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Technology News

IBM AI model predicts onset of Alzheimer’s disease by analyzing descriptions of a cookie theft

A new AI model can predict the onset of Alzheimer’s disease more accurately than standard clinical techniques by analyzing how people describe a picture of a cookie theft. Researchers from IBM and Pfizer trained the model to detect signs of speech impairment in written descriptions of the image, which is frequently used to test for cognitive disorders. They found that the model can predict with 71% accuracy that someone will develop Alzheimer’s disease – seven years before it’s clinically diagnosed. That’s significantly better than the 59% accuracy of standard clinical-scale predictions that use biomedical data from a patient. 

Researchers Pack 10,000 Metasurface Pixels Per Inch in New OLED Display

A new OLED display from Samsung and Stanford can achieve more than 10,000 pixels per inch, which might lead to advanced virtual reality and augmented reality displays. Each pixel in the new display’s metasurface is divided into four subpixels of equal size. The OLED films can specify which subpixels they illuminate. The nano-pillars in each subpixel manipulate white light falling onto them, such that each subpixel can reflect a specific color of light, depending on the amount of spacing between its nano-pillars. The way in which light can build up within the display gives it twice the luminescence efficiency of standard color-filtered white OLED displays.

Science News

Increasing sleep time after trauma could ease ill effects

Increasing the amount of time spent asleep immediately after a traumatic experience may ease any negative consequences, suggests a new study. The researchers found that optogenetic stimulation increased the duration of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep – the sleep phase thought to be important for learning and memory – across the rats’ rest and active phases. The researchers assessed the rats’ behavior on a three-day classical conditioning experiment involving a memory task. They found that rats that had received optogenetic stimulation to increase their sleep time had more successfully extinguished the unpleasant memory.

‘Mini-lungs’ reveal early stages of SARS-CoV-2 infection

The team used tissue donated to tissue banks to extract a type of lung cell known as human lung alveolar type 2 cells. By reprogramming these cells back to their earlier ‘stem cell’ stage, they were able to grow self-organising alveolar-like 3D structures that mimic the behaviour of key lung tissue. When the 3D models were exposed to SARS-CoV-2, the virus began to replicate rapidly, reaching full cellular infection in just six hours. Sixty hours after infection, a subset of alveolar cells began to disintegrate, leading to cell death and damage to the lung tissue. Clinical symptoms of COVID-19 rarely and can take more than ten days after exposure to appear.

Business News

Barbie-maker Mattel CEO: Toy demand has been ‘more than we expected’

Mattel, the manufacturer of iconic brands like Barbie and Uno, surprised Wall Street when it posted a third-quarter profit that more than doubled analyst projections. The company recorded net profit of $316 million, which was four times better than pre-pandemic profit. “Just extraordinary growth in demand, coming from a decline in the first half into such growth in the third quarter heading into the holiday season”. Toys began to fly off the shelves as parents sought ways to keep children occupied outside of laptops and cellphones. Retailers were pushed to refill their toy and board game inventories, which helped Mattel grow sales last quarter by 10%.

Canada’s Cenovus Energy to buy Husky Energy for $18 billion

Canadian oil and gas producer Cenovus Energy will buy peer Husky Energy in an all-stock transaction valued at C$23.6 billion ($17.97 billion), inclusive of debt. The deal is the latest sign of consolidation in the energy industry following the collapse of oil prices. Cenovus CEO Alex Pourbaix will serve as chief executive of the merged company with Jeff Hart, currently Husky’s finance chief, becoming chief financial officer. The combined company will be the third largest Canadian oil and natural gas producer with production of 750,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day of low-cost oil and natural gas. The transaction is expected to close in the first quarter of 2021.

Miscellaneous News

Fukushima water release could change human DNA, Greenpeace warns

Contaminated water that could soon be released into the sea from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant contains radioactive carbon with the potential to damage human DNA. The environmental group claims that the 1.23 million metric tons of water stored at the plant — scene of the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster — contains “dangerous” levels of the radioactive isotope carbon-14 and other “hazardous” radionuclides, which it says will have “serious long-term consequences for communities and the environment” if the water is released into the Pacific Ocean.

Treaty to ban nuclear weapons made official with 50th UN signatory

An international treaty banning nuclear weapons has been ratified by a 50th country, the UN has said, allowing the historic though essentially symbolic text to enter into force after 90 days. While nuclear powers have not signed up to the treaty, activists who have pushed for its enactment hold out hope that it will prove to be more than symbolic and have a gradual deterrent effect. Honduras became the 50th country to ratify. Declared nuclear-armed states including the US, Britain, France, China and Russia have not signed the treaty.

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