Poachers kill one of the world’s largest elephants in Kenya

One of Africa’s last ‘great tuskers’, elephants with ivory weighing over 100lbs, has been poisoned to death by poachers in Kenya after years of adapting his behaviour to hide himself from humans.

The bull, named Satao and likely born in the late 1960s, succumbed to wounds from poison darts in a remote corner of Tsavo National Park where he had migrated to find fresh water after recent storms.

His carcass yesterday lay with its face and great tusks hacked off, four legs splayed where he fell with his last breath, left only for the vultures and the scavengers.

Conservationists told how he moved from bush to bush always keeping his ivory hidden amongst the foliage.

“I’m convinced he did that to hide his tusks from humans, he had an awareness that they were a danger to him,” said Mark Deeble, a British documentary filmmaker who has spent long periods of time filming Satao.

The elephant’s killing is the latest in a massive surge of poaching of the mammals for their ivory across Africa.

Richard Moller, of The Tsavo Trust, who had been monitoring Satao for several months confirmed that the elephant found dead on May 30 was indeed Satao, whom he called “an icon”.

“There is no doubt that Satao is dead, killed by an ivory poacher’s poisoned arrow to feed the seemingly insatiable demand for ivory in far off countries,” Mr Moller said.

“A great life lost so that someone far away can have a trinket on their mantelpiece.”

A soaring demand for ivory in a number of Asian nations has seen poaching reach levels that were last seen in the 1980s before the ivory trade was banned.

“The loss of such an iconic elephant is the most visible and heart-rending tip of this iceberg, this tragedy that is unfolding across the continent,” added Frank Pope of Save The Elephants in Nairobi.

The street value of elephant ivory is now greater than gold, running to tens of thousands of pounds per tusk. Organised criminals are increasingly running poaching gangs and networks, officials have said.

More than 20,000 African elephants were slaughtered in 2013, according to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) has documented the killing of 97 elephants so far this year, but experts dispute the official figures.

Dr Paula Kahumbu, who leads the Hands Off Our Elephants campaign, wrote that – based on the reports she has seen – “elephant poaching in Kenya is at least 10 times the official figures”.

In March this year, renowned conservationist Richard Leakey described poaching in Kenya as a “national disaster” and that poachers were operating with “outrageous impunity”.

“They could not operate with the impunity we are seeing if you did not have some form of protection from law enforcement agencies,” he said, likening the crisis to the mass poaching of the late 1980s.

Mr Leakey disputes official statistics that claim that the number of elephants that have been killed has declined. KWS recorded that 302 elephants were poached in 2013 down from 384 the previous year, of a total estimated population of 38,000 in Kenya.

Earlier this month, police seized more than 200 elephant tusks in a warehouse in the port city of Mombasa, weighing over 4,400lb.

Two men have been charged in connection with the haul.

Nelson Marwa, Mombasa county commissioner, said that the ivory find was linked to terrorism and drug barons in the city.

Mr Leakey cited the Indian Ocean port as a “staging post” for ivory smuggled from countries across the region.

Until recently, poachers in Kenya faced lenient sentences and few were successfully prosecuted.

A study by WildlifeDirect, a Nairobi-based charity that Dr Kahumbu heads, found that over the past five years just four per cent of those convicted of wildlife crimes in 18 of the country’s courts were sent to jail.

There is hope that tough new legislation passed earlier this year will lead to higher conviction rates and tougher sentences.

“Satao was probably one of half a dozen of Kenya’s great tuskers, possibly the largest,” said Mr Deeble, who flew over the elephant’s carcass on Friday.

“It’s a devastating situation. Kenya’s last great tuskers need presidential protection. If Satao’s death can galvanise the focus on what’s actually happening here in terms of poaching, then he won’t have died in vain.”

Why America Doesn’t Love Soccer (Yet): A New Freakonomics Radio Podcast

With the 2014 World Cup getting underway in Brazil, we’ve just released an episode called “Why America Doesn’t Love Soccer (Yet).” (You can subscribe to the podcast at iTunes, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above. You can also read the transcript, which includes credits for the music you’ll hear in the episode.) The episode tries to answer a few questions:

1. Why doesn’t America love soccer the way the rest of the world does? 2. Would that change if the U.S. ever managed to win a World Cup? 3. Is No. 2 possible without No. 1?

