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Podcast: Machine Studying in Sand Supplies Science and Sustainability

Moderator: Nick Howe

Welcome to the Nature podcast. This week, we are going to uncover how computer systems can predict the properties of supplies …

Moderator: Benjamin Thompson

And listen to concerning the environmental impacts of sand mining. I’m Benjamin Thompson.

Moderator: Nick Howe

And I'm Nick Howe.

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Interviewer: Nick Howe

To start with, I need to discuss making issues. Supplies science is a subject that consists of making superior expertise, combining current compounds and discovering new ones. However with so many alternative methods to do it, it may be tough to know the place to begin. Discovering an authentic materials and even reusing an outdated one with new properties requires numerous experimentation with just a little luck. However this week in Nature, researchers utilized a machine studying algorithm known as "Word2vec" to attempt to streamline the invention technique of trying to find supplies with new properties. This algorithm is named unsupervised, which signifies that he has no concept what meaning – he finds out via associations. On this case, the algorithm has scanned tens of millions of abstracts of analysis articles to attempt to discover which means.

Particular person interviewed: Vahe Tshitoyan

Nicely, we tried to see what the pc algorithm would find out about completely different supplies, purposes and textual content properties. We merely ask him to have a look at the competitions of various phrases within the textual content. That is the primary concept: can a mannequin realized with out human intervention, simply by studying the textual content, be helpful for scientific discovery or for scientific predictions typically?

Interviewer: Nick Howe

It was Vahe Tshitoyan, one of many authors of the brand new doc. The algorithm scanned the abstracts and examined the eight phrases across the chosen time period. The extra a phrase was discovered close to the chosen time period, the extra doubtless it was to be related.

Particular person interviewed: Vahe Tshitoyan

The concept is that phrases that seem in related contexts have related meanings. Thus, if a cloth is talked about subsequent to related software phrases, related properties and related artificial methods with one other materials, these two supplies will in all probability be related.

Interviewer: Nick Howe

Along with in search of supplies that may very well be related, the algorithm may very well be used to seek for new properties for current supplies. Within the case of Vahe, he was in search of supplies with thermoelectric properties, in a position to convert temperature into electrical energy and vice versa. To check the algorithm's potential to foretell which supplies might need these properties, Vahe captured abstracts of analysis articles printed previous to 2009. When the algorithm recognized the phrase "thermoelectric", it regarded carefully on the phrases . These had been usually chemical substances or compounds. He then produced an inventory of key predictions concerning potential thermoelectric supplies. Vahe then examined the literature after 2009 to see if the 5 predictions of the algorithm had been realized.

Particular person interviewed: Vahe Tshitoyan

It seems that out of those 5 predictions, three of them have been studied in thermoelectrics in subsequent years, and one in all them is definitely one in all them. right now's greatest thermoelectric supplies. The algorithm has subsequently been in a position to predict 4, 5, ten years upfront. a number of the good thermoelectric that we use now.

Interviewer: Nick Howe

Since this algorithm can rapidly consider tens of millions of abstracts and produce a brief record of predictions concerning the properties of supplies, Vahe hopes that it may be used as a scientific assistant, giving researchers an concept of ​​the supplies to be studied later. In actual fact, as he wrote this week's Nature, a number of the predictions that the algorithm constructed from the present literature had been coming true.

Particular person interviewed: Vahe Tshitoyan

We examined the 50 most necessary predictions. Three of those 50 predictions had been studied in the course of the evaluation and preparation of the doc, in order that even in a short while, three predictions have come true.

Interviewer: Nick Howe

Now, machine studying in supplies science is just not new, however more often than not, algorithms have labored on databases during which completely different facets of the properties of a cloth are encoded by a human. Because of this these algorithms can solely use what’s within the databases. It lacks a complete world of data.

Particular person interviewed: Olexander Isayev

A lot of the science of supplies science is hidden in papers, outdated catalogs, manuals, and subsequently it’s not potential to make use of them.

