Extreme Temperatures In Major Latin American Cities Could Be Linked To Nearly 1 Million Deaths

Rodrigo Perez Ortega writes via Science Magazine: With climate change, heat waves and cold fronts are worsening and taking lives worldwide: about 5 million in the past 20 years, according to at least one study. In a new study published today in Nature Medicine, an international team of researchers estimates that almost 900,000 deaths in the years between 2002 and 2015 could be attributable to extreme temperatures alone in major Latin American cities. This is the most detailed estimate in Latin America, and the first ever for some cities.

To estimate how many people died from intense heat or cold, researchers with the Urban Health in Latin America project — which studies how urban environments and policies impact the health of city residents in Latin America — looked at mortality data between 2002 and 2015 from registries of 326 cities with more than 100,000 residents, in nine countries throughout Latin America. They calculated the average daily temperatures and estimated the temperature range for each city from a public data set of atmospheric conditions. If a death occurred either on the 18 hottest or the 18 coldest days that each city experienced in a typical year, they linked it to extreme temperatures. Using a statistical model, the researchers compared the risk of dying on very hot and cold days, and this risk with the risk of dying on temperate days. They found that in Latin American metropolises, nearly 6% — almost 1 million — of all deaths between those years happened on days of extreme heat and cold. They also created an interactive map with the data for individual cities.

When the team analyzed the specific cause of these deaths in the registries, they found — consistent with previous studies — that extreme temperatures are often linked to deaths from cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. Extreme heat makes the heart pump more blood and causes dehydration and pulmonary stress. Extreme cold, on the other hand, can make the heart pump less blood and cause hypotension and, in some cases, organ failure. The team also found older adults are especially vulnerable to extreme temperatures, with 7.5% of deaths among them correlated to extreme heat and cold during the study period. Although the numbers varied from year to year, in 2015, for instance, more than 16,000 deaths — out of nearly 855,000 — among people ages 65 or older were attributable to extreme temperatures. Latin America’s aging population is projected to rise more quickly than other parts of the world — from 9% in 2020 to 19% in 2050, by some estimates (PDF). […] Although deaths on extremely cold days — about 785,000 — were much higher than those on extremely hot days — about 103,000 — overall there were more days with intense cold, which could explain this difference. But for some cities, such as Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, and Merida, heat is more deadly than cold: The researchers estimated that on very hot days, the chance of dying increases by 5.7% for every 1C increase in temperature.

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California’s Attempt To Protect Kids Online Could End Adults’ Internet Anonymity

Thomas Claburn writes via The Register: California lawmakers met in Sacramento today to discuss, among other things, proposed legislation to protect children online. The bill, AB2273, known as The California Age-Appropriate Design Code Act, would require websites to verify the ages of visitors. Critics of the legislation contend this requirement threatens the privacy of adults and the ability to use the internet anonymously, in California and likely elsewhere, because of the role the Golden State’s tech companies play on the internet.

“First, the bill pretextually claims to protect children, but it will change the Internet for everyone,” said Eric Goldman, Santa Clara University School of Law professor, in a blog post. “In order to determine who is a child, websites and apps will have to authenticate the age of ALL consumers before they can use the service. No one wants this.” The bill, Goldman argues, will put an end to casual web browsing, forcing companies to collect personal information they don’t want to store and protect — and that consumers don’t want to provide — in order to authenticate the age of visitors. And since age authentication generally requires identity details, that threatens the ability to use the internet anonymously.

Goldman also objects to this American state-level bill being modeled after the UK’s Age-Appropriate Design Code (AADC) because European law makes compliance a matter of engagement and dialogue with regulators, in contrast to the US rules-based approach that allows more certainty about what is or not allowed. Furthermore, he contends that the scope of the bill reaches beyond children’s privacy and implicates consumer protection and content moderation. He thus considers the bill “a trojan horse for comprehensive regulation of Internet services” and would turn the California Privacy Protection Agency (CPPA) into a general internet regulation agency.

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Apple Exec Says Samsung Copied iPhone and Simply ‘Put a Bigger Screen Around It’

In a new documentary about the evolution of the iPhone, Apple’s marketing chief Greg Joswiak was seen calling Samsung “annoying” and accusing them of poorly copying Apple’s technology. “They were annoying,” said Joswiak. “And they were annoying because, as you know, they ripped off our technology. They took the innovations that we had created and created a poor copy of it, and just put a bigger screen around it. So, yeah, we were none too pleased.” MacRumors reports: Samsung launched the Galaxy S4 with a 5-inch display in early 2013, at a time when the iPhone 5 had a 4-inch display. Apple did eventually release its first larger smartphones with the 4.7-inch iPhone 6 and 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus in 2014, and the devices were met with strong demand and went on to be among the best-selling iPhone models ever.

