Sunday, June 23, 2019

Artificial Intelligence and Deepfake Videos: A challenge society faces today

Artificial Intelligence and Deepfake Videos: A Challenge Society Faces Today

The rise of artificial intelligence in the 21st century can have its peaks and pits, but what keeps our society attracted to technology is the power it holds in bringing efficiency. This includes fuel efficient cars, new kinds of television screens, real-time language translation and much more.

However, with the rise of advanced technology, one can forget their limits and employ social media to mislead people. Recently, multiple cases that have been brought to attention include the harmful use of “deepfake” technology, whose primary purpose is to apply artificial intelligence to fabricate images and voices of celebrities and well- known officials. This can then disseminate misleading information and be more of a problem for politicians, especially those with a large social presence.

Notably, according to a report by Emily Tillet of CBS news, a falsified video of the United States House speaker and democrat Nancy Polesi appearing impaired caused a massive social media outbreak. This video was popular on Facebook - with over 2.5 million views. This scam was considered absolutely unacceptable according to many United States House Representatives and government officials as it was a breach of privacy and falsely portrayed an important political figure.ome democratic officials and the public are questioning the credibility of certain figures and if what the video showed was true; her position as house speaker is jeopardized and its potential impact on national security is being considered. Now who was to blame for all of this?

According to CBS News, Tech mogul Mark Zuckerberg offers his apologies for keeping the video on Facebook for a long time. Although it wasn't removed, Zuckerberg ensured that it was less visible in people’s feeds. Being a target himself, he understands the effects of deepfake videos. According to an article by BBC News, a deepfake video earlier this year featuring Mark Zuckerberg with a doctored voice and falsified words was created by two comedic artists, Daniel Howe and Bill Posters. They wanted to promote a new form of advertising that persuaded people to share rather secretive information about their personal life. The purpose of creating such videos was primarily for comedy and not with the intention of hurting anyone.

However, a key public concern is the negative affect such videos can have on the upcoming 2020 presidential elections. If deepfake videos continue, many important political candidates can be humiliated and this can affect individual vote numbers.

Therefore, to prevent such events from happening, the United States House Committee Chair Adam Schiff and other lawmakers suggest that social platforms impose strict restrictions and employ better policies in regards to the type of content people can create and post.They also ask that the government employs stricter laws that prevent harmful deepfakes from being shared across the internet. From doing this, the more people will become aware of deepfakes and will understand the consequences it can have on thousands of people. The internet can then become a more safe and respectable place to surf information.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

A Notable Growth Projected in the Microcontroller Market Over the Next Five Years

Microcontrollers are used in everything: from your largest purchases of cars to a simple computer keyboard. They are at the heart of the advancements being made in vehicle connectivity, automation and interactive safety systems. And they are not going anywhere.

The key factors for their growth are identified as the increase in demand for smart grids, energy-efficient vehicles, and smartphones as well as new applications in the rising Internet of Things (IoT) markets.

Microcontrollers operate in a way that’s very literal to their name; they are small and they control thing; they are computers that are imbedded inside bits of hardware and software and ultimately oversee a specific operation inside of it.

They encompass an assemblage of different components: input/output ports (I/O ports), central processing unit (CPU), RAM, a microprocessor, and more. For serial communication, they employ flash memory to retain data when power supply is cut, serial interfaces to transmit data one bit at a time (retains signal integrity and improve transmission speeds) as well as Electrically Erasable Programmable Read-Only Memory (EEPROM) which stores relatively small amounts of data and allows individual bytes to be erased and reprogrammed.

Something so small and deftly integrated into machinery might seem impossible to understand - but the fact remains, microcontrollers are the cornerstone of much of the technology being developed today.

The recently released market research report has identified the automotive industry as the largest growth driver. Microcontrollers are at the heart of the advancements being made in vehicle connectivity, automation and interactive safety systems which are made possible by the increase in the adoption of hybrid and electric vehicles. This will likely continue especially in the countries with stringent regulations due to environmental concerns over the forecast period of 2016 – 2022.

There has also been a proliferation of smartphones globally driven by the demand for low cost smartphones in developing economies and inexpensive 4G smartphones in emerging markets worldwide. The demand specifically for the 32-bit segment is quite high because of its requirement in upcoming IoT applications, thus putting pressure on suppliers to lower their average selling prices.

