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Talk nerdy to me

Depending on who you are, the word “science” either makes you cartwheel with excitement or yawn from boredom. Although the end result of scientific research is often fascinating, the process of getting there can seem abstract and impersonal.

We at Science Node truly believe that science can be not only informative, but also fun—and sometimes silly, curious, beautiful, bizarre, or even gross. On that note, we’ve put together some links of the stories, videos, and podcasts that have caught our attention this week.

Buildings that breathe

Philip Beesley - Building living architecture. Courtesy TEDx Talks.

Artists have been trying for millennia to breathe life into their work. Few have been successful in this endeavor, but expert architect Philip Beesley believes modern technology can allow artists to actually create living installments that adjust to their surroundings. This TEDx talk discusses how talented individuals are using technology to make architectural breakthroughs that simply wouldn’t have been possible only a few years ago.

AI program loves painting nudes

Robbie Barrat's AI-generated nudes.Society’s relationship with the nude form has swung from open acceptance in ancient Greece to shock and outrage in the modern West. However, Artificial Intelligence programs simply don’t understand the taboo around nudity. In fact, one AI system has gone so far as to create nude portraits of humans – and Twitter is loving it.

Stanford AI researcher Robbie Barrat began by presenting countless nude paintings to a Generative Adversarial Network (GAN). While the portraits made by the AI program are closer to nude blobs than actual people, the images are quite beautiful in a surreal way. This CNET article has a gallery of some of the best.

Do you make your own decisions? But do you really?

Whether we humans have the ability to freely choose between various courses of action is a question that has been debated for millennia. And the internet age seems to have only increased our concern. In fact, one sociologist thought that digital data might be the key to predicting a child’s future. However, what Princeton sociology professor Matthew Salganik ultimately found was none of his models could accurately predict exactly where a person would end up.

This episode of the NPR podcast Invisibilia also explores the story of a bank robber who became a law professor. The upshot? Predictions based on data are important, but life provides some immeasurable variable that keeps things interesting.

Are search engines racist?

Algorithms of Oppression, by Safiya Umoja Noble. Courtesy NYU Press.We’ve come to think of the internet as something of an equalizer. While there may be some truth in this, a professor of communication at the University of Southern California argues that many groups are misrepresented by major search engines.

An article in Vox focuses on Safiya Umoja Noble’s book Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism, which discusses the way that search engines depict different races. For instance, performing an image search for the word “beautiful” will give the user an overwhelming number of pictures of white women with few examples of women of color. Noble hopes this book will bring attention to how search engines display people of color as well as how easily these kinds of issues are ignored by the public.

Science solves century-old murders

Before the days of forensic science, murder investigators could only rely on interviews with affected parties and common sense to catch criminals. However, modern science can often fill the gaps left by century-old murder mysteries. This article from IFLScience discusses six such cases, and you might be surprised at what they found.

What’s your favorite meme?

What does your favorite meme mean?If you were asked to name your favorite meme, you could probably come up with enough keyboard cats and double rainbows to fill lolrus’s bucket.

However, pinning down a specific definition and tracking the history of memes is bit more difficult. Thank goodness, The Wired Guide To Memes has already done all the hard work. But their look at the present and future of memes will make you think twice about how you click and consume these silly works of art. 

Extremely vertical art

Ever wonder what a massive mountain looks like from above? How about a birds-eye view of cities built around the natural environment they’re in? If you answered yes, these satellite images from former NASA scientists are sure to blow your mind.

Which animals fart?

That may seem like a gross question, but think about it: Have you ever actually considered which animals fart? Why do some animals need to fart in the first place, and more importantly why don’t sloths pass gas if just about every other mammal does? It’s questions like these that lead to scientific inquiry—really! As Virginia Tech ecologist and co-author of Does It Fart? A Definitive Field Guide to Animal Flatulence Nick Caruso says, “there’s still a lot that we don’t know, whether it be about farts or a lot of other aspects about biology.”

Isn’t a CRISPR where you store vegetables?

What is gene editing and how does it work? Courtesy The Royal Society.

Many of us have heard about gene editing projects like CRISPR, but maybe aren’t quite sure exactly how they work. This excellent video from The Royal Society tackles the topic in an accessible way with clear explanations and simple, colorful graphics. We bet you’ll walk away with more than enough understanding to sound extremely smart at your next trivia night.

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