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A lot of people expect me carry a huge, Rambo-reminiscent survival knife, but in all truth, I’d rather be carrying a wood carving knife. Mora knives are my favorite wood carvers, since their laminated steel blades are strong, long wearing and razor sharp right out of the package. If you take the legendary Mora blade and add a quality spark rod handle insert from Light My Fire, you have the Swedish FireKnife.

This knife has a 3.5-inch blade crafted from Sandvik 12C27 stainless-steel. The blade sits in a rubberized handle, which contains the hidden fire starter rod. The Swedish FireSteel firestarter is one of the best quality ferrocerium rods on the market. The cascade of 5,400°F sparks is plentiful and easy to strike, making it great for everyday campfire starting and survival purposes alike. Altogether, the knife, spark rod, and sturdy plastic sheath only weigh a little over 4 ounces. They are available in several color choices—I recommend the orange, red or pink color for safety and visibility. $30. Buy It Now.

9. Fox 40 Whistle

Fox 40 survival whistle

Why buy a muffled whistle to signal for help when you can buy an eardrum-bursting whistle to alert distant people to your distress? The Fox 40 is commonly used as a referee whistle at sporting events, and if it can be heard over the roar of a crown, it can be heard for a long way in the wild. Select bright-colored models for good visibility. This allows for easy retrieval from your pack or if you drop it. The pea-less design works great when wet, dry, and even in subfreezing conditions. If you’ve got any breath left in your body, blow this whistle until the rescue team arrives. $10. Buy It Now.

8. UST Survival Rations

UST Survival Rations

Looking for a “no-cook,” “no-fuss” survival food with a long life and reasonable taste? The UST 5-Year Emergency Food Ration Bar may be just the thing. I love shortbread cookies, and these remind me of apple cinnamon oatmeal and shortbread combined. Each pack has 2,400 calories in total, which can be broken into six 400-calorie cubes for rationing purposes. These are perfect for a survival kit stashed in your car or at work, and a good fit for the outdoors, too. If you’re not a shortbread fan, these crumbly cakes might not be your favorite, but they are packed with vitamins and minerals. Bon appétit! $12. Buy It Now.

7. UST StarFlash Signal Mirror

UST StarFlash Signal Mirror

A signal mirror is one of the furthest-reaching non-electronic signal methods. Properly aimed, a signal mirror is capable of shining a beam of daylight up to 10 miles away to create a flash of light that can catch the attention of distant aircraft, watercraft, vehicles, or someone on foot.

The UST StarFlash mirror has a star shaped sighting lens, to make it even more user friendly. Look through the lens at your signal target. Sweep the mirror VERY slowly right to left, and up and down. This will sweep the beam across your target, and the lens will glow when you’ve aimed the beam correctly. $11. Buy It Now.

6. UCO Waterproof Matches

Stormproof matches

Besides the wind, water is the next major vulnerability of stick matches. But neither wind nor water are a match (pun intended) for these amazing matches. I routinely display UCO Stormproof matches to my survival students, striking the large matches and then dunking the burning match in a bowl of water. To the surprise of my onlookers, the match bursts into flame again after being lifted from the water. These matches come in a bomb-proof watertight container with replacement striker strips and even a bit of cotton to keep the matches from rattling around, and to serve as emergency tinder. $9. Buy It Now.

5. WetFire Cubes

WetFire fire-starting cubes

I love these things. This WetFire product is very lightweight, easy to ignite, and it has a long burn time. Each cube weighs just .16 ounces and is capable of burning up to 10 minutes at temperatures around 1,300°F. They work in wet and windy conditions with ease. They even float and keep burning, even while floating in water. I’ve been bringing these little waxy cubes out for show-and-tell during survival classes for several years, and I’ve always observed impressive results in the field, regardless of the weather. In my most recent tests, a cube burned for 9.5 minutes on a very damp day—twice the burn time of the homemade alternative (Vaseline-soaked cotton balls). The flame was also much taller than the petroleum jelly on a cotton ball. Several spikes from the WetFire cube were 9 or 10 inches tall, which is twice the height of the flame from a greasy cotton ball.

