Tuesday, May 28

Science

What is artificial general intelligence, and is it a useful concept?
Science

What is artificial general intelligence, and is it a useful concept?

If you take even a passing interest in artificial intelligence, you will inevitably have come across the notion of artificial general intelligence. AGI, as it is often known, has ascended to buzzword status over the past few years as AI has exploded into the public consciousness on the back of the success of large language models (LLMs), a form of AI that powers chatbots such as ChatGPT. That is largely because AGI has become a lodestar for the companies at the vanguard of this type of technology. ChatGPT creator OpenAI, for example, states that its mission is “to ensure that artificial general intelligence benefits all of humanity”. Governments, too, have become obsessed with the opportunities AGI might present, as well as possible existential threats, while the medi...
Quantum to cosmos: Why scale is vital to our understanding of reality
Science

Quantum to cosmos: Why scale is vital to our understanding of reality

It can be hard to wrap our minds round the very large and the very small. Ron Koeberer/Millennium Images, UK Imagine setting off on a spacecraft that can travel at the speed of light. You won’t get far. Even making it to the other side of the Milky Way would take 100,000 years. It is another 2.5 million years to Andromeda, our nearest galactic neighbour. And there are some 2 trillion galaxies beyond that. The vastness of the cosmos defies comprehension. And yet, at the fundamental level, it is made of tiny particles.”It is a bit of a foreign country – both the small and the very big,” says particle physicist Alan Barr at the University of Oxford. “I don’t think you ever really understand it, you just get used to it.” Still, you need to have some grasp of scale to have ...
Scope 3 Carbon Emissions and the Management of Supply Chains – State of the Planet
Science

Scope 3 Carbon Emissions and the Management of Supply Chains – State of the Planet

When measuring and managing an organization’s production of pollution, it is not enough to reduce the emissions you produce directly, you must also reduce the pollution created by your suppliers. In the language of greenhouse gas pollution, these are called Scope 3 emissions. Scope 1 emissions are those directly caused by your organization, for example, the emissions from motor vehicles owned by your organization. Scope 2 emissions are those emissions caused indirectly, for example, by the utility that supplies your electricity. Scope 3 emissions are emissions from the organizations you contract with for services or supplies. A growing area of my study of organizations has been an effort to understand the management of organizations and people who are not under direct hierarchical control...
AI noise-cancelling headphones let you focus on just one voice
Science

AI noise-cancelling headphones let you focus on just one voice

Selectively cutting out some external noises could leave you hearing only the sounds you wantCavan Images/Alamy Prototype noise-cancelling headphones allow you to select which background noises to drown out, letting you put an “audio spotlight” on one specific voice so you can concentrate on it. Conventional noise-cancelling headphones reduce unwanted sounds like the rumble of a bus engine, but because the technology cancels out certain frequencies entirely, it can also suppress sounds we want to hear. Now, Shyam Gollakota at the University of Washington in Seattle and his colleagues have created headphones that can remove any unwanted noises while leaving others intact, regardless of their frequencies. It can also be trained with the press of a button to home in...
Doughnut-shaped swirls of laser light can be used to transmit images
Science

Doughnut-shaped swirls of laser light can be used to transmit images

Smoke rings are similar to the vortices created in laser lightYevhen Rychko / Alamy Stock Photo Short pulses from a laser can be twisted into a series of doughnut-like vortices, offering a way to transmit more information using light. We usually encounter vortices in water and air, but similar swirling structures can also be made to form in beams of light. One such structure is a vortex ring, in which particles of light – or photons – twist and swirl like particles of air do in a smoke ring. Jinping Yao at the Chinese Academy of Sciences and her colleagues have now worked out how to pack up to 28 vortex rings into one laser pulse. To do so, the team precisely tailored the light’s intensity, and tweaked another property of light called phase. Light is an electroma...