Science & Technology



Microsoft, Alibaba AI programs beat humans in a Stanford reading test

First, it was chess. Then it was Go. Now it's basic reading comprehension.

The robots are coming.

Two artificial intelligence programs created by Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba and Microsoft beat humans on a Stanford University reading comprehension test.

Alibaba took the honor as the creator of the first program to ever beat a human in a...Read more

Inside the global race to deliver a vital radioactive isotope used to detect cancer

JANESVILLE, Wis. -- In a cornfield here, past the shuttered General Motors plant and the Janesville Terrace trailer home park, a facility not seen in the United States in three decades could soon rise: a manufacturing plant that will make a vital radioactive isotope used to detect cancer and other potentially fatal maladies in millions of people...Read more

Getting a bone marrow transplant could give you new DNA, too

Q: Does a bone marrow transplant change your DNA?

A: Well, sort of, but probably not in the way you are imagining. Still, such transplants have led to some mighty interesting real-life cases for forensic scientists trying to sniff out the truth. Here's why:

As you probably know, certain cancers and other diseases may cripple your own bone ...Read more

California congressman wants to ask Intel, AMD and ARM about Meltdown and Spectre

A California congressman wants to meet with the Top 3 microchip makers to better understand the implications of two security flaws that affect almost all computing devices in the world.

Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, wrote a letter Tuesday to the CEOs of Intel, ARM and AMD to request a briefing. A member of the House Energy and Commerce ...Read more

Tech Q&A: Chip security fix hurts some PCs

Q: On Jan. 8, my 10-year-old, custom-built Windows 7 PC crashed. (I got the "blue screen of death.") My technician wonders whether I'm the victim of Microsoft's software patches for the AMD processor chip security problems, which locked up some computers. (The small Oregon firm that built my PC used a main circuit board from ASUS.)

My ...Read more

Jennifer Van Grove: A streaming TV state of the union

When I started this streaming TV column one year ago, we were at a tipping point in TV and entertainment. Today, the pendulum has swung to the side of streamers, who have more choice and customization options, including sports and local stations, than traditional pay TV customers.

As a result, more people than ever are ditching their providers....Read more

Helpware: Mice that keep you healthy

In the early days of electronic pagination some 40 years ago, I worked for a newspaper that bought the first one on the market. It was a monster of a computer, with a screen that was more than 30 inches wide. The screen's resolution was awful. The monitor flickered anytime a task was performed. The mouse was about as big as a size-15 men's shoe ...Read more

Do moon phases produce big earthquakes? Study debunks that idea

Huge earthquakes are not significantly influenced by the moon, a new study says.

The study, conducted by U.S. Geological Survey seismologist Susan Hough, looked at earthquakes of magnitude 8 or greater over the past four centuries. And a review of more than 200 earthquakes demonstrated that there is no connection between the phase of the moon ...Read more

Facebook 'fix' needed, early investor Roger McNamee says

Roger McNamee, founding partner of Elevation Partners and an early investor in Facebook, is making lots of noise about how to "fix" Facebook.

In the past week or so, he has written in the Washington Monthly, the Guardian and the Washington Post about Facebook's role in spreading fake news.

"It reads like the plot of a sci-fi novel: a ...Read more

In rural China, calling someone a 'witch' has serious social consequences

Witches continue to work their dark arts in some parts of the world, at least in the minds of their accusers.

For example, in a rural farming community in southwestern China, 13.7 percent of the population has been labeled "zhu," or "witch," by their neighbors, according to a new paper published Jan. 8 in Nature Human Behavior.

"'Zhu' ...Read more

One-two punch of the Thomas fire and debris flows leaves trail of destruction

LOS ANGELES -- Santa Barbara County crews worked through the holidays to defend coastal communities from the second half of Southern California's familiar cycle of fire and flood.

They cleaned out the 11 debris basins that dot the Santa Barbara front country, making room for the dirt and ash and rocks that winter rains would inevitably send ...Read more

Erosion is revealing surprising amounts of water ice on Mars

Thanks to erosion wearing away surface rock on Mars, scientists using NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter have spotted thick deposits of ice in the planet's mid-latitudes that extend hundreds of feet deep.

The discovery, described in the journal Science, could offer researchers a tantalizing new spot to sample our dusty, rusty neighbor.

"This ...Read more

Lionfish-killing contests help control them, study claims

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- They are festive killing sprees, contests among divers armed with spears and nets to catch the biggest haul of venomous, non-native fish that have colonized South Florida's reefs.

Lionfish derbies take aim at spiky, elaborately decorated fish from the Indian and Pacific oceans that have done to Florida's coastal waters ...Read more

As Trump's fossil-fuel 'energy dominance' plan founders, a crucial solar energy decision nears

During his first year in office, President Donald Trump has guided the ship of state directly into the headwinds of market instability, civic opposition, unstable finance and environmental risk in order to fortify the domestic coal and oil industries.

But this week, the administration's plan to achieve what it termed "American energy dominance"...Read more

Apple faces questions from senator over iPhone slowdown

The blowback over Apple slowing down iPhones just keeps coming.

Sen. John Thune, R-South Dakota, on Tuesday sent Apple a letter with questions about a software update that helped prevent unexpected battery shutdowns in older iPhone models but reduced their speed, according to multiple media outlets that have read the yet-to-be-released letter. ...Read more

Survey: Half of women in STEM jobs say they've felt discrimination

A new survey from Pew has this headline: "Women and Men in STEM Often at Odds Over Workplace Equity."

No kidding.

As Silicon Valley's workplace diversity wars play out -- and amid the spotlight on sexual harassment and abuse in the tech industry and beyond -- Pew Research's survey finds that half of women who work in science, technology, ...Read more

Study: Elephants, lions and other wild animals are sensitive to the effects of war

To the list of ways that humans are making it hard for zebras, giraffes and other large mammals to survive in the wild, you can now add war.

Researchers have new evidence that animals are exquisitely vulnerable to the effects of warfare. They analyzed 65 years of armed conflicts in Africa and found that exposure to just one year of war within a...Read more

Mysterious series of fast radio bursts may have been twisted by extreme environment

Astronomers watching a fast-radio burst flashing from more than 3 billion light-years away say that its source lies in an extreme environment with a powerful magnetic field -- perhaps a supermassive black hole, or the remains of a supernova.

The findings about the phenomenon known as FRB 121102, described in the journal Nature and at the ...Read more

Tableau goes Hyper to keep up with customers' data needs

SEATTLE -- Tableau Software is revamping a core part of its technology to analyze data faster, a move intended to keep up with its customers' increasing big-data needs.

The Seattle company, which makes software to visualize analytics, is introducing its so-called Hyper engine in a software update Wednesday. The technology is designed to make ...Read more

A time for small firms to take tech's stage

LAS VEGAS -- On any given day during the year, tech news is typically dominated by the Apples, Amazons, Facebooks and Googles of the world.

Not so every January, when CES descends on Las Vegas and attention turns for a few brief days to roughly 4,000 exhibiting companies, many of them little-known or completely unheard of start-ups.

Thanks to ...Read more