The AI Detection Arms Race Is On

Edward Tian didn’t think of himself as a writer. As a computer science major at Princeton, he’d taken a couple of journalism classes, where he learned the basics of reporting, and his sunny affect and tinkerer’s curiosity endeared him to his teachers and classmates. But he describes his writing style at the time as “pretty bad”—formulaic and clunky. One of his journalism professors said that Tian was good at “pattern recognition,” which was helpful when producing news copy. So Tian was surprised when, sophomore year, he managed to secure a spot in John McPhee’s exclusive non-fiction writing seminar.

Every week, 16 students gathered to hear the legendary New Yorker writer dissect his craft. McPhee assigned exercises that forced them to think rigorously about words: Describe a piece of modern art on campus, or prune the Gettysburg Address for length. Using a projector and slides, McPhee shared hand-drawn diagrams that illustrated different ways he structured his own essays: a straight line, a triangle, a spiral. Tian remembers McPhee saying he couldn’t tell his students how to write, but he could at least help them find their own unique voice.

This article appears in the October 2023 issue. Subscribe to WIRED.

Photograph: Jessica Chou

If McPhee stoked a romantic view of language in Tian, computer science offered a different perspective: language as statistics. During the pandemic, he’d taken a year off to work at the BBC and intern at Bellingcat, an open source journalism project, where he’d written code to detect Twitter bots. As a junior, he’d taken classes on machine learning and natural language processing. And in the fall of 2022, he began to work on his senior thesis about detecting the differences between AI-generated and human-written text.

When ChatGPT debuted in November, Tian found himself in an unusual position. As the world lost its mind over this new, radically improved chatbot, Tian was already familiar with the underlying GPT-3 technology. And as a journalist who’d worked on rooting out disinformation campaigns, he understood the implications of AI-generated content for the industry.

While home in Toronto for winter break, Tian started playing around with a new program: a ChatGPT detector. He posted up at his favorite café, slamming jasmine tea, and stayed up late coding in his bedroom. His idea was simple. The software would scan a piece of text for two factors: “perplexity,” the randomness of word choice; and “burstiness,” the complexity or variation of sentences. Human writing tends to rate higher than AI writing on both metrics, which allowed Tian to guess how a piece of text had been created. Tian called the tool GPTZero—the “zero” signaled truth, a return to basics—and he put it online the evening of January 2. He posted a link on Twitter with a brief introduction. The goal was to combat “increasing AI plagiarism,” he wrote. “Are high school teachers going to want students using ChatGPT to write their history essays? Likely not.” Then he went to bed.

Tian woke up the next morning to hundreds of retweets and replies. There was so much traffic to the host server that many users couldn’t access it. “It was totally crazy,” Tian says. “My phone was blowing up.” A friend congratulated him on winning the internet. Teens on TikTok called him a narc. “A lot of the initial hate was like, ‘This kid is a snitch, he doesn’t have a life, he never had a girlfriend,’” says Tian with a grin. “Classic stuff.” (Tian has a girlfriend.) Within days, he was fielding calls from journalists around the world, eventually appearing on everything from NPR to the South China Morning Post to Anderson Cooper 360. Within a week, his original tweet had reached more than 7 million views.

via Wired Top Stories

September 14, 2023 at 05:03AM

Radiation Is Everywhere. But It’s Not All Bad

Most people interpret radiation as a bad thing—but it isn’t always. In fact, radiation is a very normal phenomenon. For now, let’s just say that radiation is when an object produces energy. When a material is radioactive, it emits energy either as particles or electromagnetic waves. The particles are usually things like electrons or atoms. The waves could be in any region of the electromagnetic spectrum. Since your Wi-Fi produces electromagnetic waves, technically your home access point is a source of radiation. So is that light bulb in the ceiling. Actually, even you are a source of radiation in the infrared spectrum, due to your temperature.

However, most people don’t think of radiation that way. What’s commonly called “radiation” is actually a special type: ionizing radiation. When an object produces ionizing radiation, it emits enough energy that when it interacts with other materials there’s a chance it could free an electron from its atom. This electron is then free to interact with other atoms, or maybe just wander off into empty space. But no matter what the electron does, once it gets away from its original atom, we call that ionization.

