WILTW – What I Learnt this Week



Pajama is an early 19th century word from Urdu and Persian, from pāy – ‘leg’ and jāma – ‘clothing.’

Fake snow is made of the same stuff used in Nappies and tampons due to its excellent liquid absorption capabilities

The smallest Christmas tree in the world is made up of 42 atoms


Fresh thyme combined with lemons or limes give meat very original aroma and taste… Also, I’m a terrible cook. @richman


Apple pie, in a sense, is very American in that none of its constituent parts were discovered or made in America.

Red-footed tortoises have their penises and vaginas in the end of their tails. The penis balloons out of the tip.


You have to carry guns in Svalbard whenever you go outside of town, due to the risk of hungry hungry polar bears

You can have surgery to remove the floaters in your eye which involves replacing the juice of your eye with salty liquid

King Leopold II of Belgium had 10 million Africans brutally killed in the Congo (an area 76 times that of Belgium), around half the population at the time. He died peacefully and is generally remembered as a great man.


Torture, whipping and mutilation of those above only stopped after independence in the 1970’s. People of the DRC are 12x more likely to die as babies, make 99.24% less money and live 23 years shorter than US citizens.



You can test the PH level of your garden soil with either a good eye for weeds, or vinegar & baking soda @gardengirlcanada

62% of philosophers are atheist

The Voynich Manuscript is the most mysterious book – and one of the biggest unsolved mysteries of today. The manuscript is written in an unknown, unheard language that nobody can translate, and dates back to around the early 1400’s

Bonus Saturday

There’s now a much more scientific method of describing your personality than Myers Briggs or… Astrol… I don’t even want to use that word. @sirwinchester



Perspectives have surprised me at many corners, and it frequently demonstrates to me that our minds are simply not well wired for the things we discover via outer-mind processes such as maths, science and history. The problem that arises, is that we assign the problem of the unknown to the things we can know; fear and paranoia. To me, it’s apparent that this is exactly where religion and conspiracy thrives. But that’s for another post.

We cannot possibly know with our brain alone what happened 1,000 years ago. We cannot possibly see the stars behind the sheet we see in the sky, nor can we know what those dots we do see actually are, without science. We cannot fathom almost anything of the modern era without maths propping us up.

It’s really fascinating, and perspectives have given me a new fascination in history.

I was recently discussing and being corrected on some ideas of Russian/Ukranian history including Normans, Vikings, Germans and Mongolians, and to me it was fascinating that the area of Crimea has been interwoven by so many different battles of culture over the centuries, ones you don’t even remotely relate to that area. 

When you see the spread of the Mongol empire, for example, you just have to sit there in awe. You know that massive land called China? Mongol Empire. You know all of those countries ending in -stan that dominate the Middle East? Mongols. You know the entire southern half of Russia, and Eastern Europe? Mongol Empire. 

Talking of perspective, the Roman Empire, an empire we consider one of the greatest due to its duration, at its largest covered a mere 6.5 million square kilometers, or 4.3% of the earth’s land. The Mongols in comparison total a monstrous 22.29% of the world’s land, second only slightly to the British empire at 22.43%, or 33 million square kilometers. 

Over 1/5th of the world, dominated by Mongols at a point in time, and I wasn’t even aware of any mongol empire until some self study occurred a few years ago. It’s surprising something like this just wasn’t mentioned in school (perhaps in later, choice courses of history, prepping for university, who knows).


Here are some more unreal perspectives:

  • The British Empire was at its Greatest when my granddad was alive and walking around, accounting for 20% of the entire world’s population.
  • To the Romans, Egypt was as Ancient as we consider the Romans ancient to us. We are taught that the Romans came into Egypt and changed things around, and so we (or at least I) get this kind of overlapping feeling that the two ages were at least in the same general area of history, but realistically the Egyptians were just… Before. Before everything. By a long shot.


