Scientists Say New Material Could Hold up an Actual Space Elevator

Space Elevator

It takes a lot of energy to put stuff in space. That’s why one longtime futurist dream is a “space elevator” — a long cable strung between a geostationary satellite and the Earth that astronauts could use like a dumbwaiter to haul stuff up into orbit.

The problem is that such a system would require an extraordinarily light, strong cable. Now, researchers from Beijing’s Tsinghua University say they’ve developed a carbon nanotube fiber so sturdy and lightweight that it could be used to build an actual space elevator.

Going Up

The researchers published their paper in May, but it’s now garnering the attention of their peers. Some believe the Tsinghua team’s material really could lead to the creation of an elevator that would make it cheaper to move astronauts and materials into space.

“This is a breakthrough,” colleague Wang Changqing, who studies space elevators at Northwestern Polytechnical University, told the South China Morning Post.

Huge If True

There are still countless galling technical problems that need to be overcome before a space elevator would start to look plausible. Wang pointed out that it’d require tens of thousands of kilometers of the new material, for instance, as well as a shield to protect it from space debris.

But the research brings us one step closer to what could be a true game changer: a vastly less expensive way to move people and spacecraft out of Earth’s gravity.

READ MORE: China Has Strongest Fibre That Can Haul 160 Elephants – and a Space Elevator? [South China Morning Post]

More on space elevators: Why Space Elevators Could Be the Future of Space Travel

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Scientists Say New Material Could Hold up an Actual Space Elevator

A Stem Cell Transplant Let a Wheelchair-Bound Man Dance Again

Stand Up Guy

For 10 years, Roy Palmer had no feeling in his lower extremities. Two days after receiving a stem cell transplant, he cried tears of joy because he could feel a cramp in his leg.

The technical term for the procedure the British man underwent is hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT). And while risky, it’s offering new hope to people like Palmer, who found himself wheelchair-bound after multiple sclerosis (MS) caused his immune system to attack his nerves’ protective coverings.

Biological Reboot

Ever hear the IT troubleshooting go-to of turning a system off and on again to fix it? The HSCT process is similar, but instead of a computer, doctors attempt to reboot a patient’s immune system.

To do this, they first remove stem cells from the patient’s body. Then the patient undergoes chemotherapy, which kills the rest of their immune system. After that, the doctors use the extracted stem cells to reboot the patient’s immune system.

It took just two days for the treatment to restore some of the feeling in Palmer’s legs. Eventually, he was able to walk on his own and even dance. He told the BBC in a recent interview that he now feels like he has a second chance at life.

“We went on holiday, not so long ago, to Turkey. I walked on the beach,” said Palmer. “Little things like that, people do not realize what it means to me.”

Risk / Reward

Still, HSCT isn’t some miracle cure for MS. Though it worked for Palmer, that’s not always the case, and HSCT can also cause infections and infertility. The National MS Society still considers HSCT to be an experimental treatment, and the Food and Drug Administration has yet to approve the therapy in the U.S.

However, MS affects more than 2.3 million people, and if a stem cell transplant can help even some of those folks the way it helped Palmer, it’s a therapy worth exploring.

READ MORE: Walking Again After Ten Years With MS [BBC]

More on HCST: New Breakthrough Treatment Could “Reverse Disability” for MS Patients

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A Stem Cell Transplant Let a Wheelchair-Bound Man Dance Again

AI Dreamed Up These Nightmare Fuel Halloween Masks

Nightmare Fuel

Someone programmed an AI to dream up Halloween masks, and the results are absolute nightmare fuel. Seriously, just look at some of these things.

“What’s so scary or unsettling about it is that it’s not so detailed that it shows you everything,” said Matt Reed, the creator of the masks, in an interview with New Scientist. “It leaves just enough open for your imagination to connect the dots.”

A selection of masks featured on Reed’s twitter. Credit: Matt Reed/Twitter

Creative Horror

To create the masks, Reed — whose day job is as a technologist at a creative agency called redpepper — fed an open source AI tool 5,000 pictures of Halloween masks he sourced from Google Images. He then instructed the tool to generate its own masks.

The fun and spooky project is yet another sign that AI is coming into its own as a creative tool. Just yesterday, a portrait generated by a similar system fetched more than $400,000 at a prominent British auction house.

And Reed’s masks are evocative. Here at the Byte, if we looked through the peephole and saw one of these on a trick or treater, we might not open our door.

READ MORE: AI Designed These Halloween Masks and They Are Absolutely Terrifying [New Scientist]

More on AI-generated art: Generated Art Will Go on Sale Alongside Human-Made Works This Fall

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AI Dreamed Up These Nightmare Fuel Halloween Masks

Zero Gravity Causes Worrisome Changes In Astronauts’ Brains

Danger, Will Robinson

As famous Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield demonstrated with his extraterrestrial sob session, fluids behave strangely in space.

And while microgravity makes for a great viral video, it also has terrifying medical implications that we absolutely need to sort out before we send people into space for the months or years necessary for deep space exploration.

Specifically, research published Thursday In the New England Journal of Medicine demonstrated that our brains undergo lasting changes after we spend enough time in space. According to the study, cerebrospinal fluid — which normally cushions our brain and spinal cord — behaves differently in zero gravity, causing it to pool around and squish our brains.

Mysterious Symptoms

The brains of the Russian cosmonauts who were studied in the experiment mostly bounced back upon returning to Earth.

But even seven months later, some abnormalities remained. According to National Geographic, the researchers suspect that high pressure  inside the cosmonauts’ skulls may have squeezed extra water into brain cells which later drained out en masse.

Now What?

So far, scientists don’t know whether or not this brain shrinkage is related to any sort of cognitive or other neurological symptoms — it might just be a weird quirk of microgravity.

But along with other space hazards like deadly radiation and squished eyeballs, it’s clear that we have a plethora of medical questions to answer before we set out to explore the stars.

READ MORE: Cosmonaut brains show space travel causes lasting changes [National Geographic]

More on space medicine: Traveling to Mars Will Blast Astronauts With Deadly Cosmic Radiation, new Data Shows

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Zero Gravity Causes Worrisome Changes In Astronauts’ Brains

We Aren’t Growing Enough Healthy Foods to Feed Everyone on Earth

Check Yourself

The agriculture industry needs to get its priorities straight.

According to a newly published study, the world food system is producing too many unhealthy foods and not enough healthy ones.

“We simply can’t all adopt a healthy diet under the current global agriculture system,” said study co-author Evan Fraser in a press release. “Results show that the global system currently overproduces grains, fats, and sugars, while production of fruits and vegetables and, to a smaller degree, protein is not sufficient to meet the nutritional needs of the current population.”

Serving Downsized

For their study, published Tuesday in the journal PLOS ONE, researchers from the University of Guelph compared global agricultural production with consumption recommendations from Harvard University’s Healthy Eating Plate guide. Their findings were stark: The agriculture industry’s overall output of healthy foods does not match humanity’s needs.

Instead of the recommended eight servings of grains per person, it produces 12. And while nutritionists recommend we each consume 15 servings of fruits and vegetables daily, the industry produces just five. The mismatch continues for oils and fats (three servings instead of one), protein (three servings instead of five), and sugar (four servings when we don’t need any).

Overly Full Plate

The researchers don’t just point out the problem, though — they also calculated what it would take to address the lack of healthy foods while also helping the environment.

“For a growing population, our calculations suggest that the only way to eat a nutritionally balanced diet, save land, and reduce greenhouse gas emission is to consume and produce more fruits and vegetables as well as transition to diets higher in plant-based protein,” said Fraser.

A number of companies dedicated to making plant-based proteins mainstream are already gaining traction. But unfortunately, it’s unlikely that the agriculture industry will decide to prioritize growing fruits and veggies over less healthy options as long as people prefer having the latter on their plates.

READ MORE: Not Enough Fruits, Vegetables Grown to Feed the Planet, U of G Study Reveals [University of Guelph]

More on food scarcity: To Feed a Hungry Planet, We’re All Going to Need to Eat Less Meat

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We Aren’t Growing Enough Healthy Foods to Feed Everyone on Earth

Report Identifies China as the Source of Ozone-Destroying Emissions

Emissions Enigma

For years, a mystery puzzled environmental scientists. The world had banned the use of many ozone-depleting compounds in 2010. So why were global emission levels still so high?

The picture started to clear up in June. That’s when The New York Times published an investigation into the issue. China, the paper claimed, was to blame for these mystery emissions. Now it turns out the paper was probably right to point a finger.

Accident or Incident

In a paper published recently in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, an international team of researchers confirms that eastern China is the source of at least half of the 40,000 tonnes of carbon tetrachloride emissions currently entering the atmosphere each year.

They figured this out using a combination of ground-based and airborne atmospheric concentration data from near the Korean peninsula. They also relied on two models that simulated how the gases would move through the atmosphere.

Though they were able to narrow down the source to China, the researchers weren’t able to say exactly who’s breaking the ban and whether they even know about the damage they’re doing.

Pinpoint

“Our work shows the location of carbon tetrachloride emissions,” said co-author Matt Rigby in a press release. “However, we don’t yet know the processes or industries that are responsible. This is important because we don’t know if it is being produced intentionally or inadvertently.”

If we can pinpoint the source of these emissions, we can start working on stopping them and healing our ozone. And given that we’ve gone nearly a decade with minimal progress on that front, there’s really no time to waste.

READ MORE: Location of Large ‘Mystery’ Source of Banned Ozone Depleting Substance Uncovered [University of Bristol]

More on carbon emissions: China Has (Probably) Been Pumping a Banned Gas Into the Atmosphere

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Report Identifies China as the Source of Ozone-Destroying Emissions

An AI Conference Refusing a Name Change Highlights a Tech Industry Problem

Name Game

There’s a prominent artificial intelligence conference that goes by the suggestive acronym NIPS, which stands for “Neural Information Processing Systems.”

After receiving complaints that the acronym was alienating to women, the conference’s leadership collected suggestions for a new name via an online poll, according to WIRED. But the conference announced Monday that it would be sticking with NIPS all the same.

Knock It Off

It’s convenient to imagine that this acronym just sort of emerged by coincidence, but let’s not indulge in that particular fantasy.

It’s more likely that tech geeks cackled maniacally when they came up with the acronym, and the refusal to do better even when people looking up the conference in good faith are bombarded with porn is a particularly telling failure of the AI research community.

Small Things Matter

This problem goes far beyond a silly name — women are severely underrepresented in technology research and even more so when it comes to artificial intelligence. And if human decency — comforting those who are regularly alienated by the powers that be — isn’t enough of a reason to challenge the sexist culture embedded in tech research, just think about what we miss out on.

True progress in artificial intelligence cannot happen without a broad range of diverse voices — voices that are silenced by “locker room talk” among an old boy’s club. Otherwise, our technological development will become just as stuck in place as our cultural development often seems to be.

READ MORE: AI RESEARCHERS FIGHT OVER FOUR LETTERS: NIPS [WIRED]

More on Silicon Valley sexism: The Tech Industry’s Gender Problem Isn’t Just Hurting Women

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An AI Conference Refusing a Name Change Highlights a Tech Industry Problem

Scientists Are Hopeful AI Could Help Predict Earthquakes

Quake Rate

Earlier this year, I interviewed U.S. Geological Survey geologist Annemarie Baltay for a story about why it’s incredibly difficult to predict earthquakes.

“We don’t use that ‘p word’ — ‘predict’ — at all,” she told me. “Earthquakes are chaotic. We don’t know when or where they’ll occur.”

Neural Earthwork

That could finally be starting to change, according to a fascinating feature in The New York Times.

By feeding seismic data into a neural network — a type of artificial intelligence that learns to recognize patterns by scrutinizing examples — researchers say they can now predict moments after a quake strikes how far its aftershocks will travel.

And eventually, some believe, they’ll be able to listen to signals from fault lines and predict when an earthquake will strike in the first place.

