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The most expensive material in the world? It's not diamond, platinum or plutonium. Not even close. It's a material called endohedral fullerenes, which are molecules consisting of spherical cages of carbon atoms that house nitrogen atoms. This microscopic substance is the result of 12 years of work by a company spun out of Oxford University. Its intended use is for atomic clocks. Traditionally, atomic clocks are constructed with cesium atoms, but the Oxford team claims endohedral fullerenes keep time better. These molecules have another advantage. Cesium-based atomic clocks are about the size of a small room, but these clocks can fit on a microchip within mobile phones. Which means the technology could also greatly improve the accuracy of GPS--down from a few feet to one millimeter. Which brings us to why the material is currently worth much, much more than it's weight in gold: the current craze over the nascent self-driving car industry. An industry desperately in need of more accurate navigation systems. At a recent auction, 200 micrograms of pure endohedral fullerenes sold for $33,000. That comes out to about 150 million US dollars per gram! I wonder how long it will be before some celebrity billionaire tries to make jewelry out of this stuff.
Today's Lesson How to Crochet a Diamond Cowl with Moogly The most expensive material in the world? It's not diamond, platinum or plutonium. Not even close. It's a material called endohedral fullerenes, which are ...
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Hey, why do you look so mad? If you've ever been asked that question when you are perfectly happy, it might be a genetic condition. Dubbed “RBF" (you'll have to Google it so we can keep our family-friendly rating), the term describes a person whose "resting" facial expression looks upset. RBF became an internet meme last year, but now science has proven it’s a real thing. A new study from the American Psychological Association has identified a gene that can predispose us to smile. Gene 5-HTTLPR, commonly known as the serotonin transporter gene, is the same gene linked with depression. We get one copy of the serotonin transporter gene from each parent, and it can be either short or long. Two short copies of the gene means we smile or laugh often and easily. One long and one short leads to moderate expressions—nothing friends should tease us about. But two long genes leads to “RBF.” If you think you may suffer from RBF, there’s also some good news. While people with two short genes are more likely to smile, they are also more likely to have mood swings. So wear your RBF with pride, and enjoy your even-keeled personality!
Today's Lesson How to Draw a Beautiful Villain with Christopher Hart Hey, why do you look so mad? If you've ever been asked that question when you are perfectly happy, it might be a genetic condition. Dubbed “RBF...
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You might have heard of the internet meme “Netflix and chill.” Well, now there is "Netflix and wool." It's a pair of socks that detects when you are falling asleep and will automatically pause Netflix. You know, so you don't have that annoying experience of waking up and having no idea how much of the show you missed? The socks' sleep detection system uses actigraphy, which monitors your state of rest and activity using an accelerometer. If you stop moving for too long, the socks assume you’ve fallen asleep and pause Netflix. Conveniently the sock flashes a red warning light before it is about to pause, so you can shake your leg and resume watching. There's one catch. Netflix doesn't actually manufacture the socks--you have to make them yourself. But don't worry, Netflix has released step-by-step DIY instructions. All you need is a basic understanding of electronics, programming experience, an Arduino micro controller, infrared LEDs, a battery, some wires, and some socks. Oh, and you should be comfortable using a soldering iron. Or you could just turn off the TV before you fall asleep.
Free Daily Lesson Introduction to Sock Knitting with Nancy Wynn You might have heard of the internet meme “Netflix and chill.” Well, now there is "Netflix and wool." It's a pair of socks that detects when you are...
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The Mona Lisa is perhaps the most famous painting in the world. Most historians agree the subject is Lisa Gherardini, the wife of a wealthy silk merchant named Francesco del Giocondo. The painting was completed around 1506. Centuries later, Mona Lisa's enigmatic half-smile is still enrapturing. But recently, experts have become increasingly curious about what is behind the painting. As in, literally, there appears to be another painting behind the painting. French scientist Pascal Cotte has spent the past 10 years analyzing the Mona Lisa. He now believes it is hiding a different portrait! Using a technique called Layer Amplification Method (LAM), Cotte projected intense lights onto the painting, and then reconstructed each layer of paint by measuring the reflections. What he found was pretty remarkable. He claims beneath Mona Lisa is an earlier version of the portrait that shows a different woman looking off to the side. Without the famous smile. Cotte believes the person depicted in this hidden layer is the real Lisa Gherardini. He also found two in-between layers that depict a woman with a larger head, nose and hands than the final portrait. Perhaps Leonardo made the revisions at the request of Lisa's husband--or even the subject herself--to "improve" the image? Many art experts remain skeptical of Cotte's findings. Click below to watch his fairly-convincing physical evidence and decide for yourself which is the "real" Mona Lisa.
Free Daily Lesson Oil Painting Basics with Bill Inman Art The Mona Lisa is perhaps the most famous painting in the world. Most historians agree the subject is Lisa Gherardini, the wife of a wealthy silk merchant ...
