Weekly Wrap Volume 44

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

sunriseThe Curious Case of Sun Sneezing

Have you ever been in a dark place, say a movie theatre or a room with all the blinds close, and walked outside into the daylight when, all of a sudden, you begin to sneeze uncontrollably? You had no runny nose or desire to sneeze prior to this exposure to sunlight, but you just can’t help that big achoo? If you answered yes, then you are part of the twenty to thirty five percent of the human population that are “victims” of this not highly understood phenomenon, known as the “photic sneeze reflex” or a “solar sneeze.” Why do certain people have solar sneezes? How does it work? Only in the past few years have scientists begun to understand this rather odd trait. The great Greek philosopher Aristotle in 350 BC asked the question… (more)

ECG-340x236Hollywood Medical Myth: Shocking Someone Who Has “Flat-Lined” Can Get Their Heart Going Again

It never fails. You’re watching television and someone is circling the drain, in the toilet that is their life. The noise from the heart monitor affirms they’re still alive, with its consistent, rhythmic beeps. All of the sudden, alarms start going off. On the monitor- the dreaded “flat-line”. Doctors begin rushing in. One of them always seems to yell, “Hand me the paddles; we’re losing him!” The machine is charged, and miraculously the heart is shocked back to life, saving the day! (But only after a suitably dramatic number of zaps and someone inevitably shouting “LIVE… (more)

sleepwalkingSleepwalking Murders

Anyone who has ever tried to reason with a sleepwalker knows they can seem to be awake, yet have bizarre and irrational behaviors. Stubborn during the best of episodes, and inconsolable, unreasonable and intense in the worst, it is not hard to imagine these walking dreamers acting out nightmares, and unintentionally turning violent. In fact, the sleepwalker’s lack of intent has been used successfully as a defense in several shocking murder trials over the years. Arising during deep sleep, sufferers can perform even complex tasks, and some have been known to leave their homes and… (more)

graduatesWhy Graduates Wear Caps and Gowns

Wearing academic robes is a tradition that dates back to at least the 12th century, around the time when the first universities were being founded in Europe. During this time, most scholars were also clerics or aspiring clerics, and excess in apparel was not encouraged. As such, in the beginning it is thought that there was little difference between what the academics were wearing and the laity, excepting that the academics and clergy tended to wear very plainly colored garb. Beyond that, the clothing was simply practical. When the universities were originally formed, they had no official buildings of their own to hold lectures in, so classes typically gathered in nearby churches. Their simple robes… (more)

coupons-340x353Why Coupons Sometimes Say They are Worth a Fraction of a Penny

Depending on where you live, you may have noticed that coupons have small print stating they are worth some fraction of a penny, usually something like 1/100th or 1/20th of a penny. In truth, the coupons really are worth this and if you wanted, you could redeem them for their cash value. Of course, you’d need a large quantity of them to even reach a penny’s worth. This goes up even more if you’re interested in making a profit as you’ll often need to mail the coupons in to redeem the value, depending on the company issuing the coupon. So why are they worth anything at all? This stems back to the days of trading stamp collecting. For those not familiar, the trading stamp system was a fairly brilliant customer loyalty program used by various businesses starting around the 1890s in the United States and later spreading to other countries. In exchange… (more)

Bonus Quick Facts:

  • Before the 19th century, all yeast leavened bread was a type of sourdough bread as they didn’t understand that it wasn’t the yeast itself giving the bread the sour taste.  With advancements in microscopes though, they discovered this fact and were able to produce strains of yeast packaged and sold without lactobacillus.
  • “Uncle Phil,” occasionally known as James Avery in the real world,  was also the voice of James Rhodes in the 1990s Iron Man series.  Along with that, he was also the voice of Shredder in the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon.
  • “Pencil” comes from the Latin “pencillus”, meaning “little tail”.
  • The metal band that attaches the pencil body with an eraser is called a “ferrule.”
  • The first known human killed by a robot was in 1981, when a robotic arm, no doubt in a diabolical plot to try to take over the world, crushed a Japanese Kawasaki factory worker.
  • The term “Skid Road” or “Skid Row,” a slang term for a run-down or dilapidated urban area,  was an actual road in Seattle, Washington during the late 1800s.  The real name of the road was Yesler Way (now better known as Pioneer Square),  and it was the main street along which logs were transported.  It soon became a rather sketchy stretch of street that loggers began to call “Skid Road.” It also became the dividing line between the affluent people of Seattle and the mill workers and more impoverished population of the city.
  • The now common “Fish and Chips” combo originated in Britain around 1860.  For nearly 200 years before that, fish vendors had been serving fried fish on the streets of Britain.  Sometime around the mid-19th century, one of them got the bright idea to serve thick cut French fries with the fried fish, with the first known “Fish and Chip” eatery opened by Joseph Malin in 1860.  After this, the popular combo rapidly spread throughout Britain and the world.
  • Catgut strings (never known to have actually been made of cat-gut) are prepared by cleaning the intestines of fat and other undesirable additions.  From there, the intestines are soaked in an alkaline substance and smoothed out.  The surviving microbes on the catgut are then killed via sulfuric fumes.  From there, the intestines are ready to be stretched/wound/etc. into appropriately sized strings.
  • The Italian town of Viganella gets no direct sunlight for about seven weeks each winter.  In order to solve this problem, in 2006, a computer controlled mirror was installed which is approximately 25 feet by 15 feet.  The mirror is controlled such  that it reflects sunlight into the town’s main city square during the day time.

