The Uncommon Life

Dad Jokes & Dancing Spiders: An Uncommon Knowledge Roundup

February 22, 2017

Uncommon Knowledge Roundup

Common knowledge. You know, the sort of stuff you’re supposed to learn in the school of life—like don’t put your tongue on the flagpole in December. Uncommon knowledge, on the other hand, is a more elusive matter. It’s the kind of facts that might make you lose a little sleep wondering why, how, or even what the heck? Our designs often inspire such tantalizing trivia and these Uncommon Knowledge highlights illustrate those quirky connections. And to keep things extra-uncommon, we’ve added a fresh batch of bonus facts. With this uncommon knowledge in mind, any of these goods are conversation-starters.


How Romantic is the Animal Kingdom?

Snoozing sea otters holding hands, penguins proposing with pebbles, and puppies that believe in chivalry—the animal kingdom is full of aww-worthy stories. For humans, romantic inspiration can be as simple as a walk through snowy woods. Read more >

Extra-uncommon knowledge: Male peacock spiders really know how to bust a move in their efforts to woo females. Their courtship dances include fancy footwork, rapid vibrations, and a rainbow abdomen flap that they raise like a flag.


What’s the Matter With Glass?

How about a nice, tall amorphous solid full of iced tea? This may not sound quite as quenching as “glass,” but when it comes to states of matter, the status of the stuff isn’t crystal clear. On the other hand, these wine glasses make the most of the material’s tendency to go with the flow. Read more >

Extra-uncommon knowledge: The largest mirror (or group of mirrors) in the world is currently under construction for the aptly named European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT). The E-ELT’s array of 798 segmented, hexagonal mirrors will be 126 feet in diameter—that’s wider than a basketball court. Slam dunk for science!


Where Did the Silhouette Get its Name?

Looking for a more sophisticated selfie? For centuries, black paper profiles named (maybe) for French economist Étienne de Silhouette were all the rage. Today, the effect can be graphically reproduced without tiny scissors and a super-steady hand, but the silhouette’s style remains a classic. Read more >

Extra-uncommon knowledge: Contemporary artist Kara Walker creates room-sized silhouette tableaux that take an unflinching look at the history of slavery and African-American identity.


Why Did the Dad Cross the Road?

Attempts to quantify the groan-worthy quality of dad jokes have been inconclusive. That’s no surprise, considering that 5/4 of fathers are bad with fractions. But between his bad knock-knock jokes and “pull my finger” invitations, don’t forget to tell dad you love him. Read more >

Extra-uncommon knowledge: Scientists at MIT have isolated the surprising source of dads’ terrible sense of humor. Published in Foundations and Theory of Hereditary and Ethical Research (FATHER), their findings indicate that an obscure gene is responsible for the groan-worthy jokes men gravitate to once they have children to torment. But before you accuse us of spreading “fake news,” we must admit this study is just and elaborate dad joke…


Why is That Candy Bar Ticking?

Sir Winston Churchill endured a lot—contentious elections, the Blitz, bombs disguised as chocolate bars. Yes, one of many Nazi attempts on the British leader’s life came in the form of an explosive candy bar. But rest assured, our delectable assortment of Italian chocolate is 100% safe to eat. Read more >

Extra-uncommon knowledge: When legendary actor John Lithgow took on the role of Churchill for the Netflix series The Crown, the challenge involved more than mastering the Prime Minister’s famous inflection. More than a foot taller than Churchill, Lithgow wore a fat suit, walked with a hunch, and “thought small” to match his character’s stature.


Why Do Newlyweds Fall for the Falls?

Is abundant natural beauty the only reason newlyweds flock to Niagara Falls as a romantic retreat? Actually, a dose of star power—from Theodosia Burr to Marilyn Monroe—added to the destination’s popularity. Whatever your nuptial or honeymoon destination, we have personalized map designs to mark the occasion. Read more >

Extra-uncommon knowledge: Noted Niagara honeymooner Theodosia Burr, daughter of famous Hamilton-killer Aaron Burr, died mysteriously at sea in 1812. Her ill-fated Schooner, the Patriot, disappeared somewhere off the South Carolina coast, possibly the victim of a pirate raid. Incidentally, this story is rated “RRRR.”*

*See “Why Did the Dad Cross the Road” above.


Who Invented the Hashtag?

Familiar to Twitter users everywhere, the pound sign or hashtag (#) has a pre-social media history. In fact, it has a prehistoric history. 39,000 years ago, Neanderthals were trending. This upcycled hashtag pin is a retweetable way to celebrate the storied symbol. Read more >

Extra-uncommon knowledge: “Neanderthal” has long been shorthand for dumb and unsophisticated, thanks to the conventional notion that Neanderthals were intellectually inferior to their Homo sapiens cousins. Recent research suggests otherwise, asserting that Neanderthals were expert hunters, planners, and team players. So why did they die off? Inbreeding is now the frontrunner rather than death-by-hominid-competition.


Why Does That Little Star Twinkle Twinkle?

When gazing at the night sky, how do you tell a star from a planet? Simple: stars “twinkle,” planets don’t. Turns out that twinkling has nothing to do with a star itself, but with the atmosphere we’re looking through. Whatever urban atmosphere you prefer, this City Constellation print is a stellar choice. Read more >

Extra-uncommon knowledge: To date, astronomers have detected more than 3,500 exoplanets (planets outside our solar system). One of the various methods they use to find these far-out worlds is transit photometry, the amount that a parent star dims when a planet passes in front of it. Talk about throwing shade.


Why is Hot Food Hot Cuisine in Hot Countries?

Around the globe, spicy cuisines happen to coincide with tropical climates. If you think that’s a coincidence, you’re getting colder. No, the cultural popularity of fiery food is thanks to its surprisingly cooling and appetite-stimulating qualities. Read more >

Extra-uncommon knowledge: The hottest chili in the world is the fearsome-sounding Carolina Reaper. This incendiary pepper is a hybrid of a ghost pepper and a red habanero and boasts a blistering 1.5 million Scoville Heat Units. Do fear the reaper!


Who Put the Cod in Codswallop?

“A load of codswallop!” A colorful, colloquial phrase with an equally quirky backstory. Could be that it’s based on bottles by Hiram Codd filled with cheap beer. Or, it could be a marine metaphor inspired by the flopping of a cod on deck. In any case, this fish-shaped opener with a built-in knife will crack open a couple of cold ones while you debate. Read more >

Extra-uncommon knowledge: By and large, beer is a vegan beverage—but there’s something fishy about Guinness stout. Until recently, all Guinness contained isinglass, a collagen derived from fish swim bladders. Eww. The substance helps extract spent yeast from the beer to clarify it, a process known as “finning.” Vegan Guinness drinkers cried “codswallop!” and convinced the brewer to begin removing isinglass from their beer. As of this writing, it’s unclear whether that process is complete (they targeted 2016), but Australian-brewed Guinness at least is now fish-free.

Read more tantalizing tidbits >

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