AI Health

Friday Roundup

The AI Health Friday Roundup highlights the week’s news and publications related to artificial intelligence, data science, public health, and clinical research.

June 3, 2022

In today’s Duke AI Health Friday Roundup: supercomputer breaks exascale barrier; pulse-oximetry meters yielded underestimates of COVID effects in people of color; machine perfusion keeps liver viable for transplant; ancient victims of Vesuvius have genomes sequenced; gender bias in math prizes; lobbying against data privacy legislation intensifies; how to spot a “hijacked” scientific journal; machine learning algorithms ID potentially dangerous asteroids in old astrophotos; much more:

Deep Breaths

Close-up photograph of a hummingbird hovering over an orange flower. Image credit: Dulcey Lima/Unsplash
Image credit: Dulcey Lima/Unsplash
  • “This capability has gone unnoticed despite 70 years of research on hummingbird torpor, Shankar says. But past research typically examined torpor under laboratory conditions; Shankar, who was then working at Stony Brook University, and her colleagues studied wild hummingbirds in their natural environment in southeastern Arizona.” At Scientific American, Carolyn Wilke examines recent findings that suggest hummingbirds are capable of exercising a surprisingly fine degree of control over their metabolisms when conserving energy at night.
  • “Two of the urban centres each covered an area of more than 100 hectares — three times the size of Vatican City. The lidar images revealed walled compounds with broad terraces rising 6 metres above the ground. Conical pyramids made of earth towered above one end of the terraces (see ‘The settlement beneath’). People probably lived in the areas around the terraces and travelled along the causeways that connected the sites to one another.” Nature’s Freda Keier reports on recent archaeological investigations using aerial lidar scanning that have revealed the ancient remains a much more “urban” culture in the midst of the Amazon than previously known.


Plastic figures resembling humans who sit at tables in front of laptops. the lack of background makes their environment look bleak. Image credit: Max Gruber / Better Images of AI / Clickworker Abyss / CC-BY 4.0
Image credit: Max Gruber / Better Images of AI (CC-BY 4.0)
  • “…easy, frictionless processes like these always have a catch. Most companies like to talk about hiring like they’re finding the right fit specifically for their workplace. By relying on automated video interviews, they willingly introduce a third party — another company with its own goals, preferences and biases — between themselves and their new hires. Someone or something else is making the initial decision that could make all the difference.” Protocol’s Anna Kramer dives into the ethically murky waters of a technological innovation that’s gaining ground among HR divisions across the world of business – using AI systems to evaluated candidate video interviews.
  • “After about three years of development, Frontier will be ready for scientists to begin using it at the end of 2022. With its new exascale capability, researchers aim to simulate how stars explode, calculate the properties of subatomic particles, investigate new energy sources such as nuclear fusion and harness artificial intelligence to improve the diagnosis and prevention of disease, among many other research topics.” Science News’ Emily Conover reports on Frontier, the first supercomputer to break the “exascale barrier” of performing a quintillion (1 x 1018) calculations in a single second.
  • “Arguably, creating intelligent, safe and adaptive behaviour for machines in the physical world could be an ultimate challenge in AI. In the near future, the ability of a robot to interact sensitively with its surroundings via a biomimetic sense of touch would support visions for physical intelligence or physical artificial intelligence.” An editorial in Nature Machine Intelligence probes the significance of developments in creating artificial skin for robots – and whether such technology could help drive new kinds of machine intelligence.
  • A STAT News story (including video) by Megan Molteni (log-in required) encapsulates a recent conference appearance by Light Collective’s Andrea Downing and Duke Clinical Research Institute’s Eric Perakslis, speaking on the threat to patient privacy represented by the largely unchecked and unregulated business in health data brokerage.
  • “…if there is a big space rock streaking our way, Dr. Lu, a former NASA astronaut with a doctorate in applied physics, wants to find it before it hits us — hopefully with years of advance warning and a chance for humanity to deflect it.” The New York Times’ Kenneth Chang profiles the work of astronomers who are using machine-learning algorithms to sift through old archives of astronomical images to spot potentially dangerous Earth-orbit-crossing asteroids.


