Where do flowers come from? Shedding light on Darwin’s 'abominable mystery'

Science Daily - Fri, 24/02/2017 - 2:35pm
The mystery that is the origin of flowering plants has been partially solved thanks to a team of scientists. Their discovery sheds light on a question that much intrigued Darwin: the appearance of a structure as complex as the flower over the course of evolution.
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Go See Get Out, the Smart Horror Gem We All Deserve

Wired News - Fri, 24/02/2017 - 2:30pm
Jordan Peele's feature film debut gets in your head in ways that are hard to forget. The post Go See Get Out, the Smart Horror Gem We All Deserve appeared first on WIRED.
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Space Calendar 2017: Launches, Sky Events & More

Space.com - Fri, 24/02/2017 - 2:30pm
Here’s a guide to the major astronomical events of the next year, as well as space launches and milestones for spacecrafts already in travel.
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Founder of India's $4 Smartphone Firm Arrested on Allegations of Fraud

Slashdot - Fri, 24/02/2017 - 2:00pm
Remember the $4 smartphone from India? Yeah, things haven't really materialized. Reuters reports: The founder of an Indian tech firm that shot to prominence by offering a $4 smartphone has been arrested on allegations of fraud, after a handset dealer accused the company of not refunding him for an unfulfilled order, the police said. Mohit Goel, the founder of Ringing Bells, was arrested Thursday afternoon in Uttar Pradesh and will be produced in court later on Friday, said Rahul Srivastav, a police spokesman from the northern Indian state. Goel and his company made headlines last year with the "Freedom" smartphone, which was priced at 251 rupees ($3.77), attracting strong demand but also widespread scepticism and scrutiny from regulators even in price-conscious India, where cheap smartphones are big sellers. The founder was arrested after a dealer said he had paid 3 million Indian rupees for an order of handsets but had received only a fraction of the order. He further said some of the phones received were defective, according to the police.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Do Cats Cause Schizophrenia? Believe the Science, Not the Hype

Wired News - Fri, 24/02/2017 - 1:30pm
Like many health studies examining relationships between bacon and cancer, salt and obesity, or sugar and heart disease, the science here is not settled. The post Do Cats Cause Schizophrenia? Believe the Science, Not the Hype appeared first on WIRED.
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NASA Will Consider Adding Crew to Next-Gen Rocket's Debut Launch

Space.com - Fri, 24/02/2017 - 1:30pm
NASA will take about a month to assess how much extra time, money and risk would be added to the debut flight of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket if a two-member crew was aboard, officials said Friday.
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Alphabet's Waymo Sues Uber For Allegedly Stealing Self-Driving Secrets

Slashdot - Fri, 24/02/2017 - 1:00pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: It took Alphabet Inc.'s Waymo seven years to design and build a laser-scanning system to guide its self-driving cars. Uber Technologies Inc. allegedly did it in nine months. Waymo claims in a lawsuit filed Thursday that was possible because a former employee stole the designs and technology and started a new company. Waymo accuses several employees of Otto, a self-driving startup Uber acquired in August for $680 million, of lifting technical information from Google's autonomous car project. The "calculated theft" of Alphabet's technology earned Otto's employees more than $500 million, according to the complaint in San Francisco federal court. The claims in Thursday's case include unfair competition, patent infringement and trade secret misappropriation. Waymo was inadvertently copied on an e-mail from one of its vendors, which had an attachment showing an Uber lidar circuit board that had a "striking resemblance" to Waymo's design, according to the complaint. Anthony Levandowski, a former manager at Waymo, in December 2015 downloaded more than 14,000 proprietary and confidential files, including the lidar circuit board designs, according to the complaint. He also allegedly created a domain name for his new company and confided in some of his Waymo colleagues of plans to "replicate" its technology for a competitor. Levandowski left Waymo in January 2016 and went on in May to form Otto LLC, which planned to develop hardware and software for autonomous vehicles.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Potential Trump Science Adviser Says Climate Change Is Great

