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Scottish Farmers Test Machine Vision to Manage Pig Pugnacity

Algorithms aided by 3D cameras predict when pigs are about to nip each other’s tails

3 min read
Photo: Arctic Images/Getty Images
Tasty Tails: In extreme tail-biting outbreaks, up to 30 percent of pigs raised together may be affected by bites so severe that their carcasses are no longer fit for human consumption.
Photo: Arctic Images/Getty Images

Pig farmers want human diners to bite into the delicious pork they produce, not for swine to bite each other. (Yes, it happens.) Now, using 3D cameras and machine-vision algorithms, scientists are developing a way to automatically detect when a pig might be about to chomp down on another pig.

Pigs have an unfortunate habit of biting one another’s tails. Infections from these bites can render up to 30 percent of a pig farm’s swine unfit for human consumption. Docking, or cutting, pig tails can reduce such biting but does not eliminate it, and the routine use of docking is banned in the European Union. There are a wide range of potential triggers for outbreaks of tail biting—among them genetics, diet, overcrowding, temperature variations, insufficient ventilation and lighting, disease, and even the season—so it’s an unpredictable problem. “Tail biting is a very frustrating challenge,” says John Deen, a veterinarian and epidemiologist at the University of Minnesota. “Controlling it has not always been that effective.”

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An IBM Quantum Computer Will Soon Pass the 1,000-Qubit Mark

The Condor processor is just one quantum-computing advance slated for 2023

4 min read
This photo shows a woman working on a piece of apparatus that is suspended from the ceiling of the laboratory.

A researcher at IBM’s Thomas J. Watson Research Center examines some of the quantum hardware being constructed there.

Connie Zhou/IBM

IBM’s Condor, the world’s first universal quantum computer with more than 1,000 qubits, is set to debut in 2023. The year is also expected to see IBM launch Heron, the first of a new flock of modular quantum processors that the company says may help it produce quantum computers with more than 4,000 qubits by 2025.

This article is part of our special report Top Tech 2023.

While quantum computers can, in theory, quickly find answers to problems that classical computers would take eons to solve, today’s quantum hardware is still short on qubits, limiting its usefulness. Entanglement and other quantum states necessary for quantum computation are infamously fragile, being susceptible to heat and other disturbances, which makes scaling up the number of qubits a huge technical challenge.

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