Artificial intelligence is writing the end of Beethoven’s unfinished symphony


Artificial intelligence is writing the end of Beethoven's unfinished symphony

In the run-up to Ludwig van Beethoven’s 250th birthday, a team of musicologists and programmers is using artificial intelligence to complete the composer’s unfinished tenth symphony.

The piece was started by Beethoven alongside his famous ninth, which includes the well-known Ode To Joy.

But by the time the German composer died in 1827, there were only a few notes and drafts of the composition.

The experiment risks failing to do justice to the beloved German composer. Tthe team said the first few months yielded results that sounded mechanical and repetitive.

But now the project leader, Matthias Roeder, from the Herbert von Karajan Institute, insists the AI’s latest compositions are more promising.

“An AI system learns an unbelievable amount of notes in an extremely short time,” said Roeder. “And the first results are a bit like with people, you say ‘hmm, maybe it’s not so great’. But it keeps going and, at some point, the system really surprises you. And that happened the first time a few weeks ago. We’re pleased that it’s making such big strides.”

The group is in the process of training an algorithm that will produce a completed symphony. They’re doing this by playing snippets of Beethoven’s work and leaving the computer to improvise the rest of it. Afterwards, they correct the improvisation so it fits with the composer’s style.

Similar projects have been undertaken before. Schubert’s eighth symphony was finished using AI developed by Huawei. It received mixed reviews.

The final result of the project will be performed by a full orchestra on 28 April next year in Bonn as part of a series of celebrations of Beethoven’s work.

The year of celebrations begins on December 16th with the opening of his home in Bonn as a museum after renovation.

Apple is offering free genetic tests to all its Silicon Valley employees

  • Apple employees can now access free genetic tests through AC Wellness.
  • Apple set up AC Wellness as a separate company in 2018 to provide primary care services exclusively to Apple employees.
  • AC Wellness and Color Genomics started working together on the pilot several months ago, sources tell CNBC.
ONE TIME USE NYT: Color Genomics testing lab 180418
Abdi Khalif, who works on research and development, in the genomic testing lab at Color Genomics in Burlingame, Calif., March 19, 2018.
Jason Henry | The New York Times

Apple employees in Silicon Valley can now get free genetic screenings for diseases from their on-site health clinics, thanks to a pilot partnership with Color Genomics.

Apple, which recently set up dedicated health clinics known as “AC Wellness” for employees and their dependents near its headquarters, has been working with Color for several months, according to several people with direct knowledge of the discussions. The people requested anonymity because they were not authorized to publicize the deal on their companies’ behalf.

The idea is to move health care at Apple’s clinics from reactive to proactive, as genetic tests can offer a window into health risks down the line. In some cases, patients can take preventative steps to reduce their likelihood of getting a disease.

By offering cutting-edge medical treatments like genetic testing, AC Wellness can help Apple recruit and retain talented employees. In addition, although AC Wellness is technically a separate company from Apple, medical experts have speculated that it could help Apple quietly test new products or ideas without risking leaks. So the group’s partnership with Color could indicate Apple’s broader interest in the space.

Apple has publicly acknowledged its interest in health and is moving forward with a range of efforts, including its health and fitness-tracking Apple Watch, its clinical research apps in partnership with academic medical centers and its partnership with the health insurer Aetna. Thus far, it has taken only tentative steps into genetics through a move to bring genetic data into ResearchKit, its software that makes it easier for academic researchers to use the iPhone for medical studies.

AC Wellness, which got its start in early 2018, has already opened several medical centers on the Apple Park campus, and in Santa Clara, a few miles north of Apple’s Cupertino, Calif. headquarters. The goal is to bring the “world’s best health care experience” to employees, according to its website. Its clinicians and health coaches are not employed by Apple, but they treat only Apple employees and their dependents. The administrative part of the business, which orders supplies and manages the clinical software, is run through a separate legal subsidiary of Apple to comply with regulations that ensure that employers don’t have direct access to employees’ most sensitive health information.

DNA testing with a doctor’s approval

Color’s test analyzes gene mutations that are known to be associated with cancer and cardiovascular disease, as well as ancestry information.

Color doesn’t sell its test directly to consumers, unlike its competitors Ancestry and 23andMe. Instead, clinicians at AC Wellness must prescribe the Color test to Apple employees and provide follow-up consults after they get their results. Color allows doctors to recommend the whole test or specific parts of it, depending on factors like the patients’ medical history.

Apple isn’t the only company to partner with Color for employee testing. For instance, Jefferson Health, a hospital chain in greater Philadelphia and New Jersey, is also working with Color to offer free genetic tests to its 30,000 employees.

