Category Archives: Featured Facts

The Origins of the Mathematical Convention of Using “X” as the Unknown

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Linda P. asks: Why do we always use “x” for everything in math? For hundreds of years, x has been the go-to symbol for the unknown quantity in mathematical equations. So who started this practice? Algebra was born in the Middle East, during the Golden Age of medieval Islamic civilization (750 to 1258 AD), and its early form can be […]

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Podcast Episode #270: Jus Primae Noctis- First Night

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In this episode, you’re going to learn whether European lords really ever practiced jus primae noctis (aka “First Night”)- sleeping with each of the peasant women on their lands on the women’s wedding nights.  You’ll also learn where the first references to something like this occurred, and an interesting, and somewhat surprisingly, “Braveheart” fact. [TRANSCRIPT] Don’t miss future episodes of […]

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Can You Really Bust a Gut from Eating Too Much at Once?

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R. Lee asks: In Seven an obese man is made to stuff himself until his stomach bursts. Is this really possible? Wouldn’t you just naturally throw up? Although extremely rare, some people actually have ruptured their stomachs after eating too much, and, perhaps not surprisingly, many did not survive. When a stomach ruptures, the billions of bacteria that normally live […]

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Did English Speakers Really Not Use Contractions in the 19th Century as Depicted in True Grit?

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Karl A. asks: In the movie True Grit, they don’t use contractions. Is it true that people back then didn’t use them? Won’t, don’t, wouldn’t, isn’t and even ain’t- where would we be without our contractions? Prevalent in spoken English and increasingly accepted in written pieces, contractions enable brevity and make written works more accessible and friendly. Contractions in some […]

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Interesting Halloween Facts Roundup

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We’ve covered quite a few Halloween related facts here on TodayIFoundOut over the years. Here’s a list of all of them, as well as some interesting facts about various candies. Happy Halloween! Halloween Related Facts: Why are Carved Pumpkins Called “Jack O’ Lanterns”? The name “Jack O’ Lantern” was originally one of the numerous names given to ignis fatuus (Medieval […]

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What Happens to Your Social Security Number When You Die?

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U. Grening asks: What happens to your social security number when you die? Does it get used again? Since 1935, the Social Security Administration has been issuing numbers to permanent residents of the United States.  Nine simple digits distinguish each American from his or her fellow residents.  Today, assigned randomly and never recycled, a social security number is as unique […]

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Why Don’t Vultures Get Sick When Eating Dead Things?

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Scott K. asks: Why don’t vultures get sick when eating dead things? How come humans can’t do the same? As an animal that is synonymous with death and disease, the vulture understandably has a poor reputation in many cultures across the globe, despite, ironically enough, being a huge boon to humans in terms of being able to reduce instances of […]

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The Fascinating Reason Witches are Commonly Depicted Flying on Broomsticks

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Emily A. asks: Why do witches fly on broomsticks? We’ve heard this one. To get high, of course! But seriously, it’s thought the idea of witches flying around on broomsticks came from the practice of concocting “witches flying ointment” (read  hallucinogens) and then using a broomstick to administer the drug to certain sensitive regions, thereby bypassing some of the negative […]

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