Weekly Wrap Volume 74

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

Arabian-CameThe Bizarre Mating Practices of the Arabian Camel

Some people are into feet, others like dressing up in furry costumes, and a rare few will even get scatological (See: Mozart’s Much Less Family Friendly Works). But when it comes to weird sexual practices, it would be difficult to top the mating rituals of the one-humped camel. Also known as the Arabian camel and dromedary, Camelus dromedarius is found throughout the hot, dry deserts of the Middle East and Africa (with a large wild population still roaming about in Australia as well). Unlike their two-humped… (more)

NES-Zapper-e1293541125895How the Gun on the Original Duck Hunt Game Worked

If you’ve ever played Duck Hunt or any of the other NES games that used the NES Zapper gun, you probably at one point or another wondered how the game actually knows where on the TV you are aiming the gun when you pulled the trigger. It turns out, the method for accomplishing this is incredibly simple, as is the gun itself. This gun primarily just consists of a button (the trigger) and a photodiode (light sensor).  When you pull… (more)

albert-2A Space Race for the Dogs… and Monkeys and Fruit Flies

The first Earthlings sent into space were brave, calm under pressure, and heroic. They were also not human and many of them were furry. Yes, before Apollo 13, Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong, and Yuri Gagarin, humans sent fruit flies, monkeys, and dogs into space to determine if living beings could survive the trip. These tests helped prove that, given a certain amount of precautions and protections, humans could endure space flight. Here is the little told story of these mostly cute and cuddly astronauts. The V-2 rocket developed by the… (more)

valentines-day-candyThe Origin of Valentine’s Day

While not thought to be directly related to modern Valentine’s Day traditions, the beginnings of celebrating love (of a sort) in February date back to the Romans. The feast of Lupercalia was a pagan fertility and health festival, observed from February 13th through the 15th, that was celebrated at least as far back as 44 BCE (the year Julius Caesar was assassinated). Some historians believe it goes back even further, though with possibly a different name. Connected to the Roman god Lupercus, (the equivalent to the Greek god Pan), the festival was originally supposed to be about shepherds and bringing health and fertility to their sheep and cows. When it became more ingrained into Roman culture, it additionally celebrated Lupa (also another possible reason it is named what it is), the she-wolf…(more)

Turnspit_DogThe Curious Tale of Turnspit Dogs

Considering how most dogs in the Western world these days are treated as a member of the family, it’s often easy to forget that the vast majority of our furry friends up until very recently were bred for a specific purpose. Perhaps no dog was bred for a more specific purpose than the now extinct, turnspit. The turnspit was so named because it was literally bred just to run for hours on a tiny wheel that turned a spit. No, really, that was all it did. You see, a few hundred years ago the generally preferred method for cooking a large piece of meat evenly was to put it on a spit and rotate it until it was fully cooked. Cooking meat thoroughly on a spit takes anywhere between… (more)

Bonus Quick Facts:

  • “Nephew” at one time was a gender neutral term, but since around the 17th century has referred nearly exclusively to male children of one’s siblings or brother/sister-in-law’s children.  The word “nephew” comes from the Old French “neveu” meaning “grandson, descendant”, which in turn comes from the Latin “nepotem”, meaning “sister’s son, grandson, or descendant”.  The first documented case of “nephew” being used in English was in the 14th century. Today, because we now lack a gender neutral word to refer to a niece or nephew, it has been suggested that the slang word “nibling” be adopted, derived more or less from “sibling”.
  • Olivia Wilde’s real name is Olivia Cockburn.  She took the professional name “Wilde” in high school in homage to famed writer Oscar Wilde. Olivia Wilde’s mother is 60 Minutes producer and award winning journalist, Leslie Cockburn.  Her father, Andrew Cockburn, is also an award winning journalist.  In addition to that, her aunt and her grandfather were also professional writers.
  • Eeyore’s name is based off the British Cockney dialect version of the phrase “hee-haw”.  Interestingly, the guy who did the voice for Optimus Prime also did the voice for Eeyore and was the first person to voice Nintendo’s Mario character.
  • Super Glue really is “super”.  A one square inch bonding of Super Glue can hold around one ton. Super Glue has even been used to bond a small surface area of metal attached to a crane, which was then glued to the top of a car.  The car was lifted successfully by the crane without the bond breaking.
  • LEDs are much more efficient than incandescent light bulbs due to the fact that they give off very little heat; so a much higher percentage of the electricity used goes towards making light, rather than in incandescent bulbs where a good percentage of it ends up being converted to heat.
  • Katy Perry’s real name is Katheryn Elizabeth Hudson, but she created the stage name “Katy Perry” so as not to be confused with actress Kate Hudson.  Before she did this, she did release an album under her real name, with the album called “Katy Hudson”.  The album flopped.  It wasn’t until she signed with Capitol Music Group in 2007 that she adopted the stage name Katy Perry.  Since then, she’s obviously been a huge success… coincidence?!? … probably.
  • Japan is located along the Pacific “ring of fire”, on the edge of several continental and oceanic tectonic plates. This is an area of high seismic and volcanic activity from New Zealand, up through Japan, across to Alaska, and down the west coasts of North and South America. Japan’s specific location in this “ring”, causes frequent earthquakes as well as many active volcanoes and hot springs across the country.
  • Eric Marlon Bishop, better known as Jamie Foxx, picked this somewhat androgynous name due to the fact that early in his career he noticed that female comedians, also known as comediennes, often got picked to perform over male comedians at comedy clubs.
  • We all know George Armstrong Custer as “General Custer”. However, he was only a General for a brief period after being given a field promotion at the age of 23 to “Brigadier General” from “Captain”, shortly before the battle of Gettysburg. Needless to say from the timing of the promotion, he didn’t keep this rank long; after the war, he was given back his rank of “Captain”. At the time of his death, he was ranked at Lieutenant Colonel.

