June 29, 2023

Things I learned these past few months

Below, a quick roundup of a few of the things I learned over the past few months.

A new study estimates that humans have filled the world’s oceans with more than 170 trillion pieces of plastic, weighing roughly 2.4 million metric tons. (WaPo)

The true, full shape of a rainbow is actually a full circle. Normally obscured by Earth’s surface, a full rainbow can be seen under the right conditions. (BigThink)

Prior to strike action this year, Writers Guild of America members have gone on strike six times: in 1960, 1973, 1981, 1985, 1988, and, most recently, in 2007. (Polygon)

A quarter of high school students in Canada say they vape, according to a study from Western University. More than one in 10 high schoolers say they use nicotine vapes, according to the study. (Children)

Dolphins’ fins include so many scars from boats and aquatic life that they’re used by researchers to identify individual dolphins. (BeautifulPublicData)

A new study has shown that Black residents in counties with more Black physicians - whether or not they actually see those doctors - had lower mortality from all causes”. (StatNews)

While many of Shakespeare’s plays had previously been printed in quarto editions, 18 hadn’t been published at all and would likely have been lost if the First Folio had not been published. (MentalFloss)

Approximately half of global trade is invoiced in US dollars, although this share varies widely across regions. (BIS)

Some of the paintings attributed solely to Hilma af Klint should be understood as the work of a collective of up to 13 women, according to a new book based on recently discovered letters & notebooks of collaborator Anna Cassel. (ArtForum)

A German study into the positive health effects of riding an electric bike concluded that, among other things, riding an electric bike regularly can drop the risk of a heart attack by 40%. (BMJ)

There were 363 journalists detained in more than 30 countries last year, with the highest number of detainees held in Iran, China and Myanmar, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. The overall figure is nearly double that of 2015. (WSJ)

During the height of the Cold War, the US military put such an emphasis on a rapid response to an attack on American soil, that to minimize any foreseeable delay in launching a nuclear missile, for nearly two decades they intentionally set the launch codes at every silo in the US to 8 zeroes. (Gizmodo)

A recent study suggests that Saturn’s rings are relatively young, no more than 400 million years old (Saturn is 4.5 billion years old). Horseshoe crabs & jellyfish are older. (Phys.org)

The name A24 was inspired by the Italian A24 motorway Daniel Katz was driving on when he decided to found the company. (Wikipedia)

Exposure to the chemical solvent trichloroethylene (TCE)—common in soil and groundwater—increases the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. The common environmental contaminant increased rate of neurodegenerative affliction in one population by 70%. (Science)

Parking takes up about one-third of land area in U.S. cities; nationwide, there are an estimated eight parking spaces for every car. (FastCompany)

More than a quarter of American adults are depressed, a 10% surge from nearly a decade ago. (StatNews)

By analyzing the genomes of 290 living people, researchers concluded that modern humans descended from at least two populations that coexisted in Africa for a million years before merging in several independent events across the continent. (NYTimes)

English has two different terms for words that come into English from other languages. A calque’ is translated from the source language. (E.g., flea market, beer garden, paper tiger) A loanword’ is ported in its original form. (E.g., cafe, bazaar, kindergarten) Perhaps ironically, the word calque’ is a loanword, while loanword’ is a calque (from Ger. lehnwort’). (WesDym)

Almost 800,000 Maryland licence plates include a URL that now points to an online casino in the Philippines because someone let the domain registration lapse. (Vice)

A new UK study found that road humps and changes in relative road width on 20mph (30 km/h) roads reduced the rate of casualties by 40%. (Zag Daily)

The median age in the US in 2020 was 38.8, an increase of 0.4 years over the last decade as the share of residents 65 or older grew by more than a third from 2010 to 2020. (AP)

Wind and solar produced more U.S. power than coal during the first five months of 2024, as several coal plants closed and gas prices dropped. (Scientific American)

Scalpels, needles, tweezers, probes, hooks, chisels and drills are as much part of today’s standard medical tool kit as they were during Rome’s imperial era. (NYTimes)

Danske Bank assessed that the Beyoncé concert days in Sweden probably accounted for 0.2 of the 0.3 percentage points added to inflation by hotels and restaurant prices. (QZ)

In December 1952, an experimental nuclear reactor in Chalk River, Ontario experienced mechanical problems and operator error that led to overheating fuel rods and significant damage to the NRX reactor core.” U.S. Navy lieutenant Jimmy Carter (who then later went on to be President) led a team of men on the mission to fix the reactor, which required the reactor to be shut down, taken apart and replaced. (CBC)

Solar rooftop installations soared by 49 per cent worldwide last year. The increase to 118 billion watts worth of rooftop panels was enough to power 36 million more homes globally. (Euronews)

Arterio-venous anastomoses (AVAs) are direct connections between small arteries and small veins. In humans they are numerous in the glabrous skin of the hands and feet. They help with temperature control in the body. (NIH)

Archeologists have found 12,000-year-old flutes made from bird bones–and then were used to imitate the sound of birds. (Phys.org)

Recent research finds that simply spending time with others (vs. alone) is not associated with a reduced burden of loneliness and may even backfire” (NCBI)

For decades, it was pretty much just assumed that men hunted and women gathered in pre-agricultural societies but in a recent analysis of humans remains, they found about half of the time people buried with hunting tools were female”. (NPR)

Container ships in the Panama Canal are now limited to a depth of 13.3 metres. A series of depth restrictions for large ships has been ongoing since January due to shallower waters caused by drought in the region. (QZ)

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