Future Vision

But like Baltay, some researchers aren’t convinced we’ll ever be able to predict earthquakes.University of Tokyo seismologist Robert Geller told the Times that until an algorithm actually predicts an upcoming quake, he’ll remain skeptical.

“There are no shortcuts,” he said. “If you cannot predict the future, then your hypothesis is wrong.”

READ MORE: A.I. Is Helping Scientist Predict When and Where the Next Big Earthquake Will Be [The New York Times]

More on earthquake AI: A New AI Detected 17 Times More Earthquakes Than Traditional Methods

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Scientists Are Hopeful AI Could Help Predict Earthquakes

Clean Coal Startup Turns Human Waste Into Earth-Friendly Fuel

Gold Nuggets

A company called Ingelia says it’s figured out a way to turn human waste — the solid kind — into a combustible material it’s calling biochar. And if Ingelia’s claims are accurate, biochar can be burned for fuel just like coalexcept with nearzero greenhouse gas emissions, according to Business Insider.

That’s because almost all of the pollutants and more harmful chemicals that would normally be given off while burning solid fuels is siphoned away into treatable liquid waste, leaving a dry, combustible rod of poop fuel.

“Clean Coal

Ingelia, which is currently working to strike a deal with Spanish waste management facilities, hopes to make enough biochar to replace 220 thousand tons of coal per year, corresponding to 500 thousand tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

But that’s by 2022, at which point we’ll have even less time to reach the urgent clean energy goals of that doomsday United Nations report. In an ideal world, we would have moved away from coal years ago. At least this gives us a viable alternative as we transition to other, renewable forms of electricity.

So while we can, in part, poop our way to a better world, biochar — and other new sewage-based energy sources — will only be one of many new world-saving sources of clean energy.

READ MORE: This Spanish company found a way to produce a fuel that emits no CO2 — and it’s made of sewage [Business Insider]

More on poop: Edible Tech is Finally Useful, is Here to Help you Poop

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Clean Coal Startup Turns Human Waste Into Earth-Friendly Fuel

Ford’s Self-Driving Cars Are About to Chauffeur Your Senator

Green-Light District

It doesn’t matter how advanced our self-driving cars get — if they aren’t allowed on roads, they aren’t going to save any lives.

The future of autonomous vehicles (AVs) in the U.S. depends on how lawmakers in Washington D.C. choose to regulate the vehicles. But until now, AV testing has largely taken place far from the nation’s capital, mostly in California and Arizona.

Ford is about to change that. The company just announced plans to be the first automaker to test its self-driving cars in the Distinct of Columbia — and how lawmakers feel about those vehicles could influence future AV legislation.

Career Day

Sherif Marakby, CEO of Ford Autonomous Vehicles, announced the decision to begin testing in D.C. via a blog post last week. According to Marakby, Ford’s politician-friendly focus will be on figuring out how its AVs could promote job creation in the District.

To that end, Ford plans to assess how AVs could increase mobility in D.C., thereby helping residents get to jobs that might otherwise be outside their reach, as well as train residents for future positions as AV technicians or operators.

Up Close and Personal

Marakby notes that D.C. is a particularly suitable location for this testing because the District is usually bustling with activity. The population increases significantly during the day as commuters arrive from the suburbs for work, while millions of people flock to D.C. each year for conferences or tourism.

D.C. is also home to the people responsible for crafting and passing AV legislation. “[I]t’s important that lawmakers see self-driving vehicles with their own eyes as we keep pushing for legislation that governs their safe use across the country,” Marakby wrote.

Ford’s ultimate goal is to launch a commercial AV service in D.C. in 2021. With this testing, the company has the opportunity to directly influence the people who could help it reach that goal — or oppose it.

READ MORE: A Monumental Moment: Our Self-Driving Business Development Expands to Washington, D.C. [Medium]

More on AV legislation: U.S. Senators Reveal the Six Principles They’ll Use to Regulate Self-Driving Vehicles

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Ford’s Self-Driving Cars Are About to Chauffeur Your Senator

This AI Lie Detector Flags Falsified Police Reports

Minority Report

Imagine this: You file a police report, but back at the station, they feed it into an algorithm — and it accuses you of lying, as though it had somehow looked inside your brain.

That might sound like science fiction, but Spain is currently rolling out a very similar program, called VeriPol, in many of its police stations. VeriPol’s creators say that when it flags a report as false, it turns out to be correct more than four-fifths of the time.

Lie Detector

VeriPol is the work of researchers at Cardiff University and Charles III University of Madrid.

In a paper published earlier this year in the journal Knowledge-Based Systems, they describe how they trained the lie detector with a data set of more than 1,000 robbery reports — including a number that police identified as false — to identify subtle signs that a report wasn’t true.

Thought Crime

In pilot studies in Murcia and Malaga, Quartz reported, further investigation showed that the algorithm was correct about 83 percent of the time that it suspected a report was false.

Still, the project raises uncomfortable questions about allowing algorithms to act as lie detectors. Fast Company reported earlier this year that authorities in the United States, Canada, and the European Union are testing a separate system called AVATAR that they want to use to collect biometric data about subjects at border crossings — and analyze it for signs that they’re not being truthful.

Maybe the real question isn’t whether the tech works, but whether we want to permit authorities to act upon what’s essentially a good — but not perfect — assumption that someone is lying.

READ MORE: Police Are Using Artificial Intelligence to Spot Written Lies [Quartz]

More on lie detectors: Stormy Daniels Took a Polygraph. What Do We Do With the Results?

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This AI Lie Detector Flags Falsified Police Reports

These Bacteria Digest Food Waste Into Biodegradable Plastic

Factory Farm

Plastics have revolutionized manufacturing, but they’re still terrible for the environment.

Manufacturing plastics is an energy-intensive slog that ends in mountains of toxic industrial waste and greenhouse gas emissions. And then the plastic itself that we use ends up sitting in a garbage heap for thousands of years before it biodegrades.

Scientists have spent years investigating ways to manufacture plastics without ruining the planet, and a Toronto biotech startup called Genecis says it’s found a good answer: factories where vats of bacteria digest food waste and use it to form biodegradable plastic in their tiny microbial guts.

