Trending November 2023 # This Ai Is No Doctor, But Its Medical Diagnoses Are Pretty Spot On # Suggested December 2023 # Top 11 Popular

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Various research groups have been teasing the idea of an AI doctor for the better half of the past decade. In late December, computer scientists from Google and DeepMind put forth their version of an AI clinician that can diagnose a patient’s medical conditions based on their symptoms, using a large language model called PaLM. 

Per a preprint paper published by the group, their model scored 67.6 percent on a benchmark test containing questions from the US Medical License Exam, which they claim surpassed previous state-of-the-art software by 17 percent. One version of it performed at a similar level to human clinicians. But, there are plenty of caveats that come with this algorithm, and others like it. 

Here are some quick facts about the model: It was trained on a dataset of over 3,000 commonly searched medical questions, and six other existing open datasets for medical questions and answers, including medical exams and medical research literature. In their testing phase, the researchers compared the answers from two versions of the AI to a human clinician, and evaluated these responses for accuracy, factuality, relevance, helpfulness, consistency with current scientific consensus, safety, and bias. 

Adriana Porter Felt, a software engineer that works on Google Chrome who was not a part of the paper, noted on Twitter that the version of the model that answered medical questions similarly to human clinicians accounts for the added feature of “instruction prompt tuning, which is a human process that is laborious and does not scale.” This includes carefully tweaking the wording of the question in a specific way that allows the AI to retrieve the correct information. 

[Related: Google is launching major updates to how it serves health info]

The researchers even wrote in the paper that their model “performs encouragingly, but remains inferior to clinicians,” and that the model’s “comprehension [of medical context], recall of knowledge, and medical reasoning improve with model scale and instruction prompt tuning.” For example, every version of the AI missed important information and included incorrect or inappropriate content in their answers at a higher rate compared to humans. 

Language models are getting better at parsing information with more complexity and volume. And they seem to do okay with tasks that require scientific knowledge and reasoning. Several small models, including SciBERT and PubMedBERT, have pushed the boundaries of language models to understand texts loaded with jargon and specialty terms.  

But in the biomedical and scientific fields, there are complicated factors at play and many unknowns. And if the AI is wrong, then who takes responsibility for malpractice? Can the source of the error be traced back to a source when much of the algorithm works like a black box? Additionally, these algorithms (mathematical instructions given to the computer by programmers) are imperfect and need complete and correct training data, which is not always available for various conditions across different demographics. Plus, buying and organizing health data can be expensive. 

Answering questions correctly on a multiple-choice standardized test does not convey intelligence. And the computer’s analytical ability might fall short if it were presented with a real-life clinical case. So while these tests look impressive on paper, most of these AIs are not ready for deployment. Consider IBM’s Watson AI health project. Even with millions of dollars in investment, it still had numerous problems and was not practical or flexible enough at scale (it ultimately imploded and was sold for parts). 

Google and DeepMind do recognize the limitations of this technology. They wrote in their paper that there are still several areas that need to be developed and improved for this model to be actually useful, such as the grounding of the responses in authoritative, up-to-date medical sources and the ability to detect and communicate uncertainty effectively to the human clinician or patient. 

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The Pixel Is All But Dead—No Thanks To The Pc

Be sad, fellow geeks, for we are witnessing the slow death of a staunch companion.

Between the proliferation of Retina displays, ultrahigh-resolution smartphone screens, überexpensive 4K televisions, and the ironically named Chromebook Pixel, eye candy has never been so abundantly available, nor so abundantly delicious. Screens are saturated with millions—millions—of tiny little squares, rendering images and text alike in buttery-smooth fidelity.

The jagged edges of yesteryear are bleeding away. On-screen images are looking more and more like continuous-tone photographs. The pixel as we know it is all but dead.

It’s enough to make your eyes water, but it won’t happen today. For although the pixel’s final gasp is indeed on the horizon, it isn’t quite here yet. And you can thank the PC for that.

