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Technology reveals face behind 1,700-year-old Siberian death mask

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The desk mask (left) and one scan of the face beneath it (right) (Siberian Times)

Russian scientists have used modern CT scanning technology to peer at the face of a man who died 1,700 years ago.

The man was aged between 25 and 30 when he died and was part of a tribe of cattle-breeders called the Tashtyk that lived in Siberia hundreds of years ago.

Like others of his tribe, the man was buried with a death mask covering his face.

Computed tomography scans, known as CT scans, use x-rays and computers to build up detailed pictures of the insides of our bodies. In this instance, researchers could peer behind the death mask without disturbing the mummy beneath.

They found hair worn in a pigtail fashion that would have been cut off before he was buried, and a scar running across the left side of his face.

CT scan of the skin and skull

A CT scan of the skull and the skin of the 1,700 year old man (The State Hermitage Museum)

He also had a big hole – perhaps 7 or 8cm long – in his temporal lobe which may have been to remove his brain before burial. Likewise, the scar appears to have been sewn up in a suture.

Despite this, the man appears to be resting peacefully in death with no signs of anguish in his expression.

‘They took all these postmortem rites very seriously, and did not save on this,’ explained Dr Svetlana Pankova, curator at the State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg, and keeper of the Siberian collection of the Department of Archeology.

‘They could not just put a mask on the disfigured face,’ she told the Siberian Times.

Svetlana Pankova puts the male head into CT scaner

Svetlana Pankova puts the male head into CT scanner (The State Hermitage Museum)

‘Our research is complicated by the fact that we cannot take the mask away from the face (it would cause too much damage)  so we must research this stitching using other methods.’

Dr Pankova said the mask ‘has black stripes on a red background, plus the lower part of the mask was somewhat destroyed and man’s teeth can be seen. 

‘So all together it creates such an aggressive look.’

CT scan of the skin and skull with the scar and the trepanation hole visible

CT scan of the skin and skull with the scar and the trepanation hole visible (Credits: The State Hermitage Museum)

Yet under the mask ‘there was nothing aggressive in this face. It was the face of a calmly sleeping person.’

Dr Pankova added: ‘The computer scan allowed us to see, so to say, three layers – the layer of the mask, the layer of the face without the mask and layer of the skull.’

 



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Software that monitors students during tests perpetuates inequality and violates their privacy

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The coronavirus pandemic has been a boon for the test proctoring industry. About half a dozen companies in the US claim their software can accurately detect and prevent cheating in online tests. Examity, HonorLock, Proctorio, ProctorU, Respondus and others have rapidly grown since colleges and universities switched to remote classes.

While there’s no official tally, it’s reasonable to say that millions of algorithmically proctored tests are happening every month around the world. Proctorio told the New York Times in May that business had increased by 900% during the first few months of the pandemic, to the point where the company proctored 2.5 million tests worldwide in April alone.

I’m a university librarian and I’ve seen the impacts of these systems up close. My own employer, the University of Colorado Denver, has a contract with Proctorio.

It’s become clear to me that algorithmic proctoring is a modern surveillance technology that reinforces white supremacy, sexism, ableism, and transphobia. The use of these tools is an invasion of students’ privacy and, often, a civil rights violation.

If you’re a student taking an algorithmically proctored test, here’s how it works: When you begin, the software starts recording your computer’s camera, audio, and the websites you visit. It measures your body and watches you for the duration of the exam, tracking your movements to identify what it considers cheating behaviors. If you do anything that the software deems suspicious, it will alert your professor to view the recording and provide them a color-coded probability of your academic misconduct.

Depending on which company made the software, it will use some combination of machine learning, AI, and biometrics (including facial recognition, facial detection, or eye tracking) to do all of this. The problem is that facial recognition and detection have proven to be racist, sexist, and transphobic over, and over, and over again.

In general, technology has a pattern of reinforcing structural oppression like racism and sexism. Now these same biases are showing up in test proctoring software that disproportionately hurts marginalized students.

