Summaries – americangods01

1) It seems counterintuitive that among what we know as a species could lie two or more entirely separate species but it is apparently the case.

Through DNA sequencing, researchers like Markus Pfenninger and Klaus Schwenk, are able analyze the genetic information of a species and find “cryptic species“, species that were previously unknown without DNA analysis, and classify and define the populations. It is estimated that the percentage of cryptic species could be as high as 30%. In five to ten years, a complete work of fish and birds could be used to accurately estimate how many cryptic species exist throughout the animal kingdom.

The DNA sequencing technology is a relatively inexpensive way of increasing our knowledge on biodiversity, infectious diseases and evolution. With this technology, we have already found a cryptic species in the African elephant and found that they were vulnerable to extinction.

2) It seems counterintuitive that by verifying that you are a human online, you are helping to digitize human knowledge. Luis von Ahn and his team of professionals developed a web security system called Captcha to protect websites from programs that could artificially register for these websites millions of times. To verify that you are a human being signing up for this website, Captcha simply asks you type a random assortment of characters from an image, something that computers cannot do. To make this program productive instead of wasting millions of peoples’ 10 seconds, von Anh  reworked Captcha into reCaptcha. Instead of typing random character, the person using the reCaptcha types random words which are used to assist word recognition technology that is currently digitizing books.

3) It seems counterintuitive that we like babies because they are cute but instead babies are cute because we like them. Along with things like sweetness and sexiness, Dan Dennett uses Darwin’s theory of evolution to explain why things are sweet, sexy, and cute. Glucose is a chemical that can be broken down and used for energy. There is no inherent sweetness to glucose but it is necessary for our bodies and because of that, we do not like glucose because it is sweet, glucose is sweet because we like it. The same goes for babies. Because we need to take care of them, their cuteness is attractive.

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