Real Life Cool Stuff

A few years ago, I was so inspired by the wonderful world around me (and all its potential for book inspiration) that I decided to compile a document of cool things I learned. I called this document “Real Life Cool Stuff” and have since added on “Real Life Cool science Stuff,” “Real Life Cool Linguistics Stuff,” and “Real Life Cool Societal Stuff” documents.

Now, I’m normally very protective of my ideas: they’re my babies, and I’d guard them with my life. But, I mean, if it happens in real life, they’re not really mine, now are they? Here are just a few quick facts about, well, real life cool stuff.

Real Life Cool Social/History Stuff:

  1. People in ancient Greece bred/farmed snails for food.
  2. In Boston, a gigantic tank full of molasses collapsed in 1919, flooding the streets with hot molasses, killing over a dozen people.
  3. Women of the Himalayan Nyinba hold multiple husbands, all of whom were brothers, so that the lands would not be constantly divided between brothers.
  4. “Ghost marriage” among the Nuer: if a woman’s husband dies, she may marry her late husband’s brother and have children with him. All the resulting children are considered the late husband’s.
  5. The Nuer again, along with the Nandi: an older woman who hasn’t borne any sons will buy another woman to marry. The one who did the buying is considered the husband/man and his wife is still considered feminine. The female husband’s wife is allowed to sleep around with any males she wants, but all the children are legally considered to belong to the female husband, who acts as their father.

Real Life Cool Science Stuff:

  1. Angel’s Glow: During the Battle of Shiloh, some wounded soldiers lying outside on the battlefield noticed that their wounds were glowing blue. These soldiers survived more often than other soldiers, leading them to believe that it was a sign of heavenly protection. This glow was caused by nematodes in the bugs that were swarming their wounds: they contained bits of bioluminescent bacteria that helped fight off their infections. This was figured out by a 17 year old whose mother was working with glowing bacteria.
  2. Most common roses today are hybrids of two different plants selectively bred by humans to look prettier.
  3. Spices feel “hot” because they have chemicals that actually bind to your body’s heat receptors and activate them, making your body think it’s actually touching something hot. Mint, likewise, binds to your body’s cool receptors.
  4. All plants and animals are eukaryotes, one of the three domains of life. The other two are bacteria and archea (single-celled, like bacteria). Well, long ago, an archea swallowed a bacterium. That bacterium became part of its cell. And those two partners in crime became the first eukaryote. Yes, you are a hybrid of the other two domains of life.
  5. Drones are now being used for humanitarian efforts such as delivering medicine, monitoring wildlife preserves for poachers, filming wildlife, and tracking refugees fleeing natural disasters.

Real Life Cool Linguistics Stuff:

  1. Nearly every language on the planet has “mama” as a common way to refer to one’s mom. This is either because “mama” is the first sounds that babies learn in their babbling stages, and they just so happen to be near their mothers; or because it’s the sound that babies make when breast feeding.
  2. Sign language has accents. Not every hand movement needs to be 100% accurate, so different people always have different styles of hand motion. So when learning sign language, a person or child will pick up the accent of the person teaching them. Signed languages are really cool in general because, from a linguistics perspective, it exhibits all the same phenomena as normal language, such as phonological features; lexical borrowing (borrowing other languages’ words); aphasia (damage to the same part of the brain hinders both speech and signing); and activating the same regions of the brain.
  3. “Mass nouns” are nouns that are always plural. They vary from language to language, but it’s generally something that can’t be held as one unit and is useless if you have just one unit. Examples: water, mud, sand. You can’t have “a sand” or “a mud.” This is different between Spanish and English with the word “fruit.” In English, eating “fruit” (many fruit of one kind) vs. “fruits” (many different kinds of fruit) has different meanings; whereas in Spanish eating “fruits” (frutas) means the same thing that “fruit” (singular) means in English.
  4. Prescriptive Grammar: Some grammatical lessons you were taught in English class were incorrect, such as not being allowed to use prepositions at the end of sentences. This rule, as well as many others, were forced onto the English academic community by scholars wanting to imitate Latin grammar (because Latin is always better). The preposition rule never existed in any dialect of English at any time, but was instead “prescribed” as a symbol of linguistic status by old white guys who loved Rome.
  5. In Greek, English, and Spanish, an “ee” [i] sound is added onto diminutives because the high-pitched “ee” suggests something small

Crazy world out there. And you can rest assured that a bunch of these are going to make it into my stories in the future.

Feel free to check my facts or learn more from the links below!

References in Order of Appearance:

Lead Image Credit: Pixabay via Pexels

1.1 Lubell, David. “Prehistoric edible land snails in the circum-Mediterranean: the archaeological evidence.” Petits animaux sociétés humaines: du complément alimentaire aux ressources utilitaires (2004): 77-98. (http://watarts.uwaterloo.ca/~dlubell/Antibes.pdf)

1.2 McCann, Erin. “Solving a Mystery Behind the Deadly ‘Tsunami of Molasses’ of 1919.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 26 Nov. 2016, www.nytimes.com/2016/11/26/science/boston-molasses-flood-science.html?mcubz=3. 

1.3  Levine, Nancy E., and Joan B. Silk. “Why polyandry fails: sources of instability in polyandrous marriages.” Current Anthropology 38.3 (1997): 375-398. (http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/pdfplus/10.1086/204624)

1.4 and 1.5b “Marriage Rules: Part II.” Sex and Marriage: Marriage Rules (Part 2), Palomar.edu, anthro.palomar.edu/marriage/marriage_4.htm. (http://anthro.palomar.edu/marriage/marriage_4.htm)

1.5a  Oboler, Regine Smith. “Is the female husband a man? Woman/woman marriage among the Nandi of Kenya.” Ethnology 19.1 (1980): 69-88. (http://www.jstor.org/stable/3773320?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents)

2.1 “The Strange Blue Glow That Saved Lives.” YouTube, SciShow, 14 Apr. 2016, www.youtube.com/watch?v=7IpWJGlSSlg. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7IpWJGlSSlg)

2.2 “Garden Roses.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 3 Sept. 2017, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Garden_roses. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Garden_roses)

2.3 Linden, David J. “How We Sense the Heat of Chili Peppers and the Cool of Menthol [Excerpt].” Scientific American, Scientific American , www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-we-sense-the-heat-of-chili-peppers-and-the-cool-of-menthol-excerpt/. (https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-we-sense-the-heat-of-chili-peppers-and-the-cool-of-menthol-excerpt/)

2.4 Yong, Ed. “Tree or Ring: the Origin of Complex Cells.” Phenomena, National Geographic | Phenomena, 13 Sept. 2010, phenomena.nationalgeographic.com/2010/09/13/tree-or-ring-the-origin-of-complex-cells/. (http://phenomena.nationalgeographic.com/2010/09/13/tree-or-ring-the-origin-of-complex-cells/)

2.5a Kerby, Photograph by Jeffrey, and WeRobotics Photograph by Patrick Meier. “The Surprising Ways Drones Are Saving Lives.” National Geographic, National Geographic, 2 June 2017, www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2017/06/explore-drones-for-good/.

2.5b Wang, Amy B. “Drone Video Captures Killer Whales Eating a Shark Alive.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 19 Dec. 2016, www.washingtonpost.com/news/speaking-of-science/wp/2016/12/19/drone-video-captures-killer-whales-eating-a-shark-alive/?utm_term=.81328a6c7957. 

3.1 “Why Do We Call Parents Mom and Dad Instead of Their Names?” YouTube, Today I Found Out, 16 Aug. 2017, www.youtube.com/watch?v=KxPCp69ZwzY.

3.2a “American Sign Language.” National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 19 May 2017, www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/american-sign-language#4. (https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/american-sign-language#4)

3.2b “Sign Language Phonology.” FJU.edu, Fu Gen Catholic University, www.ling.fju.edu.tw/phono/sign.htm.

3.2c Ruth Campbell, Mairéad MacSweeney, Dafydd Waters; Sign Language and the Brain: A Review, The Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, Volume 13, Issue 1, 1 January 2008, Pages 3-20, https://doi.org/10.1093/deafed/enm035 (https://academic.oup.com/jdsde/article/13/1/3/500594/Sign-Language-and-the-Brain-A-Review)

3.3 ATLAS | University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “Writers Workshop: Writer Resources.”Grammar Handbook « Writers Workshop: Writer Resources « The Center for Writing Studies, Illinois, University of Illinios at Urbana-Champaign, www.cws.illinois.edu/workshop/writers/massnouns/.

3.4a “Prescriptive versus Descriptive Grammar.” 1 Foundational Issues, University of Pennsylvania , www.ling.upenn.edu/~beatrice/syntax-textbook/ch1.html. 

3.4b “ Prescriptive vs. Descriptive Grammar, History of Prescriptive Grammar in English.” Ling 010, University of Pennsylvania , 11 June 2002, www.ling.upenn.edu/~tsanchez/Ling10history.html. 

3.4c “Traditional Grammar.” , www.open.edu/openlearn/ocw/pluginfile.php/617097/mod_resource/content/1/e230_1_grammartherulesoflanguage.pdf.

3.4d Reynolds, Amy. “The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.” Understanding Prescriptive vs Descriptive Grammar Comments, UNC-Chapel Hill, amyrey.web.unc.edu/classes/ling-101-online/tutorials/understanding-prescriptive-vs-descriptive-grammar/.


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