Fun with Wikipedia

In light of the radioactive banana post, what are some other weird facts that can be found on Wikipedia?

Egypt in Wisconsin

25,000 protesters are in the streets in Madison and 40% of Wisconsin teachers have called in sick, forcing cancellation of schools, as  new Republican governor Scott Walker is getting pushback for his proposal to limit collective bargaining by unions for public employees and to cut back on the cost of their benefits.

Walker’s plan would allow collective bargaining for wages only and force state workers to pay 5.8% of their salaries for pensions, up from 0.2%, and 12.6% for health insurance, up from  4% – 6% percent.

And now, to prevent a vote on the measure, the Democrats in the state legislature have boarded a bus and left the state, preventing a quorum so that the bill cannot be voted on!

Meanwhile Ohio is also threatening to cut back expensive benefits for state employees, and other states facing huge budget problems are wanting to do the same.

See State Democrats absent for vote as Wisconsin budget protests swell – CNN.com.

I’m very curious about what your average Wisconsinite–as I was a few years ago–things of all of this.

CliffsNotes of CliffsNotes

As a literature professor, I just hate CliffsNotes and their ilk.  Reading isolated facts about a book is not the same thing as reading a book.   I consider using CliffsNotes instead of reading the assignment as cheating.  But now CliffsNotes are evidently considered too long for today’s students to handle.

According to various news reports, that company is now producing brief internet videos of its famous crib notes which will be shown initially on AOL, since “everything in today’s world seems to be headed towards speedier and shorter ways to get information.”

Twain and Dickens are information you see; not art. . . .

Anyway, these new “study aides” won’t be dry, talking-head videos either; no sir. They will be “humorous shorts.” And not just humorous, but “irreverent,” too. Yet CliffsNotes says these humorous, irreverent shorts will “still manage to present the plot, characters, and themes” of the assignments — I mean books. . . .

The best news is, as it should be, saved for last. Mark Burnett, a “reality-show producer” (Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?), is charged with making the videos, which will run a full five minutes. But five minutes is an eternity in our go-go, busy-busy, click-swipe world! Thus, for each video of such interminable length, a “shorter one-minute version will also be made available on mobile telephones, as an emergency refresher before a test.”

via Pajamas Media » CliffsNotes for CliffsNotes? Yeah, Pretty Much..

So there will also be a Cliffs Notes version of the Cliff Notes version of Cliff Notes.

Radioactive bananas

Thanks to Webmonk for alerting me to this interesting fact cited at the blog Watts Up With That, which quotes from Wikipedia:

A banana equivalent dose is a concept occasionally used by nuclear power proponents[1][2] to place in scale the dangers of radiation by comparing exposures to the radiation generated by a common banana.

Many foods are naturally radioactive, and bananas are particularly so, due to the radioactive potassium-40 they contain. The banana equivalent dose is the radiation exposure received by eating a single banana. Radiation leaks from nuclear plants are often measured in extraordinarily small units (the picocurie, a millionth of a millionth of a curie, is typical). By comparing the exposure from these events to a banana equivalent dose, a more intuitive assessment of the actual risk can sometimes be obtained.

The average radiologic profile of bananas is 3520 picocuries per kg, or roughly 520 picocuries per 150g banana.[3] The equivalent dose for 365 bananas (one per day for a year) is 3.6 millirems (36 μSv).

Bananas are radioactive enough to regularly cause false alarms on radiation sensors used to detect possible illegal smuggling of nuclear material at US ports.[4]

Another way to consider the concept is by comparing the risk from radiation-induced cancer to that from cancer from other sources. For instance, a radiation exposure of 10 mrems (10,000,000,000 picorems) increases your risk of death by about one in one million—the same risk as eating 40 tablespoons of peanut butter, or of smoking 1.4 cigarettes.[5]

After the Three Mile Island nuclear accident, the NRC detected radioactive iodine in local milk at levels of 20 picocuries/liter,[6] a dose much less than one would receive from ingesting a single banana. Thus a 12 fl oz glass of the slightly radioactive milk would have about 1/75th BED (banana equivalent dose).

Nearly all foods are slightly radioactive. All food sources combined expose a person to around 40 millirems per year on average, or more than 10% of the total dose from all natural and man-made sources.[7]

Some other foods that have above-average levels are potatoes, kidney beans, nuts, and sunflower seeds.[8] Among the most naturally radioactive food known are brazil nuts, with activity levels that can exceed 12,000 picocuries per kg.[9][10]

I knew about electrical bananas–name that source! Watson, do you know that kind of trivia?–but not radioactive bananas.

Updates

The rest of the story on recent posts. . . .

The computer named Watson ended up wiping the floor with the human used-to-be champions on Jeopardy. The human race is evidently doomed. So if Watson is smarter than people, should we elect him president? What does this mean?

The Patriot Act, which gives the government expanded wiretapping and surveillance powers in fighting terrorism, is being extended, for three to ten months, depending on how the Senate Bill and the House Bill are reconciled. But both houses voted for extension. Earlier, as we discussed, some Tea Party Republicans led by Rand Paul joined with liberal democrats to stop the bill. But that was for a special fast-track approval that required a supermajority vote. The House subsequently passed the bill under the normal majority-vote process.

The Borders bookstore chain has filed for bankruptcy.

How much information is there?

Science Daily has a story about “the world’s total technological capacity — how much information humankind is able to store, communicate and compute.”  It cites some unimaginably big numbers.  But what was most striking is this last sentence:

Looking at both digital memory and analog devices, the researchers calculate that humankind is able to store at least 295 exabytes of information. (Yes, that’s a number with 20 zeroes in it.)

Put another way, if a single star is a bit of information, that’s a galaxy of information for every person in the world. That’s 315 times the number of grains of sand in the world. But it’s still less than one percent of the information that is stored in all the DNA molecules of a human being.

via How much information is there in the world?.

HT: Joe Carter


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