Physicists Actually Create “Impossible” Time Crystals.


Article Image

Time crystals are hypothetical structures proposed by Nobel-Prize winning theoretical physicist Frank Wilczek in 2012. What’s special about them is that they would move without using energy, breaking a fundamental physics law of time-translation symmetry. Such crystals would move while remaining in their ground states, when they are at their lowest energy.

They’ve been deemed “impossible” by most physicists and yet, at the end of August, experimental physicists from University of California, Santa Barbara and Microsoft’s research lab station Q published a notable paperon how time crystals may be feasible and their plan for creating them. What’s also remarkable, if time crystals were actually created, they would re-define the nature of time itself, potentially reconciling the rather weird field of quantum mechanics with the theory of relativity.

Now comes news that scientists from the University of Maryland tried an experiment suggested by Frank Wilczek and actually made a time crystal that works. They created a ring-shaped quantum system of a group of ytterbium ions, cooled off to their ground state. In theory, this system should not be moving at all. But if it was to periodically rotate, that would prove the existence of symmetry-breaking time crystals.

The research scientists used a laser to change the spin of the ions to put them into perpetual oscillation. As reported by MIT Tech Review, they discovered that over time the oscillations eventually happened at twice the original rate. Since no energy was added to the system, the only explanation was that they created a time crystal.

As their paper undergoes the peer-review process, the physicists look for others to repeat their experiment. If their discovery is confirmed, the repercussions of this groundbreaking development are only beginning to be understood. One potential application suggested by the scientists may be in quantum computing, where time crystals may be utilized for quantum memory.

MIT Physicist Proposes New “Meaning of Life” 


Article Image

MIT physicist Jeremy England claims that life may not be so mysterious after all, despite the fact it is apparently derived from non-living matter. In a new paper, England explains how simple physical laws make complex life more likely than not. In other words, it would be more surprising to find no life in the universe than a buzzing place like planet Earth.

What does all matter—rocks, plants, animals, and humans—have in common? We all absorb and dissipate energy. While a rock absorbs a small amount of energy before releasing what it doesn’t use back into the universe, life takes in more energy and releases less. This makes life better at redistributing energy, and the process of converting and dissipating energy is simply a fundamental characteristic of the universe.

[S]imple physical laws make complex life more likely than not.

According to England, the second law of thermodynamics gives life its meaning. The law states that entropy, i.e. decay, will continuously increase. Imagine a hot cup of coffee sitting at room temperature. Eventually, the cup of coffee will reach room temperature and stay there: its energy will have dissipated. Now imagine molecules swimming in a warm primordial ocean. England claims that matter will slowly but inevitably reorganize itself into forms that better dissipate the warm oceanic energy.

[T]he second law of thermodynamics gives life its meaning.

The strength of England’s theory is that it provides an underlying physical basis for Darwin’s theory of evolution and helps explain some evolutionary tendencies that evolution cannot. Adaptations that don’t clearly benefit a species in terms of survivability can be explained thusly: “the reason that an organism shows characteristic X rather than Y may not be because X is more fit than Y, but because physical constraints make it easier for X to evolve than for Y to evolve.”

Sex will be just for special occasions in the future as robots will satisfy everyday needs


Sex robot
Robots will becoming more and more lifelike 

Sex between married couples will increasingly be saved for special occasions as robots step in to satisfy everyday needs, experts have predicted.

Use of artificial intelligence (AI) devices in the bedroom will be socially normal within 25 years, an international  robotics conference has heard.

Comparing sex robots to the rise of the ebook, Dr Trudy Barber, a pioneer in the impact of technology on sexual intercourse, said the machines would enable people to greater appreciate “the real thing”.

I think what will happen is that they will make real-time relationships more valuable and excitingDr Trudy Barber

Devices such as Rocky or Roxxxy True Companion can currently be bought for around £7,000, but advances in the field are predicted to make sex robots increasingly lifelike and affordable.

Speaking yesterday at the International Congress of Love and Sex with Robotics, Dr Barber said people’s growing immersion in technology means it was only a matter of time before it takes a mainstream role in sex.

“It could be that we are so busy with our lives, we are so embedded in our technological narrative that the idea of engaging in long-distance sex and robot sex is actually a natural process in our evolutionary cycle,” she said.

