Unlike the fragrant blossoms that attract bees, carrion flowers simulate the odor of a rotting animal carcass and attract carrion beetles and different types of flies, including blowflies, flesh flies, and midges. The stapelia flower, which is shaped like a starfish and grows in Africa, has fine hairs around its petals, perhaps to imitate the appearance of a small dead animal. When the bloom opens it gives off a rotting smell, imitating dead animal meat.
The smell attracts flies, which collect pollen before they fly away. Some carrion flowers, such as the European and Brazilian Dutchman’s pipe, lure insects into dark openings that lead to the foul-smelling interior where they become trapped. When the flower “releases” the insect, it is coated with fresh pollen to be taken to a different plant. The lantern stinkhorn, a fungus that releases a feces-like odor, attracts green bottle flies to spread its spores.
In 1880, the strong-willed senator John Sherman was testing the water for a presidential nomination. He slipped out of Washington but was followed to his Ohio farm by a reporter who found the senator talking with a high-ranking party official while standing near a fence.
When the reporter asked what they were doing, the response, “We’re mending fences,” gave him his headline, and it became a new phrase for healing relationships. Within a democracy, what are the fourth and fifth estates?
The expressions bridal feast, bridal bed, and bridal cake, among other bridal references, all date back to around 1200, when a wedding was a rather boisterous and bawdy affair. The word bridal comes from “brideale,” which was the special beer brewed for the wedding and then sold to the guests to raise money for the newlyweds.
Because of the brideale, weddings were quite rowdy until around the seventeenth century, When the church managed to get a grip on the whole thing.
At least two ancient Greek athletes would have done well in the modern games; their Olympic records stood until the twentieth century. Twenty-six hundred years ago, an athlete named Protiselaus threw a cumbersome primitive discus 152 feet from a standing position. No one exceeded that distance until Clarence Houser, an American, threw the discus 155 feet in 1928. In 656 BC, a Greek Olympian named Chionis leapt 23 feet, 1.5 inches, a long jump record that stood until 1900, When an American named Alvis Kraenzlein surpassed it by 4.5 inches.
European settlers brought their money with them to America, and coins made of precious metal were accepted everywhere at face value. The Spanish peso was divided into eight silver coins, which the English called bits, or pieces of eight.
Two bits was one-quarter of a Spanish dollar. When money was printed and minted in the new world, although a dollar’s coinage was divided by ten, the expression “two bits” continued to mean one-quarter of a dollar.
Dogs bark to communicate with other dogs and with humans. Dogs are descendants of wolves, which are social animals that live in packs, and they share many of the behaviors that define the complex relationships that exist within such animal groups. Few domestic dogs live together in packs (though they often consider their human family their group), but they still use complicated behaviors that involve smell, sight, and hearing to communicate. A dog has many scent-producing glands that it uses to communicate. The scent that a dog leaves behind (in its urine, feces, and paw prints) can reveal its sex, age, and even its mood to other dogs that come sniffing by.
A dog uses its posture, facial expression, and ear and tail position to communicate with other dogs, too. And it uses its voice to communicate by whining, growling, howling, or barking. A dog usually whines or whimpers when it is in distress: when it is hungry, cold, or in pain. Growls indicate that a dog is angry and ready to fight. Barks usually show excitement.
Dust mites are microscopic organisms that live in dust. These unwelcome visitors invade your nose and can irritate your mucous membranes, triggering nerve cells that signal the lungs to fill with air. When the air passages close and pressure builds up, your nose tingles and twitches, and you sneeze—forcing mucus (the slimy, moisturizing substance), dust, pollen, and mites out of your nose at speeds of up to 525 feet (160 meters) per second!
Sneezing is one of the body’s reflexes, an automatic way it rids itself of harmful substances like bacteria and germs. It also keeps the tubes that carry the air from your nose to your lungs healthy.
In the early days of theatre, the players were lit by gas lamps hidden across the front of the stage. Early in the twentieth century, it was discovered that if a stick of lime was added to the gas, the light became more intense, and so they began to use the “limelight” to illuminate the spot on stage where the most important part of the play took place. Later called the “spotlight,” the “limelight” was where all actors fought to be.
In baseball, when a pitcher throws a curveball, it breaks to a right-handers left and a left-handers right. Early in the twentieth century, the great Christy Mathewson came up with a pitch that broke in the opposite direction and completely baffled opposing batters, who called it a “screwball.”
It became a word used to describe anything eccentric or totally surprising — including some humans.
Today there are some 4,300 religions in the world. Nearly 75 percent of the world’s population practices one of the five most influential religions of the world: Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism. Christianity, which is based on the teachings of Jesus Christ, who preached in Palestine about 2,000 years ago, is the most widely practiced religion in the world today, with 2.1 billion followers.
The second most practiced religion is Islam, with 1.3 billion followers.