2007 – 50 Things We Know Now (That We Didn’t Know This Time Last Year)


1. A giant fossilized claw found from an ancient sea scorpion indicates that when alive, it would have been much taller than the average man. This find, from rocks 390 million years old, suggests that spiders, insects, crabs and similar creatures were much larger in the past than previously thought.

2. Skin cancer is 20 percent more common on the left side of the body.

3. Men who have only daughters have a higher risk of prostate cancer than men with at least one son, suggesting a chromosome defect.

4. Baking pizza dough at higher temperatures for longer periods enhances levels of antioxidants that researchers believe reduce a person’s risk of developing cancer and heart disease.

5. Scientists have discovered dark chocolate contains more antioxidants than red wine.

6. People who are optimists do better in most avenues of life, whether it’s work, school, sports or relationships. They get depressed less often than pessimists do, make more money and have happier marriages.

7. Scientists have figured out that a unique bacterium is what makes the sea smell like the sea. They’ve also found a way to capture the aroma and bottle it.

8. Minorities from low-income areas are at increased risk for having a leg amputated as a result of severe peripheral artery disease, or PAD, a type of atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, of the legs.

9. A survey of 25,000 Americans found that 62 percent said they do not eat any fruit on a typical day, and 25 percent said they do not eat vegetables. All told, 11 percent ate the recommended number of servings of fruits and vegetables, it found.

10. Owls try to sound more macho by lowering the tone of their hoots.

11. Electronic noses used in the food industry and for sniffing out explosives can perform better with the addition of artificial "snot."

12. Wild herds of African elephants communicating by vibrations in the ground can determine which animal produced the vibrations. The seismic system is so sophisticated, scientists describe the elephants as having their own version of "caller ID."

13. A new species of sea anemone has been discovered in the deepest parts of the Pacific Ocean, living in the unlikeliest of habitats: the carcass of a dead whale that had sunk some 1.8 miles below sea level in a region called Monterey Canyon, roughly 25 miles off the coast of Monterey, Calif.

14. Scientists have discovered particles of cocaine and marijuana, as well as caffeine and tobacco, in the air of Italy’s capital. The concentration of drugs was heaviest in the air around Rome’s Sapienza University, though officials warned against drawing conclusions about students’ recreational habits.

15. Some people’s features match their monikers so well that it makes them instantly more memorable. For example, when people hear the name Bob, they picture a large, round face, but when they hear the name Tim or Andy, they imagine someone far thinner.

16. Ocean surface currents can be chaotically changeable. Two identical items released at the same location and at the same time can end up in vastly different areas. Severe storms that alter normal weather patterns also play an important role in the movement of drift items.

17. Dolphins living off the coast of Wales whistle, bark and groan in a different dialect from dolphins off the western coast of Ireland.

18. Scientists are breeding cows that can produce skimmed milk and butter that is so soft, it spreads straight from the fridge. A team in New Zealand has identified a cow, named Marge, who naturally produces lower levels of saturated fat in her milk.

19. For small- and large-stature adults, automobile airbags may do more harm than good, new research indicates. A detailed look at crash data spanning 11 years for more than 65,000 front-seat passengers found that while airbags are "modestly" protective for people of medium stature (5-foot-3 to 5-foot-11), they appear to increase the risk of injury to people smaller than 4-foot-11 and taller than 6-foot-3.

20. U.S. military troops rarely consume all the components in MRE provisions, particularly when they are preparing for missions where reducing the amount of weight and bulk in their packs is essential. Instead, they "field strip" the rations, choosing their favorite items and tossing out the rest.

21. Fetuses are able to mount their own specific immune response to flu vaccines received by their mothers.

22. Women who enjoyed strong childhood relationships with their fathers prefer to have a male partner who physically resembles him.

23. A race of 36 million-year-old, extinct giant penguins (over 5 feet tall) marched to equatorial South America during a time when the world was much warmer than it is now. Remains of the penguins found on the southern coast of Peru challenge previous conceptions about penguin evolution and expansion.

