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An unlikely recent discovery has taken Richard Attenborough's feeble amber-encased mosquito and raised you a whole dinosaur tail, complete with soft tissue and feathers. 

The tiny tail of a 99 million-year-old dinosaur has been found preserved in an amber fossil, according to a Thursday report in the journal Current Biology. It's the first time researchers have been able to study dino feathers while they're still attached to a body. 

Next step? Use their DNA to open a prehistoric theme park featuring cloned dinosaurs, obviously. JK, please don’t. 

Incredibly, paleontologist and report co-author Dr. Lida Xing of China's University of Geosciences made the discovery while perusing an amber marketplace in Myitkyina, Myanmar.

Reportedly, the small piece of amber was believed to contain a plant and would have been turned into a rather fetching piece of vintage jewelry, had Xing not come along.

"It's one of those things where if there hadn't been the right person on the ground at the time, I think it would have disappeared into a private collection or gone entirely unnoticed," co-author Ryan McKellar of Canada’s Royal Saskatchewan Museum told the ABC

The appendage itself is believed to have come from a sparrow-sized juvenile coelurosaur, a dinosaur belonging to the theropod family, same as ol' Tyrannosaurus rex, but much teenier. 

Micro-CT scans of the mini feathers show they're a "chestnut brown" colour, with a pale-ish under side. Researchers believe the full tail would have been made up of over 25 vertebrae. 

This kind of articulated vertebrae was not found on Cretaceous birds nor their modern equivalents, who all have pygostyle vertebrae. This ruled out the possibility that the tail belonged to a prehistoric bird, according to researchers. 

"[A pygostyle] is the sort of thing you've seen if you've ever prepared a turkey," McKellar told National Geographic

The amber goodness came from a fossil-rich mine in Hukawng Valley within the Kachin state of Myanmar. 

Sadly the piece of amber containing "Eva," as it was affectionately named, had already been shaped and polished for use in jewelry by the time Xing found it.  

"Maybe we can find a complete dinosaur," Xing told Nat Geo. Maybe one day

In the meantime, this will be the closest thing we've got to patting a real-life dinosaur. 

Really makes you think.

Author:  JERICO MANDYBUR

Source:  http://mashable.com/

Friday, 09 December 2016 11:32

WebMD's Top Search Trends in 2016

The Zika virus surprised everybody in 2016 and sent people searching for more information about its symptoms and how to prevent it. Surprising side effects of common medications and high drug prices also earned spots on the list of year’s top searches. Prince’s death from a fentanyl overdose caused a spike in searches for information related to opioid abuse, and Olympian Michael Phelps put cupping therapy on the map.

Here’s a look at the top search trends on WebMD for 2016.

Zika

There have been lots of yardsticks used to show how a little-known virus named Zika rocketed around the globe this year. In 2016, WebMD searches for Zika-related terms increased by 433,558%.

There was a good reason for the spike in interest.

Zika caught the world’s attention in dramatic fashion, as news photographers working in Brazil captured images of babies born with abnormally small heads—a condition called microcephaly.

“Never before in history has there been the situation where a bite from a mosquito could result in a devastating malformation,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden at an April news briefing. Early in the year, Frieden also tweeted a picture of a few medical studies stacked in front of him on a table.

“Entire world literature on Zika,” he wrote on February 12. “50 years of neglect.”

As the year progressed, the news about Zika just got worse. Not only could it cause microcephaly; researchers also learned it could cause a range of harm to babies’ hearing and vision and brain abnormalities, even in babies born with apparently normal head sizes. It can also harm adults. Zika infections have been linked to a handful of deaths in adults, and it’s triggered cases of paralyzing Guillain-Barre syndrome and brain swelling.

We also learned mosquitoes weren’t the only way to catch the virus.

As Zika spread to countries where the infection had never previously been seen, scientists learned that the infection could be sexually transmitted — in some cases, weeks after a man or woman had been infected. That led to sweeping new precautions against unprotected sex for pregnant women and their partners and travelers.

Zika also moved to the U.S. mainland, with new cases being passed from people to mosquitoes in Miami and possibly in South Texas. An area of Miami Beach, FL, still has active transmission, which means we may hear more about this fast-spreading virus in 2017.

Heartburn Drugs and the Brain

New studies out this year tied popular proton pump inhibitor (PPI) medications for acid reflux and heartburn to an increased risk for dementia in older adults. That triggered searches for more information about these widely used medications and their side effects. Searches for the terms PPI and dementia grew by nearly 57,000% this year. A study last year also linked the drugs to an increased risk for kidney failure.

The authors of the dementia study say that the drugs are also known to deplete vitamin B12, which is linked to mental function. They may also affect levels of affect levels of amyloid and tau in the brain, proteins that have been associated with Alzheimer’s disease. But they also cautioned that more studies are needed before a cause-and-effect relationship can be proven.

Drug Price Hikes

The soaring price of EpiPens — a lifesaving device for people with severe allergies — had consumers fuming, and searches for terms related to EpiPens and cost were up 1,677% on WebMD. After the controversy, drug maker Mylan took action to reduce costs for the drug dispenser, which is used to inject the hormone epinephrine.

Cupping

The round bruises on swimmer Michael Phelps at the Olympics sent searches for the term “cupping” up by 136% among consumers in 2016. The centuries-old traditional Chinese therapy is trendy among athletes wanting to improve flexibility and range of motion. Therapists who use it believe it improves blood flow to an area and speeds recovery.

