Daily Smart Fact

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Archive for the ‘Biology’ Category

Daily Smart Fact #33: This is My Nightmare

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Key Takeaway: Lampsilis Mussels spend their youth living inside of a large-mouth bass.  They get in their by their doting mom, who lures the bass in by pretending to be a darter fish and then…get this…SQUIRTING her babies into the fish’s mouth when it takes a bite.  The babies then clamp onto the mouth until they develop into maturity.  Ever heard of the movie…ALIENS?!

I stumbled upon this video about Lampsilis Mussels – they have a tough life cause, you know, they don’t have legs.  Seems like a big problem since they need to spend a portion of their lifecycle inside the mouth of a large-mouth bass. (Do they have small-mouth bass? Seems kind of rude to point out someone’s unattractive feature as a part of their name.  Like Big Butt Brenda or Small Hands Larry).  Anyway, since these mussels don’t have legs, they get pretty creative in camouflaging themselves as darter fish.  Watch the video, it’s incredible.  These freaking mussels make themselves look like fish!

The moment the bass gets tricked and tries taking a bite, BAM, the mussel literally squirts hundreds of babies into its mouth.  How freaky deaky is that?  Watch the video below and let me know what kind of nightmares you have later tonight…you’re welcome.

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Written by Bea

July 18, 2013 at 11:30 am

Posted in Biology, Science

Daily Smart Fact #32: Why You’re Fattest at Night and Skinniest in the Morning

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waterTakeaway: You lose more than a pound every night from breathing.  That’s because you breathe in oxygen (O2) and breathe out carbon dioxide (CO2 – two oxygen atoms plus a carbon atom), “so there’s an extra carbon atom leaving in every round trip.”

I like weighing myself.  Call it my own personal body experiment, but I enjoy seeing the fluctuations of my weight throughout the day – in the morning, after I eat, before/after I go to the restroom, right at night.  It might sound obsessive, but I’m not trying to lose weight – it’s just fascinating to observe the fundamentals of input/output on your own body. Eat a POUND of cheese?  Yeah, you’ve just gained an immediate pound.  Drink 24 oz of water?  Yeah, you just gained 24 oz. on that scale.

Anyway, I stumbled upon a neat article that my friend (hi Li!) posted on Facebook and found it intriguing: Every Night You Lose More Than a Pound While You’re Asleep (For the Oddest Reason).  Basically, this guy records himself over a couple of days weighing himself at night and then again in the morning, wearing the same clothes.  He interviews people and eats hamburgers and goes to the bathroom, fun stuff.  Not the most rigorous scientific experiment.  But his finding at the end is that, just breathing at night, thousands of breaths over a typical 8-hour sleep, results in us losing about a pound or more just from the extra carbon that gets expelled.

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Written by Bea

June 26, 2013 at 12:00 pm

Daily Smart Fact #28: You’re Probably Pooping Wrong

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japanes toiletTakeaway: Humans were not meant to sit on toilets while doing #2, but rather “squat in a field.”  The modern toilet aka porcelain throne aka poo bucket forces our bodies into a position that is not optimal for doing our business.

Growing up, my family and I would sojourn to Korea every other summer to spend time with our extended family.  I have very fond memories of hanging out with my grandparents in their home near the rice fields, catching frogs and sleeping with mosquito nets and those coils. A not-so-fond memory was the outhouse at our grandparents’ home.  They didn’t have a “modern” bathroom with a porcelain toilet – the outhouse, which was a stone throw away from the main house, was a hole in the ground. A big, stinking hole. To us 3 granddaughters visiting from the U.S., going to the bathroom was a nightmare.  And forget about middle-of-the-night bathroom trips, we held it.

One summer, our grandfather, being the resourceful and awesome man that he was, built a spanking brand new American-style bathroom for us.  The bathroom was beautiful, blue tile with a sink and sparkling white porcelain toilet.  Side note, my grandparents still used that outhouse and the new bathroom went largely unused when we weren’t visiting.

Anyway, that’s a long story to note that squatting over a hole may have been the best way to poop.  According to this article, the “ideal position for defecation is in the squatting position” – and there is a growing following who believe in this position (hehe, pun intended).  These squat evangelists attest that this squatting posture is “more natural” and “wards off all sorts of health problems, from Crohn’s disease to colon cancer.”

