The US Government Is Selling Four Lighthouses

Perhaps you're looking for the perfect Fathers' Day Gift. Perhaps you want to reenact the Willem Dafoe film The Lighthouse with a friend. Either way, you have a great opportunity coming up. The Associated Press reports that the US government is selling four historic lighthouses.

The US Coast Guard (which asborbed the US Lighthouse Service in 1939) maintains aids to navigation that use technologies more modern than lighthouses and no longer has a use for these historic structures. But the General Services Administration wants to make sure that they are preserved. So the GSA is selling these buildings to local governments and non-profit organizations that will maintain them.

These lighthouses include the Cleveland Harbor West Pierhead Light, which offers a scenic view of the Cleveland skyline, which I assume is lovely, especially when the river is on fire. It's also accessible only by boat, offering a secure shelter in uncertain times.

The auction begins at the end of June, so start pulling up couch cushions for the money that you'll need.

-via Dave Barry | Photo: Mtbangert

Vote for the Best Illusion of the Year

Every year, the Best Illusion of the Year contest blows our minds. The video above by Matt Pritchard is one of the finalists for 2023. You've seen this kind of illusion before, but this construction is very well done. It was clever to base it on Platform 9¾ from the Harry Potter stories. Is it the best? That's for you to decide. The competition is pretty stiff.

The ten finalists for the Best Illusion of the Year Contest have been selected by a panel of experts. Take a look at all ten of them. You can vote for your favorite, or rather, you are invited to rate each illusion on a scale from one to five stars, like a product review. The top three will be determined by these ratings. If history is any indicator, we will find out who will win the 2023 competition some time in the last three months of this year. -via Boing Boing

Be sure to check out some of the past winners, too.

Can the World's Oldest Joke Make You Laugh?

The oldest recorded joke we've found so far was common enough that it was recorded twice on ancient Sumerian tablets, going back 4,000 years. It's a real knee-slapper.

a dog walks into a bar, but he doesn’t see anything. And so he asks: shall I open one?

Yeah, I don't get it, either. I guess you had to be there. Or maybe jokes were invented before humor was. Some of the world's greatest minds have been working on this one. Has it been correctly translated? What was the context in the Sumerian culture? Can the "walks into a bar" structure really be that old? The joke has been interpreted several different ways, because language and cultural context was way different 4,000 years ago, but it's not something experts agree on. The joke possibly depends on assumptions that ancient Sumerians would have lived with, but we don't. Then again, maybe it really wasn't that funny back then, either. It was recorded in collections of proverbs and advice, although it really doesn't work in that context, either. Read the various explanations for the dog joke at Historic Mysteries. -via Strange Company

(Image credit: Applejuice)

School's Out, and it's a Big Deal for This Family

Matt Wilson of Perry Township, Indiana, has made it a habit over the years to prank his son into embarrassment when he gets off the bus on the last day of school each year. For Liam's last day in eighth grade, Wilson went all out. He arranged for his band, Union Suit Rally, to perform the Alice Cooper song "School's Out" as the bus pulled onto their street. It was a challenge to outdo last year's stunt, in which he greeted the bus wearing Speedos, flippers, and a snorkel mask.

Liam, however, is less embarrassed now than in previous years. He's now finished with eighth grade, and will no longer ride the bus next year when he's in high school. He also probably knows it's pretty cool to have an involved dad who's in a band. I would have loved coming home to such a concert. -via Fark

The Winners of the Pink Lady® Food Photographer of the Year Contest

The image above looks as if it could be an advertisement for the contest, but this tasty spread is from contestant Keiron George of the United Kingdom, the winner of the Food Stylist category of the Pink Lady® Food Photographer of the Year competition. The overall winner is Jon Enoch for the photo below, titled The Candy Man.

The Candy Man, which also won the Street Food category,  is part of a series taken in Mumbai. The 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners plus honorable mentions in each category are presented in a gallery here. Want to see more winning food photography from all over the world? Take a look at some of the winning photographs and meet the photographers behind them at Design Milk. See the all finalists in the many categories, such as Food for Sale, Wedding Food, Moments of Joy, Innovation, Bring Home the Harvest, categories for younger photographers, and even videos, in this gallery. -via Nag on the Lake

When a Robot Dog Competes with Real Dogs

Advances in robotics have given us robots that act so real they are creepy. But how good are they, really? Could a consumer-grade robot ever fool anyone? No, but they can impress us in their own way. Zac Alsop got the idea to pit a computerized companion dog against real dogs in a competition, so he splurged on a Unitree Go1 robotic dog, although not the most expensive model. Even the bottom-line model is quite expensive. This robot is remote-controlled but also AI-enabled.

Anyway, Zac enlisted a dog trainer, a robot expert, and a dance instructor on his way to entering his "dog" in a canine freestyle (dancing) competition. But what starts out promising to be an epic experiment quickly turns into a comedy of errors, as Zac's failures along the way are rather funny and make the video what it is. He encounters a steep learning curve in "training" his robot and getting it into the competition. After all that, it really doesn't matter whether he wins or not, since nobody is taking him the least bit seriously.   

