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[September 26th, 2017] Sci-Tech News Megapack

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    [September 26th, 2017] Sci-Tech News Megapack

    Gravity may be created by strange flashes in the quantum realm

    HOW do you reconcile the two pillars of modern physics: quantum theory and gravity? One or both will have to give way. A new approach says gravity could emerge from random fluctuations at the quantum level, making quantum mechanics the more fundamental of the two theories.

    Of our two main explanations of reality, quantum theory governs the interactions between the smallest bits of matter. And general relativity deals with gravity and the largest structures in the universe. Ever since Einstein, physicists have been trying to bridge the gap between the two, with little success.


    New Theory Cracks Open the Black Box of Deep Learning

    Even as machines known as “deep neural networks” have learned to converse, drive cars, beat video games and Go champions, dream, paint pictures and help make scientific discoveries, they have also confounded their human creators, who never expected so-called “deep-learning” algorithms to work so well. No underlying principle has guided the design of these learning systems, other than vague inspiration drawn from the architecture of the brain (and no one really understands how that operates either).

    Like a brain, a deep neural network has layers of neurons — artificial ones that are figments of computer memory. When a neuron fires, it sends signals to connected neurons in the layer above. During deep learning, connections in the network are strengthened or weakened as needed to make the system better at sending signals from input data — the pixels of a photo of a dog, for instance — up through the layers to neurons associated with the right high-level concepts, such as “dog.” After a deep neural network has “learned” from thousands of sample dog photos, it can identify dogs in new photos as accurately as people can. The magic leap from special cases to general concepts during learning gives deep neural networks their power, just as it underlies human reasoning, creativity and the other faculties collectively termed “intelligence.” Experts wonder what it is about deep learning that enables generalization — and to what extent brains apprehend reality in the same way.


    How the Internet of cells has biologists buzzing

    Yukiko Yamashita thought she knew the fruit-fly testis inside out. But when she carried out a set of experiments on the organ five years ago, it ended up leaving her flummoxed.

    Her group had been studying how fruit flies maintain their sperm supply and had engineered certain cells involved in the process to produce specific sets of proteins. But instead of showing up in the engineered cells, some proteins seemed to have teleported to a different group of cells entirely.

    A sustainable future powered by sea

    Professor Tsumoru Shintake at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST) yearns for a clean future, one that is affordable and powered by sustainable energy. Originally from the high-energy accelerator field, in 2012 he decided to seek new energy resources -- wind and solar were being explored in depth, but he moved toward the sea instead.

    That year, Professor Shintake and the Quantum Wave Microscopy Unit at OIST began a project titled "Sea Horse," aiming to harness energy from the Kuroshio ocean current that flows from the eastern coast of Taiwan and around the southern parts of Japan. This project uses submerged turbines anchored to the sea floor through mooring cables that convert the kinetic energy of sustained natural currents in the Kuroshio into usable electricity, which is then delivered by cables to the land. The initial phase of the project was successful, and the Unit is now searching for industry partners to continue into the next phase. But the OIST researchers also desired an ocean energy source that was cheaper and easier to maintain.


    Nerve implant 'restores consciousness' to man in persistant vegetative state

    A 35-year-old man who had been in a persistant vegetative state (PVS) for 15 years has shown signs of consciousness after receiving a pioneering therapy involving nerve stimulation.

    The treatment challenges a widely-accepted view that there is no prospect of a patient recovering consciousness if they have been in PVS for longer than 12 months.


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