Humans on the Moon

Everyone knows (or should know!) that humans have walked on the moon. We should also probably have an idea how many humans have done so, but we probably don’t. Here’s what you should know. NASA has had several space programs but only one of them resulted in humans landing on the moon. The Apollo Program was NASA’s third human spaceflight program and ran from 1961 to 1972. While the first two programs, projects Mercury and Gemini, developed the technology for getting man into space and back safely, Apollo focused specifically […]

The New Colossus

“Give me your tired, your poor / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” Chances are you recognize these famous lines from the poem everyone knows is associated with the Statue of Liberty. Here is what else you need to know. The poem is an immigrant-friendly sonnet called “The New Colossus” by the American poet Emma Lazarus (1849–1887). A New-Yorker, Ms. Lazarus wrote the poem in 1883 to raise money for the construction of a pedestal for the Statue of Liberty. In 1903, the poem was engraved on a bronze […]

Vulcanization

We’ve all heard of vulcanized rubber. But how many of us know what it really means? Here’s what you should already know. Having nothing to do with Star Trek, vulcanization is a chemical process for converting natural rubber into hard rubber for use in the many rubber products you rely on today. Without it, you wouldn’t have car tires, hoses, conveyor belts, saxophone mouthpieces, bowling balls or hockey pucks, to name just a few. The process, invented by none other than Charles Goodyear, was a vast improvement over the traditional […]

Whiskey, Whisky, Bourbon, Scotch and Rye

Considering the amount of exposure we’ve had to the various products in the title of this chapter on TV, in movies and in literature, we should all be experts on the differences between them. We should… but most of us haven’t got a clue. We might pretend when ordering to impress our friends, but really, who are we kidding? Here’s what you should already know. First off, whiskey and whisky are the same thing with different spellings. “Whisky” is the British spelling (including Scotland, Canada, Australia, etc.), while “whiskey” with […]

Halls of Montezuma

“The Marines’ Hymn” is the oldest and best known of the official US military songs. Even if you don’t know the difference between a squid and a devil dog, you’ll recognize the song’s famous first line: “From the Halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli.” We know it, we can probably sing the first bars if asked, but how many of us have ever questioned what exactly those fabled halls are and why they open this important hymn? Here’s what you should know about that curious phrase. The Mexican-American […]

Pyrrhic Victory

You’ve read it, heard it, and maybe even parroted it, but just in case you didn’t know: a Pyrrhic (rhymes with beer-ick) victory refers to a victory that comes at such great cost that it can hardly be considered a victory at all. The term comes from ancient Greek King Pyrrhus of Epirus, who defeated the Romans in a series of battles in what is now southern Italy in 279 BC during the Pyrrhic War. Even though victorious, his army suffered such catastrophic losses that he was quoted as saying […]

Wow! Only 2% Fat!

All of your life you’ve seen milk labels that advertise great-tasting milk with only 2% fat. If the marketing people were right, you’ve optimistically assumed that 98% of the fat had somehow been removed, leaving a tiny, harmless bit behind. Well you’re going to learn the truth eventually, so it might as well be right now: actually only about half of the fat has been removed, leaving half for you to enjoy. But hey, 50% is still a win, right? It’s just not as good as it sounded. Here’s what […]

Children of the American Revolution

Several National Societies exist today to honor descendants of patriots of the American Revolution. The societies have various stated purposes but in general seek to increase public awareness and preserve the memory of the values, ideals, and actions of those involved in establishing American independence. And of course to bring attention to themselves. The earliest known society was actually conceived before the revolution was over, in Fishkill, New York in 1783. The hereditary Society of the Cincinnati, organized by Major General Henry Knox, was created to help officers keep in […]

The Blues Scale

You’ve heard it talked about and you’ve experienced it from a variety of musicians, but do you really know what a blues scale is? Here’s what you need to know. There’s no clear-cut definition what is or is not a blues scale other than one can be used to create the wide variety of music known as blues. However, most musicians agree that the six-note blues scale is the starting point. This blues scale consists of the five-note minor pentatonic scale plus one note often referred to as (surprise) the […]

Syncopation

This is another word that you’d think everyone understands given how frequently it is used, but most people would be hard-pressed to explain it. Here’s what you should know. Although syncopation in music can mean a lot of things to a lot of people, the most common meaning is when the musical emphasis falls where you don’t expect it, making the line sound off-beat and disturbing the rhythm in a way that actually sounds better. For example, with a song in regular 4/4 rhythm, you can count “1-and-2-and-3-and-4-and” before repeating, […]