Computers Beat Humans at Poker. Next Up: Everything Else?
Over the span of 20 days early this year, artificial intelligence encountered a major test of how well it can tackle problems in the real world. A program called Libratus took on four of the best poker players in the country, at a tournament at the Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. They were playing a […]
Fake News Is an Old Problem
In a presidential campaign that seemed to break rules of political decorum daily, one of the more alarming developments was the rise of a new kind of media: fake news. “Obama FURIOUS After Judge Jeanine Calls Him A Terrorist On Live TV!!!” proclaimed TrumpVision365.com, a fake-news site run by young people in Macedonia. “STOP HER […]
Alienation Is Killing Americans and Japanese
The stories have become all too familiar in Japan, though people often do their best to ignore them. An elderly or middle-aged person, usually a man, is found dead, at home in his apartment, frequently right in his bed. It has been days, weeks, or even months since he has had contact with another human […]
Don’t Believe the Hype: Winter Does Not Begin Tonight
Tonight, at 11:48 PM Eastern Time, is the moment of the winter solstice, when the Northern Hemisphere is pointed as far away from the sun as it ever gets. It will be the longest night of the year, and tomorrow will be the day with the fewest hours of sunlight.As most people know, this marks […]
Watch Water Levitate, Flow Up, & Swirl the Wrong Way in the Other Hemisphere
The conventional wisdom is all wrong. Countless parents and teachers have gotten it twisted. The BBC and PBS aired bogus explanations. Even textbooks have botched the story.The Earth’s rotation, and the Coriolis effect that results, do not cause water to circle the drain in opposite directions in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.Well, actually, they do—sometimes. […]
Does Culture Really Evolve Like Organisms Do?
It’s become common to think about cultural change the same way we think about biological evolution—so common that it may obscure whether the comparison really works. Though there remain many questions yet to answer about biological evolution, it’s a process that’s well-understood. We know, in great detail, how variations emerge, how they’re passed on hereditarily, […]
Why Were the UK Election Polls So Wrong? A Statistical Mystery
Workers count votes at a polling place in Worcester, Mass.SuperStock via Getty Images Last Thursday the UK’s Conservative Party stomped to an electoral victory that fairly shocked the country. The Tories won a comfortable majority of seats in parliament, enabling them to govern the nation without a coalition partner. That result contrasted sharply with the […]
Why Hasn’t the World Been Destroyed in a Nuclear War Yet?
The precariousness of game theory.
7 Videos That Show the Apex of the Art of Dominoes
If there is one thing that having the Internet in our lives has shown most clearly, it may be that anything you can think of as a hobby is also an obsession to a not-insignificant number of people. And so it is with dominoes. A look around online reveals that there are a lot of people […]
A New Shield Against Grammar Naziism: Science!
spaxiax via Shutterstock Over his career, Harvard cognitive scientist Steven Pinker has taken on a wide range of research and writing subjects, and his work has provoked big debates in most, if not all, of them. His latest book, The Sense of Style, is about another farflung topic—grammar—and his iconoclastic opinions have, predictably, drawn […]