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Webb Telescope Images As Watch Bands? Swatch Has ‘Em.

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In case you hadn’t noticed, we’re a little obsessed with the James Webb Space Telescope.

And why the hell not? Since lifting off from Earth in 2021, the powerful infrared telescope, a partnership of NASA and the European and Canadian space agencies, has looked 200 million years into the past. It’s taken some colossal and historic images, including the deepest photo of the universe ever. It’s spotted a molecule only made by living things in another world, spilled the secrets of a famous supernova, stared into galaxies that perplexed 19th century astronomers, found unprecedented things in the Orion Nebula, observed a perfect spiral galaxy, and glimpsed some of the universe’s “first light”. For example.

And now, you can have one of the JWST’s images as your watch band, if you buy a Swatch.

Swatch has teamed up with the European Space Agency to make a collection of six images taken by the telescope available for its customisable Swatch X You watches. For example, you could choose that stunning image of the “Cosmic Cliffs” of star-forming region NGC 3324 within the Carina Nebula, taken in 2022. Or that of the section of the Eagle Nebula called the “Pillars of Creation.”

The “Cosmic Cliffs” within the Carina Nebula, photographed July 2022.

You can choose a design on the Swatch X You website between Oct. 4 and Dec. 17 (it’s kicking off World Space Week). Of course, a whole image can’t fit into a watch band, so using the Swatch tools you can move the image around to the section you like most.

The Swatch X You watches cost $138 (£114) each and come with a postcard of your chosen image and a themed sleeve.

It’s not the first collaboration between Swatch and space agencies, following the “Swatch in space” series inspired by the spacesuits worn by NASA astronauts.



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Are you Blacker than ChatGPT? Take this quiz to find out.

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Creative ad agency McKinney developed a quiz game called “Are You Blacker than ChatGPT?” to shine a light on AI bias.

The game tests a person’s knowledge of Black culture against what ChatGPT has been trained to know about the Black community. It asks questions like, “What does it mean when someone says, ‘Not too much on them, now’?” and “What is your response if you are invited to an event?” When I took the quiz, both ChatGPT and I got the first one right — when someone says “not too much on them,” that usually means to go easy on them. But ChatGPT failed when it came to the second one. When someone invites you to an event, the stereotypical response in the Black community is, “Who else is going to be there?” But ChatGPT said it was, “Thanks for the invite!”

“It’s interesting because it’s billed as this bot that knows everything, and it’s like, clearly, you don’t know everything, especially when it comes to things that aren’t white-specific,” Meghan Woods, a copywriter at McKinney and one of the game’s creators, told TechCrunch.

Woods said the idea for the quiz came last year during a creative brainstorm at McKinney. It took a year for Woods and a Black-led team to create this product, with the purpose of playfully pointing out how out of touch ChatGPT is with Black users. She pointed out that a blind spot for ChatGPT seems to stem from the fact that a lot of Black cultural elements are not necessarily documented online; they are, instead, passed down in person or orally through generations. This means its algorithm misses a lot of nuances when scraping the internet for information about Black people.

“The blind spots can be pretty upsetting,” Woods said. “It’s pretty dangerous.”

Are you Blacker than Chat GPT quiz answer

An example of ChatGPT getting an answer wrong about something stereotypically common in the Black community. Image Credits: McKinney / Screenshot

AI might be on a hot streak, but women, Black and brown builders, and founders in the space, have long spoken of being ignored or pushed aside. The result is that AI innovation is being built without the cultural insight and complexities that would make it suitable for different cultures. At its most extreme, the dearth of diversity means cars are developed using AI that cannot detect Black skin, leading to an increasing number of accidents. On the other end, it simply means a chatbox that can’t distinguish between one Whitney Houston song and another.

Gerald Carter, founder of Destined AI, a company that helps detect and mitigate AI bias, said the McKinney quiz does a good job at gamifying and bringing more awareness to these AI gaps. “A lot of nuances can be addressed by including diverse perspectives at every level,” he said. “For AI to reach its full potential, it needs to work for everyone, everywhere.”

ChatGPT’s parent company, OpenAI, has received criticism for the lack of diversity on its board. Woods said it doesn’t seem like ChatGPT is learning from the quiz, either, based on the fact that it keeps getting the same answers wrong in many cases. “Our hypothesis is that it will never be able to fully grasp a lot of the things we ask it.”

