Science X Newsletter Friday, Jan 24

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Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for January 24, 2020:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

Adding memory to pressure-sensitive phosphors

Blue-emitting diode demonstrates limitations and promise of perovskite semiconductors

People plan their movements, anticipate force of gravity by 'seeing it' through visual cues rather than 'feeling it'

Scientists capture molecular maps of animal tissue with unprecedented detail

Nonprofits worry sale of dot-org universe will raise costs

Researchers obtain 'high-definition' view of diabetes-related proteins

TP53 gene variant in people of African descent linked to iron overload, may improve malaria response

Simulations reveal galaxy clusters details

Marburg virus found in Sierra Leone bats

Why eating yogurt may help lessen the risk of breast cancer

Engineer still concerned over Safari tracking prevention

New species of Allosaurus discovered in Utah

Nano-thin flexible touchscreens could be printed like newspaper

High air pollution exposure in one-year-olds linked to structural brain changes at age 12

Brain-cell helpers powered by norepinephrine during fear-memory formation

Physics news

Adding memory to pressure-sensitive phosphors

Mechanoluminescence (ML) is a type of luminescence induced by any mechanical action on a solid, leading to a range of applications in materials research, photonics and optics. For instance, the mechanical action can release energy previously stored in the crystal lattice of phosphor via trapped charge carriers. However, the method has limits when recording ML emissions during a pressure-induced event. In a new study, Robin R. Petit and a research team at the LumiLab, Department of Solid State Sciences at the Ghent University—Belgium devised a new technique to add a memory function to pressure-sensitive phosphors. Using the method, the scientists obtained an optical readout of the location and intensity of a pressure event three days (72 hours) after the event.

Discovery sheds new light on how cells move

When we cut our skin, groups of cells rush en masse to the site to heal the wound.

On the way to quantum networks

Physicists at LMU, together with colleagues at Saarland University, have successfully demonstrated the transport of an entangled state between an atom and a photon via an optic fiber over a distance of up to 20 km—thus setting a new record.

A new twist on quantum communication in fiber

New research done at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, and Huazhang University of Science and Technology in Wuhan, China, has exciting implications for secure data transfer across optical fiber networks. The team have demonstrated that multiple quantum patterns of twisted light can be transmitted across a conventional fiber link that, paradoxically, supports only one pattern. The implication is a new approach to realizing a future quantum network, harnessing multiple dimensions of entangled quantum light.

Going with the flow: New insights into mysterious fluid motions

Water issuing from an ordinary faucet tells a complex tale of its journey through a pipe. At high velocities, the faucet's gushing stream is turbulent: chaotic, disorderly—like the crash of ocean waves.

Experimental probe of a complete 3-D photonic band gap

A crystal with a 3-D photonic band gap is a powerful tool to control light, with applications for new types of solar cells, sensors and miniature lasers. Inside a man-made crystal like this, a range of light wavelengths is forbidden. Until now, the characteristic wavelength region is determined by using theoretical models. These idealized models have clear shortcomings. Researchers of the University of Twente (MESA+) have now developed a fully experimental method of determining the band gap, literally making the unseen visible. They present their results in Optics Express, the journal of the Optical Society of America.

Gravity: We might have been getting it wrong this whole time

Symmetry has been one of the guiding principles in physicists' search for fundamental laws of nature. What does it mean that laws of nature have symmetry? It means that laws look the same before and after an operation, similar to a mirror reflection, the same but right is now left in the reflection.

Astronomy & Space news

Simulations reveal galaxy clusters details

Inspired by the science fiction of the spacefaring Romulans of Star Trek, astrophysicists have used XSEDE-allocated supercomputers to develop cosmological computer simulations called RomulusC, where the 'C' stands for galaxy cluster. With a focus on black hole physics, RomulusC has produced some of the highest resolution simulations ever of galaxy clusters, which can contain hundreds or even thousands of galaxies.

