God and Ghosts and Robot Sorrow: Why They're All in the Mind

When you're an infant, the brain makes three dots and a line into a face; later in life, it turns a creak and a shadow into a ghost. Adults too often perceive bad luck as the work of a conscious (if vindictive) mind. You can resist it with logical thought, but the mind's default setting—what happens quickly, automatically, uncontrollably—is to believe its experiences were caused by living, thinking, feeling beings.

If you want to see how little the brain needs to trigger the sense that it's perceiving a person, look at the biomotion walker. All you'll see, literally, are a few lights moving on your screen. What you'll perceive, though, are people, and you'll be able to tell if they're male or female, angry or sad. Try it for yourself right here.

We are uncontrollably trigger-happy with our mental tools for perceiving objects as people. That can be a lot of fun. But along certain byways in robotics, it's getting a little creepy.

European wind farms could meet global energy demand, researchers now say

A new study estimated the untapped potential of wind energy across Europe.

Surprising Science
  • A new report calculated how much electricity Europe could generate if it built onshore wind farms on all of its exploitable land.
  • The results indicated that European onshore wind farms could supply the whole world with electricity from now until 2050.
  • Wind farms come with a few complications, but the researchers noted that their study was meant to highlight the untapped potential of the renewable energy source in Europe.
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First solar roadway in France turned out to be a 'total disaster'

French newspapers report that the trial hasn't lived up to expectations.

Image source: Charly Triballeau / AFP / Getty Images
Technology & Innovation
  • The French government initially invested in a rural solar roadway in 2016.
  • French newspapers report that the trial hasn't lived up to expectations.
  • Solar panel "paved" roadways are proving to be inefficient and too expensive.
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New vaccine (for cats) nixes allergic reactions for humans

You want one. Now you may be able to survive one.

Photo credit: Jie Zhao
/ Getty contributor
Technology & Innovation
  • Cats live in a quarter of Western households.
  • Allergies to them are common and can be dangerous.
  • A new approach targets the primary trouble-causing allergen.
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