KarelVO

Today I learned in 2021

Living in the internet age, one tends to get overwhelmed with (often useless) facts on a daily basis. Fueled by hundreds of articles and studies via my RSS reader, social media, podcasts, journals and other content providers, I meet more disposable knowledge than my brain can process. In 2021, I decided to keep track of one such piece of trivia every single day.

01/01/2021

During the Cold War, Switzerland put TNT in hundreds of bridges to remotely detonate them in case of a foreign invasion. Also, they don’t want to say if they really demined them or merely replaced the explosives for security reasons.

02/01/2021

As of January 1st, 2021, most of the works of George Orwell are public domain.

03/01/2021

The world’s first text-based strategical computer game, The Oregon Trail, celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.

04/01/2021

Researchers from Ghent University found a correlation between sleep quality and the number of apps you open when using your smartphone.

05/01/2021

Monochrome image dithering is more complex than I’d have guessed, but also a lot more fascinating!

06/01/2021

Denmark is the country with the longest history of negative central bank ratings, and it is now offering 20-year 0% mortgages. Take note, Belgium.

07/01/2021

The placenta evolved from a virus that looks a lot like HIV. “It just seems like in a way we’re part virus, otherwise we’d be laying eggs.”

08/01/2021

There were tons of Soviet lighthouses powered by nuclear generators along the Northern Sea Route, saving lighthouse keeper costs but eventually proving to not have been such a good idea…

09/01/2021

The Curiosity rover landed 3000 days ago on Mars. 3000 Martian days (or Sols), that is, which last 24 hours and 39 minutes.

10/01/2021

When it comes to what speech by public officials or institutions is and is not allowed on their platform, Twitter is not really consistent.

11/01/2021

Stating the obvious here, but people who believe that algorithms are universal and can’t be discriminatory are wrong. Dangerously and deadly wrong, in fact.

12/01/2021

1.5% of people can’t smell at all – and other cool facts about one of the more underrated of the seven senses.

13/01/2021
14/01/2021

The very start of political theory had people worrying about ‘the power of an angry mass’. In the past decades, the times it was deployed was primarily pro-democratic (Berlin Wall, Arab spring, etc.) whereas ‘mob rule’ is now shifting toward anti-democratic sentiments.

15/01/2021

A few interesting social distancing numbers: the richer you are – or, if you are a woman – the more likely you are to do it. Interesting: having pre-existing conditions apparently plays no part.

16/01/2021

Disney World is fascinating, but not for the reasons you’d think.

17/01/2021

Political parties changing their stance on a subject ‘magically’ affects that of its voters, too. Note: this research was just released, but conducted before (political) social media really blew up. One could say people follow parties/people, not ideologies.

19/01/2021

“Low food and energy seem not to set the ultimate limit for life on Earth” as researchers discover 100 million year old microbes under the ocean’s floorboards.

20/01/2021

Mei Lanfang, an actor of ‘dan(female) roles in the Beijing Opera, was revered all over the world and is considered to be China’s first global super star.

21/01/2021

The K-Pop world has a dark side. For a long time, it was a standard industry practice to lure aspiring idols into signing ‘slave contracts’, forcing them to earn back any costs incurred by the label in training them – sometimes taking up to a decade to fulfill.

22/01/2021

The “birthday paradox”: in a room with 23 people, there’s a 50% chance two of them share a birthday. With 75, there’s a 99.9% chance. It makes perfect sense but it’s counterintuitive.

23/01/2021

The term robot is a hundred years old, beep boop. It was initially pronounced as ‘row boat’.

24/01/2021

GPS could basically crash any moment, and the consequences would be dire.

25/01/2021

Only in 2019 did Tokyo public schools stop prohibiting their brown-haired pupils to dye their hair black, as a so-called “visible signal that they are willing to adapt to society.”

26/01/2021

Jeanne Calment, the “world’s oldest person” was basically cosplaying as her mom – adding a few decades to her age count.

27/01/2021

Wok racing, or bobsleighing with wok pans, exists.

28/01/2021

A 2008 study showed that the Mormon lifestyle reduces mortality rate.

30/01/2021

The Brookesia Nana is the world’s smallest reptile at less than 2 centimeters on average. I also learned that it’s adorable.

31/01/2021

That one time in US history when there were serious, concrete plans about reparations for slavery… it was for Kentucky slave owners – and rejected by the receivers (in exchange for continued slave labor).