It’s no secret that soccer continues to lag behind other U.S. sports in viewership and enthusiasm. For instance, 111.5 million Americans sat down to watch Super Bowl XLVIII in 2014. Meanwhile, only 24.3 million watched the 2010 World Cup Final, which was actually a record.

To put this in global perspective, total Super Bowl viewership is roughly 90 percent American while viewership of the biggest soccer event is roughly 3 percent American. And relatively few people in the States rank soccer as their favorite sport.

To address these disparities, Stephen Dubner turns to a real-life football superstar of the American variety: Indianapolis Colts Quarterback Andrew Luck. Luck was selected first in the 2012 NFL Draft and has become one of the best quarterbacks in America’s favorite sport. He also happens to be a huge soccer fan. What does Luck think it would take for U.S. soccer to take off in popularity?

LUCK: I think…a Pied Piper would be a U.S. national team, you know, winning the World Cup. As we know, we love winners in this country. … It’s sort of ingrained in our society. So I don’t know if there’s one player that would be a Pied Piper that would bring everything with him, be a Tiger Woods. I do think our national team winning the World Cup would be unbelievable.

Dubner also interviews Sunil Gulati, an economist at Columbia who also is the president of the U.S. Soccer Federation and on the FIFA Executive Committee:

GULATI: [T]here aren’t many countries that have qualified for the last seven World Cups like we’ve just done. There are some. But unlike some of the other sports in which the U.S. is dominant in, this sport is played in every country in the world, and it’s the number one sport in probably 95 percent of those countries….. So this is a real world champion…In this case there are 208 countries that play. We’re not a newcomer, we’ve been doing this a long time, but other countries have taken it far more seriously at a much earlier stage. And it’s not just down to the fact that we’ve got 320 million people and are a relatively affluent country because then China would be good in some of those areas and some of the European countries which haven’t done as well would also be at the top. So we’ve made a lot of improvements, and if we could replicate the progress that we’ve made both on and off the field over the last quarter century then I think we will be where we want to be in the next quarter century, which is one of the elite powers in the world.

The U.S., of course, is an elite power when it comes women’s soccer. Our national team has won the World Cup twice and is currently ranked No. 1 in the world. In the podcast, Gulati explains why the U.S. women have performed so much better than the U.S. men.

Jonathan Wilson, a Tufts professor who is the author of Kick and Run: Memoir with Soccer Ball (Bloomsbury Reader), explains why culture around soccer is so different in the U.S. But he, like Luck and Gulati, believes that immigration and other factors are already changing this.

You’ll also hear from Solomon Dubner, a 13-year-old aspiring soccer journalist who has written for World Soccer Talk and maintains a blog called  Solomon on Footy. Coincidentally, he is also the son of Stephen Dubner, and his papa is proud.

Devil Dogs: The Mysterious Black Dogs of England

It was not shaping up to be a great day for the churchgoers of Bungay, England. The congregation of St Mary’s church had braved a horrible storm to attend service on August 14, 1577, when the elegant Anglican building was struck by lightning. And then the hellhound arrived.

Moments after the church was fried, a massive black dog burst through the doors, careening through the aisles. Two men knelt in prayer. The monster shot past them, and as he did he “wrung the necks of them bothe” and they fell over dead where they prayed. As quickly as he appeared, the dog vanished, leaving nothing but scorch marks on the floor and two corpses in his wake.

So recorded Reverend Abraham Fleming in “A Straunge and Terrible Wunder,” an account of the bizarre happenings in the rural market town. It is one of many misdeeds attributed to a dog called “Black Shuck” and his legend has not waned. A black dog racing across a lightening bolt adorns Bungay’s coat of arms. In a 2003 song named for the beast, the English rock band The Darkness sang, accurately and succinctly, “Black Shuck / Black Shuck / That dog don’t give a fuck.”

Reverend Abraham Fleming recorded a famous 1577 account of a Black Shuck sighting  in “A Straunge and Terrible Wunder".

Tales of monstrous black dogs, often with glowing red eyes, abound worldwide, but especially in England. Black Shuck is a popular one, but many regions have their own versions. They’re called The Gurt Dog, Padfoot, Barguest, The Hairy Hound, The Yeth Hound and the Grim, among other names. In the Isle of Man they’re called a Moddey Dhoo and in Scotland a Cù Sìth. Black dog legends inspired Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Hound of the Baskervilles” and a Grim makes an appearance in “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.” A cursory search will reveal numerous Black Dog Pubs, Black Dog Restaurants and Black Dog Inns scattered across England.

Mark Norman has been researching black dogs for fifteen years. He grew up in Devon, an English county known for its coastlines and rural inland that is rife with legends and myths. But he didn’t develop a special affinity for black dog stories until he arrived at the University of Exeter, where he works for the student guild. There he discovered the archives of respected English folklorist Theo Brown, including seven whole boxes of black dog lore. Norman was hooked. He is currently working on a book about black dogs using Brown’s material, as well as collecting stories on his own.

Not all black dogs are bad, says Norman. While many are omens of death, “there are ones that are attached to a family in some way, there are ones that are seen as protective, there are ones that are attached to particular locations, so road dogs are common — dogs that follow a particular route for example in the countryside.”

A black dog’s motivation changes along with cultural perceptions of canines; in cultures where dogs are considered unclean they tend to be more nefarious.

Black dogs take many forms, but often have things in common. They are, of course, black. They are often abnormally large, with shaggy coats and have glowing, enormous eyes. But curious variations abound. There are dogs who drag chains from their necks. There are dogs with no heads and dogs with human faces. There are dogs who dissolve into mist, dogs the size of houses and dogs who walk on their hind legs.

Tales of black dogs date back centuries. The earliest recorded appearance in English literature that Norman has found is from 1127. There are plenty of reasons people tell black dog stories, he says. Some of the stories were probably concocted to keep children away from dangerous places. But many black dog stories can be attributed to smugglers who wanted to keep interlopers away from their coastal smuggling routes. Smugglers were fond of inventing all sorts of scary stories to keep pests away: Norman has heard stories of smugglers painting the body of an unlucky horse with luminous paint in order to convince townspeople that a particular road was haunted by a headless horse and coach.

And people still see black dogs.

“I still get reports,” says Norman. “I’ve got pages of reports from various places since the year 2000, for example.”

There are whole websites devoted to black dog sightings, like the encyclopedic Shuckland, which catalogs sightings by location.

Some people have claimed that black dogs are actually leopards or pumas that roam England. Others think black dogs are a kind of hallucination caused by a dream state.”

And then there was the discovery this May that had news outlets breathlessly wondering if definitive evidence of Black Shuck’s existence had been uncovered.

“Is this the skeleton of legendary devil dog Black Shuck who terrorised 16th century East Anglia? Folklore tells of SEVEN FOOT hell hound with flaming eyes” crowed a May 2014 Daily Mailheadline.

Not quite, says Lisa Wescott Wilkins, managing director of Dig Ventures, a crowdfunded archeology excavation project. The group’s team unearthed the skeleton during a dig at the ruins of an abbey dating back to the 1100s.

“No, there’s no way,” says Wilkins, “There’s not even a dog alive besides maybe a direwolf on ‘Game of Thrones’ that would be seven feet tall from nose to toe – that’s massive!”

The skeleton, she says, was about the size of a Great Dane. Without radio carbon dating, they can’t say exactly how old the skeleton is, but they do know it suffered a wound to its leg that would have given it a significant limp and that it was buried in a grave.

The find resonated with dog lovers at the dig, Wilkins said, because “this wasn’t an animal that sort of crawled off somewhere to die, this dog had clearly been taken care of and buried out back where the sort of kitchen area of the Monastery would have been of the Abbey when it was active. So when we uncovered it, we were thinking to ourselves, god, these are clearly people who had an emotional attachment to this animal and cared for it during its lifetime. So for us the big story of that sort of moment was dog owners and dog lovers, and just thinking about what it would have been like when the dog was buried.”

The dog skeleton unearthed by Dig Ventures at medieval Leiston Abbey in Suffolk England that some speculated belonged to the 'devil dog.' / Courtesy Dig Ventures1
An aerial view of Leiston Abbey, showing a cropmark in the field adjacent to the ruin. / Courtesy Dig Ventures2
  • 1The dog skeleton unearthed by Dig Ventures at medieval Leiston Abbey in Suffolk England that some speculated belonged to the ‘devil dog.’ / Courtesy Dig Ventures
  • 2An aerial view of Leiston Abbey, showing a cropmark in the field adjacent to the ruin. / Courtesy Dig Ventures

Some people have claimed that black dogs are actually leopards or pumas that roam England. Others think black dogs are a kind of hallucination caused by a dream state. Norman allows that there may be some truth to those theories, but that he has also heard stories that he simply can’t explain.

“I’m not a paranormal researcher, I’m a folklorist; so to me, what they’re seeing isn’t important or relevant,” says Norman. “Because what I’m interested in is what they’re reporting, and how that fits into the other stories that people have reported over time, and how that shared consciousness or shared collective memory operates.”

Of course, sometimes the answer is earthly, as the author of Shuckland notes on a description of a “dubious sighting”:

“As the witness himself says, there’s a fair chance that on both occasions this may well have been an ordinary dog.”

Take a Trip Through the Strange Worlds Within Gemstones

For all the infinite vastness of the universe we’ve seen through telescopes, the world seen under a microscope also reveals some pretty alien-looking vistas. Like the tiny cosmos hidden inside gemstones, a realm that photomicrographer Danny Sanchez captures in striking photographs.

“When I first started looking through the microscope at gemstones, it was all space to me,” says Sanchez, who’s spent the last eight years learning to examine and photograph gemological interiors. “It was all the limitless imagination of outer space.”

Sanchez’s images reflect an awe for the cosmos, and the aesthetic influence of science fiction. Shattered remnants of a doomed planet emerge from microscopic rubite embedded in sapphire; the pyramidal pyrite shell of some ancient being drifts in geological time; a mountainous horizon hidden in a nugget of quartz looks absolutely extraterrestrial. The photos recall sci-fi visionary John Berkey.

At the center of most of Sanchez’s pictures are the random bits of minerals stuck in a larger gem–what are called intrusions. To collectors, they’re imperfections that reduce the value of the stone–to Sanchez, they are things of beauty.

He digs through bin upon bin of gemstones at trade shows, searching for the subject of his next image. He examines the stones and intrusions with a 10x microscope loop and fiber optic light he carries with him, gathering a sense for their inner worlds.

“I’ve got to hit all the gem shows and all the local events,” he says. “I like the ones that are flawed. They’ve got the stuff inside them. I’m actually lucky in that regard because people don’t want them, so I get to pay less for them.”

Depth of a Field

Sanchez’s images fall under the category of photomicrography–pictures of very, very small things taken through a microscope. It’s a broad field in which his images are at least partially unique.

The bulk of photomicrographic imagery comes out of academic research. Insects, microbes, circulatory systems, the vast majority focus on organic subject matter. Gemological intrusions are generally a less common subject, and certainly not the object of most photomicrographers’ fascination.

“They’re interested in documenting, ‘Oh this material is found in conjunction with this material, how interesting–we should document that,’” he says. “There’s only so much conversation that someone like that can have with me before we just totally diverge on our technique.”

To Sanchez, the most relevant distinction is the effort to create images at the standard of a fine art. He’s working more to convey a sense of sublimity he feels rather than to categorize or document what he photographs in a scientific way.

“It’s really tricky, and I wish I had someone I could just call up and ask why is this not working? How do I get this better, how do I get it cleaner? But there’s not, so I’m just sort of feeling around.”

What’s He Building in There

Without an institutional budget to throw at gear, Sanchez had to build his shooting rig piecemeal. It took almost ten years of scouring eBay before he could produce images at the level of quality he wanted. For shooting at the microscopic level, gear always comes first.

“There were so many obstacles … if you don’t have the right equipment you can’t overcome them,” he says. “There’s only so good an image you can make.”

Sanchez lights the gems with fiber optic tubes and a main light. He adjusts the light and controls shadow with teensy reflector cards and black foil. The image is captured by a specially adapted Wild Heerbrugg m450 microscope, with a light path streamlined so that it travels almost directly into a Canon 5D. A host of custom optical and stabilizing segments hold the rig together, and it’s all mounted to a vibration resistant platform.

An integral part of this process is called “stacking,” which means shooting the same subject at varying depths of field and then recombining the layers into a single sharp image. An ever present risk is over-stacking (often Sanchez will layer dozens of shots in a single image), which can force in too much color and depth information to produce the subtler sense of space he’s aiming for.

Stacking a crazy precise process that requires a step motor that can move the focus by microns at a time, allowing for super fast exposures at different points along the inclusions.

All the equipment and precision allows Sanchez to chart a course through gemological innerspace. When he comes upon a striking scene, he can drop anchor and start shooting. The experience can be pretty otherworldly, even though the whole rig resides in a small room in his house.

“I have to turn the lights off in this room, and then turn the fiber optic lights on, so it’s very much this laboratory vibe because it’s so dark and mysterious. And I’m staring into a window, seeing something totally different than the reality around me.”

The Big Picture

Sanchez is not just an admirer, he’s also an expert on the gems themselves. By looking at the stones he can tell you if they’re natural or synthetic, if they’ve been exposed to extreme heat, where in the world they might have come from. He’s as interested in making photographs as in the phenomenology of what he’s observing.

“I really try hard not to do anything false, like use false colors. I comp my images, sure, but it’s just as you see it through the microscope. It’s mostly Lightroom, and a little bit of Photoshop dodging and that’s it. That’s not to say I don’t spend a tremendous amount of time staring at it in Lightroom day after day to make sure it’s right.”

The ultimate goal is to present an exhibition of the photos, printed large next to the stones they came from so that the vast scale suggested in the images can be experienced right next to the tiny reality of them.

That’s part of the reason Sanchez keeps the stones he photographs. In any case there’s certainly not much of a financial incentive for keeping them–their “flawed” nature makes them unfit for most collectors. For him the true excitement comes from the singular instant when a photo emerges from the development process to reveal something never seen before.

“It’s that moment when you look at it and gasp,” he says. “You can’t believe that it looks like that.”

All photos by Danny Sanchez

Why You Should Only Spend $500 on Your Next TV

Welcome to the awkward HDTV transitional phase. If you need to buy a new TV right now, what do you do? Bet big on an UltraHD TV and wait for 4K content to become as plentiful as HD? Splurge on an early-generation OLED, then kick yourself in two years when they become more affordable? Buy a massive, high-end 1080p set, then regret it when everybody flocks to your buddy’s house to watch Super Bowl 50 on his 4K OLED?

At this moment, your smartest move is to go cheap. Buy a holdover HDTV, something simple and no-frills to keep you happy and entertained while UltraHD panels get cheaper, 4K programming becomes ubiquitous, and OLED prices fall to earth. For $500, you can get an excellent television between 39 and 50 inches. You may not get absolutely outstanding picture quality, but there are plenty of cheap sets that still rate as very, very good. You will also have to skip the design aesthetic of the more expensive models.

But the bulk of your savings will come from outsourcing features. For example, take a pass on those built-in streaming features and just buy a $60 Roku box, which has a better UI and more channels than any TV’s built-in “Smart” software ever will. Get a good soundbar if you care about sound; even the cheaper soundbars will outclass the speakers you’d find in a $500 TV set, and you’ll be able to use it with your next TV too. Cheap TVs usually only come with two HDMI inputs, so if you need more, just buy a $30 HDMI switch. And you most certainly do not need 3-D — why pay extra for it if there’s nothing good to watch?

By just buying a solid, affordable, and no-frills HDTV, you can minimize the compromises while you wait out the HD-to-4K transition.

Image: Courtesy of Vizio

Vizio E420I-B0 (42-Inch Full-Array LED) — $430
Good TVs at very low prices has always been Vizio’s schtick, and 2014 looks like a banner year. This full-array backlit set has local dimming and a 120Hz refresh rate for less than $450, which seems like a typo but is actually just an incredible deal. Built-in Wi-Fi, apps, and plenty of inputs sweeten the deal.

Image: Courtesy of Sharp

Sharp LC-48LE551U (48-Inch Full-Array LED) — $500
There’s another direct-lit LED HDTV in this price range, and it’s a big one. Sharp’s slim-bezeled 48-incher earned an Editors’ Choice award from PCMag. It lacks Wi-Fi, so make sure you have a set-top box if you want to stream. It’s also a 60Hz set with an “Aquomotion 120″ setting that simulates a higher refresh rate.

Image: Courtesy of TCL

TCL 50FS5600 (50-Inch LED) — $500
If you want to go even bigger, this 50-inch TCL set is the biggest one in this roundup. It has a native refresh rate of 120Hz, and it features an edge-lit LED backlighting system instead of the aforementioned full-array systems. No built-in Wi-Fi, but that’s what your Roku or Apple TV is for.

Image: Courtesy of Sony

Sony KDL-40W600B (40-Inch LED) — $480
This edge-lit Sony LCD set has a slick design, a rarity for its sub-$500 price. It’s among the most-popular sets in this price range on Amazon, with built-in Wi-Fi and plenty of inputs. Its 60Hz native refresh rate raises eyebrows, but it has a feature that ably simulates a 240Hz panel.

Image: Courtesy of Panasonic

Panasonic TC-39AS530U (39-Inch LED) — $450
Panasonic’s plasmas were considered the best in the business, but now the company has shifted to an all-LCD lineup. The 120Hz edge-lit AS530‘s slim bezel is an eye-catcher, making its 39-inch screen look bigger than you’d expect. Wi-Fi and mobile-device content sharing are also part of its tricks.

Image: Courtesy of Samsung

Samsung PN43F4500 (43-Inch Plasma, 720p) — $380
Picture-quality connoisseurs have long hailed plasma sets, which keep up well with fast motion and offer deep blacks and snappy contrast. This Samsung set punches well above its price, with great ratings on Amazon and a “Best” pick from The Wirecutter. A few things: It’s only 720p, you’ll have to BYO Wi-Fi, and it only has two HDMI inputs.

Image: Courtesy of LG

LG 42PN4500 (42-Inch Plasma, 720p) –$400
LG and Samsung aren’t just battling on the OLED front, they’re also competing on the super-affordable 720p plasma battlefield. This LG set gets very good reviews on Amazon, but like the competing Samsung, it has no Wi-Fi, no 1080p, and just a couple of HDMI ports.

The Ultimate Dadcore Gift Guide for Father’s Day

Dadcore life is about more than just fashion or style. It’s an attitude. A way of being. It’s an ever-ready state of preparedness for what life throws at you—be that a flat tire, malfunctioning router during a Frozen marathon, or mushed up bananas. It’s carrying a multi-purpose backpack instead of a single-use diaper bag. It’s a cold cup of coffee served hot. It’s the enormous pleasure of a small speaker. A warm blanket. A knife. It’s power. So this Father’s Day, treat yourself. Dadcore, yo.

Forget the Turing Test: Here’s How We Could Actually Measure AI

A chatbot pretending to be a 13-year-old Ukrainian boy made waves last weekend when its programmers announced that it had passed the Turing test. But the judges of this test were apparently easily fooled, because any cursory exchange with ‘Eugene Goosterman’ reveals the machine inside the ghost. Maybe the time has come, 60 years after Alan Turing’s death, to discard the idea that imitating human conversation is a good test of artificial intelligence.Screen Shot 2014-06-12 at 9.05.28 AM

“I start my Cognitive Science class with a slide titled ‘Artificial Stupidity,’” said Noah Goodman, director of the computation and cognition lab at Stanford University. “People have made progress on the Turing test by making chatbots quirkier and stupider.” Non-sequiturs, spelling errors, and humor all make a chatbot seem more human. The history of the Loebner prize, an annual Turing test competition, confirms this trend. Last year’s contest was won by a bot named Mitsuku also pretending to be young ESL speaker, a silly Japanese girl.

Even Turing anticipated thttps://thefeeed.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post-new.php#hat evasion might be the most human answer to a hard question:

Q: PLEASE WRITE ME A SONNET ON THE SUBJECT OF THE FORTH BRIDGE.

A : COUNT ME OUT ON THIS ONE. I NEVER COULD WRITE POETRY.

Because humans interact with the world through sight and sound, not strings of letters, a stronger test of human-like intelligence might include speech and image processing. Computer speech and text recognition has improved rapidly in the last twenty years, but are still far from perfect. When asked a question about the Turing test, Apple’s Siri answered about a “touring” test. Bots struggle to decipher squiggly letters, which is why you have to fill out a CAPTCHA(Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart) when you sign up for things like Facebook.

Because humans interact with the world through sight and sound, not strings of letters, a stronger test of human-like intelligence might include speech and image processing. Computer speech and text recognition has improved rapidly in the last twenty years, but are still far from perfect. When asked a question about the Turing test, Apple’s Siri answered about a “touring” test. Bots struggle to decipher squiggly letters, which is why you have to fill out a CAPTCHA(Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart) when you sign up for things like Facebook.

After all, UPS already routes millions of packages a day, hospitals sequence patients’ DNA to find cancer-causing mutations, and Google can in a millisecond report the age at which children begin to recognize their mother. These abilities are ”fricking fantastic, and way beyond the capability of a person,” said Goodman, the computation and cognitive science researcher at Stanford. “So in some sense the programs are super intelligent, super human, but because of our common-sense notion, we say that’s not intelligence, that’s something else.” As functions proliferate, some may become united behind a more flexible user interface and be powered by a deeper corpus. There might be a machine that can teach you a dance that it learned by watching YouTube and diagnose a disease by smelling your breath. You could ask that machine to simulate human behaviors in order to pass the old Turing test, but that would be insulting to everyone’s intelligence.