Things 70: Spiral, Parking, Rats

When looking at animal intelligence (or indeed artificial intelligence) we tend to set arbitrary high bars for what we consider to qualify as ‘true’ intelligence (recall Roger Puffin’s rebuttal of Artificial Flight). That said, I’m not actually convinced that this experiment, in which rats play the Prisoner’s Dilemma, can be interpreted as demonstrating anything other than understanding a basic set of rules and causal connections. It’s still interesting though.

Phil: Doing stupid things can have certain positive beneficial effects.

In December 2009, a fascinating phenomenon was observed in Norway. If you’ve not already seen it, see if you can guess what caused it before reading more.

Actually just an animated GIF:

Last Week’s Puzzle

Last week I asked why my mobile might need to recharge more frequently after I’ve moved house.

Tarim pointed out that phones monitor available signal strength and adjust power output accordingly, so if my new house has worse reception the phone will boost its power and so run out of charge more quickly. Miranda pointed out that changing who you live with might have an effect on who you phone regularly, so changing how much you use the phone from day to day. Xuan, Alam and Yasmin all independently suggested that the new house might not have a landline and so I would use my mobile more often. Xuan also suggests the phone’s battery may happened to fall “terminally ill” at the same time as the move and there was nothing causal about it. An impressive range of plausible answers!

However, signal strength is about the same in my new place, I have a landline, the battery is as good as ever, and although my use of the phone did increase due to the new flatmate situation, there was a bigger effect (which Tarim later guessed): commuting via the tube instead of walking. This results in an extremely acute version of the low-signal-causes-power-boost feature Tarim had described. If I switch my phone off before going underground and on when I re-emerge, one charge lasts about as long as it ever did.

(This might seem a pretty obscure answer to the problem, but I suspect it’s quite relevant to people living in London, particularly those with power-hungry smartphones).