Sleepless nights for Psyche, the light versus wildlife and the robot that thought it was human

“What happens if your rocket explodes in flight?” a high school student had asked him. “Can you start again?” “Oh nokindly replied Lindy Elkins-Tanton. In the world we live in, you don’t repeat an $800 million space mission.” The question was relevant, to say the least, because the specter of catastrophe haunts the nights of the director of the NASA-sponsored Psyche program, which at the end of September was supposed to send a probe to an asteroid 200 kilometers in diameter rotating between Mars and Jupiter.

slate reports these remarks in a nice excerpt, human and didactic Portrait of a scientist as a young woman”, the memoir of Lindy Elkins-Tanton, a professor at Arizona State University and a recognized specialist in planet formation. This geologist in charge of the conquest of space simply tells us what it takes to make a robot land on a pebble invisible from Earth after more than three years of travel. The asteroid Psyche would be made entirely of metal. It is a valuable witness to the birth of our solar system and the most easily observed sample of a metallic core similar to that which occupies the center of planet Earth. Only 3,000 kilometers under our feet, but forever out of reach.

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lighting

Every year on the evening of September 11, when New York illuminates the site of the defunct twin towers of the World Trade Center, the two powerful beams of light are quickly riddled with mysterious black dots. It’s birds, hundreds of birds, who, during their great autumn migration, are stopped by the 44 7,000-watt lightbulbs spinning exhaustedly in circles. When their number exceeds a thousand, city services turn off those headlights for twenty minutes to allow them to continue their journey.

This concern is rare. Ed Yong, the admirable science writer of The Atlantic, provides many more examples of the devastation the lights of human civilization wreak on wildlife. Every year in the United States, six million birds fall into heavily lit utility poles. At night, the baby turtles go to the massacre, confusing the glow of the streets under the lampposts with the slight hue of the sea.It would, however, not take anything to escape from this planetary scourge: light bulbs no longer permanently installed but flashing on the works of ‘Art; red streetlights instead of white LEDs that attract animals…

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The Puma Bridge

Other complaints from our animal friends have been heard in the White House. Joe Biden’s infrastructure renovation plan, voted on in November, provides $350 million in public funding to build sheltered passageways, footbridges or tunnels that allow animals to cross highways. Remind me every day MIT Technology Review, A million vertebrates of all species pass the wheels of automobiles in the United States. In Los Angeles, a new $90 million bridge, 40 meters wide, will soon span 10 lanes of Highway 101 to connect two mountain lion sanctuaries.

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Fired by Elon

SpaceX employees are fed up with their boss Elon Musk’s antics on social media, a source they believe “Distraction & [d’] Embarrassment”. the New York Times recalls Musk’s rather hasty comments on Twitter following allegations of sexual harassment made by a flight attendant, his political positions increasingly being voted in favor of the pro-Trump camp, leading to a letter from Employees to management internally in the space operator was circulated mailbox. In response, SpaceX identified and fired the leaders of the slingshot. We will listen with even greater interest to Elon Musk’s fervent calls to defend free speech.

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Lemoine and LaMDA

One of Google’s engineers, a man named Blake Lemoine, was asked by his superiors to get some rest, he says Washington Post. Lemoine, who works on the artificial intelligence program LaMDA, which specializes in reproducing human speech, is convinced that this chatbot, this “conversational assistant” designed to answer questions from the public, has reached a level that it is endowed with reason that he has a conscience and an intelligence comparable to those of his human interlocutors. LaMDA, of course, discusses with him the famous “Three Laws of Robotics” by the writer Isaac Asimov, confides in him the emotions, the sympathy he feels at the injustice experienced by Fantine, Cosette’s mother pathetic and admits that his worst existential fear is to turn him off, thereby broaching the thought of death.

Google’s management is minimizing the robot’s capabilities, claiming that the engineer is being abused by the masses of data LaMDA dumps during its conversations. So his “culture” wouldn’t be a conscience… Blake Lemoine also has a very human gift for annoying his bosses. He sought to hire an attorney to represent LaMDA and contacted a member of Congress to complain about Google’s ethical shortcomings in its work on artificial intelligence.

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