Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Origin of Common Punctuation Marks


Question Mark

Origin: When early scholars wrote in Latin, they would place the wordquestio – meaning "question" – at the end of a sentence to indicate a query. To conserve valuable space, writing it was soon shortened to qo, which caused another problem – readers might mistake it for the ending of a word. So they squashed the letters into a symbol: a lowercased q on top of an o. Over time the o shrank to a dot and the q to a squiggle, giving us our current question mark.


Exclamation Point

Origin: Like the question mark, the exclamation point was invented by stacking letters. The mark comes from the Latin word io, meaning "exclamation of joy." Written vertically, with the i above the o, it forms the exclamation point we use today.

Equal Sign

Origin: Invented by English mathematician Robert Recorde in 1557, with this rationale: "I will settle as I doe often in woorke use, a paire of paralleles, or Gmowe [i.e., twin] lines of one length, thus : , bicause noe 2 thynges, can be more equalle." His equal signs were about five times as long as the current ones, and it took more than a century for his sign to be accepted over its rival: a strange curly symbol invented by Descartes.


Origin: This symbol is stylized et, Latin for "and." Although it was invented by the Roman scribe Marcus Tullius Tiro in the first century B.C., it didn’t get its strange name until centuries later. In the early 1800s, schoolchildren learned this symbol as the 27th letter of the alphabet: X, Y, Z, &. But the symbol had no name. So, they ended their ABCs with "and, per se, and" meaning "&, which means ‘and.’" This phrase was slurred into one garbled word that eventually caught on with everyone: ampersand.



Origin: The odd name for this ancient sign for numbering derives from thorpe, the Old Norse word for a village or farm that is often seen in British placenames. The symbol was originally used in mapmaking, representing a village surrounded by eight fields, so it was named the octothorp.


Dollar Sign

Origin: When the U.S. government begin issuing its own money in 1794, it used the common world currency – the peso – also called the Spanish dollar. The first American silver dollars were identical to Spanish pesos in weight and value, so they took the same written abbreviations: Ps. That evolved into a P with an s written right on top of it, and when people began to omit the circular part of the p, the sign simply became an S with a vertical line through it.

Listed Short Facts, Top 25 for 8.31.2010

  1. Second Street' is the most common street name in the U.S.; 'First Street' is the sixth! "
  2. 160 cars can drive side by side on the Monumental Axis in Brazil, the world's widest road.
  3. 20252 is Smokey the Bear's own zip code.
  4. 68 percent of a Hostess Twinkie is air!
  5. 80% of millionaires drive used cars.
  6. 85% of all Valentine's Day cards are purchased by women!
  7. 97% of all paper money in the US contains traces of cocaine.
  8. A fire in Australia has been burning for more than 5,000 years!
  9. A jiffy is an actual unit of time for 1/100th of a second. Thus the saying, I will be there in a jiffy.
  10. A million dollars' worth of $100 bills weighs only 22 pounds!
  11. A pipe 2 feet in diameter will allow four times more fluid to pass through it than a pipe 1 foot in diameter.
  12. A quarter has 119 grooves on its edge, a dime has one less groove!
  13. A real estate agent's rule of thumb: To estimate what a house will sell for, ask the owner what its worth and subtract 10%.
  14. A sneeze travels out your mouth at over 100 m.p.h.!
  15. A survey reported that 12% of Americans think that Joan of Arc was Noah's wife.
  16. All the gold ever mined could be molded into a cube 60 feet high and 60 feet wide.
  17. Americans are responsible for generating roughly 20% percent of the garbage in the world.
  18. An iceberg contains more heat than a lit match.
  19. An olive tree can live up to 1,500 years!
  20. An ounce of platinum can be stretched 10,000 feet.
  21. Babies are born without knee caps.
  22. Babies start dreaming even before they're born.
  23. Babies who wear disposable diapers are five times more likely to develop diaper rash than those that wear cotton diapers.
  24. Bamboo plants can grow up to 36 inches in a day.
  25. Barbie's full name is Barbara Millicent Roberts.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Volleyball Through the Years

