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Category Archives: Trivia

198. Bee-brained

You make decisions. How good you are at doing so is irrelevant, what matters is that you make them. You make them in the same way as a bee. But how is that?

Decision making is a, decidedly complex process but it is vital. Also the actual process is near identical for anything with a decent brain. Decision making works like a debate. Neurons which zip around the brain collecting information and forming plans. Then neurons form groups and you ‘think.’ If you have ever been in two minds when making a decision, that is because it is exactly what happens.

Neurons find those sharing the same idea and send positive affirming signals. Which is nice of them. Then they find those who disagree with them and send inhibiting signals. The equivalent of you trying to win an argument by telling the opposition to shut up. As time passes the numbers supporting each decision vary, heading towards a single answer. When a large enough consensus of opinion is reached then hooray! You have just made a decision.

As was previously mentioned this is a technique that we use because it works, in fact every creature with a complex brain uses it. Bees do not have complex brains, they are fuzzy little colourful balls that fly into flowers and build hexagons; yet they use the same technique. No bee is smart enough to use the technique, so they use many bees, and form a hive mind. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on January 21, 2012 in Articles, Trivia

 

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196. Underneath the Lake

Witley Park lies in the county of Surrey, England. In 1889 it was founded by Whitaker Wright, a man who had made a fortune in the oil business. For himself he constructed a grand house with a theatre, ballroom and artificial lakes. In 1904 he took his own life and the estate changed hands.

In its current state some parts have been modernised and other left to disintegrate but certain fantastical parts of the park have stood the test of time.

There were two additional rooms on the estate, but they were less noticeable than one might expect. In one tree on the estate there is a door. Go through the door and navigate the sinking subterranean stairs. Next you commandeer a small boat and take a rowing trip. Then a large pair of doors appear, open them and see the majesty of a whole room, underground.

The glass a vivid yellow fills in the dome above. Covering it is a layer of algae obscuring the magnificent view of the artificial lake. It is ballroom and exists to this day. In fact the second room does as well. If one continues on through the ballroom you will reach a second room enshrined in glass, a conservatory. A place where guests could relax and watch fish swim by. Now that, too, is garnished in a fine layer of green grime.

Those lonely, lost, lake-laden rooms languish once more in obscurity. Witley Park used to be a place for courses and conferences, astounding many visitors but now it is now private property. This iconic and ethereal sight shall remain one man’s pleasure for a while longer. At least we have the photographs.

 
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Posted by on December 9, 2011 in Articles, Trivia

 

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183. The Revolutionary Making Of The Metre

The Belfry in Dunkirk by Harry NL

After the French Revolution, France was changed and changing. Old units of measurement were too linked to the previous regime, they had to be thrown out. Lengths varied region to region and country to country, but that was old France; in 1790, just one year after the French Revolution, they started – on a surprisingly long journey – to find a universal length. The metre.

The first idea was a pendulum which would swing to and fro in a total time of 1 second, the length of the pendulum would become the metre. The length was close to other lengths in use such as the English Yard. Unfortunately a pendulum that performs a full swing in 1 second in Paris would do the same motion in a different time if moved. A pendulum in London moves at a different speed to one in Paris. The idea did not gain traction.

June 17 1771 King Louis XVI charged a commission chosen by the Academy of Sciences to pursue and create the metre. The commission was a group of 12 dedicated scientists and mathematicians, the leader was Jean Charles de Borda. Jean-Charles de Borda was an eminent French Mathematician, physicist and fan of decimalisation. He detested the idea of the second-pendulum because of both its errors and a more personal gripe, the second was a unit of time, and time wasn’t measured in units of ten, it just wasn’t decimal enough. He preferred the system of 10 hours to a day, 100 minutes to an hour and 100 seconds to the minute and so on. Unfortunately for him this decimal time system was being used in exactly 0 countries, so he and the 11 others looked into alternatives.

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Posted by on September 9, 2011 in Articles, Trivia

 

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180. Space Invaders Versus The Japanese Mint

Image courtesy of Gil De Los Santos

From a slow start in 1978 Space Invaders experienced a meteoric ascension to become a true icon as it is today. The mere image of one of the ‘aliens’ instantly brings to mind video games as a whole. Its sudden rise in popularity after its initial 2 months was on a scale never seen before. In Japan, the home of video games, it became so popular that it managed to cause a thankfully temporary 100 yen shortage, a feat so notable that it was recorded in the 2008 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records. It also forced the Japanese to further increase the amount of 100 yen coins they were producing each year.

Within 2 years of release the game was making some serious ground. Arcades with nothing but Space Invaders machines opened up, and it was seen by many as the first case where games came even close to competing with major forms of entertainment such as Film. Video games were much more marginalised in the 1980’s, but Space Invaders came to the fore, its success was a precursor to the position video games now occupy in the 21st Century, the largest of all the entertainment forms.

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Posted by on August 19, 2011 in Articles, Trivia

 

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179. The Pacific Trash Vortex

There are 5 large vortices in the oceans of the world, points where currents collide. On the Pacific Vortex there is a problem, a serious environmental one, millions of tons of rubbish are being collected there. Covering thousands of square kilometres this oceanic rubbish tip leaks poisonous plastics and small plastic fragments which poison the whole food chain, a defamation on the blue oceans of films and fantasy.

Estimates place it at approximately 6 million square miles in area. Which would make it cover 10% of the Pacific Ocean. The problem is that it is an estimate, the plastic is broken up by Ultraviolet radiation from the sun and fragments into successively smaller pieces, but the sun alone can never fully break plastic down. This broth of tiny plastic is however invisible to satellites, wherever it spreads it goes undetected. Simply put no-one knows how big it is. More information is being sought all the time upon this phenomenon as it puts humanity’s waste to work.

For more information I recommend this infographic: Through the Gyre

 
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Posted by on August 12, 2011 in Trivia

 

176. Walking Corpse Syndrome

Not a sufferer of Walking Corpse Syndrome

Also known as Cotard’s Syndrome, this rare mental condition has a very bizarre way of changing one’s outlook. It is usually a side-effect of a previous mental illness but occasionally the result of head trauma. What it actually does is make the sufferer believe that they are dead, non-existent or in even rarer cases, immortal.

They simply are convinced that they are in essence, a walking corpse, or ghost. Some conclude, just because it is hot when they gain consciousness, that they have died and gone to hell, even though life goes on normally around them.

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Posted by on July 29, 2011 in Articles, Trivia

 

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174. Neptune’s One Year Anniversary

In 1846 the planet Neptune was discovered; since then one year has passed. Now we celebrate the one year anniversary of its discovery. As you may have gathered, that is one Neptune year, something much longer than the human year.

Neptune is the coldest and most remote planet in our solar system (pluto does not count). BEing so far away it has an orbit that is 30 times larger than earth. One year of  Neptune, one full orbit of the sun, lasts 164.79 earth years. Making 12th June 2011 the one year anniversary.

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Posted by on July 13, 2011 in Articles, Trivia

 

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