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Thu, 21 Jun 2018
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Science & Technology


New research suggests risk of California earthquake higher than previously thought

Aftermath of 6.0 quake in Napa, CA
© Robert Galbraith/Reuters
Aftermath of magnitude 6.0 earthquake in Napa, California, 2014.
Geophysicists are hypothesizing that the San Andreas fault line in California could be the central point of a massive earthquake after new research suggested that the fault may be at higher risk than previously thought.

Researchers at Arizona State University have published a new study looking at the likelihood of a 7.5-magnitude (or stronger) quake occurring and rupturing the entire fault line.

It has long been thought that the central section of the fault line, which stretches 90 miles from San Juan Bautista southward to Parkfield, was creeping steadily in such a way that provided for the safe release of energy. That "creeping" movement, scientists believed, lessened the chances of a huge quake rupturing the entire fault line - but new research casts doubt over old assumptions.


How does Google News' closely guarded algorithm actually work?

Sundar Pichai
© Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Google CEO Sundar Pichai
Google News is checked by millions of people on a daily basis looking for quick access to a range of coverage of a given event or issue.

It was founded by software developer Krishna Bharat in 2002 in response to the scramble for news that followed the attacks on the World Trade Centre on 11 September 2001.

The service collects and ranks all articles on a particular topic then making international headlines into clusters, allowing readers to choose which publication's account they read.

But how does Google rank the content it shows?


Big banks start offering voice-assisted banking through virtual assistants Alexa, Siri, Assistant

Banking exec with Amazon Echo
© AP/Mark Lennihan
Gareth Gaston, executive vice president and head of omnichannel banking at U.S. Bank, discusses voice assistant banking with an Amazon Echo, left, and a Google Home, right, in Manhattan on June 14.
Hey Alexa, what's my bank account balance?

Big banks and financial companies have started to offer banking through virtual assistants - Amazon's Alexa, Apple's Siri, and Google's Assistant - in a way that will allow customers to check their balances, pay bills and, in the near future, send money just with their voice. And with the rapid adoption of Zelle, a bank-to-bank transfer system, it soon could be possible to send money to friends or family instantly with voice commands.

But the potential to do such sensitive tasks through a smart speaker raises security concerns. Virtual assistants and smart speakers are still relatively new technologies, and potentially susceptible to being exploited by cyber criminals.

Regional banking giant U.S. Bank is the first bank to be on all three services - Alexa, Siri and Assistant. The company did a soft launch of its Siri and Assistant services in early March and this month started marketing the option to customers.

Comment: See also: Amazon moves into banking


Quantum physics says the future can actually change the past

Changing the Past
© Unsplash
If you thought physicist Sabine Hossenfelder was exaggerating when she claimed that theoretical physics is going off the rails and bringing the whole discipline of physics down with it, a group of scientists claiming that the future influences the past may change your mind.

The group's theory revolves around the idea of "retrocausality," which aims to explain one of the central mysteries of quantum physics: quantum entanglement.

At the heart of what makes quantum physics so confusing (and seemingly insane) is the idea that the actual properties of particles change when they're observed.

Until then, they seem to exist in a state of blurry possibilities, where they can, for example, be spinning in both directions and neither all at once.

So is this seemingly paradoxical "quantum state" a real phenomenon, or just a product of a flawed view of physics?


Why being left-handed matters for treatment of mental health problems

Right/Left brain functions
© steadyhealth.com
Location, Location, Location! The differences between Right-handed and Left-handed brains.
Treatment for the most common mental health problems could be ineffective or even detrimental to about 50 percent of the population, according to a radical new model of emotion in the brain.

Since the 1970s, hundreds of studies have suggested that each hemisphere of the brain is home to a specific type of emotion. Emotions linked to approaching and engaging with the world -- like happiness, pride and anger -- lives in the left side of the brain, while emotions associated with avoidance -- like disgust and fear -- are housed in the right.

But those studies were done almost exclusively on right-handed people. That simple fact has given us a skewed understanding of how emotion works in the brain, according to Daniel Casasanto, associate professor of human development and psychology at Cornell University.

That longstanding model is, in fact, reversed in left-handed people, whose emotions like alertness and determination are housed in the right side of their brains, Casasanto suggests in a new study. Even more radical: The location of a person's neural systems for emotion depends on whether they are left-handed, right-handed or somewhere in between, the research shows.

