23 July 2008

Stuff I learned recently

  • Twelve thousand years ago, a gigantic dam of solid ice blocked the Clark Fork River, creating Glacial Lake Missoula.

    The lake was almost 2,000 feet deep.

    And periodically the dam would explode, laying waste to parts of what's now Montana, Idaho, Washington, and Oregon.

    Thundering waves and chunks of ice tore away soils and mountainsides, deposited giant ripple marks, created the scablands of eastern Washington and carved the Columbia River Gorge.

  • Mendellsohn's Wedding March has about 50 times more notes in it than I had realized.

  • “Between 1958 and 1992, Russia dumped 18 nuclear reactors into the Arctic Ocean, several of them still fully loaded with nuclear fuel,” writes Scott G. Borgerson. The article also points out that last summer, “[f]or the first time, the Northwest Passage—a fabled sea route to Asia that European explorers sought in vain for centuries—opened for shipping.”

  • Calque is a loanword and loanword is a calque. (Source.)

  • Recent Linux and Windows operating systems implement address space layout randomization. The goal is to prevent certain security attacks that depend on specific code being in predictable memory addresses.

  • According to a 2005 research paper by Richard Haier et al, women's brains have about 10 times the amount of white matter related to general intelligence (that is, in areas whose size correlates with IQ) as men's. Contrariwise men have have about 6.5 times the amount of IQ-correlated gray matter. I find that pretty startling.

    Here are some of Haier's own words on brains and genes.

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