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This App Keeps Icelanders from Dating Their Relatives

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Getty

Iceland—home to under 330,000 people—is a relatively small country. And about two-thirds of Icelanders live in or near Reykjavík, the country’s capital. With a small population clustered together in a relatively small space, you can see how it would be easy to be distantly related to someone without realizing it. It’s such a problem, in fact, that there’s a mobile app called Íslendinga-App that helps Icelanders determine if their potential romantic interest is actually a little-known cousin or long-lost aunt.

To prevent any accidental familial hookups, a company called Sad Engineers Studios created the app using information from an online genealogical database. The collection dates back more than a thousand years and contains extensive information for more than 720,000 Icelanders. Typing in a name will do the trick, but Icelanders who are face-to-face can simply bump phones for results (if they both have the app, that is). Sad Engineers calls this feature "Sifjaspellsspillir," or "Incest Spoiler." As the slogan says, “Bump the app before you bump in bed.”

If you're thinking it can really be that big of a problem, apparently it is. “Everyone has heard the story of going to a family event and running into a girl you hooked up with some time ago," Icelander Einar Magnusson told USA Today.

In addition to the small population issue, there’s also Iceland’s unique naming convention: Instead of adopting their mother’s or father’s surname, children often add their parents’ first names. Take one of Iceland’s most famous exports, Björk. Her full name is Björk Guðmundsdóttir, with “dóttir” meaning “daughter.” So she is Björk, daughter of Guðmundur. And to make it more confusing, children can adopt the first names of both parents. The former mayor of Reykjavík, Dagur Bergþóruson Eggertsson, is Dagur, son of Bergþóra, son of Eggert.

So while a distinctive last name could be your saving grace in the U.S.—“Wait, you’re a Jingleheimer-Schmidt? So am I! Of the Boston Jingleheimer-Schmidts?”—the Icelandic naming convention prevents families from having shared last names.

Avoiding an embarrassing hookup is a big perk, but that's not all the app does. It also lists popular names, culls interesting statistics, and provides a calendar of relatives’ birthdays.

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Animals
Watch an Antarctic Minke Whale Feed in a First-of-Its-Kind Video
WWF
WWF

New research from the World Wildlife Fund is giving us a rare glimpse into the world of the mysterious minke whale. The WWF worked with Australian Antarctic researchers to tag minke whales with cameras for the first time, watching where and how the animals feed.

The camera attaches to the whale's body with suction cups. In the case of the video below, the camera accidentally slid down the side of the minke whale's body, providing an unexpected look at the way its throat moves as it feeds.

Minke whales are one of the smallest baleen whales, but they're still pretty substantial animals, growing 30 to 35 feet long and weighing up to 20,000 pounds. Unlike other baleen whales, though, they're small enough to maneuver in tight spaces like within sea ice, a helpful adaptation for living in Antarctic waters. They feed by lunging through the sea, gulping huge amounts of water along with krill and small fish, and then filtering the mix through their baleen.

The WWF video shows just how quickly the minke can process this treat-laden water. The whale could lunge, process, and lunge again every 10 seconds. "He was like a Pac-Man continuously feeding," Ari Friedlaender, the lead scientist on the project, described in a press statement.

The video research, conducted under the International Whaling Commission's Southern Ocean Research Partnership, is part of WWF's efforts to protect critical feeding areas for whales in the region.

If that's not enough whale for you, you can also watch the full 13-minute research video below:

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technology
AI Could Help Scientists Detect Earthquakes More Effectively
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iStock

Thanks in part to the rise of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, earthquakes are becoming more frequent in the U.S. Even though it doesn't fall on a fault line, Oklahoma, where gas and oil drilling activity doubled between 2010 and 2013, is now a major earthquake hot spot. As our landscape shifts (literally), our earthquake-detecting technology must evolve to keep up with it. Now, a team of researchers is changing the game with a new system that uses AI to identify seismic activity, Futurism reports.

The team, led by deep learning researcher Thibaut Perol, published the study detailing their new neural network in the journal Science Advances. Dubbed ConvNetQuake, it uses an algorithm to analyze the measurements of ground movements, a.k.a. seismograms, and determines which are small earthquakes and which are just noise. Seismic noise describes the vibrations that are almost constantly running through the ground, either due to wind, traffic, or other activity at surface level. It's sometimes hard to tell the difference between noise and legitimate quakes, which is why most detection methods focus on medium and large earthquakes instead of smaller ones.

But better understanding natural and manmade earthquakes means studying them at every level. With ConvNetQuake, that could soon become a reality. After testing the system in Oklahoma, the team reports it detected 17 times more earthquakes than what was recorded by the Oklahoma Geological Survey earthquake catalog.

That level of performance is more than just good news for seismologists studying quakes caused by humans. The technology could be built into current earthquake detection methods set up to alert the public to dangerous disasters. California alone is home to 400 seismic stations waiting for "The Big One." On a smaller scale, there's an app that uses a smartphone's accelerometers to detect tremors and alert the user directly. If earthquake detection methods could sense big earthquakes right as they were beginning using AI, that could afford people more potentially life-saving moments to prepare.

[h/t Futurism]

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