Curating the Internet: Science and technology digest for November 20, 2019

in rsslog •  5 months ago  (edited)

Recognize and avoid the Secret Sister scam on Facebook; Artificial intelligence uncovers previously undiscovered ancient Nazca stick figure; A new study suggests that previous estimates for electric car price reductions may be overly optimistic; Teaching autonomous vehicles to understand social behavior of human drivers; and a Steem post with an embedded youtube video discussing the idea of a global consciousness


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  1. Don't Be Fooled By Facebook's 'Secret Sister' Gift Exchange Scam, Authorities Warn - As the holiday season approaches, a long-time facebook scam has already resurfaced. The scam masquerades as a sort of "secret Santa" arrangement, promising that if six people each send $10 gifts to a "secret sister", they'll get six to thirty-six gifts in return. In reality, this is just another pyramid scheme, and anyone who participates is most likely to lose their $10 and get nothing in return.

  2. Scientists used artificial intelligence to discover a 2,000 year-old stick figure in Peru's mysterious Nazca Lines - The so-called Nazca Lines in Peru's Nazca Desert are figures that were carved into the ground by ancient people up to 2,000 years ago. The purpose of the lines is unknown, but some speculate that they had religious or spiritual significance, and others suggest that they marked water sources. The lines have been under scientific investigation since 1926, but new carvings are still being discovered. In recent work, scientists from Yamagata University discovered 142 new figures, one of which was a 4 meter by 2 meter human-like figure that was discovered by feeding aerial photographs to IBM's Watson AI system. Next up, the researchers plan to use IBM's cloud-hostedPAIRS Geoscope.

    Here is a video:


  • Why the electric-car revolution may take a lot longer than expected - The MIT Energy Initiative says in a new report that it is likely to take at least a decade before electro-voltaic battery powered cars match the lifetime cost of fuel-powered cars, and the technologies may never reach parity. This contrasts with other recent studies finding that the two technologies could reach pricing parity within about five years. Randall Field, executive director of the Mobility of the Future group, responds to the disparity saying, "If you follow some of these other projections, you basically end up with the cost of batteries being less than the ingredients required to make it", and "We see that as a flaw." The report also anticipates that the demand for electric vehicles will continue to rise, regardless of cost, reaching 33% of the global fleet by 2050.

  • Predicting People's Driving Personalities - Led by a team at MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), researchers have been working to classify the social characteristics of drivers on the road so that autonomous vehicles can better predict their actions and drive more safely among them. The results are published in Social Behavior for Autonomous Vehicles (Under review). The research estimates a driver's score on a measure called the social value orientation (SVO), which describes the degree to which a person is oriented towards selfishness or cooperation ("egoist" vs. "prosocial"). The system was tested in lane-merge and unprotected left turn situations and demonstrated a 25% improvement in its ability to predict the behavior of drivers. This is not yet ready for real-world use in autonomous vehicles, but it could also have uses for cars with human drivers, for example to alert drivers to the existence of an aggressive driver in their blind spot. The study's lead author was Wilko Schwarting. Coauthors included: "MIT professors Sertac Karaman and Daniela Rus, as well as research scientist Alyssa Pierson and former CSAIL postdoc Javier Alonso-Mora." This represents a change in technology because current autonomous systems are programmed to assume that all human drivers drive the same way. Future effort will apply the work to bicyclists, pedestrians, and other people in the driving environment. The importance of resolving contention in the lane-change scenario is highlighted by the story of a local high school graduate, Bianca Roberson, who inspired a piano composition by Steemizen and student-composer, @cmp2020 after she was was tragically murdered in a 2017 lane-merge/road-rage incident.

    Here is a video:


  • STEEM Is There A Worldwide Consciousness? - In this embedded youtube video, @answerswithjoe discusses the Global Consciousness Project from the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research (PEAR) Lab and the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS). Starting in 1976, the lab has been looking to for statistical links between human consciousness and the output of a random number generators. According to the video, the techniques they use to see patterns in the randomness are similar to those that particle physicists use in their search for new particles. Eventually, Roger Nelson joined the effort and wondered if the correlations that they were finding might be caused by attention, in similar fashion to the double-slit experiment from physics. Early experiments revealed that time after time, focused attention from groups of humans seemed to correlate with spikes in the random number generators. Eventually, the team placed random number generators in locations around the world, and observed those same sort of spikes when major news events happened, often with stronger spikes in locations that were closer to the actual location of the event. A strong example of this phenomenon is given in the events of September 11, 2001, the date of the most intensely watched disaster in history. Not only was a spike observed in their random numbers, but it actually began three hours before the first plane hit the World Trade Center. The video says that the 3 hour advance spike is unexplained, but it occurs to me that three hours earlier would be around the time that the terrorists would have been mobilizing for the day, and their international co-conspirators would have been intensely focused on monitoring reports from their intelligence sources. At any rate, the spike lasted for several days before settling back into randomness. Click through to view the whole video embedded in a Steem post. Next week, @answerswithjoe will interview someone who is going to debut a mobile app for anyone to participate as a citizen scientist in the Global Consciousness Project. (A 10% beneficiary setting has been assigned to this post for @answerswithjoe.)


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