Weekly Wrap Volume 35

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

cooking-pasta-340x226What Causes Pasta to Froth

We’ve all done it: you put the pasta on to boil, turn your back for a few minutes to wipe off the counter or read the newest Today I Found Out article, and suddenly you hear that foreboding hissing sound of water boiling over. (Perhaps if you simply subscribed to our Daily Knowledge podcast and been listening instead, you’d have avoided this issue.  You really have only yourself to blame. 😉  So why does it happen? It has everything to do with the composition of pasta. Pasta is made from flour, water, and sometimes egg—that means it’s basically just starch and protein rolled out into different shapes and dried. It’s the starch molecules that are important. Once they’re heated… (more)

apple-slicesWhy the Insides of Apples Turn Brown When Exposed to Air

The insides of apples turn brown when exposed to air thanks to a built in defense mechanism against bacteria and fungus. The trigger for this is damage to the cells, such as when you cut the apple, which then results in certain enzymes within the cells being exposed to oxygen. When this happens, the enzymes react to the oxygen creating an oxidized layer that provides some protection against foreign bodies. More technically, an enzyme called polyphenol oxidase (also known as tyrosinase), which is comprised of monophenol oxidase and catechol oxidase enzymes, when exposed to oxygen will result in phenolic compounds in the apple tissue turning into ortho-quinones or “o-quinones.” O-quinones are what is providing the protection from bacteria… (more)

richard-and-phillipThe Curious Relationship Between Richard the Lionheart and King Philip II of France

There are a number of monarchs throughout history who are believed to have been gay. Richard the Lionheart and Philip II are just a couple of kings who seemingly would rather have a relationship with a man than produce an heir and a spare. However, though Richard has been treated as something of a gay icon for years, direct evidence that he and Philip actually had a homosexual relationship is scant. The source most people point to is a report by Roger de Hoveden, who was a contemporary of the two kings. Here is an English translation of his account: “Richard, [then] duke of Aquitaine, the son of the king of England, remained with Philip, the King of France, who so honored him for so long that they ate every day at the same table and from the same dish, and at night their beds did not separate them. And the king…” (more)

Orson_welles-340x423The “War of the Worlds” Mass Panic That Never Really Happened

On October 30, 1938, from the Mercury Theater in New York City, Orson Welles broadcasted a “modernized” radio play of H.G. Wells’ (no relation) 1898 novel “War of the Worlds.” For the last three quarters of the century, we’ve been told that this fictionalized CBS broadcast sent Americans into a panic; that citizens across the country did not realize that this was  science-fiction (despite the fact that it was explicitly stated at the beginning and twice during the broadcast) and thought the USA was under attack from an invading Martian army.  Littered with realistic simulated news reports and “eyewitness accounts,” the hour long broadcast was innovative and an extremely entertaining way to present the story. But the thing is, no such nation-wide panic actually occurred. While there were certainly many exceptions, documented evidence indicates most who listened did know it was a dramatization and were completely aware that New Jersey was not being destroyed by visitors from space. Further, as you’ll soon see… (more)

full-moon-340x340Why the Same Side of the Moon Always Faces the Earth

One Moon “day” is approximately 29 1/2 Earth days. This rotation coincides with its orbit around the Earth so that we only see about 59% of the surface of the Moon from Earth. When the Moon first formed, its rotational speed and orbit were very different than they are now. Over time, the Earth’s gravitational field gradually slowed the Moon’s rotation until the orbital period and the rotational speed stabilized, making one side of the Moon always face the Earth. How does this work? Simply put -tidal friction. For a slightly less simple explanation, we’ll have to put our science caps on. But stick with it; it’s fascinating. I promise. To start, think of how the Moon causes major tides on the Earth due to the Moon pulling… (more)

Bonus Quick Facts:

  • According to the Florentine Codex, among other sources, it is believed that the Ancient Aztecs were clean freaks, particularly compared to Europeans at the time. The Aztecs would bathe regularly (sometimes even twice per day, according to conquistador Andres de Tapia who claimed Montezuma did this), used deodorants, soap (from the amolli soap plant), and even breath fresheners.  As a specific example, the Codex gives this account by an Aztec father to his daughter:  “[In the morning] wash your face, wash your hands, clean your mouth… If you want your husband to love you, dress well, wash yourself and wash your clothes.”
  • You’ll often read that Neil Armstrong believed that every human’s heart was destined to beat a specific number of times during their lifetime. For that reason, he avoided working out or doing any activity that could increase his heart rate.  He said this in a July 4, 1969 Life magazine article.  However, in First on the Moon, published in 1970, Armstrong denied this stating that he only said he’d heard that elsewhere and went on to point out it was false in the interview, but Life didn’t include the second part where he said he disagreed with the quote.
  • A small Austrian village in the municipality of Tarsdorf has something of an odd name from an English speaking point of view.  The town is Fucking, Austria (pronounced fooking).  The town is thought to have been founded around the 6th century by a Bavarian nobleman by the name of Focko.  The name evolved from there with various spellings until the 18th century when it became as it is today. The name essentially means “(place of) Focko’s people.”
  • While many people fear flying, nobody seems to fear sleeping in a bed.  Yet in 2013, according to The Aviation Safety Network, only 265 people around the world who traveled via a commercial airplane holding 14 or more passengers lost their lives because of a plane crash (out of about 31 million flights), while in the United States alone, according to the Center for Disease Control, falling out of bed accounts for about 450 deaths, 400,000 hospital admissions, and 1.8 million emergency room visits each year.
  • The word barbarian is used today (literally or metaphorically) to describe a person that is lacking refinement and thus is considered to be uncivilized. The word, however, comes from the Greek word “barbaroi,” which in antiquity described the people who couldn’t speak Greek and thus they were sounding (to the Greeks) like they were saying bar-bar-bar. This is the reason why the Ancient Greeks referred to everyone who wasn’t Greek as a “barbarian.”
  • Ian McKellen performed the wedding ceremony for Patrick Stewart when Stewart married Sunny Ozell in 2013.  What I wouldn’t have given to get an invite to that wedding…

Other Interesting Stuff:

poppy-seedCan Eating Poppy Seeds Really Cause You to Fail a Drug Test?

When Elaine on Seinfeld failed a drug test after eating a poppy seed muffin back in the 1996 episode “The Shower Head,” the idea that you could fail a drug test after eating poppy seeds took off. Turns out, this wasn’t yet another Hollywood writer invention—you really can potentially fail a drug test if you eat poppy seeds. Before they’re put into muffins, bagels, or cakes, poppy seeds can be found in poppy seed pods. It just so happens that opium is found in those same seed pods—it is a milky substance that is extracted from the seed pods which contains morphine and codeine, among other pain relieving substances. While poppy seeds… (more)

Now-You-Know-340x286How ‘Gay’ Came to Mean ‘Homosexual’

The word “gay” seems to have its origins around the 12th century in England, derived from the Old French word ‘gai’, which in turn was probably derived from a Germanic word, though that isn’t completely known.  The word’s original meaning meant something to the effect of “joyful”, “carefree”, “full of mirth”, or “bright and showy”.  However, around the early parts of the 17th century, the word began to be associated with immorality.  By the mid 17th century, according to an Oxford dictionary definition at the time, the meaning of the word had changed to mean  “addicted to pleasures and dissipations.  Often euphemistically… (more)

magnetic-field-earthWhat Will Happen When the Earth’s Magnetic Field Switches or Collapses

The Earth’s magnetic field protects life on Earth, shielding it from damaging radiation and moderating our climate. So the idea that it could completely flip around, or collapse altogether, should cause us to worry, right? Well, yes and no. Magnetosphere Basics: The result of electrical currents generated deep within the Earth through dynamic action, the magnetosphere is a fluid force that is constantly changing in strength and orientation. The Center of the Earth: The very heart of our planet is a… (more)

Parachemableedwithedema-340x399What Causes Strokes

A stroke, known in the medical field as a cerebral vascular accident (CVA) or brain attack, is more or less a “heart attack” for the brain.  Like any organ in the body, the brain needs blood to supply it with oxygen and nutrients. Should this blood flow become blocked by a clot or emboli, or the rupture of a blood vessel, the cells that occupy that area of the brain begin to die. Although every person has a different presentation, some of the most common symptoms of a stroke include trouble speaking, slurred speech, weakness or paralysis of one or both sides of the body, altered mental status, vision problems, or headache. There are two types of strokes: Ischemic and Hemorrhagic. Ischemic strokes… (more)

Henry_Gustav-340x258The Man Who Was Stuck in the 1950s

Henry Gustav Molaison, who came to be known by his initials, H.M., was studied from 1957 until his death in 2008. From an early age, H.M. suffered from severe epilepsy that was blamed on a bicycle accident when he was seven years old. He had seizures for many years that got progressively worse as he aged. The seizures finally got so bad that H.M was blacking out and could no longer work at his job assembling vehicle motors. He had to move in with his parents. At the age of 27 in 1953, H.M. was referred to neurosurgeon William Beecher Scoville at Connecticut’s Hartford Hospital. After running out of other options, Scoville suggested an experimental surgery that would  remove small parts of H.M.’s brain to reduce the seizures. Out of desperation, H.M. agreed… (more)

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