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From Space Dumping to Identical Twin Puppies: This Week's Curios

Last week's Curios covered the hidden benefits of chewing gum, wheezing Amish, and the first set of identical twin puppies.
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Last week's Curios covered the hidden benefits of chewing gum, wheezing Amish, and the first set of identical twin puppies.

Curio No. 1165 | Chewing gum makes you smarter?
Gum chewers, more reasons to rejoice! In addition to its properties as a bacteria killer, gum may improve memory. Researchers first stumbled upon this unlikely connection in a 2002 study--which showed gains in episodic memory and working memory after chewing gum. Episodic memory is our ability to recall the specifics of personal events that happened in the past. Working memory is our ability to hold information that has just been presented to us. And for test-taking Curio readers, I have even better news: a more recent study showed gum chewing during a lecture improved test scores... keep reading.

Curio No. 1164 | Nuke the sun?
The sun is hot, big, and powerful. Maybe these things you already know? So do environmental engineers, which is why they are considering using the sun's massive size and power to solve one of planet Earth's biggest problems: nuclear waste disposal. Here's the pro argument: it would get rid of dangerous spent fuel rods once and for all. Our current nuclear waste "disposal" methods are more like dumping bags of garbage over the fence into our neighbor's yard. The US alone has over 75,000 tons of high-level nuclear waste, most of which is stored in and around nuclear plants... keep reading.

Curio No. 1163 | The Amish asthma anomaly
Healthy dust? It may be the answer to one of modern medicine's puzzles: why the Amish have such low rates of asthma. The mystery dates to a 2012 study which found Amish children have much lower rates of asthma and allergic reactions than Swiss children--a population with extremely similar genetic roots. Now, a new study in the New England Journal of Medicine appears to reveal the answer to the riddle: house dust. This time, the researchers compared Amish subjects to Hutterites, another American farming community with a deep European lineage. Again they found the Amish had much lower rates of asthma--about ¼ that of the Hutterites. But when they analyzed dust from Amish and Hutterite homes they found the Amish dust had much higher levels of endotoxins... keep reading.

Curio No. 1162 | Japan's sleeping problem
Do you like to nap at work? Then move to Japan! The practice is so common there, it has its own word: inemuri. Literally, "sleeping while present." Workers from all occupations partake in the doze-fest. It's not unheard of to see fully-suited businessmen and women catching shut-eye at their desks or in meetings. What, are Japanese workers not getting enough rest? The National Sleep Foundation conducted a global study in 2013 which found the Japanese sleep the least: 6 hours and 21 minutes on average per night.... keep reading.

Curio No. 1161 | The 100-year war you've never heard of
File this one in the "only in Europe" folder. World peace became a little closer to reality on October 28, 1983. That's the day a village in Spain signed a formal treaty with France, ending a 100-year war. The tiny village of Lijar had been locked in a struggle with France ever since the late 19th century. Luckily it was a bloodless one. The war kicked off in October of 1883, when Lijar's residents heard their King Alfonso XII had been stoned by French citizens as he passed through Paris. Nevermind that Lijar is located far from the French border, and boasted a population of about 100. The citizens of Lijar quickly demonstrated their loyalty to their king by declaring war on France... keep reading.

Curio No. 1160 | From meltdown to sundown
I guess when life gives you an exploding nuclear power plant, make a solar farm. That's exactly what Ukraine is doing with the former site of the Chernobyl plant. The country is planning to build one of the largest solar grids on the planet, using the land surrounding the nuclear plant which experienced a meltdown in 1986. There are 6,000 hectares of land available, and experts think it could produce 1,000MW of solar energy. That's about a quarter of the energy produced by Chernobyl at its peak. Proponents say the project would be especially cheap because of pre-existing infrastructure... keep reading.

Curio No. 1159 | From twin puppies to clone armies
Twinimals? Identical twins are only known to exist in three species of vertebrates: humans, cows, and nine-banded armadillos. Until last month. That's when a South African vet, while performing a routine Caesarean section on a very pregnant Irish wolfhound, discovered two puppies whose umbilical cords were attached to a single placenta. Blood tests confirmed that the dogs were genetically identical, or monozygotic. In a monozygotic birth, one egg is fertilized to form a single zygote, which then divides to form two (or in the case of triplets three) fetuses. This makes them genetically identical, except for any mutations... keep reading.

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