Daily Smart Fact

Your daily dose of smart. So you don't feel so dumb.

Daily Smart Fact #14: Crows scare the shit out of me

with 5 comments

Key Takeaway: Crows are freaking scary.

Ok, clearly this is not a “fact.”  But its my blog and I’ll write what I want.  I’ve recently blogged about my growing fascination with birds (Smart Daily Fact #2: The California State Bird is the California Quail).  Well one type of bird I seriously dislike is the crow.  I was talking with my husband the other day about why exactly I disliked crows and he mentioned something that I think was interesting – crows are completely “murdered out.”  That’s cool kids lingo for black on black.  Like “that car is murdered out!” it means its a black car with black leather, black tint, black everything.  And seriously, I think that might contribute to the freakiness of crows.  There are adorable small black birds but they have orange beaks.  But crows?  Everything’s black.  Here’s some other things that freak me out about them:

  • They’re smart. Crows are considered one of the most intelligent birds and are known to use tools (sharpen twigs and other objects) to forage for insects and larvae. There have also been studies that indicate they may be able to count up to 3 or 4.
  • Their call is scary as hell.  “Crows can mimic sounds made by other birds and animals and have been taught to mimic the human voice.” (can anyone say creepy?)
  • They’re predators and scavengers. Crows’ diets consist of insects, mice, roadkill, frogs, even eggs and nestlings of other birds.
  • A group of crows is called a MURDER. You know why?? Because a group of them will sometimes kill a dying cow.
Resources: PBS.org, Critter Control

Written by Bea

May 26, 2011 at 12:00 pm

Posted in Birds

Tagged with , ,

Daily Smart Fact #13: Just because you’re a feudal lord doesn’t mean you can have sex with brides on their wedding night

with 2 comments

Key Takeaway: There is very little evidence that Prima Nocta, the ancient privilege of the lord of the manor to share the wedding bed with his peasants’ brides, was ever instituted during the medieval era.

I love the movie Braveheart – when Mel Gibson cries out “Freeeeeedom” at the very end, it makes me tear up every single time.  There’s a scene in Braveheart in which English lords crash a Scottish peasant wedding and the feudal lord declares his right to exercise Prima Nocta, essentially to have sex with the bride on her wedding night.  In fact, that is the main reason why Mel Gibson’s character (William Wallace) marries his childhood sweetheart in secret – so he wouldn’t have to share her with an English lord.

Anywho, two of our friends are getting married this weekend and my husband will be playing the role of emcee.  He’s been joking and threatening that he’ll begin with the Prima Nocta speech from Braveheart…”I declare my right to exercise Prima Nocta” (in a loud, drawn out, nasally voice).  Anyway, this got me curious on the subject.  To my surprise, it turns out Prima Nocta is probably a myth.

From Suite101 (a review detailing the inaccuracies of the movie Braveheart):

Prima Nocte (First Night) is a myth that during the Middle Ages, local lords could force a new bride to have sex with them on her wedding night. Quite aside from the potential for justifiable revolt every time a lord did this, it was flagrantly adulterous in the eyes of the Church and a good way to die in a state of mortal sin with your angry wife’s knife in your back. In other words, it never happened. While rape, murder and all sorts of pillaging certainly occurred during the English invasion of Scotland, Prima Nocte did not.

According to Straight Dope:

Yet detailed examinations of the available records by reputable historians have found “no evidence of its existence in law books, charters, decretals, trials, or glossaries,” one scholar notes. No woman ever commented on the practice, unfavorably or otherwise, and no account ever identifies any female victim by name.

So sorry husband, looks like you can’t bring up Prima Nocta this weekend…oh yeah, and its probably inappropriate just in general.

Written by Bea

May 25, 2011 at 12:00 pm

Daily Smart Fact #12: Go ahead and sleep around, ladies! Men don’t care if you’re slutty.

with 2 comments

Key Takeaway: “Researchers at the University of Iowa find that men increasingly are interested in intelligent, educated women who are financially stable — and chastity isn’t an issue.” In fact, compared to 1939 survey results in which men desired chastity above intelligence in women, it was valued dead last in 2008.

