Category Archives: Fun Facts

Origin of the Dollar Sign

I thought this would be a fun subject to investigate, espceially since the Federal Reserve is considering raising interest rates. Our dollar sign most likely dates back to 15-century Spain.  When King Ferdinand II of Aragon took Spain from the Moors in 1492, he added two ornate columns to his coat of arms because he

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Birth of the Ferris Wheel

Paris had the Eiffel Tower, the U.S. had… Well, there were some outlandish proposals, like a tower with cars attached to thick rubber bands, a forerunner of bungee jumping.  Gustave Eiffel himself proposed an even bigger tower. The World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago was being planned without a central landmark.  The architect in charge, Daniel

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Update — Dihydrogen Monoxide

Earlier I had written about the dangerous chemical dihydrogen monoxide, which is actually a hoax to embarrass people about their ignorance of science — dihydrogen monoxide is  the chemical name for water.  (Do you remember from high school chemistry that di is two and mono is one?  Thus two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom

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Pitfalls of Contemporary Collectibles

I used to work for a publishing company, Tomart Corporation (www.tomart.com), that specialized in books and magazines on  “contemporary collectibles”  — items from the past 50 or so years.  If that sounds different to you, you’re not alone.  When most people think of collectibles, they think of antiques, coins, stamps, and other traditional categories.  But

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Do You Want a Telescope?

I have always been fascinated by astronomy.  I had a modest telescope in high school, but all I could find in it was the Moon. As an adult, I tried again, buying a simple instrument for about $100.  I think I saw Venus this time.  I’ve investigated the more expensive telescopes that find celestial bodies

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Buying Manhattan

It’s a common story in history —  how the Indians sold Manhattan island for a few dollars worth of trinkets. As a history nerd who has done some traveling, I know that history is never as simple as recounted in standard history books.  Therefore, a segment of the May 24, 2015 edition of The Writer’s

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Who Was James Smithson?

You have heard of the Smithsonian Institution?  The man who provided the money for this famous organization was one James Smithson. He is described on page 4 of the June 2014 issue of Smithsonian magazine —   He studied coffeemaking, human tears and snake venom, and published 27 scientific papers.  His brain, a friend said, was “fruitful

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Are You More Attentive Than a Goldfish?

Time magazine is reporting that according to a recent Microsoft study, our average attention spans are now down to about eight seconds.  This actually puts us as less attentive than goldfish, whose attention spans average about nine seconds. Time reports that Canadian researchers surveyed 2,000 participants and studied the brain activity of 112 others using

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What is Agritopia?

I ran across an interesting article in the May 2015 issue of Smithsonian magazine.  Entitled “Welcome to Farmtopia”, it describes an agricultural movement that calls itself agritopia. Several of these developments have popped up across the country. The website agritopia.com describes one such community in the Phoenix area as “…something of a modern day village

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A Simple Test For Eye Cancer

I found out about this by accident. Another teacher happened to mention today that there is a YouTube video with some important information about eye cancer.  A mother took a flash picture of her toddler.  One eye had the familiar red reflection in the pupil (“redeye”), but the other eye reflected white.  Shortly thereafter, she

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