Mr. Potato

Scientist creates 'ideal human' using animal parts in attempt overcome 'evolutionary glitches' in the human body

enhanced human body created by Professor Alice Roberts

The enhanced human body created by Professor Alice Roberts and a team of designers
As walking, talking mammals, humans sit atop of the evolutionary ladder. But would life be better with emu legs, frog skin and a dog's heart? Anatomist Alice Roberts explains to RT her far-out quest for the 'perfect human body'.

The evolutionary journey from apes to the upwardly mobile and chatty homosapiens of today has been impressive but not entirely plain sailing. Cartilage in knee joints degrade with every passing decade, the heart's pulmonary arteries are open to attack from fatty plaque, while the plumbing within a human neck is a choking hazard waiting to happen.

All these design flaws are tackled in the latest project by University of Birmingham anatomist Alice Roberts in her "weird artistic" attempt to explore the evolution of the world's most complex creatures.

The result is a rather freakish looking 3D printed version of Roberts, complete with a chimp's spine, octopus refined retinas, pointed ears, and the legs of a speeding emu bird.


MIT researchers create a brain and gesture-controlled robot

robot experiment
© Joseph DelPreto/MIT CSAIL
Learning from your mistakes takes a while, even if you're a machine. But new MIT robots can now understand their mistakes and correct them by reading the human mind and deciphering gestures.

Harnessing the power of thought, an MIT laboratory has developed brand-new technology that operates on a mixture of muscle and brain signals. It uses a Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) system to make controlling robots more intuitive. The system recognizes both hand gestures and brainwaves to 'feel' when you notice an erroneous action, and to allow a human to instantly correct it with the flick of a finger.

The research, supervised by CSAIL Director Daniela Rus, will be presented at the Robotics: Science and Systems (RSS) conference in Pittsburgh next week. A humanoid robot called Baxter, manufactured by Boston-based Rethink Robotics, was used to demonstrate the advantages of the new hybrid system.


Cancer trials of drugs tend to leave black men out due to biological factors

prostate cancer scan
© jamesbenet/Getty
Prostate cancer is 60 per cent more common in African Americans than in Caucasians, and black Americans are twice as likely to die from the disease when they get it. Yet black men are less likely to be included in clinical trials of drugs for the disease - and accidental biases against their biology seem to be partly to blame.

Speaking at a meeting of the American Society for Clinical Oncology in Chicago this month, Susan Halabi, of Duke University, says her team found that only 12 per cent of the participants in phase 3 clinical trials - the type of late stage trial that is most crucial for drug approval - are black men. This is despite black men making up around 15 per cent of the male population in the US.

Social and cultural factors have long been blamed for lower participation in clinical trials by black men, but researchers are beginning to understand that the way prostate cancer trials are conducted may also be biologically biased against black men.

When researchers establish clinical trials, they will decide upon exclusion criteria. These are usually health issues that could skew a trial's findings on any ill effects a novel drug may have. The idea is that, by testing a new treatment in the fittest possible individuals who have a particular condition, the trial has the best chance of detecting any positive effects. Results can then be generalised to the rest of the population.

Mr. Potato

The effects of sexy people on your intelligence

attractive woman
The effect of hot people on your cognitive abilities, revealed by research.

People become cognitively impaired in the presence of an attractive member of the opposite sex, research finds.

The drop in intelligence is particularly strong for men.

The more attractive the woman, the more men's test scores plummeted, psychologists found.

It may be because men are so concerned about making a good impression that they have few mental resources left over for anything else.

The study involved people talking to members of the opposite sex before completing cognitive tests.

Comment: And for this information we needed a scientifically conducted study??

Blue Planet

Anthropogenic global warming is a premeditated crime against science

global warming
I dedicate this column to the memory and work of Vincent Gray, one of the earliest and most effective critics of the deliberate deception that human CO2 is causing global warming. He knew what was wrong because he was an expert reviewer of the Science Reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). He was among the first to identify the failure to validate any climate models. Here is how he explained the problem in his 2002 The Greenhouse Delusion.
"The whole point is, that a computer-based mathematical model of any process or system is useless unless it has been validated. Validation of such a model involves the testing of each equation and the study of each parameter, to discover its statistically based accuracy using a range of numerically based probability distributions, standard deviations, correlation coefficients, and confidence limits. The final stage is a thorough test of the model's ability to predict the result of changes in the model parameters over the entire desired range."
As a response to my comment that no model has ever been validated, they changed the title in Climate Models - Evaluation" no less than fifty times. There is not even a procedure in any IPCC publication describing what might need to be done in order to validate a model."
"Instead of validation, and the traditional use of mathematical statistics, the models are "evaluated" purely from the opinion of those who devised them."

Comment: See also: An engineer debunks claims of man-made CO2 causing arctic and antarctic melting