01/02/2021

Because we’re focusing so heavily on hygiene right now, one of the pandemic’s long-term effects will be chronic diseases such as asthma.

03/02/2021

2020 was an insane year for podcasting, with 47% of all episodes (ever) being recorded last year.

04/02/2021
05/02/2021

Birds see the world in an entirely different color spectrum, with visual cues for danger, food, etc.

06/02/2021

“Goats don’t vote.” Where other animal herds/groups have more sophisticated methods of choosing directions (check out this excellent podcast as an example), it typically only takes one random goat to lead the way.

07/02/2021

Every POTUS impeachment so far failed, but every attempt had major political consequences.

08/02/2021

Mississippi only officially abolished slavery in 2013, after two Mississippian professors stumbled upon the ‘oversight’ of the state never ratifying the 13th Amendment.

09/02/2021

The Matrix defense has been used in 4 US court murder trials, and comes down to ‘I killed because I believed I was in the Matrix.’ Interestingly, this has always helped the defendant to get placed in a mental institution rather than a federal prison.

10/02/2021

Neuropolitical consultants can “divine political preferences you can’t express from signals you don’t know you’re producing.” Weird and scary.

11/02/2021
Concerning privacy and IT security, my Nintendo Switch is pretty uncreepy. However, remind me to never buy a Qiui Cellmate (what).
12/02/2021

Women are far more likely to suffer serious injury in a car crash. Not because of physical differences, but because they typically drive smaller, lighter cars. Gendered product consensus is harmful.

13/02/2021

There’s a Hawaiian fish species that climbs cliffs, sometimes climbing up to 300m in total.

15/02/2021

Dunbar’s number remains true in a social media age: most people can’t exceed 150 meaningful relationships.

16/02/2021

Wine tasting is mostly BS, for multiple reasons. Most interestingly, because visual cues can effectively override our senses of taste and smell – as demonstrated in an experiment that dyed white wines and presented them to self-proclaimed experts as red.

17/02/2021

The Barbary slave trade (16th to 19th century), where roughly 1.250.000 European slaves from Italy up to the Netherlands were captured by the Ottoman empires, is said to be one of the most minimized historical facts of the past centuries.

18/02/2021

In Korea, you start life at age 1 and have your birthday on January 1st. In other words, I’d be 30 there (whilst being 28 in Belgium).

19/02/2021

Today, I learned how to mimic bird sounds.

20/02/2021

We nearly ended humanity a few times, or at least weren’t aware of the risks we were taking.

23/02/2021

The monolith in a Utah desert everyone was talking about wasn’t the only one of its kind. And that’s an understatement: today, the tracker says 203 – including some in Belgium and the Netherlands.

24/02/2021

Colors in Chinese are mysterious, up to the point where no one really knows what a certain subset (colors with the same name) means. Also, it calls certain colors after objects that don’t have that color at all. Or just ‘dark’ and ‘light’. Confusing!

26/02/2021

I knew about the Dean Scream, but always thought that it was the catalyst of ending his presidential run. Turns out it was already pretty much over.

27/02/2021

“Black hole nests” exist and they’re scary.

28/02/2021

Sheet music from popular television or movie scores is harder to come by than I thought.

01/03/2021
02/03/2021

The I’m Lovin’ It slogan only exists since 2003 (I thought it was way longer) and was originally viral marketed via a Justin Timberlake song.

03/03/2021

Italy had 69 governments since WWII. That’s one every 13 months.

04/03/2021

At ages 6-17, I lived 200 metres from a former airport and never knew.

06/03/2021

Today I learned what a Quotron is.

07/03/2021

The coldest place on earth has a temperature of roughly -98°C.

09/03/2021

Celebrities can’t pump ICOs (to avoid dump fraud). What defines a “celebrity” is vague.

10/03/2021

The USA is introducing child allowance, similar to the Belgian ‘kindergeld’. How very, very ‘un-American’.

11/03/2021

In 1977, a German tourist got off the airplane in Maine (pop. 33k) but thought he was in San Francisco for 3 whole days.

12/03/2021

Scientists have developed a new type of light sensor inspired by the eyes of the mantis shrimp.

13/03/2021

As audio deepfakes move out of the uncanny valley, replacing voice actors of animated series with AI becomes a possibility.

14/03/2021

The legends are true, getting a perfect Lighthouse score is possible.

15/03/2021

Another deepfake story: US mom used it to defame her daughter’s cheerleading rivals. With this technology becoming accessible to literally everyone, the need for accurate detection rises.

16/03/2021
17/03/2021

It started with the ocean but plastic particles are in our rain now, too.

18/03/2021

Due to our left-to-right reading pattern, us Westerners can’t truly comprehend Hokusai’s greatness.

19/03/2021
20/03/2021
I finally learned the structure behind Japanese kanji. Please, please take note, Duolingo.
21/03/2021

Watch typography is serious business.

23/03/2021

A cosmic neutrino has recently been found on the South Pole, only for the second time in human history.

26/03/2021
27/03/2021
28/03/2021

Beauty and ‘survival of the fittest’ have a very complicated relationship.

29/03/2021

Today, I learned the hard way that there’s a big difference between hosting providers.

30/03/2021

In 2021, rebranding is still a ridiculous marketing method to revamp public image.

31/03/2021
01/04/2021

Games like Fortnite and Zelda can “up your surgical game.”

02/04/2021

By analyzing large font datasets, AI can generate ‘lower-lowercase’ and ‘upper-uppercase’ letters. The results aren’t pretty, however.

03/04/2021

KPop group BTS pushes some wild economic waves, among which are adding several B$ to the South-Korean economy and attracting 1 in 13 foreign visitors there.

04/04/2021

Trump was the only 2020 US Presidential Election candidate/figure to not enable 2FA on his Twitter account.

05/04/2021

Of course there’s a guy mining Bitcoin on a GameBoy… it’s about 125.000.000.000 times slower than a dedicated GPU.

06/04/2021
07/04/2021

After ‘Sofagate‘, the previous diplomatic chair incident had Turkey on the receiving end. It was the direct cause of Israeli minister Ayalon’s dismissal.

08/04/2021

Bones evolved to act like batteries, 400-million-year-old fish suggest.”

09/04/2021

Follow-up on my 15/03/2021 entry: there are serious doubts if it was a deepfake after all, raising even more issues (detection on the one hand, the possibility of refuting any video evidence as fake and people blindly believing that claim on the other).

10/04/2021

Minichess. That’s all.

11/04/2021

The slavery and animal rights abolition movement have a lot of common ground.

12/04/2021

Before adopting the metric system, German-speaking countries had their own units of measurement. Those units also varied from (literally) city to city, making the need for a standard all the more pressing.

13/04/2021

Today, I learned what FLoC is – and I hate it.

14/04/2021

Miss Fury was the first female ‘classic’ superhero.

15/04/2021

The brain ‘rotates’ memories : “Some populations of neurons simultaneously process sensations and memories. New work shows how the brain rotates those representations to prevent interference.”

16/04/2021

While developing Zelda: BOTW, the team played a lot of Skyrim and was influenced by that in the creation of the game. For its sequel, the same might be true with RDR2.

17/04/2021

Russian hackers pretty elaborately faked news coverage of a Louisiana explosion that didn’t happen.

18/04/2021

The ‘chamise shrub‘ is a plant that predicts how bad the fire season will be.

19/04/2021

In the top 100 “organizations” ranked by revenue, corporations outnumber nation states by quite a lot.

20/04/2021

Running the day before an exam is helpful, drinking coffee isn’t.

21/04/2021

French is the sexiest accent – now scientifically proven!

22/04/2021

There are tons of (pretty cool) scrapped Pokémon.

23/04/2021
25/04/2021

The late Prince Philip was the inspiration for the Sleeping Beauty prince by the same name.

26/04/2021

The ‘football vs soccer’ debate only started in the 70s. Before that, the two words were used interchangeably.

27/04/2021
28/04/2021

A Jodie Foster-obsessed man’s attempted Reagan assassination sparked a huge debate about the ‘insanity’ argument in court.

29/04/2021

40-50% of Brits have cancer when they die (although it’s not necessarily the cause of death).

01/05/2021

Today I learned the story of Ahmed Chalabi, a crucial figure in the clusterfuck that is that Iraq war.

02/05/2021

A man got busted at JFK for smuggling 36 birds under his clothes.

03/05/2021

Progress within the field of remotely performed surgery is moving fast. Will it do routine surgeries in the next decade?

04/05/2021

‘If I fits I sits’ is scientifically proven: domestic cats are susceptible to illusory contours.

