Posts filed under ‘History and Origins’

Bluetooth Technology is Named After a King

By Chad Upton | Editor-in-chief

King Harald Gormsson ruled Denmark from c. 958 until his death in 985 or 986 (sources vary). He also dabbled in ruling Norway for a few years starting in roughly c. 970.

bluetooth_vikings

He is known for building the first bridge in southern Scandinavia. It was a huge bridge for the time at 5 meters (5.5 yards) wide and 760 meters (831 yards) long. Bridges were of course useful, and this was the longest known bridge in the Viking era — a prestigious symbol for the builder. (more…)

May 21, 2014 at 8:00 am 2 comments

The Meaning of Auld Lang Syne

By Chad Upton | Editor

Happy New Year’s Eve!

Even if you’ve never heard of Auld Lang Syne, you’d likely recognize the melody — it’s commonly played and sung at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve, not to mention its presence in many Films and TV shows when reminiscing about old times or celebrating new ones.

Play this youtube clip to refresh your memory:

Although the melody is instantly recognizable, it was actually a poem (with no melody) before it was ever a song. The poem was written by Robert Burns in 1788. It was originally written in Scots, a variety of German localized in Lowland Scotland and Ulster, Ireland. (more…)

December 31, 2013 at 2:00 am 4 comments

Phone Area Codes Based on Dialing Speed

By Chad Upton | Editor

Telephones have been around in some capacity since the mid to late 19th century, depending on who you credit with the invention.

fisher price phone

Early dialing was accomplished by inserting your finger in the rotary disk adjacent to the number you wanted and rotating the dial to the stopping point, then you would remove your finger and the dial would rotate back to its default position. Each number it passed on its way back would induce a pulse — a short variance in current — on the phone line. This pulse communicated the number to the phone system. (more…)

June 14, 2013 at 11:59 pm 10 comments

Olympic Medals Awarded for Art from 1912 to 1948

By Chad Upton | Editor

The modern Olympics are all about athletics, but from 1912 to 1948 they also included competitions in art and science.

craig-deakin-olympic-rings

The main categories were as follows:

  • Architecture
  • Literature
  • Music
  • Painting
  • Sculpturing
  • Statistics

Some of the events included “town planning”, “Epic works” (long poems), “Drawings and water colors”, “Medals”. Yes, medals were given out for creating the best medals. (more…)

March 28, 2013 at 2:00 am 1 comment

There are 90 Seconds in a Moment

By Chad Upton

It will only take you a minute to read this post.

clock-tower

Although a minute is a precise amount of time, we often use it to mean a short amount of time. The same goes for “moment”; the difference being that most people don’t know that a moment is a precise measure of time.

Technically, a moment is 90 seconds.

The first reference comes from 1398, found in the Oxford English Dictionary. Cornish writer John of Trevisa wrote that there are 40 moments in an hour (hence 90 seconds each). Oxford has since replaced it with, “a very brief period of time.”

So go on, continue using it as a casual measure of time — now you know the real meaning.

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Photo: Peter Pearson (cc)

Sources: oxford dictionary, wikipedia (moment)

January 24, 2013 at 2:00 am 8 comments

Halloween Secrets

By Chad Upton | Editor

Trick or treating can be traced back to European “guising” traditions where children would travel from home to home, reciting songs, jokes or poems. They didn’t say “trick or treat” back then, it was “please help the guisers” — a reference to the groups who performed plays to ward off evil spirits during Samhain, the Celtic celebration we now know as Halloween.

The children were often given fruit, nuts, sweets or even money. Trick or treating started to take hold in North America during the middle of the 19th century, although it was put on hold for sugar rationing during World War II.

The Celts believed spirits of the dead would walk the earth on Halloween. Costumes were worn to help blend in with and hide from the real spirits who were thought to be walking among them.

The traditional colors of halloween, Black and orange, have meaning too. Black is the typical color of death in many cultures and orange symbolizes strength in Celtic legend, which was important for weathering a harsh winter. They burned large bonfires, believing this would bring the heat of the sun back after winter. Animal bones were often thrown into the fires and some believe these “bone fires” spawned the term bonfire.

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Photo: José Luis Murillo (cc)

Sources: History.comIrishCentral.com, Answers.com,

October 29, 2012 at 2:00 am 2 comments

2012 Olympic Gold Medals are Mostly Silver

By Chad Upton | Editor

A gold medal has been awarded to the top Olympic athlete in an event since the 1904 St. Louis Summer Olympics. Although this tradition has stuck, many things have changed since the St. Louis games.

I hadn’t planned on writing much about the St. Louis Olympics, but some of the research proved too bizarre to hold back. For starters, the games were supposed to be in Chicago; but, the World Fair organizers in St. Louis promised to hold their own sporting event that would eclipse the Olympic games, unless they were awarded the games. So, the games were awarded to St. Louis.

During the marathon, Frederick Lorz dropped out of the race after nine miles and rode a car back to the start/finish to collect his clothes. But, the car broke down so he had to run the rest of the way. Officials thought he was the first to finish and he went along with it, but was later caught and banned for a year. The following year, he did win the Boston Marathon fair and square.

The actual winner of the marathon, Thomas Hicks, had a bit of help from his trainers who gave him a mix of brandy and strychnine sulfate — a poison which isn’t lethal in small doses and “stimulates” the nervous system. A postman from Cuba, Felix Carbajal, also ran in the marathon. He he snacked on rotten apples in an orchard, took a nap and then finished in fourth place. (more…)

July 25, 2012 at 2:00 am 5 comments

UPS Co-Founder Wanted Yellow Trucks

By Chad Upton | Editor

In 1915, Merchants Parcel Delivery (now UPS) decided they needed a consistent color scheme across all of their vehicles — four cars and five motorcycles. Co-founder James Casey consulted a local adman, who suggested yellow. Charlie Soderstrom, another partner, argued that yellow would be too difficult to keep clean.

Another company had already considered this. Railroad cars manufactured by Pullman Company were brown because they hid dirt better than other colors which meant they required less washing. That settled the argument, Casey conceded and brown has been UPS’s color ever since.

Half a century later, competing package delivery service DHL forms and chooses yellow.

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Photos: Jeremy Vandel (cc), wolfgang (cc)

Sources: cnn, wikipedia (ups, pullman company)

July 4, 2012 at 2:00 am 2 comments

Serial Killers Were Once Associated With Vampires and Werewolves

By Chad Upton | Editor

The more new things I learn, the more I realize how little we truly know about our world. Although we’ve made incredible discoveries and developed amazing technology, many things have yet be explained. Throughout history, supernatural beings have been used to explain the otherwise unexplainable. Serial murder is one unusual example.

When a string of brutal murders happened in pre-modern times, it was not attributed to a person, but rather a supernatural force. This was particularly true when the murders appeared to be done in a similar or ritualistic manner.

In 16th century Europe, stories of vampires and werewolves became intertwined with serial murder cases. One legendary character is the werewolf who is associated with brutal mutilations during full moons.

In the year 1573, a French man was arrested for a series of gruesome attacks and murders that included strangulation and cannibalism. The court took him very seriously when he claimed that he was a werewolf. Although he was punished, this was a legitimate explanation for his crimes.

Another famous werewolf was Peter Stumpp, a German farmer executed in 1589 for his killing and cannibalization of sixteen people. He confessed to practicing black magic which he claims earned him a magic belt from the devil. The belt allegedly gave him the ability to morph into a wolf who could devour animals and humans. This earned him the nickname, “The Werewolf of Bedburg.”

Because of his alleged supernatural powers, people were very  worried that he would return from the grave, so his execution was particularly gruesome. They sentenced him to the wheel where flesh was torn from his body, then they broke his bones with an axe before they beheaded and burned his body — you know, just to be sure he was dead.

Do you believe in any supernatural beings? Leave a comment…

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Sources: scribd.com, wikipedia (serial killer. Peter Stumpp)

March 15, 2012 at 2:00 am 2 comments

Some People Believe Running an Electric Fan in a Closed Room Can Kill You

By Chad Upton | Editor

In South Korea, it is a commonly held belief that an electric fan can cause death if it is blowing on you overnight in a closed room.

To prevent “fan death”, the Korean government’s Consumer Protection Board urges everyone to leave a door or window open and use the oscillate function or a timer that automatically shuts the fan off. They also list fan death as one of the top five fatal summer accidents.

The exact origin of this phenomenon is not known for sure, although it allegedly emerged in the 1970s. Some people believe the Korean government may have created this ideology in an effort to save energy during the energy crisis. Oh, and fan death is not limited to just fans, it also includes air conditioners.

South Korean media outlets credit fans and air conditioners for deaths too. In fact, between 2003 and 2005, some 20 deaths were reported to Korea’s Consumer Injury Surveillance System.

Many experts in South Korea firmly believe in fan death, including respected doctors and scientists. South Koreans don’t always agree on why fans can cause death but the following theories are often cited. (more…)

February 10, 2012 at 2:00 am 10 comments

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