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Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: Why Does That Little Star Twinkle Twinkle?

August 15, 2016

Wish Upon A Star Diamond Necklace | UncommonGoods
“Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” got it all wrong. Stars, it turns out, simply sit pretty and quite still (for burning balls of plasma, that is) above Earth’s atmosphere. When their light passes through the atmosphere, however, it goes through multiple layers of varying densities. Those layers bounce the light around like a pinball machine, making it change color and density. So by the time the light reaches our eyes, it appears to scintillate. This sparkly atmospheric trick is especially strong when stars are on the horizon line. One particularly bright star, Sirius, “twinkles” so much in fact, that’s it’s frequently reported as a UFO.

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Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: Can Artists Win Olympic Gold?

August 10, 2016

Dancer Pose Print | Yoga Art | UncommonGoods

They once could. It was the great vision of International Olympic Committee founder Pierre de Coubertin to exalt both brain and brawn in a single program. While the concept was met with apprehension at first, in 1912 his dream was realized, and through 1948 the committee awarded artists medals alongside their sporty counterparts. There was one caveat: works of art were only considered if they “glorified a sporting ideal, an athletic competition or an athlete.” Additionally, professional artists were prohibited from entering, resulting in a largely forgettable event that has receded into history. Today, the art contest of yore has evolved into as a parallel exhibition and festival held at the sites of the games, carrying on the Olympics founder’s goal to marry the aesthetic and the athletic.

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Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: What Do You Call a Pancake in North Carolina?

August 8, 2016

Spicy Syrup | UncommonGoods

If you’ve ever asked for a coke, then been asked what kind of coke you wanted, then been utterly confused by the question, you’re familiar with the phenomenon of different areas of the U.S. using different words to describe the same thing. There are more reasons behind these linguistic lunacies than there are words for a sub… or a hoagie, or a grinder (or a hero, a poor boy, or sarney).

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Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: Who Invented the Hashtag?

August 3, 2016


Now a ubiquitous symbol used to tag social media content, it’s reasonable to assume that the hashtag [#] must be a Silicon Valley invention that can’t be older than the personal computer—right? #guessagain. Once called a “number sign” or “pound sign,” the character in question first appeared in bookkeeping parlance and typewriter keyboards in the 1880s (not the 1980s). Its modern origins may lie in shorthand for the Roman term libra pondo (“pound weight”), but a recent discovery suggests that the form of the hash mark goes back much farther in human history—WAY back, in fact. While studying Gorham’s cave in Gibraltar, archaeologists found a rough hashtag-like symbol carved into a natural platform of rock. They were confident that the carving was human-made and not the accidental result of activity like butchering game. They’ve dated the carving at around 37,000 BCE and here’s the amazing thing: it wasn’t made by Homo sapiens, but rather by our distant cousins the Neanderthals, making it possibly the oldest humanoid creation ever found. #prehistoricpoundsign #hominidhashtag #neanderthalsarepeopletoo

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Uncommon Knowledge: Is There a Higher Porpoise?

August 1, 2016


Humans aren’t the only mammals to indulge in recreational drugs. Some horses eat hallucinogenic weeds, elephants get drunk on fermented fruit, and big horn sheep nibble narcotic lichen. Add to the list bottlenose dolphins, which have their own unusual source for getting stoned: pufferfish. These fish are known for their ability to blow up like balloons to foil predators, but most species have an even more powerful defense mechanism: tetrodotoxin, a poison that makes them a foul-tasting meal. Having learned that pufferfish are deadly snacks (up to 1,200 times more poisonous than cyanide), dolphins instead enjoy the narcotic effects of low levels of tetrodotoxin dispersed in water. Film crews have documented dolphins playing with inflated puffers like biological beach balls, passing the hapless fish back and forth among their pod. But this game of puffer polo has a higher purpose: to make the annoyed fish release a cloud of tetrodotoxin which is then enjoyed by the pod for its serene, sub-lethal effects. Under its influence, the dolphins float upside down in a trance-like state, apparently enjoying the natural narcotic. Dude.

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Uncommon Knowledge: What Flag Inspired a Frozen Treat?

July 25, 2016

Hot and Cold Soapstone Handheld Bowls | UncommonGoods
What happens if you mix pink, brown, and white?

If those colors come in ice cream form, then what happens is a mouthwatering scoop of heaven. The strawberry, chocolate, and vanilla of Neapolitan ice cream have been colorfully cohabitating in America since the 1870s. But this palate-pleaser hasn’t always drawn from the same palette of flavors. Originally, any three varieties of ice cream might have appeared together (how do they get them to sit so perfectly side by side? More on that later), and it’s thought that the version we love today became standardized simply because those were the three most popular ice cream flavors in America at the time.

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Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: Has the Loch Ness Monster Been Found?

July 13, 2016


In case you haven’t been keeping tabs on the news of the weird lately, the body of the Loch Ness monster has been found. Well, sort of. Researchers surveying the depths of the Scottish loch with sonar imaging technology have rediscovered a 30-foot prop Nessie used in the 1970 film “The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes.” Sunk during filming in 1969, the model monster has been hanging out 180 meters deep on the loch bed ever since. The researchers with the Loch Ness Project didn’t expect to encounter any mysterious creatures—real or artificial—so finding the film artifact was a quirky coincidence to their scientific search for Nessie’s lair. “We have found a monster, but not the one many people might have expected,” commented Loch Ness expert Adrian Shine. In a bit of mythical monster synchronicity, a drone has captured what may be footage of a Bigfoot scampering through the Idaho landscape.

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