Unbelievable Real Life

Do You Find Artificial Intelligence Creepy? Meet Nadine

Image Credit: Oliver Brandt/www.freeimages.com

Image Credit: Oliver Brandt/www.freeimages.com

By Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

Confession time. I don’t like Siri—the voice that speaks to you from iPhones.

I probably should. I love the concept of artificial intelligence. Data from TNG and The Doctor from Voyager were two of my favorite Star Trek characters.

But I just don’t like her.

I’m sure part of it has to do with how my husband delights in demonstrating what happens when he asks Siri to marry him.

Perhaps it’s also that I worry what will happen if I’m wrong about humans’ inability to create sentience in robots. What will happen if we ever do break that barrier? Very often humans create, invent, and explore before we’ve sufficiently considered the consequences of our actions. (That’s another post for another time, I suppose.)

But I think my dislike of Siri (and her non-Apple compatriots) mainly has to do with the fact that Siri, for all her programming, always translates to my brain as slightly off, not quite human but trying to pretend to be.

In other words, she’s creepy.

So when I saw this video from SciShow about what could be causing my reaction to Siri and her embodied friends, I knew I wanted to share it here. Because if I thought Siri was creepy, she’s got nothing on Nadine.

What do you think about Siri? Or about Nadine? Creepy, cool, or a combination of the two?

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Unbelievable Real Life: Caves Under Our Cities

By Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

Recently I’ve been researching what life is like in the oceans (I’m thinking about writing a book involving an underwater society), and I stumbled across this video. I wanted to share it because of the spectacular images the speaker shares. And listen carefully near the end of the video where she talks about what she’s dived under. Some of the caves she’s mapped run under populated areas. It reminded me about how little we really know about our world.

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Unbelievable Real Life: Underwater Art Museum

Image Credit: Alex Furr/www.freeimages.com

Image Credit: Alex Furr/www.freeimages.com

By Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

I’ve been to museums across the world, from Australia, to Europe, to Canada and the United States. I’ve never been to a museum under water. Until I saw this video, I didn’t even know something like this existed.

When I watched this video, full of fantastic images of how submerged sculptures are changed as the ocean reclaimed them, a few thoughts crossed my mind. I’ll let you watch first before I share my reactions.

My first thought was “how does someone come up with an idea like this?” It seems like a melding of creativity and a desire to change the world. Part of deCaires mission is to bring attention to the danger our oceans are in. Art is for entertainment, but art can also send a message. I believe it can change hearts and minds in a way that non-fiction never can. That’s a part of why I write fiction.

My second thought, I’ll admit, was much less deep. The sculptures were both beautiful and grotesque. I started to wonder what it would have been like if we’d found these sculptures, not knowing who put them there or why. What would we have concluded about the culture and people behind them? What would we decide about how they’d come to be there?

Perhaps there’s a story idea in there somewhere :)

What did you think when you watched this video?

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5 Creepy Sea Animals You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

By Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

Welcome back to my unbelievable real life feature. Usually I focus on a single weird place or creature in our world, but today I thought it might be fun to give you a list of five incredibly strange underwater animals.

#1 – The Red-Lipped Bat Fish

Red-lipped_Bat_fish

This odd-looking fellow hails from the Galapagos Islands, and he’s such a terrible swimmer that he actually walks along the ocean floor instead. I suspect that’s why he looks so grumpy. The other fish probably tease him.

#2 – The Goblin Shark

Goblin Shark

Goblin sharks average 10-13 feet long at maturity, but they’d probably send any swimmer heading straight for shore even if they were half that size. Fortunately, they’re a deep sea shark, preferring to live 330 feet or more under water.

#3 – Japanese Spider Crab

Japanese_spider_crab_(15340536895)

“What’s so cool about this one?” you might ask. Well, you can’t tell from this picture, but this spider crab stands as tall as a man, weighs around 42 pounds fully grown, and if you made him stretch out his legs (good luck with that), he’s 12 feet from claw to claw.

