November 30, 2019

A few things I learned this month

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

Oceans are absorbing about 93 percent of the heat our carbon emissions have trapped in the atmosphere. The oceans are acting as a giant thermal buffer, protecting us from feeling all the heat of climate change directly. (NatGeo)

The world’s first published travel guide is a 15th-century book that gave the West an accurate glimpse of Jerusalem and Venice. The first edition of the 15th-century book Peregrinatio in Terram Sanctam features the first accurate printed illustrations of those, among other cities. (Hyperallergic)

Physarum polycephalum is a slime mold capable of advanced decision-making, learning, and long-term memory storage” despite a lack of neurons. (NPR)

Instead of directly repelling mosquitoes, synthetic repellents like DEET actually seem to mask the scent of our human perfume”—making us less obvious targets for mosquitoes. (Current Biology)

Super-precise new CRISPR tool allows researchers more control over DNA changes, potentially opening up conditions that have challenged gene-editors. The alternative method, called prime editing, improves the chances that researchers will end up with only the edits they want, instead of a mix of changes that they can’t predict. (Nature)

With a high degree of accuracy, archaeologists are using scent-trained dogs to locate iron age tombs in Croatia. (Guardian)

In 1969, fifty years ago, a UCLA computer science professor and his student sent the first message over ARPANET, the predecessor to the internet. Leonard Kleinrock and Charley Kline sent Stanford University researcher Bill Duval a two-letter message: lo.” The intended message, the full word login,” was truncated by a computer crash. (Conversation)

Twenty years ago, 70 percent of protests demanding systemic political change got it — a figure that had been growing steadily since the 1950s. In the mid-2000s, that trend suddenly reversed. Worldwide, protesters’ success rate has since plummeted to only 30 percent. (ResearchGate)

Residents of Vatican City drink far more wine per person than any other country—74 liters per year, or about 105 bottles, twice the amount drunk by the average person in France and three times that in the U.K. (Futility Closet)

Measles can cause people to experience immune amnesia,” where bodies forget how to fight prior diseases. Without vaccination, the highly contagious virus can allow other diseases to flourish in unsuspecting populations for more than two years after an infection. (NatGeo)

The world’s longest outdoor escalator used to take visitors to the top of China’s largest dam, rose 258 meters high, and was shaped like a dragon. Sadly, as of August 2019, the escalator is no longer in use. (Atlas Obscura)

Millennials earn, on average, 20 percent less than baby boomers did at a similar point in their lives. This is despite the fact that millennials are more educated than earlier generations, with 40 percent of them having at least a bachelor’s degree compared to 25 percent among boomers. (GQ)

Cutting the speed of ships has huge benefits for humans, nature and the climate. A 20% reduction in speed would cut greenhouse gases but also curb pollutants that damage human health such as black carbon and nitrogen oxides. This speed limit would cut underwater noise by 66% and reduce the chances of whale collisions by 78%. (BBC)

In 2019, the US held an unprecedented 69,550 migrant children in custody, away from their parents. (AP)

Archaeologists examining the area near the ruins of a cemetery for the elite in the Egyptian city of Hierakonpolis discovered a structure containing five ceramic vats that would have been heated from below. Residues in the vats confirmed that people in the region, some 5,600 years ago, had once made beer. (Scientific Reports)

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