[7th July 2024] Interesting Things I Learnt This Week

Image credit: Google Arts & Culture

 1. World's oldest cave art found showing humans and pig : Scientists in Indonesia and Australia discovered the oldest figurative cave art in Indonesia. The painting, located on Sulawesi island, depicts a wild pig and human-like figures and is estimated to be 51,200 years old. This pushes back the date for when modern humans were believed to have creative thought. The discovery suggests that storytelling was a bigger part of early human culture than previously thought. Researchers believe this finding may lead to reevaluation of other cave art sites around the world.

My Take:  

Humans have probably been telling stories for much longer than 51,200 years, but as words do not fossilise we can only go by indirect proxies like depictions of scenes in art – and the Sulawesi art is now the oldest such evidence by far that is known to archaeology

The above is what is the most amazing part of the whole article. There is so much more to learn about the past. Our scriptures tell us that things did not get written till long. Also Vedas and similar older texts were not in prose but as a poem. Its exciting that we are slowly able to understand the past better than ever and hope we keep going in that direction.


2. New Heat Map Shows Scorching Streets that Can Burn Skin in Seconds : A new NASA heat map reveals just how scorching city streets can become. The map focuses on Phoenix, Arizona, and shows how asphalt and concrete surfaces can reach temperatures exceeding 120 degrees Fahrenheit (49 degrees Celsius), hot enough to cause burns in seconds. This data highlights the dangers of extreme urban heat, which can worsen health problems and magnify existing inequalities.

My Take: This is a very interesting visualization. I can see it look much worse for any of the Indian cities. Maybe we should make one for Indian cities and see how it actually looks. I am sure it will look worse but considering we dont even have enough data for each region in the city this seems a little far fetched. But I hope sometime in the next few years we are able to get similar data for Indian cities(with more projects like WeatherUnion etc) and maybe even warn people from venturing out to save lives. 


3. GraphRAG Is A Better RAG And Now It’s Free : RAG (Retrieval-Augmented Generation) is a system that allows a large language model to access a database and use that information to answer questions. It can be used to combine a large language model with a search engine. RAG can answer questions using real-world data and allows chatbots to use up-to-date information. However, RAG is limited to matching text and cannot look at the bigger picture. GraphRAG is a new system from Microsoft that improves on RAG. GraphRAG creates a knowledge graph from the data, which allows it to see relationships between different pieces of information. This lets GraphRAG answer questions that require making connections between information, something RAG cannot do. Microsoft has made GraphRAG publicly available for anyone to use.

My Take: This is a huge step towards making RAG faster and LLMs more useful. They are not the answer to everything, but surely they are solutions to some very interesting problems. Its interesting that Microsoft has made this solution public. Though I clearly do not understand this very well, hopefully I will find time to go through them soon.


4. Why Is Chile So Long? : The Andes mountain range is the key to Chile's unusual shape. These formidable mountains run along Chile's eastern border, making eastward expansion difficult. Stuck between the Andes and the Pacific Ocean, Chile stretches out in a long, narrow strip of land. This geographical confinement also explains why Chile has such an extensive coastline.

My Take: Dont take the short answer to skip looking at the link. Its a very interesting post with very unique visualization and information about Chile. Please head there are read. I think similar posts can be made about various parts of India since each have so many unique features.

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