This archived article was written by: Carlie Miller
Ice cream headaches to the origin of the name for the purple gem amethyst, there is common knowledge everywhere, it is taught in our schools, and is even in our brains (which my family calls useless information). Common knowledge is defined as: “the wide body of information that a person acquires from education and from life; not all of it has practical use.” I have accumulated only a fraction of my useless knowledge into this article for entertainment purposes and to test your knowledge, for another definition of common knowledge is, “anything generally known to everyone.”
Why do we get Ice cream headaches? When ice cream hits the roof of your mouth, it causes blood vessels near the area to constrict from the cold. When the ice cream is melted or swallowed, the blood vessels loosen. Scientists think that the action of loosening causes the pain associated with ice cream headaches. A suggested method for ridding yourself of these headaches is to press your thumb or tongue to the roof of your mouth when you feel the pain coming on, this apparently warms the blood vessels so they do not constrict as much; causing less or no pain.
Have you ever wondered how rubbing your finger along the rim of a glass makes that eerie sound? When you rub your finger along the rim, it makes the glass vibrate. This vibration creates sound waves, by wetting your finger, there is less resistance to the glass and it creates a louder sound than it would without a damp finger. By filling a glass with a liquid such as water, the sound produced will be lower than the sound from an empty glass because the sound waves travel more slowly through water than air. If you take eight glasses and fill each one with more water than the one before, you can create the eight notes of a scale and play a song by sliding your fingers across alternating glasses.
Now this is a question we have been wondering our whole lives (well at least I have): “how many licks does it take to reach the center of a Tootsie Pop?” Though Tootsie Pop’s own commercial could not answer the question, a group of college students (from an unknown school) conducted an experiment to see how many licks it really took (and three is not it Mr. Owl). Depending on who you are, you might think the number was in the high hundreds or even thousands, well we were wrong; it only took an average of 142 licks to reach the center of a Tootsie Pop. By the way, the Tootsie Pop was invented the same year Utah became the 45th state.
This is a question that has been debated for many years (maybe even ages): “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” At first, people thought it was a matter of beliefs; if you are a creationist, it was the chicken because God created man and all animals so therefore it wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense to create a lone egg without the hen to hatch it, and if you are an evolutionist, then a chicken-like creature laid an egg that hatched a modern chicken. But, this question is fairly simple (and I consider it un-debatable), if the chicken laid the egg, it would be a chicken egg, and the egg laid by the chicken-creature could not have to be a chicken’s egg because there was no such thing as a chicken yet, so, the answer is the chicken came before the egg. A random fact about chickens is that Columbus brought the first chickens to America and these chickens were more valuable for their eggs than meat because they laid eggs year-round.
Here is a question answered for football fans: How did Oklahoma get the nickname “the Sooner State?” In 1889, the Federal Government opened the Territory of Oklahoma to settlers. To see that no prospective settler received an unfair advantage over another with a “head-start” on the more valuable pieces of land, the borders were closed and monitored by police until a starting gun was fired and the settlers had to literally race for land (whoever got to a chosen site first, got to keep it). Despite these cautions, a sneaky few crossed the borders SOONER than everyone else and grabbed the best plots. These cheats were named “sooners” which became a noun for cheaters, so (no disrespect for Oklahoma or their team) in a sense Oklahoma is the “Cheater State” with the Oklahoma “Cheaters” football team.
Have you ever been bored enough to wonder why certain things have the names they do, such as polka dots? About 1830, a “lively” dance originated in Bohemia and quickly spread to the rest of Europe and crossed the ocean to America. It was called the Polka, meaning Polish woman as Polak means Polish man. This dance was so popular, that manufacturers began a race to slap that name on anything and every ranging from jackets to food (how funny would it be to eat something called polka soup or what not). About the year 1880, an American dress fabric was introduced (it was patterned with evenly spaced dots of same size) and, following custom, named polka dots. Did you know that there is another famous pair of brothers (less famous in America) who dealt with “flying objects?” The Montgolfier brothers of France devised the hot air balloon in 1783, though it was only called a balloon or ballon because the word balloon comes from the French word “ballon,” meaning “large ball.”
When you express yourself through a phrase you have known for as long as you can remember, but suddenly find yourself wondering where that phrase came from? Well, I have the origin of a phrase I consider commonly heard of today. “For crying out loud!” expresses the frustration, anger, complaint or astonishment of the user, but I’ll bet some of you will quit using the phrase after learning a bit more about it. “For crying out loud” is in the category known as “minced oath” or in English, a substitute swear word that is “based on, but slightly differing from a profanity.” This expression is an adaptation to the profane statement “for Christ’s sake!”
Enough about swearing, let’s get to drinking. The pretty gem known as amethyst was once used as an “anti-drunkenness” talisman during the time of the ancient Greeks. The Greeks believed that a stone that was “clear and very like wine of the grape in color” prevented intoxication of the one wearing it, no matter how much wine he/she might drink. This charm was named “amethystos” meaning “not drunken” (the prefix “a” is negative and “methy” meaning wine) and is still favored by people in the form of rings and as watch decoration.
So many facts, and so useless in today’s occupational world. How then, can you benefit from all this common knowledge, how can useless information work for you? I will give you one last answer in the form of a definition: “Trivia (singular: trivium) are unimportant (or “trivial”) items, especially of information. In the late 19th century the expression came to apply more to information of the kind useful almost exclusively for answering quiz questions.” We have grown up with it, our elderly live off of it, it has marathons during the ungodly hours of the day, yes, go ahead and spin the wheel; trivia game shows! American is truly the “Land of Opportunity” if any person can earn a ridiculous amount of money by actually using the 99.9 percent of “common” information taught in schools. Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, Wheel of Fortune, The Price is Right, Hollywood Squares, Jeopardy!, and many more game shows have provided ample entertainment and money over the years to millions of Americans. I have written this article to help jump-start those who dream that someday they will be the ones answering questions in the form of questions.
Besides providing some facts that may make you a millionaire, here is how you can prepare for your chance to “spin the wheel”. Ken Jennings, the man holding the title of Jeopardy! Champion and a Guinness World Record Holder for “Most Winnings on a TV Game Show”, tells us his secret to success, “There are topics that, Jeopardy! fans know, come up time and again on the show: U.S. presidents, world capitals, Shakespeare, and so on. So I made flash cards on topics like these, plus a separate set on cocktail ingredients, since Jeopardy! loves their “Potent Potables” category, and I don’t drink. So, after I got “the call”, my wife drilled me incessantly on the flash cards for the next month. That February, the only topics of conversation in our house were, for the most part, the presidency and cocktails, the presidency and cocktails, the presidency and cocktails. It was like going to college with George W. Bush.”
Jennings also shares a few important factors that will determine how far you go: reading and background, “I like to read.” He explains, “I studied up on some of the most frequently-recurring Jeopardy! categories, so I’d be ready for the show. I played quiz bowl in college, which is good practice for pulling random things you haven’t thought about since high school from deep in the recesses of your brain at a moment’s notice. I had a lot more game-day practice and buzzer rehearsal time than most of my competitors, which gave me an unfair leg up that had nothing to do with knowledge. I apparently have a pretty good memory for things I’m interested in – like everybody else I guess, but maybe I’m just interested in more subjects than is normal.”
Reading and a background in information are key, but Jennings warns, “Studying up for Jeopardy! isn’t like studying up for a bio quiz in eighth grade. Jeopardy! can ask you questions on literally any subject from the entire history of all human knowledge, ever.” The most important thing that can prepare you for a game show life is informational passion or simply curiosity, “Mostly, it comes down to curiosity. I think I’m a pretty inquisitive person about the world around me, so as a result I find myself learning new stuff no matter what I’m doing: watching an old movie on TV or doing a crossword puzzle or reading the back of a cereal box. There’s information all around us, if we’d only pay attention to it. It’s a state of mind more than anything else.”