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Wed, 21 Nov 2018
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Science & Technology


China debuts virtual news anchor with AI

AI News Anchor
© YouTube/New China TV
Hong Kong - News anchors, beware. The robots are coming for your jobs, too. China's state news agency has debuted a virtual anchor designed to be able to deliver the news 24 hours a day. Xinhua unveiled its "artificial intelligence news anchor" Wednesday at an internet conference in the eastern city of Wuzhen."Hello, you are watching English news program. I am AI news anchor in Beijing," the computer-generated host announced in a robotic voice at that start of its English-language broadcast.

Developed by Xinhua and Chinese search engine company Sogou, the anchor was designed to simulate human voice, facial expressions and gestures.The AI news reader "learns from live broadcasting videos by himself and can read texts as naturally as a professional news anchor," according to Xinhua. The news agency said the simulations can be used on its website and social media platforms and will "reduce news production costs and improve efficiency."It didn't say whether any of China's state-run TV channels have shown interest in acquiring the technology into for usage into the future.


'Pinocchio Effect': 'Most accurate' lie detector ever looks at your nose for hot clues of tall tales

Man on phone
© University of Granada
In a breakthrough that bears striking similarities to the Pinocchio fairytale, boffins have created the "most accurate" lie detector ever after learning that the nose holds the key to spotting if someone isn't telling the truth.

When someone lies, the temperature of the tip of their nose drops by up to 1.2ºC while that of the forehead rises by up to 1.5ºC. The reason for this peculiar phenomenon is that lying causes anxiety, which manifests itself in the temperature of the nose. The greater the difference between the nose and the forehead, the more likely that the person is lying.

"There is also a cognitive response, because to lie we have to think, plan our excuses, analyze the context," explains one of the researchers, Emilio Gomez Milan, from the University of Granada.

This causes us a cognitive load or a strong demand for attentional control that results in an increase in the temperature of the forehead... to lie you have to think, and that's why the temperature of the forehead increases, but we also get nervous, something that causes a drop in the temperature of the nose.

Microscope 2

Horizontal gene transfer: The surprising trick bacteria uses to render drugs useless

© Ankur Dalia, Indiana University
Clockwise from upper left: This series of four still images shows a pilus stretch out from a bacterium, in green, to catch a piece of DNA in the environment, in red. This is the first step in the DNA uptake process.
It's a risky world, as we know, but all the more risky because some of the risks keep evolving. Ebola virus and the influenzas can adapt. ISIS can change tactics; Kim Jong Un can do turnarounds. And now experts warn that we have entered the "post-antibiotic era," during which increasing numbers of people-in the hundreds of thousands-will suffer and die each year from infection by forms of bacteria that were once easily controlled with antibiotics.

The World Health Organization considers antibiotic resistance one of the biggest threats of the 21st century. The World Economic Forum calls it a "potential disaster" for human health and the global economy. Just one such microbial threat, multidrug-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, caused more than 11,000 deaths in the United States in 2011 alone, and that one plus other resistant microbes kill hundreds of thousands of people annually around the world.

How has this happened? By a combination of Darwinian natural selection (hit a population of bacteria with an antibiotic, and the fittest will survive) and an evolutionary mechanism discovered much more recently, a phenomenon so counterintuitive that Charles Darwin didn't imagine it: horizontal gene transfer. What that means is genes moving sideways across boundaries-between individuals, between species, even between kingdoms of creatures. One researcher in the 1950s dubbed it "infective heredity." Genome sequencing reveals that such horizontal transfer of DNA has been profoundly important in the history of life, and among bacteria it's especially common, with particular implications for the spread of antibiotic-resistance genes.

Comment: Darwin's theory of evolution is very much up for question: Orphan genes, and the problem they pose for evolution

Comment: For more on the profound implications of horizontal gene transfer, see: Also check out SOTT radio's: And for a fascinating visualization of DNA at work, check out the following video:


"Space weather": Magnetized winds created in laboratory for first time

magnetized winds
© MAGPIE group, Imperial College London
Optical images from MAGPIE experiments (left) show a detached boundary, reminiscent of Earth's magnetopause, formed when a model solar wind encounters a magnetized obstacle. A plasma depletion zone is seen surrounding the body (right) due to the shielding effect of the field.
New insights have been gained about stellar winds, streams of high-speed charged particles called plasma that blow through interstellar space. These winds, created by eruptions from stars or stellar explosions, carry with them strong magnetic fields which can interact with or effect other magnetic fields, such as those that surround planets like Earth. Our own sun produces such a stellar wind called the solar wind which blows plasma out into the solar system at speeds of millions of miles per hour. This solar wind is responsible for producing "space weather"-a major hazard for satellites and spacecraft as well as for electrical grids on Earth. To understand these processes, researchers are employing laboratory experiments to study magnetic flows up close. Scientists from two laboratories, funded by the Department of Energy, will be presenting their work at the American Physical Society Division of Plasma Physics meeting in Portland, Ore.

At the MAGPIE laboratory of Imperial College London, experiments use an intense pulse of electricity to explode thin wires that form plumes of charged particles moving faster than the speed of sound. The particles are directed onto targets that have magnetic fields, which simulates the interaction of the solar wind with planets such as Earth, Jupiter or Saturn (Figure 1).

Comment: Understanding electro-magnetic activity in space and the "weather" that it creates could provide much greater insight into the changes we are witnessing in our solar system. For an idea of some of the related effects of this dynamic, see: And for more, check out SOTT radio's:


Professor Valentina Zharkova explains and confirms why a "Super" Grand Solar Minimum is upon us

Valentina Zharkova
Professor Valentina Zharkova gave a presentation of her Climate and the Solar Magnetic Field hypothesis at the Global Warming Policy Foundation in October, 2018. The information she unveiled should shake/wake you up.

Zharkova was one of the few that correctly predicted solar cycle 24 would be weaker than cycle 23 - only 2 out of 150 models predicted this.

Her models have run at a 93% accuracy and her findings suggest a Super Grand Solar Minimum is on the cards beginning 2020 and running for 350-400 years.

The last time we had a little ice age only two magnetic fields of the sun went out of phase.

This time, all four magnetic fields are going out of phase.

Here's a great (and relatively brief) video explanation of Zharkova's presentation from Diamond and Lee Wheelbarger:

Comment: So not only does the non-politicized science confirm a Grand Solar Minimum - but we now know that it is Super (and even more probable) because all four magnetic fields are going out of phase.

See also:


Scientists resurrect ancient enzymes

Early Earth
Artist's conception of an early Earth.
In the 1990 Michael Crichton novel Jurassic Park, scientists resurrect extinct species, with disastrous, page-turning consequences. But what if the scientists hadn't wanted to re-create whole organisms, just a part of their long-lost molecular machinery? This is in essence what real-life researchers report they have done in a new paper published online Oct. 22 in the journal Nature Catalysis.

The molecular machinery in question are proteins called enzymes, and they are life's answer for how to speed up chemical reactions like the digestion of food or the breakdown of toxins.

Engineers are interested in using these versatile natural machines to speed up industrial chemical reactions in environmentally friendly ways. Unfortunately, enzymes tend to unravel in the harsh conditions often used in commercial processes.

In a quest for more robust enzymes, a team of researchers from Australia, Europe and China turned to an earlier page in life's history. Previous research from a different group had suggested that bacterial enzymes from the Precambrian era -- which encompasses all of Earth's history before a diversity of life exploded about 540 million years ago -- function best at temperatures around 60 degrees Celsius (140 F), likely because the bacteria lived in environments at this temperature.


Astronomers confirm existence of dense clouds of meteor dust orbiting Earth

© Reuters / NASA
As far as we know, we're still alone in the solar system, but now our moon has company. Hungarian astronomers have confirmed two "moons" made entirely of dust are orbiting Earth, catching the long-rumored satellites on film.

Researchers have suspected the moons were there since 1961, when Polish astronomer Kazimierz Kordylewski spotted the two bright spots, but their existence remained controversial.

