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Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Which should I buy? Canon RF 24mm vs 35mm f/1.8 Macro IS STM

Apple’s Newest Headache: An App That Upended Its Control Over Messaging

Apple’s Newest Headache: An App That Upended Its Control Over Messaging

“Beeper Mini, which offers iPhone messaging on Android phones, has grown fast and its duel with the tech giant has gotten the attention of antitrust regulators.

A man in a white sweater stands in a yard before a wooden fence.
Eric Migicovsky created Beeper to build a single messaging app that could send texts across multiple services.Helynn Ospina for The New York Times

For years, Ben Black’s phone annoyed his family. It was the only Android device in a family message group with eight iPhones. Because of him, videos and photos would arrive in low resolution and there would be green bubbles of text amid bubbles of blue.

But a new app called Beeper Mini gave him the ability to change that.

Mr. Black, 25, used the app to create an account for Apple’s messaging service, iMessage, with his Google Pixel phone number. For the first time, every message the family exchanged had a blue bubble and members were able to use perks like emojis and animations.

Since it was introduced on Dec. 5, Beeper Mini has quickly become a headache and potential antitrust problem for Apple. It has poked a hole in Apple’s messaging system, while critics say it has demonstrated how Apple bullies potential competitors.

Apple was caught by surprise when Beeper Mini gave Android devices access to its modern, iPhone-only service. Less than a week after Beeper Mini’s launch, Apple blocked the app by changing its iMessage system. It said the app created a security and privacy risk.

Apple’s reaction set off a game of Whac-a-Mole, with Beeper Mini finding alternative ways to operate and Apple finding new ways to block the app in response.

The duel has raised questions in Washington about whether Apple has used its market dominance over iMessage to block competition and force consumers to spend more on iPhones than lower-priced alternatives.

The Justice Department has taken interest in the case. Beeper Mini met with the department’s antitrust lawyers on Dec. 12, two people familiar with the meeting said. Eric Migicovsky, a co-founder of the app’s parent company, Beeper, declined to comment on the meeting, but the department is in the middle of a four-year-old investigation into Apple’s anticompetitive behavior.

The Federal Trade Commission said in a blog post on Thursday that it would scrutinize “dominant” players that “use privacy and security as a justification to disallow interoperability” between services. The post did not name any companies.

The battle also caught the attention of the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust. The committee’s leadership — Senators Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota, and Mike Lee, Republican of Utah — wrote a letter to the Justice Department expressing concern that Apple was snuffing out competition.

Apple declined to comment on the letter.

The questions coming from Washington cut to the heart of today’s smartphone competition. Rival smartphone makers credit iMessage with helping Apple expand its smartphone market share in the United States to more than 50 percent of smartphones sold, up from 41 percent in 2018, according to Counterpoint Research, a technology firm.

Messaging has been a key part of Apple’s strategy to sell more iPhones. For years, it has made exchanges between iPhones and Android devices as basic as the texts between decades-old flip phones. Texts between iPhone users appear in blue and can be tapped to give a thumbs up, but texts with Android users appear in green and have no simple perks.

Android companies have tried to fight back. An Android smartphone maker, Nothing, has collaborated with an app called Sunbird to offer iMessage. Google, which has developed the Android operating system, has pressured Apple to adopt a technology called rich communication services, which would make it possible to send high-resolution video and images between competing smartphones.

But their efforts have not made much of a dent. Last month, Apple said it would adopt the technology in the coming year. The move means Android users will enjoy benefits like sharing higher-resolution videos but be stuck with the green bubbles for text messages, which have become stigmatized and associated with less wealth.

“Everyone is watching to see what kind of response Apple is going to have to Beeper Mini,” said Cory Doctorow, a special adviser to the digital rights advocacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation who has written a book about interoperability across different technologies. “We can’t tell how worried they are internally, but their response could have a huge impact on how messaging works.”

