VnutZ's Articles, Page 2 of 82

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23 Jun 16
Newspaper

That's No Moon

The moon is not the Earth’s only astronomical companion. NASA recently announced the discovery of Asteroid 2016 HO3 which has been caught in Earth’s gravity as objects orbit the sun. For nearly a century, the estimated 300 foot asteroid has gone unnoticed as it varies between 9 and 24 million miles from Earth.

13 Jun 16
Newspaper

Artificial Intelligence Authors An Original Screenplay

The Infinite Monkey Theorem states that a monkey hitting keys at random on a typewriter keyboard for an infinite amount of time will almost surely type a given text, such as the complete works of William Shakespeare. What happens if that monkey is an artificial intelligence trained over a series of screenplays? Benjamin, as it apparently named itself, did not produce Shakespeare but did generate its own screenplay titled Sunspring. It happened to make it into the top ten finalists at the London Sci-Fi contest amongst thousands of entries. The AI was based on what is called a Long Short Term Memory recurrent neural network designed for text recognition. Sunspring is available as a 10 minute short film on ArsTechnica.

13 Jun 16
Newspaper

Storing CO2

What are the options on the table for dealing with global warming? While college bros may celebrate hotter days as increasing the preponderance of bikinis everywhere, scientists are hard at work trying to prevent catastrophe. One challenge many are looking to solve is a way to reduce, eliminate, or “store” the excessive carbon dioxide. Store? Scientists in Iceland developed a technique to dissolve the gas into water and then pump tons of it into rocks rich with calcium, magnesium, and iron. Effectively, the process coupled with Earth’s pressures, turns the dissolved gas and rock into calcite, storing the greenhouse gas in an impermeable, leak-proof state. Not only were they successful at demonstrating the method, but the rock conversion took a mere two years which was significantly faster than expected.

06 Jun 16
Newspaper

Google Beats Down Oracle

The long running, epic showdown between Google and Oracle has transpired for well over half a decade. At first, Oracle had won but Google’s appeal finally earned them a victory which many hail as a victory for open source. Obviously the ruling protects re-implementations of an API for alternative, open source products which keeps developers keen on making improvements or cheaper solutions safe from litigation. The decision aligns with the how Larry Page states that “declaring code is not code” thus the intellectual property is the implementation, but not the interface. Oracle clearly felt differently and there are still many in the developer community that are curious about the real ramifications on the case’s outcome.

06 Jun 16
Newspaper

Brain Teaser : Einstein's Riddle

None of the OmniNerds solved the last brain teaser from eight months ago. To alleviate their shame, here is a simpler one known as Einstein’s Riddle.

There are 5 houses in five different colours. In each house lives a person with a different nationality. These five owners drink a certain type of beverage, smoke a certain brand of cigar and keep a certain pet. No owners have the same pet, smoke the same brand of cigar or drink the same beverage.

The question is: Who owns the fish?

Hints

  • The Brit lives in the red house
03 Jun 16
Newspaper

Performance Testing Reveals Gender Gap

Researchers at Arizona State have turned up a surprising gap in performance based testing. At the collegiate level in science tests, males will out perform females when the tests are “cognitively challenging.” The analysis spanned 4800 students and revealed some of the usual expectations between high and low socio-economic backgrounds. But the researchers were particularly troubled that altering tests away from rote memorization (where males and females performed with parity) to requiring more cognitive thinking created this divide. The cognitive tests were deemed more important as they stressed an ability to apply the learning. According to the study’s senior author, “We do not recommend lowering the bar. But, we may need to reassess how we are teaching introductory biology to meet these expectations on exams.”

03 Jun 16
Newspaper

Our Life is a Simulation

Is our existence merely just a simulation? The question has certainly been around a long time, and became somewhat “mainstream” in academic philosophy after The Matrix. Despite decades of thinking on the matter, it always keeps coming up and recently resurfaced at the Recode conference in a question to Elon Musk. His answer was somewhat intriguing even if only from an evolution of video games perspective.

The strongest argument for us being in a simulation probably is the following. Forty years ago we had pong. Like, two rectangles and a dot. That was what games were.

03 Jun 16
Newspaper

Computer AI Generated Blade Runner

Blade Runner, the dystopian future where machines hid amongst us, was an apropos choice for Terence Broad to teach his computer with. For a project, Terence used a convolutional autoencoder to build a “learned similarity metric” where his AI was trained to watch a movie and learn to recognize whether images it was shown were in, or not in, the movie. Once he trained it, he made the machine recreate the movie from what it had learned whereupon he shared the output on Vimeo. Here’s where it gets really interesting – Warner Brothers issued a DMCA takedown notice to Vimeo for that and a series of other uploads that were copies of their work. But then, the Blade Runner movie was restored when it was determined to be a completely original creation made entirely from the learnings of an AI (video examples can be seen on the link). As the writer’s at Vox so eloquently summarized, “Warner had just DMCA’d an artificial reconstruction of a film about artificial intelligence being indistinguishable from humans, because it couldn’t distinguish between the simulation and the real thing.”

