Why Didn’t People Smile In Photos In The Past?

November 5, 2012 in Daily Bulletin, Signature

Whenever you see early-era photographs the individuals in the picture generally aren’t smiling, such as in the case of President John Quincy Adams – the first American President to be photographed – above. Michael Zhang answered why this was:

  • It would take up to fifteen minutes for the photograph to be taken. In that time if the subject moved around then the picture of them would be blurry. Since it’s difficult to keep a smile in place for 15 minutes, photographers advised people to keep a straight face.
  • When people first started having their photographs taken modern dental practices hadn’t become widespread. Instead of getting root canals and caps people would just get their teeth pulled. Rather than spoil the picture with missing teeth, people preferred to keep their mouth closed.
  • Getting a photo taken used to be fairly expensive, and thus it was a rare, formal occasion where people felt it would be inappropriate to smile.

Read more about when cameras first became widespread, and the time when people used to say “prunes” instead of “cheese” over here.

Source: Peta Pixel

There Was No Red America And No Blue America…Until 2000

November 4, 2012 in Daily Bulletin, Signature

When the results of the Presidential Election are announced sometime Tuesday evening, news channels across the world will show a map of the United States and the different states coloured blue or red, depending on if they went to the Democrat or the Republican. Yet these colour associations are a fairly recent practice writes Jodi Enda:

  • For most of American history, each television channel would determine for itself which colour to use to represent individual parties.
  • The Republican and Democratic parties themselves would use blue to represent themselves and red to represent the other. This is because red was associated with communism and The Soviet Union during The Cold war.
  • In the year 2000 red was used to represent Republicans because both began with the letter ‘r’.
  • However it took so long for the Supreme Court to make their ruling on Bush v Gore that by the time the decision was made Americans were used to associating the two colours with the two parties.

Read more about how this is opposite to the system in England and why some are upset with the colours that each party has gotten, as well as the strange case of the vanished orange party, over here.

Source: The Smithsonian

(Why Have You) Got Milk?

October 31, 2012 in Daily Bulletin, Signature

Every day we drink the breast milk of other animals – mostly cows. Why though? Benjamin Phelan looked at our relationship with milk:

  • In general mammals become lactose intolerant – allergic to milk – once they leave infancy.
  • Up until 10,000 B.C. this was true for humans as well. Then somebody, likely a male in turkey, had a mutation that allowed them to continue to process milk throughout their lives.
  • Within a few thousand years this mutation either spread, or independently started, in civilization across the planet.
  • The strangest thing about this is that even before the mutation we could have consumed milk…as long as we waited for it to ferment into yogurt, something that only takes a few hours. Yet the mutation made ‘fresh’ milk immediately digestible.
  • For the mutation to have spread as quickly as it did, it must have conferred extraordinary evolutionary benefits. In particular, it seems that anytime people were concentrated in cities, the mutation began to spring up.
  • One explanation is that milk was a guaranteed source of fresh water. Water from a stream might look clean but could still contain disease. If milk came from a healthy animal, it was also probably safe to drink

Read other potential explanations for why we might now be milk drinkers, and more about our history with the drink over here.

Source: Slate

The Highest Income Among The Dead

October 26, 2012 in Daily Bulletin, Signature

Which deceased person makes the most money? Dorothy Pomerantz wrote:

  • Michael Jackson has been dead for two years, but he still managed to bring in $145 million last year.
  • His twitter account has probably helped. Presumably it is Michael Jackson’s ghost who is responsible for tweeting to almost 900,000 followers.
  • However the King of Pop is not the top earner among the deceased. The actress Elizabeth Taylor earned $210 million last year. This is primarily due to an auction of her jewelry.
  • Einstein managed to make $10 million last year. In 2015 it will be the 100th anniversary of his famous theory of relativity and his income will likely shoot up then.
  • Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, and Dr. Seuss all feature on the list.

Read more about the list over here, and find the list over here.

Source: Forbes

How Much You Value Your Time In A Fast Food Line

October 25, 2012 in Daily Bulletin, Signature

Three experts decided to figure out how much we value our time while we’re waiting in line for fast food:

  • According to their data, for every extra second that we have to wait in a drive-thru line, fast food companies have to reduce their prices by four cents to keep us coming back.
  • This means that while we’re waiting to order our food, we value our time at a rate of $144 an hour.
  • Surprisingly we only value our time at one third that rate while we’re driving to the fast food place. It’s the act of waiting in line that drives up our prices.

