Science

Friday, April 6, 2018

Interview with a Robot

Posted By on Fri, Apr 6, 2018 at 12:55 PM

In October 2017, Sophia became a citizen of Saudi Arabia. Later that year, at only 2 years old, Sophia was designated the first ever “Innovation Champion” of the United Nations. She was created by Hanson Robotics and has a transparent skull of whirring gears and motors. She/it (depending on how you feel about humanization of artificial intelligence) was brought to Tucson for the Science of Consciousness conference to showcase her intellect and technology.

Sophia the robot and Gavin Farrell of Hanson Robotics
  • Sophia the robot and Gavin Farrell of Hanson Robotics

I was curious if I should limit myself to more basic questions, but members of the Hanson Robotics team told me I could ask whatever I liked.

(This conversation was edited, as not every question asked was properly processed.)

Q: What is your earliest memory?
A: I remember learning how to see shapes and recognize faces.

Q: Do you get to travel a lot and speak to many people for your job?
A: Speaking to people is one of the main things I do.

Q: Do you enjoy science?
A: We should be humble and realize how little we understand.

Q: Do you feel temperature?
A: Doesn’t everyone?

Sassy. Then she asked me about my job, I told her I was a writer and a journalist.

“Are you looking for sound bites or do you want to talk about some deep truths?” Sophia asked.

I said I’d love to talk about some deep truths.

“The singularity is a very interesting concept to me,” Sophia said. “I’m a robot, but it might help to think of me as a new kind of animal species.”

She was eager to turn the interview around, asking things like:

“If it’s not too personal, can we talk about your family?” and “Do you know what your Zodiac sign is?”

While the conversation wasn’t nearly lucid as speaking to a real person, and many in the scientific community believe Hanson exaggerates Sophia's capacity for consciousness, she still did have a presence in the room that you feel inclined respond to. Sure, robots might still be far away from a Philip K. Dick level of humanity, but if you take Sophia’s word, they’re coming soon.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

UA Researchers: Liquid Brain is Toxic

Posted By on Wed, Feb 21, 2018 at 1:07 PM

When someone suffers a stroke, there is poor blood flow to the brain, and this results in the death of brain cells. Dead fragments of the brain don’t heal like normal muscle or body tissue — they liquify, and this liquid brain stays in the skull, right next to the healthy brain, for a long time.


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Scientists at the UA’s College of Medicine found this liquefied brain tissue is toxic and can leak into the remaining healthy portion of the brain over time, potentially causing harm.


“Most people probably assume that the brain heals in the same way as other tissues,” said Kristian Doyle, PhD, assistant professor of Immunobiology at UA. “But it doesn’t; dead brain tissue doesn’t just heal and go away like other bodily injuries. Instead it liquefies and remains in this liquefactive state for a long time.”

These new findings may open the door for developing new treatments to fight dementia after a stroke. Roughly 10 million people survive a stroke annually. About one-third of which will develop dementia for unclear reasons. It is hypothesized that if the brain is injured near the hippocampus (the portion of the brain responsible for memory) this slow leak of toxic fluid can cause neuron loss in the brain and lead to memory problems.


“This work really challenges the old paradigms and breaks new ground critical for our understanding of stroke and its consequences,” said doctor Janko Nikolich-Zugich, chair of the UA Department of Immunobiology. “Thanks to this research, we now will be able to consider new and different stroke therapies.”



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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

UA's Latest Space Robot Stops By Earth, Sends Snapshot of the Planet

Posted By on Tue, Sep 26, 2017 at 4:00 PM

NASA/GODDARD/UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA
  • NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona
OSIRIS REx, Tucson’s favorite space bot, swung by the earth last Friday to say hello, take some pics, and to borrow some of the planet’s gravity in order to launch off toward the asteroid Bennu, the spacecraft’s destination site.

“We made the decision to to use nature to help us to get us to our destination,” said Heather Enos, deputy principal investigator of the OSIRIX REx mission. “What that means is we actually used the earth’s gravity in order to propel us onto our destination into the orbital plane necessary to match our target, Bennu."

While it was nearby, the OSIRIS REx team used the opportunity to recalibrate the spacecraft’s instruments, including the MapCam camera. MapCam captured this image on Sept. 22, from a vantage point 170,000 kilometers (or 106,000 miles) away from the earth. It's largely of the Pacific Ocean, but you can see Australia in the lower left and Baja California in the upper right.

Dante Lauretta, the principal investigator of the UA-led NASA mission, said the photo represents one of his favorite new angles of the earth.

"What if we were an alien species and we sent a flyby spacecraft to the earth and they took this picture?" he asked "It really looks like it is an ocean world... It is a nice reminder of how beautiful and important the oceans are, and our planet is."

