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Gizmorama - June 12, 2017

Good Morning,

Weeds pop up and we used chemical sprays and compounds to get rid of them. Now researchers have a new way to kill weeds...lasers!

Learn about this and more interesting stories from the scientific community in today's issue.

Until Next Time,

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*-- Scientists design laser to kill weeds --*

In a quest to become heroes to yard workers everywhere, a team of German researchers are developing a laser gun to kill weeds.

In reality, the new laser system is unlikely to be coming to a yard near you. But it could prove a boon to farmers and the environment.

The system's promising ability relies on robotic software, which is being tested and improved by computer scientists at the Institute of Geodesy and Geoinformation at the University of Bonn in Germany. Researchers hope a combination of deep learning algorithms and cameras will allow the robot to identify unwanted weeds in a farmer's fields and blast them with a laser.

"The robot shoots the leaves of the unwanted plants with short laser pulses, which causes a weakening in their vitality," researcher Julio Pastrana said in a news release.

"It is thus predicted that we will no longer need to use herbicides on our fields and the environment will be protected," said scientist Tim Wigbels.

The laser system could be mounted on autonomous all-terrain rover or configured as a tractor add-on.

As the scientists perfect the technology, they're also working on turning their research into a new start-up business.

"It is now a case of finding investors and further developing the business plan for the startup," said Wigbels.

RĂ¼diger Wolf, who advises scientists on taking their work to market, believes the technology has legitimate commercial potential.

"The idea combines innovative robots with a current sustainability topic," Wolf siad.

"Our aim is to contribute to achieving more sustainable agriculture," Pastrana said.

*-- New software helps fish out fake online profiles --*

Computer scientists at Edinburgh University in Scotland have built a new algorithm for detecting fake or dishonest online profiles. The new software is designed to pinpoint catfishes, users who create profiles with phony information about their age, gender, location and appearance.

Researchers tested their new computer on an adult content website where catfishes and fake profiles are especially common.

The algorithm analyzed 5,000 verified public profiles to train itself, using network activity and writing style to accurately estimate each user's age and gender. The model used connections between user behavior and personal information established in the learning phase to survey the data provided by unverified accounts and pick out incongruities -- those who are likely to be lying about their personal information.

The software proved roughly 40 percent of profiles on the site feature dishonest information. The analysis showed women were more likely to lie on their profiles than men.

"Adult websites are populated by users who claim to be other than who they are, so these are a perfect testing ground for techniques that identify catfishes," Walid Magdy, a researcher at Edinburgh's School of Informatics, said in a news release. "We hope that our development will lead to useful tools to flag dishonest users and keep social networks of all kinds safe."

Researchers are preparing to present their newest catfish-catching software at the International Conference on Advances in Social Networks Analysis and Mining, to be held late this summer in Sydney, Australia.


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