A woman in her 20s called Mae who spoke with the Guardian recounted how incredibly stressful it is to have your facial expressions monitored and cataloged in ways that will be used to evaluate your performance.
"Tracking doesn’t allow for thinking time or stepping away and coming back to work – it’s very intense," she explained.
What's more, she says that the technology has hurt her productivity and she has found she actually gets more work done when she's not being "constantly watched."
Of course, this actually requires her to do more work in secret after hours just to keep up with what she needs to get done.
Another worker who spoke with The Guardian, who goes by the name of Carlos, revealed that he's being surveilled minute by minute at his job and revealed to the publication that "I have found myself having to explain the reasons for a longer toilet break."
Henry Parkes, a senior economist at the Institute for Public Policy Research, tells The Guardian that "this technology can just be used to exert power over employees in a way that wasn’t possible before," while adding that " it’s dehumanizing and not how people are able to operate all day."
However, a worker who goes by the name of Adam tells The Guardian that he was able to get his boss to back off intensive tracking as soon as he reported it to his union.
"They are now aware that the watchers are being watched," he told the publication.
Officials and climate experts in Nova Scotia, Canada on Tuesday pointed to numerous climate-related factors that have contributed to the wildfires that are raging in the province this week, forcing the evacuation of more than 16,000 people and destroying roughly 200 homes and other structures.
The Tantallon fire in the Halifax area and the Barrington Lake fire in the southwestern county of Shelburne have burned through a combined 25,000 acres in the Maritime province, which, as one firefighter told the Canadian newspaper SaltWire, has historically been far less likely to experience such blazes than landlocked western provinces.
"This the worst fire I've ever been on," volunteer firefighter Capt. Brett Tetanish toldSaltWire. "I've been on other large fires in Nova Scotia, Porters Lake, we lost structures there, but you don't see fires like this in Nova Scotia. You see these in Alberta."
Tetanish described a "surreal" scene as he drove toward the Tantallon fire on Sunday evening.
"We're driving on Hammonds Plains Road with fire on both sides of the road, structures on fire, cars abandoned and burnt in the middle of the road," he toldSaltWire.
Other witnesses, including a filmmaker, posted videos on social media of "apocalyptic scenes" showing fires destroying homes and huge plumes of smoke rendering highways nearly invisible to drivers.
"I almost died," said the filmmaker. "The fire is spreading, it's very serious. We couldn't see anything."
Halfway through 2023, Nova Scotia has already experienced more wildfires than it did in all of 2022, according to the National Observer.
Karen McKendry, a wilderness outreach coordinator at the Ecology Action Center in Nova Scotia's capital, Halifax, told the Observer the province has experienced hotter dryer weather than normal this spring, making it easier for fires to spread.
"People haven't always, on a national scale, been thinking about Nova Scotia and wildfires," McKendry said. "What dominates the consciousness, rightly so in Canada, is what's happening out West. But with a warming climate and some drier seasons, this is going to become more common in Nova Scotia. So more fires, more widespread fires, more destructive fires from a human perspective as well."
The province's Department of Natural Resources and Renewables (DNRR) also warned last Friday that the wildfires were taking hold in the region less than a year after Hurricane Fiona downed what Premier Tim Houston called a "significant" number of trees across Nova Scotia.
"Fires in areas where Hurricane Fiona downed trees have the potential to move faster and burn more intensely, making them potentially more difficult to contain and control," said the DNRR. "At this time, needles, twigs, leaves, etc., support fire ignition and spread. With high winds, the spread can be rapid and intense."
Scientists last year linked warming oceans, fueled by the continued extraction of fossil fuels and emissions of planet-heating greenhouse gases, to Fiona's destruction in Eastern Canada.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau warned Monday that the situation in Nova Scotia is "incredibly serious," prompting Saman Tabasinejad, acting executive director of Progress Toronto, to point to Trudeau's support for fossil fuel projects like the Trans Mountain Pipeline.
"This would be a great time to end fossil fuel subsidies and invest in a Green New Deal!" Tabasinejad said on Twitter.
More than 200 crews have been sent by government agencies from across the province, and Nova Scotia officials said Tuesday that both the Tantallon and Barrington Lake fires were still "out of control" two days after they began and were "rapidly moving."
Halifax Fire and the DNRR are investigating the cause of the fires.
McKendry pointed out that a number of anti-conservation activities may be linked to increased wildfires.
Roads being built "deep into our forests" have allowed more people opportunities to accidentally set fires, while the government has been "emptying our urban areas of wetlands," making it easier for blazes to spread widely.
"Do not delude yourself into thinking this is a one-off," journalist John Vaillant toldSaltWire on Monday. "The world is more flammable than it has ever been."
