52 things I learned in 2022

Triple Falls, Dupont State Park, North Carolina, part of the Appalachian mountains and the most beautiful place I went in 2022.

I borrowed this concept from Tom Whitwell as a way of cultivating a habit of curiosity. You can read his 2022 version here.

My 2022 in a nutshell: I had a son, moved back to Georgia, launched Stripe Apps, and helped the team at Macro Oceans build the kelp economy of the future.

Here are 52 things I learned along the way, with some quotes and pictures that inspired me mixed in:

  1. It’s physically impossible to meet the domestic weight limit for a USPS small flat rate priority mailbox. The weight limit on the box is 70 lbs; filled with osmium, the densest substance known to man, it would only weigh 61.48 lbs. Paul Sherman.
  2. Elks are able to tell the difference between public (where they can be hunted) and private land (where they cannot). Todd Hollingshead.
  3. 45% of Gen Z feels most like themselves online rather than offline. Dan Frommer. This is the strongest case I’ve seen for the metaverse yet.
  4. Steve Kerr has won the NBA finals 40% of the time since entering the league in 1988. Trond Wuellner.
  5. There are 15 to 20 million beavers currently living in North America, down from a peak population 400 million (!). Sacramento Bee (paywall).
  6. 60% of the world’s cosmetics are produced in the provinces of Cremona, Lodi, Bergamo, and Milan; it's called the Cosmetic Valley. Lisa Dansi.
  7. 1 in 3 homes in the United States is owned by someone age 65 or older. Tony Fratto.
  8. Adding iodine to salt increased IQs in the United States by 15 points. Ethan Mollick.
  9. Helen Keller was one of the founders of the ACLU. Ross Simonini.
Just because nobody complains doesn’t mean all parachutes are perfect.
— Benny Hill
  1. Though the name "Tiffany" sounds modern, it dates from the year ~1200; thus the phenomenon where something sounds modern but is actually old is called the Tiffany problem. Helen Zaltzman.
  2. The “British Isles”, “Great Britain”, and “the United Kingdom”, are not interchangeable terms. The British Isles is the collection of islands, including Ireland. Great Britain is the big island which includes England, Scotland, and Wales. The UK is the legal union between England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. Tim Watkins.
  3. Julius Caesar was not born via cesarean section. The name most likely comes from the latin verb caedere, to cut. Wikipedia. Bonus: Carthage was not plowed over and sowed with salt by the Romans; an erroneous article in the 1930 edition of Cambridge Ancient History is the source of this claim. Wikipedia.
  4. Croissants aren’t French; they’re Austrian. Amanda Fiegl.
  5. Pizza isn’t Italian; it's Neapolitan. At the turn of the last century, you could get a pizza in Buenos Aires, New York, or Sao Paulo, but not in Rome, Florence or Venice. This is because pizza was exported out to the world from Naples before being reimported. This pattern is called the “pizza effect” and has also happened with yoga and the day of the dead. H.D. Miller.
  6. Punctuation wasn't invented until the late 4th / early 5th century CE, when St. Jerome introduced it. Priscilla Long.
  7. The Pyramids of Egypt were not constructed with slave labor; evidence shows that the laborers were a combination of skilled workers and poor farmers working in the off-season. Wikipedia.
  8. The term “catfish” as in to “lure someone into a relationship using a fictional online persona” has a delightful backstory. It goes like this: a fisherman was transporting cod from Alaska to China. The cod would stop moving during the journey and their flesh would be come bland and mushy. So the fisherman reasoned that he could improve the taste of the cod by adding a catfish to the tank. Since catfish are natural predators of cod, the cod would have a reason to swim around during the journey. Except, wait a moment, this backstory itself is made up! It’s told by one of the people in the documentary Catfish(that later became the MTV TV show) to justify the actions of his wife, who was catfishing people online. Alexi Mostrous.