NASA's Kepler witnesses vampire star system undergoing super-outburst

NASA's Kepler spacecraft was designed to find exoplanets by looking for stars that dim as a planet crosses the star's face. Fortuitously, the same design makes it ideal for spotting other astronomical transients—objects that brighten or dim over time. A new search of Kepler archival data has uncovered an unusual super-outburst from a previously unknown dwarf nova. The system brightened by a factor of 1,600 over less than a day before slowly fading away.

Galileo now replying to SOS messages worldwide

As well as providing global navigation services, Europe's Galileo satellite constellation is contributing to saving more than 2000 lives annually by relaying SOS messages to first responders. And from now on the satellites will reply to these messages, assuring people in danger that help is on the way.

NESSI emerges as new tool for exoplanet atmospheres

The darkness surrounding the Hale Telescope breaks with a sliver of blue sky as the dome begins to open, screeching with metallic, sci-fi-like sounds atop San Diego County's Palomar Mountain. The historic observatory smells of the oil pumped in to support the bearings that make this giant telescope float ever so slightly as it moves to track the stars.

TV provider shifting satellite to high orbit over explosion fears

US authorities said Friday they had granted permission to a TV provider to urgently lift a four-ton (3,600-kilogram) satellite to a so-called "graveyard orbit" over fears a battery fault may soon cause it to explode.

Technology news

Nonprofits worry sale of dot-org universe will raise costs

The company that controls the dot-org online universe is putting the registry of domain names up for sale, and the nonprofits that often use the suffix in their websites are raising concerns about the move.

Engineer still concerned over Safari tracking prevention

The headlines on many tech-watching sites this week amounted to one big whaaat? An anti-tracking feature in Apple's Safari browser was actually exposing private browsing habits, according to researchers outside Apple. This was all about the Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) implemented by Apple's Safari browser.

Nano-thin flexible touchscreens could be printed like newspaper

Researchers have developed an ultra-thin and ultra-flexible electronic material that could be printed and rolled out like newspaper, for the touchscreens of the future.

Commercial air travel is safer than ever, study finds

It has never been safer to fly on commercial airlines, according to a new study by an MIT professor that tracks the continued decrease in passenger fatalities around the globe.

The robot that grips without touching

ETH Pioneer Fellow Marcel Schuck is developing a robotic gripper that can manipulate small and fragile objects without touching them. The technology is based on sound waves.

Stability assessment and reporting for perovskite photovoltaics

Improving the long-term stability of perovskite solar cells, which is crucial for the use of this pioneering technology—this is the topic of a paper published in the journal Nature Energy by an international research team, in which TU materials scientist Professor Michael Saliba is also involved. Perovskite solar cells convert sunlight into electricity and are regarded as the greatest hope for the solar cell industry.

Coalition of states sue over rules governing 3-D-printed guns

Attorneys general in 20 states and the District of Columbia filed a lawsuit Thursday challenging a federal regulation that could allow blueprints for making guns on 3D printers to be posted on the internet.

Plastic mini-robot 'walks' under the influence of light

Researchers at Eindhoven University of Technology have developed the first-ever light-controlled package delivery robot. Measuring 2 centimeters, this plastic mini-robot can "walk" under the influence of blue light in order to collect and deliver packages. In the future, it should be possible to use the robot to deliver medicines within the human body or to carry out simple repairs to chip machines, for example. The researchers have published their results in the journal Advanced Science.

Designing a puncture-free tire

Some golf carts and lawnmowers already use airless tires and at least one major tire company produces a non-pneumatic automotive tire, but we still have long way to go before they are on every vehicle that comes off the assembly line. Finding a design that balances puncture-free strength with the elasticity needed for a comfortable, shock-free ride like conventional pneumatic tires is the key.

Critical flaw demonstrated in common digital security algorithm

Cryptographic experts at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) and the French national research institute for digital sciences INRIA in Paris, have demonstrated a critical security flaw in a commonly used security algorithm, known as SHA-1, which would allow attackers to fake specific files and the information within them, and pass them off as authentic.

Forget flying taxis: How to win public support and make drones benefit cities

It's easy to assume, perhaps thanks to all the lurid tabloid headlines, that people don't like drones. At best, they're a nuisance—the buzzing playthings of inconsiderate hobbyists or photographers taking pictures from above. At worst, they're a tool for idiots to close airports, ruin holidays and cost the country millions.

Capitalism and the internet: It's time we understood the digital economy

The digital economy has been getting a lot of attention, with increasingly strong headlines offering apocalyptic as well as breathtakingly exciting scenarios. Some warn of job losses due to automation, some wonder at the things digital technology can do. And then there's real skepticism about whether this will translate into delivering to people who need it most.

The future of innovation in consumer technology

,As celebrations to ring in the new decade were winding down, more than 175,000 tech-minded travelers made their way to Las Vegas for the 53rd Consumer Electronics Show (CES). The forum that has launched gadgets ranging from floppy disks, portable camcorders, and Blu-ray players, has become an annual showcase for all things consumer-oriented technology.

Researchers to teach robots how to differentiate between sandwich ingredients

Loughborough University computer scientists have teamed up with a food production automation company for a project that looks to teach AI robots how to differentiate between food items so they can make sandwiches in real-world factory environments.

Bosses using tech to spy on staff is becoming the norm, so here's a realistic way of handling it

Workplace surveillance sounds like the stuff of nightmares, but we are having to get used to it. In a sign of the times, the European Court of Human Rights has just ruled that a supermarket in Barcelona was entitled to fire employees after catching them stealing on CCTV cameras that they didn't know were installed. This overturned a decision by the court's lower chamber that the cameras had breached the employees' human rights.

Using a menstrual tracker app? This is what happens to your health data

If you are one of the millions of women who uses period tracker apps to better your chances of having a baby, to prevent pregnancy or just to monitor menstruation, are the risks of sharing sensitive health information about your reproductive cycle worth the benefits?

Apple's new gym partnerships give real perks for working out with Apple Watch

Working out could help you pay down your Apple Watch or gym membership.

How to prevent car break-ins: Turn off your Bluetooth

Those apps that scan for devices using Bluetooth could sound great. The AirPods have fallen out of the ear and they're somewhere in the house. Whip open the app to find them. Or that lost phone, missing tablet or even camera. All good, right?

UK 'to decide on Huawei 5G next week'

Britain is expected to announce next week whether to allow China's Huawei to develop its 5G network, an official said Friday, amid indications it will agree to grant at least limited access despite intense US opposition.

London police to use face scan tech, stoking privacy fears

London police will start using facial recognition cameras to pick out suspects from street crowds in real time, in a major advance for the controversial technology that raises worries about automated surveillance and erosion of privacy rights.

Italy threatens Facebook with new fine for selling users' data

Italy's competition authority has warned Facebook it faces a further fine of five million euros ($5.5 million) for persisting in selling users' data without informing them.

UTA aerospace engineer exploring possibility of hypersonic passenger, cargo planes

The idea of speeding through the atmosphere at many times the speed of sound carries great appeal for commercial aircraft carriers. The technology needed to build such hypersonic passenger or cargo transport vehicles, however, does not yet exist.

Saving water when the sun shines

Deserts and other sun-drenched regions are the ideal location for concentrated solar power plants, but where sunlight is abundant, water tends to be scarce and dust covers everything. The EU-funded project MinWaterCSP develops new solutions to reduce water consumption in such plants, making the technology more attractive for countries that suffer from water scarcity and aim to become less dependent on fossil fuels.

Greece: Government websites hit by cyberattack

The Greek government said Friday that the official state websites of the prime minister, the national police and fire service and several important ministries were briefly disabled by a cyberattack but have been restored.

Boeing could again cut production on 787 plane: source

Boeing, still in crisis mode due to the grounding of the 737 MAX, is considering further production cuts to another key commercial plane, a person close to the matter said Friday.


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AI Weekly | Jan. 24, 2020

The debate over whether to ban or place moratoriums on the use of facial recognition started last yea
AI Weekly
The debate over whether to ban or place moratoriums on the use of facial recognition started last year in cities like San Francisco, but the debate reignited this week when Alphabet and Google CEO Sundar Pichai said he's open to a moratorium on facial recognition.
"It [facial recognition regulation] can be immediate, but maybe there's a waiting period before we really think about how it's being used," Pichai said. "It's up to governments to chart the course [for the use of such technology]." He spoke in favor of a five-year moratorium the European Commission is considering in Brussels. Later in the week, at the World Economic Forum in Davis, he spoke in favor of the regulation of AI while emphasizing that AI needs to get used to get better.
Microsoft, on the other hand, doesn't appear to like the idea of a delay in the use of facial recognition. Microsoft chief legal officer and president Brad Smith pointed to positive use cases like finding missing children, and seemed to contend that bans and moratoriums can stand in the way of progress. "There is only one way at the end of the day to make technology better, and that is to use it," he said.
Microsoft rejected the idea of a moratorium in its home state of Washington last year, too. Unlike Google, Microsoft and Amazon are actively selling facial recognition services to businesses and governments. As those two tech giants move toward legitimizing the sale and proliferation of facial recognition software in their home state of Washington and around the world, about a dozen states are considering facial recognition regulation.
It's important to understand that facial recognition is becoming a burgeoning industry with some of the best-funded AI startups in the world. And the AI industry as a whole is seeing huge growth. CB Insights and the National Venture Capital Association found that AI startups raised record amounts in 2019 in the U.S. and worldwide. Analysis in the 2019 AI Index shows that more than $70 billion was invested in artificial intelligence businesses last year, with facial recognition ranked high among areas of investment. Businesses are exploring uses cases for AI that range from patient or employee verification to analysis of job candidates in video interviews, but another moratorium demand this week points out its use in surveillance.
The United Nations called for a moratorium on private surveillance technology worldwide following an investigation into the May 2018 hacking of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos' iPhone X. The investigation concluded that hackers gained access to the entirety of his phone's data through the delivery of a malicious MP4 video by Saudi Arabian crown prince Mohammad Bin-Salman via WhatsApp. The hack was part of an attempt to influence Washington Post coverage. Five months later, Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi was killed by Saudi operatives.
PBS NewsHour's Nick Schifrin asked UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions Agn├Ęs Callamard if it's too late for a moratorium – if the spread of surveillance technology has already crossed the rubicon. Callamard replied that the world has no choice but to try to control these technologies. "We have to reign it in, in the same way that we have tried and sometimes succeeded in reigning in some of the weapons thought to be unlawful or illegal," she said.
"We have here an example of the richest man on Earth with unlimited resources, and yet it took him several months to realize his phone was hacked, and it took three months by top notch experts to uncover the source of the hacking. So this technology is a danger to all. It's a danger to national security and democratic processes in the United States."
Her point was underlined in a New York Times op-ed earlier this week that asserts that a focus on bans or moratoriums of facial recognition misses the larger point that digital data brokerage firms operate with virtually no regulation today, and that real change requires more comprehensive privacy regulation. Pressing pause can buy time, but it doesn't resolve the root problem.
It's ironic to think that Jeff Bezos, a man whose company sells facial recognition in secret to governments, is the chief victim of an alleged surveillance crime committed by the head of a government that is so severe that it prompts the United Nations to say we must take immediate action.
To Callamard's point, technology that threatens or challenges the principles underpinning democratic societies shouldn't be allowed to spread without scrutiny.
Scholars like Shoshana Zuboff and Ruha Benjamin say surveillance capitalism is designed to disregard a person's agency. If private companies can rush to create markets and make surveillance feel inevitable, the idea goes, people might just give up and forfeit their power. Passionate people studying the proliferation of facial recognition, like those who have testified before Congress in the past year, also say it's often used by people in power to track, monitor, or extract value from those without power.
