December 27, 2019

A few things I learned this month

Below, a quick roundup of a few of the things I learned in December, 2019.

Researchers have located 142 new Nazca Lines in Peru. New geoglyphs depicting fish, snakes and humanoids, among other things, have been identified thanks in part to artificial intelligence. (Newsweek)

Nearly 10% of the Seychelles’ working population is addicted to heroin. Per capita, the Seychelles suffers from the highest rate of heroin abuse in the world. (BBC)

Between 2003 and 2015, on average, a 10 percent yearly increase in forest loss led to a 3 percent rise in malaria cases. In one year of the study, an additional 618-square-mile patch of cleared forest was linked to an additional 10,000 cases of malaria. (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences)

A pleonastic pronoun is a pronoun used to fulfill syntactical requirements without providing explicit meaning. It is used when a particular verb argument (or preposition) is nonexistent, unknown, irrelevant, or already understood; a great example of this is when we say, it’s raining.” (Wikipedia)

In the famed Burgess Shale rock formation, paleontologists discovered hundreds of fossils of a horseshoe crab–shaped, Cambrian predator, Cambroraster, that lived in the ocean 506 million years ago. (Science Daily)

Scientists confirmed a destructive fungus targeting banana plants has arrived in Colombia. No treatment is available, so officials put potentially infected crops under quarantine to stop its spread. (Scientific American)

The board game Operation evolved from a very different electrified game called Death Valley that was invented in the early 1960s by a University of Illinois industrial design student named John Spinello. (IEEE)

The Turner Prize 2019 has been awarded to all four shortlisted artists—Oscar Murillo, Tai Shani, Lawrence Abu Hamdan and Helen Cammock—after they formed a collective so they could all win. (It’s Nice That)

A study of giving cash to the extreme poor finds that every dollar of cash aid increases total economic activity in the local area by $2.60—and doesn’t result in a significant price inflation. (NPR)

Baijiu is the world’s most popular spirit, with 10bn litres sold each year, almost entirely in China. The second most popular spirit in the world is vodka, with just 5bn litres sold. (Economist)

72% of classical musicians have taken beta blockers for performance anxiety. (Composed)

Most of the dairy cows in America are descended from just two bulls, creating a lack of genetic diversity that can lead to health problems. (NPR)

In the past decade, 467 species on Earth have been declared extinct. Others have been brought to the brink and still more are seeing serious declines in their population numbers. (Vox)

By the end of the decade, over half a million Americans will have died from drug overdoses—more than in WWI and WWII combined. (BuzzFeed News)

Residents of an overwintering station in Antarctica provided linguists with evidence of the first small changes in speech that may signal the development of a new accent. (Journal of the Acoustical Society of America)

Whale size is limited by the largest whales’ very efficient feeding strategies, which enable them to take in a lot of calories compared to the energy they burn while foraging. (Science)

Every year, an estimated 48 million Americans will get a food-borne illness; 128,000 of them will end up in the hospital, and 3,000 will die. Seafood is the riskiest commonly consumed food, responsible for about 19 times as many infections per pound of consumption as dairy, and six times as many as vegetables. (Center for Science in the Public Interest)

For the first time since the early 20th century, more Americans are dying at home—instead of the hospital—of natural causes. (NEJM)

Local exposure to fatal school shootings increases youth antidepressant use by 21.4 percent in the following two years. (NBER)

The world’s largest multilateral financial institution, The European Investment Bank, agreed to stop all financing for fossil fuels, and committed to investing half of its entire annual outlay — not just its energy budget — on climate action and sustainability by 2025. (Guardian)

New surveys revealed that the population of humpback whales in the South Atlantic region now number 24,900 — almost 93% of their population size before they were hunted to the brink of extinction. (BBC)

Algeria and Argentina officially eliminated malaria this year, and the WHO said that in the last eight years, malaria infections in Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam dropped by 76%, and deaths fell by 95%. India also reported a huge reduction in malaria, with 2.6 million fewer cases in 2018 than in 2017. (Nature)

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