Weekly Wrap Volume 144

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

movie-theaterThe United States v. Paramount and How Movie Theater Concessions Got So Expensive

In 1948, the Supreme Court ended the stranglehold Hollywood studios and distributors had on the U.S. movie market. Declaring the big eight a monopoly and ordering them to divest of their ownership of movie theaters and cease other non-competitive practices, with U.S. v. Paramount Pictures, et al., the Court opened the movie industry to independent producers and theaters, and indelibly changed the way we see films (and the films we see). Prior to the government’s efforts to break their trust, a handful of Hollywood studios and distributors controlled nearly all of the…(more)

treesHow Do Trees Get Water From Their Roots Up to Their Leaves?

Trees need water throughout their bodies, from the depths of the roots to the tips of their leaves, sometimes tens of meters above the ground. So how do they manage to get the water up there? To begin with, in the general case tree roots usually have higher concentrations of minerals than the soil that surrounds them. This causes root pressure, a phenomenon whereby the roots draw water in from the adjacent ground via osmosis. (In contrast, minerals are drawn in to the area of higher mineral concentration in the roots via a different, active transport mechanism in which carrier cells in the root hairs pick up the minerals and transport…(more)

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Bonus Quick Facts

  • Captain America may have jumped on a fake grenade to save his fellow soldiers in training, but in real life Lance Corporal William Kyle Carpenter actually did this… only the grenade was real. On November 21, 2010 while in Afghanistan, a grenade was thrown into his sandbagged position. Rather than run, he used his own body to shield the other soldier with him from the blast. Miraculously, though severely injured, Carpenter lived and was awarded the Medal of Honor in June of 2014.
  • As of November 2013, the Washington Post Database of U.S. Service-Member Casualties reports that the number of American soldiers dying in war is 1,343,812. On the other hand, the number of American citizens who died in automobile accidents between 1899 and 2012 is 3,572,812, once again showing that the most dangerous thing the vast majority of people do, despite rarely thinking anything of it, is get in a car.
  • During King Edward’s reign (1307-1327), he had laws passed against the playing of various football sports. Anyone caught playing any form of football would be imprisoned, “For as much as there is a great noise in the city caused by hustling over large balls, from which many evils may arise…” He wasn’t the only British monarch that hated football sports. Queen Elizabeth I “had football players jailed for a week, with follow-up church penance.” King Henry IV and Henry VIII also passed laws against football sports.
  • Jamie Lee Curtis’ primary claim to fame is her acting career, but she also invented a new type of diaper in 1987. Curtis proudly stated about her patented invention (Patent No. 4,753,647), “It’s a disposable infant garment which takes the form of a diaper including, on its outer side, a sealed, but openable, moisture-proof pocket which contains one or more clean-up wipers.”
  • The King of Rock n’ Roll, Elvis Presley, was naturally blond, but dyed his hair black.
  • Mark Wahlberg didn’t receive his high school diploma until the age of 42 in 2013. The music and movie star wasn’t into education as a teen and dropped out of high school in the 9th grade so he could focus on other activities such as joining a gang, drug dealing, nearly killing a Vietnamese man, and, of course, hip hop music. After initially being tried for attempted murder, and pleading down to criminal contempt, he did a complete 180, getting out of the gang and generally turning his life around with the help of his parish priest. Recently, he decided to finish high school to set a better example for his kids. He hired a tutor, took online courses, and got his diploma.

Other Interesting Stuff

HitchcockWhat’s a MacGuffin in Films and Why is it Called That?

In the last scene of the 1941 film classic, The Maltese Falcon, Sam Spade (played by Humphrey Bogart) hands over a murderer (played by Mary Astor) and a black falcon statuette to authorities. When asked what the statuette was exactly, Spade looks off in the distance and rather unsatisfactorily explains, “It’s stuff that dreams are made of.” This black falcon statuette – the so-called “Maltese Falcon” – is a perfect example of what film connoisseurs call the “MacGuffin” (or “McGuffin”), an important and oddly-named plot device that appears in many movies. For the uninitiated, in a nutshell a “MacGuffin” is an object, event, or person that the characters in a story value greatly- so much so that nearly the whole plot revolves around it, despite that the thing itself isn’t…(more)

scotch-tape-340x255The Invention of Scotch Tape

Despite the name, Scotch tape wasn’t invented by the Scottish. It was invented by a college dropout named Richard Drew from Minnesota who worked for a small sandpaper company founded in 1902 called Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing, later known as 3M. The name “Scotch” itself has an origin story almost as interesting as the invention of Scotch tape. Born Richard Gurley Drew in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1899, Drew spent a year at the University of Minnesota in the Mechanical Engineering program before dropping out. He paid for that time at school and his correspondence school course in machine design by…(more)

whac-a-moleThat Time the Inventor of Whac-A-Mole Accidentally Blew Up His Warehouse

It was lunch time on a muggy late September day in 2013 when an explosion shook downtown Orlando, Florida. A warehouse on west Jefferson street was the casualty. Police cars, ambulances, and fire trucks were already on their way by the time Tim Roth, a good Samaritan, was on the scene. As he searched through the rubble and debris for injured humans, what he found was something else entirely. As described by the Orlando Sentinel in the next day’s paper, “among the knocked-down suits of armor, animatronics, old arcade games, clown suits and broken lighted signs (it was) as if (Roth) were in the Joker’s lair.” Fortunately,…(more)

growth-340x460Caffeine Does Not Stunt Your Growth

We all remember being 12 years old and seeing your mom guzzling down her 3rd cup of coffee and really wanting some. When we asked if we could have a cup, the response was always the same: “No, caffeine will stunt your growth…” As if being tall was a necessary element in survival! It turns out though, that caffeine will not hinder you growing to NBA-like proportions. It isn’t known how this old wives’ tale came into societal acceptance. It probably gained some traction with numerous studies showing that drinking caffeine will increase the amount of calcium that…(more)

clock-340x255The First “Deadline”

Great question! We all have deadlines. And when we hear about other people’s deadlines it’s understood that they refer to a time limit of some kind. But where does the phrase come from and what was its original meaning? The first references to a “dead line” had nothing to do with time, but rather was an actual line that if you crossed, you’d be killed. During the American Civil War (with the first reference in 1864), a line was drawn around a camp of prisoners within about 20 ft of the surrounding wall of a Confederate prison, a “dead line”, past which they would be shot if they crossed, as they would be assumed to…(more)

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