At the AAAI 2013 Fall Symposia (FSS-13)12, I realized that I was not prepared to explain certain topics quickly to those who are specialists in various AI domains and/or don't delve into philosophy of mind issues.
As self-driving cars move from fantasy to reality, what kind of effect will they have on cities?
A research and urban prototyping project called Shuffle City investigates, and in the process, becomes a manifesto for a new kind of modern city--one that depends less on traditional public transportation like buses or light rail and more on creating a fleet of continuously moving automated vehicles to serve urban mobility needs.
Shuffle City looks at the new possibilities that could arise from cities transitioning to cars without drivers. If cars were put into some constant flow as a public good, and if people didn’t all have their own vehicles, there would be no need for the concrete wastelands and lifeless towers that serve as a parking infrastructure in the urban landscapes of car-centric cities like Phoenix and Los Angeles (Under the current ownership model, the average car spends 21 hours per day parked.)
The share of city space ruled by parking lots will shrink, making way for more green space, environmental buffers, workspace, housing, retail, and denser planning for more walkable cities...
How do we know whether our own actions were voluntary or involuntary? Intentional theories of sense of agency suggest that we consciously perceive the intentions that accompany our actions, but reconstructive theories suggest that we perceive our actions only through the body movements and other effects that they produce. Intentions would then be mere confabulations, and not bona fide experiences. Previous work on voluntary action has focused on immediate experiences of authorship, and few studies have considered memory for voluntary actions. We devised an experiment in which both voluntary action and involuntary movement always occurred at the same time, but could either involve the same hand (congruent condition), or different hands (incongruent condition). When signals from the voluntary and involuntary movements involved different hands, they could therefore potentially interfere in memory. We found that recall of a voluntary action was unaffected by an incongruent involuntary movement. In contrast, recall of an involuntary movement was strongly influenced by an incongruent voluntary action. Our results demonstrate an “intentional capture” of body movement by voluntary actions, in support of intentional theories of agency, but contrary to reconstructive theories. When asked to recall both actions and movements, people's responses are shaped by memory of what they intended to do, rather than by how their body moved.
Ten years ago, the discovery of Mimivirus, a virus infecting Acanthamoeba, initiated a reappraisal of the upper limits of the viral world, both in terms of particle size (>0.7 micrometers) and genome complexity (>1000 genes), dimensions typical of parasitic bacteria. The diversity of these giant viruses (the Megaviridae) was assessed by sampling a variety of aquatic environments and their associated sediments worldwide. We report the isolation of two giant viruses, one off the coast of central Chile, the other from a freshwater pond near Melbourne (Australia), without morphological or genomic resemblance to any previously defined virus families. Their micrometer-sized ovoid particles contain DNA genomes of at least 2.5 and 1.9 megabases, respectively. These viruses are the first members of the proposed “Pandoravirus” genus, a term reflecting their lack of similarity with previously described microorganisms and the surprises expected from their future study.
Pandoraviruses: Amoeba Viruses with Genomes Up to 2.5 Mb Reaching That of Parasitic Eukaryotes Nadège Philippe et al.
This paper presents a heuristic proof (and simulations of a primordial soup) suggesting that life—or biological self-organization—is an inevitable and emergent property of any (ergodic) random dynamical system that possesses a Markov blanket. This conclusion is based on the following arguments: if the coupling among an ensemble of dynamical systems is mediated by short-range forces, then the states of remote systems must be conditionally independent. These independencies induce a Markov blanket that separates internal and external states in a statistical sense. The existence of a Markov blanket means that internal states will appear to minimize a free energy functional of the states of their Markov blanket. Crucially, this is the same quantity that is optimized in Bayesian inference. Therefore, the internal states (and their blanket) will appear to engage in active Bayesian inference. In other words, they will appear to model—and act on—their world to preserve their functional and structural integrity, leading to homoeostasis and a simple form of autopoiesis.
Life as we know it Karl Friston
J. R. Soc. Interface 6 September 2013 vol. 10 no. 86 20130475
RedOrbit Researchers Create Touch-Based Interface That Can Be Applied Anywhere RedOrbit In 2002, Tom Cruise used “smart gloves” to manipulate images and video on a virtual touchscreen in Steven Spielberg's Minority Report.
Residents of Auvergne, a province in south central France, may soon receive their daily paper by drone.
According to a blog post published yesterday, local postal service La Poste Groupe has been working for several years to modernize its delivery processes. A plan has been hatched to implement paper delivery by drone in early May with the help of local volunteers, and tests are already underway.
The drone is a quadricopter, which can be controlled by iPod touch, iPhone, iPad and Android devices, and costs over $300. It is manufactured by Parrot.com, a French wireless devices maker that also announced a partnership with La Poste this morning.
We have not heard back from Parrot.com after reaching out for comment. It’s not quite April Fools — but there are legal issues to consider with this insane (but awesome) idea
Psychologist Lera Boroditsky says she's "interested in how the languages we speak shape the way we think" .This statement seems so innocent, and yet it implies that language definitely does shape thought1.
Few genes have made the headlines as much as FOXP2. The first gene associated with language disorders, it was later implicated in the evolution of human speech. Girls make more of the FOXP2 protein, which may help explain their precociousness in learning to talk. Now, neuroscientists have figured out how one of its molecular partners helps Foxp2 exert its effects.
The findings may eventually lead to new therapies for inherited speech disorders, says Richard Huganir, the neurobiologist at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland, who led the work. Foxp2 controls the activity of a gene called Srpx2, he notes, which helps some of the brain's nerve cells beef up their connections to other nerve cells. By establishing what SRPX2 does, researchers can look for defective copies of it in people suffering from problems talking or learning to talk.
Until 2001, scientists were not sure how genes influenced language. Then Simon Fisher, a neurogeneticist now at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, and his colleagues fingered FOXP2 as the culprit in a family with several members who had trouble with pronunciation, putting words together, and understanding speech. These people cannot move their tongue and lips precisely enough to talk clearly, so even family members often can’t figure out what they are saying. It “opened a molecular window on the neural basis of speech and language,” Fisher says.
A few years later, other researchers showed that the FOXP2 gene in humans differed from the chimp version by only two bases, the "letters" that make up DNA. That small difference may have affected Foxp2 performance such that animal calls could eventually transform into the human gift of gab. In 2009, a team put the human version of the gene in mice and observed that the rodents produced more frequent and complex alarm calls, suggesting these mutations may have been involved in the evolution of more complex speech. But how Foxp2 works has largely remained a mystery.
Huganir didn't start out trying to solve this mystery. He was testing 400 proteins to see if they helped or hindered the development of specialized junctions between nerve cells, called synapses, which allow nerve cells to communicate with one another. A single neuron can have up to 10,000 synapses, or connections to other neurons, Huganir says. Of the 10 proteins he identified, one that strongly promoted synapse formation was Srpx2, a gene other researchers had linked to epilepsy and language problems.
Huganir and his colleagues examined Srpx2 activity in isolated nerve cells, determining that it stimulated the formation of "excitatory" connections, ones where a "turn on" message was conveyed to the receiving nerve cell. Srpx2 also enhanced the number of excitatory connections in the part of the brain in developing mice that is the equivalent of the human language center, the researchers report online today in Science. Because Foxp2 regulates the activity of several genes, including Srpx2, Huganir and his team took a closer look at howFoxp2 affected this gene. When Foxp2 is around, Srpx2 makes fewer excitatory synapses, they report. It may be that the right balance of excitatory synapses and other connections may be necessary for complex vocalizations, Huganir suggests.
As a final test, the researchers looked to see how changing the activity of the Srpx2 gene affected alarm calls of baby mice. Mice pups separated from their moms call for help with squeals too high-pitched for humans to hear. When the researchers artificially inhibited Srpx2's activity, the mice squealed less. But the pups squealed normally again when gene activity was restored, Huganir and his colleagues report.
The work "shows that Foxp2 affects synapse formation through Srpx2," says Svante Pääbo, a paleogeneticist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, who has studied Foxp2 in primates and in mice. "It is the first target gene of Foxp2 that has a clear function with respect to neuronal function."
MIT researchers have developed a lightweight structure whose tiny blocks can be snapped together much like the bricks of a child’s construction toy. The new material, the researchers say, could revolutionize the assembly of airplanes, spacecraft, and even larger structures, such as dikes and levees.
Neil Gershenfeld, director of MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms, likens the structure — which is made from tiny, identical, interlocking parts — to chainmail. The parts, based on a novel geometry that Cheung developed with Gershenfeld, form a structure that is 10 times stiffer for a given weight than existing ultralight materials. But this new structure can also be disassembled and reassembled easily — such as to repair damage, or to recycle the parts into a different configuration.
The individual parts can be mass-produced; Gershenfeld and Cheung are developing a robotic system to assemble them into wings, airplane fuselages, bridges or rockets — among many other possibilities.
The new design combines three fields of research, Gershenfeld says: fiber composites, cellular materials (those made with porous cells) and additive manufacturing (such as 3-D printing, where structures are built by depositing rather than removing material).
With conventional composites — now used in everything from golf clubs and tennis rackets to the components of Boeing’s new 787 airplane — each piece is manufactured as a continuous unit. Therefore, manufacturing large structures, such as airplane wings, requires large factories where fibers and resins can be wound and parts heat-cured as a whole, minimizing the number of separate pieces that must be joined in final assembly. That requirement meant, for example, Boeing’s suppliers have had to build enormous facilities to make parts for the 787.
Pound for pound, the new technique allows much less material to carry a given load. This could not only reduce the weight of vehicles, for example — which could significantly lower fuel use and operating costs — but also reduce the costs of construction and assembly, while allowing greater design flexibility. The system is useful for “anything you need to move, or put in the air or in space,” says Cheung, who will begin work this fall as an engineer at NASA’s Ames Research Center.
The concept, Gershenfeld says, arose in response to the question, “Can you 3-D print an airplane?” While he and Cheung realized that 3-D printing was an impractical approach at such a large scale, they wondered if it might be possible instead to use the discrete “digital” materials that they were studying.
“This satisfies the spirit of the question,” Gershenfeld says, “but it’s assembled rather than printed.” The team is now developing an assembler robot that can crawl, insectlike, over the surface of a growing structure, adding pieces one by one to the existing structure.
Back in the fall of 2005 I took a class at the MIT Media Lab called Commonsense Reasoning for Interaction Applications taught by Henry Lieberman and TA'd by Hugo Liu.For the first programming assignment I made a project called AffectWorld, which allows...
One of the coolest visualization techniques to come along in recent years is the careful forensic reconstruction of likely facial features of deceased people from their bony remains, based on subtleties in bone structure and the knowledge of what each variation means, on average. Originally developed so police could put a face to unknown human remains (an application where it has been quite successful), the technique has spilled over into anthropology.
Recreating a face from the underlying bone involves painstaking work with myriad precision measurements so the muscle and skin will have the correct thickness and placement. It also involves having access to a database of enough samples so that the assigned features have a statistical likelihood of being correct. These are not wild guesses or dreamy-eyed artists impressions, but a reasonable recreation of a face that actually existed.
Done with: Timelapse 3D scanning of skull; Python Photogrammetry Tools; 3D Sculpting; Blender Screen capture; FFMPG Video edigint; Kdenlive.
From the abacus to the IBM personal computer, calculating devices have come a long way. Let's take a look through the history of these machines and the remarkable progress that came with the 20th century.
NASA's Mars rover Opportunity has made perhaps the biggest discovery of its nearly 10-year career, finding evidence that life may have been able to get a foothold on the Red Planet long ago.
The Opportunity rover spotted clay minerals in an ancient rock on the rim of Mars' Endeavour Crater, suggesting that benign, neutral-pH water once flowed through the area, scientists said.
"This is water you could drink," Opportunity principal investigator Steve Squyres of Cornell University told reporters today (June 7), explaining why the rock, dubbed "Esperance," stands out from other water-soaked stones the rover has studied.
The golf cart-size Opportunity and its twin, Spirit, landed on the Red Planet in January 2004 on three-month missions to search for signs of past water activity. The robotic explorers found plenty of such evidence (much of it indicating extremely acidic water, however), then just kept rolling along.
Spirit stopped communicating with Earth in 2010 and was declared dead a year later, but Opportunity is still going strong. In August 2011, the six-wheeled robot arrived at the rim of the 14-mile-wide Endeavour Crater, which it has been investigating ever since.
Opportunity has seen signs of clays in Endeavour rocks before, but in nowhere near the concentrations observed in Esperance, researchers said. Overall, Esperance provides strong evidence that ancient Mars was habitable.
"The fundamental conditions that we believe to be necessary for life were met here," Squyres said. The neutral-pH water that generated the clays probably flowed through the region during the first billion years of Martian history, he added, stressing that it's nearly impossible to pin down the absolute ages of Red Planet rocks without bringing them back to Earth.
Opportunity's latest discovery fits well with one made recently on the other side of the planet by the rover's bigger, younger cousin Curiosity, which found strong evidence that its landing site could have supported microbial life in the ancient past.