  • 1895: William G. Morgan (1870-1942) created the game of volleyball.
  • 1900: a special ball was designed for the sport.
  • 1916: in the Philippines, an offensive style of passing the ball in a high trajectory to be struck by another player (the set and spike) were introduced.
  • 1917: the game was changed from 21 to 15 points.
  • 1920s: there are unconfirmed whispers of men’s teams playing on the beach in Hawaii, but most accounts place the sport's origin in Santa Monica, California where the first Volleyball courts are put up on the beach at the Playground. Families play 6 vs. 6..
  • 1920: three hits per side and back row attack rules were instituted.
  • 1922: the first YMCA national championships were held in Brooklyn, NY. 27 teams from 11 states were represented.
  • 1928: it became clear that tournaments and rules were needed, the United States Volleyball Association (USVBA, now USA Volleyball) was formed. The first U.S. Open was staged, as the field was open to non-YMCA squads.
  • 1930s: the first two-man beach volleyball game is played in Santa Monica, California..
  • 1934: the approval and recognition of national volleyball referees.
  • 1937: at the AAU convention in Boston, action was taken to recognize the U.S. Volleyball Association as the official National Governing Body (NGB) in the U.S.
  • 1947: the Federation Internationale De Volley-Ball (FIVB) was founded.
  • 1948: the first two-man beach tournament was held.
  • 1949: the initial World Championships were held in Prague, Czechoslovakia.
  • 1964: Volleyball was introduced to the Olympic Games in Tokyo.
  • 1965: the California Beach Volleyball Association (CBVA) was formed.
  • 1974: the World Championships in Mexico were telecast in Japan.
  • 1975: the U.S. National Women's team began a year-round training regime in Pasadena, Texas (moved to Colorado Springs in 1979, Coto de Caza and Fountain Valley, CA in 1980, and San Diego, CA in 1985).
  • 1977: the U.S. National Men's team began a year-round training regime in Dayton, Ohio (moved to San Diego, CA in 1981).
  • 1983: the Association of Volleyball Professionals (AVP) was formed.
  • 1984: the U.S. won their first medals at the Olympics in Los Angeles. The Men won the Gold, and the Women the Silver.
  • 1986: the Women's Professional Volleyball Association (WPVA) was formed.
  • 1988: the U.S. Men repeated the Gold in the Olympics in Korea.
  • 1989: the FIVB Sports Aid Program was created.
  • 1990: the World League was created.
  • 1995: the sport of Volleyball was 100 years old! This Web site - Volleyball.Com goes live!
  • 1996: 2-person beach volleyball debuted as an Olympic Sport.
  • 1997: Dain Blanton (with Canyon Ceman) becomes the first African-American professional beach volleyball player to win a tournament on the Miller Lite/AVP Tour.
  • 1998: For the first time in the FIVB World Tour, men and women players are rewarded at the same level with $170,000 in total prize money per Open event.
  • 1999: For the first time beach volleyball was included in the Pan American Games which were held in Canada.
  • 2000: Olympic Beach Volleyball Men's Gold medallists: Eric Fomoimoana & Dain Blanton (USA). The women's Beach Volleyball America (BVA) announces their inaugural season of play.
  • 2001: Christopher "Sinjin" Smith plays the final match of his impressive career, a 21-19 and 24-22 loss with George Roumain to Dax Holdren and Todd Rogers in the 4th round of the contender's bracket at the AVP Manhattan Beach Open. Sinjin retires as the leader in tournaments played with 416, 2nd in all-time victories with 139, and 4th in all-time winnings with over US$1.6 million earned.
  • 2002: Beach volleyball court dimensions reduced to 8m x 8m per side.
  • 2003: Karch Kiraly becomes the first player to earn US$3M in prize money and oldest player to win an AVP tournament at age 42 years, 9 months and 14 days. (You're never too old for volleyball!)
  • 2004: Kerri Walsh and Misty May Win the Women's Olympic Beach Volleyball Title
  • 2005: Olympic gold medalists Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor win their second Association of Volleyball Professionals (AVP) Open women's title and the 2005 overall women's championship.
  • 2006: Elaine Youngs' second place finish (with Rachel Wacholder) in Seaside Heights pushes her career earnings past $1 million. She becomes the third American woman to achieve that mark.
  • 2006: In Seaside Heights, both Casey Jennings (with Matt Fuerbringer) and Kerri Walsh (with Misty May-Treanor) won titles, becoming just the second husband-wife duo to win pro beach events on the same weekend. They join Mike and Patty Dodd, who accomplished the feat four times in 1989, but each time in different locations.
  • 2006: Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor win in Chicago as Walsh joins the millionaire club. She is the 18th person worldwide to win over $1 million in her career, and did so in fewer events (90th tournament) as well as being one of just four to reach the mark before turning 28 years old.
  • 2007: Misty May-Treanor passes Brazilians Adriana Behar and Shelda Bede as the winningest player since the women's competition on the international beach volleyball circuit began in 1992.
  • 2007: Misty May-Treanor becomes the women's all-time wins leader by capturing her 73rd victory, surpassing Holly McPeak's record by winning with Kerri Walsh in Hermosa Beach. She reached this total in just 123 tournaments -- winning 57.5% of her events.
  • 2007: In a championship match that lasted 1:41, Nicole Branagh and Elaine Youngs defeat Jennifer Boss and April Ross 21-19, 18-21, 16-14 in Seaside Heights. The marathon set the record for the longest match in rally scoring, men or women, in domestic or international play.
  • 2007: Karch Kiraly retires to close an impressive career on the beach, leaving as the all-time wins leader and money earner. His longevity was marked by the fact he won a tournament in 24 different years, and he advanced to the semifinals in over 75% of all the events he ever played and was named as the AVP's MVP a record-most six times.
  • 2008: Hot Winter Nights, a series of 19 events in January and February, kicks off in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma marking the first ever indoor beach volleyball tour. Mark Williams and Nancy Mason are the first winners in the "King of the Beach format" events.

