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Deepfake tech takes on satellite maps

While the concept of “deepfakes,” or AI-generated synthetic imagery, has been decried primarily in connection with involuntary depictions of people, the technology is dangerous (and interesting) in other ways as well. For instance, researchers have shown that it can be used to manipulate satellite imagery to produce real-looking — but totally fake — overhead maps of cities.
The study, led by Bo Zhao from the University of Washington, is not intended to alarm anyone but rather to show the risks and opportunities involved in applying this rather infamous technology to cartography. In fact their approach has as much in common with “style …

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Watch a monkey equipped with Elon Musk’s Neuralink device play Pong with its brain

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Elon Musk’s Neuralink, one of his many companies and the only one currently focused on mind control (that we’re aware of), has released a new blog post and video detailing some of its recent updates — including using its hardware to make it possible for a monkey to play pong with only its brain.
In the video above, Neuralink demonstrates how it used its sensor hardware and brain implant to record a baseline of activity from this macaque (named ‘Pager’) as it played a game on-screen where it had to move a token to different squares using …

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NASA SBIR march 21

NASA’s SBIR program regularly doles out cash to promising small businesses and research programs, and the lists of awardees is always interesting to sift through. Here are a dozen companies and proposals from this batch that are especially compelling or suggest new directions for missions and industry in space.
Sadly these brief descriptions are often all that is available. These things are often so early stage that there’s nothing to show but some equations and a drawing on the back of a napkin — but NASA knows promising work when it sees it. (You can learn more about how …

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Deep science: AI is in the air, water, soil and steel

Research papers come out far too rapidly for anyone to read them all, especially in the field of machine learning, which now affects (and produces papers in) practically every industry and company. This column aims to collect some of the most relevant recent discoveries and papers — particularly in but not limited to artificial intelligence — and explain why they matter.
This week brings a few unusual applications of or developments in machine learning, as well as a particularly unusual rejection of the method for pandemic-related analysis.
One hardly expects to find machine learning in the domain of government regulation, if only …

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VC Lindy Fishburne on the seemingly sudden democratization of science

Deep science investor Lindy Fishburne cofounded the seed- and early-stage venture firm Breakout Ventures several years ago, after cofounding Breakout Labs within the Thiel Foundation back in 2011, and she has amassed a wide array of stakes in the process. Among her firm’s portfolio companies is Cortexyme, a company that aims to treat Alzheimer’s disease; the sustainable materials maker Modern Meadow; and Strateos, a company whose robotic cloud platform is remaking how lab work gets done.
We talked with Fishburne late this week about where — based on what she is seeing — we are in the arc of this pandemic. …

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Space startup Gitai raises $17.1M to help build the robotic workforce of commercial space

Japanese space startup Gitai has raised a $17.1 million funding round, a Series B financing for the robotics startup. This new funding will be used for hiring, as well as funding the development and execution of an on-orbit demonstration mission for the company’s robotic technology, which will show its efficacy in performing in-space satellite servicing work. That mission is currently set to take place in 2023.
Gitai will also be staffing up in the U.S., specifically, as it seeks to expand its stateside presence in a bid to attract more business from that market.
“We are proceeding well in the …

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Astra awarded NASA launch contract for storm observation satellites

Astra, the Alameda-based space launch startup that recently announced its intent to go public via a SPAC merger, has secured a contract to deliver six cube satellites to space on behalf of NASA. Astra stands to be paid $7.95 million by the agency for fulfilment of the contract. This will be a key test of Astra’s responsive rocket capabilities, with a planned three-launch mission profile spanning up to four months, currently targeting sometime between January 8 and July 31 of 2022.
The satellites are for NASA’s Time-Resolved Observations of Precipitation Structure and Storm Intensity with a Constellation of SmallSats (TROPICS) mission, which …

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Blue Origin pushes New Glenn orbital rocket’s first flight to Q4 2022

Jeff Bezos’ space company Blue Origin published an updated timeline for the first flight of New Glenn, the orbital rocket it’s building to complement its existing New Shepard suborbital space launch vehicle. The company is now targeting Q4 2022 – a slippage of roughly a year from the prior stated timeline of sometime towards the end of 2021. The main cause, per Blue Origin? Space Force passing on using New Glenn to launch national security payloads during a recent contract bid process.
Blue Origin said in a blog post that the “schedule has been refined to match the demand of Blue Origin’ …

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Volcanoes and Earthquakes: The Pacific Ring of Fire

How big is the Pacific Ring of Fire? The Ring of Fire dominates the Pacific Ocean. It’s a string of at least 450 active and dormant volcanoes that form a semi-circle, or horse shoe, around the Philippine Sea plate, the Pacific Plate, Juan de Fuca and Cocos plates, and the Nazca Plate. There is a lot of seismic activity in the area. About 90 percent of all earthquakes strike within the Ring of Fire. This means people’s lives are under almost constant threat in Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Japan, Australia and New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, and other island nations like the …

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Immunai raises $60M as it expands from improving immune therapies to discovering new ones, too

Just three years after its founding, biotech startup Immunai has raised $60 million in Series A funding, bringing its total raised to over $80 million. Despite its youth, Immunai has already established the largest database in the world for single cell immunity characteristics, and it has already used its machine learning-powered immunity analysts platform to enhance the performance of existing immunotherapies, but aided by this new funding, it’s now ready to expand into the development of entirely new therapies based on the strength and breadth of its data and ML.
Immunai’s approach to developing new insights around the human immune …

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