Sign of the Times: Can hugging machines solve the touch crisis?

As the American loneliness epidemic reaches alarming new heights, one artist theorizes on what connection might look like in the future.

Photography: Scottie Cameron
  • The Compression Carpet is a machine created by Los Angeles-based artist Lucy McRae that simulates a hug to a person craving intimacy.
  • Research indicates that nearly half of Americans lack daily meaningful interpersonal interactions with a friend or family member. This loneliness epidemic is accompanied by a touch crisis.
  • McRae's art and neuroscience suggest is that it is affectionate touch that we are deprived of in our increasingly touch-phobic society. New sensory technology seeks to solve this problem.
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Perception of musical pitch varies across cultures

Is the way we hear music biological or cultural?

Jean-Marc ZAORSKI/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

People who are accustomed to listening to Western music, which is based on a system of notes organized in octaves, can usually perceive the similarity between notes that are same but played in different registers — say, high C and middle C.

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Terraform Mars? How about Earth?

Fauna and flora refuse to go quietly into the Anthropocene.

Image source: Lightspring/Shutterstock
  • Pioneers of the Greater Holocene plan to strike back against concrete.
  • Seed packets and plant nutrients are the weapons of choice for standing up to humanity's destructive impact.
  • Hopeless? Maybe. Poignant? Absolutely.
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Jules Arthur
  • San Francisco board has issued a new ordinance that'll ensure 30 percent of all public art portrays female historical figures.
  • Maya Angelou has been chosen as the first historical figure to be recognized.
  • The sculpture concept has come down to three finalists — its completion date is slated for winter of 2020.
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The secret to Mark Twain's friendship with Nikola Tesla

Twain and Tesla had similar passions and an amusing friendship.

  • Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) and Nikola Tesla shared a friendship starting in 1890s.
  • Tesla read a lot of early Twain when recovering from a serious illness.
  • The two shared an interest in electricity.
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