AI Captions 📸 Antimicrobial venom 🐝 Uber medicine 💊!

Technology News

What’s that? Microsoft’s latest breakthrough, now in Azure AI, describes images as well as people do

Microsoft researchers have built an artificial intelligence system that can generate captions for images that are, in many cases, more accurate than the descriptions people write. The breakthrough in a benchmark challenge is a milestone in Microsoft’s push to make its products and services inclusive and accessible to all users. Automatic image captioning helps all users access the important content in any image, from a photo returned as a search result to an image included in a presentation. A research breakthrough like this one can improve those results, although it doesn’t mean the system will return perfect results each time.

The LAFD just hired America’s first firefighting robot

The LAFD’s Thermite RS3 is a 3,500-pound robot that is about the size of Smart car. It’s small enough that it can fit through a double set of doors, but, it can also plow or blast its way through a wall. It features a cannon that can discharge 2,500 gallons of water or foam per minute and align itself vertically to function as a sprinkler. It’s operated remotely and can go for 20 hours without refueling while treads on its side allow it to ascend 70-degree slopes. The RS3 has already seen action on the field fighting a fire that engulfed two Fashion District buildings in the city’s downtown core, helping clear debris inside the building where the fire broke out.  

Science News

Penn Medicine Scientists Engineer Bacteria-Killing Molecules from Wasp Venom

Scientists have engineered powerful new antimicrobial molecules from toxic proteins found in wasp venom by altering a highly toxic small protein from a common Asian wasp species, the Korean yellow-jacket wasp. The alterations enhanced the molecule’s ability to kill bacterial cells while greatly reducing its ability to harm human cells. In animal models, this family of new antimicrobial molecules made with these alterations could protect mice from otherwise lethal bacterial infections. There is an urgent need for new drug treatments for bacterial infections, as many circulating bacterial species have developed a resistance to older drugs.

Room-temperature superconductor? Rochester lab sets new record toward long-sought goal

Engineers and physicists have, for the first time, created material that is superconducting at room temperature. The team combined hydrogen with carbon and sulfur to photochemically synthesize simple organic-derived carbonaceous sulfur hydride in a diamond anvil cell, a research device used to examine miniscule amounts of materials under extraordinarily high pressure. Developing materials that are superconducting – without electrical resistance and expulsion of magnetic field at room temperature – is the “holy grail” of condensed matter physics. Sought for more than a century, such materials “can definitely change the world as we know it.”

Business News

Uber launches medicines delivery service in South Africa

Uber Eats’ South African unit expanded delivery offerings, launching an app-based over-the-counter medicines service as it seeks to claw market share in Africa’s most industrialised economy. Its latest foray in the delivery sector is in partnership with local health group Medicare, which operates more than 50 clinics and pharmacies around the country, and will allow its app users to purchase over-the-counter medication. Uber Eats is banking on a “marketplace” strategy – combining ride-hailing and grocery deliveries and other services on a single mobile phone app that already has over 2 million users in the country.

GM to launch Hummer EV with splashy World Series and social media ad blitz next week

General Motors is launching a splashy new ad blitz next week for the global debut of its all-electric GMC Hummer in an attempt to reach 80% of U.S. adults. The vehicle will be unveiled Tuesday during the World Series, “The Voice” and across a barrage of social media and streaming platforms. The estimated viewership – roughly 255 million people based on U.S. Census data – would be equal to more than two Super Bowl broadcasts. It is expected to be the first vehicle to showcase the automaker’s next-generation electric vehicle platform and batteries under a $20 billion plan to shift to electric and autonomous vehicles through 2025.

Miscellaneous News

Italian police seize 4,000 bottles of counterfeit ‘super Tuscan’ wine

Italian police have seized more than 4,000 counterfeit bottles of a prestigious “super Tuscan” wine that can fetch up to €360 (£325) a bottle. The operation, called Bad Tuscan, led to the arrests of two people with 11 others under investigation for allegedly counterfeiting one of the storied red wine, Bolgheri Sassicaia by Tenuta San Guido. Investigators said the counterfeit wine originated in Sicily, while the bottles hailed from Turkey and the labels and wooden boxes came from Bulgaria. The operation culminated in the confiscation of 700 cases of wine totalling 4,200 bottles.

Netherlands legalizes child euthanasia despite opposition from Christian parties

The Dutch government will allow doctors to euthanize terminally ill children, making the Netherlands the second country in the world to permit the practice. The Health Minister called the decision necessary to help “a small group of terminally ill children who are suffering hopelessly and unbearably.” The decision exempts doctors from prosecution for ending a child’s life in certain conditions and with parental consent. Children between one and 12 will now be eligible for assisted suicide, whereas previously only newborn infants and teenagers could be euthanized.

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