Proof the UK is taking big data seriously

Big data projects in the UK have received a large boost as the government has pledged to support the big data revolution by making £73m available to help unlock the potential of datasets.

In total 55 projects split across four groups that including medical, arts and environmental sectors will be benefiting from the investments made by officials.

It is claimed that within the next three years that big data will help to boost the UK economy by £216bn, making it one of the largest growing trends in the country. The most recent funding was announced by Universities and Science Minister David Willetts and follows the promised £189m funding announcement for big data in 2012.

The government also claims that big data projects will create 58,000 new jobs by 2017, as well as helping to drive innovation.

The funding is a boost to those working with big data and also for those who support its use to help develop advancements for society.

Receiving the biggest proportion of the money is the Medical Research Council who will be investing £50m in bioinformatics, which uses areas of computer science, statistics, mathematics and engineering to process biological data.

The Economic and Social Research Council will be investing £14m in four research centres at Essex, Glasgow, UCL and Leeds Universities.

It is hoped the centres will make data from private sector organisations and local government accessible to researchers. Currently, the data is being collected by these organisations but is not being used for research purposes.

The Natural Environment Research Council will be funding some of 24 projects with £4.6m to help the UK research community take advantage of existing environmental data.

Receiving the least amount of the funding the Arts and Humanities Research Council will be funding 21 new open data projects with £4m. It will make large data sets that academics would normally have access to available to members of the public.

The announcement comes as one of the latest in the global big data movement that is seeing countries, governments, and private companies try to seize the potential behind masses of information.

In the US $200m has been put into a big data R&D initiative and Japan’s Growth Strategy has allocated almost £90m for their research.

Outlining the need for investment in the sector Willets said: “Big data is one of the eight great technologies of the future and a priority for government. It has the potential to transform public and private sector organisations, drive research and development, increase productivity and innovation, and enable market-changing products and services.

“This funding will help the UK grasp these opportunities and get ahead in the global race.”


Image courtesy of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.


Robot takes first steps towards building artificial lifeforms

A robot equipped with sophisticated AI has successfully simulated the creation of artificial lifeforms, in a key first step towards the eventual goal of creating true artificial life.

The robot, which was developed by scientists at the University of Glasgow, was able to model the creation of artificial lifeforms using unstable oil-in-water droplets. These droplets effectively played the role of living cells, demonstrating the potential of future research to develop living cells based on building blocks that cannot be found in nature.

Significantly, the robot also successfully predicted their properties before they were created, even though this could not be achieved using conventional physical models.

The robot, which was designed by Glasgow University’s Regius Chair of Chemistry, Professor Lee Cronin, is driven by machine learning and the principles of evolution.

It has been developed to autonomously create oil-in-water droplets with a host of different chemical makeups and then use image recognition to assess their behaviour.

Using this information, the robot was able to engineer droplets to have different properties­. Those which were found to be desirable could then be recreated at any time, using a specific digital code.

“This work is exciting as it shows that we are able to use machine learning and a novel robotic platform to understand the system in ways that cannot be done using conventional laboratory methods, including the discovery of ‘swarm’ like group behaviour of the droplets, akin to flocking birds,” said Cronin.

“Achieving lifelike behaviours such as this are important in our mission to make new lifeforms, and these droplets may be considered ‘protocells’ – simplified models of living cells.”

One of the oil droplets created by the robot

The research, which is published today in the journal PNAS, is one of several research projects being undertaken by Cronin and his team within the field of artificial lifeforms.

While the overarching goal is moving towards the creation of lifeforms using new and unprecedented building blocks, the research may also have more immediate potential applications.

The team believes that their work could also have applications in several practical areas, including the development of new methods for drug delivery or even innovative materials with functional properties.

Mac spyware stole millions of user images

A criminal case brought against a man from Ohio, US has shed more light on a piece of Mac malware, dubbed Fruitfly, that was used to surreptitiously turn on cameras and microphones, take and download screenshots, log keystrokes, and steal tax and medical records, photographs, internet searches, and bank transactions from users.

Source: Ars Technica

Drone swarm attack strikes Russian military bases

Russia's Ministry of Defence claims its forces in Syria were attacked a week ago by a swarm of home-made drones. According to Russia's MoD Russian forces at the Khmeimim air base and Tartus naval facility "successfully warded off a terrorist attack with massive application of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)"

Source: Science Alert

Las Vegas strip club employs robot strippers

A Las Vegas strip club has flown in robot strippers from London to 'perform' at the club during CES. Sapphire Las Vegas strip club managing partner Peter Feinstein said that he employed the robots because the demographics of CES have changed and the traditional female strippers aren’t enough to lure a crowd to the club anymore.

Source: Daily Beast

GM to make driverless cars without steering wheels or pedals by 2019

General Motors has announced it plans to mass-produce self-driving cars without traditional controls like steering wheels and pedals by 2019. “It’s a pretty exciting moment in the history of the path to wide scale [autonomous vehicle] deployment and having the first production car with no driver controls,” GM President Dan Ammann told The Verge.

Source: The Verge

Russia-linked hackers "Fancy Bears" target the IOC

Following Russia's ban from the upcoming 2018 Winter Olympics, the Russia-linked hacking group "Fancy Bears" has published a set of apparently stolen emails, which purportedly belong to officials from the International Olympic Committee, the United States Olympic Committee, and third-party groups associated with the organisations.

Source: Wired

Scientists discover ice cliffs on Mars

Using images provided by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, scientists have described how steep cliffs, up to 100 meters tall, made of what appears to be nearly pure ice indicate that large deposits of ice may also be located in nearby underground deposits. The discovery has been described as “very exciting” for potential human bases.

Source: Science Mag