TIME Science

Watch Bill Nye Explain Evolution Using Emoji

“We emojinized it.”

Bill Nye has never been known to teach science the way you learned it in school — unless, of course, your school taught you about water displacement by spoofing Sir Mix-a-Lot. The Science Guy is still infusing fun into science, this time spreading the gospel of evolution with the help of some emoji.

In the video, produced by Mashable as part of General Electric’s “Emoji Science” promotion, the major players in evolution get emoji matches: carbon is represented by the diamond, self-replicating molecules are interconnected faces and bacteria are represented by the purple alien monster. But despite his casual demeanor in this video, Nye takes the topic rather seriously. Back in February, he debated Ken Ham, a prominent proponent of creationism, in an attempt to win over creationists with the scientific evidence supporting evolution. In November, he released a book called Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation, aimed at exposing young creationists to the scientific principles of evolution.

For those who don’t plan to read the book, the video offers a simplified version. “We shook it up with emoji, and then we told a story,” Nye says of the digital age approach to evolution. “The way you might do if you had too many, um, Jell-O shots.”

TIME Music

Watch the Trippy Video for Gwen Stefani’s ‘Spark the Fire’

Stefani unveils her own emoji-inspired language

Even if Gwen Stefani’s recent single “Spark the Fire” is a little repetitive, it comes to life in the colorful blend of animation and reality that characterizes its music video. Stefani floats into the frame on an adorable cartoon cloud, high above a candy-colored animated world. Her lyrics pop up in text message bubbles with emoji-like icons illustrating the love, energy and fire of which she sings.

Pharrell, who produced the track, said the song is about feminism, though the lyrics only briefly touch upon “balanc[ing] the scales.” The video’s brand of feminism seems to consist of bringing together a bunch of attractive dancers dressed in L.A.M.B., burning down the club with confidence. It’s a start, at least.

On the whole — aside from a few moments of comically conspicuous product placement — it’s not only a rousing three minutes, but it also makes a compelling case for Gwen Stefani’s face to be added to the set of new emojis for Unicode 8.0.

TIME technology

Racially Diverse Emoji Are Finally Coming to Your iPhone

The first black Emoji will come June 2015

There are 59 different types of food Emoji, but the pictorial smartphone language has been severely lacking in other areas—specifically when it comes to racial diversity.

To address the continuous stream of poop emojis being flung its way for not providing a single black emoji, developer Unicode announced a range of new skin tones Tuesday that will be available in its Unicode Version 8.0 launch in June 2015.

Here is a sampling of the new color options:

The coding indicates that any Emoji can be portrayed with a different skin tone:

“People all over the world want to have emoji that reflect more human diversity, especially for skin tone,” the organization’s report reads. “The Unicode emoji characters for people and body parts are meant to be generic, yet following the precedents set by the original Japanese carrier images, they are often shown with a light skin tone instead of a more generic (inhuman) appearance, such as a yellow/orange color or a silhouette.”

Unicode Version 8.0 is adding 5 symbol modifier characters that provide for a range of skin tones for human emoji. These characters are based on the six tones of the Fitzpatrick scale, a recognized standard for dermatology (there are many examples of this scale online, such as FitzpatrickSkinType.pdf). The exact shades may vary between implementations.

This marks a significant improvement upon the racial stereotypes exhibited previously in the Emoji’s original language:

iPhone Screengrab

Read next: President Obama Is Reaching Out to Millennials About the Economy Using…Emoji

TIME 2014 Election

President Obama Is Reaching Out to Millennials About the Economy Using…Emoji

Barack Obama
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks about jobs and the economy during a visit to Millennium Steel Service as part of Manufacturing Day in Princeton, Ind. on Oct. 3, 2014. Kevin Lamarque—Reuters

With "every single one" of Obama's economic policies on the ballot this November, the White House is using emoji to reach out to young voters

Hey millennials, President Obama wants you to know that he gets you. And to make that message clear, the White House began using emoji in a social media campaign launched Thursday to engage the nation’s largest generation on the President’s economic platform.