Listed Short Facts, Top 25 for 8.30.2010

  1. In the U.S., more than 10% of lottery prizes go unclaimed!
  2. Womens' hearts beat faster than mens'.
  3. Frogs cannot swallow without blinking.
  4. One barrel of petroleum holds 42 gallons.
  5. Each day, more than $40 Trillion Dollars changes hands worldwide.
  6. Boys who have unusual first names are more likely to have mental problems than boys with conventional names. Girls don't seem to have this problem.
  7. President George W. Bush and Playboy founder Hugh Hefner are cousins!
  8. Termites eat wood twice as fast when listening to heavy metal music.
  9. A spider's silk is stronger than steel.
  10. The most powerful electric eel is found in the rivers of Brazil, Columbia, Venezuela, and Peru, and produces a shock of 400-650 volts.
  11. Parrots have 500 pounds per square inch of pressure in their beaks.
  12. No one knows how many people died during the sinking of the Titanic.
  13. The U.S. motto, 'In God We Trust', was not adopted as the national slogan until 1956.
  14. Pollen never deteriorates. It is one of the few natural substances that lasts indefinitely.
  15. The Japanese liquor, Mam, uses venomous snakes as one of its main ingredients.
  16. The weight of a carat (200 milligrams), standard unit of measurement for gemstones, is based on the weight of the carob seed.
  17. Any space vehicle must move at a rate of 7 miles per second in order to escape the earth's gravitational pull.
  18. The practice of identifying baseball players by number was started by the Yankees in 1929.
  19. Contrary to popular belief, there are almost no Buddhists in India, nor have there been for about a thousand years.
  20. Females learn to talk earlier, use sentences earlier, and learn to read more quickly than males.
  21. Originally, Du Pont, Inc. was a tiny gun powder mill in New Jersey.
  22. According to studies, men change their minds two to three times more often than women.
  23. The state of Wyoming is named after a valley in Pennsylvania.
  24. Fingernails grow nearly 4 times faster than toenails.
  25. To escape the grip of a crocodile's jaws, push your thumbs into its eyeballs. It will let you go instantly.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

History of Porsche

The origins of Porsche reach back more than a century, to the year of 1900, when a vehicle called the Lohner-Porsche electric car was unveiled at the Paris Auto Show. It was the first in a long line of vehicles, leading up to the current year, that would bear the Porsche name.

That first vehicle at the Paris Auto Show was equipped with wheel hub motors devised by a young German engineer named Ferdinand Porsche. Porsche's legendary career would continue into the 1920s, when he developed the Mercedes SS and SSK supercharged sports car, and into the 1930s, when he designed and produced the first Volkswagens. 

After the war, Porsche's son, also named Ferdinand but called Ferry, first envisioned a car that would carry the Porsche badge. The result, introduced in the late 1940s, was the Porsche 356. Essentially, the 356 was Ferry's two-seat version of the Volkswagen Beetle, which had been designed by his father. It proved to be so popular that it was sold into the early 1960s.

Ferry followed that with the 500 Spyder, which was produced through the 1950s, and the 911 sport coupe, which made its debut in 1964. The 911 was originally conceived as a four-seat follow-up to the 356, but Ferry Porsche eventually decided to make it a two-seater with an air-cooled rear engine, just like the Beetle, although with larger dimensions, more interior room, and more power than the 356. The 911 was an instant hit. In 1970, a turbocharged version of the 911 was introduced, and the 911 continues in production to this day.

