Threats to humanity
"Cambridge is to open a centre for 'Terminator studies' where leading academics will study the risks that super-intelligent robots and computers could become a threat to humanity," says The Sunday Times of London. "The centre for the study of existential risk – where 'existential' implies a threat to humanity's existence – is being co-launched by Lord Rees, the Astronomer Royal. … Its purpose is to study the 'four greatest threats' to the human species: artificial intelligence, climate change, nuclear war and rogue biotechnology. Rees's 2003 book Our Final Century, had warned that the destructiveness of humanity meant our species could wipe itself out by 2100. He is launching the centre with Huw Price, the Bertrand Russell professor of philosophy at Cambridge, and Jaan Tallinn, co-founder of Skype, the Internet phone service."
A century late for class
"A 105-year-old Swedish woman was surprised to receive a letter offering her a place at a local pre-school class with children due to turn 6 next year," reports Britain's Northern Echo. "The invitations were sent to everyone in the town born in '07, including Anna Eriksson, who lives in a nursing home near Tierp in eastern Sweden. The school was working from lists with addresses of everyone born in '07, but no one realized that in her case it was 1907."
Where's the pilot?
"The passenger aircraft of the future could one day be flown by remote, by pilots sitting in a control room hundreds of miles away," says The Daily Mail. "Tests on a new breed of civilian aircraft which use the same pilotless technology currently found in military drones begin next month in the U.K. The consortium behind the project hopes it will dramatically slash the costs of air travel, make possible new airborne services, and free pilots from potentially dangerous but essential missions."
Tortoise is a survivor
"Thomas the tortoise has survived two world wars, a blast from a German bomb during the blitz, and 32 prime ministers," says The Sunday Telegraph. "Born when William Gladstone was in Downing Street and Queen Victoria was on the throne, the animal is now celebrating its 130th birthday." For the first 96 years of her life, Thomas was thought to have been a male. Owner June Le Gallez, 54, who cares for Thomas at her home on the Channel Island of Guernsey, said the tortoise is very much part of the family. "Thomas used to live and run in the garden when she was younger, but now we keep her in the house and she bumbles around. … She isn't slowing down with age. Most people can't believe how active she is. She really races around when she wants to. She's really fast."
Recognized by type
"Whether you are an aggressive finger-jabber or a fluent touch-typist, the way you type says more about you than you might think," says the New Scientist. "A biometric authentication system monitors the telltale timing gaps between the letters you type to continually verify your identity. … David Hibler of Christopher Newport University, Virginia, and colleagues designed software called Uriel, which uses the average time between keystrokes as a surprisingly accurate way to identify an individual. The software learns the user's typing style by measuring the time between key presses over 10 areas of the keyboard as a user types and learns who they are as they type words from a specific piece of poetry. In trials, this early version of Uriel never let the wrong person access the computer, but it did refuse to authenticate a legitimate user 17 per cent of the time."
Thought du jour
"The strongest human instinct is to impart information, the second strongest is to resist it."
Scottish writer (1859-1932)