Tag Archives: interesting

African Lungfish Can Sleep In the Desert For Years

Your first reaction to the following video will probably be that it’s a fake.

But no, it’s totally real. The mudfish they’re talking about are called West African Lungfish and they’re one of four African lungfish species. And they can indeed live in the desert, inside a cocoon, for up to five years. And yes, they do have to appendages at the back that look kind of like legs. Even crazier, they can breathe air, because they have — in addition to gills, and as the name suggests — an actual lung.

What happens is that the West African weather has wild rain swings between wet and dry seasons (and sometimes there are droughts), so entire rivers can dry up. When the lungfish end up on a dry riverbed, they’re still ok, because they switch to breathing air. Then they burrow into the mud, before it dries up, by eating the mud and excreting it through their gills. Once they’re safely underground, they curl up and release a mucus that dries up around them to form that cocoon from the video, which basically Ziplocks them in, so they don’t lose any more moisture. They then enter suspended animation, which is called aestivation. It’s basically the same thing as hibernation, but while that happens when it’s too cold out, this happens when it’s too hot out.

They can remain in aestivation for years, until it starts raining again and the river beds fill up with water, softening the cocoon and allowing the lungfish to burrow out of the mud and get back into the water. The African people have gotten pretty good and finding the cocoons and sometimes they dig them up and store them, so they can have fresh fish at their disposal.

See also:

Amazing Color Night Vision!

This was shot with an SPI X27 camera.

See also:

Social Security Numbers Are Kinda Sorta National IDs 

C. G. P. Grey has a video on Social Security numbers, and how even though they were explicitly not meant to be used for identification — it used to plainly state that on the card — their  ubiquitness made it too tempting for the IRS and various financial companies to not use them for identification. So now, they’re national ID cards in all but name, and very very poor ones, because they are horribly insecure.

See also:

Pink Used To Mean A Yellowish Color

Mental Floss has an interesting article explaining how back until about the year 1600, the word “pink” used to refer to the greenish-yellow color that lakes get from floating vegetation. This probably comes from the German word pinkeln, which means “to urinate”. But, “pink” has a lot of other meanings, including as a verb. So one of the definitions of “to pink” is “to perforate in an ornamental pattern”. No one’s sure how its meaning as a color went from urine-yellow to pale red, but the best theory is that it came from Queen Elizabeth. She loved pinked carnations, which happened to be colored pink (as in pale red) but were called “pinked” because they have notched, or pinked petals. So, the idea is that the word was first applied to the carnations because of pattern of the petals, but then people started using it to refer to the carnations’ color instead.

Pinked Pink Carnation

See also:

From Mental Floss

Jogging Creates The Most Brain Cells

The New York Times reports on a new study that had rats try three different kinds of workouts:

  1. Aerobic: running on a treadmill or wheel
  2. Resistance: climbing on a wall with weights attached, to simulate weight training
  3. High Intensity Training (HIT): running very fast, interrupted with periods of not doing that

They then measured how many new brain cells appeared after seven weeks of the routine, and found out that from most to least by group, it was aerobic, HIT, and then resistance — with the resistance group basically having no new brain cells. The HIT group had some, but not nearly as much as the aerobic group. Moral of the story: jogging makes you smarter.

See also:

via The New York Times

A Supercut of Sorkinisms

If you’re an Aaron Sorkin fan, you know he has favorite phrases and plot lines. He especially recycled a bunch between Sports Night and The West Wing which, for one year, he was writing at the same time. In fact, both of the last episodes of their first seasons were titled What Kind of Day Has it Been? 

Writers are mere mortals after all, so stuff like this isn’t surprising, and in fact it’s kind of a signature they leave in their work. In the seven minute video below, some of Sorkin’s signatures taken from A Few Good Men, Malice, BulworthSports NightThe West WingStudio 60 On The Sunset StripCharlie Wilson’s WarThe Social Network, and Tom Hanks’ 1993 Oscar Speech “for some reason”:

See also:

From YouTube

Seattle and Portland Are 72 Years Overdue For A Horrific Earthquake

Yes, you thought right: there hasn’t been a major earthquake in the Pacific Northwest since it was discovered by Western civilization. There have only been seven recorded in the region, averaging 6.3 in magnitude and killing 14 people total. And Seattle is the least likely metropolitan area in the US to have a natural disaster of any kind.

In fact, until 50 years ago, no one thought that earthquakes were much of an issue at all, in that area. But then, tectonic plate theory became mainstream and scientists noted that earthquakes and volcanoes were prevalent all around the so-called Ring of Fire: New Zealand, Indonesia, Japan, Alaska, California, Mexico and Chile. Notice how we skipped right over the Pacific Northwest: the scientists noticed that too.

plate tectonics

The world’s tectonic plates. In the Pacific Northwest, the Juan de Fuca plate goes under the North American plate.

 

A very interesting article in The New Yorker tells us that these scientists then started drilling into the ocean floor off the coast of Washington state and found out that they could tell, from the stratification of the earth, when and how much land from the continent rushed into the sea — meaning, an earthquake had occurred, and how big it was. They went back 10,000 years and counted 41 major earthquakes, which means one happens every 243 years, on average. We know it’s been at least 210 years since there’s been one in that region, since Lewis and Clark went there in 1805. But how long has it been really?

Besides the ocean floor evidence for the year, we actually have some much cooler, and much more accurate data.  There’s a “ghost forest” near the beach in Washington State, by the Copalis River. It’s called that because it consists of a bunch of dead trees standing in sea water. The theory had been that sea water got into the forest and killed off the trees but, in the late 1980s, two scientists figured out that they actually all died at the same time, in the winter of 1699-1700. So, due to that sudden onset, they theorized that an earthquake actually plunged the forest about six feet into the sea.

Copalis ghost forest

Copalis ghost forest

That’s pretty cool on its own, but then in 1996, they got historical confirmation: the Japanese have been keeping track of tsunamis for over 1400 years, and they knew that earthquakes caused them. But there was one “orphan” tsunami for which they felt no preceding earthquake: it happened on January 27th, 1700, and we now know that the reason they didn’t feel the parent is because the epicenter was so far away, off the edge of the Pacific Northwest. Ten hours after it shook, the tsunami it created had crossed the Pacific and hit Japan. It also turns out that the Native Americans of the region also have stories about entire tribes being wiped out long ago by the earth sinking into the sea, and canoes being flung into trees. It would’ve been the seventh strongest earthquake known to history.

So there you have it: the last earthquake to hit Seattle happened about a hundred years before Lewis and Clark, and 315 years before now. Subtract the average of 243 years from that, and you get an uncomfortable 72 years of the region being overdue for a big one. The most recent deadly quake the US had, was a 6.9 magnitude one near San Francisco, in 1989: it killed 63 people. The one that destroyed San Francisco in 1906 was 7.8 and killed 3,000 people — the most of any earthquake to hit the country. The one that hit Japan in 2011 was 9.0 and killed 16,000 people. It was the strongest one that country, which gets weekly earthquakes, had ever seen and the fourth strongest known to man. The one coming to Seattle could register 9.2.

Earthquake magnitudes are logarithmic, so a 7.8 earthquake is 8x stronger than a 6.9 one, and a 9.0 earthquake is 16x stronger than the 7.8 one. To find out how much stronger one earthquake is than another, take 10 to the power of the difference between them; for example: 10**(9.2-6.9) = 199.53. This means that the one coming to Seattle could be 200x stronger than the 1989 San Francisco earthquake. (By the way, did you know the Richter scale has been obsolete since the 1970s? The above, and generally all earthquake measurements, are actually stated in the Moment Magnitude scale.)

And to be clear, this is not fringe science: FEMA officially believes that there’s a 37% chance of an earthquake with magnitude 8.0 to 8.6 hitting the Pacific Northwest in the next 50 years; a 10-15% chance it will be in the 8.7 to 9.2 range. Because the area is horrendously ill-prepared for an earthquake, it will kill 13,000 people, destroy the local economy (including Amazon and Microsoft headquarters) and take almost two years to repair the infrastructure.

However, all of this might actually not happen until after the year 2160: before the earthquake in 1700, the previous two were in 1310 and 810, which makes 390 and 500 years between them. In fact, the average period between the last five earthquakes in the area was 460 years: almost twice the length of the 10,000 year average. Maybe they’ve just slowed down over the past couple of millenia, or maybe we’re overdue for quicker ones. In any case, move over San Andreas Fault: the Cascadia Subduction Zone is the new thing to fear.

See also:

via The New Yorker

Induction Stoves Are Literally The Coolest Kitchen Tech You’ve Never Heard Of

With normal cooking, your pot or pan sits on a source of heat (gas, electric coil, etc) and then gets hot itself and heats the food inside it. This is known as thermal conduction: heat is transferred from the source to the pot touching it. Induction cooking, on the other hand, uses a — get ready for this — electromagnet to heat the pot up without ever touching it. Seriously. Electromagnetic induction is actually used in all kinds of other things: generators, transformers, motors, and wireless chargers, to name a few.