It was the best of times…

The HTC One’s display. Yes, it’s okay if you drool.

More important than the total resolution numbers is the fact that those small mobile screens are veritably crammed with pixels. Sky-high pixel densities are giving displays a pixel-less quality.

Meanwhile, Sharp—a major component supplier for Apple and other parties—is working on new IGZO display technology designed to pack the pixels in even more tightly. Last year, the company showed off a 6-inch IGZO LCD panel with a whopping 2560 by 1600 resolution, for an impressive pixel density of 498 ppi. Few 30-inch desktop monitors have that many pixels.

On such stacked screens, text is as sharp as it is in a book, if not sharper. Yes, they’re that good.

It was the worst of times…

Compare those ever-increasing mobile resolutions with the status quo on the PC side of things. While the stunning screens on the Chromebook Pixel and higher-end MacBook Pros may snatch all the headlines, everyday reality is much more ho-hum for most folks.

Nearly 40 percent of all North American machines tracked by StatCounter have either a 1024 by 768 or 1366 by 768 display, with the former accounting for a hefty 22.64 percent of all displays.

The Lenovo ThinkPad Twist, part of the first wave of Windows 8 hybrids, sports one of those laptop-standard 1366 by 768 displays. Across its 12.5-inch screen, that resolution equates to just 125 ppi. And for laptops with a similar resolution on a larger 13.3- or 15.6-inch display—far more common notebook sizes—the pixel-density number plummets even lower.

ROBERT CARDINThe ThinkPad Twist is an otherwise excellent laptop brought to earth by its humdrum display.

Even when you take into consideration that laptop screens need fewer pixels than phones to achieve Retina-level quality (since you hold them farther away from you than mobile devices), the ThinkPad Twist’s pixel density fails to impress. Its 125 ppi is barely half the pixel density of the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display’s 227 ppi—and as I said, the Twist’s screen is smaller (read: denser) than most laptop screens. Another model, the IdeaPad Yoga 13, packs a higher 1600 by 900 resolution into its larger 13-inch display, and still offers only 138 ppi.

That doesn’t cut it, folks.

Who should shoulder the blame for the PC’s eye-straining status quo? Manufacturers who pump out computers at the lowest cost possible, or people who treat PCs as commodity appliances? It matters not. Regardless of the industry’s general recalcitrance toward Retina-level displays, the death of the pixel marches ever closer, even on Windows computers.

Peering into the future

ToshibaToshiba’s Kirabook is the first Windows laptop available with an ultrahigh-resolution.

High-resolution displays aren’t the norm even on premium Windows laptops quite yet, but they are becoming more popular as economies of scale drive the cost of displays down—and as the economy in general forces manufacturers to tinker with bold new designs to spark lagging consumer interest.

Behold: the recently announced Toshiba Kirabook, the first Windows laptop to bear an ultrahigh-resolution display with 221 ppi. Starting at $1600, it also sports a matching ultrahigh price tag, unfortunately.

But higher resolutions are starting to work their way into slightly less expensive Windows devices, too. Many early Windows hybrids and touchscreen laptops rock a full 1080p HD resolution, including the $1100 Dell XPS 12 and Microsoft’s own $899 Surface Pro slate. On the Dell’s 12.5-inch display, that’s good for a far-better-than average 176 ppi, while the Surface Pro’s 10.6-inch screen boasts a peeper-pleasing 208 ppi.

That’s not quite pixel-less, but it’s close. The Surface Pro’s pixel-packed display makes everything from movies to games look absolutely gorgeous.

“In comparing Surface Pro to my third-generation iPad, I really had to search for visible pixels and differences in display quality, and any deficits exhibited by Surface Pro melted away when the tablet was farther away from my face, and propped on a desk,” PCWorld editor Jon Phillips wrote in his Surface Pro review.

In other words: Wow.

