30 New ‘Today I Learned’ Facts That Prove It’s Never Too Late To Learn Something New
We have long heard about the power of learning new things. It keeps us motivated, confident, and curious about the world around us. No wonder science has shown time and again that learning plays an important role in improving the brain's ability to cope with damage.
It can also prevent memory loss, and possibly even prevent us from developing dementia. Researchers at the University of Michigan found that the dementia rate in Americans decreased by a staggering 24% from 2000 to 2012. Scientists believe that more years of education are directly linked with this decline.
And although not everyone has time (or need, for that matter) to take on learning things like chess or language, or memorizing verses from Homer’s Iliad (although this is what high school students do in European countries!), we can keep our mind open for bits of information that get those brain cells tingling! And there’s nothing that does it better than our beloved TIL posts, thanks to Reddit's powerhouse community known as the ‘Today I Learned’ subreddit where 26.6 million members share facts and factoids to fill your idle or bored mind.
TIL about Tim Wong who successfully and singlehandedly repopulated the rare California Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly in San Francisco. In the past few years, he’s cultivated more than 200 pipevine plants (their only food source) and gives thousands of caterpillars to his local Botanical Garden.
New Year is just around the corner and that means it's time for New Year's resolutions. Apart from the classic ones, like ditching sugar or (insert your own), we can also think of ways to give some food for the soul and learn something we never knew we could. So we reached out to Helen Marlo, a licensed clinical psychologist and Jungian psychoanalyst who is also a Professor of Clinical Psychology at Notre Dame de Namur University, to talk about power learning and how we can benefit from it if we make it our goal.
TIL when the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) denied permission to Marian Anderson for a concert at Constitution Hall under a "white performers-only", First Eleanor Roosevelt resigned from the DAR and arranged for Anderson to perform before an integrated crowd of more than 75,000 people.
TIL about environmental activist Julia “Butterfly” Hill who lived in a 1500 year old California redwood tree (known as Luna) 180 feet (55 mm) off the ground for 738 days in order to prevent it from being chopped down by Pacific Lumber Company. She successfully saved the tree.
“Having a goal of learning can be wise since learning is a process that one can fulfill in small steps or in various forms,” Helen said and added that “Learning something new can be associated with having a “growth mindset,” a mindset that is focused on the process of learning rather than the outcome.”
It turns out that staying focused on the process of learning has profound outcomes on a personality. “Staying focused on the process of learning allows one to focus on being committed to bringing less concrete but more influential qualities like openness, receptivity, curiosity, effort, and determination which are more often associated with success and mastery.”
TIL that Javier Bardem's performance as Anton Chigurh in 'No Country for Old Men' was named the 'Most Realistic Depiction of a Psychopath' by an independent group of psychologists in the 'Journal of Forensic Sciences'.
TIL: When the Titanic rammed an iceberg, William Murdoch, the officer in charge, was portrayed in the film as shooting a passenger and then committing s**cide. In reality, he was last seen trying to fill as many lifeboats as possible and heroically went down with the ship.
TIL GM recalled 800k cars in 2014 for faulty ignitions. The cars would shut off while being driven which meant drivers lost power steering/brakes, and the airbags wouldn't deploy. They knew about the problem since 2005 but never fixed it because it would be 'too expensive'. 124 people died.
According to Helen, a goal that commits to learning is something completely different from a goal that's concrete, although people more often stick to them. “Having a goal that commits to learning supports one's efforts to stretch themselves and be outside their comfort zone. This is in contrast to other kinds of concrete goals, for example, like losing 20 pounds or giving up caffeine, which does not give one the opportunity to be committed to a growth-oriented process,” the professor explained. And this growth mindset has a much more profound effect on our lives and personalities.
TIL that people with dementia think that stuff like a black doormat isn’t a doormat, but a deep hole in the floor. Due to these visual perception problems, people with dementia avoid stepping the doormat, and this is sometimes used to keep them from leaving their care facilites.
TIL that “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” was written by composer Frank Loesser in 1944 for he and his wife to sing at the end of their housewarming party as a way to tell guests it was time to leave. Afterwards, they were invited to tons of parties with the expectation of the song being the closing act.
TIL: A camel after standing in 109 F (43 C) heat all day decapitated his absent-minded owner after he remembered to untie him.
And this doesn’t end just there. The clinical psychologist explained that “having a goal of learning also helps us to align with a central, lesser known drive in humans to be curious and learn, otherwise known as “the epistemophillic instinct.” It is posited that this drive to be curious and learn is central in humans. It is associated with playing which is also central for learning and growth as humans.”
Meanwhile, failing to nurture this drive may have serious implications. “When we fail to manifest or exercise this drive, which can happen when we become too focused on external achievements and outcomes rather than the process of being curious and learning, we rob our brains and psyche of being in touch with this life-giving, epistemophillic instinct,” Helen said.
