Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s proof that Superman’s glasses would’ve hidden his alter-ego

We may be closer than ever to answering a question that has troubled comic-book fans for decades: just how does Superman’s alter-ego, Clark Kent, get away with such a flimsy disguise?

Finally, researchers at the University of York have been able to show that small alterations to a person’s appearance, such as wearing glasses, can significantly hinder positive facial identification.

While the research has the ability to settle arguments over whether Clark Kent’s disguise is sufficient – and kill dead a million awful comedian’s jokes on the subject – the research does have some serious implications as well.

“The question of whether the inhabitants of Metropolis could be realistically deceived by Superman’s simple disguise has been rumbling since the comic books first arrived on the stands, but the question becomes a serious one when applied to real-world security issues,” said Dr Robin Kramer from the University of York’s Department of Psychology.

“When a security guard checks a passport photo against the person standing in front of them, they do not have the luxury of familiarity with that face, as Lois does with Superman/Clark Kent. This is something we wanted to investigate further, because we know from previous studies that people are relatively poor at matching faces in various guises when the person is unfamiliar to them.”

Image and featured image courtesy of DC Comics

Image and featured image courtesy of DC Comics

The test that was used to prove glasses can impact how one person is distinguished from another involved showing participants a number of faces in various ‘natural’ poses.

The participants were then asked to decide whether each pair of images showed the same person or not.

Images were shown in three categories – pairs of faces that wore glasses, images where neither person wore glasses and photographs where only one person wore glasses.

In cases where both of the faces wore glasses or where neither wore glasses, accuracy was around 80%. However, when only one of the two faces wore glasses, performance was approximately 6% lower, a statistically significant decrease.

Image courtesy of Warner Bros

Image courtesy of Warner Bros

The results suggest that people generally find it difficult to correctly match unfamiliar and uncontrolled face images, but they are significantly worse when glasses are worn by only one of the faces.

“In real terms, glasses would not prevent Lois recognising that Clark is in fact Superman as she is familiar with him.  For those who do not know him, however, this task is much more difficult, and our results show that glasses do disrupt our ability to recognise the same unfamiliar person from photo-to-photo,” said Dr Kay Ritchie from the University of York’s Department of Psychology.

“We hope that this research can be used by legal authorities to help inform future policies on identification for security purposes, particularly in the UK where individuals who normally wear glasses are required to remove them for their identification cards.”

The research, Disguising Superman: How glasses affect unfamiliar face matching, is published in Applied Cognitive Psychology.

Australian Prime Minister demands end to encryption

The Australian government has proposed legislation that would force messaging apps like WhatsApp to decrypt encrypted messages. “The laws of mathematics are very commendable, but the only law that applies in Australia is the law of Australia," said Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Source: Independent

James Murdoch joins Tesla's board

Tesla has announced that it will add two independent directors to its board, including 21st Century Fox CEO James Murdoch. The additions have been announced just a few months after Tesla confirmed it was seeking to add independent directors without ties to CEO and founder Elon Musk.

Source: Tech Crunch

T.Rex wasn't capable of moving beyond a brisk walk

Scientists have concluded the size and weight of a T. Rex would have prevented it from moving faster than 20km/h. The scientists used a computer simulation to assess the dinosaur's speed, and found that if it had of moved from a brisk walk to a sprint, its legs would have snapped under the weight of its body.

Source: BBC

Samsung's Bixby virtual assistant now available in the US

Samsung has officially rolled out its Bixby voice assistant to S8 and S8 Plus owners in the US, so every American with one of the flagship phones can now talk to their very own virtual assistant. However, it's not currently clear when Bixby will be available in other English-speaking countries or other languages.

Source: Engadget

SpaceX says it can reuse rockets within 24 hours by 2018

Elon Musk has been detailing how SpaceX plans to be refurbishing and reusing Falcon 9 rocket boosters within a 24-hour turnaround window by 2018. At the ISS R&D conference on Wednesday, Musk said that the company already has a technical path in place to achieve the goal.

Source: Tech Crunch

Musk says he has approval for New York to Washington DC tunnel

Elon Musk has been commenting on the future of The Boring Company, his tunnel-digging endeavor. Musk took to Twitter to claim that he had, “Just received verbal govt approval for The Boring Company to build an underground NY-Phil-Balt-DC Hyperloop. NY-DC in 29 mins.”

Source: Ars Technica

You can now explore the International Space Station with Google Street View

If you’ve ever wondered what life is like aboard the International Space Station then Google has a treat in store for you because beginning today the ISS is available via Google Maps’ Street View.

Astronauts have been working and living on the ISS – a structure made up of 15 connected modules that floats 250 miles above Earth – for the past 16 years.

Now with Street View regular citizens can explore the station, and go everywhere from the sleeping quarters to where the space suits are kept. This is the first time Street View has ventured beyond planet Earth, and for the benefit of viewers the Street View feature also comes annotated, with handy little dots you can click on to explain what everything does, which is another first.

“In the six months that I spent on the International Space Station, it was difficult to find the words or take a picture that accurately describes the feeling of being in space,” said European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet in a blog post.

“Working with Google on my latest mission, I captured Street View imagery to show what the ISS looks like from the inside, and share what it’s like to look down on Earth from outer space.”

In his blog post, Pesquet goes on to describe how because of the constraints associated with living and working in space, it wasn’t possible to collect Street View using Google’s usual methods.

Instead, the Street View team worked with NASA at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas and Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama to design a gravity-free method of collecting the imagery using DSLR cameras and equipment already on the ISS.

Still photos were captured in space that were sent down to Earth where they were stitched together to create panoramic 360 degree imagery of the ISS.

Images courtesy of Google

“There are a lot of obstacles up there, and we had limited time to capture the imagery,” recalled Pesquet.

“Oh, and there’s that whole zero gravity thing.”

Pesquet ended his blog post by revealing the inspiration behind the Street View and ISS collaboration.

“Looking at Earth from above made me think about my own world a little differently, and I hope that the ISS on Street View changes your view of the world too.” said Pesquet.