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Artist uses AI to create ultra realistic portraits of celebrities who left us too soon

What would certain icons look like if nothing had happened to them?

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Mercury would be 76 today.

Some icons have truly left this world too early. It’s a tragedy when anyone doesn’t make it to see old age, but when it happens to a well-known public figure, it’s like a bit of their art and legacy dies with them. What might Freddie Mercury have created if he were granted the gift of long life? Bruce Lee? Princess Diana?

Their futures might be mere musings of our imagination, but thanks to a lot of creativity (and a little tech) we can now get a glimpse into what these celebrities might have looked like when they were older.

Alper Yesiltas, an Istanbul-based lawyer and photographer, created a photography series titled “As If Nothing Happened,” which features eerily realistic portraits of long gone celebrities in their golden years. To make the images as real looking as possible, Yesiltas incorporated various photo editing programs such as Adobe Lightroom and VSCO, as well as the AI photo-enhancing software Remini.



“The hardest part of the creative process for me is making the image feel ‘real’ to me,” Yesiltas wrote about his passion project. “The moment I like the most is when I think the image in front of me looks as if it was taken by a photographer.”

Yesiltas’ meticulousness paid off, because the results are uncanny.

Along with each photo, Yesiltas writes a bittersweet message “wishing” how things might have gone differently … as if nothing happened.

Freddie Mercury

“I wish he hadn't got that disease.

There are plenty of amazing Freddie Mercury tributes and impersonators out there, but there will only ever be ONE Freddie Mercury.

Heath Ledger

“I wish he hadn't been affected by the exhaustion of his role.

One of Ledger's most notable roles is queer cowboy Ennis Del Mar in Ang Lee's iconic 2005 romantic western drama "Brokeback Mountain." In a time when queer storytelling was still taboo, Ledger's honest and compassionate portrayal broke down a lot of barriers for future stories.

Though Ledger officially died due to an overdose, many believe it was his role of The Joker in Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” that pushed him over the edge.

Janis Joplin

ai art

Joplin would be 79.

Bored Panda

I wish she hadn't sought the inspiration she needed elsewhere.

The powerful singer with electric stage presence is still one of the greatest female rock stars of all time. Scratch that—one of the greatest rock stars of all time, period.

Jimi Hendrix

jimi hendrix

Hendrix would be 80.

Bored Panda

I wish he hadn't sought the inspiration he needed elsewhere.

Like Joplin and Ledger, Hendrix died due to an overdose—though many have speculated that it was instead the result of foul play.

Michael Jackson

I wish he hadn't faced vitiligo.

However questionable his personal life was, the King of Pop made some of the biggest contributions to music of all time. People continue to sing his songs, and likely will for a very, very long time.

Kurt Cobain

nirvana

Cobain would be 55.

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“I wish he had decided to stay.

The insightful, poetic and troubled Cobain took his life at 27. His story is a cautionary tale that success does not necessarily help thwart struggles with mental health.

Bruce Lee

bruce lee

Lee would be 81.

Bored Panda

I wish he hadn't taken that painkiller that day.

The actor and martial-arts expert died at 32, officially due to a harmful reaction to a painkiller. His philosophies around kung fu, however, are eternal.

John Lennon

I wish he hadn't been in New York that day.

Legendary artist and activist John Lennon was fatally wounded by a gunshot in December 1980. The last thing he talked about, revealed ex-wife Yoko Ono in an interview, was the desire to see his son before he went to sleep.

Elvis Presley

elvis movie

Presley would be 87.

Bored Panda

I wish he decided to live a life where he paid more attention to the health of his heart.

Had Presley not died of cardiac arrest, he would be 87 this year.

Tupac Shakur

“I wish he hadn't been involved in that event that would cause him to face the mafia.

The cause of Tupac’s untimely death is also one of debate and speculation. According to some, he never died at all. What we can all agree on—he was one of hip-hop's most iconic figures.

Princess Diana

This one seems to be a new addition to the collection, so no wistful message. Although I’m sure the general sentiment is “I wish she were still here.”

AI-generated art is a controversial topic, to be sure. Some consider it a new, innovative medium. Others see it as devoid of any real creativity at all, as it’s produced by a machine, rather than a human. Many are concerned that, as is the case with many jobs that get machine automated, it will threaten the livelihood of actual illustrators.

Those concerns are certainly valid, but perhaps there’s a balance to be found here, as Yesiltas seems to have accomplished. Previously, another artist similarly created stunningly lifelike portraits of cartoon characters from “Encanto” and ”The Simpsons.” These works still required the human touch, and were carefully crafted over time rather than cracked out in mere seconds, as is the case with a lot of AI art.

At its best, AI art helps remind us, as Yesiltas puts it, that "anything imaginable can be shown in reality.” Which, at the end of the day, could be said for any art.


This article originally appeared on 9.23.22

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Scientists tested 3 popular bottled water brands for nanoplastics using new tech, and yikes

The results were alarming—an average of 240,000 nanoplastics per 1 liter bottle—but what does it mean for our health?

