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12 Things We Learnt In 2023

Posted on 31 December 2023

Here at Gowing Life, we keep a fun record of everything we learn each month, be it longevity-related or something else entirely. Here are some of our favourites from 2023!

January

Ksar Draa in Timimoun, Algeria, is an ancient fortress in the middle of the desert. Its history is mostly unknown, including who built it and what purpose it served.

Ksar Draa
Image source

February

An aerial photograph taken in 2016 shows a settlement of one of the last uncontacted groups of Yanomami – an indigenous people of the Amazon rainforest, close to the border between Brazil and Venezuela. They are currently under threat from the activity of illegal gold miners. While the people of this settlement may be uncontacted, they definitely noticed whatever was photographing them…

March

The evolution of colour: Research by the Science Museum Group based on objects from different periods of UK history shows how grey tones have become more predominant over time. This is down to the rise of plastics and metals and the decline of wood, as well as changes in aesthetic preferences.

Source

April

Sułoszowa, Poland has a population of 6000, the entirety of which lives on one street. It is around 9km long.

May

This graph showing causes of death in the United States, their share of Google searches, and how frequently they are mentioned in news articles. It’s interesting to note that, for the most part, the pattern of Google searches is more representative of mortality distributions than media reporting. This suggests that on average, people make better decisions about prioritising different risks when they seek out information themselves, as opposed to being presented with information by a platform motivated by sales/traffic.

June

Lyrebirds copy bird songs and other sounds they hear in the forest, including camera shutters, car alarms and even chainsaws.

July

Shepard tone: Listen to the short video below. Then, replay the video from the beginning. There’s no trickery involved: you are listening to the same video, yet somehow the pitch seems to increase every time you listen to it. This auditory illusion is called a Shepard tone. It works by overlapping notes that are one octave apart, with each note fading in and out so the pitch appears to always rise or fall.

August

This amazing map of the observable universe by Pablo Carlos Budassi, with distances from the Earth represented on a logarithmic scale.

Logaritmic map of the Observable Universe with the ground level on the left side and the farthest visible objects on the right. Made by Pablo Carlos Budassi on August 2018.
pablocarlosbudassi@gmail.com

September

Who is the deadliest hunter in the cat family? Is it the lion, the King of the jungle? Or perhaps the cheetah, the fastest land animal on the planet? The answer is neither – in fact, the deadliest cat on the planet is the adorable black-footed cat, the smallest cat in Africa. The black-footed cat catches about 60% of its prey, compared to around 30% for packs of lions. Single lions only have a 15% success rate, which is also lower than the house cat’s 30%. I’d still rather fight the cat, though.

October

The video below shows a series of perfectly normal human faces in quick succession. Yet look what happens when you focus your attention on the cross in the middle of the screen. It’s called the flashed-face distortion effect, and studying it could lead to important insights into how our brains process facial information. The brain is wired to recognise faces and even appears to have an area solely devoted to the task: the fusiform gyrus.

November

Large scale warfare in Europe may have occurred 5000-5400 years ago, which is at least a millennium earlier than previously thought. This conclusion comes from a study that re-examined over 300 carbon dated remains from a mass burial site in northern Spain. 23% of the individuals buried had evidence of skeletal injuries, 10% had unhealed injuries, and over 70% of those injured were adolescent of adult males.

December

This breath-taking aerial footage of the volcanic eruption on Iceland’s Reykjanes peninsula.


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