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This AI spots local COVID-19 outbreaks before they’ve spun out of control

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Researchers have developed a new machine learning-based tool that detects potential COVID-19 outbreaks in individual US counties. The system makes its assessments by analyzing reported COVID-19 cases and deaths, rates of positive tests, face mask rules, social distancing policies, and changes in testing. It also incorporates the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Social Vulnerability Index, which assesses how individual communities are prepared for hazardous events based on factors including poverty and population density. It then predicts how fast the virus is spreading by estimating how many days it will take for the number of cases to double. The forecasts are displayed on an interactive heat…

This story continues at The Next Web

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Source: https://thenextweb.com/neural/2020/09/16/this-ai-spots-local-covid-19-outbreaks-before-theyve-spun-out-of-control/
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The Article Was Written/Published By: Thomas Macaulay

Alphabet’s Loon balloons are helping scientists study gravity waves

00cfe9b0-ee33-11ea-b3fe-7d361ccd15c0In between beaming internet to people in developing countries and sometimes passing for UFOs, Alphabet’s Loon balloons have been busy helping scientists study how our planet works. A team led by Stanford professor Aditi Sheshadri recently published a…

Source: https://www.engadget.com/alphabet-loon-balloons-gravity-waves-222602483.html
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Atheists trump the religious when it comes to sleep quality

Religion may offer some people comfort, but that apparently doesn’t translate to improved sleep quality, at least according to a new study from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. The organization recommends that adults get at least seven hours of sleep every night, but found that Baptists and Catholics are far less likely to hit that minimum compared to their … Continue reading

Source: https://www.slashgear.com/atheists-trump-the-religious-when-it-comes-to-sleep-quality-28635543/
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The Article Was Written/Published By: Brittany A. Roston

Why quantum computing matters

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A new government initiative will direct hundreds of millions of dollars to support new centers for quantum computing research.

Why it matters: Quantum information science represents the next leap forward for computing, opening the door to powerful machines that can help provide answers to some of our most pressing questions. The nation that takes the lead in quantum will stake a pole position for the future.


Details: The five new quantum research centers — established in national labs across the country — are part of a $1 billion White House program announced Wednesday morning that includes seven institutes that will explore different facets of AI, including precision agriculture and forecast prediction.

  • “The future of American prosperity and national security will be shaped by how we invest, research, develop and deploy these cutting-edge technologies today,” said U.S. chief technology officer Michael Kratsios.

How it works: While AI is better known and increasingly integrated into our daily lives — hey, Siri — quantum computing is just as important, promising huge leaps forward in computer processing power.

  • Quantum computing harnesses the esoteric workings of quantum mechanics. While conventional or classical computers manipulate binary bits — the electrical or optical pulses representing 1s and os — to perform computation, quantum computers use what are known as qubits.
  • Qubits are subatomic particles like electrons or photons, and thanks to quantum mechanics they can represent numerous possible combinations between 1 and 0. The ability to exist simultaneously in multiple states is called superposition, and it means a quantum computer — unlike a classical one — can compute huge numbers of potential outcomes simultaneously.
  • Pairs of qubits can be entangled, meaning that they exist in a single quantum state, and changing the state of one qubit in the pair will instantaneously alter the state of its partner, even if they’re separated by vast distances. While classical computers only double their processing power when they double their bits, entanglement means that quantum computers exponentially increase their power as they add qubits.

Of note: Albert Einstein famously hated the concept of entanglement, describing it as “spooky action at a distance.” But the idea has held up over decades of research in quantum science.

Quantum computers won’t replace classical ones wholesale — in part because the process of manipulating quantum particles is still highly tricky — but as they develop, they’ll open up new frontiers in computing:

  • Cryptography: The sheer processing power of quantum computers means that at some point in the near future they’ll be able to unlock all known digital encryption — which is why there’s an international race to develop post-quantum cryptography.
  • Chemistry: At its foundation, nature is the process of quantum forces, but classical computers don’t have the power to simulate matter at the subatomic level. Quantum computers do, which means they can be used to simulate the actions of molecules in order to break some of chemistry’s toughest challenges, like making better batteries.
  • Quantum internet: Entanglement can be leveraged to send information via quantum communication, which promises to be far faster and more secure than current methods.

What they’re saying: “Quantum is the biggest revolution in computers since the advent of computers,” says Dario Gil, director of IBM Research. “With the quantum bit, you can actually rethink the nature of information.”

The catch: While the underlying science behind quantum computer is decades old, quantum computers are only just now beginning to be used commercially.

  • The quantum state of a qubit is extremely fragile, and slight changes in vibration or temperature can cause them to lose their quantum state in a process called decoherence. As a result, quantum computers tend to be more error-prone than their classical ancestors.

What to watch: Who ultimately wins out on quantum supremacy — the act of demonstrating that a quantum computer can solve a problem that even the fastest classical computer would be unable to solve in a feasible time frame.

