[Popular STEM] Curating the Internet: STEM digest for December 5, 2020

in Popular STEM5 months ago

IEEE Spectrum's weekly selection of awesome robot videos; 3% of vertebrate species account for all of the population decline in vertebrates since 1970;; Most Open Source security flaws are not malicious and it takes an average of four years to find them; A climate scientist explains why some beach locations are more challenging than others for surfers; and an argument that society is headed into an era of increasing fragmentation and hyperpolarization


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  1. Video Friday: Japan's Gundam Robot Takes BIG Step Forward - Here is a list of some of the videos included in IEEE Spectrum's weekly selection of awesome robot videos:
    • The Gundam robot from Japan's Gundam Factory takes a BIG step.
    • Disney Research presents an interactive software platform that lets a user design and sculpt clay models by using a 6-axis robotic arm.
    • CCTV+ shows a video of China's Chang’e-5 lunar lander. According to the China National Space Agency (CNSA), this was the first automated sampling on the moon's surface.
    • Skydio says that their Skydio2 drone takes the place of a photographer's own personal helicopter pilot, and IEEE says it can, "take incredible footage fully autonomously.
    • AND MORE...

    Here is Jueying, a smart quadruped from Huawei and DeepRobotics:

  2. Clustered versus catastrophic global vertebrate declines - Aggregate numbers of vertebrate species decline show that more than half of all vertebrates have disappeared since 1970. However, this trend is driven entirely by 3% of the species. Without these rapidly declining species, the other vertebrates have actually increased in population. Mirroring the debate about focused or generalized protection from the SARS-CoV-2 virus, this study suggests that it is more effective to focus and prioritize preservation efforts on the species that are at risk. -h/t Daniel Lemire

  3. Open source software security vulnerabilities exist for over four years before detection - Github's Octoverse report found that 94% of projects rely on Open Source software and that the majority of security bugs (83%) are not malicious (although they can be used maliciously). It also found that the average vulnerability can go undetected for four years and after detection, it typically takes about a month for a fix to be published. -h/t Bruce Schneier

  4. What makes the world’s biggest surfable waves? - According to Sally Warner, Assistant Professor of Climate Science at Brandeis University, some ocean waves start from earthquakes or land slides, but most start from wind blowing across the water's surface during a storm. Once formed, the waves are constantly reorganized as they interact with one another. As with radio waves, ocean waves have a height and a frequency - or period. The height is their distance from top to bottom, and the period is the horizontal distance between peaks. As the waves interact and reorganize, this creates the "swell", which is the regular spacing of lines of waves. A final influence on waves that the surfer sees is the ocean floor. Waves can extend as far as 500 feet deep into the ocean, and when the bottom of the wave bumps up against the ocean floor it causes the water to slow down and the spacing between waves to shrink. Eventually, if the wave becomes top-heavy, it becomes unstable and the top falls forward into the preceding water. It is this last dynamic that makes some locations more suitable for surfing than others. The ocean floor is not flat. Instead, it is shaped by things like sandbanks, canyons, and reefs. The unique character of the ocean floor is what makes some places, like Nazaré, Portugal, more challenging than others for surfing. In particular, the waves at Nazaré, where Maya Gabeira surfed a record wave in February of this year, are shaped by a canyon that acts like a magnifier by refracting the waves into a single point of focus near the shore.

    Maya Gabeira Breaks Guinness World Record for the Largest Wave By a Woman | 73.5 Feet at Nazaré

    (Too bad the photographer didn't have a skydio2. ; -)

  5. The fragmentation of everything - Writing in MIT Technology Review, EY argues that there is a Technomic Cold War under way at the intersection of geopolitics and technology. This conflict, the author argues, is caused by many factors, including online "walled gardens", differing governance styles in nations around the world, the intense competition to deploy 5G communications, and the increasing influence of nationalist and populist leaders on the global stage. As a result, the essay argues that we're seeing an increasing level of partitioning everywhere. Arising from this partitioning, the article foresees a transition from polarization to hyperpolarization, where people will increasingly find themselves communicating in online "filter bubbles" and companies that have become accustomed to global operation are going to be forced to operate with increasing limits that bind them to their home countries. Challenges of this new environment will include the spread of disinformation, increasing cybersecurity risks, and increased regulatory complexity. Finally, the article predicts there will also be increased risk from regulatory non-compliance and brand damage when a firm is perceived as "out of step" with consumer values.

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