Weekly Wrap Volume 46

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

braille-atm-e1288198244242Why There is Braille on Drive-Thru ATM Machines

Mainly, it is because it is required by law, thanks to the ADA Accessibility Guidelines for Buildings and Facilities.  There are certain exceptions, in terms of these requirements, when it comes to drive-up ATMs vs. walk up ATMs, such as the differing requirements on the “Reach Ranges” in section 4.34.3.  However, being able to get rid of the Braille is not one of these exceptions, despite initial protests from the American Banker’s Association who argued that any visually impaired person could simply get the driver to help.  The committee in charge of coming up with these standards rejected this argument because it would no longer allow a visually impaired person to use the ATM independently. Blind people actually do use the drive up ATMs all the time too, contrary to what many people think.  It’s not uncommon… (more)

nellie-bly-340x558The Remarkable Nellie Bly and Her Adventure in a Mad-House

Born Elizabeth Jane Cochran in 1864, Nellie Bly was considered the most rebellious of her father’s fifteen children. (Yes, fifteen) Her family was thrown into poverty when her father died when she was just six years old; in a time when women weren’t expected to hold down a job, it was difficult for her mother to find work enough to support the family. By the time Elizabeth was fifteen, she decided to go to school to become a teacher. Unfortunately, she didn’t have enough money to continue studying past the first semester, and she returned home to her mother in Pittsburgh. There weren’t a lot of options there, either—she helped to run a… (more)

ice-cubesWhy are Some Ice Cubes Clear and Others Cloudy?

Unless you happen to have a specialized ice machine in your home, it is practically guaranteed that the ice your freezer makes is of the cloudy variety. A popular and well known trick to making clear(er) ice is to either boil the water first or use distilled water. However, even doing this won’t guarantee the kind of perfectly clear ice you’d find in a high-end bar or restaurant. This is because how clear ice is, is only partially dependent on the purity of the water you use, meaning even  if you managed to procure the tears of a Saint and pass them through the world’s best water filter, you’d still likely end up with ice that was a little cloudy. So what’s going on here? For those of you have the time, go to any nearby sink… (more)

female-pilotWhy Aren’t There Many Female Commercial Pilots?

When it comes to gender disparity, the world of commercial airline piloting is one of the most skewed with a whopping 97% of all commercial pilots being male (4000 female commercial pilots vs. 130,000 male worldwide according to The International  Society of Women Airline Pilots).  Those numbers shift slightly when you factor in women who are qualified to fly private planes but not commercial. But there is still a huge difference in the number of males compared to females even in this case. According to the US Civil Airmen Statistics, in 2011 there were about 617,000 qualified pilots in the United States, 41,000 of which were women, which means just over 93% of all pilots in 2011 were men. So what gives here?  Do women just not like flying? Are the airline industry and the training schools just sexist? On the latter issue, at one point like in so many industries, yes. As discussed in this article on Helen Richey, who became the world’s first female pilot “to fly a commercial airliner on a regularly scheduled mail route” on December 31, 1934, she quit after only 10 months… (more)

amazonsDid the Warrior Women Known as the Amazons Ever Exist?

They are mentioned time and again by the ancient Greeks in both their history and mythology, going all the way back to Homer in approximately the 8th century B.C.  They were described as formidable warriors who cut off one breast to be better archers (one wonders if being lopsided would affect their aim ;-)). They lived in women-only communities, taking lovers once a year solely for the purpose of procreation. These ferocious, independent, goddess-worshipping women were called the Amazons. Some of the most memorable Amazons from antiquity include Antiope, who the hero Theseus won during a raid and made his concubine (you can imagine how well that went over); Pentheselia, who met Achilles in battle during the Trojan War; and Myrina, Queen of the African Amazons. Their name has since been used through the ages to describe warrior…(more)

Bonus Quick Facts:

  • When Burger King decided to expand their franchise to Australia, they encountered a little problem- there was already a chain of restaurants there called “Burger King.” This forced them to choose a different name and “Hungry Jack’s” is what they came up with. There are now just over 300 Hungry Jack’s in Australia.
  • “Stadium” originally meant “a foot race” or “an ancient measure of length”, which was about a furlong or 1/8 of a Roman mile.  The name was also affixed to any track that was one stadium in length.  This eventually became any running track and, finally, as we use it today to refer to any large structure used for sporting events.
  • James Casey, one of the founders of UPS, originally wanted the trucks to be yellow, instead of brown.  He was eventually convinced to make them brown by Charlie Soderstrom.  Soderstrom pointed out that yellow trucks would be impossible to keep clean.  Railroad cars are often brown for this same reason.
  • Wil Wheaton did the voices for various romulans in the 2009 movie Star Trek.  This was kept a secret until fairly close to when the movie came out.  In his own words: “JJ Abrams called me. It was an entertaining conversation; I couldn’t believe he wanted me to do work on his film, and he couldn’t believe that I wanted to do it. He asked me if I’d be interested in playing some Romulans, and I think I held my hand over the phone so he couldn’t hear me squeal in delight before I calmly told him that, yes, I thought I could do that. I don’t recall precisely why, but we agreed that it would be extra cool to keep it a secret until the heat death of the universe, an uncredited bit of awesome that only a handful of people in the world would know about … unless we told them. In fact, as far as I know, only a dozen people in the world knew about this until some meddling kids and their dog at Viacom found out about it this summer, and said we had to give me credit and stuff.”
  • Bringing Up Baby in 1938 was the first film to use the word gay to mean homosexual.  Cary Grant, in one scene, ended up having to wear a lady’s feathery robe.  When another character asked about why he was wearing that, he responded an ad-libbed line “Because I just went gay.”  At the time, mainstream audiences didn’t get the reference, so the line was thought popularly to have meant something to the effect of “I just decided to be carefree.”
  • The book “The Woman and the Car, A Chatty Little Handbook for All Women Who Motor or Who Want to Motor” (chatty indeed), by Dorothy Levitt written in 1906 recommended that women carry a hand-mirror while driving as it is convenient to be able to see behind you during traffic by holding the hand mirror up.  This is the first known mention of rear view mirrors being used in automobiles.  The mounted rear view mirror wasn’t available standard in cars until 8 years later in 1914.
  • The first person to use a mounted rear-view mirror in an automobile, which he installed himself, was race car driver Ray Harroun. On May 30th, 1911 while racing in the Indianapolis 500, Ray was unable to get a mechanic to ride with him during the race. This was the custom at the time, as it provided the driver with the ability to know what was happening behind him and to be made aware of any cars about to overtake him. Ray ingeniously installed a mirror on his car instead. Ray didn’t get this idea from the “chatty little handbook”, but stated he thought of it after remembering seeing a mirror used for this same purpose on a horse-drawn vehicle in 1904.
  • Tootsie Rolls were named after creator Leo Hirshfield’s five year old daughter whose nickname was “Tootsie” (her real name was Clara Hirshfield).  Hirshfield set out to create a chocolate that wouldn’t melt easily and eventually came up with the artificial “chocolate” candy the tootsie roll.  This ability to not melt easily and to use artificial ingredients that weren’t being rationed during war times proved a huge boon for the company as it eventually began being included in all soldier’s rations during WWII.  The low price of the artificial ingredients also made it a popular treat during the Depression, along with the tootsie pop.

