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Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: Why Did the Dad Cross the Road?

June 8, 2016

21361_dads_playbookThe fact that dad jokes are terrible isn’t exactly carved in stone, but it’s often taken for granite. Recent studies show that dad humor is actually full of useful information. For example, the fact that chicken coops have two doors because if they had four, they’d be chicken sedans. Or the fact that employees of calendar factories can get fired if they take a couple of days off. Or the fact that dreaming about being a muffler can leave you exhausted the next morning. So the astounding secret of dad humor is that it’s really a covert campaign to share fatherly wisdom, in the guise of cringe-worthy jokes and punishing puns. But don’t look to your dad to help with your knowledge of math: another study has shown that 5/4 of fathers are bad with fractions.

Dad’s Playbook | $13

Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: Why Don’t Dads Squeak to Their Pipsqueaks?

June 1, 2016

Lil Mib | UncommonGoodsPapa don’t reach: If you’ve ever tried to recall dear old dad cooing to you as a child but couldn’t, your memory likely isn’t to blame. Researchers have known for decades that moms tend to speak to their babies in high-pitched, repetitive “baby talk” voices, or what they refer to as parentese or motherese — isn’t that right wittle muffin muffin? But after deciding to check, they recently discovered dads don’t do the same. At this past summer’s Meeting of the Acoustical Society of America, speech scientists at Washington State University revealed what they found after recording mamas and papas speaking to their 2 ½ year-olds for a full day: Each mother raised the pitch of her voice by an average of 40 hertz when talking to her preschooler, whereas very few fathers changed their tones.

Earlier studies have concluded that baby talk may help kids learn language skills, but word to your father: his pitch is still perfect. “Dads talk to kids like they talk to adults,” said study co-author Mark VanDam — something his team surmised could help wee ones communicate better with the outside world. Seems like the language of love is universal, indeed.

Lil’ Mib (Message in a Box) | $66

Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: Who Made Jaws’ Jaws?

May 31, 2016

22179_SharkSlippersThe blockbuster’s iconic poster image owes as much to a museum as it does to pulp fiction illustration. The monstrous Great White shark surging from the bottom of the frame toward a hapless swimmer was designed by Roger Kastel for the paperback edition of Peter Benchley’s 1974 novel. From that, you might expect that Kastel spent weeks in a wetsuit and a shark cage, studying the ocean’s uber-predators firsthand. Nope. He just took the C train uptown to the American Museum of Natural History to study their shark exhibits, dry and threatened only by mobs of tourists. Kastel’s museum inspirations might have included the fearsome, disembodied reconstruction of a Carcharodon megalodon’s jaws, a shark ancestor that terrorized the seas some 10 million years ago. The bathing beauty at the top of Kastel’s image was actually a model that he had been sketching for a Good Housekeeping ad. He asked her to stay a little longer and had her pose for the image by lying on a stool and pretending to swim.

Handmade Shark Slippers | $42

Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge
Wedding Etiquette: Do I Have to Invite the Underworld?

May 18, 2016

First Kiss Personalized Art | UncommonGoodsWeddings are spirited occasions. Love. Happiness. Cake. Champagne. The Electric Slide. There was a time, though, when couples would want their big day to be anything but, taking many measures to ensure that an RSVP was not extended to evil-intentioned souls from the underworld.

Contrary to popular belief, matching bridesmaids dresses was a tradition started not by brides with a twisted sense of humor, but rather Romans who believed having certain female guests wear dresses that matched the bride’s would confuse supernatural party crashers seeking to do harm to the newlyweds. If they didn’t fall for that, then surely wearing a veil—another spirit-deterring measure—would do the trick. Finally, a lift over the threshold was thought to prevent underworld beings from turning a love nest into a haunted house. Boogie-woogies, after all, should always remain at the reception.

First Kiss Personalized Art | $300.00 – 500.00

Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: What Game’s Got the Most Moves?

May 11, 2016

16834_uk051116“A computer once beat me at chess, but it was no match for me at kickboxing.”