Opioid Abuse

Searches for the terms opioid and opioid abuse jumped 228% this year for consumers. The searches increased after authorities announced that the singer and songwriter Prince had overdosed on the powerful drug fentanyl. The musician was found dead at his home in April.

Search interest also surged after the White House announced a package of new initiativesaimed at expanding treatment for substance abuse.

Food Recalls

Consumers tuned into news about tainted food this year, too. Searches for food recalls jumped 263% in 2016 compared to the year before.  Popular foods recalled this year included Eggo wafflesSabra hummusBlue Bell ice cream, and Tyson chicken nuggets.

Kratom

Is Kratom a potentially helpful dietary supplement? Or a drug of abuse? That’s the question being weighed by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as it considers whether to ban it. The plant’s bitter leaves are used to relieve pain and curb addiction, but have also been linked to at least 15 deaths in the last two years. The DEA was planning to make kratom a Schedule I drug, the same as marijuana and heroin, but postponed that decision. Scientists and consumers have asked the agency to give them a chance to study it.

News of the DEA’s pending kratom ban more than doubled search interest; searches were up 119% from 2015 to 2016.

Important:

The opinions expressed in WebMD Second Opinion are solely those of the User, who may or may not have medical or scientific training. These opinions do not represent the opinions of WebMD Second Opinion are not reviewed by a WebMD physician or any member of the WebMD editorial staff for accuracy, balance, objectivity, or any other reason except for compliance with our Terms and Conditions. Some of these opinions may contain information about treatments or uses of drug products that have not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. WebMD does not endorse any specific product, service or treatment.

Do not consider Second Opinion as medical advice. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider because of something you have read on WebMD. You should always speak with your doctor before you start, stop, or change any prescribed part of your care plan or treatment. WebMD understands that reading individual, real-life experiences can be a helpful resource, but it is never a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a qualified health care provider. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or dial 911 immediately. 

Author:  Brenda Goodman

Source:  http://blogs.webmd.com/

Learn more about Zika Virus: What It Is, Affected Countries, Symptoms, Treatment and More [2019 Guide]

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg just offered up a behind-the-scenes look at some seriously cool tech that his company is developing for its various platforms.

The social network’s founder took to Facebook Live to play around with some of the prototypes and updates built by the firm’s engineers during this month’s Hackathon. The new tools include a location request feature for Messenger, GIFs for Facebook comments, and offline messaging, among others.

Zuckerberg was joined by chief technology officer Mike Schroepfer and chief product officer Chris Cox, along with a number of other execs, for the live-stream — which was jokingly described as Facebook’s version of American Idol.

The proceedings started with a modified version of Oculus Touch: the new controllers for Facebook’s Oculus Rift VR headset. The demo device that Zuckerberg played with in the video (for the “first time”) physically turns hot or cold depending on what you are interacting with in a game. “This is quite warm,” remarked Zuckerberg whilst clutching the controller. At the same time, onscreen, his virtual hands were hovering over a virtual fire.

Next up came a feature for Facebook Messenger that allows users to share their location with friends. The feature can be enabled individually for each of your Messenger contacts, allowing you to tell them where exactly you are during (for example) an emergency. Once a request is made, your mapped location will be sent automatically to your contact in the form of a reply — you can disable the auto-response within a set time limit. “That’s awesome,” exclaimed Zuckerberg. “This builds on the safety check work that we’ve done,” he added, referring to the existing Facebook feature that allows users to mark themselves as safe during a crisis.

The third Hackathon update that was showcased during the live-stream could end up being the first to actually be released. GIFs in comments could soon be added to Facebook across all platforms, according to the engineers who demoed the update. As you’d expect, the feature comes with an integrated GIF search engine (courtesy of Giphy and Riffsy), allowing you to pick from an updating database of animated clips. “I think this will be widely used,” said Zuckerberg.

After the GIF-a-thon came an exclusive update aimed at emerging markets. Overseas users of Facebook’s stripped-down Messenger Lite app may soon be able to message one another while offline. The tech basically uses Wi-Fi Direct support on a smartphone to allow users to chat with others nearby. It sounds like a handy function, but will likely be limited to select foreign markets where connectivity is low. Future updates could also allow for a message to be sent across several phones to reach its intended recipient. Zuckerberg’s take on the project: “That’s really cool.”

The final audition, as it were, was of an AI-assisted shared albums feature. The tool compiles photo and video galleries by pulling content tied to a specific event from the comments section of a post. For example, if you asked your friends to share images from a wedding, the feature would recognize that and automatically put them in their own album for everyone to view.

That’s a lot of cool stuff that could very well be rolled out on Facebook in 2017, and beyond. Before signing off from the stream, Zuckerberg also revealed that his AI butlerwill be demoed before the year’s end. Let’s keep our fingers crossed Robert Downey Jr. will come through on his offer to voice the digital assistant.

Source : http://www.digitaltrends.com/

Auhtor :  

Sunday, 27 November 2016 10:44

4 Tools to Better Manage Your Android Device

Almost all smartphones are powered by the Android Operating System, perhaps over 80% of them. Yet Android smartphones just can’t do it all, since most of them do not come with more complex management software like the Android PC suite. Also, Google doesn’t have devoted software on the Mac or the PC for your Android device. But, we all need to manage our devices somehow!

Well, smartphones are here to stay. Thus it is necessary to discover the right tools that will save us the time and effort when it comes to managing our Android smartphone.

Here are four tools that can help you do this.

