Every week, the BBC Focus magazine solves some doubts of its readers. Below is a selection of their responses for the curious.
Why are we so good at perceiving the tension between two people?
We use all our senses.
We observe facial expressions and body language, we hear as is spoken as much as about what we speak and even use the sense of smell and touch to capture the emotional state of people.
Some of these abilities are innate: we have facial expressions and bodily responses programmed for fear, revulsion, or aggression, and we are good at recognizing these emotions in others.
Much of it is learned: when we see two people trying to hide their problems, we can recognize the way they speak or the distance that separates them from our own experiences or from having seen our friends act in the same way.
Some people are much better than others at this kind of social perception.
Women tend to recognize emotions more easily than men, but we can all hone this ability by paying attention to our own or others’ emotional states.
Why do my ears get warm?
Warming ears are part of the flushing response.
The skin on our face and ears has more capillaries than other parts of the body, and when we are embarrassed, those capillaries open, bringing blood to the surface.
This causes us to turn red and feel hot.
The evolutionary reason for this may be that it is beneficial for us to show the group that we are aware of the social codes.
At what point can you expect robots to be conscious?
In June this year, the University of Reading in England celebrated a «historic milestone» when it hosted an event in which a program designed to simulate intelligent conversation (or chatbot) called Eugene reportedly passed the Turig test, proposed by the mathematician Alan Turig to demonstrate the existence of intelligence in a machine.
The judges believed that Eugene was human a large enough number of times to pass the test.
The university’s announcement was widely criticized, in part because the chatbot was imitating a 13-year-old whose native language was not English, thus setting the bar too low for a conversation that took place through an exchange. of texts.
So, what test can be more rigorous to determine consciousness?
Maybe it could be a development of vision systems. The image recognition technology available today can identify an individual’s face. It detects the face, but that doesn’t mean it «sees» it.
A test of the ability to be conscious might require the machine to discuss the objects and people it «observes» in context.
Could we genetically modify wasps to do the work of bees?
Most wasps are solitary, parasitic insects with very different life cycles from bees.
Wasps, with their black and yellow stripes, resemble bees because it is an evolutionary advantage that two unrelated stinging species emit the same warning signal to birds and other animals that want to eat them (known as as Müllerian mimicry).
There are several social wasps – including the paper wasp or yellow jacket – and the adults sometimes feed on nectar, like bees.
But wasps are only minor pollinators of most plants because their larvae are carnivorous, so the adults spend a good part of their lives foraging for insects, rather than visiting flowers to collect nectar.
By the time you’ve managed to genetically engineer a wasp to give it the enzymes that turn nectar into honey, the wax glands to create waterproof honeycomb, and the larvae that can feed on honey instead of insects, you’ll have created a bee.