Protecting iMessage is a decade-old strategy at Apple. In 2013, Craig Federighi, Apple’s head of software, opposed making iMessage workable on competitors’ devices because it would “remove an obstacle to iPhone families giving their kids Android phones,” according to emails released during the company’s courtroom fight with Epic Games, the maker of Fortnite.

An image of text messages.
Beeper Mini is a bridge between Apple devices and its competitors.Beeper Mini
An image of text messages.
Beeper users are able to use perks like emojis and animations.Beeper Mini

Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive, has resisted calls to change that position. He told an iPhone owner at a conference last year that the solution to green text messages was to buy iPhones for friends and family members.

Beeper brought a different approach to messaging. Mr. Migicovsky created the company in 2020 to build a single messaging app that could send texts across multiple services, including WhatsApp and Signal.

Mr. Migicovsky managed to integrate most messaging services, except iMessage. Unlike its peers, Apple did not offer a web app, making it difficult to connect with its service. The only way Beeper could integrate iMessage was to route messages through Mac computers and then to an iPhone. The process delayed messages and made them less secure.

As Beeper struggled with iMessage, a teenager in Bethlehem, Pa., found an alternative solution. James Gill, a 16-year-old computer hobbyist, made it his personal goal to figure out how iMessage worked. He used software to decrypt his iMessages and determined that Apple used its push notification system — the same one that delivers news alerts — to ferry messages between devices.

“It wasn’t genius insight,” said Mr. Gill, a junior at Saucon Valley High School. “I was just poking at it for a long time.”

In June, Mr. Gill published his findings on GitHub, a software platform where programmers share code. When Mr. Migicovsky saw the post, he thought it could help Beeper solve its iMessage problem. He offered Mr. Gill a job making $100 an hour, a major increase from the $11 an hour the high schooler was making as a cashier at McDonald’s.

The job has been more involved than Mr. Migicovsky or Mr. Gill expected. Since Beeper Mini’s release this month, Apple has changed iMessage about three times, Mr. Migicovsky said.

Each change by Apple required an adjustment by Beeper. Its latest solution involves routing registration information to Beeper Mini users through their personal Mac computers.

“To block it entirely, they’ll have to come up with a way to require an iPhone serial number,” Mr. Gill said. “Beeper will still come up with a workaround.”

An Apple spokeswoman said it would continue to update iMessage because it could not verify that Beeper kept its messages encrypted. “These techniques posed significant risks to user security and privacy, including the potential for metadata exposure and enabling unwanted messages, spam, and phishing attacks,” she said in a statement.

Mr. Migicovsky disagrees. Instead of allowing Android customers to send encrypted messages to iPhone customers, he said, Apple is trying to force them to exchange unencrypted text messages. He has posted Beeper’s software code on the web and encouraged Apple and cybersecurity experts to review it.

Matthew Green, an associate professor of computer science at Johns Hopkins University, said Apple had some legitimate security concerns and warned that an extended fight between the two companies could potentially introduce vulnerabilities that criminals could exploit.

“A world where Apple works with third-party clients in a supported way is a good one,” Mr. Green said. “A world where Beeper and Apple try to fight each other in a tit-for-tat arms race is a bad one.”

In an attempt to end the standoff, Mr. Migicovsky said, he emailed Mr. Cook, but Apple’s chief has not responded.

“This wasn’t our intention,” Mr. Migicovsky said. “We’re trying to make it work, within our control, for the good of the chat world.”

A correction was made on 

Dec. 22, 2023

An earlier version of this article misspelled the surname of a computer hobbyist in Bethlehem, Pa., who determined how iMessage worked. He is James Gill, not McGill.

A correction was made on 

Dec. 25, 2023

An earlier version of this article referred incorrectly to Google’s relationship to Android. Google acquired Android in 2005 and has since developed it; it did not create Android.