The economy has been pretty scummy for the majority of millennials’ adult lives, as a new White House report on the generation born between 1980 and the mid-2000s makes clear. According to “15 Economic Facts About Millennials,” having started out in the workforce during the Great Recession will affect young Americans for “years to come.” Though the unemployment rate for 18-to-34-year-olds has fallen from its peak of 13% in 2010, in the group still faces 8.6% unemployment—notably higher than the national average of 5.9%. And although more millennials have college degrees than any other generation of young adults, they are more likely to accrue student loan debt; such debt surpassed $1 trillion in the second quarter of 2014.

But the Obama administration wants young people to know it’s not all bad. The report finds millennials “value the role that they play in their communities,” are more likely to have health insurance—thanks to the Affordable Care Act—and millennial women enjoy a more level playing field in the workforce.

The highlights from the report will be promoted via the White House’s social media accounts starting Thursday—with animated graduation caps and flexing arms aiming to portray Obama as working hard to make college more affordable and give young people access to health care, as BuzzFeed first reported on Thursday. In an infographic on the White House website, the Obama administration even makes use of some of the more obscure emoji–including the pi symbol and a microscope–to show young people using their access to technology and science education to expand their opportunities.

The campaign is the latest White House maneuver to appeal to young people on the economy, an issue that helped drive young voters to the polls in 2008 and 2012. During a recent speech at Northwestern University near Chicago, the President said his economic policies would be on the ballot this November—a message Republicans have been using against their Democratic opponents in tight Senate races across the country.

Yet the millennial vote has skewed Democratic in the most recent contests, and a push to remind young voters of what helped drive them to the polls in 2008 and 2012—jobs, healthcare, student loan debt—may not hurt. That is, if young voters even show up this election—a recent Harvard University poll shows only about 23% of 18-to-29-year-olds said they plan to vote in this year’s midterm contest.

 

TIME technology

In Praise of Emoticons :-)

The smiley face is all grown up — but just as vital as ever

There are certain things so ubiquitous—things we all have used and enjoyed like we share equal ownership over them—that it is hard to imagine any single mortal person creating them. Things like this:

: – )

But the emoticon, that display of feeling crafted from punctuation, does have a birth story, and it unfolded exactly 32 years ago today, on Sept. 19, 1982.

Scott Fahlman, a computer scientist at Carnegie Mellon, noticed that conversations were going awry on electronic message boards the staff was using to communicate in the early 1980s. Jokes were being lost, tones were being misconstrued and unnecessary tirades were eclipsing the intended discussions. So Fahlman, then in his early 30s, made a simple, legendary suggestion: if you’re being humorous or ironic, label your comment with a smiley face made of a colon, dash and parenthesis.

Soon emoticons were spreading to other universities, then seeping into emails and eventually text messages across the world, filling the giant hole left by all the visual cues present only in face-to-face communication. The tone of one’s voice, the furrowing of one’s brow, the erect middle finger. “One of the main problems with text communication is that it’s just different from how we’ve talked to each other for most of the existence of language,” says computational linguist Tyler Schnoebelen, who wrote his thesis on emoticons at Stanford. “There they are, these words, sort of flat. We’re depleted, we’re dry in terms of the cues we get to use to signal exactly what we mean.”

And that is where emoticons have come in so terribly handy. The twist is that 32 years into this wild ride, emoticons are giving way to more colorful, more elaborate Japanese-born cousins: emoji. Those little images—invented in the ’90s by telecommunications planner Shigetaka Kurita—are much more versatile than punctuation will ever be. They’re easier to use and more efficient; three clicks can give you all this instead of just this: [ : – ( ]. They can be even be animated like this Screen Shot 2014-09-12 at 12.17.47 PM.

