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10 Bits: The Data News Hotlist

by Morgan Stevens

This week’s list of data news highlights covers January 8, 2022 to January 14, 2022 and includes articles on smart tree-crop sprayers and improving quantum computing.

1. Constructing Quantum Chips

Researchers at the University of Melbourne and the University of New South Wales have created a new technique for building quantum chips that can make the construction of quantum computers more reliable. The technique involves methodically embedding atoms into a silicon wafer and waiting for audio confirmation of their placement. This process improves upon earlier techniques that produced random placements and left atoms more unstable.

2. Flagging High-Risk COVID-19 Variants

BioNTech, a biotechnology company in Germany, and InstaDeep, a U.K.-based AI company, have created an AI system that can identify high-risk COVID-19 variants more quickly. In tests, the system was able to flag most variants as dangerous around two months earlier than the World Health Organization.

3. Chronicling Woolly Mammoths

Researchers at McMaster University in Canada have used a supercomputer to analyze woolly mammoth DNA found in soil samples, and found that mammoths likely survived longer than previously thought. 

4. Proving Vaccination Status

Public health officials in Massachusetts have launched a digital vaccine passport for residents to prove their COVID-19 vaccination status from their mobile phone. The passport is designed to integrate with digital vaccine platforms such as those in Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey. 

5. Determining Treatment Plans

Researchers at Case Western Reserve University have developed an AI system that analyzes digital images of tissue samples to identify which patients with certain head and neck cancers can receive reduced doses of radiation therapy. Doctors can use the system to modulate treatment plans and help patients avoid side effects associated with higher doses.

6. Spraying Pesticides

Researchers at the University of Florida have created a crop sprayer that uses sensors to efficiently apply pesticides to citrus trees. The sprayer collects data on the type of tree and its height, leaf density, and fruit count with GPS, machine vision, and lidar technology. An AI system then uses the data to measure an appropriate amount of pesticides for the tree. According to the researchers, the sprayer could reduce the use of chemical pesticides by 30 percent in Florida. 

7. Classifying Sepsis Endotypes

Researchers at the University of British Columbia have created an AI technique that doctors can use to identify five types of sepsis in emergency room patients. In tests, doctors using the technique identified which of five sepsis subtypes a patient had with 97 percent accuracy. 

8. Improving Roadway Safety

The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles has announced the expansion of a tire safety program at the state’s truck weigh stations. Public safety officials will install sensors that can detect flat, mismatched, or underinflated tires and inform drivers about tire safety concerns. Since June 2020, the sensors have detected 13,000 unsafe tires.

9. Identifying Bat Species with Zoonotic Viruses

An international team of researchers has created an AI system that can predict which bat species carry viruses that may infect humans according to the bat’s diet, body size, location, and other biological characteristics. So far, the system has identified over 400 species of bats that may carry potential viruses.

10. Learning About the Environment

BBC Studios, U.K.-based production studio Factory 42, and U.K.-based mobile network operator EE have partnered to launch an augmented reality experience based on the BBC’s television show The Green Planet. Visitors can learn about the environment from Sir David Attenborough and interact with digital plants and animals in the exhibit.

Image credit: Flickr user Vincent Lim

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