From Surf Gangs to Segmented Sleep: 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 surf gangs, Game of Thrones statistics, and the passing of Silicon Valley coach Bill Campbell.

Curio No. 1011 | Surf wars
You think surfers are chill? While surfing may seem like a laid-back lifestyle sport, it can get intense. From Hawaii to California to Australia, many of the best surf beaches are guarded by local surf gangs. The phenomenon started in the 1960s when surfing's growing popularity began causing overcrowding at popular surf spots. Established local surfers, frustrated they could no longer surf at will in their hometowns, began banding together in places like Long Beach, California and Hawaii's North Shore... keep reading.

Curio No. 1010 | Are allergies actually a good thing?
Spring is here! Which means so is allergy season. Ever wonder why we have allergies? The answer may be found in our ancestors' DNA. Two recent studies trace a link between common allergies, and immunities first developed by Neanderthals and Denisovans. Evidence shows both of those ancestral cousins "mingled" with Homo sapiens before disappearing around 40,000 years ago (see Curio #203). Neanderthals and Denisovan DNA makes up a surprisingly large amount of human DNA -- 1 to 6 percent for people of Asian and European descent. The new studies have focused on which part of our DNA came from these ancestors, and why it has persevered. What scientists found... keep reading.

Curio No. 1009 | What I learned from Bill Campbell
I won't soon forget April 18th, 2016. It marked our 1000th Curio and my son's 10th birthday--which I missed to broadcast 20+ "Curious Conversations" in San Diego. It was also the day my friend and mentor Bill Campbell died, after a gritty battle with cancer. A former football coach and hi-tech executive, Bill was most famous for his role mentoring some of the most accomplished CEO's in Silicon Valley. Why he chose to include me in that list I will never know. I decided not to ask him in case it made him change his mind! Bill was an avid reader of the Daily Curio, often sending me snarky, profanity-laced reactions. He was also instrumental in the founding of Curious, serving as an investor and board member. Mostly, he was a gentle teacher of life. So I thought it appropriate to share with you what Bill taught me. It's much longer than normal, but hopefully worth your time... keep reading.

Curio No. 1008 | This Curio will make you smile
Next time you look in the mirror, observe yourself faking a smile. When you force a smile, you contract your zygomatic major muscle, which raises the corners of your mouth. Spontaneous smiles, on the other hand, use both the zygomatic major and the orbicularis oculi, which raise the cheeks and show crow's feet around the eyes. The French neurologist Guillaume Duchenne discovered this in the mid-19th century--hence the term Duchenne smile, which means an honest expression of joy. Modern researchers have used Duchenne's findings to uncover all sorts of cool things about how smiles affect emotions and empathy... keep reading.

Curio No. 1007 | Yay for the yaybahar
What do you get when you combine two long springs, two steel strings, and two drumheads? Turkish musician and inventor Görkem Şen found out one day in his workshop. He now admits the first prototypes of his new acoustic instrument didn't sound very good. But after some experimentation, he settled on a final design -- and name: the yaybahar, which roughly translates to "spring maker." It produces rich and beautiful space-like sounds using only natural reverberations. The two drum membranes are attached to a y-shaped frame, which holds two long springs... keep reading.

Curio No. 1006 | Academics and the Game of Thrones
Fans of HBO's smash hit Game of Thrones probably don't need a reminder that Season 6 starts tonight. But the show full of gore, deceit, and even a few dragons is getting a bit hard to follow--even for hardcore fans. The first five seasons included over 150 characters entangled in dozens of plots. As further proof that scientists may have too much time on their hands, analyzing the show has become something of a pastime of many academics. One such math professor at Macalester College published an entire paper on how to determine Game of Thrones' main character. To do this he used network science... keep reading.

Curio No. 1005 | Are we engineered to sleep twice a day?
Are you tired this morning? If you have trouble getting eight uninterrupted hours of sleep each night, you're not alone. But "sleeping science" has shown that sleep interruptions may simply be a part of our natural sleeping cycle. Up until the 1800s, segmented sleep -- the practice of sleeping in two or more sessions -- was the norm. People would head to bed an hour or two after dusk, and sleep for around four hours. Then, in the middle of the night, they would get up for an hour or more and do a variety of things, including reading, writing, praying, or even visiting friends. Then, they'd crawl back into bed for "second sleep" before waking up in the morning... keep reading.

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