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Google, Facebook, and others are doubling down on crypto

With the interest of these tech giants, it looks like cryptocurrencies are here to stay.

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  • Cryptocurrencies have, until recently, seemed to be in a slump.
  • Tech giants including Amazon, Google, Yahoo!, and Facebook are making moves, indicating that cryptocurrencies will soon become a bigger part of their platform.
  • This renewed interest and could cause the price of cryptocurrencies to spike again in the near future.


A lot has changed since everyone we knew began panic-buying cryptocurrencies back in December 2017.

Some people are still holding onto their coins, waiting for the next big wave, but for many, there is no doubt that the initial enthusiasm for cryptocurrencies has long since worn off.

Up until recently, most big tech firms had relatively little involvement in the cryptocurrency industry. But now, it looks like many of them have merely been biding their time.

Over the past year, massive companies, including Facebook, Yahoo!, Google, and even Amazon, have showed increased interest in the potential uses and applications of cryptocurrency.

Facebook is launching its own coin

There have been rumors of Facebook getting involved in cryptocurrency since December 2017, when, at the height of the cryptocurrency wave, David Marcus, the former PayPal president and the head of the two biggest social media messaging platforms, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, joined Coinbase's board.

However, he then stepped down from the role in May 2018, reportedly in order to fully focus on merging cryptocurrencies with Facebook and to avoid a conflict of interest.

Most recently, Reuters reported that Facebook registered a new company called Libra Networks on the 2nd of May in Geneva, Switzerland.

There have been rumors that the project is focused on creating a cryptocurrency that will allow Facebook users to transfer money across borders as well as make online purchases.

Yahoo! recently announced a new exchange

Yahoo! owns 40% of the Japanese crypto exchange, Taotao, which it bought in April 2018 for an estimated 2 billion yen (approximately $19 million USD).

The platform seems to be re-entering the market just on time, following the reignited interest among Japanese cryptocurrency holders.

Reportedly, local Japanese digital asset exchanges have witnessed an increase in new accounts of up to 200%.

Initially, the platform will be open for trading Bitcoin and Ethereum, and it will also be open for margin trading for Litecoin, Ripple, and Bitcoin Cash.

Google launched new crypto-related search tools

With over 3.5 billion daily searches, Google is one of the most widely-used search engines around the world.

The platform is currently working on a way to display digital currencies in a more user-friendly manner by showing relevant information such as top stories and other similar suggested digital currencies when a user makes a search.

Right now, the interface only works for a small number of the most popular virtual currencies, such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Ripple. However, there are plans to include a much larger range of currencies in the future.

Google has also been combining big data and search algorithms to make information from large blockchains, such as Bitcoin and Ethereum, publicly available to users.

Amazon snaps up domain names and begins to file patents

Last year, Amazon registered a number of new crypto-related domains, including AmazonEthereum.com, AmazonCryptocurrency.com, and AmazonCryptocurrencies.com.

While no official statement was released by Amazon regarding the purchase of these domain names, it has understandably raised speculation that Amazon could be preparing to move into the cryptocurrency market.

In fact, a patent was published earlier this month, revealing that Amazon could be looking into using crypto-related systems, including proof of work and Merkle trees.

How will this affect the users of these platforms?

Many in the cryptocurrency community have expressed no surprise at the entry of tech giants into the field. Beni Hakak, CEO of LiquidApps has commented, saying:

Today, tech giants are in control of their user's data because their survival depends on it, it's their core product. They understand that decentralization and blockchain technology will transition ownership of this user data away from themselves and into the hands of the users. In other words, blockchain technology is a direct threat to the status quo.

Fearing for their future, these companies are making strides to harness and morph blockchain technology to fit their own purposes, to afford themselves control again except, this time, it's not possible. Blockchain is an open-source technology which can't be controlled by any single entity. Similarly to when the internet disrupted industries across the board, no one can stop the revolution as long as there are people willing to take up the banner of blockchain. Understandably, given the newness of cryptocurrencies, most major tech companies have held back from implementing it right away.

Since the value of cryptocurrencies has dropped, many users have shied away from them.

However, its adoption by these major platforms could help ignite the already renewed interest in cryptocurrencies. Over the next few months, it is likely that we will witness the crypto market pick up again. This could even cause a spike in the value of cryptocurrencies, which is especially welcome news for those who have held on to their coins!

As Anthony Pomp from Morgan Creek recently posted on Twitter, "there's not a large company in the world who isn't going to join the revolution."

But what exactly does this mean for users? Well, the truth is, no one really knows just yet. However, the adoption of cryptocurrencies by such major platforms has made one thing perfectly clear cryptocurrencies are here to stay.

Hulu's original movie "Palm Springs" is the comedy we needed this summer

Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti get stuck in an infinite wedding time loop.

