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Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: What caused the first speeding ticket?

June 15, 2015

Personalized Family Ride MinivanIf you guessed a whopping twelve miles per hour, you were right. In 1899, cab driver Jacob German was driving his car through the streets of New York City, just minding his own business. Though horse-powered cabs were still more prevalent but at the time, there were roughly 60 Electric Vehicles worked as cabs throughout the city. A bicycle cop saw Jacob’s cab speeding down Lexington Avenue at breakneck speed (12mph, if you recall), easily pulled him over with his bike, and delivered a stern reprimand for ignoring the posted 8mph speed limit on straightaways and 4mph around curves. For this, Jacob German was thrown in jail for an indeterminate amount of time. This was the first speeding punishment on record; the first written citation came five years later in Ohio. Harry Myers of Dayton received a ticket for his own blistering speed…also 12 miles per hour.

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Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: What’s the Matter with Glass?

June 10, 2015

Recycled Spiral Glass Pitcher | UncommonGoods

If you got just one thing from your elementary school science class, it’s the fact that matter comes in three states—solid, liquid, and gas. And maybe you retained the fact that all matter will change states under the right conditions. Water, for example, takes three forms in your kitchen alone: liquid water, ice, and water vapor (steam). Nothing uncommon so far. Class dismissed.

But wait—what about glass? Solid, right? Windowpanes, drinking glasses, and tiny unicorns are all solid stuff that doesn’t go with the flow. But you may have heard that glass is actually a “super-cooled liquid.” A solid theory? Not quite. Glass is, in fact, an intermediate state of matter that your chemistry teacher probably glossed over—an amorphous solid. Informally, the term “super-cooled liquid” could describe the variable states of any kind of matter (like saying that ice is “super-cooled” water). But glass is special, stuck somewhere between liquid and solid. To us, it appears solid in every way, but on the molecular level, it’s not as clearly organized as crystals like table salt or diamond. Kind of like those people who appear to have it all together, but really, they’re in dire need of the Marie Kondo treatment.

Recycled Spiral Glass Pitcher, $34.99 

Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: Is there seawater in that taffy?

June 9, 2015

Salt Water Taffy | UncommonGoods

Nope, sorry. It has been widely agreed upon that Saltwater Taffy’s origins come from the mind of a business-savvy candy maker, though the specifics remain a little murky. However, there is a Jersey Shore legend that seems pretty convincing:

In 1883, a massive storm hit Atlantic City, clearing the boardwalk of many businesses. Most remaining storefronts were flooded, including a candy shop owned by David Bradley. When a girl came by the shop to buy some taffy after the storm, Bradley looked around the watery store and joked, “All I have is salt water taffy.” His mother overheard the exchange and suggested that it was a catchy name. It was eventually picked up by other vendors in Atlantic City, and then adopted by other vendors in coastal towns. Talk about a name that sticks! Ba-dum-chhh.

Salt Water Taffy, $6.50

Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: Should you yell at that crow?

June 7, 2015

Perching Birds Bookends | UncommonGoods

NO! Definitely no! Unsettling studies have shown that crows have the ability to remember the faces of threatening humans. Researchers at the University of Washington’s School of Forest Resources wore a unique mask as they trapped, banded, and released up to 15 birds at five study sites near Seattle. The released birds immediately began to go Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds on the mask wearer, encouraging other birds to join in and eventually forming an angry mob. As if that wasn’t horrifying enough, the researchers later put the masks back on while traveling to a different area. Crows immediately recognized the “dangerous face” and began to Hitchcock it up again, showing that the birds learned of the threat through social means and not a direct experience. So what happens when you’re on a crow’s hit list? The bothered crow will first give out harsh calls, called scolds, in order to tell other crows a mob is in order. Then, the mob of birds takes action, diving from the sky to drive you out of their territory. Think the grudge won’t last too long? Crows can live for up to 20 years, meaning you’ll be the target of retribution for quite some time—and even from some birds you never even met. We’d hate to be a scarecrow right about now.

Perching Birds Bookends, $90


Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: Why is it called a “bar and grill?”

June 2, 2015

Tabletop Party Grill | UncommonGoods

Often named for a colorful proprietor or fictional drinking buddy, the “bar and grill” is a familiar fixture in big cities and small towns alike. The term is shorthand for a drinking establishment that serves food (beyond bowls of stale peanuts), and the combination may have been encouraged by blue laws that allowed bars to admit minors if they offered a solid food menu along with their liquid one. Hence, the “grill” in bar and grill. Case closed, right? Not so fast. Time for another round.

The “bar” part of the term most likely hails from the turn of the 17th century, describing the railing or bar that provided a clear barrier between thirsty tavern patrons and the potent potables of the house (and also served as a handy support for tired or tipsy patrons). Over time, the name of this beloved barrier became synonymous with the drinking establishments themselves. But there’s a little more to the “grill” part of this etymological equation. Costumed interpreters at Colonial Williamsburg’s Raleigh Tavern proudly point out that, in their joint at least, “bar and grill” may refer to the teller window-like gate that locks up their precious grog off hours—the 18th century forerunner of the horizontal bar familiar to happy hour patrons today. So the “grill” part of “bar and grill” may have its origins in liquor security rather than kitchen equipment. Now…last call!

Tabletop Party Grill, $149