Things I’ve learned while procrastinating

By ARIELLA SHUA | October 12, 2017


THEIMPULSIVEBUY/ CC BY-SA 2.0 The first waffle cone was invented by a New York City ice cream salesman.

My online wanderings often stray away from work and into what can best be described as the random corners of the internet.

I’ve learned quite a few interesting things since classes began at Hopkins, though many of them were not learned in a classroom.

When struck with random questions (which I often am when I should be focused on just about anything else), I use my ample procrastination time to accidentally learn more than I ever intended to about random topics.

Some of these questions and answers, helpfully provided by the internet, are:

Why did people start eating from ice cream cones?

There are a few accounts of people eating ice cream out of edible, waffle-like containers throughout the 1800’s, but the most commonly cited inventor of the cone is Italo Marchioni, an ice cream salesman from New York City. At the time, ice cream was served in glass containers, which took a long time to clean and could be stolen.

To avoid this, Marchioni invented a contraption that would allow him to cook waffles and keep them hot long enough to fold over into a container-like shape.

Though Marchioni received a patent in 1903, the cone was not popularized until after the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, which has resulted in several disputes about who invented the cone.

How many words exist between all of the languages in the world?

It depends on how you define a singular word. If a word has more than one meaning, does each definition count as a separate word, or is it just the unique stringing together of letters in a certain order that makes a word?

Do words that sound the same but come from different languages count as one word or two? Are names, medical terms and obsolete terms included?

Because defining the parameters of what makes a set of sounds and figures a word is so complicated, this question is impossible to answer. The closest estimation for the English language, however, is about a quarter of a million words, according to the second edition of the Oxford English Dictionary.

What is the longest story ever written?

Marcel Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past was declared the world’s longest novel by The Guinness Book of World Records. Written in seven volumes between 1913 and 1927, the novel contains over 1,200,000 words in French. Proust won specifically because his work’s individual character count was the longest.

However, Proust’s count has been beaten online in recent years. “The Subspace Emissary’s Worlds Conquest” was published on by user AuraChannelerChris, who based his work on Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros. franchise.

The story, which has been in progress since 2008, has a current word count of over 4,061,000, more than three times that of Proust’s novel.

Why did French fries receive their name if they aren’t from France?

Though it is unclear exactly where French fries originated from, many believe that they came from Belgium, most likely during the mid-1600s. Villagers often sliced fish into thin segments to fry and eat. During the winter, when the waters froze over, the villagers switched to potatoes and served them the same way.

The term “French fries” may have come from the Americans who fought in Belgium during World War I. Upon trying the fried potatoes, the Americans, who thought they were in France (since French was the local language) began calling the food “French” fries.

Why is the sky blue?

Yes, it is the classic question that every child asks their parents, but either I never received an answer or I forgot it over time. As NASA’s website explains, sunlight travels in a straight line until it reaches Earth’s atmosphere, at which point it begins to scatter.

The gases and molecules in the air disrupt the straight path and send the light waves in every direction. The energy waves of blue light are shorter and choppier than those of other colors, so their waves get scattered around more, making the sky blue.

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