Short Takes: News From All Over

Botting on the Future
By Dave Maass, Dragonfire
The Chatterbox Challenge hosts more than 100 software bots (‘online artificial intelligence programs’) this month in its sixth annual event. The competing cyberspace entities, with names like ‘Jabberwacky’ and ‘Freakycowbot,’ simulate real-life conversations via online chats with judges, for recognition in categories such as ‘Best Personality,’ ‘Most Knowledgeable,’ and most capable of convincing a person that it, too, is human (the ‘Loebner Award’). Implications of the growing technological trend span beyond simply obtaining medals. From hijacking the jobs of customer service reps, teachers, and TV hosts, to becoming an alternative entertainment source, bots are challenging our interactions with computer identities and testing the limits of human design. — Kristen Mueller

The Bias Finders
By Bruce Bower, Science News
The Implicit Association Test is designed to probe a person’s unconscious to uncover deep-seated biases. The test asks subjects to associate words and pictures with positive and negative labels. Judging by the subject’s reaction times, some say the test is able to uncover preferences toward race, sexuality, age, and even political affiliation. Critics say the results aren’t clear and are too easily faked, but the ease and accessibility of the test have won over many psychologists. Follow the links and test the test yourself. — Bennett Gordon

New American City: Sycamore Farms
By Ami Kealoha, Cool Hunting
Artist and farmer Mathew Moore is sowing seeds of rebellion against sprawl with his innovative work-in-progress, ‘Rotations: Moore Estates.’ Using a 42-acre field, different types of wheat, and the blueprint for a housing development that will soon be erected on his family’s former land in Arizona, Moore is creating a full-scale model of what urban sprawl looks like. The beauty and size of the piece poignantly depict the artist’s loss. — Bennett Gordon

iWant: Sonogram Cookies
By Susan Pagani, San Antonio Current
The makers of giant fortune cookies bring you their next great development: cookies that bear the image of your unborn child. Sonogram images are transferred onto an edible paper made of cornstarch and sugar, which is then affixed to the reportedly delicious cookies. And though one would expect it to be an ingredient, irony is conspicuously absent. Available in packs of 12. — Nick Rose

Intermittency Report Dispels Renewables Myths
By Staff, Modern Power Systems
A report recently released by the UK Energy Research Centre concluded what traditional energy proponents have long feared: renewable energy is reliable. The report dispels the notion that intermittency — the inability to fully control the output of wind and wave energy — makes renewable energy economically unfeasible. — Nick Rose

Kill Your Television — Today: An interview with author George Saunders
By Ross Simonini, Stop Smiling
George Saunders, in the main, is a short story writer. He is also a crafter of dystopian, pseudo-futuristic worlds, worlds that vaguely resemble our culture dis- and then re-assembled, to jarring affect. And his children’s book is being republished by McSweeney’s. In a recent interview with Stop Smiling, Saunders talks about why his work is so weird and what makes it so good. — Nick Rose

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