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Google Backs Away from Humanoid Robots

Google has not been shy about placing big bets on the future of robotics and artificial intelligence. But even the Silicon Valley giant may not feel ready to fully embrace humanoid robots and the uncomfortable questions they pose about the relationship between machines and humanity.

Several robots shaped like humanoids or four-legged creatures were being developed by Boston Dynamics, a robotics company bought by Google for $500 million at the end of 2013. For years, Boston Dynamics has be

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Do You Even Science? Edition 1: King Tut and Dinosaur Legs

It was a big week for science news, and we’re going to see if you’ve been keeping up with the headlines.

In the first installment of our weekly science quiz, we’ve prepared a list of 10 questions pulled from from the week’s science news, including a few from our D-brief blog. Some of the hot topics this week included the infamous “Tully monster,” garbage-loving storks and a mystery in King Tut’s tomb.

Have you been exercising your science muscle? Let’s find out.

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Making the Case for a Trip to the Ice Giants

An armada of spacecraft keep a constant watch on the Red Planet. But the ice giants — Uranus and Neptune — were explored close up for a matter of days in the 1980s.

Mark Hofstadter of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory hopes to change that.

He’s been tasked with studying the merits and engineering requirements for a major mission to study these outer solar system worlds. The space agency’s head of planetary sciences, James Green, announced the potential mission in 2015 and said its final

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Computer Algorithm Can Spot a Drunken Tweeter

Drunk tweets, long considered an unfortunate, yet ubiquitous, byproduct of the social media age, have finally been put to good use.

With the help of a machine-learning algorithm, researchers from the University of Rochester cross-referenced tweets mentioning alcohol consumption with geo-tagging information to broadly analyze human drinking behavior. They were able to estimate where and when people imbibed, and, to a limited extent, how they behaved under the influence. The experiment is m

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Storks Ditch Migration for Landfill Luxuries

In recent years, more and more migratory storks have been stopping at landfills for a snack during their voyages. Now, it seems that some have decided to make the dump their permanent home.

It’s hard to fault the storks for wanting to stop for a meal  — after all, they travel over a thousand miles from Europe to Northern Africa and back again every year. The mouth-watering smell of a garbage dump is certainly alluring, and the temptation proved too hard to resist for some storks. Instead

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Watch Live: Baby Bald Eagles Are Hatching in Washington, D.C.

The first of a pair of bald eagle eggs at the U.S. National Arboretum is expected to hatch today. Officials at the Arboretum say that cracks have already appeared in the first egg, and the chick is expected to emerge over the course of the next 12 to 48 hours.

You can watch the tiny eaglet struggle out of its shell live courtesy of the DC Eagle Cam, hosted by the American Eagle Foundation.
Bald Eagles Are Back
They say a crack was first spotted in one of the shells Wednesday night a

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Driving: We’re Doing It Wrong

If you use a car to get around, every time you get behind the wheel you’re confronted with a choice: how will you navigate to your destination? Whether it’s a trip you take every day, such as from home to work, or to someplace you haven’t been before, you need to decide on a route.

Transportation research has traditionally assumed that drivers are very rational and choose the optimal route that minimizes travel time. Traffic prediction models are based on this seemingly reasonable assumpt

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Study finds that most people suck at Rock, Paper, Scissors

The game of Rock, Paper, Scissors (RPS) seems pretty straightforward, right? Well, according to this study, a host of psychological effects come into play in this seemingly simple game. Here, the researchers pitted humans against computerized opponents to determine the types of strategies people used in different scenarios. They found that, although the optimal strategy is to pick rock, paper, or scissors equally often (and randomly), people tended to slightly over-select rock, perhaps becau

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Birds Give Up Colorful Feathers for Carefree Island Lifestyle

Island living may call to mind vivid flowering vines and colorful plumage. But in reality, birds on islands around the world have evolved less-colorful feathers than their mainland relatives. Their drab, simple patterns are only the latest evidence that island evolution is kind of weird.

Claire Doutrelant, an ecologist at France’s Centre d’Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive, and her coauthors studied 116 pairs of bird species, or 232 species in all. Each pair included an island bird and

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Chickens Grow ‘Dinosaur Legs’

It may not be Jurassic Park, but it’s certainly a step in that direction.

Scientists from the University of Chile have successfully created chicken embryos with a unique feature: dinosaur legs. Don’t imagine chickens stomping around with giant Brontosaur legs, though — the changes are all internal.

The feature in question is the fibula, one of two bones inside the leg. In normal birds, the fibula stops about halfway down the leg, connected at the top but not the bottom, leaving it just

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Science in the Skies: Studying Clouds with CitSci

Help NASA understand clouds by reporting your observations with the citizen science project S’Cool 

Clouds are so democratic. You don’t need to be rich or famous or smart or athletic to enjoy the majesty of clouds. You can just look up into the sky wherever you are and be knocked out by their beauty and elegance, their size and changing shapes, their relationship to light–the way clouds glow lit from behind, the way dawn edges them with a fluting of pink and sunset colors them orange and

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Let Swarm Intelligence Optimize Your Tournament Bracket

There are myriad methods to March Madness.

The diehards watch games, analyze box scores and pore over insights from the experts. Others fill out their brackets based on a school’s color scheme.

We can debate the merits of various bracket methodologies until we’re blue in the face, but do we have to? Instead, it’s possible to incorporate disparate bracket approaches into a grand, unified theory through the power of swarm intelligence.

