Weekly Wrap Volume 81

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

gas-pricesHow the Practice of Pricing Fuel with 9/10th of a Penny Got Started

The practice of pricing fuel with a fraction of a penny is thought to have started around the 1930s.  While we can’t be sure who was the first to price fuel this way, it seems to have become relatively commonplace across the United States all the sudden around the same time. So what happened? In short- taxes and the Great Depression. The United States Congress first implemented a $0.01 gas tax in 1932 as a temporary measure, putting… (more)

1040A Brief History of Taxes in the U.S. & Why They are Due on April 15th

As Ben Franklin wrote in a 1789 letter to Baptiste Leroy, “… in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Depending on your belief in vampires, this is most certainly true. But did you know that income taxes in the United States didn’t exist until 1861? In fact, it wasn’t until 1913 when the income tax became the official law of the land. The first document that governed the United States was not the Constitution, but rather the Articles of Confederation. The AOC asked each state to “enter into a firm league of friendship with each other, for their common defense, the security of their liberties, and their mutual and general welfare.” What it didn’t do was give Congress, or the federal government, the power to tax. The framers… (more)

ariel-1That Time the U.S. Accidentally Nuked Britain’s First Satellite

When it comes to nations with a long and rich history of space travel and exploration, Britain isn’t normally a country that comes to most people’s minds. However, they were the third country in the world to operate a satellite in orbit. It’s just a shame America ended up accidentally killing it just a few months later… The satellite in question was the Ariel-1, which was developed as a joint-venture between the United States and Britain, with Britain designing and building the core systems of the satellite and NASA… (more)

readingIs It Really Possible to Learn to Speed Read?

95% of college educated individuals read at a rate between 200-400 words per minute according to extensive research done by University of Massachusetts Amherst professor Dr. Keith Rayner. However, there exists a small, but rather vocal subset of people who insist that they can read several times faster than this using various speed reading techniques. With very little searching, you’ll also find many-a-company claiming that after going through their program or using their app regularly, you can easily read even as many as 1,000 words per minute. Tim Ferriss of… (more)

teaThe Difference Between Green and Black Tea

Both black and green tea is harvested from an evergreen, tree-like shrub known as camellia sinensis. Most likely originating in China, the camellia sinensis is thought to have first been used to brew a medicinal elixir during the Shang Dynasty (1600 BC to 1046 BC). By the Qin Dynasty in the third century BC, it had become a relatively popular drink using only the leaves from this plant, rather than mixed with other things as seems to have been common when used medicinally. As for the plant itself, camellia sinensis can grow as tall as 30 ft if left untended, but is generally kept significantly shorter… (more)

Bonus Quick Facts:

  • In Nevada, a disturbance with as few as 2 people can legally be considered a riot.  In the U.S. in general, it takes 3 people.  In England, 12.
  • Apple trees are a member of the Rose family (Rosaceae).
  • 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.
  • The first domain ever registered was Symbolics.com on March 15, 1985.  It was registered by the Symbolics Computer Corp.
  • The name “Twinkies” for the sponge-cake food was thought up by James Dewar, the Vice President of Continental Bakeries who sold under the Hostess brand.  On the way to a marketing meeting, he saw a billboard advertising “Twinkle-Toes Shoes”, and thought up the name “Twinkies”.
  • The terms “upper case” and “lower case” actually came to us quite recently, from the early days of the printing press.  At this time, the letter blocks themselves were stored in specially organized boxes called cases.  By convention, the cases containing the capital letters were stored higher than those containing the smaller versions of the letters.  If one single case had compartments for all the letter blocks, the capital letters were stored in the back so that when the case was set upright, angled, they were higher, hence “upper case” and “lower case”.  There were also several other such conventions with the storing of these letter blocks to make it easy for the compositor to set the type.
  • “Hangover” was a common term in the 19th century meaning “unfinished business”.  Around the early 20th century, the common meaning shifted slightly to mean as it does today.

Other Interesting Stuff:

cemetaryWhat Happens If a Cemetery Goes Under?

Cemeteries are just like any other business; they need to make money in order to stay open. However, unlike other businesses, cemeteries, particularly ones in heavily populated areas, can only operate for so long before they run out of their main product- usable space to put bodies in. The people who buy a burial plot generally purchase the land once and then never move out. So how do cemeteries keep from themselves going under and what happens when they run out of money? For starters, one option for extending the life of the cemetery… (more)

SafecoField-340x251How Baseball Groundskeepers Achieve Checkerboard Patterns in the Ballpark Grass

Most of us have had the opportunity to stand in awe as our eyes perceive the beauty of a perfectly mowed grass in a baseball stadium. Stripes, checkerboard style, or even artistic expressions add flair to a baseball field. But how exactly do they get these patterns in the grass?  Some say the grass is mowed at different heights or is colored to achieve the effect, but neither assumption is true. Rather, patterns in the grass have everything to do with how the grass… (more)

cat-bag-340x226Where Did the Expression “Let the Cat Out of the Bag” Come From?

The famous humorist and writer Will Rogers once said, “Letting the cat out of the bag is a whole lot easier than putting it back in.” But where did this expression come from and why is it used in this way? For those who aren’t familiar with the saying, the idiom “let the cat out of the bag” means to reveal a secret or disclose facts that were previously hidden. It can also be used… (more)

the_beatles_yesterday-340x340Paul McCartney’s “Scrambled Eggs,” which Evolved Into One of the Most Recorded Songs of All Time

“I reckon ‘Yesterday’ is probably my best song. I like it not only because it was a big success, but because it was one of the most instinctive songs I’ve ever written. I was so proud of it. I felt it was an original tune- the most complete thing I’ve ever written. It’s very catchy without being sickly”- Paul McCartney. “Yesterday”, written entirely (or almost entirely– read on) by Paul McCartney, is either the most, or second most, recorded song of all-time. (Guinness World Records claimed it was the most, but this has been contested with others claiming George Gershwin’s 1935 “Summertime” is the true owner of that mantle.) Whatever the case, to date… (more)

tickling-e1282869674720Why It is Nearly Impossible to Tickle Yourself

It’s very hard to tickle yourself because your brain anticipates things going on around you in order to help speed up response times. More technically, the cerebellum monitors body movements and can also distinguish between expected sensations and unexpected ones, generally resulting in diminishing or completely discarding expected sensations, while paying much more attention to unexpected ones. So your brain is actively anticipating touch sensations. When it is doing this, it is also actively discarding sensations… (more)

This Week’s Podcast Episodes:

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