Microsoft plans to turn Minecraft into a test suite for artificial intelligence research
, reports the BBC. As a simplified but all-encompassing model of the world, it's perfect for tutoring 'bots.
Read the rest
…Microsoft suggests the open-ended nature of Minecraft makes it particularly useful because of the huge variety of situations it can simulate from first-person perspectives.
"It allows you to have 'embodied AI'," explained Matthew Johnson, the principal software engineer working on AIX.
"So, rather than have a situation where the AI sees an avatar of itself, it can actually be inside, looking out through the eyes of something that is living in the world.
"We think this is an essential part of building this kind of general intelligence."
In Medusa's Web
, fantasy grandmaster Tim Powers presents us with another of his amazing secret histories, this one of Rudolph Valentino. In this guest editorial, Powers -- author of many of Boing Boing's favorite novels, including the World Fantasy Award winning Last Call
, Hide Me Among the Graves
, and Dinner at Deviant's Palace
-- explains the genesis of his latest book, and takes us with him for his field-research.
Silicon Valley is raiding technology departments of universities around the U.S.—can tech academia survive?
Induced dissociative states are the best dissociative states, and one cheap and easy way to get there is to stare into someone's eyes for about ten minutes. More researchers are looking into the phenomenon. Read the rest
A lively, accessible video lecture by Ashly Burch and Rosalyn Wiseman presents research into how games impact the social lives of young people, and how important representation is to boys versus girls.
In America, chicken has better health care than you.
Pew Research Center just released an interactive chart showing gaps between scientific consensus and public opinion. Refine results by gender, age, race, education, ideology, political party, and level of science knowledge. Read the rest
North Carolina State University researchers are wiring up Madagascar hissing roaches with remote-control steering, with a long-term goal to use roaches, moths, and other insects as data-gathering vehicles in inaccessible places like disaster sites. Read the rest
Twitter claims a 90 percent accuracy rate for the clever techniques it uses to learn the gender of any given user. Glenn Fleishman reports on the company's disconcerting new analytics tools, the research behind them, and how large a pinch of salt they come with.
One of the perks that comes with winning a Nobel: Access to the bully pulpit. In the last week, Peter Higgs (of boson fame) spoke out against the pressure to publish
— pressure that he thinks prevents younger scientists from taking the time to formulate really groundbreaking new ideas. Meanwhile, fellow 2013 winner Randy Schekman announced that he's boycotting brand-name journals like Science
because of the negative impact that they have on scientific culture
. Read the rest
— one of the many "friendly" bacteria that live in our gut — seems to be capable of altering the behavior of mice
, according to a new study. In a mouse model for autism, exposure to Bacteroides fragilis
improved the mice's gastrointestinal function and, along the way, reduced some of their external behavioral symptoms
, including obsessive behaviors and anxiety. Read the rest
There's a new paper out suggesting that ladies' brains are different from mens' (in ways that support Western stereotypes of gender behavior, natch). It's pretty flawed
and has been heavily critiqued
, but one critique surprised me — turns out, there's evidence that men tend to move more than women do when you put them in an MRI machine, something that could throw off any attempt to compare MRI data
between men and women. Read the rest
Researchers taking a core sample of sediment beneath Cape Charles, Virginia, found something surprising sandwiched between the layers of mud and ooze. Locked inside a rocky layer 5000 feet down, they discovered water — water from the early Cretaceous period
. Read the rest
An interesting study on female aggression points out the trouble with making declarations about inherent human nature based on speculation about sexual dynamics. New studies, including this one, are finding that women can be plenty competitive and aggressive
. At The New York Times
, John Tierney points out that old ideas about female passivity were based on "an evolutionary analysis of the reproductive odds in ancient polygynous societies in which some men were left single because dominant males had multiple wives". Read the rest
We've talked here before about the Office of Planetary Protection
and efforts to make sure that we Earthlings don't contaminate the rest of the galaxy with our bacteria, viruses, and other assorted detritus. Now, some scientists are arguing that we've done this job too well
, effectively barring ourselves from exploring the parts of Mars that are most likely to be hospitable to life precisely because they could also be hospitable to tagalong life from Earth. Read the rest
We know that stressful experiences can have negative biological repercussions — not just for the people who experience the stress, but also for their children. Now, there's some evidence that this transfer of stress effects might not just be due to a simple case of PTSD changing the way you raise/treat your kids. In a study that's inspired both deep skepticism and jaw-dropping awe
(both with good reason) scientists were able to train male mice to fear a specific smell — and then observe that same fear/stress response to the smell in the mice's children and grandchildren. This, despite the fact that the younger generations never had contact with their trained fathers. These results are crazy enough that you shouldn't take them as gospel. But they are hella interesting and will definitely lead to a lot more research as other scientists attempt to replicate them. Read the rest
This seems like it has the potential to be pretty cool. Frontiers in Neuroscience for Young Minds
is a new scientific journal that will have kids — ages 8 to 18 — on the editorial review board. The goal: Mentor kids in the process of how science works while simultaneously engaging scientists with questions and comments by the people who are the subject of their research, questions they might not ever hear otherwise. Read the rest