Curating the Internet: Science and technology digest for April 6, 2020

in STEMGeekslast year (edited)

Professor argues for contingency plans in case students come down with COVID-19; Discovery of subterranean living microbes raise hope for finding life on Mars; Google auto-complete for speech can hide packet loss in voice calling; Study on hydroxychloroquine confronted with notice of non-compliance with standards from the International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents; and a Steeem essay discusses the promise of the Internet of Things and 5G wireless


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  1. Contingency Plans for CS Students in Large Classes - In this post, Mark Guzdial points out that even with distance learning in progress, some students are still going to get sick during the coronavirus outbreak. In his class, he deals with this by providing students with four options if they suffer from sustained illness: (i) Take an incomplete; (ii) Finish the class as best you can, and the professor will take the illness into account for grading; (iii) Complete the final project, but waive the final exam; and (iv) Stop the class and receive a grade based upon your current scores. Guzdial acknowledges that this creates perverse incentives for students to fake the illness, but says the benefit outweighs the downside. Guzdial closes with the suggestion that other teachers and professors should develop their own contingency plans.

  2. Discovery of Living Microbes Deep Beneath the Seafloor Offers Hope for Life on Mars - A new paper in Communications Biology reports finding dense clusters of microbial colonies at depths up to 330 feet (100 meters) below the ocean floor. Microbes have been found deep below ground in the past, but this one is novel because the microbes are still alive, and because they were found in volcanic rocks that are about 13.5 million to 104 million years in age. The samples were collected during 2010 from three locations in the Pacific Ocean, in between Tahiti and Australia. The diverse locations were selected in order to rule out the possibility of contamination. The density of the clusters was surprising, with the density rising to 100,000 times the density of bacteria at the sea floor. Lead author, Yohey Suzuki says that the finding will change the way people search for life in space, and that as a result, he almost expects to find life on Mars. -h/t RealClear Science

  3. Google’s auto-complete for speech can cover up glitches in video calls - A new AI technology has been deployed in Duo, Google's voice calling app. The system can mimic an individual speaker and generate speech that will fill in gaps that are caused by packet drops in the middle of a conversation. The AI, WaveNetEQ was developed from the module that DeepMind uses to generate speech from text. The resultant product was then trained with data from 100 human voices speaking 48 different languages. As of now, the system can only handle syllables, not complete words. More information, including audio samples demonstrating the tool in action can be found here.

  4. Hydroxychloroquine-COVID-19 study did not meet publishing society’s “expected standard” - The March 20 study, Hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin as a treatment of COVID-19: results of an open-label non-randomized clinical trial came under criticism almost immediately after publication, and an April 3 notice from the International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents says the paper,
    does not meet the International Society of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy’s expected standard, especially relating to the lack of better explanations of the inclusion criteria and the triage of patients to ensure patient safety.
    Apparently, the author's entire publication history has now begun to attract scrutiny. Retraction Watch notes that many promising-seeming treatments are likely to come and go as the COVID-19 outbreak continues, adding
    When it comes to findings, the Covid-19 train is an express, while the rigorous science coach is a local. Until that local arrives at its final destination, it may be wise to label all this research—preprints, peer-reviewed papers, and for goodness’ sake, pronouncements from Donald Trump— with a black-box warning: “There is some evidence for this now. It will likely turn out to be at least partially wrong.”

  5. Steem @futurekr: Internet of Things; the game changer for technology - Describing the Internet of Things as, "the use of intelligently connected devices and systems to leverage data gathered by sensors and actuators embedded in machines and other physical objects", the author argues that in a matter of years, this will combine with 5G communications technologies to make things better and easier for both producers and consumers. In particular, the article anticipates improvements for individuals with safety, health, education, and other areas of life. For businesses, it suggests that improvements will be observed with "decision-making, productivity as well as security in the manufacturing, retail, technological, agricultural, energy, and other sectors." (A 10% beneficiary setting has been applied to this post for @futurekr.)


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