Does your mask need a wearable?

We enjoyed our virtual visit to Israel this week. Next up is New Zealand, mate! Register today and join us on Tuesday, February 9, 2021.

Mike Cassidy showed us X’s Project Loon back in San Francisco, Dec 2016. Sadly, the romantic and ambitious high-flying Internet-providing experiment is no more, despite giving Kenya broadband connectivity for a period, but one aspect of it lives on. The new initiative, Project Taara, will take a stab at furnishing multigigabit optical terrestrial connections across Kenya’s rural expanse.  (Astro Teller, Phoenix, Dec 2003; Atlanta, Nov 2000)

University of California-San Diego has developed a wearable—for masks. The device consists of a lightweight surveillance test strip affixed to the exterior of a face mask that the user would squeeze to receive an instantaneous readout indicating the presence/absence of “virus molecules” passing across it.

Tesla is reinventing the (steering) wheel in the new Model S by making it rectangular rather than round. (Tesla field trip, Dec 2016)

Okay, COVID rears its spikes once again: Aplidium albicans, a species of sea squirt, could provide a life-saving treatment for COVID-19. About to enter into phase III clinical trials by Spanish pharmaceutical company PharmaMar, the sea-squirt-derived drug—variously known as Aplidin and Plitidepsin—does not focus directly on the virus’ proteins, but rather the human proteins the virus relies on to replicate. The inevitable but not-yet-tapped biomedical resources of the oceans underscore the imperative of preserving biodiversity. (Ellen Prager, Miami, Dec 2011)

An uptick in offshore wind energy production in the UK tipped the balance on the nation’s electricity production from fossil fuels to renewables in 2020. (Feargal Brennan, Salt Lake City, Dec 2009)

A good-news–bad-news story on the cybercrime front: The number of victims of broad-based identity theft was down 66% in 2020 over the prior year (albeit still large at 300M globally), but ransomware and phishing attacks are on the rise. In an extreme case of the use of social engineering to hack into victims’ computer systems, North Korean attackers have targeted cybersecurity researchers by establishing credibility by standing up a cybersecurity blog of their own, inviting visitors to collaborate with them, and inserting malware embedded in a Visual Studio project on the machines of unsuspecting researchers who agree to review the project. It’s no time to let one’s guard down. (Suzanne Barber, Washington, D.C., Sep 2017)

A so-called liquid network devised by Ramin Hasani, a postdoc in Daniela Rus‘s MIT CSAIL lab (Boston, Apr 2014), is proving more flexible, accurate, and interpretable than train-it-once neural networks. His algorithm adjusts to changes in an incoming data stream such that it performs particularly well when predicting future values in datasets. The key is to have a small number of rich nodes, rather than a large number of weak ones.

This video is a delightful introduction to the expansive joys of learning and the limitations of current AI. It reminded us of Gary Marcus who likely would come to the same conclusions. (San Francisco, Dec 2019; Brooklyn, Jun 2018; San Diego, Feb 2015; Boston, Apr 2014; David Gunning, Brooklyn, Jun 2018)

In an example of metascience, Arizona State University researchers used an evolutionary agent-based model to explore incentives researchers face when engaging in science, notably the inherent conflict between the importance of being first to publish in a given area and performing a thorough research endeavor. Adjusting priorities from a winner-takes-all mentality leads to a deeper and broader scientific corpus. (Kenneth Stanley, Brooklyn, Jun 2018)

E pluribus unum – Latin for "Out of many, one"