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Hellish Landscape

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Tar Sands’ hellish landscape of ruined Earth and toxic tailing ponds. Image source Occupy.

Tar Sands’ hellish landscape of ruined Earth and toxic tailing ponds. Image source Occupy.

Source: GarryRogersNature Read the original article

Car Runs 1 Million Miles on 8 Grams of Thorium

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In breaking news on the energy and technology front, Laser Power Systems, a U.S. company based out of  Connecticut is developing a method of automotive propulsion using the element thorium to produce electricity. The results far surpass anything currently powering automobiles. To put it in perspective, 8 grams of Thorium produce enough power for a car to drive 1 million miles.

Extinct Species of Crocodilian Using 3D

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Reconstructing a Newly Discovered Extinct Species of Crocodilian Using 3D Printing & Scanning

Image: David Killpack

Image: David Killpack

Stephen Hawking: Beware smart machines

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Still waiting for Skynet to become self-aware

Dismissing the implications of highly intelligent machines could be humankind’s “worst mistake in history”, write astrophysicist Stephen Hawking, computer scientist Stuart Russell, and physicists Max Tegmark and Frank Wilczek in the Independent.

“Self-aware” machines have received the Hollywood treatment in the Johnny Depp film Transcendence, but the subject should receive serious consideration, they say.

Successfully creating artificial intelligence would be “the biggest event in human history”, they write, and the possible benefits for everyday human life are enormous. There could come a time, however, when machines outpace human achievement. If and when that day arrives, they wonder, will the best interest of humans still factor into their calculations?

“One can imagine such technology outsmarting financial markets, out-inventing human researchers, out-manipulating human leaders, and developing weapons we cannot even understand,” they write. “Whereas the short-term impact of AI depends on who controls it, the long-term impact depends on whether it can be controlled at all.”

And what are we humans doing to address these concerns, they ask. Nothing.

“All of us should ask ourselves what we can do now to improve the chances of reaping the benefits and avoiding the risks,” they conclude.

A while back, we wondered about the implications of machine journalists. But maybe we should just be thankful that at least something will be around to write long-form essays on the last days of humankind.

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Is this true?

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I wouldn’t try this without verifying it.

It may be too late

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Microsoft’s $2.5bn question: what if it doesn’t release Office for the iPad?

Software firm makes huge profits from Office suite – but is losing chance to capture younger companies which have sprung up in mobile-first world

Growing numbers of people and businesses are choosing to buy tablets such as the iPad – which poses a problem for Microsoft Office. Photograph: Anthony Upton/REX

It may be one of Microsoft’s biggest squandered opportunities.

Tired of waiting for Office to be optimised for their mobile gadgets, a growing contingent of younger companies is turning to cheaper, simpler and touch-friendly apps that can perform word processing and other tasks in the “cloud” – on internet-based systems.

Take Artivest Holdings, a New York-based financial services startup that sells alternative investment products. The New York-based company uses an app called Quip, which combines word processing and messaging, to handle all but the most sensitive legal and financial files.

“There are no more Microsoft Word documents being circulated. If someone emails me a Word document, I’ll tell them to put it in Quip,” said Artivest’s chief investment officer David Levine.

“If I’m walking to and from home, or going to an appointment, I can review or edit on my iPad. Not being tied to my desk, that’s a big pro,” he said.

The speed with which apps like Quip have been adopted is forcing Microsoft to intensify its efforts to bring the powerful but ageing Office software suite to tablets and smartphones, according to people close to the company.

Microsoft already has a full iPhone and iPad version of Office ready for release, the sources said. The only question is when chief executive Satya Nadella, who took over in February, will pull the trigger.

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Skynet???

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2029: the year when robots will have the power to outsmart their makers

Ray Kurzweil, Google expert in artificial intelligence, predicts that by 2029 robots will make jokes and flirt

Garry Kasparov versus Deep Blue in 1997. The computer won – as Ray Kurzweil predicted. Photograph: Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images

Computers will be cleverer than humans by 2029, according to Ray Kurzweil, Google’s director of engineering.

The entrepreneur and futurologist has predicted that in 15 years’ time computers will be more intelligent than we are and will be able to understand what we say, learn from experience, make jokes, tell stories and even flirt.

Kurzweil, 66, who is considered by some to be the world’s leading artificial intelligence (AI) visionary, is recognised by technologists for popularising the idea of “the singularity” – the moment in the future when men and machines will supposedly converge. Google hired him at the end of 2012 to work on the company’s next breakthrough: an artificially intelligent search engine that knows us better than we know ourselves.

In an interview in today’s ObserverNew Review, Kurzweil says that the company hasn’t given him a particular set of instructions, apart from helping to bring natural language understanding to Google.

“My project is ultimately to base search on really understanding what the language means,” he said. “When you write an article, you’re not creating an interesting collection of words. You have something to say and Google is devoted to intelligently organising and processing the world’s information.

“The message in your article is information, and the computers are not picking up on that. So we would want them to read everything on the web and every page of every book, then be able to engage in intelligent dialogue with the user to be able to answer their questions.”

Kurzweil’s prediction comes hot on the tail of revelations that Google is in the throes of assembling the greatest artificial intelligence laboratory on Earth. The company has bought several machine-learning and robotics companies, including Boston Dynamics, the firm that produces lifelike military robots, for an undisclosed sum; and the smart thermostat maker, Nest Labs, for $3.2bn (£1.9bn).

This month it bought the cutting-edge British artificial intelligence startup DeepMind for £242m and hired Geoffrey Hinton, a British computer scientist and the world’s leading expert on neural networks.

Kurzweil is known for inventing devices that have changed the world – the first flatbed scanner, the first computer program that could recognise a typeface, and the first text-to-speech synthesiser. In 1990 he predicted that a computer would defeat a world chess champion by 1998 (in 1997, IBM’s Deep Blue defeated Garry Kasparov), and he predicted the future prominence of the world wide web at a time when it was only an obscure system that was used by a few academics.

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