October 30, 2019

A few things I learned this month

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

Over the course of a 10-day chess tournament, mental and physical stress can cause grandmasters to lose an average of 12 pounds. (ESPN)

A new study finds no deleterious effects on mental health when kids spend their leisure time texting and engaging in other online activities. The methodologies for older studies may have led to false conclusions. (Clinical Psychological Science)

A study published in June found that a person on average inhales or swallows at least 74,000 microscopic particles of plastic each year. And there are multitudes of miniscule plastic beads and fibers in the environment. (Scientific American)

Rock-munching sea urchins have self-sharpening teeth. After analyzing 3D movies of exactly how and where the teeth chipped—and conducting multiple mechanical tests—scientists found that materials in the teeth of sea urchins are arranged so that they chip only on one side. (Science)

The North American bird population is down by 2.9 billion breeding adults since 1970, with devastating losses among birds in every biome. More than 90% of the losses come from just 12 families including the sparrows, blackbirds, warblers, and finches. (Science)

Grape seeds found in an ancient refuse pile in the Jura mountains were an exact genetic match with a type of grape harvested there today, meaning local winegrowers have been cultivating the same vintage for roughly 900 years. (Earth.com)

Japan has withdrawn from the International Whaling Commission and resumed commercial whaling operations after a 31-year hiatus. In the first official hunt after the withdrawal, two minke whales were killed for their meat. (Guardian)

The term meritocracy” was originally a satirical term invented by writer Michael Young in 1958 to describe a dystopian society. (Guardian)

New research confirms that Saturn is losing its iconic rings at the maximum rate estimated from Voyager 1 & 2 observations made decades ago. The rings are being pulled into Saturn by gravity as a dusty rain of ice particles under the influence of Saturn’s magnetic field. (NASA)

A marine heatwave in 2016 killed off a full third of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, the largest coral reef system in the world. (Nature)

It’s estimated that more than 383,000 people have died in five years of conflict in South Sudan (Al-Jazeera)

In 2005, the United Kingdom Parliament passed the Constitutional Reform Act which, for the first time in constitutional history, provided for the separation of the Appellate Committee (supreme court) from the legislature (Parliament) and the executive (Government). The first Supreme Court In United Kingdom sat in 2009. (Parliament.UK)

The discovery of CRISPR came from the yogurt research industry. Scientists working for Danisco, a dairy food production company, were looking for a way to protect their yogurt bacteria, Streptococcus thermophiles, from virus attacks. Danisco’s scientists confirmed that the CRISPR system was involved in anti-virus defense of the yogurt bacteria. (ASCB)

Astronomers have discovered 20 new moons orbiting Saturn—bringing its total to 82 moons, surpassing Jupiter’s 79. (BBC)

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