The evolution of faith

A fascinating article in the New York Times magazine a few months ago discussed the evolution of religion. That is, how did religious belief become such an important part of human culture? The answer seems to be that humans are already wired for religion.

The article surveys what we know about how humans think, and how this might predispose us to belief in the supernatural. And the rituals of religion may confer other societal advantages. Which makes being an atheist a bit of a challenge, even in our enlightened age.

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Streaming through the feeds

I.B.M. to Show Stream Computing System

In stream computing, advanced software algorithms analyze the data as it streams in. Text, voice and image-recognition technology, for example, can be used to determine that some data is more relevant to a particular problem than others. The priority data is then shuttled off into a program tailored to work on complex, fast-changing problems like tracking an epidemic and predicting its spread, or culling data from electronic sensors in a computer chip plant to quickly correct flaws in manufacturing.

The initial system runs on about 800 microprocessors, though it can scale up to tens of thousands as needed, I.B.M. said. The most notable step, researchers say, lies in the System S software, which enables software applications to split up tasks like image recognition and text recognition, and then reassemble the pieces of the puzzle into an answer.