Bear’s Head Tooth Fungus

Bear’s head tooth fungus look like something from a fantasy dream.

  • Bear’s head tooth fungus is a species of fungus with a shaggy appearance, native to eastern parts of the United States.
  • The scientific name of the bear’s head tooth fungus is Hericium americanum and it is from the family Hericiaceae, a family of fungi.
  • ‘Bear’s head tooth fungi’ are also known as ‘bear’s head mushrooms’ and ‘pom pom blanc’, and were first scientifically described by James Ginns of Canada, in 1984.
  • Bear’s head tooth fungus was once classified as Hericium coralloides, however this name was later applied to a different species in the genus, hence the change.
  • The tooth-like appendages of bear’s head tooth fungus grow on branches as the fungus grows, and it forms to create a mop-like appearance.
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A Bear’s Head Tooth Fungus
Image courtesy of Brian Gratwicke/Flickr
  • Bear’s head tooth fungi grow on both rotting and living woods, mostly hardwood types, and they are typically seen in the wild during the late summer and autumn months, though they are able to be cultivated.
  • The ‘teeth’ of bear’s head tooth fungi reach 0.5 to 4 centimetres (0.2 to 1.6 inches) in length, and a whole fungus can spread to a total width of 15 to 30 centimetres (6 to 12 inches).
  • Bear’s head tooth fungus is a white colour, although as it becomes older, the teeth tend to have a yellow or brown tinge.
  • Young bear’s head tooth fungus can be cooked and eaten, having a taste comparable to that of lobster, though once picked the fungi do not store well, and need to be consumed within a couple of days, otherwise they will become bitter.
  • High amounts of vitamin D are found in bear’s head tooth fungus, and it also contains significant quantities of protein and fibre, as well as other beneficial health properties that are still being understood.
Bibliography:
Bear’s Head Mushrooms, n.d, Specialty Produce, http://www.specialtyproduce.com/produce/Bears_Head_Mushrooms_11322.php
Emberger G, Hericium americanum, 2008, Messiah College, http://www.messiah.edu/Oakes/fungi_on_wood/teeth%20and%20spine/species%20pages/Hericium%20americanum.htm
Kuo M, Hericium americanum, 2003, Mushroom Expert, http://www.mushroomexpert.com/hericium_americanum.html
Volk T & Westmoreland S, Tom Volk’s Fungus of the Month for January 2003, 2003, University of Wisconsin, http://botit.botany.wisc.edu/toms_fungi/jan2003.html

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Orangutan

Orangutans are disappearing like wildfire.

  • Orangutans are a genus of large primates, of which there are two extant species, and they are endemic to the rainforests of Indonesia and Malaysia.
  • ‘Orangutans’ are also known as ‘orangutangs’, ‘orang-utans’ and ‘orang-utangs’; while the two species of the animal are commonly known as ‘Bornean’ and ‘Sumatran’.
  • The scientific name of an orangutan is Pongo – Pongo abelii (Sumatran) and Pongo pygmaeus (Bornean), and it is from the family Hominidae, the family of great apes.
  • Orangutans generally grow to be 1 to 1.8 metres (3.3 to 5.9 feet) in height and they weigh 30 to 90 kilograms (66 to 198 pounds).
  • Orangutans are quite hairy and are an orange-red colour with a brown-black face; and their long arms can span up to 2 metres (6.6 feet).
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An Orangutan
Image courtesy of Dupan Pandu/Flickr
  • The diet of orangutans consists primarily of fruit, although insects, eggs, new shoots, bark, and leaves are also eaten.
  • Orangutans seldom set foot on ground, rather they travel in the treetops, mostly alone, and make and sleep in nests there; spending more time in trees than any other great ape.
  • Orangutans have been observed using tools, solving problems, and comprehending symbols for communication purposes with humans.
  • Both orangutan species are critically endangered, due to severe deforestation, illegal trade, hunting, forest fires, and habitat fragmentation.
  • Orangutans produce loud howls that are audible up to a distance of 2 kilometres (1.2 miles); and they can have a lifespan between 30 to 5o years or more.
Bibliography:
Orang-utans, 2016, World Wildlife Fund, http://wwf.panda.org/what_we_do/endangered_species/great_apes/orangutans/
Orangutan, 2016, National Geographic, http://animals.nationalgeographic.com.au/animals/mammals/orangutan/
Orangutan, 2016, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orangutan

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Bagan

Someone must have been really dedicated to building all those temples at Bagan.

