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Tuesday August 14th 2018

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News of the Weird 8/9/18

By the Editors at Andrews McMeel

Suspicions Confirmed Among the gazillion other products and services available from Amazon is the behemoth’s facial recognition software, Rekognition, marketed as providing extremely accurate facial analysis. But when the American Civil Liberties Union gave it a go, the results were startling. Using Rekognition, the ACLU scanned photos of every current member of the U.S. House and Senate and came up with 28 matches to a mug shot database of people who had been arrested for crimes. The ACLU announced its findings July 26 and admitted it used Amazon’s default settings, to which Amazon responded, “While 80 percent confidence is an acceptable threshold for photos of hot dogs, chairs, animals or other social media use cases,” Amazon would advise customers to set the threshold at 95 percent or higher for law enforcement. The ACLU told NPR that the legislators who were falsely matched were men, women, Republicans and Democrats of all ages. However, the software did misidentify people of color at a higher rate.

Weird Science You thought you were old? You’re just a twinkle in a nematode’s eye. Russian scientists have revived two ancient, frozen roundworms, or nematodes, from samples collected in Siberian permafrost, The Siberian Times reported on July 26. The worms, which were found in cores taken from 30 meters and 3.5 meters deep, are believed to be female and 41,700 and 32,000 years old, respectively. After collecting the samples, scientists slowly thawed out the worms, which eventually started eating and moving. Scientists from the Institute of Physico-Chemical and Biological Problems of Soil Science in Moscow believe the nematodes have some adaptive mechanisms that may be of scientific importance.

Florida. Need We Say More? During a July 23 debate among mayoral candidates in Key West, Florida, Sloan Bashinsky, a perennial contender, took a minute to answer a call from God. “Hello? What? God?” Bashinsky said, speaking into his cellphone. According to FLKeys News, it wasn’t the first time he’s heard from a higher power: “I have said every time I ran, I ran because God told me to run,” Bashinsky explained. “I think anyone who wants this job is insane.” Bashinsky has a law degree from Vanderbilt University and was once among the island’s homeless. He joins six other candidates on the ticket.

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