Thinking Cap: Podcasts, Articles And Clips To Make You Smarter

Factoids that can save your life, free travel posters for outer space and how air traffic controllers keep planes in the air all wait within in this week's Lifehacker Thinking Cap. Welcome to Lifehacker's Thinking Cap, a new series where we round up interesting, informative and thought-provoking podcasts, interviews, articles and other media that will teach you something new, inspire you and hopefully cap off your week nicely. Let's get started.


Little Facts that Might Save Your Life One Day

Never underestimate the power of trivia — or just tidbits of knowledge that can make a world of difference at the right time. In this thread at Quora, one user asked a simple question: "What are some small facts that might save your life one day?" The responses were incredible, and range from simple tips, like don't talk and walk at the same time:

The human brain cannot multitask. Walking and talking on a cell phone are two thinking tasks that involve many areas of the brain. Instead of processing both simultaneously, the brain rapidly switches between two cognitive activities.

Take the classic example of the act of walking and chewing gum. We can safely walk while chewing gum in a city crowded with motor vehicles and other hazards. That is because one of those tasks — chewing gum — is not a cognitively demanding task.

Whereas, having a conversation and walking in a street are both thinking tasks. Research shows pedestrians don't effectively monitor their environment for safety while talking on cell phones. The challenge is managing two tasks demanding our cognitive attention.

To the more elegant, especially to me as a recovering physicist:

Here are some small facts related to cold weather survival, following from the laws of thermodynamics:

Some basic thermodynamics:

1.1) Heat transfers faster through liquids than through gases (ie air).

1.2) Heat transfers faster through liquids or gases if they are in motion

Some practical survival advice following from this:

(a) if you are in a cold environment at risk of hypothermia, it is critical that you stay dry. Wetness will accelerate your heat loss.

(b) if you are out in the cold elements at risk of hypothermia, you should get out of the wind. It even makes sense to mostly bury yourself in the snow because your body can warm the immediate air trapped in the snow around your body. That still air will transfer heat from your body more slowly than the air blowing around you in the wind.

(c) if you are in a cold climate at risk of hypothermia, try to stuff extra dry, bulky matter into your clothing to bulk it up and increase the volume of still air around your body. It will transfer heat more slowly than the air moving around outside your layer of clothing.

All in all, the whole thread is worth skimming through, so don't hesitate. You'll find a ton of useful information — some of it you probably knew, some of it you may not have considered before — that may come in handy in the future. [via Quora]


How We Monitor All of the Planes In the Sky In Real-Time

Air traffic controllers have an extremely difficult job. They work long hours, make stressful decisions and in many cases use outdated technology to get the job done. But how do they do it? This video from DNews explains how air traffic control systems operate, the technology going on behind the scenes that allow the people in those control towers to know the position of every aircraft in the area in every dimension and how to make sure they all get where they need to go without running into each other. [via DNews]


The Best Instant Pho

If you've never had pho, that amazing Vietnamese noodle soup that's absolutely transformative, you're missing out on something amazing. Go and remedy that immediately. If you want to bring that flavour to the office with you, or have it in the middle of the night when your favourite pho joint is closed, well, then you'll probably need the instant stuff.

I know, I know, madness. Still, the folks at Lucky Peach went to great lengths to test out ten different instant pho bowls, and the resulting report is amazing to behold. Not only will you learn which instant pho is the best (spoiler, Oh! Ricey Pho Ga is their best) but you'll get a tour de force of different instant pho along with stellar commentary along the way. [via Lucky Peach]


How Movie Sound Effects Are Made

Every movie you've ever watched has had a team of people working tirelessly behind the cameras and post-production to make the sounds and effects you hear believable, interesting and perfect for the scenes you're watching. And I'm not just talking about the music or huge, bombastic explosions.

Everything from the splashes of cars driving through the rain to the sound of plates and glasses clattering in the background of restaurant of coffee shop themes all demand reproducing the real things — and this short video is the story of the people who make them. From BoingBoing:

Director Daniel Jewel invites us into the magical and world of foley artist Pete Burgis and Sue Harding who create sound effects using techniques that look odd when you see them but sound spot on when paired with the right visual.

I have a soft spot for stuff like this, even going back to the old-timey radio drama days, where people used hollowed out coconuts and whatnot to make the sound of horses galloping. It's always amazing to see how those sounds get made. [via BoingBoing]


NASA Travel Posters for a Space Age We Never Got (Yet)

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory put together a ton of beautifully stylised posters that simulate the old-school travel poster style of the early 20th century, and they're all absolutely free to download. Get em blown up, printed, framed and put them on your walls.

They run the gamut from a futuristic travel poster for this little oasis planet called "Earth" to a more exciting trip to Kepler-16b, which has two stars in the sky. Head over to JPL and give em a look, you'll definitely find one you like. [via NASA]


That's all for this week. If you have thought-provoking stories, interesting podcasts or eye-opening videos, share them in the comments below!

Title GIF by Nick Criscuolo. Additional photos by US Army Alaska, Chuck Falzone, and Walter Glenn for Lucky Peach.


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