Is This The End of Privacy?

 A small U.S. start-up, Clearview AI, has devised a ground-breaking facial recognition app. You take a picture of a person, upload it and get to see public photos of that person, along with links to where those photos appeared.

The system — whose backbone is a database of more than three billion images that Clearview claims to have scraped from Facebook, YouTube, Venmo and millions of other websites — goes far beyond anything ever constructed by the United States government or Silicon Valley giants.

Federal and state law enforcement officers said that while they had only limited knowledge of how Clearview works and who is behind it, they had used its app to help solve shoplifting, identity theft, credit card fraud, murder and child sexual exploitation cases.

Until now, technology that readily identifies everyone based on his or her face has been taboo because of its radical erosion of privacy. Tech companies capable of releasing such a tool have refrained from doing so; in 2011, Google’s chairman at the time said it was the one technology the company had held back because it could be used “in a very bad way.” Some large cities, including San Francisco, have barred police from using facial recognition technology.

Broad-spectrum Solar Breakthrough

 A new molecule developed by Ohio State University scientistscan harvest energy from the entire visible spectrum of light, bringing in up to 50 percent more solar energy than current solar cells, and can also catalyse that energy into hydrogen.

Hydrogen is viewed by many folks, particularly in Japan and Korea, as the clean-burning fuel that might power our vehicles in a low-emissions future. One way to produce hydrogen is to split it out of water. This is typically done by splitting water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen using electricity, but a potentially simpler and more efficient way to do it may be through photocatalytic water splitting, which uses light itself as the energy source instead of electricity, removing electricity production from the process altogether.

Nobody has yet managed to commercialize photocatalytic hydrogen production, but it’s a hot area of research, and this OSU team claims it’s discovered one of the most efficient photocatalytic molecules to date.

Warm Hands Without Gloves

 Get cold hands, but hate wearing gloves? Then there might soon be a technology that can help you. The US Army is developing an arm heater that allows people to go glove-freein freezing conditions, helping them to carry out mechanical repairs or first aid.

Gloves can keep your hands at a comfortable temperature, but they often reduce dexterity. Take off your gloves, though, and numbing cold has an equally detrimental effect on your fine motor skills, as well as being extremely uncomfortable.

John Castellani and his team at the US Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine in Massachusetts are attempting to solve the problem with a pair of electrically heated armbands worn around the forearms.

A Protein Can Simulate Exercise

 For people such as the elderly, injured or physically challenged, getting enough exercise can be difficult. Help may be on its way, however, as new research indicates that an existing protein provides some of the key benefits of exercise.

Previous studies have already shown that a naturally-occurring protein known as Sestrin accumulates in the muscles after intense physical activity. Scientists from the University of Michigan therefore wanted to see if artificially upping an animal’s Sestrin levels could produce the beneficial effects that are associated with the protein.

They started with three groups of Drosophila flies.

One group was normal, one group had been bred to lack the ability to produce Sestrin, and one had been altered to overexpress Sestrin. All three groups were physically trained for three weeks, on a sort of mini treadmill designed by colleagues at Detroit’s Wayne State University.

When the insects’ ability to run and fly for prolonged periods was subsequently tested, it was found that while the regular flies had improved, those lacking Sestrin had not. The flies that overexpressed the protein, however, experienced even more of an improvement than the regular flies – this was the case even when the Sestrin-boosted insects hadn’t trained at all.

A Contact Lens For Augmented Reality

 Although augmented reality (AR) glasses are potentially very useful, they can also be awkward to wear and sometimes kind of funny-looking. California-based start-up Mojo Vision is developing a sleeker, less-dorky alternative, in the form of an AR contact lens.

Currently in working prototype form, the company’s Mojo Lens features what is being billed as “the smallest and densest dynamic display ever made.”

Superimposed over the wearer’s view of the real world, moving text and graphics are delivered at a pixel pitch of over 14,000 ppi (pixels per inch) and a pixel density of over 200 million pixels per square inch.