Wired News - Fri, 24/02/2017 - 12:30pm
Opinion: A climate scientist explains why William Tapper, a candidate for science adviser to the president, gets carbon dioxide all wrong. The post Potential Trump Science Adviser Says Climate Change Is Great appeared first on WIRED.
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Photo of the Week: The Dakota Access Pipeline Protest Ends in Flames

Wired News - Fri, 24/02/2017 - 12:30pm
Photographer Stephen Yang arrived Wednesday morning to witness one final act of protest. The post Photo of the Week: The Dakota Access Pipeline Protest Ends in Flames appeared first on WIRED.
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The Math Behind Trump’s Deportation Plan Makes No Sense

Wired News - Fri, 24/02/2017 - 12:00pm
As police are embracing data-driven, targeted enforcement, the Trump administration is turning to old-timey dragnets that won't make anyone safer. The post The Math Behind Trump's Deportation Plan Makes No Sense appeared first on WIRED.
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Hypnotic Animations Show Why Trees Depend on Forest Fires

Wired News - Fri, 24/02/2017 - 12:00pm
Fire ecology is a big topic. Eleanor Lutz, the infographic-maker of the <em>Tabletop Whale</em> blog, breaks it down. The post Hypnotic Animations Show Why Trees Depend on Forest Fires appeared first on WIRED.
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Inside the Extreme Machine That Mimics Bombs and Black Holes

Wired News - Fri, 24/02/2017 - 12:00pm
Machines like Z are the only way—short of exploding a weapon or sojourning inside the sun—to measure how matter behaves in extreme environments. The post Inside the Extreme Machine That Mimics Bombs and Black Holes appeared first on WIRED.
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Visit TRAPPIST-1e! NASA Travel Poster Advertises Exoplanet Discovery

Space.com - Fri, 24/02/2017 - 12:00pm
If you're looking for an ultra-long vacation to an ultra-small dwarf star, a new NASA travel poster has just the trip for you: a star trek (get it?) to TRAPPIST-1e!
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Would the 'Hidden Figures' Leading Ladies Go to Space? (Video)

Space.com - Fri, 24/02/2017 - 11:58am
Just in time for the Oscars, the three leads of "Hidden Figures" share their take on futuristic forms of spaceflight and whether they'd want to make an out-of-this-world journey.
Categories: Science

'Ring of Fire' Eclipse Will Be Visible from Southern Hemisphere Sunday

Space.com - Fri, 24/02/2017 - 11:54am
This Sunday (Feb. 26), a "ring of fire" solar eclipse will be visible from parts of South America and Africa. Here's how this kind of eclipse differs from a total solar eclipse.
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What Would Life Be Like on the TRAPPIST-1 Planets?

Space.com - Fri, 24/02/2017 - 11:53am
What would it be like to live in the TRAPPIST-1 system, which is home to seven Earth-sized planets that could potentially support life?
Categories: Science

An ultra-low-power artificial synapse for neural-network computing

Kurzweil AI - Fri, 24/02/2017 - 10:47am

(Left) Illustration of a synapse in the brain connecting two neurons. (Right) Schematic of artificial synapse (ENODe), which functions as a transistor. It consists of two thin, flexible polymer films (black) with source, drain, and gate terminals, connected by an electrolyte of salty water that permits ions to cross. A voltage pulse applied to the “presynaptic” layer (top) alters the level of oxidation in the “postsynaptic layer” (bottom), triggering current flow between source and drain. (credit: Thomas Splettstoesser/CC and Yoeri van de Burgt et al./Nature Materials)

Stanford University and Sandia National Laboratories researchers have developed an organic artificial synapse based on a new memristor (resistive memory device) design that mimics the way synapses in the brain learn. The new artificial synapse could lead to computers that better recreate the way the human brain processes information. It could also one day directly interface with the human brain.

