Daily Archives: April 3, 2020

VOS Digital Media Group Invests in Advanced AI in Breaking News, Sports, Natural Disaster Awareness and E-Commerce – Benzinga

Posted: April 3, 2020 at 1:49 pm

Natural Disaster AI Technology to Provide Geo-Specific Breaking News Integrated with Wellness, Healthcare and First Responder Alerts (COVID-19 and other Natural Disaster Emergencies)

New York, NY, April 03, 2020 --(PR.com)-- VOS Digital Media Group, Inc., a leading technology media company, today announced investment and launch of industry-leading artificial intelligence solutions to complement its digital media technology platform. VOS AI-enhanced solutions will initially be available to subscribers, telcos and media partners in the United States, Canada, and Latin America across web, mobile, and OTT devices.

With media technology solutions that are already providing some of the industrys fastest, most accurate data and content feeds featuring partners from around the world, the addition of custom AI solutions will give VOS the ability to deliver some of the most relevant and fastest-breaking news, sports and natural disaster information to consumers and businesses.

Were investing in powerful ground breaking AI technology and we plan to accelerate its use for insightful and personalized client experiences, to enhance our client partnerships and to accelerate hyper-targeted advertising, video consumption, e-commerce and analytics globally, stated Paul Feller, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer for VOS Digital Media Group. Our technology team is currently working with what we believe is the most advanced technologist in this sector to integrate new AI that will allow VOS to provide the fastest access to verified breaking news globally.

We will be wrapping sophisticated content flows originating from machine learning models into timely, relevant and impactful consumer experiences, stated Julio Hernandez-Miyares, Chief Technical Officer for VOS Digital Media Group. For partners requiring personalized content experiences across multiple languages and geographies both globally and throughout LATAM and North America, were developing AI-powered products and services that will be relevant to businesses, content sellers and creators, and end consumers alike.

Whether its the latest in sports scores from the worlds top leagues or coronavirus advisories from relevant medical experts, the immediacy and hyper-localization of VOS products gives partners an unparalleled ability to provide personalized content solutions to regional, national, or even global audiences.

About VOS Digital Media GroupVOS is a global digital video exchange and technology platform providing a seamless process for bringing together content creators and media companies. We specialize in providing and maintaining content sales and sourcing scalability, reducing labor and editorial costs, eliminating errors in metadata assignment and extraction, and drastically decreasing the time to market for both video creators and buyers. https://www.vosdmg.com

Contact Information:VOS Digital Media GroupChristopher Stankiewicz347-620-9272Contact via Emailwww.vosdmg.com

Read the full story here: https://www.pr.com/press-release/809495

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VOS Digital Media Group Invests in Advanced AI in Breaking News, Sports, Natural Disaster Awareness and E-Commerce - Benzinga

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The value of AI in times of crisis Media News – Media Update

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While its safe to say that no one saw this pandemic coming, its also safe to say that some businesses have been better prepared than others. Companies that survive every great recession, calamity or pandemic all have one thing in common: They are focused on innovation and preparing for the future always.

Technology is already at the forefront of helping businesses to manage disruptions video conferencing applications like Skype and collaborative tools like Trello are allowing people to work together while physically being apart. But, for smart businesses, technology is doing much more than that.

Newsclip has always been one step ahead of the rest, and thanks to that, it is now reaping the rewards of many years of hard work. Having spent over 10 years researching, testing and developing advanced AI-powered systems, it is finally getting a chance to really see what its systems are capable of.

This is where the AI-powered tech comes in!

Peoples expectations have become now. If they dont get a quick response from a company on social media, or if the load time of a website is longer than three seconds, they move on, MD Simon Dabbs explains.

Its our responsibility to provide our clients with cutting-edge, modern ways of managing vast arrays of information. Clients need to make informed decisions as quickly as possible and Newsclip provides them with the intelligence to do so.

The companys AI technology combines natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning into its Data Engine. NLP allows the system to interpret human language, while machine learning enables it to recognise patterns within data.

The fact that all of the brands systems are AI-integrated means that it can still continue to offer clients the same level of service, even though all of its staff is now working from home.

All of the client login portals have been developed as Progressive Web Applications (PWAs), meaning that they can be accessed from any device with the exact same navigation. Theres no limited-functionality on the mobile or tablet versions they are just as responsive as the full, desktop versions.

Its likely that the business landscape across the world will never be the same again, but those brands that have made innovation a part of their day-to-day will be the ones leading the way forward.

In-house technology development has huge financial and administrative overheads, says Dabbs. However, the long-term business stability and cutting-edge development that comes with this is not only rewarding, but invaluable.

For more information, visitwww.newsclip.co.za. You can also follow Newsclip on Facebook, LinkedIn or on Twitter.

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UK-US Initiative to Screen Drugs Using AI for Coronavirus… – Labiotech.eu

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The UK company Exscientia will use its AI-driven drug discovery platform to examine a collection of 15,000 potential coronavirus disease treatments in collaboration with the US research institute Calibr and the non-profit synchrotron company Diamond Light Source.

