Interesting Finds: Issue #21

Capitol Hill Violence, 12 Monkeys, Best Videos of 2020 and the Wonders of the Human Placenta

Each week, I curate and spotlight the most curious content I find. This week highlights the Capitol Hill Violence, 12 Monkeys, Best Videos of 2020 and the wonders of the human placenta.

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Capitol Hill Violence in Photos

The violence that erupted at the capitol in Washington DC is shocking, maddening and mind boggling. Like all of you, I would have never expected to see something like this in my lifetime. Stunning photos have been published from various news outlets such as the New York Times and CNN. Here are 4 photos that spoke volumes to me:

A Trump supporter carries a Confederate battle flag in the Capitol Rotunda. During the Civil War, the closest any insurgent carrying a Confederate flag ever came to the Capitol was about 6 miles, during the Battle of Fort Stevens in 1864. Credit: Saul Loeb.

Best of the Internet 2020

On the totally opposite end of the spectrum, here is a 13 minute video curating the best videos posted on YouTube in 2020.

Bruce Willis’ Mouth

12 Monkeys (1995) is a movie set in the future where a convict (Bruce Willis) is sent back in time to change events that would ultimately wipe out most of the human race. I loved this movie, and think it stands up to watching in 2020 if you haven’t seen it already.

Courtesy of Inverse, I learned that Terry Gilliam, the director, didn’t want to hire Bruce Willis originally because his mouth reminded him of a human rectum 😗.

I had never been a great fan of Bruce's before, but I liked talking to him, and I thought, OK, this guy's smart; he's funny. I explained to him my concerns about him as an actor. I hated the Trumpian mouth he does in films. Rectal. It's like I'm looking at somebody's asshole.

Since 1995, 12 Monkeys has grossed $168 million worldwide. From Interesting Finds Issue #10, recall this:

🎥 Actor Bruce Willis caused Disney to lose $17.5 million when they were forced to abandon a movie project after he fired the director and most of the crew. As part of a settlement they reached, he was committed to making 3 movies for them, with a portion of his salary to pay back the $17.5M. Those movies were: Armageddon, The Sixth Sense and The Kid which ended up grossing a combined $1.35 billion. Good deal.

Congrats Bruce, your potty mouth 💩 appeals at the Box Office!

Terminator 2 PIN Cracking Scene

In the beloved Terminator 2, there’s a great scene at the beginning where young John Connor hacks an ATM machine to get some “easy money” from a stolen debit card:

Bertrand Fan, an engineer at Slack, recently published his attempt at simulating this PIN cracking scene. He goes over recreating the program to display the same UI as seen in the film, including running it on a virtual version of the same hardware (a “monochrome LCD with 240x64 pixels”).

The next thing I wondered was, “How difficult would it be to write that program?” Not a program that actually cracks PIN numbers from debit cards, I don’t think you can actually do that with a serial cable and some aluminum foil wrapped around a debit card, but a program that can simulate the output of the palmtop in that scene.

Let’s gather some product requirements!

It’s a fun read, check it out!

Placenta

The Placenta is an amazing organ and unless you’ve purposely dug into it, wouldn’t know these amazing facts:

  1. Both the mother’s and baby’s blood flows through it, but it doesn’t mix because the mother’s immune system would create antibodies to try to get rid of what it perceived as a foreign invader.

  2. It’s the body’s only disposable/temporary organ and is only relevant to nourish the child during pregnancy then it’s not needed by the body anymore.

  3. Some people have a “Lotus Birth” which is leaving the placenta attached to the baby after birth, until it naturally separates 3-10 days. Here’s an incredible photo showing a baby post-Lotus Birth (warning: it may be considered NSFW).

Furthermore on the first fact, is this bit from Whyy:

“The placenta is essentially a fascinating organ because it allows for two human beings that are genetically very different. Because half of the fetus is maternal, but the other half is paternal, and yet the pregnancy can go on for nine months without the mom’s body destroying it,” Barroeta said.  “And that, from an immune standpoint, is fascinating, because if you were to receive a piece of someone else and insert that under your skin, that would not last there for three days, your body will actively reject it.”

Even more amazing, is the discovery that the protein that allows the placenta to fuse with the uterus’ wall is not from human DNA:

The syncytiotrophoblast is the outermost layer of the placenta, the part that is pressed against the uterus. It’s literally a layer of cells that have fused together, forming a wall.

“This is where the magic happens,” Coolahan said. “This wall of cells keeps mom and baby working in harmony and not killing each other. There’s no other structure like this anywhere else in the body.”

When evolutionary biologists like Chuong mapped the genomes of these cells, they found that the protein that allowed these cells to fuse into a wall, called syncytin, didn’t look like it came from human DNA. It looked more like HIV. According to Chuong, this protein actually came from an ancient retrovirus, the most famous of which is HIV.

The human body is amazing.