Science can do some marvelous stuff. For example, software engineers are busy right now writing algorithms that can put in journalists out of work.
But can that ever really come to pass? Won't savvy readers be able to spot the difference between a hackneyed word salad churned out by some dumb machine and one put together with great care and precision by a writer with decades of ink coarsing through his veins and arteries.
Lets put it to the test. See if you can identify the prose written by a computer in these sets of examples:
a) A shallow magnitude 4.7 earthquake was reported Monday morning five miles from Westwood, California, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The temblor occurred at 6:25 a.m. Pacific time at a depth of 5.0 miles.
b) Many people associate Labor Day with the start of school. Years ago, many school years began right after Labor Day. Now most start before Labor Day. The early start allows school districts to build in longer holidays and potential snow days during the school year.
a) Friona fell 10-8 to Boys Ranch in five innings on Monday at Friona despite racking up seven hits and eight runs. Friona was led by a flawless day at the dish by Hunter Sundre, who went 2-2 against Boys Ranch pitching. Sundre singled in the third inning and tripled in the fourth inning … Friona piled up the steals, swiping eight bags in all.
b) Winter is my least favorite time. Ironically, Christmas is my favorite holiday because of what it means. I don't really consider New Year's Day much of a holiday, just a day off to watch football.
a) While company shares have dropped 17.2% over the last three months to close at $13.72 on February 15, 2012, Barnes & Noble (BKS) is hoping it can break the slide with solid third quarter results when it releases its earnings on Tuesday, February 21, 2012. What to Expect: The Wall Street consensus is $1.01 per share, up 1% from a year ago when Barnes & Noble reported earnings of $1 per share. The consensus estimate is down from three months ago when it was $1.42, but is unchanged over the past month. Analysts are projecting a loss of $1.09 per share for the fiscal year.
b) The fall brings pumpkin and apple seasons and special treats such as pies and dumplings. And chestnuts roasting on an open fire but who does that anymore?
a) Mason Plumlee scored 21 points and grabbed 15 rebounds to lift No. 2 Duke to a 73-68 win over No. 4 Ohio State on Wednesday at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham. Ohio State (4-1) struggled shooting the ball in the game. The Buckeyes made 70 percent of their free throws (16-of-23) and they shot 34 percent (23-of-67) from the field. Duke (7-0) shot 20-of-27 from the free throw line. The Blue Devils also got double-digit games from Quinn Cook, who scored 12, Ryan Kelly, who scored 15, and Rasheed Sulaimon, who scored 17. Amir Williams scored four points and grabbed 10 rebounds for Ohio State in the loss.
b) Don't forget to put away the white clothes. Older people remember when it was not appropriate to wear white pants or shoes after Labor Day. What was up with that?
a) Waiting alone in the little walled garden, with the bustle of traffic from the nearby road wafting in from outside, Harriette Wilson thought once more of Doctor Maturin, the soldier-lover of her youthful imaginings. He was now, according to the letter on the bureau, studying medicine in Zurich with Dr. Frankenstein. Then came the sound she had been longing to hear, and she struggled in vain with her sudden panic. He was here! "Without you I am nothing, my dear pippin!" he said with his eyes (for his voice was now silent for ever), tilting her oval face up to meet his lips, and as the music in her heart rose to a new crescendo of happiness, she allowed her willing mind to sink into a rose-colored maelstrom of bliss.
b) Christmas shopping isn't far behind. I used to like to get an early start on shopping and not wait till the last minute and get caught up in the shopping frenzy that hits in mid-December. But the shopping season that used to start after Thanksgiving creeps ahead every year.
ANSWERS: A was written a computer. B contains excerpts from Sunday's column written by Reading Eagle editor Harry Deitz. Amazing, huh?