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Mon, 27 Feb 2017
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Google launches tool to identify trolls and 'toxic comments'

Google is using machine learning to go after online trolls.

In partnership with Alphabet subsidiary Jigsaw, Google has launched Perspective, a tool intended to identify toxic online comments. It's available as an API, so news organizations and publishers can use it to weed out abuse.

Perspective will score comments on how likely they are to be abusive, comparing them to comments that have been rated by human reviewers. "Each time Perspective finds new examples of potentially toxic comments, or is provided with corrections from users, it can get better at scoring future comments," Jigsaw President Jared Cohen wrote in a blog post.

Publishers that use Perspective can decide how to handle comments the system identifies as toxic.

Comment: A double edged sword that will also likely be used to minimize the probability that readers will see dissenting opinions or anything publishers deem threatening.


Blue Planet

Silicon dioxide crystals at Earth's core provide insights into energy source of magnetic field

© Wikimedia Commons
Silicon dioxide crystals
Scientists at the Earth-Life Science Institute at the Tokyo Institute of Technology report in Nature (22 February 2017) unexpected discoveries about the Earth's core. The findings include insights into the source of energy driving the Earth's magnetic field, factors governing the cooling of the core and its chemical composition, and conditions that existed during the formation of the Earth.

The Earth's core consists mostly of a huge ball of liquid metal lying at 3,000 km beneath its surface, surrounded by a mantle of hot rock. Notably, at such great depths, both the core and mantle are subject to extremely high pressures and temperatures. Furthermore, research indicates that the slow creeping flow of hot buoyant rocks—moving several centimeters per year—carries heat away from the core to the surface, resulting in a very gradual cooling of the core over geological time. However, the degree to which the Earth's core has cooled since its formation is an area of intense debate amongst Earth scientists.

In 2013 Kei Hirose, now Director of the Earth-Life Science Institute (ELSI) at the Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech), reported that the Earth's core may have cooled by as much as 1,000 ℃ since its formation 4.5 billion years ago. This large amount of cooling would be necessary to sustain the geomagnetic field, unless there was another as yet undiscovered source of energy. These results were a major surprise to the deep Earth community, and created what Peter Olson of Johns Hopkins University referred to as, "the New Core Heat Paradox", in an article published in Science.

Whistle

Score! Bees learn to play ball by watching other bees

© Clint Perry, Queen Mary University of London
Bumblebees can learn how to manoeuvre a ball just by watching others carry out the task, researchers have discovered in the latest study to shed light on the insects' surprising talents.

While bees have already been shown to be able to learn how to pull on strings, push caps and even rotate a lever to access food, researchers say the new study shows that bees are better at problem solving than we thought.

"Previous [research] has found that bumblebees can do complex tasks but those tasks have always been really close to natural behaviour," said Olli Loukola, first author of the research from Queen Mary University of London, pointing out that bees often have to manipulate different parts of a flower to access nectar. "Now we have shown that they can learn something that is totally unnatural, like moving balls."

In the first part of the study, published in the journal Science, bees were presented with a platform, a yellow ball and a target area containing a concealed reservoir of sucrose.

The bees were repeatedly shown how to manoeuvre the ball over the target area to gain access to the sweet treat by means of fake bee on a stick. They were then tested on their abilities. While 10 bees who were not shown a demonstration almost never managed to succeed in the task, the nine that were all succeeded. What's more, they improved over test trials, taking less time and shorter paths.

Blue Planet

ISS astronaut diffuses conspiracy theorists with space walk selfie (PHOTO)

© Kirill Kudryavtsev / Reuters
Pesquet joined the ISS in November.
In space no-one can hurt your feelings, unless you're astronaut Thomas Pesquet who appears a little hurt by conspiracy theorists' lack of belief in his work. Tweeting a selfie from space, Pesquet admitted naysayers would probably think the photo is fake.

Taken from outside the International Space Station (ISS), the photo shows the French astronaut conducting a space walk. Speaking directly to those who believe "we are in a hangar, on a fake Space Station," Pesquet admitted they would also probably dispute the veracity of this image.

One theory - as far out there as the ISS itself - claims the station is a hoax, nicknaming it the "International Fake Station". Some theorists believe the ISS does exist but is an empty orbiting tin can with space walks faked on Earth inside a swimming pool.

Comment: See also: The real conspiracy: Flat earth is a psyop


Info

Rare nebula, ELAN discovered - No obvious source of power for the light it is emitting

© Figure 2 of Cai et al., Astrophysical Journal
MAMMOTH-1 is an extended blob of gas in the intergalactic medium called an enormous Lyman-alpha nebula (ELAN). The color map and contours denote the surface brightness of the nebula, and the red arrows show its estimated spatial extent.
Astronomers have found an enormous, glowing blob of gas in the distant universe, with no obvious source of power for the light it is emitting. Called an "enormous Lyman-alpha nebula" (ELAN), it is the brightest and among the largest of these rare objects, only a handful of which have been observed.

ELANs are huge blobs of gas surrounding and extending between galaxies in the intergalactic medium. They are thought to be parts of the network of filaments connecting galaxies in a vast cosmic web. Previously discovered ELANs are likely illuminated by the intense radiation from quasars, but it's not clear what is causing the hydrogen gas in the newly discovered nebula to emit Lyman-alpha radiation (a characteristic wavelength of light absorbed and emitted by hydrogen atoms).

The newly discovered nebula was found at a distance of 10 billion light years in the middle of a region with an extraordinary concentration of galaxies. Researchers found this massive overdensity of early galaxies, called a "protocluster," through a novel survey project led by Zheng Cai, a Hubble Postdoctoral Fellow at UC Santa Cruz.

"Our survey was not trying to find nebulae. We're looking for the most overdense environments in the early universe, the big cities where there are lots of galaxies," said Cai. "We found this enormous nebula in the middle of the protocluster, near the peak density."

Info

Fructose is generated in the human brain

© Yale News
Fructose, a form of sugar linked to obesity and diabetes, is converted in the human brain from glucose, according to a new Yale study. The finding raises questions about fructose's effects on the brain and eating behavior.

The study was published on Feb. 23 by JCI Insight.

Fructose is a simple sugar found in fruits, vegetables, table sugar, and many processed foods. Excess consumption of fructose contributes to high blood sugar and chronic diseases like obesity. The Yale research team had demonstrated in a prior study that fructose and another simple sugar, glucose, had different effects on brain activity. But it was not known whether fructose was produced in the brain or crossed over from the bloodstream.

To investigate, the research team gave eight healthy, lean individuals infusions of glucose over a four-hour period. They measured sugar concentrations in the brains of the study participants using magnetic resonance spectroscopy, a noninvasive neuroimaging technique. Sugar concentrations in the blood were also assessed.

The researchers found cerebral fructose levels rose significantly in response to a glucose infusion, with minimal changes in fructose levels in the blood. They surmised that the high concentration of fructose in the brain was due to a metabolic pathway called the polyol pathway that converts glucose to fructose.

"In this study, we show for the first time that fructose can be produced in the human brain," said first author Dr. Janice Hwang, assistant professor of medicine.

Laptop

Israeli researchers have found a way to hack isolated computers by taking control of LED indicators

© Getty
Israeli researchers have found a way to attack isolated computers by taking control of their LED indicators, which are forced to blink up to 6,000 times a second to send a signal containing data to a camera mounted on a drone near the targeted computer.

The technique specifically targets so-called "air-gapped" computers, which are cut off from the Internet and company networks, making them the most challenging targets for hackers. Consequently, they typically carry the most sensitive information.

The LED control method, which makes it possible to steal data from isolated computers while raising minimum suspicion, was devised by researchers of the Negev (BGU) Cyber Security Research Center at Ben-Gurion University.

Sun

Annular solar eclipse February 26, 2017

© Toshiyuki Imai
An annular solar eclipse will take place on February 26, 2017, creating a ring of light around the darkened Moon as the Moon will be too far away from the Earth to completely cover the Sun. This is the first of two eclipses in 2017 and comes just 7 months before the first transcontinental American eclipse in a century.

The path of this month's eclipse will begin off the coast of Chile and pass through southern Chile and southern Argentina, across the southern Atlantic Ocean, and into Angola and Congo in Africa. A partial eclipse will be visible throughout parts of southern South America and southwestern Africa.

Fireball 4

Asteroid 2017 DG16 to fly by Earth at 0.34 LD - 5th known NEA to flyby Earth within 1 lunar distance since January 8, 2017

© Minor Planet Center
The green line indicates the object's apparent motion relative to the Earth, and the bright green marks are the object's location at approximately one hour intervals. The Moon's orbit is grey. The blue arrow points in the direction of Earth's motion and the yellow arrow points toward the Sun.
A newly discovered asteroid named 2017 DG16 will flyby Earth at a very close distance of 0.34 LD (130 560 km / 81 126 miles) from the surface of our planet at 21:08 UTC on February 23, 2017. This is the fifth known near-Earth asteroid to flyby Earth within 1 lunar distance since January 8, 2017.

2017 DG16 was first observed by Mt. Lemmon Survey on February 21. The estimated size of this asteroid is between 2 and 8 m (6.5 - 26.2 feet). It will flyby Earth at a speed (relative to the Earth) of 6.91 km/s.

This object belongs to the Apollo group of asteroids, Earth-crossing asteroids that have an orbital semi-major axis greater than that of the Earth (> 1 AU) but perihelion distances less than the Earth's aphelion distance (q < 1.017 AU).

Attention

HAARP lives! US military weapon reactivated 'for experiment to create and study artificial auroras'

© KTUU
This week at the High-frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP) about a half dozen scientists are running experiments, including Chris Fallen, Assistant Research Professor with the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute.

Over the course of four nights, Fallen has been attempting to create and study the artificial aurora.

"The more we understand about the artificial aurora, it helps us understand the natural aurora and vice versa," says Fallen.

Natural aurora occurs because high speed electrons hit the upper atmosphere and collide with gases there. The resulting light appears as aurora to the human eye and camera lens.

Fallen is trying to reproduce that using radio waves from HAARP as the energy source. "We're accelerating the electrons with radio waves through processes that are not fully understood and those electrons are accelerated to high velocities and collide with the gases in the atmosphere and create air-glow in basically the same colors as the natural aurora."

Comment: Uhm, didn't they say they were shutting down HAARP in 2014?

So now it's in civilian hands. Or so they say...