This summer Google set a new landmark in the field of artificial intelligence with software that learned how to recognize cats, people, and other things simply by watching YouTube videos (see “Self-Taught Software”). That technology, modeled on how brain cells operate, is now being put to work making Google’s products smarter, with speech recognition being the first service to benefit.
Google’s learning software is based on simulating groups of connected brain cells that communicate and influence one another. When such a neural network, as it’s called, is exposed to data, the relationships between different neurons can change. That causes the network to develop the ability to react in certain ways to incoming data of a particular kind—and the network is said to have learned something.
Neural networks have been used for decades in areas where machine learning is applied, such as chess-playing software or face detection. Google’s engineers have found ways to put more computing power behind the approach than was previously possible, creating neural networks that can learn without human assistance and are robust enough to be used commercially, not just as research demonstrations.
Stars in a Dusty Sky
Image Credit & Copyright: John Davis
Explanation: Bright star Markab anchors this dusty skyscape. At the top right corner of the frame, Markab itself marks a corner of an asterism known as the Great Square, found within the boundaries of the constellation Pegasus, the flying horse. The wide and deep telescopic view rides along for some 5 degrees or about 10 times the angular diameter of the Full Moon, with blue reflection nebulae scattered around the scene. And even though this line-of-sight looks away from the plane of our Milky Way galaxy, it covers a region known to be filled with nearby molecular clouds. The associated dust clouds, high latitude galactic cirrus, are less than 1,000 light-years distant. Still apparent, but far beyond the Milky Way, are background galaxies, like the prominentedge-on spiral NGC 7497 near picture center.
… if our incredibly thirsty power plants, factories, and municipalities don’t figure out how to cope with a hotter, drier climate, the Texas Miracle might disappear in a cloud of dust.
Google Australia and Lego have launched Build, a WebGL Lego simulator. Build takes a (Google) map of Australia and New Zealand, divides it into tiny plots of land, and invites you to get creative with 3D lego blocks. Once you pick your plot, you’ll have a 32 x 32 grid to build in. There are 120 (12 shapes in 10 colors) standard Lego blocks as well as a pre-fabricated door and window to choose from.
Star trails over the Australian Outback by photographer Lincoln Harrison
Photographer Lincoln Harrison spends hours with his camera in the Australian Outback to create these magnificent star trail pictures. The colourful spirals are the result of the Earth moving, creating the impression that the stars are travelling across the night sky.
Star Trails: Incredible Long Exposure Photographs Shot from Space
Over the past two months NASA has been releasing a number of wonderful long exposure photographs taken by astronaut Don Pettit aboard the International Space Station. While there are many photos like these taken from the perspective of the Earth’s surface, Pettit’s images are unique in that they incorporate the passing blur of entire illuminated cities, aurora, and the sporadic flashes of lightening from thunderstorms. Check out many more photos from the series here. (via petapixel)
The Kindness Hack - Catherine Rampell via NY Times
Researchers at Wharton, Yale and Harvard have figured out how to make employees feel less pressed for time: force them to help others. According to a recent study, giving workers menial tasks or, surprisingly, longer breaks actually leads them to believe that they have less time, while having them write to a sick child, for instance, makes them feel more in control and “willing to commit to future engagements despite their busy schedules.” The idea is that completing an altruistic task increases your sense of productivity, which in turn boosts your confidence about finishing everything else you need to do.
Engineers at GE Global Research partnered with a New York robotics company, International Climbing Machines (ICM) that developed a remote-controlled wall climbing robot, and strapped a wireless high-definition video camera to its back to inspect Wind Turbine Blades! http://www.gereports.com/go-go-gadget/