Science

Science

Clouds are complicated, and these fabulous 3D renderings of real weather data prove it

Some people, when they look up at the sky and see a cloud, think “dog” or “fluffy.” And some people think “it’s a waning cumulus with a feathered edge suggesting a pressure system from the north ending in an updraft, which would probably cause turbulence. Also looks a bit like a dog.” Clearly one of those people created these complex, beautiful renderings of weather data. The idea behind this project at ETH Zürich, led by Markus Gross, is that different visualizations of detailed weather data may be highly useful in different fields. He and his colleagues have been working on a huge set of such data and finding ways of accurately representing it with an eye to empowering meteorologists from the TV station to the research lab. “The scientific value of our visualisation lies in the fact that...

Drugmaker Group Sets Lobbying Record

The drug industry set several quarterly records for lobbying spending in the first three months of 2018 as it faced pressure from President Donald Trump’s administration and lawmakers on drug pricing, generic medicines and trade. The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America spent $9.96 million on federal lobbying, according to disclosures filed Friday with the government. The trade group increased its spending by nearly $2 million from the same period in 2017, when it also set a quarterly record. Bayer Corp., AbbVie Inc., Sanofi US, Novo Nordisk A/S and Celgene Corp all reached new highs in their spending as well. Spending on lobbying was reported twice a year until 2008. PhRMA lobbied against legislation to stop drugmakers from denying generic-drug companies the ability to stu...

Merkel May Have Met Her Match in Germany’s New SPD Leader

Angela Merkel has enjoyed a relatively painless start to her fourth term in office. That could be about to change with the German leader’s Social Democrat coalition partners poised to elect a combative one-time party rebel as their leader. Andrea Nahles, who made her mark as a rabble-rousing opponent of former SPD Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s labor reforms, is slated to become the first woman to lead the party — formed as a workers’ movement in the second half of the 19th century — at a meeting on Sunday in Wiesbaden. Andrea Nahles, left, and Angela Merkel Photographer: Michele Tantussi/Getty Images Seeking to revive the party’s fortunes after a bludgeoning in last year’s election and a tortuous process of forming a new coalition with Merkel, Nahles has promised to be an unco...

Technique to beam HD video with 99 percent less power could sharpen the eyes of smart homes

Everyone seems to be insisting on installing cameras all over their homes these days, which seems incongruous with the ongoing privacy crisis — but that’s a post for another time. Today, we’re talking about enabling those cameras to send high-definition video signals wirelessly without killing their little batteries. A new technique makes beaming video out more than 99 percent more efficient, possibly making batteries unnecessary altogether. Cameras found in smart homes or wearables need to transmit HD video, but it takes a lot of power to process that video and then transmit the encoded data over Wi-Fi. Small devices leave little room for batteries, and they’ll have to be recharged frequently if they’re constantly streaming. Who’s got time for that? The idea behind this new system, create...

Why Democratic Sen. Murphy Opposes Pompeo Nomination for Secretary of State

19:20 Steve Sosnick Interactive Brokers LLC, Chief Options Strategist 19:40 Mathias Cormann Commonwealth of Australia, Minister:Finance 20:00 Kevin Caron Stifel Nicolaus & Co Inc, Market Strategist/Portfolio Mgr 20:10 Romit J Shah Instinet LLC, Analyst 20:30 Richard Gioioso Saint Joseph’s University, Director of the Latin American Studies 20:40 Jay Bowen Bowen Hanes & Co Inc, President/CEO/CIO https://www.bloomberg.com/news/videos/2018-04-19/why-sen-murphy-opposes-pompeo-nomination-for-secretary-of-state-video

Want to fool a computer vision system? Just tweak some colors

Research into machine learning and the interesting AI models created as a consequence are popular topics these days. But there’s a sort of shadow world of scientists working to undermine these systems — not to show they’re worthless but to shore up their weaknesses. A new paper demonstrates this by showing how vulnerable image recognition models are to the simplest color manipulations of the pictures they’re meant to identify. It’s not some deep indictment of computer vision — techniques to “beat” image recognition systems might just as easily be characterized as situations in which they perform particularly poorly. Sometimes this is something surprisingly simple: rotating an image, for example, or adding a crazy sticker. Unless a system has been trained specifically on a given manipulatio...

