52 things I learned in 2023


Brevard, NC. My favorite place I visited in 2023.

I borrowed this concept from Tom Whitwell as a way of cultivating a habit of curiosity. You can read his 2023 version here.

My 2023 highlights: I joined Macro Oceans full time, launched a low carbon cosmetics ingredient (if you want to see it in a consumer product, check this out) and built Recap Roswell, an AI-based summarizer of our local city council meetings.

Here are 52 things I learned along the way:

  1. Koala fingerprints are so near identical to human fingerprints that they can interfere with criminal investigations. Live Science
  2. Mortality from heart attacks goes up 15-20% on the days of marathons. Anupam Jena
  3. The US military uses dolphins and seals to help protect the nuclear stockpile. Palmer Lucky
  4. The first revolution of 1848, the Sicilian Revolution, began with a single person putting up flyers for a revolutionary committee that didn’t exist. Christopher Clark
  5. Bees play. Scientific American
  6. 63% of American 25 year olds were married in 1980. Pew Research
  7. The natural rate of background radiation at the US capitol is above the acceptable threshold for a nuclear power plant. Jack Devanney
  8. Only 1 of the 270 jobs in the 1950 census has been eliminated: the elevator operator. Ethan Mollick
  9. Labelling sesame as an allergen has increased rather than decreased its usage. Alex Stapp
  10. The second leading market for Guinness beer is Nigeria. The UK is first. Ireland comes in third. CNN
  11. More than half of US military enlistees have a family member with military service. Atlantic Council
  12. Every thoroughbred horse alive today descended from one of three stallions. 3 Quarks Daily
  13. The amount of time an average college educated mother spends with her children has doubled since 1965. The Economist via Sarah Constantin
Serius est quam cogitas (It's later than you think)
— One of the sundial mottos from Wikipedia that has stuck with me this year.
  1. The most common noun in the English language is time. Dr. Dean Buonomano
  2. The cinnamon you use is a cheap substitute. USA Today
  3. As a share of the occupation, there are twice as many female fighter pilots as there are male kindergarten teachers. Richard Reeves
  4. More than 5 million children were homeschooled in the US in 2021, up from 13,000 in 1973. George Mack
  5. Randomly buying Lego sets provides better returns than most VC firms. Will Manidis
  6. The current mortality rate for the opioid crisis in the US and Canada is worse than the peak of the HIV/AIDs epidemic. The Conversation Bonus: Overdoses are the leading cause of death for people under 45 in the US. George Mack
  7. The dodo was a species of pigeon. Wikipedia
  8. Squash, zucchini, cucumbers, and watermelons are all from the same plant family. Matthew Perkins
  9. How Cocomelon gets made: A child sits in front of a TV watching an episode; an adult stands nearby doing household tasks; if the child’s’ attention drifts from the at any point, they go back and amp up the interestingness. Maryanne Wolf
  10. American cheese was invented in Switzerland. Discovered via the Kroger online grocery app and confirmed via Thrillist. Aside: The food facts from the Kroger App are the most surprising thing about the 2023 list. They’re great! If the Kroger App team is out there, well done!
  11. A brand new ladder fire truck costs just under $1.5m ($1,449,853 to be precise). The Atlanta Journal Constitution
  12. Most of the placebo effect is just reversion to the mean. Jonatan Pallesen
  13. Charles III is the largest landowner in the world, followed by the Catholic Church and the Inuit People of Nunavut. Madison Trust

A square watermelon. Putting this on my shopping list for when I visit Japan.

  1. Square (or cube) watermelons are a thing. The Kroger App confirmed via Wikipedia
  2. Since 2012, 130,000 Indians gained access to electricity every single day. Hannah Ritchie
  3. Obesity rates in the United States haven’t gone down 2 years in a row in the past 50 years. James van Geelen Bonus: If the average passenger weight falls by 10 pounds, United Airlines would save $80 million per year. Sheila Kahyaoglu.
  4. Robert Oppenheimer learned Dutch in just 6 weeks. Los Alamos National Laboratory
  5. The original meaning of filibuster: to lead an unauthorized military expedition in a foreign country. Ryan McEntush
  6. 1 million more horses served in World War II than World War I. The Rest Is History
  7. Experiencing abusive leadership from a coach at any point shifts the trajectory of an NBA player permanently downward. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology
  8. There are more pet dogs (~83 million) than children (~72 million) living in the United States. American Veterinary Association
  9. The shipping industry generated as much profit between 2020 and 2022 as it had in the previous 6 decades. Adam Tooze
  10. HIV cases in Sydney, Australia are down 88% to just 11 cases per year. Tyler Cowen
  11. Switzerland, which is landlocked, has 14 ocean going vessels in its navy. SwissInfo.ch
  12. The only accounts we have of a crucifixion performed by the Romans are the four Gospels. Tom Holland
  13. Almost all truffle flavoring is fake. Taste Atlas

