January 26, 2021

Developments

The global vaccine rollout is full of glitches, shortages, and problems, but not every country faces the same challenges. Evening out those inequalities to make sure poorer countries are included in the vaccination race isn’t just the ethical thing to do: it’s good for rich countries, too. A new study from the National Bureau of Economic Research shows that the entire global economy depends on poorer countries getting residents vaccinated: advanced economies will still bear 49% of the costs of the pandemic, even if they get their own populations entirely inoculated. 

With a new leader in the White House, we’re seeing signs that the US will do its part. The Biden administration says it will join Covax, a global vaccination effort led by the World Health Organization that aims to get the first batches of vaccines to poorer countries in February. To learn more about global vaccine inequality, we … Read the rest

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Engineering is one of the most practical yet very lucrative and creative fields of study. Founded in 2003, this social chatting app bears several similarities with most other mobile messaging apps. It is cross-platform in that it can work well across several operating systems and platforms. Examples of these are iOS, Microsoft Windows, Android, Linux, and MacOS. It had a whopping 980 million registered users worldwide as of the year-ended 2017. This began in 1964 when Bob Moog produced his “Moog Synthesizer.” Lacking a keyboard, the Moog Synthesizer was not truly an electronic keyboard. Then, in 1970, Moog debuted his “Minimoog,” a non-modular synthesizer with a built-in keyboard, and this instrument further standardized the design of electronic musical keyboards. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics has revealed that employment opportunities in the field of electro-mechanical technology will continue to grow into the future. The agency points to … Read the rest

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On Wednesday, the US waited with bated breath as president Trump handed the government reins over to president Biden. The transition of power ended up peaceful, and Biden promptly ushered in his new vision for America with a flurry of executive orders.

At the moment, the most pressing issues on his table are fighting the coronavirus pandemic, providing financial relief for Americans, and reversing a series of Trump-era policies on climate change, international relations, and immigration. Artificial intelligence, as expected, hasn’t yet made it to the top of list. But he has given several signals already about how his administration might think about and treat the technology.

First, Biden elevated the director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) to a cabinet-level position, and appointed top geneticist Eric Lander, the founding director of the MIT-Harvard Broad Institute, to the role. The OSTP advises the president on … Read the rest

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On January 10, Charlie O’Donnell, a startup investor who runs Brooklyn Bridge Ventures, published a blog post that he hoped would inspire self-reflection among his peers in the industry. Provocatively titled Seed Investments in Insurrection, his argument was that venture capitalists needed to wrestle with their impact on democracy. 

“It’s kind of hard to make money if the long-term consequences of your investments threaten the free and open democracy that underpins our society,” he wrote, “an extreme statement—until this past week,” when “domestic terrorists, at least in part radicalized on one-time venture capital backed platforms like Facebook, YouTube, Twitch and Twitter stormed the US Capitol building.” 

The events in Washington forced technology companies to face a public reckoning over their role in promoting and amplifying extreme content. For years, critics called for social media platforms to enforce their own policies on hate speech, harassment, and incitement to violence, but … Read the rest

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Salim Abdool Karim was at a cricket match on December 26, Boxing Day, when he made the mistake of looking at his email. He had received a new report and the news wasn’t good. A heavily mutated coronavirus spotted in South Africa appeared to allow the virus to bind more tightly, and more easily, to human cells.

Karim, an epidemiologist and lead covid-19 adviser to the South African government, knew what the report meant. It could explain a drastic change in covid-19 in his country, where rising case numbers were turning every province red.

“It simply went up, up, up, and up, into the equivalent of an Everest,” Karim says.

The rise in cases in South Africa has been linked to a new, highly mutated form of the covid-19 virus. And it’s just part of a wider pattern being seen around the world. Over the last month, weary researchers racing … Read the rest

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The history of electronics is a story of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and of three key components—the vacuum tube , the transistor, and the integrated circuit In 1883, Thomas Alva Edison discovered that electrons flow from one metal conductor to another through a vacuum. Dropped calls” is a phrase that has popped up in force since cellular phones made the scene. This phrase is often heard in relation to cell phone service but is rarely associated with a home phone. Reliability is one factor that just can’t be argued when it comes to the advantage of landlines over mobile phones. Landlines receive much less interference than do cell phones. Even in a storm, when cell phone reception is patchy, landlines are usually going strong. The modern era of electronics originated in the early twentieth century with the invention of the electron tube. An electron tube is a … Read the rest

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A virtual robot arm has learned to solve a wide range of different puzzles—stacking blocks, setting the table, arranging chess pieces—without having to be retrained for each task. It did this by playing against a second robot arm that was trained to give it harder and harder challenges.

Self play: Developed by researchers at OpenAI, the identical robot arms—Alice and Bob—learn by playing a game against each other in a simulation, without human input. The robots use reinforcement learning, a technique in which AIs are trained by trial and error what actions to take in different situations to achieve certain goals. The game involves moving objects around on a virtual tabletop. By arranging objects in specific ways, Alice tries to set puzzles that are hard for Bob to solve. Bob tries to solve Alice’s puzzles. As they learn, Alice sets more complex puzzles and Bob gets better at … Read the rest

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China’s space program might have been slowed by the pandemic in 2020, but it certainly didn’t stop. The year’s highlights included sending a rover to Mars, bringing moon rocks back to Earth, and testing out the next-generation crewed vehicle that should take taikonauts into orbit—and possibly to the moon—one day. 

But there were a few achievements the rest of the world might not have noticed. One was the November 7 launch of Ceres-1, a new type of rocket that, at just 62 feet in height, is capable of taking 770 pounds of payload into low Earth orbit. The launch sent the Tianqi 11 communications satellite into space.

At first glance, the Ceres-1 launch might seem unremarkable. Ceres-1, however, wasn’t built and launched by China’s national program. It was a commercial rocket—only the second from a Chinese company ever to go into space. And the launch happened less than three years … Read the rest

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As rioters stormed Capitol Hill on January 6, Theo—like many Americans—watched, dumbfounded and in horror.

Then he had an idea. “What if we went on social and started pulling these screenshots together and tried to go around and crowdsource [the rioters’] identities?” he remembers thinking.

So Theo bought a burner phone, set up a fake email address, and created an Instagram account over a VPN: @homegrownterrorists. Within hours, and before the FBI had issued its plea for help to identify rioters, Theo (a pseudonym for the account holder, who asked to remain anonymous because of death threats he has received) had gained hundreds of thousands of followers as he furiously posted images and video. Thousands of people were commenting on and sharing the images, with the goal of identifying the perpetrators. 

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As the world watched rioters take over the US Capitol on January 6, the lack of security was chilling. Some active police officers stood their ground but were outnumbered and defenseless. Other video showed an officer appearing to wave members of a pro-Trump mob beyond a police barrier; some were even filmed taking selfies with the invaders. 

Ahead of the inauguration, however, the government is responding with a show of force that includes ramping up surveillance measures that likely were not in place ahead of the riot.

Multiple surveillance aircraft have been tracked over DC in the last few days, according to data from flight-tracking websites ADS-B Exchange and Flight Aware and monitored by MIT Technology Review. A surveillance plane registered to Lasai Aviation, a contractor of the US Army, likely equipped with highly sensitive radar was logged circling Capitol airspace in a racetrack motion for several hours … Read the rest

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