Weekly Wrap Volume 54

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

LucasThe Indestructible Jacklyn H. Lucas

Would you fall on a grenade to save your friends? How about two grenades? Jack H. Lucas did and became the youngest man to be awarded the U.S. Medal of Honor, the United States’ highest combat award. Born Jacklyn Harrell Lucas in Plymouth, NC on February 14, 1928, Jacklyn was a natural athlete who quickly rose to captain of the football team at his high school, the Edwards Military Institute. By the age of 14, Jack looked much older. Relatively tall for his age (5′ 8″) and brawny at 180 pounds, Jack had no trouble convincing the Marine Corps recruiters… (more)

opiumThe Invention of Morphine

Derived from opium but far more reliable and powerful, the invention of morphine changed pharmacology and pain relief.
A (Very) Short History of Opium:  Derived from the seedpods of the poppy, Papaver somniferum (opium) has been used since early civilizations first cultivated it from a wild strain, Papaver setigerum. A 6,000 year old Sumerian tablet speaks of it, and the famous drug even made an appearance in the Greek classic, The Odyssey, where it was used to ease the symptoms of depression. Egyptians, Greeks and Romans all enjoyed the plant, to the point where pharaohs had it placed in their tombs. By the 700s AD… (more)

michael-jackson-340x511Why Michael Jackson’s Skin Turned White as He Got Older

Many scandals marred Michael Jackson’s personal life, overshadowing his otherwise remarkable musical career. One such scandal was the obvious change in his appearance, especially his skin color, which started from the mid-eighties to slowly but surely turn from dark to white. By the mid-nineties when Jackson released his album History (1995), it was more than obvious even to his most dedicated fans that the man of Thriller (1982) looked nothing like the man who had recently married Elvis Presley’s daughter, Lisa Marie. By this time, Michael Jackson was milky white; a skin-color transition that started almost a decade earlier was more or less complete. So… (more)

dry-cleaningHow Dry Cleaning Works and Who Invented It

What happens to clothes after being dropped off at the dry cleaners is a mystery to most. We know that our clothes come back a whole lot cleaner than when we dropped them off, but how? And who first got the bright idea to clean clothing without water? The earliest records of professional dry cleaning go all the way back to the Ancient Romans.  For instance, dry cleaning shops were discovered in the ruins of Pompeii, a Roman city buried by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. Those cleaners, known as fullers, used a type of clay known as fuller’s earth along with lye and ammonia (derived from urine) in order to remove stains such as dirt and sweat from clothing. That process proved pretty effective for any fabric too delicate for normal washing or… (more)
runny-nose1-e1294836732192Why Your Nose Gets Runny When It is Cold

On an average day, a typical person’s nose will produce about one quart of mucus/fluid (just under one liter).  Most all of this snot generally gets passed back into your throat and swallowed, often without you even really being too conscious of it.  When you’re breathing cold air though, the rate of mucus production goes up significantly, causing some of that snot to come out the front of your nose, rather than back in your throat. What’s going on here is the blood supply to your nose actually increases as a response to the cold air, via tiny blood vessels in your nose dilating to increase the blood flow.   This helps keep your nose… (more)

Bonus Quick Facts:

  • We’ve all heard of Yahoo and have probably seen their commercials and heard the famous yodel “Yahoooooo!” The famous yodel comes from Wylie Gustafson. He made the yodel for Yahoo in 1996 for a one time payment of $590 U.S. Dollars. However in 2002, I guess he wanted more, so he sued Yahoo, settling out of court for an undisclosed amount.
  • While most have heard the term “nymphomania,” for “a woman who has abnormally excessive and uncontrollable sexual desire,” few know the male counterpart term- satyriasis, “a neurotic condition in men in which the symptoms are a compulsion to have sexual intercourse with as many women as possible and an inability to have lasting relationships with them .” As for the former, “nymphomania” derives from the Greek “nymphe,” meaning “bride” (from the Greek semi-divine female spirits) and “mania,” meaning “madness.” The latter, “satyriasis” ultimately derives from the Greek “satyr,” who were lustful woodland deities with certain horse or goat-like features.
  • The couch gag in The Simpsons is used to make the show longer or shorter depending on the length of the episode itself.  The average couch gag lasts about 6 seconds while the longest to date lasted 46 seconds.
  • At 12 years old, Simon Cowell hijacked a bus. He stated about the specific event, “We had these pea guns, and I was living in England in a place called Radlett and I wanted to go to Watford, which was ten miles away. So I got on this bus – and as a joke- it was a joke- I put the gun to the driver’s head and I said ‘take me to Watford.’ And I remember thinking ‘God, he’s really playing the part here because we’re not stopping.” Of course, the police were waiting for him at his destination. Little came of it after the police realized they were dealing with kids with toy guns.  However, Cowell said, “My mum and dad came in and my mum was actually worse than the police…she was furious with me.”
  • Anthony Hopkins won the Best Actor Academy Award for his performance in The Silence of the Lambs… a film he only appeared in for just over 16 minutes. While you’ll often read this is a record for a Best Actor Oscar, the real record is held by David Niven, for his performance in Separate Tables (1958), which he appeared in for 15 minutes and 38 seconds. The overall record for any Oscar winning performance is held by Beatrice Straight who won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her work in Network (1976), in which she appeared for just one scene that was 5 minutes and 40 seconds long (which in truth is a phenomenally well acted scene).
  • Eilleen Edwards is one of the most famous women in the world today. Haven’t heard of her? Her father left when she was only two, but two years later she was adopted by her stepfather, an Ojibwa Indian named Jerry Twain. At the age of 25, she took the name “Shania.” Of course we are talking of Shania Twain. As for why she picked that first name, it has been reported that it is an Ojibwa word meaning “on my way,” but according to biographer Robin Eggar no such word or phrase exists in Ojibwa.
  • Mickey Rourke, most recently known for his parts in Iron Man 2 and The Expendables, shocked Hollywood back in the early 90s when he decided to quit acting and become a professional boxer. Rourke intended to fight until he got a title shot, but after three years and a series of serious injuries he decided to quit. However, he did manage to retire undefeated with 6 wins and 2 draws, joining an elite club of boxers who retired undefeated such as the great Rocky Marciano and arguably the greatest super middleweight boxer of all time, Joe Calzaghe.
  • The Tootsie Roll was invented by Leo Hirschfeld in 1896. He named the candy after his daughter’s nickname, Clara “Tootsie” Hirschfeld. During World War II, the Tootsie Roll candy was added to every soldier’s field rations, because the candy could hold up in a variety of weather conditions. The Tootsie roll was also the first one cent candy to be individually wrapped and was the most popular candy during the Depression, due to its low cost.
  • Archeological evidence suggest that the earliest known purposefully fermented drink, specifically beer, was made all the way back in the late Stone Age around 10,000 BC, making it one of the earliest known prepared food substance along with bread, which also dates back to around 10,000 BC. The earliest references to wine being made are found in Egypt around 4000 BC.

