If you’ve ever complained about how heavy your work laptop is (and we certainly have more than a few times over the years), know that your chunky business class laptop, no matter how the laptop bag digs into your shoulder, has nothing on the biggest computer system ever built.
The AN/FSQ-7 Combat Direction Central, thankfully just called “Q7” in day to day usage, was a collection of Cold-War-era computers built by IBM in the late 1950s for the U.S. Air Force. Each of the machines weighed 250 tons and had two computers. The entire system was comprised of 24 machines linked together to perform radar analysis for the Semi-Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE) air defense network and, collectively, weighed 12 million pounds.
Today we take soda for granted, but the early history of the popular carbonated drink is filled with curiosities and fascinating trivia. For example, one of the reasons the early soda experience was so closely mated to pharmacies (most early soda shops were connected to or located within existing pharmacies) was not just because of the early medicinal use of carbonated water, but because the carbonated water was made on site—and that required the kind of safe material handling and chemistry knowledge pharmacists already had.
That wasn’t what kept people coming back to soda shops for decades, however, as carbonated water could have easily been made at factories instead of pharmacies. What kept people coming back was that bottle design and technology took ages to catch up with the soda craze and it just wasn’t possible for people to bring the soda home for later consumption in a safe or appealing manner—even if the bottle didn’t crack, it would quickly go flat.
It wasn’t until cheap and sturdy mass produced bottles coupled with an equally cheap and sturdy seal like the bottle cap came along, that the soda industry really took off as consumers could now buy soda anywhere, no soda jerk or pharmacist required, and they could take it home with them to enjoy whenever they wanted it.
You might have looked over the list of potential answers for today’s trivia question and, if you’re the nervous sort, started contemplating how your food choices might be exposing you to unnecessary radiation and cancer risks. Don’t worry! Not only are the amounts of radiation found in even the most radioactive foods tiny, but all food, being made up of organic materials, is very slightly radioactive due to the different isotopes found in it.
In the case of Brazil nuts, the most naturally radioactive food around, the radioactive compounds are potassium and radium—which it uptakes at a higher rate than other food sources from the soil in which it grows (the soil isn’t more radioactive, mind you, it’s just that Brazil nut trees have a very extensive root system that covers large areas).
How radioactive is a Brazil nut? It emits over 6,600 pCi/kg of radiation (that’s pico-Curies, named in honor of Pierre Curie by his wife and famed radiation researcher Marie Curie, per kg of mass). Not only is that a small amount of radiation, but almost all of it passes harmlessly out of our bodies and further, the nutrients we get from “high” radiation foods like nuts, bananas, and vegetables like carrots and potatoes significantly outweighs any risk we would incur from the tiny level of radiation found in them.
When you see the windshield of an automobile after an accident and, despite the glass being shattered six ways from Sunday and all miraculously held together in a giant glittering spider web of cracks, you’re bearing witness to one of the biggest automotive safety innovations of the 20th century this side of the three-point harness seat belt: laminated glass.
What’s even more incredible is that the lamination process that layers the glass with plastic polymers to ensure that it doesn’t shatter into a million pieces that go flying into the cab of the vehicle upon impact was invented entirely by accident. Back in 1903, the French researcher and all around Renaissance man (he was also an artist, writer, and composer) Édouard Bénédictus accidentally knocked a flask off of his work bench. The flask most certainly hit the ground and it most certainly broke, but rather than send shards of glass shooting all over his lab, it instead retained its shape as if frozen in time at the moment of impact.
The secret, Bénédictus quickly deduced, was that the interior of the flask was coated with a plastic cellulose nitrate from an earlier experiment. Inspired by the number of accounts he had heard of people being seriously injured in automotive accidents due to shattered windshields, he used his new found discovery to create shatterproof laminated glass. The first automobiles to bear his safety glass rolled off the line in 1927 and the technology has been in use ever since for automotive applications, high-rise windows, and even “bulletproof glass”–which isn’t truly bulletproof, as it were, but is created with enough layers of laminated glass to make it highly resistant to bullets for a period of time until the glass is completely compromised.
Image courtesy of Talento Tec.
A unit for measuring electric power over time. mAh is commonly used to describe the total amount of energy a battery can store at one time.
A battery rated for more mAh will power a phone for a longer amount of time, given the same usage pattern. The trade-off is that batteries with more mAh are generally also physically larger and heavier.
More technically, a higher mAh rating means the (fully-charged) battery can power a device that consumes more power and/or for a longer amount of time before becoming depleted and needing to be re-charged. For example, a battery rated at 1500 mAh can power a device drawing 100 milliamps for 15 hours, or a device drawing 150 milliamps for 10 hours. (In other words, a device using more power will drain the same battery faster.) In that same example, a larger battery, rated 3000 mAh, could power a device drawing 100 milliamps for 30 hours.
The Phenomenon Wherein Trying To Hide Information Makes It More Public Is Known As The Streisand Effect.
Back in 2002, photographer Kenneth Adelman undertook a massive project wherein he photographed the California coastline in a series of 12,000 photographs. The purpose of the exercise was to document coastal erosion for the California Coastal Records Project, a government-sanctioned project focused on preserving the state’s massive coastline.
In the process Adelman happened to, just by circumstance, photograph the palatial Malibu mansion of one very famous singer, Barbra Streisand. In 2003, when it came to the singer’s attention that her home was displayed on the CCRP’s website, her lawyers drafted a lawsuit and sued the photographer, the site displaying the images (Pictopia.com), and even the server company hosting the actual files (Layer42). The total damages sought were for $50,000,000.