Also built into the lens is “the world’s most power-efficient image sensor optimized for computer vision,” a radio transmitter/receiver, and motion sensors that both track the user’s eye movements and stabilize the MicroLED display. And while the current prototype is wirelessly powered, we’re told that plans call for the final version to incorporate a thin-film battery that should be good for one full day of use per charge.

Swarms Of Night-Flying Drones Alarm U.S. Authorities

 Mysterious drone swarms have been seen flying in Colorado, Nebraska and Wyoming at night since December, sometimes over locations believed to house nuclear missile silos. A federal task force has been formed to investigate the drones’ origin and purpose.

The Phillips County Sheriff’s Office in Colorado reported the first drones on 20 December. There have been hundreds of sightings since, some of groups of drones flying in grid patterns.

Some observers assumed the drones were part of a military exercise, but the US Air Force has denied involvement. There is no evidence of malicious intent, although the drone operators are breaking US regulations governing flying at night.

The drones are described as resembling model aircraft with a wingspan of around 2 metres. None has been recovered or even photographed. Similar drones are widely available online for a few hundred dollars.

New Cancer Treatment Shrinks “100% of Tumours”

 Israeli firm Alpha Tau Medical has developed a new cancer treatment that attacks tumours while sparing healthy tissue. The treatment is called Alpha DaRT (Diffusing Alpha-emitters Radiation Treatment)

Alpha DaRT uses, for the first time, alpha radiation for solid tumour treatment. But it does so in a way that the body can tolerate it.

Most cancer treatments out there are simply not tolerable. Our bodies were not made to be exposed to them.

Alpha particles have a high capacity to destroy cancer cells without causing side effects on healthy cells. However, they have extremely short path length in tissue, meaning that up to now they could not get across the entire volume of a tumour.

ALPHA DaRT technology uses the radioactive decay of an isotope called radium-224 to power the spread of alpha particles across entire tumours. This makes ALPHA DaRT technology a powerful cancer-killing agent with minimum side effects.

This limits collateral damage during cancer treatment. Studies done on the treatment are very promising showing a very high level of safety for patients.

Parallel Reality: Personalised Departure Boards For Every Flyer

 A revolutionary airport departures board will give personalised flight details to each user looking at it.

Delta, the US airline, said that it would test new technology this year in Detroit that would allow up to 100 people to look at the same departure board and each see only their own information.

Each flier will see the relevant flight time, gate number, distance to gate, and arrows showing the way, all in the language of their choosing.

The technology behind this feature is called parallel reality and has been created by the start-up Misapplied Sciences, in which Delta bought a stake this month. The airline unveiled it at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), the world’s largest technology conference, in Las Vegas.

Parallel reality relies on “multi-view” pixels, which can send different colours of light in tens of thousands of directions. A person standing to the right of the pixel might see a green light, while someone on the left will see a red light.

Spray-On DNA For Rapid Plant Modification

 Genetically modifying plants could soon be almost as easy as spraying them with water. A new technique that uses DNA attached to nanoparticles could have a wide variety of uses, including changing the properties of crops while they are growing in fields.

“It was so straightforward,” says Heather Whitney at the University of Bristol in the UK. “It was really surprising how easy it was.”

Whitney and her team have so far tested their technique on various plants, including wheat, maize, barley and sorghum. They simply used an ordinary plant mister to spray leaves with water containing nanoparticles called carbon dots that were bound to DNA.

Rejuvenating Ovaries After Chemotherapy

 It may be possible to rejuvenate ovaries after chemotherapy without the need for surgery, after the fertility of female mice was successfully restored following injections of donor cells.

The approach involves injecting either stored or donated follicles – the cells in ovaries that contain and eventually release egg cells – into the ovaries. The technique is “able to rejuvenate the potential of the ovary using donated follicles” and could “prolong the fertility of women”, says Michael Dahan at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, who wasn’t involved in the work.

Some cancer treatments can affect the supply of eggs, and may make it more difficult to conceive after treatment. People undergoing these treatments may have pieces of their ovary removed and frozen beforehand, in order to preserve their fertility. These tissues can then be surgically reimplanted if someone wants to get pregnant. Over 130 babies have been born following this type of procedure.