“I think what will happen is that they will make real-time relationships more valuable and exciting.”

However, AI experts have been warning that a generation of adolescents risk “losing their virginity” to humanoid devices and growing up with an unrealistic conception of sex.

In June leading scientist Dr Noel Sharkey, a former advisor to the UN, called on governments to prevent robotics being hijacked by the sex industry.

Inventor Douglas Hines with his True Companion sex robot
Inventor Douglas Hines with his True Companion sex robot 

But Dr Barber said the robots would effectively become an “extra human race”.

“The question is not “when will it become acceptable” but “when will we integrate”.”

“We are able to have so many colours on our sexual pallet now; I think we’d be daft not explore them.”

Questions that will face regulators involve how much data to allow robots to collect about their human partners and send back to their manufacturers.

Others include whether to legislate for purely passive robots, or to allow devices which entice humans to have sex, and whether robots would have to make clear that they are machines rather than humans.

Kate Devlin, computing expert at Goldsmiths, University of London, said it was probable future sex robots would be designed to learn their human partner’s sexual preferences to improve performance.

“Companion” devices such as the Pepper robot are being increasingly used to provide stimulation to elderly people, particularly in Asian countries such as Japan.

Created two years ago, the humanoid robot is designed with the ability to read certain emotions from analysing expressions and voice tones.

Scientists have said there is evidence the devices are being used by parents to keep their children company.

Professor Sharkey yesterday challenged the prediction that sex robots would become mainstream.

“Sex robots will be used within the next decade but it is doubtful if they will become a societal norm although surveys show that around 10% would be prepared to use them.

“They are more likely to be viewed as tools for masturbation although having a humanoid body may make a difference to the fantasy.

“Would you leave  your sex robot out if your mum came to visit?

“Prostitution has been around for thousands of years and yet has never been socially normalised.

“The problem is the same for both.

“With sex robots and prostitution, you are having a one way relationship with an object or a person that does not return your love except by pretence.”

UCLA Scientists “Jump-start” the Brain of a Coma Patient.


Article Image

A new ultrasound treatment by UCLA scientists was used to restart brain activity in a 25-year-old man recovering from a coma. Before the treatment, the man showed few signs of consciousness and understanding speech, able to perform very limited movements. Three days after the treatment, the man could fully understand language, communicated by nodding his head and even fist-bumped one of the doctors.

“The changes were remarkable,” said Martin Monti, the study’s lead author and a UCLA associate professor of psychology and neurosurgery.

He elaborated on the technique which used a sonic stimulation device to excite neurons in the thalamus, the brain’s central processing hub. It is the area with a typically diminished performance in post-coma patients.

“It’s almost as if we were jump-starting the neurons back into function,” Monti said. “Until now, the only way to achieve this was a risky surgical procedure known as deep brain stimulation, in which electrodes are implanted directly inside the thalamus. Our approach directly targets the thalamus but is noninvasive.”

The device used is the size of a coffee cup saucer. According to the UCLA press release, it “creates a small sphere of acoustic energy that can be aimed at different regions of the brain to excite brain tissue”.

brain

The researchers targeted the thalamus with low-intensity focused ultrasound pulsation. 

Both the device and the technique, called low-intensity focused ultrasound pulsation, was developed by another UCLA professor Alexander Bystritsky. He is the co-author of the study and founder of Brainsonix, a company that made the device.

The small amount of energy emitted by the device is safe for the patient.

Can this technique be used to help other patients recovering from comas? The researchers are taking a wait and see approach. More studies need to be done to see if they can get consistent results. UCLA researchers will be testing the procedure on several more people in the fall.

“It is possible that we were just very lucky and happened to have stimulated the patient just as he was spontaneously recovering,” cautioned Monti.

Monti hopes that if the technology pans out, their research will lead to the creation of low-cost portable devices that can “wake up” the brain of vegetative or minimally conscious patients.

Modern intensive care medicine has greatly increased the rates of survival after severe brain injury (BI). Nonetheless, a number of patients fail to fully recover from coma, and awaken to a disorder of consciousness (DOC) such as the vegetative state (VS) or the minimally conscious state (MCS) [1]. In these conditions, which can be transient or last indefinitely, patients can lose virtually all autonomy and have almost no treatment options [1,2]. In addition, these conditions place great emotional and financial strain on families, lead to increased burn-out rates among care-takers, impose financial stress on medical structures and public finances due to the costs of prolonged intensive care, and raise difficult legal and ethical questions

Meet LUCA: Scientists Discover the Common Ancestor to All Life on Earth.


