If your average camera-phone-packing outdoor lover is nature's paparazzi, birds are nature's most annoyingly egocentric celebrities. While we wrestle with our cameras and try to get that perfect snapshot, they ignore our struggles. Unwilling to hold still for even one second, birds instead focus on their own selfish need to feed themselves while simultaneously avoiding becoming food.
Big Air Photo/Photos.com
It's almost like evolution for some reason selected those that don't like being pointed at and shot.
Well, no more. Because now, thanks to the lovely people at places like iSpiny, bird-watchers can download apps that play various types of bird song. Boasting the innocent purpose of helping you learn how to differentiate songbirds based on their calls, it didn't take long for bird lovers to figure out that these apps, combined with the high-tech "volume" feature packed by many smartphones, doubled as the perfect way to say "Hold still a minute, you feathery little bastard!" Bird-watching has never been easier.
So What's the Problem?
Well, easier doesn't always equate to better, at least according to the droves of wildlife experts who came forward to tell people to put away their goddamn phones before they kicked off some kind of ornithological apocalypse.
You see, it turns out that birds use their songs to communicate with each other (who knew?), and humans blasting that noise all willy-nilly causes no end of confusion inside their little bird brains. Consequences of the app's usage include causing birds to refuse to feed their young, relocate their nests, or just forget to nest entirely, or even get themselves eaten to death by predators when the apps lure them out from the safety of their hiding places.
So cats were behind this, like with all Internet technology.
The worst in terms of species propagation, though, is that the apps can act as a sort of anti-aphrodisiac: Birds can become unable to mate because they think the bird calls from phones are other horndogs trying to muscle in on their turf, which in turn leads to them aggressively approaching the phone bearers. That's right: The human race has discovered a misuse for a phone app so stupid that it makes birds want to physically fight us. It's like The Birds all over again, only justified.
Random bodily growths can press the antsy uncertainty button of even the most stoic among us, because a cancer diagnosis is like winning the horrifying disease lottery. In an attempt to address our hazily formed fears about skin that grows bumps in the night, developers have come up with skin cancer apps to parse benign blemishes from truly Bad News.
Doctor Mole HD
The perfect app for diehard sunbathers and die-soft hypochondriacs.
There are variations on how it works, but the gist is simple and user-friendly: Photograph a questionable patch of skin with your phone, then compare your stomach-turning protuberance to instances of actual cancer. Free versions of the app, such as the University of Michigan's UMSkinCheck, might allow you to check your skinful inconsistencies against a catalog of videos and literature and perform a risk calculation. Less wallet-friendly versions like Doctor Mole HD (because even skin cancer's better in HD) analyze your exterior according to some visual algorithm and provide an automatic assessment, no critical thinking required. Either way, it's armchair oncology at its finest.
So What's the Problem?
Fearing that these apps are little more than high-tech quacksalvers, researchers decided to test the ability of four skin cancer apps to identify malignancy across 188 images of skin lesions. And to the surprise of pretty much no one, they discovered that the accuracy varied dramatically depending on which program was used.
The worst app had a measly 6.8 percent success rate, meaning you'd be much better off flipping a coin a bunch of times, or perhaps checking the horoscope for Cancer. The best performer of the bunch, at a stunning 98.1 percent accuracy, basically cheated: Rather than relying on some brilliant algorithm, the app sent images to a group of certified dermatologists who charge a fee for their services. The remaining two apps were on par with the abilities of untrained family doctors, which sounds somewhat comforting until you consider that it equates to a 30 percent error rate.
A doctor would then refer you to a specialist. The app checks you into Myrtle Beach and tweets "#SuckItSun."
Ultimately, there's a good chance people will end up delaying or totally dismissing prudent doctor visits because their fancy Magic 8 Ball app told them they were healthy. And while it's true that such apps are quick to serve up disclaimers warning consumers that apps can't replace doctors, it's pretty hard to swallow the idea that those who would actually pay for a program that claims to spot cancer would also readily dismiss its advice as unreliable. Just remember: Unless you're paying a team of doctors to look at the scabs on your junk, you're basically traversing a minefield -- only instead of shrapnel, these mines pelt you with cancer.
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