Lab News

Trump’s proposed 2018 budget takes an ax to science research funding

Science News - 26 May 2017 - 11:26pm
Administration would cut total federal research spending by about 17 percent, according to a preliminary estimate.
Categories: Life Science News

Shape shifting pasta, Jupiter's swirling storms, and other amazing images of the week

Popular Science - 26 May 2017 - 10:25pm

Newsworthy eye candy.

Our favorite images from this week in science, health, and technology news.
Categories: Life Science News

Dog skull study reveals genetic changes linked to face shape

Life Science News - 26 May 2017 - 6:57pm
A study of dog DNA has revealed a genetic mutation linked to flat face shapes such as those seen in pugs and bulldogs.
Categories: Life Science News

Scientists are trying to get inside the mind of a terrorist

Popular Science - 26 May 2017 - 6:20pm

What makes mass murder possible?

A recent study sheds insight on how terrorists' morality differs from our own. Read on.
Categories: Life Science News

NASA Scientists Watch A Star Turn Into A Black Hole Before Their Very Eyes

The Huffington Post UK - 26 May 2017 - 5:33pm
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It’s not everyday that you get to witness the birth of a black hole, and yet that it precisely what scientists believe they’ve seen.

Using the Hubble telescope along with others NASA’s scientists were able to watch as a start 25 times more massive than our own crumpled into a black hole.

What makes this event so special is that the creation of a black hole was not predicted.

Normally when a star of this size reaches the end of its life it explodes in a huge event known as a supernova.

Instead it appears as though this star decided to go out with a whisper.

This fascinating event contradicts what many researchers believe which is that normally a star of this size has to go supernova before it can then create a black hole.

Now using this example, NASA’s researchers believe that as many as 30 per cent of all starts of this size simple fizzle out into black holes without ever creating a supernova explosion.

The team first discovered this particular star while looking in a supernova-rich galaxy nicknamed, rather aptly, the ‘Fireworks Galaxy’.

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Within it they noticed a particular star N6946-BH1 had started to brighten on a weekly basis.

After one of their surveys failed to pick up the star they decided to take a closer look and see if it had simply dimmed.

Instead they found nothing, just empty space. Through a careful process of elimination they were then able to come to the conclusion that it had become a black hole.

Scientists aren’t entirely certain how often this strange phenomenon takes place but Scott Adams, a former Ohio State student who recently earned his doctorate doing this work believes they can make a rough estimate.

“N6946-BH1 is the only likely failed supernova that we found in the first seven years of our survey. During this period, six normal supernovae have occurred within the galaxies we’ve been monitoring, suggesting that 10 to 30 percent of massive stars die as failed supernovae,” he said.

“This is just the fraction that would explain the very problem that motivated us to start the survey, that is, that there are fewer observed supernovae than should be occurring if all massive stars die that way.”

Incredible Astronomy Photographs

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Categories: Life Science News

Running is contagious among those with the competitive bug

Science News - 26 May 2017 - 5:00pm
Can behaviors really be contagious? Runners log more miles when their friends do — especially if they want to stay leader of the pack, a new study finds.
Categories: Life Science News

