Sunday, 15 June 2014

Entertainment stuff from the week 9-15/6/14

Hi placoderms,

Did a chatbot pass the Turing Test, this year?

'Turing Test 2014'

Well, frankly, no -- what a let-down -- but how did it fail?

The idea of the Turing Test was always a nebulous one, ever since Turing himself presented it. The general jist is that a synthetic (human-designed) entity has passed the test, when it can fool people into thinking that it is a real person.

The trouble with it has always been this... people cheat.

Even to this day, half a century later (Turing predicted it would be a whole century until the test were passed) all such attempts are made in text only.

Why? Because synthetic voices still sound obvious, and are largely still augmentations of real people's voices; and because android faces are even less realistic than that, to this day!

This means a low bar for computer programs to step over. Especially when the arbitrary figure of 30% is chosen, as a proportion of judges to fool (50% would have meant half thought the chatbot were human, and the other 50% thought the human were the human).

It would be more reasonable to set it up above 45%. And that's lenient. I mean, how many times do you find yourself chatting with a real person, and start wondering whether they're actually a robot?

This 'attempt' scraped an unconvincing 33%, and that's considering that the claimants went one extra bar-lowering step further than all other Turing Test claimants to date:

The chatbot, named Eugene Goostman, was handed the task of impersonating a thirteen-year-old Ukrainian boy.

Yes, you read right! And no, the test was not held in Ukraine - it was held in London, the (currently-U)K, at the Royal Society, and organised by the quackery and hate-speech loving University of Reading.

So what the chatbot essentially managed to do, was to convince 10 out of 30 people that it could speak in broken, juvenile English, for 5 minutes, better than whomever their human competitor was.

There's quite a lot of wiggle-room in there, isn't there. One fewer people convinced, and the chatbot fails; expectations of a foreign child's English set slightly higher, and the chatbot fails; put up against someone with better communication skills, and the chatbot fails; required to talk for longer, in order to show more flaws and give the judges more time to think... and the chatbot fails.

So that's how the Turing Test was not passed, this week. But i bet it's one of those stories that'll become a factoid, marketed by the University of Reading for all it's worth, just like the University of Leicester's done with their random-skeleton-in-a-hole-must-be-a-medieval-king-cos-otherwise-we're-all-bonkers-wibble-wibble-wibble story.

If Turing's right, many of us might see his famous test genuinely passed, within our lifetimes. But at the rate technology's advancing, it's a few years off yet...

Here's a story that's just too awesome not to chat about:

'David and Goliath: How a tiny spider catches much larger prey'

The minute, 3-millimetre Zodarion cyrenaicum spider, has been observed, both in a lab and in the wild, in Israel, attacking and overcoming ants more than five times its size - up to 17mm. Take a look at a ruler - that's a big size difference!

Of course, it does this by using a potent venom, that disables its prey, through just a single bite; but it came as a surprise to the researchers, to realise that even tiny juvenile Z. cyrenaicum spiders would attack ants of the Messor arenarius species, which is always much larger than itself.

This means they're capable of producing this deadly concoction from a very early age. The venom glands of adult ant-eating spiders are more than 50 times larger than those of the juveniles, however, it only takes about twice as long for the venom of the younger spiders to take effect.

But it has also been observed that the smaller spiders, even of this species, are more successful at hunting smaller varieties of ants, in which the venom would reach vital areas faster.

Most hunting spiders in the area typically only take on ants of comparable size to them, at any age, but only Zodarion cyrenaicum consistently takes on individuals of the same ant varieties, even though they're all much larger than themselves!

Previous work by the same team has shown that adult females of the Z. cyrenaicum species attack from behind, and then quickly retreat, whereas the smaller juveniles cling on to the gaster, inject their venom, and cling on, undetected.

I'm so glad i'm not an Israeli ant :-D

And on to yet another wonderful exploration through...

Placoderm porn :-D

Placoderms were the first jawed vertebrates, living in the oceans and rivers and lakes of the Earth, 430-360 million years ago. Dunkleosteus, for a huge example, grew to the size of a bus, and had gigantic jaws that could envelop a small car.

