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Test 1 / 30

My new friend’s a robot

In fiction robots have a personality, but reality is disappointingly different. Although sophisticated enough to assemble cars and assist during complex surgery, modern robots are dumb automatons, incapable of striking up relationships with their human operators. However, change is on the horizon. Engineers argue that, as robots begin to make up a bigger part of society, they will need a way to interact with humans. To this end they will need artificial personalities. The big question is this: what does a synthetic companion need to have so that you want to engage with it over a long period of time? Phones and computers have already shown the extent|degree to which people can develop relationships with inanimate electronic objects.

Looking further ahead|forward, engineers envisage robots helping around the house, integrating with the web to place supermarket orders using email. Programming the robot with a human-like persona and giving it the ability to learn its users’ preferences, will help the person feel at ease with it. Interaction with such a digital entity in this context is more natural than sitting with a mouse and keyboard.

Test 2 / 30

Global English

Global English exists as a political and cultural reality. Many misguided theories attempt to explain why the English language should have succeeded internationally, whilst others have not. Is it because there is something inherently logical or beautiful about the structure of English? Does its simple grammar make it easy to learn? Such ideas are misconceived. Latin was once a major international language, despite having a complicated grammatical structure, and English also presents learners with all manner of real difficulties, not least its spelling system. Ease of learning, therefore, has little to do with it. after all, children learn to speak their mother tongue in approximately the same period of time, regardless of their language.

English has spread not so much for linguistic reasons, but rather because it has often found itself in the right place, at the right time. Since the 1960s, two major developments have contributed to strengthening this global status. Firstly, in a number of countries, English is now used in addition to national or regional languages. As well as this, an electronic revolution has taken place. It is estimated that in the region of 80% of worldwide electronic communication is now in English.

Test 3 / 30

Men and women

Men and women are often considered to be completely at odds with each other, in terms of their attitudes and behaviour. Not so when they are in love, new research has discovered. As far as their hormone levels are concerned, when men and women are in love, they are more similar to each other than at any other time.

It has long been known that love can play havoc with hormone levels. For example, the hormone cortisol, which is known for its calming effect on the body, dips dramatically when one person is attracted to another,  putting the love-struck on a par with sufferers of obsessive compulsive disorder. But a new study has found that the hormone testosterone, commonly associated with male aggression, also falls when he is in love. In women, it’s quite the reverse. Testosterone levels, which tend to be lower among females, rise towards those of the male.

Donatella Marazziti of the University of Pisa, Italy, puts this down to nature attempting to eliminate the differences between the sexes. by doing so, they can concentrate fully on reproduction. This suggestion seems to be supported by the fact that neither couples in a long terms relationship, nor participants in the study who were single at the time of the experiment, exhibited such changes.

Test 4 / 30

Living in Cities

Urbanization has been a constant factor in human development for the past ten thousand years. whilst|although there has always been the necessity for a minimum – sometimes a very substantial minimum – of the population to work the land, such surplus individuals as can be sustained have tended to gather in cities. Two thousand years ago, the cities of antiquity formed an administrative center for the surrounding area and a refuge from attack. In the Middle Ages, it was the city folk who were the first to break the stultifying grip of feudalism, and it was in the cities of Northern Italy that the phenomenon of the Renaissance was born.

Today only a fraction of mankind lives in the country and the proportion which does so is decreasing. Mega-cities with populations exceeding ten million are common, and they will become even more so over the coming decades. While many aspects of city life are unattractive – pollution, stress, and separation from nature to name but a few – more and more of humanity seems|appears to be choosing an urban existence. adjusting to this fact is going to be one of the major challenges of the coming century. And what of the country? The chances are that its relative decline will be reversed as the information revolution spreads it possible to enjoy the benefits of social contact without needing to leave one’s rural residence.