The US Department of Defense’s research agency, DARPA, announced that its AI algorithms can now control an actual F-16 in flight. The fighter aircraft that was first introduced in 1978 has now seemingly evolved into an autonomous plane. “In early December 2022, ACE algorithm developers uploaded their AI software into a specially modified F-16 test aircraft known as the X-62A or VISTA (Variable In-flight Simulator Test Aircraft), at the Air Force Test Pilot School (TPS) at Edwards Air Force Base, California, and flew multiple flights over several days,” a press release by DARPA said. “The flights demonstrated that AI agents can control a full-scale fighter jet and provided invaluable live-flight data.” DARPA’s Air Combat Evolution (ACE) program began in 2019 when the agency began to work on human-machine collaboration in dogfighting.
The Circassian beauties who became part of PT Barnum's freak show
Among the “human curiosities” in P. T. Barnum’s American Museum was a supposed escapee from an Ottoman harem. Alongside the likes of conjoined twins, a seven-foot “giantess”, the bearded lady, and the celebrated General Tom Thumb in his Napoleon costume was an act that endured through Barnum’s era and into the twentieth-century sideshow: an enigmatic, captivating woman known as the Circassian beauty, whose only “deformity” was her lack of imperfection. A staple of dime museums and traveling shows throughout the nineteenth century, Circassian beauties were alleged to be from the Caucasus Mountain region, and were famous for both their legendary looks and their large Afro-textured hairstyles. These women were presented as chaste, but were billed as former harem slaves. They were supposedly of noble lineage but appeared as sideshow attractions.
A woman and her elephant: A love story
There are many kinds of love stories. This one involves a woman and an elephant, and the bond between them spanning nearly 50 years. It involves devotion and betrayal. It also raises difficult questions about the relationship between humans and animals, about control and freedom, about what it means to own another living thing. The woman in this story is Buckley. The elephant is named Tarra. They met at a tire store in California, and together followed a serpentine path from spectacle to safety: from circus rings to zoo enclosures to a first-of-its-kind sanctuary. But now their bond was being tested. For complex reasons, Buckley had lost custody of Tarra, and just before Hurricane Michael struck, a jury had deadlocked on whether the two should be reunited. In a few months, the case would go to trial again. If Buckley won, she would bring Tarra home to Attapulgus. If she lost, it was possible she’d never see the elephant again.
There’s something odd about the dogs living at Chernobyl
In the spring of 1986, in their rush to flee after the Chernobyl power plant exploded, many people left behind their dogs. Most of those former pets died as radiation ripped through the region and emergency workers culled the animals they feared would ferry toxic atoms about. Some, though, survived. Those dogs trekked into the camps of liquidators to beg for scraps; they nosed into empty buildings and found safe places to sleep. In the 1,600-square-mile exclusion zone around the power plant, they encountered each other, and began to reproduce. “Dogs were there immediately after the disaster,” says Gabriella Spatola, a geneticist at the National Institutes of Health and the University of South Carolina. And they have been there ever since.
How the CIA helped Jim Carrey get through the making of The Grinch
Jim Carrey remembers how he got through the filming of The Grinch, which involved hours of makeup: "The first day was 8 and half hours. And I went back to my trailer and put my leg through the wall. And I told Ron Howard that I couldn't do the movie. Then [producer] Brian Grazer came in, being the fix-it man, and came up with a brilliant idea which was to hire a gentleman who is trained to teach CIA operatives how to endure torture. So, that's how I got through The Grinch." In a recent appearance on The Graham Norton Show, Carrey revealed the advice he was given by the expert was this: “Eat everything you see. If you’re freaking out and you start to spiral downwards, turn the television on, change a pattern, have someone you know come up and smack you in the head, punch yourself in the leg or smoke as much as you possibly can.”
Abraham Lincoln’s love letters captivated America. They were a hoax
Her name was Ann Rutledge, and she was said to be Abraham Lincoln’s sweetheart. No one knew much more until nearly a century later, when a prominent national magazine in 1928 touted an amazing find: love letters between this 20-something American Romeo and Juliet, both destined for tragic ends. “With you my beloved all things are possible,” wrote “Abe” after alerting Ann that he would squire her to the “Sand Ridge taffy-pull.” For her part, Ann’s passion outpaced her spelling: “All my hart is ever thine.” It was all a hoax, the product of a California newspaper columnist who hoodwinked editors and Lincoln biographers by producing one of history’s most elaborate literary frauds. For her part, fabulist Wilma Frances Minor, a former vaudeville actress, blamed the whole mess on chatty spirits from the great beyond.