Monthly Archives:May 2019


A computer program that taught itself to play poker has created nearly the best possible strategy for one version of the game.


Researchers believe this shows the value of techniques that may prove useful to help decision-making in medicine and other areas.

The program considered 24 trillion simulated poker hands per second for two months, probably playing more poker than all humanity has ever experienced, says Michael Bowling, who led the project.

The resulting strategy still won’t win every game because of bad luck in the cards.

But over the long run – thousands of games – it won’t lose money.

“We can go against the best (players) in the world and the humans are going to be the ones that lose money,” said Bowling, of the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada.

The strategy applies specifically to a game called heads-up limit Texas Hold ’em.

While scientists have created poker-playing programs for years, Bowling’s result stands out because it comes so close to “solving” its version of the game, which essentially means creating the optimal strategy.

Poker is hard to solve because it involves imperfect information, where a player doesn’t know everything that has happened in the game he is playing – specifically, what cards the opponent has been dealt.

Many real-world challenges like negotiations and auctions also include imperfect information, which is one reason why poker has long been a proving ground for the mathematical approach to decision-making called game theory.

Bowling’s paper, released on Thursday by the journal Science, introduces some techniques that could become useful for applying game theory in real-world situations.

Bowling is investigating the possibility of helping doctors determine proper insulin doses for diabetic patients, for example.

Game theory has also been used to schedule security patrols, and it has implications for other areas like developing strategies for cybersecurity, designing drugs and fighting disease pandemics.

Koalas injured in bushfires across SA, Vic and NSW are in desperate need for cotton paw mittens, animal welfare groups say.



The International Fund for Animal Welfare has asked volunteers to sew cotton mittens for koalas that have been severely burnt. The mittens would be used to cover the animals’s bandages.

Volunteers are encouraged to use the sewing template on IFAW’s website, and to drop off completed mittens at local wildlife centres or at their Sydney offices. 

“Koalas with burns to their paws need to have them treated with burn cream and wrapped in bandages. They then need special cotton mittens to cover the dressings. All this needs changing daily so we’re asking if you can help us by sewing koala mittens – as many as they can before the fire season truly hits,” said IFAW’s Josey Sharrad.

Post by International Fund for Animal Welfare – IFAW.

Jeremy was the first koala to be treated at the Australian Marine Wildlife Research & Rescue Organisation (AMWRRO) in Adelaide. All four of Jeremy’s paws were treated for second-degree partial thickness burns, but the group assures that he is showing positive signs of recovery.  

Animal welfare groups believe more koalas will be admitted to centres in the coming days. 

“We’ve got one coming in very shortly and another following it,” Adelaide Koala and Wildlife Hospital founder Rae Campbell told ABC. “I think over the coming days and weeks there will be many, many more. 

“Many of them, if they’re picked up early enough and treated, are able to be released and have normal lives.”

Authorities declared on Thursday that the Sampson Flat bushfire had been fully contained, six days after the blaze began its trail of destruction.

The fire destroyed 27 homes, burnt through almost 13,000 hectares and left 134 people, mainly firefighters, injured.

Remarkably, no lives were lost.

 Post by Australian Marine Wildlife Research & Rescue Organisation Inc. (AMWRRO). Post by Australian Marine Wildlife Research & Rescue Organisation Inc. (AMWRRO). Post by Australian Marine Wildlife Research & Rescue Organisation Inc. (AMWRRO).


Organisers of the Rio Olympics said on Thursday they may decide to use more cities to host football action amid concerns that pitches slated to host matches may get burnt out.


Rio, welcoming South America’s first ever Olympiad in 2016, is scheduled to share out the games with fellow World Cup venues Brasilia, Sao Paulo and Salvador.

But Carlos Nuzman, who chairs the Brazilian Olympic Committee, told reporters FIFA has voiced concern at whether the four pitches will stand up to multiple use in early rounds.

“Can we have one more city? Yes,” Nuzman said. “This is under discussion with FIFA and the Brazil soccer federation.”

Adding venues would not just protect pitches from cutting up but would have the added benefit of bringing potential use to one or more of Brazil’s potential “white elephant” World Cup venues such as Manaus in Amazonia and Cuiaba, both of whom boast multimillion-dollar swanky new stadiums but have no major local side to fill them.

Nuzman said adding venues – rather as London did for the 2012 event when some matches were played as far away as Newcastle and Glasgow, some 400 kilometres away – would respond to FIFA concerns of pitch maintenance.

With 16 men’s teams and 12 for the women, the current four-city structure could mean some stadiums hosting more than one match a day during the August 3 to 19 football event.

Rio’s legendary Maracana, which hosted Germany’s World Cup final win over Argentina in July, is scheduled to host semi-final and final matches.

Brazil used 12 venues at the World Cup, giving the Maracana a massive $400 million overhaul and spending almost $3 billion in all to spread the tournament across the country despite fears that several host cities would struggle to fill their new grounds thereafter.

As a partial solution, the Brazilian league brought domestic matches to the likes of Manaus’ Amazonia Arena last season.

Nuzman hinted a decision would be made by February, when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is due to visit to monitor progress on Games’ preparations.

