Here at Gowing Life, we are keeping our fun record of everything we learn in 2023, be it longevity-related or something else entirely. Here is a selection of our newly acquired neural connections for the month of June!
1: Lyrebirds copy bird songs and other sounds they hear in the forest, including camera shutters, car alarms and even chainsaws.
2: Many birds will throw some of their young out of the nest to increase the survival of the others.
3: Most herbivores are opportunistic carnivores. We tend to think of herbivores as animals that do not consume meat, but very few animals are obligate herbivores. Even though they don’t hunt, many herbivores like deer, cows, and chickens will eat meat if given the opportunity. Koalas are an example of a rare exception.
4: The shoebill stork: While it may look like a reconstruction of some prehistoric bird, the shoebill stork roams tropical regions of east Africa today. It’s currently under threat of extinction, with an estimated 3000 or so left in the wild.
5: Mt Etna releases around 10kg of gold and 20 tonnes of copper per day in hot volcanic gasses. These metals cannot realistically be recovered, but there may be minable metals in the volcanic ‘brine’ beneath many active and dormant volcanoes.
6: The oligodynamic effect: An effect of metals, especially heavy metals, in which microorganisms are killed by metals reacting with their proteins. This allows some metal objects like silver cutlery and brass doorknobs to self-sanitise.
7: Indigenous people of southern Africa steal prey from cheetahs.
8: Future civilisations may never know what we know about how the Universe started. The Universe is expanding at an accelerating pace, and in about 100 billion years we will not be able to detect light from any galaxies outside our own cluster. There will also be almost no cosmic microwave background leftover from the Big Bang. A civilisation born in 100 billion years may well conclude that their galaxy represents the entire universe, and evidence for the Big Bang will be much harder to find. Humanity is lucky to have been born when the Universe was still relatively young, but perhaps even we are missing information about the Universe that we will never be able to detect.
9: Milkdromeda: The imaginative name given to the galaxy that will form when our Milky Way galaxy merges with Andromeda in 4.5 billion years.
10: The Protosterol Biota: Ancient organisms that lived in Earth’s waterways at least 1.6 billion years ago. Their remains were discovered in ancient rocks in northern Australia. They are believed to be our earliest known ancestors, and may also have been the Earth’s first predators.
11: Scientists still don’t know why our fingers become wrinkled when they get wet (assuming there is a reason, of course). Research originally suggested that it was to improve our grip when handling wet objects, but other studies suggest that it doesn’t.
12: Zeitpyramide is a pyramid under construction in Germany that won’t be finished until the year 3183. It’s a work of public art by Manfred Laber to celebrate the 1200 year anniversary of the town of Wemding. One block of the pyramid is to be placed every 10 years, as a demonstration of just how long 1200 years is.
13: One of the busses leading to the town of Hel in Poland has changed its number from 666 to 669, after complaints from conservative Christian groups. However, the bus company is thinking of reverting the change after a public outcry.
14: Studies suggest that group ‘brainstorming’ almost never works – people ‘brainstorming’ on their own usually come up with more, better ideas than when they do so in a group.
15: William Schmidt, a man who spent 38 years digging a tunnel through a mountain by hand. In the early 1900s, Schmidt started digging the tunnel in Southern California, purportedly to facilitate transportation of ore. Even when a road was established that made the tunnel unnecessary, he continued to dig for another 18 years to finish the tunnel. It is nearly half a mile long.
16: You can now preserve your voice for the future using AI. Our voice is a unique part of our identity that changes with age and can be lost or damaged in illness or injury. Machine learning allows you to preserve the key features of your voice digitally.
17: This summary of AI tool usage in the workplace. 85% of American workers say they have used AI tools to perform tasks at work. A majority of workers would take a pay cut in exchange for a portion of their jobs being done by AI, or in exchange for an AI-enabled 4 day work week.
18: Research conducted in the Netherlands found that the release of Grand Theft Auto V correlated with a reduction in juvenile crime. Similar results have been found for the release of violent movies.
19: Based on police accident reports in Indiana, one study estimated that mobile game Pokémon GO may have been linked to 30 000 injuries and 250 deaths across the US in under a year, due to people interacting with their phones while driving. While the person using their phone while driving clearly bears responsibility, this technically links Pokémon to more vehicular accidents than a game about car theft and reckless driving.
20: This graph showing cigarette sales and lung cancer mortality in the US.
21: The Battle For Heavy Water: Around the beginning of the WWII, heavy water became a precious commodity due to its applications in the research of nuclear weapons. As a result, efforts were made to remove as much heavy water from mainland Europe as possible before the Nazis could acquire it. In 1939, the French intelligence services procured Norway’s entire stock of heavy water (just 180kg) and moved it to join their existing stock in Paris. When the Germans started marching on Paris, they moved it to a bank vault in Clermont-Ferrand, then to a prison cell. When it became clear that France would fall, the water was rushed to Britain. Throughout the war, multiple efforts were made to damage facilities capable of producing heavy water for the Nazis.
22: During the Manhattan project, Richard Feynman used to mess with the security forces at Los Alamos in various ways. He once found a hole in the fence surrounding the research facility. He then entered the facility through the hole, left via the gate, then came back in through the hole again and so on to confuse the guards. Feynman was also frustrated by the censorship of letters between him and his wife, and the two would try to think up codes to bypass it. At one point, Feynman planned on sending his wife a letter full of Pepto Bismol powder for her stomach, hoping that the censorship office would open it too quickly and spill it all over the floor.
23: Marie Curie is famous for dying from radium poisoning, except she didn’t – at least, probably not. Curie herself attributed her illness (aplastic anaemia) to her work with X-rays during the First World War, as she had always been careful not to ingest any radium. We’ll never know for sure, but analysis of her remains in 1995 found no traces of radium.
24: Radiotrophic fungi are fungi that can perform the hypothetical process of radiosynthesis – the process of capturing energy from ionising radiation and storing it as chemical energy. Though it is not known for certain whether radiotrophic fungi actually exist, many fungi collected from nuclear accident sites have been shown to preferentially grow towards sources of radiation and to grow faster in the presence of such a source.
25: Paris syndrome: A sense of extreme disappointment experienced by some people upon visiting Paris. The term was coined by Hiroaki Ota, a Japanese psychiatrist working in Paris in the 1980s. Symptoms of Paris syndrome include (but are not limited to) acute delusional states, hallucinations, feelings of persecution, anxiety, dizziness, tachycardia and sweating.
26: Cruise ships are notoriously polluting, but a Norwegian company hopes to build a zero-emissions electric cruise ship by 2030. The ship will have retractable sails that can both catch wind to propel the boat and harvest solar energy.
27: US Navy submarines are increasingly using Xbox controllers to control their periscopes, replacing the helicopter style control sticks used previously. Junior officers complained that the old joystick controls were clunky and took hours to learn.
28: Orcas have ‘cultural fads’. In 1987, there was a six week period during which some Orcas wore dead salmon as hats.
29: Bees dislike dark colours as they associate them with threats to the hive, and will become more aggressive in their presence. Most beekeepers wear light colours.
30: Antilia in Mumbai is one of the most expensive private residences in the world. It includes 27 stories, a 168-car garage, 9 high-speed elevators and a temple. It was built on an orphanage, and was estimated to be worth 1.2 billion US dollars.