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Ward Plunet
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No bones needed: ancient DNA in soil can tell if humans were around

This “game changer” opens up a new world of possibilities. Humans, modern and otherwise, have lived in Denisova Cave in Siberia for tens of thousands of years, where they left behind a treasury of archaeological artifacts. The cave is famous for giving its name to Denisovans, a species of human closely related to Neanderthals. But Neanderthals have lived there, too. In the cave’s Main Gallery, stone tools had been left behind by people who lived thousands of years ago. Those people were probably Neanderthals, according to a paper in Science this week: The soil says so. Even though no Neanderthal bones have been found with the tools, the paper’s authors are the first to be able to detect the presence of humans based on DNA found in the soil. This allows them to paint a much more detailed picture of the past, in Denisova Cave and elsewhere. “This is a game changer for researchers studying our hominin past,” says Christian Hoggard, an archaeologist at Aarhus University who wasn’t involved with the story. His words are echoed by myriad researchers excitedly tweeting the paper: “This is pretty damn incredible,” says Rob Scott, an evolutionary anthropologist at Rutgers. Tom Higham, an Oxford professor who specializes in dating bones, called the discovery a “new era in Paleolithic archaeology.”

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LSD MICRODOSES MAKE PEOPLE FEEL SHARPER, AND SCIENTISTS WANT TO KNOW HOW

All reporting on microdosing’s purported benefits has been anecdotal, speculative. The machinery of science moves much more slowly than hype. But the science is starting to catch up. The first glimpses of data on microdosing were presented on April 21, at Psychedelic Science 2017, a six-day summit in Oakland of more than 100 clinical researchers and physicians and 2,500 psychedelic enthusiasts. Fadiman shared results from his ongoing study’s first 418 volunteers. (He’s hesitant to call them “subjects,” because his study doesn’t follow classic research design.) People sign up to receive his self-study protocol and instructions online, which detail the month-long plan that May and Waldman followed. The participants have to find the study drugs on their own. A notice on the study’s site reads, “Please DO NOT ASK US about: how or where to find substances. [sic]” LSD isn’t the only microdose included in the protocol; psilocybin (the active alkaloid in magic mushrooms) and iboga (a psychoactive shrub) are part of it as well, plus other psychedelics as long as they’re dosed somewhere between 5 and 10 percent of the “normal recreational dose.” For LSD, Fadiman accepts self-reports from individuals ingesting between 8 and 15 micrograms, though he recommends starting with 10. A daily check-in instrument asks contributors to rate their mood, productivity, and energy on a scale.

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NSA ends spying on messages Americans send about foreign surveillance targets

Today, a spokesperson for the National Security Agency announced that the agency would end the practice of "upstream" collection of messages sent by American citizens—messages that were not directed to targets of NSA intelligence collection but referred to "selectors" for those targets in the body of the communications. According to the statement, the NSA has put an end to that practice, which has been authorized since 2008 under the agency's interpretation of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

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How to Convert Text to Images - Intro to Deep Learning #16

Generative Adversarial Networks are back! We'll use the cutting edge StackGAN architecture to let us generate images from text descriptions alone. This is pretty wild stuff and there is so much room for improvement. The possibilities are endless. I'll go through the architecture, code, and the implications of this technology for humanity.

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Dietary potassium linked with lower blood pressure

Eating potassium-rich foods like sweet potatoes, avocados, spinach, beans, bananas -- and even coffee -- could be key to lowering blood pressure, according to Alicia McDonough, PhD, professor of cell and neurobiology at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California (USC). "Decreasing sodium intake is a well-established way to lower blood pressure," McDonough says, "but evidence suggests that increasing dietary potassium may have an equally important effect on hypertension."

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Adobe Tech Could Give Cheap 360 Cameras 6 DOF Upgrades'

Virtual reality cameras have been hot hardware in the industry this past month and now Adobe is bringing innovative new software to the table as well. Earlier this week, Variety reported that Adobe’s head of Research Gavin Miller is claiming a new process for 360 video post-processing. Adobe’s system can apparently convert standard monoscopic 360 video into a much more compelling format that includes three-dimensional visuals. This process can reportedly also bring 6 DOF (degrees-of-freedom, the ability to lean in toward objects and take steps in any direction) explorability to 360 videos inside a VR headset.

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Breathing your way to preventing high blood pressure

The most common type of hypertension, which accounts for 95 per cent of people with high blood pressure, might one day be prevented with breathing exercises if caught early enough. Researchers at the University of Melbourne and Macquarie University have uncovered unusual activity between neurons controlling breathing and blood pressure during the development of essential hypertension. Essential hypertension, which is high blood pressure with no known cause, affects 30% of the global population and is a major contributor to cardiovascular disease. Lead researcher Professor Andrew Allen says the research parallels what sportspeople and eastern philosophies have long understood about the link between breathing and heart rate. "Biathletes have to regulate their breathing to slow down their heart rate before rifle shooting, and eastern meditative practices such as yoga and pranayama have always emphasised the interaction between the two," Professor Andrew Allen says. These neurons represent a potential target for therapies to prevent hypertension from manifesting in middle age. However Prof Allen and co-author Clement Menuet say that any intervention should be done early while the nervous system is still plastic.

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Alternating skimpy sleep with sleep marathons hurts attention, creativity in young adults

Skimping on sleep, followed by "catch-up" days with long snoozes, is tied to worse cognition—both in attention and creativity—in young adults, in particular those tackling major projects, Baylor University researchers have found. "The more variability they showed in their night-to-night sleep, the worse their cognition declined across the week," said study co-author Michael Scullin, Ph.D., director of Baylor's Sleep Neuroscience and Cognition Laboratory and assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience in Baylor's College of Arts & Sciences. "When completing term projects, students restrict sleep, then rebound on sleep, then repeat," he said. "Major projects which call for numerous tasks and deadlines—more so than for tests—seem to contribute to sleep variability."

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Watch how Elon Musk’s Boring Company tunnels will move cars faster

Just what does Elon Musk’s Boring Company want to accomplish? This might be our clearest picture yet – a video shown during Musk’s TEDTalk from Friday morning, which includes a rendering of a future underground transit network where cars travel on criss-crossing layers of tunnels that include sleds shuttling vehicles around on rails at around 130 mph.

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An Obscure App Flaw Creates Backdoors In Millions of Smartphones

FOR HACKERS, SCANNING for an open “port”—a responsive, potentially vulnerable internet connection on a potential victim’s machine—has long been one of the most basic ways to gain a foothold in a target company or agency. As it turns out, thanks to a few popular but rarely studied apps, plenty of smartphones have open ports, too. And those little-considered connections can just as easily give hackers access to tens of millions of Android devices. A group of researchers from the University of Michigan identified hundreds of applications in Google Play that perform an unexpected trick: By essentially turning a phone into a server, they allow the owner to connect to that phone directly from their PC, just as they would to a web site or another internet service. But dozens of these apps leave open insecure ports on those smartphones. That could allow attackers to steal data, including contacts or photos, or even to install malware. “Android has inherited this open port functionality from traditional computers, and many applications use open ports in a way that poses vulnerabilities,” says Yunhan Jia, one of the Michigan researchers who reported their findings at the IEEE European Symposium on Security and Privacy. “If one of these vulnerable open port apps is installed, your phone can be fully taken control of by attackers.”


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