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« Science: October 2007 | Main | Science: December 2007 »

Science

My Robot Friend

I want one. I also want to be a part of things that involve social experimentation on other peoples' children. God, i'm so jealous.

It is thought the robots could enrich the classroom environment by demonstrating social skills and good behaviour. Scientists studied how children aged between 10 months and two years played with the "social robot" when left in the same room.

The Japanese-built prototype robot, QRIO, can interact with humans thanks to an array of mechanical and computational skills which enable it to walk, sit, stand, move its arms, turn its head, dance and giggle.

Scientists found that children's social contact with the robot increased over time and they found the machine more interesting when it behaved in a "human" interactive way than when it was programmed to dance randomly. At first, the children touched the robot on its face and head, but after time they touched only its hand and arms, mimicking the behaviour of children with other humans.

Scientists conducted 45 study sessions with the robot over five months. By the end of the study the children were treating the robot like a friend rather than a toy.

Some children cried when the robot fell over and tried helping it to stand up, even when told by their teachers to leave it alone. Others covered it with a blanket and said "night-night" when it lay down to sleep, said the researchers in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Just make sure the robot doesn't get its hands on anything sharp.

Nobody ever gives me their kid to experiment with. *grumble grumble*


By min | November 14, 2007, 3:18 PM | Science | Comments (1)| Link



Lobsters Feel Pain?

It's been a back and forth for years - do lobsters feel pain? Is it cruel to boil them alive?

A doctor from Belfast published a paper recently claiming yes.

The latest salvo, published in New Scientist today, comes from Robert Elwood, an expert in animal behaviour at Queen's University, Belfast. With help from colleagues, he set about finding an answer by daubing acetic acid on to the antennae of 144 prawns.

Immediately, the creatures began grooming and rubbing the affected antenna, while leaving untouched ones alone, a response Prof Elwood says is "consistent with an interpretation of pain experience". The same pain sensitivity is likely to be shared by lobsters, crabs and other crustaceans, the researchers believe.

Prof Elwood says that sensing pain is crucial even for the most lowly of animals because it allows them to change their behaviour after damaging experiences and so increase their chances of survival.

Who cares if they feel pain or they don't feel pain. Why, exactly, is it that we have to boil them alive at all? Just kill them right before you drop them in the hot water. I never understood that. We always killed our crustaceans before cooking them. A quick thrust with a chopstick thru the section where their "brains" are usually kills them right away. The corpse is still intact so you can still present the lobster whole when served. Which, actually, lots of people seem to not prefer due to the lobster's resemblance to a giant insect. In which case, you might as well chop them in half and broil the suckers. Or stir fry. That's my favorite way.

I just find it weird to cook something before you kill it. Stirs up all sorts of questions about cruelty and such. My way skips all that unnecessary debate.


By min | November 14, 2007, 3:08 PM | Science | Comments (3)| Link



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