Hey folks!

National Mathematics Day just went by on December 22. And math fans might know that it gets its significance from the birthday of Srinivasan Ramanujan, the mathematician who knew infinity. But here’s a fun fact I learnt on math day which I bet you didn’t know.

Bees can do math.

Yes, honey bees. Let that sink in.

In 2019, a journal called Science Advances published a report that found out that bees understood the concept of addition and subtraction. And all it took to make this discovery was an experiment on 14 bees.

Scientists simply trained bees to go through a Y-shaped maze. The entrance of this maze would have some shapes which were either blue or yellow. If the bee saw blue shapes it indicated that it had to add and go to that end of the maze that had one additional blue shape from what it initially saw. On the flip side, yellow shapes indicated that the bee had to go to that end of the maze that had one yellow shape less.

If the bee understood the instructions correctly, it would end up at the reward end of the maze which had a sugar solution. Otherwise, it would end up on the other end that had a bitter solution. Apparently, these bees aced the test 63% to 72% of the time revealing that bees had great cognitive skills despite having brains 20,000 times smaller than humans.

Wow! Bees got an A on their math test. Gives me an inferiority complex for all the B’s I got on my school math tests.

Here’s a soundtrack to put you in the mood 🎵

Odyssey by Kayyouslay

Thanks for the rec Giriraj Dutta Banik!

With that out of the way, let’s dive in.

A couple of things caught our eye this week 👀

Does Coca-Cola own Santa Claus?

What’s the first word that comes to mind when someone says Christmas?

Did you say Santa Claus? Well, Santa has been synonymous with the holidays for ages. But in 1931, Coca-Cola went ahead and registered a trademark for Santa. Does that mean it owns Santa Claus?

See, the origin of Santa Claus dates back to as early as the 3rd century. He was a figure inspired by St. Nicholas, an early Christian bishop or senior member of the church in a Turkish city called Myra. He became popular for protecting children and his kindness towards the poor and sick. And over the years, his Dutch nickname Sinter Klaas evolved into the jolly good man we know today as Santa Claus.

Okay. At least that clears out that Coca-Cola didn’t invent the concept of Santa Claus. Then how can it own a trademark associated with him?

Actually, Coke started using Santa Claus in their advertisements way back in the 1920s. Back then Santa Claus was depicted as a more strict-looking old man. Because that’s how the first known images of Santa were illustrated by cartoonist Thomas Nast.

But the soda giant wanted to change that. It wanted to associate Santa with happiness, something that would also resonate with its brand image. So it commissioned illustrator Haddon Sundblom to sketch out a reimagined Santa for its campaigns. Sundblom drew inspiration from an 1822 poem called A Visit From St. Nicholas and came up with an image of a warm, friendly and plump man, who went on to feature in Coke’s ads. And thanks to Santa, Coke’s net profits doubled over the next decade creating a new record for the brand.

So yeah, Coke may not have invented Santa but it definitely gave us the modern Santa that we associate Christmas with today.

***

The solved mystery of two extraterrestrial tomatoes

A couple of months ago the first tomatoes to be ever grown in space went missing.

For context, NASA has been experimenting with growing plants and crops in space for decades now. The reason?

The space environment is extremely different from Earth. It may not be conducive to grow crops. But if astronauts could use soil-less techniques to successfully grow veggies in space it could help them survive on fresh food. Not only could it help them survive in space for a longer duration in the future, but they could also bring back learnings from these experiments to improve food production on Earth.

Frank Rubio, an American flight surgeon turned astronaut had travelled to the International Space Station to harvest crops from one such experiment called XROOTS earlier this year. He did. But thought that it would be cool to show it off to schoolkids with whom the crew would be doing a public event after they went back to Earth. So he stuck the tomato firmly in one place. But guess what?

When he returned, he realised that the tomato floated away. But he couldn’t afford such a blunder, so he put in nearly 20 hours to go looking for the missing tomato. And when he couldn’t he was popularly known as the astronaut who ate a space-harvested tomato!

But this week, a group of 70 crew members acquitted Rubio of this alleged crime by announcing that they’d found the first-ever tomatoes he had harvested in space. Now, these tomatoes wouldn’t help NASA’s analysis probably because they were long floating in space, slightly squished and discoloured. But it sure did prove that Rubio didn’t devour the tomatoes himself.

Jargon of the day ✏️

Money tips 💰

Navigating festive spends

The festive season can be tough as much as it is fun. Courtesy: shopping for new clothes, gifts and other things.

So sometimes, you’re tempted to take that small loan your investment app is nudging you with. Those pre-approved credit lines with no documentation or even bigger personal loans for a big holiday you’ve been wanting to go on.

But here’s the thing. Using borrowed funds for festive spending or leisure can trick you into overspending. And often paying them back comes with high-interest rates because these loans are given without security. The repayments could seem affordable but it also escorts you into a possible debt trap that may be hard to get out of. Once you pay off one loan, another may be waiting for you during the next festive season. It could be a vicious cycle of sorts.

How do you take care of this then?

Well, there’s two ways. One, check if your employer offers your interest-free festival advances and use them. Your EMIs simply get deducted from your salary over the next few months.

But if that’s something you don’t have access to just go back and analyse which festive months have caused you to spend more last year. Once, you’ve figured that out make sure that you allocate a part of your year’s salary increment or bonus to a fund that takes care of festive expenses. If it’s a vacation, you may have to do it over a couple of years. So, simple planning in advance is all it takes to avoid unnecessary festive debt.

Readers Recommend 🗒️

Rational Reminder | A podcast by Benjamin Felix and Cameron Passmore

This week our reader Kunal Geriani recommends an interesting podcast hosted by two professional portfolio managers. It gives you a weekly reality check on sensible investing and financial decision-making.

Thanks for the rec Kunal!

Finshots Weekly Quiz 🧩

It’s time to announce the winner of our last week’s quiz. And the winner is…🥁

Gaurav Meena! Congratulations. Keep an eye on your inbox and we’ll get in touch with you soon to send over your Finshots merch. And for the rest of you, we’ve moved the weekly quiz to our weekly wrapup. So make sure you answer all the questions correctly and tune in here next week to check if you got lucky.

Until then, don’t forget to tell us what you thought of today’s newsletter. And send us your book, music, business movies, documentaries or podcast recommendations. We’ll feature them in the newsletter! Just hit reply to this email (or if you’re reading this on the web, drop us a message: morning@finshots.in).

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