The life and achievements of Alan Turing - the mathematician, codebreaker, computer pioneer, artificial intelligence theoretician, and gay/cultural icon - are being celebrated to mark what would have been his 100th birthday on 23 June.
To mark the occasion the BBC has commissioned a series of essays to run across the week, starting with this overview of Turing's legacy by Vint Cerf.
Artificial intelligence could help us better understand the effects of psychedelic drugs, by analysing narrative reports written by people who are using them.
Scientists barely understand how existing psychedelic drugs work to alter perception and intensify emotions, let alone keep pace with new ones flooding the market – often sold as "bath salts" or "herbal incense".
Enter artificial intelligence. Matthew Baggott of the University of Chicago and colleagues used machine-learning algorithms – a type of artificial intelligence that can learn about a given subject by analysing massive amounts of data – to examine 1000 reports uploaded to the website Erowid by people who had taken mind-altering drugs.
Twitter introduced user lists in late 2009, allowing users to be grouped according to meaningful topics or themes. Lists have since been adopted by media outlets as a means of organising content around news stories. Thus the curation of these lists is important - they should contain the key information gatekeepers and present a balanced perspective on a story. Here we address this list curation process from a recommender systems perspective. We propose a variety of criteria for generating user list recommendations, based on content analysis, network analysis, and the "crowdsourcing" of existing user lists. We demonstrate that these types of criteria are often only successful for datasets with certain characteristics. To resolve this issue, we propose the aggregation of these different "views" of a news story on Twitter to produce more accurate user recommendations to support the curation process.
Hearing loss may be causing changes in the long-term brain structure of the estimated 50 million people in the United States who suffer from it, a new study shows.
Researchers used two different imaging modalities in studies of people with hearing loss, normal hearing, and those with hearing loss and tinnitus (ringing in the ears). People in the hearing loss group showed structural changes in their brains.
“This suggests that functional changes due to sensory deprivation may result in long-term structural changes,” says Fatima Husain, a Beckman Institute faculty member at the University of Illinois.
We describe a generalization of the voter model on complex networks that encompasses different sources of degree-related heterogeneity and that is amenable to direct analytical solution by applying the standard methods of heterogeneous mean-field theory. Our formalism allows for a compact description of previously proposed heterogeneous voter-like models, and represents a basic framework within which we can rationalize the effects of heterogeneity in voter-like models, as well as implement novel sources of heterogeneity, not previously considered in the literature.
Robots can develop basic language skills through interaction with a human, according to new results from researchers at the University of Hertfordshire and published in PLoS ONE.
Dr Caroline Lyon, Professor Chrystopher Nehaniv and Dr Joe Saunders have carried out experiments as part of the iTalk project with the childlike iCub humanoid robot to show how language learning emerges. Initially the robot can only babble and perceives speech as a string of sounds, not divided up into words. After engaging in a few minutes of "conversation" with humans, in which the participants were instructed to speak to the robot as if it were a small child, the robot adapted its output to the most frequently heard syllables to produce some word forms such as the names of simple shapes and colours.
Late last month, Google's search engine got significantly smarter.
A store of information dubbed the "Knowledge Graph" now adds useful context and detail to the list of links that Google serves up. Searching for certain people, places, or things produces a box of facts alongside the regular results. The Knowledge Graph is already starting to appear in a few other Google products, and could be used to add intelligence to all of the company's software.
"Search was mostly based on matching words and phrases, and not what they actually mean," says Shashidar Thakur, the tech lead for the Knowledge Graph in Google's search team. Thakur says the project was invented to change that.
The Knowledge Graph can be thought of as a vast database that allows Google's software to connect facts on people, places, and things to one another. Google got the Knowledge Graph project started when it bought a startup called Metaweb in 2010; at that time, the resource contained only 12 million entries. Today it has more than 500 million entries, with more than 3.5 billion links between them.