The scale of plastic pollution is growing, relentlessly. The world is producing twice as much plastic waste as two decades ago, reaching 353 million tonnes in 2019, according to OECD figures.
The vast majority goes into landfills, gets incinerated or is “mismanaged”, meaning left as litter or not correctly disposed of. Just 9 percent of plastic waste is recycled.
Ramping up plastic recycling might seem like a logical way to transform waste into a resource. But recent studies suggest that recycling plastic poses its own environmental and health risks, including the high levels of microplastics and harmful toxins produced by the recycling process that can be dangerous for people, animals and the environment.
“We found pretty scary amounts, to be honest,” said plastics scientist Erina Brown, lead author of a research paper into the microplastic run-off produced by recycling centers, published in May 2023.
The UK recycling centre at which Brown based her studies used large amounts of water (common practice in the recycling industry) to sort, shred and separate plastics before they were compounded and turned into pellets for resale.
Her research tested the rate of microplastics – plastic particles up to 5mm in size – released into the water through the process.
“There were 75 billion particles per metre cubed in the wash water,” she said. “About 6 percent of all the plastics that were coming into the facility were then being released into the water as microplastics, even with the filtration [system].”
Scientists are still researching the possible risks of microplastics on human health. They are thought to carry disease-causing organisms that act as a vector for diseases in the environment – where many plastic particles produced by recycling are likely to end up.
Water used in recycling centers around the world often passes through sewage treatment facilities, which “are just not designed to filter this size of microplastic”, Brown says.
Microplastics caught in sewage sludge are often inadvertently applied to fields as fertilizer, while those that remain in the treated water enter local streams and end up even farther afield – a study released in March showed microplastics from European rivers had spread to Arctic seas.
More than two-thirds of UN member states agreed in March last year to develop a legally binding agreement on plastic pollution by 2024, and the second round of meetings to draw up the treaty began on Monday in Paris and will run through Friday.
UN Environment Programme (UNEP), which is hosting the talks, released a roadmap to reduce plastic waste by 80 percent by 2040.
But some environmental groups have said the three key areas of action outlined – reusing, recycling and reorientation towards alternative materials – are a concession to the global plastics and petrochemicals industry as they downplay the need to reduce use of plastic altogether.
Recycled plastics pose greater risk
Microplastic release is not the only flaw in the system. Recycling plastics means working with unregulated toxic chemicals.
Plastics are made with as many as 13,000 chemicals, according to a UN report this month, and 3,200 of those have “hazardous properties” that could affect human health and the environment. Many more have never been assessed and may also be toxic, according to a report from Greenpeace released last week.
In addition, “only a very, very small portion of those chemicals are regulated globally”, said Therese Karlsson, science and technical adviser at the International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN). “Since there's no transparency [in the market], there's no way for people to know which plastics contain toxic chemicals and which don't.”
The risk these chemicals pose increases among recycled plastics, as products with unknown compositions are heated and mixed together.
“The outcome is a completely unknown product that is reintroduced onto the market,” Karlsson said.
Greenpeace’s report also detailed increased health risks for recycling centre workers exposed to toxic chemicals, including long-term health conditions such as cancer and harm to reproductive systems.
It also found higher levels of toxic chemicals in recycled plastic than in their virgin counterparts, including kitchen utensils, children’s toys and food packaging.
The spread does not end there. “We've done studies on eggs that are close to places that recycle plastics and found that these chemicals are making their way into the food chain,” Karlsson said.
“Plastics can act as carriers of these chemicals even to really remote places.”
Soaring plastic production
The share of plastic waste that is recycled globally is expected to rise to 17 percent by 2060, according to figures from the OECD. But recycling more will not address a major issue: after being recycled once or twice, most plastics come to a dead end.
“There’s a myth with plastic recycling that if the quality is good enough the plastics can be recycled back into plastic bottles,” says Natalie Fée, the founder of City to Sea, a UK-based environmental charity.
“But as it goes through the system, it becomes lower- and lower-grade plastic. It's down-cycled into things like drain pipes or sometimes fleece clothing. But those items can't be recycled afterwards.”
It is therefore difficult to make the case that recycled plastic is a sustainable material, said Graham Forbes, Global Plastics Campaign leader at Greenpeace USA, in a statement this week.
“Plastics have no place in a circular economy. It’s clear that the only real solution to ending plastic pollution is to massively reduce plastic production.”
And it is impossible for increased recycling to keep pace with the amount of plastic waste being produced – which is expected to almost triple by 2060.
“There's no way that we can recycle our way out of this,” added Karlsson. “Not as it works today. Because today, plastic recycling is not working.”
This is something she hopes the treaty under discussion in Paris this week will address.
