what i learned last week

1. the catholic church actively disputes human equality. link

2. paris is boring. link

3. in south america, there are places where fireflies do not blink randomly – they blink in unison. tens of thousands of them blink together at the same rate, lighting up the trees, then leaving them in blackness, over and over.

4. the scientist who discovered the importance of pheromones to ants, back when he was first spreading the word of his discovery, would do demonstrations be dragging an ant’s pheromone-producing organ across a surface, and show other ants following the trail. it was not unusual for him to write his name with the organ, which resulted in him spelling his name in ant.

5. science, generally speaking, has had a great deal of success over the past couple of hundred years with reductionism. in order to understand a system, the philosophy of science has been to break it down to its smallest constituent parts. however, there is a relatively new branch of science called “emergence” that goes the other way – it moves upwards to the whole instead of the component. this is the better way to understand things like ant colonies. ants, individually, are stupid. ants in colonies are incredibly smart.

6. there are ants who, just ahead of the monsoon season, build a small ridge around the opening to their colony. this raises the entrance above the surrounding ground. as a result, the colony doesn’t flood when the rain comes.

7. the ipad is not the first device to be poorly named… (okay, i already knew this, but there are some funny ones out there…) link and link and link and link and link and link and link and link and link and… never mind…

8. you can’t get rich on feng shui. link

9. when you’re surfing the internet for porn at work, you should always check first to make sure that there is nobody behind you, getting interviewed on national television… link

10. stealing from the girl guides will not go unpunished. link

11. relative to the size of the economy, british banks are 10 times larger than they were in 1970. link

12. 33.8% of americans are obese – a rate that is 10 times higher than japan’s. 68% of americans are obese or overweight. estimates based on current trends indicate that 100% of america will be overweight by 2048. link

13. power makes some people loonie. link

14. people who own cats are smarter than people who own dogs. link

15. having heard the jonas brothers perform live on television twice, i can say that they are completely unencumbered by talent.

what i learned last week

1. behind your forehead is the part of the brain called the pre-frontal cortex. this is made of gray matter (the stuff that does the thinking) and white matter (the stuff that connects the gray matter together to send messages around). if you take a bunch of people and put them in an mri scanner, you’ll find that habitual liars have about 25% more white matter than other people.

2. the flynn effect – jim flynn noticed that i.q. scores have been increasing through the 20th century in the industrialised world. a person of average intelligence in 1900 would, today, have an i.q. indicating mental retardation. this is because we as a population are learning to think abstractly.

3. shakespeare is too racy for americans. link

4. there is an underground cave of giant crystals adjacent to a mine in mexico. link link

5. j.d.salinger died. he took part in the battle of normandy.

6. some people feel that it is their right to be able to buy groceries in their pyjamas. link

7. mahatma gandhi was finally buried. well… his ashes were scattered into the ocean, but it took 62 years to do it… link

8. margaret thatcher ate 28 eggs a week as part of a pre-election high-protein diet. link

9. adultery is expensive in malaysia. link

10. men who drink 6 or more 6 oz cups of coffee a day have a 60% reduction in their risk of prostate cancer.

what i learned last week

1. scots are drunk. link

2.i am, once again, happy that i use firefox on a mac. link

3. firefox is as popular as internet explorer, but mac isn’t as popular as windows (okay, okay, i knew that before last week, but now i know the real numbers). link

4. americans shouldn’t hunt near work. link

5. sometimes, i wish i lived in new york. link and link


what i learned last week

1. almost half of the rice farmers in japan are over 65 years old.

2. in march, 2012, the copyright on the beatles’ album “please please me” will run out. link

3. bicycle riding in the nude is not permitted in new zealand – you have to wear a helmet. link

4. if all of the petroleum used in the united states were replaced by biofuel originating from algae, it would require 40,000 square km to “grow” the algae. this total area is one-seventh of the area used to grow corn in the united states in the year 2000.

5. algae converts carbon dioxide in the water and sunlight to create oxygen and biofuel. it can absorb up to 99% of the co2 in the water.

what i learned last week

1. the u.s. air force is buying 2200 sony playstation3’s to assemble a linux supercomputer

2. the coriolis effect affects the trajectory of a bullet.

3. better homes and gardens magazine makes about twice as much on advertising as it does on sales and subscriptions.

4. some of the proposed names for ethernet were ‘bulletin board’, ‘parliamentary procedure’, and (my favourite…) ‘lazy susan’.

5. for every finnish woman that dies of lung cancer, two swedish women, two norwegian women and three and a half danish women die of the same disease. denmark has the highest per-capita rate of lung cancer deaths in women of any country in the world.

6. it takes only 6 mA of current going through your heart to kill you.