The Just City by Jo Walton, my favorite book in 2023.

  1. If grade inflation at Harvard continues at its current pace, the average student in 2028 will have a GPA higher than 4.0. The Crimson
  2. The typical couple takes 3.25 years to go from meeting to engagement. Squawk on the Street.
  3. Orthodox Jews account for just 0.2% of the US population, but 18% of altruistic kidney donations. Mosaic Magazine
  4. China’s population is expected to decline 46% by 2100. Pew Research.
  5. Venetian glass from the 15th century has been found as far away as Alaska. Smithsonian Magazine
  6. 100% of civilian deaths on the US mainland during World War II came from balloon attacks. ChinaTalk
  7. The Chimp-Pig hypothesis. Maybe not true, but definitely interesting. Uri Bram
  8. Newborn babies are slightly more likely to be males than females (105 to 100). Our World in Data
  9. The 16 hottest days in recorded global history all happened this summer. Zeke Hausfather
  10. There was an American Winston Churchill, who was also a successful politician and author; he met the British Winston in 1900. Robert Cottrell
  11. Alexander Graham Bell and Elisha Gray both applied for the patent for the telephone on the same day. Noahpinion
  12. The total urban population in Europe didn’t surpass the peak of Roman Empire for 1600 years. Rafael Guthmann
  13. Only one of Albert Einstein’s papers went through peer review. Adam Mastroianni
Do not complain beneath the stars about the lack of bright spots in your life
— Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson.

Prior lists: 2022, 2021

Right now, I am thinking a lot about:

  • How to use seaweed in every day products
  • Real world applications of LLMs
  • Ecosystems, and how to build them
  • Trust, and how to foster more of it

If you think we’d have an interesting conversation about these topics or something else all together, reach out (jdilla.xyz@gmail.com) or book a meeting.

Loving kindness


Orthodox Jews, although they comprise about 0.2 percent of U.S. population, account for some 18 percent of so-called altruistic kidney donations (i.e., those where a living donor gives an organ to a recipient he or she doesn’t know).

From Mosaic Magazine

The mental health of Georgia Farmers


From State Affairs:

The Georgia Rural Health Innovation Center at Mercer University School of Medicine did an online statewide survey between January and April 2022 . The survey drew 1,651 people in the agriculture industry. It looked at their mental health and well-being. Here’s what the survey found:

  • 29% of farmers said they thought of dying by suicide at least once a month.
  • 42% of farmers have had suicidal thoughts at least once in the last year.
  • 47% said they experienced loneliness at least once a month.
  • 49% reported being sad or depressed at least once a month.
  • 39% said they felt hopeless at least once a month.

Truly shocking numbers.

The rate of reports to child protective services


I found these to be astoundingly high, so much so that I am wondering if there is an error in the data. From the National Library of Medicine:

37.4% of all children experience a child protective services investigation by age 18 years. Consistent with previous literature, we found a higher rate for African American children (53.0%) and the lowest rate for Asians/Pacific Islanders (10.2%).

I have no expertise in this area, but the point of the paper is trying to differentiate between first time investigations and follow up investigations, since presumably children that are investigated once are more likely to be investigated again.

In 2014, 4.57% of all US children had a maltreatment investigation... Of these, about half (2.39%) had no previous investigation in the 2003–2014 database. After adjusting for database-first-time investigation rates as described in the preceding section, we estimate that 2.09% had a true first-time investigation.

It occurs to me that even though I'm a parent, I'm not sure what exactly would cause a CPS investigation and what wouldn't.

If this data is correct, I'm torn between being sad for a whole lot of families and wondering if we're over investigating.