Tag Archives: Trivia

A collection of educational trivia. We like to think of this as “Non-trivial trivia.”

What is a berserker rage?

In Norse mythology Berserk was the nickname of the grandson of the eight-handed Starkadder. He always went into battle without armor and was famed for the reckless fury with which he fought. Ber-serk in old Scandinavian probably meant “bare-shirt,” that is, one clothed only in his shirt and not protected. by armor or heavier clothing, To be berserk was equivalent to “in one’s shirt sleeves.” Among those slain by Berserk was King Swafurlam, by whose daughter he bed twelve sons equal to himself in bravery. These sons of Berserk were called “berserkers,” a term that thus became synonymous with “fury” and “reckless courage.” Later berserker was applied to a class of heathen warriors who were supposed to be able to assume the form of bears and wolves, from which fact some etymologists mistakenly derive the term from berasark (“bear-shirt” or “armor of bearskin”). Dressed in furs these berserkers would fall into a frenzied rage, foam at the mouth and growl like wild beasts. They were said to have prodigious strength and to be invulnerable to fire and iron. From this latter myth we get berserker rage. In Modern English Usage, H. W. Fowler says that “beresark for berserker, is a corrupt modern form owing its existence to a probably false etymology.”

Where is the Land of the Midnight Sun?

The sun shining at midnight in the arctic or Antarctic summer is known as the midnight sun. Norway is popularly called the “Land of the Midnight Sun” because this phenomenon has been more frequently observed in that region by visitors from western Europe and the United States. The description would be equally applicable to other high latitudes above the Arctic Circle, such as northern. Russia, northern Alaska, northern Canada, and Greenland, where in midsummer the sun does not sink below the horizon at any time within the twenty-four hours of the day. Instead of setting as it does in our latitudes, the sun in these regions merely goes around and around above the horizon, being part of the time in the north. In Iceland, for instance, during June and July, daylight is perpetual and a person can read a book by natural light at any time of the night. Within a distance of about four minutes of arc from the North Pole the sun rises and sets but once a year; in other words, the year is composed of one day and one night, each six months ‘in length. The number of sunrises in a year increases from one at the Pole to 365 at a short distance south of the Arctic Circle. Strictly speaking, only the northern part of Norway lies within the domain of the midnight sun. Similar conditions with the seasons reversed exist in the Antarctic. On March 21 the relative positions of the earth and sun are such that the latter illuminates exactly one-half of the surface of the former, and on that date night and day are equal in length in all parts of the world. Three months later, when the earth has completed a fourth of its circuit around the sun, the North Pole is turned toward the sun and the South Pole away from it. Another three months later the days and nights are once more equal in length everywhere on the earth. By December 21, when the earth has completed three-fourths of its circuit around the sun, the South Pole is turned toward the sun and the North Pole away from it. Of course, the land of the midnight sun is also the land of midday night. In the far north and the far south a person can observe the interesting phenomenon of a sunrise and sunset at the same time.

What is the golden rose?

The golden rose is an artificial ornament of pure gold set with gems and made by skilled artificers. It is blessed by the Pope on the fourth (Laetare) Sunday in Lent, which for that reason is sometimes called “Rose Sunday.” For centuries the popes have been accustomed to confer the golden rose upon churches and sanctuaries, Catholic rulers and other persons of distinction, as well as on governments and cities, conspicuous for their Catholic spirit and loyalty to the Holy See. The origin of the custom is obscure. According to some authorities, it originated in 1049 with Pope Leo IX. This Pope, wishing to establish his authority over the Monastery of the Holy Cross in Alsace, exacted from it each year a golden rose, which was blessed by the Pope on the fourth Sunday’ in Lent and presented to the individual or city best deserving the favor of the Holy See. In feudal days the presentation of a red rose was the symbol of fealty and the token of annual rent. A golden rose weighing one hundred fifty pounds, inscribed with the names of Constantine the Great and his mother Helena, was placed by the Roman Emperor on the legendary tomb of St. Peter in Rome. However it originated, it superseded the custom of bestowing the Golden Keys of St. Peter’s Confessional on Catholic rulers. In recent times the golden rose has been reserved for Catholic queens. Originally and until the close of the fifteenth century the golden rose consisted of a single rose of pure gold slightly tinted red. The sacred ornament was about six inches high and in the center was a cup formed by the petals. During the ceremony of blessing the golden rose with incense and holy water the Pope poured balsam and musk into this cup. Then the ornament was carried in solemn procession to the Pope’s private chapel. Sixtus IV, who was Pope from 1471 to 1484, substituted for the single flower an upright thorny branch with leaves and with one large central flower and other smaller flowers. That is still the general type of the golden rose, the petals of which are decked with gems. The ancient ceremony of blessing the golden rose has undergone little change. The same ornament is used at the annual ceremony until it is given away, which may not be for many years. Two English kings and two English queens have received the golden rose. They were Henry VI; Henry VIII, who received it three different times from three different popes; Queen Mary Tudor, daughter of Henry VIII, and Henrietta Maria, queen consort of Charles I.

