jose State University said archaeologists “have let creationism into the heart of our discipline” because the law, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), allows Indigenous communities to request repatriation of remains, which they may do partly because of religious beliefs. But archaeologists widely support the law, under which many tribes have collaborated with researchers. In response to the criticism, SAA issued a statement encouraging “the rigorous interrogation of diverse views.” SAA President Deborah Nichols later told Science the organization's board rejects the viewpoint of Weiss and her co-author and supports NAGPRA. ### Policy The relatively modest research investments outlined in Canada's new federal budget could make it difficult for the nation to recruit and retain scientific talent, Canadian science advocates fear. The multiyear spending plan, announced on 19 April, includes CA$2.2 billion in mostly new funding for life sciences, with much of the money aimed at boosting biomedical applications and vaccine development. (Canada will continue to provide other spending for research this year under multiyear budgets approved in 2018 and 2019.) But analysts worry the increases are too modest compared with much larger ones proposed for the United States by President Joe Biden, and that some Canadian scientists will look for work south of the border. Under Canada's budget, three main research councils will share CA$250 million for a new joint biomedical research program, and the Canadian Institutes for Health Research will get an additional CA$250 million to fund clinical trials. Universities and research hospitals will get CA$500 million for infrastructure such as equipment and buildings. Three programs—an existing artificial intelligence program and two new ones in genomics and quantum science—will each receive CA$400 million in new funding. ### Publishing Egypt, Iran, Turkey, and other countries in the Middle East and North Africa have boosted their share of scholarly articles in international journals and citations to those papers during the past 4 decades, the Clarivate analytics firm said this month. From 1981 to 2019, the region quadrupled its share of research articles and reviews to 8%; among regions and large countries, only China grew by more. Fifteen of the region's 19 countries had a citation score in 2019 higher than the world average, when adjusted for differences across disciplines; in 2000, almost all had scores well below average. ### Reckoning with climate blues Sustainability scientist Kimberly Nicholas of Lund University found herself struggling with feelings of grief as research by her and others revealed how much climate change will harm agriculture, ecosystems, and human communities. And she discovered she is not alone. In her new book, Under the Sky We Make: How to Be Human in a Warming World , she offers insight into how people and institutions can respond to those feelings and the climate challenge. (A longer version of this interview is at .) > Q: How does your experience with grief inform your thinking about climate change? > A: Things are changing beyond recognition right now from climate change. To me, grieving is an important part of the process of acknowledging that. It does draw from my experience of losing a dear friend to cancer, who died at 37. It was a kind of wake-up call [that prompted me] to think about my core values and what matters. But it shouldn't take a terminal diagnosis for life on Earth to wake us up to the urgency of working for climate stability. > Q: Students come to you distraught about harm to ecosystems they hope to study. What do you tell them? > A: The main thing is not to shy away from those conversations. It's not really helpful to deny the reality or not equip them with the tools to face that reality. You have to acknowledge that they're running into a house that is on fire. > Q: You argue for a shift from what you call the “exploitation mindset.” What's an example? > A: A big wake-up moment for me came at a climate science conference. Pretty much everyone there, including me, had flown in. The presentations were a litany of depressing things happening because of climate change. I felt like I was at this conference of doctors puffing on cigarettes, but telling our patients to quit smoking! I realized we really have an obligation to model the change that we want to see. So, I have pretty much stopped flying for work. It hasn't meant I can't be a productive researcher.


Facebook unveils AI model to mix up cancer-curing cocktails with existing drugs

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No longer content to simply provide a platform for keeping up with long-lost cousins and spreading conspiracy theories, Facebook has branched out into developing artificial intelligence to help treat complex diseases. The social media giant's AI research department and the Helmholtz Zentrum München, a research center in Germany focused on environmental health, unveiled an open-source AI model designed to determine the viability of repurposing existing drugs into new pharmaceutical cocktails. Researchers and biologists now have free access to the Compositional Perturbation Autoencoder, or CPA, which evaluates the effects of drug combinations in varying dosages--a complicated task, as the number of possibilities can accelerate exponentially into the billions as more medicines are thrown into the mix. The model predicts not only how the drugs interact with one another, but also how they might work together to attack specific cell types and interrupt diseases. The researchers trained the machine learning model on single-cell RNA sequencing data, to help it gauge the effects of drug cocktails on individual cells without requiring drug- or cell-specific programming.


How Artificial Intelligence Helps to Improve Rescue Services

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When it comes to life and death in an accident or health emergency, every minute can be crucial. For this to happen, both rescue vehicles and rescue workers must be on standby around the clock. Organizing all this, however, is not easy, especially in a city with over a million inhabitants. In Cologne, Germany, this task could become a little less complicated in the future thanks to artificial intelligence. To this end, Mark Schleider, a graduate of the master's program in computer science at the Technical University (TH) of Bingen, has developed a model in his final thesis that predicts the workload of rescue services.


