Link About It: This Week’s Picks

An alien probe, ancient bathroom humor, the mistaken history of chocolate and more

Ancient Bathroom Humor Discovered

Uncovered this week in Turkey, inside what was once a Roman latrine, are a bunch of dirty jokes that date back to the second century. Two mosaics depict well-known Greek and Roman characters, Narcissus and Ganymede—only the scenes are a little different than the myths we know. In one, Narcissus is staring down at his penis, obsessed; in the other, Ganymede (who was kidnapped by the eagle of Zeus) is “getting his genitals sponged clean by a bird.” The two visual puns are the only surviving artworks in the public latrine, located in the ancient Hellenistic city (called Antiochia ad Cragum), and archaeologist Michael Hoff says, “You have to understand the myths to make it really come alive, but bathroom humor is kind of universal—as it turns out.” Read more at Live Science.

What the Lobster Emoji Means to the Transgender Community

The recent iPhone update included several additions to the emoji keyboard, from a ball of wool to an abacus and a pirate flag. Still conspicuously missing—despite it being requested over and over—is the transgender flag. In response, the trans community has decided to use the lobster claw emoji (which was part of the updated) until they get the representation they deserve. Activist and author Charlie Craggs, who started the #clawsoutfortrans movement, tells Dazed, “We now have access to a lobster emoji, because people suffered ‘frustration and confusion’ at having to use a shrimp or a crab emoji instead. Surely representation for the trans community is more important than a crustacean?” Read more (including how lobsters can be gynandromorphs—meaning they have both male and female reproductive organs) at Dazed.

NASA’s First 8K Video

NASA has its first 8K video from space, and it shows the Expedition 56 team hard at work—as well as a few shots of Earth from afar. The project, which was completed in collaboration with the European Space Agency, hopes to show the world that “the science being conducted aboard the International Space Station is answering questions that hold the keys to our future in space and on Earth.” See a portion of the clip at Bloomberg.

Comet, Meteor or Alien Spacecraft

Since its first sighting in 2017, “Oumuamua” has puzzled scientists and researchers. Its strange propulsion-like movement and determined trajectory call into question whether the long, flat object is merely a comet or a meteorite—despite that being the more mundane, and maybe likely, conclusion. The way the object sped up as it passed the sun has researchers most puzzled. “Lightsails,” the solar-powered starships that Breakthrough Starshot plans to send into orbit, move in a similar manner to “Oumuamua.” While that makes one wonder if this is alien, the consensus, as of now, is that it’s not. Read more at NBC News.

Artsy’s Favorite Free Online Courses

While you may not receive academic credit for them, there’s an abundance of free college courses available online. From a class called Pyramids of Giza: Ancient Egyptian Art to Archaeology at Harvard University or Antiquities Trafficking and Art Crime at the University of Glasgow, there are around 10,000 online courses offered by 800 universities. Each one varies in length (from a few weeks to seven months) but the workload is consistent at a couple of hours per week. Artsy created a list of their favorite art and design courses—see more there.

Newfound Evidence Changes Chocolate’s History

The origins of chocolate, at least until last week, dated back about 3,500 years ago to civilizations in Mexico and Central America. But now, thanks to newfound evidence, cacao’s history actually begins 1,500 years earlier in South America. Tests run on the bowls, mortars and jars found in the highlands of Ecuador—in the area known as Santa Ana-La Florida—proved traces of cacao remained. This confirms a widely adopted belief that there was a possibility of cacao’s use much earlier, after ceramics excavated from the area were adorned with drawings of cacao seeds. Read more about the revelation at The Guardian.

Tracing the Influence of Early Black Designers

In a new exhibition at the Chicago Cultural Center, titled African American Designers in Chicago: Art, Commerce and the Politics of Race, the influence of black designers is traced, from 1900 to 1980. Jackie Ormes’ highly sought-after Patty-Jo Doll, based on her cartoon character, is on display. As is work—for Coca Cola and more—from the country’s first African American-owned advertising agency, helmed by Emmett McBain and Thomas J Burrell. “It’s not an encyclopedia, it’s an introduction,” says curator Daniel Schulman. “What we’re trying to demonstrate here is the lasting influence and effectiveness of the visual arts and design throughout the 20th century in Chicago.” The show is open now through 3 March, 2019. Read more about the exhibition at The Guardian.

Chinese State Media’s AI News Anchor

Xinhua (China’s state media) in collaboration with Chinese search engine Sogou, has just unveiled its Chinese- and English-speaking AI news anchor. Its evening slot wasn’t just a test run, in fact, “the simulations can be used on its website and social media platforms” now, but there’s no word on whether any TV channels have picked it up. Created to deliver news in a 24-hour cycle, the robot was designed “to simulate human voice, facial expressions and gestures,” but its delivery and tone are certainly robotic—so perhaps human news anchors aren’t redundant yet. Read more at CNN.

Link About It is our filtered look at the web, shared daily in Link and on social media, and rounded up every Saturday morning.