World’s first graduate-level AI university appoints world-renowned academic Eric Xing as President

His Excellency Dr. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, UAE Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology and Chairman of the MBZUAI Board of Trustees, said: “We are excited to welcome Professor Dr. Xing as the president of MBZUAI. He is one of the world’s foremost academics in the field of AI, and an exceptional business leader who understands the practical application of artificial intelligence. We are confident that Professor Dr. Xing will bring immense expertise to MBZUAI and our ambitions in this industry.”

Ranked as one of the top computer science professors worldwide, Professor Dr. Xing joins MBZUAI from Carnegie Mellon University in the US, where he most recently served as Associate Department Head of Research at the Machine Learning Department, part of Carnegie Mellon’s School of Computer Science. Additionally, he is the Founding Director of the Center for Machine Learning and Health, Carnegie Mellon University and University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Professor Dr. Xing has also spent time as Visiting Associate Professor at Stanford University, and as Visiting Research Professor at Facebook Inc.

A highly recognised and award-winning member of the AI community, the new MBZUAI President has authored or contributed to more than 370 research papers and reports. His research has been cited more than 35,000 times by leading academics and academic journals.

Professor Dr. Xing is also the Founder, Chairman, and Chief Scientist of Petuum, Inc, which has raised over $120 million funding since 2016 and was selected as a 2018 World Economic Forum Technology Pioneer.

Commenting on his appointment, Professor Dr. Xing said: “AI is one of the most transformational technologies of our time, with the potential to have an immeasurable positive impact on economies, industries, and society. As President of MBZUAI, my vision is to build and enable a generation of leaders who have the necessary understanding, expertise, and skills to unlock the full potential of AI through academic research and industry applications. It is a privilege to have this opportunity to lead such a ground-breaking establishment, and do so in the UAE, a country that has made AI a strategic national priority.” 

Since launching in October 2019, MBZUAI has achieved several important milestones, including the completion of its state-of-the-art campus in Masdar City and the successful completion of its first admissions cycle. The university recently extended admission offers to 101 students for the first academic year commencing in January 2021. Students accepted into the first cohort were selected from an elite group of 2,223 applicants of 97 different nationalities. Admitted students come from 31 countries.

SOURCE Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence (MBZUAI)

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Megalodon nurseries reveal world’s largest shark had a soft side

The enormous, extinct shark Megalodon probably doesn’t make you think of parenting and playdates. But a growing body of evidence suggests that these massive marine predators nurtured their babies by raising them in nurseries, and scientists just added five potential Megalodon nurseries to the list. 



a bird flying over a body of water: Megalodon, the biggest predatory shark of all time, watched over its young as many modern sharks do — by raising them in defined geographic areas known as nurseries.


© Provided by Live Science
Megalodon, the biggest predatory shark of all time, watched over its young as many modern sharks do — by raising them in defined geographic areas known as nurseries.

These baby-shark grounds are showing up all over. Scientists reported in 2010 that they had identified a Megalodon nursery in Panama. Recently, another team of researchers described a new Megalodon nursery site in northeastern Spain; fossils of fully grown sharks and youngsters were found together, with most of the fossils belonging to juveniles and newborns. 

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Those same scientists also analyzed data from eight other sites — from 16 million to 3 million years ago — where Otodus megalodon fossils were plentiful. They evaluated the body sizes of individual sharks to determine the ratio of juveniles to adults, and named four additional nursery sites. 

The results suggest that Megalodon adults commonly raised their young in nursery areas, where the wee shark babies would be protected until they were able to fend for themselves against other ocean predators. It also raises the possibility that the decline of available nursery sites may have contributed to the giant shark’s extinction, according to a new study.

Related: Photos: These animals used to be giants

O. megalodon is estimated to have measured up to 50 feet (15 meters) in length, making it the biggest predatory shark that ever lived. Most Megalodon fossils date to about 15 million years ago, and the giant fish vanished from the fossil record about 2.6 million years ago.

