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I Wanna Know

What food labels are actually telling you

All images by the author. This one based on a photo by Franki Chamaki on Unsplash.

Whenever I am in the fat and grease aisle of my local supermarket trying to decide which brand of ultra-processed industrial fat flakes would kill me off the quickest, I’m always confused by the labels. Which one again will clog my arteries as effectively as injecting bacon grease into my forearm? It wasn’t the unsaturated one, was it? And what are all these different types of fat anyway?

I would have thought there are just two types of fat: the jiggly one that grows under my skin and the oily one that grows on it. But no, it’s not that…

An introduction to combustion for simpletons like me

Image by the author.

Hey, you! Do you know what fire is? Do you know how it works? I don’t mean how to turn on the stove or light a match. I mean, do you know what exactly is happening when you apply heat to a fuel and it suddenly bursts into flames? Why heat creates fire in the first place? Why flames are blue at their base and red and orangey at the top? Why fire emits light? Why fire needs oxygen?

No? Well, don’t you feel a little embarrassed?

There you are, proudly calling yourself a Homo sapiens — a knowledgeable ape…

Or what is mud-puddling?

Image by the author. Based on a photo by Milada Vigerova on Unsplash.

Butterflies don’t want you to be happy. They want you to suffer. They want you to feel wretched. They want you to cry. Or at least the butterflies in the Amazon jungle have these wicked wishes.

You see, sodium is a rare mineral in the Amazon rainforest, considering it’s located thousands of miles away from the ocean and all. So, Amazonian butterflies have a hard time finding that precious salty mineral in the leaves they devour as caterpillars and in the nectar they slurp up from flowers as adults. And that’s a problem. …

Here’s what you need to know about moonshine

Image by the author.

Moonshine! A high-proof homemade liquor that makes you wonder whether you just gulped down the contents of a lighted kerosene lamp. Can you really go blind from drinking it? Or is that just a myth to scare you into buying properly taxed alcohol?

Well, as it turns out, bad moonshine can indeed make you as blind as a pirate with two eyepatches. But then again, you can also go blind from sticking a fork into your eyeballs. The trick is not to be a dumbass.

When you’re thinking of alcohol, you’re most likely thinking of ethanol (a.k.a. ethyl alcohol). That’s…

This is the evolutionary explanation

Image by the author. Based on a photo by Rohit Tandon on Unsplash.

We do really weird things that don’t seem to make any sense. Teenage boys get erections while staring at slabs of glass hooked up to wires, toddlers remain motionless for hours in front of light-emitting plastic boxes, girls obsess about the relationships of people they’ll never ever meet, and you seek out news every day about events that have no possibility of impacting your life in any way whatsoever.

The world you live in has been engineered to captivate you as effectively as a lightbulb captivates a moth. As a result, you engage in behaviors that are as ludicrous as…

This is how it keeps you awake

All images by the author.

Ah, caffeine. It’s the one drug you can freely admit being addicted to without any social repercussions. Just imagine if it was anything else. “Ugh, I’m all grumpy in the morning until I’ve had my shot of heroin.” “I can’t get through a workday without my whiskey.” “No worries, boss. I’ll do it after my meth break.” “Hey mom! Come on in! I was just about to prepare myself a fresh line of coke. Do you want some?”

But have you ever wondered how caffeine actually works? …

A closer look at sensory-specific satiety

All images by the author.

The smell of wood-fired dough, cheese, and oregano hits your nostrils. Water pools in your mouth. You reach for a slice. You feel its warmth. You bite into it. Your teeth sink into it. The cheese… the crust… the thin layer of tomato sauce… Mmmmmmmhhh… Flavors of mozzarella and various toppings collide with your taste buds.

You pull the slice away from your face. A gooey cheese string stretches thinner and thinner until it snaps. One end hangs down your lip. You draw it into your mouth. It tickles your chin as it’s pulled upwards. You chew. Delicious!

You go…

A short lesson on Earth's movement through space

Image by the author. Inspired by the time machine in Day of the Tentacle.

A time machine! How awesome would that be, right?

You could finally meet all your deadlines, give your kindergarten bully a wedgie, and make out with your younger self. But don’t get too excited just yet. Time machines have one serious problem — they’d kill you. Instantly.

Here, let me explain why.

Our planet is moving faster than you think

A closer look at the less-is-better effect

All images by the author

There’s a strange phenomenon among Olympic medal winners: athletes who’ve won a silver medal are generally not as happy as those who’ve won a bronze medal. If you didn’t know this, you’re probably scratching your head right now: “Wait, what? Earning third place makes people happier than earning second place?”

But that’s exactly what a study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology discovered. In fact, it’s not only Olympic athletes who are often happier with an objectively worse option. This phenomenon, known as the less-is-better effect, shows up in other contexts as well, such as in gift giving…

The story of Nicholas Alkemade

Image by the author (CC BY-SA 4.0)

It’s a Friday night when Nicholas Alkemade, a 21-year-old Englishman from Leicestershire, finds himself in the middle of the sky. Although the view and the fresh air are great, he isn’t too happy about the whole situation.

I Wanna Know

Knowledge tidbits for your brain

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