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  • #71. 🤔 Google Bard writes code for itself to figure out answers | 🐷 EU uses pork fat for aviation fuel | 💡 material transforms low-energy light into high-energy light

#71. 🤔 Google Bard writes code for itself to figure out answers | 🐷 EU uses pork fat for aviation fuel | 💡 material transforms low-energy light into high-energy light

PLUS: ChatGPT preaches sermon | AI scams harder to detect | Beverly Hills hotels install thermal energy storage system | Montana children suing state over climate change | self-driving cars shift ride sharing | VW Beetle EV


  • Google's Bard AI has been enhanced to write and execute a program when asked a computational task, instead of merely giving the output of the language model.

  • This method involves the AI writing a code to solve problems such as reversing a string or finding prime factors, then executing it to produce the result.

  • Google compares this process to "System 2" thinking in humans, a slow and deliberate form of cognition used for tasks like long division or learning a new skill.

  • This new approach reportedly improved the accuracy of Bard's responses to computation-based tasks in internal tests by about 30%.

  • The updated Bard AI is live and available for testing at bard.google.com.

  • Hundreds of Protestants in Germany attended an experimental church service led almost entirely by OpenAI's ChatGPT, which delivered sermons and prayers through various avatars on a large screen.

  • The 40-minute AI-led service was developed by theologian and philosopher Jonas Simmerlein from the University of Vienna, who claimed that about 98% of the content came from the AI.

  • The AI-led service was part of a biennial convention of Protestants in Germany, which draws tens of thousands of attendees and covers a range of topics, including artificial intelligence.

  • Feedback on the AI-led service was mixed. Some participants appreciated the experiment, while others found the AI's lack of emotion and interactivity off-putting.

  • Simmerlein envisions AI's role in religious services as supportive, aiding pastors with sermon creation or other routine tasks, not replacing human religious leaders.

  • The experiment also highlighted AI's limitations in religious contexts, as the AI was unable to interact with the congregation or understand its specific context, unlike a human pastor.

  • AI technology has drastically increased the sophistication of financial scams, making them more believable and difficult to detect.

  • Scammers now use AI for persuasive communication, such as FaceTime calls, phone calls, and emails, often posing as potential romantic interests, close friends, or even government officials.

  • The use of advanced technologies such as AI and deep-fake techniques is warned to potentially undermine tools set up to protect financial and government institutions.

  • The Federal Trade Commission revealed a 19% increase in fraud losses in 2022, with consumers losing roughly $8.8 billion, but experts believe this figure doesn't reflect the true scale as many scams go unreported.

  • Fraud is impacting all age groups, not just older adults, with recent FTC data showing that young people are falling victim to fraud more frequently than seniors.


  • Maya: AI-powered travel assistant.

  • Pace: AI-powered idea generation for businesses.

  • Interview Me: AI-powered video interview training for Android.


  • Recent EU subsidies aimed at promoting sustainably-sourced biofuel use in road and air travel have inadvertently doubled demand for biodiesel derived from animal fats.

  • Europe’s airlines are rapidly consuming the available supply of animal fats to produce low-cost biofuel, causing substantial ecological consequences, including the need for a large number of animals to produce the biofuel (e.g., 8,800 pigs for a New York to Paris flight).

  • The subsidies have led to an increase in the price of animal fats, limiting supply and causing industries that use these fats, such as soap, cosmetics, and pet food production, to switch to palm oil.

  • Although plant-based, the shift to palm oil may cause further environmental damage compared to burning diesel, with potential CO2 emissions from palm oil up to 1.7 times worse than conventional diesel if it replaces animal fats.

  • The increased demand for palm oil has caused widespread deforestation in countries like Indonesia due to the expansion of palm oil plantations.

  • One side effect is diesel that smells like bacon.

  • The Beverly Hilton and The Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills hotels have introduced an ice-based thermal energy storage system by Nostromo Energy, with a capacity of 1.4 megawatt-hours to serve both properties.

  • Nostromo's IceBrick technology is designed for retrofitting existing buildings with a central-chilled water system. The water-based cells utilize advanced thermodynamics to deliver high efficiency and flexibility, meeting a wide range of energy requirements.

  • The system works by freezing the water-based cells using clean energy during off-peak hours. When renewable energy is unavailable, the system discharges the stored energy into the building's air conditioning system without using grid electricity, reducing carbon emissions and energy costs.

  • The installation of the IceBrick system typically takes between 6 to 9 months and is managed by an automated, cloud-based software system that utilizes algorithms and machine learning for optimal operation.

  • The cost of the system, including installation, is roughly $1M for 1 MWh capacity. Various incentives and financing options can significantly lower the acquisition cost.

  • An IceBrick system can save a typical hotel in California between 30-50% of cooling costs and reduce carbon emissions by about 200 metric tons annually. The system is designed to operate for at least 20-25 years with a 10-year warranty on the storage units.

  • In Montana, a group of 16 young people are suing the state, claiming it has violated their constitutional right to a clean and healthful environment through its support of the fossil fuel industry.

  • Montana is a major coal exporter with significant coal reserves, but also has a large outdoor recreation industry, potentially benefitting from a shift towards green energy.

  • The lawsuit, a first of its kind, could set a precedent for similar suits across the country, especially as drastic measures are needed to meet UN's warming limit goals.

  • The state attorney general's office views the case as a publicity stunt and believes the trial is a waste of taxpayer resources.

  • Despite the complexity of the case and potential economic implications, it is likely that the case will reach the Montana Supreme Court, extending the legal battle for several more years.


  • Volkswagen has unveiled a digital electric Beetle concept for an upcoming animated movie, sparking speculation about a possible revival of the Beetle in the electric era.

  • The Beetle, which was retired in the US in 2019 due to slowing sales, has a legacy that Volkswagen continues to incorporate in their transition to an all-electric lineup.

  • The company's electric ID.4 SUV incorporates features from the Beetle, indicating a possible blueprint for a future electric Beetle.

  • Volkswagen previously teased the idea of an electric Bug in 2017 and released a fully electric E-Bugster concept in 2014.

  • An electric Beetle concept will feature in the animated movie "Miraculous: Ladybug & Cat Noir" in collaboration with ZAG and Mediawan Kids & Family, which Volkswagen claims allows it to introduce its ID family to a wide audience.

  • The movie, showcasing the concept electric Beetle, will debut globally on July 5 in theaters and July 28 on streaming platforms.

  • Alphabet Inc.'s Waymo has expanded its ride-hailing service using self-driving cars, which has been well-received by riders who find the service convenient and comfortable.

  • The autonomous vehicles, which are seen as being years ahead of competitors, have collectively driven over 1 million miles with passengers and no human drivers.

  • The technology allows the cars to visualize a distance equivalent to three football fields ahead, and they have only been involved in two minor collisions from September 2020 to January 2023.

  • Waymo did admit that one of its vehicles was involved in a fatal accident with a small dog. A human specialist was present at the time and an investigation is ongoing.

  • A recent AAA survey found 68% of drivers are apprehensive about self-driving cars. Waymo suggests that this fear may lessen as people gain more experience with the technology.

  • Currently, Waymo's fleet of fully electric Jaguars operates in only two cities and it may take 10-15 years before the technology is available in other locations.

  • Scientists have developed a new composite material capable of transforming low-energy light into high-energy light, adding a new tool to the list of existing technologies for light energy conversion.

  • Light energy conversion is vital for a variety of technologies, including night vision devices, solar cells, biomedical imaging, and various types of sensors.

  • Current methods for converting light energy include upconversion materials, which change infrared light into visible or ultraviolet light, and quantum dots, which absorb low-energy photons and re-emit them as higher-energy photons.

  • Other methods include frequency-doubling crystals, which double the frequency of light, and photovoltaic cells, commonly known as solar cells, which transform sunlight into electricity.

  • This new material adds another option for industries and researchers working with light energy conversion, which could potentially open up new possibilities in sensor technology and autonomous vehicle development.


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