Gear
  • Two wedding guests discover they're trapped in an infinite time loop, waking up in Palm Springs over and over and over.
  • As the reality of their situation sets in, Nyles and Sarah decide to enjoy the repetitive awakenings.
  • The film is perfectly timed for a world sheltering at home during a pandemic.
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Two MIT students just solved Richard Feynman’s famed physics puzzle

Richard Feynman once asked a silly question. Two MIT students just answered it.

Surprising Science

Here's a fun experiment to try. Go to your pantry and see if you have a box of spaghetti. If you do, take out a noodle. Grab both ends of it and bend it until it breaks in half. How many pieces did it break into? If you got two large pieces and at least one small piece you're not alone.

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Our ‘little brain’ turns out to be pretty big

The multifaceted cerebellum is large — it's just tightly folded.

Image source: Sereno, et al
Mind & Brain
  • A powerful MRI combined with modeling software results in a totally new view of the human cerebellum.
  • The so-called 'little brain' is nearly 80% the size of the cerebral cortex when it's unfolded.
  • This part of the brain is associated with a lot of things, and a new virtual map is suitably chaotic and complex.

Just under our brain's cortex and close to our brain stem sits the cerebellum, also known as the "little brain." It's an organ many animals have, and we're still learning what it does in humans. It's long been thought to be involved in sensory input and motor control, but recent studies suggests it also plays a role in a lot of other things, including emotion, thought, and pain. After all, about half of the brain's neurons reside there. But it's so small. Except it's not, according to a new study from San Diego State University (SDSU) published in PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences).

A neural crêpe

A new imaging study led by psychology professor and cognitive neuroscientist Martin Sereno of the SDSU MRI Imaging Center reveals that the cerebellum is actually an intricately folded organ that has a surface area equal in size to 78 percent of the cerebral cortex. Sereno, a pioneer in MRI brain imaging, collaborated with other experts from the U.K., Canada, and the Netherlands.

So what does it look like? Unfolded, the cerebellum is reminiscent of a crêpe, according to Sereno, about four inches wide and three feet long.

The team didn't physically unfold a cerebellum in their research. Instead, they worked with brain scans from a 9.4 Tesla MRI machine, and virtually unfolded and mapped the organ. Custom software was developed for the project, based on the open-source FreeSurfer app developed by Sereno and others. Their model allowed the scientists to unpack the virtual cerebellum down to each individual fold, or "folia."

Study's cross-sections of a folded cerebellum

Image source: Sereno, et al.

A complicated map

Sereno tells SDSU NewsCenter that "Until now we only had crude models of what it looked like. We now have a complete map or surface representation of the cerebellum, much like cities, counties, and states."

That map is a bit surprising, too, in that regions associated with different functions are scattered across the organ in peculiar ways, unlike the cortex where it's all pretty orderly. "You get a little chunk of the lip, next to a chunk of the shoulder or face, like jumbled puzzle pieces," says Sereno. This may have to do with the fact that when the cerebellum is folded, its elements line up differently than they do when the organ is unfolded.

It seems the folded structure of the cerebellum is a configuration that facilitates access to information coming from places all over the body. Sereno says, "Now that we have the first high resolution base map of the human cerebellum, there are many possibilities for researchers to start filling in what is certain to be a complex quilt of inputs, from many different parts of the cerebral cortex in more detail than ever before."

This makes sense if the cerebellum is involved in highly complex, advanced cognitive functions, such as handling language or performing abstract reasoning as scientists suspect. "When you think of the cognition required to write a scientific paper or explain a concept," says Sereno, "you have to pull in information from many different sources. And that's just how the cerebellum is set up."

Bigger and bigger

The study also suggests that the large size of their virtual human cerebellum is likely to be related to the sheer number of tasks with which the organ is involved in the complex human brain. The macaque cerebellum that the team analyzed, for example, amounts to just 30 percent the size of the animal's cortex.

"The fact that [the cerebellum] has such a large surface area speaks to the evolution of distinctively human behaviors and cognition," says Sereno. "It has expanded so much that the folding patterns are very complex."

As the study says, "Rather than coordinating sensory signals to execute expert physical movements, parts of the cerebellum may have been extended in humans to help coordinate fictive 'conceptual movements,' such as rapidly mentally rearranging a movement plan — or, in the fullness of time, perhaps even a mathematical equation."

Sereno concludes, "The 'little brain' is quite the jack of all trades. Mapping the cerebellum will be an interesting new frontier for the next decade."

Economists show how welfare programs can turn a "profit"

What happens if we consider welfare programs as investments?

A homeless man faces Wall Street

Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs
  • A recently published study suggests that some welfare programs more than pay for themselves.
  • It is one of the first major reviews of welfare programs to measure so many by a single metric.
  • The findings will likely inform future welfare reform and encourage debate on how to grade success.
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