One-Two Punch

The plastic-pooping bacteria stand to clean up several kinds of pollution while churning out usable materials, according to Genecis.

That’s because the microbes feed on waste food or other organic materials — waste that CBC reported gives off 20 percent of Canada’s methane emissions as it sits in landfills.

Then What?

The plastic that the little buggers produce isn’t anything new. It’s called PHA and it’s used in anything that needs to biodegrade quickly, like those self-dissolving stitches. What’s new here is that food waste is much cheaper than the raw materials that usually go into plastics, leading Genecis to suspect it can make the same plastics for 40 percent less cost.

There are a lot of buzzworthy new alternative materials out there, but with a clear environmental and financial benefit, it’s possible these little bacteria factories might be here to stay.

READ MORE: Greener coffee pods? Bacteria help turn food waste into compostable plastic [CBC]

More on cleaning up plastics: The EU Just Voted to Completely ban Single-Use Plastics

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These Bacteria Digest Food Waste Into Biodegradable Plastic

You Can Now Preorder a $150,000 Hoverbike

Please, Santa?

It’s never too early to start writing your Christmas wish list, right? Because we know what’s now at the top of ours: a hoverbike.

We’ve had our eyes on Hoversurf’s Scorpion-3 since early last year — but now, the Russian drone start-up is accepting preorders on an updated version of the vehicle.

Flying Bike

The S3 2019 is part motorcycle and part quadcopter. According to the Hoversurf website, the battery-powered vehicle weighs 253 pounds and has a flight time of 10 to 25 minutes depending on operator weight. Its maximum legal speed is 60 mph — though as for how fast the craft can actually move, that’s unknown. Hoversurf also notes that the vehicle’s “safe flight altitude” is 16 feet, but again, we aren’t sure how high it can actually soar.

What we do know: The four blades that provide S3 with its lift spin at shin level, and while this certainly looks like it would be a safety hazard, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration approved the craft for legal use as an ultralight vehicle in September.

That means you can only operate an S3 for recreational or sports purposes — but you can’t cruise to work on your morning commute.

Plummeting Bank Account

You don’t need a pilot’s license to operate an S3, but you will need a decent amount of disposable income — the Star Wars-esque craft will set you back $150,000.

If that number doesn’t cause your eyes to cross, go ahead and slap down the $10,000 deposit needed to claim a spot in the reservation queue. You’ll then receive an email when it’s time to to place your order. You can expect to receive your S3 2019 two to six months after that, according to the company website.

That means there’s a pretty good chance you won’t be able to hover around your front yard this Christmas morning, but a 2019 jaunt is a genuine possibility.

READ MORE: For $150,000 You Can Now Order Your Own Hoverbike [New Atlas]

More on Hoversurf: Watch the World’s First Rideable Hoverbike in Flight

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You Can Now Preorder a $150,000 Hoverbike

FBI’s Tesla Criminal Probe Reportedly Centers on Model 3 Production

Ups and Downs

Can we please get off Mr. Musk’s Wild Ride now? We don’t know how much more of this Tesla rollercoaster we can take.

In 2018 alone, Elon Musk’s clean energy company has endured a faulty flufferbot, furious investors, and an SEC probe and settlement. But there was good news, too. Model 3 deliveries reportedly increased, and just this week, we found out that Tesla had a historic financial quarter, generating $312 million in profit.

And now we’re plummeting again.

Closing In

On Friday, The Wall Street Journal reported that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is deepening a criminal probe into whether Tesla “misstated information about production of its Model 3 sedans and misled investors about the company’s business going back to early 2017.”

We’ve known about the FBI’s Tesla criminal probe since September 18, but this is the first report confirming that Model 3 production is at the center of the investigation.

According to the WSJ’s sources, FBI agents have been reaching out to former Tesla employees in recent weeks to ask if they’d be willing to testify in the criminal case, though no word yet on whether any have agreed.

Casual CEO

We might be having trouble keeping up with these twists and turns, but Musk seems to be taking the FBI’s Tesla criminal probe all in stride — he spent much of Friday afternoon joking around with his Twitter followers about dank memes.

Clearly he has the stomach for this, but it’d be hard to blame any Tesla investors for deciding they’d had enough.

READ MORE: Tesla Faces Deepening Criminal Probe Over Whether It Misstated Production Figures [The Wall Street Journal]

More on Tesla: Elon Musk Says Your Tesla Will Earn You Money While You Sleep

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FBI’s Tesla Criminal Probe Reportedly Centers on Model 3 Production

There’s No Way China’s Artificial Moon Will Work, Says Expert

Good Luck

On October 10, a Chinese organization called the Tian Fu New Area Science Society revealed plans to replace the streetlights in the city of Chengdu with a satellite designed to reflect sunlight toward the Earth’s surface at night.

But in a new interview with Astronomy, an associate professor of aerospace engineering at the University of Texas at Austin named Ryan Russel argued that based on what he’s read, the artificial moon plan would be impossible to implement.

Promised the Moon

Wu Chunfeng, the head of the Tian Fu New Area Science Society, told China Daily the artificial moon would orbit about 310 miles above Earth, delivering an expected brightness humans would perceive to be about one-fifth that of a typical streetlight.

The plan is to launch one artificial moon in 2020 and then three more in 2022 if the first works as hoped. Together, these satellites could illuminate an area of up to 4,000 square miles, Chunfeng claims.

But Russell is far from convinced.

“Their claim for 1 [low-earth orbit satellite] at [300 miles] must be a typo or misinformed spokesperson,” he told Astronomy. “The article I read implied you could hover a satellite over a particular city, which of course is not possible.”

Overkill Overhead

To keep the satellite in place over Chengdu, it would need to be about 22,000 miles above the Earth’s surface, said Russel, and its reflective surface would need to be massive to reflect sunlight from that distance. At an altitude of just 300 miles, the satellite would quickly zip around the Earth, constantly illuminating new locations.

Even if the city could put the artificial moon plan into action, though, Russell isn’t convinced it should.

“It’s a very complicated solution that affects everyone to a simple problem that affects a few,” he told Astronomy. “It’s light pollution on steroids.”