The teams huge collection of drug molecules will be provided by Calibr, part of the US medical institute Scripps Research. Diamond Light Source will use its facilities to examine protein structure and replicate essential viral proteins for experimentation.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation funded the collection of these drug candidates, which includes nearly every known drug that has been approved or extensively tested for safety but not yet approved for therapeutic use.

The collection will be shipped from Scripps Research in California to Oxford where Exscientia and Diamond Light Source can work together to screen and test the collection as well as modifications of the drug candidates against key viral proteins.

Diamond began studying the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 shortly after the outbreak, using its expertise in crystallography to identify the structure of viral protein targets and find potential therapeutic sites.

We saw an opportunity to use our expertise in super high-throughput drug binding experiments, David Owen, Doctoral Research Associate at Diamond, told me.We were also able to solve the [protein] structure at a very high resolution. This will provide the chemists of the world with extra information about the different potential drug binding sites.

For this, the team used its synchrotron device, a machine that produces a high-energy electron beam, in addition to electron microscopy to visualize the drug binding sites on viral proteins.

For the time being, all of the Diamond beamlines will be focused on Covid-19 work because we want to be able to do the most valuable work with the fewest possible staff, Owen continued. We will run the beamlines for as long as there are samples to put on them.

Diamond has identified three key protein targets 3CL protease, RNA Polymerase, and SPIKE protein that will help inform Exscientias AI-driven drug screening technology.

This isnt the first project to leverage AI in drug discovery during the coronavirus crisis. The Cambridge firm BenevolentAI identified a potential coronavirus treatment with AI in March, while the German company Innoplexus announced last weekthat its AI platform identified potential drugs and drug combinations that may treat Covid-19 patients using published data and information on already approved therapeutics.

Exscientias approach differs significantly. Firstly, the data will include far more than approved drugs, but also drugs that were at different stages of clinical testing. Should a candidate be identified, its approval for treating Covid-19 could be accelerated depending on how far it has already come through the pipeline.

Andrew Hopkins, CEO of Excientia, told me of another major difference: experimentation.

A key difference as well is that we are generating brand new data, because we will be testing all of the drugs against these three targets, Hopkins explained.

The Innoplexus approach, I believe, is mining existing literature to make connections and what were doing is generating brand new data as well which, if were fortunate, could be a source or potentially discovering a drug for repurposing directly from that work. It will also give us data to drive our machine learning models as well.

Even before turning its platform to the fight against coronavirus, Exscientia had made a name for itself in the AI-driven drug discovery space. Last year, the firm signed the largest AI-based drug discovery deal at the time with Celgene for cancer and autoimmune indications and in January, it became the first company to get an AI-designed drug into clinical trials.

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At Stanford’s AI Conference, Harnessing Tech to Fight COVID-19 – ExtremeTech

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As another sign of the times, Stanford repurposed its planned Human-Centered AI (HAI) Conference into a digital-only, publicly accessible symposium on how technology has been and can be employed in fighting the spread and assisting in the treatment of COVID-19. We heard from researchers, doctors, statisticians, AI developers, and policymakers about a wide variety of strategies and solutions. Some of them have been working on this problem for a long time, some have quickly re-purposed their flu research, and others have shifted entirely from what they were doing before because of the urgency of this crisis.

For public officials trying to assess how various interventions will affect the spread of COVID-19, and the impact it will have on health infrastructure, or just for curious individuals who want to get more information than is provided in often confusing national briefings, Stanfords SURF (Systems Utilization Research for Stanford Medicine) gives you a way to experiment with various values for the spread of the disease and predicted effectiveness of possible interventions and look at how that will affect how many will become ill, and how severely. The tool is pre-loaded with current case numbers by county throughout the US.

From this graphic, you can see the chronology of how the virus spread around the world.

One of the most impressive aspects of the HAI event was the amazing number of non-profit research efforts made possible by scientists dedicated to improving public health. One of those is Nextstrain.org. The group provides an open-source toolkit for bioinformatics and collects data created with it to provide visualizations of various aspects of a variety of pathogens, now including the novel coronavirus. The featured image for this story is a genetic family tree of 2499 samples from around the world. You can visit the site and even see an animation of how the virus must have spread based on how its genome mutated.

While mainland China stumbled badly in its initial response to COVID-19, and we in the US clearly acted much too slowly to nip it in the proverbial bud, a few countries, including Singapore and Taiwan, have done a particularly effective job of preventing the pandemic from ravaging their population. A number of their strategies have been widely reported, but there are also several very interesting applications of technology used in those countries that were covered at the HAI conference.