Coming into the talks in Paris, a 55-nation coalition called for restrictions on some hazardous chemicals and bans on problematic plastics products that are hard to recycle and often end up in nature.
Karlsson is attending the talks, and she sees reason for hope. “The plastics treaty is an incredible opportunity to protect human health and the environment from plastic pollution. Doing that would mean phasing out toxic chemicals from plastics, ensuring transparency across the plastic life cycle and also decreasing plastic production.”
The condition often only hits the headlines after violent attacks by sufferers, such as a schizophrenic patient who stabbed a nurse to death last week in the French city of Reims.
But French psychiatrist Sonia Dollfus emphasised that such cases of violence by people with schizophrenia are "extremely rare".
"All the work done over the years trying to de-stigmatise this disease -- it is swept away in 24 hours," Dollfus told AFP.
Around one in every 300 people worldwide are affected by schizophrenia, according to the World Health Organization.
It causes a wide range of distressing delusional disorders, which vary in intensity between patients but often hugely disrupts their lives.
At least five percent of schizophrenia patients are estimated to die by suicide.
The condition is usually treated with a combination of anti-psychotic drugs, social support for reintegration, and psychological therapy.
Scottish psychiatrist Robin Murray, who has spent decades researching schizophrenia, told AFP that when it came to medication, "treatment has not changed dramatically" over the last 20 or 30 years.
He added that psychological therapy had improved in that time.
But unlike numerous other mental disorders -- particularly neurotic conditions -- taking serious drugs remains the cornerstone in treating schizophrenia.
For drugs, there has been a "blank period since the 2010s, when pharmaceutical laboratories really withdrew from psychiatry," Dollfus said.
But there has been some innovation recently, she added.
One development have been apps that can track patients' progress, ensure timely follow-up sessions and contact psychiatrists if necessary.
Another is a new treatment approved by the US Food and Drug Administration last month.
The treatment, developed by the Israeli pharmaceutical firm Teva and France's MedinCell, involves the drug risperidone which has long been used for schizophrenia.
It has traditionally been prescribed as a daily pill, but the new treatment is administered via injection, allowing the drug to be gradually released in the body over several weeks.
This makes it impossible for patients to miss a daily pill.
Interruptions to medication, often brought about by the psychosis the illness causes, are a common problem in treating schizophrenia.
For example, the attacker in Reims had been off his medication, according to several sources.
This new way of administering an old medication is not the kind of revolution that a new drug would represent. But progress may soon be made in that area.
Dollfus said that some drugs currently being investigated are "really interesting" because they work in a different way than those of the past.
Traditionally, anti-psychotic drugs used to treat schizophrenia aim to block the action of dopamine, a molecule that acts as a chemical messenger in the brain.
However, dopamine seems to play a complex role in schizophrenia -- some patients can have excessive levels in some respects and insufficient levels in others.
Traditional anti-psychotic drugs, which tend to work well at stopping certain symptoms such as hallucinations, do not help in other areas, such as the loss of willpower or struggles with language and speech.
Recent research has focused on finding other molecules which regulate rather than block dopamine, while also acting on other areas thought to be involved in schizophrenia.
These treatments, such as one that targets a protein called TAAR1, are still some way away from being available to patients.
But the TAAR1 drug has had positive results from the most advanced stage of trials, known as phase 3.
"This is a really promising avenue," Dollfus said.
It marked the latest space milestone for China, as it looks to catch up with the United States and Russia.
Here is a look at the Chinese space program, and where it is headed:
Soon after the Soviet Union launched Sputnik in 1957, Chinese leader Mao Zedong pronounced: "We too will make satellites."
It took more than a decade, but in 1970, China launched its first satellite on a Long March rocket.
Human spaceflight took decades longer, with Yang Liwei becoming the first Chinese "taikonaut" in 2003.
As the launch approached, concerns over the viability of the mission caused Beijing to cancel a live television broadcast at the last minute.
But it went smoothly, with Yang orbiting the Earth 14 times during a 21-hour flight.
Space station and 'Jade Rabbit'
Following in the footsteps of the United States and Russia, China started planning for a space station of its own in Earth orbit.
The Tiangong-1 lab was launched in 2011.
In 2013, the second Chinese woman in space, Wang Yaping, gave a video class from that craft to children across the country.
Tiangong-1 was also used for medical experiments and, most importantly, tests intended to prepare for the construction of a space station.
That was followed by the "Jade Rabbit" lunar rover in 2013, which initially appeared to be a dud when it turned dormant and stopped sending signals back to Earth.
It made a dramatic recovery, however, ultimately surveying the Moon's surface for 31 months -- well beyond its expected lifespan.
In 2016, China launched its second orbital lab, the Tiangong-2. Astronauts who visited the station have run experiments on growing rice and other plants in space.
