Singularity Hub Daily

Singularity Hub Daily

A constant stream of SingularityHub's high-quality articles, read to you via an AI system.... Show More

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December 6, 2020 9 min
Quantum computers are not amazing because they’re revolutionizing everything in the world of computation. They’re still clunky, finicky, insanely expensive, and not too practical. They may very well have a big impact one day—but that day is not today. No, the amazing thing about quantum computers is that they exist at all. For a few decades after these exotic machines were first proposed, no one knew if you could actually even ...
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How do you train self-driving software to safely pilot a vehicle through city streets? There are a few options; the first that probably springs to mind for most people is to spend countless hours actually driving around on city streets (with a safety driver behind the wheel). There’s also the virtual route—it’s far easier to run thousands of hours of simulations on computers than it is to drive around for thousands of hours (and ...
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Our planet is unique in the solar system. It’s the only one with active plate tectonics, ocean basins, continents and, as far as we know, life. But Earth in its current form is 4.5 billion years in the making; it’s starkly different to what it was in a much earlier era. Details about how, when, and why the planet’s early history unfolded as it did have largely eluded scientists, mainly because of the sparsity of preserved rocks f...
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Thanks to SpaceX, traveling beyond Earth now seems pretty tangible for us commoners. True, a ticket to the International Space Station currently runs $55 million (ouch). Technologically, however, the triumphant splashdown of SpaceX’s astronaut-carrying Dragon capsule earlier this year shows they have the chops to make commercial space travel work. A casual jaunt over to Mars no longer seems like a fantastical vision statement. ...
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Algorithms play an increasingly prominent part in our lives, governing everything from the news we see to the products we buy. As they proliferate, experts say, we need to make sure they don’t collude against us in damaging ways. Fears of malevolent artificial intelligence plotting humanity’s downfall are a staple of science fiction. But there are plenty of nearer-term situations in which relatively dumb algorithms could do serio...
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“Are robots really destined to take over restaurant kitchens?” This was the headline of an article published by Eater four years ago. One of the experts interviewed was Siddhartha Srinivasa, at the time Professor of the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University and currently director of Robotics and AI for Amazon. He said, “I’d love to make robots unsexy. It’s weird to say this, but when something becomes unsexy, it means th...
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It sounds like science fiction: giant solar power stations floating in space that beam down enormous amounts of energy to Earth. And for a long time, the concept—first developed by the Russian scientist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky in the 1920s—was mainly an inspiration for writers. A century later, however, scientists are making huge strides in turning the concept into reality. The European Space Agency has realized the potential of t...
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Over the last several months we’ve gotten very used to communicating via video chat. Zoom, FaceTime, Google Hangouts, and the like have not only replaced most in-person business meetings, they’ve acted as a stand-in for gatherings between friends and reunions between relatives. Just a few short years ago, many of us would have found it strange to think we’d be spending so much time talking to people “face-to-face” while sitting rig...
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Longevity research always reminds me of the parable of blind men and an elephant. A group of blind men, who’ve never seen an elephant before, each touches a different part of the elephant’s body to conceptualize what the animal is like. Because of their limited experience, each person has widely different ideas—and they all believe they’re right. Aging, thanks to its complexity, is the biomedical equivalent of the elephant. For d...
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Fears of a robot-driven jobs apocalypse are a recurring theme in the media. But a new report from MIT has found that technology is creating as many jobs as it destroys, and bad policy is a bigger threat to workers than automation. Ever since a landmark 2013 paper from the University of Oxford estimated that 47 percent of US jobs were at risk of automation, there’s been growing concern about how technology will shape the future of...
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The history of computer chips is a thrilling tale of extreme miniaturization. The smaller, the better is a trend that’s given birth to the digital world as we know it. So, why on earth would you want to reverse course and make chips a lot bigger? Well, while there’s no particularly good reason to have a chip the size of an iPad in an iPad, such a chip may prove to be genius for more specific uses, like artificial intelligence or ...
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November 20, 2020 21 min
If the book of nature is written in the language of mathematics, as Galileo once declared, the Covid-19 pandemic has brought that truth home for the world’s mathematicians, who have been galvanized by the rapid spread of the coronavirus. So far this year, they have been involved in everything from revealing how contagious the novel coronavirus is, how far we should stand from each other, how long an infected person might shed the...
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3D printing is making strides in the construction industry. In just a couple years we’ve seen the tech produce single-family homes in a day, entire communities of homes for people in need, large municipal buildings, and even an egg-shaped concept home for Mars (oh, and let’s not forget the 3D printed boats and cars of the world!). Another impressive feat will soon be added to this list, as a German construction company has begun ...
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Fast-food chains have been doing what they can in recent years to health-ify their menus. For better or worse, burgers, fries, fried chicken, roast beef sandwiches, and the like will never go out of style—this is America, after all—but consumers are increasingly gravitating towards healthier options. One of those options is plant-based foods, and not just salads and veggie burgers, but “meat” made from plants. Burger King was one...
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Take a Jeopardy! guess: this body part was once referred to as the “consummation of all perfection as an instrument.” Answer: “What is the human hand?” Our hands are insanely complex feats of evolutionary engineering. Densely-packed sensors provide intricate and ultra-sensitive feelings of touch. Dozens of joints synergize to give us remarkable dexterity. A “sixth sense” awareness of where our hands are in space connects them t...
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There’s been plenty of hand-wringing about the potential for the Covid-19 pandemic to distract from the ongoing fight against climate change. But the latest data from the International Energy Agency (IEA) shows promising signs that a “green recovery” may be materializing. Right from the start of the crisis there were fears that the coronavirus would derail fragile efforts to reduce global carbon emissions by pulling politicians’ ...
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Every day, Americans travel on roads, bridges, and highways without considering the safety or reliability of these structures. Yet much of the transportation infrastructure in the US is outdated, deteriorating, and badly in need of repair. Of the 614,387 bridges in the US, for example, 39 percent are older than their designed lifetimes, while nearly 10 percent are structurally deficient, meaning they could begin to break down fas...
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The way we transact with each other and conduct business has changed a lot in the last 10 years. For some of us it’s hard to remember how we used to find rides or places to stay before Uber, Lyft, and Airbnb existed. Industries like hospitality, retail, transportation, and even human resources have been digitized and platformized. Though the average consumer has benefited, it’s not been all roses. Increasingly, critics have noted...
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A tiny electric car that costs just $4,200 has been all the rage in China this year. The Wuling Hong Guang Mini EV generated over 15,000 orders within 20 days of its release in July, and added another 35,000 to that in August, beating out Chinese orders for Tesla Model 3s in the same period. Now another small, affordable Chinese electric car is set to make its debut on American roads—Californian roads, to be exact. Last week the ...
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My mother died of Covid-19 at the age of 91. She was recovering from surgery in an assisted-living facility in Durham, North Carolina. While she had previously been healthy, the virus aggressively invaded her body, and her doctors soon told us there was nothing they could do. We were allowed one brief compassion visit. My sisters and I suited up in head-to-toe PPE to be with my mother for 20 minutes. She was unresponsive, but I hop...
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