Arts & Culture

Demystifying artificial intelligence, machine learning and deep learning

By Xieyang Jessica Qiao
Medill Reports

Artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and deep learning (DL) – these buzzwords are used so interchangeably that they become fluid in interpretation. But while these emerging technologies are intertwined, they provide different levels of application.

DL is a subset of ML, and ML is a subset of AI, the umbrella term that is common to all three. In a diagram, AI is the biggest circle encapsulating ML and DL. But the progression toward smaller circles takes us to more sophisticated and brain-like systems of analyzing data and learning from it for new applications.

“Human intelligence exhibited by machines, that’s the formal definition of AI,” said Jason Mayes, senior creative engineer of Google. “Now, there are two types of AI: artificial general intelligence (AGI) and narrow AI.”

Hollywood movies such as “The Terminator” revel in the idea of AGI, where machines can successfully perform any intellectual task a human being can. While human beings might automate products and services in the future with AGI, we are now still in a phase called narrow AI.

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Frances Willard and the fight for women’s suffrage

By Nora Mabie
Medill Reports

The Midterm elections of 2018 catapulted women to political victories at all levels of government, with a record number of women now serving the 116th Congress. These historic triumphs take on new meaning as we approach June 2019, marking 100 years since Congress passed the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote.

One of the heroes of the movement to get the vote is Frances Willard, a suffragist whose home and museum in Evanston celebrates a woman and a political master worth remembering.

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Cleantech innovations in the Midwest need more venture capital money

By Cyan Zhong
Medill Reports

Though still an industrial metropolis, Chicago is actively becoming a clean energy innovation hub for microgrids, electric cars and next generation battery research.

But the startup momentum in the energy sector isn’t matched with enough venture capital enthusiasm.

“There are great founders working hard on great new inventions and new technologies, and there’s simply a lack of capital here,” said Ben Gaddy, chief technology officer at Clean Energy Trust, a not-for-profit providing venture capital for early-stage cleantech startups in the Midwest.

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How AI can help you make better sense of the world

By Xiaoyi Liu
Medill Reports

Artificial intelligence (AI) is on the cusp of materially changing our own intelligence and decision-making ability. Just as we saw the replacement of human labor with machines during the Industrial Revolution, plan on a similar revolution in the modern workforce. AI will also bring economic opportunity, societal disruption – and lots of mixed feelings.

The definition of AI, a buzzword in computer science and digital marketing, can vary depending on who is answering the question. For Kristian Hammond, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at Northwestern University’s McCormick School of Engineering, if a machine is doing something that we think is intelligent when a human does it, give the machine credit for AI.

With mind-boggling amounts of data drowning people as they try to make decisions, AI offers a cool head and clear analysis. “I was struck by the bad relationship that people have with data,” Hammond said, and that is a motivation for him. “In general, every single day, the data that we generate – that moves one way to the other through the computer, is roughly equivalent to about 500 hundred books,” Hammond said. “Some of them are really valuable, we can get a lot of insight from them.”  Hammond makes tools to craft those insights for easy understanding.
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Fight Club: Women sweat, punch and kick their way to fitness

By Stephanie Fox
Medill Reports

Chicago area women gather at Studio DelCorpo, 1115 W. Armitage Ave., every Thursday evening for Girls Fight Club to sweat, punch and kick their way toward healthier and stronger selves. During the sessions, women of all ages learn a blend of martial arts and boxing from Rachel Lavin, a national and international winner of several competitive fighting events.

Lavin also has extensive competitive experience in Judo, tennis, triathlons and more.

The self-defense and workout class is all about building the confidence of women. Continue reading

Coats and booties protect dogs from winter’s sting

By Stephanie Fox
Medill Reports

Slideshow: Chicago dogs sport their winter clothes. (Stephanie Fox)

There’s nothing more adorable than a dog dressed up for winter. Even before the first big snowfall of the year, social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook are plastered in photos of French bulldogs wearing fuzzy holiday sweaters and videos of greyhounds wobbling across tiled floors in their winter booties. But, do canine winter clothes really serve a practical purpose, or are they just a cute addition to the holiday season?

The benefit of wearing a winter coat depends on the dog, but all dogs could benefit from winter booties, according to veterinarian Dr. John Hanover. Continue reading

Pittsburgh aftermath: Evanston religious leaders consider active shooter responses

By Alexis Shanes
Medill Reports

The thousands-year-old nightmare of anti-Semitism erupted again on Oct. 29, when 11 worshippers at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue died in a shooting, likely the deadliest attack against Jews in U.S. history.

Illinois religious communities, like so many faith groups around the world, recoiled in response, condemning the attack and gathering at solidarity events to mourn the victims. “It was a wake-up call that this could happen in our communities,” said Andrea London, the senior rabbi at Beth Emet, a reform synagogue in Evanston.

Evanston’s interfaith group of religious leaders who routinely work together discussed active shooter responses at a recent meeting, London said. She said  religious leaders are considering  programs such as active shooter training.
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Cultural Center’s “The Nutcracker” invited all dance lovers to perform

By Xiaoyi Liu
Medill Reports

“The Nutcracker”ballet is a holiday classic that sets the tone for the season at national opera houses and school stages across the world. Through beautiful music and charming choreography, it celebrates the holidays by taking audiences on an unforgettable journey with young Clara as she travels from her home on Christmas Eve to the Land of the Sweets.

But dance lovers of all ages and abilities came to point their toes in Tchaikovsky’s ballet at the Chicago Cultural Center on Sunday. Participants learned the basic ballet positions and movements taught by members of Ballet Chicago at an optional lesson before joining in the performance of “The Nutcracker”.

“She has loved the Nutcracker story since she was a little over a year old, and she loves to dance,” said Chicagoan Julie Trent, who brought her three-and-a-half-year-old daughter to dance. “She enjoys it and I enjoy watching her. She is a free spirit, so she really likes to move and she loves music.” Continue reading

Illinois embraces indigenous legacy through ethnobotany

By Katie Rice
Medill Reports

When Gina Roxas was about four years old, she was hospitalized with a diagnosis of pneumonia.

Heartbroken at being separated from her family, she ripped the IVs out of her arms, cried and refused to eat while in the hospital. Her condition deteriorated, and doctors had to restrain her.

One day, her father came to visit her and told doctors he’d see what he could do about his daughter’s illness.

“He grabbed me, wrapped me in a blanket and walked out the door,” Roxas said. “And he [carried me to] my great-grandmother’s (house) and gave me to her. And she healed me. She healed me with her prayers, with her teas and with her herbal rubs. It’s not scientifically proven that I was healed, but I’m still here, right?”
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Puerto Rican superhero wrestles hurricanes and empowers her culture in comics

By Valerie Nikolas
Medill Reports

SAN JUAN – The typical comic book thriller culminates with a superhero fighting an evil villain. In Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez’s “La Borinqueña,” the title character fights not a mere villain but, rather, a hurricane.

An art director, designer, and most recently a graphic novelist, Miranda-Rodriguez created La Borinqueña, a female Afro-Boricua superhero who represents Puerto Rican culture and identity. His comics also address hurricanes and other environmental issues threatening the island.

“We live in an era where people are consumed by popular culture, and have more conversations around it than they do around the real world,” said Miranda-Rodriguez. “So I said, let me create a superhero, and use that as a vehicle to address real world issues—the problems affecting real people.”

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