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The Invention of Sliced Bread

The Invention of Sliced Bread | eklectica.in
Throughout most of history, we either baked the bread ourselves, or bought it from bakers in giant, solid loaves — until one man revolutionized the way we consumed it.

On the surface, sliced bread seems pretty simple. But it didn’t come easily: it’s an invention that endured tremendous hardships, tragedy, and years of innovation before hitting the shelves in the 1920s. It even toughed out a government ban during World War II.

And it began with a tenacious inventor named Otto.

The Invention of the Equals Sign

The Invention of the Equals Sign | eklectica.in

The ideas of algebra brought on the symbols, not the other way around. Robert Recorde had written the words “is equal to” almost two hundred times in his book Whetstone of Witte (1557) before noticing that he could easily “avoid the tedious repetition” of those three words by designing the symbol = to represent them. The initial incentive was the need to abbreviate, but once the equal symbol was in place, something else took over. The concise character of the symbol came with an unintended benefit: it enabled an unadorned picture in the brain that could facilitate comprehension.

Why we get hiccups and how to stop them

Why we get hiccups and how to stop them

Why do people hiccup anyway? Even scientists are a little bewildered by this. “We still don’t know what hiccups do, and our cure for them hasn’t improved since Plato,” says Robert Provine. He’s a neuroscientist at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County who studies the evolution of behavior, and he researched hiccupping extensively for his recent book Curious Behavior: Yawning, Laughing, Hiccupping, and Beyond. One problem, Provine notes, is that hiccups have been difficult to study: “You can’t just go into the lab and ask someone to hiccup for you.” That means the research that does exist typically concerns people with problematic hiccups that have generally been going on for days, weeks, or years. But even research on these people has gleaned many surprising facts about hiccups.

A Brief History of the Straw

A Brief History of the Straw | eklectica.in
Marvin Stone, a Washington, D.C., resident, was drinking a mint julep with what was then the standard of straws: a stalk of rye grass. Stone hated the gritty residue the straw left in his drink as it broke down, according to the Smithsonian Institution’s Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation. So he made his own drinking device by wrapping strips of paper around a pencil. After removing the writing implement, he glued the paper strips together. And thus was born the modern drinking straw.

Nostalgia for an old-fashioned milk bottle

Nostalgia for an old-fashioned milk bottle | eklectica.in
The announcement that Dairy Crest’s last glass milk bottle plant is to close has prompted a flood of nostalgia for a former staple of the British street.

The era of the glass milk bottle has left a legacy. Not least memories of the way milk used to be advertised.

But the nostalgia relates as much to the diminished presence of the milkman as the bottles themselves. Their ever-presence in British lives made them ripe for pop culture parody – mainly the faintly ludicrous idea of them having adulterous relationships with lonely women.