Scientists have found and described more than 275,000 kinds of plants, but they believe that many more are yet to be discovered. Plants vary greatly in size and appearance. Some, like single-celled algae, are so small that you can only see them with the help of a microscope. Others, like giant sequoia trees, are so big that you cannot even see the tops of them. Plants are very different from one another because they have developed features—over millions of years—to help them live in the world’s many different environments.
Yes. All human beings have some traits that are the same, but each individual person also has a set of traits that are different from any other. Among these individual traits are fingerprints, tongue prints, patterns in the iris of the eye, and voice patterns. Because fingerprints and tongue prints are unique in every person (even identical twins), they can be used to identify an individual. (But next time someone calls out your name, it’s best to answer rather than stick out your tongue!)
It’s a myth that the camp followers of Union General Joseph Hooker gave us the popular euphemism for a prostitute. It’s true they were called “Hooker’s division,” or “Hooker’s reserves,” but the word predates the American Civil War as, of course, does the profession. It first appeared in 1845 as a reference to an area of New York known as “the Hook,” where ladies of the night could be found in abundance.
Some say that during the Mexican-American war at the end of the nineteenth century, locals heard the invaders singing “Green Grow the Lilacs” and simply picked up “gringo” from “green grow.” Others say that because the American uniforms were green, the expression came from a rallying cry: “Green, go!” But, in fact, gringo is a Spanish word on its own and is a slang insult for anyone who is fair-skinned and looks foreign.
On March 4, 1884, a British drug company registered the word tabloid for a very small tablet it was marketing. About the same time, large broadsheet newspapers were challenged by small-format journals, and because tabloid had come to mean anything small, that’s what the new papers were called. These tabloids often resorted to gossip instead of hard news, which gave sloppy reporting the name “tabloid journalism.”
The word amen appears 13 times in the Hebrew Bible and 119 times in the New Testament as well as in the earliest Moslem writings. The word originated in Egypt around 2500 BC as Amun, and meant the “Hidden One,” the name of their highest deity. Hebrew scholars adopted the word as meaning “so it is” and passed it on to the Christians and Moslems.
“Mary Had a Little Lamb” was written in 1830 by Sarah Hale, the editor of Godey’s Ladies Magazine. She was inspired after watching young Mary Tyler’s pet lamb follow the girl to school, which, of course, was against the rules. The poem became immortal more than fifty years later when Thomas Edison used it as the first words ever spoken and then recorded on his new invention, the phonograph.
A horseshoe’s charm comes from the legend of Saint Dunstan, who, because of his talent as a blacksmith, was asked by the Devil to shoe his cloven hoof. Saint Dunstan agreed, but in carrying out the task, he caused the Devil such pain that he was able to make him promise never to enter a house that has a horseshoe hanging above the doorway. Thus, from the Middle Ages on, the horseshoe has been considered good luck.
When a ball falls, it is temporarily deformed. Because of elasticity, the ball tends to regain its original shape for which it presses the ground and bounces up (Newton’s Third Law of Motion).
Ferdania, in Saudi Arabia, is probably the world’s smallest city: it has one police station, one school, one market, one gas station, one health center, and about 10 houses. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Hum, Croatia, is the smallest town in the world, with a population of only 23 citizens.
The tiny town, which rose during the Middle Ages, is closed off on one side by high towers and a system of walls; the other side is closed off by the outer walls of houses. The smallest city in the United States is Maza, located in Towner County, North Dakota. Established in 1893, the city had a population of 5 when the 2000 Census was taken.