#4 – The Blue Dragon

Blue_dragon-glaucus_atlanticus_(8599051974)Glaucus_atlant.

I had to include extra images of this one because it’s just so beautiful. It’s also called a blue angel or a sea swallow, but officially it’s categorized as a sea slug. A rose by any other name I suppose. Unfortunately, along with being beautiful, the blue dragon is also venomous.

#5 – Sea Pig

Sea Pig

I couldn’t find a better image to use here legally, but you can see a real-life image of the sea pig at this link. Sea pigs have tubes of their top and their bottom that they can inflate and deflate. Technically, they’re a sea cucumber, which sounds even more strange than calling the blue dragon a sea slug because these sea pigs definitely look more like uncooked sausages than they do like vegetables. They’re one of the few underwater creatures that uses the sense of smell to locate food.

Which one of these five is your favorite? It’s probably no secret that mine is the blue dragon :)

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IMAGE CREDITS:

Bat Fish
By Rein Ketelaars (Flickr: DSCN1938.jpg) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Goblin Shark
By Dianne Bray / Museum Victoria [CC BY 3.0 au (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/au/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons

Japanese Spider Crab
By Takashi Hososhima from Tokyo, Japan (Japanese spider crab) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Blue Dragon
By Sylke Rohrlach from Sydney (Blue dragon-glaucus atlanticus) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By Imtorn (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Sea Pig
By Lindberg [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

50 Years Ago This Island Didn’t Exist

By Worldtraveller at en.wikipedia (Transferred from en.wikipedia) [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], from Wikimedia Commons

By Worldtraveller at en.wikipedia (Creative Commons License)

By Marcy Kennedy (@marcykennedy)

Welcome back to my unbelievable real life feature.

One of the great myths is Atlantis–the advanced civilization whose island sank into the ocean.

Although Atlantis is a myth, an island actually exists in our world that appeared and is now disappearing.

Surtsey formed between 1963 and 1967 from volcanic eruptions off the coast of Iceland. Originally, it grew to around a mile square, and plant and animal life moved in. In the years since its formation, however, Surtsey has shrunk by half.

I think that’s fascinating just as a fact, but for those of us who are writers, Surtsey can be great idea-fodder.

What if a new island formed near an overpopulated region? What kind of conflict might arise over that land?

What if our character’s society won that battle, but now it’s 100 years later and their island is shrinking? And what if no one will believe her about the danger?

What if our character is a modern-day myth-hunter trying to prove that Atlantis really did exist and an island like Surtsey provides him with the final clue of where to find the true Atlantis?

If you ever feel low on ideas, search the world around us. Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.

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Would You Be a Mermaid If You Could?

By Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

Welcome back to my unbelievable real life feature. Today I’m taking a look at one of the most unusual “schools” I’ve ever heard of–mermaid school.

Apparently, mermaid schools are cropping up all over–in the Philippines, in Germany, and even in Canada. While it’s never been a dream of mine to be a mermaid (though swimming underwater with sea creatures is extremely appealing), I’d love to try this for the workout.

Does being a mermaid appeal to you? If you had the opportunity, would you try out mermaid school–if for no other reason than that it’s supposedly a good workout?

If you like suspense, I hope you’ll take a look at my ebook Frozen (it’s only 99 cents). Twisted sleepwalking. A frozen goldfish in a plastic bag. And a woman afraid she’s losing her grip on reality.

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Unbelievable Real Life: Skeleton Flowers

Skeleton FlowersBy Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

Welcome back to my unbelievable real life feature where I show you places, animals, and other oddities from our world that look like they stepped right out of the pages of a fantasy novel.

Today I wanted to show you the Diphylleia grayi–a plant commonly known as the Skeleton Flower. The name conjures up creepy images of a flower made of bone, but it’s actually more beautiful than creepy.