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Some time last year, the world's one millionth electric car was put on the road. That may sound like a lot, but it represents less than .1% of the world's road-worthy cars. In order to make electric cars mainstream, they face several big hurdles. The biggest may be the “range anxiety” of drivers having to recharge when traveling long distances. It’s a chicken and egg problem. Consumers won’t go electric car until a better charging infrastructure is in place; but the business case for building that infrastructure is hard to make until more electric cars are on the road. But in the UK, they are considering a new "leap frog" approach. Instead of building recharging stations near the road, they are building recharging roads. You read that right--electric motorways which will actually charge electric cars while they drive! The government project involves generating electromagnetic fields under highways, and then fitting electric and hybrid cars to accept the electric charge over the air. The technology is known as Dynamic Wireless Power Transfer (DWPT), and the UK has already allocated $781 million for testing the concept over the next five years. Similar technology is currently being used on a 7.5 mile stretch of highway in Gumi, South Korea, to charge buses that drive by. Now that's an idea with energy!
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Today's Lesson How to Make a Simple Motor with Stoked About Science Some time last year, the world's one millionth electric car was put on the road. That may sound like a lot, but it represents less than .1% of t...
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One of my all-time favorite Curios revealed that leaving your bed unmade keeps you healthy by killing dust mites. Now comes new research on these creepy little critters. The truth may horrify you. A single bed can host 10 million dust mites at a time! What's more, they poop 20 times a day! Though only .25 millimeters long, dust mites and their poop can make up 10% of the weight of your pillow. As we learned previously, beds make great homes for dust mites because they are warm and moist. Our beds are also filled with human skin cells, which provide food for the dust mites. Humans shed about 9 pounds of skin cells per year, a lot of them while we are sleeping. The good news is, unless you are allergic to them, dust mites are pretty harmless. But if you do have allergies, they can cause a cough, dry eyes, and rhinitis--an inflammation of the nasal mucus membrane. Check out a video below showing what your mattress could look like under a microscope. Yuck!
Lesson of the Day How to Fold a Fitted Bed Sheet with How I Pinch A Penny One of my all-time favorite Curios revealed that leaving your bed unmade keeps you healthy by killing dust mites. Now comes new research o...
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Cow owners, pay attention. 1 in 3 people suffer from some form of insomnia, which means billions are spent on sleep drug development annually. Yet it turns out we may not need drugs, just sleepy cows. A South Korean research team has discovered that milk--as the old wives' tale claims--really does aid in sleep. But only if the cow is milked at night! Dubbed “night milk,” the researchers found it has significantly higher amounts of tryptophan and melatonin, both known to aid sleep and reduce anxiety. Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone which regulates our sleep cycle, and tryptophan can be converted into serotonin and into melatonin. The scientists gave mice either night milk, day milk, water or diazepam (a drug used to treat anxiety). The mice fed with night milk were drowsier, more sluggish, and more inclined to explore open spaces--a sign of reduced anxiety. The "night milk" mice also feel asleep twice as often when placed on a moving cylinder. The night milk performed similarly or better than diazepam, but without the side effects. So if you own a cow, set your alarm for midnight, and start charging a lot more for the milk!
Today's Lesson How to Steam Milk for Coffee with Coffee Plus Water Cow owners, pay attention. 1 in 3 people suffer from some form of insomnia, which means billions are spent on sleep drug development annually. Ye...
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Happy Martin Luther King Day! If you’re having a case of the Mondays--like maybe because you have to work while others have this day off--then you’re not alone. Feeling blue on Mondays is a common problem, with several scientific explanations. First, most people don’t get enough sleep during the workweek, and try to make it up on the weekends. But those few extra hours of sleep can leave your body clock totally out of whack by up to 45 minutes. Secondly, humans are instinctivelysocial animals. Spending two days away from your work “tribe” can result in feelings of anxiety and insecurity. As a result, people's self image is worst on Mondays. Women of all ages feel least attractive on Mondays. Most people start new diets or exercise programs on Mondays. But some research shows it could all be in our heads. When researchers have people record their emotions at regular intervals, Mondays are no more stressful than any other weekday. In fact, Fridays actually cause more stress than Mondays because people worry about the weekend. Yet, the perception persists that Mondays are worse, probably because we subconsciously compare them to the weekend. I don't really get it. Maybe it's all the kids' activities, but compared to the weekends, my Mondays seem downright calm.
Lesson of the Day How to Express Time in Chinese with Touch Chinese Happy Martin Luther King Day! If you’re having a case of the Mondays--like maybe because you have to work while others have this day off--then y...