I wrote a post on how women’s preferences for male physical attributes changed based on their menstrual cycle about a week ago and realized that I should probably put similar scrutiny on men’s preferences for women.  What good is the feminist movement if I don’t give some equal air time to men’s preferences in women? 🙂 Interestingly enough, I couldn’t find anything that seemed to be consistent from one source to the other.  But here’s what I did find:

  • According to Live Science, men valued intelligence, education, and financial stability the most in looking for their opposite sex partners.
  • Men also apparently appreciate heavy-set women in the looks department and have foot fetishes, according to this article based on search engine queries.
  • Men want to be taller than their women, or at least more powerful according to this study (although the actual experiment seems to be a little fishy).
  • When given the option between a playboy centerfold and more “average shaped woman”, men prefer the average shaped woman. I’m dubious..but here’s the source.
Granted, I’m sure there’s a gazillion articles and resources out there that will have many different findings and I’m not going to deny that I’ve chosen these articles a bit…biasedly.  But I found these articles quite interesting and downright funny (foot fetishes, ha!) and wanted to share.  Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!
Thanks pingiwingi for the boob pic.

Written by Bea

May 24, 2011 at 12:00 pm

Posted in Biology

Tagged with , ,

Daily Smart Fact #11: If you use 10% of your brain, then you’re probably a vegetable

with 2 comments

Key Takeaway: The notion that we use only 10% of our brain is laughable. Most of the brain is active almost all of the time.

I recently saw the movie “Limitless.”  The main premise involves a writer (Bradley Cooper) who becomes hooked on a drug that allows him to use essentially 100% of his brain (instead of the measly 10% that everyone else uses); as a result he becomes this version of a demi-god.  He can consume large amounts of information, predict the future (sorta), outwit/outsmart/outtalk everyone around him – and all because he takes this drug that lets him use 100% of his brain.

Having taken a neuroscience class in college, I knew this wasn’t true but decided to do some digging around anyway because I’m fascinated by how such a myth like this could sustain itself in our society.

Here’s some quick facts that I could find, from Scientific American:

  • The “10% myth”: Although there’s no definitive culprit to pin the blame on for starting this legend, the notion has been linked to the American psychologist and author William James, who argued in The Energies of Men that “We are making use of only a small part of our possible mental and physical resources.”
  • “It turns out though, that we use virtually every part of the brain, and that [most of] the brain is active almost all the time,” Gordon adds. “Let’s put it this way: the brain represents three percent of the body’s weight and uses 20 percent of the body’s energy.”
  • Even in sleep, areas such as the frontal cortex, which controls things like higher level thinking and self-awareness, or the somatosensory areas, which help people sense their surroundings, are active.
This passage, I believe, describes it best:
Take the simple act of pouring coffee in the morning: In walking toward the coffeepot, reaching for it, pouring the brew into the mug, even leaving extra room for cream, the occipital and parietal lobes, motor sensory and sensory motor cortices, basal ganglia, cerebellum and frontal lobes all activate. A lightning storm of neuronal activity occurs almost across the entire brain in the time span of a few seconds.
The human brain is an awesome thing!

Written by Bea

May 23, 2011 at 12:00 pm

Posted in Biology

Tagged with , ,

Daily Smart Fact #10: Get off the couch! Sitting can actually kill you.

with 2 comments

Key Takeaway: Sitting for more than 6 hours a day raises the death rate for men by 20% and for women a whopping 40%.

I started wearing a pedometer about 2 months ago at the beginning of Lent, because I was tired of being such a lazy bum.  At the tender age of 29, I’ve been having a lot of lower back pain and I made a correlation that on the days I did nothing but sit and stare at a computer, my lower back would kill me by the end of the day.  When I started wearing my pedometer, I was walking less than 2000 steps a day (I can’t even tell you how many steps because I’m embarrassed).  Now I’m walking over 7,000 steps a day and I actually feel better!  Wearing a pedometer, besides making me look incredibly dorky, makes me conscious of my inactivity.

Anyway, so I started doing some digging around about inactivity and found this New York Times article Is Sitting a Lethal Activity? Here’s some cool points below:

  • Why do some people who consume the same amount of food as others gain more weight?  The answer is that people who didn’t gain weight were unconsciously moving around more (not exercise, just simply moving more).
  • Men who spent 6 hours or more per day sitting had an overall death rate that was 20 percent higher than men who sat for 3 hours or less
  • For women, the death rate was about 40 percent higher

When you are sitting:

  • electrical activity in the muscle drops – “the muscles go as silent as those of a dead horse”
  • your calorie-burning rate immediately plunges to about one per minute
  • insulin effectiveness drops within a single day
  • the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes rises
  • the risk of being obese rises
So…if that doesn’t motivate you to sit less than I don’t know what will! Walk, fidget, jump, take multiple stretching breaks…JUST MOVE!

