This week’s Feedback column (that I write) in New Scientist magazine has four segments. Here are bits of each of them:
- Al’s AI ailment — AI spells trouble for all the Alanas, Alannas, Alannahs, Alainnas, Alans, Alains, Allans, Allens, Alens, Alins, Aluns and other persons whose names begin with the letter pair “A then L” or the pair “A then I”. The eye-ell typography equivalence problem ails them all. Alan (Al) McWilliam tells Feedback about his personal distress from reading about artificial intelligence: “I would like to draw your attention to a concerning issue where, in the majority of typefaces, the abbreviation for artificial intelligence (AI) looks alarmingly like the shortened version of my (and many others’) name, Al. Imagine my trepidation opening the 29 July issue [of New Scientist] with the title ‘Living with Al’! The issue includes ‘What Al can do to make your life easier’, ‘Why Al is about to transform the economy’ and ‘The biggest scientific challenges that Al is already tackling‘. Finally, the most concerning: ‘Can Al ever become conscious?‘” ….
- Pulling teeth — If you first take 33 teeth – each removed from its original home inside some human mouth – then stain every one with coffee, then, finally, on each tooth apply either a “charcoal-based tooth whitening dentifrice” or a “non-charcoal-based whitening dentifrice” to try to remove the coffee stains, you will discover something. Aldridge Fernandes and Rupali Agnihotri, both at the Manipal Academy of Higher Education, India, did those things. They discovered, they say, that “a charcoal-based tooth-whitener does not make a tooth appreciably whiter than a non-charcoal-based tooth-whitener”….
- Sweet treat — A piece of i-candy – intellectual candy – is the first thing you will see when you read a paper called “Corrosion resistance of orthodontic wire made of Gold 18K alloy in artificial saliva in the presence of éclairs milky candy“. Written by a team in India and Serbia, it appears in the International Journal of Corrosion and Scale Inhibition….
- Lambe to slaughter — Nominative determinism sometimes leads to poignant explorations. Pam Ross alerted Feedback to the existence of Nicola Lambe, who does research on sheep breeding. Lambe’s latest publication explores a potential future happy phase of life for lambs: motherhood. But the report’s title also obliquely mentions a grim alternative fate: dinner. Lambe’s study is called “Genetic associations of ewe body condition score and lamb rearing performance in extensively managed meat sheep“….