We’re likely still a few years away from widespread adoption of 1080p-plus PC displays, but that day is a-coming. One encouraging stat: Over 30 percent of gamers connecting to Steam already own 1920 by 1080 displays, though the pixel density is obviously lower on a 21-inch desktop display than on a smaller mobile screen. The black line representing 1080p displays on that StatCounter chart above is rising slowly—but steadily. Intel expects that ultrahigh-resolutions will be the norm sooner rather than later.

And the same day that Sharp showed off its 498-ppi mobile panel, the company also presented a 13.5-inch IGZO OLED panel designed for laptops. Its resolution: a stunning 3840 by 2160, with a 326-ppi density—a full 99 ppi higher than even the vaunted MacBook Pro’s Retina display.

Sharp started mass-producing IGZO displays in March.

Laying the groundwork

In a way, the PC’s delayed adoption of dynamite displays is a good thing. Everyday technology simply isn’t ready for the en masse embrace of pixel-packed screens.

Most computer programs and the Web as we know it were designed with pedestrian displays in mind, not ultrahigh-res stunners. As such, Retina iPad users have complained of blurred text and imagery, while the Surface Pro ships with the desktop display automatically scaled to 150 percent to keep text from appearing itty-bitty on its pixelicious screen. Images created for Retina-level displays are far larger, file-size-wise, than standard-resolution graphics, placing a burden on bandwidth and storage alike.

Jared NewmanThe Chromebook Pixel’s stunning screen was built for tomorrow, not today.

But fear not: Big brains are already hard at work to fix these irksome issues. Witness the rise of vector-based images, the enhanced desktop display scaling feature reportedly built into Windows Blue, and the very existence of the impressively astronomical Chromebook Pixel.

The death of the pixel isn’t here, but it is very close. One day, in the not-too-distant future, your child will gaze up innocently at you and ask, “What’s a pixel?”

And on that day, the displays of today will seem just as ancient as mainframes, Minecraft (in all its glory) be damned.

There’s No Stopping This Immortal Jellyfish

What’s the weirdest thing you learned this week? Well, whatever it is, we promise you’ll have an even weirder answer if you listen to PopSci’s hit podcast. The Weirdest Thing I Learned This Week hits Apple, Anchor, and everywhere else you listen to podcasts every-other Wednesday morning. It’s your new favorite source for the strangest science-adjacent facts, figures, and Wikipedia spirals the editors of Popular Science can muster. If you like the stories in this post, we guarantee you’ll love the show.

This week’s episode is all about thriving in the face of disaster. For more tales of resilience, check out the latest issue of Popular Science—it’s on newsstands now!

FACT: This animal can essentially live forever

By Sara Kily Watson

When stressed, injured, starving, or otherwise provoked, the pinky-nail-sized Turritopsis dohrnii skips the whole growing old and dying thing in favor of reverting to infancy. It repurposes its worn-out, grown-up cells and spurts out hundreds of fresh-faced identical clones in a jiffy.

Since these critters are pretty darn hard to kill—and reproduce like crazy whenever they survive a brush with death—the tiny beauties have invaded pretty much every corner of the world.

How the chicken becomes the egg again (or in this case, how the medusa becomes a polyp) is still a mystery. But don’t worry: there are brilliant minds, both scientific and musical, working hard to figure out the jellyfish’s anti-aging secret.

FACT: World War II almost killed the potato chip

By Corinne Iozzio

Whether or not the blessed creation that is the potato chip is an American invention is certainly in question, but what’s not in question is just how much we love those crunchy, salty, slices of deep-fried carbs. On average, a person in the US eats about 6 pounds of chips every year.

Yet there was a time when the future of the chip was not quite so certain.

During World War II, rationing of necessities like oil and shortening got the snack classified as (gasp) a “non-essential” food by the War Production Board. Fortunately for chips—and all of us—a Midwesterner named Harvey F. Noss was ready for a fight. Listen to this week’s episode to hear how chips triumphed in the face of certain disaster.

FACT: Pablo Escobar’s cocaine hippos might not be all bad

By Rachel Feltman

Pablo Escobar is a complex historical figure for sure, but one aspect of his complicated legacy is particularly surprising: his pet hippos.