Article Image

Scientists may have identified the ancestor that started all life and where it lived. We are talking about LUCA, the Last Universal Common Ancestor, also known as the “microbial Eve”.

This is the organism from which all modern cells descended which likely lived underwater in hydrothermal vents, an area where seawater and magma come together on the ocean floor.

As the researchers say in their paper in “Nature Microbiology” –

“The concept of a last universal common ancestor of all cells (LUCA, or the progenote) is central to the study of early evolution and life’s origin, yet information about how and where LUCA lived is lacking.”

The search for this single-celled, bacteria-like ancestor from about 4 billion years ago is what prompted William Martin, an evolutionary biologist from Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf, Germany, and his colleagues to comb through DNA databanks.

They analyzed a tremendous amount of data, grouping six million genes into related gene families to identify 355 gene families that were present in all modern organisms. These are the families that the scientists believe were also present in LUCA.

This identification led the researchers to a fuller picture of the ancestor they were hunting. The organism likely lived underwater, during the period of Earth’s history called “the late heavy bombardment,” when it was constantly hit by comets and meteors.

LUCA was a “thermophile,” living in an environment without oxygen, feeding on hydrogen gas from hydrothermal vents like those from undersea volcanoes.

“It was flabbergasting to us that we found as many as we did,“ said Martin to the New Scientist. “It’s spot on with regard to the hydrothermal vent theory.”

It’s important to note that the hydrothermal vent theory of where and how life began is just one of the ideas under consideration by scientists, albeit one that has been gaining more and more evidence and support. Another significant theory posits that life began on land, in pools of water that Darwin called “warm little ponds.”

If you want to learn more about hydrothermal vents and volcanoes, check out this video from NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration):

Would You Like Some Food With Your Plasticizers?


Story at-a-glance

  • Phthalates are pervasive chemicals, found in everything from your cosmetics and shower curtain, to your food and household cleaners
  • Researchers now demonstrate an increased potential for ingestion of phthalates when you eat at fast food restaurants, including pizza and sandwich shops
  • Phthalates are linked to low vitamin D levels, potentially affecting many health conditions including depression, migraines and declining cognitive function in the elderly

Phthalates are widely used chemicals that make plastics more flexible. Products such as your shower curtain, food packaging, vinyl gloves and vinyl flooring contain phthalates. These chemicals are also in your household cleaners, cosmetics and personal care products.

Although phthalates help plastics to be more durable and flexible, they are not strongly bound to the product, so with heat and use, they leach out and dissipate into your environment.

Have you noticed how your flexible plastics can get harder and more brittle over time? That’s because the plasticizer, or phthalates, is continuously released, changing the chemical composition of the product.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) acknowledges that your risk of exposure comes from eating and drinking foods exposed to plastics and breathing phthalate in dust particles.

In fact, phthalates are so common that researchers have found metabolites of phthalates in the general population and consider exposure to people living in the U.S. widespread.1

At the urging of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), American manufacturers have not put phthalates in children’s pacifiers, soft rattles and teething toys since 1999.2

Phthalates are “reasonably considered to be a human carcinogen” by the National Toxicology Program (NTP), but continue to be used in many products you use every day.3

You May Ingest Phthalates With Your Meals

In an effort to evaluate your risk of exposure to phthalates from food, researchers evaluated the dietary habits and urinary metabolites of 9,000 participants age 6 and older.4 This news video highlights the results of the study. The researchers were specifically looking at fast food or take out foods.

They used the CDC definition for fast foods as those from restaurants without waiter services and pizza restaurants, including take-out.

They discovered that the majority of people who were more likely to eat fast foods were non-Hispanic black males under age 40.5 This population also ate more calories and more fat each day from fast food restaurants.6

Those who ate at fast food restaurants had a greater excretion of di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) and diisononyl phthalate (DiNP) than those who did not consume fast foods. The authors pointed to PVC tubing, vinyl gloves and food packaging as potential sources of phthalates found in foods.

