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Science and technology micro-summaries for July 18, 2019


6 months ago5 min read

Soccer: Robots vs. humans; Older adults should seek to grow cognitive skills, not just to maintain them; US tech companies are accused of actively assisting China in human rights abuses; An immersive virtual reality for learning to speak Mandarin; How social learning theory explains society's obsession with celebrity

Straight from my RSS feed:
Links and micro-summaries from my 1000+ daily headlines. I filter them so you don't have to.


pixabay license: source.

  1. Watch World Champion Soccer Robots Take on Humans at RoboCup - This article contains descriptions and videos from the RoboCup tournament, which took place earlier this month. The videos include a full-game video (1:04:56) and "highlight" reel (4:51) of the middle-sized robots - which are about the size of a fire hydrant. It also contains videos of humans in slacks and dress shoes playing against middle-sized robots (14:35) and full-sized biped robots (12:23). All of the robots are fully autonomous, making decisions in real time in response to the actions of other players on the field. The article notes that the robots are still far from beating the humans, and the bipeds do a lot of falling, but they are making progress in comparison to previous years. Here is the highlights reel from the middle-sized robot:

  2. Think You’re Too Old to Learn New Tricks? - Expert recommendations for maintaining cognitive health often include exercise, diet, and doing things like Sudoku and crossword puzzles, but they generally neglect the benefits that learning new skills can provide. This article, by Rachel Wu, highlights people who have learned new skills, from bee-keeping to foreign languages to body building, in their fifties and beyond, and suggests that life long learning is another way to promote cognitive health as we age. The article notes that 50% of people above age 40 don't learn new information every week, and suggests that the benefits of mentally growing as we age outweigh the benefits of things that merely maintain cognitive capabilities. For adults to grow, the article suggests duplicating the environment of young children by committing to learning and getting encouragement from friends and family. In a recent paper, the author and her colleagues measured changes to short term memory when adults from the ages of 58-86 took 15 hours of classes per week. These older study participants increased their short-term memories to match the level of adults who were 30 years younger.

  3. How US tech giants are helping to build China’s surveillance state - Seems like the modern tech companies need to learn from history. According to The Intercept, IBM and Google created the The OpenPower Foundation, which is helping China's Semptian to "...enhance the capabilities of internet surveillance and censorship technology it provides to human rights-abusing security agencies...". Semptian's technology may be surveilling Internet activity and GPS locations for as many as 25% of China's 800,000,000 Internet users. h/t OS news

  4. A new immersive classroom uses AI and VR to teach Mandarin Chinese - Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, in Troy New York, is offering its students an immersive virtual reality (VR) environment where they can learn Mandarin by ordering food or haggling with virtual street vendors. The virtual platform will be used in a new class with a 50/50 split between classroom instruction and VR lab. It was built in collaboration with IBM. It is hoped that the platform will also help researchers, "to understand how cognitive and immersive environments can affect learning, collaboration, and sense-making".

  5. STEEM Personality Course - How does Social Learning Theory explain our Celebrity-Obsessed Culture? - In this post, @starjewel explains that social learning theory is exemplified by the television advertising industry, where people see things model the things that they see on television and want to experience in their own lives. The article goes on to explain that this is further explained by gratification theory, where people are aware of their own needs and act to fulfill them. The article suggests that celebrities are fascinating to people because they exist in a similar, but unreachable reality, and that this dynamic is especially dangerous to adolescents who are immersed in digital media and trying to integrate that immersion with the physical world in order to establish their own perception of reality.

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