EPA Chief of Staff Approved Raises for Aides, Report Finds

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s chief of staff signed off on controversial raises worth tens of thousands of dollars each for three employees, the agency’s internal watchdog said in an interim report set to be released Monday.  The Environmental Protection Agency’s inspector general says documents show Chief of Staff Ryan Jackson authorized those salary increases using an obscure provision of the Safe Drinking Water Act, according to a draft of the report obtained by Bloomberg News. That buttresses Jackson’s assertion last week that he, not Pruitt, was responsible for the raises — and that the EPA administrator had no knowledge of the amount of the increases nor the method by which they came about. In authorizing the raises, the EPA effectively overruled White House officials who ha...

Google’s ‘Semantic Experiences’ let you play word games with its AI

Google does a great deal of research into natural language processing and synthesis, but not every project has to be a new Assistant feature or voice improvement. The company has a little fun now and then, when the master AI permits it, and today it has posted a few web experiments that let you engage with its word-association systems in a playful way. First is an interesting way of searching through Google Books, that fabulous database so rarely mentioned these days. Instead of just searching for text or title verbatim, you can ask questions, like “Why was Napoleon exiled?” or “What is the nature of consciousness?” It returns passages from books that, based on their language only, are closely associated with your question. And while the results are hit and miss, they are nice and flexible...

NASA’s planet-hunting TESS telescope launches Monday aboard a SpaceX rocket

Some of the most exciting space news of the past few years has been about Earth-like exoplanets that could one day (or perhaps already do) support life. TESS, a space telescope set to launch Monday aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, will scan the sky for exoplanets faster and better than any existing platforms, expanding our knowledge of the universe and perhaps finding a friendly neighborhood to move to. The Transit Exoplanet Survey Satellite has been in the works for years and in a way could be considered a sort of direct successor to the Kepler, the incredibly fruitful mission that has located thousands of exoplanets over nearly a decade. But if Kepler was a telephoto aimed at dim targets far in the distance, TESS is an ultra-wide-angle lens that will watch nearly the entire visible sky. ...

Japan Protesters Call for ‘Liar’ Abe to Resign Over Scandal

By Andy Sharp April 14, 2018, 11:50 AM EDT Updated on April 15, 2018, 3:45 AM EDT Tens of thousands of people joined a demonstration outside Japan’s parliament Saturday, in a sign of growing public anger over cronyism scandals engulfing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Organizers say about 50,000 people attended this weekend’s rally in Tokyo — the biggest in nearly three years. Protesters, many young, held up signs calling Abe a “liar” and seeking his resignation. The prime minister has been forced in parliament to deny his involvement in two controversies over land deals to close associates. An alleged cover-up over the activity of Japanese troops during the Iraq war is also casting a cloud over his government. A spokesman for Abe’s office didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking co...

Who’s a good AI? Dog-based data creates a canine machine learning system

We’ve trained machine learning systems to identify objects, navigate streets, and recognize facial expressions, but as difficult as they may be, they don’t even touch the level of sophistication required to simulate, for example, a dog. Well, this project aims to do just that — in a very limited way, of course. By observing the behavior of A Very Good Girl, this AI learned the rudiments of how to act like a dog. It’s a collaboration between the University of Washington and the Allen Institute for AI, and the resulting paper will be presented at CVPR in June. Why do this? Well, although much work has been done to simulate the sub-tasks of perception like identifying an object and picking it up, little has been done in terms of “understanding visual data to the extent that an agent can take ...

Under a millimeter wide and powered by light, these tiny cameras could hide almost anywhere

As if there weren’t already cameras enough in this world, researchers created a new type that is both microscopic and self-powered, making it possible to embed just about anywhere and have it work perpetually. It’s undoubtedly cool technology, but it’s probably also going to cause a spike in tinfoil sales. Engineers have previously investigated the possibility of having a camera sensor power itself with the same light that falls on it. After all, it’s basically just two different functions of a photovoltaic cell — one stores the energy that falls on it while the other records how much energy fell on it. The problem is that if you have a cell doing one thing, it can’t do the other. So if you want to have a sensor of a certain size, you have to dedicate a certain amount of that real estate t...