The Daily Flash -Eco, Space, Tech (3/10)

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Humans came from southern Africa – maybe

If reports this week are to be believed, the entire anatomically modern human population descends from ancestors who lived in southern Africa. This flies in the face of a mass of evidence that the cradle of humanity was east Africa, probably somewhere near the famous Great Rift valley. So where did we really come from? The idea of a southern Africa origin comes from a study of the genetics of African hunter-gatherer groups. Brenna Henn of Stanford University in California and colleagues genotyped people from seven groups, including Khoisan-speakers from the Hadza and Sandawe populations in Tanzania and click-speaking ǂKhomani Bushmen of South Africa, and found many differences.

Mds_4 Are Robots Becoming Social?

Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have found that they can program a robot to understand when it gains a human’s attention and when it falls short. With close to 80 percent accuracy, the socially expressive Simon robot was able to tell, using only his cameras as a guide, whether someone was paying attention to him or ignoring him. “We would like to bring robots into the human world. That means they have to engage with human beings, and human beings have an expectation of being engaged in a way similar to the way other human beings would engage with them,” said Aaron Bobick, professor and chair of the School of Interactive Computing in Georgia Tech’s College of Computing. The researchers plan to study whether the robot can tell by a person’s gaze whether they are paying attention, or using elements of language or other actions. The research was presented March 8 at the Human-Robot Interaction conference in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Samspratt_aol_facebook_zuckerberg_01 Facebook Is AOLifying the Internet—and That Sucks

How do we know nobody's learned shit since the days of the 56k Hindenburg? News like Warner Bros' decision to rent movies—starting with The Dark Knight—directly through Facebook. News like Rovio putting Angry Birds onto perhaps the only platform other than my dead grandfather's typewriter that doesn't yet support it—yup, Facebook. Which is just, really, wonderful! If there's one thing the internet is lacking right now, it's yet another fucking place to rent a movie for 48 hours for several bucks or play god damned Angry Birds. And it adds up—Facebook is reaching its tendrils into every single thing we like about the internet, far, far beyond the actual reasons we rolled up to Zuckerberg's site in the first place. IMing? Check. Email? Check. Photo sharing? Check. Apps? Check. Location check-ins? Yup. Twitter ripoff status updates? But of course! What Facebook hasn't stuffed into its maw by its own will, it's given developers plenty of incentive to do so themselves. The consequence? Over a decade after the web portal stopped making sense, Facebook is trying to assemble itself, like some ill-conceived Voltron, into the next.

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