The Surprising Science Of Fidgeting

The Huffington Post UK - 26 May 2017 - 4:16pm
Harriet Dempsey-Jones - Postdoctoral Researcher in Clinical Neurosciences, University of Oxford Hand-held toys known as "fidget spinners" - marketed as "stress relievers" - have become so popular and distracting in classrooms that they are now being banned in many schools. And it's not just kids who like to fidget. Look around your office and you will probably see people bouncing their legs up and down, turning pens over and over in their hands, chewing on things, sucking on their lower lips and pulling bits of their beard out - seemingly completely unconsciously. But why do we fidget, and why do some people do it more than others? And if it really helps to relieve stress, does that mean we should all embrace it? These are actually rather difficult questions to answer, as there appear to be various definitions of what fidgeting is and why it happens. However, there are some interesting, if unexpected, theories. Regulating attention Cognitive research suggests that fidgeting is associated with how stimulated we are. That is, fidgeting may be a self-regulation mechanism to help us boost or lower our attention levels depending on what is required - either calming or energising us. People who fidget a lot are generally more prone to mind wandering and daydreaming. We also often tend to fidget while our mind is wandering during a task. If your mind wanders, you are likely to perform more poorly on whatever task you are doing. Similarly, you typically perform worse while you are in the process of fidgeting - this has been shown to affect memory and comprehension. This means fidgeting may indicate a problem with attention. But it might also be the solution. Fidgeting could provide physiological stimulation to bring our attention and energy to a level that allows our minds to better focus on the task at hand. Supporting this, one study found that people who were allowed to doodle while monitoring a phone conversation for details remembered more facts later than those who weren't. We also know that people with ADHD do better on some cognitive tasks when they are engaged in greater spontaneous bodily activity (though no such effect was seen for children without ADHD). Weight management The biological sciences, however, reveal a somewhat different picture. This evidence suggests that fidgeting might be a carefully programmed response that helps us unconsciously maintain our weight. In 2000, a study published in Science, elegantly demonstrated this. The researchers overfed a group of healthy, non-obese volunteers by about 1,000 calories a day over a period of eight weeks. The participants' bodies appeared to fight back against the overfeeding with a large increase in fidgeting, posture changes and random tensing of their muscles. However, different people gained vastly different amounts of weight in response. This was strongly predicted by how much they were fidgeting - people who moved more put on less weight. But how can such tiny movements make a difference? Well, it turns out fidgeting while sitting or standing actually increases the amount of calories you burn by 29% and 38% respectively (as compared to lying still). Consequently, it can account for anywhere from 100 to 800 calories burnt off as heat energy per day. Given the WHO estimates that we only need to eat 100 to 200 calories more than we expend to incrementally gain weight, the small amount exerted by fidgeting could be enough to address this imbalance. So fidgeting may actually be like nature's inbuilt Fitbit alarm. Supporting this, a study following 12,000 women over 12 years found that high levels of fidgeting were associated with lower mortality in a group of women who spent a long time sitting per day. Unfortunately, you may not be able to learn to become a squirmy person - it seems some people are just born fidgeters. There may even be a genetic component - studies show that levels of spontaneous physical activity are more similar in families and between twins. Stress relief? One final explanation for fidgeting is that it represents a behavioural coping mechanism for stress. These theories of fidgeting often focus on particular "self-contact" forms of behaviour - like pulling, scratching or biting of the hair or skin (called "displacement behaviours"). Whether these represent a "special class" of fidgeting, however, remains unclear. stressed In one study, scientists induced social stress in a group of men by making them perform mental arithmetic out loud while standing in front of strangers. They found that people who reported being more anxious before the study showed more displacement behaviours during the maths test. However, the men who were picking and plucking at themselves during the test reported that they found the experience less stressful overall - meaning it reduced their stress levels in the moment. Displacement behaviours were not, however, associated with being a more anxious person in general - just during stressful experiences. Fascinatingly, this effect has only been shown to hold for men, who show twice the amount of displacement behaviours as women. But which theory is correct? Actually, they may all be connected. Fidgeting could be a form of general, unconscious self-regulation mechanism that varies depending on what is required - regulating attention, weight or stress. Indeed, it seems that being bored may actually cause us to become unconsciously stressed. Physiological signs of stress are documented to rise significantly during periods of sustained attention (like when watching a lecture). So we may fidget to relieve that stress - rather than to reset our attention levels. Fidgeting may (at least in part) be controlled by the brain's hypothalamus, which is known to regulate many bodily processes. Indeed, when you inject orexins (a small protein) into part of the hypothalamus in rodents, you see an increase in spontaneous bodily activity. Orexins and the hypothalamus are both linked to arousal, appetite, wakefulness and other regulation processes. But before you go out and bulk-buy fidget fad toys, or post this article on your mum's Facebook page - with a "and you told me to stop fidgeting!" tagline - it is worth considering the social cost of the activity. Fidgeting is a strong indicator people use to evaluate others. Fidgeters are assumed by onlookers to be bored, frustrated, hyper or not paying attention - which is not going to make you any friends. Fidgeting movements are also a distraction for others - movement is a highly salient visual cue that automatically pulls focus. So if you are going to shake those legs ... maybe keep it under the table.

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Categories: Life Science News

