Things I learned this week #19

  • All of these species named after David Attenborough: The man's a living legend (he's also like 94 - he was a teenager in the 1930s which was before the second world war - this isn't the fact by the way, this is just some incredible side-facts). The collective scientific community has named over 20 species of animals and plants after him, including Attenborosaurus - the marine dinosaur, Pristimantis attenborough - a Peruvian frog, and Acisoma attenboroughi - a dragonfly. (source)
  • This naval rule: I recently came into some Navy Strength gin (60% lol), and I wondered why something would be called Navy Strength. It turns out that The Royal Navy used to require a certain amount of gin on board, to give out in rations to their sailors. This went on until the mid 20th century, by the way. To make sure that the gin was strong enough, they used to burn it to make sure it had a high enough (and pure enough) alcohol content. (source)
  • These tiny drivers: In a study to look at how an enriched environment can improve the ability of rats to learn and acquire new skills, some researchers at the University of Richmond TAUGHT SOME RATS TO DRIVE. Yes, they built tiny little cars for them, and encouraged them to drive towards treats. Yes, that's right, these tiny bastards got to drive adorable tiny cars and got treats. Ugh, what a life they're living. Unsurprisingly, the researchers found that rats who lived in a more social and enriched environment learned to drive much quicker than those kept in smaller numbers in bare cages. Check out the video in the linked article to watch tiny animals drive tiny cars. (source)
  • This early cultivated food: I thought that the first crops we started cultivating and harvesting, about 10,000 years ago, were grains/grasses like wheat. However, maybe 1,000-1,500 years before that we were selectively breeding and harvesting figs, so they may have been one of the first plants humans looked at and thought: "That's delicious, and I bet I can improve that". (source)
  • This way that we actually learn programming: A lot of people who do software engineering have drawn parallels learning a programming language and human languages, maths, and music. I've always been a little skeptical of these analogies - the foundations of recognising rules and patterns aren't unique to software engineering, they're generic problem solving skills, and language acquisition is like... a whole thing. Recently, some people at MIT took some programmers, put them in an FMRI machine and showed them snippets of code and asked them to predict the output of the code, in order to examine which parts of their brains were involved in the processing of the information. The study found that parsing the code activated the multiple demand network - a cross-cortex region of the brain involved in many processes, and not specialised especially to language or mathematics. As a result, learning code isn't exactly like learning maths or a language, and while we can maybe draw generalities in the way we teach it, we shouldn't be dogmatic about it. (source)

What I've had on Rotation

  • Something New: evermore by Taylor Swift (Singer Songwriter). Taylor dropped her second album of 2020 last week, which is good. Law of averages says that we have to have something good come from this year. This is a sister album to folklore, which she dropped over summer. The production quality, lyricism, and collaboration on this albums bring it true to her country/folk roots - it's earnest and true, but knows when to be tongue in cheek or when to crack a wry smile. While nothing will ever replace Red in my heart, evermore is genuinely a fantastic album that surprised me with how much I loved it. (links)
  • Something Old: Cole World: The Sideline Story by J. Cole (Hip Hop, 2011). Y'all know I love hip hop, and when your favourite rappers call out J. Cole as one of their favourites, you know he's worth a listen. I've been diving deep into his older, early albums this year. Cole World has jazz keys, samples, and lyrical hooks everywhere, but it also starts to bring in some of the more electronic/synth elements that are more familiar to modern Cole and hip hop in general. I can see entirely why he's rated by other rappers: he's good, he's sharp, and he's versatile. (links)

Cool Articles

  • The New Relationships That Fizzled Out in Quarantine by Ashley Fetters for The Atlantic. The COVID-19 pandemic has been a wild, wild time for anyone single and dating. My experience as a young metropolitan who, pre-pandemic, was in the dating scene is that a lot of people would go on a lot of dates with a lot of other people. A lot of the guidelines and laws around social distancing seem to ignore anyone who's not cohabiting with their partner, and I've seen and heard of people feeling as though they've completely lost a year of their dating life. People in pre-existing relationships have had to go through a whole other set of problems. As someone rapidly approaching 30, this isn't necessarily a year in dating that I feel I could lose easily. I think this situation is going to bring about a very particular set of personal and romantic issues in the next 24 months as people re-start dating. Fetters does a great job of bringing some case studies to light around this, from earlier in the pandemic, as dating changed suddenly and rapidly.
  • Zoom and Gloom by Nigel Warburton for Aeon. I've heard a lot of people declaring how 2020 has shown all of us how unnecessary the office is, or conversely how completely irreplaceable the office is. At the same time, we're learning how the tools we have in place for remote work are largely inadequate. Something has to give here. In this piece, Warburton looks at the need to design tools which place human empathy above all else, especially in a time where we've suddenly pushed pretty much all video-conferencing tools to their natural limits. This is a great reminder that things don't have to be the way they are, and that, although I think we need a blend of online and in-person work time, we shouldn't write off either type of experience given what we've all gone through this year.