Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Random Facts About... Summer

Probably the most beloved of the four seasons... school and work's out (for the most of us) and the holidays we craved for in the past months are finally coming. So I decided to make a "Random Fact About" article about summer, including all facts that might be interesting to be read in front of a cool drink or a delicious ice-cream...maybe while getting a tan at the beach. Let's start...

1. The first day of summer is known as the summer solstice and  it falls on June 20 or June 21 each year, depending on when the sun is furthest north of the equator.
2. People in the Southern Hemisphere have their longest day of summer in December.
3. School summer vacations were invented by educator Horace Mann in 1840. Thanks to him, children are nowadays having fun in summer!
4. The word honeymoon has associations with summer. The Pagans used that name for the first full moon in June because they drank fermented honey (mead) as part of summer wedding celebrations.
5. France’s Eiffel Tower can grow by more than 6 inches in summer due to the expansion of the iron on hot days.
6. Solstice comes from two Latin words "sol" and "sistere". Sol means sun; stitium is the verb which means to stand still.
7. One of the more annoying parts of summer are the mosquitoes, which have been around for 30 million years. It’s said they can find warm-blooded mammals from 100 feet away.
8. Many people enjoy throwing Frisbees in summer, but they were originally designed as pie plates in the 1870s. Students started throwing them in the 1940s.
9. The most eaten and loved fruit in summer is surely watermelon. But the point is that it's not a fruit. Watermelon is actually a vegetable. As the air heats up, so does the consumption of watermelon. This vegetable is part of the cucumber, squash and pumpkin family. Americans eat 15 pounds each year.
10. July is the month where most ice cream is sold in the US. That’s why it’s National Ice Cream Month. Americans eat about 5.5 gallons of ice cream per year on average.

11. Ice pops were invented by accident in 1905 by 11 year old Frank Epperson. He mixed soda and water and left the mixture out overnight with the stirring stick still in it. Since the temperature was low, the mixture froze. He patented the idea in 1924.
12. Summer vacations in other parts of the world are much shorter than in the US.
13. The first Summer Olympic Games were held in 1896 in Athens. Women were first allowed to compete in 1900.
14. In ancient times, most people swam in the nude; laws about decent swimming attire were created progressively from the 17th century onwards.
15. Here's a fun experiment to try if you want to find out what the temperature is and don't have a thermometer. The frequency of a cricket's chirps fluctuates with the temperature, so if you count a cricket's chirps for 15 seconds and add 37, you will have the approximate outdoor temperature (in Fahrenheit).
16. Seventy-five degrees Fahrenheit is the perfect temperature for pools in the summer time. Any temperature over 90 degrees Fahrenheit is too hot and any temperature under 70 Fahrenheit degrees is too cold.
So, HAVE A NICE SUMMER and beware the sun.... is very angry in this period :)

Monday, June 23, 2014

Did You Know...What Makes a Boomerang Come Back ?

The boomerang is generally considered to be the first manmade flying machine.
But it all started with non-returning boomerangs.Weapons that have been used for at least 20,000-30,000 years, with the oldest known example carved from a mammoth’s tusk. These boomerangs were strictly adapted for a straight flight and to stay in the air as long as possible (if thrown correctly, that's for sure). The hunter was then able to throw the primitive boomerang great distances and hit an animal to be eaten. These animals were often small-game, but even the likes of big animals (kangaroo or emus) can be  injured by a decently weighted boomerang such that the animal can no longer outrun the hunters. Possibly while shaping a non-returning boomerang, someone accidentally carved a boomerang into a shape that, when thrown correctly, came careening back toward the owner. It wasn’t exactly useful for hunting or warfare; it was difficult to aim; and if it actually hit its target, it wouldn’t come back anyway. Most scholars believe that, because returning boomerangs don’t serve much of a functional purpose in hunting, they were simply used for sport, possibly first by the Australian aborigines, though Ancient Egyptians and many other cultures also made them. It could be quite interesting for you to know Tutankhamen actually had a collection of returning (and non-returning) boomerangs. But actually the Early Australian settlers believed that the boomerangs they saw the aborigines carrying were wooden swords.

While there are numerous different ways to make a boomerang, traditionally, the returning ones are lightweight, made of wood, and consist of two separate wings which meet at an angle in the middle. That middle section forms the central point around which the wings will be able to spin, stabilizing the flight pattern. But unlike an airplane or helicopter propeller, which starts spinning while the vehicle is completely still, you throw the boomerang, so that in addition to its spinning propeller motion, it also has the motion of flying through the air. But how a returning boomerang works? What's the physics behind it? 

