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The future of data, technology and the Internet

Everybody is talking about 'data is the new oil' aka big-data. SoLoMo (social local mobile) is the battle cry of the day. Human-machine interfaces are rapidly evolving and may quickly become commonplace (think Google Glasses, MSFT Kinect), artificial intelligence is the geek-phrase-of-the-day, and Kurzweil says the singularity is near/here. So how will our world really change in the next 5 years, i.e. the way we communicate, get information, create, buy and sell, travel, live and learn? What are the biggest threats and the hottest opportunities - not just in financial terms, but also in societal and human terms? Futurist Gerd Leonhard will share his foresights and explore the key 'networked society' scenarios"

Via Szabolcs Kósa
Chanelle Savich's curator insight, December 18, 2012 1:00 PM

Gerd is easy to listen to, and he talks about data as a resource that has to be refined in order to be useful (just like you can't take crude oil out of the ground and put it in your car).


He talks about inferred data that Google gets about you through your searches--you're looking for info on a disease or certain symptoms? Bet you've got it, even if you haven't told anyone yet. Google knows.  


Gerd says that we should create an ecosystem so that data pays for itself--if you take out more than you put in, the ecosystem eventually fails. Create an ecosystem around data that takes care of itself and keeps itself replenished. Big oil never takes care of fixing the atmosphere; it keeps sucking the money out of oil without taking care of the world, and so the movement is away from oil use. 


There needs to be an information economy. Think globally.

olsen jay nelson's comment, December 18, 2012 6:04 PM
Thanks for your insight into that. Reality forces us to self-correct ... hopefully in time....
Sworoba OyetKep's curator insight, March 18, 2013 12:10 AM

In this video futurist shares his thoughts on the technologies that will impact humanity the most within the next five years. His presentation discusses the future of data, communication, artifical intelligence and the most influential which is the internet. Its worth watching the video in order to be aware of the rapid technological changes happening around the world. Mr.Leonhard presents his foresights clearly and in doing so  successfully engages the audience.

Knowmads, Infocology of the future
Exploring the possible , the probable, the plausible
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Is Farmed Salmon Really Salmon? - Issue 30: Identity - Nautilus

Is Farmed Salmon Really Salmon? - Issue 30: Identity - Nautilus | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
The fish market has become the site of an ontological crisis. Detailed labels inform us where each fillet is from or how it was caught or whether it was farmed or wild-caught. Although we can now tell the farmed salmon from the wild, the degree of differences or similarities between the two defies straightforward labels. When a fish—or any animal—is removed from its wild habitat and domesticated over generations for human consumption, it changes—both the fish and our perception of it. The farmed and wild both say “salmon” on their labels, but are they both equally “salmon?” When does the label no longer apply?

This crisis of identity is ours to sort out; not the fish’s. For us, the salmon is an icon of the wild, braving thousand-mile treks through rivers and oceans, leaping up waterfalls to spawn or be caught in the clutches of a grizzly bear. The name “salmon” is likely derived from the Latin word, “salire,” to leap. But it’s a long way from a leaping wild salmon to schools of fish swimming in circles in dockside pens. Most of the salmon we eat today don’t leap and don’t migrate.
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What Makes Our Brains Special?

What Makes Our Brains Special? | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
The human brain is unique: Our remarkable cognitive capacity has allowed us to invent the wheel, build the pyramids and land on the moon. In fact, scientists sometimes refer to the human brain as the “crowning achievement of evolution.”

But what, exactly, makes our brains so special? Some leading arguments have been that our brains have more neurons and expend more energy than would be expected for our size, and that our cerebral cortex, which is responsible for higher cognition, is disproportionately large—accounting for over 80 percent of our total brain mass.