With its technicolor carapace and bug-eyed expression, the mantis shrimp could pass for a character in a Disney movie. Don’t underestimate its appearance, though. Despite measuring a mere four inches, the underwater crustacean packs a mighty punch with its bright orange club, a fist-like appendage that smites prey faster than a 22-caliber bullet. Repeated blows, each one exceeding the force of 110 pounds, can crumble mollusk shells and crab exoskeletons, both of are renowned for their impenetrability. Learning the mantis shrimp’s secret, say researchers, could be the key to producing lighter, stronger body armor and vehicle frames.
A week ahead of the Science Museum's Alan Turing exhibition - 'Codebreaker' - Matilda Battersby speaks to his old assistant and his nephew to find out what drove one of Britain's greatest men and looks at the machines that helped make his name.
Ethiopian and Norwegian researchers have developed a mathematical model that can identify conditions that increase the likelihood of a malaria outbreak up to two months ahead of its occurrence.The computer model, Open Malaria Warning (OMaWa), incorporates hydrological, meteorological, mosquito-breeding and land-use data to determine when and where outbreaks are likely to occur.
Torleif Markussen Lunde, one of the model's developers and a researcher at Norway's University of Bergen, told SciDev.Net that the model made direct use of the limited real-time information available in typical rural areas.
"The model also reproduces observed mosquito species composition in Africa. It is the first time this has been done with a biophysical model. We are now looking at which areas in Africa the model can be applied," he said.
Lunde said that past attempts at predicting malaria epidemics have had limited success because "some models [were] oversimplifications of the reality, and might have led to problematically high or low sensitivity to changes in the environment".
Predictions made by the model compared favourably with observations from field trials and health clinics, the researchers said.
However the model needs to be tested during a significant malaria outbreak, and its outputs compared with case studies and field observations, according to Bernt Lindtjørn, professor of international health at the University of Bergen and a co-author of the paper.
Scientists believe that many complex systems – from financial markets to fish stocks – should produce warning signs just before they collapse. Well established in theory, this idea has now been demonstrated experimentally by a group of physicists in the US and the Netherlands, who have observed longer and more marked reactions to small external shocks in populations of yeast cells just before collapse. They said that their work may help to conserve fragile ecosystems.
The collapse of populations in nature has occurred numerous times in the past, such as the disappearance of cod stocks in Atlantic Canada in the 1990s. Populations can be vulnerable to sudden collapse when the rate at which individuals reproduce depends on the population density – with too high a density putting pressure on resources and too low a density making it hard to mate, hunt or fend off predators, for example. With a slight worsening of environmental conditions, such as an increase in fishing, the density drops below a critical value and numbers decline abruptly.
To gain a better understanding of this phenomenon, Jeff Gore of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and colleagues studied the common yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. To acquire energy, yeast cells break up sugar molecules in the surrounding medium, but they can only capture a small fraction of the resulting fragments. The addition of one or more neighbouring cells increases the concentration of sugar fragments available but also means that a greater fraction of these fragments is consumed. This boosts the per capita rate of energy consumption and with it the rate of reproduction. Beyond a certain cell density, however, there is less sugar to go round and the growth rate drops off.
Scientists have sequenced the genome of a fetus in the womb without tapping its protective fluid sac.
Jacob Kitzman, who co-led the study with colleagues at the University of Washington, says what distinguishes his team's latest methods is the ability to assess many and more subtle variations in the fetus' genome, down to a minute, one-letter change in the DNA code. "The improved resolution is like going from being able to see that two books are stuck together to being able to notice one word misspelled on a page."
This non-invasive approach to obtaining the fetal genome is reported in the journal Science Translational Medicine.
Maternal blood sampled at about 18 weeks into the pregnancy and a paternal saliva specimen contained enough information for the scientists to map the fetus’s DNA.
This method was later repeated for another expectant couple closer to the start of their pregnancy. The researchers checked the accuracy of their genetic predictions using umbilical cord blood collected at birth.
A link between unconscious conflicts and conscious anxiety disorder symptoms have been shown, lending empirical support to psychoanalysis.
An experiment that Sigmund Freud could never have imagined 100 years ago may help lend scientific support for one of his key theories, and help connect it with current neuroscience.
