Weekly Wrap Volume 29

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

mudgettThe “House of Horrors” Hotel and One of America’s First Serial Killers

Herman Webster Mudgett was born in 1861 in New Hampshire to a relatively wealthy family. He was reportedly extremely intelligent from a young age, and went on to study medicine at the University of Michigan. But he was also implicated in the death of one of his friends when he was young, and during his stint at the University of Michigan, he was caught stealing corpses and using the bodies to make insurance claims. This was just the start of his life of lies and crime. He also participated in forgery, real estate scams, horse theft, polygamy, adultery, and, of course, gruesome murder. An 1886 move to Chicago set the stage for the known murders that would make this serial killer famous. Shortly after arriving in the city… (more)

sneezeWhere the Word “Sneeze” Came From and the Origin of “Nothing to Sneeze At”

As with so many etymologies, it’s difficult to definitively say exactly where the word ‘sneeze’ comes from, but it is generally thought that it started with the Indo-European word ‘penu’ – to breath. Eventually, this evolved into the Old High German word ‘fnehan,’ also defined as to breathe. Combining that with the the Old Norse word ‘fnyse,’ which meant to snort, brings us to the 1000 CE (also known as the ‘High Middle Ages’) and what we call “Old English.” The resulting Old English word… (more)

lawnWhy We Have Grass Lawns

Maintaining the perfect lawn takes a lot of work. There’s mowing, fertilizing, aerating, and watering. Having a trimmed green field leading up to your front door is something of a status symbol, and in some cases having a messy front lawn can get you into trouble with your more obsessive neighbours.  Turns out, the grass lawn as a status symbol has its origins in European aristocracy. The very first lawns were grassy fields… (more)

human-bonesThe Large Number of Human Remains Found In Ben Franklin’s Basement

For eighteen years, Ben Franklin, the great American inventor, diplomat, and signer of the Declaration of Independence, was a tenant in a beautiful four story Georgian house at 36 Craven Street in London, mere blocks from the River Thames. As ambassador from the colonies, he entertained, lived, and even allowed other intellectuals of the time to stay at the house while he lived there from 1757 through 1775. Nearly 225 years later, as the house stood dilapidated and on the brink of collapse, a group called “Friends of Benjamin Franklin House” decided to renovate the building and turn it into a museum honoring one of America’s founding fathers. Work commenced, but only a month into the renovation, a construction worker named Jim Field made a startling discovery… (more)

picking-noseIs Eating Your Boogers Good For You?

Does physically taking boogers out of your nose, putting them in your mouth and swallowing boost your immune system?  The short answer is probably not.  You ingest your snot all the time without needing to channel it through your mouth. So if there is a benefit here, you get it without needing to munch your nose nuggets.  That said, there are a couple medical professionals willing to comment on the benefits of mining for green candy, particularly touting benefits to one’s immune system. One of the more credible… (more)

Bonus Quick Facts:

  • “Revenge is a dish best served cold” was originally a Pashtun (ethnic group in Pakistan/Afghan.) saying borrowed by the British.
  • Marshes are the native growing ground for the mallow plant, hence the name “marshmallow”.
  • Cats cannot detect the sweet taste. This is due to a mutant chemoreceptor in their taste buds.
  • Gradually increasing workout intensity, under 10% a week, should allow you to progress in workouts with little to no soreness.
  • According to a survey done by Crayola in the year 2000 that over 25,000 people voted in, the world’s favorite Crayola crayon color is blue.
  • Maine is the only state in the United States whose name has only one syllable.
  • Roman Dr Archigenes’ toothache cure was as follows: mix earthworms, crushed spider eggs, and spikenard. He’d then drill a hole in your tooth and put the mixture inside.
  • The record for the longest toe belongs to Mathew McGory who had a big toe that was 5 inches long. His little toe was 1.5 inches.
  • At 11 Steve Jobs told his parents, because of bullying, to take him to a different school or he’d quit. His new school is where he met Steve Wozniak.
  • Charles Osborne had the hiccups for 68 years, from 1922 to 1990, with Osborne hiccuping an estimated 430 million times in his lifetime.
  • The name “dolphin” comes from the ancient Greek “delphis”, which means more or less “fish with a womb”.

Other Interesting Stuff:

icecream-e1285680782510What Causes Ice Cream Headaches

While many theories on what exactly causes ice cream headaches or “brain freezes” have existed for some time, it has only been very recently that it was discovered exactly what is going on here.  It turns out, ice cream headaches are a result of a rapid change in the size of blood vessels as a response to an extreme shift in temperature in the roof of the mouth, particularly the back of the roof of the mouth. Specifically, what is happening… (more)

shrunken-head-340x510How Shrunken Heads Were Made

For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, a shrunken head is a decapitated human head that is shrunk through a cooking process by members of the Jivaroan tribes of the northwestern region of the Amazon rain forest in Ecuador and Peru. Why do this? Tribal members believed in the existence of a vengeful spirit, called muisak, that inhabits the human body. To block a muisak from using its powers… (more)

hanging-340x426The Man Who Survived Three Consecutive Hangings

Joseph Samuels (some sources list his surname as “Samuel”) was an English criminal, born in 1780. After being arrested for robbery at the age of 15,  Samuels was eventually convicted and shipped to Australia in 1801. At the time, Australia had a penal colony at Sydney Cove. Security in these early penal settlements was reinforced by the isolation of the colonies- guards trusted the Australian wilderness to kill off any prisoner who managed to escape, which isn’t too farfetched.  I mean, have you been to Australia?  Seemingly every creature there seems designed to kill you. 😉  Despite the risk the wilderness posed, Samuels succeeded in escaping, with a gang no less. His gang of thieve… (more)

wrinkled-fingerWhy Skin Wrinkles in Water

If you’ve ever washed away your day with hours in a hot-tub, you might have asked yourself, “Why do my hands look like I’m 90 years old when they’re in the water?” The full explanation of how and why our fingers wrinkle in wet environments is still the subject of some debate.  What we know is that the physiological mechanisms causing this phenomenon are the result of our veins constricting (vasoconstriction) in your hands and feet.  One might notice this occurs even in warm water, when we otherwise would assume blood vessels should dilate instead of constrict.  This… (more)

This Week’s Podcast Episodes:

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