February 29, 2020

A few things I learned this month

Below, a quick roundup of a few of the things I learned in February, 2020.

Visiting the local library remains by far the most common cultural activity Americans engage in. The average 10.5 trips to the library U.S. adults report taking in 2019 exceeds their participation in eight other common leisure activities. (Gallup)

The potato paradox is a mathematical calculation that has a counter-intuitive result: You have 100kg of potatoes, which are 99% water by weight. You let them dehydrate until they’re 98% water. How much do they weigh now?” The answer is 50kg; this paradox is an example of a veridical paradox. (Wikipedia)

A new study shows that some wolf pups demonstrate the same innate fetching skill as domesticated dogs—a finding that suggests that an ability to playfully interact with people might have been around in ancient wolves before they transitioned into domesticated dogs some 15,000 years ago. (iScience)

Germany is turning 62 military bases into wildlife sanctuaries. The conversion will see Germany’s total area of protected wildlife increase by a quarter. (Independent)

A musicologist has uncovered evidence that, contrary to established belief, great composer Ludwig van Beethoven retained some hearing in his final years. Although Beethoven did suffer severe deterioration in his hearing, he did not lose it to the very profound depths” that musicologists have assumed. (Guardian)

The city of Amsterdam is taking over the debts of its young adults as part of a drive to liberate people who are struggling to get into work or education. Under the city’s trial project, a municipal credit bank will negotiate with creditors to buy out the debts. Those on the scheme will then be issued with a loan to repay according to their means. (Guardian)

Researchers found that inhabitants of central Israel’s Qesem Cave more than 200,000 years ago likely saved deer leg bones for up to nine weeks to eat bone marrow. This could be the earliest known instance of prehistoric humans storing food for later. (Science Advances)

The Congolese giant toad’s shape and color scheme imitate the Gaboon viper’s head, researchers found, in the first known case of a toad mimicking a dangerous snake. Its alter ego has the longest fangs and most venom of any known snake species. (Science News)

Words that are spelled the same but pronounced with emphasis on different syllables is actually indicative of the part of speech it is. Stress on the first syllable is a noun. Stress on the last syllable is a verb. (Reddit)

Elephants can communicate using very low frequency sounds, with pitches below the range of human hearing. These low-frequency sounds, termed infrasounds,” can travel several kilometers, and provide elephants with a private” communication channel that plays an important role in elephants’ complex social life. (Science)

The oldest wooden structure in the world is a 7,000-year-old well in the Czech Republic. The square well was built with oak by farmers around 5256 B.C., according to researchers who pinpointed its origin after analyzing the tree rings in the wood. (CNN)

A mathematician has rediscovered a much easier way to teach quadratic equations based on an ancient Babylonian method. (NYTimes)

The likelihood of a bumblebee population surviving in any given place has declined by 30% over a single human generation. Researchers say the rates of decline appear to be consistent with a mass extinction”.(Guardian)

It’s getting harder for fireflies to reproduce because light pollution is outshining their mating signals. Light pollution also disrupts the feeding patterns of the females of some species that glow to attract and eat males. (BioScience)

Dogs use the Earth’s magnetic field when they’re relieving themselves. Not only that, but canines choose to do so in a north-south axis. (Frontiers in Zoology)

According to Chick-fil-A, 60k people apply to be operators every year — and only ~80 are selected. There is more competition to run a Chick-fil-A franchise than to work at Goldman Sachs or to get into Stanford University. (The Hustle)

Netflix consumed 451,000 megawatt-hours in 2019—enough to power around 40,000 average American homes for a full year—an 84% increase from 2018. (Variety)

World population currently grows at 1 percent annually, having peaked at 2.1 percent in 1968. That annual growth rate is expected to continue declining, reaching 0.5 percent by midcentury. The current annual increase of world population is 81 million, lower than the peak level of 93 million in 1988. Annual additions are projected to continue declining, reaching 48 million by 2050. (YaleGlobal)

No person who was born blind has ever been diagnosed with schizophrenia. (Vice)

Because of Japan’s robust national lost-and-found culture and system, 83 percent of cellphones lost in Tokyo, and 65 percent of wallets, are eventually returned to their rightful owners. (BBC)

Romantic-sexual kissing is not as universal as we might presume. Rather than an overwhelming popularity of romantic smooching, the global ethnographic evidence suggests that it is common in only 46% of the cultures sampled. (American Anthropologist)

English-language popular songs have become more negative. The use of words related to negative emotions has increased by more than one third. (AEON)

The 98.6° F normal” benchmark for body temperature comes to us from Dr. Carl Wunderlich, a 19th-century German physician who collected and analyzed over a million armpit temperatures for 25,000 patients. (Harvard Health Publishing)

The unemployment rate for young college graduates exceeds that of the general population, and about 41 percent of recent college graduates — and 33.8 percent of all college graduates — are underemployed in that they are working in jobs that don’t require a college degree. (NY Federal Reserve Bank)

Airport retail sales increased 20% in 2019 from just five years earlier thanks to more travelers and better design. (Quartz)

Before 3D glasses, people used horizontoriums” (by placing their chin on the table) to see images in more dimension. (Princeton)

A new study has found that people who got all their vaccinations against tetanus and diphtheria in childhood don’t need booster shots to remain protected against the two rare but dangerous diseases. (Clinical Infectious Diseases)

Fist bumps transferred one-quarter as much bacteria as a moderate handshake and even less compared to a strong handshake. Fist bumps are better because of lower contact times and lower contact area. (AJIC)

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