  • Bagan is a highly religious, historical city located in central Myanmar (Burma) in Southeast Asia, in the region of Mandalay.
  • ‘Bagan’ was also known as ‘Pagan’, both pronunciations of the native term ‘Pugan’, and the site is formally known as the ‘Bagan Archaeological Zone’.
  • Bagan was the capital of the Pagan Empire (which covered most of modern day Myanmar) until 1297, as well as a centre of Buddhist thought and activity, and it was visited by many scholars from other civilisations.
  • At least 2200 temples and pagodas can be found in Bagan today, although it is thought more than 10,000 once existed, with each monument dedicated to Buddha.
  • The historical record known as the ‘Burmese chronicles’, documented that the Bagan civilisation was established circa 100 AD, although many historians refute this source and rather cite 800 AD as the founding century, as evidence for a kingdom prior to this time is scarce.
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Bagan
Image courtesy of Dieter Timmerman/Flickr
  • The total zone of Bagan covers an expanse of around 104 square kilometres (40 square miles), and at its peak, the city had a population of between 50,000 to 200,000 individuals.
  • The construction of the temples of Bagan were authorised by various kings of the Pagan Empire, and they were mostly built of stone, between 1044 and 1287 AD.
  • Bagan’s collapse occurred in 1287 AD, after Mongols invaded the Kingdom of Pagan for political reasons, which resulted in a drastic decrease of the number of residents living in the city.
  • Among other factors, a large number of earthquakes have contributed to the destruction of Bagan’s many temples, including the devastating 2016 Myanmar Earthquake.
  • In 1996, Bagan was considered by the UNESCO World Heritage Convention to be listed as a World Heritage Site, however it was declined, said to be due to the poor and inaccurate restoration of many temples; though a resubmission date in 2018 is planned, at which time it will be reconsidered.
Bibliography:
Bagan, 2016, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bagan
The Many Thousand Temples of Bagan, Myanmar, 2013, Amusing Planet, http://www.amusingplanet.com/2013/04/the-many-thousand-temples-of-bagan.html
The Temples of Bagan, 2016, Pegu Travels Company Limited, http://www.go-myanmar.com/the-temples-of-bagan

 

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Fortune Cookie

Fortune cookies are when Japanese meet Americans meet Chinese.

  • Fortune cookies are sweet biscuits that are a folded circular shape, and they have a paper slip inside, that typically contains a message, which is revealed once the cookie is broken in half.
  • In China, fortune cookies are relatively unknown yet they are extremely popular in America, ironically in Chinese restaurants, and due to their availibity in such restaurants, they are widely thought to be of Chinese origin.
  • Fortune cookies are made from a batter primarily consisting of flour and sugar, as well as egg, and they usually contain either butter and vanilla, or miso and sesame, and are baked in an oven.
  • Many stories exist regarding the invention of fortune cookies, however it is likely that they are simply a slight variation of ‘tsujiura senbei’ (‘fortune crackers’), that were being made and sold near temples in Japan in the 1800s.
  • Once fortune cookies have been cooked, a slip of paper with a message is placed on the circular biscuit, and while the biscuit is still hot, it is folded in half and the points are squeezed together to form the distinctive shape of the cookie, and this encloses the fortune.
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Fortune Cookies
Image courtesy of Flazingo Photos/Flickr
  • It is believed that Japanese immigrants living in California introduced fortune cookies to the United States in the early 1900s, possibly changing the ingredients slightly to suit Westerners.
  • The messages contained inside fortune cookies are commonly vague, though generally positive, and they may have a proverb, suggest a destiny, or give advice, or may list numbers that are said to bring good luck.
  • ‘Fortune cookies’ were initially known as ‘fortune tea cookies’ in the United States, until around the time of World War II.
  • The mass production of fortune cookies began sometime in the late 1960s or early 1970s, as specially purposed machinery was invented; and in 2008, approximately three billion of the cookies were produced across the globe, most of which were consumed in the United States.
  • Fortune cookies increased dramatically in popularity when Chinese immigrants took over the production of the food in the United States, after Japanese labourers were imprisoned during World War II.
Bibliography:
Fortune Cookie, 2016, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fortune_cookie
Hiskey D, Fortune Cookies Were Invented in Japan, Not China, 2011, Today I Found Out, http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2011/12/fortune-cookies-were-invented-in-japan-not-china/
If the Fortune Cookie Didn’t Originate in China or America, Where Did It Come From?, 2015, The Huffington Post, http://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/entry/fortune-cookie-history_b_6430962
Lee J, Solving a Riddle Wrapped in a Mystery Inside a Cookie, 2008, The New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/16/dining/16fort.html?_r=3&pagewanted=all
Olver L, Chinese Food, 2015, The Food Timeline, http://www.foodtimeline.org/foodasian.html#fortunecookies

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Squeegee

Windows will be squeaky clean with the squeegee.