Interviewer: Nick Howe

Olexander Isayev, a chemist who makes use of machine studying in his work, additionally wrote an article on this matter in Information and Views. A database is as helpful as the info it incorporates. Utilizing written phrases reasonably than database info, Vahe's algorithm can seize hidden info in gadgets similar to paperwork and manuals. For that reason, Olexander thinks that this phrase affiliation algorithm is a helpful methodology, however one that doesn’t lack limits.

Particular person interviewed: Olexander Isayev

So, if you consider phrases and the context of phrases, all of them have synonyms. They’ve barely completely different meanings relying on the context. In lots of circumstances, for instance, if the fabric has a number of properties, we don’t actually know if any of those strategies would work properly.

Interviewer: Nick Howe

As this algorithm solely discovers the which means of phrases primarily based on their frequency and proximity to different phrases, it solely proposes a single definition primarily based on the incidence of different phrases. . Principally, he struggles with synonyms. One other impediment to beat is that the algorithm would solely be capable to discover connections for beforehand described supplies. If a brand new or hypothetical materials not described within the literature, it couldn’t provide help to. Vahe is satisfied that it’s a drawback that may be solved by adjusting the algorithm to make predictions on new compounds primarily based on the chemical construction of current supplies. He additionally believes that future algorithms, that are higher in a position to deal with advanced sentences, may work on whole analysis paperwork, reasonably than their abstracts. Vahe expects full-text studying to permit the algorithm to make higher predictions. Nonetheless, he thinks the algorithm works properly and hopes that, in its present state, it may be utilized by different areas similar to drug discovery. Because the summaries are free for everybody, Vahe thinks everybody may do this method.

Particular person interviewed: Vahe Tshitoyan

What fascinates me on this work is that each one the info we now have used are freely accessible on the Web. As well as, the algorithms we used are presently very environment friendly and really quick, as on a contemporary laptop, you may practice a pc. mannequin in lower than a day. So, in concept, not everybody may do that analysis with out gaining access to nice computing energy or information that isn’t freely accessible, which I hope will set off. Thus, maybe youthful scientists or these eager about machine studying and pure language processing, who could not have the required assets, can contribute to scientific progress.

Interviewer: Nick Howe

That was Vahe Tshitoyan from the Lawrence Berkeley Nationwide Laboratory in the US. You may have additionally heard about Olexander Isayev from the College of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, additionally in the US. You could find Vahe's diary alongside Olexander's Information and Views on nature.com.

Moderator: Benjamin Thompson

The present chat will arrive on the finish of the sequence, the place we are going to hear the outcomes of a broad survey on bullying. For the time being, it's time to take inventory of the analysis, learn this week by Anna Nagle.

Anna Nagle

A workforce of German researchers has created a tiny robotic, a jellyfish of just a few millimeters – which, regardless of its small diameter, is able to performing varied duties. Though swimmers will not be new, lowering them with out lack of performance could be a drawback. To treatment this, the researchers used juvenile jellyfish to create a robotic with a magnetic core surrounded by eight tiny gentle flaps. When an oscillating magnetic subject is utilized, the flaps contract and loosen up, propelling the robotic. By manipulating the stream of water round it, this tiny machine may carry small logs, bury and blend fluids. The researchers additionally mentioned that their creation may very well be used to assist perceive the environmental impacts on the organic jellyfish that impressed the design of their robotic. You may learn extra about this analysis in Nature Communications.

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Anna Nagle

Understanding the mutations within the human genome that may result in most cancers is a vital space of ​​work for a lot of researchers. Tumors usually comprise a number of mutations. Because of this, scientists usually concentrate on probably the most frequent DNA modifications. Nonetheless, US researchers have discovered proof of "sizzling spots" that would result in mutations that would frustrate makes an attempt to determine adjustments related to tumor improvement. The workforce in contrast tumor genomes of greater than 1,600 folks with genome samples from their regular tissues and located that some sections of the genome had been bent into varieties that made them weak to mutation, inflicting delicate areas. The brand new work means that some areas of the genome with a number of mutations could not truly contribute to the illness, opposite to what was beforehand thought. Go to Science to study extra about this story.

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Moderator: Nick Howe

If I'm considering of digging sand, the very first thing I take into consideration is constructing a sand fortress. However sand mining is just not a toddler's sport. It’s a gigantic business everywhere in the world, and its folks and the planet are feeling the results. In actual fact, humanity's demand for sand is so nice that it may exceed provide by the center of the century. This week, in Nature, there’s a commentary on the sand difficulty and one in all its authors, Mette Bendixen, spoke with journalist Adam Levy.

Interviewer: Adam Levy

What’s the sand actually for?

Particular person interviewed: Mette Bendixen

Sand is subsequently the important ingredient of recent society. It’s utilized in buildings and development and infrastructure initiatives. It’s utilized in electronics, in glass, even in toothpaste and wine. So we now have an amazing use of sand on this planet.

Interviewer: Adam Levy

What’s the precise extent of sand extraction then?

Particular person interviewed: Mette Bendixen

So, along with water, sand is the pure useful resource that we derive most frequently, it even exceeds fossil fuels. We’re speaking about 30 to 50 billion tons used annually around the globe.

Interviewer: Adam Levy

It looks as if you're speaking lots about fossil gasoline extraction, not simply due to local weather change, however due to the native impacts – why will not be we speaking a lot about sand mining?

Particular person interviewed: Mette Bendixen

Sure, I used to be questioning too. I feel sand is one thing you are taking without any consideration. Sand is one thing that we normally take into consideration in every single place. It's on the seashores, you’ve got nice deserts everywhere in the world. The issue with the deserts, nevertheless, is that you would be able to not use this as a constructing materials, as a result of when the grains are carried by the wind, they’re just too easy and rounded and they’re too properly sorted. For development sand, this isn’t one thing we will use sadly. The sand we use comes from rivers and seashores.

Interviewer: Adam Levy

So there’s this large quantity of sand that’s extracted. What are the actual impacts of this mining?

Particular person interviewed: Mette Bendixen

It impacts each nature and males. In South Asia, we discover that ecosystems are being destroyed. The banks of the rivers are collapsing, which signifies that persons are shedding their houses whereas they fall into the river, which signifies that they’ve to maneuver and the Vietnamese authorities has estimated that just about half one million folks should withdraw from the flood. plains and the banks of the Mekong Delta within the close to future.

Interviewer: Adam Levy

However the extraction of sand additionally poses massive issues.

Particular person interviewed: Mette Bendixen

Sure, a lot of the sand that’s being extracted right now is illegally. It’s managed by actual "sand mafias". In Kenya, kids depart faculty to fetch sand.

Interviewer: Adam Levy

You’re additionally exploring methods to resolve this drawback. How may we begin to management sand mining?

Particular person interviewed: Mette Bendixen

Sure, so we are saying that options are primarily based on alternate options, which suggests various applied sciences. Final 12 months, at Imperial School London, they had been in a position to manufacture this concrete-like materials with desert sand and a halved carbon footprint. I additionally assume that the necessary factor is reuse, which will be finished if you destroy older buildings and easily reuse the fabric right here, in order that it’s not only a waste.

Interviewer: Adam Levy

So, how can we draw from these suggestions to implement one thing for the world that would scale back this strain on the sand?

Particular person interviewed: Mette Bendixen

We name on the United Nations to place in place a world monitoring program for sand assets, as a result of we actually have to grasp how a lot sand we now have, the place is that sand, and the way a lot of that sand is being extracted. For the second, we don’t have one. We don’t have this overview, so we can’t use this materials in a sustainable approach. And it appears to me that the issue of sand shortage is getting an increasing number of consideration proper now, so I really feel like we're about to create momentum for focus.

