Weekly Wrap Volume 121

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

pelorus-jack-340x536The Truth About the Legend of Pelorus Jack

Cook Strait, located between the north and south islands of New Zealand, is within the zone of the Roaring Forties which consists of strong winds that sweep across the southern hemisphere from the west.  The winds themselves are funneled through a gap in the two islands. On top of this, cool currents from Canterbury travel north up the coast of the South Island while the warmer D’Urville current travels south to meet it, contributing to the occasionally turbulent waters. (You can see an example of this here and here.) In the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, this stretch of water wreaked havoc for many ships, including resulting in the two worst sea catastrophes of New Zealand’s history: the 1909 demise of the SS Penguin and the sinking of the Wahine ferry in 1968. However, in 1888, a Risso’s dolphin that later became known…(more)

reversal-of-fortune-340x261That Time Someone Gave a Homeless Person $100,000 Just to See What Would Happen

In 2005 a homeless man called Ted Rodrigue stumbled upon a briefcase filled with crisp $20 and $50 bills totaling $100,000 (about $123,000 today). Ted was then told by screenwriter Wayne Powersthat the money was his to keep and do with as he wished, so long as he would allow a film crew to document the result. Rodrigue, understandably, jumped at the opportunity, leading to a somewhat controversial documentary- Reversal of Fortune. According to an interview with Powers, the genesis of the documentary stemmed from his time in LA where he was frequently asked for money by the homeless, prompting him to ponder, “What would a homeless person do if I gave them a million dollars?” Powers was curious if…(more)

blackmail-340x512Why We Call Certain Types of Threats “Blackmail”, and the Origin of the  Lesser Known “Buttock Mail”

“Blackmail” has its roots in the early 16th century, first used by English farmers living on the England/Scotland border. It derives from the Middle English word “male” which itself is thought to derive from the Old English word “mal”. In Old English “Mal” is described as thus: “lawsuit, terms, bargaining, agreement”. Over time, the word “Mal” became “Male” which in Middle English roughly translated to either “Rent” or “Tribute”. As such, the rent paid by a farmer living on the Scottish border was known as “Silver Rent/Mail” because it was normally paid in silver. This gave rise to “White Money” or “White Rent”, and eventually “whitemail”. When Scottish chieftains (and various brigands) noticed all these well to do farmers going about their business without someone threatening them for money, they decided to start threatening them for money in return for not…(more)

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Bonus Quick Facts

  • In 2014, former concert pianist Harriette Thompson ran the 26.2-mile Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Marathon in seven hours, seven minutes and 42 seconds. The specific time is hardly anything to write home about, though completing a marathon in any qualifying time is still something of an accomplishment. But for a 91 year old woman just a month from her last chemo treatment for cancer, this is not only extremely impressive, but the time was enough to shatter the previous marathon record for 90+ year old women by about two and a half hours. In 2015, she completed the race yet again, becoming the oldest woman to complete a marathon, beating Gladys Burrill, who completed the Honolulu Marathon in 2010 at the age of 92. Unfortunately she could not run the race in 2016 due to an open wound in her ankle as a result of cancer treatment. Nevertheless, despite this and once again her cancer returning (for the third time), she intends to continue doing one marathon per year to raise money for cancer research as long as she’s able, something’s she’s been doing since she was 76, missing only two years, once due to oral cancer and then again in 2016 due to the wound in her ankle.
  • According to a recent Wall Street Journal study, the average NFL game features only 10 minutes and 43 seconds of action. The rest are commercials, replays and commentary. This makes it possibly the most profitable 10-11 minutes of entertainment in the history of sports, particularly if you include the countless hours spent on sports talk radio and TV shows that continue to talk about the games and teams even in the off-season, all the while generating advertising revenue.
  • In 1799, a young boy named Conrad Reed found a 17-pound “rock” while playing at a creek on his family farm in Cabarrus County, North Carolina. He and his family kept it as a doorstop for three years. His father, John Reed, impressed with how shiny the rock remained decided to take it to a jeweler who recognized it as gold and bought it from the unsuspecting Reed for only $3.50. The estimated value of the gold at the time was approximately $3,600, or about $49,000 today. Reed ended up rich anyway. A few years later, he found a 28 pound gold nugget, and eventually started mining for gold. Today, the Reed Gold Mine is designated a historic site and open to the public for tours.
  • While everybody knows the name of the chief character in Pac-Man, Pac-Man, you may not know the names of the ghosts. They are named Blinky (Red Ghost), Pinky (Pink Ghost), Inky (Cyan Ghost), and Clyde (Orange Ghost).
  • Despite what most think, Nintendo’s Mario hits blocks with his hand, not his head.
  • In 2009, a team of armed robbers broke into Dolph Lundgren’s (Ivan Drago from Rocky IV) luxury home on the Costa del Sol, Spain, tied up his wife, jewelry designer Anette Lundgren, who was home alone, and began stealing her jewelry other items in the house. Once they saw a family photo with Lundgren in it, however, they literally dropped everything and fled. They were probably aware that, “Whatever he hits, he destroys.” In truth, the 6 ft. 5 in. Lundgren was an elite ranger in the Swedish military and has a 3rd degree black belt in Kyokushin karate. Beyond his more obvious physical attributes, he has a Master’s degree in chemical engineering and speaks 7 languages.