Although DEHP has been removed from some products related to health concerns, it is being replaced with another source of phthalates, DiNP.7

The study evaluated exposure and not the potential negative health effects. They found a dose-related relationship between the amount of fast food participants were eating and the amount of phthalates to which they were exposed.

Those who ate the most fast food had 23 percent higher DEHP and 39 percent higher DiNP levels.8 They did not find evidence of increased bisphenol A (BPA).

When the researchers evaluated the type of phthalates absorbed with the type of food ingested they found those who ate more grains and foods in the “other” category, such as condiments, potatoes and vegetables from fast food restaurants, had a greater amount of DEHP in their system.

Those who had more DiNP metabolites were eating a greater amount of meat and grains.9

Phthalates Are Industrial Strength Hormone Disruptors

The dangers associated with phthalates are related to their effect on your hormonal system. They are remarkably powerful hormone disruptors, and recent research confirms they’re capable of causing males in all species to develop feminine characteristics.10

Although this study evaluated damage to the reproductive health of wildlife, the results are relevant to humans, as we share similar sex hormone receptors.

The chemicals disrupted the endocrine systems causing testicular cancer, low sperm counts, genital malformations and infertility in a number of species, including deer, whales, otters and bears, to name a few. This infertility and feminization may indicate a similar pattern taking place in humans.

In a study published by the American Chemical Society (ACS), researchers found that pregnant women who were exposed to phthalates found in food packaging, personal care items and other everyday products, experienced an increased risk of miscarriage between 5 and 13 weeks of pregnancy.11

Further studies demonstrate exposure to phthalates during pregnancy may increase the risk of adversely affecting the masculinization of male genitals in your baby.12 The results were presented at the 97th Annual Meeting of the Endocrine Society.

Researchers suggest the results may be a reason to look closely at clinical testing in early pregnancy for levels of chemicals to help guide interventions to protect your baby. Jennifer Adibi, Sc.D., assistant professor of epidemiology at Pittsburgh School of Public Health was quoted in the press release saying:13

“Phthalates are pervasive. Reducing exposure to phthalates and other hormone-disrupting chemicals is something that needs to be addressed at a societal level through consumer advocacy and regulation, and education of health care providers.”

Phthalates Have Other Negative Health Effects

A research team from Columbia University found pregnant women with high levels of phthalates delivered babies who had a higher risk of developing asthma between the ages of 5 and 11.14

Since every woman in the U.S. is exposed to phthalates, researchers were forced to compare women with the highest levels of phthalates to those with the lowest, as they did not find anyone with a zero level.

Every woman in the study had metabolites of both types of phthalates being tested. Despite that, children of women with the highest levels had between a 72 and 78 percent greater chance of developing asthma.15

During pregnancy an increased exposure to phthalates may alter the production of thyroid hormones in your unborn child,16 which are crucial for the proper development of your baby during your first trimester.

Other complications found in women with high levels of DEHP during pregnancy included twice the likelihood a male child would develop a hydrocele, a buildup of fluid in the scrotum that increases the size of the scrotum and causes discomfort.17

Phthalates Linked to Low Vitamin D Levels

Phthalates also have negative health effects on adults. One of the first studies to link low vitamin D levels to an increased intake of phthalates was published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.18 Researchers are calling this study very important as vitamin D is essential for brain, bone and heart heath.

Low vitamin D levels have been linked to a number of different health conditions, including depression,19,20 mental decline in older adults21 and chronic migraine headaches,22 to name just a few. This study followed over 4,600 participants between 2005 and 2010 in a national health survey. The researchers had data from urine and blood samples, which they compared against exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDC) and vitamin D levels.

Lead author Lauren Johns, Ph.D. candidate at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, believes the results of this study have widespread implications, as EDCs in the U.S. are pervasive. The authors are not sure how the chemicals affect vitamin D deficiency, but believe they may alter vitamin D levels in the same way they change thyroid and reproductive hormones.

Widespread use of phthalate chemicals makes it difficult to reduce your exposure. Recent studies have demonstrated that while exposure to DEHP and di-n-butylphthalate (DnBP) are declining with reduced use in children’s toys and other plastic materials, exposure to replacement phthalates is increasing.23 Chemicals replacing DEHP and DnBP are associated with very similar health effects.

