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Wed, 01 Mar 2017
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Science & Technology


Dogs 'see things from a human point of view' - at least when it comes to stealing food

© Press Association
Dr Juliane Kaminski of the University of Portsmouth's Department of Psychology with her dog
Pet dogs may understand a human's point of view, according to new research which suggests they are more likely to steal food when they think that nobody can see them.

When a human forbids a dog from taking food, the animal is four times more likely to disobey them in a dark room than a lit room - suggesting they take into account what the human can or cannot see - according to research published in the journal Animal Cognition by Dr Juliane Kaminski from the University of Portsmouth.

Dr Kaminski said: "That's incredible because it implies dogs understand the human can't see them, meaning they might understand the human perspective."

She said that although many dog owners think that their pets are clever and understand humans, this had not yet previously been tested by science.

Dr Kaminski said: "Humans constantly attribute certain qualities and emotions to other living things. We know that our own dog is clever or sensitive, but that's us thinking, not them.


Artificial intelligence system diagnoses illnesses better than doctors

© Shutterstock
An artificial intelligence system developed by researchers at Indiana University can diagnose illnesses and prescribe courses of treatment significantly better than a human doctor, the university said Monday.

Using a computerized decision making processes similar to IBM's wiz computer "Watson" that won the game show "Jeopardy," researchers plugged in big medical data sources and tasked it to simulate treatment outcomes for 500 patients, most of whom suffered from clinical depression and at least one other chronic condition, like high blood pressure or diabetes.

Using data from actual patient-doctor treatment sessions, computer science assistant professor Kris Hauser and Ph.D. student Casey C. Bennett compared real-life outcomes to simulated treatment regiments and found their computer was nearly 42 percent better at diagnosing illnesses and prescribing effective treatments than human doctors.


Albatross astonishes scientists by producing chick at age of 62

© Pete Leary/The Washington Post
Wisdom the Laysan albatross, aged 62, and her partner, believed to be younger, at the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge in the Pacific ocean.
She is described as awesome. And wonderful. And maybe a little weird. She is the world's oldest-known living wild bird at age 62, and she gave birth to a healthy chick that hatched on 3 February. It's pretty amazing that Wisdom, named by scientists who stuck a tag on her ankle years ago, has lived this long. The average Laysan albatross dies at less than half her age.

Scientists thought that, like other birds, albatross females became infertile late in life and carried on without producing chicks. But Wisdom, who hatched the chick at the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge in the Pacific Ocean, defies comparison. Her feat could prompt scientists to abandon some early theories about the birds.

Wisdom has raised chicks five times since 2006, and as many as 35 in her lifetime. Just as astonishing, she has likely flown up to 4.8m km since she was first tagged at the Midway Atoll at the end of the Hawaiian Island chain in 1956, according to scientists who have tracked her at the US Geological Survey. That's "four to six trips from the Earth to the moon and back again with plenty of miles to spare," the USGS said in an enthusiastic announcement last week.

Bizarro Earth

Giant ocean vortex linked to monsoon

The edge of the Great Whirl, shown by high chlorophyll concentrations along its flank.
One of the ocean's weirdest currents is the Great Whirl, a giant clockwise eddy that emerges every summer off the coast of Somalia. The swirling waters shift sea-surface temperatures, influencing moisture carried to Asia by monsoon winds.

For more than 100 years, sailors have known the Great Whirl arrived with the onset of monsoon winds in early June and disappeared about one month after the winds died down in August. Monsoon winds are some of the strongest on the planet, blowing at a constant 30 mph (48 km/h).

Because the massive vortex has a powerful impact on local climate, including the monsoon winds, scientists are studying how and why the Great Whirl appears.

It turns out the Great Whirl is even more closely linked to the monsoon than previously thought, but through the ocean, not through the atmosphere. A new study reveals the clockwise current spins up nearly two months before the winds arrive.

"[Oceanic] Rossby waves are bringing in energy well before the wind forcing sets in," said Lisa Beal, an oceanographer at the University of Miami in Florida. "We've got this precursor even before the monsoon hits it. That was rather surprising," she told OurAmazingPlanet.

The results were published online the week of Jan. 28 in the Journal of Geophysical Research.


IBM tasks supercomputer Watson with fighting cancer

© AFP Photo
IBM is putting its Watson supercomputer to work fighting cancer, in what is described as the first commercial program of its kind to use "big data" to help patients with the disease.

The US computing giant last week unveiled its initiative with health insurer WellPoint and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York.

The supercomputer, which gained fame by defeating two human champions in the "Jeopardy!" quiz show, has been sifting through some 600,000 pieces of medical evidence, two million pages of text from 42 medical journals and clinical trials in oncology research.

