May 31, 2019

A few things I learned this month

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

Over the last 23 years, among more than 27,000 NBA games, the first team to reach 100 points won 94% of the time. (LA Times)

Pigeons are one of the few animals able to pass the mirror self-recognition test. If you mark a pigeon’s wing and let it look in a mirror it will try to remove the mark, realising that what it sees is a reflected image of its own body. (London Review of Books)

Not built to withstand flooding, many US nuclear power plants are located where climate change will cause rising waters. (Bloomberg)

Pigeons can recognise video footage of themselves shown with a five-second delay. They are able to recognise individuals from photographs, and a neuroscientist at Keio University in Japan has trained them to distinguish between the paintings of Matisse and Picasso. (London Review of Books)

Malawi, Ghana, and Kenya began immunising young children against malaria, in a landmark large-scale pilot of the first vaccine to give partial protection against the disease. (The Guardian)

Japan begins a new imperial era on May 1, requiring systems, calendars, and all government forms to reset their clocks. Across Japan, which relies internally on an ancient calendar that honors a reigning emperor, it will be the first day of the first year of the age of Reiwa. (NYTimes)

Botanists found a rare hibiscus flower, Hibiscadelphus woodii, thought to be a extinct, by flying a drone down a cliff face in Kauai. (Kalalau Drone Survey)

Scientists have documented more than 195,728 distinct viral populations in the ocean. About 40 percent of the novel virus populations came from recently-collected Arctic samples. (Cell)

Though African-American cowboys don’t play a part in the popular narrative, historians estimate that one in four cowboys were black. After the Civil War, being a cowboy was one of the few jobs open to men of color. (Smithsonian)

Felines move their ears, heads and tails more when they hear their names, compared to when they hear similar words. (Scientific Reports)

Maya Angelou, who plays Aunt June in John Singleton’s Poetic Justice, also wrote all the poetry attributed to Justice, Janet Jackson’s character in the film. (LitHub)

Indonesian President Joko Widodo has decided to move the capital out of Indonesia’s main island, Java. The country has announced plans to build a new capital city as its current capital, Jakarta, struggles with pollution, traffic gridlock — and the fact that the city is sinking. (NPR)

A new study finds that all perching bird species—most of the world’s bird population—originated in Australia. The researchers conducted genomic testing using technology that did not exist 10 years ago and analyzed DNA data from the 137 families of perching birds. (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences)

Giacomo Casanova claimed to have had sex with over 122 women, but he may have been lying: scientists can find no proof he ever had gonorrhoea, as is widely reported. (Electrophoresis)

Canada produces roughly 70 percent of the world’s maple syrup. That was worth about $370 million US in 2017. (NYTimes)

Atlantic Leather, the only fish tannery in Europe, turns the skins of salmon, perch, cod and wolffish into leather. The tanning process takes between three and four weeks, and 19 employees now produce 10,000 skins, or nearly a tonne, of fish leather a month. (BBC)

Service à la russe is a manner of dining that involves courses being brought to the table sequentially. It contrasts with service à la française in which all the food is brought out at once, in an impressive display. (Wikipedia)

Reserve, Louisiana, has the most toxic air in the US. The risk of cancer due to air pollution is 50 times the national average. (Guardian)

The nutrient profile of a panda’s all-bamboo diet—very high in protein, and low in carbohydrates—is much closer to that of a typical carnivore than it is to other plant-eating mammals. Pandas have beautifully adapted to eat an extremely plentiful food source—bamboo—and they go to great and careful lengths to get exactly the right balance of nutrients. (The Atlantic)

The Bluetooth standard is named after the 10th century Scandinavian king Harald Blåtand’ Gormsson. Legend has it, Blåtand (meaning Bluetooth’ in English) ate so many blueberries that they stained his teeth blue. Originally developed by two engineers at Ericsson in Sweden, the Bluetooth protocol was meant to set a unified standard, replacing a variety of competing protocols. The name was inspired by Blåtand who managed to unify the various Danish tribes into one Danish kingdom. If you look closely at the Bluetooth logo, you can see the long-branch Nordic runes for H’ and B’. (Today I Found Out)

Danielle Steele has written 179 books, works 20 hours a day, doesn’t read, takes off one week a year, and has nine children. (Glamour)

Ammonia from penguin poop gets carried on Antarctic winds, fertilizing mosses and lichens as far as a mile away. (Current Biology)

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