Weekly Wrap Volume 50

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

fighting irishWhy the French-Founded Notre Dame School’s Athletic Teams are the “Fighting Irish”

When the green and blue uniformed athletes of the University of Notre Dame run on to the field or court, their fans are rooting for the “Fighting Irish.” Represented by a small green leprechaun- hat tilted with his fists up, ready to fight- the athletic teams of this South Bend, Indiana Catholic school have been playing under this moniker for, officially, 87 years. But here’s the thing: the school was actually founded by French Catholic priests, not Irish Catholics. So, how did Notre Dame… (more)

AimeeThe Mysterious Disappearance of Sister Aimee Semple McPherson

On May 18, 1926, Aimee Semple McPherson went for a swim in the Pacific Ocean at Venice Beach. An avid swimmer, Aimee loved to escape from her temple in Echo Park for a quick dip in the ocean. She was dropped off by her secretary, who then left to do errands. When the secretary returned, McPherson wasn’t on the beach or in the water or anywhere. In a panic, the secretary called for the leaders of the Angelus Temple. After searching, they concluded the only logical thing: The leader of the Foursquare Gospel and the popular, revolutionary evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson had drowned in the Pacific Ocean. As Aimee’s mother put it to a teary-eyed congregation at the Angelus Temple later that evening, “Sister Aimee is with Jesus.” But that wasn’t the end of the tale… (more)

house-2If You Own Land, How Far Above and Below Do You Own?

On paper, the concept of land ownership sounds very simple- you pay money and in return you’re given unfettered access to a predetermined amount of land. But how much of that land do you actually own? Do you own the sky above it? How about the land below it? What about all the animals that may live there; do you own those too?  All of these questions and more define what exactly it means to “own” a piece of land.  Surprisingly, many of the answers aren’t well defined from a legal standpoint as you’ll soon see. (Note: The laws governing one’s rights as a landowner vary considerably depending on location, even within a given country or state.  With that caveat noted… (more)

pirate-mapParrots, Peg-legs, Plunder – Debunking Pirate Myths

Pirates murdered, pillaged, raped, stole, and generally made the lives of others who stood in their way terrible. But despite these facts, books and, more recently, Hollywood have glamorized the “swashbuckler on the high seas.” In the process, a lot of fiction has been attached to the pirate mythos. For example, the rumor that pirates commonly made people walk the plank simply isn’t true. Save for extremely rare occurrences (only five documented instances in history), this just didn’t happen. For starters, pirates generally weren’t interested in killing if they could help it- they just wanted the loot.  If you went around indiscriminately killing people, then crews wouldn’t surrender easily and you’d always have to fight to take ships, rather… (more)

hedy-lamarr-340x426How One of the Most Beautiful Women in 1940s’ Hollywood Helped Make Certain Wireless Technologies Possible

Did an exotic actress from Vienna, considered one of the most beautiful women in Hollywood in the 1940s, really invent wireless? Not exactly, but the non-sensationalized facts of the matter are no less fascinating, involving Hollywood, the World War II Axis Powers, and remote control technology. Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler, better known as “Hedy Lamarr”, once really did patent a “Secret Communication System” for radio communication, meant to foil the Axis during WWII. It was specifically designed to be used as a remote control system to securely guide torpedoes while getting around the problem of jamming.  Her idea at its core was really part of the larger concept of “frequency-hopping”… (more)

Bonus Quick Facts:

  • There are some words that change their meaning based on whether the first letter is capitalized or not.  These words are collectively known as “capitonyms”.  These capitonyms are particularly troublesome when they appear at the beginning of a sentence as there is no way based on the single word alone, to tell which meaning is being referred to.  Examples of these include: August vs. august (month vs majestic or venerable); Calorie vs. calorie (1000 calories vs. 1 calorie); Moon vs. moon (the Earth’s natural satellite vs. any natural satellite); Divine vs. divine (related to God vs. to discover by intuition or insight); etc.
  • Sword swallowing was first introduced in India in 2000 BC where it was a demonstration of divinity and power. From there, it spread to China and Japan for theatrical performance.  Today, in order to become an approved member of the Sword Swallowers Association International (yes there is one), they require you to safely swallow a blade between 15 and 20 inches in length.
  • The primary reason cockroaches and many types of insects are so resistant to ionizing radiation is that their cells don’t divide that much between molting cycles.  Cells are most susceptible to damage by ionizing radiation when they are dividing.  Given that a typical cockroach only molts about once a week and its cells only divide around a 48 hour period during that week, about 3/4 of the cockroaches exposed would not be particularly susceptible to damage by ionizing radiation during this time, at least, relative to those whose cells were currently dividing.
  • Before horses and guns were introduced to Native Americans, hunting bison was a dangerous affair; the bison being quite aggressive and hard to kill.  One of the methods of hunting them that the Native Americans would then use was to attempt to herd a large group of bison into chutes of rock, which lead to a cliff.  They’d then incite a stampede with some of the herd falling to their deaths.  The meat and skins could then be easily gathered.
  • The word “Velcro” is derived from the French “velour” (velvet) and “crochet” (hooks).  So essentially, Velcro just means “hooked velvet”.

Other Interesting Stuff:

elvis-presley-340x438The Night Elvis was Shown from the Waist Up

It all happened over half a century ago on January 6, 1957.  One of the more famous, and by today’s viewpoint bizarre, acts of “censorship” in television history.  Elvis Presley was deliberately filmed from the waist up only. Why all that fuss over a 22-year-old, fully clothed, young man’s lower half?  It is a bit hard for our generation to comprehend all the stir the young Elvis created.  We live in the “I’ve seen it all” generation. Nothing shocks us any more- countless sex scandals, snuff films, 2 Girls 1 Cup, serial murders, online porn, Faces of Death, Goatse,  etc. etc. etc.  We are all at the almost “impossible to shock” level on this crazy planet. But in the very staid, conservative 1950s, where the world’s top singers… (more)

eveThe Woman Who is the “Mother” of Us All

This woman is thought to be the “mother” of all humans alive today. Seems like a big claim for scientists to make.  So how do they know this?  The simple explanation is that when an egg is fertilized by a sperm, the DNA from the father and mother join together in a process known as recombination. Certain DNA is only passed down from the mother or father.  All mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) come exclusively from the mother, as an exact copy. Over time however, there will occur predictable mutations to mtDNA. Biologists can compare samples… (more)

newyears-340x476Why Does the New Year Begin on January First in Many Countries?

Since long before Caesar’s time, date keeping was dicey. In fact, the 355-day Roman calendar that immediately preceded Caesar’s Julian, worked on a four year cycle where every other year, an additional month was inserted between February (Februarius), the last month of that calendar year, and March (Martius), the first month of the year; this was done in order to catch the calendar up with the Earth’s orbit of the Sun. That additional month, called the Mensis intercalaris, brought in the missing 22 or 23 days, and to even things up, took another five days from February in the years it was present. Since the calendar had been designed to ensure the proper observance of religious… (more)

Garlic-e1294494599291Why Garlic Makes Your Breath Smell Bad

There are a few things going on to cause this bad smell, but principally the root cause is various sulfuric compounds from the garlic.  Initially, most of the bad breath resulting from eating garlic comes directly from the sulfuric compounds introduced into your mouth.  Not only that, but garlic actually promotes the growth of some of the microbes in your mouth that already cause bad breath, which further exacerbates the problem. You may have noticed that even if you brush your teeth, rinse with mouthwash, and other such methods to clean out these compounds and various microbes from your mouth, the bad breath caused by garlic still remains to some extent.  This has… (more)

This Week’s Podcast Episodes:

Quote of the Week:

  • “Try to learn something about everything and everything about something.” -Thomas Huxley
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