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15 Jan

A team of researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), along with some folks from McKinsey, recently succeeded in implementing machine learning to instruct computers on how to pick up on various emotional passages in movies.

In a McKinsey blog post, the team noted, “We developed machine-learning models that rely on deep neural networks to ‘watch’ small slices of video—movies, TV, and short online features—and estimate their positive or negative emotional content by the second.”

As a result, the blog post says, "Computers don’t cry during sad stories, but they can tell when we will."

The team cites the screening of a film, "Sunspring," written by an artificial-intelligence (AI) bot and screened at the SCI-FI LONDON film fest in 2016. The fact that a bot penned the script seems to have been the main draw of the flick -- and not necessarily because bots are poised to replace human screenwriters anytime soon.

13 Jan

As seems fitting, any aircraft assigned to a head of state should undergo serious amounts of testing before the head honcho climbs aboard for a maiden voyage.

In the case of the President of the United States, the two main aircraft used for transporting him anywhere he wants to go are Air Force One, a sizable airplane capable of globe-hopping, and Marine One, a military-style helicopter that is often seen shuttling the president back and forth between buildings/destinations and airfields.

Naturally, the aircraft that use these call signs (the actual plane and helicopter can change, but when used, the official names mean the President is on board) eventually need to be replaced by newer and improved models.

11 Jan

Action Hunger is self-described as "a charity with a new approach to combating homelessness."

Part of that approach is distributing and maintaining vending machines that provide free clothing and food in various places all over the United Kingdom.

Items distributed by the machines include energy bars, chocolate, sandwiches, water, fresh fruit, and crisps, as well as antibacterial lotion, books, socks, toothbrush and toothpaste combination packs, sanitary towels, and books. Much of the food gathered by Action Hunger comes from organizations that wish to find effective ways to reduce food waste.

Only those in need have permission to access the machines by the use of a special key card given out by Action Hunger's partner organizations.

The group's web page says, "At the most elementary level, Action Hunger's machines provide access for the most vulnerable in our society to satiate the most basic of needs — that of sustenance."

09 Jan

In order to see, a part of the brain known as the visual cortex must receive and process signals from the optic nerve. If this part of the brain is missing, a person is unable to see. Or so scientists have believed until recently.

A seven-year-old boy in Australia has baffled scientists by showing signs of minimal eyesight. The boy, who has a rare metabolic disorder that has left him without a visual cortex, can see well enough to play certain games and recognize people. Fascinated with his case, the researchers have studied the boy and reported their findings to the Australasian Neuroscience Society. According to the research team, the boy seems to have no difficulty navigating around. Looking at him, someone would assume he has no problem with his eyesight.

07 Jan

Scientists are putting a great deal of time into studying beetle penises, and not for the reasons you might think. The behavior of erect beetle genitalia could serve as the perfect inspiration for improvements in medical catheter design.

The issue researchers are trying to solve is the flimsiness of catheters, which need to be able to be easily inserted into the body. However, they can’t be so rigid that they’re unable to maneuver through the body’s interior to get to their target. They also must be able to stay rigid enough inside the body to avoid buckling somewhere along the way, which would cause liquids to stop flowing.

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