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Naoki Watanabe
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Obama wants a big computer - aims for exaflop

From the man that late last year announced $300 million in public funding for the BRAIN initiative - to model the human brain in search for answers to diseases like Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, autism, & epilepsy - comes more blue sky public science.

President Obama signed an executive order creating the National Strategic Computing Initiative (NSCI). Its goal is to create "advance core technologies to solve difficult computational problems and foster increased use of the new capabilities in the public and private sectors".

In other words, big computers that do work essential to the government and to teach government agencies how to leverage that capability.

So what exactly is all the fuss about, what do big computers do?

- Weather predictions
- Climate models
- Nuclear stockpile degradation
- Galaxy formation
- Aircraft design
- Drug discovery 
- Molecular interactions
- Learning from the massive amounts of DNA information coming from the Human Genome initiative
- Playing Crysis on Ultra (ok maybe not so much this one)

In the official press release they use aircraft design as a good example of why faster machine matter;

"As an example, Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) has been an important tool in aircraft design since the 1970s. Through CFD simulations, the aircraft industry has significantly reduced the need for wind tunnel and flight testing, but current technology can only handle simplified models of the airflow around a wing and under limited flight conditions. A recent study commissioned by NASA determined that machines able to sustain exaflop-level performance could incorporate full modeling of turbulence, as well as more dynamic flight conditions, in their simulations."

It is a great initiative and will undoubtedly have decade long positive impacts for a whole host of industries and endeavors. tips hat

http://www.theinquirer.net/inquirer/news/2419978/president-obama-is-seeking-high-performance-computing-playmates
Wanted: One capable exascale computing system, a lot of R&D, and a great big gang of support
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Facial recognition - in infrared

Computers have been doing facial recognition for a long time. Work began the mid 60s and by the late 90s the tech being employed in high-value areas like airports. We now have algorithms that can not only pick out faces that are tilted and rotated and in varying lighting conditions (and with very low error rates) but they can also determine emotional content (happiness, sadness, fear, anger, surprise, and disgust) at over 95% accuracy.

We even have algorithms that can outperform humans when differentiating identical twins.

And now we can do that in infrared, aka 'nightvision'.

http://phys.org/news/2015-07-deep-neural-network-infrared-facial.html
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Always thinking about astronomy: We have more infrared information about stars than visible spectrum because IR passes through interstellar dust better. We should be able to use the same technique to generate an image of the how galaxy would look without the dust.

Milky way in visible light:
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/e5/Milky_Way_Galaxy_and_a_meteor.jpg

Milky way in IR:
http://wise.ssl.berkeley.edu/gallery_images/milkyway_med.jpg

X-rays and radio waves are even better, so you ought to be able to extend this even further.
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"I'M MELTING!" .. eventually

Breaking the previous record of 3,942 C researchers have identified an alloy of hafnium, nitrogen and carbon as having the highest melting point yet discovered. The new material is predicted to melt at a staggering 4,120 C. For comparison diamond will ignite and burn at <1,000C.

This discovery was made with computational techniques and the material is yet to be synthesized and tested.

https://news.brown.edu/articles/2015/07/melting
Handling the heat Compounds made from hafnium and carbon have some of the highest known melting points. Using computer simulations, Brown University engineers predict that a material made with hafnium, nitrogen, and carbon will have a higher melting point than any known material.
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Kepler-452 b - A home away from home?

It's always with some excitement that I open NASA's Exoplanet app at a new notification and this morning did not disappoint. 

Located 1,400 light years from Earth is a rocky planet orbiting a sun like star right smack in the habitable zone where water has the potential to exist in a liquid state. In almost every way this planet and parent star are our older brothers.

It orbits at almost the exact same distance as Earth orbits her sun. So similar that a year on this planet is only slightly longer than ours at 385 days. 

The planet is ~63% bigger than our Earth (radius). The planet is 6 billion years old, somewhat older than our 4.54 billion years. The parents star is 1.5 billion years older than our sun's 4.6 billion years. The planet is probably slightly warmer than our planet too since the parent star is ~10% larger.

It's not all rosy though as this planet could be up to five times more massive than our world with twice the surface gravity. It's also likely to suffer from a runaway greenhouse effect like Venus. And to make matters worse even if you could board the fastest ship we've ever made (New Horizons) and change course it would take 25 million years to get there.

http://www.sciencealert.com/here-s-everything-we-know-about-the-most-earth-like-exoplanet-ever-found
As you're probably well aware, a few hours ago, NASA and SETI announced the discovery of Earth's "older, bigger cousin". Called Kepler-452b, it's the first almost-Earth-sized planet that's been found in the habitable zone of a star very similar to...
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Right...wake up! 
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Alzheimer's - why does the associated plaque form?

A few days ago I wrote about a promising new treatment vector for degenerative brain diseases such as Alzheimer's. But the question remains why do these diseases exist, where do they come from, why do they get worse with age.

It seems the answer is perhaps, on a basic level at least, quite simple. 

These proteins occur naturally being generated as part of our normal metabolic processes. Then as we age our ability to clear them out slows down. When it can't keep up the proteins accumulate forming a plague when then strangles neurons.

Researchers found that when you are in your 20s it takes about 4 hours to clear half of the proteins (breaking them down or transporting out of the brain). By the time most people are in their 80s though it takes 10 hours, "2.5-fold longer half-life over five decades of age" stated in the paper. The rate accelerates once over 65.

Anything we can find to help this process or to break them down through a drug would be welcome. We'll get there.

https://www.sciencenews.org/article/breakdown-alzheimer%E2%80%99s-protein-slows-age
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There was a terrifying theory about Alzheimers on "Ockhams Razor" (ABC) earlier this year: Alzheimers is caused by tiny lesions in the brain, caused by trauma from a kind of cardiac shockwave. The strength of a person's heartbeat was positively correlated with Alzheimers!
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Exciting news in the world of brain diseases

Degenerative brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s, CJB etc share something in common. Misfolded proteins clog up the brains and kill neurons. This leads to the classic of memory and cognition degradation and ever worsening motor control issues. 

Nasty stuff indeed so any news is of interest and this is a real doozy.

A new drug has been developed that 'eats' these misfolded proteins and in a mouse test it cleared up the protein plagues and improved the memories and cognitive abilities.

The slightly weird bit is this drug is derived from a bacteriophage, a virus that infects and replicates inside bacteria, and it was discovered in sewage. 

It it is approved for clinical testing we might see human trials next year. Mice a quite different from people of course but we hope it goes well. Regardless the new understanding the drug has brought will push research into new and interesting ways.


https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn27921-universal-plaque-busting-drug-could-treat-various-brain-diseases/
A drug that breaks up different types of brain plaque shows promising results in animals and could prevent Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease
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You are right that we need to be careful and I think the model->animal test->multi-stage clinical trial system is very effective in minimizing such inherent risks including in this case.

As for the symptom vs cause question I think it would be unlikely the progressive killing of neurons eventually leading to death in 100% of cases would be a defense mechanism. Or certainly at least one we would want to reconsider - I for one would rather maintain memory and cognitive function at the cost of a slight increase in lifespan.

Luckily though we do have an idea as to the answer here. It seems these plaques are naturally occurring and the problem is that our natural ability to clear them out decreases with age. 

https://www.sciencenews.org/article/breakdown-alzheimer%E2%80%99s-protein-slows-age
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Japan turning abandoned golf courses into solar plants

Japan's Kyocera (maker of everything from ceramic cookware to semiconductors) to build a 23 megawatt solar field installed on an abandoned golf course in Kyoto. It will power over 8,000 households in 2017. They also have a larger 92 megawatt solar project planned for a disused golf course in Kagoshima prefecture currently awaiting approval.


http://www.iflscience.com/environment/japan-tuning-its-disused-golf-courses-solar-power-fields
Not a sport you’d usually associate with Japan, golf had its true boom during the 1980s. However, the leisurely sport is seeing a recent decline in interest.
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intel & Micron announce new form of memory - updated

The new memory dubbed 3D XPoint™ will - they announce - bring 1,000X greater speed, 1,000X greater endurance, 10X more density.

Game changing.

Even more surprising to me is that they expect to sample later this year which makes me think it's rather mature for something seemingly so far advanced and so new. 

It is a "3D stackable and cross point connect structure" but other details are scant. 

Update: From this excellent article on Tom's;

- Cost set between DRAM and NAND Flash
- 20nm process
- Designed for NVMe (PCIe)
- Can read/write individual cells, not just blocks


Original: http://www.tomshardware.com/news/micron-intel-3d-xpoint-memory,29690.html

http://newsroom.intel.com/community/intel_newsroom/blog/2015/07/28/intel-and-micron-produce-breakthrough-memory-technology
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Fun fact; the average life of a taste bud is only 10 days.
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American Psychological Association rules on belief in God

To be clear not just a belief but "a strong and passionate belief in a deity or higher power, to the point where it impairs one’s ability to make conscientious decisions about common sense matters."

If your belief causes anxiety, emotional distress and poor health then you may be classified as mentally ill.

http://www.thenewsnerd.com/health/apa-to-classify-belief-in-god-as-a-mental-illness/
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About damn time - Kiwi bird genome sequenced

I mean honestly, how did the Red-throated loon get a full sequencing before the noble Kiwi bird I ask you.

http://phys.org/news/2015-07-kiwi-bird-genome-sequenced.html
Its unusual biological characteristics make the flightless kiwi a unique kind of bird. Researchers of the University of Leipzig and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, have now sequenced the genetic code of this endangered species and have identified several sequence changes that underlie the kiwi's adaptation to a nocturnal lifestyle: They found several genes involved in colour vision to be inactivated and...
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SCiO - pocket near-IR spectroscopy molecular sensor

Possibly the first consumer product in what I imagine will become a sizable industry. The killer app is likely food analysis but quickly branching into health and safety.

I see spectroscopy becoming embedded in everything from smartphones to toilets (the latter has been talked about since at least 2009: http://singularityhub.com/2009/05/12/smart-toilets-doctors-in-your-bathroom/)

“With every scan, SCiO learns more about the world around us, so we can all get smarter,” the Israel-based developers continue. “Our development team has taught SCiO some exciting things, like to tell how much fat is in any salad dressing, how much sugar is in a particular piece of fruit, how pure an oil is and lots more.”

http://inhabitat.com/worlds-first-pocket-molecular-sensor-measures-the-chemical-makeup-of-everything/
The SCiO is the world's first spectrometer that fits in a pocket, and it can measure the molecular fingerprint of just about anything you see.
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+Paul Boldra
 not really, the European crimis are more about people, while CSI is all about the lab (and little bit of people, obviously)
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