TIL When Neil Armstrong first stepped on the moon, inside his pocket was a small piece of fabric from the 1903 Wright Flyer
TIL of the Deep Lake Water Cooling System (DLWC), a natural cooling system that extracts cold water from deep within Lake Ontario, and then transfers it through a system of pipes and exchanges to cool downtown Toronto. Compared to a traditional air conditioning system, it uses up 75% less energy
TIL in 1997 a Danish woman visiting New York City was arrested and strip-searched for leaving her baby in a stroller outside a restaurant while she and the baby's father dined inside, a common practice in Denmark. She later sued the city and was awarded $66,000.
So since we figured out the power of having a goal that commits to the growth mindset, the question remains how exactly we can stimulate the brain. Helen shared a couple of very useful insights. “One of the best ways to stimulate your brain and mind is to start with an honest appraisal of your strengths and weaknesses. Commit to learning something new in an area that aligns with your strengths. This helps set yourself up for success rather than failure.”
For anyone who’s wondering how important it is to step out of their comfort zone when learning something new, the professor assured us that it is indeed helpful if it is a little outside your comfort zone. However, it shouldn’t be too unattainable.
“When you think of starting on this path, consider if you can bring a spirit of play to the learning? Consider if it evokes more curiosity or wonder in you? Committing to learning something that evokes qualities of wonder and play makes the experience more affirming and encourages one to stay with the process,” the professor explained.
TIL Isaac Asimov wrote or edited more than 500 books, 380 short stories and an estimated 90,000 letters and postcards. He was a professor of biochemistry at Boston University. He had a triple bypass in 1983 during which got HIV from a blood transfusion which was kept secret 'til 10 years after death
TIL Jurassic Park was meant to use stop motion instead of CGI, but two artists worked on a CGI T-Rex in secret, and once they finished it, they quietly put a video of it on screen when Kathleen Kennedy visited their office. the video convinced Kennedy, Spielberg, and the rest of the team to use CGI.
TIL The prototype of the Rolls Royce Ghost was so quiet inside that it made test drivers sick. The engineers had to remove some of the noise isolating material, and create seats that vibrated at specific frequencies to introduce some noise into the interior.
Another way to stimulate your brain is, according to Helen, to commit to exercising that epistemophilic instinct daily. “Having a commitment to learning something new—whether you can manage this daily or once a week—primes your brain and mind to be committed to discovery and learning. “ Turns out, that fidelity to this commitment is absolutely vital to learning since it encourages further learning and keeps us growing.
To conclude, Helen shared this beautiful quote about learning for us all to reflect on:“'The best thing for being sad,' replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, 'is to learn something. That's the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn.'” (T.H. White, The Once and Future King)
TIL the nurse,Caroline Hampton, helped popularize surgical gloves. She almost quit her job as a surgical nurse at John Hopkins due to severe hand eczema caused by surgical disinfectant until her boss bought her custom rubber gloves. Other staff members copied this and found they made work easier.
TIL if a camel rejects her new-born or there's a need to adopt an orphaned calf, Mongol herders use a chanting ritual accompanied by fiddle or flute to coax her into accepting the calf. The camel mother may act aggressive initially, so the herders will change the melody depending on her behavior
TIL of Daniel Kish. Blind since the age of 13 months old, he taught himself to navigate by clicking his tongue and listening for echoes, similar to echolocation in bats. Kish and other researchers believe that echolocation produces images similar to sight.
TIL that nature has evolved different species into crabs at least five separate times - a phenomenon known as Carcinisation
TIL Ian Fleming originally wanted Bond to be an extremely dull, uninteresting man to whom things happened. He chose James Bond because it was the dullest name he had ever heard.
TIL that in 2002, two airplanes collided in mid-air killing everyone aboard. Two years later, the air traffic controller was murdered as revenge.
TIL in 1986 a Russian commercial pilot made a bet with the first officer that he could land blind with curtains over the cockpit windows. He lost the bet, crashing and killing 70 people
TIL Andromeda galaxy has already started merging with our Milky Way
TIL a cancer treatment known as Dynamic Phototherapy has the side effect of giving humans a slight level of night vision. Under this treatment, the retina becomes able to process light at wavelengths higher than the visible light domain.
TIL Boris Mikhailov, captain of the USSR hockey team, was offered a $1 million contract to leave Russia in 1980 after the Miracle on Ice. However, he declined as the KGB was standing next to him when the offer was made.
TIL A woman put over a million miles on her Hyundai Elantra and was given a special badge and a brand new car
TIL a park ranger sat down in his office on Rinca Island and was attacked by a Komodo dragon hiding under his desk. The cleaner had the left the door open the night before. The smell of blood attracted more dragons outside. The ranger was taken to the hospital and survived but he has nightmares.
TIL that the name George has the same root word as Geography and Geology, and means "Earth worker" or farmer.
TIL studies show the reason why we "click" with certain people is due to people's brain waves being sync in wavelengths called the alpha–mu band, or what scientists call brain-to-brain coupling, and mirror each other neurologically in terms of what they are focusing on.
TIL that the violin that was played as the Titanic sunk was rediscovered in an attic and auctioned off for $1.6 million in 2013.
Note: this post originally had 86 images. It’s been shortened to the top 30 images based on user votes.