After months of testing, Citizen, the crime and neighborhood watch app, is releasing Protect, a subscription-based feature that lets users contact virtual agents for help if they feel they're in danger. According to Citizen, the feature can connect users with a Protect agent either through video, audio, or text available around the clock. The company said audio and text-only communication allows users to discreetly call for help "in difficult situations" where they might not be able to or are scared to be seen calling 911. Protect began beta testing earlier this year as the feature has been available to 100,000 users, Citizen said. The new feature comes as Citizen currently has more than 8 million users who have sent out more than billion alerts in major U.S. cities including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, Houston and the San Francisco Bay Area.
Sense8 was an eight-hour Netflix Original series created by Lana and Andy Wachowski, and J. Michael Straczynski. The science fiction series starred eight characters worldwide, connected by a bond that can be felt through every sense. Sense8 follows the inhabitants of Chicago, who are all connected by more than just two or three senses; they are experiencing everything that their counterparts are seeing, sensing, hearing, and feeling. The series is a love story between two characters, and as they become more connected to their sense counterparts, they begin to feel their partners' pain. They also carry the responsibility of protecting their loved ones that are constantly in danger and fighting for freedom from some sort of outside threat.
There's creative AI and then there's the hard-working AI – the artificial intelligence that is able to replace humans in routine work, saving up costs and allowing the employees to take charge of more complex tasks. That is the AI McDonald's is already testing in drive-thrus in the U.S. and looking to implement on a larger scale soon. A few years ago, McDonald's started to test the technology in the hope that it might be ready one day to take over at drive-thru locations. They had help from Apprente, the startup that gave them the building blocks of the technology, enabling them to build their own voice assistant. Now, the AI system is in place at 10 drive-thrus in Chicago.
Proteins are the minions of life, working alone or together to build, manage, fuel, protect, and eventually destroy cells. To function, these long chains of amino acids twist and fold and intertwine into complex shapes that can be slow, even impossible, to decipher. Scientists have dreamed of simply predicting a protein's shape from its amino acid sequence—an ability that would open a world of insights into the workings of life. “This problem has been around for 50 years; lots of people have broken their head on it,” says John Moult, a structural biologist at the University of Maryland, Shady Grove. But a practical solution is in their grasp. Several months ago, in a result hailed as a turning point, computational biologists showed that artificial intelligence (AI) could accurately predict protein shapes. Now, David Baker and Minkyung Baek at the University of Washington, Seattle, and their colleagues have made AI-based structure prediction more powerful and accessible. Their method, described online in Science this week, works on not just simple proteins, but also complexes of proteins, and its creators have made their computer code freely available. Since the method was posted online last month, the team has used it to model more than 4500 protein sequences submitted by other researchers. Savvas Savvides, a structural biologist at Ghent University, had tried six times to model a problematic protein. He says Baker's and Baek's program, called RoseTTAFold, “paved the way to a structure solution.” In fall of 2020, DeepMind, a U.K.-based AI company owned by Google, wowed the field with its structure predictions in a biennial competition ( Science , 4 December 2020, p. ). Called Critical Assessment of Protein Structure Prediction (CASP), the competition uses structures newly determined using laborious lab techniques such as x-ray crystallography as benchmarks. DeepMind's program, AlphaFold2, did “really extraordinary things [predicting] protein structures with atomic accuracy,” says Moult, who organizes CASP. But for many structural biologists, AlphaFold2 was a tease: “Incredibly exciting but also very frustrating,” says David Agard, a structural biophysicist at the University of California, San Francisco. DeepMind has yet to publish its method and computer code for others to take advantage of. In mid-June, 3 days after the Baker lab posted its RoseTTAFold preprint, Demis Hassabis, DeepMind's CEO, tweeted that AlphaFold2's details were under review at a publication and the company would provide “broad free access to AlphaFold for the scientific community.” DeepMind's 30-minute presentation at CASP was enough to inspire Baek to develop her own approach. Like AlphaFold2, it uses AI's ability to discern patterns in vast databases of examples, generating ever more informed and accurate iterations as it learns. When given a new protein to model, RoseTTAFold proceeds along multiple “tracks.” One compares the protein's amino acid sequence with all similar sequences in protein databases. Another predicts pairwise interactions between amino acids within the protein, and a third compiles the putative 3D structure. The program bounces among the tracks to refine the model, using the output of each one to update the others. DeepMind's approach, although still under wraps, involves just two tracks, Baek and others believe. Gira Bhabha, a cell and structural biologist at New York University School of Medicine, says both methods work well. “Both the DeepMind and Baker lab advances are phenomenal and will change how we can use protein structure predictions to advance biology,” she says. A DeepMind spokesperson wrote in an email, “It's great to see examples such as this where the protein folding community is building on AlphaFold to work towards our shared goal of increasing our understanding of structural biology.” But AlphaFold2 solved the structures of only single proteins, whereas RoseTTAFold has also predicted complexes, such as the structure of the immune molecule interleukin-12 latched onto its receptor. Many biological functions depend on protein-protein interactions, says Torsten Schwede, a computational structural biologist at the University of Basel. “The ability to handle protein-protein complexes directly from sequence information makes it extremely attractive for many questions in biomedical research.” Baker concedes that, in general, AlphaFold2's structures are more accurate. But Savvides says the Baker lab's approach better captures “the essence and particularities of protein structure,” such as identifying strings of atoms sticking out of the sides of the protein—features key to interactions between proteins. Agard adds that Baker's and Baek's approach is faster and requires less computing power than DeepMind's, which relied on Google's massive servers. However, the DeepMind spokesperson wrote that its latest algorithm is more than 16 times as fast as the one it used at CASP in 2020. As a result, she wrote, “It's not clear to us that the system being described is an advance in speed.” Beginning on 1 June, Baker and Baek began to challenge their method by asking researchers to send in their most baffling protein sequences. Fifty-six head scratchers arrived in the first month, all of which have now predicted structures. Agard's group sent in an amino acid sequence with no known similar proteins. Within hours, his group got a protein model back “that probably saved us a year of work,” Agard says. Now, he and his team know where to mutate the protein to test ideas about how it functions. Because Baek's and Baker's group has released its computer code on the web, others can improve on it; the code has been downloaded 250 times since 1 July. “Many researchers will build their own structure prediction methods upon Baker's work,” says Jinbo Xu, a computational structural biologist at the Toyota Technological Institute at Chicago. Moult agrees: “When there's a breakthrough like this, 2 years later, everyone is doing it as well if not better than before.” : http://www.sciencemag.org/content/370/6521/1144
Parker is in her first season with the WNBA's Chicago Sky after 13 with the Los Angeles Sparks. She is one of the most decorated basketball players in history, dating back to her days starring at the University of Tennessee, where she earned National Player of the Year accolades and Final Four Most Valuable Player honors while leading the Lady Vols to back-to-back NCAA championships in 2007 and 2008. The first overall pick of 2008 WNBA Draft, Parker is a WNBA champion and a two-time MVP of the league, as well as a five-time all-star and six-time member of the all-WNBA First Team.
When gravitational waves were first detected in 2015 by the advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), they sent a ripple through the scientific community, as they confirmed another of Einstein's theories and marked the birth of gravitational wave astronomy. As LIGO and its international partners continue to upgrade their detectors' sensitivity to gravitational waves, they will be able to probe a larger volume of the universe--making the detection of gravitational wave sources a daily occurrence rather than weekly or monthly. Scientists hope this will launch a new era of precision astronomy, because combining information from multiple kinds of signals from space is a much more powerful way to study the universe. But realizing this goal will require a radical re-thinking of existing methods used to search for and find gravitational waves. Recently, Argonne National Laboratory computational scientist Eliu Huerta, along with collaborators from the University of Chicago, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, NVIDIA and IBM, developed a new artificial intelligence framework that allows for accelerated, scalable and reproducible detection of gravitational waves.
This article was originally published on our sister site, Freethink. As if drive-through ordering wasn't frustrating enough already, now we might have a Siri-like AI to contend with. McDonald's just rolled out a voice recognition system at 10 drive-throughs in Chicago, expanding from the solitary test store they launched a few years ago. But when will it come to your neighborhood Golden Arches? "There is a big leap between going from 10 restaurants in Chicago to 14,000 restaurants across the U.S. with an infinite number of promo permutations, menu permutations, dialect permutations, weather -- I mean, on and on and on and on," admitted McDonald's CEO Chris Kempczinski, reports Nation's Restaurant News.
High-resolution manometry (HRM) is the primary procedure used to diagnose esophageal motility disorders. Its interpretation and classification includes an initial evaluation of swallow-level outcomes and then derivation of a study-level diagnosis based on Chicago Classification (CC), using a tree-like algorithm. This diagnostic approach on motility disordered using HRM was mirrored using a multi-stage modeling framework developed using a combination of various machine learning approaches. Specifically, the framework includes deep-learning models at the swallow-level stage and feature-based machine learning models at the study-level stage. In the swallow-level stage, three models based on convolutional neural networks (CNNs) were developed to predict swallow type, swallow pressurization, and integrated relaxation pressure (IRP).
It's not the first time researchers have created methods for subverting computer vision systems. Last year, researchers at the University of Chicago released Fawkes, a publicly available privacy tool designed to defeat facial recognition. Shawn Shan, a PhD student and co-creator of Fawkes, told Motherboard that, based on the information Adversa AI has made public, its technique seems feasible for defeating publicly available recognition systems. State-of-the-art systems may prove harder, he said.
Atmospheric science is overwhelmingly white. These Black scientists ignited a change. Everything depended on finding the gigantic dust cloud. Seventeen years ago, a scientific crew set out on the Ron Brown , a gleaming U.S. research ship, in search of a plume of desert dust that had sheared off the Sahara and wafted over the Atlantic Ocean. Sailing from Barbados with day after day of clear sky, the crew was anxious about finding the dust storm. But that wasn't the only thing weighing on Vernon Morris, the atmospheric chemist who'd organized the cruise, the first of its kind run largely by Black and Hispanic scientists. Failure could make life complicated for the atmospheric sciences program Morris had recently co-founded at Howard University. And, he says, “They would have never entrusted the ship to a bunch of Puerto Ricans and Blacks again.” Finally, on the fifth morning, the crew awoke to an eclipse of dust. It settled on railings, instruments, and weather balloons. “We were just all giddy, the happiest scientists,” says Michelle Hawkins, a Howard graduate student at the time who now leads severe weather forecasts at the National Weather Service. The schedule was intense, as the crew launched weather balloons around the clock and took measurements in the ocean and at the surface to capture a picture of what turned out to be one of the largest Saharan plumes ever observed. And the cruise began a trend: The Aerosol and Ocean Science Expeditions (AEROSEs) have set out nearly every year since then, with the latest cruise defying the pandemic to sail in January. Although AEROSE cruises are still full of black and brown faces, most research cruises—indeed, most of the geosciences—are not. Nearly 90% of geoscience doctorate holders are white, and by Morris's count, there are no more than seven Black atmospheric scientists in tenured positions in the country's major academic departments. Many of the communities most at risk from climate-related extremes, such as heat waves or hurricanes, are those least represented in the science that explores those threats. “It's not only a Black man's challenge,” says Belay Demoz, an atmospheric physicist originally from Eritrea who is at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. “It's the nation's problem.” Amid this dire portrait, however, the Howard University Graduate Program in Atmospheric Science has been a notable success. From 2006 to 2018, the Howard program, one of AEROSE's sponsors, produced 17 Black doctorate holders in atmospheric science—more than half the country's total—and 30% of its Latina doctorate holders. Seventy-five percent of graduates came from low-income backgrounds. Nearly all hold scientific jobs and some are now carving out prominent positions in the country's premier climate science agencies, especially the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). “I feel like ‘successful’ is not strong enough,” Hawkins says. “It's been such a guiding light for all of us.” With the Biden administration promising to increase its support for historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) like Howard, including a potential new climate research lab based at one, this should be a time of hope and expansion for the Howard program. But its future is in doubt. For years, school leadership neglected the program, according to former faculty, and most of its founders, including Morris himself, have left. “I don't think Howard ever appreciated what they had on their hands,” says Marshall Shepherd, a Black atmospheric scientist at the University of Georgia, Athens, and former president of the American Meteorological Society (AMS). “They had a game-changing program.” As the geosciences seek to improve their diversity, Howard's success holds lessons for leaders and institutions. How can it be replicated? And can it even be sustained at Howard itself? MORRIS “BACKED into college,” as he puts it, attending Morehouse College, an HBCU in Atlanta, after deciding not to follow his father into the Air Force. But he felt adrift, far from his family in Washington, spending above his means to keep up with the rich kids. Thinking about dropping out, Morris ran into Henry McBay, a legendary Black chemist who offered to buy him books as long as he majored in chemistry and math. That led to a mentorship with John Hall, the pioneering Black atmospheric chemist who worked on ozone depletion. “I started doing work on chlorine nitrate chemistry and matrices,” Morris says. “I loved it.” In 1990 he became the first Black person to earn a Ph.D. from the Georgia Institute of Technology's earth science program. As a postdoc, he became intrigued by cosmic chemistry and the atmosphere of Venus. He wanted to get back to an HBCU, and he noticed that Howard had recently launched a small, NASA-funded Center for the Study of Terrestrial and Extraterrestrial Atmospheres. Morris wrangled an invite and sold himself as someone who could help focus the center's research and ensure its continuation—at the time, external NASA reviewers were questioning its lack of relevant expertise and threatening to claw back the grant. He was hired as deputy director in 1994. At the time, Morris was one of a few people of color who regularly appeared at national atmospheric science meetings. He and a handful of others would meet at a nearby hotel lobby bar to unwind. “Those meetings used to be superstressful, not seeing anyone who looks like you,” says Gregory Jenkins, a climatologist who now works at Pennsylvania State University, University Park. “You wanted to give a paper, check out other papers, and go back to the hotel room.” The stress did not stop there. In an essay this year in AGU Advances , Morris wrote of being harassed by police. “I have been that figure sitting on the curb with my hands bound behind my back,” he wrote. “I have been struck so hard with the butt of a police flashlight that the manufacturer label could be deciphered from the imprint on my chest days later.” Morris and his peers decided to create a community of Black atmospheric scientists at Howard by founding a new graduate program. Sonya Smith, an atmospheric engineer, came the year after Morris. Jenkins came, too, for a time. Everette Joseph, a code-savvy atmospheric scientist, joined soon after, as did Anthony Reynolds, a white physicist now at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. They started with a single course in atmospheric chemistry and gradually added more to build a case for a degree-granting program, ironing out their talking points over drinks and wings at a local bar. They won approval for the program from the Board of Trustees in 1997. None of them realized what they were getting into. The board had allocated little funding, so they would have to support the program by winning external grants. “We had to worry about building a program and building our careers at the same time,” says Joseph, who in 2019 became the first Black director of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, one of the country's leading climate labs. “We were stupid and brash not to realize the monumental nature of the challenge.” They also needed to recruit students. Some they found at Howard, including DaNa Carlis, a first-generation college student who initially wanted to become a doctor. He ran into Morris, who pitched the program and offered him a scholarship. “I was like, ‘What, you're going to pay me to go to school!’” says Carlis, who is now deputy director at NOAA's Global Systems Laboratory. Soon enough, he was doing research on ozone chemistry at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. Casting a wider net, the Howard faculty began to lure chemistry, physics, and math undergraduates at five HBCUs to Howard for NASA-sponsored summer programs. They also scouted graduate programs where students often stopped at a master's degree. “We recruited those students hard,” Morris says, by touting their connections to NASA and NOAA. They cobbled together money for a conference that attracted nearly 200 students of color to Washington, D.C., a gambit that gave them enough recruits to fill the program for 5 years. In 2001, the Howard team scored a huge victory, winning a $2.5 million annual grant from NOAA to establish one of four new scientific centers at minority-serving institutions. The NOAA grant, which also supports research and students elsewhere, enabled Howard to bring on several new faculty, including Demoz, an atmospheric physicist. Demoz belonged to the majority ethnic group in his home country of Eritrea, and it wasn't until he worked at Goddard, where the only other Black scientist in his division was Shepherd, that he became truly aware of U.S. racial dynamics. Training minority scientists became a cause equal to his research. “I'm Eritrean and I have a guilty feeling that I didn't fight for independence,” he says. “This is my independence.” Meanwhile, the first generation of Howard atmospheric science students was advancing toward doctorates. It was a tight group. One day, Joseph hauled them all into his office, ready to breathe fire because they had all gotten the same test question wrong in the same way. Then it became clear what happened: They had spent days together studying the problem in the wrong way. The tests required your best, says Isha M. Renta López, now a program analyst at NOAA's Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research. Once, Morris asked students to imagine a pyramid-shaped planet that doesn't rotate, then describe the chemical reactions in its atmosphere. “He would put in the craziest stuff,” López says. The professors pushed the students to present their research at scientific meetings, paying their way if they couldn't get a scholarship. “I remember our very first meeting, Vernon giving us the talk,” Hawkins says. “This is what you wear. This is how you introduce yourself. This is how you give a presentation.” The students, in turn, helped recruit their own successors. The program let the students be themselves and focus on their research without facing the tension and microaggressions that could come with being the sole Black student in a program, like passing comments about how “intelligent” or “well spoken” they were, or a critique that seemed excessively harsh for no reason. At Howard, Jenkins says, “They knew that it wasn't going to be easy, but one thing they didn't have to worry about were questions about whether they were qualified.” KNOWING FIELD RESEARCH would be critical to the students' success, the Howard faculty began to build opportunities. Many revolved around a small wooded campus owned by Howard in Beltsville, Maryland. Its haphazard assortment of squat red-brick buildings had previously hosted an observatory, animal experiments, and an argon beamline for particle physics research. Joseph and others saw huge potential in the site. At the time, Joseph says, simulations of the lower atmosphere tended to rely heavily on data from simple environments, like “pristine homogeneous fields in Kansas.” The Beltsville campus was right at the urban-rural divide, with countryside to the north and the sprawl of Washington, D.C., to the south, and the overlying air pushed and pulled from continental and ocean sources. Students took a lead role in launching weather balloons to study this complex environment. In 2006, they won a NASA grant to use their balloons to validate water vapor and ozone measurements from its newly launched Aura satellite—work that might have traditionally gone to a NASA center. “I'm very proud of that,” Demoz says. “Somebody took a risk and said let's do this.” Today, the Beltsville site is one of the few U.S. locations certified to make measurements of the upper atmosphere to the exacting standards of the World Meteorological Organization. It hosts a 30-meter tower for measuring winds, carbon dioxide, and air pollution; instruments for studying dust, soot, and similar particles; and sensors for measuring the precise amount of sunlight reaching the surface. Data gathered by Howard students help feed the numerical models used in National Weather Service forecasts. Many students interned at NOAA and NASA branches around the country, and some opportunities took them even farther afield. In the late 2000s, Jenkins flew students to West Africa for NASA-sponsored research on the birth of Atlantic hurricanes and their interaction with Saharan dust. His students flew on a DC-8 into tropical storms, running the radar instruments to capture these rare data. Follow-up flights chased dust storms across the Atlantic and studied ozone variability in the tropics. “The most important thing was to send students way outside their comfort zone,” Jenkins says. Perhaps nothing was more uncomfortable for some Howard students than spending weeks at sea, as the AEROSE cruises have done now for nearly 2 decades. “Being a girl from the South Side of Chicago, that was really intimidating,” Hawkins says. Mayra Oyola-Merced, now an atmospheric physicist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, remembers when they got a new lidar scanner on board for tracking dust in the air. Joseph asked whether she wanted to run it. “This was a $250,000 instrument,” she says, and she was just an undergraduate. But Joseph patiently explained the physics behind it, and that stuck with her. “Feeling someone trusted me and someone could see my potential to do things—it changed my complete perspective about going to graduate school.” FOR ALL ITS SUCCESS , the Howard program's future remains cloudy. For decades it was just one failed grant application away from collapse. The strain on faculty prompted many to leave, their vacant positions often going unfilled—an exodus that has many former faculty and alumni fearing for the program. Morris left early last year when Arizona State University offered him a chance to lead the school of science at its small liberal arts college. Jenkins, Joseph, and Demoz have also left, though Demoz still helps at Beltsville. “I'm the last one left,” Smith says. She and Terri Adams, a Howard sociologist who led the NOAA center on an interim basis, have been tasked with rebuilding the program, even though Smith's work has veered toward hypersonic weapons and Adams studies emergency management of climate disasters, not geoscience itself. For the university, Morris's departure served as a wake-up call. The university is now creating a department of earth, environment, and equity based on the program, giving it a lasting home that will include undergraduate students. (Previously the program was jointly administered by three departments, diluting its clout with the administration.) Charles Ichoku, a former senior NASA scientist originally from Nigeria, joined the faculty just before the pandemic and is pursuing grants for upgrades at Beltsville. Howard has hired a new director for its NOAA center and three new faculty in atmospheric sciences, two junior and one senior. Atmospheric sciences is essential to the university's future, says Bruce Jones, who joined Howard in 2018 as its first ever vice president for research and is charged with increasing its research ambitions. “While we acknowledge we lost some of the great minds in the field, the recent investment is just the beginning of the rebirth of the program,” he says. The recommitment is good to see, says Jack Kaye, associate director of NASA's earth science division, who is white. “Howard is special place in American education,” he says. “Having a program focused on atmospheric sciences is important to the community. It's important to the nation.” Whatever the future of the program, its mark will be lasting. Morris, his colleagues, and former students have a tradition of getting together at the AMS annual meeting. Their once-informal gathering—online during the pandemic but scheduled to resume next year—is now one of the meeting's primary social events, attended by a diverse crowd that includes agency leaders and senior scientists. Called the “Colour of Weather,” it regularly fills a ballroom. Many former Howard students now occupy leadership positions, especially at NOAA, which remains the primary sponsor of the Howard graduate program. “They're smart, pushing, building communities—that's a pay back, there's no dollar sign on that,” Jenkins says. And they continue to try to make atmospheric science more welcoming. In 2014, Hawkins and Carlis started a diversity working group at NOAA, which hosts monthly seminars and encourages minority scientists scattered across the agency's many divisions to connect and support each other. They have also advised the agency to implement steps like evaluating supervisors on their support for inclusion and increasing the diversity of hiring panels. “We can move the needle,” Hawkins says. “We can provide equity where we can.” One disappointment, though, is that few Howard graduates have ended up in academia. Universities hire faculty from the same few elite academic programs, which continue to churn out predominately white graduates—and when few faculty are people of color, potential students are put off, Marshall says. “Students need to see professors of color,” he says. “We just don't see enough people at the university level, teaching,” Jenkins adds. “That's still the struggle.” In the wake of the murder of George Floyd in May 2020, Morris and several peers published a letter online urging geoscientists to end their silence on the racism in their field. “In place of police brutality, careers are killed through forced attrition and under-investment,” they wrote. New Black professors are subject to biased reviews and limited mentorship. “The time has passed for predominantly white scientific organizations to post photos of happy, multiracial groups on their websites in place of actually diversifying their leadership and members,” they wrote. Since that letter, professional organizations have taken some real steps, Morris says. At the AMS meeting in January, the presidential forum focused on building a culture of antiracism. (Morris was among the speakers.) AMS and the American Geophysical Union have created new senior positions focused on improving diversity, featured talks on diversity more prominently at meetings, and gathered more data about the race and ethnicity of members. But academic programs have been much slower to react, Morris adds. Overall, he sees little evidence that the toxic environment often faced by students and faculty of color has changed. New hires still face an evaluation and tenure process that reinforces white privilege, he says. “Many of the current cluster hires are like experiments that introduce new fish into a polluted pond to see if they survive,” he says. So much more can be done, Morris says. Investing more federal research dollars in HBCUs and minority-serving institutions is an obvious start. “A lot of HBCU programs are funded at levels that aren't going to enable their success,” Morris says. But it's not just money that made the Howard program so successful. It had federal agencies invested in its success and benefited from their material support in the form of adjunct professors and lab space. It recruited students from places other programs hadn't looked. And most of all, it had a cohort of young Black professors hungry for the program to succeed—who saw its success as their own. Jamese Sims, an alumnus who's now NOAA's senior science adviser for artificial intelligence, recalls that passion. Howard's faculty asked how they could speak up for those without a voice, she says. They asked how their scientific expertise could make this a better country for all. “Because, if our goal is ultimately to save lives and property,” she says, “that includes everyone.”