But most of these deals are offered through human resources and benefits teams, meaning employees would typically access these tests through their own doctors, rather than their company’s on-site primary care group.

By offering the tests through the doctors at AC Wellness, Apple employees might be more inclined to learn about their DNA than most.

Studies are finding that many primary care doctors in the U.S. are unwilling or unable to communicate with their patients about the benefit of getting a genetic test, and many don’t feel confident talking through their results. That can be off-putting to some patients who approach their doctors to inquire about genetics.

“It’s really exciting that to see companies move to preserve health, rather than just treating patients when they’re ill,” said Dr. Robert Green, a medical geneticist at Harvard Medical School and a co-founder of a genetics company called Genome Medical.

Dr. Green has conducted research on how primary care doctors are talking to patients about gene sequencing services. “We’ve seen that there’s a huge gap between the recommendations around genetic testing, and what primary care clinicians are telling their patients,” he explained.

Apple isn’t the only technology company setting up health clinics to treat their employees. Amazon recently launched a virtual medical clinic called Amazon Care to its employees in the Seattle area, but it has not disclosed whether it is offering genetic tests.

Wearable band shipments grew globally, driven by Xiaomi


Apple may dominate the wearable conversation here in the States, but things look a fair bit different on the other side of the world. In Asia, Xiaomi is the giant in the room. According to new numbers form Canalys, the Chinese manufacturer was the key driver in global growth.

Wearable band shipments grew 65%, year over year for Q3. Xiaomi continues to top the list, with an even more impressive 74% versus this time last year. That puts gives the company 27% of the total global wearable band market — its highest number since 2015.

Low prices have been the key to the company’s success, which have helped grow shipments in China by 60% overall. The company’s strategy has also rubbed off on competitors like Samsung and Fitbit (soon to be counted among Google’s numbers), which have sought to offer low cost devices in order to appeal to those users, particularly in Asia.

Huawei saw substantial growth for the quarter, as well, at 243% year over year, courtesy of strong sales in its native China. Those numbers helped the company hold onto third place globally, just ahead of Fitbit.

Even Apple is offering up lower cost devices by keeping older model Apple Watches around, hitting the $200 price point The company’s new, premium devices continue to dominate, however. The Series 5 comprise upwards of 60% of the company’s global shipments for the quarter.

MIT Scientists Reveal Brain Rhythm Role in Alzheimer’s Research

MIT neuroscientists in the lab of Professor Li-Huei Tsai at The Picower Institute for Learning and Memory are studying whether sensory stimulation — light and/or sound — can reduce Alzheimer’s disease pathology and improve memory by increasing the power of gamma rhythms in the brain. Two papers in 2019 reported encouraging results in multiple mouse models of the disease. Research is getting underway with human volunteers. Credit: The Picower Institute for Learning and Memory

In the years since her lab discovered that exposing Alzheimer’s disease model mice to light flickering at the frequency of a key brain rhythm could stem the disorder’s pathology, MIT neuroscientist Li-Huei Tsai and her team at The Picower Institute for Learning and Memory have been working to understand what the phenomenon may mean both for fighting the disease and understanding of how the brain works.

Two papers earlier this year in Cell and in Neuron replicated and substantially extended the initial findings reported in Nature in 2016 and clinical trials with human volunteers recently began. In a special lecture at the Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting in Chicago Oct. 22, Tsai will share the latest research updates on what she’s found – and the new questions she is asking – about using light and sound to strengthen the brain’ s 40Hz “gamma” rhythm, a technique she calls “GENUS,” for Gamma Entrainment Using Sensory stimuli.

“We are eager to learn as much as we can about GENUS for two main reasons,” said Tsai, Picower Professor of Neuroscience in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences and a founder of MIT’s Aging Brain Initiative. “We hope our findings in mice will translate to helping people with Alzheimer’s disease, though it’s certainly too soon to tell and many things that have worked in mice have not worked in people. But there also may be exciting implications for fundamental neuroscience in understanding why stimulating a specific rhythm via light or sound can cause profound changes in multiple types of cells in the brain.”

Gamma and Alzheimer’s disease

In 2016, Tsai and colleagues showed that Alzheimer’s disease model mice exposed to a light flickering at 40 Hz for an hour a day for a week had significantly less buildup of amyloid and tau proteins in the visual cortex, the brain region that processes sight, than experimental control mice did. Amyloid plaques and tangles of phosphorylated tau are both considered telltale hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease.

Li-Huei Tsai, Picower Institute at MIT

But the study raised new questions: Could GENUS prevent memory loss? Could it prevent the loss of neurons? Does it reach other areas of the brain? And could other senses be stimulated for beneficial effect?

The new studies addressed those questions. In March, the team reported that sound stimulation reduced amyloid and tau not only in the auditory cortex, but also in the hippocampus, a crucial region for learning and memory. GENUS-exposed mice also performed significantly better on memory tests than unstimulated controls. Simultaneous light and sound, meanwhile, reduced amyloid across the cortex, including the prefrontal cortex, a locus of cognition.

In May, another study reported similar advances from exposing Alzheimer’s model mice to light for 3 or 6 weeks. Coordinated increases in gamma rhythm power were evident across the brains of GENUS-exposed mice. Memory improved compared to controls. More neurons survived and they maintained more circuit connections, called synapses. In her talk, Tsai will share data showing that longer-term GENUS light exposure also reduced amyloid and tau across the cortex.

Encouraged by the results, the lab has begun human trials. At SfN Tsai will present some initial data, indicating that GENUS safely increases gamma rhythm power and synchrony across the brain in healthy people.

Gamma “signatures” in the brain

Tsai’s team has also been working to understand the mechanisms underlying the changes they see. The research has revealed that brain rhythms appear to exert a great deal of influence over the activity of multiple cell types in the brain.

Neuroscientists have known about rhythms for more than a century, but they have only recently begun to acknowledge that they might affect how the brain works. Gamma is associated with brain functions like sensory processing, working memory and spatial navigation, but scientists have long debated whether they are consequential or mere byproducts.

But Tsai will describe how her studies show that increasing gamma power and synchrony with sensory stimulation causes changes in neurons, brain immune cells called microglia, and the brain’s vasculature. These changes may be “signatures” of gamma’s significance, she says.

Increasing gamma power causes neurons to reduce processing of amyloid precursor protein and changes endosomal physiology as well, the team has found. In Alzheimer’s model mice, neuronal gene expression related to synaptic function and biochemical transport within cells is reduced, but with GENUS exposure, gene expression related to those functions improves.

Microglia similarly experience major changes after GENUS exposure, all three studies have found. Gene expression becomes less inflammatory and more consistent with capturing and disposing of amyloid. Indeed, they hunt amyloid more effectively, the data show, and they secrete less of an inflammatory marker.

The March study with audio stimulation showed that amid GENUS exposure, blood vessels in the brain expand and more amyloid co-locates with a protein that draws amyloid to the vessels. The results suggest increased gamma power may help drive a mechanism for clearing amyloid out of the brain.

In several new experiments, Tsai says, the lab is continuing to study these underlying mechanistic changes. Related conference posters from her lab at the conference describe some of that work. The results of these new experiments may both help improve the possibility of translating GENUS for clinical use and further demonstrate the importance of rhythms in affecting brain function.

Tesla Cybertruck Hides Sideview Cameras In Front Fender Flares

The central rearview mirror was replaced with a display. It seems the same is the case with the side mirrors.

The recently unveiled Tesla Cybertruck concept prototype (which is expected to be at least slightly modified before entering production) does not have external side mirrors.

That does not surprise us much, as some concepts (even some Teslas) were often displayed without mirrors (replaced by rearview cameras and displays) to improve aerodynamics.

It’s not yet allowed for use in the U.S., but in Europe you can already drive an Audi e-tron without side mirrors. Soon, a similar solution will be introduced by Honda in Honda e.

In the case of Tesla Cybertruck, the side cameras, which are intended as mirror replacements, are hidden in the front fenders:


People been asking why the CyberTruck didn’t comes with side mirrors. Here’s why.

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Another interesting thing to consider is where Tesla will display the image from the cameras? It is expected that Tesla will use the space at the bottom of the A-pillars.

We didn’t see the displays there during demo rides but surely Tesla could add them at a later point in time.

Tesla Cybertruck📐▫️@CybertruckTesla

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The central rearview mirror was also replaced by a camera and display (this one was already working on the prototype during the unveiling event).

We guess that by selecting the reverse driving mode, the images from all of the cameras might be displayed (including a 3D view) on the central touchscreen, too.

Tesla Cybertruck - interior

Tesla Cybertruck – interior

Tesla has released a giant new version of its latest home solar system – a 15.4 kW solar system suitable for 4,000+ sq ft homes.

Over the last few months, Tesla has been trying to revamp its solar business.

More recently, Tesla launched a new solar rental service under which homeowners can get a solar panel system for just $50 per month.

They have also launched a new commercial solar online ordering platform.

The company has been making its pricing simpler, more transparent, and they have been pushing the energy products more actively.

Tesla has now updated its home solar offering with a giant new solar rooftop option with a 15.2 kW capacity:

The company calls it the ‘X-Large’ option and describes it as suitable for 4,000+ sq ft homes:


15.2 kW – for . 4,000+ sq ft home

  • Produces an average of 58-77 kWh per day
  • Best suited for a home with an average electric bill of $340-$460 /mo

It’s a 33% increase over Tesla’s previous biggest home solar options, which are 3.8 kW (small), 7.6 kW (medium), and 11.4 kW (large).

Here are what all the different options look like:

Unlike Tesla’s “Solar Roof”, these systems are using more traditional solar panels and not solar tiles.

In California, Tesla’s new biggest solar system costs $39,093 before incentives. After incentives, it can go down to $27,365.

It adds up to a cost of $1.80 per watt.

Tesla is also offering the system under its new no-contract “solar subscription” program for just $195 per month.

Again, that’s a quite large system for larger homes and the company estimates that it is best suited for homes with an average electric bill of $340 to $460 per month.

This is the latest update in Tesla’s revamping of its solar business.

Tesla also recently launched the third version of its solar roof tiles and started to ramp-up installations.

In a recent email to Tesla employees, CEO Elon Musk listed “accelerating the rate of solar installations” as one of Tesla’s “two most critical priorities” for the end of the year.

The CEO says that Tesla Energy is becoming a distributed global utility and it could even outgrow Tesla’s automotive business.

New methods could help researchers watch neurons compute

Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Since the 1950s at least, researchers have speculated that the brain is a kind of computer in which neurons make up complex circuits that perform untold numbers of calculations every second. Decades later, neuroscientists know that these brain circuits exist, yet technical limitations have kept most details of their computations out of reach.

Now, neuroscientists reported December 12 in Cell, they may finally be able to reveal what circuits deep in the brain are up to, thanks in large part to a molecule that lights up brighter than ever before in response to subtle electrical changes that  use to perform their compuations.

Currently, one of the best ways to track neurons’ electrical activity is with  that light up in the presence of calcium ions, a proxy for a neuron spike, the moment when one neuron passes an electrical signal to another. But calcium flows too slowly to catch all the details of a neuron spike, and it doesn’t respond at all to the subtle electrical changes that lead up to a spike. (One alternative is to implant electrodes, but those implants ultimately damage neurons, and it isn’t practical to place electrodes in more than a handful of neurons at once in living animals.)

To solve those problems, researchers led by Michael Lin, an associate professor of neurobiology and of bioengineering and a member of the Wu Tsai Neurosciences Institute, and Stéphane Dieudonné, an INSERM research director at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris, focused on  whose brightness responds directly to voltage changes in neurons, an idea Lin and his team had been working on for years.

Still, those molecules had a problem of their own: Their brightness hasn’t always been that responsive to voltage, so Lin and his team at Stanford turned to a well-known method in biology called electroporation. In that technique, researchers use electrical probes to zap holes in cell membranes, with the side effect that their voltage drops rapidly to zero like a punctured battery. By zapping a library of candidate molecules, Lin and colleagues could then select those whose brightness was most responsive to the voltage shift. The resulting molecule, called ASAP3, is the most responsive voltage indicator to date, Lin said.

Dieudonné and his lab focused on another problem: how to scan neurons deep in the brain more efficiently. To make fluorescent molecules such as ASAP3 light up deep in the brain, researchers often use a technique called two-photon imaging, which employs infrared laser beams that can penetrate through tissue. Then, in order to scan multiple neurons fast enough to see a spike, which itself lasts only about a thousandth of a second, researchers must move the laser spot quickly from neuron to neuron—something hard to do reliably in moving animals. The solution, Dieudonné and colleagues found, was a new algorithm called ultrafast local volume excitation, or ULoVE, in which a laser rapidly scans several points in the volume around a neuron, all at once.

“Such strategies, where each laser pulse is shaped and sent to the right volume within the tissue, constitute the optimal use of light power and will hopefully allow us to record and stimulate millions of locations in the brain each second,” Dieudonné said.

Putting those techniques together, the researchers showed in mice that they could track fine details of brain activity in much of the mouse cortex, the top layers of the  that control movement, decision making and other higher cognitive functions.

“You can now look at neurons in living mouse brains with very high accuracy, and you can track that for long periods of time,” Lin said. Among other things, that opens the door to studying not only how neurons process signals from other neurons and how they decide, so to speak, when to spike, but also how neurons’ calculations change over time.

In the meantime, Lin and colleagues are focused on further improving on their methods. “ASAP3 is very usable now, but we’re confident there will be an ASAP4 and ASAP5,” he said.

Explore further

New method visualizes groups of neurons as they compute

More information: Vincent Villette et al, Ultrafast Two-Photon Imaging of a High-Gain Voltage Indicator in Awake Behaving Mice, Cell (2019). DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2019.11.004

Journal information: Cell
Provided by Stanford University