Other models followed the introduction of the 911 in the 1960s. The 912, for example, made its debut in 1965 as a replacement for the 356. In an effort to make it affordable, it was built on the 911's platform but used the four-cylinder engine from the 356. The 914 mid-engined sports car replaced the 912 in the late 1960s.

The 924 and the 928 followed in the 1970s, while the 944 made its debut in 1982. Also produced for a short run in the late 1980s was the high-performance, all-wheel-drive 959, which was a precursor of the Carrera.

Introduced in 1992, the 968 was actually a continuation of the 944, which itself was a continuation of the 924. The two-seat, open-top Boxster roadster was added to Porsche's lineup in 1997 as the automaker's entry-level vehicle, while the Cayenne SUV made its debut in 2003.

Listed Short Facts, Top 25 for 8.29.2010

  1. Switching letters is called spoonerism. For example, saying jag of Flapan, instead of flag of Japan.
  2. The average person laughs 13 times a day!.
  3. The attachment of the human skin to muscles is what causes dimples.
  4. There are 1,792 steps to the top of the Eiffel Tower.
  5. The sound you hear when you crack your knuckles is actually the sound of nitrogen gas bubbles bursting.
  6. Human hair and fingernails continue to grow after death.
  7. It takes about 20 seconds for a red blood cell to circle the whole body.
  8. The plastic things on the end of shoelaces are called aglets.
  9. Most soccer players run 7 miles in a game.
  10. The only part of the body that has no blood supply is the cornea in the eye. It takes in oxygen directly from the air.
  11. Every day 200 million couples make love, 400,000 babies are born, and 140,000 people die.
  12. In most watch advertisements the time displayed on the watch is 10:10 because then the arms frame the brand of the watch (and make it look like it is smiling).
  13. Colgate faced big obstacle marketing toothpaste in Spanish speaking countries. Colgate translates into the command “go hang yourself.”
  14. The only 2 animals that can see behind itself without turning its head are the rabbit and the parrot.
  15. Intelligent people have more zinc and copper in their hair.
  16. The average person laughs 13 times a day.
  17. Do you know the names of the three wise monkeys? They are:Mizaru(See no evil), Mikazaru(Hear no evil), and Mazaru(Speak no evil)
  18. Women blink nearly twice as much as men.
  19. German Shepherds bite humans more than any other breed of dog.
  20. Large kangaroos cover more than 30 feet with each jump.
  21. Whip makes a cracking sound because its tip moves faster than the speed of sound.
  22. Two animal rights protesters were protesting at the cruelty of sending pigs to a slaughterhouse in Bonn. Suddenly the pigs, all two thousand of them, escaped through a broken fence and stampeded, trampling the two hapless protesters to death.
  23. If a statue in the park of a person on a horse has both front legs in the air, the person died in battle; if the horse has one front leg in the air, the person died as a result of wounds received in battle; if the horse has all four legs on the ground, the person died of natural cause.
  24. The human heart creates enough pressure while pumping to squirt blood 30 feet!!
  25. In an average humans life time they will breath in 44 pounds of dust.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Listed Short Facts, Top 25 for 8.27.2010

  1. 1,525,000,000 miles of telephone wire a strung across the U.S.
  2. 101 Dalmatians and Peter Pan (Wendy) are the only two Disney cartoon features with both parents that are present and don't die throughout the movie.
  3. 111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321
  4. 12 newborns will be given to the wrong parents daily.
  5. 123,000,000 cars are being driven down the U.S's highways.
  6. 160 cars can drive side by side on the Monumental Axis in Brazil, the world's widest road.
  7. 166,875,000,000 pieces of mail are delivered each year in the U.S.
  8. 27% of U.S. male college students believe life is "A meaningless existential hell."
  9. 315 entries in Webster's Dictionary will be misspelled.
  10. 5% of Canadians don't know the first 7 words of the Canadian anthem, but know the first 9 of the American anthem.
  11. 56,000,000 people go to Major League baseball each year.
  12. 7% of Americans don't know the first 9 words of the American anthem, but know the first 7 of the Canadian anthem.
  13. 85,000,000 tons of paper are used each year in the U.S.
  14. 99% of the solar systems mass is concentrated in the sun.
  15. A 10-gallon hat barely holds 6 pints.
  16. A cat has 32 muscles in each ear.
  17. A cockroach can live several weeks with its head cut off.
  18. A company in Taiwan makes dinnerware out of wheat, so you can eat your plate.
  19. A cow produces 200 times more gas a day than a person.
  20. A dime has 118 ridges around the edge.
  21. A dragonfly has a lifespan of 24 hours.
  22. A fully loaded supertanker travelling at normal speed takes a least twenty minutes to stop.
  23. A giraffe can clean its ears with its 21-inch tongue.
  24. A giraffe can go without water longer than a camel can.
  25. A goldfish has a memory span of three seconds.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Bacteria To Make Biofuel

