Weekly Wrap Volume 83

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shipwreckFlotsam and Jetsam

Bumping into a rock or a reef, war, swamped by rough weather or high waves, pilot error or pirates, there are a variety of ways a ship can sink. After it does, depending on whether it floated out on its own, was thrown overboard or sank to Davy Jones Locker, the equipment, cargo and bits of ship that leave a wreck have distinct names, with the distinction classically being important in maritime law. Flotsam denotes that wreckage from a ship that is later found floating on the sea’s surface. The word traces its roots to the early 1600s and the Anglo-French floteson, which derived from the Old French flotaison (meaning “a floating.”) The word… (more)

antThe Remarkable Lancet Liver Fluke

Making zombies of ants, Swiss cheese of snails and Sherpas of sheep and cows, the lancet liver fluke proves that you don’t need to be big to be powerful. Growing up to 10 mm by 2.5 mm (0.5 x 0.1 inches), Dicrocoelium dendriticum is a parasitic flatworm (also known as a trematode) that begins life as eggs living in the poop of (generally) cows or sheep. Shortly after being deposited, the eggs are ingested by a snail (such as Zebrina spp. or Cionella spp.) where they hatch into larva (miracidia). In this form they burrow through the snail’s gut and rest in its connective tissue where they develop into a second larval stage (sporocysts). Now they move to the digestive gland where they bear female sporocysts, that themselves produce yet another larval stage (cercariae)… (more)

teddy-roosevelt-boatIn Which Teddy Roosevelt Makes Men Everywhere Feel a Little Less Manly

Along with serving two terms as the President of the United States between 1901 and 1909, Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt also had a laundry list of supremely manly escapades throughout his life, such as the time he was shot in the chest in an assassination attempt, but went ahead and gave a lengthy speech he’d planned anyway before seeking medical attention. (More on this in the Bonus Facts below) Another such story he was often fond of telling came from his brief stint as a deputy sheriff for Billings County, North Dakota. Originally Roosevelt… (more)

targigradeThe Toughest Known Creature on Earth and Beyond

It is surely the stuff of science fiction: An extraordinary being arrives on Earth that can withstand a tortuous array of conditions: boiling, freezing, tremendous atmospheric pressure, near total dehydration, and exposure to massive amounts of ionizing radiation. While many joke that “cockroaches would be the only thing to survive an extreme global nuclear war”, in fact, cockroaches would not.  These creatures would. They are also the only life form known to be able to survive the near vacuum of space for extended periods. (Note: humans can actually survive the near vacuum of space for about 90 seconds without long term damage, but we have nothing on this creature.) They can lie dormant for 10-100 years and then come back to life with a drop of water. When it comes to durability, nothing on Earth can match the very real “Water Bear”… (more)

male-female-symbolsThe Origin of the Male and Female Symbols

Representing two planets, iron, copper and a couple of Olympian gods, the classical symbols for male and female pack a lot of meaning into a few squiggly lines. The symbols themselves are ancient, and the associations they make date back to the dawn of civilization. The ancients, after observing how the movements of heavenly bodies like the Sun and planets heralded a corresponding change in events on our planet, eventually came to believe that there was a causal relationship. Logically, then, ancient scholars began to study the heavens in order to better predict, and prepare for, the future. They also came to associate different heavenly bodies with their powerful gods- Mercury, Venus, Mars, Zeus… (more)

Bonus Quick Facts:

  • An iPhone with 32GB of space weighs about 0.000000000000000008 grams more when its solid state hard drive is full vs. all the bits flipped to zero.  Don’t believe me?  The key is the use of solid state, “flash” hard drives in these devices and the mass-energy equivalence. So, for instance, in slightly more practical terms, if you were to add 85 killowatt-hours worth of energy to a Tesla Model S electric car’s batteries (that would be a full charge), when you crunch the numbers, it would weigh about 3.4 micrograms more than when the battery packs are completely depleted.  Now this is a relatively massive amount of energy compared to the higher energy of the trapped electrons in a 32GB flash drive that is full (and note, just because it’s full doesn’t mean the transistors are all trapping extra electrons to be “flipped” to 1, instead of 0; the ASCII letter Z, for instance, stored in the hard drive would be 01011010).  However, many more transistors would be in this state than if all the transistors were in their “off” state.  Assuming about half are trapping extra electrons, which have a higher energy than the untrapped electrons, to be in their “1” state, you get an extra bit of weight of about 0.000000000000000008 grams vs. if all the transistors were in their “0” state.
  • According to journalist and author of Face to Face with Modern Slavery, E. Benjamin Skinner, there are more slaves in the world today (around 27 million) than were in America just before the Civil War, and possibly more than any other time in known human history.
  • John F Kennedy had his press secretary, Pierre Salinger, purchase 1200 Cuban cigars and confirmed the purchase was complete before signing the documents that made the embargo against Cuba official.
  • “Pilkunnussija” is a Finnish word for people who have a tendency to point out any and all spelling or grammatical mistakes (a.k.a. Grammar Nazi’s… *apostrophe intended*). The word comes from “pilkku”, meaning “comma”, and “nussia”, meaning “to f*&k”- so literally translated into English- “comma f*&ker”.
  • Male honeybees (drones) don’t have stingers and are developed from unfertilized eggs from laying worker bees. As to why the males don’t have stingers, the worker bee stingers are actually slightly modified egg laying organs (ovipositor).
  • Hippopotamus milk is bright pink, thanks to the fact that it contains Hipposudoric acid and Norhipposudoric acid, with the former being reddish and the latter being bright orange. When combined with the white milk, this makes a pink color.
  • The 2002 movie, Russian Ark, (96 minutes long with the plot spanning 3 centuries of Russian history) was filmed in its entirety in one take using 33 rooms of the Russian State Hermitage Museum. Over 2,000 people appeared in the film, and 3 orchestras were used.
  • On average, more people commit crimes in Switzerland who aren’t Swiss citizens than who are every year, which has very recently led to harsher deportation laws. In fact, of the top 25 nationalities to commit crimes in Switzerland, 21 of them commit more crimes than the Swiss while on Swiss soil, with the average of all those immigrants being 390% more crimes than are committed by Swiss citizens. Immigrants from Austria, France, and Germany to Switzerland, however, commit an average of only 70% of the crimes the Swiss do on Swiss soil.
  • Gerald Ford, born “Leslie Lynch King, Jr.”, was both a Vice-President and President. While this isn’t unique, what is, is that he wasn’t elected to either office. He became Vice President when Spiro Agnew resigned the position, and President when Nixon resigned from that office.