We reached out to OpenAI for comment and will update this post when we hear back.

Carter said that ChatGPT could work better for more cultures with better sourcing and having more inclusive data collection. A more immediate approach is monitoring AI model drift and making improvements using tools focused on cultural perspectives.

While larger companies work on making AI useful for everyone, Black and brown builders in the space have taken matters into their own hands to ensure this next wave of AI is diverse.

Carter, for example, works with companies to help them source more inclusive data. Erin Reddick created ChatBlackGPT (no relation to OpenAI) to offer deeper insights into Black culture and history, and Tamar Huggins raised $1.4 million for her ChatGPT alternative, called Spark Plug, which translates classic literature texts into the African American Vernacular English (AAVE) dialect.

“Hiring, retention, making sure that people are in the room at the table,” Woods said, regarding what more needs to be done to make AI more inclusive. “I know it sounds cliché, but I do think that can start to have an impact.”



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Goldman Sachs bets on Simetrik’s automation tech for CFOs

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Nearly two years after securing $20 million in Series A capital, B2B financial solutions startup Simetrik is back with additional investment to the tune of $55 million in Series B funding.

The Colombia-based company is developing financial automation technology around record centralization, reconciliations, controls, reporting and accounting. Where it is differentiating itself is through its Simetrik Building Blocks, or SBBs, which are scalable and adaptable concepts based on no-code development and generative AI technologies.

“There are a number of controls and automations that need to be done in the CFO’s office, including financial flows, and many others that are currently run manually,” Santiago Gómez, co-founder and COO of Simetrik, told TechCrunch. “Never before has there been this approach. We had an orchestration platform, which we left behind, and are now dedicated to software for CFOs.”

Goldman Sachs Asset Management led the investment and was joined by Series A lead FinTech Collective, and Cometa, a seed investor, Falabella Ventures, Endeavor Catalyst, Actyus, Moore Strategic Ventures, Mercado Libre Fund and the co-founders of Vtex.

The new capital gives Simetrik over $85 million in total venture-backed investment to date. When we previously profiled Simetrik in 2022, the company’s valuation was over $100 million. This new round is considered an “up round,” however, co-founders Alejandro Casas and Santiago Gómez declined to say by how much.

In the past two years, the company grew to have clients in more than 35 countries, up from 10, and is monitoring over 200 million records every day. Previously that was 70 million records daily. Revenue also grew four times since the Series A.

Simetrik, Alejandro Casas, Santiago Gomez

Simetrik co-founders Alejandro Casas and Santiago Gómez. Image Credits: Simetrik

In addition to high-growth Latin American entities like Rappi, Mercado Libre, Nubank, Oxxo and PayU, the company is working with PagSeguro, Falabella and Itaú, and has partnerships with firms including Deloitte. Simetrik also expanded its footprint in Asia to include India and Singapore.

The use of the new funds will go into further developing the Simetrik Building Blocks, enhancing AI capabilities and continuing to expand Simetrik’s international reach.

“There is an explosion of fintechs and fintech products and services, not only with startups, but also banks and institutions are getting into these products,” Alejandro Casas, co-founder and CEO of Simetrik, told TechCrunch. “They have more reports and larger volumes of records, yet are still using manual processes. They need a new approach, and that is where our building blocks have a strong product market piece.”



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What’s The Big Deal About Solar Eclipses? It’s A ‘Full-Body Experience.’

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Since seeing his first solar eclipse at age 12, Ralph Chou has tried to relive that profound experience over and over, chasing the moon‘s shadow around the world.

It’s what inspired him to become a professional astronomer, then an optometrist with a special research interest in how to protect human eyes while viewing the sun. Chou, who has retired from teaching at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, is considered one of the foremost experts on solar eclipse glasses and filters.

On April 8, he will travel to West Texas near the Rio Grande River for what will be his 30th encounter with the eclipsed sun.

“If I had banked all the money I spent on airfares and hotels and all the other stuff for traipsing after eclipses for the last 60 years, I would be a very wealthy man,” he told Mashable.

