ESA’s Solar Orbiter is now on its way to the sun, beginning a nearly two-year journey.


A new sungazing spacecraft has launched on a mission to chart the sun’s unexplored polar regions and to understand how our star creates and controls the vast bubble of plasma that envelops the solar system.


At 11:03 pm ET on February 9, 2020, the European Space Agency’s Solar Orbiter rocketed away from Cape Canaveral, Fla. The spacecraft now begins a nearly two-year convoluted journey — getting two gravity assists from Venus and one from Earth — to an orbit that will repeatedly take it a bit closer to the sun than Mercury gets.



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Jigsaw, a technology incubator at Google, has released an experimental platform called Assembler to help journalists and front-line fact-checkers quickly verify images.How it works: Assembler combines several existing techniques in academia for detecting common manipulation techniques, including changing image brightness and pasting copied pixels elsewhere to cover up something while retaining the same visual texture.

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Original announcement


In a population of animals or plants, genetic diversity can decline much more quickly than species diversity in response to various stress factors: disease, changes to habitat or climate, and so on. Yet not much is known about fish genetic diversity around the world.


Help on that front is now on the way from an international team of scientists from French universities and ETH Zurich. They have produced the first global distribution map for genetic diversity among freshwater and marine fish. Furthermore, they identified the environmental factors that are instrumental in determining the distribution of genetic diversity. Their study was recently published in the journal Nature Communications.



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A drug designed entirely by artificial intelligence is about to enter clinical human trials for the first time. The drug, which is intended to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), was discovered using AI systems from Oxford-based biotech company Exscientia. While it would usually take around four and a half years to get a drug to this stage of development, Exscientia says that by using the AI tools it’s taken less than 12 months.


The drug, known as DSP-1181, was created by using algorithms to sift through potential compounds, checking them against a huge database of parameters, including a patient’s genetic factors. Speaking to the BBC, Exscientia chief executive Professor Andrew Hopkins described the trials as a "key milestone in drug discovery" and noted that there are "billions" of decisions needed to find the right molecules for a drug, making their eventual creation a "huge decision." With AI, however, "the beauty of the algorithm is that they are agnostic, so can be applied to any disease."


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Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Qatar Computing Research Institute (QCRI) have developed a model powered by AI. The AI model is designed to tag road features in digital maps using satellite imagery. This AI-driven RoadTagger model combines a convolutional neural network (CNN) and a graph neural network (GNN) to automatically envisage the number of lanes and road types concealed by obstructions, improving GPS navigation, especially in countries with limited map data.


The model helps drivers in incorporating information about parking spots, while mapping bicycle lanes that can assist cyclists to negotiate busy city streets. Providing updated information on road conditions, the RoadTagger model can also improve planning for disaster relief.


Unlike other GPS navigation systems, RoadTagger makes use of an amalgamation of neural network architectures to automatically predict the number of lanes and road types, including residential or highway, even when roads can be blocked by trees or buildings.

Sam Madden, a professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) and a researcher in the Computer Science and AI Laboratory (CSAIL) says, “Most updated digital maps are from places that big companies care the most about. If you’re in places they don’t care about much, you’re at a disadvantage with respect to the quality of map. Our goal is to automate the process of generating high-quality digital maps, so they can be available in any country.”


When testing RoadTagger on occluded roads from digital maps of 20 US cities, the model reckoned lane numbers with 77 percent accuracy and inferred road types with 93 percent accuracy. Also, the researchers are planning to enable the model to foresee other features, such as parking spots and bike lanes.


The model relies on CNN and GNN, where GNNs form relationships between connected nodes in a graph, CNNs take as input raw satellite images of target roads. RoadTagger is based on an end-to-end model, meaning it is fed only raw data and automatically generates output, without human intervention. This combined architecture of CNN and GNN signifies a more human-like intuition, researchers noted.

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When it comes to AI, Elon Musk has a name in treating it like some aliens’ attack or God.


Tesla chief executive Elon Musk has warned about artificial intelligence before, tweeting that it could be more dangerous than nuclear weapons. Speaking Friday at the MIT Aeronautics and Astronautics department’s Centennial Symposium, Musk called it our biggest existential threat:

  • I think we should be very careful about artificial intelligence. If I were to guess like what our biggest existential threat is, it’s probably that. So we need to be very careful with the artificial intelligence. Increasingly scientists think there should be some regulatory oversight maybe at the national and international level, just to make sure that we don’t do something very foolish. With artificial intelligence we are summoning the demon. In all those stories where there’s the guy with the pentagram and the holy water, it’s like yeah he’s sure he can control the demon. Didn’t work out. 

Musk was so caught up on artificial intelligence that he missed the audience’s next question. “Sorry can you repeat the question, I was just sort of thinking about the AI thing for a second,” he said.

Musk spoke expansively for over an hour, at one point even asking a MIT student what his favorite sci-fi books were. He left to a standing ovation. You can watch the entire interview here.

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By uniting efforts, the International Brain Initiative can help shape the future of neuroscience research at a global scale.


The initiative, at the time of writing, includes Japan’s Brain/MindsAustralian Brain Alliance, the EU’s Human Brain Project (HBP)Canadian Brain Research Strategy, the US’ BRAIN Initiative (BRAINI), the Korea Brain Initiative, and the China Brain Project.


Few times in history has mankind ever united to solve a single goal. Even the ultimate moonshot in history—putting a man on the moon—was driven by international competition rather than unification. So it’s perhaps fitting that mankind is now uniting to understand the organ that fundamentally makes us human: our brain. First envisioned in 2016 through a series of discussions on the “grand challenges” in neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University, the International Brain Initiative (IBI) “came out” this week in a forward-looking paper in Neuron.



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CDC is closely monitoring an outbreak of respiratory illness caused by a novel (new) coronavirus (named “2019-nCoV”) that was first detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China and which continues to expand. Chinese health officials have reported thousands of infections with 2019-nCoV in China, with the virus reportedly spreading from person-to-person in many parts of that country. Infections with 2019-nCoV, most of them associated with travel from Wuhan, also are being reported in a growing number of international locations, including the United States. The United States reported the first confirmed instance of person-to-person spread with this virus on January 30, 2020.


Coronaviruses are a large family of RNA viruses that are common in many different species of animals, including camels, cattle, cats, and bats. Rarely, animal coronaviruses can infect people and then spread between people such as with MERS and SARS.


Laboratory testing of human suspected cases of novel coronavirus (nCoV) infection (PDF)

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