In the 1980s, Escobar built himself a 7,000 acre estate that included, among other things a zoo, which included, among other things, four hippos—three females and a male bought from a zoo in California. The estate is actually now a theme park, but it sat idle and neglected for something like a decade after Escobar was shot dead by Colombian police in 1993. Authorities shipped most of the zoo’s occupants off to wildlife preserves or public zoos, but they decided the hippos were too large to deal with transporting. I guess they figured the hippos would stay put. Spoiler alert: the hippos did not stay put. And they had a lot of babies.

Today Colombia is home to an estimated 80 hippopotami—by far the largest wild population of the animals outside their native habitats in Africa. As invasive species, these critters must be wrecking their new environment… right?

New research recently brought that assumption into question. According to a paper released in March, the hippos might actually be filling an ecological niche that’s been empty for tens of thousands of years. By mimicking some of the behaviors of long-extinct animals like the region’s giant llama, hippos might actually be productive members of Colombian society.

That’s not to say the critters fit in seamlessly, or that they should be allowed to reproduce and spread in the area unchecked. But studies like these provide an important reminder of just how poorly we understand the planet we live on—and how careful we should be when we decide which human messes to clean up and how.

For more on the cocaine hippos, give this week’s episode a listen—and go grab a copy of the latest issue of Popular Science!

If you like The Weirdest Thing I Learned This Week, please subscribe, rate, and review us on Apple Podcasts. You can also join in the weirdness in our Facebook group and bedeck yourself in Weirdo merchandise (including face masks!) from our Threadless shop. And for even more tales of stunning resilience, check out the latest issue of Popular Science—it’s on newsstands now!

Computer Turns On But The Screen Is Black

When your computer displays a black screen, it means that the data it is trying to display is not being received. To fix your displays, you must first identify the source of the problem.

Computer Displaying Black Screen

Once you’ve ruled out a broken monitor or faulty cable, you’ll have to look deeper into the computer to figure out what’s preventing it from working.

Here are a few common causes of a screen staying black even when the computer is on.

Faulty PSU

GPU issues

BIOS settings

How to Fix a Computer that Turns On But the Screen is Black

The best way to troubleshoot a computer is to start with easy fixes that only take a few moments. If these fixes don’t help restore the picture to your display, you might have to test some of your computer’s components. 

Restart the Computer

One of the first things you should do is make sure your computer is completely restarted. Sometimes when you think your computer is off, it is actually still on in a low-power state to speed up startups. Powering the computer down all the way ensures that when you restart it, it’s a truly fresh start.

To restart your computer completely, press down on the computer’s power button. Hold it down for five seconds before releasing it. Let the computer fully startup before you continue troubleshooting. 

Check the Connections

Make sure your monitor is plugged into your video output device. Some motherboards have onboard graphics and can work without a GPU. Others don’t have graphics built into them and require a GPU to display anything.

If you have a GPU, make sure the monitor is plugged directly into it. If you don’t, make sure it’s plugged into the motherboard. 

You should also ensure that all power cables required by the computer are plugged in. If your GPU needs a supplemental connection, it might prevent the computer from sending video to your display. 

Check for Brightness

Sometimes the brightness on your system is so low that you think nothing is displayed on the screen because it’s not visible.

Look at your keyboard for a brightness hotkey you might have adjusted without meaning to. Press the keys to turn up the brightness while the computer is connected to a display you think is working. 

Reset your Monitor

Resetting the monitor will ensure that you don’t have strange settings incompatible with the computer selected. The method will vary depending on what monitor you have. 

Make sure the input is selected for the computer. If you’ve changed what wires you’re using to connect the monitor to the computer, you might also need to change the input settings. 

When the monitor is set to default, restart your computer and see whether it grabs a connection. 

Check your Peripheral Devices

Unplug anything unnecessary from the computer, like extra monitors, external drives, or USB hubs. 

