[Popular STEM] Curating the Internet: STEM digest for February 13, 2021

in Popular STEM2 months ago (edited)

IEEE Spectrum's weekly selection of awesome robot videos; Using AI and satellite imagery to count elephants; Sabine Hossenfelder argues that the "simulation hypothesis" is pseudoscience; Boston Dynamics' Spot robot gets an arm; and Crayola exhibition begins multi-city tour today at Philadelphia's Franklin Institute


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  1. Video Friday: Digit Takes a Hike - Videos in this week's weekly selection of awesome robot videos from IEEE Spectrum include the following, and more:

    Here is a video showcasing a variety of capabilities from PRISMA Lab:

  2. Using very‐high‐resolution satellite imagery and deep learning to detect and count African elephants in heterogeneous landscapes - Past research has used very high resolution satellite imagery to do things like count wildlife in open, consistent landscapes and seascapes - environments where animals contrast highly with their surroundings. This is the first time, however, that researchers have used satellite imagery to count elephants and also the first time counting animals in complex ecosystems, where there is less contrast between the animal and its surroundings. To accomplish the task, the team used artificial intelligence (with training) to automatically find and count elephants in a South African woodland ecosystem. After that, they applied the same tool (without training) to count elephants in a lower resolution satellite image of Kenya. This accomplishment demonstrates that methods using satellite imagery and artificial intelligence are feasible as a promising new survey technique for wildlife.-h/t Daniel Lemire

  3. The Simulation Hypothesis is Pseudoscience - This YouTube video and transcript cover the simulation hypothesis, which is the idea that "everything we experience was coded by an intelligent being, and we are part of that computer code." Sabine Hossenfelder suggests that it's not controversial to argue that we live inside a computation, because we believe that reality can be described by mathematics and mathematics can be computed. In contrast, though, she argues that the idea that the computation was programmed by intelligent beings strays out of the realm of science and into the realm of religion. She says that the problem arises with the assumption that it's even possible for an intelligent being to duplicate the laws of physics in a computer and the hypothesis fails to explain how the mechanism might even work. Supporting her argument, she references Einstein's theories of relativity and the modern climate models - which are forced to simplify their description of nature because programming an exact match is presently impossible.

    Here is the video:

    In conclusion, she summarizes her argument like this:

    And that’s my issue with the simulation hypothesis. Those who believe it make, maybe unknowingly, really big assumptions about what natural laws can be reproduced with computer simulations, and they don’t explain how this is supposed to work. But finding alternative explanations that match all our observations to high precision is really difficult. The simulation hypothesis, therefore, just isn’t a serious scientific argument. This doesn’t mean it’s wrong, but it means you’d have to believe it because you have faith, not because you have logic on your side.

  4. Boston Dynamics' Spot Robot Is Now Armed - After five years of development on Spot the robot, Boston Dynamics has announced the commercial availability of a mechanical arm that lets the robot handle and manipulate objects in its surroundings. A prototype of this device was demonstrated as early as 2016. One noteworthy observation is that Spot uses its whole body for balance and leverage when lifting objects, especially heavy ones.

    A video is worth 1,000 words:

  5. Franklin Institute's new Crayola exhibition to open Saturday - Easton, PA, based Crayola debuts its "Crayola IDEAworks: The Creativity Exhibition" today at the Franklin Institute. The exhibit will stay there until July 18, when it will move on to the next stop of its multi-city tour.

    Here is a promo-video from the exhibit:

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