You can even chip off part of a cube to assist with fire starting, and then save the rest for later. A few shavings or chips of this tinder can greatly assist in the lighting of camp stoves and stubborn grills too. Just make sure you use up the product within a few months of opening the package, as the secret material seem to lose some flammability after being exposed to the air for a few months. $8. Buy It Now.

4. Water Disinfecting Tablets

Two options for disinfecting water in the woods.

One of the top survival priorities in an emergency is to find and disinfect enough drinking water. Two of my favorite water disinfection tablets are Katadyn’s Micropur tablets, and Potable Aqua’s Iodine tablets. While these two products use different chemicals, they are both more than 99 percent effective against waterborne pathogens. So while they both are highly effective, you should still weigh the pros and cons of each.

If you’re stocking a cabin, cave, or bug-out spot with purification tablets, you certainly want to consider the lifespan of the product. The iodine tablets from Potable Aqua have a one-year shelf life; Katadyn’s Micropur tablets have double the lifespan, lasting for two years or more.

Potable Aqua is the clear winner when it comes to speed: Water is ready to drink 35 minutes after treatment. The Micropur tablets take a full 4 hours to reach the maximum disinfecting action. One final thought to consider are the side effects. The toxicity and flavor of iodine can be a little problematic. The iodine tablets are generally not a good choice for pregnant women, anyone with thyroid issues, or shellfish allergies. Picky children are also notorious for failing to drink iodine-infused water, which could lead to dehydration and other serious repercussions in an already dicey emergency. The Katadyn product is chlorine-based, the flavor of which dissipates over the allotted 4-hour waiting period. That product is widely tolerated and tastes much better.

The bottom line? The Katadyn Micropur tablets cost more and take longer to work, but they last longer and are widely tolerated in water. Potable Aqua’s iodine tablets are cheaper and work faster, but taste funny and don’t store as long. Take your pick. Katadyn Micropur Tablets for $10 or Potable Aqua Water Tablets for $8.

3. Jetboil Stove

A JetBoil camp stove

Sure, you could cook up your pot of survival stew over the campfire like a caveman, but come on folks. We’ve put people into space! Don’t you think it’s time we use space-age technology to make outdoor cooking easier? Jetboil is the Cadillac of camp stoves. It’s super quick to boil, lightweight, and very well engineered. The blended fuel can burn well, even in extreme cold, and the best part is, this stove is very thrifty with fuel use. You may be able to cook dozens of meals on the smallest size of fuel canister. These stoves are very efficient, easy to operate, and clean. The gear even nests for compact storage. $100. Buy It Now.

2. Olympia EX550 Headlamp

The Olympia Explorer headlamp

If you’re not already on “team headlamp,” let’s get one thing straight. The headlamp is to an outdoors person as the internet is to shopping. Once you’ve seen firsthand just how easy and effective it is, you’ll wonder how you ever got along without it. Headlamps give you light right where your gaze falls, and they leave both hands free to work. Olympia’s Explorer (EX) Series of headlamps has been designed with outdoor junkies in mind: This series gives us lamps with great features that don’t cost a fortune. This tough aluminum body headlamp casts out a scorching 550 lumens, and it’s perfect for chasing down a blood trail after dark, cooking in camp, or working under the hood of your truck. The Cree XM-L LED bulb delivers a beam of light that can reach out 135 meters, and it has five lighting modes, including a distress strobe. It’s even waterproof down to one meter. $56. Buy It Now.

1. SOL Bivvy

The SOL bivvy

Shelter is often your most critical survival priority in the wild, so make sure you always have a way to get out of the elements. The SOL Emergency Bivvy is a sleeping bag-style of sack made from tear-resistant polyethylene with a high visibility orange color to assist your rescue, if needed. This bivvy reflects back 90 percent of your body heat to keep you warm in extreme cold. The bivvy will even help you stay dry in the rain with sealed seam edges. It even comes with a handy stuff sack for compact storage. All this, and it’s only 3.8-ounces. You’d be crazy not to take this with you. $12. Buy It Now.

