Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Kennedy Curse

On Friday 22 November 1963, President John F. Kennedy was fatally shot in Dealey Plaza, Dallas during a motorcade precession. This loss marks a defining event for a generation of Americans, and still stands as one of the nation’s most somber moments and the most infamous in a series of family tragedies known collectively as the Kennedy Curse.

America’s renowned Kennedy family consists of the descendants of Joseph Patrick Kennedy – prominent Irish-American businessman and politician – and Rose Elizabeth Fitzgerald. Believers of the Curse say misfortune began with the Kennedy’s eldest daughter Rosemary, a shy child who scored poorly on IQ tests, diagnosed with "moderate mental retardation." In 1941, 23 year-old Rosemary received an ill-advised lobotomy as treatment for mood issues, leaving her incontinent, infantile, incomprehensible, and institutionalized until her death in 2005.

Monday, August 29, 2011


Prepare your palettes for a taste of taste.

Taste – or gustation – is the one of the traditional five senses along with sight, hearing, touch, and smell. Taste usually refers to the ability to detect flavor, although smell, texture, temperature, and sight are also contributing factors. Humans experience taste through sensory organs called taste buds (or gustatory calyculi), located on the upper surface of the tongue on raised protrusions called papillae. Fungiform papillae are mushroom-shaped, and found on the tip and sides of the tongue; circumvallate papillae are the ten to fourteen dome-shaped dots at the back of the tongue; and foliate papillae appear on the sides of circumvallate papillae and the sides of the base of the tongue. Paintbrush-like filiform papillae are most common, but sense texture and touch rather than taste. Although the widely taught taste map implies taste is localized to certain parts of the tongue, taste-perception is evenly distrusted and all tasting papillae can sense every basic taste.

Friday, August 26, 2011


This one’s for all my Anglophiles: a beginner’s guide to heraldry.

In 12th century England, men would commonly adopt a Coat of Arms: a shield-shaped household-specific emblem to identify his family in battle. Today, arms are still displayed on shields or escutcheons; heraldry is the study of Coats of Arms, the rules governing their design, and blazoning – the specific vocabulary and syntax of their description.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


Today on learnalittle, stow the sippy cups and get acquainted with the adult world of formal glassware.

Unsurprisingly, alcoholic beverages have driven the specialization of glassware in Western society. The highball glass is the most standard-looking of the cylindrical, flat-bottomed tumblers, and holds 8 to 12 ounces of mixed drink. The lowball is its stouter cousin; also called an old fashioned glass, it’s the traditional vessel for Old Fashioned cocktails. Likewise, the Collins glass was invented for Tom Collins cocktails; slightly taller and narrower than a highball, the narrowed mouth lets less carbonation escape. A shot glass is smallest in this family, used mainly to serve gulps of straight (or neat) liquor.

Monday, August 22, 2011


Today on learnalittle, learn how your food feeds itself with a look at photosynthesis.

Photosynthesis is a chemical process that uses sunlight to convert carbon dioxide and water into sugars, usually releasing oxygen as a byproduct. Land plants are the most widely known photoautotrophs (they produce energy from sunlight), along with algae and certain bacteria. Though only a handful of organisms use photosynthesis, all life on earth depends on this process. Cyanobacteria first appeared 3,000,000,000 years ago, and gradually oxygenated the planet, allowing complex aerobic (oxygen-breathing) organisms to evolve. Likewise, photoautotrophs serve as the basic terrestrial food source.

Friday, August 19, 2011


Wrapping up learnalitte’s WEEK OF SPACE, we really looks to the stars.

Astrology is the study of celestial bodies’ effect on human affairs, personality, and natural events. Astrologists hold that all things are intertwined with the rest of the cosmos; therefore, celestial events reflect human happenings. Using this principle, they practice divination by creating elaborate prediction charts called horoscopes; natal horoscopes are most popular, centering on an individual’s personality and destiny based on time and place of birth.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Moon Landing

Continuing learnalittle’s WEEK OF SPACE, we explore the exploration of the moon.

Before getting to getting to the moon, let’s consider the context behind one of man’s coolest accomplishments. Lunar exploration was the ultimate goal of the Space Race, an unofficial – yet high stakes – competition between the US and Soviet Union to be the world leader in technology. The Space Race itself is one of the most visible aspects of the Cold War, a fifty-year period of governmental, cultural and military tension between the two above-mentioned nations.

Monday, August 15, 2011


To kick off learnalittle's WEEK OF SPACE, we look to the stars.

A star is a massive, luminous ball of ionized gas (or plasma) that form in giant, slowly rotating clouds of dust called stellar nurseries. A cloud’s gravity gradually causes it to condense into a sphere; as it collapses, this ball becomes hotter and denser, eventually forming a protostar. Under incredibly high pressure, atoms that normally repel each other begin to collide and combine in a process called nuclear fusion. In the case of a new star, molecules of hydrogen collide to form helium. When the protostar’s heat and pressure hit 1 million °C, fusion begins and the star ignites.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


Today, learnalittle raises a glass to liquor.

All drinkable alcohols are made by fermentation, the process by which yeast – microscopic fungi – breakdown sugars such as fructose, sucrose, and glucose for energy. This process’s two major waste byproducts are carbon dioxide and ethanol – better know as good ol’ fashioned alcohol. But this can’t happen just anywhere – it’s an anaerobic process: it takes place in an oxygen-less environment. So making the alcohol we drink requires a vessel that lets carbon dioxide out without letting oxygen in.

Monday, August 8, 2011


Today on learnalittle, find out what all the buzz is about with rundown of the cicada.

Cicadas are winged insects of the superfamily Cicadoidea. There are over 2,500 species of cicada, native to temperate and tropical regions across the globe. While most cicadas are an inch or two long, members of the Pomponia and Tacua genera can be over half a foot with an 8inch wingspan. Cicadas live on tree sap, sucking up the sweet stuff by puncturing the bark with their straw-like proboscis; as they have no defenses, the only way a cicada might hurt a human is by mistaking them for a tree and going in for drink.

Friday, August 5, 2011


Today, learnalittle, gets into Shinto.

Shinto (or kami-no-michi) is the indigenous spiritual tradition of Japan. Shinto may be as old as Japan itself, originating from millennia of folk and oral traditions, rather than one founder or scripture. Still, Shinto isn’t exactly a religion, but a set of spiritual views and rituals synonymous with traditional Japanese culture.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


Have you ever wondered, “Why do men tie strips of fabric around their necks?” Well, today’s post doesn’t answer that question. But it does explain how we arrived on the strips of fabric we wear today.

Tying cloth around one’s neck began long before Borrelli, Brioni, and Burberry – as far back as Ancient ChinaEgypt and Rome. But a fabric square is no tie. Although not quite a tie either, the cravat is considered granddaddy of the accessory in question. When Croatian soldiers arrived in 1600’s France during the Thirty Years’ War, they brought a curious fashion trend: they tied thin bands of linen around their necks. Impressed, the French adopted the fashion, dubbing it “cravate” – from “Croat” - and the style soon spread throughout Europe (because – honestly – anything is better than a ruff).

Monday, August 1, 2011

American Flag

Things are about to get… American; today, learnalittle unfurls the old story of Old Glory.

The American flag is a national symbol of the United States of America. The flag shows a blue canton (upper-right field) called the union, which holds a star for each of the nation’s fifty states. The rest of the flag shows thirteen stripes – alternating red and white – to commemorate the initial thirteen British Colonies. Although today’s version has been in use longer than any other, the flag has undergone 26 distinct iterations since its inception, indicative of the country’s dramatic evolution since its founding.