The United States Department of Energy (DOE) has devoted $1.6 million to sequencing the DNA of six photosynthetic bacteria that Washington University in St. Louis biologists will examine for their potential as one of the next great sources of biofuel that can run our cars and warm our houses.

That's a lot of power potential from microscopic cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) that capture sunlight and then do a variety of biochemical processes. One potential process, the clean production of ethanol, is a high priority for DOE. 

Himadri Pakrasi, Ph.D., Washington University Endowed Professor of Biology in Arts & Sciences, and Professor of Energy in the School of Engineering and Applied Science, will head a team of biologists at Washington University and elsewhere in the analysis of the genomes of six related strains of Cyanothece bacteria. One additional Cyanothece strain, 54112, already has been sequenced by the Joint Genome Institute in Walnut Creek, Calif., DOE's sequencing facility, the largest DNA sequencing facility in the world , that also will sequence the additional six.

The amazing Cyanothece 54112 is a one-celled marine cyanobacteria, which is a bacterium with a well-defined circadian rhythm, or biological clock. In particular, Cyanothece has the uncanny ability to produce oxygen and assimilate carbon through photosynthesis during the day while fixing nitrogen through the night, all within the same cell. Incredibly, even though the organism has a circadian rhythm, its cells grow and divide in 10 to 14 hours.

Why sequence six? The strains, two isolated from rice paddies in Taiwan, one in a rice paddy in India, and three others from the deep ocean, are related, but each one comes from different environmental backgrounds and might metabolize differently. Thus, one or more strains might have biological gifts to offer that the others don't , or else combining traits of the different strains could provide the most efficient form of bioenergy.

A natural at fermentation

"The Department of Energy is very interested in the production of ethanol or hydrogen and other kinds of chemicals through biological processes," said Pakrasi, who also is director of the University's Bioenergy Initiative. "Cyanobacteria have a distinct advantage over biomass, such as corn or other grasses, in producing ethanol, because they use carbon dioxide as their primary cellular carbon source and emit no carbons and they naturally do fermentation. In biomass, yeast needs to be added for fermentation, which leads to the production of ethanol. Cyanobacteria can offer a simpler, cleaner approach to ethanol production." Pakrasi heads a group of nearly two dozen researchers who will do a lengthy, painstaking manual annotation of the gene sets of each organism to figure out what each gene of each strain does.

"The diversity in those sequences will give us the breadth of what these organisms do, and then we can pick and choose and make a designer microbe that will do what we want it to do," Pakrasi said. "We want to tap into the life history of these organisms to find the golden nuggets."

One possible way to produce ethanol using Cyanothece strains is a hybrid combination of the microbe and plant matter where the cyanobacteria coexist with plants and enable fermentation. The model exists in nature where cyanobacteria form associations with plants and convert nitrogen into a useful form so that plants can use the nitrogen product.
Extracting ethanol

At Washington University, Pakrasi and his collaborators have designed a photobioreactor to watch Cyanothece convert available sunlight into thick mats of green biomass, from which liquid ethanol can be extracted.

Pakrasi led the sequencing of Cyanothece 54112 as the focus of a Department of Energy "grand challenge project" that resulted in the sequencing and annotation of a cyanobacterium gene that could yield clues to how environmental conditions influence key carbon fixation processes at the gene-mRNA-protein levels in an organism.

Two of the most critical environmental and energy science challenges of the 21st century are being addressed in a systems biology program as part of a Grand Challenge project at the W.R. Wiley Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory (EMSL), a national facility managed by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) for the Department of Energy. This program features an elaborate international collaboration involving six university laboratories and 10 national laboratory groups, Washington University being one of them.

Pakrasi is leading a grand challenge project in membrane biology that is using a systems approach to understand the network of genes and proteins that governs the structure and function of membranes and their components responsible for photosynthesis and nitrogen fixation in two species of unicellular cyanobacteria, specifically Cyanothece and Synechocystis.

The Cyanothece sequencing is the second Joint Genome Institute project involving Washington University. In 2004, the university was directly involved in sequencing the entire genome of the moss Physcomitrella patens at the Joint Genome Institute.

The Community Sequencing Program at the U.S. Department of Energy chose a proposal submitted by Ralph S. Quatrano, Ph.D., the Washington University Spencer T. Olin Professor and chair of the Department of Biology in Arts & Sciences, and Brent Mishler, Ph.D., professor of integrative biology and director of the Jepson Herbaria at the University of California, Berkeley, to sequence the plant's DNA. 

Listed Short Facts, Top 25 for 8.26.2010

1. If you are right handed, you will tend to chew your food on your right side. If you are left handed, you will tend to chew your food on your left side.
2. If you stop getting thirsty, you need to drink more water. For when a human body is dehydrated, its thirst mechanism shuts off.
3. Chewing gum while peeling onions will keep you from crying.
4. Your tongue is germ free only if it is pink. If it is white there is a thin film of bacteria on it.
5. The Mercedes-Benz motto is “Das Beste oder Nichts” meaning “the best or nothing”.
6. The Titanic was the first ship to use the SOS signal.
7. The pupil of the eye expands as much as 45 percent when a person looks at something pleasing.
8. The average person who stops smoking requires one hour less sleep a night.
9. Laughing lowers levels of stress hormones and strengthens the immune system. Six-year-olds laugh an average of 300 times a day. Adults only laugh 15 to 100 times a day.
10. The roar that we hear when we place a seashell next to our ear is not the ocean, but rather the sound of blood surging through the veins in the ear.
11. Dalmatians are born without spots.
12. Bats always turn left when exiting a cave.
13. The ‘v’ in the name of a court case does not stand for ‘versus’, but for ‘and’ (in civil proceedings) or ‘against’ (in criminal proceedings).
14. Men’s shirts have the buttons on the right, but women’s shirts have the buttons on the left.
15. The owl is the only bird to drop its upper eyelid to wink. All other birds raise their lower eyelids.
16. The reason honey is so easy to digest is that it’s already been digested by a bee.
17. Roosters cannot crow if they cannot extend their necks.
18. The color blue has a calming effect. It causes the brain to release calming hormones.
19. Every time you sneeze some of your brain cells die.
20. Your left lung is smaller than your right lung to make room for your heart.
21. The verb “cleave” is the only English word with two synonyms which are antonyms of each other: adhere and separate.
22. When you blush, the lining of your stomach also turns red.
23. When hippos are upset, their sweat turns red.
24. The first Harley Davidson motorcycle was built in 1903, and used a tomato can for a carburetor.
25. The lion that roars in the MGM logo is named Volney.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Interesting Clown Facts

Joseph Grimalidi is supposed to be one of the earliest circus clowns in true sense. He made his first appearance in 1805 in England and his clown was known as Joey. He performed classic physical tricks such as tumbling, pratfalls and slapstick beatings. About fifty years later, Auguste clowns made their appearance with a big nose, clothes that were too loose, large shoes and untidy manners. These clowns used to entertain the people and make them laugh by spoiling the tricks of the 'white face' clown by messing things up at the last moment. Adrien Wettach was a famous whiteface pantomimist, who introduced a clown named Grock. This melancholic clown induced laughter in the audiences because of the way he always had bad luck with inanimate objects such as chairs that collapse when he tried to sit on them and the piano that he shoved into the stool accidentally. Grock resembled the American vagabond clown known as Emmett Kelly.

Auguste clown has its origin in Germany in 1869. An American acrobat named Tom Belling was performing there with his circus group and was confined to his dressing room as a punishment for not being discipline and missing his tricks. To pass time, he put on clothes that were too big for him in front of his friends and started imitating the show manager, who just happened to step into the room at the time. Thus, Belling started running and ended up in the circus arena where he stumbled and fell over the ring curb. This made audience laugh hard and yell 'Auguste!' (German for 'fool'). From then on, Belling was ordered by the manager to continue his performances as the 'Auguste' clown. Though, the story of the name may not be true (as it is believed that the word 'Auguste' made its entry in the German language only after the character), the character certainly became a favorite of the circus audience and kids. 

