MySci Round-Up August 9: Marvelous Marvin


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On this day in 1927, scientist-philosopher 
Marvin Minsky, one of the seminal figures in the field of artificial intelligence, was born.
In 1951 he built the SNARC, the first simulator to mimic the activities of the neural network that our meat bodies are wired with. We could go into detail about Minsky’s numerous inventions, or the conceptual contributions to the effort to develop machines that can think, but it might be easier just to tell you that he served as a technical advisor on the 1968 sci-fi classic “2001: A Space Odyssey,” and that mega-genius author Isaac Asimov once supposedly said that he considered Minsky one of only two fellow humans on the planet—Carl Sagan was the other—who were smarter than him. If you want to know more, just go to Minsky’s web site and read his 2006 book, “The Emotion Machine,” which he’s graciously posted for free. And with that, here are the science stories of the day.


Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words can give you arthritis. New study shows link between stress-inducing nastiness and joint inflammation.

Butterflies shed light on how well species may adjust to global warming. Scientists find that species with more genetic-geographical diversity don’t necessarily adapt better. Bummer.

Can putting charcoal in the ground slow climate change? Researchers say 20 percent of global carbon output could be kept out of the atmosphere, and crops would grow better, too.

Mice regain movement after spinal cord injury. And no, this is different from the stem-cell therapy that is about to be tested on humans. It involves removing a certain enzyme that halts cell regeneration.

Artificial bee eye provides glimpse of insects’ world. This could change the way that robots “see,” as well.

Third space walk required to fix Space Station cooling system. Let’s just say that this is turning out to be a bit more complicated than anybody figured it would be. But that usually happens whenever our plumber shows up to fix the sink, too.