Stanford & Woods Institutes Michele Barry told us about a clever mobile app, TraceTogether, that has been widely deployed in Singapore. It uses a combination of location history and current Bluetooth proximity to not only let you know whether you are near someone who has tested positive for the virus, but alert you in the event that someone you have been near in the last couple weeks is now testing positive. Obviously this involves sharing a lot of information, which would face plenty of legal and social challenges in the US or most other countries. But it has proven very effective in slowing the spread of the disease. The same is true of the mandatory location tracking implemented for those coming into the country with any symptoms.

Chinese State media and US mainstream media show different perspectives in their coverage. Courtesy of Stanford Cyber Policy Center.

Similarly, Taiwan implemented an extensive testing and mandatory quarantine of symptomatic individuals. Incoming flights were boarded and temperatures were taken, for example. Those with fevers found on planes or when entering public buildings were placed in quarantine, brought food, and paid a salary. Passenger travel databases were also connected to the national health database, so it was possible to alert those who had been near an infected individual so that they could get tested. It also meant that anytime anyone visited a doctor, the physician would know in advance if they were at high risk of being exposed and should therefore take precautions. Real-time mask availability maps were made available online in Taiwan, which worked because after their 2003 experience the country acted early to ramp up mask production so that there were enough for everyone to use one all the time.

One striking number from mainland China is that they sent 15,000 epidemiologists to Hubei Province once they decided to deal with the outbreak head-on thats twice as many as we have total in the United States.

Several of the speakers addressed the manifold issues with a large amount of often contradictory information, along with misinformation and disinformation, that is bombarding people worldwide. The specifics of the problem vary greatly by country and by demographic. In some countries like China, information tends to come top-down and be heavily filtered, so the problem becomes finding additional sources of information. In countries like the US, the problem can be the opposite, where there are far too many sources of information, many of which arent reliable or are deliberately spreading false information. But even here, politicization and factionalization have meant that reliable sources of information can be hard to come by.

HealthMap has added COVID-19 tracking to its existing crowdsourced flu-tracking capability.

One place where all the speakers were in agreement is that increased data literacy and critical thinking are key skills for individuals wanting to understand what is happening and have an informed perspective on how they should act, and how they should encourage others to act. In terms of data literacy, two concepts that are now front and center are dealing with the implications of exponential growth, and of interpreting margins of error in forecasts. Anyone trained in science, engineering, or math may be familiar with them, but it is clear many individuals including many of our policy-making public officials arent. As far as critical thinking, checking sources and putting data in context is more important than ever given the large amount of rapidly evolving data being produced on this topic. Even within the research community, the urgency to get research published is causing a lot of early printing of papers and rushed studies with limited datasets.

Weve only covered a few of the highlights of Stanfords HAI event in this article. There was also an entire technical session on tactics for developing drugs, and several excellent talks on telemedicine and using AI for eldercare. For those of you who are involved with machine learning, Kaggles Anthony Goldbloom gave a great description of how the platform is being deployed to assist, and how individuals can get involved. Harvards John Brownstein also showed off some of their impressive crowdsource data that populates healthmap.org. A few of the full talks are already online on the event web site, and more are being added as they are made available.

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Select the Right Flash Memory for Your Battery-Powered AI Speaker with Voice Control – Electronic Design

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Series: The JESD204 Story

A new converter interface is steadily picking up steam and looks to become the preferred protocol for future converters. This new interfaceJESD204was originally rolled out several years ago, but it has undergone revisions that are making it a much more attractive and efficient converter interface.

The steadily increasing resolution and speed of converters has pushed demand for a more efficient interface. The JESD204 interface brings this efficiency and offers several advantages over its complementary metal-oxide semiconductor (CMOS) and low-voltage differential-signaling (LVDS) predecessors in terms of speed, size, and cost.

Designs employing JESD204 enjoy the benefits of a faster interface to keep pace with the faster sampling rates of converters. In addition, a reduction in pin count leads to smaller package sizes and a lower number of trace routes that make board designs much easier and offer lower overall system cost. The standard is also easily scalable so that it can be adapted to meet future needs. This has already been exhibited by the two revisions that the standard has undergone.

Since its introduction in 2006, the JESD204 standard has seen two revisions and is now at Revision B. As the standard has been adopted by an increasing number of converter vendors and users, as well as FPGA manufacturers, its been refined, and new features have been added that increased efficiency and ease of implementation. The standard applies to both analog-to-digital converters (ADCs)as well as digital-to-analog converters (DACs), and is primarily intended as a common interface to FPGAs (but may also be used with ASICs).

JESD204What Is It?

The original version of JESD204 was released in April 2006. The standard describes a multigigabit serial data link between converter(s) and a receiver, typically a device such as an FPGA or ASIC. In this original version of JESD204, the serial data link was defined for a single serial lane between a converter or multiple converters and a receiver (Fig. 1).1. A representation of the JESD204 original standard.

The lane shown is the physical interface between M number of converters and the receiver, which consists of a differential pair of interconnects utilizing current-mode-logic (CML) drivers and receivers. The link shown is the serialized data link thats established between the converter(s) and the receiver. The frame clock is routed to both the converter(s) and the receiver and provides the clock for the JESD204 link between the devices.

The lane data rate is defined between 312.5 Mb/s and 3.125 Gb/s, with both source and load impedance defined as 100 20%. The differential voltage level is defined as being nominally 800 mV p-p with a common-mode voltage-level range from 0.72 to 1.23 V. The link utilizes 8b/10b encoding that incorporates an embedded clock, removing the necessity for routing an additional clock line and the associated complexity of aligning an additional clock signal with the transmitted data at high data rates.

It became obvious, as the JESD204 standard began gaining popularity, that the standard needed to be revised to incorporate support for multiple aligned serial lanes with multiple converters. This would accommodate the increasing speeds and resolutions of converters.

This realization led to the first revision of the JESD204 standard, which became known as JESD204A. This revision of the standard added the ability to support multiple aligned serial lanes with multiple converters. The lane data rates, supporting from 312.5 Mb/s up to 3.125 Gb/s, remained unchanged as did the frame clock and the electrical interface specifications.

Increasing the capabilities of the standard to support multiple aligned serial lanes made it possible for converters with high sample rates and high resolutions to meet the maximum supported data rate of 3.125 Gb/s. Figure 2 shows a graphical representation of the additional capabilities added in the JESD204A revision to support multiple lanes.

2. JESD204Athe first version of JESD204.

Although both the original JESD204 standard and revised JESD204A standard were higher performance than legacy interfaces, they still lacked a key element. This missing element was deterministic latency in the serialized data on the link. When dealing with a converter, its important to know the timing relationship between the sampled signal and its digital representation. Its then possible to properly recreate the sampled signal in the analog domain once the signal has been received (this situation is, of course, for an ADC; a similar situation is true for a DAC).

This timing relationship is affected by the latency of the converter, which is defined for an ADC as the number of clock cycles between the instant of the sampling edge of the input signal until the time that its digital representation is present at the converters outputs. Similarly, in a DAC, the latency is defined as the number of clock cycles between the time the digital signal is clocked into the DAC until the analog output begins changing.

In the JESD204 and JESD204A standards, there were no defined capabilities that would deterministically set the latency of the converter and its serialized digital inputs/outputs. In addition, converters were continuing to increase in both speed and resolution. These factors led to the introduction of the second revision of the standardJESD204B.

The Arrival of JESD204B

In July of 2011, the second and current revision of the standard, JESD204B, was released. One of the key components of the revised standard was the addition of provisions to achieve deterministic latency. In addition, the data rates supported were pushed up to 12.5 Gb/s, broken down into different speed grades of devices. This revision of the standard calls for the transition from using the frame clock to using the device clock as the main clock source. Figure 3 gives a representation of the additional capabilities added by the JESD204B revision.

3. Second and current revision is JESD204B.

In the previous two versions of the JESD204 standard no provisions were defined to ensure deterministic latency through the interface. The JESD204B revision remedies this issue by providing a mechanism to ensure that, from power-up cycle to power-up cycle and across link resynchronization events, the latency should be repeatable and deterministic.

One way to accomplish this is by initiating the initial lane-alignment sequence in the converter(s) simultaneously across all lanes at a well-defined moment in time by using an input signal called SYNC~. Another implementation is to use the SYSREF signal, which is a newly defined signal for JESD204B. The SYSREF signal acts as the master timing reference and aligns all of the internal dividers from device clocks as well as the local multiframe clocks in each transmitter and receiver. This helps to ensure deterministic latency through the system.

The JESD204B specification calls out three device subclasses: Subclass 0no support for deterministic latency; Subclass 1 deterministic latency using SYSREF; and Subclass 2deterministic latency using SYNC~. Subclass 0 can simply be compared to a JESD204A link. Subclass 1 is primarily intended for converters operating at or above 500 MSPS, while Subclass 2 is primarily for converters operating below 500 MSPS.

In addition to the deterministic latency, the JESD204B version increases the supported lane data rates to 12.5 Gb/s and divides devices into three different speed grades. The source and load impedance is the same for all three speed grades being defined as 100 20%.

The first speed grade aligns with the lane data rates from the JESD204 and JESD204A versions of the standard and defines the electrical interface for lane data rates up to 3.125 Gb/s. The second speed grade in JESD204B defines the electrical interface for lane data rates up to 6.375 Gb/s. This speed grade lowers the minimum differential voltage level to 400 mV p-p, down from 500 mV p-p for the first speed grade. The third speed grade in JESD204B defines the electrical interface for lane data rates up to 12.5 Gb/s. This speed grade lowers the minimum differential voltage level required for the electrical interface to 360 mV p-p. As the lane data rates increase for the speed grades, the minimum required differential voltage level is reduced to make physical implementation easier by reducing required slew rates in the drivers.

To allow for more flexibility, the JESD204B revision transitions from the frame clock to the device clock. Previously, in the JESD204 and JESD204A revisions, the frame clock was the absolute timing reference in the JESD204 system. Typically, the frame clock and the sampling clock of the converter(s) were the same. This didnt offer a lot of flexibility and could cause undesired complexity in system design when attempting to route this same signal to multiple devices and account for any skew between the different routing paths.

In JESD204B, the device clock is the timing reference for each element in the JESD204 system. Each converter and receiver is given its respective device clock from a clock generator circuit thats responsible for generating all device clocks from a common source. This allows for more flexibility in the system design, but requires that the relationship between the frame clock and device clock be specified for a given device.

JESD204Why We Should Pay Attention to It

In much the same way as LVDS began overtaking CMOS as the technology of choice for the converter digital interface several years ago, JESD204 is poised to tread a similar path in the next few years. While CMOS technology is still hanging around today, it has mostly been overtaken by LVDS. The speed and resolution of converters as well as the desire for lower power eventually renders CMOS and LVDS inadequate for converters. As the data rate increases on the CMOS outputs, the transient currents also increase and result in higher power consumption. While the current, and thus, power consumption, remains relatively flat for LVDS, the interface has an upper speed bound that it can support.

This is due to the driver architecture, as well as the numerous data lines that must all be synchronized to a data clock. Figure 4 illustrates the different power-consumption requirements of CMOS, LVDS, and CML outputs for a dual 14-bit ADC.

4. The graph compares CMOS, LVDS, and CML driver power.

At approximately 150 to 200 MSPS and 14 bits of resolution, CML output drivers start to become more efficient in terms of power consumption. Due to the serialization of the data, CML offers the advantage of requiring fewer output pairs per a given resolution than LVDS and CMOS drivers. The CML drivers specified for the JESD204B interface have an additional advantage since the specification calls for reduced peak-to-peak voltage levels as the sample rate increases and pushes up the output line rate.

The number of pins required for the same given converter resolution and sample rate is also considerably less. The table compares the pin counts for the three different interfaces using a 200-MSPS converter with various channel counts and bit resolutions. The data assumes a synchronization clock for each channels data in the case of the CMOS and LVDS outputs and a maximum data rate of 4.0 Gb/s for JESD204B data transfer using the CML outputs. The reasons for the progression to JESD204B using CML drivers become obvious when looking at the table and observing the dramatic reduction in pin count thats possible.

Analog Devices, a market leader in data converters, has seen the trend thats pushing the converter digital interface toward the JESD204 interface defined by JEDEC. The company has been involved with the standard from the beginning, when the first JESD204 specification was released. To date, Analog Devices has released several converters to production with JESD204- and JESD204A-compatible outputs and is currently developing products with outputs that are compatible with JESD204B.

For example, the AD9639 is a quad-channel, 12-bit, 170/210-MSPS ADC that has a JESD204 interface. The AD9644 and AD9641 are 14-bit, 80/155-MSPS dual and single ADCs that have the JESD204A interface. From the DAC side, the recently released AD9128 is a dual 16-bit, 1.25-GSPS DAC with a JESD204A interface. For more information on Analog Devices JESD204 efforts, visit analog.com/jesd204.


The increasing speed and resolution of converters has escalated the demand for a more efficient digital interface. The industry began realizing this with the JESD204 serialized data interface. The interface specification has continued to evolve to offer a better and faster way to transmit data between converters and FPGAs (or ASICs). The interface has undergone two revisions to improve upon its implementation and meet the increasing demands brought on by higher speeds and higher-resolution converters.

Looking to the future of converter digital interfaces, its clear that JESD204 is poised to become the industry choice for the digital interface to converters. Each revision has answered the demands for improvements on its implementation and has allowed the standard to evolve to meet new requirements brought on by changes in converter technology. As system designs become more complex and converter performance pushes higher, the JESD204 standard should be able to adapt and evolve to continue to meet the new design requirements necessary.

Jonathan Harris is a product applications engineer in the High Speed Converter Group at Analog Devices.

Series: The JESD204 Story


JEDEC Standard JESD204 (April 2006). JEDEC Solid State Technology Association.

JEDEC Standard JESD204A (April 2008). JEDEC Solid State Technology Association.

JEDEC Standard JESD204B (July 2011). JEDEC Solid State Technology Association.

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Human evolution: The astounding new story of the origin of our species – New Scientist

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Forget the simple out-of-Africa idea of how humans evolved. A huge array of fossils and genome studies has completely rewritten the story of how we came into being.

By Graham Lawton

The Natural History Museum/Alamy

JEBEL IRHOUD, Morocco, 1961. In a barium mine in the foothills of the Atlas mountains, a miner makes a ghoulish discovery: a near-complete human skull embedded in the sediment. Archaeologists called in to investigate find that the skull is old, but not that old. It is filed away and largely forgotten.

Hinxton, UK, 2019. Robert Foley, a palaeoanthropologist at the University of Cambridge, is giving the opening address at a three-day conference on human evolution. What Im pretty sure of is that, by the end of the first day, something like 20 per cent of what I say will be wrong, he says to the hall. By the end of the second day, something like 50 per cent will be wrong, and at the end of the conference, Im hoping that something I said at the beginning still holds true.

Until recently, the story of our origins was thought to be settled: Homo sapiens evolved in eastern Africa about 150,000 years ago, became capable of modern behaviour some 60,000 years ago and then swept out of Africa to colonise the world, completely replacing any archaic humans they encountered. But new fossils, tools and analyses of ancient and modern genomes are tearing apart that neat tale. The Jebel Irhoud skull has turned out to be a key to a new, slowly emerging paradigm. With the dust yet fully to settle, the question now is how many, if any, of our old assumptions still hold. Should we be thinking of a completely

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Breaking: Freedom From Religion Foundation Opposes Teaching Evolution in Public Schools – Discovery Institute

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Editors note: We have received some queries as to whether this post is true or a gag. While liberally mixing in truth (see the hyperlinks), it is indeed an April Fools Day joke!

The Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) was founded in 1976 by a prominent American atheist and abortion advocate. As the foundations website explains: The history of Western civilization shows us that most social and moral progress has been brought about by persons free from religion.

The website also features a quote from Charles Darwins unabridged autobiography: I can indeed hardly see how anyone ought to wish Christianity to be true this is a damnable doctrine. Appropriately, FFRF has in the past honored prominent Darwinists Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and Lawrence Krauss (among others) with its prestigious Emperor Has No Clothes award.

Although FFRF devotes most of its energy to stamping out public displays of Christianity, it has also opposed the teaching of intelligent design (ID). According to ID, it is possible to infer from evidence in nature that some features of the world, including some features of living things, result from intelligence rather than unguided natural processes. Since ID contradicts Darwins core (and atheism-friendly) belief that evolution was unguided, FFRF has long regarded ID as a form of religious creationism. As such, FFRF argues that ID cannot legally be taught in publicly funded institutions.

The crowning achievement in FFRFs crusade against ID was its 2013 takedown of Professor Eric Hedin (pronounced he-DEEN) at Ball State University (BSU) in Indiana. Evolutionary biologist and FFRF Honorary Board member Jerry Coyne led the charge. Up until 2013, BSU physics professor Eric Hedin had taught an interdisciplinary honors elective that emphasized the relationships of the sciences to human concerns and society. It explored differing viewpoints on a number of issues, including intelligent design, and the assigned readings included critics as well as defenders of ID. Hedin had prepared the class in accordance with university regulations through the usual processes.

FFRF wrote a letter to BSU complaining that Hedin was engaged in religious proselytizing. BSU ended up cancelling Hedins course.

The following September, University of Washington evolutionary biologist David Barash published a piece in the New York Times titled God, Darwin, and My College Biology Class. Barash wrote:

Every year around this time, with the college year starting, I give my students The Talk. It isnt, as you might expect, about sex, but about evolution and religion, and how they get along. More to the point, how they dont.

He continued:

The more we know of evolution, the more unavoidable is the conclusion that living things, including human beings, are produced by a natural, totally amoral process, with no indication of a benevolent, controlling creator.

According to one student, Barash then had his class of 200 undergraduates sing his version of a Hank Williams classic:

Ive wandered so aimless, life filled with doubt.I didnt know what truth was about.Then Darwin came like a stranger in the night.Praise evolution, I saw the light!

I saw the light, I saw the light.No more darkness, no more night.No higher power, but Im oh so bright.Praise evolution, I saw the light!

Inspired by Barash, FFRF added the following logo to their stationery, Praise Darwin: Evolve Beyond Belief. Two members of FFRFs Executive Board of Directors had misgivings about adopting the logo. It looks too much like religion to me, one of them said privately. But the logo remained.

Two years later, Darwinian philosopher Michael Ruse published Darwinism as Religion, which pointed out that Darwinian evolution has always functioned as much as a secular form of religion as anything purely scientific. Two more Executive Board members became uneasy at FFRFs position on evolution. But the four dissenters were in the minority, and FFRFs position remained unchanged.

Then, early in 2020, FFRF received word that a high school student had secretly taped a biology teacher making disparaging comments about the theory of evolution. Outraged, an attorney for FFRF wrote to the school district that no controversy exists in the scientific community regarding the fact of evolution, and the teaching of alternative theories or a controversy is not only inappropriate and dishonest, it is unconstitutional. The tiny rural school district lacked the resources to challenge the FFRF, which has a legal staff of ten attorneys and two legal assistants. So the superintendent merely replied that the teacher in question would comply with the New York State Education Law and the U.S. Constitution.

On February 28, 2020, the FFRF issued a press release announcing: N.Y. public school reins in proselytizing teacher, per FFRF advice. According to the press release, the teachers anti-scientific rant was both unconstitutional and pedagogically deplorable.