02 Jun 16
Newspaper

Yahoo Releases National Security Letters

Privacy matters are always a matter of uproar on the Internet. Particularly since the Snowden leaks, everyone who previously seemed ignorant of the fact now has an opinion on the government’s ability to get information on them. One topic of discord were the national security letters which, if the Internet pundits were to be believed, were blanket gag orders by the government to remain silent while providing intimate details on US citizens on a whim. Interestingly, Yahoo became one of the first companies to publicly release three of their NSLs. Images of the NSLs themselves are available here (pdf). What seems interesting is that they don’t ask for all the evils the pundits make you believe and explicitly state not to include content. Additionally, the letters include mechanisms by which they can be challenged. In light of the wording in the letters, they seem pretty matter-of-fact, to the point, and straightforward with regards to conducting an investigation.

02 Jun 16
Newspaper

Protecting Women by Recommending Beatings

Who is the Council of Islamic Ideology in Pakistan? It’s a decades old organization “that advises the government on religious aspects of the law and society” with recommendations that are not necessarily law … but may lead to them. Recently, this council came up with the bright idea to protect women by allowing husbands to lightly beat them. Their chairman says, “If you want her to mend her ways, you should first advise her …. If she refuses, stop talking to her … stop sharing a bed with her, and if things do not change, get a bit strict.” The council’s report has yet to actually make it forward for validation into Pakistani law, but includes such nuggets as “A husband should be allowed to lightly beat his wife if she defies his commands and refuses to dress up as per his desires; turns down demand of intercourse without any religious excuse or does not take bath after intercourse or menstrual periods.”

02 Jun 16
Newspaper

Freshly Approved Tools for Cops

Despite conspiracy television shows always depicting law enforcement and government agencies as able to precisely locate mobile phones, it seems the general populace is still somewhat lethargic about adapting their crimes. Nonetheless, the fact that mobile providers, by nature of the technology, had historical location information was facing court scrutiny as to how law enforcement could use it. There’s a difference between real-time tracking and after-the-fact records acquisitions and that police no longer require a warrant to obtain 200 days worth of the data.

27 May 16
Newspaper

Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria in the US

A patient in Pennsylvania is now documented as the first host carrying bacteria resistant to all antibiotics in the United States. The bacteria seems to have been modified by an infection to its own DNA (plasmid) where a gene called mcr-1 made it resistant to even the most powerful antibiotic. Colistin was reserved as the last bastion of antibiotics, reserved for only the most severe infections so as to prevent resistant strains from developing. (Interestingly, WIRED seems to have an unfinished article on Colistin that managed to be indexed by Google.) Although traces of the bacteria have manifested in people in pockets around the globe, this is the first appearance in the United States but its emergence is troubling because the patient had not traveled. The source of the infection is unknown.

26 May 16
Newspaper

Obsolete Technology in the US Government

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report showing a number of highly outdated systems (pdf) used by the government. The report alleges $60B is spent annually on maintaining these ancient systems. Included in the hit list are nuclear control systems that still rely on very legacy floppy disks. At first, the finding seems egregious but one ought to question, if the systems have worked for the past 40+ years without fail, is it worth engaging in some type of future failure of an acquisitions cycle to upgrade (and potentially break them)?

26 May 16
Newspaper

Robots to Replace Fast Food Workers

A $15 minimum wage worker at full time hours costs at least $31,200 worth of wages plus a variety of backend expenses to handle things like insurance, etc. A former McDonalds CEO now raised some hackles when he commented, “if you look at the robotic devices that are coming into the restaurant industry—it’s cheaper to buy a $35,000 robotic arm than it is to hire an employee who’s inefficient making $15 an hour bagging French fries.” But those sentiments are not merely conjecture. Wendy’s already anticipates implementing the practice with these comments from their CEO on the impact to franchises, " look at the opportunity to reduce overall staff, look at the opportunity to certainly reduce hours and any other cost reduction opportunities, not just price. You know there are some people out there who naively say that these wages can simply be passed along in terms of price increases." Along with advances in self-driving cars and improvements to natural language response, many entry level positions will easily succumb to automation in the near future.

20 May 16
Newspaper

Social Media's Influence on the 2016 Election

It’s no secret that social media websites occupy an increasingly large part of a user’s day. For instance, it’s obvious OmniNerd is on the precipice of becoming your sole portal to the Internet. That said, social media sites balance an interesting trend of showing feed content that trends with your history of likes and interest against a more global trend of what content that may be important to you based on advertising or news reports.

The evolution of the news feed as pertaining to the 2016 Presidential Election is very different from how social media presented 2012. Four years ago, the feeds were largely mined by candidates and political researchers for information about user sentiment. For instance, analysis against 2012 Twitter content around geographic centers could be used to ascertain voting trends before results were known. 2016, however, seems to reveal that social media sites may offer less on the observational front and instead influence shaping the vote.

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