EU is cracking down on AI, but leaves a loophole for mass surveillance

Alexandros Michailidis/Shutterstock The EU looks set to ban some of the most concerning forms of artificial intelligence (AI), such as the “social credit” surveillance system used in China, according to draft AI regulations published by the bloc. The proposed regulations, which will be reviewed by elected representatives before passing into law, will also bring some comfort to those outraged by instances of bias and discrimination generated by AI. These include hiring algorithms found to systematically downgrade women’s professional profiles, and flawed facial recognition technology that has led police to wrongfully arrest black people in the US. Such AI applications are…

Deep-sea volcanic eruptions create megaplumes that may have dispersed early life

An area on the summit of the West Mata Volcano erupting in 2009. NOAA / NSF / WHOI The ocean floor is famously unexplored and is imaged in much less detail than the surfaces of Mars, the Moon and Venus. Draining the water from the oceans would reveal a vast and mostly unknown volcanic landscape. In fact, the majority of Earth’s volcanic activity occurs underwater and at depths of several kilometres in the deep ocean. But in contrast to terrestrial volcanoes, even detecting that an eruption has occurred on the seafloor is extremely challenging. Consequently, there remains much for scientists…

The St Vincent eruption is a reminder of how volcano research and monitoring can save lives

Volcanic eruptions come with a variety of hazards, depending on the type of volcano and its magma. Some have effusive eruptions, where lava flows constantly, while others can expel large clouds of fragments of magma and gases – volcanic ash – into the atmosphere. For some of the most powerful eruptions, these ash clouds can rise tens of kilometres into the air and travel thousands of kilometres. This is what has happened on the island of St Vincent and the Grenadines, after a new eruption was confirmed at La Soufrière volcano on April 9 2021. The explosive eruption, the first…

Electric cars could make the roads safer – here’s how

Shutterstock/mikolajn Electric cars have the potential to help in our fight against climate disaster. For example, if all cars in the UK were electric, the country’s emissions would drop by 12%. But electric cars might also be able to address another issue that’s affecting people around the world. Traffic-related fatalities are the eighth leading cause of death for people of all ages – ahead of HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis – and the number one cause of deaths for children and young adults. Both because of the way they are driven and the mechanics inside them, electric vehicles could play an important…

Mars: how Ingenuity helicopter made the first flight on another planet

NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter hovers over the Martian surface. NASA Imagine that you are flying a model helicopter or a drone. You are there with the auto controls. You switch them on. The rotors start to turn, gradually increasing their spin. You watch, then push the control for lift. Your helicopter rises, hovers, then at the next command moves forward. Oops, it didn’t go high enough. You quickly move the joystick and the drone rises to fly above the obstruction. Finally it’s in the air, moving at speed above sand dunes, hills and valleys – sending back pictures as the…

Prehistoric cave painters might have been ‘high’ on oxygen deprivation – new study

Prehistoric hand paintings at the Cave of Hands in Argentina, thought to be over 10,000 years old R.M. Nunes/Shutterstock Long before the emergence of writing, palaeolithic cave paintings represent the very first examples of human visual culture. They provide a shadowy glimpse of a prehistoric world in which signs were beginning to be used to communicate meaning. Archaeologists have long been fascinated over what exactly compelled “cave men” to produce these enigmatic paintings. Because they’re often located in caves – enchanting and atmospheric places in their own right – certain experts have argued that prehistoric painters may have produced their…

Prince Philip’s funeral hearse is a modified Land Rover Defender – symbolic of a pioneering, practical Britain

The Land Rover Defender is one of the world's most iconic vehicles – as much for its functionality as its style. Michael J P/Shutterstock The ceremonial funeral of Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, will take place on Saturday April 17 in the chapel at Windsor Castle. But in a break from ceremony – a final quirky flourish from a characterful member of the royal family – the prince’s coffin will be transported to the castle chapel by a bespoke Land Rover Defender TD5 130, partially designed by the duke himself. The specially-built hearse has been in the works at…

Why your social media habit is probably not an addiction – new research

Shutterstock/Rawpixel.com Social media apps are useful sources of information. They help us catch up with the activities of friends, news, current affairs, government COVID updates and the latest happenings in celebrity and sport. But during the pandemic, you may have felt you spend too much time on social media. On occasion you may have seen the phrase “social media detox” posted by users who want to stop their social media use entirely for a period of time, presumably because they feel that it’s become excessive. With concerns about the frequency of social media use, particularly among young people, allied with…

Dinosaurs: how our understanding of what they looked like keeps changing

Microraptor: fossils show it had feathers on each limb. Michael Rosskothen via Shutterstock This is a transcript of episode 11 of The Conversation Weekly podcast Dinosaurs: from giant reptiles to warm-blooded, feathered creatures, how our understanding of what they looked like has changed. In this episode, how new discoveries have changed our understanding of what dinosaurs looked like – and helped shed light on bigger questions about evolution. And after Israel’s fourth election in two years ended in another political stalemate, we speak to a foreign policy expert on what this could mean for the Middle East. Gemma Ware: Hello…

Tiny beetle fossil reveals how insects greeted Earth’s earliest flowers

The world as we know it today is almost inconceivable without the rich and colourful landscapes created by plant life. Among them are flowering plants, or angiosperms, which are by far the most diverse and abundant group of plants, making up over 80% of all known species, including all our staple food crops. But the world was not always like this. There was a time when plant life was almost exclusively green. Then, in the time of the dinosaurs, the world burst magnificently into bloom. Flowers blessed our environment with chromatic vibrancy, but they also upturned food chains and elbowed…

AI is increasingly being used to identify emotions – here’s what’s at stake

AI can be biased. aslysun/Shutterstock Imagine you are in a job interview. As you answer the recruiter’s questions, an artificial intelligence (AI) system scans your face, scoring you for nervousness, empathy and dependability. It may sound like science fiction, but these systems are increasingly used, often without people’s knowledge or consent. Emotion recognition technology (ERT) is in fact a burgeoning multi-billion-dollar industry that aims to use AI to detect emotions from facial expressions. Yet the science behind emotion recognition systems is controversial: there are biases built into the systems. Many companies use ERT to test customer reactions to their products,…

Social media ‘likes’ change the way we feel about our memories – new research

In it for the likes. Shutterstock/13_Phunkod Memories are often considered very personal and private. Yet, in the past few years, people have got used to notifications from social media or phone galleries telling them they have a “memory”. These repackaged versions of the past affect not just what we remember but also the attachments we have with those memories. In a new study, we found social media has the potential to change how people feel about their memories. Social media metrics such as Facebook “likes” can negatively impact how people feel about certain memories, especially if these memories are shared…

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