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CAPTCHA Variants: KittenAuth

Over the coming weeks, I'll highlight a few of the best (and weirdest) CAPTCHA systems available on the web. CAPTCHAs are those "type this word" or "answer this question" tests you see on many web forms -- they're there in an attempt to prove that the entity filling out the form is not a spambot.

The term CAPTCHA is an acronym for "Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart." (The subject of Turing tests deserves its own blog entry, but let's just summarize here by saying that such tests are designed to test human-style intelligence.) While most CAPTCHA systems are designed using scrambled text -- something that's easy for humans to decipher but hard for computers -- there are some interesting variants in the wild. Let's start with my favorite weird CAPTCHA system: KittenAuth.

Developed by programmer Oli Warner, the KittenAuth system presents a series of pictures of cute animals, and asks the user to click on all the kittens. Well, that's the simplest form -- the current version may ask you to pick out a different animal, so you may have to click on all the pandas or lambs -- this adds some fun to the game, and presumably prevents spammers from investing all their effort on kitten-detection software. Here's a screenshot of an example from Warner's contact form (it's not clickable):

I like KittenAuth because it's cute and actually kind of fun. I wouldn't want to use the system constantly (for example, every time I added a Facebook friend), but for occasional use it's a great idea -- and surprisingly hard for a spambot to crack. It's difficult for a computer because image recognition is both difficult and computationally expensive.

In future weeks I'll go in-depth on the ReCAPTCHA system used on this very blog, and other interesting variants. But in the meantime, we've noticed a lot of commenters finding bizarre and interesting things in the ReCAPTCHA boxes. For example, today adrienne wrote: "I love ReCaptcha: 'Philbin girl' this time." We even held a CAPTCHA Contest in April in which commenters made poetry out of the CAPTCHA text. But I thought I'd ask: what's the craziest CAPTCHA text you've seen? I just tried two at random, and got 'integrated ex' and 'tingle tempers.' This is art, people.

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Live Smarter
This AI Tool Will Help You Write a Winning Resume
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iStock

For job seekers, crafting that perfect resume can be an exercise in frustration. Should you try to be a little conversational? Is your list of past jobs too long? Are there keywords that employers embrace—or resist? Like most human-based tasks, it could probably benefit from a little AI consultation.

Fast Company reports that a new start-up called Leap is prepared to offer exactly that. The project—started by two former Google engineers—promises to provide both potential minions and their bosses better ways to communicate and match job needs to skills. Upload a resume and Leap will begin to make suggestions (via highlighted boxes) on where to snip text, where to emphasize specific skills, and roughly 100 other ways to create a resume that stands out from the pile.

If Leap stopped there, it would be a valuable addition to a professional's toolbox. But the company is taking it a step further, offering to distribute the resume to employers who are looking for the skills and traits specific to that individual. They'll even elaborate on why that person is a good fit for the position being solicited. If the company hires their endorsee, they'll take a recruiter's cut of their first year's wages. (It's free to job seekers.)

Although the service is new, Leap says it's had a 70 percent success rate landing its users an interview. The rest is up to you.

[h/t Fast Company]

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Space
Watch NASA Test Its New Supersonic Parachute at 1300 Miles Per Hour
NASA/JPL, YouTube
NASA/JPL, YouTube

NASA’s latest Mars rover is headed for the Red Planet in 2020, and the space agency is working hard to make sure its $2.1 billion project will land safely. When the Mars 2020 rover enters the Martian atmosphere, it’ll be assisted by a brand-new, advanced parachute system that’s a joy to watch in action, as a new video of its first test flight shows.

Spotted by Gizmodo, the video was taken in early October at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Narrated by the technical lead from the test flight, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Ian Clark, the two-and-a-half-minute video shows the 30-mile-high launch of a rocket carrying the new, supersonic parachute.

The 100-pound, Kevlar-based parachute unfurls at almost 100 miles an hour, and when it is entirely deployed, it’s moving at almost 1300 miles an hour—1.8 times the speed of sound. To be able to slow the spacecraft down as it enters the Martian atmosphere, the parachute generates almost 35,000 pounds of drag force.

For those of us watching at home, the video is just eye candy. But NASA researchers use it to monitor how the fabric moves, how the parachute unfurls and inflates, and how uniform the motion is, checking to see that everything is in order. The test flight ends with the payload crashing into the ocean, but it won’t be the last time the parachute takes flight in the coming months. More test flights are scheduled to ensure that everything is ready for liftoff in 2020.

[h/t Gizmodo]

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