Written by Bea

May 22, 2011 at 12:00 pm

Posted in Health and Exercise

Tagged with , ,

Daily Smart Fact #9: Visualize someone’s name across their forehead to remember it later

leave a comment »

Key Takeaway: Need to remember a name? Picture it written across the person’s forehead; the visual image will help you remember it later. This was a favorite trick of Franklin Roosevelt, who was renowned for his ability to remember names.

So…this probably doesn’t fall into the definition of “fact” but I find it interesting so I’m going to write about it.  In the process of becoming older and well, dumber, I also feel like my memory is not as good as it used to be.  Sad, I know.  Here’s some interesting tips I found on how to improve your memory.  I’m going to try these out in the upcoming weeks – if you try it out and have any other helpful tips, please provide in the comments!

  • Repeat whatever you need to memorize – a name, an address, a phone number – when you first hear it. Saying it out loud helps lock it into your memory.
  • Memorize on an empty stomach – the hormone that improves memory is highest when the stomach is empty.
  • Do crossword puzzles, play Sudoku, take up bridge — games like these stimulate the mind, helping the brain grow new neural pathways, improving your mental ability.
  • Drink purple (organic) grape juice – Research has found that drinking eight ounces of Concord grape juice a day improves memory by 20%, thanks in part to loads of antioxidants.
Resources: helpguide.org (great Mnemonic device table), Howcast,

Written by Bea

May 21, 2011 at 12:00 pm

Posted in Biology

Tagged with

Daily Smart Fact #8: Itchy and watery eyes are from allergies; Aches and fevers are from colds

leave a comment »

Key Takeaway: Allergies can happen any time of the year as long as you’re exposed to the offending allergen; whereas colds tend to happen during the winter months.

It’s Spring and that time of the year when I start feeling crappy with sneezing, runny nose, and general yuckiness.  Having just gotten over the flu, I was looking forward to the warmer weather of Spring.  Unfortunately, the warm weather brought allergies!  But was it really allergies?  Or was I suffering from another cold?  How can you tell the difference?  And how do you know what medicine to take?

Here’s what I could find:


  • Anytime of the year – as long as you’re exposed to the offending allergen
  • Main allergy symptoms –  runny or stuffy nose (usually clear mucus), itchy watery eyes
  • Other symptoms (sometimes) – cough, fatigue, sore throat
  • Not symptoms – Aches and Fevers
  • Occurs mostly in the winter months
  • Main cold symptoms – coughing, aches, fever, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose (usually yellow mucus)
  • Other symptoms (sometimes) – aches, fatigue
  • Not symptoms – itchy, watery eyes
Get more info at WebMD.

Written by Bea

May 20, 2011 at 12:00 pm

Posted in Biology

Tagged with , , ,

Daily Smart Fact #7: Park in the shade to save gas

leave a comment »

Key Takeaway: Gas actually evaporates right out of your tank and it does so even faster when under the sun – winter or summer.

Ever since I’ve moved to our new house, which happens to be at the very top of a tall hill, my gas mileage on my car has gone from about 400 miles per tank to about 320 miles per tank.  And with the prices going up like they are these days, I’ve been looking for ways to save money on gas.  I found some great resources and tips on how to do just that – but the most interesting tip I’ve found so far is that parking in a parking garage or in the shade actually helps you save gas.  Amazing!  Here’s some info I’ve found, courtesy of “How to Save Money on Gas.”

  • Your optimal “gas saving” speed is between 45 to 55 miles per house (in other words, drive slow). Ok, this is ridiculous, who drives that slow?  But here’s some cool info I found: ” Drive under 60-65 since air grows exponentially denser, in the aerodynamic sense, the faster we drive. To be precise, the most efficient speed is your car’s minimum speed in it’s highest gear, since this provides the best “speed per RPM” ratio. This is usually about 45 to 55 miles per hour.”
  • Park in the shade. Gasoline actually evaporates right out of your tank, and it does so faster when you park directly in the sun – winter or summer. Parking in the shade also keeps it cooler inside, and you will need less A/C to cool off when you get back in. If there is no shade available, park so that your gas tank (the actual tank under the car, not the valve to fill it) is facing away from the direct sun.
  • Fill up when you have a quarter tank left but don’t push this any further. Doing this can extend your gas because you are hauling a lighter fuel load. However, in cold weather, you run an increased risk of condensation in the fuel tank. Running a car with less than a quarter tank can shorten the life of the electric fuel pump and running on empty will often destroy the pump.
I have a lead foot and if you’re like me, that first bullet point is a killer.  Really?? 45 to 55 miles per hour?  Well…I’m sure there’s other ways I can save money besides gas…