The Brazilian put the Catalan club ahead after 34 minutes when he fired home following a well worked move and after that the flood gates opened against the bottom side in La Liga.


Six minutes later Luis Suarez slotted past Przemyslaw Tyton after creating the chance with a delightful dummy as he allowed the ball to run through his legs before bearing down on goal.

Lionel Messi, who was the focus of attention following a reported bust-up with Enrique, looked very motivated from the start with some lively runs and converted a penalty just before halftime after Neymar was felled by defender Enzo Roco.

Jordi Alba made it 4-0 with a clinical finish from a Messi pass after 55 minutes and Neymar got his second foal with a deflected drive from distance five minutes later.

Shortly afterwards Neymar was substituted and made it clear he was unhappy as he shook his head when walking off.

It was an important win for Enrique who was criticised for leaving Messi and Neymar on the bench for the defeat by Real Sociedad last Sunday with his team stuttering under him.

The coach put out a first choice strike force against Elche as he could not afford another slip-up and he received a mixed reception from the Camp Nou crowd.

At several times during the game fans chanted his name but they were then drowned out by whistles.

“The only reflection that I will make is that which interests me, and I value the support of the fans to the players. They are the protagonists in this show and I like it that they are supported,” he told a news conference.

“This is basic if we are going to have a good season and it is great if they can back the players.”

It has been a difficult week with presidential elections brought forward a year to the end of this season due to general dissatisfaction with the management of the club.

“I think that our supporters have belief in us and in this sense I am in favour of the decision to hold elections by the president (Josep Maria) Bartomeu as a generous gesture” said Luis Enrique.

“This is a way of bringing some calm and hopefully we can build on that with some good results.”

Barca will face either Real Madrid or Atletico Madrid in the King’s Cup quarter-finals once they finish off Elche. Atletico hold a 2-0 first-leg lead after the home leg on Wednesday.

(Editing by Ken Ferris/Peter Rutherford)


Charlie Hebdo: A history of the French satire magazineIn pictures: Rallies held across Europe for Charlie Hebdo shootingWorld leaders condemn Paris attackCartoonists pay tribute to Charlie Hedbo<strong style="line-height: 1.


538em;”>Comment: we are all Charlie Hebdo – and this is an attack on our rightsLIVE UPDATES: the hunt for Paris attackers countinues

When a masked gunman burst into the Charlie Hebdo editorial meeting shouting “Allahu akbar” and fired off a hail of bullets, journalist Laurent Leger threw himself behind a corner table and hid as horror unfolded around him.

The journalists were wrapping up their weekly meeting when they heard what sounded like “fireworks” outside, said Leger, whose reflex to hide would make him one of few survivors of the bloodbath.

He looked like a member of the special forces, “he was masked, dressed all in black, he was holding his weapon with both hands,” Leger told France Info radio.

He said the gunman called out “Charb!” the name of editor-in-chief and cartoonist Stephane Charbonnier who was living under police protection after receiving death threats for the magazine’s provocative content mocking Islam.

“And then the shooting started, the smell of gunpowder … by chance I threw myself behind the table and he didn’t see me … a few seconds, and everyone was on the ground,” he said, adding the gunman had shot at random.

Leger said that as the satirical Charlie Hebdo team were “jokers”, he at first thought it may be some kind of a prank.

But the reality quickly sank in as the sharp sting of gunpowder hit his nose and one by one his colleagues crumpled to the ground.

Helpless, the veteran reporter huddled tightly in his hiding place.

“I saw the others on the ground, the sound of explosions, then suddenly there was silence. A long silence.”

Leger said he heard footsteps and realised the gunman was returning.

He heard the man exchange a few words with someone else and realised there were two attackers.

“I thought they were going to walk around to find survivors,” he said. But they were unable to walk around the cramped room and left.

When the coast was clear he and others who were not hit got up to try to help their colleagues. Leger said he held the hand of the weekly’s webmaster while waiting for help to arrive.

“I saw a lot of blood, I saw half the editorial team on the ground,” he said. “I saw horror.”

“I still don’t know how I managed to escape.”

Some of the country’s best-known cartoonists such as Charb, his police guard and an invited visitor were among the 10 who died in the room.

A maintenance man was shot in the reception area and another policeman was murdered outside as the two attackers fled. Eleven people were wounded, four of them seriously.

“It all happened so fast … it still hasn’t sunk in for anyone in this small team of survivors that it really happened.”

Clearly stunned, the journalist described a tight-knit group of colleagues whose job centred on humour, almost wiped out by the attack.

But the weekly’s biting irony and irreverent style made it a key target of jihadist groups.

But to Leger, the massacre was “unimaginable. Charb felt more threatened than the others, we stopped thinking about it”.

And as the country plunges into mourning, Charlie Hebdo has refused to be cowed by terror, and with the help of several other French media plans to put out next week’s issue.

The newspaper’s lawyer, Richard Malka, said one million copies would be printed instead of the normal 60,000.

Leger said it was “important” to publish something.

“I don’t want it to be an issue about death. I want a magazine on the challenge to exist, to say things, to fight against idiocy, against human stupidity, against all fundamentalism.”