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Inspired by No Such Thing As A Fish, a podcast where hosts meet once a week and discuss most interesting facts they have researched as a part of their work for Quite Interesting.

Post a fact you've learned lately. No losers or winners, we all get to know something new.

My fact is, that Miloš Forman's movie Amadeus was based on a play of the same name by Peter Shaffer, which was based on an opera of the same name by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, which was based on play by Alexander Pushkin called Mozart and Salieri. None of those are in any way accurate by the way, but the movie is great nontheless.

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Splenosis: If a few cells of your spleen break off and get stuck somewhere else in your body with lots of blood vessels, they can grow into tiny working spleens of their own. 

There are other ways your body can collect extra spleens, most of them happening in utero.

 

Unfortunately, undergoing splenosis does not give you superfarts.

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Three versions of The Beatles' song With a Little Help From My Friends have reached #1 on the British music charts. The Beatles' version was not one of them, as it was never released as a single.

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Humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes, for a total of 46, and giving rise to the name "23andme" for the DNA sequencing company. 

All of our closest relatives, the other Great Apes, have 24 pairs. If humans are closely related to the other apes, why do we have a different number?

Closer examinations of human chromosome 2 reveals evidence that it is actually 2 chromosomes stapled together:

 - There are structures on a chromosome that make little "end caps" and tell a string of DNA where to stop, fixing the length of a chromosome. These are called telomeres. All of our chromosomes have four (one at each end of the paired parts of a chromosome). But chromosome 2 has the remnants of broken, defective telomeres deep inside it besides the functional ones at its ends.

- There are also structures called "centromeres" that, you guessed it, occur near the middle-ish point of a chromosome and form a convenient spot for it to break in half when your cells multiply. All other human chromosomes have only one. Chromosome 2 has one functional centromere and another broken one.

When we look at the actual genes on human chromosome 2, and compare that to the genes in the chromosomes of other apes, we see that it's a nearly perfect match for two different ape chromosomes that came together end-to-end somehow.

Modern humans aren't the only ape to have ever had this stuck-together set of chromosomes. DNA from Neanderthal and Denisovan remains also shows that they had a fused chromosome 2. So it's likely that this gluing-together event happened at some point after our line split away from the line of chimps and gorillas, but before we split from the line that has Neanderthals and Denisovans.

It is one distinct trait that ties different species of humanity together and sets us apart from non-human apes.

 

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Back in the days before satellite radio, most department stores used cassette tapes to play music over the store PA system, running in a continuous loop for as long as the store was open. The tapes would generally include deals of the month, special offers, and the like in between songs, and every month or so the store would replace the tape with a new one. The old tapes were generally discarded (as after a month of play they were pretty worn out). There's a guy who worked for a K-Mart in Illinois, though, who saved a bunch of the tapes from his store, and has uploaded them to Archive.org, where you can listen to them for free.

 

 

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The word "slavery" is directly derived from the word "Slav", because Slavic people in medieval times were often captured as slaves.

The Slavs on the other hand derived their name from the word "slavo", which means word. That was to signify that all Slavic people spoke the same language, as opposed to the word "nemci" which meant mute and was used to described Germans, who used a different language. In Polish the word for German is still "Niemiec", which I didn't know dated back so far.

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1 minute ago, ABronyAccount said:

The Slavic words for "slave" are also the origin of the term "robot."

I'll correct that a little. ;) It's the word "robota" (or "rabota") meaning "work" or "to work", but also "slave work" in Proto-Slavic (wikipedia ftw!). First man to widely use the term was Czech sci-fi writer Karel Čapek, but the man who actually coined the term was his brother Josef (which I just learned from Wikipedia, I though all the glory was due to Karel).

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Found nothing on ternary computers (will do!), but in the meantime I'll share what I've found this morning. I've already posted that in MD on EQD, so I'll be lazy and just copy myself:

In pre WWII Poland there were those things called "Figielki Fotograficzne" , which loosely translates as "Photographic Pranks". Those were small packets of tear-away undeveloped photos. You tear one out, roll and put around cigarette filter. Depending on the kind of material either fumes or temperature developed the photos. Many kinds were sold, but as you can guess most of them were of pornographic nature (although they wouldn't probably even pass as lewd today) and were often confiscated by the police. But thanks to that, we have a lot of them in police magazines and can study how they were made and a lot of effort goes now into preserving them. How awesome is that?

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Sounds hot!

 

FACT: The oldest indisputable evidence for intentionally-lit campfires... predates the evolution of the human race by hundreds of thousands of years.

 

Oooh, ominous!

 

200px-R16066_MLP_Applejack_Spooky.gif

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I promised to research how do ternary computers work and here is what I learned.

(it's basically compilation of what I learned from two videos liked below, so if you want more visual aids I reccomend the first one, a little more history - the second one or all of this if you have nothing better to do at the moment ;-))

Computers we use are digital machines, which means they use signals that can be expressed in discrete values or more simply - as integers. This is in opposite to analog machines and signals, which use a spectrum of values, of which we can think as real numbers.

The thing is, take any electrical measure - voltage for example - and its value is inherently analog. It is a spectrum. How do we deal with sending a digital signal over an analog medium? Do we even have to?

We could just send whatever voltage over a wire and do computations this way. Lets send a hundred volts on one wire, fifty on the second, add those, output on one fifty volts on third wire, voila! But now we have a whole different range of problems, biggest of all - it's very hard to sustain the same voltage over the whole wire. It will drop with the length, it can get interference, etc.

Instead, lets divide the spectrum into parts. If we have a range of 10 volts (-5 to 5) we can of course divide it into as many parts as we want, but the more space between, less errors can be made along the way. Divide it into 10 parts, you get nice decimal values, but only 1V of margin per value. But divide it into two (aka binary) and you have a lot of space per value, so the chance the machine will confuse one for another is very small.

This is how we get analog signal to send digital data. Now, dividing it in two is nice, but it requires to encode all numbers into base 2 system. And now what we expressed as 2016 becomes 11111100000 and requires more data to be sent. More data requires more circuitry, more circuitry means higher cost, more maintenance, etc.

So naturally a question arises - is there a sweet spot where we could use less circuits, but don't compromise on precision? Russians thought - let's just go a notch higher. And lets not encode numbers in base 3. Instead, they used balanced ternary system.

All computation can be expressed as a series of logical conditions. Binary seems perfect for logic, we have true and false, we know how to deal with those. But ternary has a third value - unknown. If you ever used SQL databases - think of it as a null value. This is also a very good logical system, albeit with a lot of variants.

We don't know which one Setun project used, but it doesn't matter. What matters, using balanced ternary and ternary logic they managed to create a cheaper computer, which had to use less parts and those were very precious in Soviet Russia - vacuum tubes were not easy to obtain. The end of the project came with invention of transistor, which replaced the vacuum tubes. And still, the binary computer that took place of Setun took 2.5 more money to be produced.

As far as technical details of the Setun itself - I got nothing. Probably they still wait, classified, in some forgotten archive in Moscow, until one day someone will find them.

 

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