A Black woman at my university once told me that whenever she used Proctorio’s test proctoring software, it always prompted her to shine more light on her face. The software couldn’t validate her identity and she was denied access to tests so often that she had to go to her professor to make other arrangements. Her white peers never had this problem.

Similar kinds of discrimination can happen if a student is trans or non-binary. But if you’re a white cis man (like most of the developers who make facial recognition software), you’ll probably be fine.

Students with children are also penalized by these systems. If you’ve ever tried to answer emails while caring for kids, you know how impossible it can be to get even a few uninterrupted minutes in front of the computer. But several proctoring programs will flag noises in the room or anyone who leaves the camera’s view as nefarious. That means students with medical conditions who must use the bathroom or administer medication frequently would be considered similarly suspect.

Beyond all the ways that proctoring software can discriminate against students, algorithmic proctoring is also a significant invasion of privacy. These products film students in their homes and often require them to complete “room scans,” which involve using their camera to show their surroundings. In many cases, professors can access the recordings of their students at any time, and even download these recordings to their personal machines. They can also see each student’s location based on their IP address.

Privacy is paramount to librarians like me because patrons trust us with their data. After 9/11, when the Patriot Act authorized the US Department of Homeland Security to access library patron records in their search for terrorists, many librarians started using software that deleted a patron’s record once a book was returned. Products that violate people’s privacy and discriminate against them go against my professional ethos, and it’s deeply concerning to see such products eagerly adopted by institutions of higher education.

This zealousness would be slightly more understandable if there was any evidence that these programs actually did what they claim. To my knowledge, there isn’t a single peer-reviewed or controlled study that shows proctoring software effectively detects or prevents cheating. Given that universities pride themselves on making evidence-based decisions, this is a glaring oversight.

Fortunately, there are movements underway to ban proctoring software and ban face recognition technologies on campuses, as well as congressional bills to ban the US federal government from using face recognition. But even if face recognition technology were banned, proctoring software could still exist as a program that tracks the movements of students’ eyes and bodies. While that might be less racist, it would still discriminate against people with disabilities, breastfeeding parents, and people who are neuroatypical. These products can’t be reformed; they should be abandoned.

Cheating is not the threat to society that test proctoring companies would have you believe. It doesn’t dilute the value of degrees or degrade institutional reputations, and student’s aren’t trying to cheat their way into being your surgeon. Technology didn’t invent the conditions for cheating and it won’t be what stops it. The best thing we in higher education can do is to start with the radical idea of trusting students. Let’s choose compassion over surveillance.

Shea Swauger is an academic librarian and researcher at the University of Colorado Denver.



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5 Reasons Why You Should Buy The New Maruti Suzuki S-Cross 2020

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Ever since Maruti Suzuki discontinued diesel engines, its SUV S-Cross went off the sales chart as it only had a diesel variant. However, the 2020 Maruti Suzuki S-Cross is back with a powerful new hybrid petrol engine and better looks.

As reported in our previous article, the bookings for SUV are already open and you can book it from the nearest Nexa outlet or through online platforms. However, at that time we knew very little about the specifications of the new S-Cross. As the automaker confirms the details of the SUV, we can say the new S-Cross is quite impressive.

In fact, this SUV is worth considering before buying a new car in the compact SUV segment. Here are the reasons why we think you should check out the all-new 2020 Maruti Suzuki S-Cross.

5 Reasons Why Maruti Suzuki S-Cross

Image: Maruti Suzuki

1. Improved Built Quality And Safety Standards

Unlike the reputation of the automaker for built quality, Maruti Suzuki S-Cross is quite impressive with its high-end safety standards. The SUV has a five-star safety rating in ASEAN NCAP crash test.

With an overall score of 15.48 out of 16 for adult occupant protection, S-Cross is one of the safest cars in its segment.

Poor safety standards are one of the major reasons why people switch away from Maruti cars. With this assurance, you can go for S-Cross without any hesitation.

