Weekly Wrap: Volume 25

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

gradesWhy There Is No E in the A-F Grading Scale

Some schools do hand out E letter grades instead of an F, but they are in the minority. A majority of schools in the United States, particularly beyond primary age, give grades of A, B, C, D, or F. Rather than a failure on the part of academic institutions to know the alphabet, the simple answer is that “F” stands for “fail.” The other four grades are more or less considered “passing” (though in some districts a D is also a failing grade), which is why they go in alphabetical order. The F is considered… (more)

land-of-the-rising-sunWhy Japan is Called the Land of the Rising Sun

Ancient, China developed all of the hallmarks of advanced civilization, including written language, advanced cities, specialized labor and bronze technology, as much as 2000 years before Japan. As a result, China, and its culture, had an enormously large influence on the younger culture, sharing its philosophies, political structures, architecture, Buddhism, clothing styles and even its written language. In fact, the earliest known written account of Japan was found in a Chinese book. With such a powerful influence, it stands to reason that, when Japan was described early in its development, it was from a Chinese perspective. And when the Chinese looked east to Japan, they looked in the direction of the dawn… (more)

qwertyThe Origin of the QWERTY Keyboard

The first typewriter was introduced to the United States in 1868 by Christopher Latham Sholes. His first attempt to build a typing device consisted of a crude and sluggish machine that was far from perfect. The design of the first typewriter used letters and characters on the ends of rods which were called typebars.  When a key was struck, the typebar would swing up and hit the ink-coated tape which would transfer the image onto paper. The original design of the keyboard positioned keys in alphabetical order in two rows. Makes sense, right?  Well,… (more)

SealandThe Tiny Nation of Sealand

Pirate radio, kidnapping, battles- the principality of Sealand has seen all of these things and more, despite only being a tiny micronation lying about 7 nautical miles the coast from Suffolk, England. If you haven’t heard of Sealand before, it is the site of one of Britain’s Maunsell Naval Sea Forts that were utilized during WWII. This particular one was… (more)

kipchoge-keinoLate for the Olympics: The Amazing Story of Kipchoge Keino

Kipchoge Keino, aka Hezekiah Kipchoge Keino or (thankfully in the interest of avoiding typos) just Kip, is a retired athlete who ran for the country of Kenya. Throughout his career, Kip earned almost a dozen medals, half of which were gold, for being an amazing middle to long distance runner. The story we want to share is the time Kip was almost late for his own race and had to (literally) run to get there, then won a gold medal anyway, despite another major adversity in that race, which we’ll get to in a minute.  First, a little info on the man himself, because he’s awesome.  We’ll… (more)

Bonus Quick Facts:

  • You should think twice before saying, “When Hell freezes over.” In fact, it freezes over quite frequent in the small village of Hell, Norway where sub-zero temperatures are not that uncommon in the winter. The name for the town derives from the Old Norse “hellir,” which meant “cliff cave” or “overhang”.
  • After his presidency, Truman returned to his home in Missouri with his only income his old army pension, which was no more than $112.56 per month or about $982 today (largely as a response to his somewhat impoverished situation, Congress later passed the Former Presidents Act to give U.S. President’s pensions). Truman had numerous offers from large corporations for work, but turned them all down, stating: “I knew that they were not interested in hiring Harry Truman, the person, but what they wanted to hire was the former President of the United States.  I could never lend myself to any transaction, however respectable, that would commercialize on the prestige and the dignity of the office of the Presidency.”
  • In 1990, Chuck Norris became the first Westerner in history to be awarded an 8th degree Black Belt (Grand Master) in Taekwondo.  In his life, he’s also achieved the rankings of 10th degree black belt in Chun Kuk Do; 9th degree black belt in Tang Soo Do; and black belts in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Judo. Apparently some rumors about Chuck’s supposed superpowers might be true after all.
  • The Tower of the Winds in Athens, which lies right under the Acropolis, is thought to be the first clock tower in history, constructed sometime between the 2nd century BC to 50 BC.  It contained eight sundials and a water clock, along with a wind vane.
  • The largest employer in the world is the United States Department of Defense with a little over 3.2 million employees. Next up is the People’s Republic of China with 2.3 million employees, then Walmart with 2.1 million…

Other Interesting Stuff:

gold-medalHow Much are Olympic Gold Medals Worth?

As far as the value of the raw materials in them, this varies from Olympiad to Olympiad.  For the 2012 Olympics in London, the medals are the largest of any in Summer Olympic history, weighing in at 400g for the gold medal.  Of this 400g, 394g is sterling silver (364.45g silver / 29.55g copper) with 6g of 24 karat gold plating.  At the current going rate for gold and silver, this means a gold medal in the London Olympics is worth about $624, with $304 of the value coming from the gold and about $320 coming from the sterling silver. Of course, athletes can often get much more than this selling the medals on the open market, particularly for momentous medals, like… (more)

now-you-know-answers1-340x286Do Olympic Medalists Receive Cash Prizes With Their Medals?

Some are awarded cash prizes by their respective local Olympic committees or governments.  Also, sometimes private businessmen will match values given, such as in Armenia where a man donated $700,000 to be added to the cash given by the Olympic committee for medals. Another similar thing occurred for Belarus athletes during the 2008 Beijing Olympics.  Those Belarusians who won any medal in the Olympics that year not only got a cash prize ($100,000 for gold, $50,000 for silver, and $30,000 for bronze), but also were given free meat and sausage for life from a local major meat company… (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 rate that you’re spinning around. When you stop, the endolymph resists change in motion again, and keeps going for a while. This sends a message to your brain that your head is still spinning even if it isn’t, resulting in the dizzy… (more)

This Week’s Podcasts:

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