Cockaponset State Forest, just outside of Chester, Connecticutt. Photos: George Etheredge and Cody O’Loughlin

EEE kills almost half of its victims, and cases are on the rise

In springtime, when the swamps behind the Mosman’s family home filled with fresh water, Keith, the eldest son, and Scott, his younger brother, would tramp barefoot through vernal pools in search of turtles, snakes, and frogs, returning hours later dotted with mosquito bites from the scourge that bred among the red maple tree roots. It was the 1970s, and Raynham, Massachusetts, where the Mosmans lived, was still a rural town. As the boys grew older, paddocks gave way to strip malls, apple orchards to housing developments. …


Stephen Hsu’s startup Genomic Predictions analyzes genetic data to predict the chance of diseases like diabetes and cancer — and forecast IQ

Illustration: Alexis Beauclair

For years, hopeful parents pursuing in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment have had the option of screening embryos for severe heritable diseases like cystic fibrosis, hemophilia, and Tay-Sachs disease. These rare and often deadly conditions, known as monogenic disorders, can be easily identified through genetic screening because they arise due to a mutation on a single gene. For doctors, diagnosis is a simple positive or negative.

But the diseases that are most likely to shadow the average person’s life — cancer, heart disease, diabetes — are polygenic, meaning that they result from interactions between thousands of genetic signals. …


Even when editors disagree sharply, the site’s firm rules enable them to produce accurate entries

Photo: Hindustan Times/Getty Images

Is there an upside to political polarization? A cursory glance at the state of social media would suggest not: Twitter is a cesspool of abuse, Facebook a repository of viral misinformation, and YouTube a broadcaster of conspiracy theories and vicious trolling.

Given the lamentable state of political discourse online, one might expect that Wikipedia — a crowdsourced encyclopedia to which anyone can contribute and edit information — would suffer from similar epistemic rot. …


To Ought We Automate

Poetry and the Art of Automation

Can computers write poetry? This is the question I’ve been exploring in my thesis for the past two years. In an attempt to answer this question I developed bot or not, a website that acts as a Turing Test for poetry. Basically, the website has a database of 300 poems, half written by humans, the other half computer-generated. On visiting the site the user is presented with a poem at random from the database, and then has to guess if it is human-written or computer-generated.

The results of bot or not seem to suggest that computer software is capable of…

Oscar Schwartz

Writer based in New York.

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