Collaborating Authors


The Nintendo 3DS' Surprisingly Social Legacy


I tell this story a lot: I didn't have much of a life before the Nintendo 3DS. It happened a year after I moved to New York. Aside from my housemates and a couple of over-friendly acquaintances, I didn't know a lot of people, and certainly none who'd play video games with me. It was a sunny fall day in 2014 when Nintendo released its free demo for Super Smash Bros. 4 on the handheld 3DS system. The competitive fighting game's launch, a month from then, was slated to be my highlight of the year.

Richard Zobel obituary

The Guardian

My father, Richard Zobel, who has died aged 81, was a pioneering computer scientist at the University of Manchester, birthplace of "Baby", the world's first stored-program computer. He rode the wave of the information technology revolution, starting in the early 1960s on military flight simulators for the electronics and equipment company Sperry's – the valve analog computers they used ran so hot that he had to work in the cool of the night – and in later years recommending improvements to the distant early warning system (Dews) protecting Indian Ocean coastlines from tsunami, but it was his 40-year academic career that defined his professional life. Richard was born in Lewisham, south London, the son of Joan, a dressmaker, and Norman Zobel, a car mechanic, just before the outbreak of the second world war, and narrowly escaped early tragedy when a water tank came through the ceiling and landed on his bed during the blitz. He went to Colfe's school (then a grammar school) on a scholarship, and graduated in 1963 in electrical engineering from London University, sponsored on his sandwich course by Sperry Gyroscope, a UK arm of the US company, which had headquarters in Bracknell. He met Lesley Winks at Peggy Spencer's ballroom dancehall in Penge, and they married in 1964.

Remembering Nils Nilsson

Interactive AI Magazine

Nils Nilsson and Sven Wahlstrom pictured with Shakey, the first humanoid. This is Nils Nilsson calling!!" Or so the booming voice on the other end of the line claimed, as I skeptically held the phone in my hand on a Sunday afternoon mid-way through my final semester as an undergraduate in Toronto. I had been in my dorm room preparing for a mid-term in my Introduction to Artificial Intelligence course, in fact reading through the textbook which Nils himself had authored. I was certain the call was a prank perpetrated by a classmate who knew I was anxiously awaiting word on whether I would be accepted to the PhD program at Stanford. But it turned out to be legitimate: Nils had recently taken on the role as Chair of the Computer Science department at Stanford and decided that he wanted to call all of the applicants that had been offered admission.

GPT-3 Creative Fiction


What if I told a story here, how would that story start?" Thus, the summarization prompt: "My second grader asked me what this passage means: …" When a given prompt isn't working and GPT-3 keeps pivoting into other modes of completion, that may mean that one hasn't constrained it enough by imitating a correct output, and one needs to go further; writing the first few words or sentence of the target output may be necessary.

