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Swiss 'Pac-Man' Satellite to Gobble Up Space Junk in 2018

Until the laser cannon on the ISS is fully armed and operational, we’re going to have to find other ways of dealing with the existing problem of space junk, or else. Earlier this year, we wrote about how the European Space Agency is experimenting with junk-snagging nets for a satellite removal mission in 2021, but EPFL’s Center for Space Engineering doens’t want to wait that long, and they're getting ready to send up “a giant Pac-Man to gobble up space debris” in 2018.

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Genomic Data Growing Faster Than Twitter and YouTube

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In the age of Big Data, it turns out that the largest, fastest growing data source lies within your cells.

Quantitative biologists at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, in New York, found that genomics reigns as champion over three of the biggest data domains around: astronomy, Twitter, and YouTube.

The scientists determined which would expand the fastest by evaluating acquisition, storage, distribution, and analysis of each set of data. Genomes are quantified by their chemical constructs, or base pairs. Genomics trumps other data generators because the genome sequencing rate doubles every seven months. If it maintains this rate, by 2020 more than one billion billion bases will be sequenced and stored per year, or 1 exabase. By 2025, researchers estimate the rate will be almost one zettabase, one trillion billion bases, per sequence per year.

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Women Less Likely To Be Shown Ads for High-Paying Jobs

Men are more likely to be shown online ads for high-paying executive jobs than women, according to Carnegie Mellon University researchers. The finding is a result of experiments with simulated user profiles to analyze targeted advertisements served by Google’s DoubleClick ad network on third-party websites.

The study shows that gender discrimination in the world of targeted ads is real. But the researchers don’t know who or what is responsible, Anupam Datta, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering said in a press release. Datta and his colleagues presented their results at the Privacy Enhancing Technologies Symposiumin Philadelphia last week.

The researchers have developed a tool called AdFisher. The tool creates hundreds of simulated users and then changes their preferences or online behavior so that the researchers can study the impact of those changes, such as a change in ads that the users receive.

To study the effect of gender, the CMU team created 1,000 virutal users—half female and the other half male—and had them visit 100 top employment sites. The male profiles were much more likely to be shown ads for a career coaching service for executive positions paying over $200,000. The Google ad network showed this ad to the male users more than 1800 times, but only about 300 times to women.

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Biggest Neural Network Ever Pushes AI Deep Learning

Silicon Valley giants such as Google and Facebook have been trying to harness artificial intelligence by training brain-inspired neural networks to better represent the real world. Digital Reasoning, a cognitive computing company based in Franklin, Tenn., recently announced that it has trained a neural network consisting of 160 billion parametersmore than 10 times larger than previous neural networks.

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New AI Safety Projects Get Funding from Elon Musk

When Silicon Valley entrepreneur Elon Musk is not trying to build rocket technology to colonize Mars or revolutionize energy storage on Earth, he worries about how artificial intelligence could someday slip its shackles and become a danger to humanity. Now some of Musk’s ample wealth is helping fund a newly-announced group of research projects aimed at keeping AI in check.

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Foldable Airplane Could Ride a Cubesat to Mars in 2022

To ensure a safe landing on Mars, a rover inside an aeroshell has to haul along a bunch of ballast to help it orient itself before and after atmospheric entry. This ballast gets jettisoned at two different points in order to control the aeroshell’s center of gravity and attitude, so it’s very important to have along. But, it’s also useless, in that hundreds of kilograms of mass that you’ve hauled all the way from the surface of Earth out to Mars just gets dumped.

NASA, knowing better than anyone how difficult and expensive it is to send stuff to Mars, has been soliciting ideas on how to do something useful with this balance mass. One brilliant idea that’s taken flight: an airplane.

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SpaceX Rocket Explosion Is Latest in Space Station Resupply Failures

A SpaceX resupply mission to the International Space Station ended prematurely when the Falcon 9 rocket exploded just minutes after launch. The rocket failure won’t likely change NASA's planned reliance on private spaceflight contractors such as SpaceX, but it represents the latest in a string of failed attempts to resupply the space station.

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Formula E Ends First Season Wheel-to-Wheel

Formula E, the electric version of Formula One racing, completed its first season this weekend in London with back-to-back races. NextEV driver Nelson Piquet Jr. came from behind to win the series driver championship and Virgin Racing driver Sam Bird also came from behind to win Sunday's tight race.

Spectators cheered whenever drivers tried to pass, but few drivers succeeded. At Sunday’s race first-time Formula E spectator Fred Turrettini, already a Formula One fan, said he liked that the leafy Battersea Park circuit was so narrow. His wife Laura added that she liked that the race was electric.

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Femtosecond Lasers Create 3-D Midair Plasma Displays You Can Touch

Science fiction has promised us three-dimensional midair displays since at least the first Star Wars movie. We’ve seen a few holographic technologies that have come close; they rely on optical tricks of one sort or another to make it seem like you’re seeing an image hovering in front of you.

There’s nothing wrong with such optical tricks (if you can get them to work), but the fantasy is to have true midair pixels that present no concerns about things like viewing angles. This technology does exist, and has for a while, in the form of laser-induced plasma displays that ionize air molecules to create glowing points of light. If lasers and plasma sound like a dangerous way to make a display, that's because it is. But Japanese researchers have upped the speed of their lasers to create a laser plasma display that’s touchably safe.

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