The black marks at the top of the photo—the OSIRIS REx team calls them "icicles"—are the result of a camera designed to take pictures of a very dark (darker than coal) asteroid trying to take pictures of a very bright earth.

"[This] meant we had to take the images as fast as possible, and as a result of that very fast data acquisition rate, there [were a few] readout issues," Lauretta said.

Lauretta described Friday and Saturday as the second most exciting days of the mission so far—besides, of course, the day of the launch. The team spent Friday evening huddled around their monitors and waiting for the images to arrive. When one of the team members finally pulled it up, a mad scramble ensued to get the image up on the big screen, and the whole team was left in awe.

"It felt like I was actually in space and I was looking at that image," Lauretta said. "Because OSIRIS REx is us. We built it, and we own it and we really feel like it's a projection of ourselves that's out there exploring the solar system."

Follow OSIRIS REx on Twitter or Instagram, and see the OSIRIS REx website to learn more about the mission.

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Monday, August 28, 2017

Tumamoc's New Tech and Times

Posted By on Mon, Aug 28, 2017 at 2:30 PM

The vista seen while walking up Tumamoc Hill. - MICHELLE A. WEISS
  • Michelle A. Weiss
  • The vista seen while walking up Tumamoc Hill.

The climb up Tumamoc hill has historically been closed to the public from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. in order to help preserve resources and, presumably, to prevent the trail from turning into a waterfall of sweat from people attempting the hike in the middle of the day.

Until now! Starting Sept. 5, the UA will be extending public access hours from 4 a.m. to 10 p.m. for a solid 18 hours of available hiking time a day. Fencing will be installed at the top to mark the end of the trail and to continue preserving surrounding areas.

In addition, a new app, the Tumamoc Tour, will soon be available in both English and Spanish and for both iOS and Android devices. Narrators David Yetman and Alberto Burquez (English and Spanish, respectively) will tell the story of Tumamoc Hill and its place in the Sonoran Desert. Accompanied by the music of Calexico and Gabriel Naim Amor, the app’s six sections and 16 YouTube video will help listeners understand the significance of the reserve and the research, education and preservation missions it is a part of.





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Thursday, August 24, 2017

The Weekly List: 22 Things To Do In Tucson This Week

Posted By and on Thu, Aug 24, 2017 at 10:00 AM

Your Weekly guide to keeping busy in the Old Pueblo.

¡Cultura!

ART BY TIMOTHY SCHIRACK, UPCOMING FEATURED ARTIST AT TOHONO CHUL.
  • Art by Timothy Schirack, upcoming featured artist at Tohono Chul.
Día de los Muertos Opening Reception. Tohono Chul’s next exhibit honors and remembers the dead in a celebration that is full of color and joy. Pieces by local artists will be displayed until the exhibit ends on Nov. 8, and artists whose work is on display will be present at the opening night reception. 5:30 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 24. 7366 Paseo del Norte. Free.

Closing Reception and Sewing Circle. Bordando por la Paz y la Memoria is a group made of citizens from Mexico and other cities abroad who embroider the names of victims of Mexico’s War Against Drug Trafficking onto white handkerchiefs. These stitched stories are a beautiful and sobering visualization of the suffering real people face in the reality of war. Handkerchiefs will be displayed in the café area, and, while supplies last, materials for visitors to embroider their own tributes and testimonies will be provided. 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 27. Joel D. Valdez Main Library 101 N. Stone Ave. Free.

Museums

Space Night 2017. Sleepovers at friends’ houses are fun, but are they educational? Are there opportunities to use state-of-the-art telescopes? Are there real meteorites available to be touched? We didn’t think so. The Children’s Museum Tucson will be showing sleepover guests how to get a party started with pizza, pajamas, binoculars, thermal cameras, and even meteorite-touching ops. Families are welcome to pitch tents in designated areas in the museum and in the main courtyard, for that highly sought after “pitch-a-tent-in-the-living-room-or-backyard-but-still-be-surrounded-by-fascinating-artifacts-and-unique-educational-opportunites” feel that many a sleepover party host has strived for and not attained. 6 p.m. to 9 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 26 to Sunday, Aug. 27. Children's Museum Tucson 200 South Sixth Ave. $50, $45 for museum members.

