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Introducing a New Material for Invisibility Cloaks

Unless you’re a teenage wizard, making things invisible involves some challenges—cloaking devices tend to be bulky and absorb some of the light they’re trying to reroute. Now a new design may lead to invisibility cloaks that are thinner and don’t lose brightness, rendering them more practical for certain uses.

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A Middle East Supercomputer Makes the Top 10 List for the First Time

For the first time, a system in the Middle East earned a Top 10 spot on the list of most powerful supercomputers. Shaheen II, located at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), in Saudi Arabia, placed 7th in the the semi-annual competition, the results of which were announced earlier today. Shaheen II is a Cray XC40 system that cranked out 5.536 petaflops per second on the Linpack benchmark.

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Google Funds University Living Lab for Internet of Things

Carnegie Mellon University’s campus could soon transform into a living laboratory for testing how Internet-connected sensors, gadgets, and buildings might change our daily life. Google has awarded half a million dollars to Carnegie Mellon and a broader university coalition to develop the technologies needed to make that vision a reality.

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With Pluto Encounter a Generation Passes the Torch

Those of us now into retirement age are—among holding other distinctions—the generation that the late Carl Sagan modestly described as holding a unique place in the entire history of humanity. As children, he related, we could look up at the other planets but could only wonder what it was like on them, based on telescopic observations, or on guessing. Sixty years later, as grizzled geezers, we remember watching the entire sequence of planets one after the other being probed and measured by human devices, revealing alien worlds in awesome detail. Now Pluto—which a spacecraft called New Horizons will fly by on Tuesday—completes the set. We were the last to have to guess and imagine; all future generations will have factual data and on-site images at their fingertips.

It is an amazing lifelong parade of discoveries that we can ponder in anticipation of the Pluto “grand finale”. As a lifelong space nut —I was 12 when Sputnik launched and I was already star struck—with a career in spaceflight, I’m bouncing up and down with anticipatory glee.

But I now see that Sagan was overstating the uniqueness of our cohort’s good fortune in scheduling our birth dates. Our grandchildren need not be envious of an experience they can never share, because I’ve become persuaded that their lifetime of space exploration will exceed our own in ways we didn’t even realize.

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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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