This is a collection of random and (somewhat) interesting things that is a little bit like Tom Scott’s series on “Things You Might Not Have Known.” I’ll be finding one thing every day and updating this post accordingly. My plan is to see how long I can go without dropping a day.

Day 1

A cube with a side length of X miles has approximately the same volume as a sphere with a radius of X kilometers.

$$\frac{4}{3} \pi \approx 4.1$$ $$1 \text{ mi}^3 \approx 4.1 \text{ km}^3$$

Day 2

No piano can ever be tuned perfectly. Tuning each octave to be exactly one octave (the higher note has double the frequency as the lower note) is called equal temperament, and it the ratio between each half step the same (multiples of the 12th root of 2, in fact). As a result, a major third (on an equal temperament piano) will be sharp, a perfect fourth will be sharp, and a perfect fifth will be flat (example calculation below). (Other intervals will also be slightly out of tune.)

Perfect fifth is 7 half steps: $$(^{12} \sqrt 2)^7 = 1.498$$

True perfect fifth has frequency interval 3/2: $$\frac{3}{2} = 1.5$$ $$1.498 < 1.5$$

Day 3

Active noise cancelling is essentially blasting “anti-noise” into your ear. A microphone picks up outside noise and finds the frequency of those sound waves. Then, the headphones will play that exact same sound with the same amplitude and frequency but with the waves inverted so that they cancel each other out. (This is an example of destructive interference).

Day 4

Kansas is flatter than a pancake, but so is every other state. Florida, Illinois, North Dakota, Louisiana, Minnesota, and Delaware are all flatter than Kansas (from flattest to not-flattest-but-still-kinda-flat). If you scale a pancake up to the size of a state, there will be a considerable bump in the middle that is almost 10,000 meters high. For comparison, Mt. Everest is only 8,848 meters high.

Day 5

One million seconds is around 11.5 days, but one billion seconds is over 31 years. When it’s written out as 1,000,000 versus 1,000,000,000, that factor of 1000 seems much smaller than it actually is. 1000 is also commonly used in volumes (because it is 10 cubed): it may take 30 seconds to drain a 1 m by 1 m by 1 m cube of water, but it will take over eight hours to drain a 10 m by 10 m by 10 m cube of water. (Basically, multiplying by 1000 is pretty significant.)

Day 6

A crinkle crankle wall is serpentine shaped and stronger than a straight wall. Since there are curves, it is more resistant to lateral forces than a straight wall. It also takes less bricks to build (assuming the walls are equal strength). It also looks unique and the name sounds funny.

Day 7

The world’s pinkest pink is so pink that it can’t be displayed properly on a screen. There are colors we can see with our eyes that computers screens literally cannot show because it’s outside the display’s range. It’s like giving an RGB value of 400, 10, 400 and expecting a result. There are plenty of other colors we can see that can’t be displayed, but pink stands out the most. (I’d show you a picture of how pink it is, but that would be pointless.)

Side note: Similarly, a color called “vantablack” absorbs 99.965% of light, making it really, really dark. Anish Kapoor, the sculptor who made the bean in Chicago, bought exclusive rights to vantablack. People were outraged that he purchased a color for himself and himself only, so Stuart Semple (who made the pink that’s really pink) banned Kapoor from buying the pink. You can go on the website and see that it is “available to everyone except Anish Kapoor.”

Day 8

Demetri Martin wrote a 222 word palindromic poem for his fractal geometry class at Yale. Not only is the entire poem a palindrome, the first two and last two lines are also palindromes. You can read it here. A palindrome is a sequence of characters that are identical when reading forwards and backwards.

Day 9

It’s easier to travel from Earth to Pluto and then into the Sun than it is to go directly from Earth to the Sun, even though the distance traveled is nearly 80 times more. To fall towards the center of our solar system, a spacecraft has to decelerate in it’s orbit so that gravitational forces from the sun pull it in. The closer you are to the sun, the faster you’re orbiting, thus the more energy it will take to decelerate. However, if you went all the way to the edge of the solar system, you are far from the sun so the orbital speed is much smaller. Therefore, it will take less energy to decelerate and have the sun suck you in.

