Interesting Finds: Issue #23

Simple Human Brains, Powerful Human Bodies, Bernie's Crewneck and The Yakuza

Each week, I curate and spotlight the most curious content I find. This week highlights the simplicity of the human brain, the strength of the human body, Bernie’s Crewneck and the downfall of the Yakuza.

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Our Simple Brains

This optical illusions shared on Twitter back in November is a total mind f*ck. The original Tweet by @jagarikin was in Japanese, but here it is translated:

You can see it moving in the direction of the arrow, right? The human brain is so simple that it can be confused by arrows.

Other than rotating, the circles themselves are not moving or changing in size. As the tweet mentions, the mere presence of the arrows tricks our brains into thinking there is movement because that’s what we expect.

Bernie

Our pal Bernie has turned his incredible inauguration meme into a sweatshirt with with 100% of the proceeds going to Meals on Wheels Vermont. Don’t get your hopes up in getting one quickly however, as the site warns:

Due to overwhelming demand for this item, it will be 4-8 weeks until you receive your sweatshirt.

Check it out.

The Downfall of the Yakuza

Fascinating coverage by Vice on the Yakuza, the notorious Japanese crime organization, and how it has changed over the years.

The once-feared Japanese mob is on the verge of extinction. Targeted by new laws, rapidly ageing, and unable to find fresh blood, the yakuza has dropped from a height of 180,000 members to less than 30,000. But for some, a life of crime isn't something you can just leave behind.

The Missing Bullet Holes

During WWII, surviving Allied fighter planes would return from battle riddled with bullet holes. Based on the bullet hole patterns, they aimed to strengthen the plans most commonly damaged to increase survivability. The problem with this however, was that adding more armor to planes making them heavier and more likely to be shot down. From Penguin Pess:

You don’t want your planes to get shot down by enemy fighters, so you armor them. But armor makes the plane heavier, and heavier planes are less maneuverable and use more fuel. Armoring the planes too much is a problem; armoring the planes too little is a problem.

This is when Abraham Wald, a Hungarian mathematician, was instrumental in changing the course of history.

Wald was the first person to suggest that the reason certain areas of the planes weren’t penetrated by bullets because planes that were shot in those areas were damaged so badly that they did not return at all. This amazing insight led the Allies to fortifying the parts of the planes where there were no bullet holes which was completely counter to their original approach.

Wald’s insight was simply to ask: where are the missing holes? The ones that would have been all over the engine casing, if the damage had been spread equally all over the plane? Wald was pretty sure he knew. The missing bullet holes were on the missing planes. The reason planes were coming back with fewer hits to the engine is that planes that got hit in the engine weren’t coming back. Whereas the large number of planes returning to base with a thoroughly Swiss-cheesed fuselage is pretty strong evidence that hits to the fuselage can (and therefore should) be tolerated. If you go to the recovery room at the hospital, you’ll see a lot more people with bullet holes in their legs than people with bullet holes in their chests. But that’s not because people don’t get shot in the chest; it’s because the people who get shot in the chest don’t recover.

This is a great story about looking at data in news ways can give amazing insight, and more specifically, how missing data can be even more important than the data on hand.

Read the full article by Penguin Press. Fascinating read.

1932 vs 2012

Side-by-side comparison of the Men’s Gymnastics Gold medal-winning vaults in 1932 vs 2012. Wow.

Horizons

Phil Koch is an incredible photographer out of Wisconsin. Here is one of his pieces that I found particularly stunning. “Horizons” is taken from the shores of Lake Michigan.

A post shared by Phil Koch (@kochphil)

Check out more of his work on Instagram.