1. Mobikin Assistant for Android

There are other Android PC Suite software choices out there, but the Mobikin Assistant stands out because you do not need to search the internet to download or install device drivers on your PC for it to work with your Android device. The Mobikin Assistant for Android is installed on your computer, and your smartphone can be connected to PC via USB cable. You can then export contacts, files, and text messages from your Android mobile phone or tablet into your computer. This way, you can free up more space on your smartphone.

You can backup and manage your contacts with this tool. You don’t need to spend so much time finding the right contact to call. Rather than having both your Gmail accounts and your phone memory card configured to store contacts because you are worried about losing them, Mobikin Assistant for Android PC has a duplicate contacts finder option to help you weed out similar contacts from your Android Smartphone Phonebook.

Another reason Mobikin would be a great manager for your Android Smartphone is that you can manage your text messages with it. Deleting junk text messages just got easier and faster.

2. SnapPea

What makes SnapPea unique is that it is one tool that you can use to manage, control and backup Andriod from Windows. Managing your devices from Windows can be tedious. However, SnapPea offers a desktop tool that can be used to organize and backup your Android tablet or phone from Windows, and yes, they also have a Mac version too.

SnapPea offers you the option of backing up apps. Before making any major app upgrades, you can copy your relevant files from your device to your computer. You also can edit, create and delete address book entries, and send your SMS with the program too.

3. AirDroid

AirDroid is another tool that can help you manage all files on your Android device. You can send and receive text messages; play, import, and export music or videos; send and receive text messages; even manage ringtones and notification sounds. The premium version allows you to find a lost phone, and remotely wipe or lock the phone. You can also manage contacts, connect, and switch between up to six devices.

Through a PC, you can manage most of your common phone tasks with this tool, and it is pretty easy to set up. It can also work without a wireless network if you are working outside your home.

4. Moborobo

Moborobo is an Android sync software and app developer. It supports all devices, and you can manage just about anything on your phone from your PC. When connected to the internet, it works very well, and it is pretty safe because of its verification code. It doesn’t require an internet connection to work, though, and it can be set to automatically backup whenever you connect your device. One inadequacy, though, is that it does require a USB or shared network connection to connect to your Android device. However, it does have a FindMyPhone function in case your device goes missing. With Moborobo, you can make an easy switch/upgrade to a new phone.

Author:  CASEY IMAFIDON

Source:  http://www.lifehack.org/

e days of tediously searching page-by-page through auction catalogues for the perfect watch are thankfully behind us, with the digitalization of the auction market providing all consumers with access to exquisite modern and vintage timepieces.

Although browsing what auctions have to offer has been facilitated hugely by the internet, the market still remains tricky to navigate. Many auction houses have chosen to maintain the traditional structure of their business rather than adapting with the digital age.

In 2011, we recognized the issues facing consumers, and thus the idea for Barnebys was conceived.

Who are we?

Barnebys is the world’s leading auction search service for arts, antiques, and rarities. Our free service lists over half a million items from around 1,600 auction houses worldwide, making unique and beautiful timepieces from both near and far accessible to all.

There are currently over 15,000 watches featured on our site, ranging from this timeless 1940’s Girard-Perregaux watch to the ultra-modern and effortlessly sleek Apple Sport Edition watch in a rose-gold finish. With such a diverse range of must-have items, we aim to help everyone to find their perfect timekeeper.

Why use Barnebys?

Browsing our vast selection of items is made easy and effortless with our advanced search settings, enabling you to create a personalized and efficient search, specifying details from the price of the item to the location – you can even select the particular auction house.

We understand that not everyone has time to search for that special something, so we’ve created search alerts to do the hard work for you. Once you’ve created a customized search, you can set up notifications which will let you know via email that what you’re looking for is available on our site.

When you’ve found that vintage Rolex or Breitling you’ve been looking for, you can add it to your favorites so that you don’t miss when the auction ends.

If you’re planning to sell an item, we can connect you with the country’s foremost antiques experts. We also have the largest free price bank, allowing you to compare your items with realized prices from past auctions.

Need some inspiration or want to keep up-to-date with the art and auction market? Check out our blogs from our team of in-house writers for all the latest news and opinions.

Whatever your needs whilst navigating the art and auction world, we here at Barnebys have the tools and expertise to help.

Barnebys Favorite Watches This Month

Barnebys Is The Watches, Art, Jewelry, & Luxury Goods Auction Search Engine Sales & Auctions

Men's 18K rose gold 39mm Patek Philippe 5146R Annual Calendar Watch with Swiss made automatic movement, open exhibition case back, smooth bezel, flat dial, index and Arabic numerals, luminous hands, three subdials, date display, brown alligator strap, and deployant closure.

Barnebys Is The Watches, Art, Jewelry, & Luxury Goods Auction Search Engine Sales & Auctions

Men's 18K rose gold 39mm A. Lange & Söhne Datograph watch with manual movement, silver-toned dial, roman numeral hour markers, luminous hands, flyback chronograph and outsized-date complications, sapphire crystal caseback, alligator leather strap, and 18K rose gold deployant buckle closure.

Barnebys Is The Watches, Art, Jewelry, & Luxury Goods Auction Search Engine Sales & Auctions

Men's stainless steel 42mm Breitling Navitimer Chronograph automatic watch with gold-tone bezel, black dial with chronograph subdials, luminous hour markers, date display at three o'clock, luminous sword hands, signed push/pull crown, brown alligator strap and signed buckle closure.

Source : ablogtowatch.com

Sunday, 20 November 2016 04:22

Google Clamps Down on Sneaky Malicious Sites

Sites that repeatedly violate Google's safe browsing policies will be classified as repeat offenders, the company said last week.

