Deep learning moves from artificial intelligence to better communication with human intelligence

Using an artificial intelligence technique inspired by theories about how the brain recognizes patterns, technology companies are reporting startling gains in fields as diverse as computer vision, speech recognition and the identification of promising new molecules for designing drugs.

The advances have led to widespread enthusiasm among researchers who design software to perform human activities like seeing, listening and thinking. They offer the promise of machines that converse with humans and perform tasks like driving cars and working in factories, raising the specter of automated robots that could replace human workers…

What is new in recent months is the growing speed and accuracy of deep-learning programs, often called artificial neural networks or just “neural nets” for their resemblance to the neural connections in the brain.

“There has been a number of stunning new results with deep-learning methods,” said Yann LeCun, a computer scientist at New York University who did pioneering research in handwriting recognition at Bell Laboratories. “The kind of jump we are seeing in the accuracy of these systems is very rare indeed.”

Artificial intelligence researchers are acutely aware of the dangers of being overly optimistic. Their field has long been plagued by outbursts of misplaced enthusiasm followed by equally striking declines…

But recent achievements have impressed a wide spectrum of computer experts. In October, for example, a team of graduate students studying with the University of Toronto computer scientist Geoffrey E. Hinton won the top prize in a contest sponsored by Merck to design software to help find molecules that might lead to new drugs…

The achievement was particularly impressive because the team decided to enter the contest at the last minute and designed its software with no specific knowledge about how the molecules bind to their targets. The students were also working with a relatively small set of data; neural nets typically perform well only with very large ones.

“This is a really breathtaking result because it is the first time that deep learning won, and more significantly it won on a data set that it wouldn’t have been expected to win at,” said Anthony Goldbloom, chief executive and founder of Kaggle, a company that organizes data science competitions, including the Merck contest.

Continue reading

President Calderon’s last request before leaving office is to change Mexico’s name – to Mexico

Mexican President Felipe Calderon has sent a bill to congress to change the official name of the country.

The current name, the United Mexican States, was adopted in 1824 and was intended to emulate its northern neighbour…

Mr Calderon, who leaves office on 1 December, said Mexico no longer needed to copy any foreign power…

“Forgive me for the expression, but Mexico’s name is Mexico.”

The name United Mexican States (Estados Unidos Mexicanos) was brought in after independence from Spain.

It is used mostly on official documents, money and other government material…

The BBC’s Will Grant in Mexico says if the reaction on Twitter is anything to go by few Mexicans see this as a serious issue.

Suggestions flooded in for a new name for Mexico, many of them mocking Mr Calderon, such as “Fraud-land” in reference to widespread corruption…

With a week to go till Calderon is out of a job, this request is symbolic at best. Not that there’s any surprise about a politician making symbolic gestures instead of trying to accomplish some real measure of change.

Swedish woman charged for sexual activities with skeleton


It works for Lada Gaga

A woman in Sweden has been charged with engaging in sexual activities with a human skeleton and could face jail time for disturbing the peace of the dead, a Swedish prosecutor said.

Police found a full human skeleton, skulls and a box containing other human bones by chance after responding to a call saying a shot had been fired from her flat in the city of Gothenburg.

They also discovered CD-ROMs titled “my necrophilia” and “my first experience”, and photographs of the woman engaging in various sexual activities with a skeleton, a court document on the prosecutor’s website showed.

It said the woman had handled the bones in a “shameful” and “unethical” manner

The 37-year-old unemployed woman has also been accused of selling human bones to an artist in Uppsala in eastern Sweden this past summer.

The woman has said she bought the bones, which were around 50 years old or more and from different parts of the world, over the Internet for historical purposes and says that it is not her in the photographs.

Poisonally, I think if the prosecutor can’t come up with a complaint from an injured party, he should go back to fondling his beads and waving his shaman’s cane – and drop the charges he made up.

Must be running for higher office is my guess.

Scans show fetuses yawning in the womb


Starting a lifetime habit

Growing into a fully formed human being is a long process, and scientists have found that unborn babies not only hiccup, swallow and stretch in the womb, they yawn too…

While some scientists have previously suggested that fetuses yawn, others disagree and say it is nothing more than a developing baby opening and stretching its mouth.

But writing in the journal PLOS ONE on Wednesday, British researchers said their study was able to clearly distinguish yawning from “non-yawn mouth opening” based on how long the mouth was open…

Just in case you’ve been sitting up late at night wondering about a yawning foetus?

Nadja Reissland of Durham University’s department of Psychology, who led the study, said the function and importance of yawning in fetuses is still unknown, but the findings suggest it may be linked to fetal development and could provide a further indication of the health of the unborn baby.

“Unlike us, fetuses do not yawn contagiously, nor do they yawn because they are sleepy,” she said. “Instead, the frequency of yawning in the womb may be linked to the maturing of the brain early in gestation.”

“Yawn contagiously”? That would mean a crowd is needed in there to perpetuate that thesis. Where’s octomom when you need her?

Worried about crooks ripping off cities on Sandy clean-up charges? – There’s an app for that

A devastating storm like Sandy can bring out the crooks – and not just opportunistic looters and burglars.

Officials dealing with the destruction in the U.S. Northeast say one of their biggest headaches is debris-removal fraud committed by greedy contractors who inflate their share of the millions in cleanup funds doled out by federal agencies.

But new digital technology created by private companies and municipalities in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Irene is making it much easier to stop firms from overcharging by claiming they have trucked away more wreckage than they have.

The new software combats fraud and also streamlines the vexing municipal task of documenting every last dumpster of debris or broken tree branch to prove to Federal Emergency Management Agency auditors that the money was properly spent…

Continue reading