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JUST IN: Strawberries Are Not Berries, Yet Avocados and Watermelon Are

strawberry-unshucked

Ready to have your mind blown, your childish innocence shattered, your ideas of everything right in the world torn asunder? Strawberries are not really berries, but watermelon, pumpkins, bananas, and avocados are. It’s okay. Take a few deep breaths. We’re right here with you.

While we’ve tended to define berries as any small edible fruit, the official definition of a berry is “a fleshy fruit produced from a single ovary.”  By this definition, oranges, kumquats, blueberries, and even tomatoes can be considered part of the berry family.

Strawberries, on the other hand, are known as “accessory fruits,” which makes it sound like they did something wrong.  They’re just trying to exist, man! In these fruits, the surrounding flesh around the seed isn’t derived from the fruit’s ovaries but from the receptacle in which the ovaries are found.  When fully developed, these aggregates have merged together into one single fruit.  Hows that for fruitception?

Mind blown. Drops mic.

H/T Reddit

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We’ve Found the 8th Wonder of the World: Germany Has A Beer Pipeline

Thor_pipeline

Apparently, Germany knows what’s up.

While most of us associate pipelines with oil and gas, Germany is doing it right and turning them into beer pipelines. In Gelsenkirchen, Germany, bars in the Veltines-Arena are interconnected by a 5 kilometer beer pipeline. Underneath the enormous stadium are four cooling centers that store 52,000 liters while the pipeline transports up to 14 liters of beer per minute to thirsty patrons.

The pipeline connects to over one hundred bars and restaurants located inside the stadium, with fluctuations in the flow of booze determined by how well their team, FC Shalke 04, is performing.

Apparently, there also used to be one in Randers, Denmark called the Thor Pipeline. The copper pipes originally ran through the Thor Brewery when it was still located downtown and was able to supply beer to the local breweries. However, sometime in the 90s, the brewery relocated out of the city. While the pipeline still exits, whether it’s still in use is questionable, with some claiming it’s kaput and others claiming it still supplies booze to happy drunks. Hopefully it’s the latter, as one would like to think that they wouldn’t let such a wonder go to waste.

PicThx Wiki

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Apparently, the Atari Founder Opened Chuck E. Cheese’s So People Would Play His Video Games

chuck-e-cheeses

Chuck E. Cheese’s is a classic childhood spot that has everything kids want, from pepperoni pizza to awesome arcade games. Interestingly enough, the same guy who founded Chuck E. Cheese’s first founded Atari — a company largely responsible for bringing arcade and video games to mainstream entertainment.

Engineer and entrepreneur Nolan Bushnell was the genius and founder behind both companies. Apparently, Bushnell had prior experience in the amusement park industry and was a fan of the Walt Disney Company. Ultimately, Chuck E. Cheese’s provided an ideal opportunity for Bushnell to introduce kids to his Atari games. Thus, the mega-chain was born.

The moral of the story? Pizza, video games and ball pits amount to a genius business venture.

PicThx Chuck E. Cheese

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Today I Learned: Pineapples Were Actually Named After Pine Cones

pineapples

Go ahead and file this under “useless information that will probably come in handy for waiting in line at the DMV.” Sure, it isn’t likely your queue-mates will have any deep-seeded fascinations with etymology or horticulture, but say it with enough enthusiasm and they should at least feel sorry enough for you to fake it.

In case you’ve ever wondered – either in a particularly mind-expanding hot box session, or during Spanish class while staring at the word “ananá” – why pineapples are called pineapples when they don’t grow on pine trees OR look anything like apples, it’s time we finally put your frustrations to rest. Our story actually begins with good ol’ Chris Columbus himself, who first brought the pineapple back to Spain in 1493. According to a report by a Dr. T. Ombrello of Union County College, “the Spanish saw the fruit’s resemblance to a pine cone, and first called it ‘Pine of the Indies.’” The English then added an “apple” for its taste.

Of course, because both pine cones and apples are notoriously dull, I personally vote we all just call them “ananás” from now on, which means “excellent fruit.” I mean, seriously, how cool would that be? I can’t be the only one who cares about this, right? Hello?

H/T Askville, Reddit

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Why We Call It Alcoholic ‘Proof’ (Or How British Sailors Used to Be Freaking Pyros)

proof

Picture a creaking ship. Disgruntled sailors. Cheating merchants. Toss in a bit of gunpowder and boredom and you have yourself the beginnings of our modern-day alcohol “proof” system. It turns out those seemingly arbitrary numbers printed on liquor bottles that require you to do MATH to figure out alcohol content actually have a semi-reasonable explanation. That is, in order to protect themselves against watered-down booze, sailors in the British navy used to mix their rum with gunpowder, taking note that only alcohol that hadn’t been diluted would actually ignite when lit. The flame, therefore, was considered “proof” the rum was actually worth anything – and proof these were probably not the people you wanted running your ship.

According to The Customs and Excise Act of 1952, spirits that were of “proof strength” needed to weigh exactly 12/13ths the volume of distilled water equal to the volume of the spirit at 51°F, or in layman’s terms, at least 57.1% ABV. Rum with this percentage of alcohol was considered to have “100 degrees proof,” while 100% ABV was 175° proof and 50% ABV was 87.5° proof. This system remained the technical standard in the UK until January 1980.

Of course, these are the same folks who spread their bass-ackwards English measuring system across the globe, only to abandon it to us stubborn Americans in favor of units that are much more precise. Not to mention that today’s proof conversion is a lot simpler than the old 7/4 ratio. Still, if you’re not itching to grab some gunpowder and set that sickly sweet Malibu on fire right now (for SCIENCE!), we aren’t doing our jobs right.

H/T Mental Floss, DCS, Wikipedia

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Today I Learned: Fortune Cookies Originated in Japan, Not China

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If you’re still reeling from the Crunchgate scandal, I suggest you stop reading now. Granted, this time we won’t be discussing the legitimacy of a beloved national figure . . . at least not today (we’re looking at you, Tony the Tiger).

For those of you still reading, here’s the scoop: Those obligatory fortune cookies that come with the bill at Chinese restaurants? They’re originally from Japan (left) and are distinct from the Americanized version you get at the end of your meal (right).

fortune cookies

As you can see, the Japanese cookie is larger and made of darker dough. The batter is made of sesame and miso, rather than vanilla and butter, making it more savory than sweet. And that signature paper slip carrying your fortune? It’s simply wedged in the bend of the cookie, instead of inside the cookie’s hollow interior.

They’ve been around since at least the 19th century

19th century

Japanese fortune cookies have existed since at least the 19th century, quite some time before they became popular in the US.  According to this 2008 article by the NY Times, a book of stories titled Moshiogusa Kinsei Kidan contains an illustration featuring the iconic C-shaped wafers being grilled over coals. The book dates back to 1878 and the sign in the illustration reads “tsujiura senbei,” meaning “fortune crackers.”

Moreover, the cookies are depicted being made in the same way they are still prepared today in small Japanese bakeries, particularly those in Kyoto.

How did they find their way to Chinese restaurants?

Several people have claimed responsibility for inventing the Chinese version of the Japanese wafer, but we’re pretty sure that Hagiwara Makoto can take credit for the cookie culture mashup.  Makoto served the sweetened cookies at SF’s Japanese Tea Garden in 1914 and began commercially producing them after they proved to be a huge success. Fortune cookie fever hit, demand skyrocketed, and bakeries specializing in fortune cookies began selling them to both Japanese and Chinese restaurants.

Then the tiny historical speedbump known as World War II happened. Thanks to American suspicion of Japanese-American citizens, many Japanese bakery owners were sent away to internment camps for the duration of the war . . . which left Chinese restaurants as the primary supplier of fortune cookies to an increasingly demanding public. By the time the war was over and Japanese bakers returned, the paper-packed wafers were permanently associated with Chinese restaurants and the rest is fortune cookie history.

Fun fact: The only place where fortune cookies are considered decidedly un-Chinese is China. Shucks.

H/T NYTTofuguWikipedia + Pic Thx Huffpo, Dl

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Today I Learned: Spaghetti and Meatballs Aren’t Actually Italian

pasketti

It’s easy enough to understand that the dry, doughy pancake you get from Pizza Hut isn’t actually authentic Italiana, but spaghetti and meatballs? My whole life is a lie.

It all started, apparently, with the mass Italian migration to America in the late 1800s/early 1900s, according to Smithsonian Mag. Back in the homeland, pasta was considered more of an appetizer than an entrée and “meatballs” (called “Polpettes”) were made with at least half bread and half meat, because meat was considered a luxury. Over on this side of the pond however, families generally made more and food was generally cheaper, which allowed Italian-American women to get a little bit fancier and a little bit more creative with their dinners. The result? Meatballs the size of baseballs, and larger portions of carbs – to appease the palates of the Anglo-American diners who were used to eating large amounts of potatoes.

If you were to head to Italy, moreover, chances are you wouldn’t be able to order a plate of spaghetti and meatballs, unless you’ve wandered right into a tourist trap. Next you’re gonna tell me that nachos aren’t Mexican. Wait what? Really? Are you sure? Jesus.

Check out the whole history for yourself at blogs.smithsonianmag.com.

PicThx Local Spice Jamaica

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Today I Learned: That Weird Gust of Air When You Enter a Restaurant Actually Has a Purpose

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It’s a first world problem, for sure, but who would have guessed that weird gust of wind you feel when you walk into a store or business or restaurant actually serves a purpose other than to be loud and mildly annoy you?

(I mean, outside of restaurant owners. And the people who make the things. And, I guess, probably anyone who isn’t me.)

Yep, it turns out those huge hanging door fixtures are called “air doors” or “air curtains” and they’re meant to keep the bugs out. According to air door company Berner International, the first U.S. patent for air doors was issued in 1904 to Theophilus Van Kemmel and the invention grew in popularity in Europe throughout the late 1940’s and 1950’s – presumably after people started taking regular baths and actually caring whether or not bugs were around.

By channeling air through a powerful, directed nozzle, air doors are able to form an invisible barrier against dirt and insects without impeding regular business traffic. They’re also a cheap way to regulate a place’s internal temperature by serving as an effective shield against the incoming flow of hot air or cold air or other such unpleasantness.

So in sum: Science! And invisible force fields.

You may now return to your regularly scheduled programming.

PicThx Door Air Curtain