YOU SAY GOODBYE, I SAY HELLO.
Microsoft has hired Sam Altman and another key figure from OpenAI, following their unexpected departure amid a corporate shakeup. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella affirmed the company’s commitment to OpenAI, highlighting the importance of the chatbot technology that sparked the generative AI trend. Nadella announced the addition of Altman and Greg Brockman to Microsoft, where they will lead a new advanced AI research team. This move follows Microsoft’s significant investment and technical support in OpenAI. The departure of Altman and Brockman from OpenAI was accompanied by speculation and drama, including Altman’s sentimental posts on social media. OpenAI initially appointed Mira Murati as interim CEO before Emmett Shear, former Twitch leader, took over. OpenAI cited issues with Altman’s candor towards the board as a reason for his exit. Altman, known for popularizing ChatGPT and discussing AI’s potential and risks globally, described his departure from OpenAI as a “weird experience.” (Associated Press)
SANOFI DOING A SANOFI.
A French mother, Melanie S., of two autistic children has filed a legal complaint against unknown persons, suspecting her children’s neuro-developmental disorders are linked to airborne emissions from Sanofi’s Depakine epilepsy drug plant. Working near the plant since 2011, she never used Depakine herself, but her children, born in 2014 and 2016, exhibit symptoms seen in children exposed to the drug in utero. Sanofi, unaware of the complaint, stated its Mourenx plant has operated within regulations since 2018 and an independent 2017 study found no specific risks from its emissions. However, in 2022, Sanofi was ordered to pay damages for a child’s autism linked to Valproate, a drug with known side effects. French health authorities associate the drug with thousands of birth defects and neuro-developmental issues. Sanofi, under investigation since 2020 for manslaughter charges, which it rejects, insists on its compliance with regulations. (Reuters)
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SpaceX SUCCESS, SORT OF.
SpaceX’s Starship rocket, the largest and most powerful ever built, exploded at around 148 kilometers altitude during a test flight, still deemed a success by the company. This test surpassed the previous 39-kilometer altitude milestone, achieving a first-time “hot staging” where the upper stage separated while some booster engines were active. Despite an automated safety system triggering the explosion due to a detected issue, the event marks progress in SpaceX’s ambitious space exploration goals. Elon Musk, SpaceX CEO, envisions Starship revolutionizing space travel, potentially reducing payload costs to as low as $10 per kilogram and carrying up to 150 tons into low-Earth orbit. NASA plans to use Starship in its Artemis Moon program, expecting it to carry over 100 tons to the lunar surface. The rocket’s success could also expand possibilities for astronomy and space science. The test follows regulatory scrutiny from the FAA, which required 63 corrective actions from SpaceX after a previous mishap. Controversies surrounding Musk’s recent conduct are noted, but industry experts expect NASA’s partnership with SpaceX to remain unaffected. (Science)
CRISPR TAKES ON CUTTLEFISH CAMOUFLAGE.
Researchers are making significant progress in understanding cuttlefish camouflage, despite their color-blindness. Presenting at the 2023 Society for Neuroscience meeting, scientists revealed insights into cuttlefish brain and skin cell activity. These creatures, with notably large brains for invertebrates, can change their skin pattern in milliseconds using chromatophores—pigment cells controlled by muscle contractions. This ability reflects their brain activity directly. Recent studies show cuttlefish use a trial-and-error method for camouflage, constantly adapting to their environment. Gene editing of cuttlefish embryos is a focus, aiming to illuminate specific brain functions related to their skin changes. Additionally, research into their ‘active sleep’ state, where they display rapid color flashes, might shed light on the evolutionary purposes of sleep and dreaming in animals. This work not only unravels mysteries of cuttlefish behavior but also has broader implications for understanding brain function and evolutionary biology. (Nature)
SO ABOUT THOSE WINE HEADACHES…
Researchers believe they’ve discovered why red wine causes headaches, a mystery dating back to ancient Greek times. The culprit appears to be quercetin, a flavanol found primarily in red wine. In the body, quercetin is processed into substances that inhibit an enzyme necessary for converting acetaldehyde into acetate. This leads to an accumulation of toxic acetaldehyde, causing headaches, nausea, and other symptoms similar to those induced by a drug used in treating alcoholics. These headaches differ from hangovers, often occurring just 30 minutes after consuming a small amount of red wine. The phenomenon, intriguing since the era of the Greek philosopher Celsus, has eluded a clear explanation despite various suspects like tannins and sulphites. Red wines, particularly those from sun-exposed grapes like Napa Valley cabernets, tend to have higher quercetin levels. Future clinical trials aim to further explore this link, potentially aiding wine drinkers and winemakers in avoiding these headache-inducing compounds. (The Guardian)
THE FILTHY RICH.
The world’s wealthiest 1% emit more CO2 than the poorest 66%, causing significant climate impact and health risks. The ‘Great Carbon Divide’ report reveals these high earners, including millionaires and billionaires, contributed to 16% of global emissions in 2019. Their lifestyle and political influence hinder emission reduction efforts. The report stresses the need for wealth and windfall taxes on the rich and fossil fuel companies to support vulnerable communities, address inequality, and fund renewable energy. Oxfam suggests such taxes could significantly reduce emissions and generate funds for green initiatives, highlighting the urgent need to address both climate crisis and inequality. (The Guardian)
KIDS BEING HEALTHY.
In 2022, 12.3% of children and adolescents aged 4–17 years engaged in yoga, with a higher prevalence in younger kids (4–11 years) at 14.7%, compared to 9.2% in the 12–17 age group. This trend was observed in both genders, with 10.4% of younger males and 5.3% of older males practicing yoga, while 19.3% of younger females and 13.3% of older females did so. Females were more likely to practice yoga across both age groups. The health benefits of yoga for children and adolescents are significant. It promotes physical fitness, enhancing strength, flexibility, and coordination. Yoga also offers mental health benefits, such as reducing stress and anxiety, improving concentration and memory, and promoting a sense of calm. Additionally, yoga can foster self-esteem and body awareness, encouraging a positive self-image and mindfulness. These benefits make yoga a valuable practice for young individuals, supporting their overall well-being and development. (MMWR)
MAKING SOCIAL SOCIAL AGAIN.
In 2018, an article in TechCrunch claimed that social networks had lost their social aspect, a statement that still holds today. Platforms like TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, YouTube, and X (formerly Twitter) have evolved into similar feeds of short, algorithm-optimized videos from top creators. This shift away from their original purpose of connecting with close friends and family is now being challenged by a new social app called ID. Developed by Amo, a Paris-based team including former Zenly members, ID aims to reinvent social networking by allowing creative, personal connections reminiscent of early blogging and MySpace days. Despite the recent shutdown of Zenly by parent company Snap, Amo has generated significant interest and funding, emphasizing a return to more meaningful social interactions and addressing issues like the loneliness epidemic exacerbated by current social media dynamics. ID distinguishes itself with a unique, customizable interface, encouraging users to engage creatively rather than passively consume content. (Techcrunch)
ROBLOX IS FOR THE PEOPLE.
In the popular online game Roblox, a 19-year-old Birmingham student, Muneeb, has created one of the most visited in-game stores, the “Catalog Avatar Creator experience,” with over 1.6 billion visits. This digital department store allows players to dress up their avatars with items purchased using real money. Muneeb’s app, initially a side project started in 2021, has now grown into a major platform for virtual fashion, winning the Fashion category at the Roblox Innovation Awards and outshining brands like Gucci and Karlie Kloss. Despite being a university student, Muneeb has expanded his virtual wardrobe to include over 10 million outfits. Roblox, which is free to play but generates revenue through in-game purchases, has paid creators over $2 billion since 2018. Muneeb’s success, amidst concerns about the platform’s reliance on young creators, exemplifies the value placed on online identities. He is now exploring potential collaborations with big brands, hoping to turn his passion into a full-time career, with a dream of working with Nike. (BBC)
Thanks for reading. Let’s be careful out there.
WORDS: The Biology Guy.
IMAGE CREDIT: Mike Mozart.