Do Scientists really need their own social network?

Science is hard work. However, science is arguably among the most critical pursuits of humanity — one might even be so bold as to claim that along with the arts, science represents the very manifestation of our humanity.

The roots of scientific exploration and study lie not so much within the individual accomplishments of any single person, despite the emphasis we put on truly exceptional individuals like the Einsteins and Hawkings of the world. I propose that it is instead the community of scientists, rather, that really shape our understanding of the world around and within us. For without other scientists to parse the General Theory of Relativity, how else would Einstein have become such a household name?

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Rats need pants, and other scientific research subjects of questionable worth

It is Awards season again—no, not the Emmy’s or even the Country Music Awards or whatever—I’m talking about the always entertaining Ig Nobel Prize ceremony held last night at Harvard. Every year, for the pasts 26 years, researchers in unique and obscure niches are awarded prizes celebrating their scientific achievements. Just like the real Nobel … Continue reading Rats need pants, and other scientific research subjects of questionable worth

Microsoft Excel tries to be helpful, leads to errors in a fifth of published scientific research

Microsoft Office has long been prone to over-zealous auto-correction errors. From auto-numbering issues (if you’ve ever had to type a list using decimals such as 1.1.1, 1.1.2, etc., you know what I mean) to automatically selecting more text than you actually selected, undoing Microsoft’s “helpfulness” is usually more difficult and frustrating than it is worth. Recently, … Continue reading Microsoft Excel tries to be helpful, leads to errors in a fifth of published scientific research

Newcastle University gives tiny 3D glasses to a praying mantis. Because, science!

Researchers have created tiny little 3D glasses for praying mantises! Most knowledge about 3D vision has come from vertebrates, however, a Newcastle University team publishing today in Scientific Reports, confirm that the praying mantis, an invertebrate, does indeed use stereopsis or 3D perception for hunting. In a specially-designed insect cinema, they have shown that it … Continue reading Newcastle University gives tiny 3D glasses to a praying mantis. Because, science!

“Existential” Risk Management for Artificial Intelligence (or just a little too much navel gazing?)

One of the great themes in science fiction is the fear that the machines we humans have created will someday lead to our own enslavement or even extinction. As research into artificial intelligence (AI) exploded following Turing’s breakthroughs, the concept of self-awareness in non-organic manmade objects elicited a sort of existential dread.

Update: See below for yet another take on the existentialist implications of future AI developments…

If advanced reasoning, self-awareness and abstract thought are considered to be primary distinctions between the cognitive abilities of humans and animals, what would it mean if our machines attained similar function? In my mind, this mental exploration is similar to what the existential impact of receiving clear and unambiguous evidence of intelligent extraterrestrial life. Continue reading ““Existential” Risk Management for Artificial Intelligence (or just a little too much navel gazing?)”