Category Archives: Misc.

Standing in a Hurricane- Watching Over the Tomb of the Unknowns

tomb-of-the-unknown-soldier2

Ron17 asks: How do they decide who gets to guard the tomb of the unknown soldier? Since 1937, the Tomb of the Unknowns has famously never once been left unattended with there always being at least one guard present to keep vigil. The highly coveted position of Tomb Sentinel is only meted out to truly exceptional soldiers, all of whom must prove […]

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A Little Girl, a World Leader, and a Nuclear War- The Story of Samantha Smith

Samantha_Smith

The following is an article from Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader The Letter Like millions of American children during the Cold War, 10-year-old Samantha Smith of Manchester, Maine, was terrified of getting nuked by the Russians. News reports and TV specials about nuclear bombs, missile defense systems, and “mutually assured destruction” were commonplace, and Smith got more and more frightened about […]

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The Secret Society of Journalists Known as the Order of the Occult Hand

newspapers

A running joke, a conspiracy, a challenge, a raspberry to authority and (at least formerly) an exclusive club, the members of the Order of the Occult Hand are those journalists who have successfully snuck the meaningless phrase “occult hand” past their editors and into published newspaper articles. How did this all start? According to two of its founding fathers, Joseph Flanders […]

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The Deadly Dihydrogen Monoxide

water-pollution

A major component of acid rain, an accelerator of corrosion and the rusting of metals, found in the tumors of cancer patients, a contributor to the greenhouse effect, fatal if inhaled, and capable of causing serious burns in the right circumstances, colorless, odorless and tasteless dihydrogen monoxide (DHMO) is responsible for thousands of deaths each year. An exercise in perspective, […]

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Can Ambulance Drivers Get Speeding Tickets?

ambulance

Brooke asks: Can ambulances get speeding tickets? Subject to the same rules of the road as other drivers, with a few exceptions for emergencies, ambulances can be pulled over and ticketed for speeding and other traffic violations, although it is exceedingly rare. Generally speaking, ambulance drivers should observe all traffic laws and regulations; however, some of those laws are waived […]

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Origin of the Military Song “Taps”

taps

M. Havens asks: Where did the Taps song come from that is played during military funerals? Since 1862, “Taps” has played at military funerals to honor the sacrifice of fallen service members. Originally, however, it was intended to send soldiers off to a less permanent sleep. During the Civil War, Union buglers signaled “lights out” to their comrades with a […]

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The Surprising Truth About the Difference Between Hardwoods and Softwoods

oak-tree

Richard K. asks: How do they set the dividing line in hardness between what’s considered a hard wood vs. a soft wood? Generally speaking, wood is often put into one of two categories- hardwood and softwood. But what exactly makes a given piece of wood qualify as either hard or soft and how did those definitions come about? Perhaps the most […]

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The Mystery of the Forest Swastika and the Origin of the Symbol

Swastika

Being an intern at a German landscaping company during 1992 meant Ökoland Dederow was handed the tedious task of looking through aerial photographs for irrigation lines in a forest located in East Germany. During the course of this, Dederow came across something that definitely was not an irrigation line in photo 106/88. Approximately 140 larch trees in the middle of […]

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Blackboard Chalk Isn’t Chalk

chalk

Ubiquitous in many classrooms since the 19th century, chalk and chalkboards are familiar to most of us. White, powdery and prone to sticking to those surfaces where it is put (and just as easy to wipe away), chalk and its accompanying board are excellent instructional aids. Notably, however, most chalk today isn’t technically chalk at all, but gypsum. Chalk and […]

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