Curiosity algorithms 🧐, plant injections 💉 and India offers facilities for US corporations 🏢!

Technology


Automating the search for entirely new “curiosity” algorithms

An agent with a child’s curiosity might go from learning to pick up, manipulate, and throw objects to understanding the pull of gravity, a realization that could dramatically accelerate its ability to learn. Researchers created a “meta-learning” algorithm that generated 52,000 exploration algorithms. They found that the top two were entirely new, seemingly too obvious or counter-intuitive for a human to have proposed. Both algorithms generated exploration behaviour that substantially improved learning in a range of simulated tasks, from navigating a two-dimensional grid based on images to making a robotic ant walk.

Facebook claims its new chatbot beats Google’s as the best in the world

Facebook has open-sourced a new chatbot that it claims can talk about nearly anything in an engaging and interesting way. Blender could not only help virtual assistants resolve many of their shortcomings but also mark progress toward the greater ambition of AI research: to replicate intelligence. It was first trained on 1.5 billion publicly available Reddit conversations. It was then fine-tuned with additional data sets for three skills: conversations that contained some kind of emotion, information-dense conversations with an expert and conversations between people with distinct personas.

Science


Engineers develop precision injection system for plants

Epidemics are affecting crops and putting global food production at risk. Oranges, olives and bananas are under threat due to diseases that affect plants’ circulatory systems and that cannot be treated by pesticides. A new method uses an array of microneedles made of a silk-based biomaterial to deliver nutrients, drugs or other molecules to specific parts of a plant. The microneedles, which the researchers call phytoinjectors, can be made in a variety of sizes and shapes and can deliver material specifically to a plant’s roots, stems or leaves, or into its xylem or phloem.

Scientists recreate DNA damage caused by toxins from smoking in a bid to understand more about the causes of bladder cancer

Researchers from the University of York have recreated how toxins from smoking cause unique patterns of DNA damage. The discovery could help scientists better understand the cause of bladder cancer and the link to smoking. Researchers grew human bladder tissues in the laboratory and exposed them to a toxin from cigarette smoke. After the tissues were damaged, the team analysed three billion letters of the genetic code (DNA) to find a pattern of changes called a mutational signature. “When we looked at the DNA of patients’ bladder cancers the mutational signature, of the smoke toxin, was only responsible for a small amount of the damage.”

Business


Yogi Adityanath’s promise to FedEx, Cisco, Adobe: Tailor-made facilities if you move from China to UP

Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s government has proposed to provide several facilities to giant corporations of the US including; FedEx, UPS, Cisco, Adobe, Lockheed Martin, Honeywell, Boston Scientific and others, if they shift factories and bases from China to the state of Uttar Pradesh. Several questions regarding the perks that the state could offer if the companies shift their bases from China were raised. They were told they could get tailor-made provisions per their needs. For example, FedEx and UPS were told they can use the proposed Jewar international airport to start their operations.

Shell cuts dividend for first time since World War Two

Royal Dutch Shell cut its dividend for the first time since World War Two in a drastic step to preserve cash as it prepares for a protracted slump in demand for oil because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Anglo-Dutch energy company also suspended share buybacks and said it would reduce oil and gas output by about a quarter after its net profit almost halved in the first quarter to $2.9 billion. The new measures combined with cuts in capital spending and planned cost reductions could save Shell almost $30 billion this year to help it weather the crisis and prepare for the transition to low-carbon energy.

Miscellaneous


Criminals using food delivery services to transport drugs during lockdown – Interpol

Criminals are using food delivery services as a cover to transport drugs and other illegal goods during the coronavirus crisis. Interpol has received reports from police in Ireland, Malaysia, Spain and Britain identifying delivery drivers transporting drugs such as cocaine, marijuana, ketamine and ecstasy. Those involved in the Spanish case were caught delivering cocaine and marijuana by bicycle, motorcycle and car, with some of the drugs concealed inside home delivery backpacks. In Ireland, police recovered 8 kg (17 lbs) of cocaine as well as two handguns hidden in pizza boxes.

Brazil to deploy troops to protect Amazon as deforestation surges

Brazil plans to deploy its armed forces to fight deforestation and fires in the Amazon jungle in an effort protect the world’s largest rainforest where destruction has surged since last year. Amazon deforestation soared to an 11-year high last year, as fires tore through the rainforest, provoking international outcry that Brazil was not doing enough to protect the biome. Destruction has continued to climb this year. From January to March, deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon rose 51% from a year ago, according to preliminary satellite data.

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