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Artificial intelligence helps check 500,000 CT scans for COVID-19 in Moscow

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Over 500,000 CT scans for the coronavirus diagnostics have been processed in Moscow using the artificial intelligence (AI) technology, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin wrote on his official page on the VKontakte social network on Wednesday. "To date, AI helped process over 500,000 CT scans for COVID diagnostics. Artificial intelligence sees the degree of lung damage, increases the quality and speed of diagnostics. This is very important with COVID-19 when the decision on treatment approaches should be made in mere hours," he wrote. The Mayor added that the capital healthcare system actively implements digital technologies that help with diagnostics and perform routine tasks.


How AI & ML Are Being Used to Relieve Traffic Congestion

#artificialintelligence

Do you think the traffic is bad where you live? Try moving to Boston, where commuters suffer the worst highway congestion in the nation. Residents of the New England city spent an average of 164 hours sitting in their vehicles going nowhere slowly last year, losing as much as $2,291 in personal value for the privilege. And that's nothing compared to the city found to be cursed with the worst highway tie-ups on the planet. Moscow commuters are known to have lost an average of 210 hours each last year to traffic jams.


JSC Sheremetyevo International Airport presented at the Artificial Intelligence Systems 2020

#artificialintelligence

Moscow, Russia, 2020-Nov-27 -- /Travel PR News/ -- Sergei Konyakhin, Director of the Production Modeling Department of JSC Sheremetyevo International Airport, gave a presentation at the Artificial Intelligence Systems 2020 on November 24 conference showing how Sheremetyevo International Airport uses artificial intelligence (AI) systems to effectively manage the airport. The conference was part of the online forum TAdviser Summit 2020: Results of the Year and Plans for 2021. The discussion among of top managers of large companies and leading experts in the IT industry centered on issues related to the implementation of artificial intelligence technologies in the activities of Russian enterprises. Sheremetyevo Airport has developed and implemented systems for automatic long-term and short-term planning of personnel and resources. As a result, the planning system was calibrated based on real processes and its previous weaknesses were eliminated; recommendation systems were implemented allowing dispatchers to manage resources taking into account future events; and the company was able to significantly optimize expenses.


Machine learning helps grow artificial organs

#artificialintelligence

Researchers from the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, Ivannikov Institute for System Programming, and the Harvard Medical School-affiliated Schepens Eye Research Institute have developed a neural network capable of recognizing retinal tissues during the process of their differentiation in a dish. Unlike humans, the algorithm achieves this without the need to modify cells, making the method suitable for growing retinal tissue for developing cell replacement therapies to treat blindness and conducting research into new drugs. The study was published in Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience. In multicellular organisms, the cells making up different organs and tissues are not the same. They have distinct functions and properties, acquired in the course of development. They start out the same, as so-called stem cells, which have the potential to become any kind of cell the mature organism incorporates.