Maybe Chengdu shouldn’t give up on its streetlights just yet.

READ MORE: Why China’s Artificial Moon Probably Won’t Work [Astronomy]

More on the artificial moon: A Chinese City Plans to Replace Its Streetlights With an Artificial Moon

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There’s No Way China’s Artificial Moon Will Work, Says Expert

WHO Director: Air Pollution Is the “New Tobacco”

Wrong Direction

Breathing polluted air is as likely to kill you as tobacco use — worldwide, each kills about 7 million people annually. But while the world is making progress in the war against tobacco, air pollution is getting worse.

The Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO) hopes to change that.

“The world has turned the corner on tobacco,” wrote Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in an opinion piece published by The Guardian on Saturday. “Now it must do the same for the ‘new tobacco’ — the toxic air that billions breathe every day.”

Taking Action

According to the WHO, nine out of 10 people in the world breathe polluted air.

This week, the organization is hosting the first Global Conference on Air Pollution and Health, and Ghebreyesus is hopeful world leaders will use the conference as the opportunity to commit to cutting air pollution in their nations.

“Despite the overwhelming evidence, political action is still urgently needed to boost investments and speed up action to reduce air pollution,” he wrote, noting that this action could take the form of more stringent air quality standards, improved access to clean energy, or increased investment in green technologies.

Reduced Risk

The impact sustained action against air pollution could have on public health is hard to overstate.

“No one, rich or poor, can escape air pollution. A clean and healthy environment is the single most important precondition for ensuring good health,” wrote Ghebreyesus in his Guardian piece. “By cleaning up the air we breathe, we can prevent or at least reduce some of the greatest health risks.”

The conference ends on Thursday, so we won’t have to wait long to see which nations do — or don’t — heed the WHO’s call to action.

READ MORE: Air Pollution Is the New Tobacco. Time to Tackle This Epidemic [The Guardian]

More on air pollution: Dumber Humans — That’s Just One Effect of a More Polluted Future

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WHO Director: Air Pollution Is the “New Tobacco”

Scientists May Have Put Microbes in a State of Quantum Entanglement

Hall of Mirrors

A few years ago, the journal Small published a study showing how photosynthetic bacteria could absorb and release photons as the light bounced across a minuscule gap between two mirrors.

Now, a retroactive look at the study’s data published in The Journal of Physics Communications suggests something more may have been going on. The bacteria may have been the first living organisms to operate in the realm of quantum physics, becoming entangled with the bouncing light at the quantum scale.

Cat’s Cradle

The experiment in question, as described by Scientific American, involved individual photons — the smallest quantifiable unit of light that can behave like a tiny particle but also a wave of energy within quantum physics — bouncing between two mirrors separated by a microscopic distance.

But a look at the energy levels in the experimental setup suggests that the bacteria may have become entangled, as some individual photons seem to have simultaneously interacted with and missed the bacterium at the same time.

Super Position

There’s reason to be skeptical of these results until someone actually recreates the experiment while looking for signs of quantum interactions. As with any look back at an existing study, scientists are restricted to the amount and quality of data that was already published. And, as Scientific American noted, the energy levels of the bacteria and the mirror setup should have been recorded individually — which they were not — in order to verify quantum entanglement.

But if this research holds up, it would be the first time a life form operated on the realm of quantum physics, something usually limited to subatomic particles. And even though the microbes are small, that’s a big deal.

READ MORE“Schrödinger’s Bacterium” Could Be a Quantum Biology Milestone [Scientific American]

More on quantum physics: The World’s First Practical Quantum Computer May Be Just Five Years Away

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Scientists May Have Put Microbes in a State of Quantum Entanglement

What is Artificial Intelligence (AI)? – Definition from …

Artificial intelligence is a branch of computer science that aims to create intelligent machines. It has become an essential part of the technology industry.

Research associated with artificial intelligence is highly technical and specialized. The core problems of artificial intelligence include programming computers for certain traits such as:

Knowledge engineering is a core part of AI research. Machines can often act and react like humans only if they have abundant information relating to the world. Artificial intelligence must have access to objects, categories, properties and relations between all of them to implement knowledge engineering. Initiating common sense, reasoning and problem-solving power in machines is a difficult and tedious task.

Machine learning is also a core part of AI. Learning without any kind of supervision requires an ability to identify patterns in streams of inputs, whereas learning with adequate supervision involves classification and numerical regressions. Classification determines the category an object belongs to and regression deals with obtaining a set of numerical input or output examples, thereby discovering functions enabling the generation of suitable outputs from respective inputs. Mathematical analysis of machine learning algorithms and their performance is a well-defined branch of theoretical computer science often referred to as computational learning theory.

Machine perception deals with the capability to use sensory inputs to deduce the different aspects of the world, while computer vision is the power to analyze visual inputs with a few sub-problems such as facial, object and gesture recognition.

Robotics is also a major field related to AI. Robots require intelligence to handle tasks such as object manipulation and navigation, along with sub-problems of localization, motion planning and mapping.

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What is Artificial Intelligence (AI)? – Definition from …

What is Artificial Intelligence (AI)? – Definition from …

Artificial intelligence is a branch of computer science that aims to create intelligent machines. It has become an essential part of the technology industry.

Research associated with artificial intelligence is highly technical and specialized. The core problems of artificial intelligence include programming computers for certain traits such as:

Knowledge engineering is a core part of AI research. Machines can often act and react like humans only if they have abundant information relating to the world. Artificial intelligence must have access to objects, categories, properties and relations between all of them to implement knowledge engineering. Initiating common sense, reasoning and problem-solving power in machines is a difficult and tedious task.

Machine learning is also a core part of AI. Learning without any kind of supervision requires an ability to identify patterns in streams of inputs, whereas learning with adequate supervision involves classification and numerical regressions. Classification determines the category an object belongs to and regression deals with obtaining a set of numerical input or output examples, thereby discovering functions enabling the generation of suitable outputs from respective inputs. Mathematical analysis of machine learning algorithms and their performance is a well-defined branch of theoretical computer science often referred to as computational learning theory.

