CEO and a second empty jet tailing the first one. The wreck of Titanic’s is disappearing. London Tower uses ravens to “prevent disaster” [r/TodayiLearned, Episode #17]

#1

TIL: Former General Electric CEO Immelt wasn’t happy with just one corporate jet flying him around the world. He had a second empty jet tailing the first one in the rare event that the primary jet needed maintenance.

General Electric told its directors the company had scaled back the practice in mid-2014 and would continue to use the backup plane only in limited situations, such as going to risky locations, the Journal reported.

Flannery has grounded GE’s corporate aircraft fleet to cut costs and initiated a new policy under which executives will fly on commercial or charter flights, the Journal said.

#2

TIL The wreck of Titanic’s is disappearing at a rate that it’s estimated to be completely gone in about 30 years. A microorganism called ‘Halomonas titanicae’ (also called the ‘steel-munching bacteria’) is slowly eating away the iron of the ships’ wreck, causing its deterioration.

In the wee hours of April 15th, 1912, the RMS Titanic, a British passenger liner, met an untimely fate on her maiden voyage. The news made headlines, and is, to date, one of the most talked about maritime disasters, although it is not the worst. The sinking of the German ship Wilhelm Gustloff is the worst tragedy, as it resulted in the death of over 9,000 people. That, however, is a story for another day.

The wreck of the Titanic was found in 1985, quite by accident. Researchers have now found that the shipwreck, over 100 years after its ill-fated sinking, is deteriorating rather quickly.

The massive wreck lies on the seabed at a depth of almost 4000 meters. With numerous sources reporting cave-ins and other forms of damage to the wreck, most people now estimate that the wreck will be gone in about 15-20 years, 30 at most. The main cause behind this is the microorganism Halomonas titanicae. When wrecks reach the seabed, they are colonized by a large number of microbes. It usually starts with one or two species, which establishes a base for the further invasion of other species. This myriad of microbes form a stick, oily layer over the wreck called a biofilm. This actually slows down the corrosion and damage caused by the water and chemicals, as it reduces the direct contact between the surface of the wreck and the water. However, in the case of the Titanic, H. titanicae seems to have a particular liking for iron. This organism is slowly eating away the iron that forms the wreck, thus leading to the deterioration of the ship.

However, these microbes aren’t always the bad guys. They could be used to recycle metal from other wrecks and structures when required if we manage to harness their metal-corroding property. Preservation of the wreck of the Titanic would be incredibly expensive and may be impossible. However, it will continue to live on in the minds of countless people even after the ruins are no longer there.

#3

TIL That the London Tower uses ravens to “prevent disaster” and that these birds are technically military members and can be dishonorably discharged!

It is not known when the Ravens first came to the Tower of London, but their presence there is surrounded by myth and legend. Unusually for birds of ill omen, the future of both Country and Kingdom relies upon their continued residence, for according to legend, at least six ravens must remain lest both Tower and Monarchy fall.

The Raven Master Derrick Coyle is a Yeoman Warder or ‘Beefeater’ dedicated to caring for the Tower’s unique Unkindness of Ravens.

There are seven ravens at the Tower today ( the required six plus one spare!) Their names are Hardey, Thor, Odin, Gwyllum, Cedric, Hugine and Munin. Their lodgings are to be found next to the Wakefield Tower.

To prevent the birds from flying away one of their wings is clipped by the Raven Master. This does not hurt the raven nor does it harm them in any way. By unbalancing their flight it ensures that they don’t stray too far from the Tower.

The fortunes of the Tower Ravens reached their lowest point just after World War II when only Raven Grip was left at the Tower. It is believed that the birds were upset by the continuous bombing of London. There is also the suggestion, although it has never been proved, that one raven, Mabel, was kidnapped!

#4

TIL: Lin Wang was an elephant who served in the Second World War and the Chinese Civil War. Lin became a cultural icon after his arrival in Taiwan and died at the age of 86 in 2003. He participated in building some monuments for the martyrs of the war and performed in a circus in 1946.

Asian elephant Lin Wang hauled supplies through Burma for the Japanese army during World War II,  until he was captured (along with 12 other elephants) by the Chinese in 1943.

After some time in China, he retired in 1954, at Taipei Zoo in Taiwan.

Considered to be the oldest elephant who ever lived by the Guinness World Records after succeeding the typical age of 70, Lin Wang went on to live until the age of 86.

Lin Wang was so cherished by  Taipei Zoo In that in 2004, he was immortalized in a life-size specimen credited to a taxidermist, Lin-Wen Lung.

#5

TIL Eighty percent of babies in Nigeria receive pre-chewed food, as do a quarter of infants in Gabon. Ethnographers have documented premastication on every continent and in every type of society from hunter-gatherers to farmers

On a trip to a society of forager-farmers in the Bolivian Amazon a few years ago, Melanie Martin asked a dozen Tsimane mothers to chew up their food and spit it into a cup — instead of their babies’ mouths. The Tsimane, like certain cultures around the world, feed their babies through premastication. When asked why they pre-chewed meals, responses varied.

“They’re just making sure there’s nothing in that spoonful that is going to burn the kid’s mouth or choke them,” says Martin, who visited the group when she was a graduate student in anthropology at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Martin is part of a small group of researchers actively studying — and sometimes even trying — this ancient feeding practice. Ethnographers have documented premastication on every continent and in every type of society from hunter-gatherers to farmers. It remains surprisingly common in parts of the world today. Eighty percent of babies in Nigeria receive pre-chewed food, as do a quarter of infants in Gabon. Field workers have observed the practice throughout East and South Asia. Among HIV-infected mothers in Argentina, Brazil, and Peru, many have heard of premastication, while 4 percent practice it. And in the United States, 1 in 7 caregivers— particularly black caregivers — report pre-chewing food.

Breast milk alone ceases to meet a baby’s nutritional needs around 6 months of age. But it takes up until about age 2 for babies to grow a full set of teeth. For over a year, babies occupy a nutritional gray zone. They can neither thrive on milk alone nor eat adult foods without modification such as blending, boiling or chopping. The rising popularity of baby-led weaning, or letting babies feed themselves from the adult table, partly circumvent these challenges. But foods rich in micronutrients that are a potential choking hazard, such as raw vegetables, chewy meats, and nuts, remain a difficulty.