SciTech Briefs

Computer learns objects in poorly drawn sketches

Researchers from Brown University and the University of Berlin in Germany have developed a computer program capable of identifying rough sketches drawn by humans in real time.

While computers are already good at recognizing sketches that are accurate representations of their real-world counterparts, rougher and less accurate sketches are more difficult. For example, a non-artist’s sketch of a rabbit may feature big buck teeth, big ears, and a cotton tail — a caricature with little semblance to an actual rabbit. While humans may still be able to recognize this depiction, computers are unable to do so without adequate training data.

To overcome this limitation, the researchers first trained their program with over 20,000 human-drawn sketches. Then the team developed a method for users to create drawings while the program attempted to identify them in real time. The program averaged a 56 percent accuracy rating, while humans managed a 73 percent accuracy rating guessing images from the same data set.

Source: Science Daily

New species of monkey discovered in the Congo

A new species of monkey has been discovered in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The monkey has a grizzly, blond mane and a cream-colored nose stripe that help distinguish it from its other primate cousins in the area. The species first came to light when scientists found one of the animals being kept as a pet.

Biologists named the new monkeys Cercopithecus lomamiensis, after the nearby Lomami river in the monkeys’ habitat. They also suggested that other unidentified species may currently be living in this area.

“This discovery may be only the first from this remarkable but poorly known forest, located in the central DRC,” said anthropologist Andrew Burrell from New York University, who was involved in the study.

Source: BBC

Proof submitted for decades-old math conjecture

Shinichi Mochizuki of Japan’s Kyoto University has released a 500-page proof of the abc conjecture, a significant problem in number theory whose solution has eluded mathematicians for decades. Essentially, the conjecture states that, for positive integers a, b, and c that share no common factors and satisfy a + b = c, then d, the product of the prime-number factors of abc, is rarely much smaller than c. If Mochizuki’s proof of the conjecture were verified, it would be the gateway to solving many open number theory problems and significantly impact other aspects of mathematics.

“If Mochizuki’s proof is correct, it will be one of the most astounding achievements of mathematics of the 21st century,” said Dorian Goldfeld, a mathematician at Columbia University.

However, the verification process may take some time. Mochizuki’s lengthy proof uses a highly unconventional approach that even adept mathematicians are not familiar with. “At this point, he is probably the only one that knows it all,” Goldfeld said.

Source: Nature and Scientific American

Human stem cells restore hearing for deaf gerbils

Scientists have successfully restored hearing to deaf gerbils using human embryonic stem cells. After treating 18 gerbils that were completely deaf in one ear, the team reported an average 46 percent recovery rate in hearing among the creatures.

Gerbils, rather than mice, were selected for the experiments because they have a hearing range similar to that of humans.

“If this was a human patient, it would mean going from being so deaf as to be unable to hear a lorry or truck on the street to being able to maintain a conversation,” said Marcelo Rivolta of Britain’s University of Sheffield, who led the research. He noted that human clinical trials could begin in “a few years.”

Source: Reuters