From Holy Water Vending Machines to a Pumpkin Pie Shortage: This Week's Curios

Pumpkin pie slice H
Pumpkin pie slice H

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 the impending pumpkin pie shortage, a 1st century vending machine for holy water, and the end of perfect security.

Curio #839 | Locks are only in your mind.
Locks and keys have existed for 4000 years, most likely invented in Mesopotamia. Which means lock picking has also been around for 4000 years. Locks appear to have gained popularity soon after their invention. But it wasn't until the 1770s that they actually became secure. Most historians credit Joseph Bramah with creating the first high security lock called the "Bramah Safety Lock." His cylindrical lock was far superior to any lock invented prior. Bramah was so confident in his design being 100% theft-proof that he ... keep reading.

Curio #838 | Why pumpkin pie might not be on your holiday table
Bad news for pumpkin pie lovers: there's a canned pumpkin shortage threatening to ruin your holidays! 90% of U.S. pumpkins are grown within 90 miles of Peoria, Illinois. And the Illinois-based company Libby's supplies 80% of the world's canned pumpkin! But Libby's predicts this year's pumpkin production will be down 50% due to extremely heavy summer and late spring rains--the critical growth period for pumpkins. A spokesman for the company is... keep reading.

Curio #837 | Can you A/B test a government?
Can you A/B test government programs? President Obama thinks so. Extremely common in high tech companies like Google (and Curious!), A/B testing is where you create multiple designs of a web page or app and see which one elicits the most favorable user behavior. Once you have a winner, you iterate again and again to keep improving efficiency. Now President Obama has created the Social and Behavioral Sciences Team (SBST), also known as the "Nudge Unit," to... keep reading.

Curio #836 | Computers have a Siri-ous ability to diagnose schizophrenia
Schizophrenia occurs in approximately 1% of the population, and can be totally debilitating. Yet the condition is difficult to diagnose, and therefore it's difficult to intervene before it's too late. A team from IBM and Columbia thought this sounded like the perfect job for a computer. So they wrote a program which performed a similar language analysis. The computer correctly predicted which subjects would go on to develop clinical schizophrenia over the next two years with... keep reading.

Curio #835 | How 3D printers could save the African rhino
You'll never guess the newest crusader against African rhino poaching. 3D printers! Africa's rhinos are close to extinction, and 2015 is on pace to set new poaching records. The black rhino is critically endangered and, tragically, the Northern white rhino has only one male remaining. Thousands of black rhinos are slaughtered each year for their horns, garnering as much as $100,000 each on the black market. The demand largely comes from... keep reading.

Curio #834 | The first, 1st century vending machine
Vending machines seem modern, but the idea has been around since the first century AD! The first vending machine was created by Heron of Alexandria, a Greek inventor. Heron was quite the handyman. He is credited with over 80 inventions, including the first wind-powered machine, the syringe, the steam engine, and a bottomless wine glass. One of his most clever was the vending machine. Heron didn't create the machine out of frivolity. He was trying to prevent people from taking more... keep reading.

Curio #833 | "First Gentleman" Bill Clinton?
Redecorating the White House is an important traditional role of the First Lady. If Hillary Clinton wins the Presidency, that means Bill Clinton will need to channel his inner Martha Stewart as the First Gentleman. But it won't be easy going for Bill to push through just any design changes. Officially, the "First Spouse" presides over The Committee for the Preservation of the White House. While the first family has a good amount of design freedom when it comes to their living quarters on the top two floors, not so for... keep reading.

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