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30 Things We Learnt In June, 2022

Posted on 30 June 2022

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Here at Gowing Life, we have decided to keep a fun record of everything we learn in 2022, be it longevity-related or something else entirely. Here is a selection of our newly acquired neural connections for the month of June!

1: Happy tail syndrome: Happy tail syndrome is when a dog injures its tail by wagging it too forcefully and bashing it against objects. These injuries are more common in large dogs due to their size and the force of the wagging.


2: In 1844, on a typical day, the average adult Irishman ate approximately 13 pounds of potatoes, which equates to a staggering 65 potatoes a day. The average for all men, women, and children was a lower but still impressive total of 45 potatoes per day.

3: The Late Bronze Age collapse was a time of abrupt societal collapse between 1200 and 1150 BC, affecting an area covering much of Southeast Europe, West Asia and North Africa. Its cause is not known, but is likely to have been a ‘perfect storm’ of factors such as foreign invaders, drought and earthquakes.

4: Tall el-Hammam, a Middle-Bronze-Age city in the southern Jordan Valley northeast of the Dead Sea, may have been destroyed by a ‘cosmic airburst’ that occurred around 3600 years ago. Evidence for this comes from findings such as the presence of shocked quartz and melted pottery, platinum and iridium, suggesting temperatures of over 2000°C. The airburst would have thrown salt into the air, inhibiting agriculture, which may have caused the abandonment of settlements within a 25-km radius lasting up to 600 years. This event could have inspired the biblical story of Sodom, in which God destroys a town and a fleeing woman is turned into a pillar of salt as she looks back.

The ruins of Tall el-Hammam

5: A nonce word, also known as an occasionalism, is a word that is invented for use in a specific situation, often for comedic or rhyming purposes. Some nonce words subsequently become incorporated into the language and stop being nonce words. For example, the word ‘chortle’ (a portmanteau of “snort” and “chuckle”) from Lewis Carroll’s poem ‘Jabberwocky’.

6: It is estimated that around 30% of pirates were black by the beginning of the 18th century. Pirates would often attack slave ships and incorporate slaves into their crew. Before you give them too much credit, this was more a matter of practicality than borne out of any kind of moral principles. Slave ships tended to be fast and therefore made good pirate ships. Many slaves were seasoned warriors, making them good pirates. Pirates would not hesitate to sell these people back into slavery if they had the opportunity, though this was rare.

7: The Jolly Roger – the black flag used by some pirates – may have derived its name from the French ‘Joli Rouge’ meaning pretty red. French privateers originally flew red flags, symbolising violence.

8: This new animation helps us to visualise the quarks and gluons that make up protons.

9: It has been estimated that the United States has as many as two billion parking spots for about 250 million cars – that’s 8 spaces per car. For comparison, Europe has a roughly one to one ratio of cars to parking spaces.

10: The extinct Megalodon shark is thought to have grown up to 18m (60ft) in length and weighed up to 60 tonnes. What caused the demise of this species remains a bit of a mystery, but recent research suggests that competition with the Great White shark may have been involved.

Size comparison between the tooth of a Megalodon shark (left) and a Great White (right).

11: The Forbidden Riff: The opening notes of Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin are semi-jokingly banned from being played in many guitar stores around the world. This trend was probably popularised by the 1992 music comedy Wayne’s World, which features a guitar shop containing a sign that reads ‘No Stairway To Heaven’. Given that the song’s reputation for being ‘overplayed’ was established long before Wayne’s World, it’s quite possible that this joke originated in a real life experience that one of the writers had.

12: In 2014, Evelyne Dhéliat presented an unusual weather forecast for France, predicting not the temperatures for the next few days, but for the 18th of August 2050. It was meant as a serious warning about what climate change would mean for the future: 40°C in Paris, 41°C in Toulouse, and up to 43°C in Nîmes. Yet this month, actual temperatures reached values very close to those Dhéliat was talking about.

13: The word biscuit derives from Latin and old French, meaning twice (bis) cooked (cuit). Originally, biscuits were cooked in a twofold process: first baked and then dried out in a slow oven so that they would keep.