But as well as being incredibly scary, they were also the first to use extra limbs as 'claspers' to cling on to sexual partners, during fertilisation.

Modern fish mostly just squirt their reproductive juices into the same patch of water, and see what happens, but fossil evidence shows skeletally-controlled sexual organs, in placoderms - the first species ever to undergo copulatory sexual reproduction.

Modern sharks use cartilaginous claspers, near their pelvic fins, but placoderms used proper boney limbs, like mini-legs useful only for sex.

This new discovery implies that the so-called primitive way of vertebrate reproduction – spawning in water – changed dramatically to copulation almost as soon as vertebrates had the right tools for the job.

So there you go -- the seas were a sexy place, even 400 million years ago!

In other news:

For the first time, ever, the transit of a planet has been seen, from a planet that is not Earth! NASA's Curiosity Mars rover caught a couple of images of Mercury, passing in front of the Sun, on the 3rd of June. Because Mars is much further away than Earth, Mercury looks even smaller from the rover's Mastcam - one-sixth of one pixel, in fact. The next time a Mercury transit will be visible from Earth, is the 9th of May, 2016; but you will have to wait until November of 2084 to see Earth transit the Sun from Mars!

NASA scientists have also used two giant ground-based RADAR telescopes to image a 370 metre-wide asteroid, passing Earth 1.4 million kilometres away! And they've compiled their images into a short video of it, rotating for 4.5 hours. The asteroid was at its closest on the 8th of June, when it was 1.25 million kilometres away, and so poses no threat to us at all. You can see the video, at the link:

German journalists have launched a crowd-funded web-newspaper, intended to provide an alternative to the derivative, corrupt, sensationalist and/or duplicitously advertorial newspapers that are currently gaining power and control, even in web publishing. There are 28 journalists behind the project, called Krautreporter, and supporters, who each pledged 60 euros, will receive at least four in-depth, ad-free articles a day for a year. I don't sense Murdoch, Rothermere, or the Barclay Brothers quaking in their jackboots, though. But it's still early days for a journalism revolution!

Researchers at Imperial College London have developed a strain of mosquito that produces 95% male offspring. If upped to 100%, and reproductively successful when released into the wild, it could be used to eliminate the species that most carries malaria, and thereby the disease itself. Even if it isn't true that the species will adapt to select for reproductively viable males, is it really the best option to eliminate an entire species, just because it carries another that harms us? The same bone of contention lies behind the subjects of bat, and badger culls. Culling vectors, however, is a very selfish tactic - it's lazy, and disregards the fact that the whole point of our efforts is to protect humans - the only unculled vectors of a cornucopia of diseases!

Astronomers have discovered such a tiny star, that it might be the smallest possible size of star. Called '2MASS J05233822-1403022' or 'J0523' for short, it shines an 8,000th as brightly as the Sun; but that necessarily means that it will shine for longer, because it means its fuel will last longer. Hotter, brighter stars, last just hundreds of thousands of years, as they consume their hydrogen fuel quickly, but J0523 might last trillions! J0523 is a brown dwarf star, which means it's right on the edge of starriness - any smaller, and it wouldn't be able to fuse hydrogen, by squeezing it together under its own mass, and so it wouldn't shine, and would just be a big, gassy planet, like Jupiter. And that's why J0523 might be the smallest star possible.

Taking a break from the intense scienceyness of this week's mentions, comes this pressing news story: Peppa Pig has been stopped at Customs! No, no for trying to enter a Jewish/Islamic country, but for breaching Intellectual Property law. It was a suit, ordered for a summer fundraising fair, in England, via eBay, but was stopped by Customs for being an inauthentic, China-manufactured design! Oh well, never mind...

