Rational Thinking and the iPhone 5s

29 Sep

I’m always on the lookout for topical examples of rational thinking, and this week offered a lovely example. Being a huge Apple fan I stopped at my local mobile phone shop on the way to work last friday to pick up my new iPhone 5s (the one with the fingerprint sensor). When I arrived at work a colleague suggested to me that my new phone was dangerous as ‘muggers would now want to cut off my finger’ along with stealing my phone. This seemed a little melodramatic, but i did a brief internet search, and came across the newspaper story below.

Screen Shot 2013-09-29 at 19.14.46

This story floats the image of iPhone thieves cutting off the fingers of their victims, even though the story immediately says that only fingers with a pulse will work. When I presented this to students in my first lecture of the year it was interesting how rapidly that finger amputation was very unlikely. One only had to picture an image of a iPhone thief pulling his newly stolen phone from his pocket and then having to pull out a bloody amputated finger to unlock it to realise how silly this story is.

Screen Shot 2013-09-29 at 19.33.08

The Daily Mail followed up a few days later with a story that the new iPhone sensor had been ‘hacked’. Ignoring the somewhat strange use of the word ‘hacked’ , the story presents a means of bypassing the fingerprint scanner using a print copied from a photograph. Again, just by asking students to think about their image of an iPhone thief, and whether they might be capable of using the complex process the story outlined it was easy to get students to recognise just how unlikely this story was.

Sadly, this idea is only really useful over the next couple of weeks, but it did very rapidly demonstrate to new students that they were perfectly capable of seeing through a bit of poor reporting.

4 Responses to “Rational Thinking and the iPhone 5s”

  1. A Rational Thinker October 2, 2013 at 7:19 pm #

    No offence, but if you are a rational thinker you do not buy an iPhone.

    • Teaching Rational Thinking October 2, 2013 at 7:22 pm #

      What would you advise ? android or Windows ?

      • A Rational Thinker October 2, 2013 at 9:41 pm #

        It is not a specific software one should be aiming for, but rather the phone itself. Personally, I find Apple’s iOS7 more aesthetically pleasing and less buggy than, let’s say, Android. But Apple sort of stopped innovating hardware-wise when it comes to their iPhones. Small camera sensors, relatively slow CPU’s and GPU’s compared to the competition and as a personal opinion, their screens are too small for me. Of course, the exterior is elegant and all, but would you eat a rotten apple if it were beautiful on the outside?

      • Teaching Rational Thinking October 2, 2013 at 10:53 pm #

        I’m still a little confused, if not Apple and Android is buggy then what ? Surely not Windows. Give the time invested in learning the Apple ecosystem aren’t I better off sticking with that ????

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