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Choses à Savoir

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What is the origin of Champagne?
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Associated with a specific region in France, champagne is a wine not quite like any other. While the world's elite has appreciated it since the Middle Ages, the technique of making sparkling champagne was not mastered until the end of the 17th century.But first, let’s take a look back. Between the 1st and 4th centuries, the Champagne vineyards began to form. Like in other wine-producing regions, vinification was mainly the job of abbeys and monasteries. Wine is indeed a central element of the Christian liturgy.The mixing was practiced by monks, who pressed together grapes of different varieties delivered by the winegrowers as their form of tithe, a regular giving to the church.Some cellarer monks, such as the famous Dom Pierre Pérignon from the abbey of Hautvillers, transformed the process of mixing into a precise craft. He carefully and intentionally selected grapes from different regions to obtain better-balanced wines.Some wines, such as the wine of Aÿ or Sillery, already had an excellent reputation. These wines were noted and praised for their effervescence, despite a lack of understanding in how the bubbles were produced.Only at the end of the 17th century did this collection of bubbly wines begin to be dubbed as the “wines of Champagne,” later shortened to “champagne.”From it’s conception, champagne was a luxury for the elites, definitely not for more common folk. Since the baptism of King Clovis the First in the 5th century, the coronation of French kings has taken place in Reims, in Champagne, where the wine of the region could be served with prominence.Centuries after Clovis, champagne was the favorite wine of Louis XIV, and then Louis XV and the court of Versailles. This royal favor contributed to the drink’s fame, leading it to quickly becoming the wine for celebrations and important events across Europe. In 1717, Tsar Peter the Great, visiting Fontainebleau, liked it so much that he asked for four extra bottles to be brought to his suite after dinner. Philip V of Spain said he drank only this wine. Frederick II of Prussia was passionate about its production, and Casanova used it to seduce his Venetian conquests. Thanks to figures like these, champagne became the most famous wine among the upper class.For a long time, the wine of Champagne was reserved for a thin fringe of society. The delicate conditions of production and the relative smallness of the vineyards explain the exclusivity of its consumption.Little by little, however, it is becoming less elitist and more common a drink, allowing people to celebrate a variety of events alongside the bubbles. If christenings, weddings, and graduations can be celebrated with champagne, then the drink can give a special touch to those other more mundane but equally special moments - a get-together, a romantic meal, a tasting, or even some “personal time.”Whether with family, friends, or lovers, champagne is today the number one wine symbolizing the festive spirit and elegance of France throughout the world.Please drink responsibly. See for privacy and opt-out information.

Nov 22

3 min 35 sec

The clouds we see in the sky seem rather light, almost like absorbent cotton. However, being filled with water and ice, these gigantic suspended masses weigh - in reality - up to several tons. Don't be fooled by appearances, the clouds that float above your heads are more like anvils in suspension. Indeed, being made of billions of water and ice droplets, these vaporous masses can weigh far more than you may expect. With a water density of about 0.5 grams per cubed meter, a cloud of 100 kilometers cubed can reach the mass of 500 000 tons. See for privacy and opt-out information.

Apr 22

2 min 13 sec

Long before Magellan completed the first circumnavigation of the globe, in the 16th century, ancient Greek scientists had demonstrated, by simple observation, that the Earth was round, or rather spherical. Of course, this did not prevent some people from believing that our planet was flat. To be fair, even some individuals don’t believe it now.  See for privacy and opt-out information.

Apr 21

2 min 18 sec

As you may have already noticed, if you bite aluminum foil, the strange sensation of heat or pain in your teeth is quite unpleasant. This is due to the contact between the aluminum and the metals that make up the fillings in some teeth. If you feel a tingling sensation when biting aluminum foil, it is because some of your teeth have been provided with fillings. In this case, the connection between the aluminum and the elements of the filling causes a reaction similar to that of a battery.  See for privacy and opt-out information.

Apr 20

2 min 19 sec

You all know the Bermuda shorts: those shorts that come down to the knee, unlike the classic shorts that only cover part of the thighs. You may be more familiar with the name “dad shorts.” While today it is considered as a vacation or a summer outfit for older generations, its origin is quite different. See for privacy and opt-out information.