  • Last year Google claimed to have achieved quantum supremacy, performing a computation on a quantum computer in 200 seconds that the company claimed would have taken a classical supercomputer 10,000 years to complete. Its competitor IBM, though, cast doubt on the claim.
  • What to actually watch: The recent sci-fi show “Devs,” where an all-powerful quantum computer is capable of perfectly predicting the future, which as far as I know is not yet on the menu.

The bottom line: The age of quantum computers isn’t quite here yet, but it promises to be one of the major technological drivers of the 21st century.

Source: https://www.axios.com/quantum-computing-google-ibm-b0b90670-a36b-443a-b45f-eff3ceb79ec2.html
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The Article Was Written/Published By: Bryan Walsh

Explore every moon in our solar system with this interactive atlas

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The Atlas of Moons is National Geographic‘s amazing interactive project to explore the incredible diversity of over 200 moons in our solar system, like Europa, shown above. Each moon is described and shown with as much recent information available.

With the upcoming JUICE launch (aka Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer), public interest in Europa will undoubtedly increase. Via National Geographic:

With a vast global ocean tucked beneath a smooth, icy shell, Europa is considered one of the best places to look for life beyond Earth. Its ancient, alien sea likely contains all the ingredients needed for life as we know it. Peering beneath that crisscrossed crust is a bit tricky, but scientists recently spotted plumes of possible seawater venting into space, which could be sampled by an orbiting craft.

Discovered in 1610 by Galileo Galilei, it was named after a lover of Zeus. Features are named for people, places, gods, or objects from Celtic myths, as well as for people and places associated with the Greek Europa myth.

Image: National Geographic

Source: https://boingboing.net/2020/07/16/explore-every-moon-in-our-sola.html
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The Article Was Written/Published By: Andrea James

Boston Dynamics’ Spot robot dog is now a $75k business expense

Boston Dynamics’ robot dog, Spot, has been put up for sale to businesses, offering a four-legged – and somewhat creepy – way to integrate a robot into the workforce. The news expands on Boston Dynamics’ early-adopter program launched last September, and marked Spot’s move from development platform into regular production. Around 150 of the robots were deployed as part of … Continue reading

Source: https://www.slashgear.com/boston-dynamics-spot-robot-dog-is-now-a-75k-business-expense-16625060/
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The Article Was Written/Published By: Chris Davies

Swarms of autonomous insect robots could prove key to future planetary exploration

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While we’re preparing to launch a six-wheeled robotic rover roughly the size of a car to explore Mars, future planetary exploration and science missions could employ much smaller hardware – including, potentially swarms of robots the size of insects designed to act in concert with one another autonomously.

Swarming insect-like robots are being developed by a number of different institutions and companies, but a researcher at California State University Northridge recently received a sizeable Department of Defense grant specially to fund the development of autonomous robot swarms for extraterrestrial applications – as well as for use right here on Earth in mining, industrial and search and rescue efforts.

The grant, for $539,000, was awarded to CSUN mechanical engineering professor Nhut Ho, who also directs the NASA Autonomous Research Center for STEAMH (which focuses on collaborative research efforts between Science, Technology, Entrepreneurship, Arts, Humanities and Mathematics academics, hence the acronym). The goal of the research is to build robotic swarms that can essentially be dropped into unknown and hostile environments, and then figure out how to complete specific tasks they’re given without essentially any additional input.

Ultimately, such a swarm would be able to perform complex problem solving to deal with challenges, including organizing themselves into different sized groups to handle different aspects of the task at hand, as well as dealing with setbacks including losing individual members of the swarm through redundancy and repurposing.

One way the system will be tested is through use with a collaborating team from NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) that seeks to find the best solutions for autonomously navigating and mapping underground environments.

As for why this approach is even being considered, there are a lot of potential benefits of using a swarm of small rovers vs. a single, large one. At a very basic level, there’s built-in redundancy – if a rover like NASA’s Perseverance encounters a fatal error, the mission is essentially done, while a swarm losing individual members shouldn’t end the entire mission. Also, a swarm can self-assemble into individual subunits and cover more ground more quickly, accomplishing a number of goals in parallel where a larger rover might have to handle tasks in sequence.

CSUN is working with partners including JPL, as mentioned, as well as Boston Dynamics, Intel, Clearpath Robotics, Telerob, Veoldyne and Silvus Technologies on its swarm project. It could be a while before any insect bots actually set ‘foot’ on the red planet, but this is definitely a strong sign of interest and support from large, deep-pocketed public funding sources.

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Source: https://techcrunch.com/2020/06/08/swarms-of-autonomous-insect-robots-could-prove-key-to-future-planetary-exploration/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Techcrunch+%28TechCrunch%29
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The Article Was Written/Published By: Darrell Etherington

Hitting the books: The ancient technology behind astronaut ice cream

8243cde0-a752-11ea-be9c-25fe1ab9163eIt’s been one week since astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley made history by successfully riding SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket up to the International Space Station. This calls for a celebration! And what orbital party would be complete without t…

Source: https://www.engadget.com/hitting-the-books-ingredients-george-zaidan-dutton-150012040.html
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