Apple sued Samsung in 2011 for patent infringement, alleging that Samsung copied the iPhone’s design with its own Galaxy line of smartphones. Apple was initially awarded around $1 billion in damages, but the amount was lowered in a subsequent retrial. In 2018, Apple finally settled with Samsung and reiterated the following statement: “We believe deeply in the value of design, and our teams work tirelessly to create innovative products that delight our customers. This case has always been about more than money. Apple ignited the smartphone revolution with iPhone and it is a fact that Samsung blatantly copied our design. It is important that we continue to protect the hard work and innovation of so many people at Apple. We’re grateful to the jury for their service and pleased they agree that Samsung should pay for copying our products.” The full documentary can be watched on The Wall Street Journal’s website.

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TSMC May Surpass Intel In Quarterly Revenue For First Time

Wall Street analysts estimate TSMC will grow second-quarter revenue 43 percent quarter-over-quarter to $18.1 billion. Intel, on the other hand, is expected to see sales decline 2 percent sequentially to $17.98 billion in the same period, according to estimates collected by Yahoo Finance. The Register reports: The potential for TSMC to surpass Intel in quarterly revenue is indicative of how demand has grown for contract chip manufacturing, fueled by companies like Qualcomm, Nvidia, AMD, and Apple who design their own chips and outsource manufacturing to foundries like TSMC. This trend has created a quandary for Intel. The semiconductor giant has traditionally manufactured the chips it designs as part of its integrated device manufacturing model but the company is now increasingly reliant on TSMC and other foundries for certain components, while expanding its own manufacturing capacity in the West.

The kicker is that Intel plans to use this increased capacity to produce more of its own chips while also supporting its revitalized foundry business, which hopes to take business from TSMC and South Korea’s Samsung, the industry’s other leading-edge chipmaker, in the future. This new strategy by Intel is called IDM 2.0, and it means the chipmaker will have to juggle two somewhat conflicting objectives:

– taking foundry market share away from TSMC and Samsung by convincing various fabless chip designers to use its plants;

– and using leading-edge nodes from TSMC and Samsung for certain components to compete with fabless companies like AMD and Nvidia. “Samsung has already surpassed Intel as the largest semiconductor company by revenue, so TSMC potentially growing larger than the x86 giant further underscores the tentative position Intel is in,” concludes the report.

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On NetHack’s 35th Anniversary, It’s Displayed at Museum of Modern Art

Switzerland-based software developer Jean-Christophe Collet writes:
A long time ago I got involved with the development of NetHack, a very early computer role playing game, and soon joined the DevTeam, as we’ve been known since the early days. I was very active for the first 10 years then progressively faded out even though I am still officially (or semi-officially as there is nothing much really “official” about NetHack, but more on that later) part of the team.

This is how, as we were closing on the 35th anniversary of the project, I learned that NetHack was being added to the collection of the Museum of Modern Art of New York. It had been selected by the Architecture and Design department for its small collection of video games, and was going to be displayed as part of the Never Alone exhibition this fall.

From its humble beginnings as a fork of the 1982 dungeon-exploring game “Hack” (based on the 1980 game Rogue), Nethack influenced both Diablo and Torchlight, Collet writes. But that’s just the beginning:

It is one of the oldest open-source projects still in activity. It actually predates the term “open-source” (it was “free software” back then) and even the GPL by a few years. It is also one of the first, if not the first software project to be developed entirely over the Internet by a team distributed across the globe (hence the “Net” in “NetHack”).
In the same spirit, it is one of the first projects to take feedback, suggestions, bug reports and bug fixes from the online community (mostly over UseNet at the time) long, long before tools like GitHub (or Git for that matter), BugZilla or Discord were even a glimmer of an idea in the minds of their creators….

So what did I learn working as part of the NetHack DevTeam?

First, I learned that you should always write clean code that you won’t be embarrassed by, 35 years later, when it ends up in a museum….

Collet praises things like asynchronous communication and distributed teams, before closing with the final lesson he learned. “Having fun is the best way to boost your creativity and productivity to the highest levels.

“There is no substitute…. I am incredibly grateful to have been part of that adventure.”

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Goodbye Zachtronics, Developers of Very Cool Video Games

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Kotaku: On July 5, Zachtronics will be releasing Last Call BBS, a collection of stylish little puzzle games wrapped up in a retro PC gaming vibe. After 11 years in business (and even longer outside of commercial releases), a time which has seen the studio develop a cult following almost unrivaled in indie gaming, it will be the last new game Zachtronics will ever release. We spoke to founder Zach Barth to find out why.

Named for founder Zach Barth, Zachtronics has spent most of those 11 years specializing in puzzle games (or variations on the theme). And pretty much every single one of them has been great (or at least interesting). […] The result has been a succession of games that may not have been to everyone’s tastes, but for those with whom they resonated, it was their shit. It’s not hard seeing why: most of Zachtronics’ games involved challenging puzzles, but also a deeply cool and interesting presentation surrounding them, such as the grimy hacker aesthetic of Exapunks, or the Advance Wars-like Mobius Front 83. Given those initial and superficial differences, it can sometimes be hard pinpointing exactly what makes a game so clearly a Zachtronics joint, but like love and art, when you see it you just know it.

So it’s sad, but also awesome in its own way, that 2022 will see the end of Zachtronics. Not because their publisher shuttered them, or because their venture capital funding ran out, or because Activision made them work on Call of Duty, or any other number of reasons (bankruptcy! scandal!) game developers usually close their doors. No, Zachtronics is closing because…they want to. “We’re wrapping things up!” Barth tells Kotaku’s Luke Plunkett. “Zachtronics will release Last Call BBS next month. We’re also working on a long-awaited solitaire collection that we’re hoping to have out by the end of the year. After that, the team will disband. We all have different ideas, interests, tolerances for risk, and so on, so we’re still figuring out what we want to do next.”

“We felt it was time for a change. This might sound weird, but while we got very good at making ‘Zachtronics games’ over the last twelve years, it was hard for us to make anything else. We were fortunate enough to carve out a special niche, and I’m thankful that we’ve been able to occupy it and survive in it, but it also kept us locked into doing something we didn’t feel like doing forever.”

Last Call BBS will be released on July 5 on Steam. You can view the trailer here.

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OpenAI Has Trained a Neural Network To Competently Play Minecraft

In a blog post today, OpenAI says they’ve “trained a neural network to play Minecraft by Video PreTraining (VPT) on a massive unlabeled video dataset of human Minecraft play, while using only a small amount of labeled contractor data.” The model can reportedly learn to craft diamond tools, “a task that usually takes proficient humans over 20 minutes (24,000 actions),” they note. From the post: In order to utilize the wealth of unlabeled video data available on the internet, we introduce a novel, yet simple, semi-supervised imitation learning method: Video PreTraining (VPT). We start by gathering a small dataset from contractors where we record not only their video, but also the actions they took, which in our case are keypresses and mouse movements. With this data we train an inverse dynamics model (IDM), which predicts the action being taken at each step in the video. Importantly, the IDM can use past and future information to guess the action at each step. This task is much easier and thus requires far less data than the behavioral cloning task of predicting actions given past video frames only, which requires inferring what the person wants to do and how to accomplish it. We can then use the trained IDM to label a much larger dataset of online videos and learn to act via behavioral cloning.

We chose to validate our method in Minecraft because it (1) is one of the most actively played video games in the world and thus has a wealth of freely available video data and (2) is open-ended with a wide variety of things to do, similar to real-world applications such as computer usage. Unlike prior works in Minecraft that use simplified action spaces aimed at easing exploration, our AI uses the much more generally applicable, though also much more difficult, native human interface: 20Hz framerate with the mouse and keyboard.

Trained on 70,000 hours of IDM-labeled online video, our behavioral cloning model (the âoeVPT foundation modelâ) accomplishes tasks in Minecraft that are nearly impossible to achieve with reinforcement learning from scratch. It learns to chop down trees to collect logs, craft those logs into planks, and then craft those planks into a crafting table; this sequence takes a human proficient in Minecraft approximately 50 seconds or 1,000 consecutive game actions. Additionally, the model performs other complex skills humans often do in the game, such as swimming, hunting animals for food, and eating that food. It also learned the skill of “pillar jumping,” a common behavior in Minecraft of elevating yourself by repeatedly jumping and placing a block underneath yourself. For more information, OpenAI has a paper (PDF) about the project.

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