Category Archives: Featured Facts

When Did People Start Using Punctuation?

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Grey L. asks: When did people start using punctuation and who invented the common marks we use? INTHEBEGINNINGTHEREWASNOPUNCTUATIONLOWERCASELETTERSOREVENSPACESBETWEENWORDSTHEREALSOWASNOGRAMMATICALWAYOFDISTINGUISHINGWHENANIDEAHADFINISHEDANDANEWONEBEGUNITDIDNTHELPTHATTHEIDEAOFSTANDARDIZEDSPELLINGWASALSONOTATHINGATLEASTNOTASWEWOULDTHINKOFITREADERSWERELEFTTOMUDDLETHEIRWAYTHROUGHANYTEXTASBESTTHEYCOULDUNSURPRISINGLYUNDERSTANDINGWHATAPARTICULARWORKWASACTUALLYSAYINGONTHEFIRSTREADTHROUGHWASPRETTYWELLUNHEARDOFATTHISTIME The earliest writings, which were syllabic and/or logographic (think Mayan and Chinese), had no need for either spacing or punctuation, as each word was typically self-contained in the symbol. However, as previously demonstrated, the lack of punctuation and spacing in alphabetic writing […]

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When Did People First Start Clapping to Show Appreciation?

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Mark D. asks: When did we start clapping to show that we like something? Clapping is the near-ubiquitous way we show our appreciation of something, particularly when we’re in large groups. But have you ever wondered why slapping our hands together has come to be so closely associated with approval and where the practise originated from? To begin with, the […]

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The Difference Between “Regular”, Virgin and Extra Virgin Olive Oils

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Karl W. asks: What’s the difference between regular olive oil and virgin? Generally speaking, olive oils fall into one of two broad categories: refined and unrefined, with virgin and extra virgin fitting in the latter category, and pure and light olive oils in the former. Olives used to make the two virgin, unrefined oils aren’t treated with heat or chemicals, […]

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Peanuts, Peeing on the Side of a Bus, and Planting Trees- The Traditions of Going to Space

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Although you’d expect people tasked with going to space to be a fairly rational lot, astronauts and cosmonauts are noted as being an exceptionally superstitious group, many of whom conform to a number of seemingly arbitrary and often unusual rituals before each flight. While there is a perfectly reasonable explanation for most, if not all, of these traditions and customs, […]

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John Lennon and the Rock ‘n’ Roll Lawsuit

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The following is an article from Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader In the Beatles song “Come Together,” John Lennon included a lyric that referenced a Chuck Berry song, an act intended as a tribute to one of the founding fathers of rock ’n’ roll. Instead, it got Lennon embroiled in a years-long legal battle with one of the most colorful—and nefarious—characters […]

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The Origins of Mother’s Day and Its Inventor’s Campaign to Put a Stop to It

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Today, Mother’s Day is a holiday of joy, brunches, gifts, flowers and phone calls. In fact, phone traffic spikes more on Mother’s Day than any other holiday. This annual celebration of moms everywhere was first officially established in 1914 when President Woodrow Wilson issued a presidential proclamation, which read that this is the day we “[publicly express] our love and […]

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Can Color Blind People See More Colors When They Take Hallucinogenic Drugs?

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Sam asks: If you gave a color blind person something like LSD or some other sort of hallucinogenic drug, would they see colors they couldn’t before? First a little primer on colour blindness from the good people at ColorBlindAwareness.org: Most color blind people are able to see things as clearly as other people but they unable to fully ‘see’ red, […]

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How Commercial Airplanes Keep a Steady Supply of Fresh Air and How the Emergency Oxygen Masks Supply Oxygen Given They are Not Hooked Up to Any Air Tank

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Jimmy K. asks: Why is there a plastic bag attached to airline oxygen masks if they don’t inflate? Because the economics of having large oxygen tanks aboard airliners simply doesn’t work out (not to mention that the air quality inside the plane would rapidly become unpleasant if fresh air wasn’t constantly supplied, regardless of the oxygen levels), commercial airplanes have […]

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Dustbin of History: The Lincoln Highway

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The following is an article from Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader Like us, you probably can’t remember a world without highways—a time before there were gas stations, fast-food places, or shopping centers. Well, it all had to start somewhere…and this is where. WHERE’S THE HORSE? The 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago was in full swing when a gentleman walked up to […]

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Why Are Shoe Sizes as They Are?

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Kim A. asks: How did they come up with the standard sizes for shoes? Seemingly arbitrary, there is a crazy logic (and a lot of muddy history giving rise to tradition) behind the numbers assigned to different shoe sizes. During the reign of England’s Edward II (1284-1327), certain measurements became standardized.  Most pertinent to the discussion at hand: Three barley-corns, […]

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