How artificial intelligence could stop poachers in their tracks

With Earth Day come and gone the initiative to save our planet is fresh in our minds. And that’s not limited to global warming and putting a stop to pollution; poaching remains a big problem when it comes to preserving the world around us.

Luckily researchers have been testing out how we can use scientists to help the fight against poaching.

According to Science Daily, organizations such as the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Army Research Office have teamed up to look into how artificial intelligence (AI) could be used to stop poaching and illegal logging. Led by scientists at the University of South Carolina (USC), researchers have found ways to use game theory, or the mathematical theory of conflict and cooperation, to protect parks in a more proactive way.

“This research is a step in demonstrating that AI can have a really significant positive impact on society and allow us to assist humanity in solving some of the major challenges we face,” said Milind Tambe, a professor at USC.

Along with USC, scientists and conservationists from Singapore, the Netherlands, Malaysia, and various parts of the US created an AI application named PAWS, short for the Protection Assistant for Wildlife Security. In 2014 PAWS was implemented in the conservation effort in Malaysia and Uganda.

Specializing in patrolling, PAWS was shown to significantly improve and aid the fight against poaching. However, definite patrol routes needs to be put into place before PAWS can reach its full potential.

Fei Fang, a member of the research team from USC, commented on how PAWS has already changed the patrolling game when it comes to tackling poachers.

“In most parks, ranger patrols are poorly planned, reactive rather than pro-active, and habitual,” said Fang. “Our work on PAWS addresses one facet of the problem, improving the efficiency of patrols to combat poaching.”

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More big names cancel North Carolina gigs over restroom law

Celebrities, musical acts, and businesses have pulled out of North Carolina before the ink had even dried on a recent bill preventing transsexuals from using the bathroom they identify with. And now The Blue Man Group can be added to that list.

According to My Fox 8, the Blue Man Group recently issued a statement to fans that they had cancelled all of their upcoming shows in North Carolina. The group was set to perform in the Tar Heel state from June 17-19, but pulled out due to the passing of House Bill 2 that forbids transsexuals from using the bathroom they identify with.

“At the heart of every Blue Man Group performance is a joyful celebration of all human kind including our commonalities and our differences,” wrote the group on their Facebook page. “We value every individual’s right to live a dignified, vibrant life in full color. As such, we are joining the growing list of entertainment professionals in protest of North Carolina’s HB2 law by canceling our upcoming tour performances in Charlotte.”

That growing list includes big names such as Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam, Ringo Starr, and Boston. And singers aren’t the only big names that are pulling out of the state. Cirque du Soleil, PayPal, and even the NBA have reconsidered conducting business with North Carolina due to HB2, stating that laws like these that openly discriminate against the LGBT community have no place in a progressive society.

“The new law perpetuates discrimination and it violates the values and principles that are at the core of PayPal’s mission and culture,” wrote PayPal president Dan Schulman in a statement on PayPal.

Whether more performers or businesses will join the boycott is unclear, but if something is done about HB2 then acts like the Blue Man Group will return to the Tar Heel State. But until then groups like these will find other places to do their business.

“We will stand firm in our commitment to equality and inclusion and our conviction that we can make a difference by living and acting on our values,” wrote Schulman. “It’s the right thing to do for our employees, our customers, and our communities.”


Earliest chameleon found

Tree resin has helped preserve early animals as a perfect specimen from millions of years ago. The gum helps conserve the animal, freezing it in time. The latest discovery of a tiny tree lizard was dated to have been alive 100 million years ago.

This discovery makes studies much quicker as the animal is complete. Scientists discovered a group of Tree resin lizard reserves and found among them a tiny specimen. From the features of the small lizard, it is the earliest relative of the modern chameleon. The lizard dates 78 million years earlier than the previous oldest chameleon.

The fossilized reptiles were part of a collector’s private collection. He has donated them to the American Museum of Natural History, in New York to help further the knowledge on early lizards. The museum is using 3-D projection to depict the exact structure of the lizard.

“The fossil record is sparse because the delicate skin and fragile bones of small lizards do not usually preserve,” said Edward Stanley from the University of Florida. “Especially in the tropics, which makes the new amber fossils an incredibly rare and unique window into a critical period of diversification.”

From the 3-D projections, they identified that the early chameleon had split toes, unlike the modern chameleon that has its toes merged to help it climb better. However, the chameleons long sticky tongue is also present on the ancient lizard. Chameleons have the uncanny ability to camouflage. Scientists cannot actually tell if the ancestor could. However, they believe that its size and color alone could be an excellent defense due to the poor eyesight of most predators during that time.


Kylie Jenner Lip Craze of 2015 resulted in thousands of lip enhancement procedures

The Kylie Jennie Lip Craze of 2015 didn’t stop with challenges to suck a shot glass that landed people in the hospital. A need to have luscious lips like the young socialite has resulted in an increased number of lip enhancement procedures, no shot glass needed.

According to Maine News Online, 2015 was the year of lip augmentation, with over 279,000 women seeing plastic surgeons for a lip injection in 2015 alone. This trend saw a spark with celebrities like Kylie Jenner flaunting plump, pouty lips.

“Many come in saying they want her lips,” said Dr. David Shafer to Mashable. “She certainly has a huge impact on lip injections and the transformation is obvious and is remarkable on her social media.”

However, the trend really started in 2000, as the numbers of people going under the needle have risen 50% over the last 15 years. In fact, plastic surgery itself has hit a record high, with the majority of patients opting for butt, lower body, or breast lifts.

Lip enhancement remains the most popular though. Dr. Norman Rowe explains that it’s a fairly quick procedure, giving “the look of being surgically augmented but without the time.”

“Patients are very likely to undergo the procedure because it is usually a quick one, has immediate results and has a dramatic effect on the patient persona,” said Rowe.

Not surprisingly, it’s millennials that are opting for lip enhancement, with 70% of females and 30% of males forking over the money needed for the procedure, a good $750-$950 according to People.

“More and more we are seeing younger clients doing minor lip enhancement,” said Dr. David Colbert. “There is a growing pressure from the Instagram selfie generation to look your best online. It’s almost as if cyber reality has outdone simple life.”


Rechargeable batteries get extension on charge-life by accident

We’ve all gotten to that point where we have to say goodbye to our trusty devices due to battery issues. Batteries charged over and over again get to that point where they just don’t work unless plugged into a wall.

But thanks to an accidental discovery at California’s UC Irvine, in the future phone batteries could last longer. Exactly how much longer? Try 200, 000 charges.

According to Endgadget, a battery using gold nanowire coated in electrolyte gel was recently used in an attempt to find an alternative to lithium. Lithium is highly combustible and sensitive to temperature, and while it is one of the better options when it comes to rechargeable batteries it leaves a lot to be desired, especially with how quickly it can lose the ability to hold a charge.

Sure enough, their experiment using gold nanowire and electrolyte gel proved successful. While researchers still aren’t 100% sure how, lead author Reginald Penner suspects it has something to do with the gel, as without it the wire would corrode the same way lithium does after so many charges.

“[The gel] does more than just hold the wire together,” said Penner in an article on Popular Science. “It actually seems to make the metal oxide softer and more fracture-resistant. It increases the fracture toughness of this metal oxide that is doing the charge storage,” Penner said.

However, gold nanowire can be expensive, even with only a small amount used. Researchers will continue their efforts to see if nickel would work just as well.


Mice deliver mixed messages about spaceflight safety

Test mice are providing insight to the kinds of issues humans might face with prolonged spaceflight, and this week’s news on that front is both promising and discouraging.

The promising news, according to the Daily Mail, is that Chinese scientists were able to develop mouse embryos in orbit.  Previous similar attempts by other space agencies failed, presumably because of the microgravity conditions.  However, the new study shows that developing embryos do not necessarily need gravity for the cells to organize properly.

That result leads space exploration experts to believe that humans would stand a good chance of being able to colonize distant worlds and live in space long-term.

The mouse embryos developed while in orbit onboard the SJ-10 space probe.

“The human race may still have a long way to go before we can colonize space.  But before that, we have to figure out whether it is possible for us to survive and reproduce in the outer space environment like we do on Earth,” Duan Enkui of the Chinese Academy of Sciences said.  “Now, we finally proved that the most crucial step in our reproduction – the early embryo development – is possible in the outer space.”

The bad news for future space explorers came from a study focused on a batch of mice which spent a short time in orbit.  Discovery News reports that those mice showed liver damage after spending just two weeks in space.

The implication is that long-term spaceflight could subject human subjects to serious health risks.  Scientists are already aware that spaceflight often results in loss of bone and muscle mass and in changes in vision and brain chemistry.

“Prior to this study we really didn’t have much information on the impact of spaceflight on the liver,” Karen Jonscher of the University of Colorado said.  “We knew that astronauts often returned with diabetes-like symptoms but they usually resolved quickly.”

“We need to look at mice involved in longer duration space flight to see if there are compensatory mechanisms that come into play that might protect them from serious damage,” Jonscher said.

The early signs of liver damage in the test mice were equivalent to what a human might develop after months or years of unhealthy eating.  The extent of liver damage risk to astronauts remains to be determined.


Byron Scott is confident this was not his last year as Lakers head coach

Los Angeles Lakers head coach, Byron Scott, is confident that he will return as Lakers head coach for the 2016-2017 NBA regular season.

“Yeah, absolutely,” replied Scott when asked if he would return next season.

Scott has been the head coach of the Lakers for two seasons. In his first season, 2014-2015, the Lakers posted a franchise worst 21-61 record. They broke that record this last season, going 17-65.

Scott has a third guaranteed paid year on his contract with the Lakers, but admits that he has not yet met with the Lakers front office management to discuss their plans for next year.