When a boomerang is thrown, it starts a spin with a wing at the top, while the other is at the bottom. whichever wing is at the top of the spin at any one time ends up moving in the same direction as the forward motion of the throw, while whichever wing is at the bottom of the spin is moving in the opposite direction of the throw. This means that while the wing at the top is spinning at the same speed as the wing at the bottom, it is actually moving through the air at a higher rate of speed. When a wing moves through the air more quickly, more air passes under it. This translates into more lift because the wing has to exert more force to push down the increased mass. So, it's as if somebody were constantly pushing the whole spinning propeller of the boomerang at the top of the spin. And that's when it starts to turn...

When you push on one point of a spinning object, such as a wheel or boomerang, the object doesn't react in the way you might expect. As we just said, air flows faster over the top of the boomerang, creating more lift than over the bottom. So, these unequal forces generate a torque, and you might expect that torque to flip the boomerang over, but it doesn't. And that's  because it's thrown with a very fast spin. So that spin means that the boomerang has an angular momentum, a great amount of it. To know the direction of it, you have to put your fingers of your right hand in the direction of rotation, and the thumb points in the direction of the angular momentum. So, as it's spinning, the torque actually changes the angular momentum, and it changes it in the direction of the torque. In the case of you throwing the boomerang, the torque would be directed towards you. So the angular momentum is changed to point around at you, which allows the boomerang to execute its curved path and come back to where it started. This phenomenon is called Gyroscopic Precession.

Of course, as anyone who’s ever tried to throw a boomerang knows, you also have to throw it correctly in order to get it to come back to you. You need to throw it somewhat vertically, holding it by one wing, with the other wing pointed up, with the centre pointing toward you. And now this ancient weapon has truly become a never-failing way to have fun.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Bad Luck Files - Tetraphobia

This may seem a little bit odd to some of you who have never heard of it, but it's actually true. Tetraphobia is the aversion or fear of number 4 and is a superstition most common in East Asian countries such as China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan. But probably most of you are now thinking "what's wrong with our dearest friend 4 ? ". 

The answer is pretty simple... it can be consider a "bad luck sign" because of its sound. In Chinese, the word indicating the "four" (,pinyin: sì, jyutping, sei), sounds very similar to the word "death" (, pinyin: sǐ,jyutping, sei), in many forms of spoken Chinese. In the same way, in Japanese and in Korean, words that indicate the four, shi (Japanese) and sa (, Korean), sound identical to death in both languages.

Particular care is taken to avoid occurrences or allusions to the number 4 during festive holidays, parties, or when a family member is sick, especially in Chinese culture. The numbers 14, 24, etc., are also avoided due to the presence of the digit 4. In these countries, in the buildings, such as hotels, offices, apartments and hospitals, floors with these numbers are often skipped.

On wedding lunches or other convivial occasions the tables numbered 4, 14, 24, etc are often left out, and in many residential complexes, these numbers are replaced with 3A, 13A, 23A, etc. Similarly in the courtyards of siheyuan (traditional Chinese houses) are never planted four trees or four plants in bonsai pots.

Also in a big modern metropolis like Hong Kong, some skyscrapers such as Vision City and The Arch skip all floors from 40 to 49: immediately above the floor 39/F there is 50/F. 

Another example of this traditional phobia is the fact that the naming of their military aviation begins with the number 5, as in fighter plane "Shenyang J-5"; in taiwanese and Korean Navy does not use the number 4 when assigning pennant numbers to craft.
In Korea, tetraphobia is less present but the floor number 4 is almost always skipped in hospitals and public buildings. Elsewhere, in the lifts the fourth floor is sometimes labeled "F" (the capital letter of four in English) rather than "4". The numbers that contain multiple occurrences of  number 4 (such as 404) are usually avoided, otherwise the value of the property would be compromised.

This traditional superstition is so deeply believed and frightening that  when Beijing lost its bid to stage the 2000 Olympic Games, it was speculated that the reason China did not pursue a bid for the following 2004 Games was due to the unpopularity of the number 4 in China. Instead, the city waited another four years, and would eventually host the 2008 Olympic Games, also because the number eight is a lucky number in Chinese culture.

Even in a chinese traditional board game called Go, 4 is the synonymous of “you’re dead !”. in fact a checker surrounded by four opponents dies and is immediately removed from the game. Maybe this is a little far fetched, but I would not be happy to know how many misunderstandings started because of this "issue" they have...

