Spark 418

Deciphering ancient text, finding birds on streetview, and more.
Spark episode 418 (Matej Rieciciar/Unsplash)
Listen to the full episode53:59

On social media, finding out who exactly who is responsible for targeted ads for political causes, parties, or social movements isn't easy. Jeremy Merrill is one of the people behind Propublica's Political Ad Collector. Jeremy and his colleagues at Propublica have continued to monitor how political ads thrive on Facebook — who's behind them, and why regular users should care.

What do you think the greatest films of all time are? And how would you go about defending your choices? Traditionally, movies are ranked by by how well they did at the box office, and by how they were critically reviewed -- which leaves many influential films out. Now, Livio Bioglio, an Italian computer scientist has developed a new algorithm that yields some surprising results.

Cuneiform is the oldest known form of writing, and was used to tell the story of the rise and fall of Assyria and Babylonia some 5,000 years ago. And although half a million of the etched stone tablets have been unearthed, 90 percent of them remain untranslated. Émilie Pagé-Perron hopes to change that, by enlisting the aid of AI to look for patterns and reveal the stories the cuneiform texts tell.

Google's Street View has yielded a trove of information, from illicit activities to acts of great kindness. And it turns out the service is really good for an activity usually done offline: birding. Nick Lund, a writer for the National Audubon Society and creator of the website, The Birdist, explains his latest avian adventure: Google Street View Birding.

We've all gone through breakups. That's why Ridwan Madon, a student at the TISCH school for the arts, created Breakup Aid.  It's a chatbot created to be a substitute for those who need a listening ear but think they may actually feel more comfortable talking to a chatbot about the trials of breaking up. 

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