Sci-Tech


Facebook Will Harass You Mercilessly if You Try to Break Up

20th June 2018

Breaking up with Facebook is apparently as difficult as breaking up with a bad boyfriend or girlfriend who won’t accept your decision. That’s the experience Henry Grabar of Slate had when he stopped signing on. He stopped logging in on June 6 and stayed off Facebook for ten days. He had been a member for over ten years and this was the longest period he had remained off the social network. But Facebook didn’t leave him alone. He received 17 email messages in a span of nine days urging him to return.

Grabar is not alone in trying to wean himself off Facebook for various reasons. Some do it because they realize it can be a waste of time, while others do it because of the company’s inability to protect (or lack of interest in protecting) its members’ personal data. The company has mistakenly released data of nearly 100 million of its members and friends of members to third parties, and many of them have used the data for illicit purposes. While Facebook says they are not losing members, some recent statistics paint a different story. According to a Pew study, only 51 percent of U.S. teenagers use the service now, down from 71 percent in 2015. This was the first time the numbers have fallen.

Grabar found that the messages he received actually reinforced his decision to stay off the platform. On one day he received two emails telling him a distant friend had posted a new photo. On another day he received a message telling him that 88 people liked a post in a group he belonged to. And on another day he received an email telling him there was a post to his college alumni group.

A few days later he was notified in an email that a few dozen members of a group he belonged to had commented about a news article. The email notices followed along these lines and included more messages about Facebook friends adding new photos or commenting on other posts, and even emailing him reminders to “see what people are talking about in your group.” Then he received an email in the middle of the night asking, “You up? How about a little late-night content from a guy on your soccer team who is the little brother of your colleague’s boyfriend?”

The following day there was an email saying, “5 people like a post in your group.” And another: “603 people like a photo in your group.” It continued much like this over the ten days he was off.

 

 

 

 

source/read more:https://pjmedia.com/trending/facebook-will-harass-you-mercilessly-if-you-try-to-break-up/

Google Is Training Machines to Predict When a Patient Will Die

18th June 2018

A woman with late-stage breast cancer came to a city hospital, fluids already flooding her lungs. She saw two doctors and got a radiology scan. The hospital’s computers read her vital signs and estimated a 9.3 percent chance she would die during her stay.

Then came Google’s turn. An new type of algorithm created by the company read up on the woman — 175,639 data points — and rendered its assessment of her death risk: 19.9 percent. She passed away in a matter of days.

The harrowing account of the unidentified woman’s death was published by Google in May in research highlighting the health-care potential of neural networks, a form of artificial intelligence software that’s particularly good at using data to automatically learn and improve. Google had created a tool that could forecast a host of patient outcomes, including how long people may stay in hospitals, their odds of re-admission and chances they will soon die.

What impressed medical experts most was Google’s ability to sift through data previously out of reach: notes buried in PDFs or scribbled on old charts. The neural net gobbled up all this unruly information then spat out predictions. And it did it far faster and more accurately than existing techniques. Google’s system even showed which records led it to conclusions.

Hospitals, doctors and other health-care providers have been trying for years to better use stockpiles of electronic health records and other patient data. More information shared and highlighted at the right time could save lives — and at the very least help medical workers spend less time on paperwork and more time on patient care. But current methods of mining health data are costly, cumbersome and time consuming.

As much as 80 percent of the time spent on today’s predictive models goes to the “scut work” of making the data presentable, said Nigam Shah, an associate professor at Stanford University, who co-authored Google’s research paper, published in the journal Nature. Google’s approach avoids this. “You can throw in the kitchen sink and not have to worry about it,” Shah said.

Google’s next step is moving this predictive system into clinics, AI chief Jeff Dean told Bloomberg News in May. Dean’s health research unit — sometimes referred to as Medical Brain — is working on a slew of AI tools that can predict symptoms and disease with a level of accuracy that is being met with hope as well as alarm.

Inside the company, there’s a lot of excitement about the initiative. “They’ve finally found a new application for AI that has commercial promise,” one Googler says. Since Alphabet Inc.’s Google declared itself an “AI-first” company in 2016, much of its work in this area has gone to improve existing internet services. The advances coming from the Medical Brain team give Google the chance to break into a brand new market — something co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin have tried over and over again.

Software in health care is largely coded by hand these days. In contrast, Google’s approach, where machines learn to parse data on their own, “can just leapfrog everything else,” said Vik Bajaj, a former executive at Verily, an Alphabet health-care arm, and managing director of investment firm Foresite Capital. “They understand what problems are worth solving,” he said. “They’ve now done enough small experiments to know exactly what the fruitful directions are.”

Dean envisions the AI system steering doctors toward certain medications and diagnoses. Another Google researcher said existing models miss obvious medical events, including whether a patient had prior surgery. The person described existing hand-coded models as “an obvious, gigantic roadblock” in health care. The person asked not to be identified discussing work in progress.

For all the optimism over Google’s potential, harnessing AI to improve health-care outcomes remains a huge challenge. Other companies, notably IBM’s Watson unit, have tried to apply AI to medicine but have had limited success saving money and integrating the technology into reimbursement systems.

Google has long sought access to digital medical records, also with mixed results. For its recent research, the internet giant cut deals with the University of California, San Francisco, and the University of Chicago for 46 billion pieces of anonymous patient data. Google’s AI system created predictive models for each hospital, not one that parses data across the two, a harder problem. A solution for all hospitals would be even more challenging. Google is working to secure new partners for access to more records.

A deeper dive into health would only add to the vast amounts of information Google already has on us. “Companies like Google and other tech giants are going to have a unique, almost monopolistic, ability to capitalize on all the data we generate,” said Andrew Burt, chief privacy officer for data company Immuta. He and pediatric oncologist Samuel Volchenboum wrote a recent column arguing governments should prevent this data from becoming “the province of only a few companies,” like in online advertising where Google reigns.

Google is treading carefully when it comes to patient information, particularly as public scrutiny over data-collection rises. Last year, British regulators slapped DeepMind, another Alphabet AI lab, for testing an app that analyzed public medical records without telling patients that their information would be used like this. With the latest study, Google and its hospital partners insist their data is anonymous, secure and used with patient permission. Volchenboum said the company may have a more difficult time maintaining that data rigor if it expands to smaller hospitals and health-care networks.

Still, Volchenboum believes these algorithms could save lives and money. He hopes health records will be mixed with a sea of other stats. Eventually, AI models could include information on local weather and traffic — other factors that influence patient outcomes. “It’s almost like the hospital is an organism,” he said.

Few companies are better poised to analyze this organism than Google. The company and its Alphabet cousin, Verily, are developing devices to track far more biological signals. Even if consumers don’t take up wearable health trackers en masse, Google has plenty of other data wells to tap. It knows the weather and traffic. Google’s Android phones track things like how people walk, valuable information for measuring mental decline and some other ailments. All that could be thrown into the medical algorithmic soup.

 

 

source/read more: https://www.bloombergquint.com/business/2018/06/18/google-is-training-machines-to-predict-when-a-patient-will-die

New Orleans Surveillance Program Gives Powerful Tools to a Police Department With a History of Racism and Abuse

23rd May 2018

As you walk down Felicity Street in the Central City neighborhood of New Orleans, red and blue flashing lights radiate from around the corner. But when you turn on to South Liberty Street, you won’t find a patrol car. Your gaze will rise to the peak of a street lamp where the lights are fastened to an NOPD surveillance camera that, just like the lights, runs 24 hours a day.

The beams engulf the small, seven-house block, reflecting off the windows of cars and homes, ricocheting off the bicycles of kids riding by, and lighting up the cheeks of Keisha Smith, who sits on her stoop eating crawfish. “I hate those lights,” she says. “There’s no privacy for us now. Everyone’s uncomfortable. I feel like somebody’s always watching me.” She looks up at the camera and shivers. “Why’d they have to put those here? It’s like trauma when I see that red and blue.”

This camera is just one of an unknown number that the city installed over the past few months, part of Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s $40 million public safety plan which the American Civil Liberties Union has condemned as “surveillance on steroids.” The plan also includes new license plate readers and a controversial city ordinance that requires the installation of cameras on the outside of all bars and liquor stores.