The incident was subsequently reviewed by an FFRF Executive Board member (not one of the four original dissenters) who had training in both biological science and constitutional law. She knew that controversy over evolution does exist in the scientific community. Furthermore, she noted that FFRFs letter to the school district cited several court decisions but left out the most relevant one: Edwards v. Aguillard (1987). In that case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that teaching creation science in public schools is unconstitutional, but questioning the scientific validity of evolution is not unconstitutional and may in fact be encouraged. FFRFs criticism of the teacher had been dead wrong. The board member agreed with the four dissenters who had already concluded that Darwinism was functioning as a religion.

At an emergency meeting a week ago, a majority of the members on FFRFs Executive Board of Directors voted that Darwinian evolution is, in fact, a religion. The board resolved that FFRF would henceforth oppose public funding for it and work to prohibit its teaching in public schools and universities.

Yesterday, FFRF issued a brief press release confirming the boards decision:

After long and careful deliberation The Freedom from Religion Foundation has recognized that Darwinism, like Christianity, is a religion. So the foundation now opposes the teaching or even the mention of Darwinian evolution in publicly funded institutions. Let freedom ring!

In other news: Today is April Fools Day.

Photo: A (genuine) sign in Harrisburg, PA, from the Freedom from Religion Foundation, by Jason / CC BY-SA.

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Breaking: Freedom From Religion Foundation Opposes Teaching Evolution in Public Schools - Discovery Institute

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ID Evolution Month: The Rise of the Selfie – findBIOMETRICS

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Its ID Evolution Month at FindBiometrics, in which well be delivering in-depth features on biometric innovation in the identity space. This could cover a lot of ground the whole biometrics industry has seen tremendous innovation over the past couple of decades. But there are a few salient areas that call for a thorough investigation right now.

Were starting things off with one of the biggest and most recent innovations in the world of biometric technology, and indeed in the mobile sector and consumer tech more broadly: the emergence of selfie authentication.

As with the popularization of the smartphone in general, much of the credit for the emergence of mobile biometrics must go to Apple. The company introduced fingerprint scanning to its industry-leading iPhone line in 2013, kicking off a rapid transformation across the smartphone industry as competitors sought to implement fingerprint scanning technology in their own devices.

As soon as 2016, Acuity Market Intelligence was estimating that there were 750 million smartphones on the market featuring biometric technology largely in the form of fingerprint sensors and by the end of the next year, fingerprint sensors were considered a more or less standard feature on mid-range and premium smartphones. For Acuitys part, the renowned market research firm predicted in its 2016 report that 100 percent of all smartphones shipped in 2018 would have biometric technology and then another big move from Apple prompted a mainstream modality shift that changed everything.

That move was, of course, Apples announcement of the iPhone X, a new smartphone that did away with the iPhones iconic Touch ID fingerprint scanning system in favor of facial recognition. Authentication software supporting facial recognition was already available for mobile operating systems, but Apples support of this modality as the central mechanism for phone unlocking (among other things) on the iPhone X market the first time that a broad swath of mainstream smartphone users would be introduced to selfie-based authentication.

Sure enough, a number of Apples rivals quickly followed suit with the introduction of their own selfie-based authentication systems. Samsung, for example, had been looking to make a name for itself with iris recognition on its flagship smartphone devices, but sought to place more of an emphasis on facial recognition in the wake of Apples launch of Face ID; and a number of smaller smartphone companies quickly embraced Face Unlock systems in the ensuing year and change. For its part, Apple proceeded to embrace Face ID and ditch Touch ID on all of its subsequent iPhone devices.

The result of all this competitive activity among smartphone makers was the mainstreaming of selfie authentication. With increasing numbers of consumers using a face scan to unlock their smartphone and even to access their computers and laptops, thanks to authentication platforms like Microsofts Windows Hello there has been a growing familiarity with the overall concept of selfie authentication. That, in turn, has financial services providers, government authorities, and a range of other organizations embracing selfie authentication software for payment authorization, online account access, and more. And with the emergence of selfie-based solutions that are also capable of verifying official identity documents matching a users face to their drivers license photo, for example organizations are even starting to remotely onboard new clients, with no need for in-person identity verification.

This is the kind of innovation that we will be further exploring for ID Evolution Month in the weeks to come. Stay tuned to FindBiometrics for more in-depth analysis of how biometric innovation has helped to push the evolution of digital and mobile identity, and what the cutting edge of these trends looks like today.


ID Evolution Month is made possible by our sponsor: Onfido

April 2, 2020 by Alex Perala

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ID Evolution Month: The Rise of the Selfie - findBIOMETRICS

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The Broken Hill Skull Does This 300,000-Year-Old Fossil Upend Human Evolution? – The Daily Galaxy –Great Discoveries Channel

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Posted on Apr 2, 2020 in Evolution, Science

The Broken Hill skull, discovered in 1921 by miners in Zambia, is one of the best-preserved fossils of the early human species Homo heidelbergensis, who roamed Southern Africa. The fossil is estimated to be about 300,000 years old, according to Australias Griffith University scientists, who led an international team to date the skull of an early human found in Africa, potentially upending human evolution knowledge with their discovery.

