Scholar ponders a future when artificial intelligence will have rights

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News A philosophical talk that ventured to the fringes of science fiction wound its way to the hot button real world issue of abortion. Matthew Liao, director of the Center for Bioethics at New York University, was at Bowling Green State University recently to discuss The Moral Status and Rights of Artificial Intelligence. It was the first event sponsored by the Institute for Ethics and Public Philosophy. Liao posited conditions in which robots or other artificial intelligent entities could have greater moral status than their creators. But as the question and answer session after the talk wore on, the issue of abortion came up. Liao argued: “The idea here is that if the entity has some sort of physical code … that generates moral agency … then that’s sufficient reason to think that it can be a rights holder.” He was questioned whether that didn’t give moral status to a fetus. Liao responded that the fundamental right of bodily integrity would trump that just as someone wouldn’t be expected to give up a limb in order to save someone. That may be admirable, but not morally required.  Some reasons for having an abortion, he said, may be specious, but having a fundamental right, as he defined the right to bodily integrity, also entails sometimes misusing that right. So how then could robots come to have greater rights than humans? It wouldn’t be, Liao said, because they were more intelligent, rational or empathetic. It would be because they had some as yet unidentified quality. That’s quite a leap from the time when computers were developed that could beat  the greatest Jeopardy champions at their game in 2011 or the masters in the ancient game of Go. And then a new generation of machines arrived that could beat those earlier machines. That new generation of computers learned not from human behavior but by self-reenforced learning. These are not just academic exercises. “Different companies are trying to learn about human emotions to get robots to be more human like,”Liao said. This is important as countries, especially Japan, face shortages of caregivers for the elderly. “Some of the elderly become really attached to these robots,” Liao said. “That’s going to become more an issue as robots become better at what they do.” Some entities have greater moral status than others moving up from rocks to plants to animals to…

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With eyes on the sky, diverse crowd of viewers share eclipse experience

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News For an astronomical event, the solar eclipse provoked some very down-to-earth reactions – awe, conviviality, generosity. Normal campus life seemed to be put on pause at Bowling Green State University Monday afternoon as the moon rolled over the sun. Though Bowling Green was not in the path of eclipse in its totality, students, faculty, and community members gathered outside on the lawn of the planetarium. More than a 100 made their way to the roof to watch the eclipse with all manner of approved devices, from telescopes to homemade cardboard boxes. The standard equipment for the day were viewing glasses with colorful cardboard frames that looked like the 3D glasses given out at the movies. Those were in short supply, but people shared them. People would look intently at the sun, and then pulling the glasses off, they would offer them to the nearest person, often a stranger. Heather Sekerak came equipped with a homemade box to help her two children, Jozef and Autumn, view the eclipse. “We’re not here because of the hype,” she said. “We’re here because it’s cool.” Though she said she didn’t have the academic disposition to formally study science, she loves it and wants to pass that love on to her children. “This is the opportunity for them to know there’s something beyond them and something bigger than themselves,” she said. “I love science for who created it; God created science, so I love it.” Jayson and Cari Hines were also there with their young children, Aiden and Amelia. Cari Hines said they get to a lot of the shows at the planetarium, and that’s rubbed off on Aiden, who loves the planets. He even has a favorite, Jupiter. “Part of the moon is covering the sun. Did you notice that?” he asked the reporter with whom he’d shared his glasses. Amelia said the sun, at this point a third covered “looks like the moon.” One 8-year-old, though, was less impressed with the eclipse. With only a sliver of the sun covered by the moon, it wasn’t quite living up to his expectations. He did agree with the suggestion that having 3D eclipse glasses may make it more exciting. Rachael Brooks, a sophomore from Kent, said it was fun to have the viewing at the planetarium where they could enjoy a sense of community with the others on hand….