You can try this position yourself by 1) going to your backyard, digging a hole and doing your business or 2) purchasing a “health squat” device for $63.

Either way, you may be warding off cancer! excess strain! Chron’s disease! and more!  Good luck.

Written by Bea

June 15, 2013 at 11:39 am

Posted in Biology

Daily Smart Fact #25: Key to a Successful Marriage? A Much Hotter Wife

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Key Takeaway: Studies have shown that the best predictor of “both husbands and wives displaying positive marital behavior was wives being more attractive than their husbands.”

We are in full swing of wedding season.  Our close friends are now all getting married (see my Prima Nocta post) and it’s made me question: What makes a successful marriage?

Ok, obviously there’s a lot of factors that go into this.  Not to de-emphasize hard work, similar values, love, compromise, religion, etc…but I DID find this study about hotter wives really interesting and wanted to share it with you.

Here are some key findings from this study:

  • Attractive levels of husbands and wives didn’t matter (they both could be celebrity-level hot or both ugly slobs), it was the disparity in attractiveness between the two, and in particular, the wife being hotter than the husband, that mattered the most.
  • Hotter husbands weren’t good spouses because “attractive men have available to them more short-term mating opportunities which may make them less satisfied and less committed to maintain the marital relationship through their behavior.”
  • Uglier wives are meaner to their husbands, because hot husbands are mean to their ugly wives – “Because physical attractiveness is less important to wives, in contrast, relative attractiveness may only affect them through its effect on husbands. That is, because the satisfaction and behavior of husbands’ should positively predict the satisfaction and behavior of wives, less attractive wives’ may be less satisfied and behave more negatively in response to their more attractive husbands.”
  • Hotter women, on the other hand, don’t care about looks as much – “more attractive wives behaved more constructively during social support interactions with their husbands.”
Just another reason why my marriage works so well, I guess! 🙂


Written by Bea

June 16, 2011 at 12:00 pm

Posted in Biology

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Daily Smart Fact #24: How to Lose 23 lbs and 12 oz in 1 day. Have the World’s Largest Baby.

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Takeaway: The world’s largest baby to ever be born was 23 lbs, 12 oz and 30 whopping inches.  To put that into context: you know how people give the analogy that giving birth is like forcing a watermelon through the size of a lemon?  Well, the average weight of a watermelon is 3 lbs.  So the mother to the world’s largest baby was carrying around EIGHT watermelons.

Today’s post is dedicated to babies, because Eric and I are the proud auntie and uncle to our new baby niece – Hana Bahn Feng!  We were at the hospital last night awaiting her arrival and it spurred me this morning to check out some cool baby facts.

Here’s what I found:

  1. The biggest baby ever born was 23 lbs and 12 oz but died only after 11 hours of life.  The biggest baby ever to be born and survive was 22 lbs, 8 oz in Italy.  It must be all that pasta! (Source: Pregnancy & Baby)
  2. May babies are the heaviest babies, weighing an average of 200 grams more than their non-May baby peers.  I found this fact in multiple places but can’t seem to find the explanation behind this.  (Source: Online Nurse Practitioners)
  3. Men are best at changing diapers: on average they take about 1 minute to change diapers whereas women take about 2 minutes on average.  So…NO EXCUSES MEN, change your baby’s diapers. 🙂 (Source: Infobarrel)
  4. Breast Milk can benefit adults: Some adults are taking breast milk to help fight some diseases like Crohn’s Disease and Cancer.  Just additional evidence that women are freaking awesome. (Source: Yahoo Associated Content)
  5. Babies can’t cry: That’s right, you heard me, they can’t technically cry.  They don’t produce tears until about 3 weeks in and in some cases not until 4 or 5 months.  I just rocked your world.  (Source: Online Nurse Practitioners)

Written by Bea

June 15, 2011 at 2:38 pm

Daily Smart Fact #23: The Mongolian Spot is Most Prevalent in Native American Babies

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Key Takeaway: If you have never heard of or seen a “Mongolian spot” you are probably not Asian, Native American, or Latino.  The Mongolian spot is a dark bruise-like pigmentation that occurs usually above the buttocks of babies with darker pigment.  Sometimes these spots are mistaken for bruises.

