Are marine plants used in toothpaste?

Yes, and lots of other products, too. Substances from marine plants and animals are used in many home products, including ice cream, toothpaste, fertilizers, gasoline, and cosmetics. If you read the labels of some of these products, you may find the words carrageenan and alginate. Carrageenans are compounds extracted from red algae that are used to stabilize and jell foods. Brown algae contain alginates that make foods thicker and creamier and add to shelf life. They are used to prevent ice crystals from forming in ice cream, for example. Alginates and carrageenans are often used in puddings, milkshakes, and ice cream. The remains of diatoms (algae with hard shells) are used to make pet litter, cosmetics, and pool filters. The kelp plant is often used in lipstick, toothpaste, and clothing dye.

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How did Valentine become the patron saint of lovers?

In 270 AD, the mad Roman emperor Claudius II outlawed marriage because he believed married men made for bad soldiers. Ignoring the emperor, Bishop Valentine continued to marry young lovers in secret until his disobedience was discovered and he was sentenced to death. As legend has it, he fell in love with the jailer’s blind daughter, and through a miracle he restored her sight. On his way to execution, he left her a farewell note ending in, “From Your Valentine.”

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What do worms eat?

While some birds eat mostly insects, others, like penguins, eat seafood. Beach birds, like seagulls, eat shellfish as well, but they are also scavengers that will eat discarded people food. Some birds, such as ducks and geese, float on the water, dipping or diving to nibble on plants from oceans, lakes, and rivers. Others, such as raptors, swoop out of the sky to capture and eat small mammals, such as mice or rabbits. Some birds also prey on each other, such as large predatory birds like eagles and hawks.

Many birds, like crows, jays, and magpies, eat the eggs and young of others. Individual bird species eat the foods from their local environment, but they have also developed physical characteristics that help them harvest food. Specific birds have adapted to feasting on plants as well, including algae, lichen, grass, herbs, flower nectar, leaves and buds of trees, ferns, acorns, nuts, corn, rice, and seeds of all kinds.

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Why is the walrus nicknamed “tooth walker”?

The walrus’s two tusks—which are really two long, sharp teeth—aid the cold-water creature in battling polar bears, fending off other walruses, and walking around the bottom of the ocean while searching for its favorite food, clams. The “tooth walker” temporarily anchors itself to the bottom of the ocean by pushing its tusks into the muddy sand, where it can look for food. It then pulls its tusks out, moves on, and repeats the process.

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Why are notes taken at a business meeting called “minutes”?

The reason the written records of a meeting are called the minutes is because, in order to keep up, the minute-taker wrote in a shorthand or abbreviation. The word used to describe this condensed writing was minute (my-noot), meaning “small,” and because the spelling is the same, the minutes (my-noots) became minutes. The same circumstances apply to Frederick Chopin’s Minute Waltz: It’s really his small or minute (my-noot) waltz.

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What kinds of household pets are common around the world?

Not all people own dogs and cats. While many Europeans, including the British, French, and Italians, own dogs and cats, other people have different relationships to them. In Islamic tradition, dogs are shunned as unclean and dangerous, and thus it has never been common for Arabs to own pets. However, in Saudi Arabia and Egypt it has become fashionable among the upper class to own dogs and cats. (As early as 3500 B.C.E., Egyptians domesticated wildcats from Africa, which became their treasured pets and honored for their skill in hunting snakes, rats, and mice.) In China, cats are thought to bring good luck and are kept in shops and homes; the country also has about 150 million pet dogs—about one for every nine people.

The Japanese keep birds and crickets as pets. The Inuit Eskimo of northern Canada adopt bear cubs, foxes, birds, and baby seals. And Australian Aborigines capture dingo (wild dog) puppies and raise them for a time before letting them go.

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Why is someone displaying absolute loyalty said to be “true blue”?

With the slogan “a true covenantor wears true blue,” the Scottish Presbyterians adopted blue as their colour in the seventeenth century during their defense of their faith against Charles I. The instruction came from Numbers 15:38 in the scriptures, which tells the children of Israel to fringe the borders of their garments in ribbons of blue. Blue is a powerful symbol of Judaism and the national colour of Israel.

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Do doctors ever use bugs for medical reasons?

As strange it may sound, both leeches and blowfly maggots are used occasionally in the field of medicine. The U.S. federal government’s Food and Drug Administration considers both bugs “approved medical devices,” the first live animals to be called that name. Maggots are used to eat dead tissue, thus helping to kill bacteria, clean open wounds, and stimulate healing. Leeches suck out excess blood from the body, and their saliva contains a powerful blood thinner. About 5,000 clean, laboratorygrown maggots are delivered to hospitals across the United States every week.

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Why doesn’t it hurt to cut my hair?

Haircuts don’t hurt because your hair is not alive. Hair is made out of a protein called keratin. Only the root of the hair—the part that grows inside the skin on your head from tiny holes called follicles—is alive and growing. So if you pluck out a hair by the roots, it hurts. But trimming or cutting your hair is painless. And that is also the same reason why it doesn’t hurt to trim your fingernails or toenails, which are also made of keratin. And because fingernails grow faster than toenails, you need to trim them more often!

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