Everyday astronauts, AI helps art, Spain’s volcano, Germany’s Moo-Loo

Sep 22, 2021 Episode 65

Private citizens spend three days in space, artificial intelligence lends a helping hand, Spain’s spewing volcano, Germany’s Moo-Loo

Episode Transcript



OPENING STING – LEELA: “New, new, newsy – Newsy Pooloozi!”



Hello and welcome to Newsy Pooloozi – your weekly whirl of world news!

I’m your host, Leela Sivasankar Prickitt. And this –

MAMA: Hello.

LEELA: Is my mama. I mean my producer and big story explainer and sound effects finder.

MAMA: Moooooo

LEELA: Hey – we’re not ready for the moo news – or should I say “mooooos” – yet Mama!

Because, first this week on Newsy Pooloozi, we tell you how the ordinary become extraordinary – when everyday people become astronauts and spent three days in space!

Also, if you need “firing up,” then listen to our report about the volcano erupting in Spain…

…never mind tech and artificial intelligence lending a helping hand to the art world.

And moooove over toxic cow pee – enter the moo-loo, as German scientists develop a solid waste solution.

All that, plus a super-duper huge announcement at the end of our show. So stay tuned!

But first, it’s time for…

BIG NEWS STORY STING – VARIOUS VOICES: “The big news story of the week!”

MAMA: So you’ve summed it up beautifully in the headlines at the start of the show, Leela: this is a story about the ordinary becoming extraordinary!

LEELA: Yep – everyday people, like you and me, being able to go up, up and away into space.

MAMA: Yes, four amateur astronauts have splashed down successfully in the Atlantic Ocean after a trip to space. Of course, this isn’t the first time non-astronauts have headed up, up and away.

LEELA: Though it’s mostly been billionaires hopping on board rockets – or building their own – for little trips into space lately.

MAMA: Yes, and being billionaires they’re not exactly everyday people.

LEELA: But they’re not astronauts either.

MAMA: No. But that’s not all. When Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos went into space it was only for three minutes and Virgin Air’s  CEO Richard Branson was at a slightly lower altitude but for 8 minutes.

LEELA: But this time private citizens – as in not astronauts – went into space for three days!

MAMA: And at a much an higher altitude than the billionaire-built rockets and even higher than the International Space Station. Of course, we must say this team of ordinary astronauts are actually pretty extraordinary people.

LEELA: So for a start Inspiration4, as the mission was called, did include – surprise, surprise – a billionaire.

MAMA: Of course it did – and one who’s long been interested in flying, having piloted several different kinds of airplanes. But Jared Isaacman isn’t just a rich space-nut who wants to open up the market to tourists. He’s also a pretty philanthropic guy.

LEELA: Phil-a-what?

MAMA: A philanthropist is someone who promotes the welfare of others, not just themselves, mostly by giving lots of money to good causes.

LEELA: Aha, but I thought this Issacman dude just bought himself and three friends tickets to space.

MAMA: Nope, the Shift4 Payments guy (that’s his company) gave two of the seats to a cancer hospital that treats children for free, St Jude’s, which held a massive fundraising raffle for one of the tickets and gave the other to one of its hospital workers. Then Issacman gave the fourth ticket to a winner of an entrepreneur competition – that’s people who create their own businesses –  who happened to be a college professor who was nearly chosen as a NASA astronaut 11 years ago.

LEELA: That’s useful!

MAMA: Yeah, even the raffle ticket spot went to a US Air Force veteran. They might have been private citizens, but clearly they’re all pretty sharp.

LEELA: And they went on an intense astronaut training course for six months to help prepare them.

MAMA: That’s right.

LEELA:  And wasn’t the hospital worker – a childhood cancer survivor herself, with prosthetic bones in one leg (pretty cool)?

MAMA: Yep. And at 29 years old – she’s now the youngest American to go into orbit. And – get this – they went into space in the same SpaceX Dragon capsule that usually carries NASA astronauts to the International Space Station.

LEELA: They might not have gone to the space station, but they did get to circle Earth 15 times a day! I mean, how cool is that?

MAMA: I know. And there’s more. The door that normally docks or connects the capsule to the space station was replaced with a window. In fact, the largest window ever built for space.

LEELA: What a view they must have had. Huh! Dreamy. Well, I might not have been old or lucky enough to go on that trip, but they sure are pavin g the “Milky Way” for people like me to go one day.

MAMA: Yeah, I guess we should say thanks!


MAMA: Now, for our next story… We usually think of AI, or artificial intelligence, as a tool to help solve 21st century problems, right? Things that require the super-smart technology for science, medicine and industry.


MAMA: So we usually think of AI, or artificial intelligence, as a tool to help solve 21st century problems, right? Things that require the super-smart technology for science, medicine and industry.

LEELA: Yeah – and, of course as we’ve reported a few times, AI has helped us better understand what our animals may be thinking.

MAMA: Yes, that’s true. But we don’t really think of AI and art – do we?

