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  • Soapbox

    Why a data scientist warns against always trusting AI’s scientific discoveries

    WASHINGTON — We live in a golden age of scientific data, with larger stockpiles of genetic information, medical images and astronomical observations than ever before. Artificial intelligence can pore over these troves to uncover potential new scientific discoveries much quicker than people ever could. But we should not blindly trust AI’s scientific insights, argues data scientist Genevera...

    02/20/2019 - 13:28 Artificial Intelligence, Technology, Science & Society
  • News

    Why some Georgia O’Keeffe paintings have ‘art acne’

    WASHINGTON — Like pubescent children, the oil paintings of Georgia O’Keeffe have been breaking out with “acne” as they age, and now scientists know why.

    Tiny blisters, which can cause paint to crack and flake off like dry skin, were first spotted forming on the artist’s paintings years ago. O’Keeffe, a key figure in the development of American modern art, herself had noticed these knobs...

    02/16/2019 - 09:00 Chemistry, Technology
  • News

    A new insulation material is practically weightless yet still durable

    A new, nearly weightless insulation material can withstand extreme heat that would destroy other materials.

    The porous aerogel is at least 99 percent open space, with the rest made up of an atomically thin ceramic called hexagonal boron nitride. The design proves extremely durable under high temperatures and rapid temperature shifts of over 1,000 degrees Celsius, researchers report in...

    02/14/2019 - 14:00 Materials, Technology
  • News in Brief

    A new 2-D material uses light to quickly and safely purify water

    Using light, a prototype “green” material can purify enough daily drinking water for four people in just one hour. In tests, it killed nearly 100 percent of bacteria in 10 liters of water, researchers report February 7 in Chem.

    This new material, a 2-D sheet of graphitic carbon nitride, is a photocatalyst: It releases electrons when illuminated to create destructive oxygen-based...

    02/12/2019 - 15:30 Technology, Sustainability
  • Feature

    Robots are becoming classroom tutors. But will they make the grade?

    Pondering a tablet screen displaying a town scene, a pre-K student tilts her head to the side and taps her lip thoughtfully.

    “What are we trying to find?” asks the plush, red and blue robot called Tega that’s perched on the desk beside the girl. The bot resembles a teddy bear–sized Furby.

    “We are trying to find lavender-colored stuff,” the girl explains. Lavender is a new...

    02/12/2019 - 06:00 Robotics, Technology, Science & Society
  • News in Brief

    Pills equipped with tiny needles can inject a body from the inside

    For those of us who cringe at the sight of needles, there may someday be a less daunting alternative to getting a shot: swallowing a pill-sized device that delivers medication by painlessly pricking the inside of the stomach.

    A prototype of the device, described in the Feb. 8 Science, administers insulin. But similar ingestible capsules could also replace skin injections of antibodies...

    02/07/2019 - 14:00 Health, Technology
  • News

    Artificial intelligence is learning not to be so literal

    HONOLULU — Artificial intelligence is starting to learn how to read between the lines.

    AI systems are generally good at responding to direct statements, like “Siri, tell me the weather” or “Alexa, play ‘Despacito’.” But machines can’t yet make small talk the way humans do, says Yejin Choi, a natural language processing researcher at the University of Washington in Seattle. When it comes...

    02/05/2019 - 06:00 Artificial Intelligence, Language, Technology
  • News

    Here’s what makes satire so funny, according to science

    HONOLULU — Good news for aspiring satirists: Scientific analysis of real and joke headlines has uncovered a hack for writing witty one-liners.

    To identify the secret ingredients of satire, researchers compared farcical headlines with nearly identical, but unfunny headlines. The investigation, presented January 31 at the AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence, revealed a strategy for...

    02/01/2019 - 14:39 Language, Science & Society, Technology
  • News

    Lasers could send messages right to a listener’s ear

    Lasers can send sounds straight to a listener’s ear, like whispering a secret from afar.

    Using a laser tuned to interact with water vapor in the air, scientists created sounds in a localized spot that were loud enough to be picked up by human hearing if aimed near a listener’s ear. It’s the first time such a technique can be used safely around humans, scientists from MIT Lincoln...

    02/01/2019 - 11:03 Physics, Technology
  • News in Brief

    A new AI training program helps robots own their ignorance

    HONOLULU — A new training scheme could remind artificial intelligence programs that they aren’t know-it-alls.

    AI programs that run robots, self-driving cars and other autonomous machines often train in simulated environments before making real-world debuts (SN: 12/8/18, p. 14). But situations that an AI doesn’t encounter in virtual reality can become blind spots in its real-life decision...

    01/30/2019 - 12:04 Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, Technology