Other Interesting Stuff:

911How Did “911″ Become The Emergency Call Number in North America?

Before the 1960s, the United States didn’t have one universal phone number for Americans to call if they needed help from the police or fire department. Callers simply had to know the phone number for each department in the area they were currently in. In the case of large cities, there were often multiple police and fire departments covering different areas. Los Angeles, for example, had fifty different police departments and just as many phone numbers. Telephone operators would usually be left to direct emergency calls if the caller wasn’t sure which department or phone number they needed. Oftentimes there would be further delays upon getting the police or fire department on the line if the clerks who answered the phone were busy with another caller. Needless to say, this system wasn’t optimized to get emergency help where it needed to go very quickly… (more)

countriesHow Many Countries are There in the World

This is a video from CGP Grey. If you’re a fan of TodayIFoundOut, I guarantee you’re going to love his YouTube channel, unless you just hate videos that is. (He also has a good podcast, Hello Internet, with fellow famous YouTuber Brady Haran.) Also, don’t forget to check out TodayIFoundOut’s YouTube channel here, which very soon will start being updated weekly as our video person switches to doing this full time instead of almost never-time. 😉

Gerkin-340x334Mark Twain and His Hobby of Collecting Girls from 10-16 Years Old (Don’t worry, it’s actually kind of sweet)

On February 12, 1908, Clemens said, “I suppose we are all collectors… As for me, I collect pets: young girls — girls from ten to sixteen years old; girls who are pretty and sweet and naive and innocent — dear young creatures to whom life is a perfect joy and to whom it has brought no wounds, no bitterness, and few tears.” Okay, so it isn’t actually as creepy as it initially sounds and in many ways is kind of sweet.  Towards the end of Clemens’ life, he suffered quite a lot of hardship. His daughter, Susy, died in 1896 and his wife, Olivia, passed away in 1904, followed by a second daughter, Jean, in 1909. Clemens fell into a depression in the early 1900s and noted that while he had reached the grandfather stage of life, he had no grandchildren to keep him company. He therefore went about befriending young girls who he treated as surrogate granddaughters. The girls in question were the daughters of couples… (more)

Sholes_typewriter-e1325934212298-340x379The Origin of the QWERTY Keyboard

The first typewriter was introduced to the United States in 1868 by Christopher Latham Sholes. His first attempt to build a typing device consisted of a crude and sluggish machine that was far from perfect. The design used letters and characters on the ends of rods which were called typebars. When a key was struck, the typebar would swing up and hit the ink-coated tape which would transfer the image onto paper. The original design of the keyboard positioned keys in alphabetical order in two rows. Makes sense, right? Well, this arrangement caused the typebars of the most commonly used combination letters of the alphabet (ie. TH and ST) to be positioned close together, so when the keys were hit right after the other with a speed faster than a snail, the keys would jam. The attempt to solve this malfunction resulted in a rearrangement of keys. In 1868, in collaboration with educator Amos Densmore… (more)

button-up-shirtWhy Do Men’s and Women’s Clothes Have the Buttons on the Opposite Sides?

As with so many things in history, we can’t know with 100% accuracy why men’s and women’s clothes button up the opposite way. (Even something relatively recent like who invented Buffalo Wings is up for debate despite being invented only about a half century ago.) But there are several theories floating around on the button front, one of which is particularly plausible. The most widely touted theory by far is that the practise of reversing buttons on men’s and women’s clothing stems back to the time of elaborate dress of gentlemen and ladies when upper-class women, particularly during the Victorian era, wore so many layers that it was necessary for them to be dressed by a servant or maid. As such, it became customary to make clothes for women that were slightly easier for other people to button up, specifically right handed people. Men’s clothes were left with the button… (more)

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Quote of the Week:

  • “An expert is a man who tells you a simple thing in a confused way in such a fashion as to make you think the confusion is your own fault.” ~William Castle
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