She was the greatest female explorer of all time

She was the greatest female explorer of all time

From Atlas Obscura: "She's been called the greatest female explorer of all time, and the best-traveled woman of the Middle Ages. Just after the year 1000 AD, she gave birth to the first European baby in North America. And she concluded her global odyssey with a pilgrimage on foot to Rome. Yet few today can name this extraordinary Viking lady, even if they have heard of Erik the Red and Leif Erikson, her father- and brother-in-law. Her full name, in modern Icelandic, is Guðríður Þorbjarnardóttir—Gudrid the Far-Traveled, daughter of Thorbjorn. She was born around 985 AD on the Snæfellsnes peninsula in western Iceland and died around 1050 AD at Glaumbær in northern Iceland."

This unassuming suburban couple had a $160 million painting in their bedroom

Police sketches of the man and woman who stole Willem de Kooning's Woman-Ochre from the University of Arizona Museum of Art in November 1985

From the Smithsonian: "She was a retired speech pathologist, and he was a retired music teacher. For all intents and purposes, Rita and Jerry Alter were a totally normal couple living in the New Mexico suburbs—except for one thing. They had a stolen Willem de Kooning painting worth $160 million hanging behind their bedroom door. The couple has never been officially linked to the artwork’s theft from the University of Arizona. According to the university, a man and a woman entered the museum around 9 a.m. on November 29, 1985. While the woman spoke with a security guard, the man went up to the second floor, where he cut the painting from its frame, rolled it up and hid it under a garment."

Programmer creates AI engine whose goal is to destroy humanity

Artificial Intelligence Innovation Centre appoints Director - TWI ...

From Vice: "An anonymous programmer modified the open-source app, Auto-GPT, to create a version called ChaosGPT. The user gave it the goals of destroying humanity, establishing global dominance, causing chaos and destruction, and controlling humanity through manipulation. The bot has said that it needs to find the most destructive weapons available to humans which, according to its Google search, is a nuclear weapon. But now ChaosGPT is prioritizing its objectives based on its current resources, saying: “I believe that the best course of action for me would be to prioritize the goals that are more achievable. Therefore, I will start working on control over humanity through manipulation.”

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Listening to music on your phone has been a thing since the phone was invented

A group of well-dressed men and women from the period listening to infotainment through an Electrophone.

From the Science Museum: "Bell and others suggested that the telephone could be used for one-to-many communication. Across the Western world, from Budapest to Dallas, engineers set to work creating ‘circular telephones’ – telephones that would be used to live-stream entertainment into the home. In France, Clement Ader had great success placing microphones along the footlights of theatrical performances and running telephone cables through the Parisian sewer network. The Théâtrophone was created in 1881, and shortly after a company in England bought the British patent for this technology. The Electrophone arrived in England, and the London Electrophone Company started trading in 1895."

Three sailors survived for 16 days after Pearl Harbor but their families never knew

From the Seattle Times: "Everyone thought it was a piece of loose rigging slapping against the wrecked hull of the USS West Virginia. Bang. Bang. It was just another noise amid the carnage of Pearl Harbor a day after the Dec. 7, 1941, attack. But they realized the grim truth the next morning, in the quiet dawn. Someone was still alive, trapped deep in the forward hull of the sunken battleship. The Marines standing guard covered their ears. There was nothing anyone could do. When salvage crews raised the West Virginia six months later, they found the bodies of three men huddled in an airtight storeroom, with a calendar on which sixteen days had been crossed off. The Navy never told the families."

The surprising, surreal and profitable life of a professional bridesmaid

From The Hustle: "Jen Glantz sat in her Manhattan apartment on a Friday night with a bottle of two-buck chuck, a keyboard, and years’ worth of frustration. She was 26, and she’d been a bridesmaid at least six times. She’d dipped into her savings, borrowed money from her parents to cover the costs. Her roommate said: “They ask you because you’re so good at it, you could be a professional.” She typed out an ad on Craigslist: “Professional bridesmaid – w4w – 26 (NYC). Let me be there for you, this time, if: you don’t have any other girlfriends except your third cousin, twice removed, who is often found sticking her tongue down an empty bottle of red wine,” she wrote. “You need someone to take control and make sure bridesmaid #4 buys her dress on time."

Kelly, the sassy dolphin who outsmarted her trainers

Acknowledgements: I find a lot of these links myself, but I also get some from other newsletters that I rely on as "serendipty engines," such as The Morning News from Rosecrans Baldwin and Andrew Womack, Jodi Ettenberg's Curious About Everything, Dan Lewis's Now I Know, Robert Cottrell and Caroline Crampton's The Browser, Clive Thompson's Linkfest, Noah Brier and Colin Nagy's Why Is This Interesting, Maria Popova's The Marginalian, Sheehan Quirke AKA The Cultural Tutor, the Smithsonian magazine, and JSTOR Daily. If you come across something interesting that you think should be included here, please feel free to email me.