Apr 19

1 min 30 sec

According to some estimates, the surname "Nguyen" is used by around 40% of the population in Vietnam. This country is home to 95 million people, so there are nearly 38 million Mr. or Mrs. Nguyen. This makes Nguyen the 4th most popular name in the world, just behind Lee, Zhang and Wang, all Chinese names. See for privacy and opt-out information.

Apr 18

1 min 40 sec

Mankind doesn't just send rockets or space probes into space. In fact, many unexpected objects have been launched into space, all for the sake of science.  See for privacy and opt-out information.

Apr 15

2 min 17 sec

On the walls of the Egyptian pyramids, human depictions, and especially depictions of nobility, are often represented in profile. The reason they are designed this way is primarily religious. If you look closely, you’ll notice that the ancient Egyptian characters are not entirely represented in profile. Only the face, the legs and the arms are painted in this way. The bust and torse is represented from the front. And actually the singular eye on the profile face is depicted as if being viewed from the front, rather asynchronous to the rest of the face.  See for privacy and opt-out information.

Apr 14

2 min 16 sec

Have you noticed this before? Try this little experiment: Try to break a raw spaghetti noodle in half with your fingers by bending it until it breaks. If you give it a go, the noodle will most likely break, but not into two pieces. There's no need to feel sorry for yourself if you failed – your skills are not at fault. Raw spaghetti breaks into 3, 4, 5 or more pieces, but almost never in two. In fact, it is almost impossible to do so. This is the "mystery of the broken spaghetti". It may seem trivial, but it has interested many great scientists, including Richard Feynman, the famous American physicist of the 20th century. He was primarily known for reformulating quantum mechanics. See for privacy and opt-out information.

Apr 13

2 min 10 sec

The paper clip was indeed a symbol of unity and resistance of a particular nation in the face of the Nazi occupation during the Second World War. And this nation is Norway. It is hard to imagine that such a mundane object, primarily used to hold sheets of paper together, could have had such a great and noble meaning. Yet, history and Norway prove us otherwise. At the turn of the 20th century, a Norwegian by the name of Johan Vaaler patented the first paper clip model, close to the one we use today. But it was not exactly the same. His model lacked the two complete loops and resembled a rectangle. This design was not as easy to insert sheets of paper. As a result, his invention was never produced. See for privacy and opt-out information.

Apr 12

2 min 29 sec

It's a fact that the more aviation savvy among you may have already observed: on the whole, airliners fly slower than they used to. If we take a random flight, for example from New York to Denver, it takes 19 minutes longer today than in 1983 to connect the two cities. This seems to go against the grain of technological progress, so what are the factors that explain this? See for privacy and opt-out information.

Apr 11

2 min 28 sec

The Sphinx of Giza is a monumental statue consisting of two distinct parts: a human face (that of a pharaoh wearing the nemes, the emblematic pharaonic headdress) and the elongated body of a lion. This Sphinx stands in front of the pyramids of the site of Giza, upstream of the Nile Delta in Egypt, near the modern city of Cairo. The Sphinx of Giza is 73 meters long, 20 meters high, and 14 meters wide. It is the largest monolithic monumental sculpture in the world.  See for privacy and opt-out information.

Apr 8

2 min 19 sec

Before we begin, you should know that there are approximately 930 million left-handed people in the world. But can dominant sides lead people to be better (or worse) in specific subjects? Actually yes. Left-handed individuals are better at mathematics. To reach this conclusion, researchers from the University of Liverpool and Milan conducted a study of 2,300 Italian students aged 6 to 17 years old. These students were given a mathematics test consisting of easy questions such as addition and subtraction, and also more complex problems. Then each student was tested to determine the percentage See for privacy and opt-out information.

Apr 7

2 min 22 sec

This curious myth that boys are born in cabbages and little girls in roses has not only one but two claimed origins. Here they are. The first of the two theories, claims that since ancient times, cabbage has been a symbol of fertility. This can probably be explained by its form and composition: its countless superimposed leaves. It is known that in this period, as well as in the Middle Ages, cabbage soup was traditionally served to young couples to increase their chances of having a baby. It was also believed that cabbage helped the development of the foetus and was one of the foods that increased the quality of the sperm. See for privacy and opt-out information.

