Weekly Wrap Volume 22

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

pixarFrom Dream to 3-D Reality: The Fascinating Origin of Pixar

Before a story about toys, before monsters went corporate, before anyone went searching for Nemo, and before twenty seven Academy Awards, Pixar was a high-end computer hardware company whose  clients included the government and the medical community.  The story of Pixar isn’t exactly full of superheroes, adorable robots, or talking bugs. The tale of the most profitable and critically adored animation studio in the history of the world (yes, by sheer gross numbers, more so than Disney) is one filled with financial difficulties, fired Apple employees, digital printers, and an animated left hand. And it all started with a Mormon graduate student at the University of Utah. By the time Ed Catmull graduated from the computer science program at University of… (more)

ice-crackWhat Happens When You Freeze Water in a Container So Strong the Water Can’t Expand Into Ice?

Some readers may recall a science class in which an excitable teacher walked to the front of the class to show off a small, cracked steel container, seemingly damaged by an incredibly powerful, but tiny force; only for said teacher to reveal that the damage had been done by nothing more than water. However, what would happen if you put the water in a container it couldn’t break out of and then froze it? The short answer is that the water still turns into ice; however, if it genuinely cannot break the bonds of the container it is trapped inside, it turns into a very different kind of ice than we’re used to seeing. We currently know of 15 different “solid phases” of water… (more)

cakeHave Your Cake and Eat it Too

The idiom “You can’t have your cake and eat it too” deliciously illustrates the concept of making trade-offs and realizing that you can’t have something if you have another. The phrase is often used when referring to compromises and alludes to making a choice between two options that could never be reconciled. In other words, the two options that are mutually exclusive. Other cultures have adopted the spirit of this phrase to fit into their own languages. For example, in Russian the (translated) phrase is “You can’t sit on two chairs.” In German,… (more)

skaterWhy Figure Skaters Don’t Seem Dizzy After Spinning

To understand why, it’s important to know why people get dizzy in the first place. Dizziness is controlled by the vestibular system in your upper inner ear. Within the vestibular system, there are three canals that contain fluid called endolymph, as well as sensory nerve cells that look sort of like little hairs. When you move your head, the endolymph resists change in motion and lags behind, stimulating the nerve cells. Those cells send messages to the brain, telling it which way the head moved. Now, when you spin, the endolymph lags behind at first, but then moves at the same… (more)

seagullsSeagulls Will Not Blow Up if They Eat Alka-Seltzer

Seagulls, or gulls depending on how much you dislike syllables, are considered a pest to many, a minor, avoidable annoyance to many more and the harbingers of death OH GOD LOOK AT THEIR COLD DEAD EYES! to my neighbour who doesn’t get out much.  Over the years, there has been a persistent and rather macabre urban myth circulating that gulls will explode if they’re fed Alka-Seltzer. Sadly, we’re here to inform you that this isn’t true. Though the myth has many subtle variations depending on where exactly you’re reading it, it basically reads as follows. If you feed a hungry gull an Alka-Seltzer tablet or a similar product (gulls aren’t really that discerning when it comes to their choice of indigestion… (more)

Bonus (Martin Luther King Jr. Themed) Quick Facts:

1) His name was originally Michael, not Martin.  His father was also Michael King, hence why Martin Luther King Jr. was originally named Michael King Jr.  However, after a trip to Germany in 1931, Michael King Sr. changed his own name in homage to historic German theologian Martin Luther.  Michael King Jr. was two years old at the time and King Sr. made the decision to change his son’s name to Martin Luther as well.

2) King wasn’t the only one to die at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis on April 4, 1968.  After he was killed, one of the hotel workers, Lorraine Bailey (who was also the wife of the motel owner and who it was named after), upon seeing King get shot, had a heart attack and later died from this.  This was partially why there was such a delay in getting an ambulance as Lorraine was also the switchboard operator and so when Reverend Samuel Kyles attempted to call an ambulance using the phone in the motel room, nobody was at the switchboard to make that happen.  In Rev. Kyle’s own words,

I ran into the room and picked up the phone to call an operator or to call an ambulance. But, the operator had left the switchboard. There was nobody on the switchboard. I was saying, “Answer the phone, answer the phone, answer the phone.” And there was nobody on the switchboard. So the phone was not answered. (I learned later that the operator had gone out into the courtyard to watch Dr. King. When she saw what happened, she had a heart attack. She was the motel owner’s wife, and she died subsequently.) The police were coming with their guns drawn, and I hollered to the police, “Call an ambulance on your police radio. Dr. King has been shot.” They said, “Where did the shot come from?” … While waiting for the ambulance to come, I took a spread from one of the beds and covered him from his neck down. … I cannot tell you the feelings I had seeing my friend there on that balcony bleeding to death. Finally the ambulance came and took him away.

3) Martin Luther King Jr. was nearly assassinated a decade earlier than his ultimate death.  While on a book tour, signing copies of his book Stride Toward Freedom, on September 20, 1958, King was approached by Izola Ware Curry who asked him if he was Martin Luther King Jr., which he of course replied affirmatively.  When he said he was, she said “I’ve been looking for you for five years.”  She then pulled out a letter opener and stabbed him in the chest.

It took three full hours to remove the blade.  The reason?  The sharp point end of the blade was pressing against his aorta and the doctors had to be extremely careful while removing it because of this.  The doctor, Dr. Maynard, told him after, “If you had sneezed during all those hours of waiting, your aorta would have been punctured and you would have drowned in your own blood.”

4) Although King today is often remembered as being an amazing public speaker, he got a C in public speaking during his first year at seminary.  This likely isn’t because he was actually bad at public speaking at this point.  His father noted that even before going to seminary King Jr. was one of the best public speakers he’d seen.  Whatever caused his professor to give him a C, by his final year King had straight A’s, was the valedictorian of his class, and the student body president.

5)  His honeymoon was spent at a funeral parlor… not because someone died, simply because a friend owned the parlor and offered to let him use it for his honeymoon.

6) King convinced “Uhura” on Star Trek, Nichelle Nichols (who incidentally later went on to work for NASA), to continue on with the role after the first season. Nichols stated he told her not to leave the show because she was not only playing a black person as a main character on TV, but she was also playing a character that didn’t conform to the stereotypical black person of the day, usually portrayed.  Rather, Uhura was portrayed as an intelligent member of the crew and an equal to those around her.

This seems to have had the intended effect.  Whoopi Goldberg once stated when she first saw the character of Uhura on TV, she said “Momma! There’s a black lady on TV, and she ain’t no maid!”  It was partially because of this that Goldberg became a huge Star Trek fan and later pushed so hard to get a character on Star Trek the Next Generation, despite the disbelief of the producers that she’d actually want to be on the show.

Astronaut Ronald McNair, the second black person in space (who also died in the Challenger explosion), was inspired to become an astronaut because of the character of Uhura.    McNair’s brother stated,

Now, Star Trek showed the future where there were black folk and white folk working together. I just looked at it as science fiction, ’cause that wasn’t going to happen, really.’ But Ronald saw it as science possibility. He came up during a time when there was Neil Armstrong and all of those guys; so how was a colored boy from South Carolina – wearing glasses, never flew a plane – how was he gonna become an astronaut? But Ron was one who didn’t accept societal norms as being his norm, you know? That was for other people. And he got to be aboard his own Starship Enterprise.”

7) Besides winning a Congressional Gold Medal, a Medal of Freedom, and a Nobel Peace Prize, King won a Grammy.  How?  He won it in 1971 for Best Spoken Word Album for “Why I Oppose the War in Vietnam”.

8) His mother, Alberta Williams King, was also murdered.  She was killed while attending church in Atlanta in 1974 by a 23 year old man, Marcus Wayne Chenault, who believed “all Christians are my enemies”.  He shot and killed her while she was playing organ at the church.

9) It wasn’t until the year 2000 that all 50 states in the U.S. officially observed Martin Luther King Jr. Day.  The last states to join up where Arizona in 1992, New Hampshire in 1999, and Utah in 2000.  The holiday itself was originally signed into federal law by President Ronald Reagan in 1983, with the first MLK holiday on January 20, 1986.

10) His “I Have a Dream” speech painted an even bigger target before on his back, not just with certain people in the general public, but with the FBI.  This was a memo circulated throughout the FBI offices after the speech:

In the light of King’s powerful demagogic speech yesterday he stands heads and shoulders over all other Negro leaders put together when it comes to influencing great masses of Negros. We must mark him now, if we have not done so before, as the most dangerous Negro of the future in this nation from the standpoint of communism, the Negro, and national security.

The FBI later discovered King was supposedly having numerous affairs and sent him various anonymous letters stating such things as “You are a colossal fraud and an evil, vicious one at that” and threatening to blackmail him.  In another anonymous letter supposedly from the FBI, they stated,

The American public, the church organizations that have been helping—Protestants, Catholics and Jews will know you for what you are—an evil beast. So will others who have backed you. You are done. King, there is only one thing left for you to do. You know what it is. You have just 34 days in which to do (this exact number has been selected for a specific reason, it has definite practical significant). You are done. There is but one way out for you. You better take it before your filthy fraudulent self is bared to the nation.

Many of the FBI’s surveillance records, written and audio records, concerning King are currently held in the National Archives, but are sealed from public access until 2027.

Other Interesting Stuff:

eye-340x226Jane Elliot and the Blue-Eyed Children Experiment

On April 4, 1968, Jane Elliot, a third grade teacher in Riceville, Iowa, turned on her television set to learn more about Martin Luther King’s assassination and was appalled at what she heard from a white reporter. With microphone pointed toward a black leader, the white reporter asked, “When our leader (John F. Kennedy) was killed several years ago, his widow held us together. Who’s going to control your people?” According to Jane Elliot herself, in an interview for a Frontline documentary called “A Class Divided“, her lesson plan for April 5, 1968 changed the night of April 4, 1968 after she heard that reporter talking. She stated,… (more)

This Week’s Podcast Episodes:

 

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