September 30, 2019

A few things I learned this month

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

Tiny pieces of plastic have been found in ice cores drilled in the Arctic by a U.S.-led team of scientists, underscoring the threat the growing form of pollution poses to marine life in even the remotest waters on the planet. (ScienceAdvances)

Ships used to have red hulls because copper oxides kept stuff from growing on the bottom, reducing drag and increasing speed. Now it’s just tradition. (Jalopnik)

Men are more likely to believe in extraterrestrials, women are more likely to believe in ghosts. (Gallup)

Icelandic glacier Okjökull was deemed dead” in 2014 because it had lost so much ice. This summer, scientists are installing a memorial plaque on the barren ground as a message to future generations. (WBUR)

As countries develop, their food systems get better at providing healthier foods cheaply, but they also get better at providing unhealthier foods cheaply. (World Bank)

The school colors of the United States Military College—black, grey, and gold—were chosen to reflect the colors of the component parts of gunpowder: charcoal, potassium nitrate, and sulfur. (Scientific American)

Police shootings are a leading cause of death for Black men. Black men in America have better” odds of being killed by police than winning some types of scratch-off lottery games. (LA Times)

The University of Oxford has a bell that’s been ringing almost continuously since 1840, about 10 billion rings so far. (Futility Closet)

As far back as the 15th century, thrill-seeking Russians built massive ice slides—some reached up to 80 feet in the air. (Atlas Obscura)

Some small communities in the US rely on ticketing passing motorists for up to half of their city budgets. (Governing)

Like other animals that live by humans, city crows have higher cholesterol than rural crows, possibly from eating processed foods. (New Scientist)

Interference from 5G wireless phones could reduce the accuracy of weather forecasts by 30 percent, because the networks operate at frequencies too near that of water vapor in the atmosphere. (WIRED)

Between 1979 and 2013, earnings of high-wage workers rose 41%. Middle-wage workers: 6%. The pay for low-wage workers: down 5%. (New Republic)

Mosquitoes are precision guided to their prey by plumes of carbon dioxide, heat and humidity. A small patch of graphene on human skin seems to block mosquitoes’ ability to sense the molecules that trigger a bite. (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences)

Psychologists recently put together a tool to easily evaluate air travel emissions of a conference or institution and to explore meeting locations that reduce travel. By moving their conference of 4,000 people from Portland to Atlanta, they estimate they saved 3.1 million miles of round-trip travel, $338k in airfare, and 20% of emissions, equivalent to growing 12,567 trees for 10 years.” (SPSP)

The Waffle House Index,” first coined by Federal Emergency Management Agency Director W. Craig Fugate, is based on the extent of operations and service at the restaurant following a storm and indicates how prepared a business is in case of a natural disaster. When any of the stores are in danger of being hit by severe weather, so-called jump teams” are activated to be ready to deploy wherever needed. (EHS Today)

The Baumol effect is the rise of salaries in jobs that have experienced no or low increase of labor productivity, in response to rising salaries in other jobs that have experienced higher labor productivity growth. This pattern seemingly goes against the theory in classical economics in which real wage growth is closely tied to labor productivity changes. (Marginal Revolution)

The Pacific nation of Cook Islands plans to change its name to drop the reference to the British explorer Captain James Cook in favour of a title that reflects its Polynesian history. (NZ Herald)

The modern version of the waffle iron was invented by Cornelius Swartwout in 1869, 150 years ago. He created a stove-top version of the waffle iron that was easy to turn and less likely to burn the hand of the cook. (Smithsonian)

Researchers estimate that installing photovoltaic panels on just one percent of croplands worldwide would be enough to meet all of humanity’s global electricity needs. (Scientific Reports)

Prior to the Equal Credit Opportunity Act in 1974, a woman in America couldn’t get a credit card in her own name; they often needed a man to co-sign for a card. (Smithsonian)

Among humpback whales, the songs they sing gain and lose popularity just like pop songs do for humans, At the Kermadec Islands, humpbacks from all over the South Pacific converge and swap songs. (Royal Society Open Science)

The generally accepted age of the universe is 13.7 billion years, based on a Hubble Constant of 70. A new study has come up with a Hubble Constant of 82.4, which would put the age of the universe at around 11.4 billion years. (AP)

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