Another story related to the origin of Auguste clown and Belling states that the character was copied from the Rizhii or Red Haired clowns that Belling saw while touring Russia. In their early stages, these clowns had a naturalistic appearance but later Albert Fratellini of the Fratellini Brothers introduced this exaggerated make up for them that have become a part of the tradition now. Charlie Chaplin made yet another tramp-type fool or clown so popular that even today, kids love to watch his movies and performances. This tram associated with the auguste clown today was introduced by. Actually, it was James McIntyre and Tom Heath who introduced this tramp character in 1874 to portray the conditions of homeless African Americans who suffered during the Civil War. They had found blackface minstrel clowns as the source of inspiration for their character. This is why, even today the tramp clowns have white mouth.

Origin of Halloween

Halloween's origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in).
The Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago in the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom, and northern France, celebrated their new year on November 1. This day marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter, a time of year that was often associated with human death. Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. On the night of October 31, they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth. In addition to causing trouble and damaging crops, Celts thought that the presence of the otherworldly spirits made it easier for the Druids, or Celtic priests, to make predictions about the future. For a people entirely dependent on the volatile natural world, these prophecies were an important source of comfort and direction during the long, dark winter.
To commemorate the event, Druids built huge sacred bonfires, where the people gathered to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic deities.
During the celebration, the Celts wore costumes, typically consisting of animal heads and skins, and attempted to tell each other's fortunes. When the celebration was over, they re-lit their hearth fires, which they had extinguished earlier that evening, from the sacred bonfire to help protect them during the coming winter.
By A.D. 43, Romans had conquered the majority of Celtic territory. In the course of the four hundred years that they ruled the Celtic lands, two festivals of Roman origin were combined with the traditional Celtic celebration of Samhain.
The first was Feralia, a day in late October when the Romans traditionally commemorated the passing of the dead. The second was a day to honor Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. The symbol of Pomona is the apple and the incorporation of this celebration into Samhain probably explains the tradition of "bobbing" for apples that is practiced today on Halloween.
By the 800s, the influence of Christianity had spread into Celtic lands. In the seventh century, Pope Boniface IV designated November 1 All Saints' Day, a time to honor saints and martyrs. It is widely believed today that the pope was attempting to replace the Celtic festival of the dead with a related, but church-sanctioned holiday. The celebration was also called All-hallows or All-hallowmas (from Middle English Alholowmesse meaning All Saints' Day) and the night before it, the night of Samhain, began to be called All-hallows Eve and, eventually, Halloween. Even later, in A.D. 1000, the church would make November 2 All Souls' Day, a day to honor the dead. It was celebrated similarly to Samhain, with big bonfires, parades, and dressing up in costumes as saints, angels, and devils. Together, the three celebrations, the eve of All Saints', All Saints', and All Souls', were called Hallowmas.

Halloween Comes to America

As European immigrants came to America, they brought their varied Halloween customs with them. Because of the rigid Protestant belief systems that characterized early New England, celebration of Halloween in colonial times was extremely limited there.
It was much more common in Maryland and the southern colonies. As the beliefs and customs of different European ethnic groups, as well as the American Indians, meshed, a distinctly American version of Halloween began to emerge. The first celebrations included "play parties," public events held to celebrate the harvest, where neighbors would share stories of the dead, tell each other's fortunes, dance, and sing. Colonial Halloween festivities also featured the telling of ghost stories and mischief-making of all kinds. By the middle of the nineteenth century, annual autumn festivities were common, but Halloween was not yet celebrated everywhere in the country.
In the second half of the nineteenth century, America was flooded with new immigrants. These new immigrants, especially the millions of Irish fleeing Ireland's potato famine of 1846, helped to popularize the celebration of Halloween nationally. Taking from Irish and English traditions, Americans began to dress up in costumes and go house to house asking for food or money, a practice that eventually became today's "trick-or-treat" tradition. Young women believed that, on Halloween, they could divine the name or appearance of their future husband by doing tricks with yarn, apple parings, or mirrors.
In the late 1800s, there was a move in America to mold Halloween into a holiday more about community and neighborly get-togethers, than about ghosts, pranks, and witchcraft.
At the turn of the century, Halloween parties for both children and adults became the most common way to celebrate the day. Parties focused on games, foods of the season, and festive costumes. Parents were encouraged by newspapers and community leaders to take anything "frightening" or "grotesque" out of Halloween celebrations. Because of their efforts, Halloween lost most of its superstitious and religious overtones by the beginning of the twentieth century.
By the 1920s and 1930s, Halloween had become a secular, but community-centered holiday, with parades and town-wide parties as the featured entertainment. Despite the best efforts of many schools and communities, vandalism began to plague Halloween celebrations in many communities during this time. By the 1950s, town leaders had successfully limited vandalism and Halloween had evolved into a holiday directed mainly at the young. Due to the high numbers of young children during the fifties baby boom, parties moved from town civic centers into the classroom or home, where they could be more easily accommodated. Between 1920 and 1950, the centuries-old practice of trick-or-treating was also revived. Trick-or-treating was a relatively inexpensive way for an entire community to share the Halloween celebration. In theory, families could also prevent tricks being played on them by providing the neighborhood children with small treats. A new American tradition was born, and it has continued to grow. Today, Americans spend an estimated $6.9 billion annually on Halloween, making it the country's second largest commercial holiday.

