Discovered early last century at the bottom of the Aegean sea and dated to the 1st or 2nd century BC, the Antikythera Mechanism was a mystery until researchers were able to deduce that it was a complex mechanical calculator comparable in sophistication to a 19th century Swiss watch. Watch this LEGO recreation of the mechanism linked by The Long Now Foundation.
A "social safety net for dull ants" has been observed, which is particularly interesting for this reason:
While division of labor is well documented in social insects, this is the first suggestion that some social insects stop performing certain tasks because they are no longer as good at them as they used to be. As social organisms, these ants have the luxury of being able to leave the cutting task to their more efficient sisters.
Here is some holiday advice: to prevent yourself from overeating, think about overeating.
Virtually everything in the civilized, social and technical world has its roots in the power of thought. What is this incredible force? Philosophy Talk interviews Steven Pinker, who, by the way, is a former IdeaFestival participant.
While one might believe it's a common thing, a small percentage of the population never gets goose pimply while listening to music. One study found that its people "open to experience" get the the big chill. I liked this bit of writing on the way in which the study was conducted:
To try and figure it out, Emily C. Nusbaum (a scientific name that totally freaked me out because it’s almost precisely that of my wife) and Paul J. Silvia decided to survey 196 students at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. They asked them how often they felt chills while listening to music; then they profiled their personalities using the “big five” scale (i.e. how they scored on measures of neuroticism, extraversion, openness to experience, agreeableness, and conscientiousness). And finally they asked the students to describe how much they liked or hated various types of music based on the way music is categorized in the STOMP scale — which, for example, slots classic and folk music as “Reflective and Complex”, and rock and metal as “Intense and Rebellious”. (I kind of cracked up reading those STOMP categories. I mean, sure, yeah, technically Rachmaninoff is classical music — but it’s easily more “Intense and Rebellious” than, god save us, Nickelback. Meanwhile, Pachabel’s Canon, having become the go-to processional music for about seven trillion weddings, has been taxidermically drained of any serious reflective value. Anyway …)
Clive Thompson also asks tongue in cheek, will the word processor destroy our ability to think?
It's an amazing thought, but astronomers have found evidence of other universes.
Of course it's not what you know, but who you know.