Day: July 12, 2018

Machine learning boosts Swiss startup’s shot at human-powered land speed record

The current world speed record for riding a bike down a straight, flat road was set in 2012 by a Dutch team, but the Swiss have a plan to topple their rivals — with a little help from machine learning. An algorithm trained on aerodynamics could streamline their bike, perhaps cutting air resistance by enough to set a new record.

Currently the record is held by Sebastiaan Bowier, who in 2012 set a record of 133.78 km/h, or just over 83 mph. It’s hard to imagine how his bike, which looked more like a tiny landbound rocket than any kind of bicycle, could be significantly improved on.

But every little bit counts when records are measured down a hundredth of a unit, and anyway, who knows but that some strange new shape might totally change the game?

To pursue this, researchers at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne’s Computer Vision Laboratory developed a machine learning algorithm that, trained on 3D shapes and their aerodynamic qualities, “learns to develop an intuition about the laws of physics,” as the university’s Pierre Baqué said.

“The standard machine learning algorithms we use to work with in our lab take images as input,” he explained in an EPFL video. “An image is a very well-structured signal that is very easy to handle by a machine-learning algorithm. However, for engineers working in this domain, they use what we call a mesh. A mesh is a very large graph with a lot of nodes that is not very convenient to handle.”

Nevertheless, the team managed to design a convolutional neural network that can sort through countless shapes and automatically determine which should (in theory) provide the very best aerodynamic profile.

“Our program results in designs that are sometimes 5-20 percent more aerodynamic than conventional methods,” Baqué said. “But even more importantly, it can be used in certain situations that conventional methods can’t. The shapes used in training the program can be very different from the standard shapes for a given object. That gives it a great deal of flexibility.”

That means that the algorithm isn’t just limited to slight variations on established designs, but it also is flexible enough to take on other fluid dynamics problems like wing shapes, windmill blades or cars.

The tech has been spun out into a separate company, Neural Concept, of which Baqué is the CEO. It was presented today at the International Conference on Machine Learning in Stockholm.

A team from the Annecy University Institute of Technology will attempt to apply the computer-honed model in person at the World Human Powered Speed Challenge in Nevada this September — after all, no matter how much computer assistance there is, as the name says, it’s still powered by a human.

How to Prepare for the Hurricane Season: 5 Important Tips to Follow

Hurricane season officially started one month ago, but the peak has yet to come. Most severe hurricanes occur between mid-August and late September. This means you still have time to prepare your home and family by developing an effective hurricane plan.

Last year was a historically catastrophic year for hurricanes with Maria, Harvey, and Irma doing unthinkable damage to North and Central America. This is why it’s so important to start preparing for the hurricane season even before it starts. Don’t leave the survival of your home and your life up to chance.

Make sure you do these 5 things before the big storms make landfall over the next few months.

Have an Evacuation Plan

If your area is expected to be hit by a severe hurricane, you need to know where you can go, how you will get there, and what you will bring with you. When an evacuation is ordered for an area, people start to panic and don’t know what to do. If you have planned out exactly where you will evacuate to, there will be no reason for you to panic.

Start Gathering Supplies

gather supplies

One of the biggest issues people face when a hurricane is approaching is not being able to buy supplies such as basic food and water. Stores will quickly run out of water and non-perishable foods when a big storm is coming, so make sure you’re prepared by buying the supplies you need even before a warning is issued.

It’s better to be prepared for something that doesn’t happen, instead of not being prepared for something that is about to happen. You can store the supplies in a spare closet or your garage. If a storm doesn’t hit, you’ll just have a bunch of food and water for the rest of the year.

Have an Insurance Plan

If you live in a high-risk area such as a flood zone, it’s extremely important you have a good insurance plan in place. Don’t leave everything up to chance by skimping out on a flood or hurricane insurance policy for your home. Paying for this insurance is a small price to pay that will end up saving you in case of a major weather catastrophe.

Protect Important Documents and Other Belongings

protect documents

If you have documents such as a deed to your home or important family items that can’t be replaced, you need to protect them in case of a storm. Buy a hurricane-proof safe where you can put these things in so they are protected from any damage.

Protect Your Home

Make sure your home is as protected as possible before hurricane season. If possible, install storm windows so you don’t have to worry about putting up plywood when there’s a hurricane threat. Fix up any loose parts of your house because they can cause real damage in heavy winds.

Make sure your door has strong locks to keep them from blowing open during a hurricane. If a storm is about to hit, remove all loose items from around your home so they don’t fly around during the storm.

Conclusion

Taking these precautions is important, even if you think a hurricane is unlikely to hit this year. It never hurts to be prepared for the worst, but it can definitely hurt to not be prepared.

So, make sure you start preparing for the hurricane season before it hits. That way, you can feel confident in the safety of your home and your family.

See Also: Safety Tips for Natural Disasters: A Quick Guide On How To Secure Your Property

The post How to Prepare for the Hurricane Season: 5 Important Tips to Follow appeared first on Dumb Little Man.

The U.S. and ZTE reach a deal that will lift export ban

The United States government has made a deal with Chinese telecommunications giant ZTE that, once completed, will lift the ban preventing the company from working with American suppliers. The agreement eases tensions in the U.S.-China trade war because the seven-year denial order, which the Trump administration imposed in April after ZTE violated sanctions against North Korea and Iran, was a major point of contention between the two countries.

Our statement on #ZTE and the escrow agreement: pic.twitter.com/w0Bbej1mAU

— U.S. Commerce Dept. (@CommerceGov) July 11, 2018

According to a statement from the Commerce Department, once ZTE completes a $400 million escrow payment, the department’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) will lift the ban. The Commerce Department says “the ZTE settlement represents the toughest penalty and strictest compliance regime the Department has ever imposed in such a case. It will deter future bad actors and ensure the Department is able to protect the United States from those that would do us harm.”

Many U.S. lawmakers are still concerned about the security repercussions of the deal, however, and a bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation last week that could potentially restore some of the penalties imposed on ZTE.

The denial order was imposed because the Commerce Department claimed that ZTE violated U.S. laws against selling equipment containing American technology to Iran and North Korea, and not only failed to follow the terms of a 2017 agreement with the Department of Justice, but also lied to the U.S. The ban cut off access to several of ZTE’s key suppliers, including Qualcomm, and was severe enough that it was described as a “death penalty” for the company, which reportedly expected to lose $3 billion as a result.

But ZTE quickly became a pawn in the U.S-China trade wars and the Trump administration said in May that the company could continue buying from U.S. suppliers if it paid a fine of at least $1.3 billion and replaced its senior management and board. ZTE’s new management team was put into place last week, with new CEO Xu Ziyang promising stronger compliance procedures.

Michelle Wolf perfectly roasts Australia’s ‘bag rage’

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Some Australian customers are losing their damn minds after finding single-use plastic bags banned from many major supermarkets. One even became violent, a perpetrator of “bag rage.”

Oh, Michelle Wolf noticed.

The Break host took a moment during her  monologue this week to skewer part of the country’s attitude toward the plastic bag ban rolling out in some states, as Australia moves to reduce marine pollution.

Kicking off July 1, the states of Queensland and Western Australia banned single-use, lightweight plastic bags from major retailers. This means aligning with other state bans in the ACT, South Australia, and Tasmania. Read more…

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