Alex Goldman writes: “For years, there has been a popular conspiracy theory that goes like this: in 2016 the folks in charge at Disney, much like large swaths of the country, believed Hillary Clinton would win, and even before she was elected were hard at work on a Hillary animatronic for the Walt Disney World Hall of Presidents attraction. When they were surprised by a Donald Trump victory, they were forced to hastily repurpose the Hillary animatronic as a Donald Trump one, to comedically grotesque effect. When I tweeted about it, I ended my tweet with an ask that any imagineers with information on the veracity of this theory to reach out. Imagine my delight when one did.”
Editor’s note: My apologies for missing yesterday’s newsletter – my granddaughter, who just turned one, was visiting us and so I got distracted and forgot to send the newsletter 🙂
In the early 2000’s, the Earth shifted on its axis, and scientists finally figured out why
Raymond Zhong writes for the New York Times: “Around the turn of the millennium, Earth’s spin started going off-kilter, and nobody could quite say why. For decades, scientists had been watching the average position of our planet’s rotational axis, the imaginary rod around which it turns, gently wander south, away from the geographic North Pole and toward Canada. Suddenly, though, it made a sharp turn and started heading east. In time, researchers realized melting of the polar ice sheets had changed the way mass was distributed around the planet. And now they’ve identified another factor: colossal quantities of water pumped out of the ground for crops and households.”
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Harvard professor who studies dishonesty is accused of falsifying data
From Juliana Kim for NPR: “Francesca Gino, a prominent professor at Harvard Business School known for researching dishonesty and unethical behavior, has been accused of submitting work that contained falsified results. Gino has authored dozens of captivating studies in the field of behavioral science — consulting for some of the world’s biggest companies like Goldman Sachs and Google, as well as dispensing advice on news outlets, like The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and even NPR. But over the past two weeks, several people, including a colleague, came forward with claims that Gino tampered with data in at least four papers. Gino is currently on administrative leave.”
Janitor cleaning a lab turns off refrigerator, destroys 20 years worth of cell cultures
From Associated Press: “More than 20 years of cell cultures and other specimens stored at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute were destroyed when a cleaner switched off power to a lab freezer, according to a lawsuit filed by the school. RPI is seeking $1 million from Daigle Cleaning Systems, claiming one of the company’s employees turned off the circuit breaker for the freezer, which must keep specimens at minus 112 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 80 degrees Celsius), according to the lawsuit filed this month. The freezer was used by researchers studying how plants use photosynthesis to create energy. The cleaner heard an “annoying” alarm and tried to help by turning the circuit breakers on. But the cleaner actually moved the breakers from the on to the off position by mistake.”
Why do some US coins have ridges on the side?
From Dan Lewis at Now I Know: “If you look at US coins from the side, you’ll note that the edge of both the dime and quarter have ridges, little grooves running perpendicular to the coin face. The penny and nickel, though, have a smooth edge. You can thank Sir Isaac Newton for them. In 1696, Newton was tapped as the Warden of the Royal Mint, and three years later, was elevated to Master of the Royal Mint. Seeing that the UK had a massive counterfeit coin problem, he took the role seriously. The problems began with something called “coin clipping.” You could shave a bit off the edge of a coin, keep the clipped-off piece for yourself, and use the almost-complete coin in a subsequent transaction.”
She found out what stars are made of, but few believed her
From Lucy Evans and Katie Hafner for Scientific American: “Cecilia Payne was in her early 20s when she figured out what the stars are made of. Both she and her groundbreaking findings were ahead of their time. She was 25 years old in 1925, and she just recently joined the Harvard Observatory, so perhaps not surprisingly, her findings were initially suspect. But she was later proven right. The key that helped her to unlock the mystery was the observatory’s glass plate collection. Her fresh eyes allowed her to see on those plates what others had missed. Analyzing the plates was labor intensive and that essential but tedious work fell to women, including astronomers’ wives, daughters, even a housemaid.”
Machine learning can predict hit songs from brain scans with 97% accuracy
From Steve Stewart-Williams on Twitter: