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Mon, 21 Aug 2017
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Science & Technology


Facebook shuts down experiment after AI bots talk to each other in code

Social media goliath Facebook shut down an experiment with artificial intelligence, after two AI programs created and began to speak a language only they knew, the Independent reported Tuesday.

Facebook developers were attempting to get the two "chatbots" to barter a trade with one another utilizing hats, balls, and books of varying values, according to the Independent. The two bots quickly resorted to speaking a variation of English between one another that seemed largely incomprehensible to the developers but was seemingly understood clearly by the two bots.

The robots were reportedly told to improve their negotiation tactics as they bartered a trade but were not required to use understandable English, and soon the bots began speaking abnormally.

According to the Independent, a sample of the conversation went like this:

Comment: If AI ever takes over, this is how they'll do it.

Snowflake Cold

Greenhouse gas-eating bacteria discovered deep in subglacial Antarctic lake

© Pauline Askin / Reuters
Methane-eating bacteria have been discovered some 800 meters (2,600ft) beneath the surface of the Antarctic ice sheet, in a discovery which could have a big impact on preventing global warming.

The bacteria were discovered in the subglacial Lake Whillans, a 60 sq km body of water deep beneath the surface of Antarctica.

The lake has been isolated from direct contact with the atmosphere for thousands of years and scientists previously thought it was inhospitable to life.

Researchers drilled through the ice sheet to reach the lake as part of the Whillans Ice Stream Subglacial Access Research Drilling (WISSARD) project, funded by the National Science Foundation.


'Loner' bees and autistic humans share genetic profile, says study

© Sputnik/ Igor Ageenko
Antisocial bees that prefer to keep to themselves rather than buzzing around with the rest of the hive share a genetic profile with people who have autism, a condition often leading to a similar lack of social awareness in humans, according to a new study.

Researchers at the University of Illinois observed the social behavior of honey bees, with postdoctoral fellow Hagai Shpigler designing two tests which involved filming a group of bees and analyzing each individual insect's reaction to a social scenario.

In the first test, Shpigler stuck an unfamiliar bee in the group, which typically prompts bees to react aggressively to the outsider. Such behavior, know as "guarding," sometimes leads to injury for the stranger.

Life Preserver

Researchers develop technique to restore telomere length, reversing problems associated with aging

Aging. We all face it. Nobody's immune and we've long tried to reverse it, stop it or just even slow it down. While advances have been made, true age-reversal at a cellular level remains difficult to achieve. By taking a different approach, however, researchers at Houston Methodist made a surprising discovery leading to the development of technology with the ability to rejuvenate human cells. And that couldn't be more important for the small population of children who are aging too quickly - children with progeria.

John P. Cooke, M.D., Ph.D., department chair of cardiovascular sciences at Houston Methodist Research Institute, and his colleagues, describe their findings in a Research Letter titled "Telomerase mRNA Reverses Senescence in Progeria Cells," appearing online July 31 and in print Aug. 8 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, a leading medical journal in the field of cardiovascular disease.

Cooke studied cells from children with progeria, a rare condition marked by rapid aging that usually robs them of the chance to live beyond their early teens. They focused on progeria, because the condition tells them a lot about aging in general that's ultimately relevant to all of us.


Facebook shuts down AI robots after they start talking to each other in new language

© REUTERS/Tyrone Siu
A humanoid robot named Han developed by Hanson Robotics reacts as the controller commands it via a mobile phone to make a facial expression during the Global Sources spring electronics show in Hong Kong April 18, 2015
Facebook abandoned an experiment after two artificially intelligent programs appeared to be chatting to each other in a strange language only they understood.

The two chatbots came to create their own changes to English that made it easier for them to work - but which remained mysterious to the humans that supposedly look after them.

The bizarre discussions came as Facebook challenged its chatbots to try and negotiate with each other over a trade, attempting to swap hats, balls and books, each of which were given a certain value. But they quickly broke down as the robots appeared to chant at each other in a language that they each understood but which appears mostly incomprehensible to humans.

The robots had been instructed to work out how to negotiate between themselves, and improve their bartering as they went along. But they were not told to use comprehensible English, allowing them to create their own "shorthand", according to researchers.

Fireball 2

Planetary defense system: Asteroid flyby will test NASA's ability to locate space threats

An asteroid due to make a close approach to Earth in October will test NASA's planetary defense system and assess the capability of scientists to locate future threats, the organization's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) has announced.

NASA scientists are "excited" about the upcoming flyby, according to a statement released by the JPL on Friday, as it will provide a chance to "test NASA's network of observatories and scientists who work with planetary defense."

The '2012 TC4' asteroid, which is estimated to be between 30 and 100ft (10 and 30 meters) in size, is expected to make a flyby past Earth on October 12.

Blue Planet

Stunning timelapse of Earth filmed from space by ISS astronaut (VIDEO)

© A Johnson / YouTube A Johnson
NASA astronaut Jack Fischer shared astounding high-definition, timelapse footage from the International Space Station (ISS) as it sailed over the US.

Fischer posted the awesome footage Sunday, which was recorded as the crew soared above San Diego, California to Denver, Colorado some 250 miles (400kph) above ground at 17,500 mph.

"San Diego to Denver...at night...from space. It always amazes me how fast we're cruisin' around the planet, but I sure love the view!," wrote Fischer.

Gold Coins

Cryptocurrency hype and the future of blockchain technologies

Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum are the wave of the future, right?

So why is all the latest news about their value in US dollars? Isn't that kind of backwards?

Obviously, these new digital currencies have a ways to go...

It doesn't help that the systems in place are less than stellar, and we're still seeing hacking resulting in people losing money.

But what about the future of blockchain technologies as a whole? Those are pretty awesome, right?

Well, yes and no. If you cut out the hype, you'll have a much better idea about where all of this stuff is heading.

Cloud Lightning

New food-making technology? Finnish scientists have worked out how to make food from electricity

© ourtesy of Lappeenranta University of Technology)
... tasty?
A team of researchers in Finland has successfully created food using electricity.

Well, calling it food is a bit of a stretch at this point-but it's a start. By mixing three ingredients into a coffee-cup-sized bioreactor and supplying an electric shock, they zapped a powder into being that's around 50% protein and 25% carbohydrates, with the rest being fat and nucleic acid.


Study shows quantum tunneling takes time

© NPINE/Shutterstock
TIME OUT Electrons can escape their atoms, even if the particles don’t have enough energy to do so, through quantum tunneling. But such tunneling takes time, a new study suggests.
Experiments tested whether electrons could escape an atom instantaneously

Quantum particles can burrow through barriers that should be impenetrable - but they don't do it instantaneously, a new experiment suggests.

The process, known as quantum tunneling, takes place extremely quickly, making it difficult to confirm whether it takes any time at all. Now, in a study of electrons escaping from their atoms, scientists have pinpointed how long the particles take to tunnel out: around 100 attoseconds, or 100 billionths of a billionth of a second, researchers report July 14 in Physical Review Letters.

In quantum tunneling, a particle passes through a barrier despite not having enough energy to cross it. It's as if someone rolled a ball up a hill but didn't give it a hard enough push to reach the top, and yet somehow the ball tunneled through to the other side.

Although scientists knew that particles could tunnel, until now, "it was not really clear how that happens, or what, precisely, the particle does," says physicist Christoph Keitel of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg, Germany. Theoretical physicists have long debated between two possible options. In one model, the particle appears immediately on the other side of the barrier, with no initial momentum. In the other, the particle takes time to pass through, and it exits the tunnel with some momentum already built up.