US Food and Drug Administration Called to Reconsider Approval of Phthalates in Food Products

In early 2016, several public health and consumer groups strongly urged the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to withdraw their approval of ortho-phthalates used in food handling and packaging.24 The petition filed with the government lists these chemicals as food additives, as the FDA considers any chemicals that may be reasonably expected to be found in your food an additive.

Food producers use these chemicals in paperboard, cellophane and plastics that come in contact with the food. Earth Justice was one of the organizations behind the citizen petition to the FDA. Following a plea to their followers, the FDA received nearly 200,000 letters urging them to withdraw the chemicals, citing concern for their health and the health of their children.25

Despite the overwhelming demonstration of toxic effects phthalates have on adults, children and developing babies, the use of these EDCs in plastics and products that come in contact with food is perfectly legal. The FDA was accepting letters of concern from the public until September 19, 2016.26

If the FDA decides to withdraw approval for these 30 different ortho-phthalates from products used in food packaging and handling, manufacturers will be forced to redesign their products and machinery. This effects more than the fast food industry as phthalates can be found in dairy products and cheeses you purchase from the grocery store, as well as meats and olive oil.27,28

What You Can Do to Avoid Toxic Chemicals

To limit your exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals like phthalates and bisphenol-A (BPA), keep the following guidelines in mind when shopping for food, personal care and household products.

Avoid fast-food restaurant fare and processed goods. Eating a diet focused on locally grown, ideally organic and whole foods cooked from scratch will significantly limit your exposure to not only phthalates and BPA but also a wide array of other chemicals, including synthetic food additives and pesticides. Use natural cleaning products or make your own. Besides phthalates, avoid those containing 2-butoxyethanol (EGBE) and methoxydiglycol (DEGME) — two toxic glycol ethers that can compromise your fertility and cause fetal harm.
Buy products that come in glass bottles rather than plastic or cans; be aware that even “BPA-free” plasticstypically leach other endocrine-disrupting chemicals that are just as bad for you as BPA. Switch to organic toiletries, including shampoo, toothpaste, antiperspirants and cosmetics.

EWG’s Skin Deep database29 can help you find personal care products that are free of phthalates and other potentially dangerous chemicals.

Store your food and beverages in glass rather than plastic, and avoid using plastic wrap as it too contains phthalates that can migrate into your food (especially if you microwave food wrapped in plastic). Replace your vinyl shower curtain with a fabric one or glass doors.
Use glass baby bottles and drinking bottles. Replace feminine hygiene products (tampons and sanitary pads) with safer alternatives.
Filter your tap water for both drinking and bathing. If you can only afford to do one, filtering your bathing water may be more important, as your skin absorbs contaminants.

Under the 1974 Safe Drinking Water Act, the EPA set a maximum contaminant level (MCL) for DEHP of 0.006 mg/dL, or 6 ppb.30

Note that the Safe Drinking Water Act regulates DEHP levels only for public water supplies, not for well water.

Look for fragrance-free products. One artificial fragrancecan contain hundreds — even thousands — of potentially toxic chemicals, including phthalates.

Avoid fabric softeners and dryer sheets, which contain a mishmash of synthetic chemicals and fragrances.

If you have PVC pipes, you may have DEHP leaching into your water supply. If you have PVC pipe from before 1977, you will definitely want to upgrade to a newer material.

This “early-era” PVC pipe can leach a carcinogenic compound called vinyl chloride monomer into your water. Alternatives to PVC for water piping include ductile iron, high-density polyethylene, concrete, copper and PEX.31

Consider replacing vinyl flooring with a “greener” material. Also avoid soft, flexible plastic flooring, such as those padded play-mat floors for kids (often used in day cares and kindergartens), as there’s a good chance it is made from phthalate-containing PVC.
Read the labels and avoid anything containing phthalates. Besides DEHP, also look for DBP (di-n-butyl phthalate), DEP (diethyl phthalate), BzBP (benzyl butyl phthlate) and DMP (dimethyl phthalate).

Also be wary of anything listing a “fragrance,” which often includes phthalates.

Make sure your baby’s toys are BPA-free, such as pacifiers, teething rings and anything your child may be prone to suck or chew on — even books, which are often plasticized. It’s advisable to avoid all plastic, especially flexible varieties.

New treatment based on ocean bacteria shown to stop the spread of prostate cancer.


“A huge leap forward.”

Scientists just completed a trial of a new, non-surgical prostate cancer treatment that uses a tumour-killing drug based on ocean bacteria, and the procedure saw almost half the patients go into complete remission.

The treatment is known as vascular-targeted photodynamic therapy (VTP), and is made possible by a drug called WST11, which is derived from bacteria that live at the bottom of the ocean. These light-sensitive organisms convert photons into energy, and when the same trick is mimicked by WST11, the compound kills cancer cells.

In a broad clinical trial at 47 treatment sites across 10 different European countries, 49 percent of patients with early prostate cancer that were treated with VTP went into complete remission, compared with 13.5 percent in the control group.

“These results are excellent news for men with early localised prostate cancer, offering a treatment that can kill cancer without removing or destroying the prostate,” says lead researcher Mark Emberton from University College London.

“This is truly a huge leap forward for prostate cancer treatment, which has previously lagged decades behind other solid cancers such as breast cancer.”

Men diagnosed with early or low-risk prostate cancer are usually monitored via regular testing to make sure the cancer isn’t spreading.

But if it does begin to spread, patients face a dilemma, as traditional treatments such as surgery or radiation therapy can cause lifelong erectile problems and incontinence.

For these reasons, a non-surgical treatment that doesn’t come with such negative side effects has long been a goal of researchers, and VTP with WST11 could be it.

In the study, the procedure only caused short-term urinary and erectile problems, which had resolved within three months, and all other side effects disappeared within two years.

“This changes everything,” Emberton told James Gallagher at the BBC.

“Traditionally the decision to have treatment has always been a balance of benefits and harms. … To have a new treatment now that we can administer, to men who are eligible, that is virtually free of those side effects, is truly transformative.”

The treatment involves injecting WST11 into the bloodstream, and inserting optical fibres into the prostate gland.

When the optical fibres are turned on, light beams activate the drug in the patient’s blood, causing it to release high-energy free radicals that destroy tumour tissue while leaving surrounding tissue unharmed.

Of the individuals who took part in the trial, cancer progressed in 58 percent of men in the control group, who maintained regular monitoring during the study. But for the men who received VTP, only 28 percent saw tumours spread.

According to Emberton, these results would be even stronger today, as the researchers in the trial didn’t have access to the latest MRI technology when they began their study in 2011.

“We can now pinpoint prostate cancers using MRI scans and targeted biopsies, allowing a much more targeted approach to diagnosis and treatment,” Emberton said in a press release.

“This means we could accurately identify men who would benefit from VTP and deliver treatment more precisely to the tumour. With such an approach, we should be able to achieve a significantly higher remission rate than in the trial and send nearly all low-risk localised prostate cancers into remission.”

There’s also scope to extend the procedure to other cancers, including breast and liver cancer, but first the researchers need to continue monitoring the patients who took part in this trial and see if the remission rates hold up over time.

Meanwhile, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) is currently reviewing the treatment, but it could be years before it’s made available to patients in the broader population.

It’s important to note that there’s still a lot we don’t know about this treatment, and despite its early promise, it’s not necessarily more effective than surgery or radiation therapy at removing the danger of cancer.

That said, it also doesn’t seem to offer the same kinds of complications, so depending on how further research pans out, it could be a valid avenue of treatment in the future.

One man who hopes the wait isn’t too long is Gerald Capon, a 68-year-old from West Sussex in the UK, who took part in the study.

“[T]he trial changed my life. I’m now cancer-free with no side effects and don’t have to worry about needing surgery in future,” he says.

“I feel so lucky to be in this position… I hope that other patients will be able to benefit from this treatment in future.”

Source: The Lancet Oncology.

Microsoft Unites with Elon Musk on Breakthrough AI Project


IN BRIEF

  • Following a new partnership between the two companies, OpenAI will make Microsoft Azure its preferred cloud platform.
  • Through this partnership, Microsoft and OpenAI will advance their mutual goal to democratize AI, so everyone can benefit from the technology.

This Tuesday, Microsoft announced it is partnering with OpenAI, the non-profit artificial intelligence (AI) research company founded and funded by Elon Musk and other industry luminaries. OpenAI seeks to develop AI to benefit all of humanity — a goal Microsoft isn’t foreign to, with its open-source deep learning software.

