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Week of October 23, 2022

Paint it Fact

Sunday

Curiously, the first known paint mixture predates any known paintings by thousands of years. Several seashells containing a painting mixture of ochre, charcoal, crushed bone and stone flakes were found in South Africa’s Blombos Cave, and may be up to 100,000 years old. Any paintings made from this stash likely washed or wore away since then.

Monday

The oldest known preserved paintings are in limestone caves in Indonesia and date back at least 40,000 years. The better-known European cave art appears to be several thousand years younger.

Tuesday

Ancient paint was made with a remarkable variety of pigments to get the various colors needed. The origin of these colors included fruits, flowers, blood, charcoal, insects, sap, plants, roots, and many types of natural minerals.

Wednesday

A big revolution in the history of paint was the use of oil-based paint, which could give paintings more vibrant color, luster, and depth, among other advantages. The first known oil painting was from 650 A.D. by Buddhist artists in what is now Afghanistan. Historically popular paining oils were linseed, walnut, poppy seed and safflower.

Thursday

The largest known paining in the world, completed in 2020, is over 17,000 square feet in size, and was sold to benefit charities.

Friday

In 1949, paint salesman Ed Seymour wanted a way to showcase an aluminum coating for radiators. His wife proposed a spray gun, like the kind used for deodorizers, and the spray paint can was born.

Saturday

The Mona Lisa is likely the most famous paining ever, and is considered priceless. It is insured for over $900 million in inflation-adjusted dollars, the most of any painting in history, and French law prevents its sale.

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Week of October 16, 2022

How Every Day Originates

Sunday

By one count, there are well over 100 different sun gods and goddesses from religions all over the world.

Monday

The Earth is actually farthest from the sun in the summer and closest the winter, but the summer sun rays hit at a steeper angle. Hence these summer rays reach us with more focused intensity, as well as longer days to experience the light and heat.

Tuesday

The casual observer may think the sun is fixed and unchanging, but periodic energy outbursts in the form of solar flares and coronal mass ejections can cause huge problems to Earth’s electrical and electronics infrastructure. Events like this make up part of what is known as “space weather.”

Wednesday

Thanks to Earth’s axial tilt, several cities in the farther latitudes don’t see the sun go down for about 2.5 months straight, while during the opposite time of year, it doesn’t come up for that long. Travel to the North or South Poles, “polar day” and “polar night” last for six months at a time.

Thursday

Humanity has about 5 billion years to find and colonize one or more other livable planets before our own sun consumes all its hydrogen fuel and burns out.

Friday

The massive asteroid that hit Earth 66 million years ago sent so much dust and debris into the atmosphere that the sun was largely blotted out for years. Fewer plants grew, which played a huge role in the extinction of the dinosaurs.

Saturday

If Earth was closer to the sun, it would likely be too hot for life to evolve, as on Mercury or Venus, where water boils away. If it were further, it would be to cold and water would freeze, like on the outer planets. For this reason, scientists coined the term “Goldilocks Zone” for the distance from a sun hospitable to liquid water and therefore life.

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Week of October 9, 2022

Heady Tales

Sunday

A “coin of the realm” means something valued within a given locale, but the term originally meant actual currency issued by the British monarch.

Monday

In the US, “two bits” means 25¢, though the US Mint has never produced a 12.5 cent coin. However, Brits have long called a low-value coin a “bit,” and in the US the term was applied to some early Mexican and Spanish coins in circulation which were valued at 1/8 peso, or about 12.5¢ at the time.

Tuesday

“A penny saved is a penny earned” is one of many wise maxims often credited to Benjamin Franklin, though he never actually said it. He came close with “A penny saved is two pence clear,” and “a penny saved is a penny got,” but these frugal notions weren’t original to Franklin; similar wisdom had been printed over a century before.

Wednesday

In both diameter and thickness, a dime is the smallest circulating American coin. Hence, people say that a very quick-maneuvering vehicle can “turn on a dime,” as can a person who changes their own position on a subject quickly. The same idea is invoked by the expression “stop on a dime.”

Thursday

The coin toss at the beginning of every NFL game (and overtime, if any) uses a special coin made just for the purpose, with particular coins made just for the Super Bowl.

Friday

Shortly after dimes were first minted in the US in 1796, “a dime a dozen” was often used as a sale price for everyday products and indicated a good bargain. By 1930, inflation had rendered a dime far less valuable, and this term was first used with a negative connotation of something so common it is nearly useless.

Saturday

Though now applied to many manufactured items, “mint condition” originally referred to a brand new coin fresh from the mint that made it.

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Week of October 2, 2022

Facts That Are Your Cup of Tea

Sunday

The origin story and Chinese name for tea are related. According to legend, 5,000 years ago Emperor Shen Nung was boiling water when a nearby wild tree leaf blew into it. Intrigued by the scent, he drank, and reported that it warmed every part of his body, as if the tea were investigating his insides. Hence he gave tea the name “ch’a”, which meant to check or investigate.

Monday

“Not for all the tea in China,” meaning not for any price, was a term first seen in the early 20th century term which recognized that China produced enormous quantities of tea, a fact still true today with the country leading global production by a large margin.

Tuesday

While China, with its billion-plus population, also consumes the most total tea, the biggest average per-person tea drinking nation is easily Turkey, consuming nearly 7 lbs. / person / year, far more than even tea-loving England.

Wednesday

A wonderful tea-related term largely unknown to Americans (at least this one), is “More tea, Vicar?” This is used in the UK as a humorous distraction after passing gas or belching.

Thursday

“Herbal tea” is not made from tea leaves, but instead fruit, flowers, nuts and/or seeds, so is really a different beverage properly called tisane. Like tea, this drink has ancient origins.

Friday

Tea leaf reading, also known as “tasseography.” among other names, was the popular art of reading fortunes from the pattern of loose tea leaves remaining in one’s cup after drinking. The decline of the art began in 1903 with the rise of the teabag, since this contained the leaves that were otherwise left on the bottom for reading.

Saturday

Despite coffee’s popularity in the Americas, three cups of tea are consumed for every one cup of coffee worldwide.

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Week of September 25, 2022

Sew Interesting

Sunday

Pins and needles all start out as long spools of wire which are then cut to size and processed, largely by machine, into the finished product. The process can take several days.

Monday

Sewing needles are a very essential, and very old, human invention. A 50,000 year old needle made of bird bone was found in one Siberian cave, likely made by a now-extinct species of humans.

Tuesday

Tattoos, and the needles which produce them, also go pretty far back. Iceman Otzi, found under a melting European glacier in 1991, had 61 tattoos on his body and was carbon-14 dated at 5,300 years old.

Wednesday

The common pin has the distinction of being the item which Adam Smith uses as an example of the efficiency of division of labor in manufacture.

Thursday

“Pins and needles” describes unrelated mental and physical sensations. It describes both nervous anticipation and the feeling of blood returning to a limb which had “fallen asleep.” The term has been in use since at least the 19th century.

Friday

The modern safety pin was invented by Walter Hunt as he toyed with some wire, pondering how he might pay off a debt of fifteen dollars to a friend. He sold the patent to that friend after receiving one in 1849.

Saturday

A “needler” is both one who makes needles or deals in and also one who annoys and antagonizes.