How Did the Dollar Sign Begin?
Historians are not certain how the United States began using the $ as a dollar sign.
Some believe that it came from a design marked on old Spanish coins called pieces of eight. These pieces of eight were used by Americans as dollars before they coined their own silver dollars.
A Spanish piece of eight was given its name because eight smaller coins equaled that coin.
One side of the piece of eight had two pillars stamped on it, with a ribbon curling around them. The "S" formed by the ribbon around each pillar may have led to our dollar sign, $.
How Many Ways Can a Dollar Bill Be Changed?
Surprisingly enough, the answer is 292 ways.
If you used all the different American coins minted, pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, and half-dollars, you could actually come up with these 292 different ways.
There's 100 pennies; 20 nickels; 10 dimes; 4 quarters; 2 half-dollars; 1 half-dollar and 2 quarters; 1 half-dollar and 5 dimes; 1 half-dollar, 1 quarter, 2 dimes, and 1 nickel; 2 quarters and 5 dimes; 2 quarters and 10 nickels. How many of the remaining 282 ways can you find?
How Long Does It Take To Count to 1 Million?
Naturally, that depends on how fast you can count.
But if you can count from 1 to 100 in one minute, and you keep counting every minute, without stopping, for eight hours every day (taking time off to eat, sleep, and go to school), you would reach 1,000,000 in 20 days, 6 hours, and 40 minutes, or almost 3 weeks.
If, however, you give up eating, sleeping, and school, and just count every minute of every hour of every day, you would reach 1,000,000 in 6 days, 22 hours, and 40 minutes, almost 1 week.
What Was the Longest Letter Ever Written?
The record for the longest letter was established in 1952, during the Korean War.
A lady in Brooklyn, New York, wrote to her boyfriend, a private in the U.S. Army, serving in Korea.
Instead of using regular writing paper, this ingenious lady used the narrow tape that is found on adding machines, 3,200 feet of it! The letter took her one month to write.
What Was the Shortest Letter Ever Written?
For the record of the world's shortest letter, we have to travel back to 1862 in France. The noted writer Victor Hugo had just completed his latest novel, Les Miserables, and had gone away on a vacation. But he was most anxious to learn how the book was selling, so he wrote the following letter to his publisher:
The publisher was just as imaginative as Hugo and must share the record with him for the world's shortest letter, for his reply to the writer was:
A reply that obviously made Hugo very happy.
What is also fascinating is that Victor Hugo is credited with writing the longest sentence ever to appear in a novel, in that very same Les Miserables. That sentence contains 823 words, 93 commas, 51 semicolons, and 4 dashes, and fills up almost 3 pages before a period appears!
Why Do We Throw Confetti?
The confetti we throw today at newlyweds and returning heroes is a way of honoring them on special occasions or celebrating their accomplishments. But these little bits of colored paper did not begin as paper at all.
Hundreds of years ago, the celebration of carnival days in Italy gave merrymakers an excuse for boisterous carryings-on. Included in these celebrations was the custom of flinging coins and pieces of candy at each other. This candy, in Italian, is called confetti.
At one point in history, a storekeeper decided that he could make more of a profit at carnival time by selling imitation candies cut out of colored cardboard. His idea became a huge success.
Down through the years, the candy-shaped cardboard became the small square bits of colored paper we use today.
Why Do You Cup Your Hands Around Your Mouth To Call Someone Far Away?
When you speak or shout or sing or even whisper, the vibrations of your voice send sound waves through the air.
These sound waves travel out from your mouth in all directions, out straight, to the right, to the left, and to all the places in between.
But when you cup your hands around your mouth, you are pointing the sound waves in only one direction and keeping them from spreading out in all the others.
By doing this, you are giving your sound waves more energy and making them louder and stronger.
Why Do We Have Leap Year?
Even though we call 365 days a year, the earth does not revolve around the sun in 365 days. Rather, it takes 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 46 seconds to do this.
The extra time is made up by adding one extra day to the end of February every four years, EXCEPT in those years which can be divided evenly by 100. Then that extra day is NOT added. However, in years divisible by 400, that extra day IS added.
What that means is simply this, the years 1200, 1600, and 2000 are divisible by 400, so they have the extra day added, making them Leap Years. However, 1300, 1400, 1500, 1700, 1800, and 1900 are not divisible by 400, so they were not Leap Years.
Can Lie Detectors Really Detect Lies?
Lie detectors cannot actually identify lies; all they can do is detect certain activities of a person's body that are usually associated with lying: abnormal perspiration and flushing of the face, rapid breathing, increased heartbeat, and excessive swallowing.
Because this method does not actually guarantee the truth, the results are not generally accepted as evidence in court.
Although each of the body changes, alone, does not necessarily indicate a lie, when put together, they can provide an indication of one.
When a person is given a lie detector test, various parts of the machine are attached to his body, and a written record is made of his answers. Usually, three or four tests are given to be sure that the answers were not accidental.
Yet, amazingly enough, a lie detector can be fooled! There are some people who are truly unaware that they are lying. These people cannot be caught by a lie detector.
Why Do People Wear Lucky Charms?
Since the time of the ancient Egyptians, people have worn charms, or talismans, for two reasons, to ward off evil or disease, and to bring good fortune.
Not only were these charms worn by living Egyptians, but they were also placed inside the coffins of mummies to assure them a happy afterlife.
Among the most popular talismans around the world are the Egyptian ankh, a life symbol, the Chinese shy-ching, an ancient engraving, and the African elephant hair ring.
Some well known American charms are horseshoes, rabbits' feet, and four-leafed clovers.
Why Do Cannibals Eat People?
To civilized people, the practice of cannibalism, or eating human flesh, is a horrible thought! Yet it was practiced by many primitive tribes and may still be practiced in some parts of the world today.
