Weekly Wrap Volume 59

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

snoringWhy Do Men Snore More Than Women?

When humans sleep, the muscles around our throats relax and cause the airways to narrow. Snoring occurs when certain soft tissues—such as the soft palate (or roof of the mouth), the uvula (the dangling piece of tissue at the top of the throat), elements in the nasal passages, or the base of the tongue—relax too much and partially block a person’s airway. As the body tries to breathe normally, the increased pressure in a person’s throat causes the soft tissues near the airway to vibrate. The amount of the airway that is blocked can determine the severity of the snoring, so the smaller the airway, generally the louder the snoring. Certain factors can increase the likelihood that a person, man or woman, might snore. For instance, snoring can worsen with… (more)

tetris-e1296803801742The Rights to Tetris Were Originally Owned by the Soviet Union

The game was created by Alexey Leonidovich Pajitnov, with the assistance of Dmitry Pavlovsky and Vadim Gerasimov who ported it to an IBM PC, and was released on June 6, 1984.  At the time, Pajitnov was working at the Dorodnicyn Computing Center, which was a part of a Soviet government funded research center in Moscow, called the Soviet Academy of Sciences.  Because Pajitnov was working for the government and was using their equipment when he created Tetris, they retained the rights to the game in the beginning with no royalties being paid to Pajitnov. The game was a huge hit within the USSR almost immediately, being given away freely by the Soviet Union throughout Eastern Europe and the USSR.  Within a year of its launch… (more)

pledge-of-allegiance-340x445The Origin of the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance

The U.S. Pledge of Allegiance was written by a socialist Baptist minister named Francis Bellamy in 1892. It was published in a popular children’s magazine of the time called The Youth’s Companion as part of the 400th anniversary celebration of Christopher Columbus arriving in the New World. The celebration itself was the brainchild of James B. Upham, a marketer for the magazine who made it his business to foster a sense of patriotism in the youth of America. Upham’s goal was to, “instill into the minds of our American youth a love for their country and the principles on which it was founded, and create in them an ambition to carry on with the ideals which the early founders wrote into the Constitution…” Francis Bellamy intended for the Pledge… (more)

Al_JolsonAl Jolson- Misunderstood Hero or Villain?

Ask most movie fans, “What was the first ‘talkie’?” The most frequent reply tends to be “The Jazz Singer” starring Al Jolson. This is a “sort of” correct answer, but not really. The earliest “sound” movies were made by synchronizing motion pictures to phonograph records. In 1926, (a year before “The Jazz Singer”) Warner Brothers re-released the previously silent film “Don Juan” with a soundtrack recording done by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. Warner Brothers also released the first actual all-talking, feature-length motion picture in 1928. It was called “Lights of New York.” The following year, Twentieth Century Fox released “In Old Arizona,” the first all-talkie feature with sound directly recorded on the film. “The Jazz Singer” was actually a silent movie with poorly synchronized musical numbers and a few sentences of spoken words. One of the main reasons “The Jazz Singer” is such a legendary film is because of its star- the immortal Al Jolson. Jolson was, by all accounts, the “Elvis Presley”… (more)

jeansWhen and How Jeans Became Popular

Jeans are easily one of the most ubiquitous pieces of clothing on Earth with millions of pairs being made, sold and wrapped around the butts of style conscious individuals every single day. But why are jeans so popular and for what purpose were they first made? Before we answer that it’s important for us to first define exactly what we mean when we say “jeans” because the word has changed in context over the last few hundred years. As detailed by the Fashion Enyclopedia, the term “jeans” has existed since the 1600s, where it was used as a catch-all term to describe the “rough clothing worn by working men”. Since the fabric used to make these clothes often came from the Genoa region in Italy, it was commonly referred to as “jean”. Weavers from the Nimes area of France tried to replicate this fabric and it eventually came to be known as “denim”… (more)

Bonus Quick Facts:

  • The tallest man in history was Robert Pershing Wadlow, who was 8 feet 11.1 inches (2.72 m) tall and 485 pounds at the time of his death.  By the age of 4 years old, he was already 5 ft 4 inches tall (1.63m).  At the age of 13, he became the tallest boy scout in history at 7 ft 4 inches (2.24m). Wadlow had not yet stopped growing at the time of his death at the age of 22.  He died in 1940 of an infection caused from blisters on his ankle that he didn’t notice at first due to not being able to feel much of anything in his feet and lower legs.
  • In 1830, a French tailor by the name of Barthelemy Thimonnier patented a sewing machine that used the chain stitch; the first such machine to replicate sewing by hand. By 1841, he had a factory with over 80 machines and a contract with the French army for uniforms. However, the factory was destroyed by a riotous group of French tailors who were afraid the sewing machine would spell the end of their trade. Thimonnier never recovered and died pretty much penniless.
  • Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss) once worked in advertising with his most famous ad campaign being one he created for Standard Oil who owned “Flit”, a popular insecticide of the day. The campaign slogan was “Quick, Henry, the Flit!”, which was more or less the “Got Milk?” or “Where’s the Beef?” of its day.
  • There are some words that change their meaning based on whether the first letter is capitalized or not. These words are collectively known as “capitonyms”. These capitonyms are particularly troublesome when they appear at the beginning of a sentence, as there is no way, based on the single word alone, to tell which meaning is being referred to. Examples of these include: August vs. august (month vs majestic or venerable); Calorie vs. calorie (1000 calories vs. 1 calorie); Moon vs. moon (the Earth’s natural satellite vs. any natural satellite); Divine vs. divine (related to God vs. to discover by intuition or insight); etc.
  • Large enough quantities of capsaicin (the thing that makes peppers hot) may cause your skin to turn blue-ish, severely inhibit your breathing, cause convulsions, and possible eventual death. However, the relatively small amount of capsaicin in peppers makes it unlikely you’d ever come in contact with enough of this to have this actually happen, unless someone sprayed a significant amount of law enforcement grade pepper spray directly at you for an extended period.
  • Joseph L. Rosenfield in 1928 invented the churning process that gives peanut butter the smooth texture we have today. He originally licensed this process to Pond Company, who makes Peter Pan peanut butter. In 1932, he started his own peanut butter company, which he named Skippy.
  • In Alfred Hitchcock’s movie, Psycho, the shower scene was made up from 90 different shots using 70 different camera angles. The entire movie only took six weeks to shoot, however, that one shower scene took just over 1 week to complete. It is commonly stated that Hitchcock used cold water in the shower to make Janet Leigh scream seem more authentic, however, this is false. So what does one week worth of work, and 90 shots from 70 camera angles get you? Only 45 seconds of film.
  • Even a nuclear war won’t get you out of paying your taxes or keep the Internal Revenue Service from coming after you. Since the 1960s, the U.S. Treasury Department has had an Internal Revenue Manual guiding IRS employees on how to function in the event of wars, natural disasters, pandemic influenza, terrorist attacks and yes, nuclear explosions. According to the manual, the agency would expect to resume assessing and collecting taxes within 30 days of the attack/emergency. Several proposals of guidelines are in place, depending on the situation, that include cash grants to survivors, the government paying off outstanding bank loans and mortgages, the government buying assets destroyed in the attack and abandoning the existing tax policies for new ones that will fund the rebuilding process.

Other Interesting Stuff:

man-in-the-iron-maskWho Was The Real Man In The Iron Mask?

On November 19, 1703, a tomb in the Bastille’s Saint Paul Cemetery welcomed the corpse of a man who had spent almost the last four decades of his life in various prisons of France. He is without a doubt the most famous prisoner in French history, even though nobody knows why he had to spend over thirty-five years in prison, reportedly in near perfect isolation and often with his face covered. The first known record of the man dates back to July of 1669 when Marquis de Louvois in a letter to the governor of Pignerol prison, Bénigne Dauvergne de Saint-Mars, stated a prisoner by the name of Eustache Dauger would be arriving, who was “only a valet.” This man would go on to be the “man in the iron mask.” But was this his real name? That is uncertain, and in the letter it is clear that the name was added by a different person than who wrote the rest of the letter. Why this is the case is one of the many mysteries surrounding this prisoner. From here we have numerous… (more)

chopsticks-340x509Why Do Asian Nations Use Chopsticks?

Created roughly 4,000-5,000 years ago in China, the earliest versions of something like chopsticks were used for cooking (they’re perfect for reaching into pots full of hot water or oil) and were most likely made from twigs. While it’s difficult to nail down a firm date, it would seem it wasn’t until around 500-400 AD that they began being used as table utensils. One factor that contributed to this switch was a population boom across the country. Consequently, resources, particularly for cooking, became incredibly scarce.  As a result, people began cutting their food into tiny pieces so it would cook faster. The bite sized… (more)

nerves-arm-340x648What Causes Arms, Legs, and Feet to “Fall Asleep”

Technically known as “paresthesia”, this syndrome is caused by the compression of specific nerves. When you sit cross-legged, sleep with your arm above your head, or position any limb in such a way to put excess pressure on a nerve, that nerve will stop sending impulses normally. Should the pressure be great, or the duration be long, the nerve will eventually stop sending impulses altogether.  Any area the nerve services will essentially then “fall asleep”.  Think of a person standing on a garden hose. It’s hard for the water to get to the nozzle when the person’s feet get in the way. If the person’s heavy enough, or she stands on the hose for too long and the hose fully compresses, water will eventually stop flowing entirely. Once this pressure is relieved… (more)

thinking-womanWhy Do People Move Their Eyes When Trying to Remember Something?

Down and to the left, straight-head but unfocused, and, of course, up and to the right, when asked a tough question or to recall a long-buried memory, most of us shift our eyes. Although there is no definitive answer as to why we do this, there are two primary theories that attempt to explain why we shift our eyes when trying to formulate an answer. Wiring in the Brain: Beginning in the 1970s, neuropsychologists in the emerging field of neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) began experimenting with the well-known but poorly understood phenomenon of people looking to the side (and sometimes up or down), when trying to remember, or when answering a difficult question (called lateral eye movements or LEM). Knowing that the two… (more)

The_Beaneater-340x281Why Beans Give You Gas

Beans contain a sugar molecule called ‘Oligosaccharides’. These types of sugars cannot be digested by the stomach or small intestine. They get passed on to the large intestine where numerous types of bacteria begin to break them down. During the process, the bacteria release several different types of gases, mainly hydrogen, nitrogen and carbon dioxide. Don’t be concerned about these particular gases, they are stench-free!  Your fetid flatulence affliction is from a different source. About 1/3 of the microbes end up producing methane as a result of breaking down these sugars. Once the methane builds up to the point that it begins to produce pressure on your… (more)

This Week’s Podcast Episodes:

Quote of the Week:

  • “In caveman days sleeping/eating all day was a sign of success. So yeah, I did nothing today, but I also didn’t get eaten by a tiger so back off.” –Jeff Wysaski
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