5 Intriguing Things: Tuesday, 1/28

Food waste, the saddest comments, mantis shrimp eyes debunked, the lost opera of Jenny Lind, and don't do what you love.

Editor's Note: We've talked about how we're building an island community in the stream of the Internet, right? OK, well, we are. Welcome. Try the coconuts, you can live on them.

And though I mostly get to hold the big conch shell, I'm going to be passing it around roughly once a week. The guest editors won't only be outsiders (arriving on canoes from distant shores) but y'all.

Last week, I picked a random subscriber and asked, "Would you like to send out 5 Intriguing Things?" That person turned out to be Glenn Poppe, and he said yes. These are his links. All thanks be to Glenn. 


1. America loses 40% of it's food from farm to fork to landfill.

"Getting food from the farm to our fork eats up 10 percent of the total U.S. energy budget, uses 50 percent of U.S. land, and swallows 80 percent of all freshwater consumed in the United States. Yet, 40 percent of food in the United States today goes uneaten. This not only means that Americans are throwing out the equivalent of $165 billion each year, but also that the uneaten food ends up rotting in landfills as the single largest component of U.S. municipal solid waste where it accounts for a large portion of U.S. methane emissions."
"Dig deep into comments — particularly on pop songs — and you’ll see that buried beneath the hate speech, the poorly formulated insults, and the Obama conspiracy theories are countless amazing nuggets of humanity. You’ll find stories of love and loss, perfectly crystallized moments of nostalgia and saudade(a Portuguese word meaning an ineffable longing for something lost in time). It’s a repository of memories, stories, and dreams, an accidental oral history of American life over the last 50 years written by the site’s millions of visitors every day."
This one from Change's "A Lover's Holiday" stuck with me: 
"The most extraordinary eyes in the animal kingdom belong to the mantis shrimps, or stomatopods—pugilistic relatives of crabs and prawns, which are known for delivering extremely fast and powerful punches. Their eyes sit on stalks and move independently of one another. Each eye has 'trinocular vision'—it can gauge depth and distance on its own by focusing on objects with three separate regions. They can see a special spiralling type of light called circularly polarised light that no other animal can. And they have a structure in their eyes that’s similar to technology found in CD and DVD players, only much more effective. And now, Hanne Thoen from the University of Queensland has found that mantis shrimps see colour in a very different way to all other animals...

'With 12 receptors, you'd think that they can detect colours much better than any other animal,' says Marshall. 'Actually they're much worse!'"

+ The super color vision theory of the mantis shrimp was nicely illustrated by Radiolab's choir and The Oatmeal.

"Before the advent of recorded sound, you heard something once and that was it.  You heard a song, maybe you could buy the sheet music, maybe you could pick out the tune on your banjo or the piano in your parlor and maybe you could conjure up some sort of approximation, but you heard something once and that was it.  There are no existing recordings of Jenny Lind...and it does seem that we're missing out."
+ Note: Audio! (Nate DiMeo's excellent The Memory Palace.)

"There’s little doubt that 'do what you love' (DWYL) is now the unofficial work mantra for our time. The problem is that it leads not to salvation, but to the devaluation of actual work, including the very work it pretends to elevate — and more importantly, the dehumanization of the vast majority of laborers.

Superficially, DWYL is an uplifting piece of advice, urging us to ponder what it is we most enjoy doing and then turn that activity into a wage-generating enterprise. But why should our pleasure be for profit? Who is the audience for this dictum? Who is not?"

Today's 1957 English Usage Tip:
amoral. Though originally a nonce word, amoral (pron. āmor'al) is now accepted and in US has largely replaced non-moral in the sense 'not connected with morality.' Immoral='wicked.'
Nonce word: "lexeme created for a single occasion to solve an immediate problem of communication." 
Department of Corrections: I did not summarize the TSA blog post quite right in my dispatch yesterday, confusingly adding in a number that didn't belong there into the mix. This version has been updated. Don't worry, though, a lot of people still bring guns to airports.
Team Nonce

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science website in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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