‘Making It’ camp builds kids’ interest in manufacturing

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Their assignment was serious: Design a glider that can carry a spectrometer over Lake Erie to identify algal blooms before they reach dangerous levels. Their supplies were not so serious: A shoe box, cardboard, duct tape, popsicle sticks, yarn, aluminum foil, Saran wrap and pennies. The young engineers were middle school students, mostly from Bowling Green, who signed up last month for a five-day manufacturing camp, called “Making It.” The camp was designed to help Wood County students learn about manufacturing, teamwork and local production facilities. In addition to spending one day engineering gliders at Bowling Green State University, the students also visited manufacturing sites in Wood County, including Owens-Illinois, Home Depot, Lubrizol and Northwood Industries. Students toured each of the sites to get a better picture of what modern industries look like. Penta Career Center also hosted an advanced manufacturing lab using robotics. The goal was to show students that manufacturing no longer means repetitive, thoughtless processes. In many cases, it involved high-tech engineering skills. “This is some really good hands-on experience,” said Maria Simon, of Wood County District Public Library, which was one of the camp sponsors. “It’s not just ‘Let’s make a glider.’ But let’s make one that does what we want it to do.” As the students struggled with their gliders, they heard from two NASA engineers from the Glenn Research Center, Nicole Smith and Eric Reed. “I hear you guys are going to be doing some pretty incredible stuff this week,” Smith said. Both women work with the Orion spacecraft in Sandusky. Smith is an aerospace engineer. “That actually does make me a rocket scientist. You can make all the jokes you want,” she said with a grin. Reed works on the vacuum chamber and contamination control for the spacecraft. “Our technicians won’t be eating cheeseballs,” Smith joked. Both women talked about the thrill of being part of a project that will help humans reach Mars. “We are pushing beyond what we’ve ever done before,” Reed said. “This is why I went to school,” Smith said. They encouraged the students to not give up in school – even when it gets really tough. “I got Cs in physics. I’m not going to lie,” Smith said. “I failed the first physics test I took in my life,” Reed said. “Don’t give up. It’s pretty tough stuff, but it’s…

BGSU Planetarium to offer eclipse viewing, Aug. 21

BGSU OFFICE OF MARKETING & COMMUNICATIONS The first day of fall classes at Bowling Green State University will feature an event that doesn’t happen often—a solar eclipse, when the moon passes between the Earth and the sun, obscuring the image of the sun for viewers on Earth. The BGSU Planetarium has several activities planned Aug. 21 to celebrate and acknowledge this rare occurrence. While the eclipse’s path for totality is a 70-mile swath from Oregon to South Carolina, northwest Ohio will see the eclipse at about 80 percent of totality, explained Dr. Dale Smith, professor of astronomy and director of the BGSU Planetarium. From about 1 to 3:30 p.m., weather permitting, the planetarium’s rooftop observation deck will be open for visitors to view the eclipse from telescopes equipped with safe-visual filters. Visitors should come to the planetarium lobby for escort to the observatory. To accommodate an expected large turnout, Smith has ordered special glasses for safe viewing of the eclipse that will be available for guests who want to watch from the lawn outside the planetarium. The public is reminded that proper eye protection is necessary when viewing a partial solar eclipse. Looking directly at the sun, even during an eclipse, can cause serious eye damage. Additionally, there will be a live webcast of the eclipse as it crosses the country shown inside the planetarium. The webcast will be held regardless of the local weather conditions. The BGSU Planetarium is located in the Physical Sciences Laboratory Building, southeast of the corner of Merry Avenue and North College Drive. The next total eclipse visible in the U.S. will be in 2024.