Suzy Hazelwood/Canva

Columbia University researchers tested bottled water for nanoplastics and found hundreds of thousands of them.

Evian, Fiji, Voss, SmartWater, Aquafina, Dasani—it's impressive how many brands we have for something humans have been consuming for millennia. Despite years of studies showing that bottled water is no safer to drink than tap water, Americans are more consuming more bottled water than ever, to the tune of billions of dollars in bottled water sales.

People cite convenience and taste in addition to perceived safety for reasons they prefer bottle to tap, but the fear factor surrounding tap water is still a driving force. It doesn't help when emergencies like floods cause tap water contamination or when investigations reveal issues with lead pipes in some communities, but municipal water supplies are tested regularly, and in the vast majority of the U.S., you can safely grab a glass of water from a tap.

And now, a new study on nanoplastics found in three popular bottled water brands is throwing more data into the bottled vs. tap water choice.

Researchers from Columbia University used a new laser-guided technology to detect nanoplastics that had previously evaded detection due to their miniscule size. The new technology can detect, count and analyze and chemical structure of nanoparticles, and they found seven different major types of plastic: polyamide, polypropylene, polyethylene, polymethyl methacrylate, polyvinyl chloride, polystyrene, and polyethylene terephthalate.

In contrast to a 2018 study that found around 300 plastic particles in an average liter of bottled water, the study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in January of 2024 found 240,000 nanoplastic particles per liter bottle on average between the three brands studied. (The name of the brands were not indicated in the study.)

As opposed to microplastics, nanoplastics are too small to be seen by microscope. Their size is exactly why experts are concerned about them, as they are small enough to invade human cells and potentially disrupt cellular processes.

“Micro and nanoplastics have been found in the human placenta at this point. They’ve been found in human lung tissues. They’ve been found in human feces; they’ve been found in human blood,” study coauthor Phoebe Stapleton, associate professor of pharmacology and toxicology at Rutgers University’s Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy told CNN Health,

We know that nanoplastics are making their way into our bodies. We just don't have enough research yet on what that means for our health, and we still have more questions than answers. How many nanoplastics does it take to do damage and/or cause disease? What kinds of damage or disease might they cause? Is whatever effect they might have cumulative? We simply don't have answers to these questions yet.

That's not to say there's no cause for concern. We do know that certain levels of microplastic exposure have been shown to adversely affect the viability of cells. Nanoplastics are even smaller—does that mean they are more likely to cause cellular damage? Science is still working that out.

According to Dr. Sara Benedé of the Spanish National Research Council’s Institute of Food Science Research, it's not just the plastics themselves that might cause damage, but what they may bring along with them. “[Microparticles and nanoparticles] have the ability to bind all kinds of compounds when they come into contact with fluids, thus acting as carriers of all kinds of substances including environmental pollutants, toxins, antibiotics, or microorganisms,” Dr. Benedé told Medical News Today.

Where is this plastic in water coming from? This study focused on bottled water, which is almost always packaged in plastic. The filters used to filter the water before bottling are also frequently made from plastic.

Is it possible that some of these nanoplastics were already present in the water from their original sources? Again, research is always evolving on this front, but microplastics have been detected in lakes, streams and other freshwater sources, so it's not a big stretch to imagine that nanoplastics may be making their way into freshwater ecosystems as well. However, microplastics are found at much higher levels in bottled water than tap water, so it's also not a stretch to assume that most of the nanoplastics are likely coming from the bottling process and packaging rather than from freshwater sources.

The reality is, though, we simply don't know yet.

“Based on other studies we expected most of the microplastics in bottled water would come from leakage of the plastic bottle itself, which is typically made of PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastic,” lead author Naixin Qian, a doctoral student in chemistry at Columbia University, told CNN Health. “However, we found there’s actually many diverse types of plastics in a bottle of water, and that different plastic types have different size distributions. The PET particles were larger, while others were down to 200 nanometers, which is much, much smaller.”

We need to drink water, and we need to drink safe water. At this point, we have plenty of environmental reasons for avoiding bottled water unless absolutely necessary and opting for tap water instead. Even if there's still more research to be done, the presence of hundreds of thousands of nanoplastics in bottled water might just be another reason to make the switch.

Image from YouTube video.

What is your biggest regret?

"Make the most of your regrets; never smother your sorrow, but tend and cherish it till it comes to have a separate and integral interest. To regret deeply is to live afresh."

—Henry David Thoreau

No one escapes this world without a regret or two.

Time and time again, when we hear the final regrets of the dying, they're not about wishing they'd made money or worked more hours.

They're almost always about wishing they had the self-confidence to pursue their dreams or the time to stay in touch with loved ones.

community, culture, honesty, collaboration, art

Here are some thoughts on the subject.

Image from YouTube video.

Recently, A Plus in partnership with Strayer University's Ideal Year Initiative, put up a chalkboard on a New York City street and asked passersby to write down their biggest regrets. The people who wrote on the blackboard were from different walks of life, but their regrets were alarmingly similar.

Watch the full video below:

This article first appeared on 9.16.17

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