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#22: Wim Hof, Mastodon, Brain in a Dish, Worm Saliva, Dull Razors, and more!

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Hi everyone!

After reading about it (and watching a lot of YouTube videos), I finally gave the Wim Hof Method a try. Over the past two weeks, I've done 10 breathing sessions and took 12 cold showers. They're supposed to reduce stress and inflammation while boosting your immune system. I can't confirm any of these claims, but I can tell you I feel very energized after doing these exercises (while also being calm and focussed).

I can recommend everyone to try it. The cold showers are very rough in the beginning, but after a week, you'll almost feel comfortable under the cold water. Now, I even look forward to it!

Anyway, this month's newsletter is packed with cool things! As always, I'm open to feedback. Hit the reply button and let me know your thoughts.

Take care, Xavier

🤓 Cool Stuff I Found on the Internet

Chief Twit

On October 27th, Elon Musk bought Twitter for $44 billion. He celebrated by tweeting "let that sink in" while carrying an actual sink into the Twitter offices. His goal for Twitter is to defeat spam, make it more uncensored and turn it into the "WeChat for the West". Ambitious goals, considering the mass layoffs at the company.

Simply Explained: Fediverse & Mastodon

Many people are fleeing Twitter and switching to Mastodon. It's an open-source alternative that uses a federation approach. I made this video about it, and it's currently being watched 400% more than before Elon bought Twitter.

Tweeting Breaking Bad episodes

This Twitter bot is on a mission to tweet out every Breaking Bad episode, frame by frame! It tweets 5 frames every 30 minutes. The creator estimates it'll take until July 2nd to finish the entire series.

Catching a leaker at Tesla

In 2008, a Tesla employee was leaking information. To catch the leaker, Elon Musk proposed to send unique emails to all employees. They added additional spaces between sentences, creating a unique signature. The leaker was caught, but ultimately not prosecuted because the company was "too busy trying to survive".

Why do razors get dull?

At school, they taught me that a material can only scratch another if it's harder. For instance: a brick cannot scratch the sapphire crystal glass of a watch, but a diamond can. So why then why do shaving razors get dulled by human hair? Razors are made from stainless steel, which is 50 times harder than a human hair. Well, it all has to do with the structure of the steel. Often, there are weak points within the structure, which turn into micro cracks, and grow further with each shave until you end up with a dull razor. The researchers now filed a patent to manipulate steel to create longer-lasting razors.

👽 Space

NASA successfully deflects asteroid!

In the previous newsletter, I mentioned that NASA successfully crashed into an asteroid to see if it could change its orbit. The latest observations show that the orbit of the asteroid was shortened by 32 minutes. That's way better than the expected 10. It might have performed so well, because the asteroid was more of a rubble pile than solid rock. Anyway, the DART mission shows that it's a viable option to defend our planet, however it's unknown of this would also work on more solid asteroids.

NASA finds huge methane leaks

The EMIT detector aboard the ISS has found many methane leaks which were previously undetected. The leaks are mostly related to oil and gas infrastructure. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas as it traps 80 times more heat compared to CO2. This kind of scanning can reveal leaks quickly so they can be fixed (which is usually cheap). Next step could be to require oil and gas companies to keep leaks to a minimum.

🧠 (Artificial) intelligence

AI generated podcast with Joe Rogan and Steve Jobs

A company specialized in AI voice generation used a neural network to generate an interview with Steve Jobs on the Joe Rogan Experience. They trained the voice of Rogan on 1800 episodes of his podcast, while the one from Jobs was trained on the many presentations he made as CEO of Apple. It sounds very real, although Jobs sounds like he's giving a presentation rather than being interviewed.

AI estimates building efficiency from images

Warning: this is a very technical paper. In a nutshell, researchers trained a neural net to estimate a building's energy efficiency just by looking at street view and satellite images together with surface temperature and footprint data from maps. This could be important in our race to carbon neutrality. We could use it to identify which buildings should be renovated first to have the highest impact.

Brains in a lab dish learn to play Pong

Researches grew a layer of living neurons on top of a special chip in a dish filled with nutrients. The chip was connected to a computer which could send and receive signal from the neurons. This connection was used to send electrical signals to brain cells that indicate where the ball was in a game of Pong. The brain cells learned how the game works and started playing! Why is this important? Well, our AI systems are rigid and very inflexible. Biological neural networks are much more flexible, and a setup like this could teach us why that is.

⚡️ Energy & Environment

Beehive plague could lead to plastic revolution!

Once upon a time, there was a scientist with a beehive that was plagued by wax worms. He cleaned the hives and put all the worms in a plastic bag. After a little while, he noticed lots of holed in the bag and found that the saliva of the worms could chemically break down the plastic.

The enzymes inside the wax worm saliva can break down PE (Polyethylene) at room temperature in water. Making it much more convenient than conventional recycling methods. Next steps for this research is trying to scale it up. Plastic eating bacteria were also featured in newsletter #12.

EU is forcing Apple to use USB-C

By the end of 2024, all devices sold in Europe must have a USB-C port for charging, and that includes the iPhone. The EU says this will reduce electronic waste because people won't need special chargers for each device. I'm thrilled they're doing this, as I only want to carry 1 charger and 1 cable.

Saudi Arabia breaks ground on "The Line"

The Saudis have started construction of a new city of 170km long, 500 meter tall and 200 meters wide. It sits in the middle of the dessert and will have room for a million residents. There are no streets or cars, and end-to-end travel will be possible within 20 minutes. It's a very ambitious project, with many people thinking it's impossible to pull-off.

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