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April 14, 2024

Science news in review: Feb. 16

By KAIYUAN DU | February 16, 2023

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COURTESY OF MIKE MAC MARKETING /  CC BY 2.0

Though upcoming midterms might seem overwhelming, it doesn’t hurt to take five minutes to look at the cutting-edge updates in science and technology. This week, the latest research includes Google’s plan for a new artificial intelligence (AI), a discovery of a new type of ice and an innovative way to study mosquitoes.  

Google’s new Chat-GPT-like chatbot

Sundar Pichai, chief executive officer of Google and Alphabet, recently announced the release of Bard, a conversational artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot with “next-generation language and conversation capabilities.” The announcement follows the launch of  Chat-GPT, a popular language program that replicates human writing based on online information written by humans. Google has dedicated itself to developing and applying the technology to enhance language processing and translation. As Google joins the race in developing text-generating AI, the controversy about the role of AI service in education systems, art creations, academia and other fields continues to heighten. 

A novel state of water: medium-density amorphous ice

A research team from the University College London discovered a new type of amorphous ice — ice without a regular, long-range, molecular arrangement — with a density similar to water. This new form of ice, called medium-density amorphous ice (MDA), was created by shaking hexagonal ice with steel balls at very low temperatures. Ball milling, an established technique for making amorphous materials, was used to smash up ice chilled at temperatures as cold as –320 °F. By striking steel balls like a cocktail shaker, normal ice crystals began to break off, pushing water molecules to pack closer together. 

This study fills the gap in the understanding of crystalline and amorphous forms of ice and reveals that there is still more to learn about this simple, universal but unique structure.

New biomaterial substitute human subjects in mosquito tests

Scientists from Rice University and Tulane University created a mosquito feeding platform with a new type of bio-printed skin that mimicks the vascular network and other features of the human skin. Previous research models have required actual human subjects to act as attractants and as “meals” for the mosquitoes being studied. However, this platform enables researchers to observe feeding behaviors of mosquitoes and collect relevant data for as long as 30–45 minutes without human subjects. The researchers developed a machine learning model to analyze the data, which has been evaluated to have a mean average precision of 92.5%. The experimental platform has the potential to be expanded and modified to screen other substances for their impact on mosquitoes, shedding light on future research for finding effective repellents to decrease the spread of disease.

The connection between “voices” and voices

If you’re like most people, you probably don’t like hearing the sound of your voice. The origins of this phenomenon could actually be a useful tool in studying the mechanisms behind auditory hallucinations, or “hearing voices” experienced by people with schizophrenia. 

In a study published by Royal Society Open Science, researchers found that individuals wearing bone-conduction headphones were more likely to recognize the sound of their own voice. This is because the skull’s vibration makes one’s own voice sound deeper than it actually is. The ability to recognize one’s self speaking versus another person speaking is key to understanding auditory hallucinations, which have been framed by one hypothesis to occur when one’s own thoughts “sound” like the thoughts of someone else.  



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