  • Except dinosaurs. However, the Stegosaurus was even more ancient to the T-rex than the T-rex is to humans, The T-rex being 65 million years before us, and the Stegosaurus being over 80 million years before the T-rex. Again, school and education from media has shown us that these two walked around hand in hand, had their fair share of rival battles of attack and defense and died together somewhat romantically in a burst of fire. We clearly had no idea.
  • We all know there are perhaps 100 billion galaxies, but what people don’t realise is the sheer size difference in these galaxies. The IC 1101 galaxy is up to 5–6 million light-years across, compared to the milky way, at around 100,000 light years across. That’s 50 times the disc size of our entire galaxy.


  • A Great Basin bristle-cone pine in North America is a 5,000 year old tree. This single tree, sitting on its roots, unmoved, undisturbed, has watched all the aforementioned empires come and go, rise and fall. It was there to see the Egyptians build their pyramids and it remains today. In fact, its leaves are almost twice my age, at over 4 decades a piece.


  • There are 10 times more bacteria in you than there are actual cells. That means you, as a person, are a fraction of what you think you are. 90-odd percent of you is foreign species, living rent free off your already 70% water existence. In fact, over 4,000 species of bacteria were found in a few swabs of belly buttons. Over 1,000 of which were likely new, undiscovered species.
  • If the world’s population was equally distributed with a density of New York, the whole 7.1 billion of us could fit into Texas, leaving the rest of the world to vegetate. 
  • Voyager 1 has taken 40 years to leave our solar system at 62,000 kilometers/hour, faster than anything we can even imagine on earth. It will still take another 300 years to reach the Oort cloud – the very outer edge of our solar system, and a further 30,000 years to actually get through it. In 40,000 years, it will reach a mere 1.6 light years from the next star, Gliese 445. If you want to reach the nearest star, Alpha Centauri, it will take a mere 73,000 years at this speed. Unfortunately it’s going the wrong way, so we’re gonna be waiting, probably longer than the material of the satellite can exist without decaying, before reaching anything other than blackness.


  • The famous Black Death Pandemic was minuscule, if you find the right comparison. Influenza, in a year of The Great War killed more people – up to 40 million – than in five years of the black death – around 25 million.
  • This image is the Hubble eXtreme Deep Field, created in 2012. An enhanced and 20% further zoomed update (using 10 years of previous images) of the Ultra-deep field photo, it shows over 15,000 galaxies across an area of the sky barely 10% the area of a full moon.


I’m not going to make this become a listical or infographic, I think that’s enough to get my point across. To be honest, The last few months I’ve come across such perspectives magnitudes more ridiculous than any of these may come across as. You can find them all the time if you spend some time listening, watching various documentaries/articles/podcasts. 

We sit here so sure of ourselves all the time. Those slightly more bored than others realise that we are tiny and insignificant when watching Carl Sagan’s ‘Pale Blue Dot’ scene, but really, we have no clue. We sit here acknowledging our hopelessness but somehow, even that just fails to grasp the comparative ineptitude of our minds. It’s not just about size we can’t comprehend, it’s age, variation, numbers, diversity, cause and effect, practically every corner of our life is inconceivable, and we just do our best to live in the little cracks in the walls, away from the light, concerned it will fry us to a crisp of utter confusion.




The entire history and future of The Universe in 999 personified words.


Peacefully, the three-dimensional universe coalesced into a series of two-dimensional plates. Within those plates, little balls began to form from the debris. Over a little time, oceans and atmospheres formed and life flourished on several particular globes.

Intelligent life came somewhere towards the end of life’s overall run and inevitably ruined it for everyone aside from the resilient few. Ravens – a rather nifty bird, of all things – did pretty well for themselves on Earth, taking advantage of pretty much everything humans threw at them.

Several species of bacterium and smaller creatures had no trouble with adapting to various chemical poisons and radiation, and intelligent life inevitably rose again and again, each time being annihilated by themselves as if it was some sort of tradition.