Other Interesting Stuff:

caesars-death1-e1326548743409-340x276That Time Julius Caesar was Kidnapped by Pirates Who Demanded a Ransom of 20 Talents of Silver, but Caesar Insisted They Ask for 50

A 25 year old Julius Caesar was sailing the Aegean Sea when he was kidnapped by Sicilian pirates. The pirates who captured him initially asked for a ransom of 20 talents of silver (which is about 620 kg of silver or $600,000 by today’s silver prices). According to Plutarch, rather than send his associates off to gather the silver, he instead laughed at the pirates and demanded they ask for 50 (1550 kg of silver), as 20 talents of silver was too small of a ransom for himself. The pirates, of course, agreed and Caesar sent some of his associates off to gather the silver, which took 38 days to accomplish. Now nearly alone with the pirates… (more)

colonel-sanders2-340x509Was Colonel Sanders Actually a Colonel?

Kentucky Colonel is the highest honor that can be bestowed by the Commonwealth of Kentucky. (Incidentally, if you’re curious: Why Colonel is Pronounced “Kernel”) To be named a “Colonel” is to be recognized for “outstanding service to community, state, and nation.” The sitting governor of Kentucky, or the Secretary of State of Kentucky, are the only ones who can bestow such an honor onto an individual. These colonels are “Kentucky’s ambassadors of goodwill and fellowship around the world” and are “people from all walks of life.” Luminaries such as Muhammad Ali, Jim Beam, Fred Astaire, Betty White, and Winston Churchill are among… (more)

snoring-340x226Why Do Men Snore More Than Women?

When humans sleep, the muscles around our throats relax and cause the airways to narrow. Snoring occurs when certain soft tissues—such as the soft palate (or roof of the mouth), the uvula (the dangling piece of tissue at the top of the throat), elements in the nasal passages, or the base of the tongue—relax too much and partially block a person’s airway. As the body tries to breathe normally, the increased pressure in a person’s throat causes the soft tissues near the airway to vibrate. The amount of the airway that is blocked can determine the severity of the snoring, so the smaller the airway, generally the louder the snoring. Certain factors can increase the likelihood that a person, man or woman, might snore. For instance, snoring can worsen with age due to the loss of muscle tone. Similarly, being overweight causes excess fatty tissue on the neck to put… (more)

smellWhat Does “P.U.” (As in Something Smelly) Stand For?

Often used to accuse someone of exceeding his allotted level of funk, P.U. is, surprisingly, not an acronym, but, rather, likely was derived simply from the pronunciation of its parent word. Dating back to the early 17th century, a common exclamation of contempt for a foul odor was pyoo. As English spelling had yet to become standardized, this word was also written as pue, peugh, pew and pue. Although each variant was correctly pronounced pyü, often in practice, and particularly to express outrage, both syllables were stretched out with the pronunciation… (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 warm as you breathe, as well as begin… (more)
distress-340x212Why People on Planes and Ships Use the Word “Mayday” When in Extreme Distress

In 1923, a senior radio officer, Frederick Stanley Mockford, in Croydon Airport in London, England was asked to think of one word that would be easy to understand for all pilots and ground staff in the event of an emergency. The problem had arisen as voice radio communication slowly became more common, so an equivalent to the Morse code SOS distress signal was needed.  Obviously a word like “help” wasn’t a good choice for English speakers because it could be used in normal conversations where no one was in distress. At the time Mockford… (more)

This Week’s Podcast Episodes:

Quote of the Week:

  • “I’ve been married to a dental hygienist for years and if you think I haven’t heard ‘Use the Floss’, you’d be mistaken.” [Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker)- married dental hygienist Marilou York in 1978.  They are still married and have three children.]
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