Author: The Conversation

If health is a fundamental human right, health-care delivery must be improved globally to achieve universal access. However, the limited number of practitioners creates a barrier for all health-care systems. Approaches to health-care delivery driven by artificial intelligence (AI) are poised to fill this gap. Whether in urban hospitals or in rural and remote homes, AI has the reach that health-care professionals cannot hope to achieve. People seeking health information can obtain it quickly and conveniently. For health care to be effective, patient safety must remain a priority. The news is filled with examples of novel applications of AI. Riding the wave of recent interest…

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If you find it intriguing that February 28 will be followed this week by February 29, rather than March 1 as it usually is, spare a thought for those alive in 1582. Back then, Thursday October 4 was followed by Friday October 15. Ten whole days were snatched from the present when Pope Gregory XIII issued a papal bull to “restore” the calendar from discrepancies that had crept into the Julian calendar, introduced by Julius Caesar in 45 BCE. The new Gregorian calendar returned the northern hemisphere’s vernal equinox to its “proper” place, around March 21. (The equinox is when…

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Smartphone ownership among younger children is increasing rapidly. Many primary school children now own smartphones and they have become the norm in high school. Parents of younger children may occasionally (or routinely) look at their child’s phone to check it’s being used responsibly and safely. But as children mature into teens, parental inspections will likely feel like an invasion of privacy. Many would not ask for a high schooler’s diary, yet phones hold even more personal information. So, what do parents need to consider when making the “phone rules” for their children as they get older? Early smartphone ownership Parents get…

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In the few short years since the COVID pandemic changed our world, China, Japan and India have all successfully landed on the Moon. Many more robotic missions have flown past the Moon, entered lunar orbit, or crashed into it in the past five years. This includes spacecraft developed by South Korea, the United Arab Emirates, and an Israeli not-for-profit organisation. Late last week, the American company Intuitive Machines, in collaboration with NASA, celebrated “America’s return to the Moon” with a successful landing of its Odysseus spacecraft. Recent Chinese-built sample return missions are far more complex than this project. And didn’t NASA ferry a dozen humans…

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In 2009, an Air France jet crashed into the ocean, leaving no survivors. The plane’s autopilot system shut down and the pilots, having become reliant on their computerised assistant, were unable to correct the situation manually. In 2015, a bus driver in Europe typed the wrong destination into his GPS device and cheerfully took a group of Belgian tourists on a 1,200 kilometre detour in the wrong direction. In 2017, in a decision later overturned on appeal, US prosecutors who had agreed to release a teenager on probation abruptly changed their minds because an algorithm ruled the defendant “high risk”. These are dramatic examples, but…

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In today’s interconnected world, space technology forms the backbone of our global communication, navigation and security systems. Satellites orbiting Earth are pivotal for everything from GPS navigation to international banking transactions, making them indispensable assets in our daily lives and in global infrastructure. However, as our dependency on these celestial guardians escalates, so too does their allure to adversaries who may seek to compromise their functionality through cyber means. A satellite’s service could be interrupted, or at worst the spacecraft could be disabled. The expansion of the digital realm into space has opened new frontiers for cyber threats, posing unprecedented challenges. This…

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A class-action lawsuit filed in the United States against Match Group – the parent company of dating apps Tinder, Hinge and The League – is making headlines around the world. The claimants accuse Match of having a “predatory” business model and using “recognised dopamine-manipulating product features” to get people addicted to their apps. So, can dating apps really be addictive? Are we swiping right into a trap? Here’s the science behind how dating apps are influencing our brains. How do apps give us a dopamine hit? Dating apps, like many apps these days, are designed to keep users engaged. Like any…

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People in palliative care are dealing with serious, non-curable illnesses. Every day can be filled with severe physical, psychological and emotional pain. Palliative care staff work hard to help make patients as comfortable as possible and provide strong emotional support. Meaningful activities can help but patients often aren’t well enough to do the things they really love, such as travel. We wondered whether virtual reality (VR) could help. To find out, we supported 16 palliative care patients in an acute ward to do three 20-minute VR sessions, and asked them how they felt before and after each one. Our study,…

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As misinformation and radicalisation rise, it’s tempting to look for something to blame: the internet, social media personalities, sensationalised political campaigns, religion, or conspiracy theories. And once we’ve settled on a cause, solutions usually follow: do more fact-checking, regulate advertising, ban YouTubers deemed to have “gone too far”. However, if these strategies were the whole answer, we should already be seeing a decrease in people being drawn into fringe communities and beliefs, and less misinformation in the online environment. We’re not. In new research published in the Journal of Sociology, we and our colleagues found radicalisation is a process of increasingly…

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Leanne Manas is a familiar face on South African televisions. Towards the end of 2023 the morning news presenter’s face showed up somewhere else: in bogus news stories and fake advertisements in which “she” appeared to promote various products or get-rich-quick schemes. It quickly emerged that Manas had fallen victim to “deepfaking”. Deepfakes involve the use of artificial intelligence tools to manipulate images, video and audio. And it doesn’t require cutting-edge technical know-how. Software like FaceSwap and ZaoApp, which can be downloaded for free, mean that anybody can create deepfakes. Deepfakes were initially used in the entertainment industry. For example, an actress in France who…

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