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Big Picture Science

Your vir­tu­al assis­tant is not with­out a sense of humor. Its reper­toire includes the clas­sic sto­ry involv­ing a chick­en and a road. But will Alexa laugh at your jokes? Will she groan at your puns? 

Telling jokes is one thing. Teach­ing a com­put­er to rec­og­nize humor is anoth­er, because a clear def­i­n­i­tion of humor is lack­ing. But doing so is a step toward mak­ing more nat­ur­al inter­ac­tions with A.I.

Find out what’s involved in tick­ling A.I.’s fun­ny bone. Also, an inter­stel­lar com­mu­ni­ca­tion chal­lenge: Despite debate about the wis­dom of trans­mit­ting mes­sages to space, one group sends radio sig­nals to E.T. any­way. Find out how they craft­ed a non-ver­bal mes­sage and what it contained.

Plus, why using nuanced lan­guage to con­nive and scheme ulti­mate­ly turned us into a more peace­ful species. And yes, it’s all gou­da: why melt­ed cheese may be the cos­mic mes­sage of peace we need.