Penguins: Spy in the Huddle

Penguins - Spy in the Huddle

PBS premiered a 3-part mini-series called Penguins: Spy in the Huddle on Wednesday night and OH MY GOODNESS IT WAS SO AMUSING! Researchers made animatronic penguin cameras and sent them out to mingle with real penguins to get a better sense of what penguin life is like. Here’s the description of the show from PBS’s website:

For nearly a year, 50 animatronic cameras disguised as realistic life-size penguins, eggs and rocks infiltrate penguin colonies to record the tough challenges penguins face from the moment they emerge from the sea to raising their chicks and finally returning to the water. The intimate, emotional, and sometimes amusing behavior of nature’s most devoted parents bringing up their young against the most extraordinary odds is revealed as never before.

If you missed the first episode, you can stream it online on PBS’s website. The next two parts will be available on PBS over the next two Wednesdays at 8pm.

Honey Badgers: Masters of Mayhem

We already knew honey badgers were badass because of 2011’s “honey badger don’t care!” video, but I now have a ton of admiration for honey badgers thanks to this video about an incredibly smart honey badger named Stoffel:

It’s not really explained in the clip, but the reason why they wanted to keep Stoffel penned up was because he kept terrorizing the lions in an adjacent pen. He’d get bored, break into the lion pen, and chase the lions around. :O

You can watch the full Nature episode, Honey Badgers Masters of Mayhem, on PBS.

Sherlock

I discovered a new BBC TV series yesterday called Sherlock, which is a modern-day version of the Sherlock Holmes stories. If you enjoy House, chances are you would probably also enjoy Sherlock.

There are two seasons with three 1.5-hour-long episodes per season. Season 1 is available on Netflix and also happens to be re-airing on PBS this month. Season 1, Episode 1 aired last Sunday, but is still available on PBS’s website. Episodes 2 and 3 will air tonight and next Sunday night, respectively, at 10pm after Downton Abbey (which is also a very good TV series). Be sure to check it out! 🙂

Jeopardy: The IBM Challenge

For the first time ever on Jeopardy, a machine (named Watson) is competing against human opponents… and they aren’t just any humans, either. Ken Jennings holds the record for the most consecutive Jeopardy wins. Watson’s other opponent, Brad Rutter, has won more money than anyone else in Jeopardy’s history (over $3.2 million dollars).

Jeopardy’s IBM Challenge started last night and will continue tonight and tomorrow night. My husband and I eagerly watched last night’s episode to see how Watson would fare. He did a decent job and ended the night tied with Brad Rutter at $5000 apiece. Ken Jennings had $2000. Watson, however, made a humorous mistake last night when he buzzed in with “the 1920’s” after Ken Jennings had also just incorrectly answered ” the 20’s.” Whoops! 😛

What surprised me was that Watson is not connected to the Internet, so I wonder what Watson’s information database is like. I think it would be interesting to see what he can do with access to the Internet. Also, Watson is currently given the clues in text form. I don’t know if Watson gets the clues immediately, only after Trebek has finished reading them, or if there is some other sort of delay before Watson gets the clue. If Watson gets them immediately, it obviously gives the machine an advantage, because it can begin searching for an answer before the human contestants understand the clue. Human players, on the other hand, would have an advantage over the machine if they are able to see and start thinking about the clues before the machine gets them. It seems like a good solution would be to make Watson able to hear and interpret the clues audibly as the clues are being read and then be given the clues in text form as the clue is being read or after the clue has finished being read. On the other hand, I am sure that any good Jeopardy player must speed read through the clue, rather than listen to Trebek read it. *Shrugs*

Anyway, it was definitely fun to watch last night’s episode and I look forward to watching the two remaining episodes of man vs. machine. 🙂 As someone mentioned on Twitter last night, though, “IBM missed a HUGE comedic opportunity by not programming Watson to sound like Sean Connery.” 😛

EDIT: I found a PBS NOVA program on Watson and I would recommend watching it if you have an hour of free time (I :heart: PBS). Apparently, Watson’s information database consists of 10 million documents (mostly downloaded from the Internet), including encyclopedias (Wikipedia and others), dictionaries, thesauruses, IMDB, The New York Times, The Bible, etc. Watson does not have access to his opponents’ incorrect answers, which is why he repeated Ken Jennings’s response (he does, however, get to hear the correct answers). And, to answer my question from above, Watson gets the clues as soon as they show up on the board.

EDIT 2: Haha, someone suggested a final Jeopardy question of: “What word is displayed in the following captcha?” Funny stuff.