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Uncommon Knowledge

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.

Portable Table Tennis Set, $39.95

Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: Can two hearts beat as one?

January 26, 2015

Anatomical Heart Pendant | UncommonGoods

More than a cheesy line from your high school poetry writing class, this phenomenon is actually a thing—as long as you’re really into each other. A study took 32 couples and had them stare at one another for three minutes straight as their heart rates were monitored. Eventually, the heart rates began to sync up. What’s interesting is that it was the women who tended to adjust their heart rates to their partners. Researchers speculated that stronger ability for empathy could have been behind the trend. Now if only you and your significant other could sync up who does the dishes.

Anatomical Heart Pendant, $180

Uncommon Knowledge

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.

Ruffled Gold Dipped Lace Statement Necklace, $225

Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: Is that honey expired?

January 12, 2015

Manhattan Rooftop Honey Flight | UncommonGoods

NOPE! And it never will be, as long as it’s sealed and stored in a dry place! That’s because honey is a sugar. All sugars are hygroscopic, meaning they don’t contain much water in their natural state. Very few bacteria or microorganisms can survive in an environment like that. One thing that sets honey apart from other sugars, and makes it an excellent long-term resident in your cupboard, is its high acidity, which kills off anything trying to make a home in the honey. The oldest honey that has been found dates back 5,000 years. Whether that particular sample is edible depends on its storage. However, if you were to seal up your favorite honey, tuck it away in a safe, dry place, your great great great, several more times great grandchildren could partake.

Manhattan Rooftop Honey Flight, $45

 

Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: What’s the highest form of intelligence?

January 5, 2015

Great Minds Puzzles | UncommonGoods

 

If you want to know about genius, might as well consult a bona fide genius like Alexander D. Wissner-Gross, Ph.D. His recent research asserts that, mystical as it may sound, the highest form of intelligence is the ability to predict the future—or at least possible futures. That is, intelligence acts to maximize future freedom of action. For those of us who aren’t card-carrying Mensa members, that means that it’s really smart to keep your options open—as many as possible, for as long as possible. By studying both biological intelligence (animal behavior) and artificial intelligence (computers), Wissner-Gross has found that the ability to predict and pursue probable futures (think chess master strategy) is beneficial to a being’s success in navigating the challenges posed by its environment.

To test these theories, Wissner-Gross developed an A.I. called Entropica, “sapient software” which learns to negotiate its environment without even being told what to do. But before you panic over an impending robot takeover, note that Wissner-Gross also posits that the accumulation of intelligence follows the process of taking control of an environment, not vice versa. In other words, Matrix-like dystopias notwithstanding, computers won’t become über-intelligent and then plot to take over the world. No, they’re becoming über-intelligent as they take over the world, helping their human architects thrive in the process. So take comfort in Wissner-Gross’ prediction—it’s the smart thing to do.

Great Minds Puzzles, $20