In the end, however, life just kind of gave up throughout the Universe and left it to the elements to roam free, no longer manipulated by curious minds.

By this point though, the Universe is pretty cold. Mr. Entropy has been messing the place up and causing atomic chaos and now there is so little order that energy has just sort of spread out like a regular tub of butter over 46.6 billion slices of toast.

Since temperature comes from the interaction of atoms, there is no longer any temperature because everyone has isolated themselves in their own little patch of the Universe. There were once good days where atoms would jiggle around together emitting heat, since kinetic energy – movement – is the one true form of energy – but I guess after a while you kind of get bored of each other and drift apart. Eventually you’ll stop expecting Christmas cards altogether. I’m pretty sure that’s what Entropy means.

They are consequently collectively destined to decay into nothingness all by themselves. Galaxies were, are and will continue to be things of the past, and at the end of time – a little before 3 o’clock if I calculated it right – temperatures will reach absolute zero (-273.15°C) and penguins will have to find themselves a new, slightly warmer universe in which to reside.

Atoms are a lot like penguins; without coming together and sharing body heat, the penguins tend to get cold and inevitably die alone. A lonely atom cannot share its kinetic energy with its ‘friends’ once it is isolated, and probably wouldn’t even if it could. I’m pretty sure that’s what the Law of Conservation of Energy means.

Of course, there is a solution to all this. If the atoms could just solve their issues with each other, we might see them starting to group up again and get a few barbeques started. This obviously generates heat and we’ll immediately be getting back on track.

With enough friendly atoms, the combined mass would create gravity. Not much is needed, and since it’s a natural result of their turning up to the party, nobody will really mind. Eventually, the party will be so popular and attractive – so to speak – to others that they will have fellow atoms queuing round the corner. Some particles, like electrons, may even turn up to multiple parties simultaneously.

Perhaps rival parties will form elsewhere and other gravitational sources will attract other extroverts, and perhaps some smaller, introvert-friendly invitations might prop up here and there. Something for everyone.

Without even realizing it, there will be numerous groups forming into various elements again like the good old days as a result of interacting with each other and trading various particles here and there. Helium being the most extraverted of elements was always the most popular, and pretty self-absorbed. So they ended up at pretty much every party along with Hydrogen and to a lesser extent, Lithium and Beryllium. These guys are pretty lightweight and light hearted though, so it took some of the bigger parties to create enough pressure to get the more stubborn, introverted elements like Magnesium and Carbon to come out. They did this by means of a strange ritual of colliding into each other at speeds incomprehensible to intelligent life forms since past. Mg and C tended to hang out with the other 80 or so losers in the bedrooms of these parties, aka, the core of stars and other similarly troublesome places. But given enough time, enough interactions will give them the energy needed to see what all the noise was about outside.

Eventually parties come to an end, often due to the particle police coming about the noise. Given that a typical star party might reach constant volumes of about 290db, this is understandable. So with the police ruining it all, the star will explode. It was getting on a bit anyway. The atoms will have to dash before they get caught and so they will once again get sprawled all over the place.

But wait; now all the introverts are out and about. What will become of them? Well, essentially the same as everyone else. The gravity will be spread out, but not nearly as much as the aforementioned butter scenario, and so it will drag everyone back to what I suppose will be the after party.

Clouds and clouds of atoms will whirl themselves together in renewed two-dimensional plates in a three-dimensional universe – solar systems – and once again clump together in significantly smaller parties, as if to keep from troubling the neighbors – how considerate.

Before we know it, more Earth-like planets will form. Jupiter-like planets were and will be always more common, since Helium and Hydrogen really are the true party goers. But hey, Iron and Carbon don’t mind the occasional chill out session and that is what places like earth will consist of.

In time, carbon will clump together and form life of its own. Carbon has always been the most creative atom in the universe so quite a lot of diversity will come from it, just like last time. But hey, who knows, maybe it will avoid the whole ‘intelligence’ thing and stick with what works; bacteria and, at most, the occasional raven.Image