Rare Earths and Ice Cream – A New Year’s Resolution

With the New Year approaching, many of us are figuring out resolutions, and maybe some are stumped.

I have a simple one for you that I heard from an old friend long ago.  It has stuck with me all these years.

His name is Wayne and I worked with him for some time.  I grew to appreciate the fact that Wayne had more common, practical sense than just about anyone I knew.  This is a big compliment because I consider common sense to be one of the most valuable skills in life, and we could sure use a lot more of it (particularly in Washington, D. C.).

So what Wayne told me was that he tried to learn one new thing a day – so that at the end of the year he knew 365 new things.  Now how simple, achievable, and practical is that?  And it must be a great goal because he went on to achieve significant professional success (and I’m sure was learning many new things a day, actually).

In today’s Internet age, there’s a zillion ways to do this, but just in case you need a kick start, here are two sites to begin with.  Every day, go to www.wikipedia.com and / or www.dictionary.com and look something up.

So what should you look up?  Well, anything from whimsical to news related.  Here are three off the top of my head I just looked up on Wikipedia while writing this post.

Look up something whimsical – Ice Cream. Who isn’t interested in ice cream?  Seriously, I’m pretty open-minded, but don’t think I want to know anyone not interested in ice cream (kidding – in case you are lactose intolerant).

Did you know the Persians probably created the first version of ice cream before 400 BC by pouring fruit juice over snow in a bowl?  And it looks like the Arabs were the first to use milk as a major ingredient in its production, sweeten the ice cream with sugar, and produce it commercially.  Ice cream was widespread by the 10th century among many of the Arab’s major cities, such as Baghdad, Damascus and Cairo.

I can see it now, a chain of Baghdad-Robbins 31 flavors ice cream tents in the crowed bazaars.

By the way, do you know when you pig out on ice cream (I call it ice cram) and get that brain freeze headache in your forehead that the pain really isn’t in your forehead?  The top of your mouth, which got really cold and is having problems, sends signals back to your brain via the trigeminal nerve, which also serves the facial area.  So the brain interprets the pain as coming from your forehead.  This is known as “referred pain” (something also seen during heart attacks).

So back to the ice cream, and seriously, folks, regardless of the turmoil in parts of the Arab world today, you have to give them credit for creating ice cream.  Clearly they had it going on back then.

Look up something news related – Rare Earths.  I just read in the news that China is going to restrict export of rare earths.  So I checked it out.  Rare earths (elements) are a collection of seventeen elements in the periodic table that have special qualities, are scarce minerals and most people probably haven’t heard about them.  Contrast that to some of the elements you are familiar with — like gold, silver, iron, oxygen, etc.

Interestingly, it turns out that they aren’t that rare, they are just more dispersed in the earth (which makes them hard to get).

As a photographer, it interest me that the rare earth element lanthanum is used to make highly reflective glass for camera lenses.  Didn’t know that.  Now I do.  Also, I find it interesting they all end in um, although this may not be all that useful (chuckle).

And my favorite is scandium.  Probably rare except in two places – Washington D.C. and Hollywood.  I’m constantly reading about scandiums in those places (I might have made that last part up).

Look up something spiritual – Chocolate.  Bet you didn’t think I was going there, did you?  But clearly, chocolate IS a spiritual experience, don’t you agree.

So let’s pay proper homage to our past “Americas” cousins, the Aztecs, for creating chocolate!  Good to know.  Here’s another new chocolate fact.   One theory, among many, about the origins of the word chocolate is that it came from their word “xocolātl” (/ʃo.ko.laːtɬ/) made up from the words “xococ” meaning sour or bitter, and “ātl” meaning water or drink.

Personally, I have problems with words beginning in X, so whatever caused the corruption of the word to the more pronounceable chocolate was a major advance in civilization akin to the discovery of fire, the invention of the steam engine, ATM’s and Facebook (I might have left a few out but just go with me on this).

So there you have it – three new things just like that.

Now, in the true spirit of common sense, I have a very practical New Year’s resolution suggestion for you here.  And it is to forget everything you just read in this post.  Then, on January 1, come back to the WoodChips site and read this post over again.  That way, you will have learned THREE new things on the first day of the year, and started the New Year two days ahead of schedule!

So how good is that?!?!

Carpe datum – J. Daniel

One Response to “Rare Earths and Ice Cream – A New Year’s Resolution”

  1. Great site posted here, very informative. I just subscribed

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