Scientist

Who will train the next generation of data scientists?

Above: Bloomberg reporter Ellen Huet interviews Jennifer Chayes, a managing director and distinguished scientist at Microsoft Research at an event on June 22, 2017.

While artificial intelligence is a hot topic these days, the industry is facing a key problem: not enough scholars are staying in academia to teach the massive influx of students. It’s a problem that Jennifer Chayes, a managing director and distinguished scientist at Microsoft Research, has seen firsthand while recruiting top researchers away from universities and into her organization.

In her view, professors, like one who she hired away from a post at Stanford University last year, aren’t leaving entirely for the money, since they could work at startups or do consulting on the side while keeping their academic posts. Large companies like Microsoft offer increased pay, but also access to massive amounts of data that gets updated frequently.

It’s an issue because the top-notch researchers who might have been training the next generation of data scientists are leaving, instead. That could slow progress in a field that is critical to the future of computing.

Scientists Use Brain Stimulation to Boost Creativity

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Consider this. It’s time to do that creative thing you do, be it music, art, writing, whatever. You strap on a cap and it stimulates your brain in such a way, as to ramp up your creative juices. According to researchers at Queen Mary and Goldsmith’s Universities, both of London, such a device could, someday, become a reality.

They caution too that there are already a lot of hucksters out there, who are leveraging public interest and ignorance, in order to make a buck. We’re not there yet. But we are making headway. The results of this study were published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Really creative types are known to be mavericks. They don’t like to follow rules or society’s conventions. This plays out on the neurological level as well. A part of the brain called the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) is the stickler of the human mind. This part of the frontal brain is responsible for most of our thinking and reasoning. It’s the rule maker of the brain, and the reminder of the rules.

Electrical brain stimulation.

Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS). Queen Mary University of London.

Dr. Caroline Di Bernardi Luft was the study’s first author. She hails from Queen Mary’s School of Biological and Chemical Sciences. Dr. Luft said, “We solve problems by applying rules we learn from experience, and the DLPFC plays a key role in automating this process.”

She added, “It works fine most of the time, but fails spectacularly when we encounter new problems which require a new style of thinking – our past experience can indeed block our creativity. To break this mental fixation, we need to loosen up our learned rules.”

Dr. Luft teamed up with…

Scientists Prove a Key Part of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity

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Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity predicted that the gravity of stars could brighten and bend the light coming from other stars like a magnifying lens. Yet this is something Einstein did not think we could ever see due to the great distance between stars, writing in a 1936 article that “there is no hope of observing this phenomenon directly.”

Yet, as science persists, this phenomenon, called “gravitational microlensing”, has now been observed by an international team of researchers, led by Kailash C. Sahu, an astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland.

Writing in an accompanying paper, Terry D. Oswalt from the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, says that Einstein would be proud of this accomplishment because “one of his key predictions has passed a very rigorous observational test.”

Gravitational microlensing was initially observed in 1919 by measuring starlight that curbed around the total eclipse of the Sun. This is the first time, however, that the effect was seen involving stars other…

Jupiter gets Surprisingly Complex New Portrait

Scientists are repainting Jupiter’s portrait — scientifically, anyway. NASA’s Juno spacecraft swooped within 5,000 kilometers (3,100 miles) of Jupiter’s cloud tops last August 27. Scientists’ first close-up of the gas giant has unveiled several unexpected details about the planet’s gravity and powerful magnetic fields. They also give a new view of the planet’s auroras and ammonia-rich weather systems.

Researchers need to revamp their view of Jupiter, these findings suggest. They even challenge ideas about how solar systems form and evolve. The findings come from two papers published May 26 in Science.

“We went in with a preconceived notion of how Jupiter worked,” says Scott Bolton. “And I would say we have to eat some humble pie.” Bolton is a planetary scientist who leads the Juno mission. He works at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas.

Scientists thought that beneath its thick clouds, Jupiter would be uniform and boring. Not anymore. “Jupiter is much more complex deep down than anyone anticipated,” Bolton now observes.

One early surprise came from Jupiter’s gravity. Juno measured that gravity from its tug on the spacecraft. The values suggest that Jupiter doesn’t have a solid, compact core. Instead, the core is probably large and diffuse. It could even be as big as half the planet’s radius, Bolton and his colleagues conclude. “Nobody anticipated that,” Bolton notes.

Imke de Pater is a planetary scientist. She works at the University of California, Berkeley and was not involved in the new studies. The…

Scientists Have Recorded the Sound of Two Black Holes Colliding, and You Can Hear It Too

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Something happened 3 billion years ago that changed the makeup of our prodigious universe forever. Two enormous black holes collided, resulting in an intense explosion and forming a solitary object 49 times as massive as our sun.

The explosion formed and released energy two times our sun’s mass within a fraction of a second. This sent out gravitation waves so powerful that they altered the fabric of space-time itself. A super-massive black hole arose in the aftermath. Scientists were recently able to detect this cataclysmic collision, and are learning more about black holes and the cosmos as a result.

The National Science Foundation’s cutting-edge gravitational wave observatory made these detections. The facility is called the twin Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO). It’s run by an international group of scientists including some from NASA, MIT, and Caltech.

LIGO has two different locations, one in Hanford, Washington State and the other near Livingston, Louisiana. They’re purposely 1,800 miles (approx. 2,896 km) apart. The gravity waves were incredibly subtle. They altered space on and around Earth at just a fraction of the width of a proton. Yet, the instrumentation is so sensitive it can pick up such delicate occurrences.

