Tech

Finding more time to detect a tsunami

TSUNAMI are terrible things. And part of their terror lies in their unpredictability. Even when a submarine earthquake that may cause one is detected, the information that is needed to determine whether a giant wave has actually been created takes time to gather. That is time unavailable for the evacuation of coastlines at risk. Contrariwise, issuing a warning when no ...

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For artificial intelligence to thrive, it must explain itself

SCIENCE fiction is littered with examples of intelligent computers, from HAL 9000 in “2001: A Space Odyssey” to Eddie in “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”. One thing such fictional machines have in common is a tendency to go wrong, to the detriment of the characters in the story. HAL murders most of the crew of a mission to Jupiter. ...

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Computer programs recognise white men better than black women

SOFTWARE that recognises faces has bounded ahead in recent years, propelled by a boom in a form of artificial intelligence called deep learning (see article). Several firms now offer face recognition as a commercial service, via their respective clouds. The ability to recognise in faces such things as an individual’s sex has improved too, and this is also commercially available. ...

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Home-made drones now threaten conventional armed forces

AN ATTACK on Russian forces in Syria on January 5th by 13 home-made drones is a good example of “asymmetric” warfare. On one side, exquisite high-tech weapons. On the other, cheap-as-chips disposable robot aircraft. Ten of the drones involved attacked a Russian airbase at Khmeimim. The other three went for a nearby naval base at Tartus. Rather than being quadcopters, ...

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Searching for lithium deposits with satellites

CORNWALL, a rugged peninsula that forms Britain’s south-western extremity, has a history of mining going back thousands of years. Its landscape is dotted with the ruins of long-closed tin and copper mines, along with mountains of spoil from the extraction of china clay (also known as kaolin), a business that still clings to life today. Now, though, prospectors are back ...

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A strange fossil spider. Or maybe not

THE picture above is of one of the five known specimens of Chimerarachne yingi, a newly discovered arthropod that lived 100m years ago, during the Cretaceous period. It is preserved in amber and was found in the Hukawng Valley amber mines in northern Myanmar. It, and one of the other specimens, are described in a paper that has just been published ...

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New evidence in the search for Amelia Earhart

JULY 2nd of last year marked the 80th anniversary of the disappearance of Amelia Earhart, a pioneering aviatrix (pictured above), and her navigator Fred Noonan over the Pacific Ocean, as they attempted a circumnavigation of the globe in a twin-engined Lockheed Electra monoplane. The many theories about the pair’s demise, aired once more on that occasion, fall into two broad ...

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