The GDPR Is Coming: Five Ways You Can Safeguard Your Personal Data

The Huffington Post UK - 26 May 2017 - 3:37pm
Can you honestly say, hand on heart, you know who has access to your personal data? Just how many people know what your email address is or when your birthday is? And, more importantly, who knows where you live or what your bank card details are? People are sharing their data with businesses online all the time, it's what we all do in today's digital era. Whether we're sharing our email address in return for receiving newsletters from our favourite fashion store or music venue or creating an online account so that we can leave a review, our data is everywhere. But there's a problem. Most people don't know where their personal data is going or where it's being stored, yet many of us don't even give it a second thought. That is, until we find out that a data breach has meant our details are now in the hands of the wrong people. However, it's all about to change. While there is a lot of discussion going on about the impact of the GDPR on businesses, don't forget that these new rules are designed to protect the public. On May 25, 2018, the much talked about, and hugely anticipated, General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will come into force, which will change how organisations collect, store and process any details they may have about you - on a global scale. But while many businesses have been frantically preparing for the arrival of GPDR, many are still in the dark when it comes to their personal data. Now's the time to get to grips with safeguarding your personal data once and for all. Here are some of the ways you can go about doing it: 1. Get to know where your data is As obvious as it sounds, where exactly is your data? If you think back over the years to the amount of times you've shared your details, whether that's online or by completing a quick questionnaire or short form, the places where your information is stored is vast. Do a quick audit - are you happy with who may have your details on file and what they're using them for? If not, then you have rights. 2. Understand your rights No matter where your personal data is stored, you have a right to know what information companies hold about you and how they're using it. You can request these details by asking for a 'subject access request.' Once the GDPR is in place, you should start to see a difference in the way organisations communicate with you about using your data. You'll have to opt-in rather than opt-out of communications and you cannot be forced to give consent for further use of your data when you sign up to a service. What's more, organisations will no longer be able to assume that silence means you've given them permission to use your details. The GDPR will also widen the definition of 'personal data', bringing new kinds of personal data under regulation, such as genetic, health, cultural, economic and social information. 3. Recognise the value of your data It goes without saying, but your data is valuable, even more so in this day and age where the risk of data breaches and cyberattacks is higher than ever before. Not only is it important you know where your data is and how it's being handled for your own peace of mind, it'll also help reduce the likelihood of it falling into the wrong hands and being misused. Being vigilant online, whether you're using your work computer, home laptop, mobile or tablet device, should be second nature for us and, contrary to popular belief, isn't overly complex to do. Simple steps, such as regularly changing your passwords and installing anti-virus software on all of your devices, not just some of them, can significantly help protect your data. 4. Look after your important data after it's been sent We live in an increasingly data-driven world where, like it or not, the vast majority of transactions are completed online these days. While this is the norm, many people are still sharing their data (even their most sensitive of details) and then thinking nothing of it. Regardless of how hectic your life might be, get into the practice of keeping tabs on where your most important data's been sent and whether or not it needs to be reviewed or updated as your details change over the years. 5. Remember - the GDPR is your ally! While there's been a lot of discussion about the impact of the GDPR on businesses, don't forget these new rules aren't just aimed at organisations, they're aimed at the public too, regardless of how many or few companies you may have shared your details with. The GDPR will impact both businesses and ordinary people, giving businesses greater responsibility of how they use personal data, and people greater control over the information they give up, what they agree to and what's kept private or public. The GDPR is coming and with it comes a whole new world of opportunity for you to take back control over your personal data and protect what matters to you most - once and for all.

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Categories: Life Science News

This Giant Robot Drone Will Park Your Car For You

The Huffington Post UK - 26 May 2017 - 3:34pm
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Everyone hates parking, everyone except Stan that is.

Stan is a giant robot, and Stan loves parking. All day, seven days a week Stan pick up your car, take it to a parking bay and expertly park it for you.

Then once you’ve returned it’ll find your car, pull it out and bring it to your feet.

It’s built by a company called Stanley Robotics and has just been deployed at Charles-de Gaulle Airport, France.

So how does it work? Simple, you just turn up at the car park, take your bags and then lock the car taking the keys with you.

Before you leave there’s a touchscreen interface where you can confirm the booking and pay.

That’s it. Stan knows your flight details so knows exactly when to go and fetch the car and have it ready for collection once you’ve landed.

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Two years in the making, the company’s engineers have been working tirelessly to create a robot that’s powerful but completely electric.

It can work in existing car parks and each robot can manage 400 cars.

The Best Gadgets Of 2017

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Categories: Life Science News

Critical Communications And IoT: Connecting The Dots In An Emergency

The Huffington Post UK - 26 May 2017 - 2:57pm
Traditionally the Internet of Things (IoT) has only affected the public from a consumer standpoint - think smart thermostats and talking fridges. However, the Industrial IoT market will start to play an equal, if not greater role, in improving public safety and efficiency. For example, the utilities industry has long used sensors in reservoirs to monitor water levels and predict when more supply is needed. In a recent survey by 451 Research, it was discovered that 71% of global businesses are now gathering IoT data and 90% expect to increase invest in connected technologies in the next 12 months. IoT can even automate communications and pre-empt a crisis before it causes serious damage. Critical communications platforms are already deployed by businesses, local authorities and national governments around the world to warn and advise people in the event of a crisis. These incidents can range from sourcing a relevantly-skilled IT technician to repair a broken server, to engaging with the public during a terror threat. Central to the success of critical communications platforms are two key functions. The first is the capability to deliver messages using a variety of different methods - this is known as multi-modal communications. No communications channel can ever be 100% reliable 100% of the time, so multi-modality transforms the speed at which people receive the message. Multi-modality facilitates communication via more than 100 different communication devices and contact paths including email, SMS, VoIP calls, social media alerts and mobile app notifications, amongst many others. The second is effective two-way communication, which is the ability for recipients to respond to emergency notifications quickly and easily, enabling them to acknowledge receipt, confirm actions or declare status. Combining data from IoT devices with a critical communications platform offers an emergency alerting domain experience, automated decision making and sophisticated communications logic. This provides businesses with the ability to add context to critical alerts, connecting the right people to physical devices, at the right time, to take the appropriate action. By integrating critical communications with IoT, organisations can improve physical security and business continuity, minimising the impact of crisis including a security breaches, a mechanical warehouse fire or malfunction on the assembly line. Virtually any IoT device can be integrated with a critical communication platform to improve its self-regulation and ability to communicate. Imagine a world where your appliances and business applications could self-diagnose. For example, airports can identify when a new bulb is needed on a runway. Some examples of IoT and critical communications applications include: • A state government operated dam may have sensors placed inside the stone & metal walls to automatically alert the correct engineers and local authorities if water levels rise too high, tailoring the communications based on severity level and the roles and responsibilities of appropriate workers. • In the medical industry pacemakers can be fitted with sensors that relay information to a team of doctors and notify them via email, text and/or phone if anything requiring their attention arises. They can also send messages to the patient to let them know if they are exerting too much energy and should rest. A crisis can mean something different in every industry. For example, an IT breach could spell disaster for one business, but be less of an issue in another. Whatever happens, communications need to be fast, effective, and meaningful. Harnessing the power of critical communications platforms and combining it with IoT applications offers a fast and highly effective means to ensure that, in the event of an emergency, the lines of communication remain open. This ensures people are kept up-to-date on fast-changing situations and resources are deployed to keep them safe and protected.

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Categories: Life Science News

The Future Of Media Consumption: Connected And Driverless Cars

The Huffington Post UK - 26 May 2017 - 2:51pm
Although you can already unlock, set navigation, and alter the climate control of your car remotely via smartphone apps, it's still a new frontier for most people. However, this is just the tip of the iceberg; connected and autonomous vehicles will soon reshape how we spend time on the road. The music playing from your Echo will continue seamlessly from your living room to your car, and you will make purchases through natural voice recognition and fingerprint scanning technology on your steering wheel (if you still have one). Your insurance premium will be calculated and automatically paid each day you use your car, depending on your driving style and location. You will create playlists, stream your favourite television programmes and play video games as your car navigates itself around traffic. On a normal commute, you can answer emails, edit documents, accept car pool request notifications. A personalised digital advertisement will flash at you as your drive past. You may even arrive at the office four minutes early and £6 better off, having given Jenny from finance a ride to work. Technology is paving the way for these visions to become reality in the near future. In 2015, Tesla unveiled its autopilot system, part of a suite of driver assistance systems which include auto lane change and autopark. Last year, Elon Musk stated that his company was two years away from full autonomy. Ford also expects to have driverless ride-sharing cars without a steering wheel, brake or accelerator on the road by 2021. As the distinction between the driver and the passenger becomes blurred, the demand for increasingly immersive in-car entertainment will rise. But before cars become our 'third living space', there is a plethora of commercial, legal and even ethical considerations to tackle. Savvy market stakeholders are now seeking to capture a share of the significant revenue streams that will flow as a result of the proliferation of connected cars. In doing so, they are having to consider complex media rights and regulatory issues. How will audio and audio-visual content be licensed, stored, and delivered? Who will control access to media and entertainment in the car? These questions will be amplified further when autonomous driving is introduced, paving the way for car-pooling and car-sharing services to flourish. As content and interactive entertainment is streamed to the car, companies in the sector will fight to corner their share of this new and exciting market. The many benefits enjoyed by drivers of connected cars are often also accompanied by rewards for those delivering services, not least in the form of valuable data sets. But with great data comes greater responsibility. As media consumption patterns and use of technology shift in-car, the potential for both conscious and unintentional collection of personal data by those who would not normally be in a position to do so increases. Those manufacturing, operating, providing services for and in relation to connected and autonomous cars therefore need to be aware of how they can and can not legally process data to avoid significant penalties. Hurtling toward the future of four-wheeled transport is exciting, and negotiations between manufacturers, platforms, content providers and regulators - particularly around issues such as exclusivity and level of integration - are likely to have a big impact on consumers' purchasing decisions, particularly when considering that autonomous and semi-autonomous cars are set to deliver an extra hour of free time to each drivers' day. Those companies who lead the way in delivering content, entertainment and services to car drivers and passengers will have to navigate through a complex contractual and regulatory environment, although few disagree that the potential for the in-car market is huge.

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Categories: Life Science News

Siri - Do My Tax Return

The Huffington Post UK - 26 May 2017 - 2:48pm
When I visited my brother last weekend, first item on my agenda was to try out his new Amazon Echo. "Alexa, where is the nearest bowling alley?" I asked the cylindrical device. "How long will it take us to get there?". Alexa, hidden inside the innocuous-looking smooth cylinder, directed us to the Chesterfield Bowl 23 minutes away. These kinds of new user interfaces are revolutionising the way we interact with technologies and services. But it is not just entertainment or home tasks which can benefit. What if we could also make mundane business matters, like payroll and bookkeeping, more efficient, too? That day may not be so far away. A spectrum of technologies and trends, due to go live in the next five years, is set to revolutionise accountancy. AI For Reconciliation One of your bookkeeper's main tasks is likely the correct categorisation of your business spending... Is that new computer a capital purchase or an expense, is that business lunch claimable or not? But what if the computer could answer these questions for you? Advances in machine learning suggest the answer may be "yes". Anyone who uses cloud accounting software knows that they can categorise transactions themselves. But platforms are next likely to deploy artificial intelligence algorithms to do so automatically. Detection will rely on an understanding of a business' spending habits, but also effective matching of payee and price data against known expense items. For example, that £339 purchase at Apple Store last week could only be for a new office iPad, an allowable hardware expense. Current data is not yet detailed enough to support auto-reconciliation, but machine learning power is progressing fast, bringing the elimination of this chore within grasp. Big Data For Insights How healthy is your business? The answer is personal, but also relative. When judging your business performance and outlook, your accountant only has his or her own experience and pool of a few hundred clients to compare against, few of which may be relevant comparators in your own industry. But future cloud accounting systems will give businesses ongoing feedback on their business health, and pro-active advice to tailor their approach. Companies like us at FreeAgent have tens of thousands of businesses on board whose own accounting data, when anonymised and aggregated, represents a remarkable snapshot of high, low and average performance in many industry verticals, as well as the spending and income patterns that, over time, prompt consequential performance peaks or troughs. Many energy suppliers, for instance, already do this when their websites show customers their electricity usage relative to their neighbourhood. Applied to accounting, I think Big Data will help catalyse an improvement in business performance. Chatbots And Voice Control MasterCard recently launched an initiative to help people for goods and services insight Facebook Messenger. Coupled with a raft of new smartphone assistants and in-home voice-powered concierges, it is clear that anthropomorphised AI is the hot tech trend. Is there really accounting application here? Sure, there is. Chatbots will enter accounting through notifications - alerting you to required tasks, performance summaries and next-step advice. But it is easy to imagine more - business owners using chat to ask bots to send invoices, reconcile transactions or process payroll. You can even conceive of constructing a tax return form as a question-and-answer session with a chatbot, so structured are the required responses. And, for all those savvy business owners who are already using cloud accounting to keep up-to-date books, don't be surprised if you wake up one morning to hear your Amazon Echo chirping: "Tomorrow is self-assessment deadline day, would you like me to file your return?" Live data will make the answer as simple as a "Hell, yes!" Rebooting The Banks Simplifying the way businesses interact with their accounts in these ways will depend somewhat on a banking revolution. Today, getting your data out of your bank and in good enough condition is not straightforward. But these changes are, indeed, around the corner. The European Payment Services Directive 2 (PSD2) and last year's report of the Competition Markets Authority have each converged to require banks to make customers' account data more easily available to third-party software services, with account holders' permission. This will mean an end to the current workaround with which many such services ingest customers' bank data, the intermediary service Yodlee, and a burgeoning of the services which will connect into bank accounts. The result will be more services that provide more intelligence on your financial performance. Sadly, that won't change the quality of data out immediately. Today, a typical transaction description is still as cryptic as something like: "GOOGLE *SVCSAPPS_c IRELAND ON 01 MAR///£3.30". But new challenger banks like Monzo are driving the provision of much richer data about retailers, locations and, eventually, products from points of sale - helping power all the above innovations that crave it. The Accountant's Dead, Long Live The Accountant If you think all of this will represent a challenge to your book-keeper or accountant, you would be right. Soon, technology will be at the point of being able to collect, categorise, process, submit, revise and advise on your business' financial affairs. While business owners will gain from efficiency, many of the bread-and-butter functions of a typical small business accountant are going to quickly become commoditised. The key to survival for accounting professionals will be to move up the value chain. To retain relevance and customers, they will need to provide higher-value services, to serve as a front-footed, pro-active business strategy consultant to businesses for who reconciliation and receipts have become low-hanging fruit. Smart accounts will be looking, today, at what technology may not be able to accomplish. For those whose clients will make demands of digital butlers and assistants, the answer will be to become a senior sidekick.

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Categories: Life Science News

The AI Intellectual Property Debate

The Huffington Post UK - 26 May 2017 - 2:45pm
The 'infinite monkey theorem' suggests that a monkey, hitting the keys at random on a typewriter keyboard for an infinite amount of time will, at some point, type out William Shakespeare's Hamlet. A website called The Mary Sue recently calculated the actual odds of 100 monkeys typing Hamlet. Taking into consideration the huge number of character sequences needed - the chances are one in 36... ...36 to the power of 166,541 that is. Or as Google's calculator puts it, "one in infinity". In other words not entirely impossible, but incredibly unlikely. Enter artificial intelligence (AI). AI software can process extremely large data sets of information so quickly and efficiently that the time taken until one in infinity happens does not seem quite so long. By using large or deep neural networks, AI software can learn faster than any other technology - growing more knowledgeable with exposure to more data. AI is being applied to exceptionally complex issues. For example, AI can find the most optimal solution to issues that have more potential solutions than the number of grains of sand on earth - in a matter of seconds. AI systems are now capable of producing music, art and software. The idea of something being created by a machine that would previously have been created by a human raises a myriad of complex issues, not least of which is intellectual property rights. Man vs Machine US patent law tells us that an inventor is "the individual or, if a joint invention, the collective individuals who invented or discovered the subject matter of the invention." The US Copyright Office also employs a 'human authorship requirement'. Machines do not have a stake over IP rights and it is unlikely they ever will. Employers own IP created by its employees during their employment - if the duty to create IP was part of their employment duties. This could easily apply to the deployment of machines as well. Jukedeck, for example, is a software tool that combines deep learning, music composition and audio production to create music for royalty free commercial use. It has produced more than 500,000 compositions for companies to use for their own purposes and the copyright for the music created can be purchased by the company that needs it. The Future of IP AI remains an area where there is frenetic IP activity. To date this has largely been based around protecting AI systems or applications. But, in a future where machines are deployed to create complex products, the question of IP ownership could become clouded. AI helps solve complex issues simply and elegantly; legal ownership on the other hand may not be quite so simple.