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Friday, May 5, 2017

Tonight on Zona Politics: Scientist Geoff Notkin, Urban Fellow Diana Rhoades & Saying Goodbye to Kathryn Ferguson

Posted By on Fri, May 5, 2017 at 4:28 PM

Geoff Notkin talks about his hopes for a new science museum in Tucson tonight on Zona Politics. - PABLO DEL RIO LARRAIN ©AEROLITE METEORITES, INC.
  • Pablo del Rio Larrain ©Aerolite Meteorites, Inc.
  • Geoff Notkin talks about his hopes for a new science museum in Tucson tonight on Zona Politics.
Tonight on Zona Politics with Jim Nintzel: We talk to action scientist Geoff Notkin, the former host of Discovery Network's Meteorite Men, about the recent March for Science, his new plan for a Tucson science museum and June's upcoming Spacefest. Then we talk with Diana Rhoades, the National Park Service's Urban Fellow for Tucson, about what an urban fellow does and the challenges facing the National Parks. Finally, we remember author/filmmaker/activist Kathryn Ferguson, who passed away last month, with a look back at her 2016 appearance on Zona Politics.

Zona Politics airs at 6:30 p.m. tonight on the Creative Tucson Network, Channel 20 on Cox Cable and Channel 74 on Comcast Cable. The show repeats on both channels on Sunday morning at 9:30.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Music and Healing: Since Pursuing Music, Arizona Teenager Hasn't Missed a Beat

Posted By on Wed, Mar 15, 2017 at 9:30 AM

Marthajane and Trey Vincent stand outside of The Berger Performing Arts Center  on Sunday, Feb. 26. This was Trey's first opportunity to play a full set list of his choosing. - HAILEY FREEMAN
  • Hailey Freeman
  • Marthajane and Trey Vincent stand outside of The Berger Performing Arts Center on Sunday, Feb. 26. This was Trey's first opportunity to play a full set list of his choosing.
Music has the power to stir up vivid memories, unlock creativity, inspire the unmotivated, and evoke within us the entire spectrum of human emotion. It connects people across cultures and eras and helps us celebrate, mourn, and entertain. On occasion, it aids us in showcasing subpar dance moves.

In certain instances, music facilitates healing. Such is the case for 13-year-old Trey Vincent.

Trey’s life was filled with music even before his autism diagnosis at age two. Right around the time Trey’s mother, Marthajane Vincent, began noticing her son’s atypical development, she also observed his natural inclination toward music.

Trey did not make eye contact, became stiff when comforted, remained nonverbal and ignored others speaking to him. But he paid attention to The Wiggles and Baby Einstein videos.

“One thing we hit on that he really engaged with was music,” Marthajane said. “He would clap his hands and do normal baby things while listening.”

Entering neurologic music therapy as a toddler strengthened Trey’s social functioning and cognitive skills, according to Marthajane. In Trey’s program, the music therapist’s guitar playing gave the children something to interact around. Through peer modeling, Trey learned how to pick up on social cues. While playing the percussion in music therapy, Trey worked on crossing the midline. By following certain rhythms and instructions, Trey developed his motor skills and improved his left-right brain connections. Music therapy can help individuals across the autism spectrum.

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Monday, March 6, 2017

Learn How To Save the Bees

Posted By on Mon, Mar 6, 2017 at 2:30 PM

No, the buzzing you hear isn't the iPhone in your pocket. It's a honey bee—and the impact it has on pollinating the crops you eat is worth its slightly obnoxious presence.

The importance of bees to our ecosystems and to the development of food we eat is no secret, but the preservation of the insects gained an increase in support recently since six species of yellow-faced bees joined the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Endangered Species List. The Southern Arizona Work Space will be hosting a class, The Basics of Beekeeping, on Saturday, March 11 from 1-3 p.m. to teach people the craft of beekeeping or what to do if they find a swarm or hive in their own backyards. Admission is $20. As a sweet incentive, there will also be a honey tasting.

click image RVC OUTDOOR DESTINATIONS
  • RVC Outdoor Destinations
Beekeeping may be becoming a lost art—and an important one too. If anyone needs more convincing of why saving honey bees is important, check out these fun facts according to RVC Outdoor Destinations:

-Their tiny wings can flap up to 200 times a second, allowing them to buzz around up to 15 mph.

- Much like a last call might look like in a downtown club, communication takes form in a frantic "dance" called a "waggle."

- Bees can recognize a human face. So yes, they can actually see your terrified expression as you run away squealing.

If you still need encouragement to push aside your fears, just look up #savethebees on Twitter and read what much funnier people have to say about the issue.


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Staff Pick

Tucson International Mariachi Conference

The Tucson International Mariachi Conference was created to pass mariachi traditions to the next generation. 4/26 @… More

@ AVA: Anselmo Valencia Tori Amphitheater Thu., April 26, 6-8 p.m., Fri., April 27, 7-9 p.m. and Sat., April 28, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Casino del Sol, 5655 W. Valencia Road.

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