News at a glance

Science

SCI COMMUN### Politics The U.S. presidential race was upended in the first days of October as President Donald Trump tested positive for the pandemic virus and spent 3 days in the hospital. He was aggressively treated with two experimental medicines—monoclonal antibodies and the repurposed antiviral remdesivir—and a steroid used in severe COVID-19 cases. Trump returned to the White House on 5 October saying people should not fear the disease. But public health specialists voiced astonishment when he re-entered the building maskless, trailed by questions about his medical condition and a lack of information about how staff members would be protected from infection. All that followed a rancorous first debate on 29 September between Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden. Trump mocked Biden for having worn a mask at other times, despite evidence that the precaution reduces transmission of the virus. The president also left scientists puzzled when he described as a “disaster” Biden's role in the response to the H1N1 swine flu outbreak in 2009. Then-President Barack Obama, whom Biden served under as vice president, declared it a public health emergency 6 weeks before the World Health Organization declared a pandemic. That flu killed an estimated 12,000 Americans—far fewer than the 210,000 U.S. deaths recorded so far from COVID-19. > “Very few don't have some sort of connection to Big Tech.” > > Doctoral student Mohamed Abdalla , in Wired , about a study he led of faculty members specializing in artificial intelligence at four leading research universities. He found 58% (48 of 83) had received a grant or fellowship from one of 14 large technology companies, which may distort research priorities. ### Conservation High-tech fake turtle eggs can spy on poachers and wildlife trafficking routes. The real eggs are a delicacy in Central America, and illicit trading of them adds to other hazards to the survival of turtle species that are threatened. Researchers slipped 101 decoy eggs with GPS trackers embedded (left) into nests on four Costa Rican beaches. The scientists tracked five eggs to learn where the poachers took them; the farthest ended up 137 kilometers inland, the multinational team reported on 5 October in Current Biology . The researchers did not share this information with authorities, noting ethical concerns; many poachers live in poverty, and in Costa Rica, buying the eggs is not illegal. But, the authors say, the study shows that law enforcement agencies could use the method. ### Public health Coronavirus guidelines issued last week by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) again stirred controversy and concerns that undue political pressure had influenced some of its decisions. CDC announced that on 31 October it will lift an order barring cruise ships from sailing despite a recommendation by its director, Robert Redfield, to extend the ban until February 2021. The industry shut down in March after severe COVID-19 outbreaks occurred on multiple ships. Last week, CDC also drew fire for its updated guidelines on when colleges should test students and faculty and staff members for the pandemic virus. The agency recommended different frequencies of testing, including just a single, initial one, depending on circumstances such as whether students lived in residences with others who tested positive. Critics said the new guidelines should have recommended more regular testing of asymptomatic individuals. CDC addressed another uproar this week by acknowledging evidence that the virus can travel by air and infect people standing more than 2 meters apart in indoor spaces. The agency was faulted last month after it posted, and then withdrew, a draft suggesting otherwise. ### Infectious diseases An international program to reduce the risk of new zoonotic diseases, allowed to expire by the U.S. government in 2019 but extended until last month, will get a successor. On 30 September, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) awarded a $100 million grant to help countries in Asia and Africa curb viruses jumping from animals to humans. The 5-year Strategies to Prevent Spillover program will have a different focus from its predecessor, PREDICT, whose termination was criticized by the scientific community: Rather than studying the drivers of spillover, it will seek interventions to reduce viral jumps, a USAID spokesperson says. A key goal is to “help partners at the country level build their expertise and ability to take action,” says veterinarian Deborah Kochevar of Tufts University, which leads a 13-institute consortium that won the grant. ### International affairs Yuri Orlov, the Russian physicist who championed human rights in the Soviet Union before being exiled in 1985, died on 27 September at age 96. Orlov helped organize the Soviet Union's branch of Amnesty International in 1973 and 3 years later co-founded the Moscow Helsinki Group, which monitored Soviet adherence to the civil rights provisions of the 1975 Helsinki Accords between the Soviet Union and the West. In 1977, Orlov was arrested and sentenced to 12 years of hard labor and exile in Siberia. After coming to the United States in a prisoner exchange, Orlov, an expert in particle accelerators, worked at Cornell University. He didn't think much of Russian President Vladimir Putin, writing in 2004 that “Russia is flying backward in time.” ### Governance Japan's new prime minister, Yoshihide Suga, has disrupted the process by which scientists are appointed to serve on the governing body of the country's leading academic society, the Science Council of Japan (SCJ). Researchers are criticizing the move as a threat to academic freedom. SCJ makes policy recommendations, promotes scientific literacy and international cooperation, and represents the interests of more than 800,000 scholars in virtually all academic disciplines. The prime minister customarily ratifies appointees recommended by SCJ for its governing body, the General Assembly. But according to an announcement last week, Suga withheld his blessing from six academics, in a list of 105 put forward, who