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Do You Know What a Bedbug Looks Like? Many Hotel Patrons Don't

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Bedbugs are making their way back into modern life. Though the hard-to-shake pests were a relatively uncommon sight in the U.S. in the latter half of the 20th century, for the past few decades, they've been making a raging comeback, in part because of pesticide resistance. But despite their newfound prevalence, most people may have trouble picking the wide-ranging blood-suckers out of a lineup.

The New York Times reports that in a recent U.S. survey, as many of two-thirds of hotel visitors failed to identify a bedbug out of a group of other bug silhouettes. The study, conducted by researchers from the University of Kentucky, asked about 2000 people, both business and leisure travelers, if they could pick out which of these insects was a bedbug.

Five different silhouettes of insects

Penn et. al, American Entomologist (2017)

Only 28 percent of leisure travelers and 35 percent of business travelers picked the right bug. Forty-two percent of leisure travelers and 29 percent of business travelers didn't even guess, picking the "I don’t know" option. (The correct answer is No. 4.)

The lack of understanding about bedbugs could have implications for spreading infestations. Only a third of travelers said they checked their hotel rooms for bedbugs before settling in. Not being able to recognize the bugs, though, could also lead to false alarms. People might panic over seeing a bug in their house and call an exterminator, only to find that it was something relatively innocuous. (University of Kentucky entomologist Michael Potter told the Times that people will bring him raisins and ask if they're bedbugs.)

And if people start panicking over a hotel infestation that doesn't exist, the hotel's reputation can suffer significantly. "Our findings indicate that a single online report of bed bugs adversely impacts future bookings, irrespective of whether the review is accurate," the researchers write.

Even if most people can’t recognize a bedbug, they certainly don’t want to sleep anywhere near one.

[h/t The New York Times]

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Google's AI Can Make Its Own AI Now
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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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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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