Interviewer: Adam LevyHow do you actually assume if we will and can we remedy this drawback?

Particular person interviewed: Mette Bendixen

I feel we have gotten extra conscious of the necessity to do one thing about this as a result of sand is just not one thing to take without any consideration, and after working with it, I now notice the precise quantity of sand used Proper in entrance of my door, they had been redoing the asphalt and I understood, it's sand there, proper in entrance of my constructing, the place I'm sitting, constructing a brand new constructing . There may be solely sand in every single place and you don’t give it some thought.

Moderator: Nick Howe

It was Mette Bendixen who was speaking to journalist Adam Levy. Take a look at his touch upon nature.com/opinion.

Interviewer: Benjamin Thompson

Lastly, lastly, for the present this week, it's time to change to Information Chat. Nisha Gaind, head of Nature's European workplace, joins me within the studio. Nisha, thanks for being handed.

Particular person interviewed: Nisha Gaind

After all. Hello Ben.

Interviewer: Benjamin Thompson

Let's begin right now in Germany and conduct a big survey of researchers working in institutes throughout the nation.

Particular person interviewed: Nisha Gaind

Sure it’s true. We performed a survey of labor tradition in analysis, together with bullying and harassment, which not too long ago made headlines. And this survey passed off on the Max Planck Society, which is the most important analysis group in Germany and likewise one of the vital prestigious analysis organizations on this planet.

Interviewer: Benjamin Thompson

And what dimension are we speaking about then?

Particular person interviewed: Nisha Gaind

Actually massive – it's in all probability the largest survey of its type ever finished. It is a large social science examine of researchers, and the Max Planck Society surveyed all of its workers and about 9,000 of them responded, representing about 40% of all MPS.

Interviewer: Benjamin Thompson

Why was this survey finished now and what are a number of the questions requested of researchers?

Particular person interviewed: Nisha Gaind

The rationale this has been finished now’s that Max Planck, amongst different analysis institutes around the globe, has been coping with allegations of harassment of sure workers members. We’ve got reported many such circumstances, together with two high-profile circumstances at Max Planck. The leaders had been subsequently led to consider the state of affairs, the work tradition and to study extra concerning the magnitude of the will increase of their college surroundings.

Interviewer: Benjamin Thompson

Sure, so, sure, a vital query to ask then, and what had been the solutions?

Particular person interviewed: Nisha Gaind

Thus, they discovered that about 10% of respondents mentioned they’d been bullied up to now 12 months and about 18% of these surveyed mentioned they’d lived for longer. Now, it is very important evaluate this to what different investigations have found and related surveys performed in different educational establishments around the globe have revealed related ranges of bullying. The survey additionally included intercourse discrimination and sexual harassment, and about four% of these surveyed mentioned they felt that they’d lived up to now 12 months. However one thing extra shocking is that ladies in managerial positions, a couple of quarter of them mentioned they’d sexist habits, what the top of Max Planck firm, Martin Stratmann, mentioned discovered very surprising and one thing that must be addressed.

Interviewer: Benjamin Thompson

After all, I imply that any quantity higher than zero is unsuitable, proper? So what’s the firm going to do to perhaps enhance issues sooner or later?

Particular person interviewed: Nisha Gaind

That's why what seems to be good on this survey is that the corporate claims to make use of these outcomes to truly inform its choice makers and strengthen its anti-bullying coverage. She makes use of her solutions to make a selected record of behaviors that may very well be thought-about bullying, they usually have already got obligatory bullying coaching. They have already got a code of conduct on sexual harassment.

Interviewer: Benjamin Thompson

You gave us an concept of ​​the outcomes, Nisha. Did this survey have another surprises?

