Reader’s Scigest 19-06-14

By superman_600x400

Goostman or Machine

A computer program dubbed Eugene Goostman, which was constructed with the aim of imitating the English responses of a thirteen-year old boy from the Ukraine, has allegedly become the first machine to pass the Turing test. The test was proposed in 1950 as “the imitation game” by British mathematician and World War II codebreaker Alan Turing. It assesses the ‘intelligence’ of a machine and can be interpreted in several ways; the team behind Eugene considered it to be passed when more than thirty percent of people, given five minutes of interrogation, mistake a robot for a human. Eugene was successful with respect to this criterion, with a pass rate of thirty-three percent. However, many remain dubious as to whether Turing’s test has truly been passed, given its subjective nature, and critics have pointed out that impersonating a child speaking in a second language is a much simpler task than simulating an adult using their native tongue.

Wear an S for Success

Students who take exams wearing Superman T-shirts perform better than those wearing plain clothing, according to new research. An eight percent increase was observed in the average scores of mental abil­ity tests by those bearing the iconic red and yellow ‘S’ shield compared to a control group. The dressed up students also rated themselves as stronger and superior to other stu­dents. Professor Karen Pine, who led the study, suggested that our perceptions can be altered by our clothing because we unconsciously embody the symbolic meaning of our outer layers. Previous research has revealed other psychological links to our clothing choice.

Not-so-dumb Blonde?

Scientists have identified the ge­netic mutation responsible for fair hair and what’s more they have found that this mutation does not affect the biology of any other part of the body. The discovery confirms that a lack of intelligence in blondes is just a stereotype. While nobody seriously thought that there was a significant scientific basis to the notion of a ‘dumb blonde,’ psycho­logical research has shown conclu­sively that blond men, and blonde women in particular, are perceived as less intelligent than men and women with darker hair. So while actual intelligence is independent of hair colour, perceived intelli­gence is not. The genetic variation in question is a one-letter switch from adenine to guanine in a base of the KITLG gene – a surprisingly simple change that causes a drastic decrease in the amount of pigmen­tation in the hair follicles.

Photograph: Gareth Simpson on flickr

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