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You Tell Us 2009

Not everything is a clear-cut winner or loser. Sometimes it's hard to tell whether we'll someday look back and say, "How did we ever live without that?" or "I guess it seemed like a good idea at the time." Here's your chance to weigh in now

1 min read

Although fuel prices have fallen far from last summer’s peak, the pain at the pump will not soon be forgotten. That’s particularly true in the United States, still the world’s biggest automobile market, where people have long enjoyed cheap energy and could therefore barely believe they were paying US $4 for a gallon of gasoline ($1.05 per liter).

Clearly, U.S. car buyers have abandoned hulking SUVs for smaller, fuel-sipping hybrid electric vehicles, sticking auto dealers with unsold gas guzzlers and lengthening the waiting lists for hybrids. But it’s hard to say whether the swing in demand is wide enough to create a market for the new car from Venture Vehicles. The Contoocook, N.H.–based start-up will introduce the three-wheel VentureOne plug-in hybrid in 2010.

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The Future of Deep Learning Is Photonic

Computing with light could slash the energy needs of neural networks

10 min read

This computer rendering depicts the pattern on a photonic chip that the author and his colleagues have devised for performing neural-network calculations using light.

Alexander Sludds
DarkBlue1

Think of the many tasks to which computers are being applied that in the not-so-distant past required human intuition. Computers routinely identify objects in images, transcribe speech, translate between languages, diagnose medical conditions, play complex games, and drive cars.

The technique that has empowered these stunning developments is called deep learning, a term that refers to mathematical models known as artificial neural networks. Deep learning is a subfield of machine learning, a branch of computer science based on fitting complex models to data.

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