The new artificial synapse is an electrochemical neuromorphic organic device (dubbed “ENODe”) — a mixed ionic/electronic design that is fundamentally different from existing and other proposed resistive memory devices, which are limited by noise, required high write voltage, and other factors*, the researchers note in a paper published online Feb. 20 in Nature Materials.

Like a neural path in a brain being reinforced through learning, the artificial synapse is programmed by discharging and recharging it repeatedly. Through this training, the researhers have been able to predict within 1 percent of uncertainly what voltage will be required to get the synapse to a specific electrical state and, once there, remain at that state.

“The working mechanism of ENODEs is reminiscent of that of natural synapses, where neurotransmitters diffuse through the cleft, inducing depolarization due to ion penetration in the postsynaptic neuron,” the researchers explain in the paper. “In contrast, other memristive devices switch by melting materials at relatively high temperatures (PCMs) or by voltage-induced breakdown/filament formation and ion diffusion in dense oxide layers (FFMOs).”

The ENODe achieves significant energy savings** in two ways:

  • Unlike a conventional computer, where you save your work to the hard drive before you turn it off, the artificial synapse can recall its programming without any additional actions or parts. Traditional computing requires separately processing information and then storing it into memory. Here, the processing creates the memory.
  • When we learn, electrical signals are sent between neurons in our brain. The most energy is needed the first time a synapse is traversed. Every time afterward, the connection requires less energy. This is how synapses efficiently facilitate both learning something new and remembering what we’ve learned. The artificial synapse, unlike most other versions of brain-like computing, also fulfills these two tasks simultaneously, and does so with substantial energy savings.

“More and more, the kinds of tasks that we expect our computing devices to do require computing that mimics the brain because using traditional computing to perform these tasks is becoming really power hungry,” said A. Alec Talin, distinguished member of technical staff at Sandia National Laboratories in Livermore, California, and co-senior author of the paper. “We’ve demonstrated a device that’s ideal for running these type of algorithms and that consumes a lot less power.”

A future brain-like computer with 500 states

Only one artificial synapse has been produced so far, but researchers at Sandia used 15,000 measurements to simulate how an array of them would work in a neural network. They tested the simulated network’s ability to recognize handwriting of digits 0 through 9. Tested on three datasets, the simulated array was able to identify the handwritten digits with an accuracy between 93 to 97 percent.

This artificial synapse may one day be part of a brain-like computer, which could be especially useful for processing visual and auditory signals, as in voice-controlled interfaces and driverless cars, but without energy-consuming computer hardware.

This device is also well suited for the kind of signal identification and classification that traditional computers struggle to perform. Whereas digital transistors can be in only two states, such as 0 and 1, the researchers successfully programmed 500 states in the artificial synapse, which is useful for neuron-type computation models. In switching from one state to another they used about one-tenth as much energy as a state-of-the-art computing system needs to move data from the processing unit to the memory.

However, this is still about 10,000 times as much energy as the minimum a biological synapse needs in order to fire**. The researchers hope to attain neuron-level energy efficiency once they test the artificial synapse in smaller devices.

Linking to live organic neurons

This new artificial synapse may one day be part of a brain-like computer, which could be especially beneficial for computing that works with visual and auditory signals. Examples of this are seen in voice-controlled interfaces and driverless cars. Past efforts in this field have produced high-performance neural networks supported by artificially intelligent algorithms but these depend on energy-consuming traditional computer hardware.

Every part of the device is made of inexpensive organic materials. These aren’t found in nature but they are largely composed of hydrogen and carbon and are compatible with the brain’s chemistry. Cells have been grown on these materials and they have even been used to make artificial pumps for neural transmitters. The switching voltages applied to train the artificial synapse (about 0.5 mV) are also the same as those that move through human neurons — about 1,000 times lower than the “write” voltage for a typical memristor.

That means it’s possible that the artificial synapse could communicate with live neurons, leading to improved brain-machine interfaces. The softness and flexibility of the device also lends itself to being used in biological environments.