LEELA: No ma’am.

MAMA: And yet…

ACE STING – LEELA/MAMA: “Now it’s the ace part of our podcast: Arts, Culture and Entertainment. Darling.”

MAMA: Yes, this is an art meets tech story. Because artificial intelligence is helping correct an issue with one of Rembrandt’s paintings.

LEELA: Uh, who’s Rembrandt, anyway?

MAMA: Ahh,  Rembrandt was a premiere Dutch artist who painted portraits, landscapes and historical scenes. But his most famous painting is “The Night Watch” – see look.

LEELA: Huh – they’re all old fashioned looking.

MAMA: Well, it was painted some 380 years ago! But actually it caused an uproar when he painted it.


MAMA: Because of the “snapshot” effect he used. See, most paintings were of important people looking, well, important. And if it was a group – they all had to look equally important.

LEELA: Oh, of course!

MAMA: But Rembrandt had enough of that – he wanted to capture a moment in time, in this case a group of soldiers about to march off – rather than focusing on the prominence of each person. But you’ll never guess what happened to the painting?

LEELA: It was stolen!

MAMA: Luckily, no. But when it was moved into Amsterdam’s city hall, some 80 years after it was painted, it didn’t fit between the two grand doors where it was supposed to hang.

LEELA: Too big?

MAMA: Exactly. So guess what they did?


LEELA: No way!

MAMA: Sadly, yes way – it was trimmed.

LEELA: But you’re not supposed to do that to someone’s hard work!

MAMA: I know! But luckily it’s been restored thanks to AI, as our correspondent Nick Von Hindenburg – who used to live in Amsterdam and has seen this painting many times – is about to tell us.

LEELA: Take it away, Nick!

NICK: Thanks, you guys.

Yeah, I used to live just two blocks from The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and have seen Rembrandt’s The Night Watch many times.

To be honest I never knew this famous painting had been trimmed until recently.

But the fact that it’s been repainted – and by a computer, at that – is the talk of the town!

While the “cut” pieces have been never found, luckily Rembrandt was so famous, that a smaller version of the painting was copied by a contemporary artist in 1649.

This allowed a true restoration of the original work to be recreated, almost 400 years later!

How does AI figure into the picture, you ask?

Well, the senior scientists at the museum fed a high-resolution scan of the original painting and the copy in a computer.

Artificial intelligence then helped figure out what the missing edges of the original painting would have looked like if actually painted by Rembrandt’s hand.

Then, rather than hire a painter, the missing edges were created by a computer – pixel-by-pixel.

The images were then printed and are now mounted at the sides of the original masterpiece.

Cool or what?

I can’t wait to go see for myself!

This is Nikhil Von Hindenburg, reporting for Newsy Pooloozi.

LEELA: Hey, thanks a lot, Nick. I wish I could see it too!


WORLD WRAP STING – LEELA: “What’s that? I’ll tell you what. That’s the halftime bell! Which means… it’s time to hear what’s making news around the rest of the world. Hold on tight, it’s around the world in 80 seconds.”

MAMA: Some of the world’s oldest trees – the massive sequoias – are getting wrapped up with fire resistant blankets, including the 2,500 year old General Sherman tree, as wildfires continue to rip through California’s Sierra Nevada National Park.

An earthquake has rattled southeast Australia, damaging buildings in the city of Melbourne.  While the 5.8 magnitude earthquake is one of Australia’s largest in recent years, it doesn’t seem to have caused significant damage.

China is making a pledge that could help tackle climate change – promising not to build any new coal-fire projects abroad. The communist country has been funding massive coal projects in places like Indonesia and Vietnam, but has been under increasing pressure to stop.

Three new female judges are joining another woman on India’s Supreme Court. That’s more women than the 34-member court has ever had before.

And if you follow crazy record breakers well, the 2022 Guinness World Records are out, featuring an array of accomplishments, including the fastest person walking on their hands and the most skips over a person’s own hair in 30 seconds.


LEELA: Thanks for that whippity-zippity-wappity-zappity wrap of what’s making headlines in the rest of the world, Mama.

MAMA: My pleasure.

LEELA: But one story you didn’t mention is an explosive one from some islands off the coast of West Africa.

MAMA: Yep, the Canary Islands. Which are actually Spanish islands, despite being so closer to Morocco. And we have our very own reporter in Spain, Nina Grañena, who’s got the hot details.

LEELA: Nina – tell us what’s happening!

NINA: Something pretty amazing is happening on one of the Canary Islands.

The Cumbre Vieja volcano on the island of La Palma, starting erupting over the weekend.

First came the tremors, which put officials on alert.

Something was going to happen with the volcano.

Then on Sunday there was a massive rumbling in the ground.

A sound like 20 fighter jets taking off.

Then a big puff of black smoke blew up into the sky.

After that, red and orange fire, molten lava, and bits of rock spewing out of the mouth of the volcano. What a sight!

