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Íslendingabók: How Icelanders Avoid Incest and Find Celebrity Relatives

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Living in a small, mostly static population creates some uncomfortable issues. Aside from making it difficult to dodge people you don't like, you also have to worry about whether you're unwittingly dating a relative. Most people can just move out of town to escape this problem. Things aren't so simple when you live in Iceland, where family names don't exist and nearly everyone knows someone who accidentally fell for a not-so-distant cousin.

The country's 300,000 residents can lay their fears to rest now, thanks to Íslendingabók (the Book of Icelanders), a genealogy search tool that helps clear up any confusion about family ties.

Virtually every Icelander since the 18th century is in the database [...] Any Icelander living now can sign up for a username and password and gain free access to some of the data, such as names and birth dates, and view full information on everyone who shares a great-grandparent with them. One can also find out if they have common ancestry with any given Icelander and uncover their exact lines of descent.

Some have also used it to see how closely related they are to celebrities, most notably, Björk:

Alli Thorgrimsson, for example, learned that he and Björk are related seven generations back, on both sides. He shares a closer ancestral tie with the current prime minister, Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir. Thanks to Íslendingabók, he also knows that his ex-wife was his seventh cousin, or in other words, not close enough to trigger an incest alarm.

Íslendingabók seems a little weird initially, but for Icelanders, it's a valuable tool. At any rate, it's a lot more effective than the tradition of asking, “Hverra manna ert þú?” (Who are your people?), which leaves a little too much room for error.

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History
Marshall McLuhan, the Man Who Predicted the Internet in 1962

Futurists of the 20th century were prone to some highly optimistic predictions. Theorists thought we might be extending our life spans to 150, working fewer hours, and operating private aircrafts from our homes. No one seemed to imagine we’d be communicating with smiley faces and poop emojis in place of words.

Marshall McLuhan didn’t call that either, but he did come closer than most to imagining our current technology-led environment. In 1962, the author and media theorist (who is the subject of today's Google Doodle) predicted we’d have an internet.

That was the year McLuhan, a professor of English born in Edmonton, Canada on this day in 1911, wrote a book called The Gutenberg Galaxy. In it, he observed that human history could be partitioned into four distinct chapters: The acoustic age, the literary age, the print age, and the then-emerging electronic age. McLuhan believed this new frontier would be home to what he dubbed a “global village”—a space where technology spread information to anyone and everyone.

Computers, McLuhan said, “could enhance retrieval, obsolesce mass library organization,” and offer “speedily tailored data.”

McLuhan elaborated on the idea in his 1962 book, Understanding Media, writing:

"Since the inception of the telegraph and radio, the globe has contracted, spatially, into a single large village. Tribalism is our only resource since the electro-magnetic discovery. Moving from print to electronic media we have given up an eye for an ear."

But McLuhan didn’t concern himself solely with the advantages of a network. He cautioned that a surrender to “private manipulation” would limit the scope of our information based on what advertisers and others choose for users to see.

Marshall McLuhan died on December 31, 1980, several years before he was able to witness first-hand how his predictions were coming to fruition.

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Apple
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technology
Apple Unveils Zombie, Yoga, and Breastfeeding Emojis
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Apple

We’ve been so very patient, and now the wait is almost over. That’s right: the sandwich emoji is coming soon. Apple announced the long-overdue addition, plus others, in celebration of World Emoji Day.

This latest suite of pictograms and smileys has been in the works since autumn of 2016, when the folks at Emojipedia proposed 51 new icons, many created in response to user requests. Apple took those ideas and applied their own graphic twist, as they're wont to do.

Illustration of four smiley emojis: one with starry eyes, one with an exploding head, one vomiting, and one with rolling eyes and a lolling tongue.
Apple

An Apple press release described the T. rex, zebra, zombie, and elf emojis as “a fun way to describe situations.” We’re not sure exactly what those situations could be; clearly, we’ve been living our lives the wrong way.

In addition to the long-awaited sandwich, we’ll also be getting a pretzel, a slice of pie, and a coconut; a person wearing a headscarf; a woman breastfeeding; a guy with a hipster beard; and a dude doing yoga.

Apple has not provided a release date, although some have speculated that the new emoji will be included in iOS updates in autumn of 2017.

[h/t The Verge]

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