05/05/2021

The oldest human burial site is 78,000 years old.

06/05/2021

Hukuo, a concept in Chinese law, restricts citizens access to public services (such as education) and movement to the region of their birthplace in order to “maintain a healthy balance between rural and city populations”.

07/05/2021
08/05/2021

The FBI held a file on Kurt Cobain’s death and the many conspiracies surrounding it.

09/05/2021

The White Rhino might be the first species that’s (extremely) close to extinction, but can be resurrected by reproductive science.

10/05/2021
Rwandese officials accidentally sent the recording of their Justice minister practicing for an interview in which he denies having paid for the flight that brought Rusesabagina home (to be tried) to Al Jazeera – instead of the actual interview.
11/05/2021

98 percent of the books that publishers released in 2020 sold fewer than 5,000 copies.

12/05/2021

“Private-equity firm revives zombie fossil-fuel power plant to mine bitcoin.”

13/05/2021

In an effort to combat disease, certain types of mosquitos are made sterile with a nuclear technique.

14/05/2021
15/05/2021

The Pirate Bay‘s story is bonkers.

16/05/2021

Ptime numbers make spirals.

17/05/2021

A Microsoft study shows that nearly everyone multitasks during video meetings.

18/05/2021

Asia accounts for 81% of global plastic inputs to the ocean.

19/05/2021

Tardigrades can survive impacts up to about 900 meters per second (like a gun shot).

20/05/2021

CRISPR editing in primates has proven succesful.

21/05/2021
22/05/2021

Pandemic-era fonts share a common theme: curved lines and rounded shapes.”

23/05/2021

A fraction of the Texas Democratic Party that opposed FDR in 1944 openly called for ‘the restoration of the supremacy of the white race’.

24/05/2021

A British drug dealer got caught after sharing a picture of him holding cheese.

25/05/2021

Before electrical alarm clocks, knocker-uppers woke up people on time.

26/05/2021

50% of the James Bond IP is in the hands of two people. And it’s not the Flemming estate or something.

27/05/2021

Buying rare cacti is highly unethical.

28/05/2021

A wide array of factors can influence your proneness to conspiracy theories, including mood-setting and prompting words. Also, the “backfire effect” is likely BS.

29/05/2021

Only two or three people in the world were equipped with the cave diving skills to rescue those Thai kids that got trapped in a cave.

30/05/2021

The shortest game of Monopoly lasts 2 player turns.

31/05/2021

The Pepsi Number Fever marketing stunt lead to the death of 5 people after accidentaly printing the ‘unique’ lottery-type winning number in 800,000 caps instead of one.

01/06/2021

Harriet Tubman‘s entire life story is amazing – it’s like she lived 15 lives.

02/06/2021

It took Firefox on macOS 22 years (!) to implement native context menus.

03/06/2021

Obfuscating, rather than avoiding or hiding, may be the best digital privacy tool we have.

04/06/2021

Lego is becoming cheaper per piece over the years. Also, its sets are pretty coherent in terms of price vs. pieces per set.

05/06/2021

The number of students being openly ‘gender-critical‘ is rising, but the stance is not merely political/ideological as it becomes the ‘rebel expression’ against far-reaching silencing tactics.

06/06/2021

Not only Dubya, but many US presidents wore cowboy boots with the presidential seal.

07/06/2021

A “human error” (wink) caused no images to appear for Tank Man on Microsoft’s Bing search engine.

08/06/2021

The Erdős number, measured in degrees of paper co-authorship, is mathematics’ equivalent to Hollywood’s Bacon number.

09/06/2021

“Facebook is a hub of sex trafficking recruitment in the US.”

10/06/2021

Today, the number of COVID-19 deaths in 2021 equals the 2020 total amount.

11/06/2021

A few months before 9/11, New York Times‘ Judith Miller had phone recordings of Al Qaeda members speaking of “something so big [the US] is going to have to retaliate.” The story never ran.

12/06/2021

Stablecoins like USDC are being “printed” at a dizzying rate.

13/06/2021

60FPS upscaling is a crime against animation.

14/06/2021

The Pronoun Icon could soon make its entry in profile UIs.

15/06/2021

Women identify as sexually fluid (a lot) more often than men, and the rate that self-identification is rising rapiidly. Also, gay men are disliked more than lesbian women in nearly every country.

16/06/2021
17/06/2021