Machine perception deals with the capability to use sensory inputs to deduce the different aspects of the world, while computer vision is the power to analyze visual inputs with a few sub-problems such as facial, object and gesture recognition.

Robotics is also a major field related to AI. Robots require intelligence to handle tasks such as object manipulation and navigation, along with sub-problems of localization, motion planning and mapping.

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What is Artificial Intelligence (AI)? – Definition from …

A.I. Artificial Intelligence – Wikipedia

A.I. Artificial Intelligence, also known as A.I., is a 2001 American science fiction drama film co-written, co-produced, and directed by Steven Spielberg, co-written by Ian Watson, and based on the 1969 short story “Supertoys Last All Summer Long” by Brian Aldiss. It was co-produced by Kathleen Kennedy and Bonnie Curtis, and stars Haley Joel Osment, Jude Law, Frances O’Connor, Brendan Gleeson, and William Hurt. Set in a futuristic post-climate change society, A.I. tells the story of David (Osment), a childlike android uniquely programmed with the ability to love.

Development of A.I. originally began with producer-director Stanley Kubrick, after he acquired the rights to Aldiss’ story in the early 1970s. Kubrick hired a series of writers until the mid-1990s, including Brian Aldiss, Bob Shaw, Ian Watson, and Sara Maitland. The film languished in protracted development for years, partly because Kubrick felt computer-generated imagery was not advanced enough to create the David character, whom he believed no child actor would convincingly portray. In 1995, Kubrick handed A.I. to Spielberg, but the film did not gain momentum until Kubrick’s death in 1999. Spielberg remained close to Watson’s film treatment for the screenplay.

A.I. Artificial Intelligence divided critics, with the overall balance being positive, and grossed approximately $235 million. It was nominated for two Academy Awards at the 74th Academy Awards for Best Visual Effects and Best Original Score (by John Williams). In a 2016 BBC poll of 177 critics around the world, the film was voted the eighty-third greatest film since 2000.[3]

In the late 22nd century, rising sea levels from global warming have wiped out coastal cities such as Amsterdam, Venice, and New York, and drastically reduced the world’s population. A new type of robots called Mecha, advanced humanoids capable of thoughts and emotions, have been created.

David, a Mecha that resembles a human child and is programmed to display love for its owners, is sent to Henry Swinton, and his wife, Monica, as a replacement for their son, Martin, who has been placed in suspended animation until he can be cured of a rare disease. Monica warms to David and activates his imprinting protocol, causing him to have an enduring childlike love for her. David is befriended by Teddy, a robotic teddy bear, who cares for David’s well-being.

Martin is cured of his disease and brought home; as he recovers, he grows jealous of David. He makes David go to Monica in the night and cut off a lock of her hair. This upsets the parents, particularly Henry, who fears that the scissors are a weapon.

At a pool party, one of Martin’s friends pokes David with a knife, activating his self-protection programming. David grabs Martin and they fall into the pool. Martin is saved from drowning, but Henry persuades Monica to return David to his creator for destruction. Instead, Monica abandons both David and Teddy in the forest to hide as an unregistered Mecha.

David is captured for an anti-Mecha “Flesh Fair”, where obsolete and unlicensed Mecha are destroyed before cheering crowds. David is nearly killed, but tricks the crowd into thinking that he is human, and escapes with Gigolo Joe, a male prostitute Mecha who is on the run after being framed for murder. The two set out to find the Blue Fairy, whom David remembers from The Adventures of Pinocchio, and believes can turn him into a human, allowing Monica to love him and take him home.

Joe and David make their way to the resort town, Rouge City, where “Dr. Know”, a holographic answer engine, leads them to the top of Rockefeller Center in the flooded ruins of Manhattan. There, David meets a copy of himself and destroys it. David then meets his creator, Professor Hobby, who tells David that he was built in the image of the professor’s dead son David, and that more copies, including female versions called Darlene, are being manufactured.

Disheartened, David falls from a ledge, but is rescued by Joe using their amphibicopter. David tells Joe he saw the Blue Fairy underwater and wants to go down to meet her. Joe is captured by the authorities using an electromagnet. David and Teddy use the amphibicopter to go to the Fairy, which turns out to be a statue at the now-sunken Coney Island. The two become trapped when the Wonder Wheel falls on their vehicle. David asks repeatedly to be turned into a real boy until the ocean freezes and is deactivated once his power source is drained.

Two thousand years later, humans have become extinct, and Manhattan is buried under glacial ice. The Mecha have evolved into an advanced, intelligent, silicon-based form. They find David and Teddy, and discover they are original Mecha that knew living humans, making them special.

David is revived and walks to the frozen Fairy statue, which collapses when he touches it. The Mecha use David’s memories to reconstruct the Swinton home and explain to him that they cannot make him human. However, David insists that they recreate Monica from DNA in the lock of hair. The Mecha warn David that the clone can only live for a day, and that the process cannot be repeated. David spends the next day with Monica and Teddy. Before she drifts off to sleep, Monica tells David she has always loved him. Teddy climbs onto the bed and watches the two lie peacefully together.

Kubrick began development on an adaptation of “Super-Toys Last All Summer Long” in the late 1970s, hiring the story’s author, Brian Aldiss, to write a film treatment. In 1985, Kubrick asked Steven Spielberg to direct the film, with Kubrick producing.[6] Warner Bros. agreed to co-finance A.I. and cover distribution duties.[7] The film labored in development hell, and Aldiss was fired by Kubrick over creative differences in 1989.[8] Bob Shaw served as writer very briefly, leaving after six weeks because of Kubrick’s demanding work schedule, and Ian Watson was hired as the new writer in March 1990. Aldiss later remarked, “Not only did the bastard fire me, he hired my enemy [Watson] instead.” Kubrick handed Watson The Adventures of Pinocchio for inspiration, calling A.I. “a picaresque robot version of Pinocchio”.[7][9]

Three weeks later Watson gave Kubrick his first story treatment, and concluded his work on A.I. in May 1991 with another treatment, at 90 pages. Gigolo Joe was originally conceived as a G.I. Mecha, but Watson suggested changing him to a male prostitute. Kubrick joked, “I guess we lost the kiddie market.”[7] In the meantime, Kubrick dropped A.I. to work on a film adaptation of Wartime Lies, feeling computer animation was not advanced enough to create the David character. However, after the release of Spielberg’s Jurassic Park (with its innovative use of computer-generated imagery), it was announced in November 1993 that production would begin in 1994.[10] Dennis Muren and Ned Gorman, who worked on Jurassic Park, became visual effects supervisors,[8] but Kubrick was displeased with their previsualization, and with the expense of hiring Industrial Light & Magic.[11]

Stanley [Kubrick] showed Steven [Spielberg] 650 drawings which he had, and the script and the story, everything. Stanley said, “Look, why don’t you direct it and I’ll produce it.” Steven was almost in shock.

