Weekly Wrap Volume 38

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

VirginiaValentineThat Time 26-Year-Old Edgar Allan Poe Married His 13-Year-Old Cousin

As if his stories weren’t occasionally disturbing enough, it turns out Edgar Allan Poe’s love life was more than a little creepy as well. Poe met his bride-to-be, Virginia Clemm, when she was 7 years old, and he was 20, shortly after his mother’s death in 1829. Their parents, his natural father (David Poe) and her mother (Maria Clemm), were siblings, and Poe had moved into the Clemm home briefly before his time at West Point was to begin. Being so close in time to the death of his mother, some authors have opined that he transferred his feelings for his mother to his Aunt Maria, and later to his cousin. Regardless, it appears that Poe and Virginia quickly became friends, and she even helped him woo one of her neighbors, Mary Devereaux. It is reported that at one point, Virginia obtained… (more)

brownieThe Origin of the Term “Brownie Points”

There are many, many origin theories for this one. One of the most often repeated and widely accepted theories is that “brownie points”—imaginary points earned by someone for doing a good deed, and lost by doing something unfavourable—stem from the Brownies, a tier of 7-10 year old Girl Scouts or Girl Guides. The Girl Scout or Girl Guide Brownies took their name from the mythical creature, the brownie. The mythical brownies were known for being kind and helpful and performing household chores while a family sleeps. The girl-brownies are supposed to emulate this behaviour, being quietly helpful without asking for much in return. As a reward for doing good deeds, Brownies receive badges—or, if you’d like, “brownie points.” Many people assume that this is how the term originated… (more)

fish-e1315434652998How Fish Gills Work

These fantastic little organs allow the fish to absorb oxygen from the water and use it for energy. Functionally, gills are not that dissimilar to the lungs in humans and other mammals. The main difference is how they are able to absorb much smaller concentrations of available oxygen, while allowing the fish to maintain an appropriate level of Sodium Chloride (salt) in their bloodstream. Gills work on the same principle as lungs. In the lungs, there are small sacs called alveoli that are approximately 70% capillaries. These capillaries carry deoxygenated blood from the body. As oxygen and carbon dioxide pass across the alveoli’s membrane, the capillaries take the newly oxygenated blood back to the body. Similarly, gills have small rows and columns of specialized cells grouped together called the… (more)

BeethovenWas Beethoven Really Deaf When He Wrote All His Music?

If there is one Ludvig van Beethoven fact everyone knows it’s that he was deaf. But just saying “he was deaf” leaves a lot of pertinent questions unanswered, such as how deaf was he? How did he communicate with people? Of course, the biggest question is how did he compose what is considered some of his greatest music while he was deaf. Beethoven was born in 1770, and was introduced to music at a young age by his father who was a piano and violin teacher as well as a talented tenor. Young Beethoven was considered a child prodigy when it came to music, and performed his first public concert in his hometown of Bonn when he was just seven years old. He continued his musical career… (more)

jailAre You Really Entitled to a Phone Call When Arrested?

Being arrested is a terrifying and frightening thing with all the horror stories about police abuses of power and other prisoners being absolutely dead-set on making your life miserable in a variety of horrifying ways… at least that’s what the movies have taught us. As so often happens, the reality of being arrested doesn’t generally reflect what’s depicted on the big screen. So what about the one phone call rule? It turns out, “You get exactly one phone call when arrested” is a useful, simple plot element, and easier to explain to an audience than, “being arrested is a legal minefield where your rights can vary based on a variety of factors.” In reality… (more)

Bonus Quick Facts:

  • According to Mike Tyson, his ex-wife Robin Givens was sleeping with Brad Pitt when Tyson and she were still married. Tyson stated in an interview about the specific incident, “I was getting a divorce. I was going to my lawyer’s office to divorce her that day but I wanted to sneak in…This particular day, someone beat me to the punch…I guess Brad got there earlier than I did. I was mad as hell. You should’ve saw his face when he saw me.” Funny enough, years later for Brad Pitt’s 50th birthday, Angelina Jolie got Pitt an autographed poster of Mike Tyson. On it, Tyson reportedly wrote, “Yo Brad! Still love your taste in women. Happy 50th Dude. Best Wishes, Mike.”
  • Goldfish are one of many types of fish that will not stop eating if there is food available, regardless of how full they are.  As such, overfeeding domesticated versions of the fish can easily kill them by blocking their intestines.  This isn’t as much of a problem with certain types of wild goldfish, who have less complex intestinal tracts.  In their case, when food is plentiful, they simply produce more waste.
  • The last person executed via guillotine in France was a Tunisian immigrant named Hamida Djandoubi, on the 10th of September, 1977. Djandoubi was convicted for torturing and murdering his 21-year-old ex-girlfriend, Elisabeth Bousquet, in Marseille.
  • A cricket’s ears are on its front legs, just below the knees and they have four acoustic inputs. The openings in the crickets exoskeleton that act as ears lead into chambers inside the legs, which connect to either side of the cricket, allowing sound to pass completely through the cricket. By facing one way or the other, the cricket can determine which direction a sound is coming from.
  • Contrary to popular belief, bulls are not enraged by the color red. In fact, bulls are red-green colorblind. As illustrated by MythBusters, whether the cape used in bullfighting is red or any other color, the bull doesn’t react differently. What gets them to charge aggressively, outside of embedding things like banderillas (barbed “little flags”) in their necks, is actually the movement of the cape, not the color. The myth that the color red enrages bulls likely stems from matadors traditionally using red capes going all the way back to the 18th century in Spain.
  • In Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, Qui-Gon Jinn’s communicator was a slightly modified Sensor Excel razor for women.
  • Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) currently holds the record for playing the Batman character of “Joker” longer than any other actor and in more spinoffs. He got his start doing the Joker in the Emmy award winning 1992 Batman: The Animated Series and has been voicing the Joker in various mediums ever since.
  • Bart Simpson is voiced by a woman, Nancy Cartwright, who also does the voices for Nelson, Ralph, Todd, and Flanders among others on The Simpsons.

