Saving the rainforest, AI multiplication, and more: THE WEEKLY RECAP (2022#40)

Extremely packed week. Lots of stuff happening at the same time in the world (Nobel prizes, Tesla robots, AI learning to do matrix multiplications really well), but also at home (new lab, here I come!). Let’s get to it:

Do the robot🤖

In the same week, we had robot presentations (nothing too interesting there, to be honest), another chapter in the Twitter buyout drama (this has been quite funny actually), and an interview on the richest man alive.

Talking about Optimus, the stuff they showed seemed super primitive (but relatively impressive if they truly worked on this only for the past six months) and reminded me of the now classical preview/teaser videos in consumer electronics and video games, full of renders and with stuff that will never see the light of day. Wait until you see it live in a non-controlled situation. Also, I am definitely starting to take note on the delivery dates of the Optimus robot and its price tag. Right now we are at $20.000 and «three to five years» delivery.

“It really is a fundamental transformation of civilization as we know it,” he said.

Elon Musk debuts Tesla robot, Optimus, calling it a ‘fundamental transformation’, on The Washington Post
Tesla CEO Elon Musk unveils prototype humanoid Optimus robot, on The Verge
Elon Musk is buying Twitter, probably?, on The Verge

Multiply that

This week on AI, how to do matrix multiplications faster by using machine learning. As someone who has dealt (and almost got crazy), trying to operate with big matrices, this seems like a super useful application that could have incredibly huge impacts on the efficiency and speed with which we can tackle an endless plethora of scientific problems. Also, it feels good to share cool AI-related stuff from time to time, to be honest.

DeepMind’s game-playing AI has beaten a 50-year-old record in computer science, on the MIT technology review
DeepMind AI invents faster algorithms to solve tough maths puzzles, on Nature

Territory shifts

Really useful infographics by the people at CNN on the tug of war in Ukraine for the past seven months. Nice to see that Russia is losing more and more regions, and now controls the lowest amount of terrain since the start of the invasion. We also recently saw how Putin claimed several territories with nonsensical referendums that were clearly manipulated in a foolish attempt to win support back home (which did not happen).

The turning points in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, on CNN
Putin Didn’t Think He Would Fool Anyone, on The Atlantic
Russian elites ramp up criticism amid Moscow’s setbacks in Ukraine, on France 24

Glaciers and the rainforest

A couple interesting articles on the environmental cause this week. First, another study showing how we are rapidly destroying glaciers all over the globe. The article covers the melting of the glaciers at the Himalayas, which is causing tremendous consequences in Pakistan.

That future is daunting. New research suggests that the area of Himalayan glaciers has shrunk by 40 percent since the Little Ice Age maximum between 400-700 years ago, and that in the past few decades ice melt has accelerated faster than in other mountainous parts of the world. Retreat seems to have also recently initiated in Pakistan’s Karakoram range, one of the few areas where glaciers had been stable. Depending on the level of global warming, studies project that at least another third, and as much as two-thirds, of the region’s glaciers could vanish by the end of the century. Correspondingly, meltwater is expected to increase until around the 2050s and then begin to decline.

Second, an impressive-looking report on the Peruvian Amazon and the almost fruitless efforts to preserve the region, which includes not only the rainforest, but also the indigenous people living there.

Despite decades of social and environmental campaigns aimed at protecting the Amazon, the threats now are greater than they have ever been, thanks to the relentless expansion of activities such as agriculture, mining, energy development, logging and drug trafficking (see ‘Conserving the Amazon’). Even in Brazil, which was held up as a model of sustainable development less than a decade ago, illegal deforestation is skyrocketing as the populist government of President Jair Bolsonaro seeks to dismantle long-standing protections for the environment and Indigenous rights.

As Himalayan Glaciers Melt, a Water Crisis Looms in South Asia, on YaleEnvironment360
Last stand in the Amazon, on Nature

Floods, fires and fluorescent fish — September’s best science images

Breathtaking snapshots (and a very cool video) on Nature, as usual. Zebrafish (you can follow both authors [1,2] in Twitter for more cool science-related content), snakes, the sun, and nanoparticle interactions are just a few of the images collected this month.

Floods, fires and fluorescent fish — September’s best science images, on Nature

Nobel season

I have to say that I am not a big fan of scientific prizes, not even the Nobel. And some of you might be surprised, but I strongly believe that science should be as far as possible from becoming a competition, and judging some scientific advances over others just does not seem right to me.
However, I cannot help but smile when I see the mainstream press cover science-related news for a whole week, even if it only happens once a year.

‘Spooky’ quantum-entanglement experiments win physics Nobel, on Nature
Three ‘click chemistry’ scientists share Nobel prize, on The Guardian
The Nobel Prize in medicine has been awarded for research on evolution, on NPR
Nobel Prize Awarded to Scientist Who Sequenced Neanderthal Genome, on The New York Times

And that’s it for the week. Stay safe!
Featured image: Janus, from Fabrice Coffrini

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