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The Weekender: Rats, self-driving semi-trucks and NASA's 'impossible engine'

What to do, see, and read this weekend

Hello fellow weekend-goers, and welcome back to The Weekender. This week, we stood on the frontlines of the war against rats, we sat behind the wheel of a self-driving semi-truck, and we broke down the physics of NASA's 'impossible engine.' We'll also be setting you up for a stellar weekend back on this terrestrial plane. So sit back and take a journey with us.

Do this

Banksy, New York, NY

As part of this week’s Art Miami New York, the Keszler Gallery will display some rare Banksy originals. I’m sure there’s something to say about bringing the street to the studio, but I’m not sure what it is.

Read this

On the front lines of humanity’s high-tech, global war on rats

Is it possible to wipe out rats from a town, an island, or even a city? Efforts are being made in areas across the globe to eradicate the pesky rodents, but as good as we are at fighting them, they're even better at coming back.

Physics be damned, we can’t stop obsessing over NASA’s ‘impossible engine'

Could physicists eventually build a rocket engine that doesn't require fuel? Scientists at NASA and in a few labs around the world are working on it, but don't hold out too much hope: the "impossible engine" is probably as impossible as its name implies.

This is what it’s like to ride in Daimler’s self-driving semi truck

Autonomous driving is going to be a huge deal, and that's particularly true in the trucking industry. The technology has the ability to keep drivers more awake and aware of their surroundings — even when their hands aren't actually on the wheel. We spoke with the company behind the first 18-wheeler to implement self-driving to see how it can change the field.

How musician Holly Herndon created the 'alien' sounds on her new album

Holly Herndon's newest album is packed with unnerving electronic sounds that manage to comment on technology without the need for many words. We spoke with Herndon to find out how she crafted the tone of her album, managing to comment on the NSA and make some compelling songs at the same time.

Why are we still coordinating disaster relief over radios?

It seems like there has to be something better than radio when it comes to organizing responders during an emergency. High-tech systems are already in use in some places around the US, but it turns out, there are good reasons why responders would want to stick with time-tested tech.

The Cruel and Unusual Execution of Clayton Lockett

The Atlantic
Jeffrey E. Stern details the gruesome, botched execution of Oklahoma’s Clayton Lockett, and what it says about capital punishment.

Before a team of correctional officers came to get him at 5:06 a.m., he fashioned a noose out of his sheets. He pulled the blade out of a safety razor and made half-inch-long cuts on his arms. He swallowed a handful of pills that he’d been hoarding. And on April 29, 2014, when the team of officers knocked on the door of his cell in the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester, Oklahoma, Clayton Lockett—a 38-year-old convicted murderer—pulled a blanket over his head and refused to get up.

World Without End

The New Yorker
Raffi Khatchadourian reports on engineers and architects who are building an entire video game world that will, essentially, be infinite.

When I first met with Murray, at his studio, earlier this year, he had just flown back from the North American headquarters of Sony PlayStation, in California. He had a long relationship with Sony. A few days before he unveiled the No Man’s Sky trailer, in 2013, he had distributed versions of it to people in the industry, and Sony had been immediately interested. “I sent Sean a barrage of texts,” Shahid Ahmad, a director of strategic content at Sony PlayStation, told me. “I said, ‘We need to get this on PlayStation. Tell me what you need.’”


The Underground Art of the Insult

The New York Times Magazine
Anna Holmes on the concept of “shade.”

Shade is currently having another moment, in no small part because of the ascendancy of the African-American vernacular in both popular culture and digital media. Perhaps the most famous avatar of shade right now, aside from the star of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” is the character Cookie Lyon, the star of Fox’s hit show “Empire,” played by Taraji P. Henson. Cookie, the ex-wife of a music mogul, is a fiercely proud, no-nonsense matriarch whose talent for delivering withering looks and devastating one-liners — “The streets ain’t made for everybody, that’s why they made sidewalks” — is unmatched on television. (A Google search for the words “Cookie,” “Empire” and “shade” results in almost half a million hits.) But shade’s most fertile terrain is the quippy, contentious milieu of social media, which prizes bursts of verbal virtuosity.

The Last Day of Her Life

The New York Times
Robin Marantz Henig tells the story of Sandy Bem, a psychology professor who realizes she has Alzheimer’s and makes the decision to end her own life.

Sandy was a small woman, just 4-­foot-­9 and 94 pounds, with an androgynous-­pixie look: cropped hair, glasses and a wardrobe that skewed toward jeans and comfortable sweaters she knit herself in the 1990s. As she watched the documentary, her pulse thrumming in her ears, a woman on screen took a memory test. Sandy decided to take it along with her. Listen to three words, the examiner said, write a sentence of your choice and then try to remember the three words. Sandy heard the three words: “apple,” “table,” “penny.” She wrote a brief sentence: “I was born in Pittsburgh.” She said aloud the words she could remember: “apple,” “penny”... The simplest of memory tests, and she had failed.

The Search for Aloe Blacc’s Secret Children’s Album

DJ Pizzo profiles Stones Throw affiliate Aloe Blacc.

Among these things out of left-field is a mysterious, unreleased “children’s album” that Aloe recorded in 2005 during his tenure at Stones Throw, which he distributed hand-to-hand to his close personal friends. The album has otherwise been kept airtight, as it has not been uploaded to the internet and remains largely undiscovered by fans. Even the ridiculously thorough music archive has no listing for the children’s record, although it has every other release of his career, along with plenty of unreleased cuts from Dr. Dre’s Detox.


Listen to this

Crocodiles - Boys

This San Diego-based, animal-monikered band hides their backbone of classic hippie-surf in a wash of cool-kid feedback.

Patrick Watson - Love Songs for Robots

If your ideal summer soundtrack probably comes from a moody Antony Hegarty / Leonard Cohen crossover, this album's for you.

Play this

Virtual Insanity

The music video for Jamiroquai’s 1996 song “Virtual Insanity” is now a game, which kind of makes you think, ‘Why did it take this long?’ Slide the dancing man around while trying to avoid furniture projectiles and listening to that song you really liked at one point in your life.

Watch this

A Talking Cat!?!

What is there to say about A Talking Cat!?!? It's bad. It's so bad. But in a great way. You should probably only watch this if you enjoy the mind-numbing narrative confusion of movies like The Room and Troll 2. Eric Roberts voices the cat.