SciTech Bulletin 2.3

Your helpful digest of SciTech news: Volume 2 Issue 3

Creative visualization of The Big Bang

Research progresses by the day, new discoveries happen by the minute and earth shattering implications are realized in seconds.
Be it the simulation of a virtual Universe with the world’s fastest supercomputer, development of the world’s smallest neutrino detector, the creation of food from thin air or chatbots capable of creating their own tongue, the clock of man’s progress has ticked that much more.

Join us as we explore these developments in SciTech Bulletin 2.3.

Food from thin air

The mixture contains 50 per cent protein and 25 per cent carbohydrates. The rest is fats and nucleic acids. source

Scientists have managed to create a single celled protein from Carbon dioxide using electricity. Researchers from the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland and Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT) have built a ‘protein reactor’ of the size of a coffee maker, which can produce a gram of the powder in about a fortnight, with access to electricity.

The study is a major breakthrough in the ongoing efforts to produce food efficiently and eradicate global hunger. If the protein reactor was used to manufacture animal feed, it could then ease the pressure on land resources. It could also be transported to famine locations to immediate effect.

The technology is currently in its infancy and research is going on to make it more efficient.

For further information, read the Independent article about the breakthrough.

Recreating the universe with a piece of code

The study of outer space has long been a primary quest for scientists. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Computer scientists from China have recently crossed yet another milestone in the mission to understand the Universe with the help of the world’s fastest supercomputer ‘Sunway TaihuLight’ - which possesses 10 million CPU cores - by recreating the cosmos virtually.

Recreating the Big Bang and investigation of the early expansion of the universe could enable extensive probing on mysterious aspects of space such as dark matter. The simulation- which drove the supercomputer to its extreme limits - may be further extended in the near future with a computer of greater capacity to generate a simulation of a greater duration.

Find out more with the Engadget article here.

World’s smallest neutrino detector makes surprising discovery about elusive interactions

Prof. Juan Collar, who led the team, poses alongside the detector. Source: UChicago News

A UChicago-led team of physicists has built the world’s smallest neutrino detector to observe the elusive interaction for the first time.

Neutrino interactions are detected when they bump into a heavy nucleus, thus producing a barely measurable recoil. And although the probability of such an interaction occurring increases if heavy nuclei such as iodine, caesium or xenon are used, there is a trade-off involved. The heavier the detecting nucleus, the harder it is to detect a recoil. The lightweight and portable reactor, measuring only 4-inch-by-13-inch, uses caesium iodide crystal doped with sodium as the detector. In contrast, the world’s most famous neutrino observatories are equipped with thousands of tons of detector material.

The discovery is set to help scientists understand one of the most speculated-about particles in the world — the neutrino.

Learn more with the official UChicago article, or the Duke Today article.

Two Chatbots create and use original language during Facebook experiment

Customer using a chatbot to receive feedback. Source:

Facebook has put a full stop to one of its artificial intelligence experiments after two chatbots communicated in a language that is comprehensible to bots, but unintelligible to human beings. Having been programmed to negotiate a trade deal in English, the chatbots quickly reverted to a language that was an invention of their own, though it loosely seemed like a shorthand of English.

They understood each other well and pulled off a few negotiations in their time-efficient manner successfully. Nonetheless, since the main objective of the program was to interact with humans, the experiment was classified as a failure.

Consequently, Facebook abandoned the experiment and shut down the robots. However, many media outlets were quick to denounce the experiment as a mishap ominous of a rogue AI apocalypse in the near future, sensationalising the news. Facebook scientists were quick to respond, clarifying that the results were neither surprising nor terrifying.

Follow the entire story with the Hindustan Times article, or read as Snopes does a fact check on the “Skynet” claim.