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Top 10 Python Courses Under $50 That Will Open New Possibilities

Check the below Python courses under $50 that are light on your pocket yet will open new possibilities

Python is a versatile programming language that finds applications in the new age fields like data science and artificial intelligence with 70% of data scientists preferring it. It is consistently topping the TOIBE index, an index that ranks the most-used programming languages. Currently, it is at the number one position with a 16.66% popularity rating, well ahead of C, C++, and Java. Stack Overflow rates Python as the third most popular language after Java and HTML/CSS. Also, according to a World Economic Forum report, by 2025, the demand for machine learning and data science specialist will be higher than for other IT roles. In this context, pursuing a Python course which doesn’t burn the pockets, makes more sense for those who are looking forward to making a career in data science or artificial intelligence. Check these top 10 Python courses under $50 that will open new opportunities.

Complete Python Bootcamp from Zero to Hero in Python (Udemy)

Course fee: $29.99 USD

Duration: 22 hours of on-demand video

A beginner course where you can learn Python concepts right from the beginning. The course curriculum is designed with around 25 modules all having on-demand video lectures. By end of the course, you will learn, to use Python to solve tasks, build games using Python libraries, and work on Python based projects. Apart, the course has modules to train you on Object Oriented Programming and learning decorators.  

Apply here

Learn Python Programming Masterclass (Udemy)

Course fee: $29.99 USD

Duration: 70 hours on-demand video

If you are looking for learning Python at lightning speed, this course is meant for you. The course is created by Tim Buchalka, Jean-Paul Roberts, the prominent programmers and tutors from Tim Buchalka Academy. Apart from learning fundamentals of Python programming language, through Python2 and Python3, this course will help you gain confidence for facing the job market. Data science and machine learning orientation, in this course, are a given.

Apply here

Learn Python (boot.dev)

Course fee: $11.83 USD per month

Duration: Subscription based access

Boot.dev is an online learning platform where you can get access to a bunch of IT courses including Python programming. When it comes to Python, by the end of the course you would be able to apply the core concepts to real-world problems. Prior programming experience is not required to finish this course. The other courses offered here will equip you with app development abilities with deep knowledge of algorithms

Apply here

Python Data Structures (MIT via edX)

Course fee: $48.91 USD

Duration: 7 weeks

In this course, you will learn the core data structures of the Python programming language. A course clearly meant for those who have basic understanding of Python programming wherein the learner can explore the built-in data structures such as lists, dictionaries, and tuples used for complex data analysis.

Apply here

Computing in Python I: Fundamentals and Procedural Programming (Georgia Institute of Technology via edX)

Course fee: Free

Duration: 5 weeks

Taught by David Joyner, an educationist and researcher, this course takes you beyond the fundamental of Python in particular and programming in general. As the course’s main purpose is to techa procedural programming, it will teach you how Python programs can be chained to achieve complex functionalities. It is one of the best Python courses to pursue to find good job opportunities.

Apply here

100 Days of Code: The Complete Python Pro Bootcamp for 2023 (Udemy)

Duration: 100 days

Course fee: $42.27 USD

A typical Python learning course wherein the applicant would get to learn building 100 projects in 100 days straight. The course involves teaching topics like automation, game, app and web development, data science and machine learning all using Python. It is a professional Python course meant for serious programmers wanting to learn programming through live projects.

Apply here

The Complete Python Developer in 2023: Zero to Mastery (Zero To Mastery Academy)

Duration: Subscription based access

Course fee: $39 USD/month

It is one of the highly rated Python programming course that provides hands-on experience to programmers. It has more than 12 projects to learn web building, automation, and machine learning using Python 3. The course is developed by Andrei Neagoie, a senior software developer and instructor.

 Apply here

Duration: Subscription based access

Course Fee: $18 USD/month

The course developers Austin and Robert make the learning process fun while keeping it meaningful. Starting from the very basics it will teach you through topics like Strings and Collections, Modularity, Objects, Collections, Handling errors, Iterables, etc. It is part of Python learning track which includes 44 in-depth Python courses.

Apply here

The Python Bible: Everything You Need to Program in Python

Duration: 9 hours on-demand video

Course fee: $42 USD

In this course you will get a grip over the necessary Python skills and in demand topics such as Data Science, web development, AI, and more along with learning to build 11 Python projects. You will learn how to use logic and data structures to create Python programs that can think.

Apply here

Python Tutorial (Python.org)

Duration: Self paced

Course fee: Free

A free course offered by Python itself, though doesn’t cover popular Python features, it elaborates on the topics through explanations. By the end of the course, the reader will have the essential knowledge to read and write Python modules, and programs and understand the working of Python interpreters. The examples here are self-contained and can be read offline.

Seo Horror Stories That Will Scare The Hell Out Of You

Hello SERP sorcerers, tech SEO specialists, and link building extraordinaires!

It’s almost Halloween, and we didn’t want it to pass by without sharing some spooky stories. But not just any scary stories.

Ghostly appearances in the SERPs, website necromancy, mysterious strategies… These tales are terrifying enough to make the blood of even the most veteran SEO run cold.

Brace yourself.

Dear SEO, I Can’t Hear You

In horror movies, there’s always that one wise person warning everyone that a house is haunted. Everyone seems to ignore this person only to die one by one. SEO is sometimes a lot like that.

Tess Voecks, Director of Product Management of Local SEO Guide, said, “I was the SEO team lead for a retailer. I told them (as nicely as possible) what an awful idea it would be to skip testing. I also explained what the ramifications of having no internal links would be.

“They told me to stay in my lane and just send along my recs because I’m ‘just an SEO.’ (I was, like helllloooo!) I was told to leave the heavy lifting and product knowledge up to the boys.

“I was so freaking mad. I took the whole next week off work to watch it tank from home and not have to deal with it. I saw a tweet about the job opening for a product manager at Local SEO Guide the next week, and the rest is history.”

Andrew Shotland, CEO at Local SEO Guide, shared a similar tale. “We got brought in late to a $10M+ redesign of a large retailer site. When we looked everything over, we noticed there was no plan to redirect millions of old URLs,” he said.

“We strongly recommended redirects, but the big IT consultants said it was “too complicated and out of scope.” They lost ~$5M in the first month.”

Low-Quality Content Haunting You?

Sometimes you know what needs to be done, but there’s nothing you can do to stop it. We’ll let SEOGreetings tell you this tragic tale:

“When I was relatively junior, I wanted to build out location pages for my biggest client. Unfortunately, my bosses and higher-paid colleagues ignored my content brief, and we created several landing pages for each location.

Each landing page contained a 400-word block of irrelevant text with no call to action or information about the actual company. All links to accreditation sites were stripped out to avoid “leaking link juice.”

After an initial traffic boost, they got absolutely smashed. The website disappeared shortly after they canceled.

Basically, we filled the site with 100s of absolute garbage landing pages and destroyed the client’s visibility.”

Jeff Ferguson, Partner at Amplitude Digital, had a similar experience. He shared, “Years ago, a one-time employer and eventual client of mine, in an attempt to make their site more ‘mobile-friendly,’ basically created thousands and thousands of doorway pages. Luckily, I caught it before Google did, or it would have been a living nightmare for this big travel brand.”

Yikes! Could you imagine having to clean that all up and fix all that after? Sure glad it wasn’t me!

NoIndex Was Just The Beginning

Dixon Jones, CEO of chúng tôi knows what happens when you forget little details in the robots.txt.

“Around 2001, chúng tôi was the jewel of the dot-com bubble,” he said. “When the crash came, chúng tôi went down in flames making national headlines. Their chúng tôi file had never let search engines in. I know, because I checked it at the time.”

For Jesse McDonald, Global SEO Strategist for IBM, however, forgetting a noindex tag was only the start of the nightmare.

“The horror story that has been the standout for my career was the time I accidentally set an entire site for a San Antonio lawyer to noindex, which tanked the rankings.

This was bad enough. But while troubleshooting, I somehow deleted the entire homepage in the WordPress site with no backup.

Luckily, I could rebuild it quickly and get the site crawled in a couple of days. The rankings recovered almost instantly.

I remember looking at my boss and saying, ‘I figured it out, and I am totally expecting you to fire me, but please at least let me fix it before you do.’

In my eight years in this industry, I’ve luckily only made that mistake once.”

WordPress Plugin Goes Rogue

If you’ve ever had a WordPress plugin misbehave, you know the kind of havoc it can cause. Bryan Ng had that experience.

“I had a site ranking at the top of page one until it wasn’t. One of the settings in my SEO WordPress plugin ‘malfunctioned,’” Ng explained.

“I didn’t know until I checked the rankings a few days later and saw that my website was gone. I soon discovered that the product page got marked as no-index due to an error in the plugin. Luckily, I solved it, and the site returned to its former glory one day later.”

If SEO Were Like Dating…

Ever been on a date with someone you want to impress, so you pull out all the stops and prepare for all the proven moves? And it goes horribly wrong?

Andrew Shotland has been there in the SEO world. “In my early days of consulting, I discovered a newspaper client had their entire website from 1996 indexed on a subdomain.

I thought they should redirect it, which they did. I then realized all of their images were hosted on this subdomain. It wasn’t pretty. Thank goodness for roll-backs.”

But it isn’t always your fault. Sometimes, it’s the blind date from hell, as a member of the Local SEO Guide outreach team explained.

“Found a good site for link building. Everything looked great until I looked at the content submission rules: ‘If women are mentioned they must be in traditional household roles.’ I noped out”

Well, everyone, we hope you won’t encounter anything as scary as these professionals did. And if you do, let us know about it for next year?

Featured image: Shutterstock/Romolo Tavani

Soundhound Has Created A Voice Search App That Will Knock Your Socks Off

Apple’s introduction of Siri back in 2011 was a watershed moment for voice-activated personal digital assistants. Today, a myriad of Siri-like services exist such as Google Now on Android devices and Microsoft’s cross-platform Cortana, which will be hitting iOS soon following Windows 10 debut on July 29.

But many if not all of the existing services, Siri included, could be put to shame by Hound.

Hound is a forthcoming digital assistant which promises a groundbreaking smartphone experience, created by SoundHound, the maker of namesake mobile music and audio recognition service.

“Hound gives you fast and deep results to what you ask for, such as looking up the weather, placing a phone call, sending a text message, finding a hotel that matches your detailed criteria, navigating to an address, checking the stock market, searching and playing music, and even playing interactive games,” the company explains.

The app understands both context and details and lets you follow up to refine your results, or say precisely what you want all at once. It handles complex natural language sentences with ease, including compound criteria, exclusions and negation.

If technology demonstration of Hound for Android beta is anything to go by, the app could bring us a few steps closer toward speaking to our mobile devices like how we speak normally.

It instantly process very long queries, such as “What is the population and capital for Japan and China and their areas in square miles and square kilometers and also tell me how many people live in India and what is the area code for Germany, France and Italy.”

Another example: you can ask Hound to ”Show me pet hotels near the Golden Gate Bridge with 3 or more stars under $200 excluding bed and breakfast”.

Check Hound in action in this YouTube video below, it’ll blow your mind. Note that the demo uses faster text-to-speech pace for demonstrative purposes as it would be daunting to hear the slower responses.

Siri, Cortana, Google Now and other digital assistants are somewhat conversational but Hound’s unprecedented speed and accuracy and its ability to handle context, detailed criteria, is just mind-boggling.

“Hound will redefine the way we interact with devices, information, and services,” said Keyvan Mohajer, founder and CEO, SoundHound Inc.

“We believe in a world where we speak to the things around us just as we speak to each other, and we have worked tirelessly for nearly a decade to create the technology that realizes this vision.”

“Almost anything that is ‘connected’ can become Houndifed,” says the firm.

Like Siri, Hound is a mobile voice interface that relies on the cloud for heavy lifting.

“While older voice services use word and phrase detection to generate search results, Hound combines voice recognition and natural language understanding in real-time to deliver the fastest and most accurate results seen on a mobile voice service to-date,” says Wikipedia.

For those wondering, SoundHound is a pioneering company in sound recognition and search technologies. They’ve gone a long way since their humble beginnings in 2005 and now own the technology that turns sound into understanding and actionable meaning.

Hound for Android is in beta and available in the United States only at this time. Hound for the iPhone and iPad is “coming soon,” according to the Hound micro-site where you can also ask for an invite.

If Hound can do all this stuff, so should Siri.

There’s no doubt in my mind that an even more conversational Siri with a more powerful processing engine that could parse complex queries like Hound is in the works as we speak.

Whether or not a next-gen Siri leapfrogs Hound remains to be seen, however.

Were you impressed with Hound?