The Upper Nepean by WC Piguenit

The Upper Nepean by WC Piguenit

  1. Joe Biden was born closer to Abraham Lincoln’s second inauguration (March 4, 1865) than his own (January 20, 2021). Michael Goodwin.
  2. The bright yellow of Swiss PostBuses is derived from the imperial colors of Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor, who established a postal service in the 15th century. The shade is one of three colors protected by trademark in Switzerland. Financial Times (paywall).
  3. The route used for ticker tape parades in New York City was first used for the Marquis de Lafayette on his visit to the city in 1824. Mike Duncan.
  4. The BBC operates from the same corporate charter as the East India Trading company. William Dalrymple.
  5. Queen Elizabeth reigned for almost 30% of US history (28.5% if you're dating from 1776; 30% if you're dating from the ratification of the constitution in 1788). Matt Glassman
  6. In 1833, the British government passed the Slavery Abolition Act, paying off slave owners to gradually free enslaved people across most of the empire. To finance the payments, the government took out a £15 million loan; it was fully repaid in 2015. William MacAskill.
  7. The cologne worn by Napoleon is still on sale. Jude Stewart.
  8. There are 10 companies operating today that were founded before 1000 AD. Razib Khan.
  9. The Trevi fountain in Rome is served by a functioning Roman aqueduct that is over 2000 years old. Garret Ryan.
  10. Nintendo, founded in 1889 (!) and the Ottoman Empire, which fell in 1922, coexisted for 33 years. Tim Urban.
  11. The administrators of the Roman Empire had no offices. Marc Andreesen.
  12. The reparation payment placed on Germany by France at the end of the first World War was calculated to be the same amount plus interest that Bismark had placed on France at the end of the Franco-Prussian War. How did Bismark get this number? By calculating an amount identical to what Napoleon has imposed on Prussia in 1807. Mike Duncan.
  13. Aldous Huxley taught George Orwell at Eaton. Bonus: George Orwell is credited with coining the phrase “cold war”. Tom Holland and Dominic Sandbrook.
  14. Our most recent common ancestor (probably) lived no earlier than 1400 BC and possibly as recently as AD 55. Douglas Rohde.
A tiger doesn’t proclaim his tigritude, he pounces.
— Wole Soyinka
  1. The amount of land devoted to agriculture worldwide has peaked. Hannah Ritchie.
  2. Felix Hoffman invented aspirin and heroin 11 days apart. Dan Shipper.
  3. Apothecary, boutique, and bodega are all evolotions of the Greek word “apotheke”, entering English from Latin, Provençal French, and Spanish respectively. Ted Strong.
  4. There are ~14 dead people for every person living today. Ethan Mollick.
  5. The “sailing ship” effect describes the tendency of legacy technologies to experience a burst of rapid improvements before they fade into irrelevance, as clipper ships did alongside the rise of steam ships. Ethan Mollick.
  6. Per capita CO2 emissions worldwide appear to have peaked in 2012; 2021 was 4% lower than the peak. Glen Peters. Bonus: Per capita co2 emissions in the US are down to 1920s levels. Hannah Ritchie and Max Roser.
  7. In October of this year, Greece’s entire electrical grid ran completely on renewable energy for the first time. Bill Chappell.
  8. The Bank of Japan in Hiroshima, which was just 380 metres from the hypocenter of the atomic blast in 1945, reopened within just two days of the bombing.” William MacAskill.
  9. The Appalachian Mountains run through the territory of 3 countries: the United States, Canada, and France. Wikipedia. Bonus: France’s longest international border is with Brazil. Incunabula.
  10. All eels in North America and Europe spawn in the Bermuda triangle. Emily Finch.
  11. All US commercial auto production halted completely from February 1942 through October 1945. Robert Putnam.

Poppies by Robert William Vonnoh

  1. In the dating market, six inches in height for men is equivalent to $175,000 in annual salary. Rob Henderson.
  2. College educated Americans are more likely than any other demographic group to attend religious services Ryan Burge
  3. Playing a video game together for 45 minutes increased team productivity by 20%. Todd Hollingshead.
  4. The optimal conversation size is 4 to 5 people; at 6 it starts to break into subgroups (4 and 2 or 3 and 3). Matt Webb.
  5. Police cars kill more people annually in the United States than Hurricanes. The key part here is that they are cars (and even more importantly SUVs), not that they are operated by police. Larger cars are more dangerous for pedestrians. Alissa Walker. Bonus: Getting rid of your car by choice makes you measurably happier. David Zipper
  6. 57% of Americans have never lived outside their home state; 37% have never lived outside their hometown. Steve Hind.
  7. If a married woman is diagnosed with a brain tumor, there is a 21% chance that the couple will divorce; if the husband has a tumor, there is only a 3% chance they will divorce. Rob Henderson.
  8. Since 2017, the Episcopalian Church has been conducting more burials every year than baptisms. Ryan Burge.
  9. The percentage of Americans who say they don’t have a single close friend has quadrupled since 1990. Jennifer Senior.
  10. On average, time spent with your famiily peaks at 15, with friends peaks at 18, with coworkers peaks at 30, with your children peaks at 40, and with your partner peaks at 70. Time alone peaks at the end of your life. Derek Thompson.

This year, I began tracking for the first time the people and websites that pointed me to the place where I found the things I learned. The two most common where The Browser and Marginal Revolution. If these aren't already a part of your regular reading, you should consider them. The third, surprisingly, was Twitter. I hope it continues to survive in 2023!

My list for 2021 is here.

If you think we’d have an interesting conversation, please reach out; I’d love to chat. You can send me a note at jdilla.xyz@gmail.com.

things i learned imported 2023