My 3 year old nephew who is 3/4 Korean and 1/4 Japanese has the cutest little butt with a perfectly blue dot right above his crack.  I know, lovely picture, but as a biased Auntie I find it absolutely adorable.  Anywho, as  Korean, I figured the Mongolian spot was common knowledge for people; Asian babies have a blue dot above their butt.

What I didn’t realize was that the Mongolian spot, also known as the “blue spot”, isn’t prevalent only in East Asian babies.  In fact, over 90% of Native American babies have the spot, followed by East Asian babies (80%) and Latino babies (70%). [Source: Dr. Greene]

“The Mongolian spot is a congenital developmental condition exclusively involving the skin. The blue colour is caused by melanocytes,melanin-containing cells, that are deep under the skin. The spots are completely harmless.”

These spots usually go away by the age of 2 years old and completely go away by the age of 5 years old.  Because the spot can sometimes look like bruises, there have been stories where babies have actually been removed from their homes because of mistaken child abuse.

The interesting thing is that my other nephew and niece, who’s 1/2 Korean and 1/2 White, DON’T have the Mongolian spot.  We joke that they truly aren’t Korean but perhaps their skin is too fair for the Mongolian spot.   Although the irony is that they speak more Korean than the rest of our family!

Anyway, for those of you who had never heard of the Mongolian spot, I hope this post was enlightening.  For those of you who thought Mongolian spots were only for East Asian babies, I hope you learned something new.

Written by Bea

June 10, 2011 at 6:18 pm

Posted in Biology

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Daily Smart Fact #22: Real Zombies roam the earth via brain-eating fungi

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Key Takeaway:  The fungus, Ophiocordyceps unilateralis, invades its host ant’s brains and forces the ant to do its bidding.  The fungus uses the ant as a walking food source and damages the muscle and ant’s central nervous system, resulting in a “zombie walking.”

I was having a conversation about my blog with my sister and brother-in-law, and he excited exclaimed that I should write about the brain-eating fungi from Planet Earth because those suckers are probably one of the creepiest things known to man.  I concurred. They’re creepy and unbelievably real.

If you don’t know what I’m referring to, here’s a video:

Once the fungus reaches the ant’s brain, it causes the ant to climb up and up and up, and then causes the insect to “clamp-down on the underside of a leaf which locks in place as its jaw becomes dislocated — subjecting the ant to a painful, self-inflicted death.”

According to News.com,

The fungus attacks the ants on two fronts. Firstly by using the ant as a walking food source, and secondly by damaging muscle and the ant’s central nervous system, resulting in zombie walking and the death bite, which place the ant in the cool damp understorey.

Together these provide the perfect environment for fungal growth and reproduction.

Begin the theme from the Twilight Zone….freaky deaky!

Written by Bea

June 9, 2011 at 4:18 pm

Posted in Biology

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Daily Smart Fact #19: Fish can feel pain, you murdering murderer

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Key Takeaway: UK scientists have found “conclusive evidence” that fish do feel pain.  But what does this mean?  And does anyone care?

I don’t go out looking for information about fish (like I do birds), nor do I find fish articles to be that particularly interesting – however, I never really put thought into the question “do fish feel pain?” but it looks like a lot of other people have.

In 2003, some British scientists did some studies on trout and determined that fish DO feel pain.  (BBC source) They injected bee venom in the lips of trout (haha, trout lips) and regular saline solution in the control group’s lips.  The trouts who had bee venom exhibited signs of stress and more importantly, kept rubbing their lips on the gravel floor – a response that was not a “reflexive response.”  Also, it took them 3 times longer to resume feeding than the control group.

It is important to note that although this study may show that fish can “feel” pain, the question still remains “what does it mean to feel pain?”  In order to feel pain, do you need the brain capacity to register pain as a psychological experience or is a physiological response to pain enough?

Whatever the answer might be, what does this mean for us fish eaters?  It may not mean much unless you were eating fish only because you thought they didn’t feel pain.  In that case, congratulations to you.

But more importantly, what implications does this have on sports fishing.  If its now shown that fish do feel pain, are you damaging and ultimately causing pain to fish for your own enjoyment?  I’m honestly not very passionate about this subject but I find these scientific findings and their implications quite intriguing.

