DAVIES | Illusory Intelligence

The technical possibilities of tomorrow are just as incredible as those of the 1950s because they are real. Simultaneously everything is within reach and nothing. We use new technologies but few people understand their function. Machines, programs and devices on the horizon, rushing towards us, will be far less widely understood than would those of the 20th century, had they come to pass. It is conceivable that most people, with a modicum of study, could understand the functioning of a color TV or a flying car depicted in a pulp science fiction book.


Cornell Alums Create App to Help Dementia Patients Remember

Dementia can be truly debilitating. Categorized by the World Health Organization as a syndrome “in which there is deterioration in cognitive function,” it is a major cause of dependency in the elderly. However, a team of Cornell alumni hopes to ease this process and help dementia patients have meaningful interactions with their loved ones. Over 47.5 million people suffer from dementia, with numbers expected to grow to 135.5 million by 2030. However, the true economic and social cost to individuals and their families is incalculable.

Make a Mark: Study Develops Strategies for Online Persuasion

Two of college students’ favorite pastimes — social media and arguing—were topics of a  recent Cornell study. The paper titled “Winning Arguments: Interaction Dynamics and Persuasion Strategies in Good-faith Online Discussions” was published on arXiv — an online e-print service owned by Cornell. By using the ChangeMyView debate platform on Reddit, the research team had unique access to a sample of people dedicated to reasoned debate and the exchange of ideas. Grad Vlad Niculae, one of the paper’s authors explained why CMV was a great platform to study. “CMV offers a combination of conditions that are very fortunate for our research purposes,”  Niculae said.

Photo Courtesy of HD Wallpapers

GOOD TASTE ALONE | Science/Fiction

I have to act like I’m typing something because there’s a group of elementary school kids walking by and I want to look responsible. That’s actually the most motivated I’ve felt in weeks, so I’m gonna leave that there. I can only hope that one day, one of those kids will come to Cornell and derive purpose from the nonexistent expectations of a group of kindergarteners. It’s the circle of life. Speaking of the circle of life, but on a cosmic scale that makes ours seem insignificant, yesterday I got to listen to a lecture given by Interstellar producer and renowned astrophysicist Kip Thorne.

Courtesy of NASA


It’s the year 20-something-or-other. We’ve made contact with the aliens. We still call them “the aliens,” even though it’s quite possible they’re not the only aliens out there — even though we too, are space creatures, whether or not we choose to think of it that way — and even though “the aliens” has long been a conceptual colloquialism rather than a scientific label. (“Kind of like the word planet,” says Pluto.)

So, we’ve made contact with the aliens. They tried to dodge our calls.

PINEDA | What Do Scientists Know That We Don’t?

People love talking about the gap in scientific beliefs between Democrats and Republicans. For example, according to a poll by the Pew Research Center, 71 percent of Democrats believe that climate change is occurring because of human activity, versus 27 percent of Republicans. This degree of difference in opinions on science is a major roadblock to forming vital political policies, whether on genetic modification of food, climate change mitigation or vaccines. There is another gap, though, that is just as telling when it comes to America’s division on science issues: the one between the public and the average scientist. Scientists’ views on science may be even farther from laypeople’s than Democrats’ views are from Republicans’.


Robots Find Inspiration in Nature at Cornell’s Organic Robotics Lab

If you think of a robot, you’re probably picturing C-3PO, Ultron or Wall-E. But what if robots don’t need to be big, humanoid and upright? What if they aren’t even made of metal?

The Organic Robotics Lab in Kimball Hall, headed by Prof. Robert Shepherd, mechanical and aerospace engineering, focuses on creating such robots. They use soft materials to replicate movement and functions from organisms already found in nature.

BANKS | Scientists — The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

There is such thing as ugly science. You know, the kind that leads to media sensationalizing, fear-mongering by the ignorant and the miseducation of the masses (look up the “scientific” root of the anti-vaccine movement for one infamous example). I’m already sick of talking about ugly science, which doesn’t deserve more than a few sentences condemning the stuff to hell for its negative effect on the STEM community. Bad scientists, on the other hand, do exist. They may not be bad people, but money, political corruption or the pressure to publish often leads them to bad decisions.

Fish On Religion

You are apathetic and bored. Minutes ago, you opened your newspaper or browsed through your favorite news site. You found all the top stories were the current “hot topic” ones, from swine flu to Ms. Prejean’s recent escapades. You want to read something more novel, more substantive. You may even be up for a commentary piece.

If so, I may have the piece for you: “God Talk“, a recent New York Times blog post by Stanley Fish. If you are an English major, you may have heard of him. If not, he is both a Davidson-Kahn Distinguished University Professor of Humanities and a Professor of Law at Florida International University.