2. Hybrid Powertrain

maruti suzuki s-cross hybrid powertrain
Image: Maruti Suzuki

The new Maruti Suzuki S-Cross is one of the most affordable SUVs with a hybrid powertrain. The latest variant of this compact SUV is equipped with Suzuki’s Smart Hybrid Vehicle Technology (SHVS).

Under the hood is a combination of a K15B 1.5-liter BS6 compliant petrol engine and an electric motor. The electric motor gets power from two small lithium-ion battery packs.

With this powertrain, the SUV gets a total output of 103 BHP and 138 Nm of peak torque. The engine is available with both manual and automatic transmission.

Not only does the S-Cross have decent power delivery, but it also has very low carbon emissions due to the hybrid powertrain. Maruti Suzuki S-Cross is a very good option for masses who prefer eco-friendly cars.

Apart from this, Maruti Suzuki has provided features like Idle Start-Stop (ISS), Brake Energy Regeneration, and Torque assist during acceleration for a better experience.

3. Impressive Mileage

Being an SUV, S-Cross has quite an impressive fuel- efficiency. The automaker claims to provide a mileage of 18.55 km/l on MT and 18.43 km/l with AT. Generally, the SUVs in this segment offer a fuel-economy of under 15 km/l. However, with a mild-hybrid and idle Start-Stop (ISS) system, Maruti Suzuki S-Cross is providing impressive mileage.

The idle start-stop system turns off the engine when the vehicle is stationary, especially when waiting at red lights, and starts it again when the clutch is pressed. This way, it cuts off unnecessary fuel-consumption.

Looking at the fuel-efficiency we can say now you don’t have to worry about fuel-economy.

4. Improved Braking And Ride Quality

s-cross disc brakes
Image: Maruti Suzuki

The new S-Cross comes with 4 disc brakes, which provides amazing stopping power, you can easily go into a corner with a higher speed without any worry. Well, it doesn’t mean you should over-speed, always ride within the safe speed limit.

The front disc brakes of S-Cross are ventilated for better heat dissipation. The braking force acts more on the front wheels, therefore the front wheels need to be better in all aspects than the rear one.

5. More Features, More Comfort

s-cross features
Image: Maruti Suzuki

The 2020 Maruti Suzuki S-Cross features a smart infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity. Additionally, this compact SUV is equipped with features like cruise control, autosensing rain wipers, push start, and much more.

Other than this, the rear seats of the car are made foldable that allows the user to have more cabin space. Foldable seats are very useful in putting extra luggage.

The best part is that, with all these features and a hybrid tag, the price of S-Cross starts at Rs 8.39 lakh (ex-showroom). On the other hand, there are no hybrid SUVs in this segment except the MG Hector hybrid which is almost twice in price than S-Cross. This also makes S-Cross a value for money car.

Finally, we would like to say that though it might not be the best selling car of Maruti, it’s much better than the other best selling cars of the company.

Do share your views in the comments section below.

The post 5 Reasons Why You Should Buy The New Maruti Suzuki S-Cross 2020 appeared first on Fossbytes.



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This might be the most exciting Pixel rumor of the year

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  • A new leak suggests the Pixel 6 might fix one of the worst things about the Pixel 5, as Google has reportedly inked a deal with Samsung for custom mobile chips.
  • Samsung will design and manufacture the custom chips for Google, including an “unprecedented application processor” that could help Google strengthen its hardware business.
  • It’s unclear when the custom chips will be ready, but current Pixel 5 reports indicate that Google might be prepared to move away from Qualcomm soon.

Coronavirus or not, Google is having a terrible year, and things aren’t going to improve anytime soon. Buyers haven’t exactly flocked to buy the Pixel 4 phones, which are now discontinued, less than a year after their official launch. The Pixel 3a series had a similar fate, and the handset reached the end of life well before the Pixel 4a arrived. The new budget phone saw a three-month delay, and it’s facing incredible competition from the iPhone SE and the OnePlus Nord. The Nord will be the best Android alternative to the Pixel 5, although they might not go head to head in too many markets. The Pixel 5 itself might come with 5G support, a 120Hz screen, Google’s pure version of Android, and an excellent camera. But it’s a mid-range phone at best that’s going to cost as much as the cheapest iPhone 12 phones. With all that in mind, it looks as if Google has given up on Pixel hardware, which isn’t terrific news for Android itself.