Other Interesting Stuff:

rick-moranis-340x283What Happened to Actor Rick Moranis?

Janet Jackson and wardrobe malfunction.  Peanut butter and jelly.  Sonny and Cher.  Some things just go together.  Sort of how I feel about Canadian-American actor Rick Moranis and the movies Honey, I Shrunk the Kids or Ghostbusters. Whenever I hear his name, I have immediate flashbacks of oversized Cheerios and milk splashing out of a giant bowl.  But what happened to the guy with horn-rimmed glasses?  What is he doing now? Not acting. A comedy-genius, Moranis quietly vanished from acting in 1997, when he was last seen on screen in the movie titled ‘Big Bully.’  He had been slowly disappearing from the public eye after his wife’s death from breast cancer that… (more)

policeWhy Do the Police Wear Blue?

Police services like the NYPD and the LAPD are bona fide pop culture staples that have been featured in countless movies and TV shows. Their distinctive blue uniform is known the world over, but have you ever stopped to think, “Well, why is it blue?”  If so, wonder no more. It turns out, beyond some of the modern reasoning for continuing to do it, there initially was a very simple explanation as to why blue was chosen. For starters, why they keep the colour today- according to “The Psychological Influence of the Police Uniform“, the colour blue has several functions… (more)

titanic-hairstyle-e1348534273880The Leonardo DiCaprio Haircut That Had the Taliban in a Rage

Titanic was released in December of 1997.  Many Hollywood insiders and naysayers predicted doom for the film.  After all, it had cost a record $200 million to produce;  the story had been told on film more than once; everyone already knew the ending; and the film really had no “big stars” to draw in the crowds. (Originally the lead role was to go to Mathew McConaughey to provide the “star power”, but director James Cameron and Kate Winslet both pushed for DiCaprio to get the role.) After making a good, but not incredible, $28 million in its opening weekend, momentum (and great word of mouth) quickly set in. Titanic soon set a “never to be broken” highest grossing film record (that was in fact soon to be broken by Avatar).  It was the number one film at the box office an unbelievable 15 weeks… (more)

area-51-340x419Why Area 51 is Thought by Some to House Aliens

Area 51 is now so ingrained into popular culture that it’s virtually synonymous with Aliens; it’s impossible to mention one without the other somehow creeping into the conversation, but why are the two so intrinsically linked? Why do we automatically picture little green men any time someone so much as mentions the words, Area 51? First it’s important to realize what Area 51 actually is. For all intents and purposes and according to every government document ever released, Area 51 is a “secret” military base where they test experimental pieces of military hardware. For example, experimental supersonic jets such as the SR-71… (more)

toadA Murder of Crows And the Exploding Toad Epidemic

In the spring of 2005 during their mating season, toads in Germany and Denmark began exploding. Spewing guts, blood and skin for nearly a yard in every direction; the disturbing phenomenon at first baffled concerned scientists, although they eventually discovered the cause of the fatal condition. Pools of Death: Observed near two ponds during that spring, one in the Altona district of Hamburg, Germany, and the other near Laasby in Jutland, Denmark, some of the explosions were actually witnessed by environmental scientists. First, they began with “several minutes” of “agonizing and twitching” followed by the toads blowing up like a balloon, and then culminating in an explosion. As the environmental workers noted, after “the toads burst, the entrails slid out. But the animals [weren’t] immediately dead…” (more)

This Week’s Podcast Episode:

Quote of the Week:

  • “History teaches us that men and nations behave wisely once they have exhausted all other alternatives.” -Abba Eban
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