Weekly Wrap Volume 21

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

the-endThe Actress Who Died on Stage While Portraying Her Theatrical Death

Several artists have died on stage while conducting live performances; however, one case is highly unique and probably the most ironic at the same time. The incident involved actress Edith Webster. Webster was a relatively unknown actress who never managed to make a name for herself during her lifetime, but left her mark in history with her bizarre death. During The Drunkard, which was being performed at the Towson Moose Lodge in Baltimore, the 60-year-old Edith Webster was playing the role of the grandmother. According to the plot of the play… (more)

space3How Do Astronauts Go to the Bathroom in Space?

Ever since Yuri Gagarin was first launched into space on April 12, 1961, engineers and space travelers have had to face the problem of how to go and where to put the waste. In the early years of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), manned space flights were to be so short that the astronauts were reasonably expected to hold it. For example, the mission that sent the first American into space, Mercury-Redstone 3 inFreedom 7, was planned to last only 15 minutes. Forgetting to expect the unexpected, NASA engineers assumed that Freedom 7′s pilot would be free of the cockpit long before nature called. Yet on the morning of May 5, 1961, after astronaut Alan Shepard was forced to sit through several hours of delays, he realized,… (more)

RobinRobins Can See Magnetic Fields, But Only In One Eye

Despite its unassuming looks and gentle temperament, the humble red breasted robin (Erithacus rubecula) boasts a superhero-like ability. They can see magnetic fields, giving them an almost perfect sense of direction. Just to be clear, we don’t mean that a robin can sense the Earth’s magnetic field or something like that as many other birds can, it can literally see it. In fact, if you cover a robin’s eyes with an adorably tiny blindfold, it loses this ability completely, though it will still look rather dapper. Now the ability… (more)

blacksmithWhy Anvils are Shaped as They Are and Why Blacksmiths Often Tap the Anvil After a Few Strikes on the Object They’re Working On

Anvil shape has evolved greatly since the earliest anvil-like objects.  These primitive objects used for anvils were typically made of stone, often just a slab of rock. The first metal anvils were made of bronze, then wrought iron, and, finally, steel, which is the material of choice today for anvils, though cast iron is also used in low-end anvils (cast iron is quite brittle for this particular use and absorbs more of the hammer blow’s energy than steel does, so it is not preferred). Over the centuries, the common shape… (more)

dancingThe Origin of the Hokey Pokey

There’s no one definitive answer to where the Hokey Pokey (or Hokey Cokey) ultimately derives from.  Even the modern history of it is somewhat convoluted. Proposed origin theories span oceans, and even centuries. That said, the convoluted nature of the history of something has never stopped us from trying to trace the origin before, so here goes. Like many innocuous songs and dances that you’d assume have fairly benign origins, the Hokey Pokey is believed by some… (more)

Bonus Quick Facts:

  • We’ve all heard of Yahoo and have probably seen their commercials and heard the famous yodel “Yahoooooo!” The famous yodel comes from Wylie Gustafson. He made the yodel for Yahoo in 1996 for a one time payment of $590 U.S. Dollars. However in 2002, I guess he wanted more, so he sued Yahoo, settling out of court for an undisclosed amount.
  • When Michael J Fox auditioned for the role of Alex on Family Ties, he was completely broke. At that point, he had sold almost everything her owned to make ends meet and had canceled his phone service. He told his agent only to call at a certain time in the afternoon because he was busy. The number he gave him was not to his home, but actually for a pay phone outside a KFC where he’d wait by that phone for the call.
  • Einstein got his wife to agree to divorce him by offering her the money he would hopefully some day receive if he ever won a Nobel Prize for one or more of his papers he wrote in 1905 (no lack of confidence there) 🙂 .  Apparently, she must have thought he had a good shot at it too someday, because, after thinking it over for a week, she accepted.  She ended up having to wait until 1921, but eventually got the money.
  • Earthworms can consume about 1/2 to 1 times their body weight every day.  They also will eat just about any dead organic matter along with processing a variety of garbage and even tiny rocks that have organic matter on them, grinding the rocks into a paste that will enrich the soil.  They are quite literally nature’s garbage disposals.  Earthworms also force air through the underground tunnels they create, thereby aerating the soil as they work.
  • In Back to the Future III, ZZ Top played the Square Dance Band.
  • There is an ATM at McMurdo Station in Antarctica, about 840 miles from the South Pole.  Not surprisingly, this ATM is the most southern ATM in the world.   The most northern ATM in the world is in Longyearbyen, Svalbard, Norway, which is about half way between mainland Norway and the North Pole (about 800 miles from the North Pole).  The world’s highest ATM is in Nagchu County, Tibet and is about 14,800 above sea level.  Finally, the world’s lowest ATM is in Ein Bokek, near the Dead Sea in a grocery store that is just shy of 1400 feet below sea level.
  • The Record for the most wooden toilet seats broken by a human head in 60 seconds is 46, done by Kevin Shelley in 2007.
  • “That’s what she said” is thought to have been around since the 1970s with the earliest documented case of the phrase showing up on Saturday Night Live, spoken by Chevy Chase in a weekend update skit in 1975, which also happened to be the first season of SNL.  “That’s what she said” was later hugely popularized thanks to Wayne’s World skits on Saturday Night Live and later usage in the movie Wayne’s World.

gorbechevWhere Birthmarks Come From

There are several different types of birthmarks. What causes them is an excess of pigment cells (Melanoctyes), or an excess of blood vessels confined to one area of the skin.  Birthmarks caused by an excess of pigment in certain areas of the skin are known as pigmented birthmarks. The color of your skin is a result of the amount of melanin in the bottom layer of your epidermis. When there is an abnormal level of melanin per square millimeter of skin, the resulting color creates a visible mark on the skins surface. These marks come in three different classifications. Congenital Melanocytic Nevus (which is a type of mole), Café-au-lait spots, and Mongolian… (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… (more)

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