Most artificial intelligence is still built on a foundation of human toil. Peer inside an AI algorithm and you’ll find something constructed using data that was curated and labeled by an army of human workers. Now, Facebook has shown how some AI algorithms can learn to do useful work with far less human help. The company built an algorithm that learned to recognize objects in images with little help from labels. The Facebook algorithm, called Seer (for SElf-supERvised), fed on more than a billion images scraped from Instagram , deciding for itself which objects look alike. Images with whiskers, fur, and pointy ears, for example, were collected into one pile. Then the algorithm was given a small number of labeled images, including some labeled “cats.” It was then able to recognize images as well as an algorithm trained using thousands of labeled examples of each object. “The results are impressive,” says Olga Russakovsky , an assistant professor at Princeton University … [Read more...] about Facebook’s new AI teaches itself to see with less human help
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Worldwide, there are 107 boy babies born for every 100 girl babies. This skewed ratio is partly due to sex-selective abortion and "gendercide," the killing of female infants, in countries such as China and India where males are more desired. But even discounting those factors, the completely natural male-to-female sex ratio still hovers around 105:100, meaning that women are inherently more likely to give birth to boys. Why? Several factors influence whether a sperm containing a Y sex chromosome or one containing an X chromosome will be first to fertilize an egg, including parental ages, their environmental exposure, stress, the stage in the mother's ovulation cycle and even whether she has had children previously; all these forces combine to set the average sex ratio at fertilization at 105:100. But what good is this built-in bias? Many demographers have speculated that the gender imbalance at birth may be evolution's way of evening things out overall. Male infants more … [Read more...] about Why Are More Boys Born Than Girls?
Garbage dumps may be such attractive pit stops for some storks that they shorten their migration routes to pay a visit, a new study suggests. A few years ago, Andrea Flack, a postdoctoral researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, was tracking the path of white storks from Germany, trying to get close enough to the birds to download flight data from the GPS trackers attached to their backs. Flack eventually found herself standing in an open garbage dump in Morocco, staring at her research subjects. Instead of migrating across the Sahara Desert like many other white stork populations, these birds preferred to spend the winter feeding on trash. "We don't really know yet how much impact it has on their survival," Flack told Live Science. "We can think of it in two ways: On one hand, they have more to eat, and on landfill sites , some populations may increase in size. But we also don't know what kind of long-term effect this waste-feeding has. They might get poisoned … [Read more...] about Migrating Storks Can’t Resist a Garbage Dump Feast
Whooping cranes have made an astonishing comeback in North America, thanks in part to some bizarre conservation methods. Over the past 13 years, dozens of cinnamon-brown chicks have been raised in captivity to be released into the wild, and they've learned their survival skills from biologists who dress up in vaguely birdlike costumes. Strange as it sounds, this elaborate game of role-play has helped establish a new flock of whooping cranes that migrates each year from Wisconsin to Florida. But now, conservationists are faced with a conundrum: The birds raised by humans are turning out to be bad parents, and scientists don't know exactly where they're going wrong. The people trying to save whooping cranes are now testing a new approach: They're matching some chicks with adult bird parents that can hopefully step in where humans are failing. [ Quest for Survival: Photos of Incredible Animal Migrations ] A tentative success story In 1940, there were just 22 whooping cranes … [Read more...] about Birds of a Feather: Whooping Cranes Need Parents More Like Them
Male zebra finches who grow up without fathers aren't doomed to a song-less adulthood; they can still learn their dad's tune by mimicking their brothers, researchers say. Songbirds have a knack for vocal learning that's rare in the animal kingdom. The birds' songs are not innate; rather, they pass down melodies from one generation to the next, somewhat like human parents who teach their children to speak, but on a much shorter timeframe. Male zebra finches start memorizing their dad's song as early as 17 days old. They practice and perfect it by imitating their dads over the next several weeks. By the time they reach adulthood, at roughly 100 days old, the birdsong is set in stone and the finches use it in an attempt to woo mates. But just as human children can also pick up language quirks from their peers, zebra finches can pick up songs by listening to their siblings when an adult isn't around, the new study finds. Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for … [Read more...] about Songbirds Can Learn Dad’s Tune from Brothers