Day 10

You only need 15 decimal places of π to calculate the circumference of the Earth to the accuracy of a single molecule. Since the circumference is around 25,000 miles, using 15 digits will give an answer of:

$$\frac{25,000 \text{ miles}}{10^{15}} = 40 \text{ nanometers}$$

Similarly, using only 40 digits of π to measure the circumference of the observable universe would yield a result that is accurate to the diameter of a single hydrogen atom. That’s quite insane to think about.

Day 11

Jam and jelly are different: jam is made from chopped and crushed fruit while jelly is made from the fruit juice. This makes jams looser than jellies in general. Preserves are made from the entire fruit, and butter is made from the fruit pulp.

Day 12

Acronyms have different subcategories; the most common one you probably didn’t know about is an initialism. An initialism is an acronym that is pronounced as individual letters, like ACM. An acronym (more generally speaking) is pronounced as a word, like NASA.

Day 13

**Atlantropa was an idea in the 1920s to drain the Mediterranean Sea that would take a century to build. ** Obviously, this plan did not go into effect as that body of water still exists. It involved a hydroelectric dam across the Strait of Gibraltar (the place that separates Spain and Africa) which would lower the sea level and open up a lot of land. It was proposed to promote pacifism, unite Europe and Africa, and reshape politics into three blocs America, Asia, and Atlantropa. However, this was highly impractical due to a few very major reasons:

  1. There is not enough concrete on Earth to build the dams.
  2. Cities along the coast would no longer be along the coast, which is bad for trade.
  3. The land is useless for basically everything (can’t grow crops, lacks structural integrity).
  4. If the dam breaks, it’s really bad for the people that live where the sea used to be.

Day 14

The zenzizenzizenzic of a number is the eighth power of that number. It comes from the root “zenzic” which means squared, so three of those is three squares which is the eighth power. There are also sursolids, which is raising to the nth power of a prime greater than three. The first sursolid is 5, the second is 7, the third is 11, etc. These terms can also be combined, with a number raised to the twelfth power being the “zenzizenzicubic” (two squares and one cube, 2 * 2 * 3 = 12).

Day 15

A probability of zero does not mean that it is impossible. For example, the probability of landing a dart on an exact spot on the dartboard is zero because there are infinitely many spots that are possible, but that doesn’t mean it is impossible for the dart to land there.

Day 16

Today (December 16, 2020) is Pythagorean Theorem Day: the sum of the squares of the month and day equal the sum of the square of the year.

$$12^2+16^2=20^2$$

The last Pythagorean Theorem day was August 15, 2017 (8-15-17) and the next Pythagorean Theorem Day will be July 24, 2025 (7-24-25).

Day 17

A splayd is a utensil that combines a spoon, knife, and fork all in one. Other notable untensils are the spork (spoon + fork), knork (knife + fork), spife (spoon + knife), and even forkchops (fork on one chopstick and knife on the other).

Day 18

The Waffle House Index is a metric used to determine the severity of a storm and its effects. It originated from the Waffle House reputation for being well prepared against storms and extreme weather. The three tiers are green: full menu (little to no damage), yellow: limited menu (low supplies, little accessible power) and red: closed (severe damage).

Day 19

Osama bin Laden, an elephant, was an elephant that caused over 27 deaths and destroyed property. After its death toll reached double digits, it was declared “rogue”. It was shot after a two year rampage, but some people question its cause of death.

Day 20

Blue Peacock was a British nuclear weapon project that proposed using live chickens to power nuclear bombs. Since the landmine’s electronics would sometimes get too cold to operate in the winter, chickens were encased with the mine along with food and water. Their body heat would keep everything at an operating temperature. When this was declassified on April 1, people thought it was an April Fool’s joke (it’s not, as far as we know).

Day 21

Tonight (December 21, 2020), Jupiter and Saturn will come together in the night sky as a “great conjunction." This occurs once every 800 years and is visible to nearly the entire world. Although Jupiter and Saturn are aligned every 20 years, tomorrow it will be less than a tenth of a degree apart, appearing as a bright star. Today also happens to be the winter solstice, the longest night of the year.

