Quote of the day

"Respectable means rich, and decent means poor"
— Thomas Love Peacock

Lust and the Turing Test Pick of the day

Confronted by the question: “can machines think?”, the computer scientist Alan Turing proposed a different test. If a machine cannot be distinguished from a human, then it passes the test. As machine intelligence advances, this intriguing possibility comes closer – and it has been fascinating film-makers in the past few years. This scientist enjoyed Ex Machina, directed by Alex Garland, precisely because it prophesies a dilemma which humans will face in this century. (1,074 words)

Clothes To Work Like Touchscreens

The engineer-inventors at Google are looking to make your clothes cleverer. Project Jacquard aims to weave conductivity into clothing fabrics on an industrial scale, so that you can initiate a phone call by touching your sleeve, call a taxi as you tie your bow tie for an evening out or track exercise through running shoes. “You’re making the basic materials of the world around us interactive,” says the man in charge Ivan Poupyrev. (2,388 words)

Why Pakistan Is Friends With Everyone – and No One

The domestic politics of Pakistan are violent and volatile. The country’s foreign policy also struggles for coherence: it is short of investment, energy and stability. Under Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan has embarked on a complex and risky foreign policy designed to give it breathing space to solve intractable internal issues. This policy involves trying, simultaneously to court China, Saudi Arabia, Iran and the United States. This ambitious play could backfire. (1,400 words)

The Quest for Hitler’s Lost Treasures

Across Europe, and sometimes across the Atlantic, a small group of detectives and art dealers play a quiet game of hide-and-seek. The contest rarely makes news. But this month German police hit the secret trade in Hitler’s art treasures. They recovered a group of huge, long-lost sculptures which were once intended for a new capital city of Hitler’s Reich which was never built. This is the story of how they did it. (4,535 words)

PTSD: Beyond The Battlefield

Skip the first 2,000 words. The argument begins where Junger points out that half the US Army’s Iraq and Afghanistan vets have applied for permanent disability; of whom one-third have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder; yet only one-tenth of troops see combat. What’s going on? According to Junger, they aren’t all faking it. Soldiers love active service, war included. It’s the return home that traumatises them (7,500 words)

How To Rig A Clinical Trial And Fool Millions

A science journalist explains. Use a tiny sample, measure for lots of things, and decide what you are looking for after you see the results. The author hired 16 people on Facebook, fed chocolate to five of them for three weeks — and found “proof” that chocolate helped weight-loss. Newspapers around the world ran with the story. “It was, in fact, a fairly typical study. Which is to say: It was terrible science” (3,075 words)

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