The research also suggests that human evolution in Africa around 300,000 years ago was a much more complex process, with the co-existence of different human lineages. Previously, the Broken Hill skull was viewed as part of a gradual and widespread evolutionary sequence in Africa from archaic humans to modern humans, said Chris Stringer, curator at the Natural History Museum in London. But now it looks like the primitive species Homo naledi survived in southern Africa, H. heidelbergensis was in Central Africa, and early forms of our species existed in regions like Morocco and Ethiopia.

We can now identify at least three distinct and contemporary [Homo] lineages in Africa about 300,000 years ago, but we dont yet know whether our ancestry was largely or entirely contained within theH. sapiens part of that variation, says paleoanthropologist and study coauthor Stringer.

Underscoring the complexity of human evolution, in 2017, geologists demonstrated that another hominid species, Homo naledi, existed in southern Africa between 236,000 and 335,000 years ago. This was potentially the same time that modern humans first emerged in Africa, which created is a puzzle to scientists, who long held that there was only one species in Africa at this late time period Homo sapiens. How did this species exist alongside others with brains three times its size?

The discovery of Homo naledi by Professor Lee Berger of Wits University and his team at the Rising Star caves in the Cradle of Human Kind in 2013 was one of the largest hominin discoveries ever made and hailed as one of the most significant hominid discoveries of the 21st Century.

Naledis brain seems like one you might predict for Homo habilis, two million years ago. But habilis didnt have such a tiny brainnaledi did, said anthropologist John Hawks. Big brains were costly to human ancestors, and some species may have paid the costs with richer diets, hunting and gathering, and longer childhoods. But that scenario doesnt seem to work well for Homo naledi, which had hands well-suited for toolmaking, long legs, humanlike feet, and teeth suggesting a high-quality diet.

Homo Naledi, Newly Discovered Species Maybe Weve Had the Story of Human Evolution Wrong the Whole Time

Professor Rainer Grn from the Environmental Futures Research Institute led the team which analysed the Broken Hill (Kabwe 1) skull and other fossil human remains found in the vicinity including a tibia and femur midshaft fragment. The material is curated at the Natural History Museum in London. The remains have been difficult to date due to their haphazard recovery and the site being completely destroyed by quarrying.

Using radiometric dating methods, Grns analyses now puts the skull at a relatively young date, estimating it is between 274,000 and 324,000 years old. Publishing their findings and methodology in Nature, Grn said the new best age estimate of the fossil impacts our understanding of the tempo and mode of modern human origins.

Grn said his teams research adds to new and emerging studies which question the mode of modern human evolution in Africa and whether Homo heidelbergensis is a direct ancestor of our species.

The Daily Galaxy, Andy Johnson, via Griffith University

Image credit: Natural History Museum in London

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The Broken Hill Skull Does This 300,000-Year-Old Fossil Upend Human Evolution? - The Daily Galaxy --Great Discoveries Channel

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Dutch dark rock band Dool explore the evolution of the soul on Summerland – Chicago Reader

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Helmed by charismatic vocalist and guitarist Ryanne van Dorst, Dool combine pop hooks with heady lyrics and complex songwriting that draws from the underbelly of metal, psych, doom, occult rock, and more. Formed in Rotterdam in 2015 by members of Dutch rock outfits Elle Bandita, the Devils Blood, and Gold, the band (whose name translates to Wandering) have yet to tour the States, but they made waves in the heavy-music world with their 2017 debut, Here Now, There Then. On their brand-new second album, Summerland (Prophecy Productions), Dool lean into the arena-friendly side of their sound without compromising their aesthetic. The albums name nods to a pagan concept of the afterlifean idyllic place the soul can visit between incarnations or settle in after reaching a final ascensionand songs such as the title track and album closer Dust & Shadow are enhanced by otherworldly, majestic atmospheres. But Dool arent concerned solely with what happens after we leave this plane, but also with the road traveled and personal evolution along the way. To that end, theyre more earthbound on tracks such as Ode to the Future, anchored by a rich strummed guitar rhythm reminiscent of Patti Smith classic Dancing Barefoot. Van Dorsts vivid lyrics often address themes of self-questioning and strife, and when theyre interwoven into rock epics such as The Wells Run Dry (which features a spoken-word passage from Blzer front man Okoi Jones), no challenge seems insurmountable. Its easy to imagine radio-ready album single Wolf Moon and rock rager Be Your Sins (with a fiery Hammond organ solo by Swedish metal keyboardist Per Wiberg) as gateway drugs for mainstream rock and metal listeners who are primed to discover more esoteric sounds. Dool deliver on that front as well: God Particle features a Middle Eastern-inspired intro, a dynamic flow, and an intensity enriched by the albums backing vocalist, former Devils Blood and current Molasses front woman Farida Lemouchi. v

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Dutch dark rock band Dool explore the evolution of the soul on Summerland - Chicago Reader

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