Nongenetic Evolution

On the origin of the e-bike

The oldest known serious candidate forerunner for the bicycle is the ‘running machine’ built by the German Baron Karl von Drais. His two-wheeled machine became known as the Draisienne and was first shown to the public in 1817. Two decades later a Scottish blacksmith by the name of Kirkpatrick MacMillan allegedly made a first mechanically propelled bicycle. In 1842 a Glasgow newspaper reported “a gentleman from Dumfries-shire bestride a velocipede of ingenious design” knocked over a little girl and was fined five shillings. This was probably the first bicycle traffic incident and many associate it with MacMillan.

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Information Decoration

Period emoji could smash the stigma surrounding menstruation

Astonishingly, we’re still living in a world where most women feel uncomfortable talking about their periods and some don’t even have access to sanitary products. This is why girls-focused development charity Plan International UK and Plan Australia launched a campaign to create a period emoji, in an attempt to reduce the taboo surrounding period and menstrual health.

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Augmented Bodies

MIT’s new voiceless interface can read the words in your head

The way we interact with the technology in our lives is getting progressively more seamless. If typing terms or addresses into your phone wasn’t easy enough, now you can just tell Siri to do the search or pull up the directions for you. Don’t feel like getting off the couch to flick a switch, or want your house to be lit up by the time you pull into your driveway? Just tell your Echo home assistant what you want, and presto—lights on.

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Meat the Future

Why insects are not the new sushi

People across the world have been eating insects for thousands of years. We know that approximately 2,000 species are edible and that these insects are eaten in many different ways. The exception to this is the Western world, where insects are not a traditional food. This may be attributed to the fact that merely two per cent of edible insects occur naturally in Europe in comparison to the larger variety available in Asia, Africa and South America.

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Wild Systems

Give AI curiosity and it plays video games all day

If you teach a robot to fish, it’ll probably catch fish. However, if you teach it to be curious, it’ll just watch TV and play video games all day. Researchers from Open AI — the singularity-focused think-tank co-founded by Elon Musk — recently published a research paper detailing a large-scale study on curiosity-driven learning. In it, they show how AI models trained without “extrinsic rewards” can develop and learn skills. Basically, they’ve figured out how to get AI to do stuff without explicitly telling it what its goals are.

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