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Week of August 7, 2022

The Corniest Facts Ever

Sunday

Globally, corn is among the most essential crops, with well over a billion tons grown annually. Corn currently supplies over 6% of human calories.

Monday

Baseball fans might have heard a routine fly ball hit to an outfielder called a “can of corn.” This refers to the old practice of grocery clerks pulling cans off high shelves with long hooks, then catching the falling item in their apron.

Tuesday

The distribution of the US’s largest-acreage crop goes roughly 1/3 to people, beverage, and industrial markets, 1/3 to ethanol production, and 1/3 to livestock.

Wednesday

Corn’s ancestor is a plant called teosinte, which was most likely methodically bred with other plants in southwestern Mexico to get modern corn. However, with just 5-10 kernels per ear and a taste like dried potato, you probably wouldn’t recognize this plant as an ancestor of modern corn.

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Week of July 31, 2022

The Air That We Breathe

Sunday

At about 78%, Nitrogen is easily the largest component of Earth’s atmosphere, colorless and odorless to people. Essential nitrogen-containing compounds, however, come from the food we eat.

Monday

Fortunately for most living things, oxygen in the form of O2 is the next most abundant gas in the atmosphere at about 21%. It is also colorless and odorless to us, but quite essential.

Tuesday

The next most abundant gas in the atmosphere is Argon at 0.93%. Compared to its gassy friends, Argon is quite aloof as one of the “noble gasses”, doing very little bonding or reacting as it floats around.

Wednesday

Among the most variable components of the atmosphere is water vapor, the amount of which in the air can vary widely with temperature and location. Warm air holds more moisture, so water vapor can compose 4-5% of the air in the tropics, but 0.2% in the Arctic.

Thursday

Carbon dioxide currently makes up about 0.4% of the atmosphere. This molecule is breathed in by plants and is essential in the carbon cycle, but is also produced by burning fossil fuels, and its heat-trapping nature now makes it a major cause of climate change.

Friday

What’s left after these bigger components are minute amounts of the trace gasses, among them helium, neon, methane, hydrogen, ozone, nitrous oxide, and krypton. Some trace gasses actually come from human activity.

Saturday

Most atmospheric gasses are at greatest concentrations closer to the ground, which explains why the air seems so “thin” at great altitudes. Helium and hydrogen, being so light, can reach great heights, however.

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Week of July 24, 2022

Thick, Shiny, Stylish Factoids

Sunday

To “let your hair down” means to be more uninhibited and honest, and traces back to the days when women kept their hair up except in the privacy of their own home or among intimate company.

Monday

Regardless of where it is bought, the vast majority of real human hair used in wigs and extensions comes from the East, especially India, China, and Eastern Europe.

Tuesday

A “hairpin turn” gets that name for its resemblance to a metal hairpin, so usually involves a very sharp 180 degree (or nearly so) turn.

Wednesday

The care of hair (and scalps) is huge business. Despite Covid, this global market was $80.81 billion USD in 2020, and does not include the sale of actual hair products, such as wigs, weaves, and extensions.

Thursday

“Bigwig” indicates importance because men of influence and rank used to wear large wigs.

Friday

Cats cough up hairballs because they clean themselves by licking their fur, and typically swallow some of that fur which is later vomited up.

Saturday

People with naturally blond hair tend to have the most total hairs on their head at about 150,000, redheads have the fewest at about 90,000, and folks with naturally brown or black hair are somewhere in between.

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Week of July 17, 2022

Remember Your Reductions

Sunday

abs = abdominal muscles

Monday

typo = typographical error

Tuesday

polio = poliomyelitis

Wednesday

fan = fanatic

Thursday

con = convict (as in “Ex-con”), confidence (as in “con-man” or “con game.”)

Friday

chaps = chapjaros

Saturday

recap = recapitulation

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Week of July 10. 2022

Facts That are Shells of Their Former Selves

Sunday

Seashells are the hard exoskeletons of otherwise soft invertebrate sea creatures.

Monday

A “shell game” involves putting an object under something that conceals it, like a cup or shell, then moving that and similar empty cups around, hoping the betting party will lose track of where the object is and thereby lose the game and wager. There is frequently deceit involved, and in the financial sense, this term often refers to asset-hiding schemes.

Tuesday

The idiom “to come out of his/her shell” means to become more outgoing social, and is a reference to a shelled animal like a snail or turtle who remains alone in there for protection.

Wednesday

A shell company, as the name implies, is typically a legally-created business entity, but one that does not do any sustained business operations or own significant assets long term. These are often created for tax purposes, concealing the identity of stakeholders or assets, fundraising or merger purposes, and sometimes illegal business.

Thursday

“She sells sea shells by the sea shore”is both a classic English tongue twister-turned-song and a training tool for those learning English and practicing the “s” sound.

Friday

Hermit crabs are among nature’s great shell recyclers. Vulnerable to predators and the baking sun without them, hermit crabs have elaborate methods of moving into new, size-appropriate shells as they grow, with smaller crabs moving into the old shells sometimes simultaneously.

Saturday

The shell in “shell shock” is military artillery shells, and the term refers to types of battle fatigue, with physical and mental conditions now more commonly described as PTSD. The term was first coined in World War I to describe the shape of many soldiers returning from battle.