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Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: Do Blondes Have More Fun When They’re Lions?

December 14, 2015

Lion Booties | UncommonGoods

Unfortunately, no. Blonde lions don’t have much fun at all. For a long time, biologists were stumped about the subtle nuances in a lion’s mane. They knew they could factor in to mating, but other than vanity, what message did they send? Turns out the color and length of a lion’s mane can alter dramatically in a short time, depending on nourishment, habitat, and testosterone levels. When a male lion is going through a rough patch, his mane will be lighter. This sends a message to potential mates that now might not be the best time. To see how this manifested itself, researchers set up lion dummies in a habitat, each outfitted with a different mane—from the healthy and long darker manes to short and light. They then blasted the sounds of hyenas at a kill to act as a dinner bell to the lions. Nine times out of ten, the female lions gathered around the long, dark-maned lion. Yet another win for tall, dark, and handsome.

Lion Booties | $25

Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: What Kind of Water Freezes Fastest?

December 13, 2015

Cocktail Ice Mold Set | UncommonGoods

If you said “cold,” you’re actually getting colder. Unlike any other compound known to science, water has an irregular depression curve, which means that it becomes a solid—ice—more readily at a warmer temperature than at a few degrees colder. First noticed by Aristotle in the 4th century BCE, and also pointed out later by Francis Bacon and René Descartes, this quirky property is now known as the Mpemba Effect, named for the Tanzanian student who studied its influence on ice cream freezing in 1963. Since then, researchers have found that the phenomenon is due to a complex interplay between the covalent bonds that hold one oxygen and two hydrogen atoms together (forming water), and the weaker hydrogen bonds that hold water molecules together. This counterintuitive “sweet spot” for freezing water means that you should use warm water (not hot) in your ice cube trays if you’re in a hurry. It’s also part of the reason why hockey rink Zambonis use warm water to resurface the ice in between periods. So if you’re still waiting for that cold water to solidify, water you waiting for?

Cocktail Ice Mold Set | $20

Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: Has a Snowflake Ever Met its Match?

December 11, 2015

Snow Gauge | UncommonGoods

You may have heard the conventional wisdom that no two snowflakes are alike—the mind-boggling notion that every single one of the billions of snowflakes that fall on the earth each year is, well, special. While this observation is essentially true, the devil’s in the tiny, crystalline details. Basically, there’s nothing in the natural laws that govern the formation of these little beauties that says they have to be one-of-a-kind. They’re all made of water molecules that crystallize in the atmosphere with a characteristic hexagonal geometry. In 1988, Nancy Knight, a researcher for the National Center for Atmospheric Research, reported finding two flakes of the hollow column type captured from a Wisconsin snowstorm that were a visual match. The thing is, even that extremely rare pair was different on the atomic level. In other words, while it’s possible for two flakes to have an identical arrangement of water molecules, it’s not exactly probable, and ultimately impossible to verify. So if the notion of special snowflakes is frozen in your mind, you should just let it go…

Snow Gauge | $80

Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: How Broad is the Side of a Barn?

December 8, 2015

Barn Wood USA Side Table | UncommonGoods

What’s the latest discovery in particle physics? The fact that physicists actually have a whimsical sense of humor. For one thing, the vocabulary of this esoteric field includes the quirky term “barn.” It’s a minuscule unit of measurement based on the cross-sectional area of a uranium nucleus and describes the tiny target for colliding nuclear particles. But why “barn” for something so…much smaller than a barn? It’s derived from the old saying that someone “couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn,” riffing on the difficulty of shooting charged particles at the world’s smallest bullseye.  Bonus fact: there are two minor measurement terms related to “barn” which follow the farm building metaphor—an “outhouse,” and a “shed.” Could be “chicken coop” was already taken by the guys over in nanotechnology.

Barn Wood USA Side Table | $198

Uncommon Knowledge

Do Your Genes Make You Wander?

December 7, 2015

Cork Globe | UncommonGoodsWe all have those friends who update their social media from a different country every month; who come home for the holidays with stories of faraway lands, intoxicating food, and future adventures. So what makes some chase waterfalls while others are more than happy to stick the rivers and the lakes that they’re used to?

Turns out, your genetics can determine whether you’re a nester or a wanderluster. In 1999, a group of four scientists at UC Irvine set out to explore the migration patterns and gene pool distribution of prehistoric human beings. Originally intending to find a link between the dopamine receptor D4 (DRD4) and Attention Deficit Disorder, they discovered another correlation: people with DRD4 genes tend to be thrill-seeking and migratory.

Almost all of the study participants with this gene had a long history of traveling—and this phenomenon can be traced back to where we came from and whether our ancestors were migratory. Only a small portion of the genetic pool contains this trait. Most of the population prefers to “develop intensive methods for using limited amounts of land.” Possessors of the DRD4 gene, however, are intent on seeking out uninhabited (or in modern times, unfamiliar) lands to find fresh resources. Happy travels!

Cork Globe | $129.00