Research stories

‘Dancing’ Chimps, Jamming the Hate Speech, Nanotech in AI and other top research news of the week


Impact Insider – Weekly Round Up of Trending Research

Volume 1 | Issue 4

Could City Folks Soon be Farmers?


In the very recent past, at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, tomatoes began to look more like bunches of grapes when a team of scientists edited the plant genes controlling reproductive growth and stem size. The genetic tweaks caused the plant to produce fruit and stop growing much sooner than usual: in merely 40 days. Further, the stems became much shorter, yielding smaller and more compactly bunched tomatoes at their ends. While traditional tomato vines require vast tracts of farmland to be set aside, these tomato bouquets only need a tiny piece of soil, making them ideal for cultivation anywhere from a balcony or rooftop to a room and even inside the International Space Station.
The scientists hope that their gene editing technique will be picked up and expanded to other fruit crops such as the kiwi fruit. Perhaps cities, including those inside spacecrafts, will have their own abundant farms, and this is truly a breakthrough in humanity’s quest to comfortably sustain a growing population without additional burden to the environment.

A nanotech chip off the old brain block


Recreating the functional powers of the human brain in artificial settings is essential for developing competent artificial intelligence, and now, scientists from Japan’s National Institute for Materials Science have taken the next step towards this goal. They have created a neuromorphic network, which is composed of a special arrangement of silver nanowires. Upon providing an electrical stimulus, they discovered that the network changed its structure and exhibited properties of new learning, memorization, forgetting, wakefulness and sleep, all of which are basic characteristics of an organic thinking brain. This exciting finding is sure to open the doors to new research on artificial intelligence, and can be applied to modify existing computers to work in a way closer to the way humans operate.

Sleep your way to success


Well-known founders often extol the virtues of sleepless nights, but a new report suggests that’s not a recipe for success. In a series of three studies, researchers found that sleep-deprived entrepreneurs performed worse when they were asked to evaluate business ideas. For instance, they ignored important structural issues in some of the plans and ranked-objectively worse ideas- higher than the more-promising alternatives. Therefore, the results advocates getting a good night’s sleep before making a big decision can improve the process of ideation & evaluation for obtaining optimum results.

I Got the Moves Like Jagger ft. Pan troglodytes


A recent study by scientists at Kyoto University, Japan, has documented interesting dance-related behavior in chimpanzees—our closest “cousin” species.

When a trained female did not show expected rhythmic movement on a beat, the scientists saw another chimp in the proximity dancing to the same beat. They then played music to a group of adult chimps, 3 males and 4 females, and noticed that they danced to the music. The “dancing” included amusing movements like swaying, knocking on the enclosure walls, and foot-tapping. They saw that male chimps danced more than females. Interestingly, they also heard some male chimps “hooting” while dancing. They found that one male called Akira danced the most and focused their later study on him. Akira danced to music irrespective of its tempo, no matter what beat was played and when. This study on our closest “cousin” species could be a crucial step in the understanding of the evolution of dance in humans.

Could Machine Learning take down hate speech?

stressed man

For a long time, the thin line between freedom of speech and hate speech has been at the forefront of human rights-related debates. Lately, an engineer & a linguist from the University of Cambridge proposed to tackle this issue through a “quarantine” approach, similar to the process for checking malicious software & spams. Blocking just the keywords will not be an effective filter since the definition of hate speech varies on the basis of nation, law, and platform. Databases of threats and violent insults will help to create refined algorithms that can generate a “Hate-o-Meter” score for the likelihood of an online message containing different forms, syntaxes, or likenesses of hate speech. The interesting perspective this study puts forth is that the user will become the arbiter because the system will flag them to ‘tone themselves down’ when their comments are inundated with hate speech. Perhaps the future will hold a superior course to counter threats & intimidation with the help of virtual assistants like this.

Rachana Bhattacharjee, Anupama Prakash, Ritwika Roy, Sharang Kolwalkar, Indrani Das

Image Credits:
‘Stressed man’ Tim Gouw/Pexels
‘Neuron’ Colin Behrens/Pixabay
‘Tomatoes’ Nature Journal
‘Chimp’ Peter Fischer/Pixabay
‘Sleep’ Henrik Sorensen/Getty Images

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