Sunday Lectures | Facial Recognition, Illegal Drugs, and the Cambrian Explosion

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Sunday Lectures is a weekly roundup of the internet’s most interesting educational videos. Get smarter without getting out of bed.

Computerphile - Geometric Face Recognition

To a computer running facial recognition software, your mouth and eyes are nothing but colors clustered in specific shapes. Here, Dr. Michel Valstar of the University of Nottingham explains how these programs recognize human features in the sea of pixels that is your face.

David Nutt on Making Scientific Decisions About Illegal Drugs

Psychiatrist and neuropsychopharmacologist Dr. David Nutt was dismissed as chairman of the UK Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs in 2009 after arguing that illegal drugs aren’t all that terrible — and could actually be useful for neuroscience research and treatment, as he discusses in this lecture.

What caused the Cambrian explosion?

Until about 542 million years ago, the Earth was a barren place, sparsely populated by simple single-celled organisms. Then, over the next 20 million years — a mere heartbeat in evolutionary time — the Cambrian explosion happened, filling the Earth with the complex life forms we know today. What caused that explosion is still up for debate.

The Ethics of Artificial Intelligence

As Uber’s self-driving cars and Amazon’s delivery drones become a reality, people are starting to worry: Are robots going to take our jobs? Dr. Jeffrey White of KAIST, foreseeing some ethical dilemmas, thinks we should restrict them to jobs of the super-specific variety.

The Science of Six Degrees of Separation

Frigyes Karinthy’s famous theory argues that we’re all friends of friends (…of friends of friends, up to a maximum of six steps). Facebook’s uncannily accurate “people you may know” algorithm may suggest it’s true, but does the theory have a scientific basis?

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