Antarctic ice map may hold vital clues to global warming

Updated 18 October 2012
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Antarctic ice map may hold vital clues to global warming

SYDNEY: Scientists have produced the first three dimensional map of the surface beneath Antarctic sea ice, helping them better understand the impact of climate change on Antarctica.
The team of scientists from eight countries have used a robot submarine to chart a frozen and inverted world of mountains and valleys, allowing accurate measurements of the crucial thickness of Antarctic sea ice.
By combining the data with airborne measures of surface ice and snow, scientists can now accurately measure changes in ice thickness and better understand the affects of global warming.
“The ice thickness is regarded amongst climate scientists as the holy grail of determining changes in the system,” Antarctic marine glaciologist Jan Lieser told Reuters.
“If we can determine the change in the thickness of the sea ice we can estimate the rate of change that is due to global warming.”
Scientists have ice thickness data for the Arctic region dating back to the 1950s, allowing for analysis of changes in the Arctic Ocean, but similar data has been unavailable for the ice around the frozen Southern continent.
Lieser, who is aboard an Australian icebreaker in Antarctic waters, is part of the Sea Ice Physics and Ecosystem Experiment project, involving scientists from Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, New Zealand and the United States.
They are using a free-swimming robot submarine, which moves about 20 meters below the ice and travels in a grid pattern, using multibeam sonar to measure the underside of the ice.
Lieser said changes in sea ice thickness affects the formation of cold, salty Antarctic bottom water that drives global ocean currents and is crucial for sea life, from phytoplankton and krill to whales. “We can actually get a full 3D image of what we are measuring. It's never been done before and that's really exciting,” Lieser added.
The results will help set a baseline to establish how climate change affects Antarctic sea ice. Scientists will also be able to examine how changes to sea ice affect the ecosystem.


Microsoft urges regulation of face-recognizing tech

Updated 15 July 2018
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Microsoft urges regulation of face-recognizing tech

  • Microsoft and other tech companies have used facial recognition technology for years for tasks such as organizing digital photographs
  • While the technology can be used for good, perhaps finding missing children or known terrorists, it can also be abused

SAN FRANCISCO: Microsoft’s chief legal officer on Friday called for regulation of facial recognition technology due to the risk to privacy and human rights.
Brad Smith made a case for a government initiative to lay out rules for proper use of facial recognition technology, with input from a bipartisan and expert commission.
Facial recognition technology raises significant human rights and privacy concerns, Smith said in a blog post.
“Imagine a government tracking everywhere you walked over the past month without your permission or knowledge,” he said.
“Imagine a database of everyone who attended a political rally that constitutes the very essence of free speech.”
It could become possible for businesses to track visitors or customers, using what they see for decisions regarding credit scores, lending decisions, or employment opportunities without telling people.
He said scenarios portrayed in fictional films such as “Minority Report,” “Enemy of the State,” and even the George Orwell dystopian classic “1984” are “on the verge of becoming possible.”
“These issues heighten responsibility for tech companies that create these products,” Smith said.
“In our view, they also call for thoughtful government regulation and for the development of norms around acceptable uses.”
Microsoft and other tech companies have used facial recognition technology for years for tasks such as organizing digital photographs.
But the ability of computers to recognize people’s faces is improving rapidly, along with the ubiquity of cameras and the power of computing hosted in the Internet cloud to figure out identities in real time.
While the technology can be used for good, perhaps finding missing children or known terrorists, it can also be abused.
“It may seem unusual for a company to ask for government regulation of its products, but there are many markets where thoughtful regulation contributes to a healthier dynamic for consumers and producers alike,” Smith said.
“It seems especially important to pursue thoughtful government regulation of facial recognition technology, given its broad societal ramifications and potential for abuse.”
Concerns about misuse prompted Microsoft to “move deliberately” with facial recognition consulting or contracting, according to Smith.
“This has led us to turn down some customer requests for deployments of this service where we’ve concluded that there are greater human rights risks,” Smith said.