The CRISPR Revolution [ungated: 1,2,3] - "Biologists continue to hone their tools for deleting, replacing or otherwise editing DNA and a strategy called CRISPR has quickly become one of the most popular ways to do genome engineering. Utilizing a modified bacterial protein and a RNA that guides it to a specific DNA sequence, the CRISPR system provides unprecedented control over genes in many species, including perhaps humans. This control has allowed many new types of experiments, but also raised questions about what CRISPR can enable." [more inside]
The Deep Mind of Demis Hassabis - "The big thing is what we call transfer learning. You've mastered one domain of things, how do you abstract that into something that's almost like a library of knowledge that you can now usefully apply in a new domain? That's the key to general knowledge. At the moment, we are good at processing perceptual information and then picking an action based on that. But when it goes to the next level, the concept level, nobody has been able to do that." (previously: 1,2) [more inside]
Raj Chetty gives the 2015 Richard T. Ely Lecture (video, slides; talk begins at 9m) for the AEA: [more inside]
How Tripping On Mushrooms Changes The Brain - "New research [pdf] suggests that psilocybin, the main psychoactive ingredient in magic mushrooms, sprouts new links across previously disconnected brain regions, temporarily altering the brain's entire organizational framework." [more inside]
Computers are providing solutions to math problems that we can't check - "A computer has solved the longstanding Erdős discrepancy problem! Trouble is, we have no idea what it's talking about — because the solution, which is as long as all of Wikipedia's pages combined, is far too voluminous for us puny humans to confirm." (via; previously ;)
Scientists Progress in Quest to Grow Muscle Tissue in Labs - "The researchers are now working on optimizing the growth of human muscle tissue, including finding a way to get blood flow to the tissue, the best source of cells and the best growing medium for the cells."
Monsanto Is Going Organic in a Quest for the Perfect Veggie - "The lettuce, peppers, and broccoli—plus a melon and an onion, with a watermelon soon to follow—aren't genetically modified at all. Monsanto created all these veggies using good old-fashioned crossbreeding, the same technology that farmers have been using to optimize crops for millennia. That doesn't mean they are low tech, exactly. Stark's division is drawing on Monsanto's accumulated scientific know-how to create vegetables that have all the advantages of genetically modified organisms without any of the Frankenfoods ick factor." [more inside]
Is Psychometric g a Myth? - "As an online discussion about IQ or general intelligence grows longer, the probability of someone linking to statistician Cosma Shalizi's essay g, a Statistical Myth approaches 1. Usually the link is accompanied by an assertion to the effect that Shalizi offers a definitive refutation of the concept of general mental ability, or psychometric g." [more inside]
Using computer systems for doing mathematical proofs - "With the proliferation of computer-assisted proofs that are all but impossible to check by hand, Hales thinks computers must become the judge." [more inside]
The simulated brain - "First computer model to produce complex behaviour performs almost as well as humans at simple number tasks." [1,2,3,4,5,etc.]
The Price of Altruism - George Price, a (troubled) father of group selection thru his discovery of the eponymous Price Equation, has a rather interesting biography... [more inside]
Inducement Prizes -- Best known for the Ansari X Prize, the DARPA Grand Challenge and the Clay Mathematics Millennium Problems, inducement prizes have a long history, but their recent successes have led to increased government interest, viz. challenge.gov, and resulted in the development of vaccines, thanks in large part to the work of Michael Kremer.* [more inside]
New Adventures in Recent Evolution - In the last few years, biologists peering into the human genome have found evidence of recent natural selection. cf. Social Darwinism: 21st century edition [previously] (via ip) [more inside]
Reddit interviews Peter Norvig (reddit discussion) related: Seeds of AI at Google -- how the internet is shaping intelligence and learning and, in turn, the role of human culture in natural selection1,2 and why we are not living in western civilization. (via)
The Economist on Drugs -- Scientists in North America, Europe and Israel are studying the use of MDMA, LSD, hallucinogenic mushrooms, marijuana and other banned psychoactive substances in treating conditions such as anxiety, cluster headaches, addiction and obsessive-compulsive disorder. They are supported by private funds from a handful of organisations: the Beckley Foundation in Britain; the Heffter Research Institute and the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) in America. [related]
Search for an Rx - We asked Johns Hopkins administrators, physicians, and researchers about the health of a system Americans rely on to keep them healthy. Afterall, an ounce of prevention... [more inside]
Scientists Repurpose Adult Cells - "Scientists have transformed one type of fully developed adult cell directly into another inside a living animal, a startling advance that could lead to cures for a variety of illnesses and sidestep the political and ethical quagmires associated with embryonic stem cell research." [nature abstract, nature writeup, audio announcement]
EO Wilson believes in
Darwinism group selection: "evolution as a multi-level process1 that can evolve adaptations above the level of individual organisms."
Correlative Analytics -- or as O'Reilly might term the Social Graph -- sort of mirrors the debate on 'brute force' algorithmic proofs (that are "true for no reason," cf.) in which "computers can extract patterns in this ocean of data that no human could ever possibly detect. These patterns are correlations. They may or may not be causative, but we can learn new things. Therefore they accomplish what science does, although not in the traditional manner... In this part of science, we may get answers that work, but which we don't understand. Is this partial understanding? Or a different kind of understanding?" Of course, say some in the scientific community: hogwash; it's just a fabrication of scientifically/statistically illiterate pundits, like whilst new techniques in data analysis are being developed to help keep ahead of the deluge...
Andy Grove on Our Electric Future - "Energy independence [viz.] is the wrong goal. Here is a plan Americans can stick to." Perhaps some infrastructure spending1,2 is in order? [etc., &c., cf.] [more inside]
The Edison of our age? Stanford Ovshinsky may not be a household name, but his inventions have the power to change the world.
A NOAA report says Earth's surface and atmosphere are both warming, and that earlier work that found otherwise contains flaws. In other news, global warming has started to weaken an important wind circulation pattern over the Pacific Ocean, a study suggests. The change could alter climate and the marine food chain in that area; polar bears and walrus pups sad.
Know less than nothing!? What could negative knowledge possibly mean? In short, after I tell you negative information, you will know less... "In this week's issue of Nature, however, Michal Horodecki and colleagues present a fresh approach to understanding quantum phenomena that cannot be grasped simply by considering their classical counterparts." [via slashdot :]
The Logic of Diversity "A new book, The Wisdom of Crowds [..:] by The New Yorker columnist James Surowiecki, has recently popularized the idea that groups can, in some ways, be smarter than their members, which is superficially similar to Page's results. While Surowiecki gives many examples of what one might call collective cognition, where groups out-perform isolated individuals, he really has only one explanation for this phenomenon, based on one of his examples: jelly beans [...] averaging together many independent, unbiased guesses gives a result that is probably closer to the truth than any one guess. While true — it's the central limit theorem of statistics — it's far from being the only way in which diversity can be beneficial in problem solving." (Three-Toed Sloth)