The plan has endured criticism about its high cost and the lack of evidence that surveillance programs are an effective crime prevention strategy. Still others have worried that the Big Easy’s free-wheeling spirit and eccentricity will wane under the perpetual gaze of the police.

But more concerning is the public safety plan’s ambiguous purpose and the potential for abuse. It seems that the only oversight will come from the city’s Office of Homeland Security and from within the police department itself, which is currently under a federal consent decree for a myriad of violations including “a pattern of stops, searches, and arrests that violate the Fourth Amendment.”

A spokesperson for the New Orleans Police Department insisted that the department had controls on access to its systems, and that all activity on the system is logged and monitored, leaving an audit trail in cases of abuse. But beyond that, the department has failed to answer basic questions about how the cameras will be used, what technology it will incorporate, how long the footage will be stored, and who will have access to the footage.

The lack of details has sparked anxiety among the city’s undocumented immigrants, who fear that the new data will fall into the hands of the city’s exceptionally aggressive Immigration and Customs Enforcement field office.

But in the most incarcerated city in the most incarcerated state in the country, where black communities endure the brunt of police power, the most salient concern is how this powerful tool could exacerbate the city’s already racially disparate law enforcement.

 

 

source/read more: https://theintercept.com/2018/03/06/new-orleans-surveillance-cameras-nopd-police/

 

Warning about procedure that REANIMATES human brain after death

8th May 2018

Yale University scientists announced last month they had managed to successfully bring the brains of 100 slaughtered pigs back to life.

The reanimated brains were kept in this state for 36 hours before they died.

And the team said the same procedure will work on primates – humans closest animal ancestor.

They hope the process could be used to further the study of human organs when they are outside the body, which could lead to huge medical advances.

Although the pigs never actually regained consciousness, the team believe it could be possible to actually restore some level of awareness.

But leading academics have branded the procedure nightmarish, saying it raises all kinds of ethical dilemmas.

Benjamin Curtis, a Nottingham Trent ethics and philosophy lecturer, said if it was done on humans it would be a “living hell” for them.

He said: “Even if your conscious brain were kept alive after your body had died, you would have to spend the foreseeable future as a disembodied brain in a bucket, locked away inside your own mind without access to the sense that allows us to experience and interact with the world.

“In the best case scenario, you would be spending your life with only your own thoughts for company.

“Some have argued that even with a fully functional body, immortality would be tedious. With absolutely no contact to external reality it might just be a living hell.

 

 

source/read more: https://www.dailystar.co.uk/news/latest-news/700985/yale-experiment-brain-reanimated-pigs-life-after-death

Mobile phone cancer warning as malignant brain tumours double

3rd May 2018

resh fears have been raised over the role of mobile phones in brain cancer after new evidence revealed rates of a malignant type of tumour have doubled in the last two decades.

Charities and scientists have called on the Government to heed longstanding warnings about the dangers of radiation after a fresh analysis revealed a more “alarming” trend in cancers than previously thought.

However, the new study, published in the Journal of Public Health and Environment, has stoked controversy among scientists, with some experts saying the disease could be caused by other factors.

The research team set out to investigate the rise of an aggressive and often fatal type of brain tumour known as Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM).

They analysed 79,241 malignant brain tumours over 21 years, finding that cases of GBM in England have increased from around 1,250 a year in 1995 to just under 3,000.

The study is the first recent effort of its kind to analyse in detail the incidence of different types of malignant tumours.

The scientists at the Physicians’ Health Initiative for Radiation and Environment (PHIRE) say the increase of GBM has till now been masked by the overall fall in incidence of other types of brain tumour.

Last night the group said the increasing rate of tumours in the frontal temporal lobe “raises the suspicion that mobile and cordless phone use may be promoting gliomas”.

Professor Denis Henshaw, scientific director of Children with Cancer UK, which is allied to PHIRE, said: “Our findings illustrate the need to look more carefully at, and to try and explain the mechanisms behind, these cancer trends, instead of brushing the causal factors under the carpet and focusing only on cures.”

