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From Gum Bans to Growth Mindsets: This Week's Curios

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Last week's Curios covered yawn duration, passing kidney stones at amusement parks, and Singapore's ban on chewing gum. PLUS: the inaugural Sunday Mindset Curio--a new, weekly dispatch from Dr. Carol Dweck, leading researcher on success and motivation, and pioneer of the "growth mindset."

Curio No. 1186 | More research *Yawn*
People yawn, dogs yawn, cats yawn; even polar bears yawn. But a new study shows animal yawn duration differs depending on brain size. Researchers analyzed close to 200 yawning videos and found that animals with smaller brains and fewer cortical neurons had shorter yawns than bigger brained counterparts. Overall, the study observed 29 different species, ranging from humans to walruses. The researchers are careful not to draw too many conclusions from their findings. Yawn research is a treacherous area. Just about every yawn theory since the ancient Greeks has eventually been disproved; there is still no physiological reason for it that scientists can find... keep reading.

Curio No. 1185 | What's up with the dark side of the moon?
The dark side of the moon is more than just a great album by Pink Floyd. It's an amazing phenomenon. This beautifully-round rock rotates exactly in lockstep with our planet, its shape and arrival time changing on a precise 28-day schedule. But whether we see a full, gibbous, or crescent moon, we're always seeing the same side. The moon orbits, or revolves, in perfect synchronicity with Earth's rotation around its axis. It also rotates around its own axis precisely once every Earth day. So we keep seeing the same half. But it's not really dark. The "dark" side of the moon receives sunlight inversely proportional to the part of the hemisphere we can see--meaning the other side is only dark when our side is full. The moon didn't used to work this way. Initially, it orbited the Earth once every 10 hours. But Earth's gravitational pull was so strong it bent the moon out of shape; the sides closest and farthest from the earth bulged out. The other sides compensated by moving inward, creating a more elliptical shape... keep reading.

Curio No. 1184 | Disney's Wonderful World of urology
In the future, could your insurance company send you to Disney World? Possibly. If you have kidney stones, and promise to ride The Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. According to a urologist named David Wartinger, the goldmine-themed ride is very effective at helping people pass kidney stones. Wartinger says several patients tipped him off to the phenomenon. He decided to investigate by flying down to Orlando equipped with a bag full of fake kidneys, urine, and kidney stones. Wartinger and his team rode the roller coaster over 20 times, with kidney stones placed in various locations inside the artificial kidney. The results were amazing. When the kidney stone was lodged in the lower chamber, it rarely passed. But when the kidney stone was lodged in the kidney's upper chamber, the stone passed 100% of the time... keep reading.

Curio No. 1183 | A long, well-written, fascinating Curio
Here's a surprising, big, beautiful, round, old, black-and-white, English, concrete, universal grammar rule. Adjectives are supposed to be listed in this order: general opinion → specific opinion → size → physical quality → shape → age → color → origin → material → type → purpose. It sounds complex, but you probably naturally abide by this rule already. To prove it to yourself, try reading aloud a list of adjectives that have been arranged in the incorrect order. Take, for example: "red little wagon." Native English speakers know instinctively to make the correction to "little red wagon." That's because size adjectives always go before color adjectives. Another example: "blue old rusty Ford," which really should be "rusty old blue Ford." There are a few conflicting examples, such as... keep reading.

Curio No. 1182 | How Psy broke YouTube
YouTube is synonymous with "going viral." Since its earliest days, the video sharing site has been able to handle incredible numbers of simultaneous viewers. That is, until Psy. The South Korean pop star pushed the site to the limit with his 2012 video for "Gangnam Style." The problem wasn't that YouTube's servers were strained; it's that YouTube developers never contemplated a single video having more than a billion views. So when "Gangnam Style" took over the internet in 2012, the video's view counter--which is sort of like a car odometer--was in danger of breaking. This is because YouTube's view counter was originally stored as a 32-bit integer. Bit is short for binary digit, or a value that can be read as 0 or 1. So a 32-bit integer is a number that is stored with a series of 32 bits, each of which is either 0 or 1. That gives it a maximum positive value of 2 divided by 2 to account for negatives; or 2,147,483,647. YouTube's programmers knew about the limit but figured no video would ever be viewed that many times... keep reading.

Curio No. 1181 | Mindset is everything (SMC #1)
I'm so delighted to share these Sunday Mindset Curios with you. I hope the insights they contain will affect your life as profoundly as they have mine and that of so many others. The research I presented in my book Mindset shows there are two different ways of understanding our own abilities. In a fixed mindset, we believe our basic abilities are simply fixed. We hope we have a lot but we worry that we don't. In a growth mindset, we believe our abilities can be nurtured and developed through learning.... keep reading.

Curio No. 1180 | Gum control
Unlike the US, Singapore has some of the strictest gun control laws in the world. They are also pretty tough on gum. The independent city-state has extremely stringent littering and public hygiene laws. These include statutes that mandate the flushing of toilets and strictly forbid spitting or "expelling mucus from the nose" onto streets or sidewalks. Vandalism is punished with canings. Then there is Singapore's complete ban on the import and sale of chewing gum. The law was created in 1992 by Singapore's benevolent but authoritarian leader Lee Kuan Yew--apparently fed up with the havoc discarded chewing gum was wreaking on the country's brand new underground rail system. Punishment for gum trafficking is a $100,000 fine and two years in jail. On the bright side, no caning is involved. It may sound absurd, but Lee Kuan Yew thought chewing gum was a symbolic enemy of his utopian vision for Singapore as "a first world oasis in a third world region"... keep reading.

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