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AI, science and new things

18 may 2022

Ancient tooth
How far did Homo Sapiens’ predecessors roam? We know Neanderthals colonised a lot of western Europe. There’s little sign of them elsewhere, but a 130,000 year-old child’s tooth found in a cave in Laos suggests the lesser-known Denisovans spread as far as southeast Asia. Denisovans were first identified as a genetic cousin of humans from an ancient wisdom tooth found in Siberia in 2010. A jawbone with similar DNA found in Tibet in 2019 gave rise to theories that Denisovans’ patch was big but limited to north and central Asia. The “new” tooth suggests otherwise. Also: they bred with humans. Their DNA is present in Aboriginal Australians and the people of Papua New Guinea. We have long roots. The Guardian has the story.

17 may 2022

Slow Twitch
Twitch, a video live streaming service, said it managed to take down the live stream of the mass shooting in Buffalo within two minutes of it starting. But two minutes was all it took for the video to be viewed millions of times. This is because it remains easy for viewers to re-upload copies of videos to other platforms. The attack at a supermarket on Saturday evening killed 10 and wounded three people. Eleven were Black. New York authorities are investigating it as a hate crime. In his video rant during the attack, the shooter, an 18-year old white man, said: “Live streaming this attack gives me some motivation in the way that I know that some people will be cheering for me.”

16 may 2022

Twitter bots
How many Twitter accounts are run by bots rather than humans? Twitter says it’s about 5 per cent. Elon Musk says it could be more and is using that idea as a pretext to slow-roll his $44 billion takeover of the platform. But how much more? He spent a good part of the weekend tweeting about Twitter bots (while meeting Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo to talk about new nickel supplies for his Tesla cars), and then almost casually suggested the real Twitter bot-share could be as high as 90 per cent of daily active users. If so, by crude extrapolation, most of us are bots. Musk is looking less and less serious about buying Twitter. That doesn’t mean he won’t do it; just that he won’t take it seriously.

13 may 2022

155 mm artillery
Nato-standard M777 howitzers are at last arriving at the Ukrainian front line, the WSJ and FT report. The Pentagon promised 90 of the 155mm guns last month but many had to be flown in from California and Ukrainian troops had to be trained in their use in Germany before their deployment in the Donbas. They have a longer range (up to 25 miles) than the Soviet-era artillery being used against them, and the hope is this will enable Ukraine’s forces to switch from defence to attack in the East. US and UK intelligence assessments this week say Ukrainian forces are already pushing Russian troops back north of Kharkiv, and a Twitter thread by a young Ukrainian soldier about the destruction of up to 32 Russian military vehicles trying to cross the Siverskyi Donets river appears to have been confirmed by drone footage.

12 may 2022

Russia hack
An hour before Russian troops invaded Ukraine in February, Russian hackers brought down key systems run by an American satellite company that in turn hit and permanently disabled modems, routers and terminals used by the Ukrainian military. An expert at SentinelOne, a cybersecurity firm, tells the MIT Technology Review it was the biggest hack of the war and among the first to show how cyberattacks can prepare the ground for real-world ones. Which makes it all the more remarkable that in this case the real world one ground so rapidly to a halt. Worth noting also: there haven’t been many big Russian hacks of Ukrainian systems since, that we know of. The jury’s out as to whether this is because of a successful cyber fightback or a decision by the Kremlin to keep its biggest cyber guns for later.

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