24. Icebergs hold trapped terrestrial material, which may be released far out at sea as they melt. This process produces a "halo effect" with significantly increased nutrients, chlorophyll and krill out to a radius of more than two miles. Scientists also have begun to suspect that icebergs may play a role in global climate regulation by removing carbon from the atmosphere.

25. Fish use the threat of punishment to maintain stability in their social order. Small goby fish at Lizard Island on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef use the threat of expulsion from the school as a powerful deterrent to keep subordinate fish from challenging those more dominant.

26. Ape-men ancestors began walking on two legs 6 million years ago because it used far less energy than clambering on all fours.

27. Some office printers emit a dangerous amount of toner in the air, possibly causing health concerns ranging from respiratory irritation to cardiovascular problems. Some of these floating microscopic particles may be carcinogens.

28. Yawning may be a kind of low-tech air conditioning for the brain.

29. Onions contain a sulfur-based antioxidant that binds with harmful toxins in the brain and flushes them out of the body, helping to prevent memory loss.

30. The Asian Cyprian honeybee kills its nemesis, the Oriental hornet, by smothering with other honeybees as a mob, causing the hornet to asphyxiate.

31. Sex among African bat bugs is a violent affair. During copulation, males of the species pierce the abdomens of their mates with their genitals and ejaculate directly into their blood.

32. Diners at restaurants enjoy their wine and meals more if the wine has a special label, even if it’s really only a $2 vintage.

33. Small children stress out about starting kindergarten up to six months before school starts, suggesting youngsters may take cues from their anxious parents.

34. Shoppers prefer stores’ scents to match their sounds. Participants in a research study who were exposed to a Christmas scent in combination with Christmas music gave the store higher ratings than those who experienced a Christmas scent with non-Christmas music.

35. A giant underwater current sweeping past Australia’s island of Tasmania toward the South Atlantic is a main contributor to regulation of carbon dioxide gasses in the atmosphere.

36. Ultra-hardy bacteria species collectively known as "extremophiles" have been discovered in NASA "clean rooms" used by scientists and engineers who are assembling spacecraft.

37. Fruit flies love the carbon dioxide fizz from beer. The insects have special taste receptors that are sensitive to the gas.

38. Overweight women who face employment weight bias could be victims of sex discrimination. Women are 16 times more likely than men to report weight discrimination in the workplace.

39. The mangrove killifish, found in the Caribbean, can modify its biological makeup so it can breathe air and live in trees for months at a time.

40 Two-thirds of women older than 40 are the primary providers for their families.

41. A derivative of broccoli-sprout extract protects the skin against the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays.

42. The first prehistoric fish that made its way onto land saw a full range of colors, including wavelengths of light that human eyes cannot see.

43. It takes business people twice as long to enter text messages on an iPhone as on conventional cell phones.

44. A survey of tendencies among approximately 1,000 car owners age 18 and older showed that U.S. men and women demonstrated an equal interest in upgrading the quality of their tires and wheels. Women who responded to the survey tended to spend less than men when doing so.

45. The therapeutic, relaxing effect on the arteries provided by drinking a few cups of ordinary black tea is wiped out if milk is added to the drink.

46. About two-thirds of students play video and computer games – 82 percent of male students and 59 percent of female students. Only about one quarter said they play games often with someone of the opposite sex.

47. Infants born to mothers who eat fruits while breastfeeding will be more receptive to eating those foods later in life.

48. While lunging toward krill and fish with an open mouth, a single-fin whale can engulf up to 2,900 cubic feet of the ocean soup, which is almost equal to the volume of a large school bus.

49. The parasitic jewel wasp uses a venom injected directly into a cockroach’s brain to inhibit its victim’s free will and its motivation to walk. Unble to fight back, the "zombie" cockroach can be pulled into the wasp’s underground lair, where an egg is laid in its abdomen. The larva later hatches and eats the still living but incapacitated cockroach from the inside out.

50. Mercury has an Earthlike molten core that wobbles like a raw egg does when spun on a countertop.


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