Feb
28
2011
4

How did Argyle socks and knitwear get their name?

blue, green, black argyle sockArgyle socks have centuries of history, and yet that particular name wasn't used until nearly 1940. Socks with the typical “Argyle” diamond design used to be called tartan hose or plaid stockings. They were knee-length, and made from wool, sometimes rather scratchy wool. The pattern of lozenges in two or more colours, criss-crossed by narrow [&hel[more...]

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Feb
27
2011
1

What is the origin of the dunce cap?

dunce-capMost people know what a dunce cap is (also called a fool’s cap): a tall, conical paper cap, usually associated with humiliation of a “learning challenged” school child, the “dunce” of the class—at least on that day. (He probably wasn’t really dumb, just inattentive or hadn’t done his homework.) First, why was he called the [&hel[more...]

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Feb
24
2011
2

Is Creationism Treason?

creationism as treasonA growing movement in the U.S. is stemming from the concept of “creationism.” Creationism holds two premises. 1 is that science does not hold all the answers to the questions we have about our universe and 2 the teaching of science in schools should be augmented or replaced by literal passages from the Christian Bible. [&hel[more...]

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Feb
19
2011
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What are the major components of a car?

car-ch</p>
<div style=This is a guest post by moa. A passenger automobile vehicle, i.e. a car, is usually used for transporting people although small amounts of cargo can also be carried; specialized cars are used for racing and a myriad of other uses. The primary components can be broadly divided into groups belonging to the body, the [&hel[more...]

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Feb
18
2011
0

Why is it written QWERTY on my keyboard?

qwerty-typewriter-keyboardWhen Christopher Latham Sholes invented the first typewriter at the end of the 19th century, he naturally placed the keys in alphabetical order: ABCDEF… But, because of the mechanical constraints of this first model, the keys often blocked each other. He then mixed the keys to avoid this problem. As the model was called the [&hel[more...]

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Feb
17
2011
5

How is Yap stone money similar to Bitcoin?

yap-stone-moneyThe traditional currency of the islanders of Yap consists of large disks called Rai stones. They are carved from limestone, and in traditional times were shinier than anything else on the island, which made the stone money desirable. But there was a catch—there was no limestone anywhere on Yap. To obtain the stones, the Yapese [&hel[more...]

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Feb
15
2011
1

What does it mean to be sure-footed?

sure-footedTo hike some mountain trails, or to travel along a canyon strewn with boulders, one needs to be sure-footed. But what exactly contributes towards sure-footedness? Firstly, the hiker needs to have good balance. Without that, it’s impossible to traverse difficult country at speed. It’s also necessary to have good vision, particularly the ability to judge [&hel[more...]

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Feb
13
2011
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Why are large powerful things called mammoth, behemoth, leviathan, gargantuan, juggernaut?

behemoth-leviathanWhen we hear or read one of these words—mammoth, behemoth, leviathan, gargantuan, juggernaut—most of us understand them to  mean something enormous and hence powerful, but perhaps only from the context. Most people know, of course, that a mammoth was a large, prehistoric ancestor of the elephant. Why was it called a mammoth? The word comes [&hel[more...]

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Feb
11
2011
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What is source code?

binary-coded-blankethow to get your ex back (This is a guest post) When we run an application on a computer, the computer “knows” what to do by stepping through a sequence of instructions. These instructions are very low level, and are stored internally in a binary “machine code”, represented by ones and zeros. A programmer would [&hel[more...]

Feb
10
2011
1

Do pigs deserve respect?

pig-sunglasses(This is a guest post) Humans are omnivorous. Meat is a pillar of our diet, that enabled our continued evolution to larger brains. But there are limits. We don't consume our kin—cannabalism incurs universal opprobrium. And we extend our kin to include great apes like the chimpanzee. Globally there is now also a veritable outrage over Japan's [&hel[more...]

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Feb
07
2011
3

What is pareidolia?

pareidoliaPareidolia is the phenomenon of perceiving something significant from a vague or random stimulus, usually from something one sees, but also from something one hears. We all experience it occasionally. Being the miserly sort who picks up pennies, when a circular spot on the pavement catches my eye, it triggers “coin!” in my mind, but [&hel[more...]

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Feb
01
2011
0

What causes color fringing around fine lines on a computer monitor?

lcd-screenOn some computer monitors, color fringes appear around narrow lines, or may appear and disappear as you move the cursor over small text. To see why this happens, we need to consider how the screen is constructed. Computer screens, regardless of whether they are Liquid Crystal Displays (LCD), Cathode Ray Tubes (CRT) or Light Emitting [&hel[more...]

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