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The Crux

Google's Artificial Intelligence Masters Classic Atari Video Games

By Toby Walsh, NICTA | February 26, 2015 5:04 pm

Think you’re good at classic arcade games such as Space Invaders, Breakout and Pong? Think again.

In a groundbreaking paper published yesterday in Nature, a team of researchers led by DeepMind co-founder Demis Hassabis reported developing a deep neural network that was able to learn to play such games at an expert level.

What makes this achievement all the more impressive is that the program was not given any background knowledge about the games. It just had access to the score and t …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology, Top Posts
MORE ABOUT: computers


Quiz: Test Your Einstein IQ

By Carl Engelking | February 26, 2015 2:09 pm

[slickquiz id=1]

Artwork of a bee making the tough choice between targets, designed by Nicole Milligan and Ray Crundwell.

Science Sushi

What Brian Williams and bumblebees have in common

By Christie Wilcox | February 26, 2015 11:00 am

Journalists are held to the highest standards of accuracy, which is why so many seemed shellshocked to learn that Brian Williams, beloved NBC Nightly News anchor, lied about his experiences in the Iraq war. In his most recent accounts, Williams claimed to have been in a helicopter shot down by enemy fire — a claim that was vocally disputed by veterans who were with Williams at the time. Williams has since admitted that he got the story wrong, but what’s most intriguing about his apology  …

Credit: New America Foundation

Lovesick Cyborg

The Next Generation of US Cyber Warriors

By Jeremy Hsu | February 25, 2015 11:37 pm

Zane Markel has never known a world without the promise and perils of the Internet. The young native of Bismarck, North Dakota represents one of the first midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy who will commission directly into the Navy’s information warfare community after graduation. That honor makes him part of the newest generation of U.S. cyber warriors at a time when computer-driven systems have become both the strength and Achilles’ heel of modern military forces.

The path to  …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: technology, top posts, Uncategorized


Just Based on DNA, Scientists Can Construct an Image of Your Face

By Carl Engelking | February 25, 2015 2:02 pm

Putting pencil to paper has been the tried-and-true method to illustrate the faces of wanted criminals, but new technology is changing this traditional approach. DNA, rather than an artist’s skill, is an emerging tool to recreate the face behind a crime.

The new forensic technique is called DNA phenotyping. It relies on DNA, found for instance in a drop of blood, to create a simulated face based upon genetic markers. Although the science still has room to grow, start-up companies in the U …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology, top posts
MORE ABOUT: genes & health

The Crux

Pluto a Planet Again? It May Happen This Year

By David A. Weintraub, Vanderbilt University | February 25, 2015 12:22 pm

Ceres is the largest object in the asteroid belt, and NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will arrive there on March 6.

Pluto is the largest object in the Kuiper belt, and NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft will arrive there on July 15.

These two events will make 2015 an exciting year for solar system exploration and discovery. But there is much more to this story than mere science. I expect 2015 will be the year when general consensus, built upon our new knowledge of these two objects, will return P …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, Top Posts
MORE ABOUT: solar system


The Ultimate Cure for Hubris

By Tom Yulsman | February 24, 2015 9:12 pm

Yes, I know, I’m obsessed with the Sun. And I swear — I really wan’t intending to post another image of it for awhile. But after I visited the Solar Dynamics Observatory’s “Little SDO” Facebook page today, I couldn’t resist.

I found a mind-blowing image there showing a big glowing splurge of plasma erupting from the Sun out into space. It’s called a solar prominence, and you can see it in the image above. It is twelve and a half Earths in length, or ~160,000 km. The SDO spacecraft …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: select, Sun, Top Posts

Body Horrors

Mo’ Farms, Mo’ (Plague) Problems

By Rebecca Kreston | February 24, 2015 6:10 pm

The plague is back, and this time it’s not thanks to far-voyaging ships or caravans traversing some distant trade routes, but to corn. This disease, caused by one of man’s oldest bacterial foes, Yersinia pestis, and spread by flea-infested rodents, is often overlooked in modern times in favor of more headline-grabbing epidemics like Ebola, HIV, and antibiotic-resistant STDs. But the plague has always kept close quarters with mankind and continues to surprise us with its adaptability.


Science Sushi

Smells Like A Boy: Lemurs May Use Scent of Mother to Determine Baby's Sex

By Christie Wilcox | February 24, 2015 6:01 pm

A long time ago, the great-great-great ancestors of humans and our relatives began to invest heavily in eyes. Sure, we have other senses — hearing, taste, touch — but primates excel at sight. There are lots of hypotheses to explain why eyesight was so evolutionarily valuable, from finding food to reading faces. But whatever the reason, vision became dominant, while other senses were left to languish, including our sense of smell. Primate olfaction is thought to be so miserable that scienti …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Evolution, More Science, select, Top Posts


Vetoed Keystone XL Pipeline Would Transport Oil Extracted in Gigantic Open Pit Mines That Are Visible From Space

By Tom Yulsman | February 24, 2015 5:09 pm

The news is in: President Obama has just vetoed legislation approved by both houses of the U.S. Congress that would have allowed construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline to go forward. He wielded the veto pen just a matter of hours after the bill reached his desk.

The pipeline has become a symbol in the political battle over climate change. But lost in the clamor is a discussion of the environmental impact of extracting the petroleum from Canada’s vast oil sands fields. So I though …


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