Today I learned that 2020 is the official Italo-Chinese Year Of Culture , organised to mark the 50th anniversary of the diplomatic relationship between Rome and Beijing. So how’s that going?
We all know that our online activities are used to send us tailored or targeted advertising – right? In a recent episode of Benjamin Walker’s Theory of Everything, I learned that those ads work not because they trigger a latent desire or confirm an internal image we have of ourselves, but rather because they represent an external perspective wthat e find flattering. We’re more likely to buy the product because we respond positively to the fact that we are considered sporty enough for Google’s algorithm to offer us those skis,…read more
This is another great one from www.radiolab.org… Everyone knows how trees grow – right? Sunlight + CO2 + Photosynthesis = Carbon (in the form of sugars) + O2 We’ll it turns out that this is only half the story. A tree made only of carbon wouldn’t grow more than a foot high before flopping over like a dying tulip. The structural elements that build trunk and limbs come in as nutrients through a tree’s root system – just like we eat vitamins and minerals to build healthy teeth and…read more
When Alice asked her cat if the milk in the looking glass tastes the same as the milk in her dish, author and mathematician Lewis Carol was using a surprisingly accurate analogy. At a molecular level, the vast majority of substances exhibit little symmetry. Instead atoms are combined in structures that curl either one way or another. Look through a microscope at a non-organic substance like a lump of granite and you’ll see a mixture of left or right spirals, but examine any living thing and they all curl left….read more
Donald Currey had always dreamed of being a botanist and in 1964 he was a post graduate studying the effects of the The Little Ice Age on vegetation at the University of Carolina. The evidence he needed was to be found in the rings inside old trees which indirectly record the weather each year of the tree’s life. Armed with a special core drill from Sweden, Currey explored the forest of Nevada’s Great Basin National Park and randomly chose a tree to sample. He climbed it’s lower branches, positioned his…read more
A particularly nice graphic that explains (at an extremely high level) what causes traffic jams. The root cause is a combination of saturation and what’s called a Backwards Travelling Wave. A simple event such as a lane change causes cars behind to slow slightly and every subsequent line to slow further in order to maintain safe distance. The further away from the original event a car is, the slower it will have to go to avoid hitting the cars in front.
Hal Needham is a hell of a guy. He started as a stuntman and double for Burt Reynolds, but went on to direct films like Smokey and the Bandit, run a NASCAR team and break the land speed record and the sound barrier in his Budweiser Rocket car in 1979. Apparently the 48,000 horsepower developed by the rocket was only enough to reach 714 mph and so Needham bought 6 Sidewinder rockets from the Navy and fired them at crucial points during the run to boost the car’s speed To…read more
I recently heard Hal Needham describe the way in which horses are made to fall on film. Now the animal protection society insists that it is done through training, but back in the day the technique was quite horrific : 1. Drill a hole in each of the horses front hooves 2. Pass a cable through each hole and attach the end to a fixed point 3. Run the horse away from the fixed point until the cable goes tight and it’s front legs are stopped dead Apparently they killed…read more
In an age where everything is synthesized, I was touched to discover that snake bite anti-venoms are not made in a lab but in a HORSE. Yes, if you’re off for a stroll in the desert, you’ll need the following ingredients : The snake that bit you A horse A syringe A decorative jar Optional : a fridge Instructions : Milk the snake Inject the resulting venom into the horse Wait for the horse’s immune response to kick in Extract blood from the horse Separate out the hemoglobin and put…read more
Since my Mother first told me to “stop crying, it’s only pain”, I’ve always been interested in stories of how we perceive and remember a painful experience. I’ve heard several theories that suggest that we evolved to suppress memories of unpleasant situations in order to ensure that we kept on hunting ferocious animals or repeated the experience of childbirth, but only today did I learn that experiments have been carried out in order to generate empirical evidence. In the Freakonomics podcast Painful Lessons, Kai Ryssdal and Stephen J. Dubner report…read more