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Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: What’s With Yankee Doodle & Macaroni?

July 27, 2015


We’ve all heard the patriotic ditty about Yankee Doodle heading to town on his pony, sticking a feather in his hat, and calling it Macaroni. The first few things on his to do list sound pretty reasonable: Heading into town on a pony, sure. Sticking a feather in one’s hat, of course, how jaunty! It’s when Mr. Doodle opts to “call it Macaroni” that things get a little off base. Turns out this Macaroni business started as the original lyrical insult. Like a rap battle but with more waistcoats and tricorne hats.

The British soldiers came up with this verse to mock the rough, unsophisticated American colonials they had to fight alongside during the French and Indian War. The whole burn about calling a feather in your hat Macaroni (the very idea!) stemmed from a cultural trend back in England at the time. Young British men of means had begun spending time in Europe in order to become more sophisticated. They returned with outlandish, high fashion clothing and mannerisms, along with a taste for exotic Italian dishes—like macaroni. Now, back to Mr. Doodle. In their song, the soldiers were suggesting that the Yankee was such a bumbling bumpkin that he was trying to imitate the latest style, but failing miserably. That was something a doodle (a fool or simpleton) would do while trying to be a dandy—get it?!?! Being that this is a pretty lame and convoluted insult, the Americans weren’t bothered by it at all and started singing the song themselves. Now stick that in your pipe and call it macaroni.

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Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: Could You Turn Into A Slice Of Pizza?

July 20, 2015

Your parents warned you that if you ate too many pizza slices, you’d turn into one. Turns out, if you ate enough and you were anything like a flamingo, you could have come pretty close. You might have noticed that flamingos can be the iconic pink, orange, or even white. They begin their lives with grey plumage—the color distinction later in life depends on their diet. Flamingos eat algae and crustaceans that contain pigments called carotenoids, mostly brine shrimp and blue-green algae. Enzymes in the liver break down the carotenoids into pink and orange pigment molecules that end up getting deposited in the feathers, bill, and legs of the birds. Captive flamingos tend to be a more vibrant pink since they’re fed more pigmented crustaceans like prawns. We eat foods with carotenoids, like carrots or even watermelon; we just don’t eat enough to affect our skin color.

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Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: What’s The Most Unusual Collection?

July 13, 2015


Collecting things is a common pastime, and each collection is as unique as its collector. If it can be collected, categorized, and obsessed over, somebody’s done it. From the familiar (dolls, comic books, snow globes) to the bizarre and unsavory (air sickness bags, toenail clippings), collectors have collected it. So what’s the most unusual collection in the world? Collectively, it must be the multiple collections of William Davies King. What does he collect? Everything. And nothing.

Chronicled in his 2008 book, Collections of Nothing, King’s accumulations of stuff are mundane but staggering in their variety—cereal boxes, tuna can labels, the patterns from the inside of security envelopes. His collecting began innocently enough, when he inherited a stamp collection. But this common collecting activity soon led to more and more esoteric and ephemeral items, crossing the line into what can only be called organized hoarding. Essentially, King was a collector of collections, and his book is a fascinating reflection on his futile efforts and his ultimate realization that he was collecting… nothing.

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Uncommon Knowledge

What’s Going On With The Robot Claw Game?

July 6, 2015

You put in your money. You position the claw over the stuffed giraffe so perfectly that future generations will most likely write songs about it. You make your brave descent. The prize is within your robotic grasp. The thrill is intoxicating. Then, without any warning, the claw grows listless and its tissue-thin grip slips right past the disappointed giraffe. What gives? Turns out, these infuriating machines are built with variable PSI strengths. It’s designed to “pay out” and give you a toy only as often as will guarantee a steep profit for the machine. Every 10-20 tries, the claw will regain its strength and deliver that giraffe to your loving arms. So much for beginner’s luck.

Hydraulic Robotic Arm Construction Set | $35.00

Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: Can You Trust Your Gut?

July 1, 2015
Considering the fact that it’s connected to your brain by a nerve that handles all things “anxious feelings,” yeah. The vagus nerve, also known as the “wandering nerve,” has multiple branches that go from the brain’s cerebellum, lightly touches your heart, then finds it final destination at the lowest part of your abdomen—those gut feelings you get about a bad date or that questionable job offer. The vagus nerve is constantly sending updated sensory information about the body’s organs to your brain, meaning gut instincts are literally emotional intuitions that are transferred up to your brain—jury’s still out on what happens when you have a bad feeling about something AND indigestion. That might call for a sick day.

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