Suzana Herculano-Houzel, a neuroscientist at the Institute of Biomedical Science in Rio de Janeiro, debunked these well-established beliefs in recent years when she discovered a novel way of counting neurons—dissolving brains into a homogenous mixture, or “brain soup.” Using this technique she found the number of neurons relative to brain size to be consistent with other primates, and that the cerebral cortex, the region responsible for higher cognition, only holds around 20 percent of all our brain’s neurons, a similar proportion found in other mammals. In light of these findings, she argues that the human brain is actually just a linearly scaled-up primate brain that grew in size as we started to consume more calories, thanks to the advent of cooked food.
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We like faces that show our culture's top feelings - Futurity

We like faces that show our culture's top feelings - Futurity | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
Different cultures value different positive facial expressions, and these differences arise in deep brain circuits that can predict who people like and dislike, new research finds.

“People respond more favorably to others who express the distinct kinds of positive emotions valued by their culture,” says Jeanne Tsai, an associate professor of psychology at Stanford University. Tsai directs the Culture and Emotion Lab at Stanford and is one of the lead authors of the study, which appears in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience.

Tsai explains that people tend to immediately like and want to approach some people, but not others. “But the reasons for these fast reactions are unclear,” she says, suggesting that culture plays a role.

The study involved 19 European-American and 19 Chinese female undergraduate and graduate students (18-28 years old) from universities in the San Francisco Bay area who participated in a study on rating faces. The students viewed faces that differed by expression (excited versus calm), ethnicity (white, Asian), and gender (male, female) while their brains were scanned.
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Three years after its discovery, physicists are still fascinated by the Higgs boson’s secrets

Three years after its discovery, physicists are still fascinated by the Higgs boson’s secrets | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
When Paul Glaysher was approaching the end of his master’s degree in 2012, everyone was talking about the Higgs boson. After two years of smashing protons together, CERN’s Large Hadron Collider was about to bring the mysterious particle—it helps explain how the universe got its mass—out of the theoretical realm. Students who landed a spot on a LHC research team had a chance to aid the biggest discovery in modern physics.

Glaysher bit. Then, two months before he started his PhD program with the University of Edinburgh’s CERN team, the LHC’s ATLAS and CMS experiments announced they had found the Higgs boson.

“It was a bit sad,” Glaysher says. “They waited 50 years to find it, and couldn’t wait the extra two months until I was part of the party.”

The three years that followed were a champagne-fueled hangover. Further data confirmed the Higgs discovery, and then the collider shut down for a two-year upgrade that more than doubled its particle-smashing power.

This summer, the LHC’s long-awaited restart came with a new promise: the chance to spot larger particles never before created in a human-made particle accelerator. Physicists believe they might glimpse the particles that make up dark matter—the unknown substance thought to make up a quarter of the universe—or even hints of other dimensions.

But despite the chance to study exotic new particles, Glaysher finds himself three and a half years later still studying the Higgs boson for the ATLAS experiment. Instead of spending his entire life chasing a specter, he’s examining something very real.

“Discovery—as exciting as it is, as Nobel-prize-generating as it may be—it’s actually just the first step,” Glaysher says. Theorists and other researchers at the collider agree with him. They think the Higgs could find them some new physics yet.
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Scientists Unveil the World's First Cyborg Plant

Scientists Unveil the World's First Cyborg Plant | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
The concept of “green energy” got a whole lot more literal this week, when scientists announced they’d successfully turned living roses into electronic circuits. That’s right—cyborg flowers are now a thing.

Despite how it sounds, the aim isn’t to create a race of leafy green borg that will one day rise up and enslave their human masters. Instead, think smart plants that can sense and display environmental changes, or crops whose growth can be regulated at the flick of a switch. Or plant-based fuel cells that convert the photosynthetic sugars into electricity. The very first electronic plant, developed by researchers at Linköping University in Sweden and described this week in Science Advances, is a step toward any one of those applications and many more.

“As far as we know, there are no previously published research results regarding electronics produced in plants,” said study lead study author Magnus Berggren in a statement. “No one’s done this before.”
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Sci-Fi and Fantasy Are Part of the Literary Mainstream Now

Sci-Fi and Fantasy Are Part of the Literary Mainstream Now | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
Science fiction and fantasy writing has long been disparaged within the literary world. While older works like Frankenstein and 1984 have gained classic status, many critics deride contemporary sci-fi and fantasy—typically without actually reading it. The prestigious anthology series The Best American Short Stories tends to eschew science fiction and fantasy, except at the behest of unusually sympathetic guest editors like Michael Chabon or Stephen King.

But things are changing fast. The genre took a major step toward respectability this year with the release of the first-ever Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy, edited by John Joseph Adams. Adams feels the book is long overdue.

“I and other science fiction fans believe that the best science fiction and fantasy is on par with or better than any other genre,” he says in Episode 177 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast.
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When Humans Run Out of Potable Water, This Is What We’ll Do

When Humans Run Out of Potable Water, This Is What We’ll Do | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
Imagine turning on your tap and seeing no water come out. Or looking down into your village’s only well and finding it dust-dry. Much of the developing world could soon face such a scenario. According to the United Nations, 1.2 billion people already suffer from severe water shortages, and that number is expected to increase to 1.8 billion over the next decade, in part because of climate change.

Developed countries probably won’t be immune. California and other states in the western U.S. are already experiencing extreme drought, and climate experts warn of even worse to come—multi-decade megadroughts. Mass migrations and wars over freshwater loom as real possibilities.

Staving off disaster will require conservation, especially in agriculture, which consumes more than two-thirds of all the water humans use. Basic infrastructure maintenance would also go a long way: Some developing countries lose more than half their water through leaky pipes. But conservation and maintenance won’t solve all our water woes, especially as the planet warms and people continue to pack into cities. As a result, governments around the world are investing in new water-recycling and water-harvesting technologies. Here’s what the future of water might look like.
1. Drinking From the Sea …

One obvious solution would be to drink ocean water. Converting seawater into freshwater by stripping out the salt—a process called desalination—offers several advantages. Roughly half the world’s population lives within 65 miles of an ocean, and saltwater accounts for about 97 percent of all water on Earth.

Still, desalination presents obstacles. Older plants that boil seawater and collect the vapors, as many of those in the Middle East do, use ungodly amounts of energy. Newer plants that use reverse osmosis—whereby seawater is forced through membranes at high pressure—are more efficient, but still expensive and energy-intensive. The process also produces a briny waste that can harm marine life if not disposed of properly.

We can nevertheless expect to see more desalination plants soon—thanks in part to Israel, which all but eliminated its chronic water shortages in the past decade by building four large reverse-osmosis plants, inspiring other countries to follow suit. A $1 billion plant operated by an Israeli company is about to open north of San Diego; it will be the largest in the Western Hemisphere, providing up to 50 million gallons of water a day to Californians.
2. … Or From the Toilet

Instead of desalination, some experts favor recycling wastewater—cleaning the water from showers, washing machines, and, yes, toilets—for human consumption.
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US approves genetically modified salmon for food - BBC News

US approves genetically modified salmon for food - BBC News | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
US regulators have given the go-ahead to genetically modified salmon, making it the first GM animal destined for human consumption.

The Food and Drug Administration said it had given approval on the grounds that "food from the fish is safe to eat".

The biotech company behind the fish, AquaBounty, first submitted its application almost 20 years ago.

Opponents say consumers do not want to eat genetically engineered seafood.

They have also expressed concern that the salmon could pose risks to other fish if it were to escape into the environment.

Dr Bernadette Dunham of the FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine said: "The FDA has thoroughly analysed and evaluated the data and information submitted by AquaBounty Technologies regarding AquAdvantage Salmon and determined that they have met the regulatory requirements for approval, including that food from the fish is safe to eat."
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Would you wear a chip in your brain? (Wired UK)

Would you wear a chip in your brain? (Wired UK) | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
Biodigital brains are made by fusing chips with brain tissue. The technology is racing beyond most people's ability to comprehend the potential to transform how we think and feel. As a physician, I'm fascinated.

More than 400,000 human beings already have a digital device inside their heads, with more than 50,000 new surgical operations taking place every year. Most of these devices are connected to the auditory nerve as cochlear implants, to treat deafness, and a few to the optic nerve or the retina. But a rapidly growing number of people have chips which are directly fused with their own brains.

In many cases, this is to help control involuntary tremors in Parkinson's disease. In other cases, the aim is to give muscle control to paralysed people. For example, Erik Sorto is a tetraplegic who moves his robotic arm by thinking, using an implanted device created by Caltech.

Connecting brains to chips is really easy -- once you have got the chip safely embedded inside someone's head. Brain cells instantly recognise digital intelligence, because both chips and brain cells use tiny electrical signals to communicate.
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Explainer: what is interplanetary dust and can it spread the ingredients of life?

Explainer: what is interplanetary dust and can it spread the ingredients of life? | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
NASA recently reported that a cloud of dust was surrounding Mars high above its atmosphere. The authors of the study ruled out Mars itself and its moons Phobos and Deimos as the sources of the dust and concluded that it must come from a larger dust cloud floating around between the planets in our solar system.

This “interplanetary dust” is hugely important. It is thought to have played a crucial role in the formation and evolution of our solar system. What’s more, it may even have provided our planet with water – and kick-started life.
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust

We all know how quickly empty spaces fill with dust and, figuratively speaking, the cosmos is no different. Cosmic dust is made up of tiny mineral grains in the nano and micrometer size range (one billionth and one millionth of a metre, respectively). Cosmic dust particles find themselves between the end of one star’s lifetime and at the beginning of the formation of a new solar system.
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What will the English language be like in 100 years?

What will the English language be like in 100 years? | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
One way of predicting the future is to look back at the past. The global role English plays today as a lingua franca – used as a means of communication by speakers of different languages – has parallels in the Latin of pre-modern Europe.

Having been spread by the success of the Roman Empire, Classical Latin was kept alive as a standard written medium throughout Europe long after the fall of Rome. But the Vulgar Latin used in speech continued to change, forming new dialects, which in time gave rise to the modern Romance languages: French, Spanish, Portuguese, Romanian and Italian.

Similar developments may be traced today in the use of English around the globe, especially in countries where it functions as a second language. New “interlanguages” are emerging, in which features of English are mingled with those of other native tongues and their pronunciations.

Despite the Singaporean government’s attempts to promote the use of Standard British English through the Speak Good English Movement, the mixed language known as “Singlish” remains the variety spoken on the street and in the home.

Spanglish, a mixture of English and Spanish, is the native tongue of millions of speakers in the United States, suggesting that this variety is emerging as a language in its own right.
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Warming set to breach 1C threshold - BBC News

Warming set to breach 1C threshold - BBC News | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
Global temperatures are set to rise more than one degree above pre-industrial levels according to the UK's Met Office.

Figures from January to September this year are already 1.02C above the average between 1850 and 1900.

If temperatures remain as predicted, 2015 will be the first year to breach this key threshold.

The world would then be half way towards 2C, the gateway to dangerous warming.

The new data is certain to add urgency to political negotiations in Paris later this month aimed at securing a new global climate treaty.
Difficult to measure

For researchers, confusion about the true level of temperatures in the 1750s, when the industrial revolution began and fossil fuels became widely used, means that an accurate assessment of the amount the world has warmed since then is very difficult.

To get over this problem, the Met Office use an average of the temperatures recorded between 1850 and 1900, which they argue makes their analysis more accurate.

Their latest temperature information comes from a dataset jointly run by the Met Office and the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia.

The HadCRUT database showed that in the first nine months of this year, the global mean temperature had just gone above 1C, hitting 1.02 with a error factor of plus or minus 0.11C.

Scientists say that the one degree mark will be broken in 2015 because of a combination of carbon emissions and the impact of the El Nino weather phenomenon.

"We have seen a strong El Nino develop in the Tropical Pacific this year and that will have had some impact on this year's global temperature," said Stephen Belcher, director of the Met Office Hadley Centre.
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Climate change could erase years of global anti-poverty efforts, study finds

Climate change could erase years of global anti-poverty efforts, study finds | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
Climate change could mean a lot more than rising temperatures, rising sea levels and increased risks of natural disasters — it might also erase years of hard work to reduce poverty around the world.

A new study published by the World Bank Group on Sunday predicts that without climate-smart development and strict reductions in greenhouse gas emissions that will decrease the impacts of climate change in developing countries, global warming could force more than 100 million additional people below the poverty line by 2030 — bringing the total close to 1 billion people in a worst-case scenario.

This means climate change could thwart the success of important global efforts to lift up the world's poor, such as the U.N.'s new Sustainable Development Goal to eradicate extreme poverty within the next 15 years.
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Identity Is an Inside Joke - Issue 30: Identity - Nautilus

Identity Is an Inside Joke - Issue 30: Identity - Nautilus | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
“The judgment of whether something is funny or not is spontaneous, automatic, almost a reflex,” writes Dutch sociologist Giselinde Kuipers. “Sense of humor thus lies very close to self-image.” Humor also takes on the shape of the teller’s surroundings: age, gender, class, and clan. Shared humor implies shared identity, shared ways of confronting reality. When we don’t get a joke, we feel left out; when we get a joke, or better yet, tell the joke that everyone roars at, we belong. “If you’re both laughing, it means you see the world in the same way,” says Peter McGraw, psychologist and co-author of The Humor Code: A Global Search for What Makes Things Funny.
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Altering the physiological circuits of flatworms makes them grow the heads of other species

Altering the physiological circuits of flatworms makes them grow the heads of other species | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
A new research project at Tufts University in Massachusetts has seen biologists successfully induce flatworms of a specific species to grow the head and brain you'd expect to find on another species. Not only does the breakthrough add to our understanding of exactly what governs the growth of anatomy, but the knowledge gained may also have practical uses down the line, helping us better understand and even fix birth defects.

For the study, the researchers worked with flatworms known as Girardia dorotocephala – a species with advanced regenerative capabilities, including the ability to regrow missing parts of their anatomy. Exploiting this trait, the scientists attempted to alter the physical attributes of the creatures – specifically the morphology of their heads – by interrupting protein channels between cells, which are used to pass information back and forth via electrical signals.

The results were extremely pronounced, with not only the outer appearance of the creature's head changing after the testing, but also the actual shape of the brain and the distribution of the worms' stem cells. The researchers found that the closer the target species was to the Girardia dorotocephala used for testing, the easier it was to induce the change.
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Space, the Frontier Right in Front of Us

Space, the Frontier Right in Front of Us | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
With the publication of his general theory of relativity a century ago, Albert Einstein swept aside traditional notions of a static and unchanging space and instead gave us the stretchy, supple miracle fabric of the space-time continuum.

No longer could space be seen as a featureless void, the nothingness between the somethingness of galaxies and stars. Einsteinian space has heft, shape and a sense of place. It bends around giant suns and plunges down the throats of black holes. It expands restlessly in all directions and drags us along for the ride.

Space refuses to be ignored, clamoring for attention even in human pursuits. In art, architecture, music, the designs of our cities and the psychology of the invisible, multistage privacy zones we construct around our bodies, space can speak volumes, and it demands to be explored.
Think you’re comfortable with a colleague at work? Anat Perry, a postdoctoral fellow in psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, suggests you try this simple exercise. The next time you speak to the person, adjust the space between yourselves by the length of a pinkie, standing two inches closer or farther away than you normally would.
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Listening to Nature’s Early Warning System May Save Species

Listening to Nature’s Early Warning System May Save Species | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
Nestled in the northern Wisconsin woods, Peter Lake once brimmed with golden shiners, fatheads and other minnows, which plucked algae-eating fleas from the murky water. Then, seven years ago, a crew of ecologists began stepping up the lake’s population of predatory largemouth bass. To the 39 bass already present, they added 12, then 15 more a year later, and another 15 a month after that. The bass hunted down the minnows and drove survivors to the rocky shoreline, which gave fleas free rein to multiply and pick the water clean. Meanwhile, bass hatchlings—formerly gobbled up by the minnows—flourished, and in 2010, the bass population exploded to more than 1,000. The original algae-laced, minnow-dominated ecosystem was gone, and the reign of bass in clear water began.

Today, largemouth bass still swim rampant. “Once that top predator is dominant, it’s very hard to dislodge,” said Stephen Carpenter, an ecologist at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, who led the experiment. “You could do it, but it’s gonna cost you.”

The Peter Lake experiment demonstrated a well-known problem with complex systems: They are sensitive beasts.
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The Information Theory of Life | Quanta Magazine

The Information Theory of Life |  Quanta Magazine | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
here are few bigger — or harder — questions to tackle in science than the question of how life arose. We weren’t around when it happened, of course, and apart from the fact that life exists, there’s no evidence to suggest that life can come from anything besides prior life. Which presents a quandary.

Christoph Adami does not know how life got started, but he knows a lot of other things. His main expertise is in information theory, a branch of applied mathematics developed in the 1940s for understanding information transmissions over a wire. Since then, the field has found wide application, and few researchers have done more in that regard than Adami, who is a professor of physics and astronomy and also microbiology and molecular genetics at Michigan State University. He takes the analytical perspective provided by information theory and transplants it into a great range of disciplines, including microbiology, genetics, physics, astronomy and neuroscience. Lately, he’s been using it to pry open a statistical window onto the circumstances that might have existed at the moment life first clicked into place.

To do this, he begins with a mental leap: Life, he argues, should not be thought of as a chemical event. Instead, it should be thought of as information. The shift in perspective provides a tidy way in which to begin tackling a messy question. In the following interview, Adami defines information as “the ability to make predictions with a likelihood better than chance,” and he says we should think of the human genome — or the genome of any organism — as a repository of information about the world gathered in small bits over time through the process of evolution. The repository includes information on everything we could possibly need to know, such as how to convert sugar into energy, how to evade a predator on the savannah, and, most critically for evolution, how to reproduce or self-replicate.

This reconceptualization doesn’t by itself resolve the issue of how life got started, but it does provide a framework in which we can start to calculate the odds of life developing in the first place. Adami explains that a precondition for information is the existence of an alphabet, a set of pieces that, when assembled in the right order, expresses something meaningful. No one knows what that alphabet was at the time that inanimate molecules coupled up to produce the first bits of information. Using information theory, though, Adami tries to help chemists think about the distribution of molecules that would have had to be present at the beginning in order to make it even statistically plausible for life to arise by chance.
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Half of all tree species in Amazon 'face extinction' - BBC News

Half of all tree species in Amazon 'face extinction' - BBC News | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
More than half of all tree species in the Amazon face extinction, warn international scientists.

According to new data, up to 57% of all Amazonian trees may already fit the criteria of being globally threatened.

If confirmed, the estimates would raise the number of threatened plant species on Earth by almost a quarter.

Forest cover in the Amazon has been shrinking for decades, but little is known about the impact on individual plant species.

The trees at risk include iconic species like the Brazil nut tree, food crops such as cacao, the source of chocolate, as well as rare trees that are almost unknown to science.

The research, published in the journal, Science Advances, compared data from almost 1,500 forest plots with maps of current and predicted forest loss to estimate how many tree species have been lost and how many are likely to disappear by the middle of the century.
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Do we underestimate the power of plants and trees? - BBC News

Do we underestimate the power of plants and trees? - BBC News | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
Research suggests plants might be capable of more than we suspect. Some scientists - controversially - describe plants as "intelligent".

They argue a better understanding of their capabilities could help us solve some of the world's thorniest problems.

Four experts talk to the BBC World Service Inquiry programme about what plants can teach us.
Stefano Mancuso: Plant intelligence is real

Professor Stefano Mancuso leads the International Laboratory for Plant Neurobiology at the University of Florence.

"We are convinced that plants are cognitive and intelligent, so we use techniques and methods normally used to study cognitive animals.

"The main problem with plants is they move much more slowly than animals so we need to record plant movement for many days.

"We did an experiment with two climbing bean plants. If you put a single support between them, they compete for it.

"What is interesting is the behaviour of the loser: it immediately sensed the other plant had reached the pole and started to find an alternative. This was astonishing and it demonstrates the plants were aware of their physical environment and the behaviour of the other plant. In animals we call this consciousness.

"We don't have a clear idea of how plants are able to sense the behaviour of other plants.

"Plants are much more sensitive than animals. Every root apex can detect 20 different physical and chemical parameters - light, gravity, magnetic field, pathogens and so on.

"Plants distribute all along the body the functions that in animals are concentrated in single organs. Whereas in animals almost the only cells producing electrical signals are in the brain, the plant is a kind of distributed brain in which almost every cell is able to produce them.
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Human-Like Neural Networks Make Computers Better Conversationalists - The Crux

Human-Like Neural Networks Make Computers Better Conversationalists - The Crux | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
If you’ve ever tried to hold a conversation with a chatbot like CleverBot, you know how quickly the conversation turns to nonsense, no matter how hard you try to keep it together.

But now, a research team led by Bruno Golosio, assistant professor of applied physics at Università di Sassari in Italy, has taken a significant step toward improving human-to-computer conversation. Golosio and colleagues built an artificial neural network, called ANNABELL, that aims to emulate the large-scale structure of human working memory in the brain — and its ability to hold a conversation is eerily human-like.
Natural Language Processing

Researchers have been trying to design software that can make sense of human language, and respond coherently, since the 1940s. The field is known as natural language processing (NLP), and although amateurs and professionals enter their best NLP programs into competitions every year, the past seven decades still haven’t produced a single NLP program that allows computers to consistently fool questioners into thinking they’re human.

NLP has attracted a wide variety of approaches over the years, and linguists, computer scientists and cognitive scientists have focused on designing so-called symbolic architectures, or software programs that store units of speech as symbols. It’s an approach that requires a lot of top-down management.
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Beyond telomerase: another enzyme discovered critical to maintaining telomere length | KurzweilAI

Beyond telomerase: another enzyme discovered critical to maintaining telomere length | KurzweilAI | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
Johns Hopkins researchers report they have uncovered the role of an another enzyme crucial to telomere length in addition to the enzyme telomerase, discovered in 1984.

The researchers say the new test they used to find the enzyme should speed discovery of other proteins and processes that determine telomere length. Shortened telomeres have been implicated in aging and in diseases as diverse as lung and bone marrow disorders, while overly long telomeres are linked to cancer.

Their results appear in an open-access paper in the Nov. 24 issue of Cell Reports.

“We’ve known for a long time that telomerase doesn’t tell the whole story of why chromosomes’ telomeres are a given length, but with the tools we had, it was difficult to figure out which proteins were responsible for getting telomerase to do its work,” says Carol Greider, Ph.D., the Daniel Nathans Professor and Director of Molecular Biology and Genetics in the Johns Hopkins Institute for Basic Biomedical Sciences. Greider won the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for the discovery of telomerase.

Figuring out exactly what’s needed to lengthen telomeres has broad health implications, Greider notes. Telomeres naturally shorten each time DNA is copied in preparation for cell division, so cells need a well-tuned process to keep adding the right number of building blocks back onto telomeres over an organism’s lifetime.