What do you think?

Written by Bea

June 6, 2011 at 12:56 pm

Posted in Biology

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Daily Smart Fact #18: Build Your Own Memory Palace

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Key Takeaway: Its a lot easier to remember places and experiences than lists, numbers, or names. Use your own memory palace to improve your memory by visualizing and associating the things you need to remember with the outrageous and absurd.

I was listening to NPR the other day and the guest was Joshua Foer and they were talking about the USA Memory Championship. That’s right, there’s a national competition for memory.  In order to be a “grand master of memory” you must be able to do the following:

  1. Memorize 1,000 digits in less than 60 minutes
  2. Memorize the order of 10 shuffled decks in less than 60 minutes
  3. Memorize the order of 1 shuffled deck in less than 2 minutes

As of 2005, there were only 36 grand masters in the world.  These people aren’t photographic memory freaks or people who have an IQ of a gazillion.  They’re ordinary folks like you and me.  So how do they do this?  Well one technique is called the Memory Palace.  According to this interview on NPR, Joshua describes origins of the Memory Palace from Ancient Greek times.  There’s a story about Simonides of Ceos walking out of a banquet hall right before the entire building collapsed, killing every single person inside.  In all of the tragedy, no one knew who was who in the hall, how to properly bury the dead, which families should claim which bodies, etc.  Simonides realized though that if he closed his eyes, he could remember every single person in the hall by where they were located. This is how the Memory Palace came to be.

When you visit someone’s house for the first time can you still remember it the next day? the next week?  Where was the TV and the couch?  Where was the kitchen in relation to the front door?  Its so much easier to remember than say, someone’s phone number or address.

The Memory Palace is a technique that allows you to visualize the things you need to remember based on an actual physical place you know.  Here’s how to build your own memory palace (for greater details, read this article):

  1. Visualize a physical place you know really well (most likely your own home)
  2. List all the distinctive features of this place (e.g., the front door, the main foyer, the big painting of the bull fight you bough in Madrid, the steps leading up to your bedroom, the bedroom door, etc.)
  3. Imprint the palace into your mind – know every single detail of your actual physical palace; you’re going to need to remember this
  4. Associate the things you need to remember to your palace – A key thing to note is that you need to make whatever you remember “crazy, unusual, offensive, extraordinary…” if its boring, its unmemorable.  I like the example given here about remembering a grocery list.  If you had to remember bacon, start at your front door.  According to the article, it says you might want to remember streams of bacon coming up from under the door, like zombie hands trying to get at you.  Then when you walk in and the first thing you see is a picture of your mother-in-law with your wife, and you have to remember eggs….and so on.
  5. Visit your palace and see all the things you can remember!

Good luck!  Let me know in the comments how you’ve fared with your Memory Palace.  How many things did you remember?

Some things to try out this week:

  1. Forego a grocery list (ok, maybe keep a backup list in your back pocket)
  2. Memorize at least 2 of your family members’ phone numbers that is in your cell phone address book
  3. The next new place you need to go, try to remember the address using your Memory Palace

Written by Bea

June 2, 2011 at 12:24 pm

Posted in Biology

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Daily Smart Fact #17: The Mimic Octopus is the first known species to take on the characteristics of multiple species.

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Key Takeaway: The Indonesian Mimic Octopus can imitate up to 15 different species by look and behavior and decides which “predator” to mimic based on the sea animal that confronts it.  Awesome-o!

I stumbled on this awesome video and I’m blown away by this octopus.  I always knew that octopus were known to be very smart.  I remember from a visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium that an octopus can change colors by its mood and that they’re known to open up jars and walk across rooms to “sneak food.”

Some other cool facts about the Mimic Octopus (courtesy of Marine Bio):

  • The mimic octopus is the first octopus species ever observed to impersonate other animals
  • “This animal is so intelligent that it is able to discern which dangerous sea creature to impersonate that will present the greatest threat to its current possible predator. For example, scientists observed that when the octopus was attacked by territorial damselfishes, it mimicked the banded sea snake, a known predator of damselfishes.”
  • They’re known to mimic: sea snakes, lion fish, sole fish, sting rays, mantis shrimp and even jelly fish.

Written by Bea

June 1, 2011 at 12:14 pm