#21: AI Videos, Bruce Willis, Flying on Cooking Oil, Frogs, Mysteries and more!
I managed to not get infected with COVID-19 until 2 weeks ago. A runny nose and sore throat pushed me to do a self test, which immediately showed a positive result. Interestingly, I noticed my Apple Watch recorded a jump in my resting heart rate of 20 beats a full day before my symptoms appeared.
Could my Apple Watch have warned me in advance? Turns out that both Apple and Fitbit have run studies and found that their devices can indeed detect infections early on. Cool! Given enough data and good sensors, I'm convinced we'll soon be able to detect even more. A bit like having "predictive maintenance" for our bodies.
Anyway, I'm all better now, and I hope you enjoy this edition of the newsletter.
🤓 Cool Stuff I Found on the Internet
Generating video with AI
Six months after OpenAI release DALL-E, an AI system that can turn text into beautiful images/art. Google now released Imagen Video, that can generate videos from text. The results look very impressive, but are also thought provoking. What will happen if this technology becomes accessible to everyone? Deep fakes everywhere!
Evolution in action: Chernobyl frogs are turning black
Even though the Exclusion Zone around Chernobyl is heavily contaminated with radiation, it is teeming with life. Zoologists now found that tree frogs are turning black to adapt to the radiation. The black color is created by Melanin, which not only reduces the effect of UV light but also absorbs radiation energy. This makes it less likely for cell damage to occur, which results in a better chance of survival and more offspring. Evolution at work!
Ethereum successfully switches to proof-of-stake
On September 15, Ethereum finally migrated to the proof-of-stake consensus algorithm. The entire network now uses 99,95% less energy compared to when it used proof-of-work. Miners are no longer needed and have been replaced by validators. In a nutshell, validators put aside some ether as "stake". If they correctly validate transactions, they are rewarded with more ether. But if they try to trick the system, their stake is taken away from them. This creates a powerful incentive to play by the rules. Next up for Ethereum: splitting its blockchain in multiple shards to increase the capacity of the network and reduce fees.
This interactive map shows the birthplaces of notable people around the world. It also shows their "notability rank", gender, and if they're still alive. The data comes from a verified database of people who lived between 3500BC and 2018AD.
The painting “Salvator Mundi” shows Christ holding a crystal orb in one hand, while raising the other. It’s poorly overpainted, and presumed to be a copy of a more valuable, but lost original. Analysis now revealed that it might be an original painting by Leonardo da Vinci. Some experts doubt this claim, citing a lack of dynamism and no distortion behind the orb. The painting sold for $1175 in 2005, and just 12 years later was worth $450 million. Unfortunately, the painting is now missing.
Mystery of Somerton Man solved
In 1948, the body of a man was found on Somerton Beach, Australia. He was dressed in a suit and tie, with all the tags cut out. In his pocket was a piece of paper with the Persian word for "finished" on it, and his suitcase contained incoherent writings which were believed to be a code. Investigators had no idea who he was, but they believed he was a spy. Over 70 years later, he was finally identified through DNA research. A professor at the University of Adelaide found 4000 relatives. He then triangulated these distant family members and found the man he was looking for: Carl Webb.
Flying on cooking oil
An Airbus A380 has completed a test flight powered by cooking oil. More precisely: Sustainable Aviation Fuel or SAF. The fuel can reduce carbon emissions by up to 70%, as CO2 released from combustion is compensated by the CO2 absorbed by crops used in the fuel's production. However, at the moment, it’s not allowed to fly on 100% sustainable fuels. Airbus now wants to certify their planes so they can.
Space-based solar power
Renewable energy is great, but it's also intermittent: the wind doesn't always blow and the sun doesn't always shine (I mean it does, but you know what I mean). I now found that several countries want to capture solar energy in space and beam it down to Earth. This would give us a 24/7, uninterrupted, and clean source of power!
NASA crashed a spacecraft into an asteroid
66 million years ago, an asteroid smashed into Earth and caused a mass extinction event (RIP dinosaurs). Space agencies are now on the lookout for any asteroid that might pose a threat. But what can we do if we find one? With Bruce Willis reaching retirement age, NASA took matters into their own hands. They crashed a spacecraft into a harmless asteroid to change its orbit.
We're not sure if it actually worked, but the impact created a dust cloud of 10,000 kilometers long! Oh, and here's a fun Easter egg: do a Google search for "NASA DART" and see what happens.
Time Travel Paradoxes
I was watching an episode of Doctor Who in which the doctor explains the Bootstrap Paradox. Imagine a time traveler goes back in time to meet Beethoven and finds that he doesn't exist. Luckily, the time traveler brought Beethoven's sheet music with him, and releases the work so the universe isn't robbed of the music. The rest of history continues without changes, but where did Beethoven's music come from?
Video: YouTuber built & lands a rocket like SpaceX
Joe Barnard has been running BPS.space since 2015 with one goal: launch and land a model rocket in the same way as SpaceX. Now, after 7 years of development, he finally accomplished his goal. Along the way, he developed his own flight computer to manage thrust, emergency flight aborts, and now landings. He documents everything on his website and even sells the flight computer and 3D files so you can build your own model rocket.