Famous psychologist faces posthumous reckoning


One of Anthony Pelosi's most ambitious projects was on the back burner for more than 2 decades. In the early 1990s, Pelosi, a psychiatrist at Priory Hospital Glasgow, published two extensive critiques of the work of Hans Eysenck, a giant of 20th century psychology. Eysenck's papers contained questionable data and results so dramatic they beggared belief, Pelosi concluded. His critiques, and those by several others, were widely discussed in the field, but never led to formal investigations. Buried by the demands of clinical practice, research, and a young family, Pelosi never found the time to continue his effort. No one, he says, “picked up the baton.” More than a quarter-century later, Eysenck, who was celebrated for his theories of personality and individual differences, is finally falling from his pedestal. Last week, the International Journal of Social Psychiatry and the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine issued expressions of concern for seven of his papers. Other journals have issued 64 such statements, as well as 14 retractions, over the past 6 months. The renewed scrutiny comes in the wake of an inquiry by King's College London (KCL), where Eysenck was a psychology professor from 1955 to 1983 at what was then the Institute of Psychiatry. But Pelosi and others argue KCL failed to include many of Eysenck's other papers that also deserve a more thorough investigation in light of his lasting influence on the literature. The case “throws up a lot of uncomfortable questions,” says KCL neuroscientist Samuel Westwood. It's not clear whether the responsibility to investigate further lies with Eysenck's old institution, the journals that published his work, or a professional association, Westwood says. Still to be determined is the responsibility of Ronald Grossarth-Maticek, a physician and social scientist based in Heidelberg, Germany, with whom Eysenck co-authored the 25 papers KCL evaluated. When he died in 1997, Eysenck was the third most cited psychologist in the world—behind Sigmund Freud and Jean Piaget. By then, he was already controversial, not just because of the criticisms by Pelosi and others, but also for espousing racist views on the genetics of intelligence. Pelosi's interest was rekindled by an invitation to contribute to a 2016 special issue of the journal Eysenck founded, Personality and Individual Differences , to celebrate the centenary of his birth and his findings on personality and intelligence. “I think they thought I was going to write some kind of ‘experts disagree’ type article,” Pelosi says. Instead, his manuscript summarized a litany of statistical and ethical criticisms he and others had raised. The journal deemed the paper inflammatory and did not include it in the special issue. In 2019, Pelosi found a new home for it in the Journal of Health Psychology , whose editor, David Marks, supported Pelosi's call for an investigation in an accompanying editorial. Pelosi's critiques center on just one of Eysenck's many areas of research: the relationship between personality and health, specifically cancer and cardiovascular disease. This work, which mostly relied on data collected by Grossarth-Maticek in Germany and what was then Yugoslavia, showed “astonishing” evidence that “cancer-prone” and “heart-disease-prone” personality types exist, Pelosi writes. People with a cancer-prone personality had a risk of dying from cancer that was 40, 60, or even 70 times higher than that of people with a “healthy” personality, according to the duo. “These are unimaginably massive numbers in epidemiology,” Pelosi says. Eysenck and Grossarth-Maticek also reported a clinical trial showing behavioral therapy could dramatically cut the death risk. Other studies exploring the link between personality, stress, and health conditions have generally found that the various risk factors boost death risk by less than a factor of two. A large replication study in 2004 confirmed none of the links between personality and mortality reported in Eysenck's work, except for a modest association between cardiovascular disease and personality. Several researchers have also reported evidence of errors and suspected data manipulation in Eysenck's work with Grossarth-Maticek. Dutch medical psychologist Henk van der Ploeg reported in the 1990s that different versions of the data showed different dates and causes of death of research participants, suggesting they had been altered. Hermann Vetter, a statistician based in Germany, described data that show zero cases of lung cancer for “low-risk” personalities, with a rush of cancer cases appearing precisely at the point where the personality scores shift into a “high-risk” category. He concluded the data were “produced artificially … without pouring enough random error over it to make it appear more natural.” Documents released in the course of litigation against tobacco companies—which funded some of Eysenck's work—show even some industry statisticians and researchers privately expressed doubt about the results. In response to an interview request, Grossarth-Maticek, who is almost 80 but still offers counseling to people with cancer through his website, referred Science to a defense of his work posted on his website, which says the allegations are “untrue,” “discriminatory,” and “slander,” and were made “without actual knowledge of the research program.” He argues it would have been impossible to manipulate the data because they were given to other researchers to analyze before knowing the results, and denies that Eysenck's work was funded by the tobacco industry. He disputes their findings have defied replication, and claims KCL, a representative of “British and Jewish” psychology, didn't want “the little German Grossarth to dominate the scientific world stage.” Marks says there may be no “smoking gun,” but the papers should be retracted anyway: “If they're so incredible, and have never been replicated, then we can dismiss those findings.” In response to Marks's editorial, KCL President Edward Byrne asked the university's Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience to conduct an inquiry. In a report dated May 2019, a committee agreed with critics that the findings on personality and health were “incompatible with modern clinical science,” designated 25 of Eysenck's papers as “unsafe,” and asked Byrne to inform the relevant journals. Since then, Perceptual and Motor Skills has retracted three of Eysenck's papers—two of which were not named in KCL's report—and Psychological Reports retracted 10. Both journals also added expressions of concern to dozens of Eysenck papers not included in the KCL inquiry. Personality and Individual Differences issued expressions of concern for three “unsafe” papers but declined to retract them because there was no evidence of “intentional deceit” and no admission of malpractice by the authors. But that's an “unrealistic bar” for retraction, says psychologist Simine Vazire of the University of Melbourne, editor-in-chief of Collabra: Psychology . Expressions of concern are “really ambiguous,” whereas retracted papers are clearly no longer part of the scientific record, she says. Marks and Pelosi say KCL's inquiry wasn't thorough enough. It only focused on papers Eysenck co-authored with Grossarth-Maticek, but missed work authored exclusively by Eysenck that relied on the same underlying data. Rod Buchanan, a historian who published a biography of Eysenck in 2010, has identified 87 publications he thinks should be retracted. KCL's own researchers have also criticized a lack of transparency around their university's inquiry. The committee members were not named, their 2.5-page report lacked detail, and the university has rejected a freedom of information request by Westwood and other staff members. “It reflects badly on the institution,” Westwood says. A KCL spokesperson says the committee investigated the publications that Marks's editorial designated as being of “immediate concern,” and that it is standard policy to keep committee membership confidential. One reason Pelosi says he wants a fuller investigation is that Eysenck's work still has an impact. A highly criticized 2008 meta-analysis that reported a link between stress and cancer included two dubious Eysenck papers; it has been cited more than 700 times, according to Google Scholar, including 50 times so far this year. Last month, a meta-analysis of studies investigating the effects of therapy on immune function in JAMA Psychiatry included one of the now-retracted papers. The idea that an upbeat personality can help people survive cancer permeates popular beliefs as well. “No epidemiologist takes [this work] seriously,” Pelosi says, “but it does find its way into the scientific literature and I think it influences society.” A full investigation is warranted even if the work isn't particularly influential anymore, Vazire says. Otherwise, you can publish questionable research, “get superfamous, and then there are no consequences even when you get found out,” she says. “That's terrible.”

