Gists XIII


Daniel Lanciana
16 min readJan 8, 2024


  • Both Michael Jordan (1963) and Mike Tyson (1966) were born at Cumberland Hospital in Forte Green, Brooklyn! Neither grew up in Brooklyn. Fun fact: I lived on the same (small) street! LeBron James and Stephen Curry were both born in Summa Akron City Hospital, Ohio!
  • Since 2000, the number of US billionaires has tripled.
  • Steely Dan and Duran Duran played at Robert Downey Jr.’s 50th birthday. The Roots played Obama’s 60th at Martha Vineyard.
  • The largest distributor of physical records in the US is Starbucks!
  • The US has 45 million foreign-born residents — more than the next top four countries combined!
  • Ernst Jünger suffered seven major wounds in the First World War; he was shot through the lung and on the verge of bleeding to death before a medic arrived; right after the medic was killed; he was carried away but that solder was also shot dead. He died at the age of 102.
  • Adam comes from the Hebrew word for earth or soil.
  • Thrill shows (i.e. daredevils) were invented at the 1932 Lucas County Fair. At one point, America had 250 of them!
  • American optimism should be admired. The American Dream of upward social mobility is past.
  • “Desegregation was a war. We sent children to fight it.” The Supreme Court Brown decision placd the entire burden of desegregation on children, who were required to do something that no adult was required to handle.
  • China dominated the seas in the fifteenth century with some of the largest wooden ships ever built — predating European technology by centuries and the largest armada until WWI. Political instability led to the fleet being docked.
  • China consumes more than a third of the world’s fish.
  • “Motivators, like parents, don’t so much instruct you as remind you of good habits.” A push to living up to your potential rather than just being happy (e.g. playing video games and eating chocolate). To create new habits, you need motivation, mind-set, and a methodology. Self-help exploded with the loss of faith in organized religion.
  • The main truth to happiness is love people, love life, and love yourself. Schedule a mini-adventure every two months; build a winning habit (e.g. no sugar) every quarter; and frame your year around a misogi (Japanese for purifying ritual) — a daunting challenge that forces growth.
  • Calamari was popularised in 1974 after a master’s thesis asserted Americans would prefer squid breaded and fried. The Italian name “calamari” was chosen to sound more gourmet.
  • The American dream is deceased and has been since the late 90’s. The dream is based on high levels of upward social mobility. Globally the US ranks 27th.
  • American politics: a sense that the country is stuck in a loop (Biden v Trump II).
  • What led our species from having nothing (before the Industrial Revolution the vast majority of people were dirt poor by today’s standards), to needing everything?
  • Ridley Scott directed his first film at 40; suffers “the black dog” (depression as Churchill called it); his brother Tony directed Top Gun and Beverly Hills Cop 2, and later jumped off a bridge after calling Ridley (Tony had cancer).
  • The media is not punished for misinformation, they are rewarded for following the fan base and getting clicks. Truthful, thoughtful content isn’t viral, sensationalist content is.
  • “Porn is the low-slung engine of progress” according a Times headline. It can be credited with the adoption of VCRs, cable, internet, and (now) deepfakes. Able to depict anything imaginable, people just want to see famous people having sex.
  • In 1029, almost half of all US babies are from unmarried mothers. In 1980, it was 18%. Having two parents is becoming a privilege. Having two caretakers combines income/wealth, time, and emotional energy. Child outcomes (education, earning power) are higher.
  • Life runs on sunlight. Life rewards cooperation. Life builds from the bottom up. Life banks on diversity. Life recycles everything. Life builds resilience through diversity, decentralisation, and redundancy. Life optimises rather than maximises. Life selects for the good of the whole system. In short, life creates the conditions conducive to life.
  • apizza (pronounced “ah-beetz”) is Neapolitan pizza popular in New Haven. Ordering a tomato pie online has a checkbox to agree to “acknowledge that this pie has no mozzarella on it.”
  • toyetic: movies and TV that generate merchandise opportunities (e.g. He-Man).