Tripp Mickle reports on Apple and Silicon Valley for The Times and is based in San Francisco. His focus on Apple includes product launches, manufacturing issues and political challenges. He also writes about trends across the tech industry, including layoffs, generative A.I. and robot taxis.“

Wednesday, December 06, 2023

How Nations Are Losing a Global Race to Tackle A.I.’s Harms - The New York Times

How Nations Are Losing a Global Race to Tackle A.I.’s Harms

"Alarmed by the power of artificial intelligence, Europe, the United States and others are trying to respond — but the technology is evolving more rapidly than their policies.

An illustration of the unveiling of artificial intelligence, showing some countries in support, some in opposition.
Hokyoung Kim

By Adam Satariano and Cecilia Kang

Adam Satariano reported from Brussels, London and Strasbourg, France. Cecilia Kang reported from Washington.

When European Union leaders introduced a 125-page draft law to regulate artificial intelligence in April 2021, they hailed it as a global model for handling the technology.

E.U. lawmakers had gotten input from thousands of experts for three years about A.I., when the topic was not even on the table in other countries. The result was a “landmark” policy that was “future proof,” declared Margrethe Vestager, the head of digital policy for the 27-nation bloc.

Then came ChatGPT.

The eerily humanlike chatbot, which went viral last year by generating its own answers to prompts, blindsided E.U. policymakers. The type of A.I. that powered ChatGPT was not mentioned in the draft law and was not a major focus of discussions about the policy. Lawmakers and their aides peppered one another with calls and texts to address the gap, as tech executives warned that overly aggressive regulations could put Europe at an economic disadvantage.

Even now, E.U. lawmakers are arguing over what to do, putting the law at risk. “We will always be lagging behind the speed of technology,” said Svenja Hahn, a member of the European Parliament who was involved in writing the A.I. law.

Lawmakers and regulators in Brussels, in Washington and elsewhere are losing a battle to regulate A.I. and are racing to catch up, as concerns grow that the powerful technology will automate away jobs, turbocharge the spread of disinformation and eventually develop its own kind of intelligence. Nations have moved swiftly to tackle A.I.’s potential perils, but European officials have been caught off guard by the technology’s evolution, while U.S. lawmakers openly concede that they barely understand how it works.

The result has been a sprawl of responses. President Biden issued an executive order in October about A.I.’s national security effects as lawmakers debate what, if any, measures to pass. Japan is drafting nonbinding guidelines for the technology, while China has imposed restrictions on certain types of A.I. Britain has said existing laws are adequate for regulating the technology. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are pouring government money into A.I. research.

At the root of the fragmented actions is a fundamental mismatch. A.I. systems are advancing so rapidly and unpredictably that lawmakers and regulators can’t keep pace. That gap has been compounded by an A.I. knowledge deficit in governments, labyrinthine bureaucracies and fears that too many rules may inadvertently limit the technology’s benefits.

Even in Europe, perhaps the world’s most aggressive tech regulator, A.I. has befuddled policymakers.

The European Union has plowed ahead with its new law, the A.I. Act, despite disputes over how to handle the makers of the latest A.I. systems. A final agreement, expected as soon as Wednesday, could restrict certain risky uses of the technology and create transparency requirements about how the underlying systems work. But even if it passes, it is not expected to take effect for at least 18 months — a lifetime in A.I. development — and how it will be enforced is unclear.

“The jury is still out about whether you can regulate this technology or not,” said Andrea Renda, a senior research fellow at the Center for European Policy Studies, a think tank in Brussels. “There’s a risk this E.U. text ends up being prehistorical.”

The absence of rules has left a vacuum. Google, Meta, Microsoft and OpenAI, which makes ChatGPT, have been left to police themselves as they race to create and profit from advanced A.I. systems. Many companies, preferring nonbinding codes of conduct that provide latitude to speed up development, are lobbying to soften proposed regulations and pitting governments against one another.

Without united action soon, some officials warned, governments may get further left behind by the A.I. makers and their breakthroughs.

