When Hurricane Frances moved toward the Florida coast in 2004, Wal-Mart used what one its latest pieces of shopping gadgetry, a data program it calls “predictive technology”. They first looked at what happened before Hurricane Charley had landed weeks before, and based on the shopper’s history from that time, began to try and predict what shoppers would do this time before Hurricane Frances struck. They were able to pull from their data what the top selling items ahead of a hurricane would be, and what they discovered was rather interesting. The top seller was beer (no surprise there), and strawberry Pop-Tarts, which sell seven times greater than normal. They used this information to ship extras of these and other products to Wal-Marts in the storm’s path.
Getting the data to figure this out isn’t difficult for Wal-Mart. With about 100 million customers that grace the store each week, the company was sitting on a treasure trove of information. Wal-Mart is said to have 460 terabytes of data on its databases in the corporate headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas. That is enough data to double the amount of data on the Internet. The company has paid a tidy sum for the technology, specifically a private system that tracks product sales called Retail Link, upwards to the tune of $1.4 billion dollars. So essentially your buying habits are being tracked anytime you check out from a store, but Wal-Mart keeps the information secret because they don’t want the competition to know their next moves. Think about that when you buy that next bag of cheese puffs.
The National Science Foundation paid to have a game designed where a player defends the human race against zombies. The interactive media company was awarded $150,000 to develop the game that is supposed to teach middle school students math skills during real-world tasks. Why a zombie game to teach kids math? The National Science Foundation says it’s needed because the average test scores of U.S. middle school children are low and student’s aren’t able to use math to solve everyday problems. Zombie apocalypse to the rescue. Actually the official title is, “Contemporary Studies of the Zombie Apocalypse: An Online Game to Teach Mathematical Thinking to Middle School Students”. It is intended to be a role-playing, web-based game where, “the player defends zombies in an effort to save the human race.” At least we’ll have well-trained students applying math to stop the undead when the zombie apocalypse starts.
Craisins, made by Ocean Spray, are not actually dried, shriveled, whole cranberries, but are made from cranberry husks that are reinfused with juice. The cranberry husks used to be thrown away by farmers until Ocean Spray came up with the process. And Ocean Spray hasn’t stopped there. They’ve released a juice-infused version with cherry, blueberry, or pomegranate juices. If that wasn’t enough, they’ve even added a fruit cluster version, trail mix Craisins, Greek yogurt covered Craisins, and to top it off, chocolate covered Craisins. The raisin industry is not too happy with the development, we’re sure.
But Craisins aren’t the only thing that has possibly been reinvented by Ocean Spray. Another byproduct of their juicing process could end up being used elsewhere. At Ocean Spray’s juice processing facilities, shredded cranberry skins, called pomace, are taken away to the landfill. Research is being done to see if the waste could be used as an additive for soil in growing plants, allowing the shredded skins to be used in gardening instead of going to the landfill.
The brain is the fattest organ in the body, coming in at 60% fat. Yes, you and everyone around you has a fat brain. The brain has about 100 billion neurons, and each one of these neurons have a thin, double-layered membrane composed of fatty acids. Right there the brain is becoming fatter. Add to this the myelin sheath (a protective layer that covers a nerve fiber, or axon, from a neuron), which is composed of 70% fat and 30% protein. Each neuron can have 10,000 to 100,000 of these connections with other neurons, with each fiber wrapped in a myelin sheath. So you can see how these numbers can be astronomical, and how the brain can be so fat. This is one time you don’t want a body part to be thin.
The website, “Yahoo”, is an acronym for “Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle.” The made-up acronym came from Jerry Yang and David Filo in 1994 when they started a website collection called, “David and Jerr’s Guide to the World Wide Web”. The entries were arranged in a hierarchy while “oracle” was used since it sounded officious, which is defined as an annoying person who tries to tell others what to do in a way that isn’t wanted or needed. The term “yahoo” was first used in Jonathan Swift’s 1726 novel, Gulliver’s Travels, and described a crude, dirty brute of the land of the Houyhnhnms. Being that Yang and Filo were college students at the time and just wanting to be funny, they thought of themselves as the later definition of a “yahoo”, which is an uncultivated, boorish, or uncouth person.
Another edition of the Useless Facts of the Week is complete. Remember to annoy those around you with your new found knowledge.
Past Issues of the Completely Random Facts of the Week