Is Pluto a planet? The Spanish government’s tax portal indicates that it is


Josie Ford

guess the planet

Commenters have always been mildly skeptical of requests to click images of bikes and fire hydrants to prove we’re not a robot. Granted, no one has ever seen an algorithm riding a bike, but when the shape-shifting terminator robots finally arrive, they’ll likely take on innocent shapes like fire hydrants. Maybe you should know one.

At least they won’t be able to get social security benefits in Spain. Genís Cardona from Solsona, Catalonia, reports accessing an official Spanish government portal for tax and social services and being asked to answer a quiz question: “Which of the following is a planet?” A banana; B. Pluto; C. Scissors; D. Bee”.

A decade and a half later, Pluto’s controversial demotion from the planet is clearly still relevant in some quarters. Like Genís, we appreciate the spirit of this open challenge to the edicts of the International Astronomical Union. Come to think of it, does anyone know which side the robots are on?

stunning bird

Our mention of “New Zealand’s most boring tūī” (January 1) prompts Matthew Arozian to write from Baltimore, Maryland, with the profound insight that the Carolina Wren – Thryothorus ludovicianus, one savors on the tongue – weighs around 18 to 22 grams but produces cries of up to 110 decibels.

He asks us to imagine the cacophonous circus of a brood learning to fly right outside his home office window. We close our eyes, quickly reopen them and sympathize. Mind you, the transcendent benefits to our well-being of being in and connected with nature are well known, Matthew. Call it home delivery.

Polly the marinated parrot

To keep up with our feathered foes, our Australasia correspondent Alice Klein provides an addendum to our article last week on alcohol abuse in the animal kingdom with the story from Broome Veterinary Hospital in Kimberley, Australia, which ABC News reported in December was dealing with a wave of red. – winged parrots apparently got drunk on fermenting mangoes.

As Michael Considine, a biologist at the University of Western Australia, has pointed out, the volatile compounds released by the fermentation of fallen mangoes attract birds, encouraging them to spread the plant’s seeds – even if, by bumping into each other. against windows, falling and generally sitting around dazed and vulnerable to predators, parrots’ own chances of survival aren’t exactly improved.

Evolution in the raw, and a reminder to the rest of us not to drink and steal.

I can not find the words

The Guardian reports rage and distress over copycat app versions of the Wordle online word game that attack the original’s innocent ethos of freedom from both burden and data hoover. For those who haven’t fallen down that rabbit hole yet, Wordle confronts its players with a blank set of five letters to fill in, giving them six attempts to arrive at the five-letter word the computer was thinking of, once told if their letters appear in this word.

As Fields Medal-winning mathematician Tim Gowers has pointed out, this gamifies entropy in the information-theoretic sense, as the information required to specify a given object. That makes it Solid Science, but Feedback has now fallen down the rabbit hole deep down the rabbit hole with Sweardle, a game that does the same thing with a more limited set of four-letter words, and Letterle, which gives maximum of 26 will guess a single letter. We know this is all contributing to the heat death of the universe, but we can’t stop now.

Tin lid on

So, many thanks to those of you who wrote with more or less pleasure and distress during our devilishly difficult holiday word search with the names of all known fundamental particles, chemical elements and acids amino acids that make up the proteins of life (December 18/25, 2021, p 43). We’re treating it like a slow-burning abvent calendar – a term we just coined, and we’re waiting for letters about it – finding one a day at the end of Christmas.

For those of you whose year is starting even slower, we pass on Bob Ladd’s query, which we consider to express both joy and distress, asking how you could design the same word search without accidental occurrences of TIN – apart from those required in TIN and ASTATINE, say. Sounds like a case for information entropy theory to us. And in response to Mike Clark’s question, we don’t know yet if it’s SULFUR or SULFUR either.

whale units

Still in holiday mode, Harry Lagoussis writes from Athens regarding our claim that a piece of ambergris, or ancient whale poop, the size of a human head “could net you £50,000 or more” (18/ December 25, 2021, p 56).

“Does that make ‘asshole’ the standard unit of ambergris volume?” And, perhaps more importantly, if 1 asshole = £50,000, does that justify using the same unit when discussing the global financial system, celebrity net worth, etc.? ? ” he asks. At a punt, it’s no and no, but we’ll ask our ever-watchful sub-editors. And with that, we leave the room on tiptoe.

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