The roots of why we put up trees in our living room and decorate them with trimmings stems from old pagan rituals and not from Christianity. German pagans used to decorate their houses with evergreen conifer tree branches during the winter solstice to remind them of the Spring to come.
The Ancient Romans also used to decorate their temples during the winter solstice at the festival of Saturnalia (the Roman predecessor to Christmas) with branches of fir trees. As they have green needles all year round, evergreen trees were used in multiple old religions around the world to symbolise eternal life including ancient Egyptians, the Chinese and Hebrews.
In the Mexican mountain town of Real De Monte, over 4500 miles away from Cornwall and the home of the Cornish pasty, exists the worlds only museum dedicated to the savoury snack.
The Cornish pasty came to Mexico in in 1824 when miners and their families from Cornwall came across to assist with the local silver mining industry. When they moved across they not only brought their mining expertise and equipment but also brought their keen taste for pasties and the knowledge of how to make them, which caught on quickly with the local community. Cornish wives would teach their maids how to create the pasties who in turn made their own for their own family.
It is called the Schmidt Pain Index and is the work of Justin O. Schmidt, who has been stung by 78 types of venomous insect and documented his experiences.
The stings are ranked from 0, which is quite harmless, to a 4 which is excruciatingly painful. Alongside the numerical rating of the stings, Schmidt also writes a sentence or two about his experience, for example the Bullet Ant, rated the highest on the scale, features the following sentence: “Pure, intense, brilliant pain. Like fire-walking over flaming charcoal with a 3-inch rusty nail grinding into your heel.”
The Bullet Ant is rated highest on the pain index, as it is not only excruciatingly painful but the pain can remain just as intense for up to 5 hours after being stung and can remain for up to 24 hours.
China has adopted a jazz song from 1989 as its national anthem for going home. “Going Home” by American saxophone star Kenny G is played all over China as the cue for the time to go home. The song is played in shopping malls, schools, train stations, gyms and library’s as well as many other places across the country.
However the composer of the song, Kenny G, doesn’t receive a penny for the widespread use of his song in China. He doesn’t understand or question the popularity of the song, when touring in China in the 1990’s he heard the song playing in Tiananmen Square, in Shanghai, on a golf course and “in a restroom in the middle of nowhere,”. He has since performed in China many times and always has to make sure he plays “Going Home” last in his set to make sure people don’t accidentally leave early.
They are called tuned mass-dampers and are used in engineering all over the world. A mass-damper consists of a huge concrete block or steel body that is suspended on the top floor of very large skyscrapers which can weigh over 1000 tons depending on the size of the building. In the event of movement of the building the pendulum moves in the opposite direction, usually on hydraulics or springs which counteracts the initial movement so the building doesn’t sway from side to side, this prevents the people inside from receiving motion sickness and a crippling fear of skyscrapers.
The movement of the building can be caused by various effects, one of the major contributors is wind. Some of the larger skyscrapers in the world can reach over 2000 feet into the sky and up there the wind currents can be much stronger. The strong currents can push the building, the mass-damper comes into play here and pushes back against the wind causing the building to remain stable so no one inside will notice the change.
Most houses today have a tub of margarine in the fridge, but what is margarine, where does it come from and how is it different to butter?
Butter is created from cream which rises to the top of milk when it sits for a period of time, this is usually gathered from cows. Through the process of churning the cream, a chemical reaction takes place which makes the cream begin to solidify and turn into butter. This process has been around for over 4000 years.
Margarine came along around 150 years ago, Napoleon III wanted a cheap butter substitute to supply to his troops and to provide to the poorer population in France. Hippolyte Mége Mouriès patented a lower priced form of butter in 1869, it was made primarily from from beef tallow (fat from cows). He named the new substance margarine from the Greek margarite meaning “pearl like” after its white, pearlescent look.
The idea of storing food in airtight containers came from a French chef named Nicolas Appert, when in 1795 the French military offered a cash prize of 12,000 Francs to anyone who could help them preserve food to be transported to their soldiers on the front line. Appert, however, didn’t use metal cans, he used air tight glass bottles which he then boiled which killed any bacteria inside the container.
Appert’s method was simple and worked well, the technique spread across France and into Britain where an inventor named Peter Durand patented his own method, this time not using glass bottles but using metal cans which was granted by King George III of England in 1810. He followed the same techniques except he enclosed the food in tin cans, he arranged his cans to sail with the royal navy for 4-6 months and when opened and examined they were completely preserved.