“I don’t need that,” replied Scott when asked whether he had been given private assurances that he would not be fired in the off season. “There’s going to come a time where we’re going to talk, I do understand that, and I do understand this business.”

“As I told you from day one, and it’s still to this day, this is my dream job,” said Scott, an ex-Laker star and champion. “This is my dream job and obviously you want the opportunity to turn it all around and you hope you get that. But I understand the business of basketball. It’s all about wins and losses, and I understand that as well.”

“But I think over the last couple of years, the process that we’ve tried to implement is in place, and obviously, this summer is an awfully big summer for us, and I’m looking forward to it as the head coach of the team until they tell me differently,” continued Scott.


Gamma-rays found near gravitational wave source

In September 2015, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) detected gravitational waves for the first time.  The ripples in space-time seemed to originate from a black hole merger about 1.3 billion light-years away.

The discovery was made pubic in February 2016, ushering a new era in which scientists can use gravitational wave astronomy to detect events in the cosmos which do not give off electromagnetic signals.

Discovery News reports that a new signal was detected coming from the area in which the gravitational waves originated which could lend even more insight into the processes at work in an energetic black hole merger.

NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope picked up a weak and short-lived burst of high-energy X-rays shortly after the gravitational waves were detected.  The X-ray signal was consistent with the type of signal found with short gamma-ray bursts (GRBs.)

The GRB was a surprising find since scientists had assumed that black holes merge without producing any electromagnetic signal.  The signal does seem to be related to the gravitational wave event, however, as there is only a 0.2 percent chance that the two signals came from the same place but from two separate high-energy events.

“This is a tantalizing discovery with a low chance of being a false alarm, but before we can start rewriting the textbooks we’ll need to see more bursts associated with gravitational waves from black hole mergers,” Valerie Connaughton of the National Space, Science and Technology Center in Alabama said.

“With just one joint event, gamma rays and gravitational waves together will tell us exactly what causes a short GRB,” Lindy Blackburn of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics said. “There is an incredible synergy between the two observations, with gamma rays revealing details about the source’s energetics and local environment and gravitational waves providing a unique probe of the dynamics leading up to the event.”

Astrophysicists will now be puzzling over whether the dynamics of black hole mergers have been misunderstood or if the newly detected signal indicates the presence of new physics that are just now being discovered.


Jacob deGrom placed on family emergency leave due to complications in birth of his son

New York Mets starting pitcher, Jacob deGrom, has been placed on family emergency leave because of medical complications.

Mets head coach, Terry Collins, respected the privacy of deGrom, simply saying that his newborn son was having “complications”.

The right handed pitcher, deGrom, will be inactive for up to a week, but will continue to work out at the Mets Florida complex approximately two and a half hours away from his home in DeLand, Florida. The Mets believe that as long as he continues to throw, deGrom could be available to pitch as soon as their series against the Atlanta Braves beginning Apr. 22, 2016.

“I’ve spoken to him every day,” said Collins. “He’s where you would expect him to be. He’s not sleeping much. We’re certainly rooting for him and Stacey and the baby to hang in there. … It’s a real-life situation. Certainly we take the game of baseball very seriously. This changes a lot of things. He’s such a good guy. Stacey is outstanding. You sit here the last few days — and those guys in [the clubhouse] can all tell you — they do the best they can to stay in touch with him. We’re all praying and pulling for him. Unfortunately it’s part of life and we’ve got to take care of business.”

Before the 2016 MLB season, deGrom was slated to be a large part of the young starting pitching core of the Mets. He was named the National League Rookie of the Year in 2014 and was an All Star in 2015.


Steph Curry listed as questionable for game two against Rockets

Golden State Warriors superstar, Steph Curry, has been listed as questionable for Game Two of their first round series against the Houston Rockets.

Curry rolled his ankle going back on defense with about two minutes remaining in the second quarter of the game on Apr. 16, 2016.

There was a collective gasp from Golden State fans as Curry left the court early in the second half to reenter the locker room.

Curry has a history of ankle complications. During the 2011-2012 NBA season, Curry only played 26 games. Fans hoped that he had overcome his former misfortune, having played in at least 78 games over the last four seasons.

When Curry returned to the locker room, however, he never came back into the game. He left having contributed 24 points to the Golden State 104-78 victory over the Rockets.

“As far as [Game Two] Monday, I’d say say Steph is questionable,” said Kerr. “We will see how he responds the next couple of days and go from there.”

“Right now, don’t see a scenario where I’ll be out,” said Curry in a post game press conference.

“Obviously if it’s not right and I’m at risk of further injury or what not, that’s the only thing that we’ll have to worry about,” continued Curry. “Pain tolerance and all that stuff, I kind of know what I can deal with on the court. But you don’t want anything more serious to happen, favoring an ankle or whatnot. So that’s what we’ll kind of pay attention to the next two days.”