Genetically engineered algae kills 90% of cancer cells without harming healthy cells

in science on (#VZJ3)
Algae has been genetically engineered to kill cancer cells without harming healthy cells. The algae nanoparticles, created by scientists in Australia, were found to kill 90% of cancer cells in cultured human cells. The algae was also successful at killing cancer in mice with tumours.

"By genetically engineering diatom algae - tiny, unicellular, photosynthesising algae with a skeleton made of nanoporous silica, we are able to produce an antibody-binding protein on the surface of their shells. Anti-cancer chemotherapeutic drugs are often toxic to normal tissues. [...]To minimise the off-target toxicity, the drugs can be hidden inside the antibody-coated nanoparticles. The antibody binds only to molecules found on cancer cells, thus delivering the toxic drug specifically to the target cells."

Understanding the US government's dismal IT project track record

in legal on (#VZGD)
A lot of times the systems are politically mandated in the sense that you have somebody on the Hill or Congress who will mandate a system and they'll mandate a particular period of time and they'll mandate the amount of money to spend and they have absolutely no idea what they're talking about. So what happens is, if you're there as a government person, you’re trying to translate some political wish into something that's topical and it’s not very easy,” Bob Charette says. Another problem is that there isn’t much accountability when it comes to projects that fail.

One infamous example of government failure is the system that handles disability claims for Social Security. In the early 2000s, Congress spent money to try and reduce the massive backlog in claim processing that had built up. The backlog, however, only grew. Then in 2007, they spent more money — an estimated $381 million — to try and integrate 54 different IT systems that the Social Security Administration uses to process claims in the state. In 2011 they spent another $200 million on the project. “After six years ... they found out that they really didn't have anything.” The backlog for Social Security claims continues to grow, and the latest attempt to fix the problem failed again this past summer. “By any stretch of imagination, it's scandalous.”

Bosch's agricultural robot "Bonirob" gets rid of weeds without herbicides

in robotics on (#VWVS)
Back in 1950, a farmer would have been able to grow around 2,500 kilograms of wheat per hectare of cropland. Today, that figure has more than tripled. Advances in plant breeding and technical innovations will continue to be necessary in order to feed the growing global population. This is where Bosch’s agricultural robot “Bonirob” can play a part.

According to estimates, agricultural yields need to increase by three percent a year to keep up with population growth. Along with innovative agricultural technology and improved crop protection, more efficient plant breeding will play a particularly important role.

In this area, Bonirob automates and speeds up analysis. The robot, which is approximately the size of a compact car, uses video- and lidar-based positioning as well as satellite navigation to find its way around the fields. It knows its position to the nearest centimeter. It also helps minimize the environmental impact of crop farming.

Stanford researchers develop new way to measure crop yields from space

in environment on (#TYJ2)
story imageA Stanford-led team has used satellites to measure a special light emitted by plants to estimate crop yields with more accuracy than ever before. This advance will help scientists study how crops respond to climate change.

As Earth’s population grows toward a projected 9 billion by 2050 and climate change puts growing pressure on the world’s agriculture, researchers are turning to technology to help safeguard the global food supply.
A research team, led by Kaiyu Guan, a postdoctoral fellow in Earth system science at Stanford’s School of Earth, Energy, & Environmental Sciences, has developed a method to estimate crop yields using satellites that can measure solar-induced fluorescence, a light emitted by growing plants. The team published its results in the journal Global Change Biology.

MIT team invents efficient shockwave-based process for desalination of water.

in science on (#TXK9)
As the availability of clean, potable water becomes an increasingly urgent issue in many parts of the world, researchers are searching for new ways to treat salty, brackish or contaminated water to make it usable. Now a team at MIT has come up with an innovative approach that, unlike most traditional desalination systems, does not separate ions or water molecules with filters, which can become clogged, or boiling, which consumes great amounts of energy.

Instead, the system uses an electrically driven shockwave within a stream of flowing water, which pushes salty water to one side of the flow and fresh water to the other, allowing easy separation of the two streams.

According to the researchers, this approach is a fundamentally new and different separation system. Unlike most other approaches to desalination or water purification, this one performs a “membraneless separation” of ions and particles.

Membranes in traditional desalination systems, such as those that use reverse osmosis or electrodialysis, are “selective barriers”.

They allow molecules of water to pass through, but block the larger sodium and chlorine atoms of salt. Compared to conventional electrodialysis, “This process looks similar, but it’s fundamentally different,”

TensorFlow - A New Machine Learning System Released as Open-Source Software by Google

in google on (#TPX5)
story imageOn Monday, Google announced the release, as an opensource project (Apache License), of TensorFlow.

According to Google, TensorFlow is their next-gen machine learning system, fixing the shortcomings of DistBelief, the AI system behind several of Google tools such as speech recognition on Android (think "OK Google"), description-based image search in Google Photos or even automatic email reply suggestions.

