Jellyfish Stings and The “Pee on it” Myth

By Anupum Pant

I haven’t been ever stung by a jelly fish, but from how Destin says it in the video, and other people I’ve seen getting bitten, tells me that it is something no one would want to experience in their life. If you did not know, the sting is awfully painful.

A jelly fish uses venom, not poison. They are two different things. Which means that a jellyfish stings you and uses extremely tiny hypodermic needle like things to inject toxins in your body.

But doesn’t jellyfish seem like a bunch of jelly floating around with no visible prickly parts? how does something so soft actually go about inserting something sharp into your skin?

Turns out, on the surface of those long tentacles these fish have, there are microscopic organelles called nematocysts which it uses to sting you. Even a tiny brush with those tentacles can trigger them. The more interesting part is that these tiny needles act very fast, and like I said, they are also very tiny. So, to see them you need a really high frame-rate camera attached to a microscope.

That is exactly what Destin does in the video below. It’s fascinating to see those tiny stingers do their work so fast under a microscope. Not many get a chance to see something like this.

Just FYI. In case you ever end up getting bitten by a jellyfish, please don’t ask your friend to pee on it. There’s a word going around that this helps, but in reality it doesn’t. In fact it can make it worse. Instead try washing it off with sea water. And then use a credit card to scratch the sting to remove any nematocysts stuck in your skin.

Don’t believe me? Please watch this…

Benford’s Law Will Make You Wonder For a While

By Anupum Pant

Benford’s law is a fairly simple law to grasp and it will blow your mind. It deals with the leading digits of numbers.

So, for example, you have the number 28 – The leading digit for it would be 2. Similarly, the leading digit for 934 would be 9. Just pick the first digit. Now…

In a data set you’d say – it is common sense to assume that the probability of leading digit one (1) appearing would be more or less equal to that of leading digit nine (9).
As there are 9 possible leading digits, you’d think that the probability of each leading digit would compute to something around 0.11
You’d imagine that it would be normal to assume a nearly straight graph of probability vs. leading digit. But this isn’t true.

Benford’s law says

Your common sense fails. What actually happens is that the likelihood of 1 appearing as the first digit in a data set is around 0.3
For the following digits, the probability keeps decreasing. And the following graph appears. You’ll see that the numbers rarely start with nine!


When does it work?

This counter-intuitive result applies to a wide variety of natural data sets. It works the best if your set spans quite a few orders of magnitude. Natural set of data like stock prices, electricity bills, populations, which could range from few single digit values to several digits work the best. Other data like the heights of people doesn’t work because it does not span “quite a few orders of magnitude”. Also, artificially tampered data fails to comply because the person who tampers does the same mistake everyone does. Therefore, Benford’s law is also used to detect frauds in data.


  1. Count the number of data points in a data set which have the leading digit 1 and write the number next to the number 1 in a table.
  2. Then, keep repeating it for all the numbers 2, 3, 4 and so on.
  3. Calculate the probabilities for each. In the end you’ll be left with a table that would look something like this. (Probability = Number of Data Points for that  digit / Total Data Points)
Leading Digit Digit Probability
1 0.301
2 0.17
3 0.125
4 0.097
5 0.079
6 0.067
7 0.058
8 0.051
9 0.046

How does it work?

Watch the  following video for the explanation:

Try it yourself: [Kirix]

Valporate – Performance Enhancing Drug for Perfect Pitch

By Anupum Pant

Today we find out if it would be a good idea to impress your friends during the next gathering by hacking your brain with pills to learn a rare ability fairly quickly. But first, pay attention to the following jargon.

Perfect pitch

Perfect pitch is an exceptional ability among few gifted humans that enables them to recognize and re-create the pitch of a musical note instantly without the help of any external reference. There have been no cases of adults learning this ability by practice. However, pseudo absolute pitch can be learnt with great practice and only retained through regular use.

Brain plasticity

Learning to recognize musical notes, or any other ability for that matter can be reasonably easy at an early age due to a brain’s plastic state. The brain’s ability to change and adapt as a result of experience is far better at younger ages. As people age, they lose the ability to learn like kids.

For instance, picture the rate at which infants learn language. By the time they turn 2 – 4 years old, they start using thousands of words. Try learning a new language at the age of 35. It is tough.

However, a new research suggests that this state of brain can be recovered by using drugs. One such drug, according to Dr. Takao Hensch is Valporate.

Is Valporate a Performance Enhancing Drug?

No! it is not a performance enhancing drug. Valporate or Valporic acid is a drug sold under the common names – Depakote, Depacon and Stavzor. For several years it has been used to treat various disorders from migraines to bipolar disorder. It is a chemical substance that can cross the blood–brain barrier. As a result, it has the power to affect an individual’s perception, mood, consciousness, cognition, and behavior.

Dr. Takao Hensch, a Harvard University professor, recently published a study which tested the effects of Valporate on 23 healthy male subjects for two weeks. None of them had a musical experience. During this period they were trained in music. At the end of this study, researchers found that these 23 men did remarkably better than an average adult would do, at perfect pitch tests.

In the future

He thinks, may be 10 years down the line, this drug could be used to enhance other learning abilities like language learning among adults, by changing the state of their brains.

Presently, studies on how the brain changes at cellular level when this drug is taken are underway. Also, Dr. Hensch thinks that humans have evolved to experience these learning stages for a reason. If it is okay to mess around with it, is still being studied. At this stage, trying this out at home can be extremely risky. It would be wise for us to wait for scientists to come out with a comprehensive study on the effects of this drug.


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