  • “The death of monoculture — we no longer consume the same cultural objects at the same time or in the same way, and as a result we feel disconnected, adrift, lost.”
  • “It is debatable when American democracy started to backslide, or to what extent, but there is no longer any objective reason — except for nostalgia, or the stale fumed of American exceptionalism — to exclude the US from consideration [for backsliding].”
  • “Do you have dogs? Well here’s what A.I. is to you. You’re the dog.” — Elon Must
  • “To be young and female is to be looked at — to be trapped in being looked at.” — Sarah Sze
  • “The downward pressure of the neighbourhood.” — Lisa Yuskavage
  • “The desire to dominate has nothing to do with intelligence — it has to do with testosterone.” — Geoffrey Hinton
  • “Wellington is a bad general and the English are bad troops. The whole affair will not be more serious than swallowing once’s breakfast.” — Napoleon (Napoleon held off battle due to an overnight downpour, which gave the Prussians enough time to reach Wellington and win the battle).
  • “To many ruderless men who feel at sea, toxic masculinity seems like a safe harbour.”
  • “An old-fashioned idea of celebrity: to be a star is to be golden, and to make everything you touch look the same.”
  • “The private urge toward the creation of human life coexisting with intimations of its imminent destruction.” “The bodily wreckage of childbirth.” “A kind of magical thinking — etymology as destiny — if you, too, have summoned a child into the maw of the Anthropocene.”

Music Copyright

“The law, which represents the Apollonian side of human experience — the rational, analytical, and intellectual — is a leaky sieve for containing the Dionysian elements of music — the irrational, abstraction, and emotion.”

  • US law in 1831, making it commercially viable to be an artist
  • Cryptomnesia is a forgotten memory that is mistaken for an original idea.
  • Neither Marvin Gaye or Ed Sheeran can read music. Bent third and seventh blue notes that lie at the heart of the blues can’t be written in twelve-note chromatic-style notation.

US Army

  • US Soldier Center projects include a an inform that can change colour; a courage pill; “instant chapel” that can be parachuted into war zones and contains camouflaged Jewish prayer shawls, and a compass that points towards Mecca; a protein bar doused with kerosene (so soldiers only eat in an emergency); xylitol-enriched chewing gum to replace teeth brushing; and the Army Tactical Bra.
  • In 1782, Deborah Sampson served 17 months in the Continental Army as Robert Shurtleff; she was discovered after being treated by a doctor for a fever. In 1901, women entered the military as nurses. In 1917, the first woman to enlist in the military as a Navy yeoman. In 1943, women became full members of the military.

Marvel fatigue

“The dangerous thing about making something for everyone is that you ultimately make it for no one.”

  • Stanley Lieber joined Timely Comics as an errand boy and wrote stories under the pen name, Stan Lee. In 1957, Congress scapegoated comics for juvenile delinquency; Lee had to lay off his entire staff.
  • In 1989, Ron Perelman purchased Marvel for $82.5 million. In the mid-90s the bulk of staff were laid off and quality declined. In 1999, Marvel lost $400 million in the fourth quarter.
  • Reclusive Israeli entrepreneur Isaac Perlmutter started by charging mourners at Jewish cemeteries to deliver the Kaddish. His company Toy Biz merged with Marvel. He kept a gun in his briefcase during negotiations, fished paper clips out of the trash, and refused to re-order a shipment of pens (for years Marvel paperwork was done in purple!). Reportedly replaced Terrence Howard with Don Cheadle because “Black people all look alike” and doubted the profitability of female superheroes.
  • Marvel licensed X-Men to Fox; Spider-Man to Sony — and were about to license Captain America and Thor. Licensing meant heroes couldn’t intermingle onscreen.
  • The 32 MCU movies have grossed over $29 billion making it the most successful in entertainment history. Marvel Stuios president David Maisel came up with the MCA as “one movie with 29 sequels.” Maisel convinced Bob Iger of Disney to buy Marvel, earning $50 million.
  • VFX burnout with effects artists seen crying at their desks during 80-hour weeks.
  • Top ten grossing movies by year: 2022: all reboots or sequels, 5 superhero films; 2021: 2 original films (Eternals and Free Guy), 5 superhero films.


“The American government gives the most help to those who need it least.”

  • In 1980, 43% of the world lived in extreme poverty; today it is 8%. Globalization has lifted a billion humans out of poverty in just fourty years!
  • 1 in 8 Americans — and 1 in 6 children — live in poverty. Same levels as 1970.
  • US society has made a priority of other things: wealth accumulation for the few and cheap stuff for the many.
  • Enabled gouging on the poor, who have less choices (e.g. Payday-loans). In 2020, the average overdraft fee was $33.58 and could be charged multiple times per day! The federal minimum wage has been $7.25 since 2009.
  • America’s welfare state (as a percentage of GDP) is the second-biggest in the world (after France) — but it unduly assists the affluent through things like retirement subsidies, student loans, child tax credits, and homeowner subsidies. These benefits disproportionately help those well above the poverty line.
  • Americans who benefit from welfare in the less-direct form of tax deductions and subsidies find it hard to acknowledge it as welfare.
  • Measures to help the poor include supporting unions (best way to empower workers); better-regulate payday lending; access to contraception and abortion (proven to keep women and children out of poverty); more public / affordable housing; and making it easier for the poor to become homeowners.


“Have I played my part in the comedy of life? Since the play has gone down well, give us a clap and send us away with applause.” — Emperor Augustus

  • Starting with Julius Caesar in 42 BC, thirty-three members of the imperial family became gods or goddesses. In ancient Rome, new gods were recognised all the time. The boundary between human and divine was crossable. Rome believed its military and political success depended on the gods being properly worshipped. Superstitions that had to be followed.
  • Until the sick and elderly Diocletian in 305 AD, death was the only recognised way for an emperor to leave the throne. Caligula was killed in an alleyway by his closest advisors; Domitian was stabbed; Caracalla was knifed while taking a piss during a military campaign.
  • Elagabalus hosted dinners with camel heels and flamingo brains; served fake food to the least important guests (who were forced to watch everyone else eat); planted whoopee cushions (first in Western culture); and released tame lions, leopards, and bears amongst the guests. He was eventually assassinated and his body dumped unceremoniously in the Tiber.


“What was a problem of scarcity is now a problem of superabundance.”

  • Originally billiard balls were made of ivory from elephants. The game was so popular elephants became scarce. In 1865, a $10,000 reward was offered to anyone who could develop an ivory substitute. John Wesley Hyatt developed celluloid, which was popular but was highly flammable — two balls colliding could set off a small explosion!
  • Plastics are made from oil and gas refining by-products. Many chemicals involved are carcinogens. Plastics can also contain additives, which are suspected carcinogens. Plastic degrades and can only be reused a couple of times.
  • Celluloid was the first commercially produced plastic. Followed by Bakelite, polyvinyl chloride, polyethylene, polyester, polypropylene, Styrofoam, Plexiglas, Mylar, Teflon, PolyEthylene Terephthalate (PET), and so on.
  • Plastic tends to break down into MicroPlastics (MPs, smaller than 5mm), which spread everywhere (air, water) — including the womb. Microfibres can get pulled deep in the lungs. A single plastic bag can leech over 13,000 compounds. MPs also attract Persistent Bio-accumulative and Toxic substances (PBTs). Consuming microplastics is a good way to swallow old poisons.
  • Without plastic there would be no modern medicine or gadgets. With plastic humans have contaminated every corner of Earth. Americans produce almost 500 pounds per person every year (the most) — nearly twice as much as Europeans.
  • Recycling plastic is smoke and mirrors. Only containers labelled as №1 or №2 get melted down with any regularity. Even then, packaging contains extra plastic bits that aren’t recyclable.
  • The plastics industry is a subsidiary of the fossil fuel industry (ExxonMobil is the largest producer of virgin polymers) — including powerful lobbying to prevent change.
  • The Great Pacific Garbage Patch covers 600 square miles and is estimated to contain 1.8 trillion plastic shards. Animals that fill up on plastics eventually starve to death.
  • The only solution is to reduce the production of single-use plastics. Plastics are poisoning ourselves, our children, and the ecosystem.


“To save capitalism from its own failures and excesses.”
“Without government, we are in a state of nature, where coercion, not freedom, is the norm.”

  • In the US, government spending doubled between 1950 and 1962. Social Security, G.I. Bill, Interstate Defense Highways Act (interstate highways), National Defense Education Act, Medicare and Medicade. Meanwhile the top marginal tax rate was close to 90%.
  • Deregulation was supposed to spur competition, but has not slowed the trend towards monopoly. Each of the top 12 companies in the world is a monopoly or near-monopoly.
  • In 1980, CEOs were paid about 42 times more than the average employee; in 2016 it was 347 times. The 3 million wealthiest are worth more than the 291 million that make up the bottom 90%.
  • The sun has set on neoliberalism.


“A hallmark of successful American retail.”

  • In 1913, J.C. (James Cash) Penny innovation to allow customer returns with no questions asked. J.C. Penny employee Sam Walton used the idea when founding Walmart 22 years later.
  • A century ago refund rates were probably around 2%; pre-Internet 8–10%; now close to 22%.
  • Easy returns are like free shipping — in both cases the cost in ultimately borne by the consumer; it’s folded into prices.
  • A shift from repair to replace, partly the result of consumer ignorance and laziness, limited life spans, and/or impossible to repair. Two significant impediments to repair are glue instead of screws and plastif fasteners that break when pulled apart.

Fake Food

  • Frosted strawberry Pop-Tarts has no real strawberries; Tostitos Hint of Lime has no lime; Snapple “all natural” has no natural juice; Keebler fudge mint cookies has no fudge or mint; Trident original flavor gum has no mint; Tom’s of Maine anti-plaque has no ingredient that fights plaque; Vizzy antioxidant vitamin C is low in vitamin C; Kroger smoked Gouda is not smoked.
  • In 1933, World’s Fair American Chamber of Horrors featured misleading products. In 1937, over 100 people died after taking an antibiotic that hadn’t been tested; in response, the 1938 Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.
  • In 1990, nutrition labels. In 1994, per-cent juice labelling. In 2006, trans-fat labelling. In 2016, fast-food calorie disclosure.


  • Carl Linnaeus — the father of modern taxonomy — was named after a species; the linden tree. Separated identification and description into classification and nomenclature. Declared a species’ name should always be a single word in Latin.
  • Personally coined names for over 12,000 species of plants and animals; today there are over 1.5 million species. Placed all life-forms into three kingdoms: animal, vegetable, and mineral; today 5–6 (Animalia, Plantae, Fungi, Protista, Monera) under 2–3 domains (Archaea, Bacteria, Eukarya).
  • His partner, Peter Artedi, drowned in an Amsterdam canal while walking late at night.
  • His most important works were Special Plantarum (1753) and Systema Naturae (1736). The latter placed humans among the primates.

“Who would have thought that bluebells, lilies, and onions could be up to such immorality?”

  • Advanced the “scandalous” theory that plants, like animals, reproduce sexually with stamens releasing pollen to fertilise the ovules contained in the pistils. The plant kingdom, like the animal kingdom, proved to be sexually unruly (homosexuality, polygamy, incest).
  • He coaxed a banana tree into producing fruit for the Swedish royal family — the only people to eat bananas there for almost 200 years!
  • The moral order system began to erode under the combined Scientific Revolution, the Age of Exploration, and the Enlightenment.



  • John Maynard Keynes once observed from two thousand years before Christ to the beginning of the 18th century, there was no great change in the standard of life of the average civilised person. At best, he calculated, the average standard of living had no more than doubled in the previous four millennia. Then, in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, we started to harness the combustion of coal, gas, and oil, and everything changed. An energy revolution.
  • A barrel of oil costs $70 and provides 25,000 hours of hard human labour — 12.5 years of work — which at $20/hr would cost $500,000.
  • A 1972 report commissioned by the Club of Rome titled “The Limits to Growth.” A team of M.I.T. economists used computer models (then something of a novelty) to show that, if we kept growing at the then-current rate, the planet could expect ecological collapse sometime toward the middle of the twenty-first century. That prediction turns out to have been spot-on: a report published in Nature on the last day of May concluded that we have already exceeded seven of eight “safe and just Earth system boundaries” that it studied — from groundwater supplies and fertilizer overuse to temperature.
  • Before 1972, more than half of Americans had never taken a plane trip, much less more than one a year. And, since 1960, we’ve increased our total meat and poultry consumption by thirty-five per cent.
  • Extra consumption doesn’t correlate to happiness. Social scientists estimate that Britons were at their most content in 1957.
  • France has even banned some airplane trips between cities that are less than two and a half hours apart by train. Paris has invested in public transit, built hundreds of miles of bike paths, and closed many streets to cars. Car trips within the city dropped by almost sixty per cent between 2001 and 2018, car crashes dropped by thirty per cent, and pollution has improved. The city is quieter and calmer; test scores go up as the air around schools cleans up. Underground parking garages have been converted into warehouse space and mushroom farms.

Knot Theory


  • The cravat, a type of scarf, gained popularity in Europe in the sixteen-hundreds, and an 1828 book, The Art of Tying the Cravat, included thirty-two lessons. In the 1850s, the modern necktie emerged. In the 1930s, the larger Windsor knot (named for the Duke of Windsor) became popular.
  • The word “topology” comes from the German mathematician Johann Listing, who wrote about knots in an 1847 book. Knot theory took another step forward in 1867, when the physicist Lord Kelvin — inspired by smoke rings blown by his colleague Peter Guthrie Tait — theorized that atoms were knotted vortices in the ether. Tait soon enumerated all the knots that had up to seven crossings (there were fifteen).
  • According to topologists, who study the mathematical field of topology, a knot is just a closed loop. The simplest nontrivial knot is the trefoil, which is the same as an overhand knot, but with the string’s ends joined; on paper, it looks like someone drew a three-leaf clover.
  • Mathematicians long thought there were a hundred and sixty-six knots with ten crossings, but in 1974 a Harvard law student with an undergraduate math degree, Ken Perko, noticed two of the knots were the same (now known as the Perko pair). A knot in three dimensions comes undone in four; meanwhile, in four dimensions, you can knot spheres.
  • In 1999, two physicists published a book titled The 85 Ways to Tie a Tie using a special notation they created. They limited their tie knots to nine moves and flat surfaces — deeming thirteen of their knots to be aesthetically pleasing based on mathematical symmetry and balance.
  • In 2013, topologist Mikael Vejdemo-Johansson expanded the number of moves to 13, could have multiple loops, did not end with the same sequence, and could lead with the tail.
  • In 2015, a team published a paper called More Ties than We Thought that increased the tally to 266,682. An accompanying Web site,, randomly generated knots and tutorials.
  • Notable knots include the Merovingian, which was named for a character in the 2003 film The Matrix Reloaded; The Eldredge with five overlapping sheaths; The Gardenia looks like a flower; the Wicker and the Mockatonic look like origami; The Riddler looks like a question mark; The La France; and the Exousia requires more than one tie.

Barbra Streisand

  • Took exactly one singing lesson and never learned how to read music.
  • Released 57 albums, starred in over 12 films, directed 3 films, won an honorary EGOT, 3 Peabodys, 11 Golden Globes, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. First Broadway role at age 19.
  • Two of her three dogs are clones of her late dog.
  • Lived all over New York.
  • In the early 1960s, performed at the Bon Soir, a piano bar in Greenwich Village — a live recording released in 2022.
  • Her audiobook of My Name Is Barbra, which she narrates, is 48 hours long!


  • The largest ($200 billion) single-day gains in stock market history to make it the sixth-most valuable company — worth more than Walmart and Exxon-Mobile combined!
  • Powering the crypto and AI booms — similar to Samuel Brannan selling prospecting supplies during the San Francisco gold rush of the 1840s.
  • CEO Jensen Huang drafted the company at a San Jose Denny’s in 1993. Recently he returned for an award and tipped the waitress $1,000.
  • Originally called NVision, but it was a toilet paper manufacturer. Nvidia a riff on the Latin word for (competitor) envy — invidia.
  • In 1996, bet the company, which only had enough cash for one month of payroll — on an untested microchip called RIVA 128, which was a success. The unofficial motto of the company is still “our company is thirty days from going out of business.”
  • In 1999, invented the term GPUs (Graphic Processing Unit) so they could “be the leader in” that category with their GeForce cards.
  • In 2000, Stanford student Ian Buck chained 32 GeForce cards together to play Quake in 8K on eight projectors! With a DARPA grant, he hacked the cards to access the underlying circuits to create a low-budget supercomputer.
  • In 2012, Alex Krizhevsky and Ilya Sutskever produced a world-class neural network called AlexNet using just two Nvidia boards trained in Alex’s parent’s house; a Big Bang moment comprable to the Wright Flyer or Edison bulb. The nine-page description of AlexNet is one of the most important computer science papers and one of the most cited. GPUs can train neural networks up to a hundred times faster.
  • In 2016, the first dedicated Nvidia AI supercomputer, the DGX-1, was hand-delivered by Huang to OpenAI; Elon Musk personally opened the package.
  • In 2017, Google researchers introduced the transformer. The following year OpenAI used transformers to produce the first Generative Pre-Trained Transformer, or GPT.
  • Today, the GDX H100 weights 375 pounds and costs up to $500,000. Nvidia is projected to sell half a million of these units.
  • Human are like neural networks that have “trained” over countless generations and stored the results in the physical pathways of our brains.


  • Born Lesane Parish Crooks in East Harlem, 1971. Named to avoid Black Panther associations with the name, Shakur, but later named for the Peruvian revolutionary Tupac Amaru.
  • In just five years released four albums (three platinum) and acted in six films. The first rapper to release two №1 albums in the same year. The first to release a №1 album while in prison. The first double CD from a solo rapper.
  • Eight posthumous platinum albums.
  • In 1969 his mother, Afeni Shakur (born Alice Faye Williams), while pregnant with Tupac, was charged along with twenty other Black Panthers. The defendants became known as the Panther 21. Afena defended herself and helped with the acquittal.
  • Afeni’s marriage collapsed due to her infidelity. Tupac’s biological father, Billy Garland, remained a mystery for years.
  • Attended Baltimore School for the Arts, which included Jada Pinkett. Joined the Young Communist League.
  • In 1994, beaten up, robbed, and shot five times in the lobby of a New York recording studio. The following day he was found guilty of first-degree sexual abuse. Became convinced Notorious B.I.G. and Puffy were involved in the robbery.
  • In 1996, shot four times in a drive-by after a Mike Tyson fight in Las Vegas. Died six days later. A victim in a feud between the Mob Piru Bloods and the South Side Compton Crips.