Ionizing radiation was discovered by accident. Before digital smartphones, when people took pictures on film, the basic idea of photography was that when film was exposed to light, it would cause a chemical reaction that would reveal a picture when the film was developed. Then in 1896, French physicist Henri Becquerel discovered radioactivity when he realized that uranium salts produced an effect on otherwise unexposed photographic film that was still in its wrapper. Somehow the uranium produced an effect similar to light, but unlike the light, it could pass through the paper wrapping.

It turns out that uranium is naturally radioactive, and this was a type of ionizing radiation. Uranium produces electromagnetic waves in the gamma spectrum. Gamma radiation is similar to visible light when it interacts with film (thus exposing it), but it’s different from visible light in that it can pass through paper.

You might not directly use uranium in your everyday life, but you will indeed encounter ionizing radiation—at safe levels—in many different applications. For example, smoke detectors use a radioactive source to detect smoke in the air. A radioactive source produces charged particles (alpha particles, in most cases) that ionize the air inside the detector, which in turn creates an electric current in the air. If tiny particles of smoke get inside the detector, it blocks this electrical current. Then the detector sends a signal to make an ear-piercing noise so that you know there’s a fire—or maybe that you burnt your dinner on the stove.

Eighteen percent of the electrical power in the US comes from nuclear power plants, and they obviously produce ionizing radiation. Medical x-ray images can produce ionizing radiation. Some ceramic dishes are coated in a uranium-based paint—yup, that produces radiation. Technically, bananas are radioactive, due to their comparatively large concentration of potassium. Ionizing radiation could even be from outer space—we call these cosmic rays.

via Wired Top Stories

September 15, 2023 at 08:06AM

New record! Firefly Aerospace launches Space Force mission 27 hours after receiving order

Firefly Aerospace just set a new responsive-launch record.

The company’s Alpha rocket lifted off from Vandenberg Space Force Base on Thursday (Sept. 14) at 10:28 p.m. EDT (7:28 p.m. local California time; 0228 GMT on Sept. 15), kicking off a mission for the U.S. Space Force called Victus Nox.

The rocket roared off the pad just 27 hours after the U.S. Space Force gave the order — less time than on any previous national security mission. 

“The success of Victus Nox marks a culture shift in our nation’s ability to deter adversary aggression and, when required, respond with the operational speed necessary to deliver decisive capabilities to our warfighters,” Lt. Gen. Michael Guetlein, commander of the Space Force’s Space Systems Command (SSC), said in an emailed statement. 

“This exercise is part of an end-to-end Tactically Responsive Space demonstration which proves the United States Space Force can rapidly integrate capabilities and will respond to aggression when called to do so on tactically relevant timelines,” Guetlein added.

Thursday’s launch was not livestreamed. Neither Firefly nor the Space Force publicized the timing of the liftoff in advance.

Related: US Space Force establishes new unit to track ‘threats in orbit’

Firefly Aerospace’s Alpha rocket deploys its payload into orbit on the Victus Nox mission on Sept. 14, 2023. (Image credit: Firefly Aerospace)

The wheels for Victus Nox (Latin for “conquer the night”) began turning in September 2022, when the Space Force awarded contracts to Texas-based Firefly and Millennium Space Systems, a Boeing subsidiary headquartered in the Los Angeles area that built the mission’s payload.

That payload will perform a “space domain awareness” mission, keeping tabs on the orbital environment for the Space Force.

But the leadup to launch may have been more important than any data that Victus Nox ends up gathering, as it showcased new capabilities that the U.S. military is eager to implement. 

“This end-to-end mission will demonstrate the United States’ ability to rapidly place an asset on orbit when and where we need it, ensuring we can augment our space capabilities with very little notice,” SSC’s Lt. Col. MacKenzie Birchenough said in a statement last year, when the Victus Nox contracts were announced. 

On Aug. 30 of this year, Firefly and Millenium entered the mission’s “hot standby” phase, a six-month period during which they could receive a launch-alert notice at any time. After receipt of that notice, Millenium and Firefly would have 60 hours to get the satellite from Millenium’s Southern California facilities to Vandenberg, fuel it up and mate it to the Alpha rocket’s payload adapter.

The alert came through recently, and the mission teams hit their ambitious timeline.

“Upon activation, the space vehicle was transported 165 miles [266 kilometers] from Millenium’s El Segundo facility to Vandenberg Space Force Base where it was tested, fueled and mated to the launch adapter in just under 58 hours, significantly faster than the typical timeline of weeks or months,” Space Force officials said in the emailed statement. 