Other Interesting Stuff:

saltcrystalsWhy Salt Enhances Flavor

This is partially simply due to the fact that “saltiness” is one of the five primary basic tastes the human tongue can detect.  Those five tastes being: salt, bitter, sweet, sour, and umami (if you’re not familiar with this one, it is from glutamic acid, which is found in many foods, particularly some meats, and is the basis of the flavor enhancer monosodium glutamate, also known as MSG). The extra salt has other effects as well though, outside of simply making things more salty.  Particularly, adding salt to foods helps certain molecules in those foods more easily release… (more)

horses2-340x512Why Engines are Commonly Measured in Horsepower

We owe this unit of engine power measurement to Scottish engineer James Watt. In the early 1780s, after making a vastly superior steam engine to the then classic Newcomen steam engine, Watt was looking for a way to market his invention, advertising the fact that his engine used about 75% less fuel than a similarly powered Newcomen, among many other improvements. At first, he tried selling his engine on a royalty scheme, where the customers would owe him one-third of the money they saved by using his engine over other steam engines. Of course, many at the time used horses, not steam engines, so it was difficult to compare without them actually buying the engine to see how it would perform for their particular usage. Thus, he scrapped the royalty scheme and decided… (more)

Why You Generally Shouldn’t Put Metals in the Microwavemicro1-e1283262776556

First, it should be noted that it is not unsafe to put all metals in the microwave.  Indeed, you often put metals in the microwave anytime you put a hot pocket in the little pouch and place it in the microwave.  The pouch has a thin layer of aluminum lining the inside that is designed to absorb the microwaves and heat up a bit so as to brown the outside of the hot pocket. On top of that, the inside walls of your microwave oven are made of metal.   This forms something called a Faraday Cage which traps the microwaves inside the box, so that they cook the food and not things around the microwave oven, like you.  If you look closely, you’ll also see that the window you look at the food through has metal mesh lining it.  The holes in this mesh are smaller than the wavelengths of the electromagnetic radiation your microwave is producing.  This makes it so the waves can’t pass through the holes.  Visible light, however, is comprised of much smaller wavelengths, so that form of radiated energy passed through the holes just fine, allowing you to see inside your microwave while it’s running… (more)

FloatersWhat Causes “Eye Floaters”

For those who’ve never experienced this phenomenon, eye floaters are little oddly shaped objects that appear in your vision, often when one looks at bright light such as a blue sky.  Their shapes vary greatly, but will often appear as spots, cobwebs, or randomly shaped stringy objects.  These are not optical illusions, but rather something your eyes are actually perceiving.  There are a few different things that can cause this, but in most cases these eye floaters are caused by pieces of the gel-like vitreous breaking off from the back portion of your eye and then floating about in your eye ball. The vitreous humor, or often just “vitreous”, is a clear gel that fills the gap between your retina and lens, helping maintain the round shape of your eye in the process.  This gel is about 99% water and 1% other elements; the latter of which consists mostly of a network of hyaluronic acid and collagen.  Hyaluronic acid ends up retaining water molecules.  Over time though… (more)

quit-smoking-340x225Why is Nicotine Addictive

When someone says a substance is addictive, they can mean two separate things. Physically addictive, more accurately physically dependent, is when your body begins to depend on the presence of a particular substance for its physical well being. It’s begun compensating its normal processes to adjust for the new artificial normal. The sudden absence of that substance won’t allow enough time for the body to compensate without the substance. The result will be withdrawal symptoms like nausea, vomiting, chest pains, head and body aches, seizures, uncontrolled body sweats, and shortness of breath. Alcohol is a great example. If you don’t normally consume it, and then all of a sudden decide to drink like a college student on spring break, your body would be unable to compensate for the sudden influx of booze and you will get nauseated, most likely puke, could have seizures… (more)

This Week’s Podcast Episodes:

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Quote of the Week:

  • “Ah, NY. The excitement, the fearless citizens, the adventures, the pee smell. I’ve missed you.” – Nathan Fillion
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