This research was funded by the National Science Foundation, the Keck Faculty Scholar Funds, the Neurofab at Stanford, the Stanford Graduate Fellowship, Sandia’s Laboratory-Directed Research and Development Program, the U.S. Department of Energy, the Holland Scholarship, the University of Groningen Scholarship for Excellent Students, the Hendrik Muller National Fund, the Schuurman Schimmel-van Outeren Foundation, the Foundation of Renswoude (The Hague and Delft), the Marco Polo Fund, the Instituto Nacional de Ciência e Tecnologia/Instituto Nacional de Eletrônica Orgânica in Brazil, the Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo and the Brazilian National Council.

* “A resistive memory device has not yet been demonstrated with adequate electrical characteristics to fully realize the efficiency and performance gains of a neural architecture. State-of-the-art memristors suffer from excessive write noise, write non-linearities, and high write voltages and currents.  Reducing the noise and lowering the switching voltage significantly below 0.3 V (~10 kT) in a two-terminal device without compromising long-term data retention has proven difficult.” … Organic memristive devices have been recently proposed, but are limited by “the slow kinetics of ion diffusion through a polymer to retain their states or on charge storage in metal nanoparticles, which inherently limits performance and stability.” — Yoeri van de Burgt et al., Nature Materials

** ENODe switches at low voltage and energy (< 10 pJ for 1000-square-micrometer devices), compared to an estimated ∼ 1–100 fJ per synaptic event for the human brain.  

Abstract of A non-volatile organic electrochemical device as a low-voltage artificial synapse for neuromorphic computing

The brain is capable of massively parallel information processing while consuming only ~1–100 fJ per synaptic event. Inspired by the efficiency of the brain, CMOS-based neural architectures and memristors are being developed for pattern recognition and machine learning. However, the volatility, design complexity and high supply voltages for CMOS architectures, and the stochastic and energy-costly switching of memristors complicate the path to achieve the interconnectivity, information density, and energy efficiency of the brain using either approach. Here we describe an electrochemical neuromorphic organic device (ENODe) operating with a fundamentally different mechanism from existing memristors. ENODe switches at low voltage and energy (<10 pJ for 103 μm2 devices), displays >500 distinct, non-volatile conductance states within a ~1 V range, and achieves high classification accuracy when implemented in neural network simulations. Plastic ENODes are also fabricated on flexible substrates enabling the integration of neuromorphic functionality in stretchable electronic systems. Mechanical flexibility makes ENODes compatible with three-dimensional architectures, opening a path towards extreme interconnectivity comparable to the human brain.

Categories: Science

Cloudflare Leaks Sensitive User Data Across the Web

Slashdot - Fri, 24/02/2017 - 10:00am
ShaunC writes: In a bug that's been christened "Cloudbleed," Cloudflare disclosed today that some of their products accidentally exposed private user information from a number of websites. Similar to 2014's Heartbleed, Cloudflare's problem involved a buffer overrun that allowed uninitialized memory contents to leak into normal web traffic. Tavis Ormandy, of Google's Project Zero, discovered the flaw last week. Affected sites include Uber, Fitbit, and OK Cupid, as well as unnamed services for hotel booking and password management. Cloudflare says the bug has been fixed, and Google has purged affected pages from its search index and cache. Further reading: The Register, Ars Technica

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Space Webcasts: NASA Debates Adding Crew to First Orion Flight

Space.com - Fri, 24/02/2017 - 9:00am
NASA hosted a teleconference today (Feb. 24) to discuss the option of adding crew to the first flight of NASA's Space Launch System and the Orion spacecraft. Listen live here.
Categories: Science

Russian Progress 66 Cargo Ship Docks at Space Station

Space.com - Fri, 24/02/2017 - 8:38am
The robotic Russian cargo ship Progress 66 arrived at the International Space Station early Friday (Feb. 24), delivering nearly 3 tons of supplies to the orbiting laboratory.
Categories: Science