The teams then had to wait for the launch order, which would give them Victus Nox’s orbital requirements. They would then have just 24 hours to update Alpha’s trajectory and guidance software, encapsulate the satellite in its payload fairing, get the payload to the pad, mate it to Alpha and get the rocket ready to launch, Firefly wrote in a statement.

The teams managed that task as well. They were ready to launch as soon as the first window opened, which was 27 hours after the Space Force gave the order.

“Challenging missions like this is where Firefly excels, and we are extremely humbled and proud to provide the U.S. Space Force and the nation with the critical capability to launch on-demand in support of national security,” Firefly CEO Bill Weber said in the same company statement.

“Together with our mission partners, we’ll be setting a new standard, proving nominal launch operations can be completed in a matter of hours rather than weeks to months,” he added.

Victus Nox’s speed goals didn’t end with the successful liftoff. The teams now aim to get the satellite up and running within 48 hours of its deployment.

The previous responsive-launch record for a U.S. national security mission was 21 days, Space Force officials said. That mark was set in June 2021 on the Tactically Responsive Launch-2 (TacRL-2) mission, which was carried out by a Northop Grumman Pegasus XL air-launched rocket.

TacRL-2 and Victus Nox are both demonstration missions of SSC’s Space Safari Program Office, “which is responsible for responding to urgent on-orbit needs, to include acquiring, integrating, and executing TacRS capabilities,” according to the Space Force statement.

Victus Nox’s liftoff was just the third for Firefly’s Alpha. The rocket failed during its debut launch in September 2021. It delivered seven satellites to orbit on its second flight, in October 2022, but apparently deployed them at a lower altitude than planned, leading to early reentries for the payloads.

via Space

September 15, 2023 at 01:15PM

Honda’s adorable ’80s microscooter is back and electrified for the 21st century

That’s not Photoshop — it’s supposed to look like that. This is Honda’s Motocompacto, a throwback all-electric rideable inspired by the short-lived Honda Motocompo scooter of the ‘80s, and I’m sorry to say that I’m kind of into it.

The vehicle, folded up, resembles one of those Costco folding tables but with little aluminum wheels poking out the bottom. To transform it into a scooter, you extend the handlebars, seats and back wheel, and ride away on something vaguely approximating a bike. (To give you some perspective on the design, this thing is just over three feet long.)

Honda Motocompacto pictured folded.

Honda says its aluminum frame and wheels keep it “lightweight” but at 41 pounds it’s firmly in the same weight class as regular e-bikes, and with a range of "up to 12 miles," it’s not getting you very far either. After its 12-mile range is used up, it can be re-juiced in 3.5 hours, which is a considerable amount of time, but at least it comes with an on-board charger ready for you to plug into a 110V outlet.

The scooter is designed to be easy to take into vehicles or on public transportation — which could be a huge selling point for city dwellers that want the convenience of an e-bike or scooter but not the trouble of securely locking it up all day. It’s part of Honda’s big EV push, which aims to replace its entire lineup with battery-electric and fuel-cell-electric vehicles by 2040.

The Honda Motocompacto will be available starting in November priced “under $995” exclusively on Honda’s website and at Honda and Acura dealers.

Update September 14 1PM ET: This article was modified after publish to include a link to the Motocompacto website.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

via Engadget

September 14, 2023 at 08:03AM

Doctor Who’s Time-Traveling Icons Reimagined as Adorable Toddlers [Gallery]

Can you imagine anything cuter than the Doctors and their companions as adorable toddlers? Well, thanks to the magic of Midjourney, we don’t have to! Prepare yourselves for a dose of adorableness that’s out of time and space. Oh, and let’s not forget to add a few villainous tots in there as well!

[Source: the_ai_dreams | the_ai_dreams on Instagram | the_ai_dreams on Tiktok]

Click This Link for the Full Post > Doctor Who’s Time-Traveling Icons Reimagined as Adorable Toddlers [Gallery]

via [Geeks Are Sexy] Technology News

September 15, 2023 at 08:24AM

CVS, Walgreens Among Companies Flagged by FDA for Selling Sketchy Eye Drop Products

The Food and Drug Administration is warning several companies, including the retail chains CVS and Walgreens, to stop selling unapproved, potentially dangerous eye drop products. The agency claims that the companies have committed a number of violations in manufacturing or marketing these products. The FDA is also worried about the inclusion of silver compounds in some products, since silver can turn people’s skin or eyes permanently blue with long-term use.

