Stuff YOU Should Know

Posted by on Feb 1, 2016 in Stuff You Should Know

Jonas Hits East Coast

Fourteen states around the country got more than a foot of snow this month, with at least six states on the East Coast seeing more than two feet of powder. Much of it came over the weekend of January 22-24 from Winter Storm Jonas. For many of the areas affected, it ranked as the single biggest snowstorm in history, based on the amount of accumulated snow. West Virginia received the most (42 inches), followed by Virginia (39 inches), Maryland (38.5 inches), Pennsylvania (38.3 inches), New Jersey (33 inches), and New York (31 inches). The storm killed at least 15 people.

Bicycle under snow

A bicycle covered in heavy fallen snow; Credit: ©Henn Photography/Cultura Creative (RF)/Alamy.

Rating the severity of a storm can be tricky; there are other factors other than snowfall that one can consider, including wind speed, predictability (was there advance notice or did it veer off-course), location (heavily populated vs. rural), timing (did it occur overnight, over a weekend, or during rush hour), and the number of storm-related injuries or death.

What Do You Think? Were you affected by Jonas? If so, what was it like where you live? If not, what is the biggest snowfall you can remember? Were you prepared (home from school, etc.) Give a detailed account of what happened and how your community reacted.

China Marks Slowest Growth in 25 Years

If you pay attention to the U.S. stock market, you’ve probably heard that it is being affected by the Chinese economy. So what gives? Well, it might be helpful to understand some basics of the trading atmosphere in Asia. First of all, China’s stock market is relatively small (with a combined “market cap” of less than half than the United States’ NYSE and NASDAQ). It is also relatively new. (The Hong Kong exchange was first established in 1891, but then closed when China became a communist state in 1949. The current Shanghai Stock Exchange opened in 1990.)

Perhaps the biggest difference between the United States and China is the role of the investor. In China, only about 7 percent of the population has money in the stock market (unlike around 50 percent of Americans). However, in the U.S., financial institutions are allowed to manage those stocks. In China, individual investors directly control more of the trading decisions. Despite all of this, global markets have suffered from extreme volatility (swings up and down). China’s economy, which is experiencing its slowest growth in 25 years, is the second-largest in the world, behind the United States.

Dig Deeper Experts predict that the Chinese stocks will drop another 10 percent before recovering. Find out if others agree and what measures are being taken to stop the country from slipping into a recession.

Prime Discovery

Around sixth grade, students start to learn about primes–numbers that are only divisible by one and themselves. Like multiplication, learning to identify such numbers saves time when working on math problems, especially fractions. It is also an important part of computer encryption. Before this year, the largest known prime number was 17 million digits long. Earlier this month, one that contains 22 million digits was discovered by Dr. Curtis Cooper at the University of Central Missouri. It can be written out as 2∧74,207,281-1 (which means 2 multiplied by 74,207,280, then 1 subtracted).

The discovery was part of a project called the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search (GIMPS). This cooperative, made up of thousands of volunteers, began in 1996. Its name is taken from Marin Mersenne, a French mathematician form the early 17th century. A Mersenne prime is defined as “one less than a power of two.” Volunteers run software programs to search for new numbers. This discovery is considered progress because primes are used scramble data online. Right now, however, the number is considered too large to currently be of practical value.

What Do You Think? Are you good at math? How often do prime numbers factor into your school work? How high up can you count in primes?

Wave of Cultural Losses

With the new year came the news that we had lost some of our country’s treasured musicians and actors. You have likely seen the wave of tributes. Here is a reminder of their contribution:

  • Natalie Cole (65) – A successful R&B singer from the 1970s, her greatest success came with the release of her 1991 album of American Standards once performed by her late father, the late Nat King Cole, a famous “crooner” (a smooth-voiced singer of the Great American Songbook, usually backed by an orchestra) from the 1950s and 60s.
  • Lemmy Kilmister (70) – Born Ian, Kilmister got his nickname from asking everyone for money—“lend me a quid” (quid is British slang for cash). In the 1970s, he founded the rock band Motorhead, which is considered one of the most influential bands of the heavy metal genre. Lemmy continued to tour until just before his death.
  • David Bowie (69) – Known primarily as a recording artist, Bowie was considered a cultural innovator who had an enormous impact in the world of music, fashion, art and film. He released more than 25 studio albums over the course of five decades. His career was marked by continual re-invention ranging from the flamboyance of glam rock to electronic experimentation and stripped down acoustic.
  • Alan Rickman (69) – You probably know him best as Snape from the Harry Potter films, but Rickman had a long and acclaimed career long before he set foot in Hogwarts. Born in London, Rickman was classically trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, where he studied Shakespeare. His film roles ranged from romantic leads in period “costume dramas” to villains in action movies.
  • Glenn Frye (65) – He was a founding member of The Eagles, one of the best-selling rock bands of all time. They released six albums in the 1970s that spawned 17 top-50 hits, many of them written by Frye. After the band broke up in 1980, Frye went on to enjoy a career as solo artist and actor.
What Do You Think? Pick one of the artists above, preferably one you know the least about. Find a clip on YouTube that features one of their songs or films. Write a one-paragraph reaction.