Weekly Wrap Volume 12

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magicThe Fascinating Origin of the Word “Abracadabra”

These days you might hear this word before some stage magician pulls a rabbit out of his hat, but hundreds of years ago people actually believed that “abracadabra” was a magical spell. The exact origin of the word is up for debate, but perhaps one of the oldest records we have of “Abracadabra” being used is a snippet from a Roman sage named Serenus Sammonicus in the 2nd century AD from his Liber Medicinalis… (more)

clothes-mothDo Moths Really Eat Clothes?

The common “clothes moth”, “clothing moth” or to give its street name, Tineola bisselliella, doesn’t actually eat clothes. In fact, clothing moths don’t even possess the ability to eat- they don’t have a mouth. Once they become a moth, rather than waste their time eating, they simply mate, the female lays her eggs, and then they die at some point. Meaning the most damage to your clothes you could realistically expect from an adult clothing moth is a stain if you go postal on one with a newspaper. So how did these moths get associated… (more)

meibomian-glands-e1298542282825What Causes the “Sleep” in Your Eyes

“Sleep” is a type of “rheum”, which is the name for discharge from your nose, mouth or eyes during sleep.  More specifically, eye rheum is known as “gound”.  Gound is made up of a mixture of dust, blood cells, skin cells, etc. mixed with  mucus secreted by the conjunctiva, as well as an oily substance from the meibomian glands. The meibomian glands are a type of sebaceous… (more)

michelle-pfeiferWhen Michelle Pfeiffer Accidentally Joined a Cult

When actress Michelle Pfeiffer was just starting out in Hollywood, long before her hit movies Batman Returns and Hairspray hit theatres, she admits to being roped into the cult of “breatharianism.” Breatharians believe that humans can survive without food or water—they get all the nutrients they need from air and sunlight. Obviously as even plants can’t survive with only air and sunlight, there is no way that humans can live on just this, so how did she get wrapped up in it… (more)

8manThe 1960s Superhero Who Got His Power from Smoking

While there are a million plotlines and hundreds of explanations of how various superheroes got their special powers, there was one superhero in the 1960s who maintained his powers to fight evil by lighting up. “8-Man” originally ran as a weekly comic strip in Japan from 1960 to 1963, then a half-hour cartoon from 1963 to 1964.  The show… (more)

Bonus Quick Facts:

  • In the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, the person who finished in fourth place in the women’s high jump was actually a man, German athlete Heinrich Ratjen. Two years later, he won a gold medal setting a new “women’s” world record in high jump at the European Athletics Championships, before his real gender was discovered randomly when police got a report that there was a man dressed as a woman traveling in Magdeburg.
  • Steve Carell owns the 158 year old Marshfield Hills General Store in Marshfield Massachusetts. He even claims he mans the cash register there “as time permits”.
  • Synesthesia (meaning literally “together sensation”) is a condition where when one sensory pathway is stimulated, a second pathway will also be automatically stimulated. In one form of this, for instance, someone might see the letter “a” and the brain interprets that letter as being colored red, even if it’s not. In another form, someone might see some particular thing that in turn causes them to hear a sound every time they see that thing. In yet another form, known as “mirror touch synesthesia”, when the person sees someone getting physically touched, they also feel as if someone is touching them in the exact same way.
  • The actress who played Moaning Myrtle on Harry Potter, Shirley Henderson, was 37 years old in Chamber of Secrets and 40 in Goblet of Fire.
  • According to Warner Bros Studio Tour, London, most of the books in Dumbledore’s office in the films were just re-bound Yellow Pages… Finally a use for the Yellow Pages! 😉
  • The small indent, or vertical groove, under your nose and right above your lips is called a “philtrum”, as well as a “medial cleft”. This same vertical groove can be found in many different types of mammals between their mouths and their nose. In human males, those on the autistic spectrum tend to have much broader philtrums than people not on the spectrum.
  • A mentally ill man, William Chester Minor, while a patient at the Broadmoor Asylum for the Criminally Insane in Britain, became the largest contributor to the first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary. He later cut off his penis and was sent back to the United States…
  • John Rhys-Davies, who played Gimli the dwarf on Lord of the Rings, was the tallest member of the Fellowship of the Ring in the film series. He is 6 feet 1 inches tall. That’s 3 inches taller than Orlando Bloom (Legolas) and 2 inches taller than Viggo Mortensen (Aragorn), Sean Bean (Boromir), and Ian McKellen (Gandalf). Further, he is 6 inches taller than Sean Astin (Sam), Dominic Monaghan (Meriadoc) and Billy Boyd (Pippin), and 7 inches taller than Elijah Wood (Frodo). He also did the voice for Tree Beard in the films.
  • The first man (second person overall after Annie Taylor) to ever go over Niagara Falls in a barrel and survive, Bobby Leach, 15 years later died as a result of slipping on either an orange peel or a banana peel (different news reports from the event are contradictory on which). After the slip and subsequent injury, his leg became infected and had to be amputated. He died two months later from complications from the infection and the surgery.
  • The metal gallium (Ga), which looks something like silver, melts at just 85.57 degrees F (29.76 degrees C), meaning it will melt in your hand. Galinstan, which is 68.5% gallium, 10% tin, and 21.5% indium, not only will melt in your hand, but also in your freezer, with a melting point at -2 degrees F (-19 degrees C).

Other Interesting Stuff:

pimple-340x226What Causes Acne

Ah, acne! The facial blemish that powers many a pubescent date request rejection. Like millions of people worldwide, in my youth I waged a war with this aesthetic foe, with many a “Pizza-face” comment thrown my way.  Medically known as Acne Vulgaris, this affliction is largely cosmetic and does not usually cause any debilitating problems, except maybe trouble getting a date in high school… The most common cause of acne is a class of bacteria called… (more)

rock-climbing2Why Your Palms Get Sweaty When You’re Excited, Scared, Or Nervous

Ever been on the edge of a cliff or looking out the window at the top of a skyscraper and your hands start to sweat? Or maybe it’s when you’re about to speak in front of an audience? The individual who introduced you might shake your hand and hope you didn’t just come from the bathroom because your palms are more saturated than a sponge in water. So what’s going on here? Medically, the condition of having excessively sweaty palms is known as “Palmar Hyperhidrosis”. In general… (more)

Venetia-BurneyThe Name for the Dwarf Planet Pluto was Suggested by an 11 Year Old Girl

The girl was Venetia Burney of Oxford, England.  Venetia’s great uncle, Science Master of Eton Henry Madan, in 1877 suggested the name for the two dwarf moons of Mars, Deimos and Phobos (fear/panic and dread/terror).  This was referencing the fact that Deimos and Phobos were twin brothers, the children of the god Ares (Mars in Roman mythology), specifically being the offspring of Ares and Aphrodite. Because an 11 year old girl suggested the name Pluto and the Disney dog, Pluto, first appeared around the same time, it has given rise to the myth that Venetia came up with the name after the cartoon dog.  The fact… (more)

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