“It’s great to work with another organization that believes in the importance of democratizing access to AI,” reads OpenAI’s official blog announcement about the partnership. For their part, Microsoft sees a valuable partner in OpenAI. As one spokesperson said in an interview for TechCrunch: “Through this partnership, Microsoft and OpenAI will advance their mutual goal to democratize AI, so everyone can benefit.”

Credits: Shutterstock
Shutterstock

OpenAI will make Microsoft Azure its preferred cloud platform. “Azure has impressed us by building hardware configurations optimized for deep learning — they offer K80 GPUs with InfiniBand interconnects at scale,” says OpenAI. Azure is optimized for AI workloads, using its Azure Batch and Azure Machine Learning, coupled with Microsoft’s rebranded Cognitive Toolkit.

“Microsoft Research researchers will partner with researchers at OpenAI to advance the state of AI and OpenAI will use Microsoft Azure and Microsoft‘s N-series hardware for their future research and development,” a Microsoft spokesperson explained.

True to OpenAI’s democratic approach to AI research, they’ll make the results of their combined efforts publicly available.

THIS New Black Toothpaste is Forcing Dentists Out of Work.


Kazue Yamagishi, a Japanese researcher has created a product that will revolutionize personal care, she has invented a toothpaste so good it will put dentists out of work.

This incredible toothpaste fills all the holes and cracks in the teeth, and restores the tooth enamel at the same time.

Holes and cracks in the teeth are the major reason for the need for dental work. Although brushing cleans your teeth, there has previously been no way to reverse the effects of damage to your teeth at home until now.

The toothpaste contains components which mimic tooth enamel, and build up where there are cracks in the tooth. It is similar in its form to regular toothpaste however, and so will be easily adopted by people in their own home.

The new formula was created by research with the chemical  hydroxylapatit, also known as crystalline calcium phosphate, which makes up the main component of the tooth.

It works by causing a dilution of the acid on the surface of the teeth. After three minutes, the paste starts to crystallize and gets fastened to the structure of the natural enamel.

With the creation of this product, dentist visits could soon be a thing of the past.

The CIA Didn’t Just Torture, It Experimented on Human Beings.


Reframing the CIA’s interrogation techniques as a violation of scientific and medical ethics may be the best way to achieve accountability.

Human experimentation was a core feature of the CIA’s torture program. The experimental nature of the interrogation and detention techniques is clearly evident in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s executive summary of its investigative report, despite redactions (insisted upon by the CIA) to obfuscate the locations of these laboratories of cruel science and the identities of perpetrators.

The-CIA-Didn’t-Just-Torture-It-Experimented-on-Human-Beings

At the helm of this human experimentation project were two psychologists hired by the CIA, James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen. They designed interrogation and detention protocols that they and others applied to people imprisoned in the agency’s secret “black sites.”

In its response to the Senate report, the CIA justified its decision to hire the duo: “We believe their expertise was so unique that we would have been derelict had we not sought them out when it became clear that CIA would be heading into the uncharted territory of the program.” Mitchell and Jessen’s qualifications did not include interrogation experience, specialized knowledge about Al Qaeda or relevant cultural or linguistic knowledge. What they had was Air Force experience in studying the effects of torture on American prisoners of war, as well as a curiosity about whether theories of “learned helplessness” derived from experiments on dogs might work on human enemies.

To implement those theories, Mitchell and Jessen oversaw or personally engaged in techniques intended to produce “debility, disorientation and dread.” Their “theory” had a particular means-ends relationship that is not well understood, as Mitchell testily explained in an interview on Vice News: “The point of the bad cop is to get the bad guy to talk to the good cop.” In other words, “enhanced interrogation techniques” (the Bush administration’s euphemism for torture) do not themselves produce useful information; rather, they produce the condition of total submission that will facilitate extraction of actionable intelligence.

Mitchell, like former CIA Director Michael Hayden and others who have defended the torture program, argues that a fundamental error in the Senate report is the elision of means (waterboarding, “rectal rehydration,” weeks or months of nakedness in total darkness and isolation, and other techniques intended to break prisoners) and ends—manufactured compliance, which, the defenders claim, enabled the collection of abundant intelligence that kept Americans safe. (That claim is amply and authoritatively contradicted in the report.)

