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Fri, 26 Apr 2019
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Store of the future: Walmart unveils AI inventory control system, claims it won't replace workers

Walmart AI system inventory

Similar to Amazon Go’s convenience stores, the store has a suite of cameras mounted in the ceiling. In Walmart’s case the cameras will monitor inventory levels.
Walmart this morning unveiled a new "store of the future" and test grounds for emerging technologies, including AI-enabled cameras and interactive displays. The store, a working concept called the Intelligent Retail Lab - or "IRL" for short - operates out of a Walmart Neighborhood Market in Levittown, N.Y.

The store is open to customers and is one of Walmart's busiest Neighborhood Market stores, containing more than 30,000 items, the retailer says, which allows it to test out technology in a real-world environment.

Similar to Amazon Go's convenience stores, the store has a suite of cameras mounted in the ceiling. But unlike Amazon Go, which is a grab-and-go store with smaller square footage, Walmart's IRL spans 50,000 square feet of retail space and is staffed by more than 100 employees.

Plus, in Walmart's case, these AI-powered cameras are not being used to determine which items customers are buying in order to automatically charge them. It still has traditional checkout stations. Instead, the cameras will monitor inventory levels to determine, for example, if staff needs to bring out more meat from the back-room refrigerators to restock the shelves, or if some fresh items have been sitting too long on the shelf and need to be pulled.

The idea is that the AI will help the store associates know more precisely where and when to restock products. And this, in turn, means customers will know the produce and meat is always fresh and in stock when they arrive.

Comment: Automation, economic collapse, basic income slavery: Our dystopic future?

People 2

Denying the neuroscience of sex differences

brain illustration
© shutterstock
A review of The Gendered Brain: The new neuroscience that shatters the myth of the female brain, by Gina Rippon. The Bodley Head Ltd (March 2019).

Imagine your response to picking up a copy of the leading scientific journal Nature and reading the headline: "The myth that evolution applies to humans." Anyone even vaguely familiar with the advances in neuroscience over the past 15-20 years regarding sex influences on brain function might have a similar response to a recent headline in Nature: "Neurosexism: the myth that men and women have different brains" subtitled "the hunt for male and female distinctions inside the skull is a lesson in bad research practice."

Turns out that yet another book, this one with a fawning review in Nature, claims to "shatter" myths about sex differences in the brain while in fact perpetuating the largest one. Editors at Nature decided to give this book their imprimatur. Ironically, within a couple of days of the Nature review being published came a news alert from the American Association for the Advancement of Science titled, "Researchers discover clues to brain differences between males and females," and a new editorial in Lancet Neurology titled "A spotlight on sex differences in neurological disorders," both of which contradict the book's core thesis. So what in the name of good science is going on here?

Comment: The following video from BraveTheWorld does a good (partial) summary of a some of the science on the differences between male and female brains:

See also:


Break through in more detailed holograms

Holograms are a staple in science fiction, but creating ones detailed enough to have serious applications in the real world has proved difficult. While scientists have been slowly pushing the field of holographic projection forward, they haven't been able to overcome a problem called cross-talk. However, in a recent paper published in Nature, they have been able to manipulate the shape of light to overcome this, thus allowing them to produce 3D holograms that are orders of magnitude clearer, larger, and more detailed.

What Are Holograms?
© Photo by DrBob at the English language Wikipedia / CC BY-SA 3.0
Simple holograms are 2D surfaces that produce the illusion of a 3D object when light is shined through it.

These are created by splitting a laser into two beams, bouncing one off an object, bouncing the other off a mirror, and recombining them on a specialized photographic plate.

Lasers are coherent light, meaning they're composed of one specific frequency, in that all light waves are moving in unison. When two coherent light waves are combined, a process known as interference, an orderly and predictable pattern is produced. The peaks amplify other peaks, the troughs amplify other troughs, and peaks and troughs cancel each other out, thus producing alternating bands of light and dark.

However, when the light is reflected off of an object, it's no longer coherent, and when it's recombined with the coherent light of the laser beam, an interference pattern is created that is specific to the object.

The photographic plate is placed exactly where the light is recombined, thus capturing the unique interference pattern, which holds all the information needed to reproduce a 3D image of the object, including the depth cues of perspective and parallax (the difference in the apparent position of an object viewed along two different lines of sight). To reproduce the image of the object, the reference beam needs to be shined through the back of the plate, thus hitting the interference pattern and producing the object beam, as if it has just come off the object.

Put another way, (the reference beam) + (the object beam) = (the interference pattern on the plate), and shining the reference beam in from the other direction is like rearranging this equation so that (the interference pattern on the plate) - (the reference beam) = (the object beam), making the image appear.


Key facts about Russia's special-purpose nuclear-powered submarine Belgorod

Sevmash Shipyard
© Alexander Ryumin/TASS
Sevmash Shipyard in Severodvinsk
The Sevmash Shipyard in Severodvinsk in the northern Arkhangelsk Region is set to float out the special-purpose nuclear-powered submarine Belgorod on April 23. TASS has put together material on this ship.

The Belgorod is a nuclear-powered special-purpose and research submarine. Its exact operational characteristics have been classified. Russia's Defense Ministry did not officially comment on media reports on this submarine.

