Small marsupials in Australia may struggle to adjust to a warming climate

February 12, 2020

Numerous questions remain unanswered as to how the planet’s species will respond to climate change. A new paper in the journal Frontiers in Physiology suggests that at least one species of marsupial “mice” may struggle to adapt to a warming world.

The study found that changes in ambient temperatures experienced during the development and growth of yellow-footed antechinus (Antechinus flavipes) can influence their behavioral and physiological traits.

Synthetic Data Platforms for Training AI Algos Cheaply

December 17, 2018

We recently introduced you to the best facial recognition algorithms out there today. Computer vision is one of the key artificial intelligence technologies empowering facial recognition – so you can tag yourself on Facebook or fulfill some furries fetish on Snapchat – as well as everything from self-driving cars to retail automation. These achievements rely broadly on three things: Einstein-level geniuses who do more thinking while sitting on the toilet than most of us do all day long; advances in computing power, including chips specially designed to handle AI algorithms; and, in technical terms, boatloads of data.


Plenty of companies leverage our online data exhaust every day in order to predict the future based on a few hundred million tweets. However, the sort of high-quality, realistic datasets used to teach machines how to detect such patterns or recognize a face require time and money to build. That’s partly why more and more startups and even mega-corporations are turning to synthetic data to train their algorithms.

Feeding the Good Future: New Paradigms at Work

October 03, 2018

The world is at a crossroads when it comes to our food system. The decisions we make today could take us down a road of food prosperity and security—or lead us into a dead end where the planet’s resources are exhausted and unable to sustain an ever-growing human population.

In one sense, the world has never been in better shape. Consider that the standard of living among even the poorest nations, especially in Asia, has improved dramatically since the Industrial Revolution. Advances in agriculture, medicine and technology have not only led to higher per capita income but longer lifespans, cleaner air and water and increases in the quality and quantity of food.


However, the modern era is not without its great challenges—feeding the future being chief among them.

The New AI Tech Turning Heads in Video Manipulation

September 03, 2018

A new technique using artificial intelligence to manipulate video content gives new meaning to the expression “talking head.”

An international team of researchers showcased the latest advancement in synthesizing facial expressions—including mouth, eyes, eyebrows, and even head position—in video at this month’s 2018 SIGGRAPH, a conference on innovations in computer graphics, animation, virtual reality, and other forms of digital wizardry.

The project is called Deep Video Portraits. It relies on a type of AI called generative adversarial networks (GANs) to modify a “target” actor based on the facial and head movement of a “source” actor. As the name implies, GANs pit two opposing neural networks against one another to create a realistic talking head, right down to the sneer or raised eyebrow.

Study Compares Modern Greenland to the 1930s as Viewed Through the Lens of Rockwell Kent

August 24, 2018

Rockwell Kent isn’t exactly a household name today. But in the first half of the 20th century, the New York-born Kent was the definition of a Renaissance Man: painter, illustrator, author and adventurer would have been some of the occupations to appear on his CV.

A transcendentalist in the mold of Emerson and Thoreau, Kent had a particular fondness for the cold, remote corners of the world, traveling to such far-flung places as Alaska, Tierra del Fuego and Greenland.


It was in 1930s Greenland where Kent produced a series of photographs—turned into lantern slides that now reside in the Plattsburgh State Art Museum in New York—that would eventually inspire photographer Denis Defibaugh to follow the artist nearly 90 years later. Defibaugh is the principal investigator on a National Science Foundation-funded project for a comparative study of Greenland then and now—culturally, historically, environmentally and otherwise.

Amazing Grains: What's Ancient is Now New

July 11, 2018

There are few categories of food with as rich a history than grains. Research suggests that humans possibly
first started snacking on cereal grains more than 100,000 years ago.

In the 20th century, a few select grains came to dominate global markets following the so-called Green
Revolution that helped to dramatically increase yields of crops such as rice and wheat. In recent years, grains have also been under attack culturally, from popular books like Grain Brain and fad movements like the Paleo diet.

But fads fade, and whole grains like wheat making a comeback. The re-emergence of so-called ancient grains, including pseudo grains such as quinoa and amaranth, are starting to push into the mainstream market, turning the amber waves of grain into a multi-hued tsunami. The rise of old wheat varieties writ new is also contributing to the growing tidal wave, spilling into related issues of sustainability, organics and regenerative agriculture.

Endangered Archaeology: Climate Change Threatens to Swallow Paleo-Inuit Sites from Alaska to Greenland

June 05, 2016

When John Darwent returned to a remote corner of northwestern Greenland in 2012 to search for the remains of a paleo-Inuit culture that had occupied the area millennia ago, he found the site dramatically changed from the previous visit in 2006. Several meters of the coast had disappeared, chewed away by storm waves that had assaulted the permafrost. 

A year later—and about 1,500 miles away—erosion along shoreline bluffs of the Chukchi Sea at Walakpa, about 12 miles from Barrow, Alaska, revealed an ancient sod house on an archaeological site. Anne Jensen and a small team of archaeologists raced to the area to conduct an emergency excavation before the structure fell away when the next big storm pounded Alaska’s North Slope.

These events are not isolated, insist archaeologists. Countless archaeological sites are under threat from climate change around the world.

Racing Against Change in the Sport of Dogsledding

March 30, 2016

It seems rugged and even romantic to the armchair adventurer: A man – or woman these days – charging across the remote Alaskan winter wilderness with a team of loyal dogs tirelessly pulling a sled.

Such is the enduring myth that perhaps inspired some of the 23 men and women who pulled out of Fairbanks, Alaska, on Feb. 6, with dogsled teams to tackle the 1,000-mile-long Yukon Quest this year. No doubt the race was as exciting for the participants and crowd as the first contest in 1984.

But things have changed in the 33 years since the first Yukon Quest, which celebrates the Yukon River as the super highway of its day, when prospectors raced to the area at the turn of the 20th century to find gold and make their fortune. The sport is changing. The dogs have changed. And, most certainly, the climate is changing.

Paleobotanists Discover New Fossil Flora In Antarctica

February 11, 2015

A series of hills that form a wishbone shape at the extreme northwest corner of the region known as the McMurdo Dry Valleys appear lifeless today. Splashes of dirty white snowfields overlay parts of the muted camouflaged landscape of the Allan Hills, composed of patches of dark brown volcanic rock and beige slabs of sandstone.

Erik Gulbranson trudges up a steep ridge overlooking his field camp of mountain tents and pyramid-shaped Scott tents abutting one such snowfield used for fresh water. The one small speck of civilization disappears from view as the scientist drops down the opposite, shallower slope and across a broad saddle. A brief hike nearly to the top of a shorter ridge ends at the quarry, where picks and hammers have chopped out a ledge of sorts in the slate-grey hillside.

Sometime about 220 million years ago, a meandering stream flowed here – and plants grew along its banks. An unknown event caused sediment to flood the area rapidly, which helped preserve the flora. Gulbranson splits open a grey slab of siltstone in the quarry to reveal amazingly well-preserved Triassic plant fossils, as if the leaves and stems had been freshly pressed into the rock only yesterday.

Magnetic Personality? Scientists Investigate How Weddell Seals Navigate Under Sea Ice

December 21, 2014

Weddell seals spend much of their lives swimming and hunting for prey underneath Antarctic sea ice. These marine mammals – capable of diving down hundreds of meters in the frigid waters of the Southern Ocean for nearly an hour at a time – must still return to the surface to take a breath now and then.

Key to that strategy are holes and cracks in the sea ice where seals can grab a few gulps of fresh air before the next plunge. The animals have shown an uncanny ability to relocate such refuges from a distance of a kilometer or more, making a beeline back as if following some sort of biological GPS.

That capability caught the attention of a team of researchers who have been working together for more than 15 years on a series of studies focused on how Weddell seals hunt under ice. Now the group, with funding from the National Science Foundation, is focusing on how the seals navigate under ice.

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