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The power of ChatGPT

A few months ago, major tech company OpenAI launched ChatGPT and it quickly became a viral chatbot tool. Since then, it has impressed everyone by creating original essays, short stories, instruction sets and even coding. Users can run it for free as long as they create a personal account. They can simply type their request, and ChatGPT will execute it for them.

Spotting wildlife

I once took a trip to Yellowstone National Park in America with my dad. The park was incredible—especially the wildlife.

We were driving into the entrance and saw a lot of cars parked on the side of the road so we just parked behind them and looked around. In the distance, a couple of bison were grazing. They look like cows, but with massive heads with fur on top that looks like an afro. They were majestic, like something from a bygone era. 

A little while later, we were walking along a path through the hills. A park ranger was there to keep people moving because some bison had decided to hang out right next to where people were walking. Up close, they were even more impressive. 

Tardigrades

Tardigrades (TAHR-di-greyds), often called water bears, are near-microscopic animals with long, plump bodies. They have eight legs, with four to eight claws on each. While strangely cute, these tiny animals are almost indestructible.

Water bears can live in just about any type of water body. They prefer to live in sediment at the bottom of a lake, on moist pieces of moss or other wet environments. They can also survive a wide range of temperatures and situations. 

Researchers have found that tardigrades can withstand environments as cold as -200˚C (-328°F) or highs of more than 149˚C (300°F). They can also survive radiation, boiling liquids, massive amounts of pressure (up to six times the pressure of the deepest part of the ocean), and even the vacuum of space, without any protection. A 2008 study found that some species of tardigrade could survive 10 days at low Earth orbit while being exposed to space vacuum and radiation. 

The Right to Repair movement

When I was growing up in the 1960s and '70s, things were made to last. My husband and I have a waffle iron that belonged to his grandmother—it's about 80 or 90 years old and it still works! My father loved to fix things and taught me to love it, too. So repairing things seems natural to me.

However, these days things are made to break down. It's called "planned obsolescence". Manufacturers make sure their products will stop working after a few years. Some obsolescence is natural as new products are added and technology advances. But planned obsolescence becomes a problem when the manuals and parts for repair aren't made available. Consumers are forced to discard products and buy new ones, creating huge amounts of waste. And small repair shops can't stay in business, hurting local economies.

The names of groups of animals

In English, there are over a hundred different names for groups of animals. They are called collective nouns. Most of these are not obvious at all.

Common collective nouns are a school of fish and a flock of birds. But let's talk about some lesser-known ones.

You can find a troop of baboons in the jungle and a sleuth of bears in the forest, where a swarm of bees hangs from the branches that will soon be used by a colony of beavers to build a dam.

A flock of birds and a murder of crows fly in the sky, while a cluster of cats chases a mischief of rats.

On the farm, a brood of chickens raises a clutch of chicks. Nearby, a pack of dogs and a band of coyotes chase a herd of buffalo.

Gazing at satellites

When I was a kid, my father would drag us out of bed in the wee hours of the morning to watch a rocket launch, on our fuzzy little 9" black-and-white TV. They were momentous occasions. When I was 7, the Apollo 11 mission took us to the moon. I saw that happen! It was awesome.

For years after that, my father would point out satellites as they traveled across the night sky. It was amazing to see them out there. But that was about 50 years ago. Today there are so many satellites that you almost always see one. And with the new mega-satellite arrays being developed, that number is going to explode. SpaceX alone plans to launch more than 30,000 in the near future. While this will make huge advances possible in various technologies, it will also add to a new problem—satellite pollution. 

Design for humanity

On one hand, designers aim to make useful, attractive products or services. On the other hand, capitalism aims to make money for investors. When these two things are put together, designers can lose. Designs become more a means of profit than things of beauty and utility.

Investors want to get a high return on investment. So, they continually push for new products. If there isn't a demand for that product, they try to create demand. They use advertising to persuade consumers to buy unneeded products. On top of that, profit-driven companies create products that don't last and can't be repaired easily, so people have to keep buying new ones.

Designers, unfortunately, have little or no say in the matter. Designers often want to make beautiful, sustainable products, but can't. They simply have to satisfy the profit-driven executives.

Men artists: Jean-Michel Basquiat

Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960–1988) was part of the Neo-Expressionist movement of the 1980s, led by Andy Warhol. Basquiat's primitive style grew out of his time as a graffiti artist in New York City. People first knew him as part of the anonymous duo SAMO© (pronounced "same-o"), with Al Diaz. They were among the first to use words to communicate thoughts, rather than just tags with names and numbers.

For 3 years, from the age of 17–20, Basquiat sold his art on t-shirts and postcards on the street for a couple of bucks each. Finally, he made it into a group show at an art gallery. People and critics loved his work, and in no time people were paying $50,000 or more for one of his pieces.

The child of a Haitian father and Puerto Rican mother, Jean-Michel Basquiat brought the Black and Latino experience into the fine art world. His art was angry and harsh, yet also poetic. He was able to express a reality that had long been excluded from elite society.

Women artists: Georgia O'Keeffe

Historically, women have struggled to be accepted in the world of the arts. In the art of painting, they were subjects for men's art, or wives and sisters of male artists. Women weren't accepted as artists themselves. But that began to change in the 20th century. Georgia O'Keeffe played an important role in that change.

Georgia O'Keeffe (1887–1996) was part of the American Modernist movement. American Modernism grew out of the Industrial Revolution and focused on everyday subjects like cities and factories. It used abstract forms and bright colors. Georgia O'Keeffe pushed the boundaries to develop her own style. Her paintings were still abstract and brightly colored, but she added a little realism.

Ramen: once a black market staple

Ramen is one of Japan’s most popular foods today, with over 10,000 ramen shops in Tokyo alone. However, ramen wasn’t always so ubiquitous in Japanese society. Chinese immigrants introduced it to Japan in the late 19th century. It was originally made with noodles in broth, topped with Chinese-style roast pork. It became an important part of Japanese cuisine in the years immediately after the Second World War.

In December 1945, Japan had its worst rice harvest in 42 years. As a result, the American occupying forces imported large quantities of wheat into Japan, which was used not only for bread, but also to make noodles for ramen, which most Japanese ate at illegal food vendors. Many people relied heavily on the illegal food vendors to survive as the government food distribution system ran up to 20 days behind schedule.