Which is cooler, black or white clothing?

Many people believe that light-colored clothing is cooler than dark colored clothing irrespective of the time it is worn. Such is not the case. Assuming the material to be the same in other respects, there is probably little if any difference in warmth between black and white clothing under ordinary circumstances. Only in bright sunshine are white clothes materially cooler than dark clothes. This is because black substances absorb light while white ones reflect it. Light-colored material reflects more light than dark material does. Glass painted black and exposed to the rays of the sun is more likely to crack than is glass painted white. If two pieces of cloth, one white and the other black, are placed on a piece of ice in bright sunshine, the black piece of cloth will absorb the light rays and melt its way into the ice much faster than the white one will. Experiments show that if pieces of black, red, blue and white cloth are laid on a sheet of ice in the sun, the ice will begin to melt first under the black, second under the red, third under the blue, and fourth under the white. Thus white clothing affords the body more protection from the rays of the sun than does black clothing. Except in sunshine, however, the white fur of the polar bear is just as warm as the dark coat of the black beat. The white coats that nature provides for some animals in the winter are apparently designed for protective coloration without reference to warmth. It is the opinion of some horse experts that black horses are affected more by the heat of the direct sun than whites ones are. If that is true, the same should be true also of black dogs, cats and other black animals as well as of black people. There is some evidence indicating that dark pigmentation serves as a partial insulation from the sun rays and that dark-skinned peoples are less affected by direct sunlight than are light-skinned ones. This may explain the fact that darkskinned peoples seem to be more subject to such diseases as rickets than light-skinned peoples are even when their environment and diet are the same. Garments of closely woven white fabric are worn in tropical countries to protect the body from the bot sun. Such garments have high reflecting powers and prevent the transmission of ultraviolet rays to the skin. According to the United States Bureau of Standards, these rays pass through open-weave fabrics more readily than they do through closely woven ones, but it does not make much difference whether the color is black, white, red or green. White,. however, has been associated with coolness so long that white garments may have a desirable psychological effect in hot weather. The association of the properties of substances with their color is of great antiquity. That red flannel is warmer than flannel of other colors is an old belief that probably has no basis in fact. The notion that red is a warm color and white a cool color may have been suggested by the fact that fire and very hot objects are red, while snow and ice are white. Many people are extremely sensitive to colors, and the color of their rooms and offices has a decided psychological effect on their mental and physical well-being. Red, orange, yellow and black are generally regarded as “warm colors,” and green, blue and white as “cool colors.”

Where do elephants go to die?

It is often said that the remains of elephants that die a natural death are never found in their native haunts and that the question is a mystery to scientists. Numerous hunters have reported that they never have found the skeletal remains of elephants in the jungles. An Englishman, who had charge of the capture of elephants for the government, said he had never found the carcass of a dead animal. The natives in the elephant country in Africa and Asia say all wild elephants go to certain secluded spars to die. These supposed graveyards of elephants are known in legend as “Valleys of Ivory.” The existence of these elephant graveyards appears to be confirmed to the satisfaction of many Europeans in those regions by the fact that from time to time natives bring in old tusks that they say they got “in the bush.” Many ivory hunters have dreamed of finding one of these places with their untold wealth of tusks. Needless to say, the belief is a myth. There is no great mystery as to what becomes of dead elephants. In the first place, comparatively few wild elephants’ die of old age. Most of these, animals sooner or later fall a prey to their only enemy, man. Collectors for the Museum of Natural History report that the bones of wild animals are rarely found in Africa. The same is true in most other regions. There are several reasons for this. Wild animals commonly attempt to hide when they fed death approaching. Even domestic dogs often conceal themselves when sick. Elephants are no exception to this rule. They usually die singly and far from the settlements. In some cases they may even seek relief in the rivers and are carried into the sea after death, Elephant fossils have been found in soil once covered with water. Climatic conditions in Africa and southern Asia cause the carcasses to decay rapidly. The natives, carnivorous animals, carrion birds and swarms of insects make quick work of the flesh; rodents frequently contribute to the rapid disposal of the bones. Thus an elephant that dies in the jungle would quickly disappear. After the bones are cleaned of their flesh they are soon scattered far and wide. Within a year or two the remaining parts, such as the skull and larger bones, are completely overgrown by mosses, underbrush and other vegetation. In fact the factors contributing to the elimination of such remains are so numerous and work so rapidly that it is not surprising that elephant bones are not a common sight.