7. the danish parliament is feckless. link

8. canada’s parliament is no better. link

9. hockey is bad for you. link

10. only five works of art have sold for over $100,000,000. they are by pablo picasso, jackson pollock, willem de kooning, gustav klimt, and andy warhol.

what i learned last week

1. the reason spammers hit blogs with comments is not to get people to read the spam. it’s to get google to pay attention. the way google decides the order of its list when you search for something is rather democratic. the more people that link to your site, the more likely you are for google to think you’re important, and therefore, worthy of a #1 listing on its results. the more people link to your site, the more google thinks that the links on your site to someone else’s are good, and therefore the more “votes” you get for someone else. so, if my site has a good standing with google, and a spammer can put a comment on my blog linking to his (or her) own site, then it’s more likely that his (or her) site will show up on google’s first page when someone is looking for viagra (as an example…) or free, pirated mp3’s (as another example…). so, the parasites (uh… people spamming my site) are truly parasitic – riding the coattails of my good name (at least, “good” as far as google’s link-counting servers are concerned…) i just activated the akismet wordpress-spam-killer on this blog – hopefully it’ll wipe out the parasites.

2. oliver sacks doesn’t eat kidneys (any more).

3. there are 3,000,000,000 letters (consisting of a, t, c and g) in your genome. this means, that if you were to read it out, letter by letter, at a rate of one letter per second, reading 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, it would take you a little over 95 years to complete the project, so don’t bother…

4. cuban cigar factories have readers – people who read newpaper articles and books to the workers rolling the cigars.

5. bentford’s law is my favourite mathematical law.

6. if you do a preference test where the subjects have to tell you why they prefer something over another, they’ll give you the wrong answer – they actually prefer the other thing.

7. there is a lightbulb at the livermore pleasanton fire department that has been lit continuously for the past 106 years. link

8. a large explosion on the ground on an overcast day will result in the blast wave bouncing off the cloud cover and bouncing back down and breaking some windows.

what i learned last week

1. it is increasingly likely that there was once life on mars. link

2. some components of speech intelligibility are determined (or at least manipulatable) by air pressure on the skin of the listener. link

3. the definition of death has changed at least three times in the past 150 years or so. originally the moment of death was when you stopped breathing. then, it changed in the mid-1800’s to the moment when your heart stopped. since the beginning of the use of heart-lung machines (today known as respirators) we had to come up with a different definition which, these days, is the one we use: when there is no measurable brain activity. (however, there are some religious doctrines such as judaism that stick with the breath definition, since, as the belief goes, if you have air in your lungs, your soul’s still in there.)

4. important news for all you h1n1-paranoid folks: hand sanitizers only work well if your hands are already clean. link

5. chihuahua discrimination is frowned upon in ontario. link

6. the average american drinks more than 200 litres of soda each year. link

7. if you wanted to offset your carbon footprint (of, on average, 9 tons of c02 per year) by buying bottles of coca-cola and not opening it, you’d have to spend about $600,000 per year on coke. (assuming: you have 9 tons of co2 to offset, 1 litre of coke contains 6 g of co2, and 2 litres of coke costs $0.79) link

8. on thanksgiving, the average american eats twice his/her average daily caloric intake, and two and a half times the average daily fat intake. thanks!

9. there are more stars in the universe than there are grains of sand on all the beaches on the earth.

10. if transatlantic passenger jets flew in formation like geese, (with a separation of a couple of nautical miles) they would save about 15% on fuel. have a similar reduction in co2 output, and a 25% reduction in nitrogen-oxide output.

what i learned last week

1. each american wastes 1400 calories each day. this is about 66% of my recommended daily intake to maintain my current weight. canada is not much different… toronto throws 17,500,000 kg of food in the garbage each month. link

2. the link between a type ‘a’ personality and heart disease was originally identified by an upholsterer. link – check out the episode on stress

3. under the philosophy of “kraft durch freude” or “strength through joy” the nazi’s built a resort called prora on the baltic island of rügen, germany. it consists of 8 buildings, parallel to the beach, approximately 5 km long. it has 10,000 rooms and was designed to accomodate 20,000 guests. it still exists, but is empty. link

4. number of unvaccinated people thus far who have died of h1n1 in denmark: 0. number of people thus far who have died of h1n1 after being vaccinated for it: 2.

5. each month, 60,000 people call onstar to remotely unlock their cars in which they have accidentally left their keys.

6. monsanto was the company that made agent orange. today its pesticide division makes roundup. its gm seed division ensures that its products are “roundup ready” meaning that the plants that grow from those seeds, unlike lots of other plants, will survive being sprayed with the pesticide.