Tag Archives: Technology Lab

Hunting for Mexico’s mass graves with machine learning


Over the last decade, Mexican drug cartels have been fighting each other—and corrupt police and military units—for control of the lucrative drug trade, plunging the country into chaos. Outsiders might think of Mexico as sunny and tequila-soaked, but beyond the beach resorts of Cancun and Mazatlan there hides a grimmer tale: levels of murder, rape, and kidnapping are hitting levels rarely seen outside hotspots in Africa, Asia, and South America.

So grim the tale, when 43 college students went missing in Mexico’s southern state of Guerrero in 2014, investigators found 129 other bodies in 60 fosas clandestinas (mass graves) before stumbling on badly burned remains in a mass grave they think might—possibly, maybe—contain what’s left of the missing students. Mexico’s attorney general says the local

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Bright X-rays reveal 3D structure of processors—and defects lurking within

(credit: Chipworks)

The semiconductor industry is beyond remarkable when it comes to the the complexity and precision of the processes. A modern integrated circuit is not a single layer of circuitry, but many layers, all stacked on top of each other. This is all done through photolithography, where a pattern is imaged on a silicon wafer. Each layer requires a separate image, and all the images have to be aligned. If you take the 14nm number seriously (a nanometer is 1/1,000,000th of a millimeter), then wafers and masks, which are seriously hold-in-two-hands-big, have to be aligned with a precision that is better than the feature size. But, how do you know you’ve done it right?

The obvious answer is whether or not the chip works.

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