Louis Rosenberg, founder of Unanimous AI, built a

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Is Marina Abramovic the World’s Foremost Spiritual Explorer?

Curiosity can lead in many different directions, and for artist Marina Abramovic, the quest to sample the full range of human experience found her tripping out on ayahuasca in the forests of Brazil. “I felt like there was a bomb inside me,” she says, after willingly taking a second heavy dose.

Ultimately, a sense of calm clarity emerged, offering Abramovic the sort of inner awakening she had gone to Brazil to find. The journey is the subject of the new documentary The Space In Between

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T. rex Ancestor Shared the Lizard King’s Smarts, But Not Its Size

For a few million years at the end of the Cretaceous period, before dinosaurs went extinct, Tyrannosaurus rex dominated the landscape. The fearsome predator with an oversized head and tiny forearms has become synonymous with the word dinosaur, thanks in no small part to movies such as Jurassic Park.

But how T. rex came to rule the roost has remained a bit of a mystery. The earliest tyrannosauroids were about as tall as a human, which is a far cry from the widely recognized 13-foot-tall, 4

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Reliable, official numbers now in for February show that it was by far the warmest of 1,622 months on record

What is the significance of reaching this new milestone? And now that El Niño is waning, what might the future bring?

Earlier this month, a spate of headlines proclaimed that February 2016 was the warmest month on record for the globe. At that time, I wrote that we should wait until official, reliable analyses were in before drawing any final conclusions.

SEE ALSO: February may have been the warmest on record, but we don’t know for sure — despite reports to the contrary

The first of t

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Here’s what a total eclipse looks like from 22,236 miles away in space as the moon’s shadow crosses Earth’s face

Also check out the view from a million miles away!

This past Wednesday, March 9, 2016, the Moon blotted out the Sun in a total eclipse, turning day to dusk starting in Sumatra, moving east across many other Indonesian islands, and then out into the wide Pacific Ocean.

In paces with clear skies, the view from the surface was spectacular. So was the view from an airliner high above the Pacific.

But how did it look from geostationary orbit —22,236 miles out in space — looking down on Ear

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Warthogs Visit Mongooses for Spa Treatments

Did you know there’s a newsletter entirely about pigs, peccaries and hippos? It’s published twice a year by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The newsletter used to be called the Asian Wild Pig News, until its name was changed to the more poetic Suiform Soundings. 

Anyway, if you had a subscription, you would have read recently about an unusual group of warthogs. In a national park in Uganda, the warthogs have developed a very friendly relationship with local mongooses.

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‘Eye in the Sky’ Makes You the Jury on Drone Warfare

Military drones have increasingly starred in Hollywood films as flying robotic spies and assassins for the U.S. government. Occasionally, a superhero such as Superman will punch a $12-million Predator drone out of the sky. But just a handful of films have seriously considered the implications of modern drone warfare being waged globally on a daily basis.

A new film called “Eye in the Sky” tries to consider drone surveillance and drone strikes from all sides of the conflict. The thriller b

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Mercury Keeps Getting Weirder

For such a tiny planet, Mercury is a pretty big puzzle for researchers. NASA’s MESSENGER probe already has revealed that the planet is surprisingly rich in elements that easily evaporate from the surface, such as sulphur, chlorine, sodium and potassium. This is incredibly odd as these kind of substances most likely would disappear during a hot or violent birth – exactly the type of birth a planet so close to the sun, such as Mercury, would have had.

Scientists are also struggling to under

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Positive Vibes: Scientists Control Mouse Brains With Magnets

A little magnetism unleashed a wave of positive vibes for mice in the lab.

Scientists at the University of Virginia developed a technique that uses magnets to control the brains of living mice. Researchers created a hybrid gene — they called it Magneto — that produces proteins in brain cells that are responsive to magnets. Whenever Magneto-engineered rodents wandered into a magnetic field, the invisible force activated the pleasure centers in their brains.

Researchers believe magnetic

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Flashback Friday: Got gas? Before you blame your diet, read this.

Photo: flickr/purpleslog

Do you suffer from excessive “anal gas evacuation” (scientific jargon that just means ‘farting’)? If so, your gut bacteria might be contributing. The authors of this study looked at the differences between patients complaining of flatulence compared to healthy controls. They measured both the number and volume of “gas evacuation” episodes (see below for more details, if you’re into that kind of thing) from the subjects on both standard and “flatogenic” (fart-p

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Defeating The Ultimate Nemesis: Reflections On Go Programming As Google’s AlphaGo A.I. Takes 2-0 Lead In Go Match Against Lee Se-dol

It’s official: Lee Se-dol has lost his first two Go games against AlphaGo, the computer program from Google’s DeepMind. Going into the match, Lee said he was confident, predicting victory in all 5 games. So when he lost the first game, he was shellshocked: “I didn’t expect to lose,” he said.”Even when I was behind, I still didn’t imagine that I’d lose. I didn’t think that it would be able to play such an excellent game.”

He’s now 0-2 out of 5 against AlphaGo, with $1 million on the line.

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What Women and Men Want from Sex Robots

More than two-thirds of men recruited for a sexbot study say they would give sex robots try. About two-thirds of women in the same study say they would not try a sex robot. Those findings come from the first exploratory survey of human attitudes toward sex robots. Such research has huge implications beyond whether humanity ends up using robots for sexual satisfaction—it can also reveal gender differences in how people view modern human relationships.

Debates about sex robots typically foc

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