July 30, 2020

A few things I learned this month

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

Sled dogs have an unbroken genetic ancestry dating back nearly 10,000 years. Scientists have traced the ancestry of modern sled dogs, such as Siberian huskies and Alaskan malamutes, all the way back to the end of the last ice age, highlighting an extraordinarily long period of genetic continuity. (Science)

October 31, 2000 was the last day all humans were together on Earth. That day, the rocket containing the crew of Expedition 1 lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and carried them to the International Space Station for a long-term stay. Ever since the Expedition 1 crew docked, there’s been an uninterrupted human presence on the ISS. (Kottke)

Four recent polls suggest that about 15 million to 26 million people in the United States have participated in demonstrations over the death of George Floyd and others in recent weeks. These figures would make the recent protests the largest movement in the country’s history. (NYTimes)

Blacks and Latinos in the US have been three times as likely as whites to get infected with COVID-19—and twice as likely to die. (NYTimes)

Draftsman and inventor Lewis Howard Latimer played a pivotal role in both the invention of the telephone (he did the patent drawings for Bell) and lightbulb (invented a carbon filament bulb that allowed for continuous burning bulbs). (Wikipedia)

In a Twitter thread from 2016, Slack cofounder and CEO Stewart Butterfield explained the app’s name was originally an acronym that stands for Searchable Log of All Conversation and Knowledge.” (Business Insider)

Scientists have found that some fish absorb up to 99.956 percent of the light that hits them. Sixteen species have been discovered that have specialized ultra-black” skin, rendering the fish virtually invisible in the depths. (WIRED)

One million smokers across the UK have given up the habit since the coronavirus pandemic hit in March. Around 17% of smokers aged between 16 and 29 have quit, compared with 7% of over-50s. A further 440,000 people have tried to stop smoking. (Sky News)

Falling fertility rates mean nearly every country could have shrinking populations by the end of the century. The global fertility rate nearly halved to 2.4 in 2017; a recent study projects it will fall below 1.7 by 2100. (Lancet)

A new ultrahard material named Proteus has been developed by scientists; it can’t be cut by an angle grinder, drill, or water jet. It’s inspired by abalone shells and grapefruit peels, and while it could have a wide variety of practical applications, bike locks might be where it makes its first appearance. (Fast Company)

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