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Categories: Life Science News

DNA ladders: Inexpensive molecular rulers for DNA research

Life Science News - 26 May 2017 - 2:45pm
New license-free tools will allow researchers to estimate the size of DNA fragments for a fraction of the cost of currently available methods. The tools, called a DNA ladders, can gauge DNA fragments ranging from about 50 to 5,000 base pairs in length.
Categories: Life Science News

Can Your Personality And Mood Really Impact Your Driving Performance?

The Huffington Post UK - 26 May 2017 - 2:44pm
We're living in an age of obsession with measuring every aspect of what we do. From hours of sleep, number of steps, and calories consumed, to monitoring our emotional state. New innovations and technologies being unveiled at a rapid pace makes this incredibly easy for people to do. As researchers, this gives us tools, like never before, to understand human behaviour at a more complex level. Our latest research collaboration at Goldsmiths, University of London with Shell V-Power for its worldwide driving experiment applies these tools to driving - something that most of us spend days and weeks of our lives doing, without properly understanding what we can do to make it more enjoyable, safer, and efficient, not only for ourselves, but for passengers and other motorists. While driving we can become irritable and in turn aggressive, affecting our mental state and even our blood pressure. Furthermore, the way we drive could be impacting our wallet, with driving techniques like harsh braking and acceleration ultimately using more fuel. Our new social experiment design applies methods of observation permitted by new wearable tracking technologies, chatbots and other data capture sources to look at the factors that impact our journeys. We wanted to paint the clearest possible picture of what motorists are experiencing on the roads all around the world, by tracking real people taking real journeys - no lab coats or stunt vehicles required. We looked at a combination of the internal and external factors we encounter in our vehicles, such as the driver's diet, hydration and sleep levels, and contextual factors like weather conditions and traffic congestion. Wearable wristbands provide biometric information about the driver, such as heart rate, blood pressure, breath rate and mood swings, and participants used the Shell Motorist App to measure speed, acceleration and braking. So what did we find? This week we revealed the results from the Netherlands*, which shed new light on Dutch drivers: Who you are determines how you drive Personality type links strongly with driving style. Ambitious and Energetic driver types are more assertive and achieved high driving performance scores. Switch off the music and laugh Shell wanted to understand the impact of in-car entertainment sources on driver moods. We asked participants to listen to comedy podcasts on their usual journeys, resulting in increased happiness behind the wheel. Currently only 18% of Dutch drivers currently listen to comedy. Grey days aren't all bad The research found that driving performance improved in cloudy, overcast weather; a fine day doesn't always mean a fine drive. Don't skip breakfast Drivers who felt craving through factors like hunger or dehydration achieved lower driving efficiency scores.** 77% of drivers in the Netherlands rarely or never drink water during a journey. We also discovered four distinct driver types, can you spot elements of your own driving personality amongst them? Ambitious Drivers (40% of Dutch people relate to these personality traits): The highest performing drivers on the road, they are confident and pull with the ability to often predict situations before they occur, counteracting risk. They use more assertive driving techniques than other drivers and normally get a good night's sleep with minimal disruptions. Sensitive Drivers (16% of Dutch people relate to these personality traits): Exercise caution both in life and likely on the road. They are impacted by external factors like the weather and music to feel relaxed. When stressed, they often use breathing techniques to remain calm. Energetic Drivers (26% of Dutch people relate to these personality traits): Social and talkative, they thrive off the energy of others. Their mood tends to be happy and cheerful and they maintain an assertive driving style. They enjoy listening to comedy and having passengers in the car. Resilient Drivers (7% of Dutch people relate to these personality traits): Resilient to stressful situations, acting as a buffering system against setbacks. They are confident and have a smooth driving style and use less harsh driving techniques. They stay hydrated and make the effort to relax while driving. Ultimately what we set out to achieve was to find out what changes can be made by both drivers and Shell to make journeys more enjoyable. While the Dutch study is only the beginning of this worldwide experiment across ten countries, it proposes some actionable solutions. We can't change the weather or our personality type, but we can ensure we're adequately hydrated and avoid skipping meals, or enhance our in-car experience with entertainment. It's about taking small steps to make the journey better. *The Dutch study observed nearly 300,000 data points from 320 drivers across over 2,800 journeys in the Netherlands between 20 April - 5 May 2017. **Driver efficiency scores are obtained through the Shell Motorist App, which uses GPS to combine journey duration, speed, harsh breaking and acceleration to calculate a unique driver score.

