Quantum Science, Talking About Death, Singing Blobs, More: Thursday ResearchBuzz, December 17, 2020


University of Helsinki: New on­line plat­form lets any­one ex­plore and learn about quantum technology. “QPlayLearn is a free online platform that lets anyone explore the concepts behind quantum technology, developed by researchers at the Universities of Turku and Helsinki, and Aalto University, supported by IBM and other partners. Our mission is to provide multi-level education on quantum science and technologies to everyone, regardless of their age and background. We use innovative interactive tools to make the learning process more effective and fun, and accessible at different levels, without giving away scientific correctness.”

Fast Company: This empathic website helps you think and talk about death. “Life Support is a new website from the London creative studio The Liminal Space, funded by the U.K. government. It’s a resource that proclaims, ‘Talking about dying won’t make it happen.’ And with that premise as a baseline, it lets you explore topics about death and dying from the perspectives of experts, like palliative care doctors and social workers.”


The Verge: Let the dulcet tones of Google’s Blob Opera ring in the holiday season with machine learning. “Hark! The blobs sing! Or at least, they do in Google’s latest machine learning experiment, the awe-inspiring Blob Opera, which will see a chorus of four adorable, colorful blobs serenade you with spine-tingling operatic music. Drag a blob up or down, and you’ll change what pitch they sing in; drag them from side to side, and you’ll change the vowel sound. Each blob will also harmonize with the others, in what can only be described as magical.” This is awesome and please release one where you can manipulate each blob and lock it in place.

Bing Blogs: Plan your day or week confidently with new forecasts from MSN Weather. “With so many things that feel outside our control, it’s helpful to know what to expect outside. Whether you are looking for the best time to take a run, planning a road trip, or chasing powder for a ski day, MSN Weather can help. Our new experience delivers accurate, state-of-the-art forecasts; interactive, animated maps that make the weather easy to understand; and timely weather notifications and news for severe weather events.”

Gizmodo: Substack Is Getting an RSS Feed Because Inboxes are a Disaster. “The Substack newsletter hype-cycle hit a fever pitch this fall when a bunch of high profile journalists defected to the platform in search of a new business model, which increasingly resembles a bunch of old business models balled up, Katamari-like, into a product without much of an identity. What does that even mean? Well, Substack is launching an RSS reader to help users sort through all those newsletters that are piling up in their inbox.” You can also add non-Substack feeds.


ArtDaily: Fellowship of stars battles to save Tolkien’s real Bag End. “Gandalf, Bilbo Baggins and other luminaries have formed a new crowd-funding fellowship to raise $6 million to buy the Oxford home of ‘The Lord of the Rings’ author J.R.R. Tolkien. Actors Ian McKellen and Martin Freeman, stars of Peter Jackson’s Oscar-winning film adaptations, have joined the “Project Northmoor” campaign to turn the sprawling house into a museum in honour of the fantasy writer.”

Cities Today: Lime partners with what3words to find abandoned e-scooters and bikes. “Micromobility firm Lime has partnered with mapping provider what3words to help members of the public report mis-parked e-bikes and scooters more easily. The mapping company’s technology divides the earth’s surface into 57 trillion three-metre squares. A unique three-word address is assigned to each square, intended to identify exact locations that are not captured by conventional address systems, like large parks.”

Bloomberg: Google AI Researchers Lay Out Demands, Escalating Internal Fight. “A group of Google artificial intelligence researchers sent a sweeping list of demands to management calling for new policies and leadership changes, escalating a conflict at one of the company’s prized units.”


BetaNews: Millions of medical images openly available online. “The analyst team at digital risk protection firm CybelAngel has discovered that more than 45 million medical imaging files, including X-rays and CT scans, are freely accessible on unprotected servers. The findings are the result of a six-month investigation into Network Attached Storage (NAS) and Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine (DICOM), the de facto standard used by healthcare professionals to send and receive medical data.”


Scientific American: Light-Based Quantum Computer Exceeds Fastest Classical Supercomputers. “For the first time, a quantum computer made from photons—particles of light—has outperformed even the fastest classical supercomputers. Physicists led by Chao-Yang Lu and Jian-Wei Pan of the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC) in Shanghai performed a technique called Gaussian boson sampling with their quantum computer, named Jiŭzhāng. The result, reported in the journal Science, was 76 detected photons—far above and beyond the previous record of five detected photons and the capabilities of classical supercomputers.”

ScienceBlog: Creating A Realistic VR Experience With Normal 360-Degree Camera. “Scientists at the University of Bath have developed a quick and easy approach for capturing 360° VR photography without using expensive specialist cameras. The system uses a commercially available 360° camera on a rotating selfie stick to capture video footage and create an immersive VR experience.Virtual reality headsets are becoming increasingly popular for gaming, and with the global pandemic restricting our ability to travel, this system could also be a cheap and easy way to create virtual tours for tourist destinations.”


The Next Web: New AI Scrabble mod only allows words that don’t exist. “A festive game of Scrabble is a time-tested method of surviving the extended company of obnoxious family members. But losing to a crabby relative can make their company even worse. But this year, uncle Nigel (name changed to protect identity) will face a different challenge. Thanks to a new AI version of the classic board game, his distressing knowledge of the dictionary will be of no use at all — because real words no longer count.” Good morning, Internet…

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