Physical Sciences

Personalized “deep learning” equips robots for autism therapy

Children with autism spectrum conditions often have trouble recognizing the emotional states of people around them — distinguishing a happy face from a fearful face, for instance. To remedy this, some therapists use a kid-friendly robot to demonstrate those emotions and to engage the children in imitating the emotions and responding to them in appropriate ways. (Read the full story)

Humans Have Been Causing Earthquakes in Texas Since the 1920s

Earthquakes triggered by human activity have been happening in Texas since at least 1925, and they have been widespread throughout the state ever since, according to a new historical review…The earthquakes are caused by oil and gas operations, but the specific production techniques behind these quakes have differed over the decades, according to Cliff Frohlich, a senior research scientist and associate director at the Institute for Geophysics at the University of Texas at Austin. Frohlich said the evidence should lay to rest the idea that there is no substantial proof for human-caused earthquakes in Texas, as some state officials have claimed as recently as 2015. (Read the full story)

Most Eccentric Planet Known Flashes Astronomers With Reflected Light

Led by SF State astronomer Stephen Kane, a team of researchers has spotted an extrasolar planet about 117 light-years from earth that boasts the most eccentric orbit yet seen. What’s more, Kane and his colleagues were able to detect a signal of reflected light from the planet known as HD 20782 — a “flash” of starlight bouncing off the eccentric planet’s atmosphere as it made its closest orbital approach to its star. (Read the full story)