The Download: Trump’s Science Advice, Tech Titans in Court, and a Sea Ice Low
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Will President Trump Have a Science Advisor?
There may still be one person who can prevent Donald Trump from being an anti-science president. Question is: will he bother to seek them out? Every president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt has had a science advisor—though, admittedly, some have made better use of them than others. Given Donald Trump's erratic use of the evidence base, many people are worried that he may buck the trend entirely. Our own Mike Orcutt explains why the role is so important and investigates why Trump has yet to name his own, or even indicate whether he has any leading candidates.
China’s 2017 AI Boom
This year, China looks set to drastically ramp up its commitment to artificial intelligence and augmented reality. The nation’s tech companies are doubling down on both. Search giant Baidu just appointed former Microsoft executive Qi Lu as its new chief operating officer. At Microsoft, Lu was in charge of developing strategy for AI and bots. He will no doubt work closely with Andrew Ng, Baidu’s chief scientist, who has also announced that the company is opening a new augmented reality lab in Beijing. Meanwhile, late last year Chinese Internet giant Tencent said that it was determined to build a formidable AI lab. And smaller players also look set to get a shot in the arm: according to KPMG, Chinese venture capital investment looks set to pour into AI research in the coming year. All of this is enough for the South China Morning Post to label AI and AR stocks as “must haves” in any self-respecting Chinese investment portfolio. This year, many U.S. tech companies might find themselves looking East to identify competition.
Tech Titans in Court
As Mark Zuckerberg prepares to testify in a case about Oculus stealing VR ideas, a South Korean court will decide whether to arrest the heir-apparent of Samsung over bribery charges. Zuckerberg is expected to take to the stand later today, in a case in which the games publisher ZeniMax Media alleges that Oculus staff stole its ideas in developing the Rift headset. ZeniMax is pursuing $2.3 billion in damages from Facebook, which acquired Oculus in 2014. In South Korea, Jay Y. Lee, the only son of Samsung chairman Lee Kun-hee, was questioned in court for 22 hours last week. It's alleged that he paid a number of organizations a combined total of over $36 million in bribes to secure business mergers, and he also faces charges of embezzlement and perjury. The allegations are part of a wider bribery scandal surrounding South Korea’s President, Park Geun-hye. Currently, judges are deciding if Lee, who denies wrongdoing, should be arrested. Meanwhile, the future of Samsung's leadership hangs in the balance.
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Six Fascinating Things
1. Asia’s middle class is growing rapidly. And with it, so are mountains of e-waste.
2. Carbon capture gets a hard time because it’s expensive. But as several power plants using the technology go online, it may yet prove skeptics wrong.
3. Why physicists are increasingly heading to Silicon Valley.
4. There's interesting, if inconclusive, evidence that old blood is bad for us. Now, it seems a protein in eldery plasma causes some of the age-related damage.
5. How low can you go? For global sea ice levels, the answer seems to be: far lower than you would hope.
6. Airbus appears to be totally serious about flying cars. So serious, in fact, that it plans to have a working prototype ready by the end of this year.
Quote of the Day
"SnapFace and all that, I don’t really get those. I’m just really worried about getting our team ready to go. I’m not really too worried about what they put on InstantChat, or whatever it is.”
— Bill Belichick, head coach of the New England Patriots, says that he can get along just fine without all that social media, thank you very much.
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