Today's Traditions

The American tradition of "trick-or-treating" probably dates back to the early All Souls' Day parades in England. During the festivities, poor citizens would beg for food and families would give them pastries called "soul cakes" in return for their promise to pray for the family's dead relatives.
The distribution of soul cakes was encouraged by the church as a way to replace the ancient practice of leaving food and wine for roaming spirits. The practice, which was referred to as "going a-souling" was eventually taken up by children who would visit the houses in their neighborhood and be given ale, food, and money.  
The tradition of dressing in costume for Halloween has both European and Celtic roots. Hundreds of years ago, winter was an uncertain and frightening time. Food supplies often ran low and, for the many people afraid of the dark, the short days of winter were full of constant worry. On Halloween, when it was believed that ghosts came back to the earthly world, people thought that they would encounter ghosts if they left their homes. To avoid being recognized by these ghosts, people would wear masks when they left their homes after dark so that the ghosts would mistake them for fellow spirits. On Halloween, to keep ghosts away from their houses, people would place bowls of food outside their homes to appease the ghosts and prevent them from attempting to enter.


Halloween has always been a holiday filled with mystery, magic and superstition. It began as a Celtic end-of-summer festival during which people felt especially close to deceased relatives and friends. For these friendly spirits, they set places at the dinner table, left treats on doorsteps and along the side of the road and lit candles to help loved ones find their way back to the spirit world.
Today's Halloween ghosts are often depicted as more fearsome and malevolent, and our customs and superstitions are scarier too. We avoid crossing paths with black cats, afraid that they might bring us bad luck. This idea has its roots in the Middle Ages, when many people believed that witches avoided detection by turning themselves into cats. We try not to walk under ladders for the same reason. This superstition may have come from the ancient Egyptians, who believed that triangles were sacred; it also may have something to do with the fact that walking under a leaning ladder tends to be fairly unsafe. And around Halloween, especially, we try to avoid breaking mirrors, stepping on cracks in the road or spilling salt.
But what about the Halloween traditions and beliefs that today's trick-or-treaters have forgotten all about? Many of these obsolete rituals focused on the future instead of the past and the living instead of the dead. In particular, many had to do with helping young women identify their future husbands and reassuring them that they would someday--with luck, by next Halloween!--be married.
In 18th-century Ireland, a matchmaking cook might bury a ring in her mashed potatoes on Halloween night, hoping to bring true love to the diner who found it. In Scotland, fortune-tellers recommended that an eligible young woman name a hazelnut for each of her suitors and then toss the nuts into the fireplace. The nut that burned to ashes rather than popping or exploding, the story went, represented the girl's future husband. (In some versions of this legend, confusingly, the opposite was true: The nut that burned away symbolized a love that would not last.) Another tale had it that if a young woman ate a sugary concoction made out of walnuts, hazelnuts and nutmeg before bed on Halloween night, she would dream about her future husband. Young women tossed apple-peels over their shoulders, hoping that the peels would fall on the floor in the shape of their future husbands' initials; tried to learn about their futures by peering at egg yolks floating in a bowl of water; and stood in front of mirrors in darkened rooms, holding candles and looking over their shoulders for their husbands' faces.
Other rituals were more competitive. At some Halloween parties, the first guest to find a burr on a chestnut-hunt would be the first to marry; at others, the first successful apple-bobber would be the first down the aisle.
Of course, whether we're asking for romantic advice or trying to avoid seven years of bad luck, each one of these Halloween superstitions relies on the good will of the very same "spirits" whose presence the early Celts felt so keenly. Ours is not such a different holiday after all!