The Kordylewski clouds are about nine times wider than earth, though their component particles are microscopic. Sunlight reflecting off the particles makes them glow, but they are difficult to see from Earth due to the comparative brightness of other objects in space.

Putting to rest years of speculation, researchers Judit Slíz-Balogh and Gábor Horváth of Eötvös Loránd University finally immortalized the clouds on film using special polarizing filters on their cameras. Their findings have been published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Comment: More on the dust clouds: Confirmed: Earth has two dust clouds in a semi-stable orbit


Batteryless smart devices closer to reality

RFID tag
© University of Waterloo
An RFID tag is modified by cutting out a small part of its antenna (silver ribbon) and placing a small light-sensing phototransistor or temperature-responsive resistor (thermistor) on it.
Researchers at the University of Waterloo have taken a huge step towards making smart devices that do not use batteries or require charging.

These battery-free objects, which feature an IP address for internet connectivity, are known as Internet of Things (IoT) devices. If an IoT device can operate without a battery it lowers maintenance costs and allows the device to be placed in areas that are off the grid.

Many of these IoT devices have sensors in them to detect their environment, from a room's ambient temperature and light levels to sound and motion, but one of the biggest challenges is making these devices sustainable and battery-free.

Professor Omid Abari, Postdoctoral Fellow Ju Wang and Professor Srinivasan Keshav from Waterloo's Cheriton School of Computer Science have found a way to hack radio frequency identification (RFID) tags, the ubiquitous squiggly ribbons of metal with a tiny chip found in various objects, and give the devices the ability to sense the environment.

Comment: So easy a 'novice' can do it. Might want to think about before you get yourself 'chipped'


No astronomer has ever seen a blackhole - here are the images of what our telescopes actually capture

Soon, we may get to see one up close for the first time.

Impossibly dense, deep, and powerful, black holes reveal the limits of physics. Nothing can escape one, not even light.

Even though black holes excite the imagination like few other concepts in science, the truth is that no astronomer has actually seen one. We've "heard" them, so to speak, as scientists have recorded the gravitational waves (literal ripples in spacetime) emanating from black holes that collided with one another billions of years ago. But any photo you've seen of a dark mass warping spacetime ... well, that's just an illustration. Like this one:

Comment: Uh oh, and it may be that they've never heard them via gravity waves either: "An illusion": Grave doubts over LIGO's 'discovery' of gravitational waves

black hole
© NASA/Goddard
This soon may change. An audacious global project called the Event Horizon Telescope is currently working to piece together an image of a black hole for the first time. And if it does, it will be a remarkable accomplishment. Because as massive black holes are, they're actually incredibly hard to see up close.

Why no astronomer has ever seen a black hole with a telescope

Comment: While the existence of black holes and gravity waves is highly likely, this is a good reminder that, although science regularly makes confident claims as though it understands the nature of our universe, it is quite often the case - even with subjects as 'simple' as water - that we actually still have so much to learn: Also check out SOTT radio's:

Blue Planet

Astronaut captures image of orange light enveloping Earth during rare airglow

airglow enveloping Earth
Astronaut aboard the International Space Station captures image of orange airglow enveloping Earth
An eerie, marmalade-colored light show made Earth look like a gigantic orange lollipop, prompting an astronaut aboard the International Space Station to snap a photo of it on Oct. 7. And yesterday, NASA shared the glorious shot with Earthlings down below.

The enveloping orange hue is known as airglow - a mesmerizing luminescence caused by chemical reactions high in Earth's atmosphere, NASA reported. This ghostly glow usually happens when ultraviolet radiation from sunlight energizes molecules of nitrogen, oxygen, sodium and ozone in the atmosphere. These energized molecules then bump into each other and lose energy as they collide, resulting in a faint but spectacular afterglow, NASA said.

Airglow is best seen at night, as it's 1 billion times fainter than sunlight, NASA said. This particular photo was taken at an altitude of more than 250 miles (about 400 kilometers) above Australia.

The radiating blush, also known as chemiluminescence, is comparable to glowing chemical reactions here on Earth, including those seen in children's toys such as glow sticks and glow-in-the-dark silly putty, NASA added.