Facebook Employs AI Tech To Combat Illnesses

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Facebook said it is rolling out artificial intelligence (AI) tools aimed at predicting the best combination of pharmaceuticals to combat complex illnesses, VentureBeat reported. The social media behemoth said it is launching the first AI solution that is able to predict the effects of drug combinations and the timing of doses for the best outcome. The tool will also suggest additional interventions that might help a person's condition, such as gene deletion. The tools are being launched in collaboration with Helmholtz Zentrum München, and Facebook said it thinks the solutions will be a boon to the identification of drug interactions and will be able to offer up the best combination of therapies and medications to combat complex diseases. Repurposing existing pharmaceuticals has already changed the way doctors and clinicians prescribe drugs and the different combinations have been found to fight deadly conditions that were not indicated by the suggested use of a particular drug.


Climate / Meterology Jobs : Earthworks : Scientist for Machine Learning - Reading, UK - Bonn, Germany - European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF)

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ECMWF is both a research institute and a 24/7 operational service, producing numerical weather predictions for its Member and Co-operating States as well as users around the world. ECMWF carries out scientific and technical research and analysis aiming to continuously improve global prediction. ECMWF processes in its high-performance computing facility large amounts of observations to provide up-to-date global analyses and climate reanalyses of the atmosphere, ocean and land surface. Over the years, ECMWF--s partnership with the European Union has grown, and in 2014 ECMWF became an entrusted entity to operate the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) and the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) on behalf of the European Commission until mid-2021 and ECMWF is preparing plans for the next phase of the Copernicus Programme for the period 2021-2027. ECMWF currently operates from its headquarters, located in Reading, UK, and its data centre located in Bologna, Italy.


Briefly Noted Book Reviews

The New Yorker

Philosophers have long debated the nature of consciousness. This probing study takes an evolutionary approach, examining "experience in general" not only in humans but in much of the animal kingdom. Animals, it argues, developed consciousness gradually, through such biological innovations as centralized nervous systems and the ability to distinguish one's actions from external forces, which have given rise to "varieties of subjectivity." The author is crisp on a subject notorious for abstraction, dissecting fuzzy philosophical metaphors and weaving in lively descriptions of the octopuses, whale sharks, and banded shrimp he observes on scuba dives off the coasts of Australia. Born in 1797 in Düsseldorf, then under Napoleonic occupation, Heine remained a committed liberal even as Germany turned inward after the Congress of Vienna.


When AI Sees a Man, It Thinks 'Official.' A Woman? 'Smile'

WIRED

Turns out, computers do too. When US and European researchers fed pictures of congressmembers to Google's cloud image recognition service, the service applied three times as many annotations related to physical appearance to photos of women as it did to men. The top labels applied to men were "official" and "businessperson;" for women they were "smile" and "chin." "It results in women receiving a lower status stereotype: That women are there to look pretty and men are business leaders," says Carsten Schwemmer, a postdoctoral researcher at GESIS Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences in Köln, Germany. He worked on the study, published last week, with researchers from New York University, American University, University College Dublin, University of Michigan, and nonprofit California YIMBY.


Advanced Blockchain AG invests in Tracebloc GmbH, a company using machine learning

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Advanced Blockchain AG invests in Tracebloc GmbH, a company using machine learning to reduce scrap in the manufacturing industry Advanced Blockchain (Frankfurt, Primary Market Düsseldorf, XETRA: ISIN DE000A0M93V6) is excited to announce that it is backing Tracebloc GmbH, a German-based company in the smart manufacturing space using Blockchain to enable industrial data with'compute-to-data' and Machine Learning to reduce scrap on the shop floor (www.tracebloc.io). 'It is difficult to keep the scrap rate at a low level at all times, but it is even more difficult to understand why the scrap rate shows outliers. Tracebloc has not only helped us to reduce scrap, but also to generate additional revenue by allowing our business partners to train their models on our data' reports one of Tracebloc's clients who does not want to be named. Tracebloc GmbH was founded by Lukas Wuttke, CEO, in 2019, who is an entrepreneur with a background in tech-consulting and research. He is joined by Farhan Nawaz, Lead Engineer, who is an experienced software engineer that has won various hackathons and other awards. Tracebloc is helping their customers by taking them on a data enablement journey, which ultimately saves production costs and generates additional revenue.


Is artificial intelligence dumbing us down? – IAM Network

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Earlier this month, the Guardian newspaper published an article written by a robot. And last week, the New York Times published the news of the first known death from a cyberattack in Dusseldorf, Germany, where a woman died while being transferred to another hospital as a the facility she was taken to the first time was locked down due to a ransomware attack. Are we becoming slaves to the technological blitz we ourselves have unleashed onto the planet? Have we created our own Frankenstein's monster, and now have no means to control it?