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Categories: Life Science News

Tech Gets Back To Basics With The Return Of The Nokia 3310

The Huffington Post UK - 26 May 2017 - 2:18pm
This week saw the return of the classic Nokia 3310 to the UK's high streets 17 years after it was first launched - albeit in a slightly different form. The original 3310's bumper battery remains, making this one of the most highly charged mobile launches of the year - and keeping the phone worlds apart from more modern handsets that run out of battery in less than a day. The new device will offer users 22 hours of talk time, while the phone should last up to a month on standby before it needs charging again. Thankfully the 84 x 84 pixel monochrome screen has been switched out for a more high-tech 240 x 320 pixel colour screen, while the overall design of the phone has been given an update too. The new handset is almost half its original weight and now boasts a four-way directional pad as opposed to the traditional up/down keys. Nokia have made some headway into the smartphone market in recent years. The most notable series was the Lumia, which was introduced in 2011 as part of a partnership between Nokia and Microsoft (although this range is now designed and marketed by Microsoft Mobile). However, these forays into the smartphone market never lived up to either the earlier fame of the 3310 nor the market dominance seen by the likes of Apple and Samsung, which might help explain why Nokia are giving the limelight back to their most widely celebrated device to date. Nokia aren't the only manufacturer feeling sentimental, as the trend for nostalgia can be seen across the mobile sphere as a whole. BlackBerry moved away from its traditional QWERTY keyboard some time ago, introducing handsets like the BlackBerry Leap and Priv with either no keyboard whatsoever or a hidden keyboard. More recently, however, it has managed to set itself apart from the rest of the mobile market by fully embracing the keypad for its comeback handset, the BlackBerry KEYone. When the Nokia 3310 first launched in 2000, the mobile market was a remarkably different space. The phrase 'smartphone' meant nothing and touch screen handsets sounded like something from a sci-fi film. Let's take a look back at the winners and losers of mobile innovation. The tech we'll never forget... Flip phones These sturdy devices were near impossible to break. Back in the mid noughties when flip phones first surfaced in the mass market, smashed screens were a rarity, yet today you'd be hard stretched to find someone that hasn't dealt with some sort of damage to their phone. In fact, a 2015 survey by Motorola revealed that 50% of people globally have experienced cracked phone screen, with 23% of users continuing to use their phone despite cutting their finger on the broken screen. Ouch. Monotonic and polyphonic ring tones This one we'll never forget - but for all the wrong reasons. In years gone by, you could find smug mobile users scrolling through their collection of ringtones, playing them loud and proud for all to hear. Thankfully, personalised ringtones have faded out of fashion, with many mobile users preferring to stick to their manufacturer's standard jingle. ASCII art In a pre-meme world, getting creative with your mobile was a little bit more tough. ASCII art involved using ASCII text characters to create an image, and if you ever spent hours working on such a masterpiece on your phone, you'll know this took a good deal longer than simply adding a silly caption to a photograph. Snake While many are still reeling from last year's surprise success of Pokémon GO, the mobile game that will truly go down in history is without a doubt Snake. Proof, if any were needed, that sometimes the simplest ideas are the best. ...And the features we don't quite get Flexible phones In 2013, Samsung introduced the Galaxy Round, the first commercially produced smartphone to feature a flexible AMOLED display. While this certainly sounds like an exciting claim, there's no real obvious benefit to this technology. Nevertheless, manufacturers including LG and Lenovo have followed suit, introducing their own flexi-phones throughout the last couple of years. Squeezable phones Earlier this month HTC unveiled its latest handset, the HTC U11. The phone's standout feature is the 'Edge Sense' technology it comes with, allowing users to complete a range of different tasks by squeezing the phone. Interesting? Sure. Practical? Not so much.

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Categories: Life Science News

MIT researchers want to make a dumpling that can fold itself

Popular Science - 26 May 2017 - 2:00pm
pasta Science

First stop: Flat-pack pasta.

These 2-D films flip up to form pasta shapes when they hit the water. Read on.
Categories: Life Science News