Other Interesting Stuff:

lawn-340x340Why We Have Grass Lawns

Maintaining the perfect lawn takes a lot of work. There’s mowing, fertilizing, aerating, and watering. Having a trimmed green field leading up to your front door is something of a status symbol, and in some cases having a messy front lawn can get you into trouble with your more obsessive neighbours. Turns out, the grass lawn as a status symbol has its origins in European aristocracy. The very first lawns were grassy fields that surrounded English and French castles. Castle grounds had to be kept clear of trees so that the soldiers protecting them had a clear view of their surroundings. It wouldn’t do for enemies to be able to sneak up on the castle through the forest. Without trees, grasses sprouted naturally… (more)

picking-nose-340x226Is Eating Your Boogers Good For You?

Does physically taking boogers out of your nose, putting them in your mouth and swallowing boost your immune system?  The short answer is probably not.  You ingest your snot all the time without needing to channel it through your mouth. So if there is a benefit here, you get it without needing to munch your nose nuggets. That said, there are a couple medical professionals willing to comment on the benefits of mining for green candy, particularly touting benefits to one’s immune system. One of the more credible sounding proponents of the habit is Scott Napper, a professor of biochemistry who made waves around the world’s media outlets in 2013 when… (more)

wyatt_earp-340x408Wyatt Earp – The Great American… Villain?

The history books (and Hollywood) often describe the famous lawman, Wyatt Earp, as many things: brave, courageous, moral, law-abiding, and honorable. In the story of the “Gunfight at the OK Corral,” Earp is often portrayed as the hero, the good guy we all should be rooting for. In truth, Wyatt Earp was a much more complicated individual who, among other things, was arrested several times in his life for various offenses, involved in a few major scandals (sometimes on the “bad guy” side), and otherwise seemed to be an individual who balanced precariously on that line between a life as a criminal and a life as a lawman. Wyatt Earp was born on March 19, 1848 in Monmouth in western Illinois. The town had only been established seventeen years prior and was still very… (more)

star-spangled-banner-flag-340x451The Melody for the Star Spangled Banner was Taken From a Drinking Song

The melody that would be borrowed for the Star Spangled Banner was extremely popular and well known at the time the future U.S. national anthem was penned.  Around the time the Star Spangled Banner’s lyrics were written, this melody was being used for at least 84 popular songs in the United States alone, including Adams and Liberty – The Boston Patriotic Song and the subsequent tune Jefferson and Liberty, written after Jefferson was elected President. The original song that used the melody was To Anacreon in Heaven, written sometime between 1760 and the late 1770s, expounding on the virtues of wine.  The song itself was first publicly published in The Vocal Magazine in 1778 in London.  The music was composed by John Stafford Smith and the lyrics are thought to have been written by Ralph Tomlinson, president of the Anacreon Society, which… (more)

eveThe Woman Who is the “Mother” of Us All

This woman is thought to be the “mother” of all humans alive today. Seems like a big claim for scientists to make.  So how do they know this?  The simple explanation is that when an egg is fertilized by a sperm, the DNA from the father and mother join together in a process known as recombination. Certain DNA is only passed down from the mother or father.  All mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) come exclusively from the mother, as an exact copy. Over time however, there will occur predictable mutations to mtDNA. Biologists can compare samples from individuals to determine how closely they are related- the fewer these predictable mutations, the closer the relationship.  The predictability of these mutations also allows biologists to estimate the time at which a certain mutation (i.e. ancestor) lived.  Beginning in 1987, several studies have been conducted that show all humans alive today have the same female ancestor and she lived approximately 200,000 years ago. A more detailed explanation is as follows… (more)

This Week’s Podcast Episodes:

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