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In the News 27.02.15 : Today’s Articles of Interest from around the Internets

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In the News 27.02.15 : Today’s Articles of Interest from around the Internets

 

 

1. The Robots Are Coming

“For many years the problem with robots has been that computers are very good at things we find difficult but very bad at things we find easy. They are brilliant at chess but terrible at the cognitive skills we take for granted, one of the most important being something scientists call SLAM, for ‘simultaneous localisation and mapping’: the ability to look at a space and see it and know how to move through it, all simultaneously, and with good recall. That, and other skills essential to advanced robotics, is something computers are useless at. A robot chess player can thrash the best chess player in the world, but can’t (or couldn’t) match the motor and perceptual skills of a one-year-old baby. A famous demonstration of the principle came in 2006, when scientists at Honda staged a public unveiling of their amazing new healthcare robot, the Asimo. Asimo is short (4’3”) and white with a black facemask and a metal backpack. It resembles an unusually small astronaut. In the video Asimo advances towards a staircase and starts climbing while turning his face towards the audience as if to say, à la Bender from Futurama, ‘check out my shiny metal ass’. He goes up two steps and then falls over. Tittering ensues. It is evident that a new day in robotics has not yet dawned.”

 
Read the rest of this article at The London Review of Books

 

 


 

 

2. The Thrill of Defeat

“While I’ve never been scooped on a big discovery in my 25 years as a working scientist, I’m fascinated by the idea of it. Because being scooped drives a wedge between two forces that motivate scientists: curiosity and ego. You get the thrill of learning the answer to the question that has obsessed you, but at the same moment you’re crushed to learn that you won’t be the one who discovered it.”

 
Read the rest of this article at Nautilus

 

 


 

 

3. Kitchen Rhythm: A Year in a Parisian Pâtisserie

“In our tiny bakery on the other side of Paris, the cakes are made in the early morning, to preserve that freshness and crunch. At 5:37 a.m. my alarm goes off for the first time. By 6:09 a.m. I will be waiting on the métro platform. Normally I’ll be greeted by a stale smell of urine, at least one mouse. In the carriage, plenty of silent people, men, bundled up in black coats. No one else has a small jam jar full of porridge. Eating on the go is frowned upon, and the cold and early mornings do not count as mitigating circumstances. By 6:27 a.m. I pull open the swing door and duck under the pink curtain of the pâtisserie. I am probably last. If my check trousers are still damp from the wash, I drape them over the oven door for five minutes. There are four bakers. The floor space we share is not much larger than my bedroom.”

 
Read the rest of this article at Longreads

 

 


 

 

4. The Fault

“Norman Mailer was never really a person I expected to feel kinship with. I first knew him from various TV clips of his fights with other writers, back when that was the sort of thing that made prime time. I disliked him right away. He had the posture of a bully. He’d lean across the table, chest puffed, or sprawl back in his chair, transmitting contempt with his entire body. He looked like a man who would stab his wife and try to run for mayor anyway. No one I knew read him. I assumed his fame was just one of those mistakes that got made in the mid-20th century, back when people were more apt to confuse bravado and a certain thrusty kind of prose for genius. ”

 
Read the rest of this article at Gawker

 

 


 

 

5. A Thirsty, Violent World

“Nowhere, however, is the situation more acute than in Brazil, particularly for the twenty million residents of São Paulo. “You have all the elements for a perfect storm, except that we don’t have water,” a former environmental minister told Lizzie O’Leary, in a recent interview for the syndicated radio show “Marketplace.” The country is bracing for riots. “There is a real risk of social convulsion,” José Galizia Tundisi, a hydrologist with the Brazilian Academy of Sciences, warned in a press conference last week. He said that officials have failed to act with appropriate urgency. “Authorities need to act immediately to avoid the worst.” But people rarely act until the crisis is directly affecting them, and at that point it will be too late.”

 
Read the rest of this article at The New Yorker

 

 


P.S. previous articles & more by P.F.M.

 

 

 

[Images : one // two // three // four]

 
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