…Things I Learnt This Week (25th Nov)

This was one of my favourite features of the old site and I thought I’d revive it for Random Words. Here are three things I learnt over the past seven days:

  1. US scientists are developing a test which would diagnose Alzheimer’s via peanut butter. The test places peanut butter a certain distance below the patient’s nose and sees how long it takes for them to smell it. They’re following this up because their tests have shown there’s a strong correlation between the distance at which peanut butter can be smelled and Alzheimer’s. Imagine if this is a confirmed scientific test in 2015. We’ll be diagnosing diseases with x-ray machines, MRI machines, biopsies and… peanut butter. Sometimes the most elegant solution is the simplest.
  2. Children aged around 12 years old taught themselves English in order to teach themselves how to use a PC in various slums around India. A professor wanted to investigate this after it happened once and dotted PCs around various villages in India, some so remote he couldn’t even connect to them with ease. Additionally, despite not attaching a keyboard to the PC (just a mouse), he found words were being typed; this was a result of the children finding the character map. You can hear the story here (Sugata Mitra: How Much Can Children Teach Themselves?).
  3. I’m a dog person. I love them for being such loyal creatures. Thus, it broke my heart to learn that Search and Rescue (SAR) dogs will become stressed if they don’t find living people in the aftermath of a tragedy. Additionally, as they’re trained to smell ‘death’, they can also become very distressed if there’s too much death in the aftermath of an incident. In times of great tragedy, like the WTC terrorist attacks, the dogs can become very stressed and even need “fake finds” to ensure they’ll keep eating and playing when off the job. This has nothing to do with them being overly worked, it’s about their empathy following a tragic situation.

More next week, assuming I manage to learn more in that time!