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Extinct mammoth on a comeback trail

Scientists are now looking forward to recreate a woolly mammoth, which walked on Earth 10,000 years ago.   

Russian academics have signed a deal with a controversial Korean scientist to clone a woolly mammoth preserved in permafrost in Siberia.

Hwang Woo-Suk - who created the world’s first cloned dog, Snuppy, in 2005 – will implant the nucleus from a mammoth cell into an elephant egg to create a mammoth embryo, the Daily Mail reported. The embryo will then be implanted into an elephant’s womb. The Koreans say research could begin this year.

Vasily Vasiliev, vice rector of North-Eastern Federal University of the Sakha Republic, signed the pact with Hwang Woo-Suk of South Korea’s Sooam Biotech Research Foundation this week.

The agreement follows the discovery of mammoth bones with well-preserved bone marrow in Siberia last summer.

Hwang Woo-Suk is a controversial scientist some of whose research into human cloning was revealed to be fake. But since then, his institute has successfully cloned other creatures like cows, dogs and coyotes. “The first and hardest mission is to restore mammoth cells,” Sooam researcher, Hwang In-Sung, said.

Baby brains bring smarter computers closer to reality

Researchers are tapping the cognitive smarts of babies, toddlers and preschoolers in their bid to facilitate computers to think more like humans.

If replicated in machines, the computational models based on baby brainpower could give a major boost to artificial intelligence, which historically has had difficulty handling nuances and uncertainty, UC Berkeley researchers said.

“Children are the greatest learning machines in the universe. Imagine if computers could learn as much and as quickly as they do,” said Alison Gopnik a developmental psychologist at UC Berkeley. In a wide range of experiments involving lollipops, flashing and spinning toys, and music makers, among other props, UC Berkeley researchers are finding that children – at younger and younger ages – are testing hypotheses, detecting statistical patterns and drawing conclusions while constantly adapting to changes.

Researchers said, computers programmed with kids’ cognitive smarts could interact more intelligently and responsively with humans in applications such as computer tutoring programs and phone-answering robots.

Rats’ decision-making skills could be at par with humans

Rats could be as good as humans when it comes to assessing the situation and making decisions, a new study has revealed.

A Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) study that compared the ability of humans and rodents to make perceptual decisions based on combining different modes of sensory stimuli—visual and auditory cues, for instance—has found that just like humans, rodents also combine multisensory information and exploit it in a “statistically optimal” way or the most efficient and unbiased way possible.

“Statistically optimal combination of multiple sensory stimuli has been well documented in humans, but many have been skeptical about this behavior occurring in other species,” explained Assistant Professor Anne Churchland, a neuroscientist who led the new study.

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