Source: The Loop

10 Android Apps That Elegantly Mod Your Device Without Root

For Android, when we think of mods (or modifications), we often think of rooted devices. Android modifications come in all shapes and sizes. Some give increased functionality, while others change the look and feel of the OS. Unfortunately, rooting your device can void the warranty and, in the worst cases, leave you with nothing but a very expensive paperweight. If the idea of rooting your Android device is a deal-breaker, here are some apps that allow you to mod your device, without having to root your phone.

1. Dumpster

Fortunately, an app called Dumpster can help you avoid these potential disasters. Dumpster functions similarly to the recycling bin on a PC. When you delete a file on your Android device, it will be placed in the Dumpster. Users open up the dumpster app to view the files they have deleted and can choose to restore the file or permanently delete it.

2. NavBar Animations

The Android navigation bar is functional but not exactly aesthetically pleasing. NavBar Animations aims to spruce up the boring old Android navigation bar by integrating eye-catching animations. The app comes with a wide variety of custom animations that you can customize to your preferences. You can dictate what actions prompt an animation, the speed of the animation and the color.

3. Torchie

For all of the high-tech things our smartphones are capable of, sometimes the simpler functions are taken for granted. Case in point, the flashlight (or torch) function.

Whether you’re rooting around for your keys or looking for the fusebox, smartphones ensure that we always have a flashlight handy. Unfortunately, it can be a bit of pain to turn on. Luckily, there is an app that fixes this annoyance. Torchie enables users to press both volume buttons simultaneously to turn on your device’s flashlight function.

4. Screenshot Assistant

You may not need to take a screenshot on your Android device often, but when you do, it can be a pain. Depending on your device, you may be able to press some combination of hardware keys to take a screenshot. Otherwise, you’ll have to pull down from the top of your screen and hope the screenshot icon is in your Quick Settings menu.

Fortunately, the Screenshot Assistant app simplifies the entire process. Once installed, all users need to do is hold down the Home button in your Android device’s navigation bar to take a screenshot. In addition, users can crop their screenshots from within the app if they need to.

5. Muviz

Muviz is an overlay for the Android navigation bar that shows various equalizer effects. It is similar in function to the NavBar Animations app mentioned above; however, Muviz is aimed squarely at audiophiles who would like to bring the look of hi-fi audio systems to their Android device.

Muviz adds a visual equalizer to your Android navigation bar. This equalizer responds to music, videos and even streaming audio and video services. The app has a wide variety of different equalizer types ensuring that there is something for everyone.

6. Unseen

Unseen users have the freedom to read messages incognito. This means that the person who sent the message will not be notified when a message has been read. Unseen works with various apps like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and Viber.

7. Fingerprint Quick Action

The fingerprint scanner is a significant improvement over PINs and pattern locks. It enables users to quickly and easily unlock their device in a fraction of the time it used to take. Unfortunately, there isn’t much else that implements this hardware feature other than some methods of payment.

However, with an app called Fingerprint Quick Action, you can re-map your fingerprint scanner to perform a variety of other functions. After installing the app, the fingerprint scanner will still unlock your device as usual. But once your device is unlocked, you can use the fingerprint scanner to perform another functions such as launching a specific app or snapping a photo.

8. Cornerfly/Roundr

Do you like the look of flagship devices like the Samsung Galaxy S8 and the LG G6? If so, you probably like the rounded edges of the screen. The soft, curved edges of the screen definitely give the phone a premium look, but to get it you’ll have to shell out quite a bit of cash. Fortunately, you can get the rounded edges on virtually any device by installing a simple app.

9. All in One Gestures

The Android OS is pretty intuitive; however, there are times when every user wishes he or she could tweak something to make the experience a bit better. The introduction of gesture-based controls within Android is a step in the right direction; however, the feature seems under-utilized. This is where All in One Gestures steps in.

All in One Gestures allows users to customize the user interface of their device, increasing productivity and personalization. The app does this by allowing users to program customized gestures such as swipes and screen taps. In addition, it also allows users to configure physical key press combinations. These gestures and button presses can be used to launch an app or to perform specific functions.

10. Volume Slider

Have you ever started playing a video without realizing your volume was turned all the way up? Blown out your eardrums with a pair of too-loud headphones? What about when the person you’re trying to call sounds like a mouse? If you’ve ever encountered these issues, you’ve probably found yourself scrambling for the volume rocker on your device. Unfortunately, sometimes the volume rocker is in a hard to reach area, especially for those with larger devices.