From Facebook's Finch collection of emoji, which the company calls "stickers."
From Facebook’s Finch collection of emoji, which the company calls “stickers.”

But on this momentous occasion of the emoticon entering its 33rd year, let us take a moment to appreciate the qualities it has that emoji do not. For one, developers and designers are flooding our operating systems with their own versions of emoji (like Facebook’s) — which, unlike uniform colons and dashes, are all different. Though most people are familiar with the emoji Apple designed (like those in the above paragraph), there is no standard set. So some only work on this browser or that phone and often what we get, instead of that important, clear visual cue of a person’s meaning, is this unhelpful thing signifying that an icon should be there, but is not: Screen Shot 2014-09-12 at 11.41.37 AM.

In an attempt to one up each other, emoji developers have also started making symbols that can actually confuse situations as much as clarify them. Take this adorable yet semantically unhelpful emoji from social app Line:

You know, for those times when you’re expressing something that really won’t come across quite right without a half-peeled banana with a milk mustache.

It is, of course, lovely that texters have the option to add this to their epistle, but there is a simplicity it lacks that an old-fashioned, primitive emoticon like ; ) does not.

Emoji are indisputably the cool kids to the emoticon’s awkward yet lovable science teacher. But they’re not dead yet! Until there is a standardized set of emoji—or software capable of translating all images onto all electronic devices as senders intended them—people will be relying on these 32-year-old standbys. So happy birthday to you, you little symbolic gems, and thank you for all your fine work so far = ).

TIME Internet

Introducing the Hipster Emoji We’ve All Been Waiting For

Hipmoji

Grab a lukewarm can of PBR and check these out

If you’re looking to “unleash your inner hipster,” which we know you totally are, look no further than these new hipster-themed emoji. They’re available through an app called Hipmoji, created by California web development company Cookies & Milk.

Even though you were totally into hipster-themed emoji before they were cool, grab a PBR, turn on your record player and check these out:

Notables include Pharrell’s hat (is that really still a thing though?), a blunt, a Flappy Bird, headphones, a can of PBR, a mustache, a TOMS shoe and some bubble tea. Sure, why not.

Hipmoji has two main features. The first allows you to send these hip icons through text and email, like normal. The second allows you to upload photos and then insert the emoji into them. You know, so you can see what your cat looks like with a mustache and some Beats by Dre headphones.

The app is available for free in the Apple Store. Here’s the problem with this, though: real hipsters don’t use iPhones. They only communicate through antique telegraph machines.

TIME technology

This iPhone App Turns Your Selfies into Textable Stickers

imoji

You-moji

New emoji are rolling out rapidly enough that someday we’ll have entire libraries full of incomprehensible emoji-only books to be read only by experts. But if even the existence of a hot dog or pizza emoji isn’t enough, there’s imoji—a new app that will turn a selfie, a snapshot, or pretty much anything else into a textable sticker.

Just open the app, choose a picture, and erase around the edges to turn it into an emoji perfectly suited to your conversation. imoji’s Instagram account has some suggestions: a 2007 meltdown-era Britney Spears head, goofy animal pictures, and, of course, Peter Dinklage.

TIME

How Fluently Do You Speak Emoji?

Take our quiz to find out how well you know texting's favorite icons.

(Note: most emoji definitions sourced from Emojipedia.)

TIME Internet

This Twitter Bot Will Create Your Very Accurate Portrait Out of Emojis

An excuse for deep self-reflection

A new Twitter bot called @emojidoll will create personalized portraits of those who tweet “me” at it. The randomized generator was programmed by former Flickr and bitly head of product Matthew Rothenberg and creates 15.6 million possible combinations of faces, shoes, hats, torsos, hands made out of handguns, balloons, and bananas. There is a distinct underutilization of the eggplant, though. For better or worse.

At best, you’re tipsy, sensei Santa with a butcher knife:

Twitter

At worst, you have poop for a face:

Twitter

(h/t: Daily Dot)

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser