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What We Learned in 2018: Science

It’s not easy to say that any particular scientific development was the most important in a given year. But if we had to choose some highlights, we’d opt for these unforgettable events and findings. A scientist’s use of the Crispr technique set off a global firestorm. We learned more about …

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Trilobites: Watch a Robotic Hand Play the Piano With a More Human Touch

The first, from “Toccata,” by the Italian composer Scarlatti, requires a series of punctuated, or staccato, raps, usually performed with the index finger. The engineers found that keeping this forefinger very stiff came closest to approximating how a human would play the notes. They made the surrounding digits less stiff, …

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11 Things We’d Really Like to Know: How Will We Outsmart A.I. Liars?

During the summer before the 2016 presidential election, John Seymour and Philip Tully, two researchers with ZeroFOX, a security company in Baltimore, unveiled a new kind of Twitter bot. By analyzing patterns of activity on the social network, the bot learned to fool users into clicking on links in tweets …

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Finally, a Machine That Can Finish Your Sentence

These new language systems learn by analyzing millions of sentences written by humans. A system built by OpenAI, a lab based in San Francisco, analyzed thousands of self-published books, including romance novels, science fiction and more. Google’s Bert analyzed these same books plus the length and breadth of Wikipedia. Each …

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Your Kid’s Apps Are Crammed With Ads

Many developers market apps for children as being educational. So Jenny Radesky, a pediatrician who wrote the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines for children and media, wanted to check that out. “One of my big concerns about why apps might not be educational was because of the presence of distracting …

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The Next Big One? Earthquake Scientists Look to A.I.

“We are at a point where the technology can do as well as — or better than — human experts,” Dr. Ross said. Driving that guarded optimism is the belief that as sensors get smaller and cheaper, scientists will be able to gather larger amounts of seismic data. With help …

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The Next Tech Talent Shortage: Quantum Computing Researchers

Christopher Savoie, founder and chief executive of a start-up called Zapata, offered jobs this year to three scientists who specialize in an increasingly important technology called quantum computing. They accepted. Several months later, the Cambridge, Mass., company was still waiting for the State Department to approve visas for the specialists. …

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Weapons: Will There Be a Ban on Killer Robots?

LONDON — An autonomous missile under development by the Pentagon uses software to choose between targets. An artificially intelligent drone from the British military identifies firing points on its own. Russia showcases tanks that don’t need soldiers inside for combat. A.I. technology has for years led military leaders to ponder …

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Trilobites: Watch This Blob of Cells Become an Embryo in High-Resolution

When the video above starts, this wiggling, glowing blue blob seen under a new high-resolution microscope doesn’t look like much. But in just 26 seconds you and I can watch the blob’s tiny cells multiply, interact and organize into the first organ systems of a living mouse embryo. The hollow …

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Jeff Hawkins Is Finally Ready to Explain His Brain Research

REDWOOD CITY, Calif. — In the global race to build artificial intelligence, it was a missed opportunity. Jeff Hawkins, a Silicon Valley veteran who spent the last decade exploring the mysteries of the human brain, arranged a meeting with DeepMind, the world’s leading A.I. lab. Scientists at DeepMind, which is …

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