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50 Things We Know Now That We Didn’t Know This Time Last Year


Well, well, well. Wasn’t 2008 a newsy little year?

Believe it or not, events happened that had nothing to do with the presidential election, fuel prices, or Michael Phelps. 50 things we didn't know last yearNot that you’d have an easy time sifting through all the media debris to find the information that actually meant something.

With so many distractions, you probably didn’t hear that using Facebook makes you a better employee, or that drinking wine can help you avoid lung cancer, or that doing tai-chi makes life easier for asthmatics. (Unless you do it in a public park wearing something approximating pajamas, of course. Then you just look silly.)

For those and other warm, delicious info-muffins, we present our humble list of stuff you know this year that you didn’t know this time last year. Feel free to unleash these at your New Year’s Eve party…


1. Dogs appear to experience jealousy and pride. Previously, only humans and chimpanzees were thought to suffer those emotions.

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2. Two pounds of a dried plant that turned out to be the oldest marijuana in the world was discovered in a 2,700-year-old grave in the excavated Yanghai Tombs in the Gobi Desert. The cannabis was found near the head of a blue-eyed, 45-year-old shaman among other objects intended for use in the afterlife.

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3. Starch grains embedded in plaque on the teeth of early Peruvians show they had a more varied diet than previously believed, including beans and a local fruit known as pacay that indicate they had settled into farming long before we thought they had.

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4. Scientists discovered a more efficient way to build synthetic genomes, which could lead to one day creating artificial life.

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5. Puerto Rican anole lizards perform push-ups and unfurl their dewlaps, the flaps of skin beneath their chins, to grab the attention of others when the forest is noisy.

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6. Stress causes human brain cells to either shrink or grow, leaving victims of serious stress with dramatic changes to their nervous systems.

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7. After a decade of increases, the number of mobile phones being shipped to market is shrinking. Consumers are sticking with their phones longer.

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8. Ground-penetrating radar used by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter revealed enormous underground reservoirs of frozen water far from Mars’ polar caps — glaciers up to a half-mile thick buried beneath rock and debris. Researchers said one glacier is three times the size of Los Angeles.

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9. Learning math triggers a large-scale reorganization of brain processes in order to understand written symbols for various quantities.

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10. The world’s oceans are growing more acidic at an increasing rate, a phenomenon that may lead to major disruptions for corals, lobster, oysters, crabs, mussels and snails, which have difficulty building their calcium crusts in such conditions.

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11. Magnetic resonance imaging scans of blood flow in the human brain indicate that bullies often derive pleasure from watching others in pain.

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12. The use of social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace on company computers leads to increased productivity.

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13. Children ages 5 to 11 who spend less time sleeping have a higher Body Mass Index and are more likely to be obese when they get older.

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14. Asthma sufferers may be able to better control their breathing and improve their exercise performance with training in tai chi.

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15. Hospital patients who receive a transfusion of stored blood aged 29 days or older face double the risk of developing one or more serious infections compared to those who get “fresher” blood.

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16. Exposure to light in grocery stores reduces the quality of cauliflower, broccoli, chard, leeks and asparagus.

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17. Scientists developed a method for reducing the amount of flatulence-causing carbohydrates in soybeans and soy yogurt while raising the levels of healthy antioxidants known as isoflavones.

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18. The virus that causes AIDS most likely emerged around 1908 near the African town then known as Léopoldville, now known as Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

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19. People in a position to hire are biased against applicants with limp or wet handshakes, and interviewers often rate women who don’t shake hands as firmly as men lower than their qualifications warrant.

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20. Searching online is better than reading books for increasing the brainpower of middle-aged and older adults.

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21. Drinking red wine, but not white wine, may reduce lung cancer risk, especially among current and ex-smokers

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22. One in 75 patients who gets a new knee or hip must get it replaced again within three years.

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23. Men who suffer from sleep apnea often have trouble getting sexually aroused because of oxygen deprivation experienced during episodes of obstructed breathing.

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24. Chemotherapy tends to be less effective for overweight patients with operable breast cancer than their normal-weight peers.

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25. More than 20 percent of U.S. Internet users are watching prime-time episodic content online, with half of that viewing serving as a replacement for watching the shows on TV.

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26. Girls and boys now perform equally on standardized high school mathematics tests across North America, ending a gender gap that lasted for decades.

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27. Delaying fatherhood can substantially increase the risk of fertility problems, with the chance of impregnation decreasing once the man is older than 35.

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28. Online videos get the majority of their views soon after they’re posted. Of 10,916 videos with at least 1,000 views after 90 days, half of those views happened over the first two weeks.

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29. Excessive flip-flop wearing leads to a much higher risk of developing skin cancer on the feet. Only half of patients with foot melanomas survive.

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30. An ADHD-related gene may encourage behaviors beneficial for nomads.

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31. Taking a 10-minute online break during the course of the working day serves to reduce stress while sharpening and refocusing the mind.

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32. The likelihood an older person will enter a nursing home or other long-term care facility is particularly high immediately after the death of a spouse.

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33. Among kidney transplant recipients, depression doubles the risk of kidney failure, return to dialysis therapy, and death.

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34. Data on rainfall in the Mediterranean region from 200 B.C. to 1100 A.D. suggests that the decline of the Roman and Byzantine empires may have been partly caused by climate change.

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35. The fully fleshed-out head of a Tyrannosaurus rex may have weighed more than 1,100 pounds, but much of that volume came from air cavities that likely created painful sinus infections.

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36. An expedition 6,500-feet below the Atlantic Ocean caused one explorer to describe the region as “a new continent.” Hundreds of rare and unknown species were discovered in the 1,500-mile-long Mid-Atlantic Ridge between Europe and America.

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37. Great white sharks travel long distances every winter to meet in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. During this gathering, they make dives to depths of 300 meters.

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38. Men with rounded faces, soft jaw lines, thin eyebrows, bright eyes, small nostrils, large mouths, thin lips, a warm, bright complexion and no facial hair are considered the most trustworthy, according to “modern-day facial stereotyping.”

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39. Scientists found an assortment of 100-million-year-old, perfectly intact marine microorganisms trapped in tree resin in the Charente region of southwestern France. The discovery pushes back by at least 20 million years the period when a type of single-cell algae called diatoms are known to have appeared on earth.

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40. A newly found species of bacteria can grow at low temperatures, spoiling raw milk even when it’s refrigerated.

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41. Killer whales off the coast of Vancouver Island know the precise sound of their favorite prey, Chinook salmon, and can identify the fish from more than 100 yards away.

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42. The Canadian Basin of the Arctic Ocean is a hotbed for tiny gelatinous zooplankton, including at least one new species of jelly fish.

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43. A stalagmite found in a cave in China reveals a nearly 2,000-year record of the annual Asian monsoon rainy season.

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44. Mexican scientists discovered a way to make diamonds from the carbon and organic compounds found in tequila.

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45. Rocks found in south China and quartz rock of south Australia show that an eight-armed creature lived in many of the world’s oceans during the Ediacaran Period 635 to 541 million years ago — 300 million years before the first dinosaurs emerged.

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46. About every eight minutes, the magnetic fields of the sun and Earth briefly merge or reconnect, forming a portal through which particles can flow. The portal is in the form of a cylinder about as wide as Earth.

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47. Women who answer to another woman in the workplace feel significantly more stressed than those who have a male supervisor.

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48. Chimpanzees keep a mental record of helpful acts from other members of their group, such as grooming, scratching and removing fleas, so they can return the favor.

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49. When a leaf of a plant is attacked by a virus, fungi or other pathogen, the plant’s roots can secrete an acid containing protective bacteria.

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50. Drinking just three cups of coffee a day can make women’s breasts shrink.

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Source: CNN.com, DiscoverMagazine.com, Los Angeles Times, Google, Buzzle.com, New University, TGDaily.com, Science News, Christian Science Monitor, The Age, Baruch College, University of Otago, Web MD, U.S. News & World Report, Science Daily, USA Today, The News & Observer, WebProNews.com, Reuters, UPI, Philadelphia Inquirer, Integrated Media Measurement Inc., Marie Claire, University of Wisconsin at Madison, Tube Mogul, Backpacker, Scientific American, Birmingham Post, ABC News, Discovery.com, Mongabay, The Guardian (U.K.), EurekAlert, Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, Canwest News Service, USAToday.com, TheDailyGreen.com, PhysOrg.com, National Autonomous University of Mexico, The Press and Journal, NASA, The Daily Mail (U.K.)

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