If songbirds could appear on “The Masked Singer” reality TV competition, zebra finches would likely steal the show. That’s because they can rapidly memorize the signature sounds of at least 50 different members of their flock, according to new research from the University of California, Berkeley.

 

In recent findings published in the journal Science Advances, these boisterous, red-beaked songbirds, known as zebra finches, have been shown to pick one another out of a crowd (or flock) based on a particular peer’s distinct song or contact call. Like humans who can instantly tell which friend or relative is calling by the timbre of the person’s voice, zebra finches have a near-human capacity for language mapping. Moreover, they can remember each other’s unique vocalizations for months and perhaps longer, the findings suggest.

 

“The amazing auditory memory of zebra finches shows that birds’ brains are highly adapted for sophisticated social communication,” said study lead author Frederic Theunissen, a UC Berkeley professor of psychology, integrative biology and neuroscience. Theunissen and fellow researchers sought to gauge the scope and magnitude of zebra finches’ ability to identify their feathered peers based purely on their unique sounds. As a result, they found that the birds, which mate for life, performed even better than anticipated.

 

“For animals, the ability to recognize the source and meaning of a cohort member’s call requires complex mapping skills, and this is something zebra finches have clearly mastered,” Theunissen said.

A pioneer in the study of bird and human auditory communication for at least two decades, Theunissen acquired a fascination and admiration for the communication skills of zebra finches through his collaboration with UC Berkeley postdoctoral fellow Julie Elie, a neuroethologist who has studied zebra finches in the forests of their native Australia. Their teamwork yielded groundbreaking findings about the communication skills of zebra finches.

 

Zebra finches usually travel around in colonies of 50 to 100 birds, flying apart and then coming back together. Their songs are typically mating calls, while their distance or contact calls are used to identify where they are, or to locate one another. “They have what we call a ‘fusion fission’ society, where they split up and then come back together,” Theunissen said. “They don’t want to separate from the flock, and so, if one of them gets lost, they might call out ‘Hey, Ted, we’re right here.’ Or, if one of them is sitting in a nest while the other is foraging, one might call out to ask if it’s safe to return to the nest.”

Read the full article at: www.sciencedaily.com

With help from computer algorithms, researchers designed proteins from scratch that can trounce the coronavirus in lab animals.

Using computational tools, a team of researchers at the University of Washington designed and built from scratch a molecule that, when pitted against the coronavirus in the lab, can attack and sequester it at least as well as an antibody does. When spritzed up the noses of mice and hamsters, it also appears to protect animals from becoming seriously sick.

Read the full article at: www.nytimes.com

An artificial intelligence model can detect people who are asymptomatic with Covid-19, through cellphone-recorded coughs. The work was led by Brian Subirana and colleagues at the MIT Auto-ID Lab.

 

Asymptomatic people who are infected with Covid-19 exhibit, by definition, no discernible physical symptoms of the disease. They are thus less likely to seek out testing for the virus, and could unknowingly spread the infection to others. But it seems those who are asymptomatic may not be entirely free of changes wrought by the virus. MIT researchers have now found that people who are asymptomatic may differ from healthy individuals in the way that they cough. These differences are not decipherable to the human ear. But it turns out that they can be picked up by artificial intelligence.

 

In a paper published recently in the IEEE Journal of Engineering in Medicine and Biology, the team reports on an AI model that distinguishes asymptomatic people from healthy individuals through forced-cough recordings, which people voluntarily submitted through web browsers and devices such as cellphones and laptops. The researchers trained the model on tens of thousands of samples of coughs, as well as spoken words. When they fed the model new cough recordings, it accurately identified 98.5 percent of coughs from people who were confirmed to have Covid-19, including 100 percent of coughs from asymptomatics — who reported they did not have symptoms but had tested positive for the virus.

 

The team is now working on incorporating the model into a user-friendly app, which if FDA-approved and adopted on a large scale could potentially be a free, convenient, noninvasive prescreening tool to identify people who are likely to be asymptomatic for Covid-19. A user could log in daily, cough into their phone, and instantly get information on whether they might be infected and therefore should confirm with a formal test. “The effective implementation of this group diagnostic tool could diminish the spread of the pandemic if everyone uses it before going to a classroom, a factory, or a restaurant,” says co-author Brian Subirana, a research scientist in MIT’s Auto-ID Laboratory.