Today, many modern sharks raise their young in nurseries. Waters near northern Patagonia’s Buenos Aires province hold a nursery for several shark species, and a nursery of sand tiger sharks (Carcharias taurus) in Long Island’s Great South Bay hosts juvenile sharks that live there until they are 4 or 5 years old. And the oldest known shark nursery is more than 200 million years old, according to fossilized egg cases found alongside shark “baby teeth” that are just 0.04 inches (1 millimeter) long, Live Science previously reported.

For the new study, the researchers investigated 25 teeth belonging to O. megalodon  from the Reverté and Vidal quarries in Spain’s Tarragona province. They used tooth crown height to estimate body size and to identify which of the sharks were babies; very young sharks — likely about one month old — that measured about 13 feet (4 m) long, and older juveniles measured up to 36 feet (11 m) in length. 

The scientists then used algorithms to model and compare the ratio of O. megalodon juveniles to adults at eight other sites across “a wide geographical area” that included the Atlantic, Caribbean and Pacific basins. They determined five potential nurseries “with higher densities of

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The UAE has successfully launched the Arab world’s first Mars mission

The United Arab Emirates successfully launched its Mars-bound Hope Probe on Sunday, marking the the Arab world’s first interplanetary mission — and the first of three international missions to the Red Planet this summer.



a satellite in space


© MBRSC


The Hope Probe took off from the Tanegashima Space Center in Japan, after a delay last week due to bad weather. The solid rocket booster successfully separated from the launch vehicle, and the probe has established two-way communication with the ground segment in Dubai.

The Al Amal probe, as it is called in Arabic, is expected to reach Mars by February 2021. It will be the first time the UAE has orbited Mars, and the probe will stay in orbit for a Martian year — equivalent to 687 days on Earth — to gather data about Mars’ atmosphere.

“It’s an honor to be part of the global efforts to explore deep space,” tweeted the official Hope Mars Mission account after the launch. “The Hope Probe is the culmination of every single step that humans have taken throughout history to explore the unknown depths of space.”

The United States and China are also embarking on Mars missions this summer. NASA’s Perseverance Rover and China’s Tianwen 1 are expected to launch sometime between late July and early August, though the exact date will depend on daily launch conditions.

These three countries are all launching this summer due to the occurrence of a biennial window when Earth and Mars are closest together, making the journey a little bit shorter.

NASA tweeted its congratulations after Hope’s successful launch, writing on Perseverance’s official Twitter page: “I wish you a successful journey and look forward to the sol when we are both exploring Mars … I cannot wait to join you on the journey!”

Growing space sector

The Hope Probe is the UAE’s latest and most ambitious step in its burgeoning space sector.

The UAE has launched satellites before — in 2009 and 2013 — but they were developed with South Korean partners. The country founded its space agency in 2014, and has set ambitious targets including a colony on the Martian surface by 2117.

Government officials have previously spoken of the space program as a catalyst for the country’s growing STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) sector.

Simply making it this far was an impressive feat for the Gulf country. Most Mars missions take between 10 to 12 years to develop — but UAE scientists had just six years to carry out the project.

To build the spacecraft, they partnered with a team in the US, at the University of Colorado Boulder’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics. And to find a novel science objective for Hope’s mission, they consulted the Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group (MEPAG), a forum created by NASA to plan explorations of Mars.

They decided to use Hope to build the first full picture of Mars’ climate throughout the Martian year, said Sarah Al Amiri, the mission’s science lead.

“The data gathered by the

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Even Mount Everest, the World’s Tallest Peak, Can’t Escape Microplastics | Smart News

Two years ago, scientists reported that plastic pollution has found its way into the Mariana Trench, the darkest, deepest part of the ocean. Now, plastic has officially infiltrated the highest point above sea level: Mount Everest.

A study published November 20 in the journal One Earth reveals microplastics have been found up and down Mount Everest in staggering concentrations, reports Carolyn Wilke for Science News.

