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Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: How Do You Reinvent Rock Music?

April 2, 2018

What’s the world’s largest musical instrument? If you guessed a massive organ somewhere, you’re on the right track. It is an organ, but you won’t find it in a church, or even above ground. It’s the “Stalacpipe” organ in Luray Caverns, Virginia.

Luray explorers had been tapping stalactites (those pointy cave ceiling things) throughout the huge limestone cave for years to make eerie echoes. In 1954, cavern visitor and organ enthusiast Leland Sprinkle envisioned an organ that would play more tuneful music by tapping stalactites with rubber-tipped pistons. Leland tested more than 2,500 stalactites before he found 37 that matched musical notes (and cheated a little by shaving some down to size). How does it sound? Just as spooky as you’d imagine—an uncanny ringing from an unseen source deep underground. Leland acted as the cave’s resident organist for years, until they decided to turn it into a player piano—like it wasn’t creepy enough already.

Artiphon Musical Instrument | $299

Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: What’s the Weirdest Thing Ever Sent into Space?

March 19, 2018

In 2018, SpaceX sent Elon Musk’s red Tesla into orbit (complete with a dummy driver dubbed “Starman”), launching renewed buzz about the strange, offbeat, and downright surprising stuff humans have sent into space. Since the beginning of the Space Race, hundreds of unusual objects have been propelled into the unknown for the sake of science (or sometimes just for fun). Choosing the weirdest really wouldn’t be fair to the rest, so here’s a rundown of our top ten extraterrestrial odds and ends:

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Gift Guides

15 Must-Have Gifts For Wine Lovers

March 13, 2018

Long gone are the days when wine was reserved for fancy occasions. And that’s cause for celebration—with a big glass of wine, of course! We drink vino at tailgate parties, book club gatherings, and while binge watching our favorite shows. Wine is a beloved part of our daily lives, so we decided to pop the cork on this roundup of goodies for wine lovers. From wine soaps to bootleg totes, these products pair perfectly with a favorite bottle for a stand-out gift. While you’re at it, why not treat yourself?

1. Java with a hint of wine.

Enjoy wine in a new—and caffeinated—way. This coffee provides a taste of merlot via beans instead of booze.

Merlot Infused Coffee – $20 Buy Now »

 

2. A spray that removes even red wine stains.

You came for the wine. You left with it on your favorite white tee. Don’t worry, this all-natural spray is here to save the day.

Red Wine Stain Remover – $8 Buy Now »

 

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Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: What Fruit Did Queen Victoria Send on a Fatal Voyage?

February 21, 2018

In the last decade of her long reign, Queen Victoria noticed that “Empress of India” was part of her job description. So, she did the only sensible thing: Brought an Indian advisor into her inner circle and ordered that a mango be shipped from India (a six-week voyage) just to taste the fabled fruit. This quirky royal request is dramatized in the film Victoria & Abdul, starring Dame Judi Dench and Bollywood heartthrob, Ali Fazal. Want to know how to tell when your mango’s fit for a queen? Ali offers a guide.

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Design

Modern Love: The Lovebox Spinning Heart Messenger

January 22, 2018

Unless you were the most popular kid in junior high, you probably remember every love note you ever sent or received—the anticipation as you unfolded it to read, the ritual of clutching it like a holy relic from your crush. The makers of Lovebox set out to capture that giddy feeling with an eye-catching, modern design that makes it easy to share your heart.

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Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: What Are the Precedents for Presents?

December 1, 2017

 

Long before the customary exchange of gift cards and fruitcakes (giving real meaning to the phrase “you shouldn’t  have”), giving gifts around December 25th was an important and varied tradition. In the Christian tradition, the custom of Christmas gift-giving is based on the gifts of the three Magi, but there are other precedents for presents. In Sicily, an old woman named Strina brings gifts on Christmas, and her name may stem from the Roman goddess Strenia, whose feast day was marked by the exchange of green boughs (sound familiar?). In a related French tradition, gifts called entrennes are given on New Year’s Day. In Germany and Scandinavia, a gifting tradition called Julklapp involves knocking on doors, flinging wrapped packages into houses, and running away. Sometimes, these gift bombs incorporate marriage proposals (take that, fiancé!). And of course, there’s a certain bearded man in a red suit…

Discover more holiday lore in our Twelve Uncommon Facts About the Holidays post.

24 Days of Tea Advent Calendar | $25

Gift Guides

Far-Out Finds: Gifts for Your Favorite Space Geek

November 22, 2017

For space geeks, it’s an awesome time to be alive. From the Great American eclipse to Cassini’s swan song, 2017 was a big year for space stuff. And with new, weird exoplanets popping up all the time and propulsion innovations bringing us closer to Mars, the future’s looking equally far out. So for all the stargazers on your list, we’ve assembled a constellation of space-inspired gifts to make the holidays merry and bright as Alpha Canis Majoris.

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