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10 Things We Learnt In January, 2024

Posted on 31 January 2024

Here at Gowing Life, we are keeping our fun record of everything we learn in 2024, be it longevity-related or something else entirely. Here is a selection of our newly acquired neural connections for the month of January!

1: This visualisation of the evolution of vision. Visit Visual Capitalist for the full sized version.

Visualizing the Evolution of Vision and the Eye
https://www.visualcapitalist.com/eye-evolution/

The science of conspiracies: Many governments struggle to keep state secrets a secret for long, so what are the chances that a huge conspiracy, such as the moon landings being faked, could be covered up for so long? Oxford physicist Robert Grimes actually wrote a paper in which he used a mathematical model to estimate how long a conspiracy could last. The model takes into account the number of necessary conspirators and the probability of a whistle-blower based on previous, real conspiracies that were uncovered. The results? A fake moon landing would require around 400,000 co-conspirators and would be expected to be uncovered in less than four years. Similar figures were calculated for a climate change hoax. For a conspiracy to be kept a secret for 25 years, Grimes estimates that no more than 502 people could be involved.

On the Viability of Conspiratorial Beliefs
https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0147905

Several studies suggest that lighter eye colours are associated with increased risk of alcohol dependency. It isn’t known for certain why, but it may be related to a gene called OCA2. This gene has a major impact on eye colour and is situated on the same chromosome, very close to another gene that affects alcohol tolerance. It is possible that the first blue-eyed human (who was born between 6000 and 10,000 years ago) happened to carry a mutation for increased alcohol tolerance (and therefore an ability to drink more) that has been maintained in their descendants.

The Tondelayo: On July 30, 1943, a large formation of 186 B-17 bombers of the US Air Forces attacked the German city of Kassel. One of the bombers, nicknamed “Tondelayo”, was repeatedly hit by gunfire from German fighters. When it returned to its base, mechanics found 11 explosive shells had penetrated its fuel tanks, but not one had detonated. When the shells were opened, they found that they were all empty apart from one, which contained a rolled up piece of paper with a message written in Czech. It read: ”This is all we can do for you now.”

The B-17 “Tondelayo” and its crew, July 12, 194 
American Air Museum in Britain)

The Kensington System was a strict set of rules imposed on the future Queen Victoria as a child. They were designed by her mother and her mother’s attendant John Conroy, and were aimed at making Victoria weak and dependant. She was never allowed to be alone, was closely monitored at all times and was only allowed to meet a few other children. To say that this strategy failed to have the desired effect would be an understatement. Upon her accession at age 18, Victoria’s first commands were that that she be granted an hour by herself, and that her bed be removed from her mother’s room. She then permanently banned John Conroy from her apartments. Soon after her marriage three years later, she evicted her mother from the palace.

The Streisand effect: When an attempt to suppress information backfires and increases awareness of said information. It is named after American actress and singer Barbra Streisand, who attempted to sue photographer Kenneth Adelman in 2003 over an aerial picture of her cliff-top residence in Malibu. The photograph was taken to document California’s coastal erosion and was largely unknown prior to the lawsuit, but was viewed by over 400,000 people in the month after the story broke. Streisand lost the case and had to pay Adelman’s legal fees. Anyway, here’s the photograph:

By Copyright (C) 2002 Kenneth & Gabrielle Adelman, California Coastal Records Project, www.californiacoastline.org, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22417977

The World’s first ever speeding ticket is believed to have been issued on the 28th of January 1896 to a man named Walter Arnold of East Peckham, who was also one of the first car dealers in the UK. He was pursued for 5 miles by a policeman on a bicycle, and was charged with exceeding the speed limit of 2 miles per hour.

The word ‘dictator’ originates from an official position in the Roman Republic. Unlike what we understand by the word today, a Roman dictator (“one who speaks”) was an official assigned to resolve a specific issue, often in some kind of emergency. Their powers applied only for the resolution of that issue, and their dictatorship would end as soon as the issue was resolved. After the assassination of Caesar, who had recently become Dictator perpetuo (dictator in perpetuum), the position was formally abolished.

Statue of Quintus Fabius Maximus Verrucosus, appointed dictator in 217 BC during Hannibal’s invasion of Italy
By schurl50 (User:schurl50) – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1595853

The letter from Iddin-Sin, a Babylonian letter written during the 18th century BC. It was written by a student to his mother, Zinu, to complain about the quality of the clothes she sent him. Here’s an excerpt: ”At a time when in our house wool is used up like bread, you have made me poor clothes. The son of Adad-iddinam, whose father is only an assistant of my father, has two new sets of clothes, while you fuss even about a single set of clothes for me. In spite of the fact that you bore me and his mother only adopted him, his mother loves him, while you, you do not love me!”

By Georges Dossin – CDLI, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=116057145

In 2009, an Icelandic geothermal plant accidentally drilled into Krafla volcano’s magma chamber. While this destroyed the drill, it raised the possibility of generating geothermal power at an unprecedented scale. In 2026, the Krafla Magma Testbed project will drill into the chamber again, this time on purpose, in an attempt to harness its supercritical water. Currently, around 70% of Iceland’s energy is geothermal, but this new type of geothermal plant would produce at least ten times as much energy as a conventional one.


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