“No one, not even the creators of these systems, know what they will be able to do,” said Matt Clifford, an adviser to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of Britain, who presided over an A.I. Safety Summit last month with 28 countries. “The urgency comes from there being a real question of whether governments are equipped to deal with and mitigate the risks.”

Europe takes the lead

In mid-2018, 52 academics, computer scientists and lawyers met at the Crowne Plaza hotel in Brussels to discuss artificial intelligence. E.U. officials had selected them to provide advice about the technology, which was drawing attention for powering driverless cars and facial recognition systems.

The group debated whether there were already enough European rules to protect against the technology and considered potential ethics guidelines, said Nathalie Smuha, a legal scholar in Belgium who coordinated the group.

But as they discussed A.I.’s possible effects — including the threat of facial recognition technology to people’s privacy — they recognized “there were all these legal gaps, and what happens if people don’t follow those guidelines?” she said.

In 2019, the group published a 52-page report with 33 recommendations, including more oversight of A.I. tools that could harm individuals and society.

The report rippled through the insular world of E.U. policymaking. Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, made the topic a priority on her digital agenda. A 10-person group was assigned to build on the group’s ideas and draft a law. Another committee in the European Parliament, the European Union’s co-legislative branch, held nearly 50 hearings and meetings to consider A.I.’s effects on cybersecurity, agriculture, diplomacy and energy.

In 2020, European policymakers decided that the best approach was to focus on how A.I. was used and not the underlying technology. A.I. was not inherently good or bad, they said — it depended on how it was applied.

So when the A.I. Act was unveiled in 2021, it concentrated on “high risk” uses of the technology, including in law enforcement, school admissions and hiring. It largely avoided regulating the A.I. models that powered them unless listed as dangerous.

Under the proposal, organizations offering risky A.I. tools must meet certain requirements to ensure those systems are safe before being deployed. A.I. software that created manipulated videos and “deepfake” images must disclose that people are seeing A.I.-generated content. Other uses were banned or restricted, such as live facial recognition software. Violators could be fined 6 percent of their global sales.

Some experts warned that the draft law did not account enough for A.I.’s future twists and turns.

“They sent me a draft, and I sent them back 20 pages of comments,” said Stuart Russell, a computer science professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who advised the European Commission. “Anything not on their list of high-risk applications would not count, and the list excluded ChatGPT and most A.I. systems.”

E.U. leaders were undeterred.

“Europe may not have been the leader in the last wave of digitalization, but it has it all to lead the next one,” Ms. Vestager said when she introduced the policy at a news conference in Brussels.

A blind spot

Nineteen months later, ChatGPT arrived.

The European Council, another branch of the European Union, had just agreed to regulate general purpose A.I. models, but the new chatbot reshuffled the debate. It revealed a “blind spot” in the bloc’s policymaking over the technology, said Dragos Tudorache, a member of the European Parliament who had argued before ChatGPT’s release that the new models must be covered by the law. These general purpose A.I. systems not only power chatbots but can learn to perform many tasks by analyzing data culled from the internet and other sources.

E.U. officials were divided over how to respond. Some were wary of adding too many new rules, especially as Europe has struggled to nurture its own tech companies. Others wanted more stringent limits.

“We want to be careful not to underdo it, but not overdo it as well and overregulate things that are not yet clear,” said Mr. Tudorache, a lead negotiator on the A.I. Act.

By October, the governments of France, Germany and Italy, the three largest E.U. economies, had come out against strict regulation of general purpose A.I. models for fear of hindering their domestic tech start-ups. Others in the European Parliament said the law would be toothless without addressing the technology. Divisions over the use of facial recognition technology also persisted.

Policymakers were still working on compromises as negotiations over the law’s language entered a final stage this week.

A European Commission spokesman said the A.I. Act was “flexible relative to future developments and innovation friendly.”

