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"Might an AlphaGo-like breakthrough help the growing armies of researchers poring over ever-expanding scientific data? Could AI make basic research faster and more productive, reviving areas that have become too expensive for businesses to pursue?"

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Last month, as much of the United States shivered in Arctic cold, weather models predicted a seemingly implausible surge of balmy, springlike warmth. A week later, that unlikely forecast came true—testimony to the remarkable march of such models. Since the 1980s, they’ve added a new day of predictive power with each new decade. Today, the best forecasts run out to 10 days with real skill, leading meteorologists to wonder just how much further they can push useful forecasts.

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Some 240 million years ago, the patch of land that would one day become the National Mall was part of an enormous supercontinent known as Pangea. Encompassing nearly all of Earth’s extant land mass, Pangea bore little resemblance to our contemporary planet. Thanks to a recently released interactive map, however, interested parties can now superimpose the political boundaries of today onto the geographic formations of yesteryear—at least dating back to 750 million years ago.

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"Normally, I’d expect a show like this to showcase never-before-seen or little-known videos that would hold the viewers’ attention. However, the first episode features eight videos that I’ve seen dozens of times already. It felt more like a 'Top Ten Haunted' compilation video you’d see on YouTube, rather than a cable network series."

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We’ve trained a large-scale unsupervised language model which generates coherent paragraphs of text, achieves state-of-the-art performance on many language modeling benchmarks, and performs rudimentary reading comprehension, machine translation, question answering, and summarization — all without task-specific training.

"...Dr. Pérez believes that the unicorns may have originated in Argentina, where the animals were believed to be descendants of a lost race of people who lived there before the arrival of humans in those parts of South America.

"While their origins are still unclear, some believe that perhaps the creatures were created when a human and a unicorn met each other in a time before human civilization. According to Pérez, 'In South America, such incidents seem to be quite common.'"

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"I’m going to attempt to do several things in this article. For those unfamiliar with the claimed recent 'sonic attacks' on embassies, I will provide some background information. In parallel, for people interested in reading an example of how the Guerrilla Skepticism on Wikipedia (GSoW) team works, I will describe the role I had in converting the story’s initially credulous Wikipedia article into its current version: one that makes it clear that the purported 'sonic attacks' in Cuba and China all but certainly never happened."

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More than one billion acres of farmland around the world have been used to grow crops that have been genetically engineered with proteins from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt).

The Bt protein’s insecticidal properties allow farmers to control pests without having to spray their fields with harmful chemicals. But the use of Bt crops has been criticized by opponents of agricultural biotechnology who say that they could have unintended effects on non-target organisms, including insects that may pose no danger to the crops but prey upon those do. This perceived threat has led to accusations that Bt crops damage ecosystems.

Now a comprehensive review recently published in the journal Biological Control concludes that in the 20-plus years that Bt crops have been grown on more than one billion acres — some 247 million acres in 2017 alone — there have been “no unintended adverse effects” to non-targeted species.

In fact, the authors conclude that “when Bt crops replace synthetic chemical insecticides for target pest control, this creates an environment supportive of the conservation of natural enemies.”

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Some observations about the recent review showing a decline in insect numbers.

"The authors use a very limited and selective search string (insect* + decline* + survey). This is problematic for a few reasons: (i) it will mostly find papers showing declines, not population increases or stability; (ii) the term ‘insect’ is too broad and will likely miss many studies focused on particular taxonomic groups (e.g. bees) that don’t use the word insect; (iii) ‘survey’ is just one term that could pick up long-term studies. Ideally, you would also include other terms that might pick up long-term data, like “long-term” “monitoring” “historical records” “population dynamics” etc.

"The authors only search one database. There are multiple databases of peer-reviewed literature. For a comprehensive review, and to ensure the widest coverage of literature, it’s good practice to search more than one database.

"The authors only considered “surveys that reported changes in quantitative data over time, either species richness or abundance”. This means that any study showing stability (i.e. no change over time) would have been discarded.

"The study is not systematic or a true meta-analysis, as claimed by the authors. This may be pedantic, but science is based on standards."

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With so much media coverage and political debate on the need to reduce our use of fossil fuels, you’d think there must be some very difficult decisions to make, or some very complex new technology required, because for all the talk there doesn’t seem to be much change.

Would it surprise you to learn that there are already eight places in the world with major electricity systems which use almost no fossil fuels?
We Know How to Do This
We Know How to Do This
poetandengineer.com

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"The United States is less densely populated than Europe or Japan, and our cities are less downtown-centric than European or Japanese cities, so it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which rail would achieve European or Japanese levels of popularity Still, the United States has plenty of city pairs that would benefit from high-speed rail connections.

"But we don’t have any, and we aren’t making any progress toward building any, including in the regions of the country where political support for the idea is high, largely because the entire political model behind undertaking large transportation projects is completely broken."
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