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Random Facts About... Psycological Truths

These facts have a lot to do with the article I've already done about the Brain. Those of today are part of much less material circle. Today we're going to talk about mind...and our twisted psychology!!!

1. Getting paid for doing something you like can make you less creative.
2. There is a gene that can cause you to be negative most of the time.
3. 30 % of pregnant women crave non-food items, an eating disorder called PICA.
4. Romantic love is biochemically indistinguishable from having severe obsessive-compulsive disorder.
5. People who spend more time in the sun are likely to be happier and happy people are more likely to fall in love because their happiness is infectious.
6. Your favourite song is probably your favourite because you associate it with an emotional event in your life.
7. Your mind "rewrites" monotonous speech of boring people to make it sound more interesting.
8. If you announce your goals to others, you are less likely to make them happen because you lose motivation, studies confirmed.
9. Five minutes after a dream, half of the dream is forgotten. Ten minutes after a dream, over 90% is forgotten. Write down your dreams immediately if you want to remember them.
10. The key to happiness is spending your money on experiences rather than possessions, according to studies.
11.  Posting a calorie chart in fast food restaurants leads people to choose less healthy foods.
12. There are more than 400 distinct phobias well recognised by psychologists.
13. There's a rare mental disorder where people imagine they are decomposing, dead or non-existent.
14. The type of music you listen to affects the way you perceive the world.
15.  Researchers are debating on adding internet addiction to the list of mental disorders.
16. According to a new research, Phobias may be memories passed down through generations in DNA.
17. The most common lie is "I'm fine".
18. Spending money on others yields more happiness than spending it on yourself.
19. It takes 4 seconds for a silence to become what we call the "awkward silence".
20. Its easier to remember things with your eyes closed.
21. When crying from happiness the first tear will come from the right eye but if you are crying from sadness it will come from the left.
22.  Studies have shown that eating food without preservatives can improve I.Q by up to 14%.
23. Excessive stress can alter brain cells, structure and function.
24. Blue is often used to decorate offices because research has shown that people are more productive in blue rooms. But at the same time it causes the brain to release relaxing hormones.
25. We are most creative at night and least creative in the afternoons.
26. The only innate emotions are joy, acceptance, fear, surprise, sadness, disgust, anger, and anticipation. Other more complicated emotions like love and guilt are believed to be combinations of these.
27. People are more likely to blame other people rather than the situation when something bad happens.
28. Cognitive dissonance is when you have two conflicting beliefs and you adjust one to fit the other.
29. People read faster with longer lines (but unfortunately prefer shorter ones).
30. And most important of all, smiling can make you feel happier. So SMILE :)

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Bad Luck Files - The Black Cat

Have you ever asked yourself the origin of the superstition behind black cats, including why you should consider unlucky if one of these cute animals crosses your path? Well, the first of the Bad Luck Files will answer this tough question.
Let's start from the early Egyptian times (3000 BC). In those times cats (including black coloured ones) were the most venerated of the animal world, considered like gods. Kill one was a capital crime ! But then the middle-ages in Europe came, and black cats began to be associated with witches and evil spirits. In fact, black magic had just hit Europe and alley cats were often cared for and fed by poor lonely old ladies, later accused of witchcraft. Their cat companions, some of which were black ones, were condemned as well. This belief became an actual fact when a folklore involving a father and son in Lincolnshire in the 1560′s started making the rounds. The pair were said to have been traveling one moonless night when a black cat crossed their path. the two began throwing rocks at the furry feline until the helpless injured creature hid into a woman’s house, at the time was suspected of being a witch. The next day, the father and son came across the same woman and noticed she was limping, believing that to be more than just a coincidence. From that day on in Lincolnshire, it was thought that witches could turn into black cats at night.
The belief of witches transforming themselves into black cats in order to prowl streets unobserved became a central belief in America during the Salem witch hunts. Even today is not unusual to look around houses on Halloween and see lots of wild fiery eyes. Thus, an animal once looked on with adoration became a symbol of evil omens all around the world.
But the black cat is still revered as a symbol of good luck even today. The Scottish, to mention some of these cultures, believe that a strange black cat’s arrival to a house means prosperity, while in the English Midlands, a black cat as a wedding present is thought to bring good luck to the bride! Also Pirates of the 19th century believed a black cat it’s a sign of bad luck if it walks towards you, but this can become a good luck sign if it walks away from you...well, in my opinion, black cats are wonderful !
Hope you enjoyed the first of the new "Bad Luck Files". If you want me to write about a particular unlucky or lucky sign in my next article, leave a comment below :)
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