This can speed up the way data is analyzed to make the best diagnosis and find the optimal treatment, says Craig Thompson, Sloan-Kettering's president.

"It can take years for the latest developments in oncology to reach all practice settings," Thompson said.


NASA launches $855 million Landsat mission

The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with the LDCM spacecraft onboard lifts off the launch pad at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
A United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket blasted off from California and safely boosted a new Earth-watching Landsat into a polar orbit Monday to kick off an $855 million mission, the latest chapter in a 40-year program to monitor the planet's resources, land use and environmental changes.

The Landsat Data Continuity Mission, or LDCM, got underway at 1:02 p.m. EST (GMT-5; 10:02 a.m. local time) when the Atlas 5's Russian-designed RD-180 first stage engine thundered to life and throttled up to full power with a rush of brilliant exhaust.

The towering 192-foot-tall rocket, generating some 860,000 pounds of thrust, majestically climbed away from Space Launch Complex 3E at Vandenberg Air Force Base on the California coast northwest of Los Angeles.

Arcing to the south over the Pacific Ocean through a cloudless blue sky, the rocket smoothly accelerated as it consumed its first-stage load of liquid oxygen and kerosene propellants. Spectacular views from an on-board camera showed the California coast dropping away in the background and a few moments later, the curve of the Earth and the black of deep space.

Book 2

Computerized 'Rosetta Stone' reconstructs ancient languages

University of British Columbia and Berkeley researchers have used a sophisticated new computer system to quickly reconstruct protolanguages - the rudimentary ancient tongues from which modern languages evolved.

The results, which are 85 per cent accurate when compared to the painstaking manual reconstructions performed by linguists, will be published next week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"We're hopeful our tool will revolutionize historical linguistics much the same way that statistical analysis and computer power revolutionized the study of evolutionary biology," says UBC Assistant Prof. of Statistics Alexandre Bouchard-Côté, lead author of the study.


Intelligent civilizations rarer than one in a million

© NASA/JPL-Caltech
Artist’s concept of gas giant planet in Beehive star cluster. All around, the stars of the Beehive cluster shine brightly in the dark.
NASA's Kepler mission has identified 2,740 planets orbiting other stars, but do any of them harbor intelligent life?

Scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, have now used the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia to look for intelligent radio signals from planets around 86 of these stars. While discovering no telltale signs of life, the researchers calculate that fewer than one in a million stars in the Milky Way Galaxy have planetary civilizations advanced enough to transmit beacons we could detect.

"We didn't find ET, but we were able to use this statistical sample to, for the first time, put rather explicit limits on the presence of intelligent civilizations transmitting in the radio band where we searched," said Andrew Siemion, who recently received his Ph.D. in astronomy from UC Berkeley.


Collapsed magnetic filament hurls coronal mass ejection (CME) towards Earth

On Saturday, February 9th, around 0640 UT, a magnetic filament in the sun's northern hemisphere erupted, hurling a coronal mass ejection (CME) toward Earth. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory captured the UV flash from the underlying C2-class solar flare: The CME, which was captured in flight by the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, billowed away from the sun at 800 km/s. The bulk of the cloud looks like it will sail north of Earth. Nevertheless, a glancing blow is possible as shown in this 3D model of the CME prepared by analysts at the Goddard Space Flight Center. High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras on Feb. 12th when the CME passes by. - Space Weather

Eye 2

U.S. government drone war against US citizens: Spy drone used in 'hunt' for ex-soldier accused of killing three

© Daily Express
Domestic drones are being used to hunt down Christopher Dorner
Police plan to use spy drones in the hunt for a Rambo-style ex-soldier and policeman who has murdered three people and vowed to kill again.

They believe burly, heavily-armed Christopher Dorner is holed-up in the wilderness of California's snow-capped San Bernardino mountains 80 miles east of Los Angeles.

The burnt-out shell of his pick-up truck was discovered in the nearby resort of Big Bear, where residents and tourists have been warned to stay indoors as the search continues.

Yesterday, as a task force of 125 officers, some riding Snowcats in the rugged terrain, continued their search, it was revealed that Dorner has become the first human target for remotely-controlled airborne drones on US soil.

A senior police source said: "The thermal imaging cameras the drones use may be our only hope of finding him. On the ground, it's like looking for a needle in a haystack."

Asked directly if drones have already been deployed, Riverside Police Chief Sergio Diaz, who is jointly leading the task force, said: "We are using all the tools at our disposal."

Comment: The claim that this incident represents the first time surveillance drones would be used against a U.S. citizen domestically is inaccurate. In 2011, police used a Predator surveillance drone against a family in North Dakota who were accused of stealing six cows.