June 16 at the 101st Annual Meeting of the American Psychoanalytic Association, a University of Michigan professor who has spent decades applying scientific methods to the study of psychoanalysis will present new data supporting a causal link between the psychoanalytic concept known as unconscious conflict, and the conscious symptoms experienced by people with anxiety disorders such as phobias.
Howard Shevrin, Ph.D., emeritus professor of psychology in the U-M Medical School's Department of Psychiatry, will present data from experiments performed in U-M's Ormond and Hazel Hunt Laboratory.
Nanorods created with firefly enzymes glow in a test tube. "The nanorods are made of the same materials used in computer chips, solar panels and LED lights,” says chemist Mathew Maye. “It’s conceivable that someday firefly-coated nanorods could be inserted into LED-type lights that you don’t have to plug in."
We study the structure of the social graph of active Facebook users, the largest social network ever analyzed. We compute numerous features of the graph including the number of users and friendships, the degree distribution, path lengths, clustering, and mixing patterns. Our results center around three main observations. First, we characterize the global structure of the graph, determining that the social network is nearly fully connected, with 99.91% of individuals belonging to a single large connected component, and we confirm the "six degrees of separation" phenomenon on a global scale. Second, by studying the average local clustering coefficient and degeneracy of graph neighborhoods, we show that while the Facebook graph as a whole is clearly sparse, the graph neighborhoods of users contain surprisingly dense structure. Third, we characterize the assortativity patterns present in the graph by studying the basic demographic and network properties of users. We observe clear degree assortativity and characterize the extent to which "your friends have more friends than you". Furthermore, we observe a strong effect of age on friendship preferences as well as a globally modular community structure driven by nationality, but we do not find any strong gender homophily. We compare our results with those from smaller social networks and find mostly, but not entirely, agreement on common structural network characteristics.
YOUR siblings may be closer to you than you thought. Male cells have been found in the umbilical cord blood of baby girls with older brothers, suggesting that the transfer of cells between mother and baby may be more extensive than previously imagined. Indeed, all of us may be walking chimeras.
Previous studies have shown that cells from both mother and fetus can cross the placenta during pregnancy, and survive for decades in the skin, liver, brain and spleen - a phenomenon called fetal microchimerism. There is even evidence that fetal cells may repair damage to the mother's heart during pregnancy.
Other studies have hinted that fetal cells might contribute to autoimmune disease, prompting speculation that fetal cells disperse more widely, possibly passing between siblings and even across generations.
To investigate this, Miranda Dierselhuis of Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands and her colleagues analysed umbilical cord blood from 23 newborn girls, 17 of whom had older brothers. In a subset of the samples, they looked for immune cells directed against the male Y chromosome.
During the last decade, much attention has been paid to language competition in the complex systems community, that is, how the fractions of speakers of several competing languages evolve in time. In this paper we review recent advances in this direction and focus on three aspects. First we consider the shift from two-state models to three state models that include the possibility of bilingual individuals. The understanding of the role played by bilingualism is essential in sociolinguistics. In particular, the question addressed is whether bilingualism facilitates the coexistence of languages. Second, we will analyze the effect of social interaction networks and physical barriers. Finally, we will show how to analyze the issue of bilingualism from a game theoretical perspective.
Chimpanzees now have to share the distinction of being our closest living relative in the animal kingdom. An international team of researchers has sequenced the genome of the bonobo for the first time, confirming that it shares the same percentage of its DNA with us as chimps do. The team also found some small but tantalizing differences in the genomes of the three species—differences that may explain how bonobos and chimpanzees don't look or act like us even though we share about 99% of our DNA.
"We're so closely related genetically, yet our behavior is so different," says team member and computational biologist Janet Kelso of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. "This will allow us to look for the genetic basis of what makes modern humans different from both bonobos and chimpanzees."
The longstanding mystery of how selective hearing works -- how people can tune in to a single speaker while tuning out their crowded, noisy environs -- is solved this week in the journal Nature by two scientists from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).
Psychologists have known for decades about the so-called "cocktail party effect," a name that evokes the Mad Men era in which it was coined. It is the remarkable human ability to focus on a single speaker in virtually any environment -- a classroom, sporting event or coffee bar -- even if that person's voice is seemingly drowned out by a jabbering crowd.
