via YouTube
via YouTube

Australia's Bubble Gum Pink Lake

via YouTube
via YouTube

Dan Lewis runs the popular daily newsletter Now I Know ("Learn Something New Every Day, By Email"). To subscribe to his daily email, click here.

The picture above is of a real lake. The picture hasn’t been Photoshopped. The lake isn’t filled with Pepto-Bismol, bubble gum, or pink food dye. It’s just naturally pink.

Australia's Lake Hillier is situated on an island in the Recherche Archipelago, a collection of islands to the south of Western Australia. The lake is about 2,000 feet (600 meters) long and 800 feet (250 meters) wide but, because it’s not on the mainland, it went undiscovered until 1802. That year, a British explorer summited a mountain and eyed what he called a "small lake of rose colour," Jeopardy! champ Ken Jennings wrote in Conde Nast Traveler. So, as far as we know, it’s always been pink.

The pink color isn’t an optical illusion, either. If you go to the shores of Lake Hillier, you’ll see that the pink hue remains, although it’s muted a bit, as seen below. And if you scoop some of the water into a pail or jar (ideally a clear one), the water still remains pink.

So what causes this phenomenon? While there are a few plausible explanations as to why Lake Hillier is pink, the most common theories center on salt and algae. Lake Hillier has a very high concentration of salt, comparable to the Dead Sea, which has near a 33% salinity (making it nearly 10 times as salty as the oceans). Second, Lake Hillier is home to a type of algae known as Dunaliella salina. Unlike most algae, which turns bodies of water into a murky green color, Dunaliella salina has a reddish pigment which helps it absorbs light. Because this algae thrives in salty environments—and very few other life forms can—its overwhelming quantity might be the reason Lake Hillier is a deep, thick pink.

And while you probably don’t want to drink the water, it’s safe for humans to swim in it. (The lake is hard to get to, though—you need to take a helicopter from the mainland to the island). But don’t expect to practice your breaststroke or crawl—you won’t find it very easy to navigate through the waters. The high salinity of the lake means that you’ll bob along, floating the whole way like "a cork in a bottle of pink, pink wine," as Jennings puts it.

To subscribe to Dan’s daily email Now I Know, click here. You can also follow him on Twitter.

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Most People Consistently Visit 25 Different Places in Their Daily Lives
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We move around a lot less during our daily lives than you might expect. Based on data from 40,000 people, a new study on human mobility finds that we tend to frequent only 25 places at any given time in our lives.

In the study, published in Nature Human Behaviour, researchers from City, University of London, the Technical University of Denmark, and Sony Mobile Communications found that people tend to have a maximum number of 25 places that they visit regularly, and if they begin frequenting a new place, they probably stop going to another, keeping their total number of haunts constant.

The researchers used several different datasets to understand how people move through their lives, including studies with college students and university employees, data from a smartphone activity tracker called Lifelog, and a Nokia research project that tracked the behavior of a group of cell phone users living near Lake Geneva in Switzerland between 2009 and 2011.

They found that people constantly face trade-offs between the curiosity that drives us to check out new places and the laziness and comfort that keeps us going back to our regular haunts. As a result, the number of locations we tend to visit stays relatively steady. People “continually explore new places yet they are loyal to a limited number of familiar ones,” the authors write.

Though that number may sound a little low to anyone with wanderlust, it makes sense. People don’t have infinite time or resources. Even the number of friends we’re capable of keeping up with is rather limited—anthropologist Robin Dunbar famously hypothesizes that humans can only sustain around 150 friendships at a time, and only five of those friends will be truly close ones. And if that’s our upper limit for connections we can technically maintain without ever leaving our computers, it makes sense that we would be able to sustain even fewer connections to places, which by nature require some amount of travel. If you find a new restaurant and become a regular, it’s probably at the expense of another restaurant you used to visit all the time.

However, the study found that the number of places you frequent can’t necessarily be explained only by the amount of free time you have. The researchers argue that “the fixed capacity is an inherent property of human behavior.” The 25-place rule held even if they adjusted for the time people spent at each location. They also found that the more social a person was, the more places they visited.

The researchers hope to continue their work by looking at connections between mobility and Dunbar’s work on social ties, figuring out how exactly your social life plays into how you move around the world.

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Interactive Map Shows Where Your House Would Have Been 750 Million Years Ago
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Your neighborhood traveled a long way over several hundred million years to reach the spot it occupies today. To trace that journey over the ages, check out Ancient Earth, an interactive digital map spotted by Co.Design.

Ancient Earth, a collaboration between engineer and Google alum Ian Webster and Paleomap Project creator C.R. Scotese, contains geographical information for the past 750 million years. Start at the beginning and you'll see unrecognizable blobs of land. As you progress through the ages, the land mass Pangaea gradually breaks apart to form the world map we're all familiar with.

To make the transition even more personal, you can enter your street address to see where it would have been located in each period. Five hundred million years ago, for example, New York City was a small island in the southern hemisphere isolated from any major land mass. Around the same time, London was still a part of Pangaea, and it was practically on top of the South Pole. You can use the arrows on your keyboard to flip through the eras or jump from event to event, like the first appearance of multicellular life or the dinosaur extinction.

As you can see from the visualization, Pangaea didn't break into the seven continents seamlessly. Many of the long-gone continents that formed in the process even have names.

[h/t Co.Design]

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