NEWS | IN BRIEF
stands by its findings, pressing for another
attempt to independently verify that the
NgAgo system works and stating that
“when key requirements are met, the
NgAgo-gDNA system can effectively edit
genes,” although the team did not reveal
what those key requirements are. Han
could not be reached for comment.
Can computers be creative? Last year,
Google launched Magenta, a research
project aimed at pushing the limits of what
artificial intelligence (AI) can do in the
arts. Science spoke with Douglas Eck, the
team’s lead in San Francisco, California,
about the past, present, and future of creative AI. http://scim.ag/GoogleAImusic
Q: How does Magenta compose music?
A: Learning is the key. We’ve tried lots of
Q: What else is Magenta doing?
different machine-learning techniques,
including convolutional neural net-
works, adversarial training methods, and
reinforcement learning. They’re all differ-
ent techniques for learning by example to
generate something new.
A: We’re … working on image generation
and drawing generation. See for example
David Ha’s work SketchRNN. In the
future, I’d like to look more at areas
Italy and France push for vaccines
In a controversial pushback to parents who are hesitant or flat out against vaccinating their children, Italy and France both have decided to make several vaccines manda- tory for school-age children. Both countries have seen spikes in measles cases over the past few years. The Italian Parliament on 28 July voted 296–92 in favor of a new law that will require parents to provide proof of vaccination against measles
related to design. Can we provide tools
and nine other diseases. In France, Prime Minister Édouard Philippe announced
during an address to the French Parliament on 4 July that childhood vaccines will
become mandatory in 2018. He didn’t specify which vaccines, but in June the coun-
try’s health minister told Le Parisien newspaper that 11 would be required. Last year,
a survey on vaccine confidence in 66 countries found that France had the highest
concern about vaccine safety.
An antivaccine protester
in Rome on 28 July.
for architects or web page creators?
Q: How might people and machines
collaborate to be more creative?
A: I think it’s an iterative process. I love to
think of Magenta like an electric gui-tar. Jimi Hendrix and Joni Mitchell and …
a thousand other guitarists who pushed
the envelope on how this instrument can
be played were all using the instrument the
wrong way, some said—retuning, distorting, bending strings, playing upside down,
using effects pedals. No matter how fast
machine learning advances, artists will
push the boundaries, too.
Relativity passes black hole test
Albert Einstein’s theory of general
relativity—which states that massive objects
cause a distortion in space-time that is felt
as gravity—has passed every test physicists have thrown at it in the past century.
Now, astronomers say the theory holds in
a previously untested milieu: the extreme
gravity around a supermassive black hole.
Researchers using the European Southern
Observatory’s Very Large Telescope in
Chile report this week in the Astrophysical
Journal observing small deviations, as
predicted by general relativity, in the path
of a star hurtling toward the large black
hole at the center of the Milky Way. Stricter
tests are expected next year, when the star,
dubbed S2, will swing close to the black
hole at 5000 kilometers per second.
Vitamin B3 for healthy babies
A pregnant woman might be able to
prevent certain kinds of birth defects
by supplementing her diet with extra
doses of vitamin B3, researchers suggest. Genetic studies of four families who
had children with multiple birth defects
found mutations in two genes that are
involved in making nicotinamide adenine
dinucleotide (NAD), a key player in cell
metabolism. Knocking out the genes in
mice also caused birth defects similar to
those in the human patients, the research
team reports in this week’s issue of The
New England Journal of Medicine. Cells
can use niacin and other forms of B3
to make NAD without those genes, and
giving the mutant mice extra niacin prevented birth defects in their offspring. It’s
not yet clear whether B3 supplements are
justified for all pregnant women, but the
work also suggests that doses of the vitamin might help treat children with birth
defects due to such gene mutations.
Magenta researchers programmed an algorithm to learn
various artistic styles and apply them to photographs.