14: Haitz’s Law: Every 10 years, the amount of light generated by an LED bulb increases by a factor of 20, while the cost per unit of useful light produced decreases by a factor of 10. Proposed in the year 2000 by Roland Haitz, the law has mostly held true.

15: This is what happens when a 14g piece of plastic hits aluminium at a speed of 24 000 km/h. Though the plastic may be very light, it decelerates very rapidly when it hits the aluminium, which means that the forces involved are very large. This is why space debris, which reaches similar speeds in low orbit, is so dangerous.

16: The Peter principle: Competent people in a hierarchical organisation will continue to be promoted until they reach a position in which they are no longer competent. Originally intended to be satire, the Peter principle became popular as a way to make a serious point about failures of management.

17: The Dilbert principle: Companies tend to promote incompetent employees to management so as to remove them from the workflow, thereby limiting the damage they can do.

18: Corporate Memphis: An art style characterised by oversized limbs, small heads and a garish colour scheme that is widely used by tech companies. It’s widely despised for its soullessness.

Examples of corporate art.

19: The Power Paradox: It’s commonly thought that narcissistic traits are helpful for reaching positions of power, while people who are altruistic and kind are taken advantage of. However, professor of psychology Dacher Keltner argues that such positive traits help people reach positions of power, inspiring admiration and trust from colleagues, who speak highly of them to their bosses. Once these people reach the top, those same qualities that helped them get there begin to be eroded by the corrosive effects of power.

20: Skeumorphic design: A technique in user interface design in which objects, icons, and buttons mimic their real-world counterparts, such as when the icon for a camera app looks like a camera.

21: Comic Abstraction: A technique in illustration in which characters are deliberately drawn with less identity to make them more relatable.

From Understanding comics by Scott McCloud

22: The ‘moral taste receptors’: Care/Harm; Fairness/Cheating; Loyalty/Betrayal; Authority/Subversion; Sanctity/Degradation. Multiple studys suggest that liberal people are more likely to base their morality on care/harm and fairness/cheating, while conservative people are more likely to rely on all five.

23: While meditation may be good for you, it doesn’t inspire you to do good for others. A systematic review and meta-analysis published in Nature concluded that meditation did not reduce prejudice or aggression, and that people who were randomly assigned to meditate focussed more on themselves.

24: Behold Thiomargarita magnifica, the bacterium that isn’t a microbe. Discovered in a swamp in Guadeloupe, Thiomargarita magnifica is the largest bacterium ever discovered, being about the size of a human eyelash. Previously, scientists had estimated the largest size to which a bacterium could grow as being about 100 times smaller than this new species.

Thiomargarita magnifica. On the left, you can see new bacteria budding from the parent strand.
Photograph: Vol­lard et al

25: Grayling’s law: ”Anything that can be done will be done, if it is of advantage to whoever can do it.”

26: This image highlights the emptiness of the desert. Of Egypt’s population of 100 million, about 95 million live on the green belt that follows the Nile river.

27: According to some estimates, a staggering 1013 (10 million million) games of chess have been played. However, the total number of possible distinct games has been estimated to be around 10120, more than the number of atoms in the observable universe.

28: Watch Apogonidae spit light as a defence mechanism.

29: A brain in doubt leaves it out: we tend to assume that our nervous system presents us with an accurate version of reality, but the brain is very efficient at discarding information it deems unimportant, and this optical illusion catches it doing just that. Focus on the flashing green dot for long enough, and one or more of the yellow dots will disappear. It’s called motion-induced blindness, and scientists think that it could be the result of the left and right sides of the brain disagreeing about what should be perceived.

30: The world record for highest G-force experienced on land is held by Colonel John Stopp who, on Dec 10, 1954, accelerated to just over 1000 kilometres per hour (about 630mph) in five seconds in a rocket-propelled sled, then came to a stop in just over one second. He experienced 46.2 Gs, making his body weigh about 3.5 tonnes for a brief instant.

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