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Infants Believe In Fairness, Until Resources Are Scarce

Infants just 18 months old expect people will treat others fairly, as monkeys do. Unfortunately, at the same age they also expect people to favor those like them over those who are different. These two ideas come in conflict, and which one triumphs depends on whether there is enough to go around. Basing our ethics on the views of infants may be unwise, but it’s certainly worth knowing where we come from as we try to work out the best way to allocate resources. Getting very young children to allocate resources is hard, so Stanford University’s Dr Lin Bian tested expectations instead. She had 18-month-old infants and 30-month-old toddlers watch puppet shows where cookies were allocated. It’s long been established that very young children will stare longer at things that surprise them than those that align with expectations. Therefore, when allocations didn’t match expectations, the children’s surprise could be measured in the time they spent watching. In Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Bian tested responses when witnessing divisions between two puppets, made by a third puppet. If a monkey puppet was distributing three cookies between themselves, another monkey, and a giraffe, the children showed signs of puzzlement if the allocator showed species bias by giving two cookies to the other monkey and none to the giraffe. The same was true in the reverse case when a giraffe made the distribution. However, when there were only two cookies between the three puppets, expectations reversed. The children expected the monkey to keep one cookie for itself and give the other to the other monkey. The divider monkey sacrificing their own cookie for the giraffe induced surprise. There was even more astonishment if a puppet favored the other species over its kin. The work builds on previous studies where children as young as 10 months stared in surprise when windfalls were divided unevenly between equally deserving individuals. Similarly, at 15-16 months children have been shown to choose someone who has divided goods fairly over someone who has given more to one person than others. The fact that both fairness and in-group favoritism appear to be innate, or learned very early, is an important observation. Arguably, many elections come down to one side arguing for a fairer deal for all, while the other wants to give more to members of the portion of the population with which they identify (be it a tribe, race, or class) even if this is often disguised. Not everyone’s views on these matters will be fixed by the age of two and a half, but Bian’s work implies people will be more inclined to support even sharing when they think there is enough to go around.As any Daredevil fan can tell you, humans with impaired vision can learn the incredible ability to “see” the world around them through echolocation. Using a series of clicking noises to bounce sound waves off nearby objects, they are able to build a “mental image” of their surroundings by listening to the subtle sound of their click’s echo, much like a bat or a whale. A team led by scientists at the University of Durham in the UK have recently been studying this “superhuman” ability and discovered that humans are actually surprisingly good at it, with an ability to subconsciously adjust their clicks to suit different environments. Their findings were recently published in The Proceedings of the Royal Society B. One of the authors of the study is Daniel Kish – aka “the remarkable batman” – who was born blind but has since managed to master the art of echolocation. He has also established the nonprofit World Access For The Blind. “[Clicks] are flashes of sound that go out and reflect from surfaces all around me, just like a bat’s sonar, and return to me with patterns, with pieces of information, much as light does for you,” Kish explained in his 2015 TED talk (video below). “My brain… has been activated to form images in my visual cortex, which we call the imaging system, from those patterns of information. I call this process flash sonar.”  For this new research, the team gathered eight blind participants who use echolocation in their everyday life. In a small, sound-deadening foam room, they were put to the test to see how accurately they could identify the direction of a disc that was 100 centimeters (3.3 feet) away.\ When the disc was straight in front of them at mouth level, they could detect it with 100 percent accuracy. The main takeaway from this study was that people’s clicks intensified and became more rapid if the object was at an angle to them. Their success rate decreased to an average accuracy of 80 percent with angles of 135 degrees. This decreased further to 50 percent when the disk was directly behind them. “Our results clearly demonstrate that people, just like bats, adjust their emissions to situational demands,” the study authors note. “Our results are, to our knowledge, the first to demonstrate that human echolocators adjust their sound emission strategies to improve sensory sampling, highlighting the dynamic nature of the echolocation process in humans. As previous studies and anecdotal evidence have shown, the echolocation skills of some blind people are so finely tuned that they can identify an object’s shape, size, distance, and material just by making a few clicks. It’s an undeniable skill, one that’s a testament to the incredible flexibility of the human brain.Welcome to 2018, where the prospect of wars in space could be just a “matter of years away,” according to a top dog in the US Air Force. If the US wants to hold on to their geopolitical dominance, he added, they need to promptly establish a military presence in space. Eep.  David L Goldfein, a General in the US Air Force who currently serves as the Air Force Chief of Staff, recently made these bold assertions at the Air Force Association’s 34th annual Air Warfare Symposium and Technology Exposition in Orlando, Florida, as reported by Air Force Magazine. “I believe we’re going to be fighting from space in a matter of years,” General Goldfein told the crowd of active servicemen. “And we are the service that must lead joint war fighting in this new contested domain. This is what the nation demands.” “It is time for us as a service, regardless of specialty badge, to embrace space superiority with the same passion and sense of ownership as we apply to air superiority today,” he added. As startling as the claim sounds, this is not just arm-swaggering military rhetoric. The Air Force has requested an 18 percent increase in funding for space technology in its upcoming budget, according to Space News. This amounts to a five-year investment of $44.3 billion on the development and deployment of space systems.In Summer last year, the US Armed Forces floated the idea of creating a Space Corps, a new branch of the Air Force tasked with establishing a military presence in space. While the initial plans were originally scrapped, experts say the idea is still not totally off the table. “This issue is not dead at all,” Todd Harrison, defense budget analyst and director of the Aerospace Security Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told The Hill in 2017. “I think [Space Corps] is inevitable, as in within my lifetime.” Way back in 1967, the United Nations recognized “The common interest of all mankind in the progress of the exploration and use of outer space,” adding that other planets must be explored and used “exclusively for peaceful purposes”. Despite this, the militarization of space became a recurring theme during the Cold War between the US and the Soviet Union. While these plans never properly came to fruition, it looks like we could be on the ve
rge of another resurgence of the idea. Despite some media reports calling Colossus the largest male funnel web spider the park has ever seen, it seems he doesn’t quite match up to Big Boy, who was introduced to Australian Reptile Park in 2016. Big Boy was a whopper with a leg span of 10 centimeters (or 4 inches), according to this report in the BBC. Colossus was found on the Central Coast before he was handed into the park. According to Liz Gabriel, head of Australian Reptile Park, “The beginning of the year is always the peak time when funnel web spiders are out and about.” A recent spell of rainy weather has been particularly attractive to the creepy critters, she added. In the wild, funnel web spiders inhabit Australia’s rainforests and wet sclerophyll forests. Closer to home, they can be found lurking in cool, damp patches, such as a well-vegetated garden or laundry room. The funnel web spider, named after its unusual-shaped web, might not be Australia’s biggest spider – that accolade goes to the giant huntsman spider, an absolute goliath in the arachnid world. However, the funnel web spider is the country’s deadliest. Its venom can take down a human in just 15 minutes. Luckily for Australia, no one has died from a funnel web spider bite since 1981, the year anti-venom became available. As for Colossus, he has a very important job to do. He will be enlisted on the park’s anti-venom program, which involves 200 to 300 other funnel spiders. Males are milked for their raw venom, which is used to create anti-venom. Last year, the scheme oversaw 3,500 milkings. This year, they hope to do better and increase that number to 5,000.

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