Weekly Wrap Volume 41

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

little-girl-in-rain-jacketWhat Causes the Smell After Rain

There are three primary sources of smells that commonly occur after rain. The first, the “clean” smell, in particular after a heavy thunderstorm, is caused by ozone.  Ozone (scientifically known as trioxygen due to the fact that it is comprised of three oxygen atoms) is notably pungent and has a very sharp smell that is often described as similar to that of chlorine. Some people can smell ozone before the storm has even arrived. Before a thunderstorm rolls in, lightning can sometimes rip nitrogen and oxygen molecules in the environment to pieces. This can ultimate result in a… (more)

boing-767That Time a Commercial Aircraft Ran Out of Fuel Mid-Flight- The Gimli Glider

On July 23, 1983, in the small town of Gimli, Manitoba, Captain Robert Pearson and Co-Pilot Maurice Quintal expertly glided a 100-ton Boeing 767 carrying 69 people to a safe landing without engines, air brakes or flaps, and minimal control of the aircraft. Bad Math: The flight plan for Canada 143 that day began with a short jaunt from Montreal, Quebec to Ottawa, Ontario. Right from the beginning, the crew realized the plane had a faulty fuel control: “A computer known as the Fuel Quantity Information System Process manages the entire fuel loading process. . . . But the FQIS was not working properly on Flight 143.” With FQIS out-of-order, the ground maintenance crew had to calculate the amount of fuel needed, in a process called “dipping the tanks”… (more)

phosphorousHow One Man’s Attempt to Create the Philosopher’s Stone Out of Human Urine Led to the First Element Discovered Since Ancient Times

Phosphorus is an essential element for life. Forms of it are found in DNA, RNA, and all living cell membranes. It is the sixth most abundant element in any living organism. Phosphorus can also be highly poisonous and combustible (white phosphorus is used in many destructive weapons, such as napalm). It was also the first element discovered since ancient times. The person who made this discovery was Hennig Brand in 1669, who did so while he was playing around with large amounts of human urine. Brand was born in 1630 into relative modest means in Hamburg, Germany. Not much is known of his early life, but it is believed he was a junior army officer during the Thirty Years’ War, likely right at the end of the war. After he left the army,  he became an apprentice glass-maker. He married well, to a woman whose dowry was rather substantial. In fact, he married… (more)

statue-of-freedom-340x226The Slave Who Helped Assemble the Famous “Freedom Statue” in Washington D.C.

The Statue of Freedom sitting atop the dome of the U.S. Capitol building in Washing D.C. has more alternate names than the obscure half of the Wu Tang Clan. Over the years, the names attributed to it have ranged from things like “Freedom Triumphant in War and Peace” to the far simpler, “Armed Freedom“. However, the one, common thread is that the statue is supposed to represent the very spirit of freedom itself. Ironically enough, it was a slave who was integral in assembling it. Lady Freedom stands at just shy of 20 feet and weighs in excess of a scale shattering 15,000 pounds. She carries a sword, a shield and a… (more)

werewolfA Brief Look at the Werewolf Through History

Since ancient times, the fusion of man and wolf has been the stuff of legend and folklore (“wer” was the word for “man” in old English, with “man” being completely gender neutral). Virtually every culture across the globe has its own werewolf mythology, with this beastly shape-shifter being one of the oldest monsters to terrorize humans. Werewolf legends span so far back that their existence almost certainly predates recorded history. It’s a safe bet that werewolves have been freaking people out since our ancestors were huddled around puny campfires, in hopes of staving off the evil creatures that went bump in the night. In reality, wolves rarely attack humans, though this is partially a function of their greatly diminished population, and also… (more)

Bonus Quick Facts:

  • Despite that many in the media claimed the Seattle Seahawks’ Super Bowl victory was the first major professional sporting championship won by a Seattle based professional team, this isn’t true at all. For starters, in 1917 the Seattle Metropolitans became the first American team to win the Stanley Cup. Further, the 1979 Seattle SuperSonics won the NBA championship.  In more recent memory, the Seattle Storm won the WNBA championship in 2004 and 2010 . Incidentally, the Seattle Metropolitans also played in the Stanley Cup finals in 1919. With the series tied 2-2-1, the finals were canceled due to the Spanish flu pandemic that killed about 3%-5% of the human population, as well as infecting about 30%
  • Jamie Lee Curtis’ primary claim to fame is her acting career, but she also invented a new type of diaper in 1987. Curtis proudly stated about her patented invention (Patent No. 4,753,647), “It’s a disposable infant garment which takes the form of a diaper including, on its outer side, a sealed, but openable, moisture-proof pocket which contains one or more clean-up wipers.”
  • The King of Rock n’ Roll, Elvis Presley, was naturally blond, but dyed his hair black.
  • At the 1904 Summer Olympics, American gymnast George Eyser fared quite well- he won six medals: 3 gold in long horse vault, 25 ft. rope climb, and parallel bars; two silver in the 4-event all-around and pommel horse, and one bronze medal in the horizontal bar. While winning six medals in the Olympics is quite an accomplishment for anyone, what makes Eyser even more unique is that he competed with a wooden leg. During his youth, Eyser lost most of his left leg after a train ran over it. This, however, didn’t stop him from making history a few years later, becoming the only person to compete in the Olympic Games with an artificial leg, until 2008 when South African swimmer, Natalie du Toit, competed in the Beijing Olympics.
  • While everybody knows the name of the chief character in Pac-Man, Pac-Man, you may not know the names of the ghosts. They are named Blinky (Red Ghost), Pinky (Pink Ghost), Inky (Cyan Ghost), and Clyde (Orange Ghost).
  • The cast of “Glee” has more Hot 100 Billboard chart entries than any other group in history. To date, Glee has a total 207 Hot 100 entries while the runner up, Elvis, had 149. However, only 51 of Glee’s songs made it to the top 40, while Elvis had 114 of his 149 Hot entries make it up that far on the charts.
  • Despite what most think, Nintendo’s Mario hits blocks with his hand, not his head.
  • In 2009, a team of armed robbers broke into Dolph Lundgren’s (Ivan Drago from Rocky IV) luxury home on the Costa del Sol, Spain, tied up his wife, jewelry designer Anette Lundgren, who was home alone, and began stealing her jewelry other items in the house. Once they saw a family photo with Lundgren in it, however, they literally dropped everything and fled. They were probably aware that, “Whatever he hits, he destroys.” In truth, the 6 ft. 5 in. Lundgren was an elite ranger in the Swedish military and has a 3rd degree black belt in Kyokushin karate. Beyond his more obvious physical attributes, he has a Master’s degree in chemical engineering, speaks 7 languages, and is rumored to have an IQ of 160.

Other Interesting Stuff:

sarah-palinDid Sarah Palin Really Say “I Can See Russia from My House”?

Sarah Palin never said “I can see Russia from my house.” Tina Fey did, in a hilarious skit on Saturday Night Live. Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, on the other hand, said something a little bit different from which the Tina Fey line derived. When Palin was introduced as the running mate to Arizona Senator John McCain at the Republican National Convention in the late summer of 2008, her rousing speech and star power gave a boost to his campaign for the Presidency of the United States. On the campaign trail, one of her duties as a Vice Presidential candidate was to sit down with journalists to demonstrate her… (more)

one-way-mirror-e1302687873770How One-Way Mirrors Work

Interestingly, there is no such thing as a true one way mirror.  This would actually violate the laws of physics (for more on that see the Bonus Factoids below).  What’s actually going on here with one-way mirrors is that we have a piece of glass with an extremely thin coating of some reflective material like silver (as is often used on normal mirrors).  Unlike normal mirrors though, the silver layer is so thin that it only actually reflects about half the light back.  The other half passes through the glass.  This layer is actually so thin, that if you were to look at it at a molecular level, you’d see that only about half the glass was actually coated with the silver; the silver would appear to be speckled on the glass more or less evenly. The problem with allowing half the light through though is that you would normally still be able to see either way through the glass; it would just appear tinted.  Not only that,  the half of the light being reflected is being reflected back on both sides.  So eithe… (more)

Hindenburg-340x258Over Half the People Involved in the Hindenburg Disaster Survived

The Hindenburg disaster will probably always be remembered as the singular event that killed airship travel. In truth, there were other events that occurred which also contributed, but none stand out in the public consciousness more than the demise of the Hindenburg. The image of that huge ship falling from the sky and erupting into flames before burning to nothing in seconds was too jarring for the public to ever put their trust in the giants of sky again.However, few realise that the disaster, though terrible, wasn’t as bad as it seemed at first glance. For example, more than half of the people involved in the crash actually survived it. The final death toll for people on board was as follows: of the 97 people… (more)

James-WelchThe Man Who Captured Four Armed German Soldiers With an Empty Gun

Very little is known about Lance-Corporal James Welch prior to his actions during WWI. However, we do know some basic details.  According to Welch’s grave in Bournemouth crematorium, he was born in 1889 on July 7th in the small English village of Stratfield Saye. Welch must have had a fairly boring childhood because literally the next thing recorded about his life was that he joined the Royal Berkshire Regiment. After signing up, Welch was drafted to the first battalion of the RBR where he quickly attained the rank of Lance-Corporal. Once again, the records of Welch’s activities disappear into obscurity. That is, until he won a Victoria Cross on April 29, 1917… (more)

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Quote of the Week:

  • “There is much pleasure to be gained from useless knowledge.” – Bertrand Russell
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