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October 26th, 2020 at 1:14 pm

‘Zoom towns’ are exploding in the West

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And many cities aren’t ready for the onslaught.

First, there were boomtowns. Now, there are Zoom towns.

The coronavirus pandemic is leading to a new phenomenon: a migration to “gateway communities,” or small towns near major public lands and ski resorts as people’s jobs increasingly become remote-friendly. This is straining the towns’ resources and putting pressure on them to adapt.

A new paper published in the Journal of the American Planning Association shows that populations in these communities were already growing before COVID-19 hit, leading to some problems traditionally thought of as urban issues, like lack of affordable housing, availability of public transit, congestion, and income inequality. And while COVID-19 has accelerated the friction, the study suggests that urban planners can help places adjust.

There has been a drastic increase in remote work since March, when the pandemic hit the U.S. Nearly 60% of employees are now working remotely full or part time, according to a recent Gallup poll. Nearly two-thirds of employees who have been working remotely would like to continue to do so, according to that same poll. That would seemingly give workers a lot more flexibility when it comes to where they call home.

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October 26th, 2020 at 1:09 pm

The Flaming Lips performed a concert with the band and fans encased in plastic bubbles

The Flaming Lips perform in plastic bubbles

 (CNN)It’s unclear whether The Flaming Lips are using jelly — or vaseline, for that matter — at their concerts these days. The rock band is, however, trying plastic bubbles.

The rock musicians from Oklahoma City are literally blowing up in 2020, using inflatable human-sized bubbles to defend themselves and fans against Covid-19 while finding a way to play live.

Performing at The Criterion in their hometown on Monday evening, The Flaming Lips placed themselves — and all attending fans — inside individual plastic spheres. The concert — which was part live show, part music video shoot — was born out of a sketch doodled by Wayne Coyne during the pandemic’s early days, the frontman told CNN.

“I did a little drawing… where I drew a picture of The Flaming Lips doing a show in 2019. And I’m the only person in the space bubble, and everybody else is just normal,” Coyne told CNN during a phone interview on Friday. “Then (I did another drawing with) The Flaming Lips playing a show in 2020. The exact same scenario, but I’m in a bubble, and so is everybody else.”

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October 26th, 2020 at 12:26 pm

Satellites are mapping out every tree on earth using artificial intelligence

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Scientists have mapped 1.8 billion individual tree canopies across millions of kilometres of the Sahel and Sahara regions of West Africa. It is the first time ever that trees have been mapped in detail over such a large area.

So how was it possible? Researchers analysed a huge database of satellite images using artificial intelligence. They employed neural networks which are able to recognise objects, like trees, based on their shapes and colours.

To train it, the AI system was shown satellite images where trees had been manually traced. This involved lead author Martin Brandt going through the arduous process of identifying and labelling nearly 90,000 trees himself, beforehand.

From these images, the computer learnt what a tree looked like and could pick out individual canopies from the thousands of images in the database. Brandt says it would have taken millions of people years to identify the trees without the AI system.

In a review of the research, commissioned by Nature, scientists at New Mexico State University wrote that “it will soon be possible, with certain limitations, to map the location and size of every tree worldwide”

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October 25th, 2020 at 6:23 pm

Harnessing deep neural networks to predict future self-harm based on clinical notes

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According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., with over 1.4 million suicide attempts recorded in 2018. Although effective treatments are available for those at risk, clinicians do not have a reliable way of predicting which patients are likely to make a suicide attempt.

Researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina and University of South Florida report in JMIR Medical Informatics that they have taken important steps toward addressing the problem by creating an artificial intelligence algorithm that can automatically identify patients at high risk of intentional self-harm, based on the information in the clinical notes in the electronic health record.

The study was led by Jihad Obeid, M.D., co-director of the MUSC Biomedical Informatics Center, and Brian Bunnell, Ph.D., formerly at MUSC and currently an assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences at the University of South Florida.

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October 25th, 2020 at 6:16 pm

GM to run robot cars in San Francisco without human backups

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General Motors’ Cruise autonomous vehicle unit says it will pull the human backup drivers from its vehicles in San Francisco by the end of the year.

 Cruise CEO Dan Ammann said in a statement that the company got a permit Thursday from California’s Department of Motor Vehicles to let the cars travel on their own.

The move follows last week’s announcement from Waymo that it would open its autonomous ride-hailing service to the public in the Phoenix area in vehicles without human drivers.

Waymo, a unit of Google parent Alphabet Inc., is hoping to eventually expand the service into California, where it already has a permit to run without human backups.

Cruise has reached the point where it’s confident that it can safely operate without humans in the cars, spokesman Ray Wert said. There’s no date for starting a ride service, which would require further government permission, he said.

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October 25th, 2020 at 6:11 pm

Sony reveals Spatial Reality Display, a 4K screen with glasses-free 3D

Volumetric 3D displays are neither easy to produce nor common, as holographic imagery generally requires a mix of stereoscopic screen technology and unique optics, sometimes backed by high-speed eye tracking. Today, the display experts at Sony are throwing their hat into the ring with a new option called the ELF-SR1 — also known as the Spatial Reality Display — which is initially being targeted at professional users in content creation businesses, but with an eye towards future use in consumer-facing applications.

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October 24th, 2020 at 12:37 am

Scientists create the world’s first room temperature superconductor

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Superconducting materials typically require extremely cool temperatures to operate, which is demonstrated in this photo. But a new discovery could change that

Since its discovery more than a century ago, superconductivity has come to play a powerful role in many modern day technologies, such as maglev trains and MRI scans, but its utility has been limited by the need for extremely cool operating temperatures. Scientists are now claiming a big breakthrough in this area, creating what they say is the first material capable of superconductivity at room temperature.

The work was led by Ranga Dias at the University of Rochester, and aims to overcome one of the major roadblocks in expanding the uses of superconductive materials. These materials exhibit no electrical resistance and expel a magnetic field, but because they typically only function at temperatures below -140 °C (-220 °F), they require expensive equipment to maintain.

“Because of the limits of low temperature, materials with such extraordinary properties have not quite transformed the world in the way that many might have imagined,” says Dias. “However, our discovery will break down these barriers and open the door to many potential applications.”

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October 24th, 2020 at 12:33 am

LA debuts first firefighting robot in the country, deploys it in downtown blaze

The Thermite RS3 is capable of spraying 2,500 gallons per minute

 A firefighting robot got its first major test Tuesday in Los Angeles when it was put to use for the first time in the United States to battle a major blaze.

The Los Angeles Fire Department said the Thermite RS3 robot was supposed to have its official public introduction in the afternoon but got called into duty a few hours early due to a blaze downtown.

“It had already gotten dirty at an early morning major emergency commercial structure fire that morning – proving its value from the start,” the department said.

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October 24th, 2020 at 12:29 am

Determining if tumor gene testing can select efficacious precision cancer treatment

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NCI-MATCH is a precision medicine cancer trial that seeks to determine whether matching certain drugs or drug combinations in adults whose tumors have specific gene abnormalities will effectively treat their cancer, regardless of their cancer type. Such discoveries could be eligible to move on to larger, more definitive trials. The trial is led by the ECOG-ACRIN Cancer Research Group. Credit: ECOG-ACRIN Cancer Research Group

Five years ago, the ECOG-ACRIN Cancer Research Group (ECOG-ACRIN) and National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health, jointly launched a very different kind of cancer study. NCI-Molecular Analysis for Therapy Choice (NCI-MATCH or EAY131), the largest precision medicine cancer trial to date, sought to match genetic abnormalities driving patients’ tumors with approved or experimental drugs targeting those defects. The type of cancer did not matter. Nearly 6000 cancer patients quickly joined the trial and contributed their tumor specimens for genomic testing. Now, the Journal of Clinical Oncology is publishing an in-depth look into the tumor gene make-up of these patients. It is the largest data set ever compiled on patients with tumors that have progressed on one or more standard treatments, or with rare cancers for which there is no standard treatment. The information contains significant discoveries that tell physicians and patients more about how to use genomic testing to select the best treatments.

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October 23rd, 2020 at 11:55 am

Robot that can perform colonoscopies aims to make it less unpleasant

 

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 A robot that can perform colonoscopies may make the procedure simpler and less unpleasant.

Pietro Valdastri at the University of Leeds in the UK and his colleagues have developed a robotic arm that uses a machine learning algorithm to move a flexible probe along the colon.

The probe is a magnetic endoscope, a tube with a camera lens at the tip, that the robot controls via a magnet external to the body.

The system can either work autonomously or be controlled by a human operator using a joystick, which pushes the endoscope tip further along the colon. Valdastri likens the movement to the intuitive motion of playing a video game. The system also keeps track of the location and orientation of the endoscope inside the colon.

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October 23rd, 2020 at 11:27 am

Wearable sensors can be printed directly onto skin at room temperature

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An example of the new wearable sensor developed at Penn State University

Flexible electronics have opened up some interesting possibilities when it comes to wearable sensors that can be applied to the skin, taking the form of tattoo-like films and sleeves that monitor various aspects of human health. Scientists at Penn State University have now developed one they say can be safely printed directly onto the skin, where it can track things like body temperature and blood oxygen levels, before being washed off once the job is done.

The new printable sensors build on earlier work by the same researchers, in which they developed flexible circuit boards for use in wearable sensors. But a key part of this process involved bonding some of the metallic components together at the kinds of temperatures not well tolerated by the human body, at around 572 °F (300 °C).

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October 23rd, 2020 at 11:23 am

Alphabet’s Mineral moonshot wants to help farmers with robotic plant buggies

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The tech could lead to more sustainable farming practices.

 In 2018, Alphabet’s X lab said it was in the process of exploring how it could use artificial intelligence to improve farming. On Monday, X announced that its “computational agriculture” project is called Mineral. The Mineral team has spent the last several years “developing and testing a range of software and hardware prototypes based on breakthroughs in artificial intelligence, simulation, sensors, robotics and more.”

One of the tools that has come out of the project is a robotic plant buggy. Powered by solar panels, the machine makes its way across a farmer’s field, examining every plant it passes along the way with an array of cameras and sensors. In conjunction with satellite, weather and soil data, Mineral says the buggy and its AI software can identify patterns and give farmers insights into their crops.

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