From Rosie the Riveter to Olympic Ties: 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 Rosie the Riveter, broken heart syndrome, and why we get so aggressive about cute things.

Curio No. 1130 | Whatever-her-name-was the Riveter
Happy Women's Equality Day! A good day to pay tribute to a true feminist icon: Rosie the Riveter. Except there was no Rosie the Riveter. The character, most commonly associated with the flexing bandana-ed lady in the "We Can Do It" poster, is a composite. In the early 1940s, millions of American men were sent off to World War II in Europe. Government offices looked to the other half of the population to take the jobs formerly held by the new soldiers. Given how few women--especially married ones--participated in the workforce prewar, this was a big deal. In some places, it was literally law that married women had to stay out of the workforce. So the Office of War Information created an advertising campaign recruiting women to do the jobs most critical to supporting the war effort. The campaign used posters, articles, radio programs, and more. In 1942, it created the "We Can Do It" slogan. That same year, two songwriters scored a hit with "Rosie the Riveter"... keep reading.

Curio No. 1129 | The sand mafia
We're running out of sand? Sand is one of Earth's most abundant natural resources. It's pretty much everywhere. Beaches, riverbeds, the ocean floor. Not to mention, um, deserts. Which is why it's a great raw material, used in pretty much every kind of construction, from roads to computer chips to buildings. But experts are now warning that the world's sand is disappearing--at least the critical kind that we use for glass and concrete. For these materials, makers must use water-weathered sand. Desert sand doesn't work because the wind makes the grains too round to bind. That leaves the sand found in riverbeds, beaches, and floodplains... keep reading.

Curio No. 1128 | Death by broken heart
Dying of a broken heart is a real thing. Broken heart syndrome is a legitimate disease that appears to impact people in all cultures. Symptoms are similar to a heart attack: chest pain and shortness of breath. EKG readings also look identical. But broken heart syndrome occurs after a big shock, while heart attacks usually occur without an obvious trigger. The disease was discovered in 1990 by Japanese researchers. They named it takotsubo cardiomyopathy after the heart-shaped pots, called "tako tsubo," used to catch octopuses. But western researchers renamed it "broken heart syndrome" because it occurs almost exclusively after a breakup or lost loved one. Doctors can't explain the syndrome at the physiological level yet, but have identified some patterns: 90% of reported cases are women ages 58 to 75... keep reading.

Curio No. 1127 | Coca-Cola's secret recipe, um, gimmick
We've all heard the story. Coca-Cola is so secretive about their drink's formula that only two living executives know the recipe, and they never fly on the same plane. Also, each executive only knows part of the recipe. And each executive has a successor that is automatically given access to the formula upon his/her predecessor's death. It's a very cool story... but it's just a story. Spokespeople for the soda brand admit that it's unclear how many people know the recipe, but likely it's more than two. As for the "two executives" part, that originated with a Coke ad campaign and has never been accurate. In Coca-Cola's early days, the man who invented the drink gave the recipe to everybody who asked. John Pemberton was a pharmacist in the 1880s who invented Coke as a "temperance drink"... keep reading.

Curio No. 1126 | No laughing matter
Loyal Curio readers know we aren't afraid of the occasional pun. But a small subset of compulsive punners have a disease that is no laughing matter. It's called Witzelsucht, German for "joke addiction." For those afflicted with Witzelsucht, joking becomes more important than sleeping, holding a job, or even upholding common social decency. The jokes overflow. Doctors don't know exactly why Witzelsucht happens. But the prevailing theory is that it has something to do with brain damage to the right frontal lobe. Mess with this part of the brain--which is associated with humor appreciation--and you can end up with a fountain of terrible jokes.... keep reading.

Curio No. 1125 | On Olympic ties
This year's Olympics in Rio de Janiero have given us many priceless moments: Angry #PhelpsFace, collapses at the finish line, Fiji's first gold medal and the Dive. But the craziest moment might have come in swimming at the men's 100m butterfly. That's when three of the greatest male swimmers in the world--Michael Phelps, Chad Le Clos, and Laszlo Cseh--tied for silver at 51.14 seconds. As in all three touched the wall at exactly the same time, even though the gold medalist was almost a second faster. Except did they touch at exactly the same time? Surely there is a way to measure more precisely than hundredths of a second in this technical age?... keep reading.

Curio No. 1124 | So cute I want to eat it up
In Curio #1108, we learned about the science of cuteness, as explained by a Nazi psychologist named Konrad Lorenz. Now modern cuteness scientists are breaking new ground. They have concluded that some people have a bizarrely aggressive reaction to cute things--and it's completely normal. Why do some people respond almost violently to cute things? Experts at Yale had a hunch it was an extension of grandma's desire to pinch the cheeks of her grandbaby. The aggressive behavior was a way of keeping one's natural response from being too overwhelming. The same sort of biological response is at play when we laugh nervously, or smile in uncomfortable situations. To validate this, the Yale researchers conducted a series of experiments.... keep reading.

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