Before the lawsuit, nobody (aside from perhaps some die hard fans) really had any idea about the photo of the house. After the lawsuit, the story was all over the news and shortly after the story broke, nearly half a million people went to the CCRP website for the express purpose of looking at her house. The frivolous lawsuit ended up drawing exponentially more attention to the home than simply ignoring the photograph would have.
Two years later in 2005, Mike Masnick, CEO and founder of the Techdirt blog, immortalized the whole affair when he wrote:
How long is it going to take before lawyers realize that the simple act of trying to repress something they don’t like online is likely to make it so that something that most people would never, ever see (like a photo of a urinal in some random beach resort) is now seen by many more people? Let’s call it the Streisand Effect.
The greatest irony here is that not only did Streisand fail to keep her house under wraps, but she permanently linked her name to the futile attempt to do so.
If you drink coffee in America, there’s a good chance that you drink drip coffee, brewed by dripping boiling water over a basket of ground coffee and then served in a cup ~6-8 ounces in volume. If you drink coffee in Italy, there’s a good chance you drink espresso coffee, brewed by putting very finely ground coffee under extreme pressure and then served in a cup ~2-2.5 ounces in size (a single shot of espresso is ~1-1.5 ounces in volume). The end result is significantly different with the pressurized extraction of the espresso drawing out more oils and different flavors than drip brewing.
While at first glance, it seems like the two coffee preparation styles are so different that never the twain shall meet, there’s a sort of compromise between the two drinks. Because there are many places, like Italian cafes for example, where drip coffee is not kept ready and on hand, hot water will be added to a single or double shot of espresso to dilute it to the strength a drip coffee drinker is used to. The end result is a serving of coffee with the volume and caffeine level the recipient is used to, but with a different and richer flavor profile as a result of the extra coffee oils–as seen in the photo here.
The practice is believed to have originated during World War II when American soldiers would dilute espresso with hot water to make something that more closely resembled the coffee they were used to back home, thus the hybrid coffee became the “Americano”.
In the summer of 1816, the world experienced a significantly cooler summer than expected. The average global temperature that summer dropped 0.7-1.3 degrees Fahrenheit (0.4-0.7 degrees Celsius). When looking at the daily temperature and planning for an outing to the beach, a couple of degrees might not seem like a lot, but over an entire region and for an entire season, a temperature variation that significant can, and did, have catastrophic effects.
A significant portion of the Northern hemisphere, including Western Europe and the Eastern side of North America, like Alberta, Canada and the New England area of the United States, experienced crop failures and food shortages. The situation is best described as an agricultural disaster where sinking summer temperatures decimated crops and triggered what is considered the last great subsistence crisis in the Western world.
Entire segments of the population in Wales were reduced to refugee status, traveling for food. Ireland experienced sweeping crop failures. Germany also experienced severe food shortages. The cold reached well beyond Europe, however, and as far away as China, the cold weather was severe enough to kill trees, crops, and livestock. Changes in ice formation and volume also lead to the destruction of dams and flooding in many locations around the world.
So what caused “The Year Without a Summer” as the cool period was called? For centuries leading up to the event, the Earth had already been cooling, a period starting in the 14th century and dubbed “The Little Ice Age”. This slow cooling had already caused agricultural upset in Europe, but the real trigger for the “Year Without a Summer” was the enormous 1815 eruption of Mount Tambora in the Dutch East Indies. It was the largest volcanic eruption that had occurred in at least 1,300 years and the ejected debris and dust was the trigger for the weather patterns and changes in heat absorption from the sun that caused the sudden global cooling.
It’s a rather curious idea, that getting cosmetic surgery could decrease your empathy towards other people, but it occurs and in a way you may not have even thought of. While at first glance, you might have worked through the question in an abstract way like, “Well, someone who has a lot of cosmetic surgery might be more self centered than your average person, so perhaps the more cosmetic surgery they have, the less empathetic they become…” but it works on a far more primal level than that.
Researchers investigating the role of facial expressions (and the underlying muscles) in both the expression of emotions and the reception of emotions processed by other people, were curious what effect Botox injections have on the process. Botox works by paralyzing small muscles in your face and, in turn, the paralyzed muscles no longer contract and wrinkle your skin. The researchers exposed the subjects to emotionally charged videos before and after they were given Botox injections, all while monitoring the subjects emotional response. The control group was also given injections, but of a simple sub-dermal filler (Restylane) that has no effect on the muscles.
The subjects whose facial muscles were paralyzed responded less strongly to the clips than the control group (whose faces were not paralyzed). The hypothesis is that our brain uses our own face as a cue for emotional reactions and empathy, and that if we can’t frown and cry when we see sadness or smile when we see something happy, we do not experience that emotional state as strongly.
All kinds of delicious fruit are grown on trees like apples, oranges, pears, cherries, and more. Among the world’s most popular fruit, you won’t won’t find the banana hanging from a tree.
While we might casually say bananas grow on a banana tree and in pop culture it might be called a banana tree (such as in the 1960s pop hit Yellow Bird, Up High in Banana Tree), the banana tree, which bears a resemblance to a very stocky palm tree, isn’t a tree at all. The stocky trunk isn’t truly a woody trunk but a pseudostem.
Despite its tall stature, the banana plant is actually a herbaceous flowering plant and the bananas it produces are berries. Despite being a berry, it’s nearly impossible to locate the seeds in modern bananas because—unlike their tough, seed laden, and nearly inedible wild-growing distant relatives—they’ve been carefully and selectively bred over time to reduce the seeds to tiny specs within the greater fruit.