From Ancient Egyptian Anomalies to Old-School Dating: This Week's Curios

Every day of the year, CEO Justin Kitch writes a quirky fact, known as the Daily Curio, intended to tickle the brains of lifelong learners everywhere. This is a weekly digest.

Last week's Curios covered cymatics, the origins of St. Patrick's Day, and that one time that the NCAA banned the slam dunk.

Curio No. 969 | You've never seen sound like this
How can music be visualized? Cymatics is the study of making vibrations and sound frequencies visible. In 1680 Robert Hook, an English philosopher and co-founder of the Royal Society, covered glass plates with flour and then "played" the plate with a violin bow. The resulting patterns astounded his fellow members of the Royal Society. In 1781 Ernst Chladni, a German scientist now called the "father of acoustics," recreated Hook's experiment. He covered a thin metal plate with sand and again used a bow to acoustically arrange the grains into complex patterns. His apparatus became known as the Chladni plate, and it is still used today... keep reading.

Curio No. 968 | St. Patrick's Day blues
Happy St. Patrick's Day! Personally, I've never understood the allure of the holiday. Especially eating things dyed green. It turns out I'm not alone. Consuming green beer, bagels or cake is only an American interpretation of the Irish holiday. In fact, some Irish are offended by Americans celebrating their holiday with mouths stained green with food dye. During the Irish potato famine of the 1840's--when over 1 million of Ireland's citizens died of hunger--people were often found dead with green-stained mouths... keep reading.

Curio No. 967 | A $7,500 plastic box
Is this your definition of art? In 2009, the artist Caleb Larsen unveiled a black cube entitled "A Tool to Deceive and Slaughter." Essentially a black plastic box, it has one peculiar function. Every seven days, it connects to the internet and auctions itself on eBay. Anybody who purchases the box has to sell it after one week, at whatever price the market determines. It's currently valued at $7,500. Larsen claims the piece is exploring the commercial market for works of art... keep reading.

Curio No. 966 | A dunk-less March madness?
March Madness is here! If you are a basketball junkie, like me, this is a great time of year. Spring will be here soon. In the meantime, we can watch three weeks of buzzer beaters and spectacular slams. Actually, the slam dunk almost wasn't part of college basketball. When James Naismith invented the sport, it never occurred to him that players could grab the basket. They were much too short to reach a 10' hoop. But as the sport became more popular after WWI, coaches realized height presented a serious advantage. So they began scouting for height. Even then, nobody thought to dunk the ball directly into the hoop. It wasn't until the 1936 Olympics that Joe Fortenberry made the first in-game dunk... keep reading.

Curio No. 965 | The Great Pi-ramids of Egypt
Happy Pi Day (March 14 = 3.14)! While most people choose circles to celebrate pi, pyramids would also be appropriate. The builders of the Great Pyramid of Khufu in Egypt--the oldest of the seven wonders of the world--very likely used pi. If you divide the perimeter of the pyramid by its height, you get 6.28318530718--a number that is exactly 44/7, or very close to 2π. Not that interesting, until you realize Archimedes did not calculate π for the first time until 250 B.C.E. The Pyramids were built over 2000 years earlier! ... keep reading.

Curio No. 964 | Dangerous DST
Spring forward! Past Curios taught us Daylight Saving Time was originally a joke by Benjamin Franklin, and was lengthened thanks to the powerful candy lobby. But DST is not all fun and games. A new study shows the first six days after we change the clocks are dangerous. Traffic fatalities during that period jump on average 17% and cost society an extra $2.75 billion. The prevailing explanation is that just one hour of missed sleep creates millions of overly tired commuters. Another study found people who sleep six to seven hours a night are twice as likely to be involved in a fatal crash as those sleeping eight hours or more... keep reading.

Curio No. 963 | May ICU home tonight?
You think the dating scene is bad today? Dealing with online profiles, mobile "speed dating" apps, or even "biodata" sheets is nothing compared to the Victorian Age. In that era, women were never allowed to go out unchaperoned. So men carried personalized calling cards, or "acquaintance" or "escort" cards. Single lads--and rarely ladies--would hand them to members of the opposite sex at parties or even on the street. Most of the cards were called I.C.U. Home cards, as in "May I walk you home tonight?" Sort of a Victorian version of the modern euphemism "Netflix and chill" ... keep reading.

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