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Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: Is There a Mom in Your Computer?

May 2, 2016

27218_uk050216Sometimes, it seems like mothers aren’t honored enough. Sure, mom has a special holiday, but honestly, when’s the last time you called her? But if you’re reading this on a computer, there’s a built in tribute to motherhood right in front of you: the “motherboard.” The central circuit board of your computer, the motherboard could be considered the most important piece of hardware in your CPU—reason enough for reverence. How did these crucial components get their name? Why not daddy boards? The term hails from the early days of computing, when documents show the term “baby-board” to describe circuitry that branched off the motherboard. In an era when mothers were widely considered the sole caregivers for children, the maternal metaphor was a natural. “Baby-board” soon became the more specific term “daughterboard,” and this relationship infused computer architecture with a matriarchal tone that persists to this day, despite fathers’ more progressive role in raising kids. So the next time your computer helps you with a tedious task or performs some amazing feat of calculation, consider giving it a loving pat and saying “thanks, mom.”

Tesla Circuit Building Set | $100

Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: Is That Mother Bear Ready to Throw Down?

April 27, 2016

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Any Cub Scout, Brownie, or avid camper has heard this bit of wilderness wisdom: never get between a mother bear and her cubs. The conventional wisdom is that mother bears are fierce family protectors and symbols of maternal devotion. In The Revenant, Leonardo DiCaprio found this out the hard way…ouch. But are all mother bears such formidable foes? The bear facts are interesting: it depends on what member of the Ursidae family you encounter. Black bear moms—the type you’re most likely to cross paths with near populated areas of North America—are actually quite shy, and studies show that they’ll usually hide or retreat rather than defend their cubs against human threats. Not so heroic, black bear mom. Their brown counterparts, however, are a different story. Grizzly moms are much more likely to attack if they see people getting too close to their babies. So, the savage CG encounter that Leo endured is pretty plausible. And he did the right thing by playing dead—if you’re ever in such a situation, all you can do is grin and bear it.

Sagacious | $65-$120

Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: Who Is The Animal Kingdom’s Best Dance Crew?

April 25, 2016

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Snowball the cockatoo was left at an Indiana animal rescue center with a note from his owner. “Snowball likes to dance to this,” it said, referring to what was also left: a Backstreet Boys CD.

In 2007, Neurobiologist Aniruddh Patel stumbled upon a YouTube video of the bird, who appeared to be getting down to the boy band’s “Everybody.” If this bird were actually grooving to the beat, he wondered, it might have circuits in the brain for processing rhythm similar to ours.

So Patel paid a visit to Snowball and created an experiment to determine whether he was truly dancing—characterized by synchronized movements—or just looked like he was. Patel remixed the song at 11 different tempos, then recorded what Snowball did when his jam came on. For nine out of the 11 variations, he bobbed enthusiastically in sync (no pun intended)—well enough to consider him the first-ever nonhuman “dancer.”

Inspired by Snowball’s fancy footwork, Adena Schachner, then a psychology grad student at Harvard, went back to YouTube and narrowed thousands of clips of animals purportedly dancing to just 39 who seemed to genuinely synchronize. Twenty-nine were parrots, like Snowball, and the rest were Asian elephants, deeming a recreation of Dirty Dancing’s “the lift” highly unlikely.

Boogie Monster Dance Kit | $40

Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: Macaroni Fashion – Who Wore it Best?

April 20, 2016

No Break Pasta Pot and Strainer | UncommonGoods

If you were a young, upper class Englishman in the 17th or 18th century, chances are you set off on a Grand Tour—a rite of passage trip throughout the continent. In Italy, you most likely would have been served macaroni, and you would have found it delicious. Back at home, you would talk so much about its deliciousness that you and others like you would receive a nickname: The Macaroni Club. On-trend accessories, clothing, and one particularly extravagant wig would be deemed “very macaroni.” Later, Yankee Doodle would stick a feather in his cap and call it such.

So the next time your child brings home the quintessential Mother’s Day gift made in arts and crafts, wear it with pride, knowing you are accessorizing well. A macaroni necklace made of actual macaroni? How deliciously meta.

No Break Pasta Pot and Strainer | $60.00

Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: How Many Moms Does an Elephant Have?

April 18, 2016

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Hillary Rodham Clinton may not have much in common with certain elephants, but when she wrote It Takes a Village, she may have been inspired in part by mama pachyderms. That’s because all the female elephants in a herd take charge of the care, feeding, and education of any of the big babies born to their group. These elephant “Allomothers” pitch in to protect and nurture the initially blind calves—an endearing but practical parental system for rearing the next generation. And given that elephant gestation is a 22-month marathon, those other ladies might be grateful for the relative ease of a calf-sitting rotation.

Elephant Family Bookends | $65