"We believe our findings might help explain how events are selected out for long-term storage from what is essentially a torrent of information encountered during conscious experience," says Ryan Parsons.
The experimental system, developed by scientists at Yerkes National Primate Research Center at Emory University, could be a way to test or refine treatments aimed at enhancing learning and memory, or interfering with troubling memories.
As reported in the Journal of Neuroscience, researchers set up a system where rats were exposed to a light followed by a mild shock. A single light-shock event isn’t enough to make the rat afraid of the light, but a repeat of the pairing of the light and shock is, even a few days later.
SATOSHI KANAZAWA is Reader in Management at the London School of Economics and Political Science, and Honorary Research Fellow in the Department of Psychology at Birkbeck College, University of London. He has written over 80 articles across the fields of psychology, sociology, political science, economics, anthropology and biology. One such was his widely reported article “Why Liberals and Atheists Are More Intelligent” (2010). His latest book is called “The Intelligence Paradox: Why the Intelligent Choice Isn’t Always the Smart One” (2012).
Humans evolved from a prehistoric shark that roamed the seas more than 300 million years ago, say scientists.
The primitive fish named Acanthodes bronni was the common ancestor of all jawed vertebrates on Earth – including mankind, according to new research.
Acanthodes, a Greek word for "spiny", existed before the split between the earliest sharks and the first bony fishes – the lineage that would eventually include human beings.
Fossils have been found in Europe, North America and Australia.
Compared with other spiny sharks it was relatively large, measuring a foot long. It had gills instead of teeth, large eyes and lived on plankton.
Professor Michael Coates, a biologist at the University of Chicago, said: "Unexpectedly,
Acanthodes turns out to be the best view we have of conditions in the last common ancestor of bony fishes and sharks.
"Our work is telling us the earliest bony fishes looked pretty much like sharks, and not vice versa. What we might think of as shark space is, in fact, general modern jawed vertebrate space."
Cartilaginous fish, which today include sharks, rays, and ratfish, diverged from the bony fishes more than 420 million years ago. But little is known about what the last common ancestor of humans, manta rays and great white sharks looked like.
The acanthodians died out about 250 million years ago and generally left behind only tiny scales and elaborate suits of fin spines.
But armed with new data on what the earliest sharks and bony fishes looked like, the researchers re-examined fossils of Acanthodes bronni, the best-preserved species.
London, Singapore, Stockholm and a few other cities around the world battle heavy traffic with a “congestion charge,” a stiff fee for driving in crowded areas at peak hours. But drivers generally hate the idea, and efforts to impose it in this country have failed.
Balaji Prabhakar, a professor of computer science at Stanford University, thinks he has a better way.
A few years ago, trapped in an unending traffic jam in Bangalore, India, he reflected that there was more than one way to get drivers to change their behavior. Congestion charges are sticks; why not try a carrot?
So this spring, with a $3 million research grant from the federal Department of Transportation, Stanford deployed a new system designed by Dr. Prabhakar’s group. Called Capri, for Congestion and Parking Relief Incentives, it allows people driving to the notoriously traffic-clogged campus to enter a daily lottery, with a chance to win up to an extra $50 in their paycheck, just by shifting their commute to off-peak times.
The next time you pull out your smartphone and snap a photo of a landmark to upload to Facebook, think about the broader implications: Not only are you sharing your experience with your friends, but you’re contributing a small piece of data that could one day build a model of the world.
Researchers David Crandall of Indiana University and Noah Snavely of Cornell University are developing algorithms to create models of patterns based on the vast troves of photographs uploaded to Facebook, Flickr and other photo-sharing websites each day. Not only can their models be used to build 3D representations of a place, but they can also shed light on the people who visit those places.
“This analysis can also generate statistics about places, such as ranking landmarks by their popularity or studying which kinds of users visit which sites,” Crandall and Snavely wrote in an article that was published last month in the academic journal ACMQueue. “At a more local level, we can use automatic techniques from computer vision to produce strikingly accurate 3D models of a landmark, given a large number of 2D photos taken by many different users from many different vantage points."