Most of the time, the Diphylleia grayi looks like a plain white flower. Not very interesting. But, when it rains, their white petals turn clear as fragile glass and their veins run through like white bones. They grow naturally only in the cold wooded mountainsides of Japan and China, but you can buy them in North America to plant in your garden.

Take a look!

What do you think? Would you plant a Skeleton Flower in your garden?

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Unbelievable Real Life: A Waterfall of Blood

By Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

Welcome back to the first Unbelievable Real Life feature of 2015!

Because we’re stuck in the doldrums of winter, I thought it might be a good time to explore some very cool wintery spots (no pun intended…well, maybe a little). If we’re going to be buried under mounds of snow, we might as well make the best of it.

Today I’m taking you to Antarctica where Taylor Glacier seems to spew a waterfall of blood.

Image Credit: Mike Martoccia (CC License)

Image Credit: Mike Martoccia (CC License)

Glaciologists and microbiologists finally figured out that the likeliest cause of this phenomenon is an underground lake where the water has a high iron content. As the water interacts with the air around it, the iron starts to rust, making the water look like blood.

Image Credit: Zina Deretsky / US National Science foundation (NSF)

Image Credit: Zina Deretsky / US National Science foundation (NSF)

Have you seen something strange or unusual this winter?

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Star Trek Universal Translator Coming Soon?

By Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

Image Credit: Natalia Pankova (www.freeimage.com)

Image Credit: Natalia Pankova (www.freeimage.com)

According to this article on Geek.com, we might not be that far away from a Star Trek-like universal translator.

On May 27th, 2014, Microsoft publicly demonstrated for the first time a new feature they’re developing for Skype called Skype Translator. This will allow Skype users to talk in their own language and for the listener to hear a real-time translation in their own language. So, if you needed to do business with someone in Germany, and you only spoke English, Skype Translator would make it possible for you to talk to each other.

This program is still in the early stages, so I’d imagine the translations it’s able to produce right now have about the same accuracy of Google Translate and that the speech interpreter needs to be “trained” to your voice in the same way Dragon speech-to-text software does. Despite all this, I can’t help but see how it’s brought us one step closer to the very cool universal translators that make possible communication between races in Star Trek.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to one day be able to travel without worrying about the language barrier thanks to an app on your cell phone?

What do you think? Would a universal translator be a good thing or a bad one? And do you think it will ever be refined to the point where it’s able to quickly and accurately translate speech for us?

My ebook Frozen: Two Suspenseful Short Stories is on sale for 99 cents over the summer.

Twisted sleepwalking.
A frozen goldfish in a plastic bag.
And a woman afraid she’s losing her grip on reality.

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Unbelievable Real Life: Arctic Aliens in Lapland, Finland

By Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

Welcome back to my Unbelievable Real Life feature, where I showcase weird creatures and offbeat places on our planet that seem like they should belong in a fantasy or science fiction story. Today we’re going to the icy world of Lapland, Finland, to look at frozen alien worms.

I was generously granted permission from the photographer, Niccolo Bonfadini, to show you these images. If you want to see more of his spectacular photography, you can find it on his site at www.niccolobonfadini.com.

Lapland Arctic Sentinels Niccolo Bonfadini

Image Credit: Niccolo Bonfadini

 

Finnish Forest Niccolo Bonfadini

Image Credit: Niccolo Bonfadini

The first time I saw these pictures, they made me think of frozen versions of the sand worm in Beetlejuice.

It turns out these are actually trees. In Lapland, the temperatures drop as low as -40 in the dead of winter. Ice and snow encase the trees and create these frozen aliens.

If you saw these figures while traipsing across the snowy plains and you didn’t know what they were, would you be brave enough to go find out?

Wondering what this blog is all about? On Tuesdays, I cover something science fiction or fantasy related. On Thursdays, I talk writing. I’d love to have you sign up to receive my posts by email. All you need to do is enter your email address below and hit the “Follow” botton.

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