From Pigment Collections to Casino Carpets: 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 crime-fighting pigment collections, casino carpets, and why it's so hard to get a good night's sleep in a new place.

Curio No. 1018 | The science of art forgeries
Oops. In 2007, a London hedge fund manager paid $17 million for Untitled 1950, a previously-lost Jackson Pollock masterpiece. Or so he thought. Forensic tests conducted after the purchase showed it contained a red pigment--Red 254 or Ferrari Red--that was made using a chemical reaction not discovered until the '70s. The painting was a brilliant fake. The tests were carried out by a team at Harvard's Fogg Art Museum, home to the largest pigment collection in the world. It was started over a century ago by Edward Forbes, the father of art conservation. Forbes amassed a collection of over 1000 pigments... keep reading.

Curio No. 1017 | Those stinking Romans
Public sanitation is often cited as the greatest achievement of the Roman Empire, after their political system. Sewers, latrines, and bathing all flourished under Roman rule. That's right, humans didn't bathe regularly before the Romans. But new evidence tells a different story. Advances in Roman hygiene do not appear to have improved their health. Gastrointestinal maladies like whipworm, roundworm, and dysentery actually increased compared to pre-Roman societies. The same goes for dermatological health... keep reading.

Curio No. 1016 | Do you suffer from first night effect?
You aren't alone if you don't sleep well the first night you are in a new place. Named the first night effect, scientists believe it has to do with our animal instincts. A recent study tracked the brain activity of participants as they adjusted to sleeping in a lab over the course of three days. On the first night, participants' slow wave activity--brain function that occurs during deep sleep--was much higher in the right brain than the left brain. This asymmetrical sleep pattern is commonly found elsewhere in the animal kingdom... keep reading.

Curio No. 1015 | Give your favorite teacher the ugliest apple
Happy National Teacher Day! Remember to tip your favorite Curious teachers. And also give a teacher in your terrestrial life a gift certificate to somewhere nice, along with the customary apple. But not just any apple--choose the ugliest one you can find. According to a new study, fruit with scabs or blemishes has heightened nutritional value. Researchers compared unblemished apples with apples infected by Venturia inaequalis, the fungus that causes blackish lesions on the skin. They found the infected apples contained more phenylpropanoids... keep reading.

Curio No. 1014 | Why casinos have ugly carpets
Casinos are famous for their gaudily-patterned carpeting. They are also famous for refusing to answer any questions about it. Some theorists claim the crazy patterns disguise lost chips that litter the floor daily. Others insist the patterns contain subliminal themes that encourage more gambling. Or that the patterns are so hard to look at, people look at the tables and machines much more instead. Then there are some (boring) people who believe the carpets are just part of the flashy "casino chic" style. Gambling experts agree the carpets are probably one of the many tricks of the trade... keep reading.

Curio No. 1013 | Curious' birthday paradox
Happy 3rd birthday to Curious! Finding two people who share the same birthday is way easier than you might think. In fact, any random group of 60 people is almost guaranteed to have at least two people with the same b-day. Sound crazy? Try this reasoning: Person A and Person B each has one birthday every 365 days -- excluding leap years. The probability that they share a birthday is 1/365, or 0.274%. Now, let's add Person C. The probability that either A and B, B and C or A and C have the same birthday is 1/365 + 1/365 + 1/365 = 0.82%. Add Person D and the overall probability doubles to 1.63%, because now there are six unique pairs of people... keep reading.

Curio No. 1012 | The Grimm version of a fairy tale ending
The Brothers Grimm are responsible for many classic fairy tales: Little Red Riding Hood, Snow White, and Hansel and Gretel, and thousands of others. But the modern versions of these stories are seriously whitewashed. The original plots were closer to Stephen King than Walt Disney. Take Rumplestiltskin, for example. You probably know the nursery rhyme ending. But in the original ending, Rumpelstiltskin stamps his foot into the ground with such force that his foot is driven up into his body -- at which point he grabs his other foot and tears himself in half... keep reading.

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