The Washington game

Jack Clark, a founder of the A.I. start-up Anthropic, had visited Washington for years to give lawmakers tutorials on A.I. Almost always, just a few congressional aides showed up.

But after ChatGPT went viral, his presentations became packed with lawmakers and aides clamoring to hear his A.I. crash course and views on rule making.

“Everyone has sort of woken up en masse to this technology,” said Mr. Clark, whose company recently hired two lobbying firms in Washington.

Lacking tech expertise, lawmakers are increasingly relying on Anthropic, Microsoft, OpenAI, Google and other A.I. makers to explain how it works and to help create rules.

“We’re not experts,” said Representative Ted Lieu, Democrat of California, who hosted Sam Altman, OpenAI’s chief executive, and more than 50 lawmakers at a dinner in Washington in May. “It’s important to be humble.”

Tech companies have seized their advantage. In the first half of the year, many of Microsoft’s and Google’s combined 169 lobbyists met with lawmakers and the White House to discuss A.I. legislation, according to lobbying disclosures. OpenAI registered its first three lobbyists and a tech lobbying group unveiled a $25 million campaign to promote A.I.’s benefits this year.

In that same period, Mr. Altman met with more than 100 members of Congress, including former Speaker Kevin McCarthy, Republican of California, and the Senate leader, Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York. After testifying in Congress in May, Mr. Altman embarked on a 17-city global tour, meeting world leaders including President Emmanuel Macron of France, Mr. Sunak and Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India.

An illustration of tech executives discussing policy with the Senate leader Chuck Schumer. All are in dark blue profile against a yellow background.
Hokyoung Kim

In Washington, the activity around A.I. has been frenetic — but with no legislation to show for it.

In May, after a White House meeting about A.I., the leaders of Microsoft, OpenAI, Google and Anthropic were asked to draw up self-regulations to make their systems safer, said Brad Smith, Microsoft’s president. After Microsoft submitted suggestions, the commerce secretary, Gina M. Raimondo, sent the proposal back with instructions to add more promises, he said.

Two months later, the White House announced that the four companies had agreed to voluntary commitments on A.I. safety, including testing their systems through third-party overseers — which most of the companies were already doing.

“It was brilliant,” Mr. Smith said. “Instead of people in government coming up with ideas that might have been impractical, they said, ‘Show us what you think you can do and we’ll push you to do more.’”

In a statement, Ms. Raimondo said the federal government would keep working with companies so “America continues to lead the world in responsible A.I. innovation.”

Over the summer, the Federal Trade Commission opened an investigation into OpenAI and how it handles user data. Lawmakers continued welcoming tech executives.

In September, Mr. Schumer was the host of Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg of Meta, Sundar Pichai of Google, Satya Nadella of Microsoft and Mr. Altman at a closed-door meeting with lawmakers in Washington to discuss A.I. rules. Mr. Musk warned of A.I.’s “civilizational” risks, while Mr. Altman proclaimed that A.I. could solve global problems such as poverty.

Mr. Schumer said the companies knew the technology best.

In some cases, A.I. companies are playing governments off one another. In Europe, industry groups have warned that regulations could put the European Union behind the United States. In Washington, tech companies have cautioned that China might pull ahead.

“China is way better at this stuff than you imagine,” Mr. Clark of Anthropic told members of Congress in January.

Fleeting collaboration

In May, Ms. Vestager, Ms. Raimondo and Antony J. Blinken, the U.S. secretary of state, met in Lulea, Sweden, to discuss cooperating on digital policy.

After two days of talks, Ms. Vestager announced that Europe and the United States would release a shared code of conduct for safeguarding A.I. “within weeks.” She messaged colleagues in Brussels asking them to share her social media post about the pact, which she called a “huge step in a race we can’t afford to lose.”

Months later, no shared code of conduct had appeared. The United States instead announced A.I. guidelines of its own.

Little progress has been made internationally on A.I. With countries mired in economic competition and geopolitical distrust, many are setting their own rules for the borderless technology. 