A small number of websites take corrective actions after Google displays alerts on their landing pages warning visitors that they're harmful. However, they typically revert to violating the policies after Google goes through the process of verifying that they're safe and removes the warnings.

Google verification procedures may launch automatically, or webmasters canrequest verification through Google's Search Console.

Webmasters of sites classified as repeat offenders won't be able to request additional reviews through the Search Console for a period 30 days under the new rules, which went into effect last week.

Google's warnings will appear on those sites during the 30-day period.

Google will notify webmasters of sites established as repeat offenders with an email sent to their registered Search Console email address.

Sites that host malware or malicious links after having been hacked will be exempted from the new policy.

The Need to Crack Down

About 1 billion people use Google Safe Browsing, and tens of millions of people are protected every week by warnings placed on malicious websites, according to Google's transparency report.

Still, that is not enough: Malicious spam is surging, and 61 percent of email Web traffic in September contained spam, according to Kaspersky Lab. That's an increase of 37 percent compared with Q2, and the largest amount of malicious spam since 2014.

The majority of malicious spam emails contained ransomware; some contained malware or links to malicious sites.

Putting the Squeeze On

"While 30 days may not be strict enough, the behavior [Google is] trying to prevent is malicious intent within the site," noted Thomas Pore, director of IT and services at Plixer International.

Google's strategy "may cause the malicious actor to move on," he told TechNewsWorld, but "the drawback here is that the [actor] may move on and set up another domain, and there will be new victims."

Cybercrime is a business, and "the more costly we make [it] for the criminal, the better off we will be," observed Adam Meyer, chief security strategist atSurfWatch Labs.

Fraud is like a partially inflated balloon -- squeeze it in your hand and the air will expand into the unrestricted part of the balloon, he observed.

Google is "squeezing the balloon" with its new action, and while criminals will shift tactics in response, the cost to them will go up, Meyer told TechNewsWorld. "Ultimately, exposure should go down, in principle."

The Impact of Google's Move

Google's crackdown "should help shut down sites that are harmful," said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.

However, "it may make people feel safer than they actually are, and it looks like it's more focused on good PR for Google," he told TechNewsWorld.

It's "very easy to work around restrictions like this by launching new sites, and hostile players will likely game the system," Enderle said. "Until [Google] can actually prosecute the bad players, moves like this are just Band-Aids and don't approach mitigating the actual problem."

Web administrators "will need to be more vigilant on correcting vulnerabilities on their websites, and stop sweeping issues under the carpet," SurfWatch Labs' Meyer maintained.

Other Steps

"It would be interesting if Google starts looking at the hosting location or ASN (autonomous system number) or provider for many of these sites, as well as the name servers being used," Plixer's Pore said.

"While it's possible that domain registration could be used to identify a malicious actor and then warnings could be applied for other sites that user has registered, most bad actors are using private registration," he pointed out.

However, given that bad actors tend to be international, the problem will require a global solution, Enderle said, which has "proven elusive to date."

Author:  Richard Adhikari

Source:  http://www.technewsworld.com/

It seems everyone is interested in big data these days. From social scientists to advertisers, professionals from all walks of life are singing the praises of 21st-century data science.

In the social sciences, many scholars apparently believe it will lend their subject a previously elusive objectivity and clarity. Sociology books like An End to the Crisis of Empirical Sociology? and work from bestselling authors are now talking about the superiority of “Dataism” over other ways of understanding humanity. Professionals are stumbling over themselves to line up and proclaim that big data analytics will enable people to finally see themselves clearly through their own fog.

However, when it comes to the social sciences, big data is a false idol. In contrast to its use in the hard sciences, the application of big data to the social, political and economic realms won’t make these area much clearer or more certain.

Yes, it might allow for the processing of a greater volume of raw information, but it will do little or nothing to alter the inherent subjectivity of the concepts used to divide this information into objects and relations. That’s because these concepts — be they the idea of a “war” or even that of an “adult” — are essentially constructs, contrivances liable to change their definitions with every change to the societies and groups who propagate them.

This might not be news to those already familiar with the social sciences, yet there are nonetheless some people who seem to believe that the simple injection of big data into these “sciences” should somehow make them less subjective, if not objective. This was made plain by a recent article published in the September 30 issue of Science.

Authored by researchers from the likes of Virginia Tech and Harvard, “Growing pains for global monitoring of societal events” showed just how off the mark is the assumption that big data will bring exactitude to the large-scale study of civilization.

The systematic recording of masses of data alone won’t be enough to ensure the reproducibility and objectivity of social studies.

More precisely, it reported on the workings of four systems used to build supposedly comprehensive databases of significant events: Lockheed Martin’s International Crisis Early Warning System (ICEWS), Georgetown University’s Global Data on Events Language and Tone (GDELT), the University of Illinois’ Social, Political, and Economic Event Database (SPEED) and the Gold Standard Report (GSR) maintained by the not-for-profit MITRE Corporation.

Its authors tested the “reliability” of these systems by measuring the extent to which they registered the same protests in Latin America. If they or anyone else were hoping for a high degree of duplication, they were sorely disappointed, because they found that the records of ICEWS and SPEED, for example, overlapped on only 10.3 percent of these protests. Similarly, GDELT and ICEWS hardly ever agreed on the same events, suggesting that, far from offering a complete and authoritative representation of the world, these systems are as partial and fallible as the humans who designed them.

Even more discouraging was the paper’s examination of the “validity” of the four systems. For this test, its authors simply checked whether the reported protests actually occurred. Here, they discovered that 79 percent of GDELT’s recorded events had never happened, and that ICEWS had gone so far as entering the same protests more than once. In both cases, the respective systems had essentially identified occurrences that had never, in fact, occurred.

They had mined troves and troves of news articles with the aim of creating a definitive record of what had happened in Latin America protest-wise, but in the process they’d attributed the concept “protest” to things that — as far as the researchers could tell — weren’t protests.

For the most part, the researchers in question put this unreliability and inaccuracy down to how “Automated systems can misclassify words.” They concluded that the examined systems had an inability to notice when a word they associated with protests was being used in a secondary sense unrelated to political demonstrations. As such, they classified as protests events in which someone “protested” to her neighbor about an overgrown hedge, or in which someone “demonstrated” the latest gadget. They operated according to a set of rules that were much too rigid, and as a result they failed to make the kinds of distinctions we take for granted.

As plausible as this explanation is, it misses the more fundamental reason as to why the systems failed on both the reliability and validity fronts. That is, it misses the fact that definitions of what constitutes a “protest” or any other social event are necessarily fluid and vague. They change from person to person and from society to society. Hence, the systems failed so abjectly to agree on the same protests, since their parameters on what is or isn’t a political demonstration were set differently from each other by their operators.

Make no mistake, the basic reason as to why they were set differently from each other was not because there were various technical flaws in their coding, but because people often differ on social categories. To take a blunt example, what may be the systematic genocide of Armenians for some can be unsystematic wartime killings for others. This is why no amount of fine-tuning would ever make such databases as GDELT and ICEWS significantly less fallible, at least not without going to the extreme step of enforcing a single worldview on the people who engineer them.

It’s unlikely that big data will bring about a fundamental change to the study of people and society.

Much the same could be said for the systems’ shortcomings in the validity department. While the paper’s authors stated that the fabrication of nonexistent protests was the result of the misclassification of words, and that what’s needed is “more reliable event data,” the deeper issue is the inevitable variation in how people classify these words themselves.

It’s because of this variation that, even if big data researchers make their systems better able to recognize subtleties of meaning, these systems will still produce results with which other researchers find issue. Once again, this is because a system might perform a very good job of classifying newspaper stories according to how one group of people might classify them, but not according to how another would classify them.

In other words, the systematic recording of masses of data alone won’t be enough to ensure the reproducibility and objectivity of social studies, because these studies need to use often controversial social concepts to make their data significant. They use them to organize “raw” data into objects, categories and events, and in doing so they infect even the most “reliable event data” with their partiality and subjectivity.

What’s more, the implications of this weakness extend far beyond the social sciences. There are some, for instance, who think that big data will “revolutionize” advertising and marketing, allowing these two interlinked fields to reach their “ultimate goal: targeting personalized ads to the right person at the right time.” According to figures in the advertising industry “[t]here is a spectacular change occurring,” as masses of data enable firms to profile people and know who they are, down to the smallest preference.

Yet even if big data might enable advertisers to collect more info on any given customer, this won’t remove the need for such info to be interpreted by models, concepts and theories on what people want and why they want it. And because these things are still necessary, and because they’re ultimately informed by the societies and interests out of which they emerge, they maintain the scope for error and disagreement.

If you ask the likes of Professor Sandy Pentlandfrom MIT, big data will be applied to everything social, and as such will “end up reinventing what it means to have a human society.” Because it provides “information about people’s behavior instead of information about their beliefs,” it will allow us to “really understand the systems that make our technological society” and allow us to “make our future social systems stable and safe.”

That’s a fairly grandiose ambition, yet the possibility of these realizations will be undermined by the inescapable need to conceptualize information about behavior using the very beliefs Pentland hopes to remove from the equation. When it comes to determining what kinds of objects and events his collected data are meant to represent, there will always be the need for us to employ our subjective, biased and partial social constructs.

Consequently, it’s unlikely that big data will bring about a fundamental change to the study of people and society. It will admittedly improve the relative reliability of sociological, political and economic models, yet since these models rest on socially and politically interested theories, this improvement will be a matter of degree rather than kind. The potential for divergence between separate models won’t be erased, and so, no matter how accurate one model becomes relative to the preconceptions that birthed it, there will always remain the likelihood that it will clash with others.

So there’s little chance of a big data revolution in the humanities, only the continued evolution of the field.

Source : techcrunch.com

Author : Simon Chandler

Google has launched a new website called AI Experiments, which offers curious minds a peek into the technology that is based on machine learning.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is the next big thing in the field of technology and with Google and its products like Google Allo, you can see for yourself the power of AI. The company has launched a new website called AI Experiments which allows gives you a peek into some of its most experimental projects. One doesn’t need to be a certified engineer to test the web apps. These projects are aimed at offering users a glimpse into the functioning of neural networks with the help of fun games.

The concept of artificial intelligence and machine learning which is at the heart of Internet of Things is very erudite for a regular consumer. Google intends to change that with its AI Experiments where it has multiple games and puzzles powered by artificial intelligence. The platform is open source, which means if you start exploring AI and want to build something of your own for the world to see, Google could showcase it on the website. Currently, there are a set of simple experiments which allow users to explore the technology through pictures, drawings music, language, and more.

According to Google, the idea behind open-sourcing the platform is to make the technology more accessible to people irrespective of whether they have a background in machine learning or not. It is also aimed at those curious minds who are interested in the technology but lack the technical know-how. The website includes open-source code and resources to help interested people get started.

The site currently offers hands-on demos that allow users to interact with projects which have been created by Google researchers. A project called ‘Quick, Draw!’ is a game that guesses the object you are drawing using a neural net. For example, if you are drawing a fan or a bicycle, the game tries to guess what the object could be. Another project, called ‘ AI Duet’, applies the power of AI to music. Once you play a few notes on a computer-connected keyboard, the algorithm plays a few notes of its own based on what you played to perform a duet.

There are also a couple of apps which show off Google’s progress with AI. The ‘Giorgio Cam’, similar to the guessing game, tries to identify objects which are placed in front of a smartphone camera and turns them into lyrics to a song. A second app called ‘Thing Translator’, uses Google’s translation technology to translate objects you point at into different languages. For example, if you don’t know what a glass is called in Japanese, the app could translate the object for you in the language to help you understand.

The AI Experiments website further opens into Google’s other projects including Chrome Experiments, Android Experiments, and Arts& Culture Experiments. All these experiments are user- generated creative experiments such as the Giant Emoji, which translates your facial expressions into a large emoji displayed on a screen. Under the Arts & Culture experiments, a project titled Free Fall, uses mathematical formulas to place artworks in a 3D environment, where one can choose to visualize what a cultural big bang might look like, or travel through the sea of artworks decade by decade.

The company also added a new feature to its Translate app with the use of Neural Machine Translation. The Google Translate is primarily focused on using Phase-Based Machine Translation as the key algorithm. With the Neural Machine Translation, the app will now be able to translate whole sentences at a time and not just in parts. As of now, not all the 108 languages on Google Translate will be equipped with Neural Machine Translation. The system will work only on eight major languages which include English, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Turkish. The system will soon be rolled out to the remaining 103 languages and other platforms where Google Translate can be accessed.

Author:  Deepali Moray

Source:  http://www.bgr.in/

Update, October 21: The Moto G4 and Moto G4 Plus have become the first phones to get the update to Android 7.0 Nougat (after Nexuses). Meanwhile, on October 19, the developer preview of Android 7.1 was released for the Nexus 6P, Nexus 5X and Pixel C.
 

By getting the first developer preview out earlier this year (on March 9), Google gave itself a couple of months head start on getting all of the necessary fine-tuning and bug squashing done with plenty of time to spare. But it also gave app developers and manufacturers an even earlier look at what to expect from Android 7.0 Nougat and additional time to get the update ball rolling.

 

When Android 7.0 landed in its final form on August 22, it was actually slightly ahead of schedule. That just leaves us with the question: when will Nougat hit our devices? The answer to this will vary wildly depending on the OEM in question, with the current-gen Nexus devices getting it first and Pixel phones coming out of the box running Android 7.1.

 

Latest Android 7.0 news

The Moto G4 and Moto G4 Plus have become the first non-Nexus devices to officially receive the Android 7.0 update from a previous Android version. Lenovo posted the release notes on its Indian customer service portal following a soak test in Brazil in the days prior.

 

The first developer preview of Android 7.1 Nougat also now available for the Nexus 6PNexus 5X and Pixel C, after being teased on the Android Developer’s blog in early October. At the same time as the over-the-air (OTA) update began rolling out, the Android 7.1 factory images also went live on the Android Developers blog:

 

If you’ve never flashed a factory image, you can follow our guide here.

While the new Google Pixel phones will run Android 7.1 out of the box – along with several Pixel-only features – Android 7.1 will be coming to supported devices in its final version in “early December”.

 

The phones getting the Android 7.1 update at that time include the Nexus 6, Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, Nexus 9, Nexus Player, Pixel C and supported Android One devices. The Android 7.1 developer preview will begin rolling out by the end of October.

 

Android 7.0 Nougat formally arrived on August 22nd. The most recent version didn’t bring anything notably different from the previous beta, although a ton of bugs were squashed in order to bring the most stable experience possible.

 

Besides the visible stuff though, Google previously teased several tidbits of information about the Android 7.0 Nougat update during Google I/O. For starters, Android 7.0 introduces seamless updates so future Android updates happen silently in the background via A/B partition switching.

Be sure to check out our Android 7.0 review to get a better idea of what’s new in Nougat:

 
 

Android 7.0 Nougat: all the features you need to know

4 weeks ago
 

Daydream_VR_Android_app_converted

 

Android 7.0 Nougat update: when will I get it?

The first supported Nexus devices enrolled in the beta program got the first developer preview of Android 7.1 on October 19, with the final release rolling out in early December. As always, the beta program is the easiest method for getting the latest and greatest Android version as quickly as possible via OTA, but you can also flash the factory images if you’re not in the beta program (see links above).

 

On August 22nd, Android 7.0 OTAs began for the Nexus 6, Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, Nexus 9, Nexus Player, Pixel C and General Mobile 4G (Android One). The Nexus 5 did not join in on the fun, though that’s of little surprise considering Google’s usual device update support patterns. The factory images can be found here.

 

Android 7.0 update: when will I get it?

Samsung Android 7.0 update

Samsung isn’t exactly speedy when it comes to rolling out Android updates, and we sadly don’t expect that to change significantly with the Samsung Android 7.0 update. Samsung had confirmed Nougat for the Galaxy Note 7 “in 2-3 months” until the device suffered firesand was discontinued. With any luck that target will now apply to the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge instead.

 

For reference, there was a five-month timeframe between the Android 6.0 launch on September 29, 2015 and the first U.S. update to Marshmallow with the Verizon Galaxy Note 5 on March 3, 2016. Using that as a benchmark, Galaxy owners could easily be waiting until the end of January or early February 2017 for the first Samsung Android 7.0 update.

 

With the Note 7 recall ongoing, we can’t say if Samsung might try to get Nougat out for the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge before the end of the year with the Note 5, S6, S6 Edge and S6 Edge+ after them. With any luck, the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8 Edge will both arrive in early 2017 running Android 7.0 or even Android 7.1 out of the box.

 

Best case scenario: Five months after Android 7.0 launch (January/February 2017)

Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge photos-26

 

LG Android 7.0 update

LG has been pretty good with its update speed for Marshmallow, with less than two months separating the release of Android 6.0 and the first LG handset to receive it (the Sprint LG G4on December 21, 2015).

 

In fact, LG was the first OEM to get a carrier-based Marshmallow update out after Google. The LG V10 eventually got the update internationally in early March 2016, after the LG G3 and LG G Stylo already had Marshmallow in the U.S..

 

Of course, the LG V20 had the honor of being the first phone to arrive with Android 7.0 out of the box, beating even the Nexus range to the punch (much to the irritation of Nexus owners everywhere).

 

If LG’s past update performance is anything to go by, the first LG Android 7.0 update could well be to the LG G5 in November 2016. LG announced a Nougat beta program for the G5back in mid-August. If the V10 sees similar treatment to last year though, it might not get the Nougat update until mid-February 2017.

 

Best case scenario: Two months after Android 7.0 release (November 2016)

 

LG G5 vs LG V10 quick look-10

 

Sony Android 7.0 update

This year, certain Sony Xperia owners were treated to an Android N preview build just as they were last year with Android M. However, for those of you not interested in installing a non-final developer version, the Sony Android 7.0 update could arrive as early as October, according to leaked Sony update roadmap (take it with a pinch of salt though).

 

According to the roadmap, the Xperia X Performance and Xperia XZ will get the first Sony Nougat update in October, with the Xperia X and X Compact next up in November. December should see the Z5 series, Z3+ and Z4 Tablet getting Nougat and the Xperia XA and Ultra are listed for a January update.

 

We can’t vouch for the authenticity of the roadmap, but if we look at Sony’s efforts with Marshmallow last year, our predictions would be much less optimistic. Based on the Xperia Z5 series, Z4 Tablet and Xperia Z3+ all getting the Marshmallow update five months after Google first pushed it out, we wouldn’t expect any Xperias to see Nougat until mid-January 2017, around the same time as the first Galaxy devices. So yeah, let’s just hope Sony is aiming to up its game with the Nougat rollout.

 

Best case scenario: Two months after Android 7.0 release (October 2016), plus Android N developer previews

 

sony xperia X aa 3

 

Motorola Android 7.0 update

Update, October 21: Motorola met our expectations by updating both the Moto G4 and Moto G4 Plus right on schedule. Both devices began receiving the Android 7.0 Nougat update on October 21, starting in India, becoming the first non-Nexus phones to receive the update. Motorola took just 60 days to get Nougat out for its first devices.
 

Moto owners will likely still get the Motorola Android 7.0 update a lot earlier than most, despite now being owned by Lenovo rather than Google. The Moto X Pure Edition got its first U.S. update to Marshmallow on December 7, 2015, but that was the unlocked version not slowed down by the addition of carrier bloatware and other “optimizations”.

 

With this in mind, Moto owners could be the first non-Nexus owners to see Android 7.0 in 2016 (not including V20 and Pixel owners), even beating out the LG G5. However, we’re yet to see how a Lenovo-owned Motorola handles software updates. At the very least we know the new near-stock Moto devices will receive both the Android N and Android O releases.

 

Lenovo did come out and confirm that the Moto Z and Moto G4 families would be getting the Nougat update in Q4, 2016, with a later addition of more devices to the confirmed list although dates for those updates weren’t forthcoming.

 

Best case scenario: A little over a month after Android 7.0 arrives (October 2016) – CONFIRMED

Moto X Pure Edition-15

 

HTC Android 7.0 update

HTC also did pretty well with its first update to Marshmallow. The unlocked Developer Edition HTC One M9 and all variants of the HTC One A9 got the Marshmallow update in December 2015. The HTC 10 arrived in April running Android Marshmallow out of the box.

If HTC follows the same path this year, the first HTC Android 7.0 update should roll out to existing devices less than two months after Android 7.0 is made official. HTC’s next flagship, presumably the HTC 11, should arrive with Android 7.0 at launch. HTC has already confirmed several devices (10, M9, A9) on the update train and T-Mobile has the HTC 10 and HTC One M9 on its own update list.

 

Best case scenario: Two months after Android 7.0 unveiling (October 2016)

htc one a9 review aa (28 of 29)

 

Huawei Android 7.0 update

Not including the Nexus 6P, the first Huawei device to get Android Marshmallow was not even an update, but straight out of the box. The Huawei Mate 8 arrived with Marshmallow on board in November, just weeks after Google had made the update available for Nexus devices.

 

We expect the same to be true of the upcoming Huawei Mate 9, due to be announced on November 3. Meanwhile, a beta preview of Nougat for the Huawei P9 appeared as far back as July, a whole month before Google officially released it for Nexus devices. Update news for the P9 has been suspiciously quiet ever since though, even if the P9 series along with Nova are likely to be the first Huawei phones to get updated.