work in the social sciences, law, and the humanities. All six had criticized legislation adopted by Japan's previous government, in which Suga was chief cabinet secretary. His failure to appoint them violated a law governing SCJ, said Satoshi Ihara, secretary general of the Japan Scientists' Association. ### Policy Mexican scientists this week blasted a move by the national legislature to eliminate 109 trust funds run by public research centers and government institutes, one-third of them devoted to science and technology. The government wants to use the money, some $3 billion in total, for the coronavirus pandemic. The funds support everything from student scholarships and emergency maintenance of equipment to major research projects at dozens of government centers. The money also helps pay for biosecurity and biotechnology research, fighting climate change, and disaster relief. On 6 October, Mexico's Chamber of Deputies approved a bill to terminate the funds, but with “reservations” that require further debate; it is expected to pass in the Senate. The plan is “a brutal blow” and the worst hit to Mexican science in 50 years, says Antonio Lazcano, an evolutionary biologist at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, University City. ### Virology There's been a new case of infection with Alaskapox virus, a recently discovered pathogen that's related to smallpox. Alaska state health authorities reported on 30 September that they had found the virus in a woman from the Fairbanks area with a mild, gray skin lesion on one arm, similar to one seen in 2015 in the first known patient, also a woman from Fairbanks. Human infections with pox-viruses are on the rise, presumably because vaccination against smallpox—which offers some protection against related viruses—was halted after that deadly disease was eradicated 40 years ago. But the Alaska cases are no cause for alarm: There is no evidence the virus can be transmitted between humans—scientists think it came from wild mammals—and the lesions went away by themselves. ### Medicine prize goes to discoverers of virus that destroys the liver The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded this week for the discovery of the hepatitis C virus, one of the most common causes of liver cancer. The prize went to Harvey Alter of the U.S. National Institutes of Health; Michael Houghton of the University of Alberta, Edmonton; and Charles Rice of Rockefeller University. The hepatitis C virus, transmitted via blood, can cause chronic inflammation of the liver that quietly destroys the organ over decades, ultimately leading to cirrhosis and cancer. The laureates did work over 3 decades to identify the virus and show it was responsible for unexplained cases of hepatitis in people who received blood transfusions. They also developed a test to screen blood donations for the virus, which has nearly eliminated the risk of hepatitis from blood transfusions. Their research ultimately led to a successful treatment for the disease, which has cured millions of people. But about 71 million people worldwide still have chronic hepatitis C, and transmission continues via contaminated medical equipment, sharing drug injection needles, and from infected mothers to newborns during birth. The disease causes few acute symptoms, and testing in many developing countries is limited. ### Black hole hunters receive physics prize The Nobel Prize in Physics has been awarded for pioneering discoveries regarding black holes—self-sustaining gravitational fields so intense that nothing, not even light, can escape. Roger Penrose, a mathematician at the University of Oxford, received half of the $1.1 million prize for his theoretical work, conducted in part with the late Stephen Hawking, that proved a black hole would be stable and thus could be a real astrophysical object and not a mere mathematical curiosity. Astronomers Reinhard Genzel of the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics and Andrea Ghez of the University of California, Los Angeles, share the other half of the prize for deducing the presence of the supermassive black hole that lies in the heart of our Galaxy. Since the 1990s, Genzel and Ghez have led rival research groups that observed stars there, 26,000 light-years from Earth. They found ones orbiting a heavy, unseen object, called Sagittarius A*, at incredible speeds—some of the most convincing evidence for a behemoth black hole, with the mass of millions of Suns. ### Fauci: ‘Skunk at the picnic’ On 23 September, in the relative calm before President Donald Trump's coronavirus infection was revealed, Anthony Fauci relaxed at home after tangling earlier that day with U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R–KY) during a hearing on COVID-19. Fauci still had 200 emails in his inbox to read that night, but the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who also serves on the White House's Coronavirus Task Force, sat down with Science to discuss the pandemic and research on vaccines. (Read the full interview at [scim.ag/FauciOctober][1].) Some excerpts: On his showdown with Paul: “I said to myself, you know, ‘I'm sorry, I'm not gonna disrespect him, but I'm not gonna let him get away with saying things that are cherry-picked data.’” (Paul had suggested that the United States follow Sweden's COVID-19 policies because it had a lower death rate from the disease.) On speaking bluntly at the White House: “I'm walking a fine line of being someone who is not hesitant to tell the president and the vice president what they may not want to hear. There are some people in the White House, who, even when I first started telling it like it was in the task force meetings, they were like, ‘Oh my goodness.’ That's when I got that nickname ‘the skunk at the picnic.’ … I say, ‘I'm sorry, I'm not trying to undermine the president. But there is something that's called reality.’” On the state of the pandemic: “Yes, there are parts of the country that are doing well. But this country is a big forest, and when you have fires in some parts of the forest, the entire forest is at risk.” [1]: http://scim.ag/FauciOctober


Russia's Sixth-Generation Stealth Fighter Could Use Artificial Intelligence Weapons

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Here's What You Need To Remember: Russia, along with China, has continued to explore ways of utilizing machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) in weapons platforms--a move that the Pentagon has considered dangerous, as AI may not be able to properly separate civilians from targets in hostile zones. Even as Russia continues to overcome production issues with its Su-57 stealth fighter, Moscow reportedly has its eyes set on a sixth-generation fighter jet, which could be developed under the MiG-Sukhoi joint brand. Such a fighter could build on the best features of the MiG-21, which has become the most-produced supersonic jet in aviation history; and the very capable MiG-35, as well as the Su-57. "Possibly, this will be so: the fighter produced by the MiG-Sukhoi," Rostec Aviation Cluster Industrial Director Anatoly Serdyukov told Tass on Tuesday. "But so far, all the work is at the stage of discussions and it is early to speak about details."


Podcast: How Russia's everything company works with the Kremlin

MIT Technology Review

Russia's biggest technology company enjoys a level of dominance that is unparalleled by any one of its Western counterparts. Think Google mixed with equal parts Amazon, Spotify and Uber and you're getting close to the sprawling empire that is Yandex--a single, mega-corporation with its hands in everything from search to ecommerce to driverless cars. But being the crown jewel of Russia's silicon valley has its drawbacks. The country's government sees the internet as contested territory amid ever-present tensions with US and other Western interests. As such, it wants influence over how Yandex uses its massive trove of data on Russian citizens. Foreign investors, meanwhile, are more interested in how that data can be turned into growth and profit. For the September/October issue of MIT Technology Review, Moscow-based journalist Evan Gershkovich explains how Yandex's ability to walk a highwire between the Kremlin and Wall Street could potentially serve as a kind of template for Big Tech.


SIMBig Conference 2020

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Dr. Dina Demner-Fushman is a Staff Scientist at the Lister Hill National Center for Biomedical Communications, NLM. Demner-Fushman is a lead investigator in several NLM projects in the areas of Information Extraction for Clinical Decision Support, EMR Database Research and Development, and Image and Text Indexing for Clinical Decision Support and Education. The outgrowths of these projects are the evidence-based decision support system in use at the NIH Clinical Center since 2009, an image retrieval engine, Open-i, launched in 2012, and an automatic question answering service. Dr. Demner-Fushman earned her doctor of medicine degree from Kazan State Medical Institute in 1980, and clinical research Doctorate (PhD) in Medical Science degree from Moscow Medical and Stomatological Institute in 1989. She earned her MS and PhD in Computer Science from the University of Maryland, College Park in 2003 and 2006, respectively.