I guess it’s not so amazing for the people who have lost their stuff.

About 100 homes have been destroyed so far.

And about 5,000 people were evacuated to safety.

The volcano hasn’t erupted in 50 years.

Wow mother nature – that girl is on fire, fire, fire.

LEELA: Thanks a lot for that report, Nina.

MAMA: Yeah – we really appreciate it.


LEELA: And finally, let’s head over the lucky dip machine and see what mooooving stories it has for us today.

ODDBALL STING – VARIOUS VOICES: “Step right up, step right up… Have a go at the lucky dip machine… What’s it gonna be today, eh? An oddball, no doubt!”

LEELA: Odd and smelly. Yes, I’m talking about cow burps and farts.


MAMA: Ewwww.

LEELA: Not ewww, Mama – moooo! So as we’ve discussed on this podcast before – when cows digest their food and give a good old burp or fart, what comes out is methane gas.

MAMA: Which is a greenhouse gas.

LEELA: Which is not “gas from a greenhouse.”

MAMA: Nooo… it’s because – like when you’re in a greenhouse, the heat and light come in but the heat doesn’t go out. Likewise, greenhouse gases are gases that trap heat in the Earth’s atmosphere. Which means things warm up, hence the term global warming.

LEELA: Thanks for those fab facts, Mama. Now back to this.


LEELA: So while the burping and farting of cows can’t be stopped – yet anyway – apparently cow pee can also create greenhouse gas when it hits the soil.  Enter the moo loo.

Wait – cue the moooosic, Mama.


Scientists in Germany have potty-trained cows in an experiment to see if some of the environmental problems caused by bovines (remember – that’s a fancy word for cattle) can be controlled.

It’s kinda like training a cat or dog to do their business in the right place. Easy, right?

So, the cows were taken to a pen called the moo-loo.

When they released their bladder, they were rewarded with food.

“There’s a good cow, that’s right.”

Next, they were placed in an area near to the MooLoo and if they managed to walk into the pen and urinate – they were rewarded again.

Sadly, those who urinated outside of the MooLoo were sprayed with water for three seconds.


The distance from the toilet was extended again and, yes, the rewards and punishments continued.

Hmmmm. I think I preferred the soggy-diaper-method of potty training, personally.

Still, in just fifteen training sessions, 11 out of 16 calves learned how to use the MooLoo – so the waste could be collected and treated to help prevent it causing any damage to the environment.

And, here’s a pretty fab fact.

Poo is not just a bunch of – uselessness.

It has some pretty empowering potential.

Did you know its gases can be captured to make energy that could power cars and houses?

That’s some pretty powerful… waste, now isn’t it?

FAB FACTS STING – LEELA: “And it’s time to wrap up the podcast with the top five fab facts heard today. Here goes…”

MAMA: FAB FACT NUMBER 1 – Four amateur astronauts have splashed down successfully in the Atlantic Ocean after three days in space, thanks to Jared Isaacman, a philanthropist billionaire who funded the mission. What’s a philanthropist?

Someone who promotes the welfare of others, not just themselves, mostly by giving lots of money to good causes.

LEELA: FAB FACT NUMBER 2 – Artificial intelligence helped paint the missing pieces of Rembrandt’s most famous painting, “The Night Watch.” Where was Rembrandt from?

The Netherlands


MAMA: FAB FACT NUMBER 3 – A volcano erupted off the coast of West Africa on one of the Canary Islands. Despite being so close to Morocco, which country do the Canary Islands belong to?


LEELA: FAB FACT NUMBER 4 – German scientists have designed a “MooLoo” for cows, because their pee can create greenhouse gas when it hits the grass. What are greenhouse gases?

Gases that trap heat in the Earth’s atmosphere.

MAMA: FAB FACT NUMBER 5 – Speaking of cows and greenhouse gases – when cows digest their food and give a good old burp or fart, what gas do they emit?

Methane gas

LEELA: And that almost brings us to the end of this episode of Newsy Pooloozi!!!!!

But first we have a massive announcement to make – and I might get emotional, folks.

MAMA: Never mind Inspiration4 and everyday astronauts – it’s Newsy Pooloozi that’s about to take off.

LEELA: It’s re-launch time!

MAMA: Out with the old and to the stars with the new!

LEELA: Next week there‘ll be a newly-branded swirl of world news from us.

MAMA: Yes, the Pooloozi people have called and are not happy we used their name –


MAMA: So goodbye Pooloozi hello (beep).


LEELA: Oh, I bet you’re dying to know what it is!

Well, next week you’ll find out the whole story and our new name.

And don’t worry, it’s even cooler, or should I say, splashier!

So until then folks we’ll see you next week in the oh, Mama  I really want to say it!

MAMA: Sure, say it all you want. I’m sound effects editor.

LEELA: Newsy (beep)! Ah ha, oh yeah, I’m so excited for Newsy (beep)! (Sings)

MAMA: I think we’ll keep the old song it’s really good.