As Americans from the Beltway to the heartland debate—again—the legality and efficacy of “enhanced interrogation,” we are reminded that “torture” has lost its stigma as morally reprehensible and criminal behavior. That was evident in the 2012 GOP presidential primary, when more than half of the candidates vowed to bring back waterboarding, and it is on full display now. On Meet the Press, for example, former Vice President Dick Cheney, who functionally topped the national security decision-making hierarchy during the Bush years, announced that he “would do it again in a minute.”

No one has been held accountable for torture, beyond a handful of prosecutions of low-level troops and contractors. Indeed, impunity has been virtually guaranteed as a result of various Faustian bargains, which include “golden shield” legal memos written by government lawyers for the CIA; ex post facto immunity for war crimes that Congress inserted in the 2006 Military Commissions Act; classification and secrecy that still shrouds the torture program, as is apparent in the Senate report’s redactions; and the “look forward, not backward” position that President Obama has maintained through every wave of public revelations since 2009. An American majority, it seems, has come to accept the legacy of torture.

Human experimentation, in contrast, has not been politically refashioned into a legitimate or justifiable enterprise. Therefore, it would behoove us to appreciate the fact that the architects and implementers of black-site torments were authorized at the highest levels of the White House and CIA to experiment on human beings. Reading the report through this lens casts a different light on questions of accountability and impunity.

The “war on terror” is not the CIA’s first venture into human experimentation. At the dawn of the Cold War, German scientists and doctors with Nazi records of human experimentation were given new identities and brought to the United States under Operation Paperclip. During the Korean War, alarmed by the shocking rapidity of American POWs’ breakdowns and indoctrination by their communist captors, the CIA began investing in mind-control research. In 1953, the CIA established the MK-ULTRA program, whose earliest phase involved hypnosis, electroshock and hallucinogenic drugs. The program evolved into experiments in psychological torture that adapted elements of Soviet and Chinese models, including longtime standing, protracted isolation, sleep deprivation and humiliation. Those lessons soon became an applied “science” in the Cold War.

During the Vietnam War, the CIA developed the Phoenix program, which combined psychological torture with brutal interrogations, human experimentation and extrajudicial executions. In 1963, the CIA produced a manual titled “Kubark Counterintelligence Interrogation” to guide agents in the art of extracting information from “resistant” sources by combining techniques to produce “debility, disorientation and dread.” Like the communists, the CIA largely eschewed tactics that violently target the body in favor of those that target the mind by systematically attacking all human senses in order to produce the desired state of compliance. The Phoenix program model was incorporated into the curriculum of the School of the Americas, and an updated version of the Kubark guide, produced in 1983 and titled “Human Resource Exploitation Manual,” was disseminated to the intelligence services of right-wing regimes in Latin America and Southeast Asia during the global “war on communism.”

In the mid-1980s, CIA practices became the subject of congressional investigations into US-supported atrocities in Central America. Both manuals became public in 1997 as a result of Freedom of Information Act litigation by The Baltimore Sun. That would have seemed like a “never again” moment.

But here we are again. This brings us back to Mitchell and Jessen. Because of their experience as trainers in the military’s Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape (SERE) program, after 9/11 they were contacted by high-ranking Pentagon officials and, later, by lawyers who wanted to know whether some of those SERE techniques could be reverse-engineered to get terrorism suspects to talk.

The road from abstract hypotheticals (can SERE be reverse-engineered?) to the authorized use of waterboarding and confinement boxes runs straight into the terrain of human experimentation. On April 15, 2002, Mitchell and Jessen arrived at a black site in Thailand to supervise the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, the first “high-value detainee” captured by the CIA. By July, Mitchell proposed more coercive techniques to CIA headquarters, and many of these were approved in late July. From then until the program was dry-docked in 2008, at least thirty-eight people were subjected to psychological and physical torments, and the results were methodically documented and analyzed. That is the textbook definition of human experimentation.

My point is not to minimize the illegality of torture or the legal imperatives to pursue accountability for perpetrators. Rather, because the concept of torture has been so muddled and disputed, I suggest that accountability would be more publicly palatable if we reframed the CIA’s program as one of human experimentation. If we did so, it would be more difficult to laud or excuse perpetrators as “patriots” who “acted in good faith.” Although torture has become a Rorschach test among political elites playing to public opinion on the Sunday morning talk shows, human experimentation has no such community of advocates and apologists.

%d bloggers like this: