Tag Archives: Dawn

Lisa Weagle in for Team Jones as Dawn McEwen says no to bubble due to pregnancy

With exactly a month to go until the start of the Scotties inside the curling bubble in Calgary, Team Jennifer Jones has firmed up its roster.

Longtime lead Dawn McEwen is pregnant and expecting in April, and will not enter the bubble. That means Lisa Weagle assumes the role for the entire event. 

“I’m really excited to have the chance to play. You never know when you’re going to get back to another Scotties again so it’s nice to have that clarity,” Weagle told CBC Sports. 

“Obviously we wish Dawn was there with us as our five-person team but she’s got a baby to prepare for and we’re really thrilled for her.”

When Team Jones made the announcement that Weagle would be joining them after being blind-sided by the news she had been let go from Team Rachel Homan last March, eyebrows were raised across the curling world about the decision — many wondered how they would determine who would play what games.

“We made that decision for a variety of reasons. Obviously illness or injury or pregnancy were a few of those reasons and it worked out perfectly,” Jones told CBC Sports.

Dawn McEwen, left, longtime lead for skip Jennifer Jones, right, is pregnant and won’t be part of the Calgary bubble. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)

Manitoba stripes

After wearing the Ontario colours for years, Weagle is now ready to put on the Manitoba stripes and compete with what she calls a “powerhouse” curling team.

“I’m really excited. It’s been something to look forward to. And to be there with a new team. It feels like I’m a kid again. I have that sense of gratitude and the passion is back,” Weagle said.

“I’m just happy I was able to land on another world-class team. My family and friends have ordered a bunch of Manitoba hoodies and hats. They’re all in now.”

The team was able to play in a couple of events this past fall in Kitchener, Ont. Both Jones and Weagle say it was an immediate fit. 

“We’re really fortunate that Lisa is a world-class lead. It feels like we’ve been playing with her for a really long time,” Jones said.

Weagle says the team has spent countless hours on Zoom and FaceTime, planning and strategizing for the Scotties.

“We just have this amazing knowledge base we’re able to build on,” Weagle said. 

“We were laughing after our first meeting after our first game. It felt like I Had been part of the team for a really long time. Our communication has been great.”

Team Jones still has the opportunity to add a fifth player to its roster.

“We haven’t made that determination yet. The original plan when we put this team together was that we’d be a five-person team and we’re super happy for Dawn that she’s expecting,” said Jones. “The timing just doesn’t work for her right now and we’re totally supportive of that.”

WATCH | Heroux, Jones on the Calgary curling bubble:

Devin Heroux is joined by six-time Scotties medallist Colleen Jones to discuss the announcement of the Calgary curling bubble. 5:34

Scotties set for Feb. 19

The Scotties bubble is set to begin on Friday, Feb. 19 with the championship game scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 28 — Curling Canada has said the field will include 18 teams this year due to unprecedented times in the midst of a pandemic. 

“I’m beyond excited but also know that the world we live in these days, things can change any given second. We’re just taking it day-by-day,” Jones said. 

Jones has won six Scotties titles as a skip, tied for most-ever with Colleen Jones. 

Weagle has won the Scotties three times as a member of Team Homan.

But now a new chapter for these players is about to begin.

“It’s going to look a little different and feel a little different with the bubble and wearing a Manitoba jersey but I’m really excited for all of it,” Weagle said. 

“At the end of the day, we all have the same goal and that’s to represent Canada.”

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Dawn Fades to Black as Ceres Probe Goes Silent

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It’s been a rough week for NASA missions. Earlier this week we covered news that Kepler, the planet-hunting telescope that revolutionized our understanding of extrasolar planets, has finally run out of fuel. Now it’s time to say goodbye to Dawn, our first probe to examine the mysteries of Ceres and Vesta.

The probe and the space telescope had completely different missions. Kepler looked for the faintest clues that would hint at the existence of other planets; Dawn visited two of the oldest bodies in the solar system examining clues to their formation and evolution. At Vesta, Dawn found the Rheasilvia and Veneneia impact craters — remnants of impacts so massive, they’re responsible for the remnants of Vesta we’ve found on Earth. 5-6 percent of all the meteors on Earth are believed to have come from one of these impacts.

Ceres and Vesta

At Ceres, Dawn confirmed that the dwarf planet is differentiated, with a rocky core and icy mantle. This is an important step in planetary evolution and marks a distinct difference between objects like Ceres and Vesta, as opposed to asteroids. Dawn found Ceres ‘bright spots’ — a completely unexpected feature — as well as organic compounds known as tholins on the surface of the planet.

I’ve always had a soft spot for Ceres because of what it and the rest of the asteroid belt collectively represent. Once thought to be the remnants of a destroyed planet, we now know that the asteroid belt is the last remnant of the building blocks our solar system coalesced from. The largest asteroids, like Pallas, Ceres, Vesta, and Psyche, are each distinct, with their own unique compositions, structures, differentiation, and orbits. Psyche is thought to be the exposed iron core of a former protoplanet. These frozen, scarred rocks are the remnants of our own solar system that weren’t flung out into space, sucked into the depths of gas giants, or agglomerated into the rocky worlds of the inner solar system. Thanks to Dawn, we know that Ceres is volcanically active, with dozens of old cryovolcanos and one newer one, Ahuna Mons, found across the surface.

Dawn provided far more data on both Vesta and Ceres than was previously known, demonstrating that even in the most ancient corners of the solar system contain surprises and unexpected finds.

Another sincere thank you to the NASA team behind Dawn. Our knowledge of the universe would be much poorer absent your dedication.

Now Read: Organic Molecules on Ceres Are More Abundant Than Previously Thought, Meteor Diamonds Confirm Protoplanets Once Existed in Our Solar System, and A cryovolcano might be erupting right now on Ceres, as you read this

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Trump, standing with Putin, sided with him over U.S. intel. Is this the dawn of 'America's surrender'?

The last American media question for Donald Trump was, in a way, a lifeline.

As the U.S. president stood with Russia's Vladimir Putin after their one-on-one summit in Helsinki on Monday, the Associated Press's Jonathan Lemire rose to put a query to Trump. 

"Just now, President Putin denied having anything to do with the election interference in 2016," he began. "Every U.S. intelligence agency has concluded that Russia did.

"My first question for you, sir, is who do you believe?"

The answer might have seemed obvious. Not so.

Watch as Trump deflects a direct question about Russian election interference: 

Blames Democrats and Hillary Clinton, and says he believes Vladimir Putin's denial of any wrongdoing 4:41

Trump's response in the press conference instead struck critics as a breathtaking statement of surrender. It was perceived as cementing a shift in the global order — one in which an era of American leadership has been replaced by one of American acquiescence. 

What might have been a breezy affirmation by the U.S. president backing his own intelligence community devolved into a mini-tirade, with Trump fuming about Democratic presidential rival Hillary Clinton's emails and demanding the whereabouts of a purported "missing" Democratic National Committee server.

"My people came to me, Dan Coats came to me," Trump said, as he proceeded to undermine his own director of national intelligence. "They said they think it's Russia."

Trump wasn't convinced, he said, citing Putin's "strong and powerful" denial.

"I have President Putin — he just said it's not Russia. I will say this: I don't see any reason it would be."

'Asymmetric warfare'

For Brett Bruen, a former White House director of global engagement, watching Monday's news conference felt like witnessing "America's surrender" on the diplomatic stage to a tyrant bent on dividing the West.

"Today was really the ceremonial surrender of a role that the United States has played since the end of World War II — the end of an era of American leadership in the world." 

He also noted with dismay Trump's lack of criticism regarding Russia's support of the regime of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, as well as its annexation of Crimea, its interference in the U.S. democratic system and its suspected poisonings of an ex-Russian spy and his daughter on British soil.

"Asymmetric warfare has taken place … and the United States has not come to the defence of our allies, of our values, of ourselves," said Bruen, who worked for years to counter Russian propaganda in the Obama administration.

"That's why I use the terminology 'surrender.'"

Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin shake hands during a joint news conference after their meeting in Helsinki on Monday. Standing alongside Putin, the U.S. president steered clear of any confrontation with the Russian leader. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

In the face of a geopolitical menace in the form of Russia, he believes it appears the U.S. has chosen "to accept the notion that invading other countries, that meddling in the electoral process, that assassinating people with chemicals weapons on the streets of other countries, is an acceptable practice."

Bipartisan members of U.S. Congress used some of the same disparaging language to describe the Trump-Putin news conference, with Democratic congressman Adam Schiff blasting Trump's performance in a tweet as "the most damaging and shameful surrender of American values and interests in modern history."

In a statement, Republican senator John McCain called the summit in Helsinki a "tragic mistake."

Fox News reacted in horror, too. Conservative host and Fox Business anchor Neil Cavuto slammed Trump's behaviour at the press conference as "disgusting." On FoxNews.com, a headline proclaimed: "Losing bigly? Putin eats Trump's lunch in shocking Helsinki summit."

On Monday, Trump blamed the poor state of U.S.-Russian relations on American "foolishness" and special counsel Robert Mueller's probe into Russian election meddling, ignoring Moscow as the primary cause of tensions.

That tweet, along with Trump's behaviour at the news conference, intensified speculation that the Kremlin might have "kompromat" — or compromising material — on the president. In a combative interview with Fox News, host Chris Wallace pressed Putin about whether the Russians possessed dirt on Trump.

"We don't have anything on [Trump]," Putin insisted.

Compliments over criticism

Still, Trump's reluctance to criticize Russia has been perplexing. 

Most telling on Monday, according Brookings Institution foreign-policy fellow Jamie Kirchick, was when Reuters reporter Jeff Mason offered another opportunity for Trump to denounce Russia over its aggression in Crimea, the U.K. and the U.S.

"Do you hold Russia at all accountable for anything in particular?" Mason asked.

To which Trump responded: "I hold both countries responsible. I think that the United States has been foolish. I think we've all been foolish."

Russian President Vladimir Putin answers questions about the allegations of U.S. election meddling during a joint news conference with U.S. President Donald Trump after their summit in Helsinki on Monday, July 16, 2018. (Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

Kirchick noted that actual U.S. policy on Russia was much less conciliatory than Trump's words.

"There's a gap between the rhetoric and the retweets, and the actual policies," he said.

For example, Trump last week dumped on the European Union as a "foe," but told reporters on Monday he considers Putin a "good competitor … and I think the word 'competitor' is a compliment."

"If you look at the NATO communiqué the president signed," Kirchick said, "it's a very strong document and it's largely at odds from the way he's behaved" in the past few days in Europe.

In March, the Trump administration also approved $ 47 million US worth of lethal arms to Ukraine so the country can defend itself against further Russian incursions — a move that the Obama administration held off on.

Whether the U.S. has truly forsaken its interests depends on how much stake one puts in Trump's remarks. 

"Trump can say we've got to be friendly with Russia, but the fact is, even if he said we've got to accept the Crimean annexation, he can't lift sanctions on Russia," said Alexandra Vacroux, director of Harvard University's Davis Center for Russian and Eurasia Studies.

While some Russia scholars said it seemed the summit sidestepped a disastrous "grand bargain" that might have included sanctions relief or the reneging of U.S. commitments to NATO, it's unlikely the public will learn precisely what — if any — concessions were discussed, given that Trump and Putin met without advisers.

Win-win for the 2 leaders?

Vacroux said it seems both leaders got what they wanted out of the meeting.

For Trump, securing the sit-down was long on his agenda as part of a bid to smooth relations with Russia. For Putin, Vacroux said, "he got the prestige of being called one of the world's great superpowers."

"There was nothing to lose" for the Russian leader, Vacroux said, though the United States' strategic partners abroad may be less confident in the country's standing as a pillar of stability. 

Just before Monday's summit, Germany's foreign minister Heiko Maas gave a grim assessment of the European Union's new dynamic with the U.S. 

His conclusion? "We can no longer completely rely on the White House." 

Watch the full Trump-Putin news conference below:

U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin speak to reporters following their meeting in Helsinki on Monday. 45:50

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DeepMind’s Psychlab Heralds Dawn of Artificial General Intelligence

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Conversations about AI tend to oscillate between the wildly optimistic and the obnoxiously dystopian. Some pundits will argue we’re on the verge of a new renaissance, in which self-driving cars will spirit us between locations while robotic housekeepers do our bidding. Others foresee a Terminator-like apocalypse. As is often the case, the truth lies somewhere between these extremes. However, no one should be under the illusion that artificial general intelligence (AGI), meaning an AI that can learn the same tasks a human can, is a vague and distant reality. DeepMind has put any doubt to rest with its recent release of Psychlab, a toolkit for assessing artificial intelligence with the same psychological tools we use for assessing human cognitive abilities.

DeepMind is the company behind the algorithm that defeated Lee Sedol in Go. The company has pioneered work on “reinforcement learning” algorithms, which utilize the same general-purpose recipes that underpin much of human and animal learning. In the paper’s introduction, the authors catalog the various accomplishments chalked up by state-of-the-art deep reinforcement learning, which include “navigating 3D virtual worlds viewed from their own egocentric perspective, binding and using information in short term memory, playing ‘laser tag,’ foraging in naturalistic outdoor environments with trees, shrubbery, and undulating hills and valleys and even responding correctly to natural language commands.”

These are all activities humans and our primate cousins engage in, and if this doesn’t read like a catalog of the qualities belonging to an artificial general intelligence, than I don’t know what does. To see a reinforcement learning algorithm in action, check out this YouTube video demonstrating an AI succeeding at the same kind of learning task that is used by psychologists to assess the cognitive skills of rats, primates, and other animals with general intelligence.

Some pundits may refuse to read the writing on the wall regarding AGI because single-purpose, supervised learning algorithms (which possessed no generalizable skills) previously accomplished these tasks. These were the equivalent of one-trick ponies. This is not the case with state-of-the-art deep reinforcement learning – a single algorithm can learn a wide variety of skills just as a single human can. The authors of the Psychlab paper believe these deep reinforcement algorithms can be measured with the same tools that we measure ourselves and other creatures possessing generalized intelligence, such as visual search, change detection, random dot motion discrimination, and multiple object tracking.

While DeepMind has generally been coy regarding the similarity of its work to artificial general intelligence, even playing directly into the hands of naysayers, it will be harder and harder to hide the obvious: A single algorithm can now learn many of the same tasks humans can, and much better in some cases.

Some of the remaining performance gap between ourselves and such algorithms will likely be diminished by improved hardware – sensors and control systems that will allow these algorithms the physical degrees of freedom and sensing power we possess. But these are problems with tractable engineering solutions. Therefore, we shouldn’t surprised when robots begin accomplishing the same tasks previously manned by humans in the workforce.

Whether such AIs will rise up against their human overlords in some epic battle for supremacy remains much in doubt — after all, the reward function used in such reinforcement learning algorithms is not some open-ended mystery, but rather explicitly given by the programmers. But we shouldn’t kid ourselves that the advent of artificial general intelligence with a skill set similar to our own is decades away. It is a reality that is already upon us.

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