Category Archives: Issues in Science

The A.I. revolution

The advent of Artificial Intelligent robots and their associated repercussions is a hotly debated issue. This is because humanity is on the brink of creating technology that will be able to think, and act according to their built-in perspective on the world. For example, fully autonomous weapon systems such as drones could petrol the skies capable of engaging without human interventions or an autonomous car driving someone to their desired location through a dynamic traffic system. There are a lot of positives and negatives associated with artificially intelligent machines and it’s up to us to decide if it’s worth creating such technology.

Humanity could benefit greatly from AI if controlled effectively. For instance, imagine a senior citizen with bad eyesight and poor reaction time wanting to travel to their daughter’s house 20 miles away. They can avoid taking a taxi and can have their own autonomous vehicle which plans their path and drives them to the desired location safely. This car will not only drive automatically it will have an extremely high reaction time to avoid accidents and will minimize damage if an accident is unavoidable.


YouTube Preview Image Credit to youtube user DroidTweak

AI robots can range from mini robots inside the house, which help the disabled perform daily task to autonomous airplanes that can take-off, fly, and land without any pilots on board. All of these have many positive implications for humanity because not only do they provide invaluable resources to those who are incapable but AI robots can perform most tasks better than humans.

Perhaps humanity needs to live with some of their shortcomings to prevent the apocalyptic future that some associate with the arrival of AI robots. According to the well renowned astrophysicist Professor Stephen Hawking, artificial intelligence could end mankind if we are not careful. He told the BBC:“The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.” His opinion stems from the fact that humans are limited by slow biological evolution and can’t possibly compete with the intelligent robots. AI robots will “evolve” faster by building better machines eventually overtaking human performance across all domains. They will then become the dominant force on Earth and could eradicate us at their on leisure.

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Credit to youtube user: DNews

Another well-known figure, Elon Musk, also voiced his opinion by saying “we are summoning the demon with artificial intelligence.” His viewpoint is similar to Hawking’s but he believes that their recursive self-improvement will eventually lead them to the realization that humans are detrimental in some regard and thus should be eliminated. “If its [function] is just something like getting rid of e-mail spam and it determines the best way of getting rid of spam is getting rid of humans…” said Musk to name an example.

Credit to youtube user: DNews

Since true AI robots have not been invented we can never really be sure how they will behave we can only speculate. Though great minds like Stephen Hawkings give us insight into the grim and darkside of AI, there is no doubt that the benefits of controlled AI are invaluable to the human race.

Written by Imran Khan

The Imitation Game. First history of computer hacking.

I am sure we have all heard about the hacking Sony Pictures Entertainment. Thousands of emails and personal information of Sony’s employees were released online. While the hackers call themselves to be “Guardians of Peace” or “GOP”, the United States officials claim the hackers came from North Korea and the attack was a response to the release of the film “The Interview”, an accusation that Kim Jong-Un denied. How safe is your computer? I think is it a good time for us to take a look at the history of computer hacking and security.

Naval Enigma machine with 4 rotors. Source:

Naval Enigma machine with 4 rotors. Source: Flickr

The earliest computer hacking is believed to be the cryptanalysis of the Enigma machine. Enigma machine was a cipher machine used from the 1920s to the WWII, mostly by the Nazi Germany. The earliest model has 3 rotors, which means the scrambler could be set in 26 x 26 x 26 = 17576 ways.

The first major breakthrough came from Marian Rejewski. The 27 years old Polish mathematician worked for the Polish Government in the early 1930s to break the Enigma machine. Using permutation group theory, he successfully worked out the logical structure of the machine.

Marian_Rejewski. Source: Wikipedia

Marian_Rejewski. Source: Wikipedia

Unfortunately for the Poles, he Nazi soon figured out their system has been hacked. They made several modifications to the system including increasing the number of rotors from 3 to 5, which increased the scrambler to 26 x 26 x 26 x 26 x 26 ways. Given the situation in Poland at that time, the Polish Government could not supply Rejewski with the resources he needed to break the new system.

The Enigma machine remained unhackable until 1939, when the 27 years old English mathematician Alan Turing started working for the GC&CS to hack the Enigma. Based on Rejewski’s works and the vast resources committed by the UK Government, Turing designed the “British bombe”, an electromechanical device that can decipher German secret message during the WWII. By 1945, all German can be decrypted within a day and it gave out all their plans to the Allied and turned the tide of the war.

Alan Turing. Source: Wikipedia

Alan Turing. Source: Wikipedia

If you are interested in knowing more about Alan Turing and how his work, you can check out the historical drama “The Imitation Game” starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley.

Blog by: Yiu Leung Wong

Friendly Fecals

Poop pills may be the solution for thousands of people suffering from recurring Clostridium difficile infection. C. difficile is a bacteria in the lower gut that causes colon inflammation, resulting in symptoms such as watery diarrhea, nausea, fever, abdominal pain and loss of appetite.

Image Source: Flickr Commons

Clostridium difficile   Image Source: AJC1 on Flickr

C. difficile may account for up to 14 000 deaths out of the 300 000 cases reported each year in the United States alone. Over the last decade, the number of infections has reached epidemic proportions. The major issue is that anyone taking broad-spectrum antibiotics is susceptible to this infection; antibiotics eliminate both harmful and healthy bacteria in the gut, leaving a patient vulnerable to contamination. The bacteria survive and are transmitted through feces, making outbreaks in hospitals common.

Numerous treatments have been proposed and tested, including vaccinations, antibiotics and fecal transplants. Fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) has been the most effective method in reducing the recurrence of infection, but the process is costly and complex. The idea is to replace healthy gut flora in infected patients by using the gut bacteria from another person. First, screening for a healthy donor must take place. It is essential that donor testing is thorough, to reduce the spread of infection. The feces are then transplanted into the recipient’s lower gut, either by colonoscopy, enema or through the nose using a nasogastric tube. As a result of extremely high costs of these procedures, some patients have opted for the “do-it-yourself” method of transplantation. Most people who decide to do it themselves at home are not professionals, nor are they being held to the same standards as a hospital would be. Although there are many success stories, there has not been any research into the effectiveness or risks associated with the DIY method.

Some research shows over 90% of patients have been cured by FMT procedures conducted in hospitals. It is probably for this reason, along with the fact that there is a very low chance of patients experiencing any serious side effects during or after the procedure, that so many are turning to FMT as a long-term solution.

Here is a brief animation by MinuteEarth about fecal transplants:

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A slightly more appealing technique may be the new poop pills, which can be taken orally like any other medication. The effects of these frozen fecal pills were monitored in a recent study conducted at Massachusetts General Hospital. The results were very positive, and reinforced the conclusion that the fecal pills could be a viable option for patients. Since it has been shown that frozen and fresh fecal matter perform equally well, screenings and donations can be made before a patient actually needs it.

Image Source: e-Magine Art on Flickr

Variety of Pills  Image Source: e-Magine Art on Flickr

Many turn to antibiotics and medication to treat infection, but in this case, the cure may be all natural.

You can now say that you have been informed about the power of your poop!

– Anne Persson