'Mythbusters' robotics genius Grant Imahara has died


Friends, fans, and coworkers are paying tribute to beloved Mythbusters alumni Grant Imahara, who died suddenly on Monday due to a brain aneurysm. A talented engineer and roboticist, Imahara spent almost a decade at Lucasfilm's visual effects division Industrial Light and Magic, where he worked on films such as Galaxy Quest, The Lost World: Jurassic Park, the Matrix sequels, and the Star Wars prequels. Being one of the people behind R2-D2 and the Energizer Bunny, Imahara's work had a notable impact on pop culture. He also gained some public recognition through appearances on BattleBots, where he competed his middleweight robot Deadblow. However, Imahara was most well known for being a member of Mythbusters' Build Team, joining the cast in 2005 after the departure of Scottie Chapman.

Twitch streamer Byron 'Reckful' Bernstein dead at 31

FOX News

Fox News Flash top entertainment and celebrity headlines are here. Check out what's clicking today in entertainment. Byron "Reckful" Bernstein, a popular Twitch streamer and "World of Warcraft" gamer, has died. Bernstein's older brother, Gary Bernstein, confirmed the tragic news via Twitter on Thursday. "My baby brother Byron @reckful is gone. RIP," Gary wrote of the Austin, Texas-based gamer.

Michael Hawley, Programmer, Professor and Pianist, Dies at 58


Michael Hawley, a computer programmer, professor, musician, speechwriter and impresario who helped lay the intellectual groundwork for what is now called the Internet of Things, died on Wednesday at his home in Cambridge, Mass. The cause was colon cancer, said his father, George Hawley. Mr. Hawley began his career as a video game programmer at Lucasfilm, the company created by the "Star Wars" director George Lucas. He spent his last 15 years curating the Entertainment Gathering, or EG, a conference dedicated to new ideas. In between, he worked at NeXT, the influential computer company founded by Steve Jobs after he left Apple in the mid-1980s, and spent nine years as a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab, a seminal effort to push science and technology into art and other disciplines.

30ft long whale that died after it stranded in Welsh estuary was a year old male calf

Daily Mail - Science & tech

A 30ft-long whale that died after it became stranded in a Welsh estuary was a one-year-old male calf that was struggling to find food, an autopsy has revealed. The fin whale, named Henry by rescuers, is thought to have been recently weaned by his mother and started to live independently - as they stop receiving milk at around six to seven months old - before becoming beached. The young male died on the sands of the Dee Estuary, North Wales, on June 14. He had beached at least twice over the previous two days. A post-mortem was carried out by the Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme (CSIP) to identify the cause of death and find out why the whale ended up out of the sea.

Nils Nilsson, 86, Dies; Scientist Helped Robots Find Their Way

AITopics Custom Links

Nils J. Nilsson, a computer scientist who helped develop the first general-purpose robot and was a co-inventor of algorithms that made it possible for the machine to move about efficiently and perform simple tasks, died on Sunday at his home in Medford, Ore. His death was confirmed by his wife, Grace Abbott. Dr. Nilsson was a member of a small group of computer scientists and electrical engineers at the Stanford Research Institute (now known as SRI International) who pioneered technologies that have proliferated in modern life, whether in navigation software used in more than a billion smartphones or in such speech-control systems as Siri. The researchers had been recruited by Charles Rosen, a physicist at the institute, who had raised Pentagon funding in 1966 to design a robot that would be used as a platform for doing research in artificial intelligence. Although the project was intended to create a general-purpose mobile "automaton" and be a test bed for A.I. programs, Mr. Rosen had secured the funding by selling the idea to the Pentagon that the machine would be a mobile sentry for a military base.