Producer Jan Harlan, on Spielberg’s first meeting with Kubrick about A.I.[12]

In early 1994, the film was in pre-production with Christopher “Fangorn” Baker as concept artist, and Sara Maitland assisting on the story, which gave it “a feminist fairy-tale focus”.[7] Maitland said that Kubrick never referred to the film as A.I., but as Pinocchio.[11] Chris Cunningham became the new visual effects supervisor. Some of his unproduced work for A.I. can be seen on the DVD, The Work of Director Chris Cunningham.[13] Aside from considering computer animation, Kubrick also had Joseph Mazzello do a screen test for the lead role.[11] Cunningham helped assemble a series of “little robot-type humans” for the David character. “We tried to construct a little boy with a movable rubber face to see whether we could make it look appealing,” producer Jan Harlan reflected. “But it was a total failure, it looked awful.” Hans Moravec was brought in as a technical consultant.[11]Meanwhile, Kubrick and Harlan thought A.I. would be closer to Steven Spielberg’s sensibilities as director.[14][15] Kubrick handed the position to Spielberg in 1995, but Spielberg chose to direct other projects, and convinced Kubrick to remain as director.[12][16] The film was put on hold due to Kubrick’s commitment to Eyes Wide Shut (1999).[17] After the filmmaker’s death in March 1999, Harlan and Christiane Kubrick approached Spielberg to take over the director’s position.[18][19] By November 1999, Spielberg was writing the screenplay based on Watson’s 90-page story treatment. It was his first solo screenplay credit since Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977).[20] Spielberg remained close to Watson’s treatment, but removed various sex scenes with Gigolo Joe. Pre-production was briefly halted during February 2000, because Spielberg pondered directing other projects, which were Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Minority Report and Memoirs of a Geisha.[17][21] The following month Spielberg announced that A.I. would be his next project, with Minority Report as a follow-up.[22] When he decided to fast track A.I., Spielberg brought Chris Baker back as concept artist.[16]

The original start date was July 10, 2000,[15] but filming was delayed until August.[23] Aside from a couple of weeks shooting on location in Oxbow Regional Park in Oregon, A.I. was shot entirely using sound stages at Warner Bros. Studios and the Spruce Goose Dome in Long Beach, California.[24]The Swinton house was constructed on Stage 16, while Stage 20 was used for Rouge City and other sets.[25][26] Spielberg copied Kubrick’s obsessively secretive approach to filmmaking by refusing to give the complete script to cast and crew, banning press from the set, and making actors sign confidentiality agreements. Social robotics expert Cynthia Breazeal served as technical consultant during production.[15][27] Haley Joel Osment and Jude Law applied prosthetic makeup daily in an attempt to look shinier and robotic.[4] Costume designer Bob Ringwood (Batman, Troy) studied pedestrians on the Las Vegas Strip for his influence on the Rouge City extras.[28] Spielberg found post-production on A.I. difficult because he was simultaneously preparing to shoot Minority Report.[29]

The film’s soundtrack was released by Warner Sunset Records in 2001. The original score was composed and conducted by John Williams and featured singers Lara Fabian on two songs and Josh Groban on one. The film’s score also had a limited release as an official “For your consideration Academy Promo”, as well as a complete score issue by La-La Land Records in 2015.[30] The band Ministry appears in the film playing the song “What About Us?” (but the song does not appear on the official soundtrack album).

Warner Bros. used an alternate reality game titled The Beast to promote the film. Over forty websites were created by Atomic Pictures in New York City (kept online at Cloudmakers.org) including the website for Cybertronics Corp. There were to be a series of video games for the Xbox video game console that followed the storyline of The Beast, but they went undeveloped. To avoid audiences mistaking A.I. for a family film, no action figures were created, although Hasbro released a talking Teddy following the film’s release in June 2001.[15]

A.I. had its premiere at the Venice Film Festival in 2001.[31]

A.I. Artificial Intelligence was released on VHS and DVD by Warner Home Video on March 5, 2002 in both a standard full-screen release with no bonus features, and as a 2-Disc Special Edition featuring the film in its original 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen format as well as an eight-part documentary detailing the film’s development, production, music and visual effects. The bonus features also included interviews with Haley Joel Osment, Jude Law, Frances O’Connor, Steven Spielberg and John Williams, two teaser trailers for the film’s original theatrical release and an extensive photo gallery featuring production sills and Stanley Kubrick’s original storyboards.[32]

The film was released on Blu-ray Disc on April 5, 2011 by Paramount Home Media Distribution for the U.S. and by Warner Home Video for international markets. This release featured the film a newly restored high-definition print and incorporated all the bonus features previously included on the 2-Disc Special Edition DVD.[33]

The film opened in 3,242 theaters in the United States on June 29, 2001, earning $29,352,630 during its opening weekend. A.I went on to gross $78.62 million in US totals as well as $157.31 million in foreign countries, coming to a worldwide total of $235.93 million.[34]

Based on 192 reviews collected by Rotten Tomatoes, 73% of critics gave the film positive notices with a score of 6.6/10. The website’s critical consensus reads, “A curious, not always seamless, amalgamation of Kubrick’s chilly bleakness and Spielberg’s warm-hearted optimism. A.I. is, in a word, fascinating.”[35] By comparison, Metacritic collected an average score of 65, based on 32 reviews, which is considered favorable.[36]

