The top three news stories of the week, as chosen by our resident students. This week’s top stories are seeing faces, driverless lorries, and the life of the dodo.
By Fuad Mosis.
Now I see you
Our imagination is very good at conjuring up faces in inanimate objects. Why do some cars look angry while power sockets look petrified? Being able to instantly spot and recognise faces is hardwired into our cognition, and is undoubtedly an evolutionary advantage. This phenomenon is called face pareidolia, and has been the source of endless humour and countless memes in our time.
It is perhaps unsurprising then, that monkeys have now been shown to recognise faces in inanimate objects just like we do. The study by Taubert and colleagues from the US National Institute of Mental Health examined the eye movements of rhesus monkeys and found that they fixate on the imagined eyes and mouth of test photos that appeared to have facial features, when compared to a similar image that didn’t have a perceived face.
Deku tree, anyone?
AI lorries to take the roads
If you are a highly qualified individual in lorry-driving simulation games, then your skills may soon become obsolete. Self-driving cars have been in the limelight for a while with the dawn of incredible feats of artificial intelligence, and lorries make no exception. Testing of artificially intelligent lorries is due to begin on UK roads next year by the Transport Research Laboratory, with three lorries travelling together in tandem. While the lead vehicle will be controlled by a human driver, up to two behind will receive instructions from this and allow them to accelerate and break in coordination, meaning that they can safely drive closer together than possible with human drivers.
An obvious advantage of this is the reduced traffic and congestion on our roads. With more efficient driving also comes a drop in both fuel consumption and vehicle emissions. The large frontal surface area of lorries also take quite a beating when it comes to air resistance, and having lorries so close together in single file could actually increase fuel efficiency by reducing the air resistance for the follower lorries.
Have a look at this BBC article for more information.
Hands-free deliveries could be a thing of the future.
The elusive lives of dodos
Humans lived alongside the dodo on the island of Mauritius for almost 100 years before the flightless bird became extinct in the 17th century. For such a well-known species famed for its extinction we know surprisingly little about this animal. In a study by Angst and colleagues, the bone histology of the dodo was used to determine that its life cycle is based on the Mauritius weather.
The authors found that the birds mated roughly around August, allowing the young birds to hatch and grow enough to survive the summer of the southern hemisphere. The breeding adults would subsequently begin moulting after the summer has passed, and would have a full coat of fresh feathers to begin mating once again.