First News
Volume:7, Number:25
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Fun Facts

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Naming of Australia

Australia was named before it was discovered. Ancient geographers had supposed that land in the north must be balanced by land in the south. Aristotle had written, “there must be a region bearing the same relation to the southern pole as the place we live in bears to our pole”, and Romans told legends of a Terra Australis Incognita, an “unknown land of the South.” In 1814 the British explorer Matthew Flinders suggested applying the speculative name, Terra Australis, to the actual continent which was relatively recently “discovered.”

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Incan Relay System

The Incan relay system could transport news 150 miles per day. The runners, stationed every 2 miles, would run at top speeds and blow a conch shell to tell the next runner they were arriving. The next runner would fall into step beside them, hear and memorize the message, and then run at top speed to the next messenger. The system was so fast they could carry fresh fish from the Pacific Ocean to the Incan king in the Andes valley of Cuzco without the fish spoiling.

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Romans Cheated on Utility Bills

Private access to water in ancient Rome was expensive. Homeowners who could afford running water paid for it based on the diameter of their access pipe. Unsurprisingly, people cheated. This scam prompted the invention of the “calix” – a sleeved pipe which was put into the wall not by the homeowners, and which was decorated to prevent forgeries or alterations. Despite the calixes, crafty Romans still found a way to get their water cheaper. Some tried to steal water from the aqueducts directly, siphoning it off themselves or bribing the aqueduct workers.

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