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Tornado Power, Shape-Shifting Planes and Why You Look Like Your Spouse

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Under my Thumbprint

On shows like CSI, detectives have to scour a crime scene to pick up seemingly insignificant clues about the criminal. But, if a new fingerprinting technique pans out, all those clues could be one place. Traditional fingerprinting techniques have a tendency to negate forensic clues and possibly damage the prints. However, a gelatinous tape designed by researchers in London will pick up the print and test chemicals from it, providing clues about diet, gender and lifestyle. For example, they could tell if the criminal smoked by traces of tobacco or if the criminal was male by traces of urine on the prints.

TORNADO.jpgHarnessing Tornadoes

Tornadoes are terrifying, but one engineer says he could tweak them to generate power. By funneling excess heat from power plants, Louis Michaud could create a twister that extends into the atmosphere. As it grows, it would power fans that act as wind turbines. In an added twist, the funnel clouds could even be used to pump hot air into the atmosphere, cooling the Earth. Sounds like a solid plan as long as the cows stay out.

Help Wanted: Design Transformers

Taking a cue from the classic toys, military researchers have made a good deal of progress on shape-shifting planes. These planes have the ability to morph from wide recon planes into narrow fighters, but apparently don't have the ability to stay powered during the transition. After trying out a gel that conducts electricity or tiny power pads (both failed), the Air Force has turned to the private sector for the solution to their power problems.

Get a Tonsillectomy

In high school, one of my friends announced her plans to get her tonsils and appendix out on her 18th birthday in order to prevent infections. We lost touch before the anticipated surgery date, but if she did go through with that rather aggressive vaccination technique, she may have helped protect her sexual health. New evidence shows HIV can spread orally through the tonsils. Besides showing that oral sex can cause an HIV infection, this also can explain how AIDS spreads from a mother to her children- breastfeeding.

talking_on_cell_phone_2.jpgCell Phone Disease Debunked

It sounds like something cooked up by a local news station during sweeps month, but 4 percent of people in the UK still claim to suffer from electromagnetic hypersensitivity, which causes headaches and fatigue when the sufferer is around cell phones or microwaves. Some sufferers have even complained of skin rashes, resorting to covering themselves or their houses in tin foil. Too bad it's all in the mind, according to researchers in Essex. Double blind experiments showed that humans do not respond to electromagnetic signals, so you're safe to keep talking on your cell.

To Love, Cherish and Mimic

It's always been sort of an old wives' tale that married couples look alike, but now we've got evidence to prove it. Psychologist Robert Zajonc showed participants pictures of couples in their first year and their 25th year, asking participants to judge how similar they were and the likelihood they were married. Results showed that couples are perceived to look alike, even if the observers don't know they're married. The researchers threw around diet, environment and disposition as possible causes, but empathy seems to be the reigning theory. This idea states that couples will react facially the same way to incidents and sculpt their faces that way, proving once and for all that making that funny face really can get your face stuck.Mr_peanut.png

Aw Nuts

I don't have any food allergies, but I was once late getting back to school from spring break because I had to drive a friend to the ER after our Chinese food had peanut traces, so I'm pretty sympathetic to them. That's why I'm celebrating the news that a researcher in North Carolina has designed an allergen-free peanut. The production process negates the components that cause allergic reactions, keeping allergic patients safe in tests. Not only that, the scientists say no taste has been sacrificed. Of course, it's not like victims would be able to tell.

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Google's AI Can Make Its Own AI Now
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iStock

Artificial intelligence is advanced enough to do some pretty complicated things: read lips, mimic sounds, analyze photographs of food, and even design beer. Unfortunately, even people who have plenty of coding knowledge might not know how to create the kind of algorithm that can perform these tasks. Google wants to bring the ability to harness artificial intelligence to more people, though, and according to WIRED, it's doing that by teaching machine-learning software to make more machine-learning software.

The project is called AutoML, and it's designed to come up with better machine-learning software than humans can. As algorithms become more important in scientific research, healthcare, and other fields outside the direct scope of robotics and math, the number of people who could benefit from using AI has outstripped the number of people who actually know how to set up a useful machine-learning program. Though computers can do a lot, according to Google, human experts are still needed to do things like preprocess the data, set parameters, and analyze the results. These are tasks that even developers may not have experience in.

The idea behind AutoML is that people who aren't hyper-specialists in the machine-learning field will be able to use AutoML to create their own machine-learning algorithms, without having to do as much legwork. It can also limit the amount of menial labor developers have to do, since the software can do the work of training the resulting neural networks, which often involves a lot of trial and error, as WIRED writes.

Aside from giving robots the ability to turn around and make new robots—somewhere, a novelist is plotting out a dystopian sci-fi story around that idea—it could make machine learning more accessible for people who don't work at Google, too. Companies and academic researchers are already trying to deploy AI to calculate calories based on food photos, find the best way to teach kids, and identify health risks in medical patients. Making it easier to create sophisticated machine-learning programs could lead to even more uses.

[h/t WIRED]

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Land Cover CCI, ESA
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Afternoon Map
European Space Agency Releases First High-Res Land Cover Map of Africa
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Land Cover CCI, ESA

This isn’t just any image of Africa. It represents the first of its kind: a high-resolution map of the different types of land cover that are found on the continent, released by The European Space Agency, as Travel + Leisure reports.

Land cover maps depict the different physical materials that cover the Earth, whether that material is vegetation, wetlands, concrete, or sand. They can be used to track the growth of cities, assess flooding, keep tabs on environmental issues like deforestation or desertification, and more.

The newly released land cover map of Africa shows the continent at an extremely detailed resolution. Each pixel represents just 65.6 feet (20 meters) on the ground. It’s designed to help researchers model the extent of climate change across Africa, study biodiversity and natural resources, and see how land use is changing, among other applications.

Developed as part of the Climate Change Initiative (CCI) Land Cover project, the space agency gathered a full year’s worth of data from its Sentinel-2A satellite to create the map. In total, the image is made from 90 terabytes of data—180,000 images—taken between December 2015 and December 2016.

The map is so large and detailed that the space agency created its own online viewer for it. You can dive further into the image here.

And keep watch: A better map might be close at hand. In March, the ESA launched the Sentinal-2B satellite, which it says will make a global map at a 32.8 feet-per-pixel (10 meters) resolution possible.

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

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