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Strabo, in his Geographica, described the Irish as man-eaters who had sex with their mothers and sisters.

Hummingbirds, bees and ants spend 80% of their day doing absolutely nothing.

Religion was illegal in Albania until 1990.

Napoleon had a naked statue of himself commissioned, with a strategically placed leaf hiding his manhood. The British Government later purchased the item and presented it to Wellington.

There are more Irish in New York City than in Dublin, Ireland; more Italians in New York City than in Rome, Italy; and more Jews in New York City than in Tel Aviv, Israel.

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Earthworms turn over the earth’s top 6 inches of soil about every 20 years, maintaining the fertile humus that covers most land areas and supports agricultural production.

Lena Horne (1917-2010), the highest paid African American actor of her time, signed a contract guaranteeing she didn’t have to play cooks, maids, or other stereotypes.

One in four Canadians ate fast food in the past 24 hours.

Caribou make a clicking sound when they walk. This is caused by tendons slipping over bones in their feet.

Designed for efficiency of construction, the Empire State Building was erected in just 11 months from the setting of the first steel columns on April 7, 1930 to the fully enclosed structure on March 31, 1931. At the peak of construction the tower rose at the rate of a storey a day.

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Did Americans have British Accents in 1776?

It is obvious to assume that Americans used to have accents similar to today’s British accents, and that American accents diverged after the Revolutionary War, while British accents remained more or less the same.

The second of four engravings by Amos Doolittl...

Amos Doolittle’s 1775 engraving depicting the British entering Concord

Americans in 1776 did have British accents in that American accents and British accents hadn’t yet diverged – an answer which is not too surprising.

What is surprising, though, is that those accents were much closer to today’s American accents than to today’s British accents. While both have changed over time, it’s actually British accents that have changed much more drastically since then.

First, let’s be clear: the terms British accent and American accent are oversimplifications; there were, and still are, innumerable constantly-evolving regional British and American accents. What most Americans think of as the British accent is the standardized Received Pronunciation, also known as ‘BBC English’.

While there are many differences between today’s British accents and today’s American accents, perhaps the most noticeable difference is rhotacism. While most American accents are rhotic, the standard British accent is non-rhotic. (Rhotic speakers pronounce the ‘R’ sound in the word ‘hard’. Non-rhotic speakers do not.)

In 1776, both American accents and British accents were largely rhotic. It was around this time that non-rhotic speech took off in southern England, especially among the upper class. This prestige non-rhotic speech was standardized, and has been spreading in Britain ever since. Most American accents, however, remained rhotic. However, there are a few fascinating exceptions: like Irish and Scottish accents, New York and Boston accents became non-rhotic.

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Ramsey and The Pigeonhole Principle

Ramsey theory, named after the British mathematician and philosopher Frank P. Ramsey, is a branch of mathematics that studies the conditions under which order must appear. Problems in Ramsey theory typically ask a question of the form: ‘how many elements of some structure must there be to guarantee that a particular property will hold?’

Illustration of The Pigeonhole Principle

Suppose, for example, that we know that n pigeons have been housed in m pigeonholes. How big must n be before we can be sure that at least one pigeonhole houses at least two pigeons? The answer is the pigeonhole principle: if n > m, then at least one pigeonhole will have at least two pigeons in it.

The photograph on the right shows a number of pigeons in holes. Here there are n = 10 pigeons in m = 9 holes, so by the pigeonhole principle, at least one hole has more than one pigeon: in this case, both of the top corner holes contain two pigeons. The principle says nothing about which holes are empty: for n = 10 pigeons in m = 9 holes, it simply says that at least one hole here will be over-full; in this case, the bottom-left hole is empty. Ramsey’s theory generalizes this principle as explained below.

A typical result in Ramsey theory starts with some mathematical structure that is then cut into pieces. How big must the original structure be in order to ensure that at least one of the pieces has a given interesting property?

For example, consider a complete graph of order n; that is, there are n vertices and each vertex is connected to every other vertex by an edge. A complete graph of order 3 is called a triangle. Now colour every edge red or blue. How large must n be in order to ensure that there is either a blue triangle or a red triangle? It turns out that the answer is 6.

Another way to express this result is as follows: at any party with at least six people, there are three people who are all either mutual acquaintances (each one knows the other two) or mutual strangers (each one does not know either of the other two).

A comic result of the pigeonhole principle is the “proof” that in the city of New York (or any other city with a population over a million) at least two people have the same number of hairs on their head. The reasoning is as follows: an average human being has about 150.000 hairs on the scalp; it is reasonable to assume that no human being has more than 1.000.000 hairs on the scalp. Over a million people live in New York. The population of n people (exceeding a million) has to be arranged in m (1.000.000 or less) collections; one collection is possible for each number of hairs on the scalp. Because n population > m different numbers of hairs on the scalp, there are at least two people in one of these collections – at least two people with the same number of hairs.

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Uncle Sam

Uncle Sam, nickname and cartoon image, is used to personify the U.S. government. It is derived from the initials U.S. and was first popularized on supply containers during the War of 1812.

Uncle Sam Poster

Samuel Wilson, a businessman from New York also known as Uncle Sam, stamped his shipments during the War of 1812 with the initials of the United States, U.S. The coincidence led to the use of the nickname Uncle Sam for the United States government.

The first visual representation or caricature of an Uncle Sam figure, attired in stars and stripes, appeared in political cartoons in 1832. The character came to be seen as a shrewd Yankee. In the 20th century Uncle Sam has usually been depicted with a short beard, high hat, and tailed coat. In 1961 the U.S. Congress adopted the figure as a national symbol.

James Montgomery Flagg’s recruiting poster for World War I (1914–1918), with the beckoning words ― I WANT YOU, has become one of the best-known portrayals of the character known as Uncle Sam.