In the Middle Ages, Christmas banquets started at three in the afternoon, with appetizers and fortified mulled wine followed by ten main courses, and lasted until midnight. Today, over the holidays, North Americans consume 24 million turkeys and 112 million cans of cranberries.
We drink 108 million quarts of eggnog and 89 million gallons of liquor. The average weight gain over the Christmas holidays is four to six pounds.
In early England, one man would challenge another to a duel by slapping his face with a glove. The challenge was a serious matter of honour, and if the slapped man did not accept it, he would be branded a coward. Having a chip on your shoulder was kind of an early Wild West equivalent of the glove slap, though generally less mortal in nature.
Boys and men would place a woodchip on their shoulder, challenging anyone who dared knock it off to a fistfight. So, if a man had a “chip on his shoulder,” he was clearly in an aggressive mood and spoiling for a fight.
Babies grow in their mother’s uterus, a special organ that houses the baby until it is born. At the start of pregnancy, a mother’s egg is fertilized, which makes a new cell. The cell divides quickly into many more cells. At about one week, this tiny mass, called an embryo, sticks to the wall of the uterus, and begins to grow. From the moment of conception, 46 chromosomes and tens of thousands of genes combine to determine a baby’s physical characteristics—the sex, facial features, body type, and color of hair, eyes, and skin. At the eighth week, the embryo is called a fetus.
By the end of the twelfth week, the fetus is completely formed and is able to make a fist, can turn his or her head, and can squint and frown. Until the baby is ready to come out, it grows inside its mother’s uterus. When the baby is ready to be born, at about 40 weeks, the mother starts to feel labor contractions. The uterus squeezes and pushes the baby out of the uterus and into the world.
The practice of using laurels to symbolize victory came from the ancient Greeks. After winning on the battlefield, great warriors were crowned with a wreath of laurels, or bay leaves, to signify their supreme status during a victory parade.
Because the first Olympics consisted largely of war games, the champions were honoured in the same manner: with a laurel, a crown of leaves. To “rest on your laurels” means to quit while you’re ahead.
James Spangler, a janitor at an Ohio department store who suffered from asthma, invented his “electric suction-sweeper,” in 1907 as way of picking up the dust and debris that triggered his health condition. His invention was the first practical domestic vacuum cleaner. It used an electric fan to generate suction, rotating brushes to loosen dirt, a pillowcase for a filter, and a broomstick for a handle.
Because it was heavy and hard to handle, Spangler sold the rights of his invention to his relative, William Hoover, whose redesign of the appliance coincided with the development of the small, high-speed universal motor, in which the same current (either AC or DC) passes through the appliance’s rotor and stator. This gave the vacuum cleaner more horsepower, higher airflow and suction, better engine cooling, and more portability than was possible with the larger, heavier induction motor. Hoover’s model has since been refined, but the mechanics of his vacuum cleaner are still used in vacuum cleaners today.
The funny bone exists in your body, but it’s not a bone at all! The funny bone is a part of the ulnar nerve located at the back of the elbow. If you accidentally bump this area it can cause a tingling sensation toward the front of your forearm.
This tingling or dull pain is caused by the ulnar nerve bumping up against the humerus, the long bone that starts at your elbow and goes up to your shoulder. Although it might feel weird, tapping your funny bone doesn’t do any damage to your elbow, arm, or ulnar nerve.
Birds replace their feathers by molting, the periodic shedding of old feathers and the growing of new ones. They do this one to three times each year, although different birds molt at different times of the year. Male goldfinches, for example, molt from a dull greenish yellow to bright yellow during spring. The periodic shedding of feathers and their replacement with new ones makes perfect sense in the animal kingdom.
Feathers are incapable of further growth, and may get worn down, broken, and faded over the year from normal wear-and-tear. Molting replaces these damaged feathers and helps the males look attractive to females, which is why many molts take place during the mating season.
Early in baseball history, a man named Henry Chadwick designed the system we still use for keeping score. Because his system already had an overabundance of Ss scattered throughout his scoresheet — safe, slide, shortstop, sacrifice, second base, etc. — he decided to use the last letter of struck, as in, “he struck out,” rather than the first. And that’s why K signifies a strikeout in baseball.
The Industrial Revolution was an era of sweeping change, as the focus in different societies changed from agricultural to mass-producing and industrial. It began in Great Britain in the 1700s. By the early 1800s it had spread to western Europe and the United States. It was brought about by the introduction of steam-power-driven machinery to manufacturing.
As inventors made new machines that could take over manual labor, sweeping changes in agriculture, textile and metal manufacture, transportation, economic policies, and social structures took place. By the end of the eighteenth century, most finished goods—which had once been made by hand or by simple machines—were produced in quantity by technologically advanced machinery. Factories were built to house the new machines, causing a population shift from rural areas to urban ones.
Although a helicopter doesn’t have wings like an airplane, it uses the same principle of lift to rise and maneuver in the air. The blades of a helicopter’s propeller-like top rotor are shaped just like a plane’s wings—flat on the bottom and rounded on the top—and are likewise adjustable. Instead of rushing forward through the air like a plane does to gather enough lift to fly, a helicopter moves only its (three to six) rotor blades, which are attached to a central shaft driven by an engine.
The rotor blades slice through enough air—creating the changes in surrounding air pressure that produce lift—to achieve flight. Adjusting the angle at which the rotor blades are set helps control a helicopter’s lift and manner of flight. Because the angle of the rotor is adjustable, too, a helicopter has far greater maneuverability than an airplane: besides moving up, down, and forward, it can fly backward and hover in the air.