From Japanese Mascots to the 2nd Amendment: This Week's Curios

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Every day of the year, Curious.com CEO Justin Kitch writes a quirky fact, known as the Daily Curio, intended to tickle the brains of lifelong learners everywhere. This is a weekly digest.

Last week's Curios covered airplane windows, Japanese mascots, and one really old shark.

Curio No. 1123 | Coming soon: orange and blue
Here's a Hollywood job you probably didn't know existed: movie colorist. No, it's not the people who turn old black and white flicks into Kodachrome. Their job is to enhance the colors of modern movies--kinda like human Instagram filters. And it turns out they are addicted to orange and blue. Film "scientists" have analyzed the color distribution of movies since the advent of color film and found orange and blue hues dominate the so-called silver screen. It has to do with the allure of complementary colors, which sit on the opposite sides of the color wheel. Like purple and yellow, red and green, and orange and blue. Artists have long known these colors make each other seem stronger and more dynamic when used together. Since the screen is often filled by flesh tones--which sadly are usually peachy unless it's Avatar--movie designers and colorists tend to create bluish backgrounds... keep reading.

Curio No. 1122 | One really old shark
The oldest elephant lived 86 years. The oldest human lived 122. But that's nothing compared to the oldest vertebrate ever recorded--a 211-year-old bowhead whale. Until recently. A team from the University of Copenhagen has found a female Greenland shark they believe is around 390 years old, and could be as old as 512. Now that's old--even older than the oldest animal (including invertebrates) ever recorded: a 507-year-old Icelandic clam named Ming. Most impressive is the way the biologists determined the age of this Greenland shark, part of a group of "by-catch" (accidentally caught) sharks. Typically, researchers use growth rings on calcium carbonate stones found in a fish's ear to estimate age. But the Greenland shark has none. So the scientists used radiocarbon dating, measuring the decay of the radioactive isotope carbon-14 that had occurred in the shark's eye lens proteins since their birth... keep reading.

Curio No. 1121 | Airplane windows
Window seat, anybody? Next time you are on a plane, look at one of the windows. You'll notice a few odd things. First, there is a tiny hole drilled in the bottom of the window. It is called a bleed hole. The bleed hole goes through the middle pane of a plane's three-pane window system. It helps prevent the enormous difference in inside/outside air pressure from shattering the window. The tiny hole allows the cabin's changing pressure to slowly equalize with the air between the panes of glass. Without the bleed hole, cabin pressure would be applied only to the middle pane, putting it under huge stress. But because of the hole, the air pressure works against the outer pane, which is engineered to bear the brunt of the stress. Finally, for added safety, if the outer pane were to be destroyed, the middle pane could withstand the pressure because the air would slowly leak from inside to out while the cabin pressure system kept re-pressurizing... keep reading.

Curio No. 1120 | The 2nd, Amendment
They're coming for our guns! As usual for an election year, Americans are up in arms about their right to bear them. But the broader meaning of the US Constitution's 2nd Amendment depends on something very small: two commas. This arcane sentence--yes, it's one sentence long--has two different versions. The version passed by Congress in 1789 and preserved in the National Archives reads: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." But the version ratified by the States in 1791 and authenticated by Thomas Jefferson reads: "A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." In the first version, the peculiarly placed commas after "militia" and "arms" cloud the meaning... keep reading.

Curio No. 1119 | Pain over boredom
Everybody hates being bored. But the burgeoning academic field of boredom studies is determined to figure out why. One study from the University of Virginia has found some people dislike boredom so much, they prefer a painful electric shock. 18 out of 42 participants shocked themselves for fun when left alone in an empty room for 15 minutes. Another study suggests that carrying out boring tasks stimulates creative thinking and increases productivity. Psychologists have begun differentiating between two types of boredom: trait boredom measures the susceptibility of a person to being bored; state boredom refers to the intensity of boredom a person feels in a given situation... keep reading.

Curio No. 1118 | 12 new rainbow flavors
Bad news for Roy G. Biv. Scientists have discovered there are a dozen different types of rainbows, many of which don't include the colors Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, and Violet. To be fair, Roy G. Biv has always been a misnomer since scientists don't consider indigo a unique color of the rainbow. (They just needed an extra vowel!) But thanks to France's National Centre for Meteorological Research, rainbows just got more complicated. They have found 12 "flavors" of rainbow based on three criteria: visible colors, supernumerary bands (inner fringes beyond the violet band), and dark band intensity (the space between primary and secondary rainbows). The scientists found some rainbows have all colors, while others have just one... keep reading.

Curio No. 1117 | The Japanese mascot craze
Here in the US, mascots are limited to sports and cereal boxes. But in Japan, they enjoy a much broader role in society. Yuru-kyara, roughly translated to "loose characters," represent everything from cities to prisons. The mascots usually come in a life-sized character that gets mobbed on the streets; and also a digital representation that is put on T-shirts and mugs, capable of selling millions in merchandise. Yuru-kyara are all modeled after the grandmother of kawaii (cute) Japanese mascots: Hello Kitty. Hello Kitty was originally designed in the '70s for a brand of plastic sandals, but went on to become a multi-billion dollar empire of its own. What's crazy is that arcane government agencies have been able to replicate some of her success for much drier goals like promoting tourism or a public service. Most people credit this "yuru-kyara boom" to the mascot Hikonyan. Hikonyan, a giant white cat with a samurai helmet, was created by the city government of Hikone for the 400th anniversary of the town's castle... keep reading.

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