Yet “weak regulation in another country will affect you,” said Rajeev Chandrasekhar, India’s technology minister, noting that a lack of rules around American social media companies led to a wave of global disinformation.

“Most of the countries impacted by those technologies were never at the table when policies were set,” he said. “A.I will be several factors more difficult to manage.”

Even among allies, the issue has been divisive. At the meeting in Sweden between E.U. and U.S. officials, Mr. Blinken criticized Europe for moving forward with A.I. regulations that could harm American companies, one attendee said. Thierry Breton, a European commissioner, shot back that the United States could not dictate European policy, the person said.

A European Commission spokesman said that the United States and Europe had “worked together closely” on A.I. policy and that the Group of 7 countries unveiled a voluntary code of conduct in October.

A State Department spokesman said there had been “ongoing, constructive conversations” with the European Union, including the G7 accord. At the meeting in Sweden, he added, Mr. Blinken emphasized the need for a “unified approach” to A.I.

Some policymakers said they hoped for progress at an A.I. safety summit that Britain held last month at Bletchley Park, where the mathematician Alan Turinghelped crack the Enigma code used by the Nazis. The gathering featured Vice President Kamala Harris; Wu Zhaohui, China’s vice minister of science and technology; Mr. Musk; and others.

The upshot was a 12-paragraph statement describing A.I.’s “transformative” potential and “catastrophic” risk of misuse. Attendees agreed to meet again next year.

The talks, in the end, produced a deal to keep talking."

How Nations Are Losing a Global Race to Tackle A.I.’s Harms - The New York Times

Monday, December 04, 2023

Intriguing Canon Patent Reveals More Boundary-Pushing Lenses

Intriguing Canon Patent Reveals More Boundary-Pushing Lenses

Intriguing Canon Patent Reveals More Boundary-Pushing Lenses

“Hold on to your seats, because Canon may be gearing up to release more ridiculous lenses, as a new patent application details.

The patent application, numbered 2023170260 and originating from Japan, introduces optical formulas for a range of RF mount lenses, including:

  • 70-200mm f/2-2.8 DS
  • 70-135mm f/2.5 DS
  • 28-70mm f/1.6-2 DS
  • 80-150mm f/1.8 DS
  • 35-70mm f/1.8-2 DS

What sets these lenses apart from the crowd is the incorporation of Defocus Smoothing (DS) technology, which uses apodization filters to produce particularly smooth bokeh, albeit at the expense of light transmission. Canon's patent application seeks to address the challenge of achieving a uniform and excellent apodization effect across the entire zoom range while effectively minimizing peripheral dimming.

The most jaw-dropping aspect of the proposed lenses, though, is the astonishingly wide maximum apertures featured in these zoom lenses. Such apertures would redefine what photographers can achieve in various shooting conditions with a zoom lens. I can personally attest how much owning the RF 28-70mm f/2 L USM has changed the way I shoot, and to see the company exploring an even wider option is truly insane. The exceptionally large apertures not only enable photographers to shoot in low light with remarkable clarity and reduced noise (though that ability may be diminished with the DS technology) but also offer unparalleled creative control over depth of field, making them versatile tools for a wide range of photographic applications.

Canon's patent application aims to address the challenge of a DS system for a zoom lens while also minimizing vignetting. This breakthrough could open up new creative possibilities for photographers, enabling them to capture stunning images with beautifully blurred backgrounds, regardless of their zoom setting.

While Canon has not officially confirmed its plans regarding these lenses and the DO technology, the patent application offers a tantalizing glimpse into the company's dedication to pushing the boundaries of optical innovation. Without a doubt, such lenses would be both enormous and enormously expensive, so there's no guarantee we'll see any of them make it to the market, but it's neat to see Canon continuing to push boundaries.” 

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

10 Best Lenses of All Time

Try the ChatGPT ‘Make It More’ Trend and Generate Absurd AI Images

Try the ChatGPT ‘Make It More’ Trend and Generate Absurd AI Images

“When you ask ChatGPT's DALL-E to make a picture more of something over and over again, things get weird.

Images generated via a dall-e conversation, asking the bot to make an image of a cup of coffee hotter

AI art generators are in a weird place. They can attempt to make just about anything you can think of, from a dog skateboarding in outer space, to a cup of coffee floating in the ocean. Putting the ethics of AI art aside, some of these creations do not hit the mark on the first go around, and you need to prompt the AI bot with changes to tweak the final results to your liking. 

But what if your end goal isn't to produce a quality piece of AI art? What if your goal is to make something wild.

That's what the "make it more" trend is all about. ChatGPT users are asking DALL-E to generate an image, then once that image pops out, they ask the bot to make it more of something. In this example from Justine Moore, DALL-E was prompted to create a bowl of ramen. After that initial prompt, Moore asked it to make it spicier. It followed suit, mostly by adding a lot of peppers to the mix. She again asked DALL-E to make it spicier. It complied by setting the bowl on fire in what appears to be Pepper Hell™. By the end of the exercise, the bowl of ramen was shooting fire beams into outer space, a truly spicy bowl of noodles. 

There are plenty of examples of this trend online to peruse for your pleasure, from Mashable editor Stan Schroeder's gigantic water bottle experiment, to this body builder getting more and more buff. If you want to try the trend for yourself, however, you should be aware of some constraints. 

How to use the "make it more" trend with ChatGPT

First of all, DALL-E, like other elements of GPT-4, has a limit to the amount of prompts you can issue at any one time. OpenAI isn't super clear when you're about to hit your limit, but just be careful not to get too carried away with your experiments, or else you'll need to wait a few hours to try again. 

Second, DALL-E is finicky with this type of request. I'm not sure if this is something OpenAI adjusted since the trend picked up steam, but I've had trouble getting DALL-E to cooperate with making a piece of art more of something. I tried two different scenarios in particular. First, I asked the bot to generate an image of a dog running through a field. It did. I then asked it to make the dog faster. It complied. I asked it to make the dog faster again, but it rejected me, letting me know that it already made a dog that was fast, and didn't feel the need to make it go faster. 

DALL-E chat with me requesting it to make a faster dog.

Credit: Jake Peterson

I tried the dog trick again, asking it first to create the fastest dog in the world, then asking it to make the dog even faster. DALL-E rejected me again, saying it had already made the fastest dog in the world. Silly me.

I had more luck asking the bot to generate a cup of coffee, then asking it to keep making the coffee hotter. At first, it tapped out after a couple of iterations, but I was finally able to get the bot to generate about five progressively "hotter" cups of coffee. By the time it told me that it couldn't represent heat any differently, the cup looked like it was undergoing the Trinity Test:

Screenshot of a DALL-E conversation, asking it to generate increasingly hotter cups of coffee

Credit: Jake Peterson

I encourage you to try the trend out for yourself in the AI generator of your choice. Just remember: Start small (e.g. "generate a cup of coffee"), then ask it to change it in a simple way ("make the coffee hotter").

Friday, November 24, 2023

Canon 10-20 f4L RF REVIEW: WATCH BEFORE YOU BUY! (vs Canon 11-24)

Apple Adds RCS and OpenAI Explodes!

‘What the heck is going on?’ Extremely high-energy particle detected falling to Earth | Particle physics | The Guardian

‘What the heck is going on?’ Extremely high-energy particle detected falling to Earth

"Amaterasu particle, one of highest-energy cosmic rays ever detected, is coming from an apparently empty region of space

An artist’s impression of the Amataresu particle
Artist’s impression of the Amataresu particle. When ultra-high-energy cosmic rays hit Earth’s atmosphere, they initiate a cascade of secondary particles and electromagnetic radiation. Photograph: Osaka Metropolitan University/Kyoto University/Ryuunosuke Takeshige/PA

Astronomers have detected a rare and extremely high-energy particle falling to Earth that is causing bafflement because it is coming from an apparently empty region of space.

The particle, named Amaterasu after the sun goddess in Japanese mythology, is one of the highest-energy cosmic rays ever detected.

Only the most powerful cosmic events, on scales far exceeding the explosion of a star, are thought to be capable of producing such energetic particles. But Amaterasu appears to have emerged from the Local Void, an empty area of space bordering the Milky Way galaxy.

“You trace its trajectory to its source and there’s nothing high energy enough to have produced it,” said Prof John Matthews, of the University of Utah and a co-author of the paper in the journal Science that describes the discovery. “That’s the mystery of this – what the heck is going on?”

The Amaterasu particle has an energy exceeding 240 exa-electron volts (EeV), millions of times more than particles produced in the Large Hadron Collider, the most powerful accelerator ever built, and equivalent to the energy of a golf ball travelling at 95mph. It comes only second to the Oh-My-God particle, another ultra-high-energy cosmic ray that came in at 320 EeV, detected in 1991.

“Things that people think of as energetic, like supernova, are nowhere near energetic enough for this,” said Matthews. “You need huge amounts of energy, really high magnetic fields, to confine the particle while it gets accelerated.”

Toshihiro Fujii, an associate professor at Osaka Metropolitan University in Japan, said: “When I first discovered this ultra-high-energy cosmic ray, I thought there must have been a mistake, as it showed an energy level unprecedented in the last three decades.”

A potential candidate for this level of energy would be a super-massive black hole at the heart of another galaxy. In the vicinity of these vast entities, matter is stripped back to its subatomic structures and protons, electrons and nuclei are hurled out across the universe at nearly the speed of light.

Cosmic rays, echoes of such violent celestial events, rain down on to Earth nearly constantly and can be detected by instruments, such as the Telescope Array observatory in Utah, which found the Amaterasu particle.

Below a certain energy threshold, the flight path of these particles resembles a ball in a pinball machine as they zigzag against the electromagnetic fields through the cosmic microwave background. But particles with Oh-My-God or Amaterasu-levelenergy would be expected to blast through intergalactic space relatively unbent by galactic and extra-galactic magnetic fields, meaning it should be possible to trace their origin.

Tracing its trajectory backwards points towards empty space. Similarly, the Oh-My-God particle had no discernible source. Scientists suggest this could indicate a much larger magnetic deflection than predicted, an unidentified source in the Local Void, or an incomplete understanding of high-energy particle physics.

“These events seem like they’re coming from completely different places in the sky. It’s not like there’s one mysterious source,” said Prof John Belz of the University of Utah and a co-author of the paper. “It could be defects in the structure of spacetime, colliding cosmic strings. I mean, I’m just spitballing crazy ideas that people are coming up with because there’s not a conventional explanation.”

The Telescope Array is uniquely positioned to detect ultra-high-energy cosmic rays. It sits at about 1,200m (4,000ft), the elevation sweet spot that allows secondary particles maximum development, but before they start to decay. Its location in Utah’s West Desert provides ideal atmospheric conditions in two ways: the dry air is crucial because humidity will absorb the ultraviolet light necessary for detection; and the region’s dark skies are essential, as light pollution will create too much noise and obscure the cosmic rays.

The Telescope Array, which sits at about 1,200 metres elevation in Utah’s West Desert, is in the middle of an expansion that that astronomers hope will help crack the case. Once completed, 500 new scintillator detectors will expand the Telescope Array across 2,900 km2 (1,100 mi2 ), an area nearly the size of Rhode Island and this larger footprint is expected to capture more of these extreme events.

This article was amended on 24 November 2023 to clarify some of the wording, based on agency copy, that was used in an earlier version regarding the speed of particles."

‘What the heck is going on?’ Extremely high-energy particle detected falling to Earth | Particle physics | The Guardian