Weekly Wrap Volume 132

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

periodic-tableThe Transfermium WarsIf the Transfermium Wars raged from the late 1960s to the late 1990s, how is it that so few people have ever heard of them? Because they were fought by rival groups of scientists over who would get to name newly discovered chemical elements. PARENT TRAP: When someone discovers a new chemical element, it’s the tradition in the scientific community that the founder gets to name it. The system works pretty well, except for when more than one scientist or group of scientists claims to be the discoverer. Take the elements that were initially known as numbers: 104, 105…(more)

man-and-babyCan Men Lactate?The ability to lactate exists in a variety of male animals, though male milk production is typically a rare occurrence. However, male Dayak fruit bats are commonly known to lactate. So what about human male lactation? Believe it or not, men can, in fact, lactate. Possessing all the necessary equipment (see: Why Do Men Have Nipples), the main reasons men don’t have it happen very often is mostly just a lack of sufficient amounts of a single necessary hormone. Milk is produced in small hollow cavities in breast tissue called alveoli, where the linings contain cells that secrete milk when properly triggered. While there are…(more)

flying-sheepThat Time the Italian Military Experimented with Parsheep

Whether it’s flying tanks , literal bat bombs, surprisingly effective pigeon guided missiles, chicken heated nuclear weapons, or dogs that are trained to gruesomely take down tanks, humans have been using animals in war in a variety of bizarre ways. Today we’re here to talk about yet another seemingly absurd animal war-time event of the 20th century that actually turned out to be something of a revolution in warfare- parasheep. The actual innovation these parachuting sheep represented was the “flying supply column”, a revolutionary idea that involved supporting a ground-based force…(more)

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Bonus Quick Facts

  • The first full meal eaten on the Moon consisted of bacon, cookies and coffee, along with some peaches and a glass of grapefruit juice. A commonly touted supposed “fact,” derived from this is that bacon was the first item eaten on the Moon, but this isn’t true. A very small something was eaten shortly before the meal. When Buzz Aldrin set off on the Apollo 11 mission, he took with him a small communion kit given to him by Rev Dean Woodruff, so that he could symbolically take part in the ceremony with the other members of his Presbyterian church. This kit contained a small piece of communion bread and a small vial of wine, both of which Aldrin consumed after saying a prayer during the Apollo 11 radio blackout. This was also, unsurprisingly, the first religious service held on the Moon. Aldrin had initially planned to share his Communion prayer with the people of Earth, but NASA requested at the last minute that he not do this in order to avoid offending people not of the Christian faith, as had happened when the crew of Apollo 8 had read a passage from Genesis. Aldrin agreed and instead performed the ceremony privately while Armstrong “respectfully observed”. This occurred before the pair ate their first meal on the Moon, making communion bread the first thing eaten on the Moon.
  • When in a weightless environment, human’s naturally poop more. Because of this, in the days of the Apollo missions, NASA fed astronauts an ultra-low fiber diet prior to missions to minimize the amount of pooping they would do in space.
  • Approximately 10 million trees per year are cut down to make the world’s supply of toilet paper. While the number can vary quite a bit from tree to tree and with different kinds of toilet paper, a very rough ballpark figure is that each tree produces approximately 1,000-2,000 rolls of TP. People in the United States on average use approximately 50% more toilet paper per person (about 24 rolls per person, per year) than other Western nations, primarily due to the reluctance of Americans to adopt inexpensive water washing systems like bidets. Crunching the numbers, if Americans on the whole made the switch, that would save around three and a half billion rolls of toilet paper per year, or a little over two million trees annually.
  • Former New York Herald publisher James Gordon Bennett, Jr. once owned a 300 ft. yacht, the $635,000 ($17.8 million today) Lysistrata built by William Denny & Son of Dumbarton, Scotland. Among many other luxuries, the yacht included a padded stall for a cow, so he’d always have fresh milk, cream, and butter while he was at sea.
  • Lyman Ward and Cindy Pickett, better known as Mr. and Mrs. Bueller on Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, first met on the set of that film and subsequently got married in 1986. Like in the movie, they had two children, a boy and a girl; unfortunately, they did not name them Ferris and Jeanie, but rather Shane and Miranda.
  • On July 1, 2010, Finland became the first nation in the world to make internet access a legal right for its citizens, requiring at that time that internet access providers make available for purchase a minimum of a 1 Mbps connection within 2 km of every Finnish citizen, no small feat considering certain very remote regions of the country. Their original plan was to increase this to 100 Mbps by 2015, something that supposedly is close to happening. However, Finnish citizens are required to pay for the last step lines to their door, which in extreme remote regions may mean paying for the full 2 km of the last leg of the line. So, many in such regions just go with slower cellular connections instead.

Other Interesting Stuff

carlpetterssonCarl Emil Pettersson: The Unlikely King

On Christmas Day 1904, Carl Emil Pettersson stood at a crossroads – either he was going to be eaten by hungry cannibals or become a member of the Tabar people. Happily, the latter occurred, after which he led a rather remarkable life. Born in October 1875 in Sweden, at around the age of 17 Pettersson went to sea. Working his way across the Pacific, by 1898 he was employed by the Neuguinea-Compagnie, a German trading company. While recruiting among the islands of Papua New Guinea aboard the Herzog Johan Albrecht in December 1904, the ship…(more)

jail-340x512Are 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…(more)

urine-340x512Why do Vitamins Make Urine Bright Yellow?

If you’ve ever taken a daily multivitamin you too might have noticed your urine turning a bright yellow-ish color. Take your vitamins and eat some asparagus and you might just think you’re dying the next time you pee! What’s happening is that urine will turn a bright, sometimes neon, yellow in response to excess riboflavin. Riboflavin, also known as vitamin B2, is a common ingredient in almost all multi-vitamins. It was first discovered in 1872, when chemist Alexander Wynter Blyth noticed a pigment in milk that was yellow-green. In 1879, it was reported…(more)

shipwreck-340x238Flotsam and Jetsam

Bumping into a rock or a reef, war, swamped by rough weather or high waves, pilot error or pirates, there are a variety of ways a ship can sink. After it does, depending on whether it floated out on its own, was thrown overboard or sank to Davy Jones Locker, the equipment, cargo and bits of ship that leave a wreck have distinct names, with the distinction classically being important in maritime law. Flotsam denotes that wreckage from a ship that is later found floating on the sea’s surface. The word traces its roots to the early 1600s and the Anglo-French floteson, which derived from the Old…(more)

woman-pressing-grapes-340x470Do Wine Makers Really Walk Over Grapes With Their Feet?

Perhaps no image is more synonymous with the act of wine making than that of a person smushing grapes with their bare feet to extract the precious juices contained therein (in the grapes, not the inevitably sweaty feet). But did winemakers ever commonly do this? The answer to this question largely depends on who you ask. Today, certain winemakers, usually ones that have some sort of a financial interest in it, (at least publicly) maintain that grape stomping was an integral part of winemaking history. However, historians tend to think it was a relatively rare practise. To be clear, nobody is saying that ancient people didn’t crush grapes with their feet to extract the juices; rather…(more)



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