Election-Free News Chum Stew

Observation StewTake a deep breath. Three days and the national nightmare begins — but at least we won’t have the ads, the fake news stories, and the FB battles. To hold you over, here’s a bit of news chum I’ve accumulated over the last few weeks:

  • Math and Knitting. Two articles related to mathematics and knitting. The first article is about a couple that have focused on knitting mathematical objects: Together they have knitted and crocheted about 90 mathematical afghans, as well as other mathematical objects. The other article is on illusion knitting: Knitting that takes advantage of the 3-D nature of knitting to show different images depending on how the knit object is viewed. The simplest kind of illusion knitting uses one color of yarn. From the front, you see a swath of, say, green. From the side, you see an alternating checkerboard of green squares. Or take the knit below, which appears to be a multicolored grid straight-on but from an angle reveals circles within the grid.
  • Food Triggers. Two articles related to food that can trigger medical problems. The first looks at a group of proteins that have  been identified as the possible cause of non-gluten wheat sensitivity. This group, called amylase-trypsin inhibitors (ATIs)  are a small group, representing about 4 percent of wheat proteins, but they’re powerful. The scientists found that consuming pure ATIs can cause all manner of nasty reactions throughout the body, triggering inflammation not just in the gut but also in the lymph nodes, kidneys, spleen, and brain. That same inflammation can exacerbate autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, asthma, lupus, and inflammatory bowel disease. The second article looks at why some foods trigger migraines. It turns out it isn’t only the food, but the microbes in the mouth. The research team analyzed 172 oral samples and nearly 2,000 fecal samples taken from the American Gut Project, and sequenced which bacteria species were found in participants who suffered migraines versus those who did not. And it turns out, the migraineurs have significantly more nitrate-reducing bacteria in their saliva than those who don’t suffer these headaches.
  • Paying Rent. This went around a few weeks ago, but its still fun: London is still paying rent to the Queen on property rented in 1211 (it seems they didn’t know about “lease-to-buy”). The rent? A knife, an axe, six oversized horseshoes, and 61 nails. Further, no one knows where the property is anymore. Each fall, usually in October, the city and the crown perform the same exchange, for no particular reason other than that they always have. You have to admire the Brits.
  • Popcorn. Here’s another interesting piece of history: why do we have movie popcorn? One didn’t always eat popcorn at movies, but it came into vogue during the depression. At that point, people began to expect it, and theatres realized they had a moneymaker.
  • Internet Problems. Have you found the internet harder to read of late? Even after you take out the election posts, is it hard to read? There could be an answer. Scientists believe that what is making the Internet harder to read is a trend towards lighter and thinner fonts. Where text used to be bold and dark, which contrasted well with predominantly white backgrounds, now many websites are switching to light greys or blues for their type. “If the web is relayed through text that’s difficult to read, it curtails the open access by excluding large swaths of people such as the elderly, the visually impaired, or those retrieving websites through low quality screens.”
  • New Cars and Car Washes. Have you bought a new car of late? Ever take it to the car wash? Many new cars won’t work in car washes because the additional safety equipment locks the wheels even when the car is in neutral. Those cars need special configuration to go through a car wash, and it isn’t just a “car wash” button — but it is buried in the manuals. The issue is automatic parking brakes, which put on the brakes, even if in neutral, to prevent the car from rolling into people or things. It does this if it detects things near the car.
  • Homelessness and Cars. Sigh. The city has passed an ordinance to prevent people from sleeping in cars or RVs in residential districts. This is an example of a law that the privileged pass against the unprivileged, instead of helping.
  • Jacob Neusner Z”L. A passing you may have missed: Jacob Neusner, one of the top Jewish scholars of our generation. Neusner almost singlehandedly created the modern study of Judaism. In doing so, he revolutionized our understanding of the history of Judaism and our perception of what Judaism can mean to Jews today. I know I was reading Neusner’s books when I was at UCLA in the 1980s.