Last year, a team of 34 scientists embarked on an icy expedition up Mount Everest to better understand how climate change is affecting the highest point above sea level on Earth. (Mount Chimborazo in Ecuador is the furtherest point away from Earth’s core, and Mauna Kea is the tallest from base to peak.) As part of their research, they scooped up snow samples from various spots on the mountain and stored them in stainless steel jars to bring back to the lab for testing, reports Freddie Wilkinson for National Geographic. Upon analysis, the team found that all 11 of the samples they collected had tiny shreds of microplastics imbued in the snow, reports Science News.

“It really surprised me to find microplastics in every single snow sample I analyzed,” lead author Imogen Napper, a marine scientist at the University of Plymouth in England, says in a press release. “Mount Everest is somewhere I have always considered remote and pristine. To know we are polluting near the top of the tallest mountain is a real eye-opener.”

On average, the team detected around 30 bits of microplastics per quart of water. But they detected the highest concentration of microplastics—119 particles per quart of water—around Everest Base Camp, where climbers spend time resting, regrouping and acclimatizing to the high elevation, reports Damian Carrington for the Guardian.

Most of the fibers were polyester, but they also found significant traces of acrylic, polypropylene and nylon, reports National Geographic. Given the type of plastic and the fact that the highest concentrations were found around base camp, the fibers were most likely shed from the mountaineers’ clothing and equipment, such as insulated jackets, tents and ropes.

Microplastic fibers are so small that they are often invisible to the naked eye, but those tiny threads accumulate in massive numbers. A study published in February suggests that a two-pound synthetic jacket sheds 400 microplastic fibers for every 20 minutes of use. Over the course of a year, that jacket can shed a billion fibers, reports National Geographic.

Even the highest points of Everest weren’t spared from plastic pollution. Scientists found trace amounts of plastic at an elevation of 27,690 feet, just 1,345 feet shy of the mountain’s peak, reports Science News.

“These are the highest microplastics discovered so far,” Napper says. “While it sounds exciting, it means that microplastics have been discovered from the depths of the ocean all the way to the highest mountain on Earth. With microplastics so ubiquitous in our environment, it’s time to focus on informing appropriate environmental solutions. We need to protect and care

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Fossils purported to be world’s earliest animals revealed as algae

Nov. 23 (UPI) — Fossils previously heralded as the earliest evidence of animal life have been revealed to be algae. The reinterpretation, announced Monday in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution, will force scientists to reconsider early animal evolution.

“It brings the oldest evidence for animals nearly 100 million years closer to the present day,” study co-author Lennart van Maldegem said in a news release.

“We were able to demonstrate that certain molecules from common algae can be altered by geological processes — leading to molecules which are indistinguishable from those produced by sponge-like animals,” said van Maldegem, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Australian National University.

The new research reverses the trend of fresh discoveries pushing the emergence of animal life further and further back on the evolutionary timeline.

For decades, scientists have struggled to pinpoint the origins of animal life, but recently, a series of discoveries suggested sponge-like animals began proliferating in Earth’s oceans during the Ediacaran Period, as many 635 million years ago.

“Ten years ago, scientists discovered the molecular fossils of an animal steroid in rocks that were once at the bottom of an ancient sea in the Middle East,” said study co-author Jochen Brocks.

“The big question was, how could these sponges have been so abundant, covering much of the seafloor across the world, but leave no body fossils?” said Brocks, an ANU professor.

It turns out, sponges weren’t abundant — they didn’t exist yet.

Though it’s true that sponges remain the only organisms that produce the steroids of note, the latest research suggests ocean chemistry can convert algae sterols into ‘animal’ sterols.

“These molecules can be generated in the lab when simulating geological time and temperatures, but we also showed such processes did happen in ancient rocks,” said ANU researcher Ilya Bobrovskiy, who first discovered the steroid fossils 10 years ago.

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The education app that is making equals of Bill Gates and the world’s masses

  • The Covid-19 pandemic has led to the 500 million-download mark for Duolingo.
  • Swedish is the most popular language studied in Sweden because of Syrian refugees, while Bill Gates uses it to study French.
  • The language learning start-up was just valued at $2.4 billion by investors, which is just about $1 billion more than its valuation from just a year ago.



Luis von Ahn standing posing for the camera: Duolingo Co-founders Severin Hacker (L) and Luis von Ahn (R)


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Duolingo Co-founders Severin Hacker (L) and Luis von Ahn (R)

During the coronavirus crisis, Duolingo has seen a huge spike in new users. In fact, it’s become the world’s

How Duolingo is disrupting language learning with free app

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language learning app, amassing more than 500 million downloads to date.

What many don’t know is that the world’s most popular education app began as a computer science project for co-founders Severin Hacker and Luis von Ahn, teaching people foreign languages while trying to simultaneously translate the entire internet. Von Ahn was one of the developers behind the invention of CAPTCHA and ReCAPTCHA, which are used to distinguish humans from machines.

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But von Ahn says that what he really wanted to do was make education more accessible.

“We’ve always been a very mission-driven company,” he told CNBC at Wednesday’s Disruptor 50 Summit. “A lot of people talk about education as something that brings equality to social classes, but I always thought of it as the opposite — something that brings inequality.”

Von Ahn grew up in Guatemala, where education is free and compulsory through sixth grade, or between the ages of 7 and 14. Today, there are approximately 9,300 primary schools, which are attended by 1.3 million students. More than 290,000 students attend private secondary schools, and approximately 88,000 are enrolled in university.

“What happens, particularly in poor countries like Guatemala, is that people who have money can buy themselves the best education in the world, whereas people who don’t have money barely learn how to read or write,” von Ahn said.

The universal language: Duolingo co-founder and CEO joins CNBC’s Disruptor 50 Summit

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Pittsburgh-based Duolingo offers 95 courses across 38 distinct languages — from the world’s most spoken, such as Spanish, French and Italian, to endangered languages like Hawaiian, Navajo and Scottish Gaelic. In addition to its core platform, the company created the Duolingo English Test, an affordable and convenient language certification option accepted by more than 2,000 universities and institutions worldwide. 

“One of the things that makes me proudest is that Duolingo really is used by the whole spectrum of society,” von Ahn said. “On one end there are a lot of Syrian refugees that use Duolingo to learn the language of the country that they move to … in Sweden, the most commonly learned language is Swedish and it’s because of Syrian refugees.”

On the other end of the spectrum, Bill Gates uses Duolingo to learn French.

“The same system is being used by billionaires and people who don’t have very much money,

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World’s Largest Wetland Has Worst October Fires on Record

(Bloomberg) — Brazil’s Pantanal wetlands, a fragile cradle of endangered species, burned at the fastest rate for the month of October since record keeping started in 1998, further damaging the country’s environmental credentials.

At least 2,846 fire spots have been registered this month in the biome, surpassing a previous 2002 record, according to data from Brazil’s Spacial Research Institute, known as INPE. So far this year, an area larger than the size of Belgium has been lost to the flames.



chart: Brazil's wetlands are burning at a record rate this year.


© Bloomberg
Brazil’s wetlands are burning at a record rate this year.

The Pantanal is home to around 1,200 species of animals, about 40 of which are threatened with extinction. Photos of burnt animals found among the ashes, including rescued Brazilian jaguars with bandaged paws, have shocked the world and raised questions about Brazil’s environmental policies.

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With the Amazon rainforest also burning at a record pace this year, foreign investors have started to demand more action from President Jair Bolsonaro’s administration to protect the environment.

Although a wetland, the Pantanal is facing its worst drought in 47 years, which has contributed to the spread of the flames. Brazil’s government has pointed to the drought as the “major cause” of the fires, but environmental organizations say the blazes have been caused primarily by humans. The environment ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

Read more: Bolsonaro Slams Biden’s Plan to Stop Amazon Deforestation

INPE uses satellites to detect fire spots at least 30 meters long and 1 meter wide. One spot, however, can encompass a vast area. More than 3.5 million hectares — an area larger than Belgium — have already burned this year in the Pantanal, according to data from the state of Mato Grosso do Sul, where the majority of the biome is located.

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U.S. is one of the world’s top contributors to coastal plastic pollution

Oct. 30 (UPI) — The coastline of the United States is relatively clean compared to other parts of the world, but new research suggests the U.S. is one of the world’s top contributors to coastal plastic pollution.

The U.S. exports large amounts of plastic waste. Previous studies have ignored plastic scrap exports, offering the impression that the United States was effectively collecting, disposing and recycling its plastic waste, researchers have said.

According to a new study, published Friday in the journal Science Advances, more than half of the plastic waste collected for recycling in the U.S. — 1.99 million metric tons of 3.91 million metric tons — is shipped out of the country.

Researchers found the vast majority of exported plastic scraps, 88 percent, ends up in countries that are struggling to adequately manage plastic waste. Environmental scientists determined at least 1 million metric tons of plastic waste exported by the U.S. ends up polluting environments abroad every year.

“For years, so much of the plastic we have put into the blue bin has been exported for recycling to countries that struggle to manage their own waste, let alone the vast amounts delivered from the United States,” study lead author Kara Lavender Law said in a news release.

“And when you consider how much of our plastic waste isn’t actually recyclable because it is low-value, contaminated or difficult to process, it’s not surprising that a lot of it ends up polluting the environment,” said Law, a research professor of oceanography at the Sea Education Association.

Researchers also determined that a small but not inconsequential amount of plastic waste collected in the U.S. each year — 2 to 3 percent — is littered or illegally dumped.

After accounting for exported waste, as well as littered or illegally dumped domestic waste, researchers determined the U.S. was responsible for 2.25 million metric tons of plastic pollution in 2016, the last year for which pollution data is readily available.

Roughly two-thirds of the plastic polluted by the U.S. ends up in coastal environs, according to the new study — making the U.S. the world’s third largest producer of coastal plastic pollution.

Despite accounting for just 4 percent of the world’s population, the U.S. is responsible for 17 percent of the world’s coastal plastic pollution.

“The United States generates the most plastic waste of any other country in the world, but rather than looking the problem in the eye, we have outsourced it to developing countries and become a top contributor to the ocean plastics crisis,” said study co-author Nick Mallos.

“The solution has to start at home. We need to create less, by cutting out unnecessary single-use plastics; we need to create better, by developing innovative new ways to package and deliver goods; and where plastics are inevitable, we need to drastically improve our recycling rates,” said Mallos, senior director of the Ocean Conservancy’s Trash Free Seas program.

The researchers suggest their findings should serve as a wakeup call for U.S. policy makers and

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Scientists used a 3D printer to create the world’s smallest boat

Using an electron microscope, a team from Leiden University constructed the vessel as part of research into potential designs for vehicles that could travel inside the human body, for example to administer medical treatments.

It is a tiny copy of the “Benchy” boat, a test structure often used to test the effectiveness of 3D printers.

“We focused a laser inside a droplet,” Daniela Kraft, a physicist at the Dutch university told CNN. “If we move the laser through the droplet, we write the structure that we want,” she explained. “For example, if we move it in a helix, we are writing a helix.”

The boat was just one of many structures created by the researchers conducting investigations into microswimmers: small particles that can move through fluids, and be followed by a microscope.

Biological microswimmers are microorganisms that propel themselves, including bacteria, algae and sperm.

Synthetic, self-propelled microswimmers could have a range of uses, including delivering drugs in the human body, Kraft told CNN.

Experts created several shapes, including a spiky sphere, a starship, a spiral, a helix, a trimer and and a 3D Benchy boat.
Researchers conducted the study, published in the Soft Matter journal, to understand how certain shapes of synthetic self-propelled microswimmers affected motion and traction, and better understand the behavior of bacteria. Experts were able to create objects measuring just 4 micrometers. One micrometer is equal to 0.001 mm, or about 0.000039 inch.
'Fireball' meteorite that fell to Earth in 2018 reveals its secrets

“We hope to learn about what is now a good design principle for creating a little drug delivery vehicle — if you have a little particle that goes to a specific part of the body to deliver drugs, then it has to propel itself, and it may have to deal with the environment in your body, which is very complex,” Kraft told CNN.

“What we are trying to answer is: what would be a good design? What would be a great shape so that it can go around and be efficient?”

Kraft told CNN that particles created in a helix shape showed promising movement.

“When it moves forward, often it needs to rotate, and that helps, for example, to speed it up. If you think about applications, if you want to have a little machine that goes somewhere, it might be more useful to have a helix shape, because it swims faster,” she said.

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Infinera Partners with ESnet to Upgrade the World’s Most Advanced Scientific Data Network

U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Sciences Network (ESnet)

Infinera and ESnet
Infinera and ESnet
Infinera and ESnet

SUNNYVALE, Calif., Oct. 27, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Infinera (NASDAQ: INFN) is proud to announce a contract award with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Energy Sciences Network (ESnet) to build the optical substrate for its next-generation science network, ESnet6, interconnecting the DOE’s national laboratory system and experimental facilities with research and commercial networks around the globe. Based on a next-generation hardware and software stack, ESnet6 will provide unparalleled support for global science and pave the way for future advancements in the areas of streaming data analytics, artificial intelligence/machine learning, workflow management, and the integration of compute, storage, and networking capabilities.

The ESnet6 optical network is powered by the Infinera GX Series Compact Modular Platform and FlexILS Open Optical Line System. ESnet’s open optical networking approach combined with Infinera’s GX and FlexILS with coherent 600G technology enables deployment of today’s state-of-the art technology plus future-proofs the network with the ability to seamlessly upgrade to 800G capability once available.

With science data traffic over ESnet doubling every 20 months, Infinera capabilities ensure ESnet can provide 400 Gigabit Ethernet-based services through this open and flexible architecture. Deployed nationwide, the Infinera GX Series and FlexILS Open Optical Line System solutions provide a flexible and scalable foundation with C+L-band capability for further scale at the photonic layer.

“ESnet6 represents a transformational change in the capacity, resiliency, and flexibility and brings tangible benefits to the DOE’s science mission,” said Kate Mace, ESnet6 Project Director. “Open optical networking technology plays a key role in ESnet’s ability to meet the ongoing challenges of data traffic growth while supporting the high-speed and real-time collaboration capabilities that are critical to our nation’s science programs.”
        
As the world’s leading science data network, ESnet connects all of the DOE’s geographically distributed laboratories, experimental facilities, and computing centers across a dedicated fiber optic backbone that stretches across the U.S. and beyond. These capabilities provide the foundation for scientists to move, share, analyze, and store data no matter where in the world the data may be. Partnering with ESnet, Infinera quickly and safely deployed new equipment, performed testing, and turned up services over 15,000 miles of fiber during a global pandemic.

“ESnet was pleased to see Infinera’s team make such fast work of this large installation task during a pandemic. This high-speed connectivity provides the foundation to meet our mission of accelerating scientific discovery,” said Inder Monga, Executive Director of ESnet and Division Director of Scientific Networking at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. “ESnet enables tens of thousands of scientists to access data portals, transfer vast research data streams, and tap into remote scientific instruments and sources — all in real time.”

“Infinera is delighted to partner with ESnet to deploy a high-capacity open optical network connecting all the national laboratory locations in the U.S. with high-performance computing locations,” said Nick Walden, Senior Vice President, Sales at Infinera. “This collaboration underscores the value of our relationship and ability

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