Finding Planet 9 — In January, Caltech’s Konstantin Batygin and Mike Brown (the astronomer credited with killing Pluto) shared compelling evidence of a planet larger than Earth and over 500 times further from the Sun. Planet 9 hasn’t been spotted — its existence is inferred by the improbable orbits of a handful of distant, icy objects. A race is on to find the mysterious world, and help is coming from all corners of the astronomical community.
~ Trouble is, some people think it’s going to lead to a cataclysmic event for Earth…
How to survive a mass extinction — A study published in Scientific Reports sheds light on how Lystrosaurus defied death, earning itself the nickname “disaster taxon”. Analysing the bone microstructure and body size distribution of Lystrosaurus fossils both before and after the Permo-Triassic boundary, palaeontologists at the Field Museum learned that these ancient animals survived radical climate change by radically altering their life history strategy.
~ So, reinvent your life history? We’re mostly all doing that daily already.
Lasers to hide us from evil aliens — A new study in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society proposes a way of hiding from aliens. Humans are so fickle. Professor David Kipping and graduate student Alex Teachey, both of Columbia University, determined how much laser light it would take to mask the dimming caused by our planet transiting the sun, or cloak the atmospheric signatures associated with biological activity.
~ Unfortunately, we are the evil aliens.
Mapping the brain for better machines — An ambitious new program, funded by the federal government’s intelligence arm, aims to bring artificial intelligence more in line with our own mental powers.
~ That notion’s already scaring me: ‘must work harder must work harder … ooh, a snack!’
Better mechanical lip reading — Helen Bear and her colleague Richard Harvey have come up with a new lip-reading algorithm that improves a computer’s ability to differentiate between sounds—such as ‘p’, ‘b,’ and ‘m’ — that all look similar on lips. The researchers presented their work at the IEEE International Conference on Acoustics, Speech and Signal Processing (ICASSP) in Shanghai.
~ Sssshhhh …
Tracking people with WiFi — MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory has created a new system called Chronos that can accurately detect the position of electronic devices in a room – as well as the users who are carrying them – within tens of centimeters using Wi-Fi signals only.
~ Airplane Mode. Hah!
Conductive concrete for ice-free roads — Researchers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln engineered concrete that melts ice. The energized concrete can be used on driveways, roadways, and bridges. Since magnetite-rich aggregates are blended into the specially-designed mix, it can also be used for military applications in electromagnetic shielding.
Computer Rembrandt — Rembrandt van Rijn was one of the most influential classical painters. And yet his newest masterpiece was unveiled only yesterday. How? By scanning and analyzing Rembrandt’s works, a computer was able to create a new painting in near-perfect mimicry of Rembrandt’s style. It has been named, appropriately, The Next Rembrandt.
The computer used machine-learning algorithms to create the portrait, which was then 3D-printed to give it the same texture as an oil painting. The Next Rembrant was a collaboration between Microsoft, ING, Delft University of Technology and two Dutch art museums (Mauritshuis and Rembrandthuis).
~ Who needs people? Oh yeah – people.
Resources that go into food not eaten — The UN estimates that growing our food accounts for about 5 billion (and climbing) tonnes a year of carbon emissions; that’s about one fifth of the global carbon emissions. Within that number, you can also break down smaller sections: how much comes from just ranching, or how much comes from Uruguay, for example. What hasn’t been broken down until now, though, is how much carbon we’re releasing for food no one is eating. Researchers from Germany’s Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research have a study out today in Environmental Science and Technology that answers that question.
~ More efficiency is better for everyone and everything.