Restart the computer with a single monitor plugged in. If the screen is still black, try switching the cable that connects the monitor to another one. Try plugging it in with a different cable type or to a different port in your computer.

Once you know the monitor is working, the cable is suitable, and your computer doesn’t have one flawed connector, it’s time to start thinking about what else might have failed for the monitor to display a black screen. 

Change the RAM

Try removing all the RAM from your computer, inserting one stick into a slot, and booting with that single stick inserted. If that doesn’t work, try another stick in the same slot. 

Try one stick in a different slot if it still doesn’t work. With this method, you’re trying to find damaged slots or damaged RAM sticks. If it starts and works with a single RAM stick in a specific place, you might have damaged RAM, or your slots are damaged. 

Test Your Power Supply

Even when the power supply appears to be working, it can fall victim to errors that prevent all computer parts from receiving sufficient power.

Consider getting a power supply tester if you frequently work with computers. It’s a safer and easier way to test a PSU than using a multimeter.

Unplug and open your computer.

Remove any power cables going from the PSU into other components. It shouldn’t be connected to anything when you’re done.

Check the voltage switch on the PSU to make sure it’s correct. The setting for US computers is 110V/115V.

Plugin the larger power connector and one of the smaller ones, depending on the model you’re using.

Plug your PSU into a wall outlet. Turn the power on if it’s a model with a switch.

Turn the power supply tester on and refer to the screen on the device. If the screen isn’t turning on, the power supply is bad.

Check to make sure none of the numbers say LL or HH. That means the power supply is bad and needs to be replaced. 

Check your power supply tester manual against the voltages reported on the screen. Make sure they’re within the correct limits for your PSU. If the numbers are out of the acceptable range or the delay value is not 100-500ms, you should replace the power supply.

Check the other cables, if necessary. It depends on what model PSU you’re using and what power cables extend from it. 

Listen for Beep Codes

Some computers make sounds when something is wrong with the system. These beep codes help you troubleshoot and fix any problems preventing it from working correctly.

Power on the computer.

Listen for the beep codes.

Write down how many beeps there were, whether they were fast or slow and whether the code repeated. It’s okay if you have to turn on the computer a few times to catch the code perfectly.

Refer to a manual or reference for your BIOS model to determine what is causing the beep code.

Recognizing the cause of a beep code isn’t the end of the problem because you still have to fix whatever caused it. However, it’s a great starting point for finding the source of the problem.

Clear your CMOS

Clearing your CMOS battery on your motherboard will reset BIOS to default. If a problem with your BIOS settings prevents your computer from displaying an image on your monitor, clearing the CMOS should fix it.

Shut down the computer and disconnect the power.

Press the power button on the computer three times.

Locate the CMOS battery on the motherboard.

Remove it from the socket.

Wait five minutes.

Place it back into the socket and restart your computer.

Your BIOS will be back to the way it was when your first turned on your computer. If you ever flashed the BIOS to upgrade it, you may need to repeat the process. 

Test your GPU

Your GPU could experience a problem that prevents it from displaying on the screen. However, it’s not as easy to test as some other parts.

The standard way to test a GPU is to run a series of benchmark programs to see what it can handle. That’s not possible when you can’t see your screen.

The best way to check your GPU is to hook it into another computer to which you have access. See whether that computer boots. If it does, run a stress test on the GPU.

Download a program like 3dMark, Unigine Heaven, or FurMark and use it to make sure your GPU is working as intended.

If the GPU isn’t working right, you can try disassembling it, cleaning it, putting on a new thermal paste, and then reassembling it. Sometimes that can help manage the temperatures and keep the GPU more stable. 

Reseat Your Cpu and Reapply Thermal Paste

If your CPU isn’t seated perfectly or isn’t as cool as it should be, it might cause errors that prevent your computer from displaying an image. 

You should also take a closer look at your CPU cooler. If that isn’t functioning correctly, it can cause your CPU to overheat and prevent your computer from working. 

Clean and Reseat Your Components

It’s surprising how often a thorough cleaning and reseating of all your components can fix errors for a computer. Take your time and be gentle as you work through each part.

Turn off the computer, unplug it from its power source, and press the power button a few times once the power is off.

Remove the motherboard, GPU, and drives. Disconnect everything.

Pull the RAM from its slots.

Use compressed air to blow dust from the inside of the case.

Clean any removable filters and the blades on your fans.

Use compressed air again to remove any dust that has fallen during the rest of the cleaning.

Reseat the ram into its slots.

Replace the fans and coolers.

Replace the PSU, GPU, and any AIO coolers for the GPU.

Plug everything back in properly.

Reconnect the power.

Restart the computer.

If the computer starts normally, it may be that something simply needs to be adjusted a bit. 

Look for Damage on the Computer Hardware

Look for things like blown capacitors and electrical shorts on your motherboard. You might notice burned areas, bulging pieces, or exposed wiring.

If something is damaged on your motherboard, you might have to replace it entirely to make your computer work again. Unfortunately, replacing aspects of your motherboard is pretty complicated, and most of the time, it makes more sense to get a new one.

Frequently Asked Questions Why Does My Computer Screen Go Black Randomly?

It’s possible that your display is not working. However, if your screen is going black randomly at different times, one of your computer components might also fail. Stress-test your components to see whether the CPU or GPU are close to dying, experiencing high heat, or having other problems. 

Why Is My Computer Screen Black With a Cursor?

This can be caused by many different issues, including outdated drivers or BIOS issues. Try restarting your computer, using Windows key + R to access Device Manager to update your drivers, and booting the computer into safe mode to run System File Checker. 

How to Stop a Computer Screen From Going Black?

Check your settings to see whether you’re on a power plan that turns off the display. When the computer doesn’t sense movement or use for a while, it will shut down the displays even if it leaves the hard drives on. You can adjust your power plan’s settings not to turn off the display or select another power plan without that feature. 

Windows 8.1 Is On Its Deathbed. Prepare Now

Microsoft will kill off Windows 8.1 support on January 10, 2023. There’s no out: Microsoft will not be offering an extended support package for Windows 8.1. At that point, you’ll have a choice: buy a new Windows PC, or officially pay to upgrade to either Windows 10 or Windows 11. (Here’s how to get Windows for cheap.)

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What does the end of support mean? Until January 10, Microsoft will offer security patches and other fixes for any security issues that crop up. Afterwards, you’re on your own. If any exploit or malware surfaces, you’ll have to depend on any antivirus software you have running — Microsoft won’t be issuing any more patches after Jan. 10, and your PC will absolutely be at risk.

“Microsoft will not be offering an Extended Security Update (ESU) program for Windows 8.1,” Microsoft says. “Continuing to use Windows 8.1 after January 10, 2023 may increase an organization’s exposure to security risks or impact its ability to meet compliance obligations.”

It’s not just Windows, either. Microsoft encourages users to subscribe to Microsoft 365 (aka Microsoft Office), which continually offers updates — patches and new features — as part of an ongoing subscription. But Microsoft will cease to offers both patches and new features for Microsoft 365 to Windows 8.1 users then, too, the company says.

Our 2013 review of Windows 8.1 notes its “great compromise,” offering an (albeit hidden) way to bypass the controversial tiled Start menu and boot to the desktop directly. Otherwise, the OS feels somewhat old and dated, compared to the more modern Windows 10 and Windows 11 OSes. Incidentally, Windows 8 support ended in 2023.

How to upgrade from Windows 8.1

If you’re currently running a Windows 8 PC, Microsoft acknowledges that the prospects may be bleak. “Most Windows 8.1 or Windows 8 devices will not meet the hardware requirements for upgrading to Windows 11,” the company says.

