Weekly Wrap Volume 16

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

Anti-tank-Dog2The Exploding Anti-Tank Dogs of WWII

These dogs, usually Alsatians, were also called “Hundminen” or “dog mines.” They were  trained to carry explosives on their bodies to enemy tanks, where they would then be detonated. No, it did not end very well for the dogs in question. This type of animal weaponry was first used by the Soviets. Following a decision in 1924… (more)

clever-hansThe Horse That Could Do Math: The Unintentional Clever Hans Hoax

Move over Mr. Ed, Clever Hans was the original horse who could communicate with humans in complex ways. Well, at least it seemed that way at the time. This phenomenon began in the late 19th century with a German mathematics teacher by the name of Wilhelm Von Osten. He was a student of phrenology, which meant that he adhered to the belief that a person’s intelligence, among other things, can be determined by the size and shape of their head. In addition, he was interested in animal intelligence and the idea that it was greatly underestimated by the human race. As a result of his beliefs… (more)

himalayasHow the Himalayas Were Formed

The Himalayas, which stretch some 2,900 kilometres between India, Pakistan, China, and Nepal, is the world’s tallest mountain range. In addition to Mount Everest, the world’s tallest mountain by peak elevation standing at 8,848 meters tall, the range also features several other mountain peaks over 8,000 meters. It is the only mountain range to boast mountains over 8,000 meters—the runner-up is a mountain range in South America, whose tallest peak is just 6,962 meters tall. Millions of years ago… (more)

reading-in-dim-light-340x411Reading in Dim Light Will Not Damage Your Eyes

In fact, the only “damage” reading in a dimly lit setting will do, in comparison to reading in an ample lighted setting, is to cause extra eyestrain, which will go away simply by resting your eyes.  This shouldn’t be too much of a surprise given the fact that for centuries people have been reading by candlelight without rampant reports of rapidly reduced eyesight.  In fact, the opposite has happened with rates of things like myopia, usually what is most cited as being what reading in dim light contributes to, being on the rise despite all our bright light sources.  Nonetheless, perhaps because parents the world over are trying to get their kids to go to bed… (more)

ulcer-340x453Nobel Prize Winner Barry J. Marshall in Part Proved What Causes Ulcers by Ingesting the Bacteria He Thought Was Causing Them

When it comes to science, we think there’s a saying that is fairly applicable, “who dares, wins”. Fans of military history may recognise that as the motto of the Special Air Services (SAS). However, we feel scientists and researchers deserve to use it just as much, because sometimes they take risks too. Just ask Barry J. Marshall if you don’t believe us. Marshall is known primarily for his work revolving around peptic ulcers. If you don’t… (more)

Bonus Quick Facts:

  • Even though earthworms need to breathe, they have no lungs.  They acquire oxygen through their skin.  This is why earthworms surface after heavy rains, despite the fact that it is extremely hazardous for them to do so.  If they don’t surface, they will suffocate and die because the heavy water content of the soil after rain doesn’t allow gases to diffuse across their skin.
  • George Washington invented instant coffee… No, not that George Washington, but rather an English chemist, George Constant Washington.
  • In Roman mythology, Aurora was the goddess of the dawn, which is how the first part of the name “aurora borealis” came about.  The “borealis” comes from the Greek name for the north wind, Boreas.
  • Fish are primarily white meat due to the fact that they don’t ever need their muscles to support themselves and thus need much less myoglobin or sometimes none at all in a few cases; they float, so their muscle usage is much less than say a 1000 pound cow who walks around a lot and must deal with gravity.  Typically, the only red meat you’ll find on a fish is around their fins and tail, which are used almost constantly.
  • The “//” forward slashes in any web address actually serve no real purpose according to Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the web.  He only put them in because “it seemed like a good idea at the time.”  He wanted a way to separate the part the web server needed to know about, for instance “www.todayifoundout.com”, from the other stuff which is more service oriented.  Basically, he didn’t want to have to worry about knowing what service the particular website was using at a particular link when creating a link in a web page. “//” seemed natural, as it would to anyone who’s used Unix based systems.  In retrospect, though, this was not at all necessary, so the “//” are essentially pointless.
  • Berners-Lee chose the name “World Wide Web” because he wanted to emphasize that, in this global hypertext system, anything could link to anything else.  Alternative names he considered were: “Mine of Information” (Moi); “The Information Mine” (Tim); and “Information Mesh” (which was discarded as it looked too much like “Information Mess”).
  • The name ZZ Top, according to band member Billy Gibbons, came from a tribute to B.B. King.  The band members originally were going to call themselves “Z.Z. King” in King’s honor, but then decided it was too similar to B.B. King.  Because B.B. King was at the “top” of the blues world, they changed it to ZZ Top.
  • The word “salad” comes from the ancient Roman practice of salting leaf vegetables; “salad” literally means “salted”.

Other Interesting Stuff:

sidisA Genius Among Us: The Sad Story of William J. Sidis

Before the terms “Tiger Mom” or “Helicopter Mom” entered our vernacular.  Before the moms on “Toddlers and Tiaras” tried to turn their daughters into beauty queens. Before Earl Woods showed off his two year old son Tiger’s golf skills on the Mike Douglas Show. Before Lindsay Lohan’s dad, the mother in Psycho, and every other overbearing parent we know from modern pop culture, there was William J. Sidis and his mom and dad. Boris and Sarah Sidis were Ukrainian Jewish immigrants who were both brilliant. Having fled… (more)

chopsticksWhy Asian Nations Use Chopsticks

Created roughly 4,000-5,000 years ago in China, the earliest versions of something like chopsticks were used for cooking (they’re perfect for reaching into pots full of hot water or oil) and were most likely made from twigs. While it’s difficult to nail down a firm date, it would seem it wasn’t until around 500-400 AD that they began being used as table utensils. One factor that contributed to this switch was a population boom across the country. Consequently, resources… (more)

fission-340x340The Natural Nuclear Fission Reactor of Gabon, West Africa

In May 1972 in a uranium enrichment plant in France, scientists examining ore from a mine in Gabon, West Africa, discovered that a natural nuclear reactor had spontaneously manifested in that region in the Earth’s primordial past, churning out approximately 100 Kw worth of energy continuously for a few hundred thousand years about 1.7 billion years ago. In order to understand how the natural nuclear reactor came about, it helps to understand a little of the history and science… (more)

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