Luckily, Volume Slider is a quick and easy way to control the volume of different audio sources simply by sliding your finger along the edges of your screen. In addition, the app can also be configured to control the brightness of your device’s screen. While this app makes adjusting the volume of different apps faster and more convenient than traditional buttons, it is a must-have for those with a broken volume rocker.

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Decoding The Blueprint Of Life: Ai’s Geneformer

Also Read: AI and Genetics: Discovery of Rare DNA Sequence

Large language models, also known as foundation models, are AI systems that learn fundamental knowledge from massive amounts of general data. They then apply that knowledge to accomplish new tasks, a process called transfer learning. These systems have recently gained mainstream attention with the release of ChatGPT, a chatbot built on a model from OpenAI.

Also Read: Breaking Barriers: ChatGPT’s Radiology Exam Triumph and Limitations Unveiled!

Geneformer: A Power Booster for Medical Research

Typically, to map gene networks, researchers rely on huge datasets that include many similar cells. They use a subset of AI systems, called machine learning platforms, to work out patterns within the data. For example, a machine learning algorithm could learn the gene network patterns that differentiate diseased samples from healthy ones, if trained on a large number of samples from patients with and without heart disease.

However, standard machine learning models in biology are trained to only accomplish a single task. In order for the models to accomplish a different task, they have to be retrained from scratch on new data. If researchers wanted to identify diseased kidney, lung, or brain cells from their healthy counterparts, they’d need to start over and train a new algorithm with data from those tissues. The issue is that for some diseases, there isn’t enough existing data to train these machine-learning models.

The Making of Geneformer

In the new study, Theodoris, Ellinor, and their colleagues tackled this problem by leveraging a machine learning technique called “transfer learning” to train Geneformer as a foundational model whose core knowledge can be transferred to new tasks. First, they “pre-trained” Geneformer to have a fundamental understanding of how genes interact by feeding it data about the activity level of genes in about 30 million cells from a broad range of human tissues.

To demonstrate that the transfer learning approach was working, the scientists then fine-tuned Geneformer to make predictions about the connections between genes or whether reducing the levels of certain genes would cause disease. Geneformer was able to make these predictions with much higher accuracy than alternative approaches because of the fundamental knowledge it gained during the pre-training process. In addition, Geneformer was able to make accurate predictions even when only shown a very small number of examples of relevant data.

Also Read: AI Discovers Antibiotic to Combat Deadly Bacteria

How Geneformer Works

They first asked Geneformer to predict which genes would have a detrimental effect on the development of cardiomyocytes, the muscle cells in the heart. Among the top genes identified by the model, many had already been associated with heart disease.

The model’s accurate prediction of heart disease-causing genes that were already known gave researchers the confidence that it could make accurate predictions going forward. However, other potentially important genes identified by Geneformer, such as the gene TEAD4, had not been previously associated with heart disease. When the researchers removed TEAD4 from cardiomyocytes in the lab, the cells could no longer beat as robustly as healthy cells. Therefore, Geneformer used transfer learning to make a new conclusion: Even though it had not been fed any information on cells lacking TEAD4, it correctly predicted the important role that TEAD4 plays in cardiomyocyte function.

Finally, the group asked Geneformer to predict the genes to be targeted to make diseased cardiomyocytes resemble healthy cells at a gene network level. When the researchers tested two of the proposed targets in cells affected by cardiomyopathy (a disease of the heart muscle), they indeed found that removing the predicted genes using CRISPR gene editing technology restored the beating ability of diseased cardiomyocytes.

Implications for Drug Discovery and Network-Correcting Therapies

“A benefit of using Geneformer was the ability to predict which genes could help to switch cells between healthy and disease states,” says Ellinor. “We were able to validate these predictions in cardiomyocytes in our laboratory at the Broad Institute.”

Additionally, Geneformer’s ability to predict gene networks that disrupt disease could lead to the development of network-correcting therapies. Rather than targeting individual genes or proteins, these therapies would aim to restore entire networks to their healthy states. This approach could potentially result in fewer side effects and greater efficacy than current therapies that target single genes or proteins.

Also Read: Groundbreaking News: FDA Grants Approval to Elon Musk’s Neuralink for Human Trials

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