In response to government analysis that proves bias and fear that oppressive surveillance can be used to control people, lawmakers in about a dozen U.S. states are currently considering some form of facial recognition regulation. A Congressional committee may soon propose legislation regulating the use of facial recognition software by government, law enforcement, or the private sector. Restrictions suggested in hearings last week include the prohibition of use at protests or political rallies so as not to stifle First Amendment rights and a requirement that law enforcement be required to disclose when the tech is used to arrest or convict a suspect.
If federal policy like the kind being considered becomes law, facial recognition regulation could protect individual rights without the need for a moratorium. Standards for how it can be used, tests like the kind NIST performs and Microsoft endorses that allow third-party vendors to verify performance results, and limitations on AI's use in hiring practices and public places need to be defined and enforced.
Among debates about how to regulate facial recognition, you almost always find the claim that regulation will stifle innovation, but curbing the use of the technology in public settings does not necessarily stifle its innovation. That's a straw man argument. Use of the technology in lab or limited settings can lead to improvements.
People and their elected representatives can choose to delay a technology, but that's not to say there won't be consequences: What would happen if a market for facial recognition is allowed to grow only in China or other more permissive parts of the world?
But the question also needs to be asked: How could business and society change for the worse if no limits are placed on the use of facial recognition?
Some facial recognition systems have shown progress in performance, but analysis by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) shows inequity persists. At what point is a technology known to work best on middle-aged white men, and worse for virtually everyone else in society, considered a civil rights issue?
Microsoft may oppose a moratorium today, but back in summer 2018 it was the first of the tech giants to call for facial recognition software regulation.
A foundation like the kind Microsoft supported then and now – built on consent, testing by third-parties, and human review – seems like part of what's needed to avoid a "race to the bottom."
Recent statements by Smith and Pichai about a need to use technology for it to get better seem to suggest that society has to adapt to technology instead of the other way around. But there's a lot left unanswered or unregulated about how facial recognition or surveillance technology can be used in society today." Extraction of people's data can fuel highly profitable predictive machines. The idea of a moratorium must remain on the table, because people need to be shielded from surveillance and the potential infringement of their rights, and moratoriums seem prudent, allowing time for regulation, standards, and tests to measure results.
Action is necessary even if it seems too late to stop the spread of private surveillance, because things are moving really fast in facial recognition right now, both for lawmakers anxious to take action and for businesses interested in the deployment or sale of the technology.
Last week, we learned that nearly a dozen states across the country want to regulate facial recognition, and learned more about efforts underway in Congress and the European Union. In the past day or two alone, we learned that the NYPD allegedly used the deeply invasive Clearview app, and that police in London are rolling out real-time facial recognition to track suspected criminals across closed-circuit cameras. We also heard both Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and Alphabet's Sundar Pichai speak in favor of global frameworks for facial recognition and AI, respectively.
Action is also necessary soon, because there's a lot of pressure on measurements of AI progress these days.
A Brookings Institute fellow went so far as to say the nation that leads in AI by 2030 will rule the world for the rest of the century. China plans to be that world leader by 2030, and tech experts advising Congress and the Pentagon call AI supremacy essential to the U.S. economy and military.
But if in the pursuit of innovation we lose the ability to shield citizens from private surveillance, we'll lose a lot more than ground in the so-called AI arms race.
For AI coverage, send news tips to Khari Johnson and Kyle Wiggers and AI editor Seth Colaner — and be sure to subscribe to the AI Weekly newsletter and bookmark our AI Channel.
Thanks for reading,
Khari Johnson
Senior AI Staff Writer

From VentureBeat
CB Insights: AI startup funding hit new high of $26.6 billion in 2019
Researchers use AI to deblur human faces in photos
Intel CEO: We're confident in the future, we generated $3.8 billion in AI revenue in 2019
GM's Cruise rolls out Origin, an autonomous electric vehicle with no steering wheel
From Washington State to Washington, D.C., lawmakers rush to regulate facial recognition
World Economic Forum launches toolkit to help corporate boards build AI-first companies
Featured Video
P.S. Please enjoy this video of the Spot Mini robot from Boston Dynamics being tested by Adam Savage.
P.S. Please enjoy this video of the Spot Mini robot from Boston Dynamics being tested by Adam Savage.
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