Illsutration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios
Major companies are bringing together new machine learning algorithms, better and cheaper sensors, and increased computing power in hopes of addressing growing global demand for food and agriculture's diminishing labor force.
The big picture: Alphabet's X and John Deere, startups and universities are looking at AI-based agriculture to address these problems. But farming presents hard problems for artificial intelligence that, if solved, could ultimately help it be deployed in more structured places (think: homes).
The challenges include data, uncertain conditions, and variation within and between fields — familiar ones for AI but with a farm flare.
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DNA sequence. Photo: Getty Images
Common genetic variations may play a greater role in the onset, severity and heredity of migraines than previously thought, according to new research published today in the journal Neuron, Eileen writes.
Why it matters: Genetics is believed to play a role, as about 90% of people with them have a family history of migraines. One in four U.S. households has someone with the disorder, debilitating about 39 million Americans.
Details of the study: Researchers looked at three genetic mutations (CACNA1A, ATPIA2, and SCN1A), which have been found to be causative in severe migraines and thought to play a role in most others as well.
Possible origins: Meanwhile, another study published today in PLOS Genetics suggests our ancestors developed a migraine-causing gene variant as they migrated north to help them adapt to the colder climate.
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Magicicada septendecim. Photo: John Cooley/University of Connecticut
Every few years, cicadas emerge en masse from the ground to form a chorus and mate. In the southern U.S., species of the insects tend to come out in 13 year-cycles. Farther north, their lives are lived in 17-year turns. It's only every couple of decades that 13- and 17-year cicadas actually come into contact — yet they share genetic material, according to recent research.
The big question: How different species groups of these insects developed and maintained these two life cycles over the past 100,000–200,000 years is unknown. Study researcher John Cooley from the University of Connecticut says the new work suggests some populations of the insects may actually have switched life cycles along the way.
"They have a much richer and more complicated history than any of us appreciated," Cooley says.
Why this is important: "There is clearly a close relationship between what is going on with these insects and what is happening with the forests in the eastern U.S. Understanding their relationship with our broader ecosystem gives a better understanding of how those ecosystems work," Cooley says.
Mark your calendar: A large 17-year-brood centered around Chicago, plus the largest brood (which is on a 13-year-cycle and stretches from Missouri to Maryland and from the Gulf Coast up to within 75 miles of Chicago), are expected to emerge at the same time.
"The place to be in 2024 is Illinois," Cooley says. "It will be cicadas top to bottom."