I’ve often explained that Android, as it is today, isn’t working for Google anymore, that’s why the company is working on a replacement operating system that’s supposed to fix everything that’s wrong with Android. Rejuvenating the Pixel hardware might be part of that long-term plan, and that could explain the terribly annoying Pixel year that fans are experiencing. But regardless of when Google will “kill” Android, we already have a Pixel rumor that’s more exciting than any other Pixel rumor this year. And it’s not the one that says a foldable Pixel phone is coming next year.

With all the action this week, including the Pixel 4a launch and all the new Samsung hardware, a rumor from Korea was easy to miss. ETNews said that Samsung has obtained ordered from Cisco and Google for their “next-generation semiconductor chips.”

The Cisco detail is unimportant for the story, but this tidbit is:

Samsung Electronics also obtained an order from Google regarding manufacturing of more than one chip. It is heard that Google requested a semiconductor that will go into a sensor that can measure body movements rather than for processors that go into current IT devices and an unprecedented application processor (AP).

Samsung is making more than one chip for Google, not just a custom processor that will likely equip the Pixel 6 phones and possibly other 2021 Pixel versions. While the Cisco and Google orders are not confirmed, the report says they could make a meaningful impact on Samsung’s bottom line. “Google is looking to strengthen its hardware (HW) business that includes smartphone, artificial intelligence (AI) speaker, and augmented reality (AR) glasses based on its internet service,” the report reads. And that’s the kind of rumor that indicates there’s hope for the Pixel line beyond 2020.

What is interesting is that Samsung is responsible for both the design and production of the new chips, which might seem to be an unusual move. Foundries create custom chips based on the design that tech companies submit, and TSMC is the best example of that. The Taiwanese giant has been making A-series chips for iPhone and iPad for years, ever since Samsung fumbled a contract for the iPhone.

Samsung certainly has the expertise to make custom processors of its own, although it hasn’t reached Apple’s success, and the criticism of the Exynos-based Galaxy S20 phons speaks volumes. Still, Samsung’s experience could help Google create chips that might rival Apple’s A-series processors. Apple’s silicon has evolved to the point that iPhones and iPads outscore Intel chips in benchmarks, and Apple has already confirmed that the first ARM-based Macs are coming next year.

A report in mid-April said that Google is making its own chips, code-named Whitechapel, and mentioned Samsung as the co-creator of the silicon. The ETNews report provides a lot more information about the project, which makes this Pixel rumor all the more exciting.

Arm Cortex X1 Chip
Arm Cortex-X1 custom chip presentation – slides from Arm’s May 26th, 2020, announcement. Image source: Arm

Let’s also not forget that ARM unveiled its next-generation of reference mobile chips that will be used in next year’s smartphones. Of those, the Arm Cortex-X1 design stands out and could be used on all 2021 flagships. We speculated at the time that Pixel 6 could make use of this particular premium chip, assuming that Google wants to make the mid-range Pixel 5 forgotten.

With all that in mind, I’ll also point out another report from earlier this week that went mostly unnoticed. Samsung is considering acquiring a stake in Arm of 3% to 5%. That won’t give Samsung control over Arm, but it could certainly help with the development of future mobile chips and possibly reduce licensing fees. This wouldn’t be good news just for Samsung’s Pixel chip-making deal with Google but also for future Galaxy handsets.

The ETNews doesn’t specifically mention the Pixel 6 smartphone or any other handset brands for that matter. And while there’s no guarantee the Pixel 6 will be the first Google phone to feature a custom processor, Google will have to find a way to make the Pixel phones more competitive, especially after the Pixel 5.



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