Producer Jan Harlan stated that Kubrick “would have applauded” the final film, while Kubrick’s widow Christiane also enjoyed A.I.[37] Brian Aldiss admired the film as well: “I thought what an inventive, intriguing, ingenious, involving film this was. There are flaws in it and I suppose I might have a personal quibble but it’s so long since I wrote it.” Of the film’s ending, he wondered how it might have been had Kubrick directed the film: “That is one of the ‘ifs’ of film historyat least the ending indicates Spielberg adding some sugar to Kubrick’s wine. The actual ending is overly sympathetic and moreover rather overtly engineered by a plot device that does not really bear credence. But it’s a brilliant piece of film and of course it’s a phenomenon because it contains the energies and talents of two brilliant filmmakers.”[38] Richard Corliss heavily praised Spielberg’s direction, as well as the cast and visual effects.[39] Roger Ebert gave the film three stars, saying that it was “wonderful and maddening.”[40] Leonard Maltin, on the other hand, gives the film two stars out of four in his Movie Guide, writing: “[The] intriguing story draws us in, thanks in part to Osment’s exceptional performance, but takes several wrong turns; ultimately, it just doesn’t work. Spielberg rewrote the adaptation Stanley Kubrick commissioned of the Brian Aldiss short story ‘Super Toys Last All Summer Long’; [the] result is a curious and uncomfortable hybrid of Kubrick and Spielberg sensibilities.” However, he calls John Williams’ music score “striking”. Jonathan Rosenbaum compared A.I. to Solaris (1972), and praised both “Kubrick for proposing that Spielberg direct the project and Spielberg for doing his utmost to respect Kubrick’s intentions while making it a profoundly personal work.”[41] Film critic Armond White, of the New York Press, praised the film noting that “each part of Davids journey through carnal and sexual universes into the final eschatological devastation becomes as profoundly philosophical and contemplative as anything by cinemas most thoughtful, speculative artists Borzage, Ozu, Demy, Tarkovsky.”[42] Filmmaker Billy Wilder hailed A.I. as “the most underrated film of the past few years.”[43] When British filmmaker Ken Russell saw the film, he wept during the ending.[44]

Mick LaSalle gave a largely negative review. “A.I. exhibits all its creators’ bad traits and none of the good. So we end up with the structureless, meandering, slow-motion endlessness of Kubrick combined with the fuzzy, cuddly mindlessness of Spielberg.” Dubbing it Spielberg’s “first boring movie”, LaSalle also believed the robots at the end of the film were aliens, and compared Gigolo Joe to the “useless” Jar Jar Binks, yet praised Robin Williams for his portrayal of a futuristic Albert Einstein.[45][not in citation given] Peter Travers gave a mixed review, concluding “Spielberg cannot live up to Kubrick’s darker side of the future.” But he still put the film on his top ten list that year for best movies.[46] David Denby in The New Yorker criticized A.I. for not adhering closely to his concept of the Pinocchio character. Spielberg responded to some of the criticisms of the film, stating that many of the “so called sentimental” elements of A.I., including the ending, were in fact Kubrick’s and the darker elements were his own.[47] However, Sara Maitland, who worked on the project with Kubrick in the 1990s, claimed that one of the reasons Kubrick never started production on A.I. was because he had a hard time making the ending work.[48] James Berardinelli found the film “consistently involving, with moments of near-brilliance, but far from a masterpiece. In fact, as the long-awaited ‘collaboration’ of Kubrick and Spielberg, it ranks as something of a disappointment.” Of the film’s highly debated finale, he claimed, “There is no doubt that the concluding 30 minutes are all Spielberg; the outstanding question is where Kubrick’s vision left off and Spielberg’s began.”[49]

Screenwriter Ian Watson has speculated, “Worldwide, A.I. was very successful (and the 4th highest earner of the year) but it didn’t do quite so well in America, because the film, so I’m told, was too poetical and intellectual in general for American tastes. Plus, quite a few critics in America misunderstood the film, thinking for instance that the Giacometti-style beings in the final 20 minutes were aliens (whereas they were robots of the future who had evolved themselves from the robots in the earlier part of the film) and also thinking that the final 20 minutes were a sentimental addition by Spielberg, whereas those scenes were exactly what I wrote for Stanley and exactly what he wanted, filmed faithfully by Spielberg.”[50]

In 2002, Spielberg told film critic Joe Leydon that “People pretend to think they know Stanley Kubrick, and think they know me, when most of them don’t know either of us”. “And what’s really funny about that is, all the parts of A.I. that people assume were Stanley’s were mine. And all the parts of A.I. that people accuse me of sweetening and softening and sentimentalizing were all Stanley’s. The teddy bear was Stanley’s. The whole last 20 minutes of the movie was completely Stanley’s. The whole first 35, 40 minutes of the film all the stuff in the house was word for word, from Stanley’s screenplay. This was Stanley’s vision.” “Eighty percent of the critics got it all mixed up. But I could see why. Because, obviously, I’ve done a lot of movies where people have cried and have been sentimental. And I’ve been accused of sentimentalizing hard-core material. But in fact it was Stanley who did the sweetest parts of A.I., not me. I’m the guy who did the dark center of the movie, with the Flesh Fair and everything else. That’s why he wanted me to make the movie in the first place. He said, ‘This is much closer to your sensibilities than my own.'”[51]

Upon rewatching the film many years after its release, BBC film critic Mark Kermode apologized to Spielberg in an interview in January 2013 for “getting it wrong” on the film when he first viewed it in 2001. He now believes the film to be Spielberg’s “enduring masterpiece”.[52]

Visual effects supervisors Dennis Muren, Stan Winston, Michael Lantieri and Scott Farrar were nominated for the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects, while John Williams was nominated for Best Original Music Score.[53] Steven Spielberg, Jude Law and Williams received nominations at the 59th Golden Globe Awards.[54] A.I. was successful at the Saturn Awards, winning five awards, including Best Science Fiction Film along with Best Writing for Spielberg and Best Performance by a Younger Actor for Osment.[55]

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A.I. Artificial Intelligence – Wikipedia