------------------------------------------------------ contemporary stuff

'Making The First Move'


'World of Batshit - #2: Moon Loons'

'Love Me Tinder (E. Costes / A. Gogny-Goubert)'

'ScienceCasts: Solar Mini-Max'

'Niobium (new) - Periodic Table of Videos'

'Acoustic Dispersion in a Spring'

'Swimming ant is Michael Phelps of the insects'
The trap-jaw ant can swim ten times as fast as Olympic champion Michael Phelps, scaled to its body length, and can jump with its mouth!

'Solar Roadways: so stoopid its FUNNY!!'

'Jay Foreman - We're Getting a Super Soaker'



Jules goes into the ups and downs of shopping online, compared to shopping 'in the flesh'. You might be surprised by the outcome!

'SIGNS OF THE TIME | The Checkout | ABC1'

'How to keep your beer cold this summer'
{This advice works with any cold drink}

------------------------------------------------------ of the weeks

Word Of The Week: adorkable -- socially inept or unfashionable in a charming or endearing way (recently added to the Collins English Dictionary)

Fact Of The Week: There is such a thing as 'secondary drowning', and also such a thing as 'dry drowning'. The medical definition of 'drowning' is "the process of experiencing respiratory impairment from submersion/immersion in liquid" and so 'secondary' or delayed drowning, is when the effects of water inhalation do not become lethal until later on; and 'dry' drowning is where the windpipes close off to prevent water getting in, but also prevent breathing, causing asphyxia.

Scientific Journal Of The Week: Journal of Articles in Support of the Null Hypothesis

Quote Of The Week: "The fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown" - Carl Sagan

Joke Of The Week: "When i die, i want to go peacefully like my grandfather did - in his sleep. Not yelling and screaming, like the passengers in his car." - Bob Monkhouse

Book Of The Week: 'Ventriloquism for Dummies'

Most Adorwable Video Of The Week: 'Asian Small-Clawed Otters Celebrate Enrichment at the Smithsonian's National Zoo'

------------------------------------------------------ non-contemporary stuff


Apparently, Cumbers Bumbers Wumbers does a damn fine impression of Alan Rickman:

'Benedict Cumberbatch's greatest ever impressions'

But of all the impressions linked in that article, i reckon his Alan Rickman impression's probably the worst.

Why? Because he doesn't get that jawwy roll, like what other impressionists have got, in their Alan Rickman impressions. Take John Sessions's's's, for example...

'QI: John Sessions impersonates Alan Rickman'

Or my favourite - Phil Cornwell's - on Dead Ringers...

'Battle to the death: Token British Bad Guys - BBC comedy'

Phil's might not be super-realistic, but like Harry Enfield's on 'Spitting Image', he takes a character and makes a good caricature of it. Just like he does with his 'Greg Dyke' (Michael Caine) impression:

{At the time, there was no call for a Michael Caine impression. There was, however, a call for a Greg Dyke impression... someone no-one would or could ever recognise, and so... voila! Someone i shall call Gregael Dykaine was born}

The Michael Caine impression that everyone knows (and can do, i suspect) is based on one line, in one film, shot half a century ago; but that doesn't stop them.

'This Is How Michael Caine Speaks - The Trip - BBC Two'

I reckon Rob Brydon's impression's better, as an impression, because it's actually based on how Michael Caine actually is and actually talks. Whereas Steve Coogan's is more of a Cornwellian caricature.

But you know who does a damn good impression of Michael Caine? Michael Caine...

'Michael Caine does Michael Caine'

'e only went an' blew the bloody doors off my mind... [sniggers] :-D

[dies of shame]

'What do you see?'
Nice ch-ass-t!

'20 Epic Watermelons'

'25 Photos Of Shadows That Tell A Different Story'

'10 Honest Company Slogans'

'That's An Old Photo'

From Private Eye's YouTube channel:

'Nigella's Christmas Turkey'

'Pinter's Christmas Carols'

'Dumb Britain'

You're going to have to turn your sound up for these. But they are hilarious :-D

'Harold Pinter's Nursery Rhymes'

'Today On Radio Phwoar!'


'Dumb Britain I'
Hopalong lesbians, LOL

'Dumb Britain II'

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