Listen up

Science

Flush with money and a hard-won respectability, alien hunters are deploying new telescopes and tactics. In 2015, Sofia Sheikh was at loose ends. Her adviser at the University of California (UC), Berkeley, with whom she studied hot, giant exoplanets, had left for a new job. Browsing reddit, she saw a post about a lavishly funded new search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) and noticed that its leader was also at UC Berkeley: astrophysicist Andrew Siemion. She asked her former adviser for an introduction and met with Siemion when he was still unpacking boxes in a new office. “Everything's kind of history from there,” says Sheikh, who became the team's first undergraduate student. Sheikh is now a Ph.D. student at Pennsylvania State University (Penn State), University Park, where she led a radio survey of 20 nearby star systems aligned with Earth's orbital plane. If an intelligent civilization inhabited one of these systems and pointed a powerful telescope our way, they would see Earth passing in front of the Sun, and they might detect signs of life in our atmosphere. They might even decide to send us a message. The results, published in February in The Astrophysical Journal , were unsurprising. “Spoiler alert: no aliens,” Sheikh jokes. SETI researchers are used to negative results, but they are trying harder than ever to turn that record around. Breakthrough Listen, the $100 million, 10-year, privately funded SETI effort Siemion leads, is lifting a field that has for decades relied on sporadic philanthropic handouts. Prior to Breakthrough Listen, SETI was “creeping along” with a few dozen hours of telescope time a year, Siemion says; now it gets thousands. It's like “sitting in a Formula 1 racing car,” he says. The new funds have also been “a huge catalyst” for training scientists in SETI, says Jason Wright, director of the Penn State Extraterrestrial Intelligence Center, which opened this year. “They really are nurturing a community.” Breakthrough Listen is bolstering radio surveys, which are the mainstay of SETI. But the money is also spurring other searches, in case aliens opt for other kinds of messages—laser flashes, for example—or none at all, revealing themselves only through passive “technosignatures.” And because the data gathered by Breakthrough Listen are posted in a public archive, astronomers are combing through it for nonliving phenomena: mysterious deep-space pulses called fast radio bursts and proposed dark matter particles called axions. “There are untapped possibilities here,” says axion searcher Matthew Lawson of Stockholm University. Perhaps the most important consequence of Breakthrough Listen is that it has nudged SETI, once considered fringe science, toward the mainstream. “Journals are relaxing and letting good technosignature papers be published,” says astrobiologist Jacob Haqq-Misra of the Blue Marble Space Institute of Science. “The giggle factor is reducing.” After nearly 3 decades of eschewing SETI, NASA organized a technosignature workshop in 2018. In June, it awarded a grant to model the detectability of possible technosignatures in the atmospheres of exoplanets, its first ever SETI-related grant not involving radio searches. But some astronomers worry the funding boon is distorting science. Fernando Camilo, chief scientist of the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory, says Breakthrough Listen's voracious appetite for time on large telescopes leaves him uncomfortable. “It leaves less time to do astronomy.” Others say SETI's high-risk, rush-for-the-prize approach could distract funders from a more rational, stepwise search for extraterrestrial life. “We do have a really thoughtful process on what gets funded and what doesn't,” says Harvard University astronomer David Charbonneau. “That doesn't happen with rich individuals.” But SETI proponents don't see themselves as separatists. They are increasingly working hand in hand with those searching for exoplanets and studying astrobiology. “Looking for intelligence is the logical conclusion of this search for life,” says astronomer David Kipping of Columbia University. SETI STARTED SMALL. In 1960, astronomer Frank Drake pointed a 26-meter radio telescope in Green Bank, West Virginia, at two nearby Sun-like stars. He scanned frequencies around 1.42 gigahertz, which correspond to wavelengths of about 21 centimeters—the part of the spectrum where clouds of interstellar hydrogen emit photons. This 21-centimeter glow is ubiquitous, and Drake supposed it might be a universal channel on the cosmic dashboard, a natural place for a clarion “We are here!” But his targets, Tau Ceti and Epsilon Eridani, were expressionless. The survey, called Project Ozma, saw no sign of artifice, such as an intense spike squeezed into a narrow frequency band. With funding from NASA and the National Science Foundation (NSF), however, searches continued, with