There’s no point arguing with your London taxi driver about the best way to get home. When it comes to remembering directions, his or her brain really is bigger than yours. Research shows that cabbies have memory storing hippocampi that are larger than average..... their bodies have evolved to make their jobs easier. And they’re not the only humans to do so... Aborigines narrow their blood vessels in order to stay warm on cold nights.... Nepalese Sherpas have evolved to to deal with low oxygen at high altitudes.
(Source: Times Eureka Supplement)
Getting rid of light
Traditional incandescent light bulbs are being phased out in an EU initiative to reduce domestic energy use. Less efficient traditional light bulbs are being phased out by retailers and manufacturers between now and 2012 under new EU rules. We are, therefore, using more energy saving light bulbs, also called compact fluorescent lamps or CFLs. Even though energy saving light bulbs are slightly more expensive than traditional varieties, you'll usually make back the difference in electricity savings in a year. The EST estimates that one energy saving light bulb - which can last up to 10 times longer than a standard bulb - can save you up to £6 a year in electricity in the case of regularly used lights.
The only problem is that they contain mercury so they should NOT be dumped in your usual bag or bin but de disposed of at a recycling point. Watch out for these points in such places at Ikea, Currys and Sainsbury’s. Other shops and retail outlets will no doubt also have them in the future. I wonder how much energy we will then expend getting to such recycling points.
(Source: Which Magazine)
The implication that many of us are genetically predestined for failure and that entire racial groups are inherently superior to others sounds poisonous. What has kept such views going is science. Major studies seemed to support them.
“I wish I could exempt myself,” said Richard Nisbett, author of the new book Intelligence and How to Get It, “but unfortunately for many years I bought the claims of the hereditarians that family environments don’t matter much.
“Such thinking is extremely unfortunate, because it implies that hard work can produce little in the way of improvement. Fortunately, it is now becoming clear that that this view is quite wrong.”
Nisbett’s is a message of hope. He believes that, far from having their IQs determined at the moment of conception, people’s potential intelligence is almost infinitely flexible.
For parents this means no child is doomed to repeat their failures. For schools it means no child should be written off – the right environment will not just teach them facts but also make them brighter.
And for society it means the low achievements of some social groups are most likely cultural in origin, not genetic – so we can change them.
(Source: John-Paul Flintoff and Jonathan Leake The Sunday Times May 17, 2009)
The Strange Things Researchers look into
examined how many people it takes to start a Mexican wave in a football stadium,
charted the upper limits of visual memory by having people try to accurately remember 10,000 photographs,
identified the perceived personality characteristics of fruit (lemons are seen as dislikeable, onions as stupid, and mushrooms as social climbers),
secretly counted the number of people wearing their baseball caps the right way round or back to front,
stood outside supermarkets with charity boxes quietly measuring how different types of requests for donations impacted upon the amount of money given (simply saying, ‘even a penny helps’ almost doubled donations),
discovered that children’s drawings of Santa Claus grow larger in the build up to Christmas Day, and then shrink in size during January.
(Source: Quirkology by Richard Wiseman by Macmillan)
Yes, the title is right! Came across the following:
“Ever since 1987, when Michael Fish told me I could sleep safe from stormy conditions and a tree promptly fell through my house, I have taken barometric matters into my own hands. Each morning I pour out a fresh cup of Java and settle down to check its steaming surface. The small bubbles that drift across the top are very clear - float towards the rim of the cup and it’s wellington and pacamacs all round. Float to the centre and it’s going to be fine. Float in great lumps and the milk’s gone off and I’ll have to go out whatever the weather. It’s all to do with the pressure in the air, apparently”
(Source: ‘The Quintessential Sandi Toksvig’)
She said it! We don’t know whether it works but obviously the weather depends on whether your coffee bubbles go inwards or outwards. Anyone want to borrow my seaweed?
While we are pondering the oddities of weather watching (see above), we came across the following:
“Uneducated and without either the resources or leisure time to perform scientific experiments, ordinary people once relied on careful observation of nature to predict the weather, and a whole body of weather lore developed. Here are a few examples:
It will be rainy and stormy if:
- flowers close up.
- the cows are lying down.
- there’s a ring of cloud around the moon.
- the swallows fly low (if they are flying high the winds are light).
It will turn into a fine day if:
- it rains before seven.
- it’s foggy in the morning.
Winter will be severe if:
- squirrels store large quantities of nuts.
- squirrels have bushy tails.
- there are lots of berries on the trees.
- ant hills are high in July.
- hornets build their nests high.
- November is warm (obviously this only applies in the northern hemisphere where this is a winter month).
(Source: ‘The Weather Book’ by Diana Craig, a very readable book about the weather!)
Explaining the Inexplicable
Here is something about Quantum Mechanics. An Austrian physicist Erwin Schrodinger proposed a thought experiment to highlight how crazy QM was. He suggested taking a box in which we place a cat, some lethal poison and a radioactive source. According to QM we cannot say, unless we are checking, whether a radioactive atom has broken apart, or decayed, within a given time, so we must describe it as having decayed and not decayed at the same time. Only when we check do we force it to be one or the other. Inside Schrodinger’s box, the experiment is designed so that any decayed atom will have spat out a particle that triggers the release of the poison, killing the cat. Since the cat, said Schrodinger, is also made up of atoms (albeit trillions of them) then it to is presumably subject to the laws of QM. So, until we open the box to look, we must describe the cat as being both dead and alive at the same time. Only when we open the box do we force everything inside into one or the other state.
(Source: 30-second theories edited by Paul Parsons)
Accepting that many scientists are unhappy about QM, wouldn’t be easier to say, well actually it is stupid to describe it as having decayed and not decayed at the same time? It’s just that we don’t know. It is that simple. Stop trying to show how clever you are. Here in the real world we are not impressed.