Understanding causality

Recently we have had some studies showing the remarkable intelligence of crows as problem solvers and their ability to use tools. Given this information, it was thought that they would also be good at inferring causal relationships. But as often happens, we find that intelligence is not a simple thing and that success in one aspect of it does not necessarily transfer to other areas.
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More scientists behaving badly

Science depends on its practitioners behaving ethically. This is important for three reasons. One is because scientists depend upon each other’s work and fraud in one area can really mess up the work of those who use those results. Another is because science has acquired a hard-won credibility with the public that has to be preserved so that those who deny the scientific consensus on important questions like climate change and vaccinations are not given ammunition to claim that science cannot be trusted. And the third is because much of science depends on public funding and that can be threatened by misconduct.
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The obesity conundrum

America seems to be obsessed with the issue of obesity. Hardly a week goes by without this being mentioned as a serious public health crisis and that urgent measures need to be adopted to combat it. One can hardly blame people who do not fit into the perceived body-size norm for feeling beleaguered by society’s pressures and feeling that they have to take all manner of measures, even extreme ones, to try and lose weight. But as I wrote last year, there a lot of myths surrounding weight and weight loss that work against the idea that losing weight and keeping it off is a straightforward matter.
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Computer passes Turing test for the first time?

[UPDATE: Other computer scientists are saying that the computer actually failed the test, and badly.]

People who have interacted with Siri, the helpful guide on the iPhone, are usually impressed with her ability to carry on what seems like a normal conversation. But it is not hard to discover that you are talking to a computer. How good would ‘she’ have to be to completely fool you?
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How a dishwasher works

A dishwasher is the most mysterious domestic appliance. You shut the door, turn it on, hear the sounds of sloshing water, and the dishes appear clean. I had assumed that it was something like a clothes washing machine in that it filled the container with water and then churned it around. But I noticed that our new dishwasher seemed to go into the sloshing sound mode pretty quickly, long before there would be time to fill the volume. So I was glad to come across this video where someone had placed a camera inside the dishwasher to reveal its secrets.
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The conjunction fallacy

Rob Brooks asks you to take a pop quiz:

When Jack was young, he began inflicting harm on animals. It started with just pulling the wings off flies, but eventually progressed to torturing squirrels and stray cats in his neighbourhood.

As an adult, Jack found that he did not get much thrill from harming animals, so he began hurting people instead. He has killed 5 homeless people that he abducted from poor neighbourhoods in his home city. Their dismembered bodies are currently buried in his basement.

Now, knowing what I have just told you about Jack, is it more probable that Jack is: A) A teacher. Or B) A teacher who does not believe in God?

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