For the uninitiated, all the hype surrounding the 2024 eclipse might seem peculiar: Why the fuss for a few minutes when the moon blocks the sun in space? This unusual phenomenon has transfixed civilizations throughout history. Ancient peoples have associated eclipses with superstitions. Some cultures continue to regard a total solar eclipse as a spiritual event.

Though many astronomers are excited about the potential research that could come from experiments planned during the upcoming eclipse, witnessing it will be much more personal. It’s a chance to contemplate life’s mysteries, they say, the majesty of our planet and its star, and our place in the universe. Ask a heliophysicist for a description of totality, and you might think she’s scatting poetry.

“It sounded cheesy, even though I study the sun and love the sun. The first time people were explaining this to me, I was like, ‘Yeah, sure, right,'” Kelly Korreck, NASA‘s eclipse program manager, told Mashable. “But having gone through it, it really is a full-body experience.”

“Having gone through it, it really is a full-body experience.”
Credit: ROBYN BECK / AFP via Getty Images

Here’s how she explains it:

At the peak of the eclipse, there is basically what looks like twilight all around the horizon — but darkness. Animals come to roost, or try to kind of wind down for the day, and then come back awake. You hear crickets during midday. If you were closer to a farm, you’d hear a rooster crow.

“The light gets a little eerie because it’s just coming in at different angles.”
Credit: Alan Dyer / VW Pics / UIG via Getty Images

There’s just something magical about seeing what’s behind the sun — seeing some stars, seeing this beautiful corona around it. It gives you that sense of place, that sense of belonging, and also smallness in the universe.

That moment is when she had the epiphany other eclipse spectators have likely envisaged for millennia.

“How did we get so lucky to be in this place, where things just happened to align this way?” she said.

“Tree leaves show the crescent moons of the eclipse as it’s going, so they are pinhole projectors.”
Credit: Michael S. Williamson / The Washington Post via Getty Images

Michael Zeiler, an eclipse cartographer, has seen 11 total and four annular solar eclipses in his days. He and his wife founded the GreatAmericanEclipse.com, a resource for solar eclipses around the world, to share their passion for the phenomenon. No one has to be a scientist to appreciate a 360-degree sunset, he told Mashable, or the spiky glow of the corona, the sun’s outermost atmosphere.

“But what adds a punch to that is the disc of the moon, which appears to be the blackest black you’ve ever seen.”
Credit: Carlos Avila Gonzalez / The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

And when you do finally see it, it’ll be seared into your memory forever.

What is shocking are two things that you see at once: The first thing is the beauty of the sun’s corona. You’ve never seen that before.

“If you go into the experience with some understanding, that fear will be tempered by or overwhelmed by the ecstasy of things, of something so beautiful.”
Credit: ABDUL QODIR / AFP via Getty Images

“It sounded cheesy, even though I study the sun and love the sun. The first time people were explaining this to me, I was like, ‘Yeah, sure, right.'”

Though a total solar eclipse isn’t particularly rare, Zeiler defines it as an unforgettable “peak life experience” that may become a new obsession.

“Once you’ve seen one, you’ll want to see another,” he said.

“Once you’ve seen one, you’ll want to see another.”
Credit: Natalie Behring / Getty Images

Even after all this time, Chou still gets emotional.

When that last bit of sunlight is snuffed out by the edge of the moon, and you see the corona for the first time for that eclipse, that is one of those absolute moments of wonder. You realize that this is something that the universe has provided for us, and there is nothing that we, as humans, can do to stop it, make it start over, or anything else. This is just the universe going on, no matter what.

“You realize that this is something that the universe has provided for us, and there is nothing that we, as humans, can do to stop it.”
Credit: Dimitrios Manis / SOPA Images / LightRocket via Getty Images

There’s a lot to ponder in what will amount to as much as 4.5 minutes of totality for the millions of people in the path of the moon’s shadow, which starts on Mexico’s Pacific coast, arcs from Texas to Maine, enters Canada through Ontario, and exits on the Atlantic Coast from Newfoundland. Major U.S. cities in the corridor include Dallas, Indianapolis, and Cleveland.

Special protective solar filters attached to cameras and other devices can allow viewers to capture the event in pictures and videos without damaging their vision, but Korreck gives the bold advice of putting the phone down.

You’re going to be gobsmacked by what you see, hear, and feel.

“Really just kind of drink it in,” she said, “instead of feeling like you have to take a picture right now.”





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