Read more about the methodology of the study, and the models used to come to its conclusions over here.

Source: Kellogg Insight

Hollywood Accounting

October 20, 2012 in Daily Bulletin, Signature

Mike Masnick outlined the special kind of accounting that Hollywood studios engage in to…make their films seem like massive failures. Highlights include:

  • Every time a studio produces a new movie, it sets up a dummy corporation for that movie.
  • That dummy corporation is then given money by the studio to pay for the movie’s expenses – such as paying the actors and marketing.
  • Then the movie studio tacks on a bunch of hyped up expenses to the dummy corporation. They may, for example, have the dummy corporation pay the studio millions to distribute the film. They not only charge much more than what it actually costs, what this means is that the studio is paying itself money.
  • Through this they are able to show on the books a net loss for each movie. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, for example, made close to a billion dollars, only cost a few million to make, yet the studio recorded a $167 million loss for the movie.
  • There are several advantages to doing this for the studio. One of them is that anybody who’s promised a percentage of the movie’s profits gets nothing.

Read more about how it works, and an interview with a director who went unpaid because of that trick over here.

Source: TechDirt

Italian Corruption

October 19, 2012 in Daily Bulletin, Signature

In a short, sharp, and effective article, Max Fisher explored the state of corruption in Italy:

  • Italy’s government loses €60 billion every year due to corruption.
  • If Italy’s corruption were a separate country, it would be the 76th largest economy in the world.
  • Italy also loses $340 billion due to a culture of tax evasion every year. This is equivalent to all of Austria’s GDP.

Read the rest of the numbers here.

Source: Washington Post

Via: Marginal Revolution

The Rise Of Butlers

October 16, 2012 in Daily Bulletin, Signature

Despite some unwanted coverage, Butlers have become increasingly popular writes The Economist:

  • These days butlers must fulfill several roles. They should be able to plan events involving the world’s biggest celebrities, manage overseas investments, and take care of their boss’ whims and fancies.
  • For this the top butlers can expect to earn $240,000 plus a bonus and all expenses paid.
  • One agency’s butler training services are booked through 2013.
  • The main employers are Chinese, Russian and Middle Eastern. The British system of class greatly appeals to them.
  • Media portrayals of Butlers as discreet and resourceful have increased their popularity.
  • Classes are also available for employers to learn how not to embarrass themselves around their butlers. For around $13,000 the rich can learn the difference between desert and pudding, as well as how port should be passed.

Read more about their recent popularity and why Latin America might be the next big market over here.

Source: The Economist

Does Europe Need Bigger Cities?

October 15, 2012 in Daily Bulletin, Signature

America and Europe have roughly similar population levels. Yet Europe’s per person GDP is just 72% of America’s. The Economist argued that the size of Europe’s cities might be to blame:

  • America’s largest cities house 164 million people. In Europe it is just 102 million.
  • Cities are important for economic growth because there is knowledge spillover within them. When one person or company finds a new, more efficient way to do something, others soon copy it.
  • They are also important because today’s innovations requires experts from various different fields to come together, and this is easier to do in a city.
  • Europe’s cities may have remained small because of regulations. Zoning laws might help explain it. Linguistic barriers across Europe might also be a contributing factor.

Read more about what happens when a prominent researcher moves to a different city, how American cities compare to European ones, and what this means for Europe over here.

Source: The Economist

Killer Dolphins

October 13, 2012 in Daily Bulletin, Signature

In Red Alert 2, a computer game, players were allowed to train killer dolphins to attack their enemy’s units. As it turns out this wasn’t too far removed from reality. Robert Beckhusen took a look at all the different ways that navies have (allegedly) used dolphins for combat purposes:

  • Ukraine is said to be experimenting with knives and guns attached to the heads of dolphins.
  • The country is also teaching the dolphins to search for mines and to mark them with buoys.
  • The US has experimented with trained dolphins that would prevent enemy combatants from landing on the shore.
  • The Russians, being aware of all the ways that their enemies have trained dolphins, have taught their commandos to fight dolphins in hand-to-hand (hand-to-fin?) combat.
  • It’s not just dolphins that get to have all the fun. America uses Sea Lions that attach clamps to potential threats which can then be reeled in like fish.
  • Countries have to be careful though. Dolphins aren’t the best at differentiating between enemy and friendly. Or to put it in the US navy’s words: “it would not be wise to give that kind of decision authority to an animal”

Read more about dolphins that can inject CO2 and times when they have actually been used over here.

Source: Wired