Smart mask 😷 Solar chillis 🌶️ Brexit costs 📈!

Technology News

Razer face mask is real and comes with built-in microphone and RGB lighting

Dubbed Project Hazel, the gaming tech manufacturer describes it as the “world’s smartest face mask”. The mask sports an N95 medical-grade respirator, using detachable and active ventilators plus Smart Pods which regulate the airflow through to the user wearing the mask and filter out at least 95% of airborne particles. Project Hazel masks also take advantage of Razer’s brand new VoiceAmp Technology which uses a built-in microphone to enhance your voice to those nearby, meaning you can maintain a socially-distanced conversation while out and about. Project Hazel isn’t available for purchase right now and still undergoing “rigorous testing”.

Google trained a trillion-parameter AI language model

Google researchers developed and benchmarked techniques they claim enabled them to train a language model containing more than a trillion parameters. They say their 1.6-trillion-parameter model, which appears to be the largest of its size to date, achieved an up to 4 times speedup over the previously largest Google-developed language model (T5-XXL). Effective, large-scale training is computationally intensive so the researchers pursued what they call the Switch Transformer. The concept is to keep multiple models specialized in different tasks, inside a larger model and have a “gating network” choose which experts to consult for any given data.

Science News

Chemical that makes chilli peppers spicy boosts solar panel cells

Researchers added capsaicin to these ultrathin perovskite solar cells during the manufacturing process. Capsaicin made the solar cells more efficient, yielding a power conversion of 21.88 per cent, versus only 19.1 per cent without capsaicin. The team then analysed the solar cells with spectroscopy while conducting energy and found that the addition of capsaicin lead to a greater number of free electrons available to conduct current at the solar cells’ surface. This reduced energy leakage via heat. The team hypothesise that capsaicin molecules react with the lead ions in the solar cell to free up more electrons to conduct current.

Do as the romans: Power plant concrete strengthens with time

A rare mineral that has allowed Roman concrete marine barriers to survive for more than 2,000 years has been found in the thick concrete walls of a decommissioned nuclear power plant in Japan. The formation of aluminous tobermorite increased the strength of the walls more than three times their design strength. In-depth analyses showed that the reactor’s very thick walls were able to retain moisture. Minerals used to make the concrete reacted in the presence of this water, increasing availability of silicon and aluminium ions and the alkali content of the wall. This ultimately led to the formation of aluminous tobermorite.

Business News

Brexit will increase food supply chain costs, warn business groups

Brexit red tape is likely to increase food supply chain costs, the Food and Drink Federation has warned. “In the short term there will be costs and time wasted for supply to reach the shelves, and in the long term will be costs and changes, and fairly significant changes, to the way in which manufacturers in the UK and in the EU interact when they are producing product.” Whether those costs would be passed onto consumers was a decision for retailers. The government had struck a deal with the European Union too late for food and beverage companies to get ready for the new regulations which came into force at the end of 2020.

Intel CEO Bob Swan to step down, VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger to replace him

Intel CEO Bob Swan is stepping down effective Feb. 15 and will be replaced by VMWare CEO Pat Gelsinger. During Swan’s tenure, Intel has suffered blows from competitors. Over the summer, Intel reported that its latest generation chips would be delayed while AMD’s were already shipping inside laptops. Apple announced in the fall that it will use its own proprietary chips in its Mac computers, breaking a 15-year partnership with Intel for its chip supplies. Third Point, who recently took a roughly $1 billion stake in Intel, urged Intel to divest from “failed acquisitions” and criticized Intel for its “loss of manufacturing leadership.”

Miscellaneous News

Italy tries 350 suspected mafia members in historic trial

Italy began the trial of 350 suspected members and aides of the organized crime group ‘ndrangheta, including politicians, lawyers and businessmen, in the southern region of Calabria. The defendants are charged with various crimes dating back to the 1990s, including drug trafficking, murder, illegal possession of weapons and money laundering. Prosecutors expect to hear testimony from over 900 witnesses, many of whom would be breaking the mafia’s code of silence. The trial is the biggest to prosecute organized crime in the past three decades.

China in darkest period for human rights since Tiananmen, says rights group

Worsening persecutions of ethnic minorities in Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia and Tibet, targeting of whistleblowers, the crackdown on Hong Kong and attempts to cover up the coronavirus outbreak were all part of the deteriorating situation under President Xi Jinping, the Human Rights Watch has said in its annual report.“Since Xi Jinping came to power the repression has gotten worse and worse overall, in every aspect of Chinese society you can see how the party is becoming more intolerant of any kind of independent activity.”

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