NEWWorthy shutting down December 2017

Well, it’s been fun blogging on NEWWorthy for 5 years.  Readership hasn’t grown as I had hoped, though, so it’s time to shut down NEWWorthy.

Sometime in December 2017, this site will no longer be accessible.  Feel free to explore all my blog entries before then.  I may move the NEWWorthy Awards to my author site and author blog, and continue adding new awards annually.  If you like NEWWorthy, you can still get a bit of NEWWorthy-ness on my Pinterest board called NEWWorthy.

If you have been intrigued by the science, technology, and health articles I have blogged about here, you might like to keep up with MIT Technology Review, CNet, ComputerWorldScience News, The Scientist, NASA, The Planetary Society, and many of the other magazines and journals I have mentioned in my blogs here on NEWWorthy.

I hope you all enjoy the rest of your 2017 and on into the future.

All the best, Richard S. Levine, NEWWorthy editor

Better phone photos automatically

MIT research and Google have developed a “a new system that can automatically retouch images in the style of a professional photographer. It’s so energy-efficient, however, that it can run on a cellphone…”  It may not be available as an app anytime soon, but it will be a handy new addition to your phone when it becomes a product.

Mobile Touch Phone clip art

Satisfiability

The Boolean satisfiability problem (SAT) was proven in 1971 to be NP-complete — suffice it to say, no fast solution exists.  That being over 40 years ago, it is OLDWorthy.

But with today’s fast computers, super efficient algorithms, and artificial intelligence research, SAT solving has benefitted greatly in the last couple of decades.  Satisfiability (SAT) is again NEWWorthy.  Just understand that it also increases our dependence on computers for answers.

NEWWorthy particle found – Xi-cc-plus-plus

To software engineers, this newly discovered — though predicted — particle sounds like an extension to the C++ programming language.  In actuality, the Xi-cc-plus-plus is a new kind of particle made up of two charm quarks.  Here’s the detailed (pdf) slide presentation.

It’s a heavy particle, and one of the most important findings about the Xi so far is that it helps to confirm the Standard Model.  In the long term, it might also help to refine our understanding of quantum chromodynamics.

Weather logistics

When one thinks of logistics planning, one usually thinks of trucking and shipping of goods around the country or the world.  However cruise ships have to consider providing their customers not only with the best itinerary, but also with a path and set of ports that provides the best experience.  That often means figuring out the logistics in relation to the weather, and that’s why Royal Caribbean now has a chief meteorologist.

Island, Palm, And The Sun clip art

Could this be a future U.S. electoral map?

Climate Central shows a map of the United States showing projected economic impact from climate change by 2080-2099.  The focus of the report is on the potential for economic and devastating impact, especially to the poor.

But could there be an interesting political impact as well by 2080 or even much earlier?  Voters in states who see there could be tragic consequences from ignoring climate change — particularly voters in the southeast — may vote in large numbers for politicians who support policies to deal effectively with climate change.  It is hard to say what climate change positions major political parties in the U.S. will take in 2025, 2050, or 2075.  But looking at today’s politics, that might mean a shift towards more votes for one party over another in those states.

If one counts just the states with a fair amount of the browns or darker colors on the map at Climate Central, particularly noticing the southern half of the country, that’s about 280 electoral votes in a presidential election.  Maybe that didn’t count for enough in the 2016 election, but by 2020, 2024, and onward, politicians should take note.  Climate change could have considerable impact on our nation’s economy, but it might also have a powerful impact on politics as well.

Globe Earth clip art

Largest single-memory computer

The Machine sounds like something out of an old science fiction movie, like “Colossus: The Forbin Project“.

But The Machine is actually the largest single-memory computer in the world today.  It has 160 TB of data and in the future may scale up to “4,096 yottabytes, or 250,000 times the total store of data in the world today.”

This is a fantastic tool for researchers.  The Machine sounds NEWWorthy.  Let’s just hope the old 1970 movie “Colossus: The Forbin Project” remains fictional, and that The Machine and AI are used for medical, weather, and other non-catastrophic scientific breakthroughs.

2D magnets

It’s too early to tell how useful 2D magnets are for anything other than experiments, since there is more research required to make them work at room temperature.

But the fact that physicists have figured out how to make magnets that are one atom thick, sure sounds pretty NEWWorthy.  They might eventually be used in consumer electronics.  Perhaps there will be uses in smartphones or computers.

As a person who enjoys the sport of disc golf, I wonder how strong the magnet will be.  If I could place a tape-thin-like magnet on my disc, that wouldn’t change the characteristics of my disc, could I then use any kind of extending pole (like a golf ball retriever) with a magnet on the end to retrieve it?  Probably not, but it’s a thought.

Magnetic Field clip art

Better humans?

I intended the title of this piece on artificial intelligence (AI) and humans to have more than one meaning.  It can refer to AI being better than human performance on the job.  In other words, when will AI better (surpass) humans in various jobs?   But it can also refer to when we can expect to see better humans.  I’ll spend a little time on each of these topics.

First, MIT Technology Review recently reported on the topic of “Experts predict when AI will exceed human performance.”  It would be amazing to see an AI beat college students in the Putnam Math competition by 2050, but that’s the prediction.  If it happens, that will certainly be NEWWorthy. You can see a sample Putnam problem every day on Harvard’s website.

Then there’s the issue of better humans.  I’ll simply say that we might all be better off if every human considered these 10 things (in the video below “10 Ways to be a Better Human”) before making big decisions.