Your earwax contains many secrets about your health

What’s the weirdest thing you learned this week? Well, whatever it is, we promise you’ll get an even weirder answer if you listen to it PopScipodcast success. Weirdest thing I learned this week hits Apple, Anchor and wherever else you listen to podcasts every Wednesday morning. It’s your new favorite source for Wikipedia’s weirdest science facts, numbers and spirals Popular Science can collect. If you like the stories in this post, we guarantee you’ll love the show.

TRUTH: You can (sort of) blame pirates for your inability to understand temperatures in degrees Celsius

By Rachel Feltman

As someone who married into a European family, I struggle with the persistent absurdity of America’s stubborn use of English measurement more than most. I often wonder how we came to be almost the only country that eschews the metric system – the only other nations that haven’t officially adopted it are Liberia and Myanmar – and it turns out that pirates can take at least part of the blame.

When the US was young and it came time to decide what was the official way of doing business, the idea of ​​standardized measurements, even within a single country, was relatively new. That’s not to say that people weren’t measuring things before then. the concept of units of measurement has existed since ancient Mesopotamia, if not longer. But for most of human history, these measurements were relative relative. You needed something to refer to when weighing or measuring, and these had to be common objects like seeds or human body parts, all of which vary in size.

Fast forward to the 1790s, when the founders were trying to figure out how the US would measure things. Fortunately for us, France—which had amassed hundreds of confusing and inaccurate regional units over the years—was on its doorstep. huge in the wake of her own revolution.

Charged with developing a more enlightened system by the National Assembly, the French Academy of Sciences decided to base the system on a natural physical unit: the length of 1/10,000,000 of a quarter of a great circle of the Earth, measured around the poles of the meridian which passes through Paris. Figuring this out took six years of research led by some of the greatest minds of the time, but they were finally able to ascertain the length of the meridian arc from Barcelona to Dunkirk. The new unit was named meter, from the Greek metron, meaning “measure”.

You might think that after all that hard work, the US would have jumped at using such a sensible system – especially since it came from the French, our revolutionary allies, and was created as a sort of symbol of reason and democracy. But of course we know that didn’t happen.

That’s where the pirates came in. Thomas Jefferson did express interest in the new metric system, and France sent a scientist named Joseph Dombey to the US with a standard copper kilogram weight for reference. Unfortunately, the ship blew up on its way to the Caribbean, where a bunch of British privateers tasked with causing trouble for enemy merchant ships captured him and tried to free him after he failed to convince them that he was actually just a Spanish sailor . He died in captivity and the contents of his ship were auctioned off.

The weight didn’t appear until the 1950s when someone donated it to the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

The US ended up sticking with British units, which had evolved from Anglo-Saxon and Roman systems. Britain would implement the British Imperial system a few decades later, while the US formalized its own version. It is very difficult to say that the pirate adventure was the reason we went with British imperial measurements instead of the fancy new French system, but it certainly didn’t aid.

Many countries had adopted the metric system for themselves by the middle of the 19th century, and international governments began to talk about how absurd it was not to have standardized measurements for science and industry. In 1875, 17 different countries, including the US, signed the “meter treaty” in Paris and agreed to define all units based on standard metric bases. In 1893, the US officially adopted metric standards as our fundamental definitions of units of measurement.

The reason we didn’t change completely is that our machinery and factories and official documents all revolved around English units and business entities lobbied to avoid having to overhaul. But these days, many companies voluntarily use metrics to create their products to make it easier to sell and use them internationally.

TRUTH: Your earwax says a lot about you

By Lauren Young

In many Asian cultures, ear cleaning is an act of care and affection that has existed for centuries. The gentle practice of removing sticky or flaky material from your ear holes is seen as a relaxing, loving domestic ritual depicted in Japan’s Edo period woodcuts and manga of wives cleaning their husbands’ ears or mothers cleaning their ears. their children’s ears with these fine ear rakes. And those very special relaxing moments require special bamboo handles or rakes, called mime in Japanese. There are many different types of ears in Asian culture: some had a small jura or decorative Daruma doll at the opposite end of the curved scoop. others were made of precious metals such as gold and silver. Today, many Asian countries have ear cleaning salons. But the obsession with removing earwax spans time and cultures – from the ancient Romans, 16th and early 17th century Europeans and the Vikings. We now have a variety of modern earwax removal kits made from plastic and stainless steel, and sporting lights and even cameras.

Even though we’re obsessed with getting rid of it, many ear, nose and throat doctors say that earwax is best left alone. In fact, your earwax can say a lot about you. For example, most of us fall into two main groups of earwax types: wet or dry. The type you are is linked back to your genetics. In 2006 a Genetics of Nature The study identified a specific gene that was responsible for the type of earwax and found that wet earwax was the more dominant trait than dry. The study also explained that wet earwax is more commonly found in populations of European and African descent, while dry earwax is typically prevalent in East Asians (of course, there are exceptions). The scent of your earwax can occasionally tell you about the health of your ear. A change in odor can alert an otolaryngologist to a possible fungal or bacterial infection, such as swimmer’s ear. While earwax generally does not change, an infection can cause the ear to leak a wet, foul-smelling discharge.

Earwax is a defensive lubricant, packed with antibacterial and antifungal proteins that help keep the ear healthy. As a rule of thumb, ear, nose, and throat doctors recommend that you don’t try to clean your earwax if it bothers you (put down those swabs, please). But too much earwax can be bad. There are cases where earwax should be checked and removed by medical professionals. If you’re experiencing any inner ear pain, doctors sometimes need to clean out the earwax to take a look at your eardrums to make sure there’s no damage. It is especially important for people who wear hearing aids or hearing aids to clean their ears regularly to prevent serious impacts. The earwax pushes itself out of the ear canal. However, hearing aid ear molds prevent this natural movement and can also increase wax production. As the substance builds up, it can worsen hearing loss or cause conditions such as tinnitus. People with hearing aids should be careful about cleaning their devices and go to regular cleaning appointments with their doctors.

If your ears aren’t already full of earwax, you can learn more in an article on PopSci.

TRUTH: Gender norms in STEM are not universal

By Angela Saini

During the 1980s and 1990s, the percentage of women studying computer science in the computer science department of Yerevan State University in the former Soviet Republic of Armenia never fell below 75%. When writing a paper on this in 2006, the authors even felt the need to point out that “this is not a typo”. Because the Soviet Union encouraged women to work and attend technical schools, gender norms in STEM are still different in former socialist states.

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