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Brian Slesinsky
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Harmless Science Experiment
Harmless Science Experiment

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From the article: "More troubling, any voice—including that of a stranger—can be cloned if decent recordings are available on YouTube or elsewhere. Researchers at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, led by Nitesh Saxena, were able to use Festvox to clone voices based on only five minutes of speech retrieved online. When tested against voice-biometrics software like that used by many banks to block unauthorised access to accounts, more than 80% of the fake voices tricked the computer. Alan Black, one of Festvox’s developers, reckons systems that rely on voice-ID software are now 'deeply, fundamentally insecure'.

"And, lest people get smug about the inferiority of machines, humans have proved only a little harder to fool than software is."



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From the article: "If Pikeville doesn’t get broadband – and fast – it will be shut off from the modern economy, no matter how many capable coders live in the area.

"The predicament is maddening to Blackburn. Pikeville can’t get new jobs without broadband. But it can’t get broadband without the $15m it would cost to connect Pikeville to the backbone of fiber optic cables the state is building across Kentucky in a broadband initiative of its own called KYWired. Blackburn is hopeful that the federal government will step in with a subsidy, although he admits the Trump administration has not looked eager to spend more money in Appalachia."



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From the article: "Since 2012, two-thirds of Britain’s coal-fired power generating capacity has been shuttered. Some plants have been converted partially to burn biomass, such as wood pellets. Last year, the share of coal in total power generation dropped to 9 percent, down from 23 percent in 2015 and 40 percent in 2012.

"Some countries have already left coal behind in power generation. In Switzerland, Belgium and Norway, 'every day is a coal-free day,' Carlos Fernández Alvarez, a coal analyst at the International Energy Agency in Paris, pointed out."

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From the interview: "One of the things that is most predictive of whether any pressure group is able to achieve its political goals is the extent to which it has relationships with political elites. The higher up the elites, the better. That could be anyone from members of Congress, to the White House, to people at the NSF and NIH. Political power isn’t a thing. It’s not something I have and you don’t. It’s a relationship. So if we think about power as being relational, then those elite relationships are important.

"So what kinds of organizations are able to develop those elite relationships? We find that those that are consistently able to show the capacity to move a constituency, they’re the ones who get the attention of the elected officials. That’s what made the National Rifle Association and the Tea Party so able to move Republican legislators to their side. The NRA showed again and again that if you go against them, you suffer at the ballot box. The Tea Party showed that if you go against them, they’d bring up a primary challenger."

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From the article: "According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, an average of 30,000 M-44s, deployed by the federal government in concert with Western states and counties, are triggered each year. Baited to entice animals, they’re indiscriminate in their victims. So far, no humans have been killed by M-44s. But according to an investigation by the Sacramento Bee, 18 Wildlife Services employees and several other people were exposed to cyanide by M-44s between 1987 and 2012, and between 2000 and 2012 the devices killed more than 1,100 dogs."


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From the article: "Demand for flights to the United States has fallen in nearly every country since January, ­according to Hopper, a travel-booking app that analyzes more than 10 billion daily airfare price quotes to derive its data. Searches for U.S. flights from China and Iraq have dropped 40 percent since Trump’s inauguration, while demand in Ireland and New Zealand is down about 35 percent. (One exception: Russia, where searches for flights to the United States have surged 60 percent since January.)"

[...]

"The result could be an estimated 4.3 million fewer people coming to the United States this year, resulting in $7.4 billion in lost revenue, according to Tourism Economics, a Philadelphia-based analytics firm. Next year, the fallout is expected to be even larger, with 6.3 million fewer tourists and $10.8 billion in losses. Miami is expected to be hit hardest, followed by San Francisco and New York, the firm said."

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From the article: "The mixture sits in a container and is exposed, slice by slice, to UV light that has been programmed to create different shapes at each layer. The regions that are exposed become solid. Heating the structure in a high-temperature furnace, like a ceramics kiln, burns away the leftover liquid and fuses the glass nanoparticles together."

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From the article: "His initial estimate is that just one particularly dangerous menace — the polyphagous shot hole borer beetle — could kill as many as 27 million trees in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties, including parts of the desert.

"That’s roughly 38% of the 71 million trees in the 4,244 square mile urban region with a population of about 20 million people.

"And that insect is just one of the imminent threats."

[...]

“If we cannot control the shot hole borer, it will kill all the sycamores in California. And when they’re done with sycamores, they’ll move to other trees.”



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From the abstract: "We introduce the first deep reinforcement learning agent that learns to beat Atari games with the aid of natural language instructions. The agent uses a multimodal embedding between environment observations and natural language to self-monitor progress through a list of English instructions, granting itself reward for completing instructions in addition to increasing the game score."
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