Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: Is love an international language?

February 11, 2015

Scratch Map | UncommonGoods

Love may make the world around, but it also appears that love gets a little lost in translation. People from the U.S., Lithuania and Russia were surveyed on their understanding and expectations of romance, revealing some surprising differences. The Eastern Europeans, for example, reported falling in love faster than their American counterparts. 90% of the surveyed Lithuanians, for example, reported falling in love in less than a month. 58% of Americans claims it takes two months to a year before they know they’re in love. According to the journal Cross-Cultural Research, the Russians and Lithuanians also described romantic love as being “temporary and inconsequential.” On the other hand, Americans tended to see romance as something to be pursued in long-term relationships, and used descriptors like “friendship” and “comfort” when describing romance, which their counterparts rarely did. It is possible that Western European opinions on the topic fall somewhere between the two, but the French respondents couldn’t stop kissing long enough to be bothered with a survey.

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Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: How fast can you fall in love?

February 11, 2015

Math Glasses | UncommonGoods

In spite of what you have been told by countless novels and romantic movies, no one falls in love instantly. It takes time. Specifically, it takes about one fifth of a second. So… not very much time, but that’s a moment, anyway. And it’s an important moment, because according to a Syracuse University study, that fifth of a second is all the preparation your brain needs to start pumping out dopamine, oxytocin, adrenaline and vasopressin—chemicals whose function ranges from creating pleasure to enhancing social behavior. In fact, scientists compare this flood of neurotransmitters to the euphoric experience induced by cocaine. This study from 2010 is seen by some as a long-awaited validation of Dr. Robert Palmer’s 1986 thesis that, “you might as well face it, you’re addicted to love.”

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Uncommon Knowledge: Can you send love by mail?

February 8, 2015

Carve-A-Stamp Kit | UncommonGoods

That depends. You can send lavish gifts. You can send tender love letters. But if your love just takes the form of you yourself with a brimming heart… then, yes, you can send it through the mail, but we don’t recommend it. One star-crossed lover in China has already attempted it. He talked a co-worker into taping him into a cardboard box addressed to his girlfriend across town. Unfortunately, the courier got lost, and what should have been a 30-minute trip stretched on for 3 hours. The man later explained that he realized that he was running out of air, but the cardboard was too thick for him to make a hole. He could have shouted for help but, you know, he didn’t want to spoil the surprise. And what a surprise it was. When the unsuspecting woman opened her unexpected package, what she found inside was indeed her boyfriend—unconscious and nearly suffocated to death. Paramedics were quickly called, and the parcel’s hapless contents were successfully revived.

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Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: Does love mean anything to you?

February 1, 2015

Portable Table Tennis Set | UncommonGoods

If so, then you are probably a tennis player. And in that case, you also know that tennis has a scoring system that is unique among sports. Perhaps most familiar is the fact that zero points is known as Love. There are various theories about the origin of that strange application of the word, but they all can be traced back to France where the game itself originated. It is possible, for example, that 16th century players colloquially referred to 0 as “the egg” because of its shape. That’s “l’oeuf” in French, which would later be Anglicized to be pronounced “love.” Other people think it’s more likely that the term derives from a period idiom about playing “for the love of the game,” which meant that someone was playing without money wagered on the outcome. Whatever the case, the terminology has made tennis the perfect game for Valentine’s Day, because even if you can’t score you’ve still got Love.

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Uncommon Knowledge: Which Saint gave lace a bad name?

January 19, 2015

Ruffled Gold Dipped Lace Necklace | UncommonGoods

In the 7th century A.D., Æthelthryth—better known by her Anglicized name, Audrey—was a daughter of East Anglian (present-day England) royalty who, despite becoming a queen, was primarily interested in a life of spiritual devotion. She even became a nun and founded her own abbey before eventually passing away and being canonized as a saint. Legend has it, however, that one folly that lingered from St. Audrey’s highborn youth was a love of necklaces. And so the locals began to commemorate her by producing fine, lace necklaces. Fast forward to the 17th century, when three significant changes had occurred: The lace necklaces had grown to become low-quality goods sold to those on pilgrimage. The Puritans had ascended to power, and were busy looking down their noses at anything that smacked of prideful frippery. And the name of St. Audrey’s Lace had gradually been shortened to Tawdry Lace. Thus, the word “tawdry” came to mean anything cheap and vulgar.

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Uncommon Knowledge: What animal is evolving the fastest?

December 22, 2014

Baby Puppy Slippers | UncommonGoods

You’d never guess and answer. First, because the answer is the tuatara, an animal you probably haven’t heard of unless you’re from New Zealand. And second, because its record-setting evolutionary rate is disguised by the fact that its appearance hasn’t changed much in millions of years. The tuatara resembles a lizard, except that it has features that are more closely related to fish and birds, as well as some truly unique attributes, such as a light-sensing third eye. These creatures are the last living members of an order of animals that thrived during the Mesozoic period (as in, the age of dinosaurs), and they actually predate the appearance of lizards and snakes. But while fossils reveal that the tuatara looks essentially the same now as it did then, DNA extracted from those fossils compared to DNA from living specimens reveals a faster rate of change than is found in any other animal. Sadly, climate change is having an adverse effect on the tuatara: their gender is determined by the incubating temperature of each egg, and as their habitat grows warmer, fewer and fewer females are being born. While they may be the fastest evolving species on earth, evolution itself is such a slow process that it won’t be able to outpace this problem.

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Uncommon Knowledge: Is time travel possible?

December 21, 2014

The Only Constant is Change Desk Clock | UncommonGoods

Yes. It’s not only possible, but we have actual time travelers walking among us today. According to the Theory of Relativity, it is possible for speed or gravity to make time pass differently for separate observers. If that sounds vague and science-y, maybe a real-world example will help: if highly accurate, atomic clocks are aligned perfectly on earth, and one of those is sent into space, then one of those clocks will run faster than the other one. This is not caused by a mechanical problem with the clock, but happens through time itself being bent by the forces involved in space travel. So, all of those astronauts hanging out on the space station? Their time is passing faster than ours, and when they return to earth, they are actually younger than they would be if they had remained here. Ok, so not much younger, but it’s still true. Michael Finke and Peggy Whitson, who have spent more time on the space station than any other American man and woman, are 0.0093 and 0.0092 seconds younger, to be exact. And the man who has spent more time on the space station than anyone in history—Russia’s Sergei Krikalev, with 803 days in orbit—is a full 0.02 seconds younger! Maybe one day we will be able to reverse the time dilation, and these explorers can tell us about the wonders of life half a second in the future!

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Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: Do you want your gift quick or quickly?

December 19, 2014

Alphabet Factory Blocks | UncommonGoods

Most of us have had it pounded into our heads by dedicated English teachers that our adverbs should end with “ly.” We should “study diligently” instead of “study diligent,” and heaven help the child who tries to “talk correct.” But it turns out, this “ly” bias has not always been the case. For example, in the Old Testament, King Darius is “exceeding glad” that Daniel wasn’t eaten by lions. When Daniel Defoe was wanted to describe the weather on Robinson Crusoe’s island, he did so by saying it was “excessive hot” and the sea was “dreadful high.” It wasn’t until the 18th century when diehard grammar enthusiasts began insisting on an “ly” in order to distinguish between adverbs and adjectives. And yet some flat adverbs have stuck with is. We sleep tight, rather than tightly. Time goes fast, rather than fastly. And, of course, we all work very hard at work, rather than working hardly.

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