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December 6, 2017
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Four hours is all it took for Google's DeepMind artificial intelligence program to learn everything there was to know about chess, The Telegraph reported Wednesday. DeepMind's AlphaZero program, which teaches itself from scratch, achieved "superhuman" knowledge of chess in less than the amount of time you'd spend, say, watching the extended version of The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King.

Chess has long been used to test the ability of artificial intelligence because the game's rigid structure is ideal for programming a computer with rules, and then letting it run its own tests against those rules. AlphaZero started this experiment knowing only the basics of chess gameplay, but by playing thousands of games against itself, AlphaZero updated its neural network with information about the effectiveness of certain moves — over and over again, until it became the best chess player in the known universe.

"The games AlphaZero played ... are far beyond anything humans or chess computers have come up with," said David Kramaley, a chess education expert. In 1997, the IBM supercomputer Deep Blue beat world champion chess player Garry Kasparov by computing and evaluating positions that were programmed into the machine with the help of chess masters, but AlphaZero is different because it had to teach itself the positions to begin with.

DeepMind's founders hope AlphaZero can be used to solve pressing societal issues. In October, DeepMind CEO Demis Hassabis said, "If [AlphaZero] can be applied to other structured problems, such as protein folding, reducing energy consumption, or searching for revolutionary new materials, the resulting breakthroughs have the potential to drive forward human understanding and positively impact all of our lives."

Read the entire report on AlphaZero's prowess in chess and other games here. Kelly O'Meara Morales

May 21, 2018
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A tech company that received more than $3 million from supporters through Kickstarter and Indiegogo announced this weekend that it has run out of money, and thousands of people who pre-ordered their product — headphones with surround sound used for virtual reality — are out of luck.

Ossic sold 22,000 pre-orders for its OSSIC X headphones, which cost between $200 and $300, but only 250 backers ever received a pair. The headphones were an "ambitious and expensive product to develop," Ossic said, and "what made this project so exciting, and ultimately ended up being its Achilles heel, was the complexity and scope." Over the last six months, "dedicated" employees worked for free, "doing anything they could to try and make the company succeed," Ossic said, but it wasn't enough.

The company, which also received millions of dollars from angel investors, said it would need more than $2 million in additional funds to be able to deliver headphones to everyone who placed a pre-order. "Inventing something new while also developing complex hardware is expensive," Ossic said, adding that the "unknowns that come from ground-up development with so many new features ultimately stacked up to create delays and cost overruns." In 2016, Ossic said these headphones of the future would be able to sense ear shapes and customize sound for each person, Business Insider reports. Catherine Garcia

May 21, 2018
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Over the last three days, a heatwave has killed at least 65 people in Karachi, the biggest city in Pakistan.

On Monday, the temperature reached 111 degrees Fahrenheit, and extreme temperatures are expected through Thursday. There have been several power outages, and because it is the holy month of Ramadan, most Muslims are not eating or drinking during daylight hours.

Faisal Edhi, the owner of a company that runs morgues and an ambulance service, told Reuters that most of the people who have died "work around heaters and boilers in textile factories," and lived in the poorer areas of Karachi. He said that most doctors agree they died of heatstroke, but the health secretary of Sindh province said he "categorically" rejects the idea that anyone died in Karachi from heatstroke, since "only doctors and hospitals can decide" the cause of death. In 2015, at least 1,300 people, most of them ill or very old, died in a heatwave. Catherine Garcia

May 21, 2018
U.S. Postal Service via AP

Get ready for your mailbox to smell a little sweeter — this summer, the U.S. Postal Service will introduce its first-ever scratch-and-sniff stamps.

The Forever stamps will be sold in booklets of 20, featuring 10 watercolor illustrations of popsicles designed by artist Margaret Berg of California. The stamps will be issued on June 20, with a dedication ceremony at the Thinkery Children's Museum in Austin.

The exact scent remains a mystery, and won't be revealed until next month, but the Postal Service did issue a few clues in its press release: "In recent years, frozen treats containing fresh fruit such as kiwi, watermelon, blueberries, oranges, and strawberries have become more common. In addition, flavors such as chocolate, root beer, and cola are also popular." So, maybe it will smell like a chocolate-covered kiwi dunked in root beer? Yay? Catherine Garcia

May 21, 2018
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The Syrian military said Monday that after fighting for a month, it has captured an area of southern Damascus from the Islamic State, and the capital is now, for the first time since the country's civil war began in 2011, under full government control.

Government forces were able to take back the Palestinian refugee camp Yarmouk and the Hajar al-Aswad district, and they will now focus on the territory held by rebels in southern Syria. President Bashar al-Assad's forces have been assisted by Iranian-backed militias, including Hezbollah out of Lebanon, and after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday called on Iran to leave Syria, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi told reporters that his country's "presence in Syria has been based on a request by the Syrian government and Iran will continue its support as long as the Syrian government wants."

A monitoring group said that 1,600 people, including hundreds of ISIS militants, left southern Damascus on Saturday and Sunday, heading toward the eastern desert after agreeing to a deal with the Syrian government, The Associated Press reports. Catherine Garcia

May 21, 2018
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Interview magazine, founded by Andy Warhol in 1969, is shutting down, several staff members confirmed Monday.

The magazine featured celebrities interviewing one another, and covered art, entertainment, pop culture, and fashion. Editor Ezra Marcus told CNNMoney that the magazine is "folding both web and print effective immediately," and employees found out during a meeting that the company is filing for bankruptcy. In 1989, billionaire Peter Brant purchased Interview from Warhol's estate.

The past several months were tumultuous for the magazine, with its former editorial director suing for back pay and the fashion director resigning after being accused of sexual misconduct. Catherine Garcia

May 21, 2018
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Back in 2013, before anyone suspected that Donald Trump might one day become president, satirical news outlet The Onion made fun of the reality TV host by mocking his birther claims. Even then, Trump's longtime fixer Michael Cohen was defending him behind the scenes.

The Onion on Monday finally responded to a 2013 cease-and-desist letter from Cohen regarding a satirical article about Trump, hilariously taking down the attorney for his outrage.

Earlier that year, the satirical news outlet published a piece titled "When You're Feeling Low, Just Remember I'll Be Dead In About 15 or 20 Years" and attributed it to Trump. "You can always take solace in the fact that the monstrous, unimaginable piece of s--t that is me will stop existing fairly soon," read the article. "Why, by 2020, I, a man who recently tried to extort the sitting president of the United States to release his college and passport records, might even begin to show signs of serious and unavoidable decline in mental and physical faculties."

The article did not sit well with Cohen. He called it an "absolutely disgusting piece" that went "way beyond defamation" in an email to The Onion soon after it was published. Cohen demanded that the article be removed and that the publication issue an apology. The Onion, needless to say, did not feel that necessary.

"We would be more than willing to accommodate Mr. Cohen's wishes," the outlet wrote in long-overdue response, "provided we get something in return, of course." The Onion poked fun at recent reports alleging that Cohen had accepted money in exchange for access to Trump, asking for a quid pro quo deal over the offensive article. Read the full response at The Onion. Summer Meza

May 21, 2018

You know what they say: One man's "little rocket man" is another's "supreme leader." Only in the case of President Trump, it appears the same man can be both. CNN's Jim Acosta tweeted Monday that there is a White House collectable military coin commemorating the upcoming summit between Trump and Kim Jong Un, which uses an unusually glowing title for the dictator:

While putting Kim's face on a commemorative coin is shocking enough, most publications simply call Kim the "leader" of North Korea. Calling him "Supreme Leader" is a little bit like calling Idi Amin, the former president of Uganda, by his preferred title: "His Excellency, President for Life, Field Marshal Al Hadji Doctor Idi Amin Dada, VC, DSO, MC, Lord of All the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Seas and Conqueror of the British Empire in Africa in General and Uganda in Particular."

Admittedly, Kim's own full title — Dear Respected Comrade Kim Jong Un, Chairman of the Workers' Party of Korea, Chairman of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and Supreme Commander of the Korean People's Army — probably wouldn't have fit on the coin. Jeva Lange

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