Weekly Wrap Volume 78

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

syrup-and-wafflesWhy are Calico Cats Almost Always Female?

While any breed of cat can be born with calico fur, the vast majority of these cats are female, with only about one in three thousand calico cats born male according to the Humane Society.  So why are most calico cats female? As you may or may not be aware, females have two X-chromosomes, meaning that they can only pass down an X-chromosome to their offspring. Males, on the other hand, have an X-chromosome and a Y-chromosome. This allows them to pass down either an X-chromosome or a Y-chromosome to their offspring, determining the genetic gender. Thus, a female receives an X-chromosome from both of her parents… (more)

ship-340x509The First Woman to Circumnavigate the Globe was Disguised as a Man for Most of the Journey

Born Jeanne Baret to a farming family in 1740, not a lot is known about her childhood and early life. It’s speculated that she likely had an interest in plants from a young age and later became an herb woman with a wealth of knowledge of the healing properties of local flora. As an herb woman, she would have had the opportunity to dispense medical advice to the local villagers as well as teach scientists about plants in the area—a relatively common request at the time. Enter Philibert de Commerson, an aristocrat and scientist who was studying plants in the Loire Valley, where Baret was from. Perhaps it was her wit or looks… (more)

old-documentsWhy Old Newspaper and Book Pages Turn Yellow

When I was a kid, my parents had a collection of historic old, yellowed newspapers. For example, I distinctly remember an old Washington Post newspaper sitting on a bookshelf from July 21, 1969 with the headline “The Eagle Has Landed – Two Men Walk on the Moon.” Or a fading, brownish-yellow one from August 8, 1974 with the big headline, “Nixon Resigns.” These newspapers are fascinating artifacts documenting history, from remarkable moments to the relatively mundane. Unfortunately, they were also hard to read due to the yellowed, brown color and fading print. So why do old newspapers – and books – turn yellow? And is there any way to prevent this from happening? It is generally thought… (more)

worm-baitDo Fish Really Like Eating Earthworms?

Worms, or more specifically earthworms which are by far what most people mean when they use the term “worms” in the fishing scenario, don’t live in water. In fact, the reason you see so many on the ground during heavy rains is because, when stuck in soil that is too wet, they can’t breathe properly and must come up for air, despite the extreme risks to their lives in doing so. You see, while earthworms don’t have lungs, they do need oxygen and acquire it through their skin.  During heavy rains, the high water content of the soil doesn’t allow gases to diffuse across their skin. Thus, they must brave the surface world or die. Back to fish: if you went to a random lake somewhere in the world… (more)

easter-hamWhy is Ham Traditionally Eaten on Easter?

Under Jewish dietary laws (called kashrut), eating pork in any form is strictly forbidden. Jesus Christ was Jewish. So why, on the anniversary of his resurrection, do people traditionally serve ham? You’ll often read it’s because ham is supposedly a “Christian” meat, able to be consumed by Christians but not certain other prominent religious groups.  However, the real reason is simply because it’s in season. While modern food storage techniques and supermarkets with efficient and worldwide supply chains… (more)

Bonus Quick Facts:

  • Nowhere in the bible does it say there were three wise men, just three gifts.
  • The draft for War and Peace, the 15th longest novel in the world with over a half a million words, was written out by hand seven times by Tolstoy’s wife, Sophia Tolstaya, before Tolstoy was happy with his novel.
  • Prison and jail are technically not the same thing. In the U.S., jail is run by county sheriff’s offices, while prison is run by the Prisons and Corrections office of each state. In Canada, jail is run by the provincial government, while prison is run by the federal government.
  • A popular additive to many high end perfumes, Ambergris, comes from the intestines of sperm whales. When it’s fresh, not surprisingly, it smells like crap, but then later begins to smell sweet and “earthy”.
  • Contrary to popular belief, Prohibition did not make it illegal to drink alcohol, just to sell, transport, or produce the drinkable form of it.
  • Nearly 1/3 of the world’s socks (about 8 billion pairs per year) are made in the district of Datang in Zhuji, China, also sometimes known as “Sock City”.
  • Diet 7 Up was originally named “Like”, but was rebranded as “Diet 7-Up”, then “Sugar Free 7 Up”, then finally in 1979 back to simply “Diet 7 Up”.
  • The “Red Bull” energy drink gets its name from the Thai energy drink that inspired Dietrich Mateschitz to create Red Bull, “Krating Daeng”, with “daeng” meaning “red”, and “krating” being a reddish-brown bovine.

Other Interesting Stuff:

tongue-cow-340x509What Causes Aftertaste

Ever wonder why certain foods seem to hang around after you swallow them? Aftertaste is generally classified as any taste that remains in your mouth after your food or drink has been swallowed or spit out. The exact mechanism that causes these sensations isn’t fully understood. In fact, understanding how our brains perceive specifics tastes is still a subject of debate. The current leading theory of taste is that it’s the perceived combination of several different sensory systems… (more)

Marsvin_Phocoena_phocoena_light-340x510Dick Van Dyke was Once Saved by Porpoises When He Found Himself Lost at Sea on a Surfboard

In his younger years, Dick Van Dyke frequently spent time surfing.  In an appearance on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, Van Dyke briefly mentioned one such time he was surfing using a 10 foot long-board and fell asleep on it while floating out in the ocean. “Went out once and fell asleep on the board… and woke up out of sight of land and I looked around and started paddling with the swells and I start seeing fins swimming around me and I thought, “well I’m dead.”… (more)

dry-cleaning-340x394How 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) i… (more)

woman-pressing-grapesDo Wine Makers Really Walk Over Grapes With Their Feet?

Perhaps no image is more synonymous with the act of wine making than that of a person smushing grapes with their bare feet to extract the precious juices contained therein (in the grapes, not the inevitably sweaty feet). But did winemakers ever commonly do this? The answer to this question largely depends on who you ask. Today, certain winemakers, usually ones that have some sort of a financial interest in it, (at least publicly) maintain that grape stomping was an integral part of winemaking history. However, historians tend to think it was a relatively rare practise. To be clear, nobody is saying that ancient people didn’t crush… (more)

king-james-bible-340x352How the King James Bible Came About

Back in 1603, Queen Elizabeth I passed away. She had ruled England for 45 years, was well-loved, and provided a sense of stability and security during her reign. Described as “neither a good protestant nor yet resolute papist,” she was able to provide a relatively happy medium between the two warring sects. Having had no children of her own, though, the throne was open to King James VI of Scotland, who became King James I of England upon her death. England had been at war with Scotland on and off over the years. James’ own… (more)

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