First News
Volume:8, Number:05
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FUN FACTS
THIS WEEK

How Serbia Got Its Name Right

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At the time Serbia was so new that English media had not even settled on how to spell its name, with most calling it “Servia”. This annoyed the tiny nation to no end, causing the Serbian Legation in London to file an official protest and plea to change the standard spelling of Servia to Serbia. Thanks to all the news coverage about the assassination of archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria in 1914 that everyone knew the proper name and Serbians got what they wanted. No one spelled their name wrong!

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One Dish, Three Continents

Gumbo is truly an American dish. Gumbo is made with sassafras, a North American plant, dried and ground into filé. Roux, the base of the soup, has its origin in French cuisine. And the name itself, gumbo, derives from a West African word for okra. Enslaved Africans, Europeans, Native Americans – each made their contribution to the dish.

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Origin of an Ideogram

The Chinese ideogram for home or family was originally a pig under a roof. The character first appeared more than 3,000 years ago on Shang dynasty bronzes. Having a pig in the house indicated it was a place where people lived, not just a barn. The ideogram has slowly come to mean more and more related ideas, including home, occupation, and identity.

Compiled by: Sameer Miyaz Ahmed

Famous People, Funny Stories

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People, Funny Stories Novelist Hermann Sudermann met once Emil Fischer and started thanking him on his discovery of veronal: “You know it is so efficient, I don't even have to take it, it is enough that I see it on my nightstand.” Fischer replied: “What a coincidence, when I have problems falling asleep, I take one of your novels. As a matter of fact, it's enough that I see one of your wonderful books on my nightstand and I immediately fall asleep!”

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Zoologist William Buckland was known for tasting everything. During visit to Italy he was shown a stain on the floor of a church on the spot where a saint had died. He was told that the stain renewed itself every morning with fresh blood. Buckland immediately kneeled on the floor and licked the moist patch. He informed his host that it was not blood, but nothing more than bats' urine. Yes, William Buckland tastes everything.

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George Gamow and his student Ralph Alpher came out with a paper to explain the origin of elements during the Big Bang, Gamow who had quite a sense of humor added the physicist Hans Bethe's name to the paper and thus the authors of the paper were Alpher, Bethe, Gamow... a pun on alpha beta and gamma the first three letters of the Greek alphabet! …a paper on the beginning of the universe by the beginning of the (Greek) alphabet!

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Being a theoretical physicist, Paul Dirac liked to theorize daily life problems. Once, at a party in Copenhagen, he proposed a theory according to which there must be a certain distance at which a woman’s face looks its best. He argued that at d=∞, one cannot see anything, while at d=0 the oval of the face is deformed because of the small aperture of human eye, and many other imperfections (such as small wrinkles) become exaggerated. Thus there is a certain optimum distance at which the face looks at its best. “Tell me Paul”, George Gamow asked, “How close have you ever seen a woman’s face?” “Oh,” replied Dirac, holding his palms about two feet apart, “about this close”.

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