– Emo Philips

Most amateurs who’ve tried playing chess can agree on one thing: the basic rules aren’t hard to follow, but learning to play well is incredibly difficult. There’s a reason that the “game of kings” is associated with mind-bending strategic thinking, MENSA-level IQs, and supercomputers: the Shannon number—a calculation of all the possible iterations of moves in games of chess. Calculated by mathematician and cryptographer Claude Shannon in 1950 for a study on teaching a computer to play chess, the Shannon number is between 10^111 and 10^123. Incredibly, that’s substantially larger than the number of atoms in the known universe—a mere 10^81. It’s no wonder the game is a nail-biting brain teaser.

Bonus: also in 1950, Shannon invented Theseus, a magnetic mouse. Named for the maze-running hero of Greek mythology, Theseus was programmed to “learn” to navigate mazes, and may be the first rudimentary form of artificial intelligence.

Wobble Chess Set | $250

Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: What’s the Gold Standard for Sushi?

May 9, 2016

41752_uk050916As much a fine art as a cuisine, Japanese food can be a pricey proposition. Sushi in particular inspires chefs to go to great lengths, pushing the envelope of freshness, presentation, and…price. Sure, the ingredients can be expensive, and sushi preparation isn’t exactly cooking 101, but unusual and extravagant preparations also add a premium. Take for example the current record holder for world’s most expensive sushi: nigiri prepared by Filipino chef Angelito Araneta at his Manila restaurant. Wrapped in 24-karat gold leaf and garnished with diamonds, these five pieces of sushi will set you back 91,800 pesos, or nearly $2,000 USD. Yes, that’s about $400 per piece. At that price, you could fly from Manila to Tokyo and enjoy the equally famous (and much more traditional), 20-piece tasting menu at Sukiyabashi Jiro (about $300). The tiny Tokyo establishment—subject of the fascinating documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi—is often cited as the best sushi in the world, and President Obama seems to agree after dining there on a state visit in 2014. No gold or diamonds at Jiro’s joint; that would just be fishy.

Sushi Board Set | $75

Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: Where Did the Silhouette Get its Name?

May 8, 2016

Custom Silhouette Tote | UncommonGoods

Long before selfies, the silhouette was a popular, cheap alternative to formal portraiture like oil paintings or marble busts. From the seventeenth through nineteenth centuries, they were a common way to quickly capture a likeness, preserved today only as souvenirs from spots like Colonial Williamsburg. But did you ever wonder why they’re called silhouettes instead of “quaint black paper cut-outs often seen over Grandma’s mantle?” Other than that being a mouthful, silhouettes are named for Étienne de Silhouette, a mid-eighteenth century French economist. If this doesn’t make perfect sense, let me profile it for you. A sharp critic of the French aristocracy’s spendthrift ways, Silhouette’s conservative economic approach became synonymous with “cheap” in his day, making silhouette shorthand for chintzy things, including cut paper portraits. While this is the most plausible theory of the association, it might also be based on the brevity of Silhouette’s tenure (less than a year), reflecting the short sitting required for a silhouette. It’s also suspected that Silhouette himself was a weekend silhouette maker, so his hobby was named for him. In any case, that’s the outline of this quirky history.

Custom Silhouette Tote | $100

Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: What to Expect When Your Wolf Is Expecting

May 4, 2016

Expecting You | UncommonGoodsPublishers in search of the next bestselling parenting book might think about looking outside the human species. Studies of female wolves have shown that the steely-eyed predator makes an excellent mother, relying heavily on her instincts.

As if to recognize that once the pups arrive she will be a bit preoccupied, a female wolf spends an extra amount of time cuddling, playing, and hunting with her mate in the months leading up to the birth. She will also nest, creating a suitable den in which to give birth and bond with her pups in the following weeks. Though this space is declared a no-mate zone, she will oftentimes invite a female “midwife” in for support.

Scientists have not yet taken a stance on the highly debated question, “How early is too early for an iPad?” but we have a feeling the deer community would agree that when it comes to wolf pup distraction, there’s no such thing as too young.

Expecting You – A Keepsake Pregnancy Journal  | $12.95

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