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The FDA announced Tuesday that it was issuing warning letters to eight different companies regarding their eye drop products. These companies include CVS Health and Walgreens Boots Alliance, Inc, both of which own retail pharmacy chains that sell store-brand versions of popular over-the-counter drugs and healthcare products. Other flagged companies such as Similasan and Boiron produce products commonly sold in retail or online pharmacies.

The FDA alleges that the cited eye drop products sold by these companies are illegally marketed. The labeling of these products often includes language claiming that they can treat or cure conditions such as conjunctivitis (pink eye), cataracts, glaucoma, and others. As a general rule, however, anything sold in the U.S. that explicitly claims to fix a medical problem needs to have been cleared, authorized, or approved by the FDA beforehand, and the agency says that these products have not gone through that process.

Some of the eye drop brands have also allegedly been made at facilities that have recently failed to meet standard manufacturing guidelines for product safety and quality, including the eye drops sold by CVS and Walgreens. The FDA further says that these two eye drop brands in particular are labeled to contain silver, ostensibly used as a preservative. While silver can be used medicinally (often for its antimicrobial properties), the FDA is worried that its inclusion in eye drop products could be dangerous. Long-term consumption of silver as a drug is known to potentially cause a condition called argyria, which can turn our skin, internal organs, and soft tissues (including those of the eye) permanently blue.

“The FDA is particularly concerned that these illegally marketed, unapproved ophthalmic drug products pose a heightened risk of harm to users because drugs applied to the eyes bypass some of the body’s natural defenses,” the agency said in its announcement.

Many of the products mentioned by the FDA in these letters are additionally branded as homeopathic remedies. Homeopathy is a not-so-ancient form of alternative medicine that has no good evidence for its effectiveness in treating any medical problem. The agency notes that people using unapproved products such as these might delay or stop using products that have actually been proven to be safe and effective for their intended use.

The companies are expected to respond to the FDA within 15 days on how they will correct their alleged violations. Failing a response, the agency has the ability to take further steps, including legal action to seize or stop the manufacturing of these products. The FDA has also added some of the companies to a list of import alerts, which allows the FDA to detain products shipped from overseas without examination before they can enter the country.

“When we identify illegally marketed, unapproved drugs and lapses in drug quality that pose potential risks, the FDA works to notify the companies involved of the violations,” said Jill Furman, director of the Office of Compliance for the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, in a statement. “We will continue to investigate potentially harmful eye products and work to ensure violative products stay off store shelves so that consumers can continue taking the medicines they need without concern.”

via Gizmodo

September 13, 2023 at 02:03PM

Swiss students just set a mind-bending EV acceleration record

Last year, a team of German students set a world record for the fastest-accelerating electric car, pulling 2.5Gs while reaching 62 mph (100km/h) in a staggering 1.461 seconds. Now, that record has been shattered by another team of students from Switzerland, whose car just crossed the one-second threshold.

The AMZ team’s car, named Mythen, made the 0-62 mph (0-to-100 kph) run in just 0.956 seconds, knocking more than half a second off the previous team’s record – a lifetime in any sort of timed automotive event. Research team members from ETH Zurich and the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Art built the car, which took just 12.3 meters to break the acceleration record.

Built by hand, the stubby-looking car weighs just 140 kg (around 309 pounds) and is powered by a custom 321-horsepower engine. AMZ’s head of aerodynamics, Dario Messerli, said, “Power isn’t the only thing that matters when it comes to setting an acceleration record; effectively transferring that power to the ground is also key.” He went on to describe the way Formula 1 cars use downforce to achieve that power transfer and said that the team developed a vacuum system to effectively suction the car to the ground.

That’s an approach McMurtry Automotive took with its mind-bending Speirling EV, which is now for sale with a more than $1 million price tag. The track-only (for now) car can hit 60 mph in 1.4 seconds and run the quarter mile in 7.97 seconds. The company credits its aerodynamic design over its purported 1,000 horsepower as the driving force behind its performance.

The Speirling has two turbines behind its cockpit that suck the air from underneath the car, allowing it to outrun cars like the Rimac Nevera. However, all of that still doesn’t match the effort put in by the Swiss team, but at least the Speirling has a roof.

via Autoblog

September 13, 2023 at 11:02AM