From the official announcement:
TensorFlow has extensive built-in support for deep learning, but is far more general than that -- any computation that you can express as a computational flow graph, you can compute with TensorFlow (see some examples). Any gradient-based machine learning algorithm will benefit from TensorFlow’s auto-differentiation and suite of first-rate optimizers. And it’s easy to express your new ideas in TensorFlow via the flexible Python interface.
note: "Deep Learning" is what used to be called "Artificial Neural Networks", but on steroids.

More technical explanations are available in their whitepaper and code is on GitHub.

Verizon exploring $10 billion sale of enterprise assets

in internet on (#TNCR)
Verizon Communications Inc is exploring a sale of its enterprise assets which could be worth as much as $10 billion. The sale would include the business formerly known as MCI (acquired in 2006), which provides landline and Internet services for large business customers, as well as Terremark (acquired in 2011), its data center unit. The assets have estimated annual earnings of around $2 billion. The businesses have struggled to keep up with advances in cloud computing, and face fierce price competition from players such as Google and Amazon. Verizon is still considering how some of these asset sales could best be structured and no deal is imminent.

Wireline provider CenturyLink Inc was in talks with Verizon earlier this year to buy some of the assets but could not agree on terms. In a strategy shift, CenturyLink announced this week it would instead explore options for its data centers, including possibly selling them. The enterprise telecommunications industry has had to adapt in recent years to corporate customers seeking more sophisticated and cheaper offerings to manage their data. AT&T Inc has been exploring a sale of its data center assets for some time, while Windstream Holdings Inc sold its data center business for $575 million to TierPoint last month.

Verizon Chief Financial Officer Fran Shammo said, during the company's third-quarter earnings call on Oct. 20, that it continues "to work through secular and economic challenges" with its global enterprise division, which posted a 4.9 percent decline in revenue in the quarter ended Sept. 30. Verizon has been looking to sell other non-core assets as well. In February, it announced the sale of residential landline assets in California, Texas and Florida to Frontier Communications for $10.54 billion, and unloaded its tower portfolio for more than $5 billion.

Tor Says Feds Paid Carnegie Mellon $1M to Help Unmask Users

Anonymous Coward
in security on (#TDNC)
"Apparently these researchers were paid by the FBI to attack hidden services users in a broad sweep, and then sift through their data to find people whom they could accuse of crimes," Dingledine writes. "Such action is a violation of our trust and basic guidelines for ethical research. We strongly support independent research on our software and network, but this attack crosses the crucial line between research and endangering innocent users."

FCC can't force Websites to honor 'Do Not Track'

in legal on (#TDN4)
story image"Websites will not be forced to honor consumers' "Do Not Track" requests as the Federal Communications Commission today dismissed a petition that would have imposed new requirements on companies like Google and Facebook.

Consumer Watchdog had petitioned the FCC to "initiate a rule-making proceeding requiring 'edge providers' (like Google, Facebook, YouTube, Pandora, Netflix, and LinkedIn) to honor 'Do Not Track' Requests from consumers." The group's proposed rule would prevent online services from requiring consumers to consent to tracking in exchange for accessing Web services, preventing online services from sharing personal information of users with third parties when consumers send Do Not Track requests.

The group pointed out that the FCC intends to impose new privacy rules on Internet service providers under Section 222 of the Communications Act, the privacy portion of the Title II common carrier regulations that the FCC is applying to broadband providers such as Comcast and AT&T. But those rules don't apply to websites."

MIT's New System Converts 2D Video Of Soccer Games Into 3D Automatically

in games on (#TDM0)
story imageA wide spread adoption of 3D stereoscopic television is hindered by the lack of high-quality 3D content. One promising solution to address this need is to use automated 2D-to-3D conversion. However, current conversion methods produce low-quality results that exhibit artifacts that are not acceptable to many viewers. By exploiting the graphics-rendering software that powers sports video games, researchers at MIT and the Qatar Computing Research Institute (QCRI) have developed a system that automatically converts 2-D video of soccer games into 3-D. The converted video can be played back over any 3-D device — a commercial 3-D TV, or Google’s new Cardboard system, which turns smartphones into 3-D displays, or special-purpose displays such as Oculus Rift.

Stereoscopic 3D (S3D) movies are becoming popular with most of big productions being released in this format. However, in practice, most movies are shot in 2D and then they are upconverted to S3D by manually painting depth maps and rendering corresponding views. This process yields very good results but it is extremely costly and time-consuming. Stereoscopic 3D production of live events is much harder. Manual upconversion is not possible. Shooting live events, such as soccer games, directly in stereo requires placing multiple stereo rigs in the stadium. This is challenging and it is rarely being attempted. Therefore, a high-quality, automated 2D-to-3D conversion method is highly desired for live events.