The weirdest things we learned this week: starting fires with astronaut farts and dancing yourself to death



What’s the weirdest thing you learned this week? Well, whatever it is, we assure you’ll have an even weirder response if you listen to PopSci’s hit podcast. The Weirdest Thing I Learned This Week strikes iTunes, Anchor, and all over else you listen to podcasts every Wednesday early morning. It’s your brand-new preferred source for the strangest science-nearby truths, figures, and Wikipedia spirals the editors of Popular Science can summon. If you like the stories in this post, we ensure you’ll like the program.

Today’s episode is additional unique: it’s the very first half of our 2nd live program, which occurred on February 1 at Caution in New York City. As discussed at the top of this week’s episode, you might hear hosts or audience members yelling “drink!” This is since we were playing a drinking video game, which you’re welcome to recreate by yourself time (presuming you’re of legal age and not driving while you listen). Take a beverage of your incredible and rejuvenating drink of option whenever:

  • Somebody makes a pun (2 beverages if it gets a groan!)

  • Rachel makes a joke about the reality that we clearly prepared the live program in advance although the podcast is absolutely spontaneous we swear

  • Jason makes a look

  • Somebody in the audience is audibly horrified (or simply appallingly audible)

  • A cast member states the word “Weird”

  • Eleanor discovers a reason to raise taxidermy

  • Rachel discovers a reason to discuss her fiancé or feline

  • Anybody discovers a reason to raise some sort of body scary or otherwise extreme reference of viscera

  • If we attempt to state a tie you have to surface your beverage, so you’d much better cheer loud for your favorite

Reality: Dancing plagues were as soon as really typical

By Eleanor Cummins

The human mind is absolutely nothing like a steel trap at all. It’s a genuine mess in between your ears, making all of us prone to rational misconceptions, heuristic faster ways, and false information. Maybe the weirdest thing that can occur to our highly-social brains is “mass hysteria,” which takes place when big groups of individuals physically manifest an illness that, biologically, there is no proof for.

The list of reported mass hysteria cases is long. (I understand, since I review all of them.) They consist of a windscreen pitting epidemic in Seattle, something called the “2016 clown sightings,” and even that quarantine on an Emirates flight in 2015, when it looked like a hundred guest had unexpectedly all contracted a significant disease.

However far and away the strangest cases were a series of middle ages dancing plagues. Vigilantly recorded by John Waller in his thorough 2009 Lancet post “A forgotten plague: making sense of dancing mania,” these events led to numerous individuals dancing, typically up until they passed away, in the belief they had in some way all contracted the very same illness. There was one in 1021 (that’s the one Waller called “a ring dance of sin”), and once again in 1247, and once again in 1518. Then, simply as rapidly as they appeared, dancing pesters passed away out.

In this live episode, I discuss the advancement of mass hysteria, and the methods they take advantage of our inmost and most culturally-specific worries. While you listen, don’t forget to truly absorb the significant inscription at the top of this post.

Reality: A teenage lady scammed the Royal Academy of Arts real excellent

By Rachel Feltman

This is a story about art history, chemistry, and hubris. We start in the late 1700s, when Benjamin West—referred to as the “American Raphael,” a painter of historic scenes who functioned as president of the Royal Academy of Arts in London—got some art lessons from a woman called Ann Jemima Provis. Along with her daddy, Provis was hawking painting tutorials based upon a journal offered to her by a late relative, which she declared included the secret Rennaisance masters utilized to produce their extraordinary art. See, West and his contemporaries were desperate for there to be a trick—some sort of chemical mixture or light-bending method of layering paint—since if not, that suggested they simply weren’t as excellent as icons like the excellent Titian. (Side note: here’s that Titian painting I point out in the program—he truly caught my future husband’s beard completely!)

Discover more about how Ann Jemima Provis’ con decreased—and what the genuine trick behind Renaissance art ended up to be—in this week’s episode. Here she is, resplendent in her scammery, in the only image I was able to discover of her. It takes place to be a tabloid animation made to mock the guys she fooled. What an icon.

If you’re questioning simply how ridiculous Benjamin West looked when he revealed the painting explained throughout this week’s episode, here it is. Compare it to the renovate he launched a couple of years later on painted in the real design of his day, and you’ll comprehend why his peers all teased him. And here’s a painting he did of an incredibly silly lion and a slobbering horse simply to include insult to injury.

Reality: NASA as soon as fretted that astronaut farts would present a fire risk in space

By Claire Maldarelli

While humans haven’t made it to Mars yet, we have—without a doubt—come a long method in our understanding of space travel. Don’t think me? Think About this research study. It’s called, “Intestinal hydrogen and methane of men fed space diet”, however its name doesn’t provide it the strange science credit it should have. Nevertheless, simply a quick skim of the very first line of the abstract—Digestive germs form 2 gases, hydrogen (H2) and methane (CH4), that might make up a fire risk in a closed chamber—offers a tip at the research study objectives: NASA had severe issues about whether the typical quantity of flatulence discharged by astronauts when consuming space food would be a fire risk on space flights.

The research study was carried out in the late 1960s, after the Apollo objectives and in the middle of the Gemini program. The in-flight food Apollo astronauts consumed was rather unappetizing. (See this photo for recommendation.) NASA had huge prepare for updating its menu service for the Gemini flights, however initially, they required to address a huge concern: Would the freshly enhanced space grub cause enough flatulence that it would present a fire risk? As one outdoors scientist warned to NASA, astronauts in external space are usually secured little pills without an escape valve and so, realistically, the hydrogen and methane—the 2 most typical gases in all human farts—that the astronauts excrete get secured too.

Spoiler alert: Numerous research studies and farts later on, there has actually never ever been a space pill surge brought on by human flatulence.



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