From the Ugliest Color to Significant Others: This Week's Curios

Every day of the year, 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 the ugliest color, the history of ringtones, and why people on planes love tomato juice.

Curio No. 1067 | A warning for tree huggers
Hide the kids; there's another poisonous tree! In Curio #985, we learned about the positively evil "tree of death." Here's another poisonous tropical plant: Metopium brownei, the black poisonwood tree. Black poisonwood looks harmless enough until you see its bark, which tends to ooze--wait for it--poisonous black stuff. People who live in Central America and the Caribbean where the tree grows plentifully know to stay away. But tourists often get some first-hand knowledge of the tree's poisonous effects by brushing up against it. Both the bark and the leaves contain a chemical called urushiol, the active chemical in poison ivy. Luckily, an antidote is almost always close by. Bursera simaruba, the gumbo-limbo tree, often grows within a few meters of black poisonwood, and it contains antioxidants that can dull the effects of urushiol... keep reading.

Curio No. 1066 | Significant other, or significant same?
Partners in long-term relationships share a lot of stuff: living spaces, last names, toothbrushes. But a growing body of research is revealing the real extent to which significant others affect each other's mental and physical states. Most recently, researchers at the University of Michigan found couples who have been together 50 or more years have strikingly similar kidney function, cholesterol levels, and grip strength. These physical health factors add to research from another group out of the University of British Columbia who found that, as couples age together, they are more likely to experience similar levels of happiness and depression... keep reading.

Curio No. 1065 | Let's meet at dogs.cats.pasta
If you're mailing a "thank you" card to a friend across town, it's easy to jot their address down on an envelope. But what if you want to get in touch with someone halfway across the world, in a country where 25% of people don't have set addresses? That's where What3Words, a new system for mapping the globe, comes in handy. What3Words breaks the world down into 3 x 3 meter squares, each of which is randomly assigned a three-word address. The Taj Mahal becomes according.gloom.broads; Tiananmen Square is now emails.privately.fleet; and the Pentagon is at acting.brass.rare. Inevitably, this makes for some hilarious and silly addresses. Like the grassy strip in an English village known as dogs.cats.pasta... keep reading.

Curio No. 1064 | The frequent flier's drink of choice
When Lufthansa, the German airline, asked a team of researchers to find the best drinks to offer on an airplane, an unlikely favorite emerged: tomato juice. The slimy, heavy blood-red beverage even outranked beer. But for food scientists and frequent fliers, tomato juice's popularity comes as no surprise. It's pretty much the perfect drink for the conditions inside an airline cabin. The constant loud noise of being inside an airplane warps our taste preferences to prefer umami, or savory, tastes. The effect is only amplified by the fact that other tastes, like salty and sweet, are duller in loud environments... keep reading.

Curio No. 1063 | The color tobacco companies hate
It has been called "the fugliest color in the world," "visually repellent," and has even been compared to baby poop. And now, Pantone 448C, a.k.a. Opaque couché, a.k.a. drab dark brown, has been chosen as the color to represent cigarette packaging in the UK, Northern Ireland, and France. Pantone 448C will be joining graphic images of smoke-charred lungs and statements like "Smoking clogs your arteries" on all packages of tobacco products, as part of a campaign borrowed from the Australian government. In conjunction with a consumer research agency, the Australian government conducted three months of studies on over 1,000 smokers to find the color that would be worst to put on packaging... keep reading.

Curio No. 1062 | Dad genes
Moms have a profound impact on their children. They shape our habits, our looks, even our palate. But let's not forget about dads, on today of all days. After all, they may play a greater role in shaping us genetically. That's according to a new study from the University of North Carolina. By studying mice, the researchers found that although each parent gives an equal amount of genes, the scales tip in favor of the father when it comes to how genetic material is used, or expressed. In the test group, about 80% of genes possessed variants that affected gene expression, and several hundred of the affected genes were imbalanced toward the father's genetic contributions... keep reading.

Curio No. 1061 | The strange history of your phone's ringtone
If the ringtone hall of fame existed--which it should!--I know which ringtones I would nominate. The iPhone "Marimba" and its successor, "Opening," have to be there. T-Mobile's jingle makes the cut, too. And who could forget the Nokia tune? For such simple clips of music, each of these ringtones has an amazing history. The Nokia tune, for example, can be traced back to a guitar piece from 1902 called "Gran Vals." T-Mobile's jingle was invented by a music therapy expert who drew inspiration from the pattern of dots in T-Mobile's logo. Apple's ringtones are shrouded in secrecy, but they are credited to everyone from Thomas Newman, the composer who scored American Beauty, to the guy behind Apple's free music recording software, GarageBand... keep reading.

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