Other Interesting Stuff:

The_Disciples_at_Emmaus-340x304The Revenge of Han van Meegeren, One of the Great Art Forgers of All Time

Han van Meegeren was born in 1889 and developed an interest in painting at a young age. He wasn’t supported in his dream to become an artist by his father, who forbade van Meegeren’s artistic development, trying to steer his son in the direction of architecture instead. Undeterred, van Meegeren met Bartus Kortelling—a teacher and painter—at his school, and Kortelling later became van Meegeren’s mentor. Kortelling loved paintings from the Dutch Golden Age and likely had a hand in van Meegeren’s love of golden age paintings as well. A particular fan of Johannes Vermeer, Kortelling showed his protégé how Vermeer mixed his colours—a lesson that would have a great impact on the aspiring artist’s later life. Still, van Meegeren’s father was not impressed. He sent… (more)

pregnant-woman-eating-340x496Myth or Fact: The Human Body Craves Foods That Have Nutrients It Currently is Short On

Have you ever gotten up in the middle of the night and absolutely had to have cheesecake? Ever had your pregnant spouse beg you to get her pickles and cheese to go with a peanut butter and banana sandwich? Food cravings are one thing  almost every human has experienced. One of the most common theories as to why this is the case is that humans crave food that contains nutrients our bodies are short on. Due to the complexity of how the human body regulates hunger and the potential for individuals to have abnormalities in those mechanisms, so far science has… (more)

Ben-franklin-340x427Ben Franklin’s Proposal of Something Like Daylight Saving Time was Written as a Joke

In a comedic letter he wrote, An Economical Project (published in 1784), “to the authors of the journal of Paris”, Franklin mentions something like daylight saving time. Although, instead of changing clocks, he suggested ringing church bells and firing cannons, among other things, as the sun rises to maximize the amount of time people would be awake during times when the sun is providing free light.  The letter was meant to be a satire, rather than actually suggesting these changes be made. Here’s an excerpt of the letter: “You often entertain us with accounts of new discoveries.  Permit me to communicate to the public, through your paper, one that has lately been made by myself, and which I conceive may be of great utility…. (more)

rhode-islandWhy Does Rhode Island Have “Island” in the Name When It is Not One?

Most think the history of Rhode Island starts with Roger Williams, but the state’s “discovery” (at least by Europeans) dates back about hundred years before that to approximately 1524 and the Italian explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano (though he did most of his exploring in the name of King Francis I of France, rather than in the name of Italy). Originally making his way to Florida in an effort to find a sea route to the Pacific Ocean and trade passage to Asia, he was forced to stop at Cape Fear, North Carolina owing to the need for ship repairs. After the repairs were complete, instead of continuing further south, he decided to head north. Verrazzano made his way past the Hudson River, Long Island, and New York Bay, before reaching Narragansett Bay, a bay that opens into the north side of the modern-day Rhode Island Sound. There, he was received by a delegation of Wampanoag… (more)

armpit2Why Do We Still Have Pubic and Armpit Hair?

It’s a biological mystery that has perplexed humanity through the ages – especially in recent times when so many of us go to such great lengths to remove it. What useful purpose could pubic and armpit hair possibly serve? Is it just Mother Nature playing a sick joke on us? Does she own stock in Gillette? Although there’s no definitive answer, plenty of theories abound as to why human beings have hairy armpits and pubic regions, one of which seems pretty reasonable. One theory that’s not quite as reasonable, though still slightly plausible… (more)

This Week’s Podcast Episodes:

Top Posts This Week on TodayIFoundOut’s Facebook Page:

Quote of the Week:

  • “People who think they know everything are a great annoyance to those of us who do.” -Isaac Asimov
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