Instead, you have a choice: purchase a new Windows 11 PC, or alternatively upgrade to Windows 10. Officially, you’ll have to buy a copy. However, there may be still hope to upgrade to Windows 10 (and then 11) for free; you’ll need to start with our tutorial and then visit the Windows 10 download page to see if the new version installs. Otherwise, you’ll need to upgrade to Windows 10 by purchasing a full version of the software. It’s likely, given the strict hardware requirements of Windows 11, that a Windows 8 PC won’t qualify for an upgrade to that operating system.

Microsoft also notes that upgrading directly from Windows 8 to Windows 11, assuming it works, will overwrite your hard drive with the new OS, erasing its contents. An “in place” upgrade that preserves your data is possible when upgrading from Windows 8 to Windows 10, and then from Windows 10 to Windows 11. Before you upgrade to a new operating system, however, be sure to back up your data in case things to awry.

If you do manage to upgrade to Windows 10, you can relax, however: Windows 10 remains supported until Oct. 14, 2025.

Juno Finally Got Close Enough To Jupiter’s Great Red Spot To Measure Its Depth

Two new studies using data from the Juno spacecraft have shown the first direct measurement of the depth of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, the storm that has been raging on its surface for at least hundreds of years.

Astronomers have gazed at Jupiter’s gaseous swirls for centuries, but for the first time, Juno, which launched into orbit around the planet in 2011, is giving them a glimpse of what lies beneath the surface of the planet’s great storm. In doing so, it could give researchers a window into the inner workings of the solar system’s behemoth world. One study used gravitational readings and the other microwave data from Juno’s Microwave Radiometer instrument during recent flyovers of the storm. Both were published in the journal Science this week.

“We flew over the Great Red Spot, and we managed to measure the depth,” says Yohai Kaspi, an atmospheric dynamicist, at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel and an author on both studies. He studies the atmosphere of Earth and other planets.

The increased density of the Great Red Spot compared to the surrounding atmosphere creates “a little mass anomaly,” Kaspi says. It’s almost as if the storm behaves like a small planet would, using its gravity to tug on the spacecraft harder than the surrounding space. And “if you’re accurate enough” one can measure the pull of the anomaly to figure out how massive the storm is.

The spacecraft has an antenna that points towards Earth, and as it accelerates, that causes a tiny doppler shift in the frequency of signals it transmits to Earth, Kaspi says. Like listening for an ambulance coming and going, the team can use this change in pitch to work out how the spacecraft is moving and pinpoint its acceleration.

[Related: Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is whirling faster than ever]

“Basically, the bigger, the more massive the Great Red Spot is, the bigger push our spacecraft would feel,” Kaspi says.

The microwave data study was able to discern more about the structure of the Great Red Spot. Juno’s microwave instrument has six different frequency channels with which to probe hundreds of kilometers beneath the surface of Jupiter. Each frequency penetrates to a different depth and paints a picture of that layer, says Michael  H. Wong, a planetary scientist at the SETI Institute and the University of California, Berkeley, who is also an author on both studies.

The microwave instrument is able to detect the composition and temperature of different layers, but at its deepest measurement capability, the team still saw signs of the vortex—the cone shaped swirl of air that makes up the storm—making it unclear where it ends.

Luckily, the gravitational data, though lacking in any fine details on the structure of the Great Red Spot, was able to measure the density of the storm, and the gravity team used a model to determine, for a given gravity signal, how deep the storm should extend.

“The gravity signal can tell you a little bit about the density. And the microwave radiometer can tell you a little bit about the composition and the temperature,” Wong says.

The team thinks the storm reaches to a depth of 300 kilometers, give or take a hundred, with an absolute maximum depth of 500 kilometers. For comparison, weather on Earth happens in the troposphere, which is only about ten kilometers thick. This new data isn’t far off from what previous studies had predicted, Wong says, but it is the first concrete measurement. 

The measurement is so exciting, Kaspi says, because we’re moving from the era of detecting the Great Red Spot, to one of “understanding why it’s there,” answering fundamental questions like why it’s this intense, and why it has lasted for this long?

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