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#29: Aliens and UFOs, Brain Implant, Pregnancy is Doping, Energy from thin air, ChatGPT caught lying (again), and more!

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Hi everyone!

Last time, I wrote about my fear of missing out on AI, and how I haven’t used it for anything meaningful. Well, no more! I found that Bing Chat and ChatGPT are excellent sparring partners. Let me explain.

I constantly come up with weird questions. For instance: yesterday, I questioned how many songs it would take to break even on my Apple Music subscription. Bing Chat happily provided the answer:

A thousand songs per month seem doable! So the obvious follow-up question was: how many songs do I need to listen to bankrupt Apple? Bing refused to answer that question, so I rephrased, and boom. Listen to 25 trillion songs, and you would burn through Apple’s cash reserves (although that wouldn’t actually bankrupt the company).

Another example: last week I looked at my CO2 monitor and wondered if plants could reduce CO2 concentrations to 0ppm if they were in a well-lit and completely sealed room. Bing replied it was impossible as plants can only reduce CO2 concentrations by 50%. It mention a study by NASA, but I couldn’t find that study. Weird, I’ll dive into this one later.

The point is: thanks to AI I have someone (or something?) that will go along with my mad thoughts. Which sure will be a relief for my friends and family.

Anyway, have fun with this edition of the Simply Explained newsletter. I hope to catch you in the next one!

🤓 Cool Stuff I Found on the Internet

Tardigrades on the Moon!

This is an old article from 2019, but it shocked me to learn that there are tardigrades on the Moon! An Israeli spacecraft crashed into the Moon with dehydrated tardigrades on board. Tardigrades can survive long periods without water by entering a state of suspended animation when dried out.. So it’s possible that there are “living” tardigrades on the Moon today. In theory, we could collect them, bring them back to Earth, reanimate them, and study the effects of being on the Moon. Let’s start a crowdfunding campaign to bring these fellows home!

New York is sinking

There are over 1 million buildings in New York City, weighing approximately 762 billion kilograms (1.68 trillion lbs). That’s the equivalent of 140 million elephants. All that weight means New York City is sinking at a rate of 1-2mm per year. All while sea levels around the city are rising (+22 cm since 1950). There’s no need for panic, but the situation does need to be managed.

Full-size 3D model of Titanic

The Titanic sank 111 years ago, and while we know it collided with an iceberg, we actually don’t know how. Did it hit the iceberg along the starboard side (as in the movie) or did she ground on the iceberg? Figuring this out is hard, because the wreckage is 3800 meters below the Atlantic. It’s very dark out there and you can only see small sections of the ship at once. The company Magellan combined 700,000 image into 3D space, creating a model that’s so precise you can make out the serial number on a propellor. The BBC even made a cool video, showing how massive Titanic was (and how it compares to modern cruise ships).

"US has recovered intact alien vehicles"

Former intelligence official David Grusch claims the US government has possession of alien vehicles that are (partially) intact and made of exotic materials. He even claims that some of them have dead (alien) pilots inside. Another US intelligence official confirms the existence of these exotic materials and says “we are not alone”. I’m not sure what to make of this... Has ET been here all along?

🏥 Health & Medicine

Brain implant helps paralysed man walk again

Gert-Jan Oskam, 28, from the Netherlands, was paralysed from the waist down after a cycling accident in 2011. Now, 12 years later, he got a brain implant that allows him to walk again. The system captures and amplifies signals from his brain to his limbs. The system is still in research stage, and won’t be available for years to come. Gert-Jan trains with the system a few times per week, and while that trains his muscles, it has also restored a certain degree of movement when the system is off. This suggests damaged nerves may be regrowing, thanks to being stimulated by the implant. The hope is that we can apply this technology weeks after an injury to help a patient recover.

Being pregnant or being a mom can improve athletic performances! Physically, the body of a woman changes significantly during pregnancy. The blood volumes and levels of haemoglobin increase, which means the heart beats more efficiently and more oxygen can be transported to the muscles. It also boosts hormones like progesterone and oestrogen, which help with endurance. But pregnancy, and especially motherhood, also has a psychological advantage. To quote the article: “you learn to have more perspective after you’ve had children”.

Historical Photo: first successful heart transplant in Poland

This photograph was taken after a 23 hours heart transplant surgery. It was performed by Dr. Zbigniew Religa in 1987, when heart transplants were considered impossible. While it wasn’t the first heart transplant in the world, it was the first successful heart transplant in Poland. The photo shows Religa monitoring his patient’s vitals with a colleague of him sleeping in the corner of the room. The patient ended up outliving his doctor and held this photograph during his doctor’s funeral.

⚡️ Energy & Environment

Harvesting electricity from thin air!

Engineers have developed a technique for harvesting electricity from air humidity. The secret is to perforate a material with nanopores of less than 100nm (which is a thousandth of the width of a human hair). The small diameter means water molecules in the air will bump against it, creating a small charge. While most renewable energy sources are intermittent, this one isn’t. There’s always humidity in the air, so a device like this can produce clean energy around the clock.

France bans short-distance flights

France has banned domestic short-haul flights where train alternatives exist to reduce carbon emissions. This applies to all journeys that can be made by train in under 2,5 hours. So that means you can’t fly from Paris to Lyon anymore (unless it’s a connecting flight). Planes emit 77 times more CO2 per passenger compared to trains.

🧠🤖 Artificial intelligence

Lawyer used ChatGPT for research, and it lied...

A lawyer used ChatGPT to do research for a case. The chatbot cited several previous court cases, but they were all made up. The AI “hallucinated”. To double check the answer, he asked ChatGPT if the cases were real, which it insisted they were. He then submitted the research to the court, which obviously found out that all cases were fake. He now has to appear in front of the judge to explain what happened. The main takeaway here is to be careful when using AI tools for work. While they can be great, they also answer questions confidently, tricking us into believing the answers without checking.

AI discovers new antibiotic to fight superbug

Researchers used AI to identify a new antibiotic to fight a deadly drug-resistant bacteria. The AI predicted molecules that would neutralize the bacteria Acinetobacter baumannii, which is classified by the WHO as “critical”. The system was trained on data that describes which chemicals are effective against bacteria and which aren’t. After training, the model analysed 6680 chemical compounds it never saw before and identified 240 compounds that could be used as antibiotics. The team tested them, and found 9 potential new antibiotics! Conclusion: AI can help us explore the “chemical space” and potentially speed up the discovery of new drugs.

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