Weekly Wrap Volume 20

This is a weekly wrap of our Daily Knowledge Newsletter. You can get that newsletter for free here.

guy-lombardo2Why We Sing “Auld Lang Syne” on New Year’s Eve

This tradition is mostly thanks to Guy Lombardo and the Royal Canadian Band. While their work is largely unknown to those born in the last few decades, the band has sold over 300 million records to date. Guy Lombardo himself has three stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and he was once the “Dick Clark” of New Years before Clark and his “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve,” attempting to appeal to younger audiences, started supplanting “Mr. New Year’s Eve,” Guy Lombardo.  It was in 1929 that Guy Lombardo and his band took the stage at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City on New Year’s Eve. Thei… (more)

eye2How the 20/20 Vision Scale Works

With more than 150 million people in the United States (nearly half of the population) requiring some form of corrective eyewear to compensate for visual impairment, chances are you have had your eyesight graded on the 20/20 scale before. If you haven’t, you have probably heard other people saying they have “20/20 vision” or even the phrase “hindsight is 20/20.” The vision scale is so prevalent in American culture that there’s even a TV news show named after it.  So imagine my surprise when I was told during my first Australian eye exam… (more)

pillarsThe Man Who Accurately Estimated the Circumference of the Earth Over 2,000 Years Ago

Born around 276 B.C. in Cyrene, Libya, Eratosthenes soon became one of the most famous mathematicians of his time. He is best known for making the first recorded measurement of the Earth’s circumference, which was also remarkably accurate.  (And, yes, people at that point had known for some time that the world wasn’t flat, contrary to popular belief.)  Eratosthenes was able to accomplish this in part because of his education in Athens. There, he became known for his achievements in many different fields, including poetry, astronomy, and scientific writing. His activities became so talked about, in fact, that Ptolemy III of Egypt decided to invite him to Alexandria to tutor his son. Later, he would become the head librarian of the Library of Alexandria. The mathematician… (more)

hot-dogThe Business That Would Evolve Into Taco Bell Started Out Selling Hot Dogs

In 1946, Glen Bell left the Marine Corps at the age of 23. Like many of his comrades, he was looking forward to post-war activities and settling into a career when he returned home. Luckily for him, the fast food business was booming, and Bell had an idea: a hot dog stand.  It was called Bell’s Drive-In, and it was set up in San Bernadino, an agricultural town in California. Bell didn’t know the first thing about running a hot dog stand, but that didn’t matter; he learned as he went along. The first stand did well and when… (more)

oil-spillHow Does Organic Matter Become Fossil Fuels?

Three hundred million years ago (or so), about the time amphibians first emerged from primordial seas, enormous, lush swamps filled with large trees, ferns and other leafy plants thrived along the coasts of the ancient ocean, which itself was filled with algae and billions of microorganisms. Plants and algae breathe in carbon dioxide (CO2), and use sunlight and water to convert it into the carbon that makes up their tissues and food. As primeval plants, algae and creatures died… (more)

Bonus Quick Facts:

  • Mouse urine glows under florescent light.  Further, despite their propensity to spread disease and the like, surprisingly, mice are very clean animals.  They clean themselves regularly, not unlike cats, and they organize their homes with specific areas for storing food, going to the bathroom, sleeping, etc.
  • The incisors in a mouse’s mouth never stop growing and can grow as much as five inches per year.  Because of this, mice like to gnaw on hard objects to grind their teeth down.
  • Vodka comes from the Russian word for “water,” which is “Voda.” Poland likes to brag about how their Vodka is older than Russia’s Vodka, dating it back to the 8th century, where it went by different names such as “burnt wine” and “gorzalka.” Like most distilled liquors back then, Vodka was mainly used as a medicine. Vodka was also used as an ingredient in early European formulas of gunpowder.
  • A woodpecker’s brain is protected by a spongy elastic material between their bill and their skull that holds their brain snugly and provides a cushion.  This keeps their brains from getting injured while they bang away at at tree at a remarkable rate and force.  For instance, the pileated woodpecker can strike a tree trunk at around 20 times per second, with around the same force as if you would hit your face against a wall at around 16 miles per hour.  They do this around 12,000 times a day on average.
  • Woodpeckers also have a special membrane over their eyes that closes each time their beak strikes the wood.  This membrane, combined with a portion of their eye lid which will swell with blood to increase pressure on the eye, is thought to help hold the eye in place and possibly keep it from popping out as they peck away.  Just as practically, the membrane also protects the eye from debris.
  • In the cartoon “Pinky and the Brain”, Brain’s name is an acronym for “Biological Recombinant Algorithmic Intelligence Nexus”.  Pinky’s name is probably a reference to the fact that a “pinky” is another name for a baby mouse that has not yet grown fur.  However, in the cartoon itself, the name was given to Pinky when Brain was referring to his own pinky when insulting certain scientists, but Pinky mistakenly thought Brain was referring to him.  Besides “pinky”, other valid names for baby mice are pup and kitten.
  • Organized cheerleading started as an all-male activity. While in truth there may have been those who preceded him, the first known documented instance of a cheerleader happened on the 2nd of November 1898 when student Johnny Campbell of the University of Minnesota, directed a crowd at a football game into cheering “Rah, Rah, Rah! Ski-u-mah, Hoo-Rah! Hoo-Rah! Varsity! Varsity! Varsity, Minn-e-So-Tah!”. From then, the University of Minnesota organized a “yell leader” squad of six male students to lead the crowd at football and basketball games, which in turn led to an all male cheer fraternity called Gamma Sigma. It wasn’t until almost 25 years later, in 1923, that women cheerleaders joined in the activity. Today over 90% of all cheerleaders are women.

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