Last week's Curios covered the unlikely history of "OK," zombie ant fungus, and the long-awaited Curio #1,000.
Curio No. 1004 | K, I've okayed what "OK" means. You okay with that?
OK. "OK" is an incredibly versatile word. It can be used as an adjective, noun, interjection, or adverb. It also has dozens of spellings and colloquial variations (e.g. OK, okay, okey-dokey, K, mmkay). In fact, almost all languages use it in some form. But, surprisingly, in etymological terms it is a newborn. A Columbia University linguist traced the birth of OK to a column in the March 23, 1839 edition of the Boston Morning Post. The writer of the column, Charles Gordon Greene, was following a fashion of the time to coin phonetic acronyms for common phrases... keep reading.
Curio No. 1003 | Blame tasteless pepper on ancient Roman shipping routes
After salt, pepper is the most popular seasoning in the Western hemisphere. It first appeared on tables during the Roman Empire. But today's pepper is not the same pepper that ancient Mediterranean cooks were using. That was long pepper. It is in the same genus as black pepper, Piper, and contains the same active ingredient, piperine. But long pepper has a very different taste. Foodies say it lingers on the tongue longer and has qualities of spice blends like garam masala--with sweeter and spicier accents. Plus it's more flavorful. So why isn't it on our dining tables? The short answer is ancient Roman ship routes... keep reading.
Curio No. 1002 | A real-life Zombie ant fungus
Recently we learned about the world's most evil tree. Now we may have found the "evilest" fungus on the face of the planet. Ophiocordyceps unilateralis, better known as "zombie ant fungus," is actually a tropical mushroom that survives by taking over the body of an ant. Specifically the Camponotus leonardi ant. First, the fungus latches onto an ant. Then it eats through its exoskeleton with enzymes, taking control of the ant's central nervous system. From then on, the ant is essentially a zombie, completely controlled by the fungus... keep reading.
Curio No. 1001 | On writing Curios
As I mentioned in yesterday's 1000th Curio, we received a lot of questions about the Curio-writing process when I solicited feedback last week. So why not write a Curio about writing Curios? See answers to your most common questions... keep reading.
Curio No. 1000 | Drum roll, please
Well, here we are. Curio #1000! When we started Curious in 2013, I set a personal goal of writing 1000 Curios in a row. We defined a Curio as a "curious fact that tickles the mind of lifelong learners." I decided to do it myself because I find learning things so much fun, and I like to write. And because, as the CEO of a company, I'm always feeling like I don't actually do real work. I figured this way I would know I did at least one useful thing each day. I never thought they would be much of a production, nor that they would get much attention. Boy, was I wrong about both... keep reading.
Curio No. 999 | Yes, it's true: 0.999... = 1
Huh? According to mathematicians, 0.999... = 1. The proof for this equation first showed up in Euler's 1770 textbook, Elements of Algebra. How can two totally different-looking numbers be exactly equal? Mustn't there be a sliver of space between those two values on the number line? Here are a few proofs that might make it a bit easier to grok... keep reading.
Curio No. 998 | In the end, maybe P.T. Barnum was the sucker?
Happy World Circus Day! You know P.T. Barnum's name from the Barnum & Bailey Circus. Barnum got his big break in 1841 when he purchased Scudder's American Museum in New York City and slapped his name on it. The museum had over 500,000 exhibits, and was extremely successful in its early years. Then Barnum got his first taste of the peculiar brand of bad luck that would plague his entire life. In the midst of his museum's success, his home was razed in a major fire in 1857. Seven years later, the museum was destroyed by a giant fire... keep reading.