Read the full article at: news.mit.edu

A mysterious object resembling the freestanding plank sculptures of the late Minimalist artist John McCracken—or the alien-built monoliths in Stanley Kubrick’s sci-fi classic 2001: A Space Odyssey—has been discovered in a remote area of the Utah desert, prompting theories ranging from extraterrestrial visitation to avant-garde installation.

Biologists of the Utah Division of Wildlife spotted the monolith from a helicopter while conducting a routine count of bighorn sheep in the area. The location of the monolith has not been disclosed, but aerial footage showing the object installed within a red rock canyon suggests that it lives somewhere in southern Utah, which has a distinct topological landscape.

According to Bret Hutchings, the pilot of the helicopter, the monolith, which appears to be made from steel or metal, is between 10 and 12 ft tall and was likely installed on the site rather than dropped from above by celestial visitors. “I’m assuming it’s some new wave artist or something or, you know, somebody that was a big 2001: A Space Odyssey fan,” Hutchings told KSL news.

No artist has come forth to claim credit for the monolith yet, and David Zwirner, which represents McCracken, did not respond to a request for comment at the time of this writing. There is no known record of the artist’s work installed in the Utah desert, although McCracken did live in-between nearby northern New Mexico and New York until his death in 2011.

The wilderness of the Southwestern US has a rich and storied history of Land Art and especially for works that retain their magic and mystery by being largely inaccessible or challenging to locate, from Robert Smithson’s 1970 magnum opus Spiral Jetty in the Great Salt Lake to Michael Heizer’s 1969 Double Negative near the Utah border in Nevada.

Read the full article at: www.theartnewspaper.com

A new AI system can automatically decipher a lost language that’s no longer understood — without knowing its relationship to other languages.

Researchers at MIT CSAIL developed the algorithm in response to the rapid disappearance of human languages. Most of the languages that have existed are no longer spoken, and at least half of those remaining are predicted to vanish in the next 100 years.

The new system could help recover them. More importantly, it could preserve our understanding of the cultures and wisdom of their speakers.

 

Learn more / Mehr erfahren:

 

https://www.scoop.it/topic/21st-century-innovative-technologies-and-developments/?&tag=Research

 

Read the full article at: thenextweb.com

The search for life beyond Earth is really just getting started, but science has an encouraging early answer: there are plenty of planets in the galaxy, many with similarities to our own. But what we don’t know fills volumes.

Observations from the ground and from space have confirmed thousands of planets beyond our solar system. Our galaxy likely holds trillions. But so far, we have no evidence of life beyond Earth. Is life in the cosmos easily begun, and commonplace? Or is it incredibly rare?

More questions than answers

In the thousands of years humanity has been contemplating the cosmos, we are the first people to know one thing for sure: The stars beyond our Sun are teeming with planets. They come in many varieties, and a good chunk of them are around the size of Earth. Like most scientific questions, though, getting an answer to this one just breeds more questions: Which, if any, of these exoplanets harbors some form of life? How quickly does life get its start? And how long does it last? 

Read the full article at: exoplanets.nasa.gov

Earlier this year, the Earth saw a huge dip in carbon emissions as nations around the globe locked down to slow the spread of the coronavirus. It offered a glimpse into what the world might look like if we took drastic steps to reduce our carbon emissions to slow the spread of global warming: For a brief moment, smog-choked cities around the world had clear skies.

 

Read the full article at: futurehuman.medium.com

Three years ago, the place you are reading about now did not exist. Then, suddenly, an underwater volcano erupted in the middle of the South Pacific, and by the time the smoke and ash cleared, a new land mass stood revealed – an island that no-one had ever seen before. That’s how the volcanic island of Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai (Hunga Tonga) came into the world in January 2015, nestling in between two existing, uninhabited Polynesian islands that make up part of the Kingdom of Tonga.

Read the full article at: www.sciencealert.com