Particular person interviewed: Nisha Gaind

Yeah, so the investigation has touched on a number of matters aside from bullying and harassment. Certainly one of them was the way in which during which international or non-German scientists combine into society as a result of, as we all know, analysis is a really worldwide enterprise. Many scientists working on the Max Planck Society will not be of German origin. Thus, the survey revealed that nearly 45% of non-Germans working on the institute felt excluded in a method or one other. It is a pattern that the leaders of Max Planck take into account to be very worrying, they usually counsel that it may be associated to Barrier of the language. For instance, individuals who don’t converse German as their first language could also be extra prone to really feel excluded.

Interviewer: Benjamin Thompson

It sounds just like the Max Planck firm is form of saying the best issues and entering into the best path. What does one say externally about this assertion about this firm?

Particular person interviewed: Nisha Gaind

Sure, completely, it's what they are saying most frequently is that they’re impressed by the truth that the Max Planck Society has taken this difficulty so significantly, that it has dedicated itself to additionally scientific examine of its workers and that they’re dedicated to adopting a zero tolerance method on these points and that they’re attempting to strengthen their insurance policies to fight any such habits.

Interviewer: Benjamin Thompson

Our second article right now, Nisha, discusses the present opioid disaster in the US and the way it has led to a rise in microbial infections.

Particular person interviewed: Nisha Gaind

Sure precisely. This opioid disaster has hit the headlines of the press in recent times, however public well being officers are actually involved concerning the upsurge in bacterial and viral infections related to the usage of these medicine. worse disaster.

Interviewer: Benjamin Thompson

Nicely, I suppose it's a tough space to review for quite a lot of causes.

Particular person interviewed: Nisha Gaind

Sure it’s true. Over the previous 20 years, the usage of opioids, together with the usage of prescription ache medicine, has exploded in the US, however it’s tough for analysis teams to nation to determine and deal with these outbreaks, partially as a result of lack of dependable information on the variety of new circumstances and on their subsequent look. One other drawback is the stigma related to drug use that may forestall contaminated folks from in search of early therapy and likewise hinders efforts.

Interviewer: Benjamin Thompson

Nicely, we’re speaking about infections there, Nisha – what sort of infections are we speaking about then?

Particular person interviewed: Nisha Gaind

Thus, typical infections related to any such drug use are HIV and hepatitis C, however we’re presently seeing different varieties of infections that researchers wrestle with. Certainly one of these infections is a bacterium known as Staphylococcus aureus. have an effect on the center valves. It enters the bloodstream following practices similar to needle sharing and, if it reaches the center, the an infection can injury the valves. In order that's what the an infection does, however what public well being researchers are discovering is a reasonably worrying pattern within the enhance of some of these infections. For instance, in a examine of drug customers in North Carolina, over the previous decade, coronary heart infections have elevated 13-fold, which signifies that surgeons on this state are doing rather more work for deal with coronary heart issues associated to medicine. infections. This has gone from 10 operations to greater than 100 in 2017.

Interviewer: Benjamin Thompson

So a big enhance then. I imply what must be finished?

Particular person interviewed: Nisha Gaind

Researchers are working to seek out methods to enhance the prognosis and therapy of those infections, be they micro organism, viruses or fungi. For individuals who use some of these medicine, because of this they’ve to seek out methods to determine the pathogens accountable for the infections, as that is essential for treating them correctly. In a single case, a bunch of researchers is utilizing superior sequencing applied sciences to check a wider vary of microbes in blood and tissue samples than present strategies. Nonetheless, many public well being researchers say the important thing to stopping the development of some of these infections is to deal with opioid use and drug dependancy with out stigmatizing individuals who use these medicine.

Interviewer: Benjamin Thompson

Thanks Nisha. Listeners, for the most recent science information, go to nature.com/information.

Moderator: Nick Howe

That's all for one more present, however earlier than we depart, we simply have time to present just a little shout to our Scientific American sister discuss Science Discuss. If you would like much more science, you’ll find it wherever you get your podcasts. I’m Nick Howe.

Interviewer: Benjamin Thompson

And I’m Benjamin Thompson. Thanks for listening.

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