Project's history and specifics

The shipbuilders are building the submarine based on an incompletely constructed Project 949A 'Antey' nuclear-powered underwater cruiser. The submarine was laid out at the Sevmash Shipyard on July 24, 1992 but its construction was suspended in 1997. In the 2000s, attempts were made to restart work on completing the sub's construction under the improved Project 949AM but a lack of financing frustrated this effort. In the early 2010s, a decision was made to rebuild the Belgorod under the new Project 09852 developed by the Rubin Central Design Bureau for Marine Engineering (St. Petersburg). The renewed keel-laying ceremony for the sub under construction No. 91664 was held on December 20, 2012 with the participation of Admiral Viktor Chirkov (the Russian Navy commander-in-chief in 2012-2016).

Comment: See also:

Microscope 1

KZFP proteins found to tame the genome's 'jumping' sequences

jumping genes
© J. Pontis, E. Planet, et. al.
KLFs foster EGA by activating enhancers embedded in young TEs (TEENhancers)
Scientists have discovered how a family of proteins that regulates the activity of transposable elements in the genome allows them to make inheritable changes to the growing fetus.

The human genome is fascinating. Once predicted to contain about a hundred thousand protein-coding genes, it now seems that the number is closer to twenty thousand, and maybe less. And although our genome is made up of about three billion units -- "base pairs" -- many of them don't seem to belong to specific genes, and for that reason they were delegated to the dustbin of genetics: they were literally called "junk DNA."

But as it turned out, junk DNA is actually critical in coordinating and regulating the work of actual genes. For example, there are sequences of DNA that "jump" around the genome and influence gene expression. These jumping units are called "transposable elements" and their number is estimated at over 4.5 million in a single genome.


Scientists create 'lifelike' DNA material with artificial metabolism

As a genetic material, DNA is responsible for all known life. But DNA is also a polymer. Tapping into the unique nature of the molecule, Cornell engineers have created simple machines constructed of biomaterials with properties of living things.

Using what they call DASH (DNA-based Assembly and Synthesis of Hierarchical) materials, Cornell engineers constructed a DNA material with capabilities of metabolism, in addition to self-assembly and organization - three key traits of life.

"We are introducing a brand-new, lifelike material concept powered by its very own artificial metabolism. We are not making something that's alive, but we are creating materials that are much more lifelike than have ever been seen before," said Dan Luo, professor of biological and environmental engineering in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

The paper, "Dynamic DNA Material With Emergent Locomotion Behavior Powered by Artificial Metabolism," published April 10 in Science Robotics.


Cornell scientists create 'living' machines that eat, grow, and evolve

bioorganic robots
The field of robotics is going through a renaissance thanks to advances in machine learning and sensor technology. Each generation of robot is engineered with greater mechanical complexity and smarter operating software than the last. But what if, instead of painstakingly designing and engineering a robot, you could just tear open a packet of primordial soup, toss it in the microwave on high for two minutes, and then grow your own 'lifelike' robot?

If you're a Cornell research team, you'd grow a bunch and make them race.

Scientists from Cornell University have successfully constructed DNA-based machines with incredibly life-like capabilities. These human-engineered organic machines are capable of locomotion, consuming resources for energy, growing and decaying, and evolving. Eventually they die.

Comment: See also:


Cosmic climate change: Earthquake detected on Mars! 'Marsquake' observed on Red Planet for very first time

InSight probe sitting on Mars surface
InSight probe sitting on Mars surface.
The first ever seismic tremor was registered on Mars, proving that the so-far hypothetical "marsquakes" are a real deal, and the Red Planet is far from being dead - in a geological sense at least.

The quake was detected by the French made SEIS module, that was placed on the planet back in December 2018 by NASA's InSight lander probe. Audio of the Mars tremor, accompanied with footage of the cupola-like probe has been released by French space agency CNES.

The quake is the very first tremor, recorded on Mars, that came from the inside of the planet and was not caused by wind, impact of some stray space rock, or anything else. While humankind has tried to explore the depths of Mars with a seismometer since the 1970s, the SEIS module is the first one to succeed.

Comment: Or, they do occur that rarely, and we live in rare times...

See also:

More evidence of Solar System-wide 'Climate Change': Outgassing on Mars - Methane 'belches' detected on Red Planet


Treating Parkinson's with electrical spinal implant 'transforms lives'

Parkinson's treament spine implant
Gail Jardine: "I can walk, I can turn... it's really helped me"
A treatment that has restored the movement of patients with chronic Parkinson's disease has been developed by Canadian researchers.

Previously housebound patients are now able to walk more freely as a result of electrical stimulation to their spines.

A quarter of patients have difficulty walking as the disease wears on, often freezing on the spot and falling.

Parkinson's UK hailed its potential impact on an aspect of the disease where there is currently no treatment.


Scientists have identified almost 2 million 'hidden' earthquakes shaking California

Earthquake crack
© SteveCollender/iStock
California is notorious for its earthquakes, but a stunning new discovery reveals for the first time just how much we've underestimated its omnipresent earth-shaking potential.

By the time you just about finish reading this story, in fact, Southern California will probably have experienced another quake - based off a new, unprecedented deep dive into 10 years' worth of seismic data, which isolated almost 2 million 'hidden' tremors in the region that scientists had never identified before.

For decades, scientists suspected these invisible, smaller quakes existed, but had no way of singling them out from other random vibrations created by things like vehicle traffic, construction projects, weather events, and more.

"It's not that we didn't know these small earthquakes were occurring," says geophysicist Zachary Ross from Caltech.

"The problem is that they can be very difficult to spot amid all of the noise."