 

 

Chinese smartphones cited by intelligence as security risk sold on US bases

23rd April 2018

Chinese-made smartphones that the heads of U.S. intelligence have urged Americans not to buy are being sold to servicemembers across Germany at on-base exchange facilities, despite concerns of data theft and espionage.

The Huawei phones, which are being sold by TKS, an Army and Air Force Exchange Service concessionary and subsidiary of Vodaphone, could be used to gather sensitive information, according to U.S. intelligence agencies. They are banned for official government use in most cases.

The Defense Department asked whether Huawei mobile phones were being sold at exchange facilities but has not offered any other direction, said AAFES senior spokesman Chris Ward.

“We responded ‘yes’ and have had no other inquiries,” Ward said in an email response. “Should there be an official determination made by law enforcement officials that these phones present a security risk, the Exchange will instruct its vendors to remove impacted products from their assortment.”

Officials at Ramstein Air Base, where Europe’s largest exchange and a TKS concessionary operate, said they are aware that the phones are being sold on base.

Although officials did not address Huawei specifically, they said that servicemembers should adhere to operational security standards when they post anything online, take pictures or configure their location settings.

“Servicemembers need to pay attention,” said Lt Col. Joel Harper, 86th Airlift Wing spokesman. “Regardless of where the device is purchased, on base or off base, servicemembers should practice good (operational security).”

In February, the director of national intelligence, along with the heads of the CIA, FBI, National Security Agency, Defense Intelligence Agency and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency testified before a Senate committee that Americans should not use Huawei products because of the security risks they pose.

The concern about Huawei first focused on routers, switches and other high-bandwidth commercial products but later expanded to consumer mobile phones.

FBI Director Christopher Wray testified that Huawei products provide the Chinese government with the ability to maliciously modify or steal information and to conduct undetected espionage.

“We’re deeply concerned about the risks of allowing any company or entity that is beholden to foreign governments that don’t share our values to gain positions of power inside our telecommunications networks,” Wray said.

 

 

source/read more: https://www.stripes.com/news/chinese-smartphones-cited-by-intelligence-as-security-risk-sold-on-us-bases-1.523519

Los Angeles painting city streets white in bid to combat climate change

11th april 2018

California officials are hoping their latest attempt to stem the rising tides of climate change leads to a more socially conscious — and cooler — summer.

Officials in Los Angeles have been painting streets white to reduce the effect of urban “heat islands” and combat the effects of climate change.

The LA Street Services began rolling out the project last May, which preliminary testing shows has reduced the temperature of roadways by up to 10 degrees. The project involves applying a light gray coating of the product CoolSeal, made by the company GuardTop.

“CoolSeal is applied like conventional sealcoats to asphalt surfaces to protect and maintain the quality and longevity of the surface,” according to the company website. “While most cool pavements on the market are polymer based, CoolSeal is a water-based, asphalt emulsion.”

While each coasting could can last up to seven years, they are also pricey, with the estimated cost of $40,000 per mile, the L.A. Daily News reported.

CoolSeal does pass the California skid test in addition to the slip test for wet traction, and is applied in two coats, each 50 microns thick, over an asphalt roadway or a slurry-sealed asphalt roadway, according to the streets department.

By reducing the temperature of the city streets, officials say it can help reduce temperatures in the neighborhoods where the sealant is applied.

With its numerous streets and freeways, Los Angeles suffers from the “heat island” effect, which causes urban regions to become warmer than their rural surroundings, forming an “island” of higher temperatures.

“Heat islands occur on the surface and in the atmosphere,” according to the Environmental Protection Agency. “On a hot, sunny summer day, the sun can heat dry, exposed urban surfaces, such as roofs and pavement, to temperatures 50–90°F hotter than the air1, while shaded or moist surfaces—often in more rural surroundings—remain close to air temperatures.”

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who may make a run for president in 2020, has used the project as part of an overall plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the city by 45 percent below 1990 levels by 2025.

 

 

 

source/read more: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2018/04/10/los-angeles-painting-city-streets-white-in-bid-to-combat-climate-change.html