Under President Xi Jinping, plans for China's "space dream" have been put into overdrive.
It is looking to finally catch up with the United States and Russia after years of belatedly matching their milestones.
Besides a space station, China is planning to build a base on the Moon, reiterating this week its goal to land humans on the Moon by 2030.
The lunar plans were dealt a setback in 2017 when the powerful Long March-5 Y2 rocket failed to launch on a mission to put communication satellites into orbit.
That forced the postponement of the Chang'e-5 launch, originally scheduled to collect Moon samples in the second half of 2017.
Another robot, the Chang'e-4, landed on the far side of the Moon in January 2019 -- a historic first.
Chang'e-5 eventually landed on the Moon in 2020, raising a Chinese flag on the lunar surface and returning to Earth the first lunar samples in four decades.
And in 2021, its Tianwen-1 mission successfully landed a rover on the surface of Mars.
Palace in the sky
The final module of space station Tiangong -- which means "heavenly palace" -- successfully docked with the core structure last year.
It carries several pieces of cutting-edge science equipment, state news agency Xinhua reported, including "the world's first space-based cold atomic clock system".
Tiangong is expected to remain in low Earth orbit at an altitude between 400 and 450 kilometers (250 and 280 miles) for at least 10 years -- realising China's ambition to maintain a long-term human presence in space.
It will be constantly crewed by rotating teams of three astronauts, who will conduct scientific experiments and help test new technologies.
After Tuesday's launch, the next mission to Tiangong, the Shenzhou-17, is expected in October.
In the not too distant future, California’s coastline and its iconic beaches could be washed away, leaving only cliffs behind.
A new U.S. Geological Survey study found from 25% to 70% of California’s beaches could erode by 2100 due to rising sea levels caused by global temperature increases and greenhouse gas emissions. Substantial management efforts like dune restoration are necessary to maintain the beaches and prevent catastrophic erosion, the authors of the study said.
The state of peril facing the Earth is so serious that on current trends life the Earth will soon be incapable of supporting human life, according to two climate scientists speaking at the inaugural Innovation Zero Congress in London. Professors Johan Rockstrom, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, and Sir David King, founder and chair at Cambridge’s Centre for Climate Repair, said that failing to limit the global temperature to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels is likely to trigger tipping points, destroying rainforests and marine life while making vast areas around t...
Health practitioners are increasingly concerned that because race is a social construct, and the biological mechanisms of how race affects clinical outcomes are often unknown, including race in predictive algorithms for clinical decision-making may worsen inequities.
Based on this algorithm, which was trained on actual GFR values from patients, a Black patient would be assigned a higher eGFR than a non-Black patient of the same age, sex and serum creatinine level. This implies that some Black patients would be considered to have healthier kidneys than otherwise similar non-Black patients and less likely to be assigned a kidney transplant.
Biased clinical algorithms can lead to inaccurate diagnoses and delayed treatment.
In 2021, however, researchers found that excluding race in the original eGFR equations could lead to larger discrepancies between estimated and actual GFR values for both Black and non-Black patients. They also found adding an additional biomarker called cystatin C can improve predictions. However, even with this biomarker, excluding race from the algorithm still led to elevated discrepanies across races.
Researchers use different economic frameworks to understand how society allocates resources. Two key frameworks are utilitarianism and equality of opportunity.
A purely utilitarian outlook seeks to identify what features would get the most out of a positive outcome or reduce the harm from a negative one, ignoring who possesses those features. This approach allocates resources to those with the most opportunities to generate positive outcomes or mitigate negative ones.
A utilitarian approach would always include race and ethnicity to improve the prediction power and accuracy of algorithms, regardless of whether it’s fair. For example, utilitarian policies would aim to maximize overall survival among people seeking organ transplants. They would allocate organs to those who would survive the longest from transplantation, even if those who may not survive the longest due to circumstances outside their control and need the organs most would die sooner without the transplant.
Although utilitarian approaches do not take fairness into account, an approach that does would ask two questions: How do we define fairness? Are there conditions when maximizing an algorithm’s prediction power and accuracy would not conflict with fairness?
To answer these questions, I apply the equality of opportunity framework, which aims to allocate resources in a way that allows everyone the same chance of obtaining similar outcomes, without being disadvantaged by circumstances outside of their control. Researchers have used this framework in many contexts, such as political science, economics and law. The U.S. Supreme Court has also applied equality of opportunity in several landmark rulings in education.
There are two fundamental principles in equality of opportunity.
First, inequality of outcomes is unethical if it results from differences in circumstances that are outside of an individual’s own control, such as the income of a child’s parents, exposure to systemic racism or living in violent and unsafe environments. This can be remedied by compensating individuals with disadvantaged circumstances in a way that allows them the same opportunity to obtain certain health outcomes as those who are not disadvantaged by their circumstances.