Black holes.

LIGO.

An interferometer is basically a laser-based measuring instrument that can detect gravitational waves and locate their origin. By carefully observing light and space with two gigantic interferometers, researchers can learn much more about gravity, one of the four main forces of the universe. LIGO scientists say, these dual observatories are on the same level of complexity as the large hadron collider (LHC) at CERN. LIGO is liable to make discoveries that’ll impact quantum mechanics, relativity, astronomy, and even nuclear physics.

This is the third time gravity waves have been detected using instruments on Earth and the first direct measurement. We now know more about stellar mass black holes, how they’re formed, the areas which they inhabit, and how two of them can end up in a spinning dance of death and merge. In this particular case, one was about 30…

Scientists Discover Possible First Proof of Parallel Universes

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A new study about one of the most inexplicable places in the cosmos may offer the first proof that we are living in a multiverse.

The idea of a “multiverse” proposes that an infinite amount of universes, including the one we are living in, exist in parallel to each other. These universes differ in a variety of physical properties, featuring multiple Big Bangs, space bubbles and maybe even an alternate version of you who is reading this article in a world run by slugs. The “multiverse” hypothesis has been so far been impossible to test but has supporters among such scientists as Stephen Hawking, Michio Kaku, Neil deGrasse Tyson and Leonard Susskind.

The study by British astronomers focuses on what’s known as the “Cold Spot” – an especially cold area of space that has been observed in the microwave background radiation coming from the early Universe 13 billion years ago. Usually temperatures of the radiation vary throughout the universe, but this area of coolness is much larger than others (about 0.00015 degrees Celsius colder than its surroundings).

Cold Spot map
Cold Spot map

The map of the cosmic microwave background (CMB) sky produced by the Planck satellite. Red represents slightly warmer regions, and blue slightly cooler regions. Credit: ESA and Durham University.

The Cold Spot, first found by NASA in 2004, is a strange place 1.8 billion light years across that doesn’t comfortably gel with existing cosmological models. One explanation is that it simply doesn’t exist, being just an illusion created by the expansion of the universe. Spaces with lower amount of galaxies or “voids” form…

Swedish Scientists Are Using Breast Milk To Cure Cancer

Breast milk is being used to fight cancer after Swedish scientists accidentally discovered it kills cancer cells while leaving healthy cells unharmed.

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Professor Catharina Svanborg, an immunologist at Lund University, says human breast milk contains a protein called alpha-lactalbumin, which is transformed into a cancer-fighting agent when in the gut.

Trials in patients with bladder cancer have already yielded promising results and researchers believe the compound breast…

Rosanne Cash on How Science Saved Her Life, the Source of Every Artist’s Power, and Her Beautiful Reading of Adrienne Rich’s Tribute to Marie Curie

Most know Marie Curie (November 7, 1867–July 4, 1934) as a trailblazing scientist — a pioneer of radioactivity, the first woman to receive the Nobel Prize, and to this day the only person to win two Nobels in two different sciences, chemistry and physics. But unbeknownst to most, she was also a woman of tremendous humanitarian heroism and courage: When WWI swept Europe, Curie, a vehement pacifist, invented and operated mobile X-ray units known as “Little Curies” — ambulances which she herself drove, treating an estimated one million wounded soldiers and civilians, using the technology her own discoveries had made possible to save innumerable lives.

It fell on another extraordinary woman, the great poet and feminist Adrienne Rich (May 16, 1929–March 27, 2012), to eulogize Curie exactly forty years after the trailblazing scientist’s death in the 1974 poem “Power,” which opens Rich’s 1977 masterwork The Dream of a Common Language (public library).

Another forty years later, another remarkable woman animated this double legacy of greatness — multiple Grammy winner Rosanne Cash, a musician of enormous poetic potency, a beautiful memoirist, and one of very few women inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Cash brought Rich’s masterpiece to life at The Universe in Verse — the celebration of science through poetry, which gave us Neil Gaiman’s feminist…

Scientists Create a Bizarre Superfluid with “Negative Mass”

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Scientists at Washington State University created a fluid with the previously-theorized (and rather counterintuitive) property of negative mass.

This is the first time a negative mass has ever been observed under laboratory conditions and can lead to advancements in our understanding of such hard-to-study topics such as black holes, dark matter and neutron stars.

What’s unusual about the created fluid is that when you push on it, it doesn’t accelerate in the direction where it was pushed, as you would expect. Instead, it accelerates back, towards you. Scientists have previously hypothesized matter could have negative mass the way a particle can have a negative charge. But they have not been able to show it definitively until this study.

“What’s a first here is the exquisite control we have over the nature of this negative mass, without any other complications,” said Michael Forbes, professor of physics and astronomy at WSU and the study’s co-author.

Credit: shock.wsu.edu
Credit: shock.wsu.edu

Forbes and the team…

Scientists Grow Working Human Brain Circuits

Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine have successfully grown the first-ever working 3D brain circuits in a petri dish. Writing in the journal Nature, they say the network of living cells will allow us to study how the human brain develops.

Scientists have been culturing brain cells in the lab for some time now. But previous projects have produced only flat sheets of cells and tissue, which can’t really come close to recreating the three-dimensional conditions inside our heads. The Stanford researchers were especially interested in the way brain cells in a developing fetus can join up together to create networks.

“We’ve never been able to recapitulate these human-brain developmental events in a dish before,” senior author Sergiu Pasca, MD said in a statement.

Studying real-life pregnant women and their fetuses can also be ethically and technically tricky, which means there’s still a…