Also: Could we duplicate the moon walk today, the magic of liquid magnets, a machine outpaces humans in Rubik Cube contest, and hacking the boss gene

Machines Solve Rubiks Cube Faster than Humans

(University of California-Irvine News, 7/15/19)

Since its invention by a Hungarian architect in 1974, the Rubik’s Cube has furrowed the brows of many who have tried to solve it, but the 3D logic puzzle is no match for an artificial intelligence system created by researchers at the University of California, Irvine. DeepCubeA, a deep reinforcement learning algorithm programmed by UCI computer scientists and mathematicians, can find the solution in a fraction of a second, without any specific domain knowledge or in-game coaching from humans. The findings, published in this week’s Nature Machine Intelligence, will help to build the next generation of AI systems, the research team said.

Could the Moon Landing be Duplicated Today? Probably Not

(Ralph Vartabedian and Samantha Masunagam, Phys.Org, 7/16/19)

The Apollo program’s stunning technical success depended on a government leadership culture, an industrial organization, a tolerance for risk and a political environment that do not exist today—even as NASA insists it will land humans on the moon in five years.

Researchers Wirelessly Hack ‘Boss’ Gene

(Cory Nealon, University at Buffalo, 7/16/19)

A new University at Buffalo-led study describes how researchers wirelessly controlled FGFR1 — a gene that plays a key role in how humans grow from embryos to adults — in lab-grown brain tissue. The ability to manipulate the gene, the study’s authors say, could lead to new cancer treatments, and ways to prevent and treat mental disorders such as schizophrenia.

Scientists Discover Liquid Magnets That May Help in Drug Delivery

(Knvul Sheikh, New York Times, 7/18/201

In modern times, scientists have used magnets to read and record data on hard drives and form detailed images of bones, cells and even atoms. Now, a research study involving scientists from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has developed liquid magnets that could be useful for delivering drugs to specific locations in a person’s body, and for creating “soft” robots that can move, change shape or grab things.

WHO Declares Ebola a Global Health Emergency

(Helen Branswell, STAT, 7/18/19)

The World Health Organization declared the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo a global health emergency on Wednesday, a move that is likely to escalate international attention on a crisis that has flared for a year despite aggressive efforts to stamp it out. The declaration, which critics have contended is long overdue, could increase the amount of funding and assistance other countries are willing to provide to the response effort.