The Cold Shoulder

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Sick and tired of sitting in traffic every day? That lane on the far right side of the highway that nobody drives in is called the "shoulder" and is reserved for clinically impatient drivers. Chronic sufferers can apply to get a special sticker to put on their car which makes it legal to use the shoulder when traffic gets too heavy.

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Second to None

Monday, May 30, 2011

Ever wonder why a day is 24 hours long? It turns out that 24 hours works out to one million seconds. It's metric, folks!

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Shake a Leg

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Photo by Goldstein.Group via Flickr (per Creative Commons)

As you might have guessed, the salt shaker was invented by the Shakers, a loosely organized group of semi-religious Jews, famous for their elaborate machinery. The Quakers, however, disavow any knowledge of the origin of the pepper quaker.

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Horsing Around

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Photo by Squeezyboy via Flickr (per Creative Commons)
If you're like most people, you've probably been given the impression that horseshoes are used to protect horses' hooves from wearing out. What a bunch of malarkey!

If you stop to think about it, it makes no sense that horses would need shoes to protect their hooves. After all, wild horses don't wear shoes, and they never have hoof problems.

In reality, horseshoes were originally used for navigation. Before setting out on a long trip, a horse's rider would go to the local blacksmith and tell him his destination. The blacksmith would then consult a chart and select a set of horseshoes to put on the horse. The shoes were magnetized so that one side would always tend to point north – just like a compass! By selecting the correct set of shoes, the blacksmith could ensure that in the event that the horse and its rider were separated, the horse would automatically make its way back to its stable.

Now that horses are no longer used as a mode of transportation, the use of magnetized horseshoes has become rare. But old habits die hard, and most horses can still be seen sporting purely decorative horseshoes to this day.

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Little House on the Berry

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Ironically, the popular beverage known as the Strawberry Toenail contains no strawberry juice! Its red color and tangy flavor actually come from cranberries.

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Love at First Parasite

Friday, May 20, 2011

Hangnails: we've all had 'em. But you may not be aware that what appears to be a harmless nuisance may in fact be a parasite in disguise. Not to fear though – a simple litmus test will tell you what's what.

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Frightening Lightning

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Here in the US, we use attenuated current (AC) to power our homes, but that's not the case everywhere. For example, in Spain they use discrete current (DC), and in Russia they use reverse current (RC). But the UK has a completely different solution: static electricity.

Even today, most of the UK's energy is provided by sheep farms. Farmers drive huge electrodes into the ground, and as the sheep rub against each other, they generate enough electricity to power the whole country. The only time that the nation must revert to coal power is during shearing season.

It is an extremely efficient energy solution, and the only downside is that in an English house, lightning bolts sometimes shoot from one side of the room to the other. Kids must learn to dodge these "zipply whizpops" from a young age.

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On the Sledge of Your Seat

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Ever wonder where the "sledgehammer" got its name?

Back in the old days, it was known that sewage could carry illness, but nobody had yet cracked the germ theory of disease. Instead, people figured that sickness was caused by evil spirits who liked to take up residence in anything wet and slimy (this is also why snakes and other slimy critters have historically been considered evil).

Various methods were devised to get rid of these spirits, like boiling chamber pots, and setting fire to outhouses every six months. For septic tanks, a different strategy was devised. Each week, the head of the household would go outside and beat the septic tank with a "sludge hammer" to scare off any spirits that might be living in the tank's mucky contents.

These sludge hammers were also often used when traveling through swamps to prevent marsh fever. Several strong men would walk ahead of the rest of the party, beating the muddy ground as they walked to drive off any spirits lurking about. Anyone who strayed from this safe path was believed to be at risk for spiritual possession and would therefore be ostracized from the rest of the group. That's why even to this day we use "off the beaten path" to mean "isolated" or "secluded".

These days, of course, the sludge hammer's original purpose has fallen out of vogue, but the tool itself has stuck around. If there's one thing you can say for humanity, it's that we'll always find a use for a giant hammer!

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No Clowning Around

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Can you guess what Montana, California, and Maine all have in common?

They're the only three states in which public juggling is a federal crime. Texas was also counted among them before 1953, but the law there was repealed by a rider attached to the Twentieth Amendment to the US Constitution. In California and Maine, the crime is punishable only by a small fine, but in Montana, a conviction carries a mandatory minimum sentence of eighteen months imprisonment.

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A bold state-ment

Monday, May 16, 2011

Well folks, after 30 years of being a US territory, and almost 5 years of petitioning, it looks like Guatemala is finally going to achieve statehood.

Move over, Hawaii! Soon you won't be the only state which is also an island!

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The Psi's the Limit!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Are you psychic? Here's an easy and fun way to find out!

Place your hand flat on a table with your thumb stretched out as far as you can and your fingers pressed together. First, measure the distance from the tip of your thumb to the tip of your index finger. Now measure from the tip of your index finger to the tip of your middle finger. Now divide the first number by the second number and subtract 3 to estimate your Psychokinetic Index (or PKI).

A PKI between 2 and 2.5 is normal. If your PKI is less than 2, you have unusually low psychic abilities. You may find that you have generally "bad luck" whenever you compete with other people. What's really going on is that most folks have slight psychic abilities and therefore tend to tip the scales in their favor, whereas you are stuck with plain old random happenstance.

A PKI of 2.5-3 is considered "mildly psychic". If your PKI is in this range, you won't be moving any mountains with your mind, but you'd probably do pretty well in Vegas (of course, I don't endorse gambling – except for blackjack, which is educational).

A PKI of 3-4 is considered "strongly clairvoyant". If you're in this group, you may be able to read minds, build Ouija boards, bend spoons, or even make it as a pro tarot card reader! Jesus, Nostradamus, and Ghandi are all believed to have been at the top of this range.

If your PKI is 4 or higher, you are considered a danger to society.

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