Saturday, September 26, 2015

This AI algorithm can match the average American on real SAT questions

When tech gets smarter

Yeah, yeah — of course a computer won at a math competition. That’s not the point. This story, which concerns a rather amazing program called GeoS from the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence (AI2), is about the ability of AI to usefully engage with the world. To a computer, with a brain literally structured for these sorts of operations, the math SAT is not a test on calculation, but reading comprehension. That’s why this story is so interesting: GeoS isn’t as good as the average American at geometry, it’s as good as the average American at the SAT itself.

Monday, September 21, 2015

The iOS App Store has been hit with its first major malware scare

Malware authors have been targeting Android for years with all manner of nasty tricks, but we’re only now seeing the first large scale attack on Apple’s walled iOS garden. Researchers at Palo Alto Networks have uncovered a hive of iOS malware nestled within the very thing that was supposed to keep users safe — the App Store. Apple has already taken action to remove the threat, but the full effects of the “XcodeGhost” are not yet known.

Apple has managed to avoid any major malware scares all these years thanks in large part to the stringent manual review processes that all apps must go through. It can take weeks to get a minor update approved for release in the App Store, and there’s no simple way to install apps via an outside source. Unofficial app repositories are where virtually all the Android malware lurks, so iOS has avoided this problem.

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

3D printing proves ancient ‘spear butt’ is a musical instrument


One nice thing about 3D printing is that it doesn’t just make things possible, but that it makes them easier. Some complex shapes, intricate lattices of splines — sure, those might be hard to make by conventional means, but generally 3D printing is about putting old abilities in new hands. For instance, we’ve always been able to make precise casts of ancient artifacts — but it’s always been difficult, time consuming, and expensive. Now, 3D printing is making accurate recreation of relics as easy as passing it through a scanner, and that has big implications for science.

Particle collider creates ‘primordial goo’ of the early universe


A quark-gluon plasma is the original state of the universe. After the Big Bang, for a length of time extending for perhaps a few milliseconds, matter was so unimaginably super-heated that it was in its most disordered possible state. This means that there was nothing larger or more organized than single subatomic particles — the constituents of relatively enormous things like protons.

The behaviour of this plasma, and the process by which it cooled to form matter as we know it, is one of the most important questions for early universe cosmology today. That’s why it’s so surprising that an American particle collider called the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) was able to create it with very little actual mass. Their results are published in the journal Physical Review Letters.