Weekly Wrap Volume 40

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

smoke-enema-kitWhen Doctors Literally “Blew Smoke Up Your Arse”

When someone is “blowing smoke up your arse” today, it is a figure of speech that means that one person is complimenting another, insincerely most of the time, in order to inflate the ego of the individual being flattered. Back in the late 1700s, however, doctors literally blew smoke up people’s rectums. Believe it or not, it was a general mainstream medical procedure used to, among many other things, resuscitate people who were otherwise presumed dead. In fact, it was such a commonly used resuscitation method for drowning victims particularly, that the equipment used in this procedure was hung alongside certain major waterways… (more)

dalmatian-340x265Why Dalmatians are Associated with Fire Fighters

Dalmatians as firehouse dogs have become so common in books and movies that it’s practically a stereotype. It turns out that Dalmatians actually really do have a strong history in the firehouse, and they used to have some purpose, too. Before fire trucks, there were horse-drawn carriages. One of the most effective fire-fighting tools in the middle of the 18th century was the steam pumper- a machine that consisted of a boiler which was able to use steam to force water out of hoses and onto a fire. The fire brigade’s horse-drawn carriages would be loaded… (more)

sweetenersThe Accidental Discovery of Saccharin, and the Truth About Whether Saccharin is Bad for You

Saccharin is noted as being the first artificial sweetener, outside of the toxic Lead(II) acetate, and the first product to offer a cheap alternative to cane sugar.  Interestingly enough, like the Chocolate Chip Cookie, it was also discovered entirely by accident. The chemical was discovered in 1878/9 in a small lab at Johns Hopkins University. The lab belonged to professor of chemistry and all around chemical boffin, Ira Remsen. Remsen was hired by the H.W. Perot Import Firm in 1877, primarily so that the firm could loan the use of his lab to a young Russian chemist and sugar-nerd, Constantin Fahlberg. The H.W. Perot company wanted Fahlberg to test the purity of a shipment of sugar they’d had impounded by the US government using Remsen’s lab. Fahlberg agreed… (more)

Eisenhower signs baseballHow Dwight D. Eisenhower Playing Semi-Pro Baseball for a Handful of Games Nearly Changed American History

U.S. Presidents and sports have always been connected. Gerald Ford played football as a University of Michigan undergrad. George H.W. Bush played in the first two College World Series. George W. Bush was part owner of the Texas Rangers’ baseball franchise. Barack Obama frequently plays pickup basketball games with his staff (no doubt all terrified of accidentally hurting the Commander-in-Chief during the games.) Heck, Ronald Reagan even portrayed “The Gipper” in the football movie Knute Rockne, All American during his acting days. But only one U.S. President was ever a professional athlete, albeit for a very brief time. Evidence points to Dwight D. Eisenhower having played semi-pro minor league baseball in 1911 in Junction City, Kansas. Although for much of his life, this was something he chose to keep secret.  Had he… (more)

carlsjr$311 and a Hot Dog Cart- The Founding of $928 Million Company

In 1941, Carl N. Karcher, a 24 year old man who had dropped out of school in the 8th grade to work on a farm, and his wife had $15 in cash (about $241 today). They took out an additional $311 loan against their car, and used the money to purchase a hot dog cart. It must not have seemed like much at the time, and certainly the hot dog cart business might have failed, leaving them in debt. Fortunately for them, it didn’t take long for their hot dog cart to do well enough that they were able to buy another one. A couple years after starting their little business, the Kerchers were operating four hot dog carts. Business just kept booming… (more)

Bonus Quick Facts:

  • Golden Globe winner Richard Harris, today perhaps best known for his role as Albus Dumbledore in the first two Harry Potter films before his death preceding the release of The Chamber of Secrets,  wasn’t just an extremely accomplished actor, but also a successful musician.  He even had a hit single back in the 1960s with the song “MacArthur Park,” which managed to reach number four on the UK charts and number two on the Billboard Hot 100.
  • Queen Elizabeth technically doesn’t need, nor does she have a passport, since all British passports are issued in the queen’s name. That said, the fact that Queen Elizabeth doesn’t have a passport, nor does she generally carry around picture ID, can be an issue if she simply randomly shows up in some country; so her trips are cleared with the various state departments before she arrives. This way, she doesn’t have issues with customs officials and her lack of passport. All the other members of the Royal Family are required to carry a passport on them when they travel abroad.
  • Mark Wahlberg didn’t receive his high school diploma until the age of 42 in 2013. The music and movie star wasn’t into education as a teen and dropped out of high school in the 9th grade so he could focus on other activities such as joining a gang, drug dealing, nearly killing a Vietnamese man, and, of course, hip hop music.  After initially being tried for attempted murder, and pleading down to criminal contempt, he did a complete 180, getting out of the gang and generally turning his life around with the help of his parish priest. Recently, he decided to finish high school to set a better example for his kids.  He hired a tutor, took online courses, and got his diploma.
  • Trimethylaminuria (TMAU) is a rare genetic disorder that makes the people who suffer from it smell like rotten fish owing to their bodies’ inability to convert trimethylamine to trimethylamine oxide.  The trimethylamine ends up being excreted through the person’s pores, breath, and urine making them smell strongly of fish.
  • A South Korean woman named Cha Sa-soon tried to get her driver’s license on April 13, 2005.  She failed.  Four years later, in November of 2009 at the age of 68 and after 960 total attempts, she  managed to score a 60 out of 100 on the multiple choice test and completed the driving portion successfully, to finally get her driver’s license.  Over those four years, she spent 5m won, or about $4,200, on the tests. She said after, “I believe you can achieve your goal if you persistently pursue it. So don’t give up your dream, like me. Be strong and do your best.”
  • In 1799, a young boy named Conrad Reed found a 17-pound “rock” while playing at a creek on his family farm in Cabarrus County, North Carolina. He and his family kept it as a doorstop for three years. His father, John Reed, impressed with how shiny the rock remained decided to take it to a jeweler who recognized it as gold and bought it from the unsuspecting Reed for only $3.50. The estimated value of the gold at the time was approximately $3,600, or about $49,000 today. Reed ended up rich anyway. A few years later, he found a 28 pound gold nugget, and eventually started mining for gold. Today, the Reed Gold Mine is designated a historic site and open to the public for tours.
  • Back in the Victorian era, they served tea to gentlemen in special tea cups which protected mustaches from getting wet and messy from the tea. This also helped keep the tea unspoiled as it was popular to oil one’s mustache at the time.
  • Since 2012, Brazilian prisoners get a chance to reduce their sentence four days for every approved book they read and then write an essay on. Approved books include various science, philosophy, and “classic” literature novels. They can reduce their sentence by a maximum of 48 days per year doing this. As 70% of Brazil’s prison population never completed primary education, this was thought up as a way to motivate them to become somewhat educated, and in many cases, literate.

Other Interesting Stuff:

belly-fatIs it Possible to Target Belly Fat When Losing Weight?

A quick internet search will yield countless claims of ways to remove the unwanted fat from around your mid-section.  From over-hyped diet pills promising to reduce levels of cortisol to cutting-edge workouts.  The truth is that there is no scientifically proven diet pill or exercise that will specifically target your stomachs fat vs the fat providing a nice bone blanket for other parts of your body. All that being said, you can get rid of that belly fat- to better understand how, let’s talk about fat, in the medical world known as adipose tissue, the different types, and methods for losing some of it. Fat comes in two types, white and brown… (more)

musicMozart’s Much Less Family Friendly Works

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is famously known for being a child prodigy and one of the greatest musical composers of all time. Eine Kleine Nachtmusik is one of the most famous of his compositions, while Leck mir den Arsch fein recht schön sauber is a much lesser known work of his (though he isn’t thought to have written the music, just the lyrics). For those who do not speak German, let me translate to English: “Lick me in the ass right well and clean,” with the “lick my ass” sentiment being somewhat equivalent to the modern English “kiss my ass/arse.” Something they don’t typically teach you in school about Mozart is that he displayed scatological humor in many of his letters to friends and family and in a few… (more)

long-finger-nailsWhen Women Started Growing Out and Painting Their Nails

On humans and other primates, nails are a flattened version of a claw which likely developed to aid in gripping and climbing. However, they can also act as a visible “health report.” Someone in poor health, or infected by a fungus, might have yellow, brittle nails, while someone in good health might have strong, long nails. The fact that healthy nails are the sign of a healthy person may have led to people beginning to grow them out, or it could have been simply that long nails are cumbersome when working with your hands, so they were something of a status symbol. Whatever the case, it might surprise you to learn that manicuring nails has actually been around for many thousands of years—dating back at least to 3200 B.C. At the time, Chinese… (more)

anatoli-bugorski2What Happens When You Stick Your Head Into a Particle Accelerator

Exhibit A: Anatoli Petrovich Bugorski, a Russian scientist who has the distinction of being the only person to ever stick his head in a running particle accelerator.  Shockingly, he also managed to survive the ordeal and, all things considered, came out without too much damage. Bugorski was a researcher at the Institute for High Energy Physics in Protvino, working with the Soviet particle accelerator: The Synchrotron U-70. On July 13, 1978, Bugorski was checking a malfunctioning piece of equipment.  As he was leaning over the piece of equipment, he stuck his head through the part of the accelerator that the proton beam was running through.  He reported seeing a flash that was “brighter than a thousand suns”, but did not feel any pain when this happened… (more)

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Quote of the Week:

  • “There is no end to education. It is not that you read a book, pass an examination, and finish with education. The whole of life, from the moment you are born to the moment you die, is a process of learning.” -Jiddu Krishnamurti
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