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If you think online dating is awkward now, just wait. Future online matchmaking promises to be even more uncomfortable--complete with virtual reality and DNA testing. In the near future, in-home bandwidth will be sufficient to generate “full-sensory” virtual reality experiences. That means awkward first dates will be replaced with the ability to smell, touch, and talk to people before meeting in real life. Um, that still sounds pretty awkward. Plus, wearable technology could track your behavior and then match you to people with similar lifestyle patterns. A study conducted by eHarmony also suggests that advancements in genetics will cause people to consider DNA in their search for a life partner, even more than personality. Luckily, these are mostly predictions and not based on much. But even some of these predictions are true, then romance and dating is getting weirder all the time.
Lesson of the Day "Love Me Do" Riff on Harmonica with Ben 'Harmonica' Hewlett If you think online dating is awkward now, just wait. Future online matchmaking promises to be even more uncomfortable--complete with ...
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Time to print new chemistry textbooks! The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC), recently announced four new elements are joining the periodic table. They are the first new elements since 2011, collectively filling out the table’s 7th row. Three of the elements, 115, 117, and 118, were detected a decade ago by a team of Russian and American researchers. The fourth element, 113, was discovered in 2004 by the Riken Institute in Japan. But it took until last December for evidence of the discoveries to be independently verified. All four are “super-heavy” elements, meaning the atoms are created in the lab and quickly break down, or decay, into lighter atoms--existing for only a fraction of a second. Making them extremely hard to verify. The atoms of element 113 lasted for less than a thousandth of a second. After Riken scientists initially created 113, it took them seven years to do it again. Which brings us to the most important question: their names. Initial names have been assigned based on each element's number of protons. So, introducing ununtrium, ununpentium, ununseptium and ununoctium! Really? C'mon International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry, you're giving your organization a bad name. Er...
Lesson of the Day Periodic Table Trends with Professor Dave Explains Time to print new chemistry textbooks! The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC), recently announced four new elements are ...
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I often describe Curious as a "healthy diet for your brain." Might need to rephrase that. Now there's a real diet that's healthy for your brain. Researchers have hit on a diet that slows cognitive decline and reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s disease! Alzheimer’s affects almost 50 million people world wide, a number projected to triple by 2050. Neurologists have long known that exercise, healthy eating, and mental stimulation can help keep our brains healthier as we age. But studies of specific foods and their impact on human brain health have been lacking. Making this new study, funded by the National Institute of Aging, all the more exciting. Researchers followed almost 1000 older adults (average age of 81.4 years) for five years. Participants who adhered to a new "MIND" diet lowered their risk of Alzheimer's by over 50%! The MIND diet is a combination of the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), both already known to keep the heart and brain healthy. The diet consists of lots of green leafy vegetables, nuts, berries, beans, whole grains, fish, poultry, olive oil, and wine. And minimal butter, sweets, cheese, fried and fast food. Even those who only ate the MIND diet "most of the time" saw a 35% reduction in brain disease. While not a cure for Alzheimer's, these results are nonetheless very exciting for scientists because they are real human-subject data. Previous studies had shown fisetin, a compound found in strawberries, mangoes and cucumbers, protected mice brains from Alzheimer's and dementia. This is definitely exciting, especially the part of the MIND diet which requires drinking one glass of red wine per day!
Today's Lesson How to Make Mediterranean Kale with Jennifer Cornbleet I often describe Curious as a "healthy diet for your brain." Might need to rephrase that. Now there's a real diet that's healthy for your brai...
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Want to improve your health? Try being more generous. Research has long shown being charitable boosts happiness. Now research shows that it also improves your physical health. Researchers gave 100 adults $40. One "selfish" group was told to spend the money on themselves; the other "generous" group was told to spend it on somebody else. Participants' blood pressure was measured before, during, and after they spent the money. Those in the "generous" group who suffered from high blood pressure saw significant reductions during the study. The improvement was actually comparable to taking anti-hypertension medicine or starting to exercise more regularly! What's more, the benefit was amplified when the "generous" participants spent money on people closer to them. Meanwhile, those who spent the money on themselves saw no noticeable blood pressure improvements during the study. Neither did "generous" participants not suffering from high blood pressure. But, previous studies have found that being generous also improves chronic pain, stress, happiness and self esteem. So if you're worried about your health, get out your check book and give some money to somebody you care about. Let me know if you need my mailing address!
Today's Lesson How to Determine Blood Type at Home with Myles Power Want to improve your health? Try being more generous. Research has long shown being charitable boosts happiness. Now research shows that it also...
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Grow your skills with Curious.com. Learn from more than 20,000 lessons.
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Curious.com gives you the skills you need to do ANYTHING--from how to program, brush up on statistics or play a musical instrument. The Curious Lesson library offers more than 15,000 lessons taught by over 1,500 experts around the world, on topics such as:
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See why TIME named Curious one of the “50 Best in 2013, “uncommonly inviting,” “unique” and “a better way to learn.” Read all the coverage at curious.com/press