A Period Emoji Would Help Normalise Menstruation

The Huffington Post UK - 26 May 2017 - 1:18pm
Women in the UK still feel uncomfortable and embarrassed talking about their period with friends, family and work colleagues. A sad fact, perhaps, but one that I'm sure almost every woman can relate to. Every month, women will hide their tampons, slip them up their sleeves as they go to the bathroom, suffer in silence when the cramps start and avoid talking about how menstruation is affecting their mood and how they're feeling for fear of being judged. Despite hundreds of millions of women and girls around the world experiencing the completely normal biological process, the stigma surrounding periods is suffocating. That's why this week, ahead of Menstrual Hygiene Day on Sunday, Plan International UK is addressing the need to normalise periods by calling for an emoji - the popular digital icons used on phones worldwide - which can be used by women and girls when talking about their period on social media and messaging apps. plan international uk When you can find an emoji for pretzels and pianos, why not for periods? I'm fairly sure the average British woman has more periods than she does pretzels. Meanwhile, there are four different emojis for bicycles - but not a single one for something that happens to half of us, every month, for a huge portion of our life. A recent poll we commissioned found that two thirds of women don't feel comfortable discussing their period with their dad or male friends, more than one in ten women don't feel comfortable talking about it with their female friends and a quarter won't talk to female colleagues at work about menstruation. In 2017, we think this is pretty shocking. So, to help bust the taboos that still exist around periods, we've has designed five icons that will be put to the public vote on social media. The winning designs will be submitted to the California-based consortium that manages the distribution of emojis worldwide. plan international uk When we asked them, nearly half of women aged 18-34 said they would use an emoji if there was one available. We've got comedian Katherine Ryan and actor Sharon Horgan who will each back their favourite emoji too. Whether we like it or not, emojis have become a hugely important part of the way we communicate, especially among young people. Ambrin, 14, is part of Plan International UK's Youth Advisory Panel, she told us: "There are already emojis that represent most parts of everyday life, so a period emoji would send the message that periods are just normal." But globally, too many people aren't getting that message. Across the world people still view menstruation as dirty and shameful, and it has a damaging impact on the lives of girls. Many miss school because they face bullying or unfair treatment, or experience infections due to a lack of menstrual hygiene education and products. plan international uk In India, only 12 per cent of girls and women have access to sanitary products. The rest rely on materials such as old, dirty rags, newspaper, leaves, dirt, and other unhygienic materials that often lead to infection and embarrassment because of leaks and odour. While in Uganda, nearly a third of girls don't go to school when they have their period, which accounts for a fifth of the whole school year. We're working to provide girls with private latrines, water for washing, and access to locally appropriate sanitary products to reduce school drop-out rates. Of course, we're not saying that an emoji will solve all of these problems. But if it helps drive conversation, then that's a start. Changing perceptions around periods is challenging, but creating a period emoji helps women and girls to talk about menstruation more freely - surely that can only be a good thing. To support Plan International UK's campaign, and vote for your favourite period emoji, visit:

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Categories: Life Science News

Magnetism disrupts winds on ‘hot Jupiter’ exoplanet

Science News - 26 May 2017 - 1:00pm
Simulations of HAT-P 7b’s magnetic field give clues to why the exoplanet’s winds blow both east and west.
Categories: Life Science News

Jupiter Juno Images Reveal Terrifying Earth-Sized Cyclones

The Huffington Post UK - 26 May 2017 - 12:50pm
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NASA’s Juno spacecraft has revealed that Jupiter’s poles are a spectacular collection of vast Earth-sized cyclones.

This stunning picture taken by the probe reveals both the breathtaking beauty of Jupiter’s landscape but also the almost unimaginable size of the gas giant as each of these cyclones combined are around the same size as our entire planet.

The largest of them has a diameter of around 870 miles.

Scientists have been closely analysing the data from the Juno probe and have described Jupiter as a: “Complex, gigantic, turbulent world, with Earth-sized polar cyclones, plunging storm systems that travel deep into the heart of the gas giant.”

Juno’s mission so far has seen it take a polar orbit around the gas giant. For much of its time the probe remains a safe distance and then every 53 days it dives down to an altitude of just 2,600 miles from the cloud tops.

It’s during these deep dives that scientists have been able to gather some of the most vital information about this mysterious giant.

By studying the vast cloud formations that cover the gas giant scientists are hoping to learn more about how they work, whether they’re permanent or if the entire planet is in a constant state of change.

“We’re puzzled as to how they could be formed, how stable the configuration is, and why Jupiter’s north pole doesn’t look like the south pole,” saidJ uno principal investigator Scott Bolton.

“We’re questioning whether this is a dynamic system, and are we seeing just one stage, and over the next year, we’re going to watch it disappear, or is this a stable configuration and these storms are circulating around one another?”

In addition to the storms of Jupiter, Juno’s also been able to capture some stunning images and collect vital data on the planet’s northern and southern lights.

While the Northern Lights here on Earth might be a rare sight for much of the population, Jupiter’s aurora covered an area bigger than the surface of our own planet.

With a magnetic field over 10x more powerful than Earth’s, scientists are fascinated by the irregularity and sheer power of Jupiter’s magnetosphere.

In fact the storm that caused the aurora picture above was so powerful it actually shifted Jupiter’s entire magnetic field by over 100 million miles.

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So what’s next for the humble probe? Well Juno’s next dive towards Jupiter will be aimed at one of its most famous features.

“On our next flyby on July 11, we will fly directly over one of the most iconic features in the entire solar system ― one that every school kid knows ― Jupiter’s Great Red Spot.” said Bolton. “If anybody is going to get to the bottom of what is going on below those mammoth swirling crimson cloud tops, it’s Juno and her cloud-piercing science instruments.”

Incredible Astronomy Photographs

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Categories: Life Science News


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