Day 22

Heat generated from spacecraft reentry is not caused by friction but rather by air compression. This phenomenon is adiabatic heating, which occurs when air in front of the object. That air is compressed, which decreases the spacecraft’s volume and thus increases the temperature by doing work on the spacecraft. Similarly, when pressure is decreased, the temperature is lowered as work is done on the surrounding system.

Day 23

There is a Wikipedia article about “really, really, really stupid article ideas that you really, really, really should not create." In this list are:

  • Your new invention or research paper that will change the world. It will undoubtedly fail.
  • Recreating this dumb list.
  • Anything about which you cannot be buggered to write one complete sent
  • List of promises by politicians
  • The bike horn cover of the Evangelion theme
  • The time you laughed about someone eating a red 5-pound gummy skull while wearing a jetpack while driving a limousine at 5 a.m. on a Tuesday in August 2018.
  • Your romantic relationship with sentient AI.

You can find the full list here.

Day 24

“nop” is a game where you win by doing nothing. Once the game starts, the first person to do literally anything (talking, breathing, existing) loses. Using the special theory of relativity, moving quickly will make your actions appear later for another person in their frame of reference. Thus, the optimal strategy is to be moving at a really high velocity, preferably something close to the speed of light. The International nop League (Inop) has Buzz Aldrin at the top of the leaderboard with an ELO of 2954. (By the way, you just lost the game.)

Day 25

A Rubber Band Christmas is a Christmas album made exclusively from the sounds of rubber bands, staplers, and other office supplies. Track titles are parodies of other famous songs, such as “Rubber Bells” (Jingle Bells), “Feliz Rubberdad” (Felix Navidad), and “Rubber to the World” (Joy to the World).

Day 26

Salmon sushi was not eaten in Japan until the 1990s due to a parasite in Pacific salmon. A Norwegian eventually convinced the Japanese to eat it raw, mostly due to Atlantic salmon not having that parasite. Additionally, sushi grade salmon is frozen at either 0°F for a week or -35°F for 15 hours to kill parasites.

Day 27

Both teams wanted to score an own goal in the Caribbean Cup qualification game of football (soccer for Americans). This was described as one of the “strangest football matches ever.” To prevent draws, there was a special rule in place: the first goal scored in overtime was worth two goals. Barbados needed to win the match by two points to qualify for the finals - winning by only one point was not enough. Barbados were up 2-1 so they scored an own goal to go to overtime. Now at 2-2, Barbados did not want the other team, Grenada, to score. For the last three minutes of the match, Grenada was trying to score on both goals while Barbados was trying to defend both goals. Eventually, the timer expired and Barbados won 4-2 in overtime, advancing to the finals.

Day 28

A science fiction short story “Deadline” caused a visit by the FBI to the author’s home because it predicted the existence of a then-secret atomic bomb. Cleve Cartmill published this in 1944 and used unclassified scientific journals to aid him, making the story very scientifically accurate. The technical details in the story also matched the secret research at Los Alamos, so the FBI began an investigation and eventually let him go. The editor of the magazine that “Deadline” was published in also guessed that there was a secret government project at Los Alamos due to the number of people who suddenly moved there.

Day 29

The Pepsi Fruit Juice Flood was caused by 176,000 barrels of fruit and vegetable juices from a collapsed PepsiCo warehouse. The warehouse’s roof collapsed unexpectedly and sent over 7.4 million gallons of juices into the streets of Russia and a nearby river. Nobody died from this incident, although there were two injuries.

Day 30

After Newton’s university closed for two years due to the Great Plague, Newton developed his theories on calculus, optics, and the law of gravitation. His book Principia Mathematica was “a book dense with the theory and application of the infinitesimal calculus” but it wasn’t published until a few decades later. He also concluded that color is a property intrinsic to light, which was highly debated at that time. He then built onto Kepler’s laws of planetary motion and came up with the three universal laws of motion.

Day 31

Ambiancé is a film directed by Anders Weberg with a projected release date of December 31, 2020 (today) and will have a running time of 30 days. After the first screening, the entire movie will be destroyed, making it the “longest film made that doesn’t exist.” A trailer for this film was released in 2016 that was over 7 hours long, which was a single take with no cuts.