bigger telescopes to listen for fainter signals and hardware that could scan thousands and eventually millions of narrow frequency channels at once. Drake devised his now famous, eponymous equation that estimates how many communicative extraterrestrial civilizations may exist in the Milky Way. It depends on seven variables, from the rate of star formation to the average lifetime of a civilization. Even though only one of the seven factors—star-formation rate—was known with any certainty, alien hunters were on the prowl. In 1992, NASA decided to look harder, only to quickly reverse course. It embarked on the Microwave Observing Project, a 10-year, $100 million SETI search using several large telescopes. But the following year, the project was ridiculed and cut by lawmakers focused on reducing the federal budget deficit. Ever since, NASA has mostly shied away from SETI. ![Figure][1] CREDITS: (GRAPHIC) N. DESAI/ SCIENCE (DATA) JASON WRIGHT/PENN STATE Even as federal funding shriveled, the 1990s gave SETI an unexpected gift. Until then no one had detected an exoplanet, much less a potentially hospitable one, but that decade brought a host of discoveries. Since then, missions such as NASA's Kepler telescope have suggested that planetless stars are rare, and that about one in five Sun-like stars has potentially habitable Earth-size planets—two more factors in the Drake equation that have fueled optimism among SETI advocates. The turn-of-the-century tech boom offered another boost: newly minted billionaires with a taste for space. A high point came in 2007 with the inauguration of the Allen Telescope Array, a SETI observatory in California kick-started with $11.5 million from Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen. Then the field took another plunge. The 2008 financial crisis struck and within a few years, with federal and state funding tight, UC Berkeley withdrew from the project. The array was put into hibernation for 8 months. A planned expansion from 42 to 350 dishes never materialized. “SETI was entirely decimated,” Siemion says. “I was one of maybe two or three in the whole world working on SETI.” That was when Yuri Milner called. BORN AND EDUCATED in Moscow, Milner worked as a particle physicist at the Lebedev Physical Institute. In 1990, as the Soviet Union collapsed, he left to study business at the University of Pennsylvania, and in 1999 he founded an internet investment fund. The fund was an early backer of Facebook and Twitter, and later Spotify and Airbnb. Forbes magazine puts Milner's net worth at $3.8 billion. “I made some lucky investments,” he tells Science . Milner says he's always felt a connection with space and SETI. He was born in 1961, days after Drake convened the first SETI conference. He is named after Yuri Gagarin, the first cosmonaut. Once he had built up a fortune, “I discovered that now I can give back to science,” he says. He knew of SETI's dire financial straits, and he believed his money and knowledge of the tech industry could help speed up the search. Siemion's UC Berkeley center, across the San Francisco Bay from Milner's home in Silicon Valley, became the beneficiary. Breakthrough Listen set out ambitious goals ( Science , 24 July 2015, p. [357][2]). It would survey 1 million of the closest stars to Earth and 100 nearby galaxies using two of the world's most sensitive steerable telescopes, the 100-meter Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia and the 64-meter Parkes radio telescope in Australia. Buying up about 20% and 25% of the time on those telescopes, Breakthrough Listen promised to cover 10 times more sky than previous surveys and five times more of the radio spectrum, and gather data 100 times faster. Achieving these goals required new hardware. The key electronic component is a digital backend, which chops telescope data into ultrathin frequency slices and records it. Siemion says Breakthrough Listen's backends are “orders of magnitude more powerful than anything else on site.” The instruments are available for 100 hours every year to other astronomers interested in such fine frequency resolution. That allocation is often oversubscribed at Green Bank, Siemion says, ever since the backend helped characterize the first repeating fast radio burst. The project is adding a major new telescope to its mix of collaborations: MeerKAT, a South African array of 64 dishes each 13.5 meters across ( Science , 22 June 2018, p. [1285][3]). Instead of buying time on the array, Breakthrough Listen is tapping into the data stream while the telescope observes its regular targets—a procedure known as commensal observing. “You take what you can get,” Camilo says. “When it works, it's fantastic.” Commensal observing will also be added to the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array in New Mexico, the workhorse of U.S. radio astronomy, in a project led by the privately funded SETI Institute. Gathering data sets is one thing; scouring heaps of them for alien messages is another. SETI researchers have long looked for energy packed into narrow frequency signals—something that is hard for nature to replicate, although astronomers need to exclude humanmade signals. One test is to see whether the signal's frequency drifts over time: An alien transmitter would be on a moving planet, causing a Doppler shift. If the frequency is rock steady, it's likely to be earthly interference. Similarly, if the signal persists when the telescope moves from its target, it's noise from Earth. But aliens might send something more complex than a single loud note. How do you scan SETI data for something that just seems anomalous or weird? Researchers have been trying to enlist artificial intelligence (AI), but it hasn't been easy. One species of AI, natural language algorithms, can recognize key words in the flow of human speech—think of Amazon's Alexa, or eavesdroppers at the National Security Agency—after being trained on vast speech data sets. But the huge number of narrow frequency channels in SETI data overwhelms these algorithms. Converting the data stream into 2D diagrams that resemble images works better, at least in tests, in which machine vision algorithms picked out strange pictures from a torrent of similar ones. “We have to guess what an anomaly might look like and train the algorithm to look for this, or look for things that look similar,” says Steve Croft of UC Berkeley's SETI Research Center. THE FOCUS OF SETI searches tends to reflect the technology of the times. Radio was in its heyday when Drake started out. But as lasers have grown in power and sophistication, so have efforts to spot alien laser signals with so-called optical SETI. Astronomers have carried out optical searches with modest telescopes since the 1990s. Breakthrough Listen is doing its own, with time on the 2.4-meter Automated Planet Finder (APF) telescope at the Lick Observatory in California. APF has been scanning a sample of stars to distances up to 160 light-years but will now work through a new list: stars with potentially habitable planets identified by NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite ( Science , 30 March 2018, p. [1453][4]). Others are developing telescopes that wouldn't need to target individual stars. The LaserSETI project, funded by the SETI Institute, is a collection of $30,000 mini-observatories, made up of an off-the-shelf fisheye lens, two cameras, and electronics that would gather light from the entire sky. The first was installed last year on an observatory roof north of San Francisco. Eventually, the institute wants to install 60 instruments around the world for 24/7 coverage. LaserSETI's small telescopes would only pick up an especially bright flash from a nearby source. Shelley Wright of UC San Diego hopes to see much farther with the Pulsed All-sky Near-infrared Optical SETI (PANOSETI), an all-sky telescope able to detect ultrashort laser pulses across all optical wavelengths. PANOSETI's design includes lightning-fast photon counters sensitive to pulses less than one-billionth of 1 second long. “It's hard for nature to make that,” Shelley Wright says. It relies on a Fresnel lens, a type used in lighthouses to focus light into a narrow beam. Flipped over, a Fresnel can gather light from a 10°-wide patch of sky onto the photon counters. The team is building two observatories, each an array of 80 telescopes with lenses 50 centimeters across, bunched together in a fly's eye arrangement. The plan is to site the pair 1 kilometer apart—to help root out false positives—at the Palomar Observatory in California. Funded by Qualcomm co-founder Franklin Antonio, the project has built five telescopes but has been stalled by the COVID-19 pandemic. THEN AGAIN, even intelligent aliens might be too busy or too shy to send messages to the stars. So SETI researchers also hope to detect passive signs of technology. People's ideas about what to look for often reflect their time: Consider the 19th century “discovery” of canals on Mars when canals were still a common form of transport on Earth. In 1960, amid rapid economic growth and concerns about energy shortages, physicist Freeman Dyson imagined an advanced society might build a megastructure surrounding a star to capture its energy ( Science , 3 June 1960, p. 1667). Such “Dyson spheres” continue to fascinate and were suggested as an explanation for the strange dimmings of the star KIC 8462852, known as Tabby's Star. In 2015, Jason Wright led a search for the glow of Dyson spheres in 100,000 nearby galaxies, using data from NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer satellite. Technosignatures could be more subtle. In the not-too-distant future, ultrasensitive radio telescopes might be able to pick up the beams of a radar, like the ones used for air traffic control, from a distant exoplanet. Future optical telescopes might reveal the glow of a city's lights or its infrared warmth. Heavy industry or geoengineering might leave fingerprints in a planet's atmosphere. These efforts chime with searches for biosignatures, detectable marks that organic life might leave on an exoplanet ( Science , 3 November 2017, p. [578][5]). “The line between technosignatures and biosignatures is blurring,” Sheikh says. “It makes sense to observe both.” In deciding to fund the 2018 workshop on technosignatures, NASA felt that they could be discussed “on a firmer scientific foundation than before,” says Michael New, the agency's deputy associate administrator for research. After the workshop, the wording in NASA funding calls that had for some years excluded SETI-related proposals quietly disappeared. In June, Jason Wright and his colleagues benefited from the new openness when they were awarded a grant to model exoplanet atmospheres and put together a “library” of potential technosignatures, which astronomers can refer to when observing exoplanets. The team will first model chlorofluorocarbons—a pollutant that isn't produced naturally—and vast solar power arrays, because they would leave an obvious cutoff in the ultraviolet part of the spectrum. “What we should look for is things that can't be avoided, civilization's manifestations in the biosphere,” says Adam Frank, lead investigator on the grant at the University of Rochester. BUT EVEN AFTER the fanfare of Breakthrough Listen, SETI remains far from a central concern for most astronomers. In 2018, panels of researchers convened by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) drew up strategies for NASA on astrobiology and exoplanets. They made scant mention of technosignatures and didn't advise NASA to spend any money on the topic, or, more generally, SETI. SETI enthusiasts say they are trying to avoid being shut out of an even bigger NASEM effort: its decadal survey of astrophysics, a once-a-decade priority setting exercise that is influential with funding agencies and legislators. The survey is due to report early next year. “We've made a big push to get the decadal survey … to explicitly say that NASA and the NSF need to nurture this field,” Jason Wright says. He and colleagues made nine submissions, known as white papers, to the survey, compared with a single white paper in the previous survey. Sheikh says: “There are signs the winds are starting to shift.” But many astronomers think the more important hunt is for alien life of a more basic kind, not the higher risk search for technological societies. “We have to invest in general questions,” says Charbonneau, who co-chaired the NASEM panel that developed the NASA exoplanet hunting strategy. “If we just go for the prize and don't find anything, what have we learned from that?” Mainstream astrobiologists hope the decadal survey will give a thumbs up to the Large UV/Optical/IR Surveyor, or LUVOIR, a proposed NASA space telescope as much as six times wider than the Hubble Space Telescope ( Science , 14 December 2018, p. [1230][6]). It would scrutinize habitable planets for biosignatures and estimate the fraction of them that support life—another term in the Drake equation. “The progress we've made as scientists follows the terms of the Drake equation in order,” says astrobiologist Shawn Domagal-Goldman of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. “That progress could lead to a search for technosignatures. I could see LUVOIR being used to do that, even though it wasn't designed for such a search.” Jason Wright, however, thinks the potential payoff of SETI is just too tempting to put off the search. In July, he and his colleagues reported the “discovery space”—all the possible locations, frequencies, sensitivities, bandwidths, timings, polarizations, and modulations—that SETI radio surveys have so far explored. The result: If the entire discovery space is represented by the world's oceans, SETI has so far searched the volume of a hot tub. Milner seems ready to support at least a few more SETI hot tubs. He says he wants Breakthrough Listen to continue past 2025, when his initial funding runs out. “It's one of the most existential questions in our universe,” he says. “Just knowing we are not alone … is something that can bring us together here on Earth.” [1]: pending:yes [2]: http://www.sciencemag.org/content/349/6246/357 [3]: http://www.sciencemag.org/content/360/6395/1285 [4]: http://www.sciencemag.org/content/359/6383/1453 [5]: http://www.sciencemag.org/content/358/6363/578 [6]: http://www.sciencemag.org/content/362/6420/1230


Russian Financial Crime Agency Plans AI Tool to Link Crypto Transfers to Users - CoinDesk

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The Russian agency charged with collecting data to counter financial crimes has proposed building its own software to track cryptocurrency transactions and link them to users.