VnutZ's Articles, Page 2 of 82
Drones in the Unites States have faced an uncertain future with regards to their legal use pending decisions from around the government. Bear in mind, that while “drones” have the modern connotation of quadcopters, the definition includes all unmanned aerial vehicles such as hobbyist remote control airplanes. Last December, a huge no-fly zone was dropped over Washington DC but was shortly thereafter rescinded to it’s previous 15 mile size with an extra 15 miles of “special status”. The FAA then released a convenient app for smartphones called B4UFLY allowing a user to identify further no fly zones. It turns out the 5 mile buffer around small airports renders almost every populated area off-limits – who knew there were so many helipads and local airports? On Tuesday the 21st, the FAA released their operational rules for commercial drones (pdf) which contain a number of provisions, one of which requires “pilots” to obtain a certified license. At this time, hobbyist use remains ambiguous under previous guidance (registration, no-fly zones, etc.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
- The Brit lives in the red house
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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)?