An eruption of Vesuvius seen from Portici, by Joseph Wright (ca. 1774–6)
Joseph Wright (ca. 1774–6)/Wikipedia
  • “Our findings suggest that, despite the extensive connection between Rome and other Mediterranean populations, a noticeable degree of genetic homogeneity exists in the Italian peninsula at that time. Moreover, palaeopathological analyses identified the presence of spinal tuberculosis and we further investigated the presence of ancient DNA from Mycobacterium tuberculosis.” A paper published in Scientific Reports by Scorrano and colleagues reports on the successful whole-genome sequencing of two persons who died in the catastrophic eruption of Mount Vesuvius that buried the Roman city of Pompeii in 79 AD.
  • “While domestic violence must also be recognized beyond just physical abuse, the chances of an attack causing traumatic brain injury deserves more attention. The connection between the two may be obvious in retrospect, but until these injuries are consistently screened for in domestic violence cases and also more regularly discussed, they cannot be addressed as they need to be.” An article at STAT News by Cecille Joan Avila probes the often-overlooked connection between domestic violence and traumatic brain injuries.
  • “….overestimation of arterial oxygen saturation levels by pulse oximetry occurs in patients of racial and ethnic minority groups with COVID-19 and contributes to unrecognized or delayed recognition of eligibility to receive COVID-19 therapies.” A retrospective cohort study published in JAMA Internal Medicine by Fawzy and colleagues finds that optical pulse oximeters systematically overestimated the blood oxygenation levels of nonwhite COVID patients, thereby delaying or preventing them from receiving appropriate COVID therapies.
  • “The transplanted liver exhibited normal function, with minimal reperfusion injury and the need for only a minimal immunosuppressive regimen. The patient rapidly recovered a normal quality of life without any signs of liver damage, such as rejection or injury to the bile ducts, according to a 1-year follow up.” A research study published in Nature Biotechnology by Clavien and colleagues reports on a human liver that was successfully transplanted into a recipient after the liver was maintained for three days post-donation by machine perfusion of the organ at normal temperatures.


Silhouette of a woman writing equations on an illuminated board. Image credit: ThisisEngineering RAEng
Image credit: ThisisEngineering RAEng
  • “One big question for a discipline that prides itself on its exactitude is whether awards committees can be truly objective when comparing candidates. The culture of mathematics tends to buy into lone-hero mythologies, says science historian Michael Barany at the University of Edinburgh, UK — and therefore to under-emphasize factors that might give men unfair advantages, such as social support, role models and mentorship.” An article in Nature by Davide Castelvecchi investigates the lingering gender imbalance among the ranks of winners of prestigious prizes in mathematical disciplines. Meanwhile, Nature’s Elizabeth Gibney reports on a study that finds women scientists are more likely to win prizes that are not named after men.
  • “With an illustrated, modular format and the inclusion of glossary terms, the Science behind the Study article provides readers with an accessible description of the scientific basis of a clinical study, which in turn will inform their understanding of the study’s implications and limitations. These articles will be complementary to editorials that focus on clinical aspects of study findings.” The editors of the New England Journal of Medicine debut a new type of article for the publication – one aimed at explaining the underlying science of clinical research to a broader audience.
  • “Higher education has not escaped the ‘great resignation’ — the international wave of worker resignations that began in 2021, including a record 47 million US residents and 2 million UK adults, largely because of the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic and stagnant wages. Nature spoke to more than a dozen scientists leaving academia, who describe toxic work environments, bullying and a lack of regard for their safety and well-being as factors in their decisions.” Nature’s Virginia Gewin reports that academia is beginning to experience its own version of the groundswell of pandemic-era workplace discontent dubbed “the Great Resignation.”
  • The growing ecosystem of online scientific publication has been accompanied by a parallel growth of parasitism – in this case, predatory journals. Some of the boldest of these actually mimic legitimate journals by stealing some of their identifying attributes – but Retraction Watch has just debuted a tool to help scholars spot these scams before falling victim to them: “Scholars can be duped into publishing in hijacked journals – many of which require fees – by offers of fast publication and indexing in databases such as Scopus; being indexed in such databases is viewed by many universities and governments as a mark of legitimacy. Even the WHO’s COVID literature database has been fooled. We’re hoping to put an end to that sort of thing: Introducing the Retraction Watch Hijacked Journal Checker.”


Closeup photograph of a fisheye surveillance camera. Image credit: Bernard Hermant/Unsplash
Image credit: Bernard Hermant/Unsplash
  • “It’s common for industries to lobby lawmakers on issues affecting their business. But there is a massive disparity in the state-by-state battle over privacy legislation between well-funded, well-organized tech lobbyists and their opposition of relatively scattered consumer advocates and privacy-minded politicians, The Markup has found.” The Markup’s Todd Feathers and Alfred Ng report on tech industry efforts to counter recent legislative activity aimed at imposing more stringent data privacy measures.
  • “In that same time frame, active shooter incidents nearly doubled. The FBI designates an active shooter as “one or more individuals who are engaged in killing or attempting to kill in a populated area.” In 2021, 61 such incidents in the United States killed 103 people. In 2017, the number of incidents was 31, though deaths totaled 143.” Science NewsNikk Ogasa reports on recent steep increases in firearms violence and mass shootings in the United States.