Second, inequality of outcomes for people in similar circumstances that result from differences in individual effort, such as practicing health-promoting behaviors like diet and exercise, is not unethical, and policymakers can reward those achieving better outcomes through such behaviors. However, differences in individual effort that occur because of circumstances, such as living in an area with limited access to healthy food, are not addressed under equality of opportunity. Keeping all circumstances the same, any differences in effort between individuals should be due to preferences, free will and perceived benefits and costs. This is called accountable effort. So, two individuals with the same circumstances should be rewarded according to their accountable efforts, and society should accept the resulting differences in outcomes.
Equality of opportunity implies that if algorithms were to be used for clinical decision-making, then it is necessary to understand what causes variation in the predictions they make.
If variation in predictions results from differences in circumstances or biological conditions but not from individual accountable effort, then it is appropriate to use the algorithm for compensation, such as allocating kidneys so everyone has an equal opportunity to live the same length of life, but not for reward, such as allocating kidneys to those who would live the longest with the kidneys.
In contrast, if variation in predictions results from differences in individual accountable effort but not from their circumstances, then it is appropriate to use the algorithm for reward but not compensation.
Evaluating clinical algorithms for fairness
To hold machine learning and other artificial intelligence algorithms accountable to a standard of equity, I applied the principles of equality of opportunity to
evaluate whether race should be included in clinical algorithms. I ran simulations under both ideal data conditions, where all data on a person’s circumstances is available, and real data conditions, where some data on a person’s circumstances is missing.
As a social construct, race is often a proxy for nonbiological circumstances.
I evaluated two categories of algorithms.
The first, diagnostic algorithms, makes predictions based on outcomes that have already occurred at the time of decision-making. For example, diagnostic algorithms are used to predict the presence of gallstones in patients with abdominal pain or urinary tract infections, or to detect breast cancer using radiologic imaging.
The second, prognostic algorithms, predicts future outcomes that have not yet occurred at the time of decision-making. For example, prognostic algorithms are used to predict whether a patient will live if they do or do not obtain a kidney transplant.
I found that, under an equality of opportunity approach, diagnostic models that do not take race into account would increase systemic inequities and discrimination. I found similar results for prognostic models intended to compensate for individual circumstances. For example, excluding race from algorithms that predict the future survival of patients with kidney failure would fail to identify those with underlying circumstances that make them more vulnerable.
Including race in prognostic models intended to reward individual efforts can also increase disparities. For example, including race in algorithms that predict how much longer a person would live after a kidney transplant may fail to account for individual circumstances that could limit how much longer they live.
Unanswered questions and future work
Better biomarkers may one day be able to better predict health outcomes than race and ethnicity. Until then, including race in certain clinical algorithms could help reduce disparities.
Although my study uses an equality of opportunity framework to measure how race and ethnicity affect the results of prediction algorithms, researchers don’t know whether other ways to approach fairness would lead to different recommendations. How to choose between different approaches to fairness also remains to be seen. Moreover, there are questions about how multiracial groups should be coded in health databases and algorithms.
My colleagues and I are exploring many of these unanswered questions to reduce algorithmic discrimination. We believe our work will readily extend to other areas outside of health, including education, crime and labor markets.
Can a computer learn from the past and anticipate what will happen next, like a human? You might not be surprised to hear that some cutting-edge AI models could achieve this feat, but what about a computer that looks a little different – more like a tank of water?
We have built a small proof-of-concept computer that uses running water instead of a traditional logical circuitry processor, and forecasts future events via an approach called “reservoir computing”.
In benchmark tests, our analogue computer did well at remembering input data and forecasting future events – and in some cases it even did better than a high-performance digital computer.
So how does it work?
Throwing stones in the pond
Imagine two kids, Alice and Bob, playing at the edge of a pond. Bob throws big and small stones into water one at a time, seemingly at random.
Big and small stones create water waves of different size. Alice watches the water waves created by the stones and learns to anticipate what the waves will do next – and from that, she can have an idea of which stone Bob will throw next.
Bob throws rocks into the pond, while Alice watches the waves and tries to predict what’s coming next.Yaroslav Maksymov, Author provided
Reservoir computers copy the reasoning process taking place in Alice’s brain. They can learn from past inputs to predict the future events.
Although reservoir computers were first proposed using neural networks – computer programs loosely based on the structure of neurons in the brain – they can also be built with simple physical systems.
Reservoir computers are analogue computers. An analogue computer represents data continuously, as opposed to digital computers which represent data as abruptly changing binary “zero” and “one” states.
Representing data in a continuous way enables analogue computers to model certain natural events – ones that occur in a kind of unpredictable sequence called a “chaotic time series” – better than a digital computer.
How to make predictions
To understand how we can use a reservoir computer to make predictions, imagine you have a record of daily rainfall for the past year and a bucket full of water near you. The bucket will be our “computational reservoir”.
We input the daily rainfall record to the bucket by means of stone. For a day of light rain, we throw a small stone; for a day of heavy rain, a big stone. For a day of no rain, we throw no rock.
Each stone creates waves, which then slosh around the bucket and interact with waves created by other stones.
At the end of this process, the state of the water in the bucket gives us a prediction. If the interactions between waves create large new waves, we can say our reservoir computer predicts heavy rains. But if they are small then we should expect only light rain.
It is also possible that the waves will cancel one another, forming a still water surface. In that case we should not expect any rain.
The reservoir makes a weather forecast because the waves in the bucket and rainfall patterns evolve over time following the same laws of physics.
The “bucket of water” reservoir computer has its limits. For one thing, the waves are short-lived. To forecast complex processes such as climate change and population growth, we need a reservoir with more durable waves.
One option is “solitons”. These are self-reinforcing waves that keep their shape and move for long distances.
Our reservoir computer used solitary waves like those seen in drinking fountains. Ivan Maksymov, Author provided
For our reservoir computer, we used compact soliton-like waves. You often see such waves in a bathroom sink or a drinking fountain.
In our computer, a thin layer of water flows over a slightly inclined metal plate. A small electric pump changes the speed of the flow and creates solitary waves.
We added a fluorescent material to make the water glow under ultraviolet light, to precisely measure the size of the waves.
The pump plays the role of falling stones in the game played by Alice and Bob, but the solitary waves correspond to the waves on the water surface. Solitary waves move much faster and live longer than water waves in a bucket, which lets our computer process data at a higher speed.
So, how does it perform?
We tested our computer’s ability to remember past inputs and to make forecasts for a benchmark set of chaotic and random data. Our computer not only executed all tasks exceptionally well but also outperformed a high-performance digital computer tasked with the same problem.
With my colleague Andrey Pototsky, we also created a mathematical model that enabled us to better understand the physical properties of the solitary waves.
Next, we plan to miniaturize our computer as a microfluidic processor. Water waves should be able to do computations inside a chip that operates similarly to the silicon chips used in every smartphone.
In the future, our computer may be able to produce reliable long-term forecasts in areas such as climate change, bushfires and financial markets – with much lower cost and wider availability than current supercomputers.
Our computer is also naturally immune to cyber attacks because it does not use digital data.
Our vision is that a soliton-based microfluidic reservoir computer will bring data science and machine learning to rural and remote communities worldwide. But for now, our research work continues.
It is a simulation to see how the lungs of the world will endure global warming.
The AmazonFACE project, co-financed by Brazil and the United Kingdom, is "an open-air laboratory that will allow us to understand how the rainforest will behave in future climate change scenarios," says Carlos Quesada, one of the project coordinators.
Quesada stands at the foot of a soaring metal tower that protrudes through the rainforest canopy at a site 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of Manaus in northwest Brazil.
Sixteen other towers arranged in a circle around it will "pump" CO2 into the ring, replicating levels that may happen with global warming.
"How will the rainforest react to the rising temperature, the reduction in water availability, in a world with more carbon in the atmosphere?" asks Quesada, a researcher at an Amazon research institute that is part of the Brazilian Ministry of Science and Technology.
'Window to the future'
The technology known as FACE (Free Air CO2 Enrichment) has already been used to study the impact on forests in Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom, but never in a tropical rainforest.
By 2024, there will be six "carbon rings" pumping CO2 -- one of the causes of global warming -- at a concentration 40 percent to 50 percent higher than today.
Over a decade, researchers will analyze the processes occurring in leaves, roots, soil, water and nutrient cycles.
"We will have more accurate projections on how the Amazon rainforest can help combat climate change with its ability to absorb carbon from the atmosphere. Also, it will help us understand how the rainforest will be impacted by these changes," says David Lapola, a researcher at the University of Campinas, who coordinates the project with Quesada.
The carbon increase in the atmosphere may lead to creation of grassy plains, or savanna, where Amazon rainforest once flourished, with vegetation better adapted to higher temperatures and longer droughts.
But CO2 could also "fertilize" the forest and make it temporarily more resistant to these changes.
"This is a positive scenario, at least for a short time, a period for us to get to zero emission policies, to keep temperature increases to only 1.5 degrees Centigrade," Quesada says.
The project "is a window to the future. You open the window and look at what might be happening 30 years ahead," he says.
The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) urged ambitious action to counter global warming again this year.
According to its latest March report, global warming will surpass 1.5 degrees Celsius in the decades after 2030, leading to irreversible loss of ecosystems.
Coinciding with global warming is the impact of human-caused deforestation in the Amazon.
A landmark 2018 study by scientists Thomas Lovejoy and Carlos Nobre found that the Amazon is hurtling toward a tipping point where savannas begin to replace rainforest.
They said that would happen with deforestation of 20 to 25 percent of Amazon territory. Currently, deforestation stands at 15 percent.
AmazonFACE, coordinated by University of Campinas and the Brazilian Ministry of Science, has the support of the Foreign Office and the British Meteorological Service (MET office).
British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly visited the facilities this week and announced a new contribution of 2 million pounds (US$2.4 million) to the project, which since 2021 has already received 7.3 million pounds from the United Kingdom.
Brazil, for its part, has invested 32 million reais (US$6.4 million).
Living on Mars wasn't exactly a childhood dream for Canadian biologist Kelly Haston, though she'll soon spend a year preparing for just that.
"We are just going to pretend that we're there," the 52-year-old told AFP, summing up her participation in an exercise simulating a long stay on the Red Planet.
At the end of June, she will be one of the four volunteers stepping into a Martian habitat in Houston, Texas that will be their home for the next 12 months.
"It still sometimes seems a bit unreal to me," she laughs.
For NASA, which has carefully selected the participants, these long-term experiments make it possible to evaluate the behavior of a crew in an isolated and confined environment, ahead of a real mission in future.
Participants will face equipment failures and water limitations, the space agency has warned -- as well as some "surprises," according to Haston.
Their communications with the outside world will suffer from the delays that exist between Earth and Mars -- up to 20 minutes one-way, depending on the planets' positions -- and 40 minutes two ways.
"I'm very excited about this, but I'm also realistic for what the challenge is," says the research scientist, whose status as a permanent resident of the United States made her eligible for the program.
The habitat, dubbed Mars Dune Alpha, is a 3D printed 1,700 square-foot (160 square-meter) facility, complete with bedrooms, a gym, common areas, and a vertical farm to grow food.
"It's actually surprisingly spacious feeling when you go inside it," said Haston, who visited last year before her participation was confirmed.
"And we do have an outdoor area as well where we will mimic spacewalks or Mars walks."
This area, which is separated by an airlock, is filled with red sand, though it is still covered rather than being open air.
The crew will have to don their suits to do "spacewalks" -- "probably one of the things that I'm looking forward to the most," says Haston, a registered member of the Mohawk Nation.
Haston wasted no time in filling out her application when her partner told her about the opportunity.
"It's aligned with many of my goals in life to explore different avenues of research and science, and then also to be a test subject, and to give to a study that will hopefully further space exploration."
The four members of the mission -- herself, an engineer, an emergency doctor and a nurse -- did not know each other before the selection process, but have since met.
"We really are close-knit already," says Haston, who has been named commander of the group, adding she looks forward to seeing these relationships grow even stronger.
They might be simulating an important exploratory mission for humanity, but how the housemates get along as they share mundane chores including cleaning and meal preparation will be crucial.
A month of training is planned in Houston before entering the habitat.
A teammate could leave in case of injury or medical emergency.
But a whole series of procedures have been drawn up for situations that can be handled by the crew themselves -- including on how to tell them about a family problem that has arisen outside.
What worries the Canadian most is how she will manage being away from family. She'll only be able to keep in regular touch through email, and only rarely via videos, but never live.
She'll miss being outside and getting to see mountains and the sea, she says.
To cope, she plans to draw on her past experiences, such as a research expedition in Africa where she studied the genetic characteristics of frogs around Lake Victoria.
She spent several months sleeping in cars and tents, with four people, without reliable cell phone coverage.
Feelings of isolation "are things that I think feel very familiar to me."
A specialist in the field of developing stem cell treatments for certain diseases, she has worked in recent years for start ups in California, where she also studied.
This mission is the first of a series of three planned by NASA, grouped under the title CHAPEA (Crew Health and Performance Exploration Analog).
A year-long mission simulating life on Mars took place in 2015-2016 in a habitat in Hawaii, but although NASA participated in it, it was not at the helm.
Under its Artemis program, America plans to send humans back to the Moon in order to learn how to live there long-term to help prepare a trip to Mars, sometime towards the end of the 2030s.
Antarctic currents that enrich 40% of Earth's deep ocean with oxygen and nutrients that are vital for marine life have slowed dangerously in recent decades and could collapse by mid-century, a study published Thursday revealed.
The research—which was published in the journal Nature Climate Change—showed that a 30% slowdown in deep water currents around Antarctica since the early 1990s.
Currents known as Antarctic bottom waters—which are driven by cold, dense waters off the Antarctic continental shelf—power a worldwide system of currents. The most important of these, known as the Southern Ocean overturning circulation, comprises two massive cells—one subducting downward and the other upwelling—that connect the various water basins in a global circulation system.
"If the oceans had lungs, this would be one of them."
"If the oceans had lungs, this would be one of them," Matt England of the Climate Change Research Center at the University of New South Wales in Australia, a co-author of the new paper, said in a statement.
"Our modeling shows that if global carbon emissions continue at the current rate, then the Antarctic overturning will slow by more than 40% in the next 30 years—and on a trajectory that looks headed towards collapse," England added.
Steve Rintoul, co-author of the study and oceanographer at the Australian government's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, toldThe Guardian that "changes in the overturning circulation are a big deal."
"It's something that is a concern because it touches on so many aspects of the Earth, including climate, sea level, and marine life," he added.
England and Rintoul were part of a team of researchers who in March published a study in Nature that found the vital deep ocean current is "on a trajectory that looks headed towards collapse" over the coming decades.
Scientists from Australia examined the deep ocean current below approximately 13,000 feet that originates in the cold, dense waters off the continental shelf of Antarctica and flows to ocean basins across the planet.
"The model projections of rapid change in the deep ocean circulation in response to melting of Antarctic ice might, if anything, have been conservative," Rintoul said Thursday. "We're seeing changes have already happened in the ocean that were not projected to happen until a few decades from now."
England toldThe Guardian in March that "in the past, these circulations have taken more than 1,000 years or so to change, but this is happening over just a few decades."
"It's way faster than we thought these circulations could slow down," he added. "We are talking about the possible long-term extinction of an iconic water mass."
The new research comes after the European Union's Copernicus Climate Change Service reported in February that its analysis of satellite imagery showed Antarctic sea ice coverage was 31% below average the previous month, significantly lower than the previous January low mark set in 2017.
In January, a 600-square-mile iceberg nearly the size of Greater London broke off Antarctica's Brunt Ice Shelf, although scientists said the event will affect—but was not caused by—climate change. January is summer in the Southern Hemisphere.
Elon Musk's start-up Neuralink on Thursday said it has approval from US regulators to test its brain implants in people.
Neuralink said clearance from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for its first in-human clinical study is "an important first step" for its technology, which is intended to let brains interface directly with computers.
"We are excited to share that we have received the FDA's approval to launch our first-in-human clinical study," Neuralink said in a post on Musk-run Twitter.
Recruitment for a clinical trial is not yet open, according to Neuralink.
The aim of Neuralink implants is to enable human brains to communicate directly with computers, Musk said during a presentation by the start-up in December.
"We've been working hard to be ready for our first human (implant), and obviously we want to be extremely careful and certain that it will work well before putting a device in a human," he said at the time.
Neuralink prototypes, which are the size of a coin, have been implanted in the skulls of monkeys, demonstrations by the startup showed.
At a presentation, Neuralink showed several monkeys "playing" basic video games or moving a cursor on a screen through their Neuralink implant.
The technology has also been tested in pigs.
With the help of a surgical robot, a piece of the skull is replaced with a Neuralink disk, and its wispy wires are strategically inserted into the brain, an early demonstration showed.
The disk registers nerve activity, relaying the information via common Bluetooth wireless signal to a device such as a smartphone, according to Musk.
"It actually fits quite nicely in your skull," Musk said during a prior presentation.
"It could be under your hair and you wouldn't know."
Musk said the company would try to use the implants to restore vision and mobility in humans who had lost such abilities.
"We would initially enable someone who has almost no ability to operate their muscles... and enable them to operate their phone faster than someone who has working hands," he said.
"As miraculous as it may sound, we are confident that it is possible to restore full body functionality to someone who has a severed spinal cord," he said.
Beyond the potential to treat neurological diseases, Musk's ultimate goal is to ensure that humans are not intellectually overwhelmed by artificial intelligence (AI), he said.
Other companies working on similar systems include Synchron, which announced in July that it had implanted the first human brain-machine interface in the United States.
Members of the Neuralink team have shared a "wish list" that ranged from technology returning mobility to the paralyzed and sight to the blind, to enabling telepathy and the uploading of memories for later reference -- or perhaps to be downloaded into replacement bodies.
Meanwhile, Musk recently established a business devoted to developing sophisticated AI. The boss of Tesla has also predicted that autonomous driving technology at the electric car maker is heading for a breakthrough.
Musk has contended that synching minds with machines is vital if people are going to avoid being so outpaced by AI that, under the best of circumstances, humans would be akin to "house cats."
Experts and academics remain cautious about his vision of symbiotically merging minds with super-powered computing.