Conversation Piece, June 10, 2018

A weekly series.

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Enjoy our Sunday series, Conversation Piece, a NUVO–curated digest of things on the Internet we think you’ll want to talk about.

Sonic illness. If you’ve ever been unnerved by a mysterious sound in the middle of the night, this one may not be for you. This week, two U.S. government employees were evacuated from Guangzhou, China after they began exhibiting concussion-like symptoms. The strange part is that both people reported hearing odd noises in their apartments before they fell ill. These recent cases have bolstered an ongoing medical mystery that began in Cuba in 2016, when 24 American officials came down with a similar sound-induced illness. Get the full story, here.

Life on Mars. It’s more than just a Bowie lyric—scientists reported this week that NASA’s Curiousity Rover discovered the most compelling evidence to date that Mars once hosted life. Not only does an ancient lake seem to once have had hospitable conditions, but researchers have found sharp, seasonal increases of methane in the Martian atmosphere—similar to those caused by life on Earth. Read more about these “breakthroughs in astrobiology”, here.

Darkbot. Pop culture has been quick to imagine worst case scenarios when it comes to AI—think of unsociable machines like the Terminator or HAL. Now, a group of MIT scientists have actualized such fears by creating Norman, the world’s first robot psychopath. Fed a steady diet of sordid data from the Internet’s darkest chatrooms, Norman is quick to see the gruesome side of life, interpreting, for example, a series of Rorschach inkblots as depicting murder victims where a more innocent robot saw little birds and flowers. Why would researchers do something like this? Read more to find out.

In memory. The loss of Anthony Bourdain this Friday is reckoned with by The New Yorker’s Helen Rosner in this poignant tribute. In it, Bourdain is rightfully honoured as a person who used his fame to encourage empathy and understanding, as well as one who never stopped growing, continuing to challenge himself and those around him to uphold a high level of moral integrity. He will be missed. Read more, here.

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June 10, 2018