Microcontrollers allow electricity delivery systems to better monitor, protects and optimizes their operation thereby driving large scale migration of power systems from conventional to smart grid systems.

They’re in your vehicles, they’re in your back pockets they’re everywhere - so familiarize yourself with the key companies in the global microcontroller market like  Texas Instruments Incorporated and Microchip Technology Inc. because they aren’t going anywhere.

Pfizer decides against publicizing data on a drug that could prevent Alzheimer’s

Pfizer pharmaceutical company has made headlines in the media for not letting the world know about a drug that could possibly prevent Alzheimer’s disease. After analyzing the health-related insurance claims of patients, Pfizer found that the company’s arthritis therapy drug, Enbrel, has anti-inflammatory characteristics that might reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by 64 percent.

To see if the study’s results are reliable, Pfizer researchers urged the company to conduct a clinical trial, where Enbrel could be tested on humans. According to a document obtained by the Washington Post, the estimated cost for the clinical trials would be around 80 million dollars. 

Pfizer recently confirmed the company’s decision to not conduct additional investigations on Enbrel as a potential prevention drug for Alzheimer’s, leading to the data related to the study not being publicized. Pfizer has told Washington Post that the decision against conducting clinical trials was based upon the low likelihood of Enbrel’s effectiveness. This is said to be due to the fact that Enbrel does not reach the brain tissues directly. Moreover, Pfizer believes that publicizing their data could have led scientists to invalid conclusions as the company had doubts about the study’s results. 

Nevertheless, some scientists disagree with Pfizer’s decision and believe that the scientific community could use the company’s data about Enbrel and its effect on Alzheimer’s:
“It would benefit the scientific community to have that data out there, whether it was positive data or negative data, it gives us more information to make better informed decisions” says Keenan Walker, an assistant professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins, who studies the contribution of inflammation to Alzheimer’s disease. 

Read the full article by the Washington Post here: 
Image Credit: Daily Herald

Mystery of Galaxy Thought to be Devoid of Dark Matter Resolved

Image: NASA/Hubble Space Telescope

Dark matter is the most abundant physical substance in the universe, occurring five to six times more than the ordinary matter we are made of. On smaller scales, dark matter is thought to play a critical role in the formation of galaxies. Last year, however, our current understanding of galactic formation was jeopardized by the discovery of NGC1052-DF2, a galaxy which appeared to be completely devoid of dark matter.

Due to the puzzling nature of NGC1052-DF2, a group of researchers led by the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias re-examined all the data associated with the original study. The conclusion that the galaxy had no dark matter was based on the measurement of the distance to the galaxy. This distance had been previously determined in another study to be around 20 megaparsecs, or approximately 65 million light years away. The team then used multiple independent measurement methods, and carefully determined the distance to NGC1052-DF2. They determined that in reality, this galaxy is 13 megaparsecs away, only 65% the previously measured distance.

This anomaly implied that the previously determined measurement of the galaxy’s mass was also incorrect, with the galaxy’s true mass being half of what it was thought to be. From this, they were able to ascertain that the mass of the stars within the galaxy is around 25% of the believed value. Using this result, the team finally concluded that NGC1052-DF2 does have dark matter after all; in fact, the galaxy’s mass seems to be around 75% dark matter. These revised measurements allowed the team to show that there is “plenty of room for dark matter” in this galaxy.

The dark matter-free galaxy mystery has not been resolved yet. The same group of researchers who wrote the original paper on NGC1052-DF2 wrote another paper a different galaxy, NGC1052-DF4, where dark matter is also seemingly absent. The researchers led by the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias are conducting a study on the distance to NGC1052-DF4, and it appears that it may also have been measured to be farther away than it is. It appears this mystery should soon be put to rest once and for all.

Read the original research paper here:

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Highlights of Computex 2019

Computex is one of the world’s largest computer expo, showcasing some of the latest and greatest tech products that companies have to offer. This year, from May 28th to June 1st, some of the world’s tech giants gathered in Taipei, Taiwan, to showcase their new products. Here are some of the highlights from Computex 2019:


    AMD has had a massive resurgence in the computing world this year, reportedly doubling their competitor, Intel, in sales. In January, News of the Universe covered AMD’s strength in the CPU industry in 2018. As a result, AMD was expected to showcase more products that exceed their previous lineup. They did not disappoint. AMD announced a 7-nanometer (nm) architecture which will power its new generation of CPUs, Ryzen 3rd Generation. 