Future Residential Tower Will Allow Penthouse Residents To Drive Up Their Homes

Now they don’t need to worry about reaching the top of buildings to go home. A new venture of luxury residences by automotive brand Bugatti and developer Binghatti. The high-rise building will not just include beautiful and well-designed residential areas, but will also include car elevators. 

This will allow car owners to bring their vehicles right up to their penthouse suites. So far, that is the most interesting aspect of the building. Not much is also known about the edifice, actually. Aside from the car elevators, the developers have revealed that it will contain 171 Riviera Mansions residences and 11 Sky Mansion penthouses. Additionally, amenities such as a beach area, a private pool,  a jacuzzi spa, and a fitness club will be built for future residents. 

"Unmatched craftsmanship and exquisite finishes that set a new standard for opulence will be at the heart of the living spaces curated for Bugatti Residences, ensuring that the 'Art of Living' is reimagined for a contemporary defining era," the company explained in a press release. "Both penthouses and mansions offer spacious living areas adorned with the finest material selection the world has to offer. The Bugatti Residences carry a seamless blend of comfort, functionality, and elegance that reflect Bugatti and Binghatti’s pre-eminence in design."

Image credit: Bugatti

Sea Turtle With 3D Printed Shell Brace Is Still Doing Great

Way back in 2014, a loggerhead sea turtle was in a dire state after having a hole in her shell. When she was rescued near a power plant in New Jersey, the team from San Diego’s Birch Aquarium joined forces with the Digital Media Lab at UC San Diego Library to find a way to save her life and nurse her back to health. The team not only fed her and took care of her, but they also created the first ever 3D printed shell brace for sea creature care in 2017. 

This was done to cure the turtle of the abnormal curve in her spine and paralysis of her back flippers.  “We teamed up with the Digital Media Lab at Geisel Library to create a brace that will prevent the shell from curving further downward and will promote more normal growth. It’s our goal to prevent further complications and keep her as healthy and happy as possible,” said Jenn Nero Moffatt, senior director of animal care at the aquarium. 

The people at Digital Media Lab performed a blue light 3D scan of the turtle’s shell so the brace they made could fit perfectly, and would prevent further complications. Now, six years later, the loggerhead is living her best life. She is now about 3 feet long and more than 2.5 feet wide. Additionally, she now weighs 210 pounds, which is way more than 75.4 pounds, which was her weight when she was rescued.

Image credit: birchaquarium / Instagram

What Breakfast Cereals Have Contributed to Physics

The development of processed cold cereal made breakfast a lot easier for Americans on the go, and gave us plenty of late-night snacks, too. Grain extrusion can put your morning corn and oats into pretty much any shape you can imagine. But while most of us just read the box while eating, some physicists pondered the properties of those shapes and came up with ways to explain physics to us by using breakfast cereal as an example we can understand. Or if we don't, at least other physicists can.

Have you ever heard of the Cheerios Effect? The derivatives of position named snap, crackle, and pop? That time physicists compared the compression properties of Cocoa Puffs vs. Rice Krispies? Cereal has been a toy for physics experiments for some time. You can read about four ways cereal has advanced the science and the teaching of physics at Cracked.
(Image credit: Armando Olivo Martín del Campo)

King Conan, Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger

We had Conan the Barbarian in 1982, and Conan the Destroyer in 1984, so does anyone want a third Conan movie with Arnold Schwarzenegger? It can be done, thanks to deepfake technology. The Buff Dudes did it, using a version of Arnold's face from different eras to show Conan as an aged king and in the younger flashback scenes. In this story, Conan is defending his throne from all, or at least some, of those kids he spawned when he was younger. They call this a "concept trailer," although it does a better job at making us want to watch the full movie than most trailers. It's more like the early scenes of a film, just setting up the conflict. Alas, it's not a full movie but a fan film. Here's a behind-the-scenes look at how the video was made.

Yeah, this was put together by an astonishingly small crew, but it took them six months. Now we will wait for Schwarzenegger's reaction. -via Geeks Are Sexy

Supernova SN 2023ixf to be Livestreamed

Have you ever wanted to observe an exploding star, but you don't have a telescope? In the 21st century, you don't have to own a telescope to watch it happen.

Just a few days ago, a type II supernova was discovered in the Messier 101 galaxy, also known as the Pinwheel Galaxy (shown above). This supernova has been named SN 2023ixf. In case you are wondering, it is 21 million light-years away, and poses no threat to earth. This is the closest supernova to be observed in the past five years, and the second closest in the past ten years.

The collapse of this giant star will be livestreamed, thanks to The Virtual Telescope Project. The livestream begins at 6:30 PM Eastern Time (22:30 UTC) on May 25  Friday May 26 at YouTube. The project is using 14-inch and 17-inch telescopes in Ceccano, Italy. It will presumably be available to replay after the livestream. It seems a bit strange to call it a livestream, as this explosion happened 21 million years ago- but we are just now receiving the visuals here on earth. If you happen to have a telescope, and live in the Northern Hemisphere, you should be able to find SN 2023ixf in the Ursa Major constellation, in the handle of the Big Dipper. The supernova will be visible for a few more months. -via Metafilter 

Update: The livestream has been delayed by high winds, and will commence on Friday evening at 6:30 PM Eastern Time.

(Image credit: European Space Agency & NASA)

The Secret Behind ChatGPT

OpenAI, the company behind the very successful and popular AI tool ChatGPT has one secret hidden beneath its grand popularity, and it’s not as good as one might think: it’s low-wage contract workers. 

The money OpenAI earns doesn’t flow well into the workers hired to trained their AI, which is the source of their money. For those unaware, for an AI program to work, there needs to be people making sure it keeps trained. These contract workers now revealed to NBC News that for others up the corporate ladder, keeping these computer models “trained” is very much grunt work. According to 34-year-old Kansas City denizen and OpenAI contractor Alexej Savreux, their job consists of labeling photos, writing predictions for the AI, and other things that can help the AI to generate responses better. "You can design all the neural networks you want, you can get all the researchers involved you want, but without labelers, you have no ChatGPT," he said. "You have nothing."

While this kind of work is low-wage, uninsured, and usually on a contract basis, employees are usually thankful for the extra gig. Savreaux shared that his work-from-home AI training gig brought him $15 per hour, which is above Missouri's $12 minimum wage and pulled him out of homelessness. "People sometimes minimize these necessary, laborious jobs," he said. "It’s the necessary, entry-level area of machine learning."

Image credit: Andrew Neel/Pexels

The Most Walkable City In The US

Surprisingly enough, it’s not New York City. Readers of USA Today have sent in their votes and created a list of the top ten walkable cities in the United States. Aside from public opinion, the organization also sought the help of a panel of travel experts to help narrow down options. 

This said panel started by creating a list of the 20 most walkable cities filled with hotels, restaurants, and attractions. From there, the readers then voted for their top picks for the month. Surprisingly, New York City is only number seven. Philadelphia wins the award beating California, Missouri, Florida, and many others. 

Philadelphia’s win can be attributed to being one of the larger cities with the fewest cars per person. Additionally, it is also one of the few cities that have less traffic. “This award confirms what we already knew about Philadelphia—it is an accessible destination that is easy to navigate on foot, from river to river,” Gregg Caren, president and CEO of the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau stated. 

For reference, the top ten most walkable cities are: 

  1. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  2. Long Beach, California
  3. St. Louis, Missouri
  4. Minneapolis, Minnesota
  5. St. Augustine, Florida
  6. Boston, Massachusetts
  7. New York City, New York
  8. Seattle, Washington
  9. Chicago, Illinois
  10. Washington, D.C.

Image credit: Lavdrim Mustafi

Flatiron Building’s $190 Million Bidder Does Not Pay Up

Now that’s embarrassing. Why bother going to an auction of an extremely popular and well-known building in New York, bidding over $190 million for it, and then ending up completely ghosting them afterward because you can’t pay the deposit?

Well, Jacob Garlick did bother. The man, who bid $190 million, worked as a managing partner at Abraham Trust, a venture capital firm. He was ruled out as a buyer after missing his down payment of $19 million. “I suspect he didn’t have the money, or that he realized he overbid and decided not to proceed,” Peter Axelrod, the court-appointed referee for the sale, explained to the New York Times. Garlick did try to get an extension, but his request was refused.

His bid was a bit shocking for other competitors, as his $190 million bid was way far from the starting price of $50 million. “It’s been my lifelong dream of mine since I’m 14 years old. I’ve worked every day of my life to be in this position,” Garlick told NY1. “We are honored to be a steward of this historic building, and it will be our life’s mission to preserve its integrity forever.” 

Now that the historic building is back on the market, one of the men that fought closely with Garlick shared that he was annoyed when Garlick was bidding for the Flatiron Building. “I was annoyed. I never thought he’d keep going to such a high price… All he was doing was driving up the price,” the man told the Times. With Garlick out of the picture, he now has the chance to snag the edifice for himself, but he told the press he was not interested in buying it for  $189.5 million, which was his last bidding price before Garlick won the auction.  

Image credit: wikimedia commons 

The True Story of Philip Ashton, Island Castaway

If you recall the sitcom Gilligan's Island, you know that the castaways stranded on a remote island had an awful lot of visitors from the outside world, but those visitors always managed to get away and leave the main cast behind. That was also the fate of Philip Ashton, who was just a teenager when his fishing boat was hijacked by pirates in 1722. He was forced into piracy, then escaped, only to find himself alone on Roatan, a then-uninhabited island off the coast of Honduras. He had no gear, no tools, and no hope for rescue. Over the next couple of years, Ashton was joined twice by other castaways, and once a ship approached, but instead of a rescue, they shot at him!

Ashton finally made it back to civilization, and a book was written about his experience. However, few readers believed it was a true story. Instead, they considered his account a knockoff of another book that had been published just a few years earlier- Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe. Read the real story of castaway Philip Ashton at Amusing Planet.

(Image credit: Jonathan Palombo)

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