Journals


Is Talking About De-Extinction a Moral Hazard? - Facts So Romantic

Nautilus

In case an extinction event ever wipes us out we could theoretically (at some future point) program an artificial intelligence to survive the fallout and bring us back in a genetically similar form. Some even say that bringing back a woolly mammoth, Tasmanian tiger, or passenger pigeon could help us atone for our ecological sins since we (though it is still debated for the mammoth) made those animals disappear. In July, for example, University of California, Santa Cruz conservation biologist Claudio Campagna and colleagues wrote an article arguing that the "promise of de-extinction may hasten continuing extinction." Bringing back a woolly mammoth, Tasmanian tiger, or passenger pigeon could help us atone for our ecological sins.


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The Atlantic

There's a famous viral video in which a diver slowly swims up to a clump of rock and seaweed, only for part of that clump to turn white, open its eye, and jet away, squirting ink behind it. Few videos so dramatically illustrate an octopus's mastery of camouflage. There are obvious benefits to having materials that can adaptively hide the outlines of vehicles and robots by breaking up their outlines. Or, as the roboticist Cecilia Laschi notes in a related commentary, biologists could use camouflaged robots to better spy on animals in their natural habitats.


Stretchable surfaces with programmable 3D texture morphing for synthetic camouflaging skins

Science

Nature, however, demonstrates remarkable control of stretchable surfaces; for example, cephalopods can project hierarchical structures from their skin in milliseconds for a wide range of textural camouflage. Inspired by cephalopod muscular morphology, we developed synthetic tissue groupings that allowed programmable transformation of two-dimensional (2D) stretchable surfaces into target 3D shapes. The synthetic tissue groupings consisted of elastomeric membranes embedded with inextensible textile mesh that inflated to within 10% of their target shapes by using a simple fabrication method and modeling approach. These stretchable surfaces transform from flat sheets to 3D textures that imitate natural stone and plant shapes and camouflage into their background environments.


Measuring Earth's carbon cycle

Science

The OCO-2 satellite can measure photosynthesis, as well as the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, and so will shed new light on the carbon cycle. One of the crowning achievements of modern environmental science is the Keeling curve, the detailed time series of the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) begun in 1958 that has enabled deep insights into the mechanisms of global climate change. The Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) mission was designed to circumvent those limitations by providing a platform with which atmospheric CO2 can be measured spectrally from space over large geographic areas, thereby offering an unprecedented capability to study, in great detail, the processes that affect the concentration of the gas over a variety of spatial and temporal scales. With its impressive collection of observational capabilities, OCO-2 will enable measurements of atmospheric CO2 to be made with sufficient precision, resolution, and coverage to faithfully characterize its sources and sinks globally over the seasonal cycle, a long-standing goal in atmospheric and climate science.


News at a glance

Science

In science news around the world, a deadly plague epidemic spreads through Madagascar, Japan's economy ministry announces a successful first test of seafloor mining for metallic ore deposits near hydrothermal vents, the World Health Organization releases a new strategy for fighting cholera, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency moves to roll back limits on greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. Also, economist Richard Thaler of the University of Chicago in Illinois wins the Nobel economics prize for his study of irrational human economic behavior, scientists discover evidence of rice domestication in South America, and a Carnegie Mellon University roboticist describes how his robotic snakes combed through rubble of the 19 September earthquake in Mexico.


How Video Games Satisfy Basic Human Needs - Facts So Romantic

Nautilus

For these researchers, incredibly, enjoyment is not the primary reason why we play video games. In a 2012 study, titled "The Ideal Self at Play: The Appeal of Video Games That Let You Be All You Can Be," a team of five psychologists more closely examined the way in which players experiment with "type" in video games. The authors of a 2014 paper examining the role of self-determination in virtual worlds concluded that video games offer us a trio of motivational draws: the chance to "self-organize experiences and behavior and act in accordance with one's own sense of self"; the ability to "challenge and to experience one's own effectiveness"; and the opportunity to "experience community and be connected to other individuals and collectives." For these researchers, incredibly, enjoyment is not the primary reason why we play video games.


The Science Behind "Blade Runner"'s Voight-Kampff Test - Facts So Romantic

Nautilus

At the center of the question is a fictional test designed to distinguish between replicants and humans, called the Voight-Kampff test. He's spent his career studying the neuroscience of consciousness and emotion, specifically its conscious and unconscious processes, and says he's been influenced by Philip K. Dick's stories, particularly Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, which Blade Runner is based on. There's a database of pictures, the International Affective Picture System, that includes emotionally disturbing pictures of people in road accidents, things like that, and an equivalent set of neutral pictures. Even patients who have some sort of brain damage will still show an emotional response to pictures of people that they are unable to remember, like their spouses.


The Last Invention of Man - Issue 53: Monsters

Nautilus

When they launched, Prometheus was slightly worse than them at programming AI systems, but made up for this by being vastly faster, spending the equivalent of thousands of person-years chugging away at the problem while they chugged a Red Bull. For each such task category, the Omegas had Prometheus design a lean custom-built narrow AI software module that could do precisely such tasks and nothing else. It simply boiled down to maximizing their rate of return on investment, but normal investment strategies were a slow-motion parody of what they could do: Whereas a normal investor might be pleased with a 9 percent return per year, their MTurk investments had yielded 9 percent per hour, generating eight times more money each day. If this brought in $250 million in a week, they would have doubled their investment eight times in eight days, giving a return of 3 percent per hour--slightly worse than their MTurk start, but much more sustainable.


The promise of spatial transcriptomics for neuroscience in the era of molecular cell typing

Science

The stereotyped spatial architecture of the brain is both beautiful and fundamentally related to its function, extending from gross morphology to individual neuron types, where soma position, dendritic architecture, and axonal projections determine their roles in functional circuitry. However, understanding brain function, development, and disease will require linking molecular cell types to morphological, physiological, and behavioral correlates. Emerging spatially resolved transcriptomic methods promise to fill this gap by localizing molecularly defined cell types in tissues, with simultaneous detection of morphology, activity, or connectivity. Here, we review the requirements for spatial transcriptomic methods toward these goals, consider the challenges ahead, and describe promising applications.


Enabling Deep Learning on IoT Devices

IEEE Computer

Deep learning can enable Internet of Things (IoT) devices to interpret unstructured multimedia data and intelligently react to both user and environmental events but has demanding performance and power requirements. The authors explore two ways to successfully integrate deep learning with low-power IoT products.