    In addition to its CPUs, AMD has expanded its GPU product lineup, revealing its Radeon RX 5000 series. Those who viewed the keynote presentation by AMD’s president and CEO, Dr. Lisa Su, were able to see a performance benchmark of one of these GPUs, showing it outperforming one of its most powerful competition counterparts, the GTX 2070. 

    AMD has been extremely strong this year, especially since their product launch in January at CES. AMD’s (NASDAQ: AMD) stock began at $18.83 USD and rose to a high of $29 during Computex.

Watch the keynote presentation here


    Asus is well known as a reputable manufacturer, creating some of the world’s most popular laptops and computer hardware. It creates multipurpose devices, such as the powerful ultra-portable laptops which cater to people who are looking to stream movies, finish academic projects, or simply use it casually at home.

At Computex 2019, Asus showcased its new and powerful ZenBook Duo and ZenBook Pro Duo, which are ultra-portable laptops with high-resolution screens that run with the newest and most powerful Intel CPUs and Nvidia GPUs

    The ZenBook Pro Duo also features what Asus calls the ScreenPad Plus. This is a second touchscreen display that goes above the keyboard and allows for multitasking. Both screens have a 4k resolution and include tools such as an app switcher and a navigator. The standard ZenBook is also getting an upgrade with newer hardware and even smaller bezels.

Notable Mentions

    There were a few other notable presentations at Computex. One such example is G.Skill, the popular RAM company, reaching an overclock record for DDR4-5886. For comparison, DDR4-3220 is still considered relatively quick in the computer industry.

This was the largest Computex event to data, with 42495 international buyers and 18251 visitors. With new technological developments being made every day, Computex next year is sure to be an even grander showcase.

Info sourced from: AMD official keynote, Computex Taipei, Tom’s Hardware, and TechRadar
Image sourced from PC Mag

Researchers Discover the Structure of an Alzheimer’s Disease Pathogens

The researchers from Binghamton University and the University of Colorado recently published a finding of a molecular structure of a protein that is considered as one of the factors that cause Alzheimer’s disease (AD). The protein, √ü-amyloid,  that was investigated was post translational modified, meaning that it was modified after a cell completed its assembly. After being modified √ü-amyloid accelerates fibrillation (the process of plaquing), which causes the neuropsychological symptoms of AD. This finding may help discover the origin of the plaque production.
The structural analysis showed the significance of the protein as a pathological factor for AD, as well as the factor that accelerates fibrillation. The researchers were able to identify the structure and properties of the protein as a link in a chain of other polypeptides. However, the question of how the protein is modified still remains unanswered, particularly what form of the initial post translational protein results in the modification that causes the plaquing. It is still unknown if √ü-amyloid’s wild-type form, the one that genetically most abundant (present in 99% of individuals),is being modified or if the mutant protein is causing the plaquing.
Source: Hu, Z.-W., Vugmeyster, L., Au, D. F., Ostrovsky, D., Sun, Y., & Qiang, W. (2019). Molecular structure of an N-terminal phosphorylated ő≤-amyloid fibril. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 201818530.
Image source: Dr. Leon Kaufman. University Of California, San Francisco

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Novel Treatment Cuts Down Fatalities from Breast Cancer

A recent treatment has broken new ground in the field of medicine – namely breast cancer treatment. This treatment reduces the chances of fatality from breast cancer by nearly a third compared to conventional forms of hormone therapy.

From the University of California, Los Angeles, Dr. Sara Hurvitz and her research team observed that integrating conventional hormone therapy with riboclib, a drug that hinders the cell cycle and interferes with the growth of cancer cells, has found to reduce the risk of fatalities within pre-menopausal females.  

In Dr. Hurvitz’s study, women younger than fifty-nine who had not reached menopause and who were diagnosed with advanced hormone receptor-positive, HER2-negative breast cancer were given hormone therapy. In addition to that, some of the individuals received either ribociclib or a placebo. It was found that individuals that used combined therapy (ribociclib and hormone therapy) had the highest survival rates – approximately 30% greater than those on placebo.

This discovery opens doors for other possible combinational therapies to be considered that may be able to help patients with conditions beyond the treatment of classic hormone therapy.

Image Credit: Rui Vieira/PA

Additional Sources: