Diversions Archive

Bananas have many colors, and all of them are fine

SmartBrief on Leadership | Mar 30, 2017

A greener banana often has slightly more resistant starch, which is good for gut bacteria within humans, but you're generally OK eating a banana at the color and ripeness you prefer. The general preference for a bright yellow color is most likely the result of decades of marketing.

Danny Rubin's whole life is "Groundhog Day"

SmartBrief on Leadership | Mar 29, 2017

Danny Rubin wrote the original script and worked on the final screenplay for "Groundhog Day" when it was a 1993 Bill Murray movie, returning to his crowning achievement for a Broadway musical now in production. "It's ironic, of course, that for [Rubin], it has come round again and he has to relive this, has to relive this story of reliving stories," says Tim Minchin, composer for the musical version.

Basketball players love peanut butter and jelly

SmartBrief on Leadership | Mar 28, 2017

Nearly 10 years ago, Kevin Garnett and the NBA's Boston Celtics started what has become a league-wide tradition of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches before games, writes Baxter Holmes. The PB&J's popularity could be attributed to any number of factors, including its quick and easy energy boost, players' superstition or the physiological and psychological effects of the meal.

A look inside Merriam-Webster

SmartBrief on Leadership | Mar 27, 2017

Entries in the Merriam-Webster dictionary can take months to update as employees try to cover all the ways people use a word. Merriam-Webster's online buzz belies the fact that the US has only about 50 working lexicographers, according to in-house lexicographer Kory Stamper.

Aristotle's influence is still being felt

SmartBrief on Leadership | Mar 24, 2017

Aristotle's system of logic was a source of inspiration for mathematicians such as George Boole, whose work in turn inspired Claude Shannon and others to create systems for mathematics that are still felt in computer programming today.

You can't just name a planet whatever you want

SmartBrief on Leadership | Mar 23, 2017

The naming of asteroids, planets and other smaller celestial bodies is governed by the International Astronomical Union, which has numerous rules and a detailed process for naming objects. The organization, however, did hold a public contest in 2015 to name new exoplanets and chose 17 entries.

That time St. Louis was part of 3 countries in a week

SmartBrief on Leadership | Mar 22, 2017

St. Louis was part of France when the Louisiana Purchase was completed, but the Spanish were still managing the city. In March 1804, when American troops arrived in the frontier city, they first had to transfer power from Spain to France, with the official handover to the US occurring the following day.

1.6 billion-year-old rocks may contain ancient algae

SmartBrief on Leadership | Mar 21, 2017

Rocks dating back 1.6 billion years may contain ancient red algae fossils, according to a study published in PLOS Biology. The findings could mean that eukaryotic life began much earlier than previously thought.

It's OK not to care about music

SmartBrief on Leadership | Mar 20, 2017

Musical anhedonia is a harmless condition in which people are apathetic toward music, with research suggesting that our responses to music are a matter of neuroscience rather than deliberate indifference.

Queen Elizabeth II's death will go according to plan

SmartBrief on Leadership | Mar 17, 2017

The UK has a longstanding plan in place for when Queen Elizabeth II passes, as is customary for every royal death that can be anticipated, writes Sam Knight. "It will be 10 days of sorrow and spectacle in which, rather like the dazzling mirror of the monarchy itself, we will revel in who we were and avoid the question of what we have become," Knight writes.

Cookies and milk go together because of science

SmartBrief on Leadership | Mar 16, 2017

Dunking cookies into milk changes their texture, taste and chemical composition, making for a new eating experience in the brain, says chemistry professor Matt Hartings of American University.

Mice can "catch" an itch from another's scratching

SmartBrief on Leadership | Mar 15, 2017

People feel itchy when they see someone else scratching because the act is socially contagious, research suggests. A study involving mice examined brain activity and the release of the chemical gastrin-releasing peptide when a mouse saw other mice itching.

Study fails to discover Nepalese mountain porters' secrets

SmartBrief on Leadership | Mar 14, 2017

Nepalese porters don't have any secrets for how they carry their body weight -- or more -- on mountain climbs, according to a study. "In Western society, we no longer have a real handle on what humans can do physically because we're so far removed from this level of daily work that we physically can't do it anymore," says comparative biomechanist David Carrier, who was not part of the study.

You don't need an Olympic regimen to complete a marathon

SmartBrief on Leadership | Mar 13, 2017

If you're going to run a marathon and are not looking to finish with an Olympic-qualifying time, it's OK to not fret about every last training detail, writes Martin Fritz Huber. Steady, long runs are more important than track work or emulating professionals' workouts, and racing shoes should be a reward down the road, not a first purchase.

Russia's climate change plan

SmartBrief on Leadership | Mar 10, 2017

Scientists in Russia are lab-engineering woolly mammoths to come back and inhabit a plan called Pleistocene Park to slow the pace of climate change, writes Ross Andersen. Research suggests having wide swaths of grasslands and large animals will help the Earth's surface reflect more sunlight than forests do, which would allow the ground to stay colder.

Cultural perceptions could affect our use of language

SmartBrief on Leadership | Mar 09, 2017

Unpublished research suggests learning a language brings with it certain cultural traits that particularly affect how bilingual people speak and write. "You see yourself through the cultural values of the language you are speaking," argues researcher Nairan Ramirez-Esparza.

Taxis are yellow for a reason

SmartBrief on Leadership | Mar 08, 2017

Yellow taxis may have a measurable effect on safety, according to a study in Singapore that found a higher rate of accidents for blue taxis than yellow taxis. "The researchers found that the effect was strongest in darkness under street lighting, because of the way yellow stands out against dark backgrounds," Amanda Hoover writes.

What colors do you like? Could depend on the season

SmartBrief on Leadership | Mar 07, 2017

Researchers are suggesting that the colors people like are dependent upon the season. Many respondents named colors and objects that matched the season, such as yellow-green to match falling leaves in autumn.

Little Golden Books changed how children read books

SmartBrief on Leadership | Mar 06, 2017

Little Golden Books, celebrating their 75th anniversary this year, make reading more accessible to children through the books' inexpensive cost and bright, golden spines. "When I think of these famous Little Golden Books -- like 'Tawny Scrawny Lion,' 'Scuffy the Tugboat,' 'The Shy Little Kitten' -- these books have a wit to them, a slyness that I think was very rare at the time," says Diane Muldrow, who works at the imprint.

Breaking down barriers, one chili dog at a time

SmartBrief on Leadership | Mar 03, 2017

The chili dog is the perfect blend of American ingenuity, industrialization and immigrant cultures melding into a simple if not particularly healthy meal, Christina Olson writes. The chili dog is a regional dish, with variations seen in places such as upstate New York, Texas and West Virginia, while Pink's is the "formative chili dog" in Southern California.

Penguins' ancestors might have lived with dinosaurs, scientists say

SmartBrief on Leadership | Mar 02, 2017

Researchers studying fossils found in New Zealand believe the ancient bones point toward a penguin's ancestors being larger than modern-day species. The findings suggest penguins' ancestors date to the time of dinosaurs, rather than the later evolutionary period argued by some scientists.

Bees surprise scientists with golf-like game

SmartBrief on Leadership | Mar 01, 2017

Scientists have discovered that individual bees are capable of learning how to move a small ball into a target area for a reward. Every bee tested that first saw another bee complete the task was able to replicate it, while 80% of bees who saw human researchers demonstrate the task successfully completed it, too.

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