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Jude Law in A.I. Artificial Intelligence (David James)
Jude Law in A.I. Artificial Intelligence (David James)

SOCIAL STUDIES

Social robots win human hearts Add to ...

In love with a robot?

There are “a growing number of social robots designed to help humans in both hospitals and homes,” writes Robert Ito in Pacific Standard magazine. “There are robots that comfort lonely shut-ins, assist patients suffering from dementia, and help autistic kids learn how to interact with their human peers. They’re popular, and engineered to be so. If we didn’t like them, we wouldn’t want them listening to our problems or pestering us to take our meds. So it’s no surprise that people become attached to these robots. What is surprising is just how attached some have become. Researchers have documented people kissing their mechanized companions, confiding in them, giving them gifts – and being heartbroken when the robot breaks, or the study ends and it’s time to say goodbye.”

Memorial sign for fish?

“An animal-rights group is asking a California city to put up a sign acknowledging the suffering of fish that died in a traffic incident,” says United Press International. On Oct. 11, hundreds of saltwater bass died when a truck carrying the fish collided with two other vehicles. Irvine resident Dina Kourda wrote city officials on behalf of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, asking for a sign: “Research tells us that fish use tools, tell time, sing, and have impressive long-term memories and complex social structures. Yet fish used for food are routinely crushed, impaled, cut open and gutted, all while still conscious. Sparing them from being tossed from a speeding truck and slowly dying from injuries and suffocation seems the least that we can do.”

Primates in a downpour

“Outside of humans, orangutans have come up with some of the primate world’s best ways of dealing with rain,” says the Discovery Channel. “Orangutans live in the rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra, where dampness is part of the landscape. In the forest during storms, orangutans will make protective canopies and ‘hats’ out of leaves, but in zoos they have found a more attractive material. ‘Here in Seattle, rain is virtually an everyday occurrence,’ Gigi Allianic, spokesperson for Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo, [said]. ‘Our orangutans wrap burlap bags around themselves and often just sit out storms. Like many of our other animals, they also have the option to retreat to an enclosure.’ … Allianic indicated that some primates and elephants fare better than others during rainstorms, particularly when thunder and lightning are involved. ‘More skittish individuals can get spooked, and they will tend to retreat indoors,’ Allianic explained. ‘Even big elephants and great apes can be like dogs and cats when it comes to reacting to thunder and lightning.’ ”

Armstrong effigy to burn

A nine-metre effigy of disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong will be burned at an English town’s annual bonfire celebrations this weekend, says The Daily Telegraph. “A steel-framed model of the 41-year-old American cyclist … who was recently stripped of his seven Tour de France titles for doping offences, will go up in flames in Edenbridge, Kent.” An official with the local Bonfire Society said it was not easy to choose Armstrong; they ruled out three other candidates, including the country’s Chancellor, George Osborne, for being “a bit boring.”

Wild boar in the suburbs

“Berlin authorities say they shot and killed a 120 kg wild boar after it attacked and injured four people including a police officer in a residential neighbourhood,” reports Associated Press. The animal bit a 74-year-old man on the back and leg, knocked a 74-year-old woman to the ground and injured her hip, and bit a 24-year-old woman before she climbed aboard a parked car to safety. When the police officer arrived the boar cut the man’s leg before the officer dispatched it with multiple shots. “Wild boars are relatively common in green Berlin, though rarely cause problems beyond digging up gardens.”

Thought du jour

“Consistently wise decisions can only be made by those whose wisdom is constantly challenged.”

Theodore Sorensen, U.S. presidential adviser and writer (1928-2010)

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