  • Squeegees are a flat tool that are typically used to assist in the cleaning of large, smooth surfaces.
  • ‘Squeegees’ are also known as ‘squimjims’ and ‘squilgees’, and they are commonly used to clean windows.
  • Most squeegees have the appearance of an uppercase letter ‘T’, consisting of a long bar with rubber strip, or ‘blade’ as it is called, and a handle that depending on its use, can be quite short or very long.
  • A squeegee is typically used by placing the blade on the wet surface to be cleaned, and pulling the tool across the surface, applying pressure to the blade towards the direction the tool is moving, and in so doing, ensuring liquid and grime are not missed.
  • Squeegees are manufactured with either a plastic or lightweight metal body, and along with the rubber strip, they sometimes include a sponge or textile strip that allows the user to scrub or wash a surface before using the blade that removes the liquid.

Squeegee, Trivia, Ten Random Facts, Invention, Clean, Tool, Window

  • The usefulness of the squeegee comes in its ability to move or remove large quantities of liquids, including cleaning solutions and dirt in a short time.
  • Water was removed from ship decks by squeegees (‘squilgees’ they were called at the time) as early as the mid 19th century, and later they were utilised to clean streets and floors and used in the photography industry, before the invention’s eventual application for windows.
  • In addition to cleaning surfaces of liquids and dirt, the squeegee has been applied to clean chalkboards and whiteboards, re-ice rinks, used in the screen-printing industry to apply ink, as well as enabling six people to be freed from a failed elevator during the 2001 September 11 attacks in the United States city of New York.
  • While the invention of the modern style squeegee intended for windows has been widely attributed to the 1936 tool produced by Italian window cleaner Ettore Steccone, earlier models were already in existence, a notable one of which is that invented by Wilbur Cornelius in 1883 in Indiana in the United States, which had two rubber blades, a similar form to modern style ones, and was specifically designed for use on floors and windows.
  • The term ‘squeegee’ is likely to be a derivation of the term ‘squeege’ meaning ‘to press’ or ‘to squeeze’.
Bibliography:
Cornelius W (1884), Scrubber, US300447. Accessed at: https://www.google.com.na/patents/US300447?dq=Squilgee,+OR+squeegee&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjX_JPWvtvPAhUL2mMKHbMOBFgQ6AEIPzAF
Hester A, The History of the Modern Squeegee, n.d, http://www.ecleanmag.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/history-squeegee.pdf
Rosenberg A, Ettore Steccone: Inventor of Modern Squeegee, 2014, Oakland Tribune Online, http://www.italystl.com/ra/1333.htm
Squeegee, 2016, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Squeegee
Warren B, The Man Who Gave Us The Squeegee to Clean Windows, 2013, The Clean Team, http://www.thecleanteam.ae/2013/12/25/man-gave-squeegee-clean-windows/

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White Baneberry

Do you have that feeling that you are being watched… perhaps by the white baneberry?

  • White baneberries are a species of perennial wildflower, found in forests in the east of North America.
  • The white baneberry plant is also known as ‘doll’s eyes’, due to the plant’s berries having a similar appearance to antique doll’s eyes.
  • The scientific name of the white baneberry is Actaea pachypoda, and it is from the family Ranunculaceae, the family of buttercups.
  • White baneberry plants typically grow to be 46 to 76 centimetres (1.5 to 2.5 feet) in height, and they have a diameter of 60 to 90 centimetres (2 to 3 feet).
  • White coloured flowers are produced by white baneberries, and they feature from four to ten petals and many stamens.
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White Baneberry
Image courtesy of Benet/Flickr
  • White baneberry plants are known for their fruit that grow on maroon coloured branches, and the berries are coloured white with a centrally located black to purple spot, giving the appearance of an eye.
  • The blooms of white baneberries flower during the later months of spring and early summer, after which the berries are produced in summer.
  • White baneberry plants grow best in partly shady conditions or in full shade, in moist soil that drains well and contains a significant quantity of organic matter.
  • All parts of the white baneberry plant can be fatally toxic to most mammals, potentially causing cardiac arrest on consumption, although birds are able to consume the fruit.
  • The seeds of white baneberry fruits are dispersed through bird droppings, or by simply dropping from the plant.
Bibliography:
Actaea pachypoda, n.d, Encyclopedia of Life, http://eol.org/pages/595010/details
Actaea pachypoda, n.d, Missouri Botanical Garden, http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/PlantFinder/PlantFinderDetails.aspx?kempercode=h520
Actaea pachypoda, 2016, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Actaea_pachypoda
Hilty J, Doll’s Eyes, 2015, Illinois Wildflowers, http://www.illinoiswildflowers.info/woodland/plants/doll_eyes.htm

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