 

As far as honor devices are concerned, last year, the honor 7 Enhanced Edition arrived on December 14, 2015 with Android Marshmallow on board and the honor 5X and honor 7followed with the Marshmallow update at the end of February.

 

Best case scenario: Mate 9 running Android 7.0 at launch (November 2016), honor updates in January 2017

Honor-7-vs-Huawei-Ascend-Mate-7-AA-(8-of-17)

 

Xiaomi Android 7.0 update

Xiaomi had a pretty bad case of the hiccups when it came to the Marshmallow update, so it may not be entirely representative to base assumptions about the Xiaomi Android 7.0 update based on its most recent update performance. Despite announcing Marshmallow was in the final stages of testing back in December 2015, it wasn’t until early April that the Mi 4, Mi 3 and Mi Note finally got Android 6.0.

 

In the worst case scenario, Xiaomi suffers similar problems with Android 7.0 and users won’t see it until six months after Google releases it. In the best case scenario, Xiaomi meets its timeline and has the update out in October or November 2016. In the worst case scenario…well, let’s not even go there.

 

Best case scenario: Two or three months after Google (October/November 2016)

Xiaomi Mi 4S Nirave-1

 

Android One Android 7.0 update

Android One devices occupy a particular sweet spot when it comes to Android updates. Because they run stock Android, Google handles firmware updates, meaning the Android One Android 7.0 update will always arrive at the same time as it does for Nexus devices with both OTA and flashable factory image options.

 

OTAs will likely take at least a few weeks or more to reach all Android One devices getting the upgrade, and as always, the factory images will be right around the corner. Note that not all Android One devices make the initial rollout alongside Nexus devices though.

 

When do you expect your manufacturer and carrier to get Android 7.0 into your hands?

 

Source : androidauthority.com

 

 

Thursday, 17 November 2016 00:08

Good luck in making Google reveal its algorithm

n 25 October, the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, wandered into unfamiliar territory – at least for a major politician. Addressing a media conference in Munich, she called on major internet companies to divulge the secrets of their algorithms on the grounds that their lack of transparency endangered public discourse. Her prime target appeared to be search engines such as Google and Bing, whose algorithms determine what you see when you type a search query into them. Given that, an internet user should have a right to know the logic behind the results presented to him or her.

“I’m of the opinion,” declared the chancellor, “that algorithms must be made more transparent, so that one can inform oneself as an interested citizen about questions like, ‘What influences my behaviour on the internet and that of others?’ Algorithms, when they are not transparent, can lead to a distortion of our perception; they can shrink our expanse of information.”

All of which is unarguably true. We know that search results – and social media news feeds – are assembled by algorithms that determine the websites or news items likely to be most “relevant” for each user. The criteria used for determining relevance are many and varied, but some are calibrated by what your digital trail reveals about your interests and social network and, in that sense, the search results or news items that appear in your feed are personalised for you. But these powerful algorithms, which can indeed shape how you see the world, are proprietary and secret, which is wrong. So, Merkel argues, they should be less opaque.

QED? Sadly, no. I hold no brief for Google or Facebook, but simply making their algorithms transparent would do more harm than good. The reason is that search results or news feeds could then be “gamed” by external operators whose objectives might be even more questionable – and would certainly be more opaque – than those of Google and Facebook.

That doesn’t mean that the companies are squeaky clean, by the way. In fact, at the moment, the European commission is trying to decide if Google is abusing its monopoly of search to favour its own commercial interests. But at least we know what its motives are. On the other hand, if hackers of the Russian security service, say, were able secretly to manipulate your search results then you might conclude that transparency was overrated.

As a slogan, “transparency” sounds good. Like the saying “sunlight is the best disinfectant”, it gives one a warm feeling, even if it’s baloney. But in the digital arena, at least, transparency is not necessarily the best way to achieve the accountability that Merkel rightly craves.

Just imagine for a moment that she were able to compel Google to publish its PageRank algorithm, the one that decides which pages are most relevant to your search query. Once upon a time, when Google was conceived by Sergey Brin and Larry Page, PageRank was probably a fairly compact program. Now, it’s an amalgam of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of individual modules expressed as many thousands, perhaps millions, of lines of computer code. Publishing it might indeed enable hackers armed with the right tools to find exploitable weaknesses in the code, but it wouldn’t do much to help the average citizen to figure out if search results were being skewed in some sinister or unscrupulous way.

So just publishing secret stuff doesn’t do the trick. In a way, this is the hard lesson that WikiLeaks learned. At the beginning, its animating philosophy was that if you published information that powerful and secretive organisations would prefer to keep private, then good things would happen. So WikiLeaks did indeed publish such material. But except in a few cases, nothing much happened, which is why, in the end, Julian Assange decided that the way forward was first of all to create editorial material such as the “collateral murder” video and, later, to team up with established journalistic outfits such as the Guardian, New York Times, Le Monde, El Pais and Der Spiegel to release a huge trove of US diplomatic cables.

But the German chancellor has put her finger on an important problem. Decision-making algorithms are already shaping our culture, our commerce and maybe even our politics. For the most part, they are opaque and those who deploy them are therefore unaccountable. In the long run, this is intolerable – for liberty, privacy, equity and maybe even for democracy. The good news is that the problem is not insoluble. But there’s no single solution, no magic bullet. Calling for transparency won’t do it. Sometimes, publication will be the answer; at other times, it will be a muscular inspection regime, or need legislative changes to enforce legal liability. But before we can get started on solutions, we need first to acknowledge that we have a problem. So two cheers for Angela Merkel!

Source:  theguardian.com

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