Other Interesting Stuff

whole-grains-340x226Grape-Nuts Contain Niether Grapes nor Nuts…So What Are They Made Of?

Grape-Nuts is a wheat and barley cereal developed by C.W. Post in 1897, and it has actually made some interesting contributions to American food history. A box of Grape-Nuts actually contains “whole grain wheat flour, malted barley flour, isolated soy protein, salt, whole grain barley flour, malt extract, and dried yeast.” It also boasts a number of essential vitamins and minerals. From what I could find, the recipe has remained largely unchanged since its introduction over 100 years ago, save for making the switch to whole grains. So just how did Grape-Nuts get their misleading name? According to Post Foods, there are two versions of the story about how Grape-Nuts got their name. The most plausible theory is…(more)

1944-t-shirt-340x424The Surprisingly Recent Invention of the T-Shirt

The t-shirt is arguably the most popular outer garment in the entire world. Coming in a range of styles, colors and sizes there is quite literally a t-shirt for everyone. But where did this iconic garment come from and how did it become so popular?Relatively speaking, the t-shirt is a fairly new addition to our collective wardrobes and it has only been an acceptable piece of clothing in its own right for around half a century. While the garment itself has existed in a recognisable form (albeit with wider necks and shorter sleeves) since the early 20th century, it was almost universally considered to be underwear and it was rarely, if ever worn in public. So where did the t-shirt come from? It’s thought that it evolved from a kind of all-in-one underwear…(more)

yoga-340x229-1The History of Yoga

Although yoga is something of a recent fad in the West, you’re probably aware that this system of gentle exercise and meditation has very ancient roots. What you might not know is just how ancient some aspects of yoga are, or how much yoga has changed on down through the millennia, with some of the most significant changes coming in just the last few hundred years. It’s a fascinating tale stretching through most of human history, with many twists and turns. No one knows exactly when something like yoga was first practiced. Some believe that it has its roots in the Stone Age, drawing comparisons to similar practices of the time that sought to bring harmony to the communities of our ancient ancestors. There is no conclusive proof of this, however…(more)

saltcrystalsWhy Salt Enhances Flavor

This is partially simply due to the fact that “saltiness” is one of the five primary basic tastes the human tongue can detect.  Those five tastes being: salt, bitter, sweet, sour, and umami (if you’re not familiar with this one, it is from glutamic acid, which is found in many foods, particularly some meats, and is the basis of the flavor enhancer monosodium glutamate, also known as MSG). The extra salt has other effects as well though, outside of simply making things more salty.  Particularly, adding salt to foods helps certain molecules in those foods more easily release into the air, thus helping the aroma of the food, which is important in our perception of taste. Salt also has been shown to help…(more)

icecream-e1285680782510What Causes Ice Cream Headaches

While many theories on what exactly causes ice cream headaches or “brain freezes” have existed for some time, it has only been very recently that it was discovered exactly what is going on here.  It turns out, ice cream headaches are a result of a rapid change in the size of blood vessels as a response to an extreme shift in temperature in the roof of the mouth, particularly the back of the roof of the mouth. Specifically, what is happening here is that when you stick something extremely cold in your mouth and eat it quickly, such as drinking an ice cold beverage or eating ice cream rapidly, it rapidly cools the palate of your mouth.  Why this is significant is that there is a nerve center located just above the back…(more)

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