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15 March

In the headlines

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt unveiled his “Budget for growth” this afternoon, promising “prosperity with a purpose”. Key policies include a £4bn plan to provide 30 hours of free childcare a week for children aged one and two, and tax reforms to encourage companies to invest in their infrastructure. Average annual energy bills will be fixed at £2,500 a year for a further three months, rather than rising to £3,000 in April as was previously expected. A growing number of people think they’re aliens, says the Daily Star. There are more than four million Google search results and “endless social media videos” about these self-described “starseeds”, who believe they were sent to Earth from other dimensions to help heal the planet. “We wish they’d hurry up!”


London has been named the most scenic city in the world at springtime, says the Evening Standard, after a travel firm trawled Instagram to see what locals and tourists were posting about different destinations. Travelbag found more than 100,000 posts tagged #springinLondon – around 20,000 more than second-placed Paris. Seattle came in third, followed by Melbourne, Chicago and Sydney.


People have long noted that action heroes tend to have names beginning with the letter J, says Demetria Glace in Slate: James Bond, Jason Bourne, Jack Reacher, Jack Bauer, John Wick, John McClane, and “double-hitter” John James Rambo. The data backs this up. I looked at 790 Hollywood movies over the past six decades that have a “male everyman-type hero”. An astonishing 33% of the protagonists had a “J” name: the most popular was John, with 74 movies, followed by James (50) and Jack (37). The second-most common letter, M, “showed up a comparatively measly 7% of the time”.

Tomorrow’s world

The company behind ChatGPT has released a new version of its much-hyped chatbot: GPT-4. The update still makes plenty of stupid mistakes, says The New York Times, but it’s a big step up, “wowing doctors” with accurate medical advice, and suggesting perfectly palatable recipes based on a photo of items in a fridge (above). OpenAI says its bot would also score in the top 10% of candidates in the bar exam for US lawyers, and manage a respectable 1,300 out of 1,600 on the SAT college admission test. It’s even getting “close to telling jokes that are almost funny”. Asked to write a gag about Madonna, GPT-4 replied: “Why did Madonna study geometry? Because she wanted to learn how to strike a pose in every angle! 📐💃🎤”


Flamingos form social cliques based on their personalities, a new study has found. Bird boffins at the University of Exeter looked at a 147-strong flamboyance of Caribbean flamingos, and 115 of the Chilean variety. They found that the bolder birds tended to hang out with their bolder peers, and submissive birds stuck with fellow submissives. In the Caribbean flock, birds displaying higher aggression banded together and not only started more fights, but were also more willing to provide backup when their mates did. 🦩🥊


The King has a very set morning routine, says Hilary Rose in The Times. He wakes before 7am, and reads the papers with a cup of tea and the Today programme. The 74-year-old then does “a headstand in his boxer shorts, for the benefit of his spine” – though he sometimes saves this for later – before dressing in “a bespoke suit from his Savile Row tailor, a bespoke shirt from his Jermyn Street shirtmaker and bespoke shoes from his cobbler”. After dousing himself in aftershave (Dior’s Eau Sauvage) and having breakfast (seasonal fruits and yoghurt), he starts on his paperwork at 8am. “The day has begun.”


It’s a new collection of colour-changing clothes by Japanese fashion brand Anrealage, as shown off at the Paris Fashion Show, says Dezeen. The futuristic garments initially appeared a crisp white, but after being “activated” by UV lights, the “photochromatic fabrics” transformed into brightly coloured patterns. When the clothes are worn outside, different levels of sunlight will mean they take on a different hue each time.


quoted 15.3.23

“Originality is the fine art of remembering what you hear but forgetting where you heard it.”

Canadian educator Laurence J Peter