#27 World News Digest

Every 2 weeks ELK team picks the most captivating, forward-looking and inspiring articles from the best media around the globe to share with you in our digest. Learn what the world is talking about today! Please vote for your favourite article in the comments (and also share articles that inspired you).

Digest curated by our teacher Svyatoslav Tugeev.

As we compile these digests certain topics come up again and again. One of them is robots, another is AI. Which is not that surprising, because these are the areas we mostly expect revolutions and interesting discoveries from. And both topics are present here today.

Tech

And so first – sweating robots. Yes, you’ve read it right. Why do we sweat? To cool down, mostly, and that is a truly amazing quality if you think about it. A built in cooling system, guaranteeing that we can easily avoid quite uncomfortable or dangerous situations. So of course this mechanism is being adapted to allow robots to function longer, safer and easier. How is it actually done and what exactly do the robots sweat? Well, follow the link and find out!

It is pretty difficult to write a complex story, where multiple characters have their own storylines, and these storylines twist and turn, intersecting and affecting each other. The more you add, the more you risk losing track of some small detail, breaking the carefully constructed web. Which is where some help would be nice, would it not? And so a code-obsessed novelist built a writing bot to do exactly that – keep track of everything so that he could focus on the parts he wanted the most. If you are curious how he did that, how he arrived at this idea in the first place, or what background is required for such a project – read on.

A collection of photos, documents, and letters Vikram Chandra compiled for his novels (except for the photo at lower left, which is a family snapshot).PHOTOGRAPH: NINA RIGGIO

Science

Scientific news today starts with the sun. More specifically with the images taken by the Inouye telescope, which was built atop Haleakala, an ancient cratered volcano, sacred to native Hawaiians. Haleakala means “house of the sun” in Hawaiian, and what better place to build the world’s biggest telescope devoted to the sun? The images are truly fascinating, especially when you see them move. Such a close look truly allows us to feel how terrifyingly violent and yet beautiful the source of the warmth we feel really is.

To cool off, let’s talk about the water, or, to be more precise, rain. Of all the possible uses for it, the source of energy is not something that immediately comes to mind. But actually, this could soon be true, with a raindrop electricity generator that briefly lights up 100 LED light bulbs with a single raindrop. Impressive, isn’t it? Apart from everything else, this offers a brilliant alternative to the solar panels for the region, that don’t see the sun that often. 

Photo taken in Sydney, Australia

And let’s end with bionic jellyfish. Nature almost always already has the perfect solution for most of the engineering problems, and so, sometimes instead of trying to one up it, scientists explore the ways to hijack it. One of the most recent ones developments the bionically enhanced jellyfish, meant to serve perhaps as carriers for underwater sensors. What does such hijacking look like and what hurdles did the scientist have to face along the way? The answers can be found in the article.

Social

With the 14th of February squarely behind us, the topic of love and its exploration is entirely, well, topical, but the article being shared is non the less quite interesting. There have been many attempts to explain what love is, from poetical to purely scientific, but both approaches struggle to tell us where it comes from. The scientific approach comes close, but the picture it uncovers is much more complex than some expected, as love turns out to be a combination of many things. 

And with a crude transition let’s talk about the love people have towards the works of art, be it books, films, series, games, or anything else. These days we often see how the fans play a vital role in how these works turn out or in the decision if they will turn out at all. And while some praise such a relationship, tracing their roots to a much earlier period than one might expect, others worry that sometimes it serves as a reflection for the worst trends. Not only cultural but of the society in general. 

Credit: Alamy

Let’s end, however, on a more positive note. Immigration leads to many situations where people need to be able to empathise with others, especially when they have different backgrounds or in different circumstances. The ability to assume another’s point of view is a skill that can be trained like any other, and there exist multiple initiatives seeking to foster such empathy. The US immigration process is infamously difficult, yet many Americans find it difficult to empathise with those going through it. But a simple seemingly silly role-playing exercise turned out to be enough to help them.

Culture

Art doesn’t always have to be distant and strange and abstract – sometimes it is just a shining seesaw. A bunch of giant shining seesaws to be precise on one of the busiest streets of Manhattan, that allow the strangers to leap into the air and channel their inner kid, giggling and grinning, surrounded by the LED lights. As part of the project meant to enhance the experience of the pedestrians, New-Yorkers have enjoyed these seesaws for a month, making their winter just that little brighter and warmer. 

From the entertainment that reminds us of the past to the one that might make us think of the future. Sundance VR and AR got very weird and interesting in 2020, with projects ranging from non-interactive stories to strange and experimental experiences, where you can see your own breath floating around the room, dance with a scarecrow and do a lot of things you never thought you ever would.

And finally, the entertainment that proves to be quite eternal. Board games. Smithsonian magazine published an article about the amazing and beautiful tabletop games played all around the world throughout history, from medieval Europe to ancient Egypt. So if you want to know what the Norsemen played in 400 AD, or Egyptian in 3100 BC, check out the article. 

This ancient Egyptian Senet board is on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. (Public domain)

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