Today I Learned: Volume 1


til biology digestion health intelligence evolution http yawning

I try to learn as much as possible. Often, I come across little fun things which I find awesome. So, I decided that it would be very nice-guyish of me to actually write them down and share with everyone. I am planning to release them in packs of five, each fact should not be longer than a dozen sentences. Sometimes, even less than that. Do not be surprised to find a shameless rip from Wikipedia along with a couple of relevant links.

Although I can predict long pauses from time to time, I will try to keep this somewhat regular. But enough with the intro, let’s get started!


Drinking cold beverages or consuming cold food in large amounts appears to be detrimental to one’s digestion, and to barely make you less thirsty or hungry.

The typical temperature that a human organism operates fine at is somewhere around 37 ℃. There are multiple ways in which this is maintained regardless of the environment, e.g. sweating or goose bumps. One of the more efficient ways to warm up the body is to do exercise, which emits a lot of waste heat.

The stomach has a lot of muscle, which it contracts when things gets cold. Some people feel painful spasms when that happens. Some research suggests that such contractions force the stomach to expunge its contents down the digestive tract prematurely, before things have been absorbed. The same process happens when you sometimes suddenly want to pee when it’s cold. This was conveyed to me by a doctor, but I have failed to find references. However, this is in line with my understanding of how digestive system works.

Moreover, digestion, like all chemical reactions, proceeds slower at lower temperatures. This decreases the digestion rate, as this research shows.

This also explains why you are still thirsty after drinking cold water, but the warm water helps.


Monitor Lizards are probably the most intelligent reptiles out there.

Also called Varanus (no programming pun intended), they are exceptionally intelligent for lizards. They got their name for the fact that some of them tend to stand on their hind legs and monitor their surroundings.

The least impressive facts are that some species distinguish numbers up to six, and some others can tell apart their keepers. But that pales in comparison with the complex cooperative behavior they can demonstrate. For instance, they are known to use one lizard as diversion to get a crocodile away from its nest, while the other one gets the eggs.

The references are scarce. There’s Wikipedia, which points at this book (not available for free, but there’s a preview available at Google Books). Also, a nice documentary about these lizards is available on YouTube, even with the ads right in the middle of the interesting stuff.


Octopuses, or, rather, cephalopods in general, are highly intelligent species. They also bear quite a number of similarities with the vertebrtates despite the independent development.

While octopuses have only about half a billion neural cells (compared to roughly 100 billion in humans), the size of their axons is considerably larger than that of humans. The octopuses are exploratory in their behavior, but are also easily subjected to taming. They are able to wield tools, solve puzzles, and are generally supposed to be about at least as smart as apes are. Some research even suggests that they have primary consciousness.

I also recommend that you read this article and watch this video (or, if you have a spare hour, this one).


There’s this super awesome HTTP test server at

It allows you to do things like

$ curl -I
    HTTP/1.1 418 I'M A TEAPOT
    Server: nginx/0.7.67
    Date: Mon, 13 Jun 2011 04:25:38 GMT
    Connection: close
    Content-Length: 135


$ curl
    {"origin": ""}

Really, it will come in handy sooner or later. Just bookmark it.


Freaking yawning. How does it work, man?

Surprisingly, there is no generally accepted theory on yawning at the moment. At least, I could not find one. Here are some facts, though:

There are various theories that explain some of these facts, but none that I could find explains all of them.

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