But until now, researchers have been saddled with a limiting and time-consuming test for whether a given protein is involved in maintaining telomere length, a test that first requires blocking a suspected protein’s action in lab-grown cells, then getting the cells to grow and divide for about three months so that detectable differences in telomere length can emerge. In addition to being time consuming, the test could not be used at all for proteins whose loss would kill the cells before the three-month mark.
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Kitchen insect hive makes a meal of mealworms

Kitchen insect hive makes a meal of mealworms | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
For most people, opening a drawer in their kitchen to find it writhing with creepy crawlies would be the stuff of nightmares. For the team at Livin Farms, however, it means dinner. The outfit has created a kitchen-top hive in which users can breed mealworms for eating.

Although the thought of eating mealworms may not appeal to everyone, they are touted as a healthy and sustainable foodstuff. They're said to pack a similar protein content to beef, the amino-acid profile of tofu and plenty of vitamins and enzymes. They're also easily farmed and have the potential to help meet the planet's growing demand for food.

The benefits of insects as a foodstuff is not lost on Livin Farms CEO Katharina Unger, who previously developed the Farm 432 for those very reasons. The Farm 432 was designed for users to breed flies and to harvest their larva as an edible protein source.

The Livin Farms Hive is a 61 x 30.5 x 40-cm ( 24 x 12 x 15.7-in) tower split into a number of levels. It is designed to provide the ideal microclimate of around 28° C (82° F) and around 60 percent air humidity for mealworms to develop and grow, using mains power, sensors and heating to do so.
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Google's Open Source AI Engine, TensorFlow, Points to a Fast-Changing Hardware World

Google's Open Source AI Engine, TensorFlow, Points to a Fast-Changing Hardware World | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
n open sourcing its artificial intelligence engine—freely sharing one of its most important creations with the rest of the Internet—Google showed how the world of computer software is changing.

These days, the big Internet giants frequently share the software sitting at the heart of their online operations. Open source accelerates the progress of technology. In open sourcing its TensorFlow AI engine, Google can feed all sorts of machine-learning research outside the company, and in many ways, this research will feed back into Google.

But Google’s AI engine also reflects how the world of computer hardware is changing. Inside Google, when tackling tasks like image recognition and speech recognition and language translation, TensorFlow depends on machines equipped with GPUs, or graphics processing units, chips that were originally designed to render graphics for games and the like, but have also proven adept at other tasks. And it depends on these chips more than the larger tech universe realizes.

According to Google engineer Jeff Dean, who helps oversee the company’s AI work, Google uses GPUs not only in training its artificial intelligence services, but also in running these services—in delivering them to the smartphones held in the hands of consumers.
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Tomato growth boosted with a spray of nanoparticles

Tomato growth boosted with a spray of nanoparticles | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
Fans of The Simpsons may recall Lisa using genetic engineering to create a super tomato that she hoped would cure world hunger. Now researchers at Washington University in St. Louis (WUSTL) have come close to the real thing, not through genetic engineering, but with the use of nanoparticles. Although the individual fruit aren't as large as Lisa's creation, the team's approach has resulted in tomato plants that produced almost 82 percent more fruit by weight, with the fruit also boasting higher antioxidant content.

The new technique developed by Ramesh Raliya, PhD and Pratim Biswas, PhD, both at WUSTL's School of Engineering & Applied Science, involves the use of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide nanoparticles to boost the tomato plant's ability to absorb light and minerals. The titanium oxide increases chlorophyll content in the plant's leaves to improve photosynthesis, while zinc is an essential nutrient that also helps the function of enzymes within the plant.

"When a plant grows, it signals the soil that it needs nutrients," Biswas says. "The nutrient it needs is not in a form that the plant can take right away, so it secretes enzymes, which react with the soil and trigger bacterial microbes to turn the nutrients into a form that the plant can use. We're trying to aid this pathway by adding nanoparticles."
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