The best thing, aside from it being wireless? The cooking surface stays cool! It will heat up a little from the hot pot sitting on it, but the whole idea is that an electromagnet zaps your pot, and only your pot, to whatever temperature you want. It is literally the coolest stovetop ever. You can put a book on the stove and put the pot on the book, and the pot will heat up, but the book won’t.

But wait, there’s more! It’s also faster, more precise, and more energy efficient than normal cooking. Ah-mazing. Pick your jaw up. Here’s a video of it in action:

Crazy futuristic technology, right? Nope: it was invented a hundred years ago. One hundred. Companies like Westinghouse and Sears sold these in the 1970s and ’80s, but somecrazyhow, they never took off. Maybe humanity can only handle one awesome new cooking thing at a time, and the microwave won.

In any case, these are available for sale right now, at this moment. You can find them on Amazon starting at like 60$ for the small, portable ones. It boggles the mind. The one catch — you knew there’d be one — is that you have to use cast iron pots, or other cookware that responds to magnets. But that’s ok, because cast iron is in right now anyway. Right now, in the future that snuck up on us with augmented reality and wireless cooking.

See also:

From YouTube, via reddit and Laughing Squid

All Drug Use Has Been Decriminalized in Portugal Since 2001, And It’s Going Well

Before we get into details, a couple of clarifications:

  1. Yes, this includes the hard stuff, like cocaine and heroin
  2. It’s decriminalization, not legalization: drug use is still illegal, but it’s treated as a civil matter rather than a criminal one. More like traffic tickets and contracts rather than burglaries and murder.
  3. Making, trafficking and selling drugs are still criminal acts; the only thing that’s been decriminalized is possession for personal use, which is defined as a 10 day supply.

Now that we know the parameters of the situation, how has Portugal’s social experiment gone so far? For the most part, things have somewhat improved, and definitely nothing bad happened. Before the 2001 law went into effect, Portugal had a pretty bad drug problem, and a really bad problem with HIV caused by drug use, via infected needles. Since then, continued drug use has decreased by a third, drug court cases by two-thirds, the number of addicts has been cut in half, drug-related HIV cases have plummeted, and so have deaths by overdose.

Prevalence of drug use among all Portugese adults

However, the fear in the United States isn’t that re-classifying drug use from a criminal act to a health problem won’t decrease deaths, court cases and health problems. It’s that drug use will go up, because why wouldn’t it? Depending on who you ask, people either aren’t smart enough or restrained enough to not do drugs without the threat of a jail sentence. (Nevermind that half of American prisoners are there for drugs, and that the 40-year War on Drugs has been a trillion dollar failure.)

Well, it turns out that at least the Portugese know to stay away from drugs even if they get to keep their freedom. The above graph shows that definitely more people tried drugs since they’ve been decriminalized: the lifetime prevalence — how many people have ever tried drugs — went up about half as much by 2007, then declined a bit by 2012, but it still stayed above the 2001 figure. But the other numbers show that people only tried drugs while they were newly legal: by 2012, the amount of people that had tried drugs in the past month or the past year had both gone down from before decriminalization. So while experimental drug use went up, regular use went down.

This is probably because people know drugs are bad without any government threats, the same way they know that jumping out of a plane, even though it sounds like fun at first, ends up poorly. Yet, with proper precautions and supervision, thousands of people jump out of planes each year and walk away to live to tell about it.

US incarceration rate over time

But if it’s going so well for Portugal, why don’t more countries try decriminalizing personal drug use? Well, a few have:

  • Uruguay never criminalized it, and is in the process of opening government-run marijuana shops
  • The Czech Republic did the least they could under the UN’s Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs: small amounts for personal use are only a misdemeanor, subject to a small fine.
  • The Netherlands are famous for not enforcing drug laws for ‘soft’ drugs, such as marijuana
  • In Argentina, the Supreme Court declared laws against personal drug use as unconstitutional, but this has been largely ignored by the government.

See also:

via Business Insider, Policy.Mic, Washington Post, and The Associated Press

Two Sitcoms Joked About Bruce Jenner Being A Woman Years Before He Came Out

This is dialog from a 2009 Family Guy episode (season 7, episode 14) called “We Love You, Conrad“:

Brian: Bruce Jenner is a man

Stewie: No, Brian. That’s what the press would have you believe, but he’s not. Bruce Jenner is a woman: an elegant, beautiful, Dutch woman.

 

And a decade before that, in 1996, Married… With Children showed the Bundys’ boyish-looking next door neighbor, Marcy, being mistaken for Bruce Jenner. This is from the 25th episode of season 10, “Torch Song Duet”:

See also:

via Uproxx and Happy Place