Written by Bea

May 19, 2011 at 12:00 pm

Posted in Economy

Tagged with ,

Daily Smart Fact #6: If you’re a man and in a long term relationship, its probably because you’re pretty

with 2 comments

Key Takeaway: Women (subconsciously) prefer men with more “feminine” faces because these men tend to be better dads and life partners.  But they want to breed with men with “masculine” faces.

I remember hearing something awhile back about how women’s preferences in men tend to change throughout their menstrual cycle.  So I did some digging around and found this fascinating article “The Science of Magnetism” that highlights what I remember.

  • Essentially, women tend to be more attracted to men with more feminine faces (e.g., softer jaw line, large eyes, big smile) because it signals the characteristic of being a good mate, life-long partner, and most importantly, a great dad.
  • Its when women are fertile, though, that we tend to be more attracted to men with typic “masculine” features (e.g., strong jaw line, prominent cheekbones – results of high testosterone levels).

An excerpt from this article says it best about this interesting phenomenon:

Facial attractiveness in men signals better genetic stock, greater genetic variability and higher testosterone levels. However, men who are genetically good stock make poorer partners and parents than men of genetically lower quality. Very masculine facial characteristics larger jawbones and more prominent cheekbones suggest to women negative attributes relevant to relationships and paternal investment. The more masculine a face, the more the perceived dominance and negative behaviour aspects (such as coldness or dishonesty). Therefore women often prefer men with slightly more feminine faces. Men who possess the childlike features of large eyes, the mature features of prominent cheekbones and a large chin, the expressive feature of a big smile, and high-status clothing are seen as the most highly attractive.

BUT we women want to breed with men who signify that they have more testosterone and therefore the superior gene pool.  In essence, women in stable relationships are with men of “poorer genetic stock.” According to the article, in a study of partnered women, “most found single men were most attractive only when they were briefly in their fertile phase; otherwise they were not attracted to them.”


Written by Bea

May 18, 2011 at 12:00 pm

Daily Smart Fact #5: Your alarm clock may be the culprit for your bad night of sleep

leave a comment »

Key Takeaway: Tiny light rays from a digital alarm clock can be enough to disrupt the sleep cycle even if you’re not fully awake.

I had a bad night of sleep last night.  When I was younger and even through my college days, I slept like the dead.  My first trip back home for the winter holidays after my finals is a perfect example of that.  I fell fast asleep in my seat on the plane shortly after take off.  An hour later, I woke up only to find out that we were back on the tarmac.  Confused, I asked my neighbor what was going on.  The man was incredulous “you slept through that?”  It turned out that there were some engine problems and we had to land back down.  The engines were screaming so loudly, my neighbor said he had to plug his ears with his hands.  Yup, I slept through that whole episode.

Nowadays, I can wake up from a pin drop.  We have blackout shades in our room because the light disrupts our sleep.  So I decided to learn more about how sleep works and what the cause could be for a restless night.  Here’s some facts I found from The National Sleep Research Project.

  • Tiny luminous rays from a digital alarm clock can be enough to disrupt the sleep cycle even if you are not fully awake.  The light turns off a “neural switch” in the brain, causing levels of a key sleep chemical to decline within minutes.
  • To sleep, our body temperature needs to drop off.  Body temperature and the brain’s sleep-wake cycle are closely linked.  that’s why hot summer nights can cause a restless sleep.  The blood flow mechanism that transfers core body heat to the skin works best between 18 and 30 degrees. As you get older, the comfort zone shrinks to between 23 and 25 degrees – one reason why older people have more sleep disorders.
  • Some studies have shown that women need up to a hour of extra sleep than men, and not getting it may be one reason why women are more susceptible to depression than men.
  • A new baby typically results in 400-750 hours of lost sleep for parents in the first year (YIKES!)
  • Anything less than 5 minutes to fall asleep at night means you’re sleep deprived. You should ideally take 10 to 15 minutes to fall asleep.
Thanks brucebeh for the photo.

Written by Bea

May 17, 2011 at 12:00 pm

Posted in Biology

Tagged with ,