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Hoops Hooley via Flickr Creative Commons // CC BY-NC 2.0
Hoops Hooley via Flickr Creative Commons // CC BY-NC 2.0

Yellow Is Actually the Optimal Taxi Color

Hoops Hooley via Flickr Creative Commons // CC BY-NC 2.0
Hoops Hooley via Flickr Creative Commons // CC BY-NC 2.0

Whether you consider it an eyesore or a cultural icon, the yellow cab is here to stay. Now, one Singapore-based study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences awards a big point in taxis’ favor: Yellow cars are less likely to get into accidents.

In the early 20th century, as cars became more prevalent and affordable, taxi outfits like the Chicago Yellow Cab company chose to paint their cars a single color to increase their visibility, both as a brand and on the roads, as the gaudy cars were impossible to miss on the city’s sooty streets.

Today, yellow cabs remain the standard in cities across the U.S. and the globe. In Singapore, cabs are generally one of two colors, thanks to a merger between two large cab companies—one that used yellow cabs, and one that used blue.

Yellow is the easiest and most distinctive color for humans to see; consequently, yellow cars have long been considered the most conspicuous, and therefore the most likely to avoid collisions. But is this actually true?

To find out, researchers analyzed the collision rates of 16,700 Singaporean taxis (4175 yellow and 12,525 blue) over the course of three years. 

The yellow cars won the day by a landslide. The results showed that yellow cars had around six fewer accidents per month per 1000 cars. “If the company changed the color of its entire fleet of 12,525 blue taxis to yellow, 76.4 fewer accidents would occur per month, or 917 fewer accidents per year,” the researchers noted.

They also calculated risk to passengers, using a theoretical rider who commutes by taxi five days a week. Over the course of a 40-year career, the authors found, that commuter would have 1.1 accidents in blue taxis but only 1 in yellow taxis. That’s a 9 percent difference, which may not seem like much until you consider that we’re talking about car accidents.

The authors recommended that taxi companies consider switching to all-yellow fleets, which will serve the old dual purpose of increasing brand visibility and preventing costly accidents: “It could turn out that a simple commercial decision made by the Chicago Yellow Cab company more than a century ago has an inadvertent, positively impactful economic and potentially life-saving outcome that we can adopt and expand on, starting today.”

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Animals
Where Do Birds Get Their Songs?
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iStock

Birds display some of the most impressive vocal abilities in the animal kingdom. They can be heard across great distances, mimic human speech, and even sing using distinct dialects and syntax. The most complex songs take some practice to learn, but as TED-Ed explains, the urge to sing is woven into songbirds' DNA.

Like humans, baby birds learn to communicate from their parents. Adult zebra finches will even speak in the equivalent of "baby talk" when teaching chicks their songs. After hearing the same expressions repeated so many times and trying them out firsthand, the offspring are able to use the same songs as adults.

But nurture isn't the only factor driving this behavior. Even when they grow up without any parents teaching them how to vocalize, birds will start singing on their own. These innate songs are less refined than the ones that are taught, but when they're passed down through multiple generations and shaped over time, they start to sound similar to the learned songs sung by other members of their species.

This suggests that the drive to sing as well as the specific structures of the songs themselves have been ingrained in the animals' genetic code by evolution. You can watch the full story from TED-Ed below, then head over here for a sample of the diverse songs produced by birds.

[h/t TED-Ed]

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Animals
Watch the First-Ever Footage of a Baby Dumbo Octopus
NOAA, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
NOAA, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Dumbo octopuses are named for the elephant-ear-like fins they use to navigate the deep sea, but until recently, when and how they developed those floppy appendages were a mystery. Now, for the first time, researchers have caught a newborn Dumbo octopus on tape. As reported in the journal Current Biology, they discovered that the creatures are equipped with the fins from the moment they hatch.

Study co-author Tim Shank, a researcher at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, spotted the octopus in 2005. During a research expedition in the North Atlantic, one of the remotely operated vehicles he was working with collected several coral branches with something strange attached to them. It looked like a bunch of sandy-colored golf balls at first, but then he realized it was an egg sac.

He and his fellow researchers eventually classified the hatchling that emerged as a member of the genus Grimpoteuthis. In other words, it was a Dumbo octopus, though they couldn't determine the exact species. But you wouldn't need a biology degree to spot its resemblance to Disney's famous elephant, as you can see in the video below.

The octopus hatched with a set of functional fins that allowed it to swim around and hunt right away, and an MRI scan revealed fully-developed internal organs and a complex nervous system. As the researchers wrote in their study, Dumbo octopuses enter the world as "competent juveniles" ready to jump straight into adult life.

Grimpoteuthis spends its life in the deep ocean, which makes it difficult to study. Scientists hope the newly-reported findings will make it easier to identify Grimpoteuthis eggs and hatchlings for future research.

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