The Now I Know Year-Ender


This was a very slow week for Now I Know and, as I alluded to yesterday, I should have just taken the week off. The Christmas to New Year’s span is always brutal for email newsletters; with so many people on vacation and so many offices closed, only a small percentage of people actually open their emails now. So I really feel bad about sharing new stories as I know that many of them will go unread. That’s particularly true for stories that you all send to me — if you’re sharing an idea with me, it’s because you want me to share it with as wide of an audience as I can, right? Using it now would be, well, not great.

Plus, it turned out I kind of needed the break. And I forgot how hard it is to write when school’s not in session but the kids are around. (I’ve been doing this for 12+ years; I should know better by now.) So if you’ve been reading all week, I hope you enjoyed the one new story and that the re-runs were new to you (or at least a nice flashback). 

I hope you had a great 2022 — and I hope 2023 is even better. 

The Now I Know Week in Review

MondayHow Paying Attention in Elementary School Can Save Lives: Learning the warning signs of tsunamis can make you a hero.

TuesdayHow a Failed Surgical Instrument Brought Santa Inside: The one non-rerun this week!

WednesdayThe American Penny That Told People to Not Be Nosy?: “Mind your business,” it says. 

ThursdayThe Spam Text That Saved Lives: An unexpected New Year’s greeting blew up a terror plot. Literally.

And some other things you should check out:

Some long reads for the holiday weekend (that aren’t holiday-themed, sorry):

1) “Where Does All the Cardboard Come From? I Had to Know” (New York Times, 23 minutes, November 2022). We use a lot of cardboard, and one writer asked the pretty simple-sounding question: where does it come from? The answer isn’t so simple, though.

2) “A Plane of Monkeys, a Pandemic, and a Botched Deal: Inside the Science Crisis You’ve Never Heard Of” (Mother Jones, 29 minutes, June 2022). I don’t even know how to describe this, so I’ll just share the opening:

On May 15, 2020, a US-bound cargo plane was scheduled to depart Mauritius, an island about the size of Maui that’s just east of Madagascar. There were four key things I knew about the flight:

1)  It involved the transportation of monkeys.

2) The monkeys were intended for Covid research.

3) The cost—to cover the fuel, crew, insurance, and other expenses—totaled nearly half a million dollars.

4) The public was never supposed to find out about it.

In a backward sort of way, the only reason I can tell you anything about the flight is because it never happened.

Yeah, it’s weird.

3) “The Behind-The-Scenes Story Of ‘Real Genius’” (Uproxx, 18 minutes, April 2016). A great movie deserves a great oral history, and this is one. The explanation for how they did the popcorn scene is amazing.

Have a great weekend and happy new year!