Girls sink their teeth into STEM … and sharks

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The slimy, smelly spiny dogfish sharks were placed on the lab tables in front of the young girls. “Ewwwww,” one girl said squeamishly. “I can never eat gummy sharks again,” another girl said. This was the moment they had been waiting for at Tech Trek week – shark dissection. They were armed with gloves, scalpels and scissors to open up the gray sharks native to Australia. Some were a little timid about slicing into the sharks. “Oh my goodness,” one girl said with apprehension. Others were ready to explore. “I call dibs on making the first cut,” another said with glee. The shark dissection class Wednesday at Bowling Green State University’s Tech Trek week was just one of several sessions to help the participants realize that their female gender should not keep them from careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The fifth annual Tech Trek, supported by the American Association of University Women, is intended to make STEM educations and careers more accessible to girls. The program is only open to girls, so they are encouraged to pursue their STEM interests in an environment free from stereotypes, and given the chance to believe in themselves. Tech Trek is based off of the research titled “Why So Few?” which shows that women enter STEM fields at much lower rates compared to their male peers.  The research also showed that the crucial time to get to girls before they give up on STEM careers is in junior high. “The most critical time to impact them is between seventh and eighth grade,” said Dr. Deborah Wooldridge, professor and director of the BGSU School of Family and Consumer Sciences, who is head of the Tech Trek week. “We expose them to all areas of STEM.” The 55 girls all came to the camp with existing interests in STEM subjects. The camp builds on those interests, and teaches them that their gender should not dampen their enthusiasm or slow their success. “There are lots of subliminal messages out there – that’s just not what women do,” Wooldridge said of STEM careers. Many STEM professions are still male-dominated. “Computer science is tough to break into,” she said. By the end of the week, the girls should have no doubt that they are mightier than the glass ceiling that may have held back earlier generations. “It’s interesting…

BG high science teacher Gloria Gajewicz finalist for national honor

Bowling Green High School teacher Gloria Kreischer Gajewicz is in the running for the Presidential Awards in Mathematics and Science Teaching.   Gajewicz, who teaches physics and geoscience, is one of four Ohio science teachers of grades 7-12 named finalists in science. Two Ohio teachers are finalists in math. All will move forward to the national competition. In the coming academic year, a panel will choose 108 teachers to receive national honors. For more information, visit:

Michael McLaughlin, Robert Snyder win BGSU classified staff awards for caring for lab animals

From BGSU OFFICE OF MARKETING & COMMUNICATIONS Like most classified staff members, Michael McLaughlin and Robert Snyder serve the needs of students and faculty. But their responsibilities also include nonhuman clients. As the Bowling Green State University Animal Facilities technicians, they care for research subjects such as pigeons and rats. In addition, they maintain the research facilities for faculty and students in the areas of biology, forensic science and psychology. Their dedication to their wards and to enabling research to be conducted in a clean, safe and compliant situation have earned them the 2017 Classified Staff Team Award. The award was presented May 17 at the annual Classified Staff Council reception and ceremony. The team will share a $1,500 award and their names will be displayed on a commemorative plaque in the Bowen-Thompson Student Union. Caring for animals is a seven-day-a week job, with no holidays and no two days the same. The University has two on-campus facilities plus a satellite location. McLaughlin and Snyder work diligently to ensure that not only are the needs of the animals met, but also the needs of the faculty, staff and students who utilize the facilities in their own important work, said Jenifer Baranski, director of BGSU animal research facilities. Each research project is different, with different requirements, but all must meet strict federal guidelines for safety and the well-being of the animals. McLaughlin and Snyder are thorough and careful in maintaining these standards while making sure that researchers have what they need to conduct their studies. Dr. Jon Sprague, Bureau of Criminal Investigation Eminent Scholar and director of the Center for the Future of Forensic Science, is also now the chair of Bowling Green’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC), which is tasked with ensuring that the University is in compliance with all regulations. “BGSU has received and continues to receive positive inspection reports, which is due predominantly to the efforts of Mike and Rob,” he said in his letter of nomination for the Team Award. Distinguished Teaching Professor Emeritus Lee Meserve, who spent 13 years as IACUC chair, noted that “since Rob and Mike interact with experimental animals on a daily basis, they become the de facto eyes and ears of the IACUC” and provide helpful hints about how to better care for and maintain the animals. The team’s efforts have built for BGSU a strong reputation among outside research…