These tribes didn't eat human flesh because they liked it; they did it because it was usually part of a religious observance or part of a sacred ceremony.
Ancient tribes of India ate their parents as a sign of respect and honor. Many primitive people believed that they could acquire the traits of people they admired or respected by eating them, just as they ate lions to become lionhearted; deer, so they could run fast; and foxes, to be cunning.
Nobody is certain how many cannibal tribes exist today. Some say none; others say that there are still several tribes on the South Pacific island of New Guinea practicing cannibalism.
The rarest disease in the world, called Kuru, or laughing sickness, affects only the cannibals of New Guinea and is believed to be caused by eating human brains!
What Is the Most Popular Board Game Played?
The real-estate game of Monopoly is the all-time best-seller among board games. Since it was introduced in 1935 and up through 1974, more than 80,000,000 sets have been sold!
The company that manufactures the game, Parker Brothers, prints $18,500,000,000,000 (181/4 trillion dollars) worth of play money for Monopoly every year. This is more than the total of real money printed in the entire world.
Why Do You Hear the Ocean Roar in a Seashell?
Have you ever picked up a large shell on the beach and held it to your ear? If so, you were probably amazed to hear sounds, like the roar of the ocean, reach your ear from inside the shell.
But how could that be? Well, it can't! This is simply an exciting idea created perhaps by someone with a vivid imagination. However, there is a perfectly logical scientific explanation for it.
The sounds you hear in a seashell are the exact same sounds that are always being made around you, although some may be so low that either you don't hear them or you don't pay attention to them.
However, when you put a seashell to your ear, something happens to those sounds. Inside the shell is a hollow, or "empty," area. This hollow area works like the hollow body of a guitar, to amplify sounds, or make them louder.
So the seashell's hollow body is actually picking up all the little noises around you and amplifying them, so that together they make the sounds that make you think of the ocean's roar.
Why Does the Leaning Tower of Pisa Lean?
The Leaning Tower of Pisa is a marble bell tower at Pisa, Italy. Even though the tower has been leaning since it was under construction, it has stood for hundreds of years, despite the fact that it looks as if it might fall any minute.
The tower was begun over 800 years ago, in 1173, and after the first three of its eight stories were built, the ground started to sink, and the tower began to lean. It has continued leaning, a millimeter each year, and now leans 14 feet out of line.
Still, the lean does not stop thousands of tourists each year from climbing its 300 winding steps to the bell tower to view Pisa and the surrounding countryside.
Why Did People Put Gargoyles on Buildings?
Gargoyles are weird stone figures which are half human and half animal or half bird. They sit on edges of roofs of many old cathedrals, palaces, and other buildings. But these frightening figures are not there to frighten away passers-by; they serve a very useful purpose.
Gargoyles are actually waterspouts to catch the rain as it flows off the roof. This water is piped into the mouths of the gargoyles and is emptied into the street, instead of dripping down the sides of the building and damaging it.
Stoneworkers who created these gargoyles in medieval times are said to have represented their friends in the grotesque forms of these gargoyles.
Some people believe that gargoyles were named from the French word gargouiller, which means "to gargle." Perhaps this is true, since people do make strange and even grotesque faces when they gargle water in their throats.
Why Do People Fear Black
The ancient Egyptians believed that cats were sacred, so they worshipped them. An Egyptian goddess called Pasht was said to have had the body of a woman and the head of a cat. Since the Egyptians believed that Pasht had nine lives, they also believed that all cats did.
The Egyptians were so respectful of black cats that when one died, it was preserved as a mummy, just as Egyptians rulers were. Cemeteries have been found with mummified bodies of thousands of black cats, plus mummified mice to accompany them into the next world!
Later, in the Middle Ages, black cats were linked to witches and Satan. People believed that witches were able to transform themselves into black cats, and even if the witches were killed, each one could come back to life and take on the body of a black cat nine times. Witches were also said to use the brains of black cats in cooking up their mysterious brews.
Some people today still believe that black cats are evil signs. Perhaps someone has told you that if a black cat crosses your path, you should go home immediately or bad luck will befall you that day! Did it?
In many fishing villages of England today, black cats are considered good luck. Wives keep them in their homes to insure the safety of their husbands at sea!
Can Gemstones Really Cure Diseases?
Just as early people believed that wearing gemstones could influence their personalities and bring them luck, they also believed that these stones could prevent or cure diseases as well.
They believed that:
Amethysts could cure toothaches and headaches.
Diamonds could cure leprosy, insanity, and prevent nightmares.
Agates could reduce fever.
Sapphires protected people from the evil spirits of darkness.
Jade placed around Chinese children's wrists or ankles would protect them from all harm.
Pearls worn by the Hindus protected them from all evils.
Garnets, because of their red color, the color of blood, would keep the wearer free from any injury.
Opals guard the wearer's life and keep people with blonde hair forever blonde.
Turquoise would prevent the wearer from falling off a horse.
Why Do We Say God Bless You! After a Sneeze?
Ancient man believed that his breath contained his spirit, or his soul, and that it lived in his head. Therefore, when he sneezed, he feared that he was losing his soul and leaving an empty place in his head for evil spirits to enter. All this would happen unless God prevented it. Thus, a wish was spoken for God to bless that person.
Other early people believed that evil spirits, which had already entered the body, jumped out on a sneeze and entered other people's bodies.
Today, we know that a sneeze can be harmful to other people, but not because of evil spirits, but rather because of the harmful bacteria that travel in the droplets of moisture expelled in a sneeze, bacteria which can spread colds, flu, and other diseases.
The droplets of moisture in a sneeze travel at a rate of 150 feet a second and can land as far as 12 feet away!