Apr 6

1 min 39 sec

Maybe you've already asked yourself this question. It's quite natural since there are sometimes very few chips in a bag, especially compared to its size. The reason why chip bags are always half empty is that it is necessary for preservation. In fact, if the chips are exposed to oxygen for too long, they soften and spoil quickly. To keep them edible and crispy, they need to be few in number, and in contact with a particular gas: nitrogen. The absence of oxygen slows down the oxidation of the fatty substances soaking the chips.  See for privacy and opt-out information.

Apr 5

1 min 57 sec

Christmas in Japan is a modern tradition that is constantly growing in importance, although the birth of Jesus Christ is rarely celebrated on the occasion. Only 1% of the Japanese population is Christian, so Christmas primarily revolves around the myth of Santa Claus. In Japan, this holiday is not an occasion for family gatherings, but rather meeting up as a couple or with friends. On New Year's Eve, people will gather for fancy meal, but their Christmas spread is a bit different. The center of attention is not a turkey, but rather chicken. To be more specific, fried chicken, and ideally from the classic KFC chain.  See for privacy and opt-out information.

Apr 4

1 min 57 sec

The "Hitler moustache": this is the familiar term used to refer to the mustache that prior to the end of the Second World War, was actually known as the "toothbrush moustache". Inevitably associated with the figure of the Führer, it has unsurprisingly been unfashionable since the mid-1940s. See for privacy and opt-out information.

Apr 1

1 min 41 sec

Loneliness affects between 10 and 20% of the population. It is known that loneliness can promote depression, lower the immune system, and even effect development. In order to measure the effects of loneliness on the brain’s mechanisms, a study was carried out using data from an English database. This database collects, among other things, genetic data and MRI results from approximately 40,000 people. See for privacy and opt-out information.

Mar 31

2 min 11 sec

As you have no doubt noticed, yawning is a very contagious reflex. This mimicry, specific to humans and certain other primates, is explained by the activation of specific neurons called "mirror neurons". These neurons are activated when we see a person doing certain actions. If we see a person yawning, the mirror neurons lead us to imitate them. But this reproduction only applies to certain behaviors, such as yawning. In many other cases, the brain prevents this propensity to copy our fellow human beings.  See for privacy and opt-out information.

Mar 30

2 min 11 sec

The leaves of laurel, a species of evergreen shrub native to the Mediterranean basin, are often braided into a crown as a reward or as a symbolism of victory. To understand why, we have to go back to ancient Greece, and more specifically to a particular myth. According to ancient Greek mythology, Eros, the god of Love, decided to punish Apollo, the god of the Sun, for mocking him during an archery session. Both Eros and Apollo were renowned for their archery skills.  See for privacy and opt-out information.

Mar 29

2 min 16 sec

The Veblen effect, more commonly known as the snobbery effect, can easily be summed up as the fact that we, as humans, like or want to buy objects, not because we need them or because we especially like them, but simply because of their price. Yep, because they’re expensive. This effect was highlighted by the economist and sociologist Thorstein Veblen in his 1899 book The Theory of the Leisure Class. Veblen observes that if we look at the field of luxury goods, or at least those that allow people to identify themselves as belonging to a certain social class, the price decrease of these products results in decreasing interest of their potential buyers.  See for privacy and opt-out information.

Mar 28

2 min 13 sec

While not all bacteria that lurk in our homes are dangerous, some can transmit viral diseases and various infections, and some of which can be quite serious. These bacteria hide in every room of your home, but they are most prevalent in the kitchen. Yep, you heard it right. Contrary to popular belief, it is the kitchen and not the bathroom that is the most contaminated room in the house. See for privacy and opt-out information.

Mar 25

2 min 9 sec

In these times of health crisis and containment, teleworking is on the rise. At home, some people tend to neglect their dress code. So the question is, does working in pajamas have consequences on the quality of our work? For many people, working at home does not imply the same dress codes. Many of us consider feel is no need to be dressed up to sit at the computer, especially if there are no video-conferences involved. So why not even stay in pajamas? See for privacy and opt-out information.

Mar 24

2 min 11 sec

Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Great Wall of China is the largest construction undertaken by man. Built, for the most part, between the 3rd century BC and the 17th century AD, it was intended to protect a unified China from invasions from the north. According to the latest official estimates, the Chinese Wall extends over 20,000 kilometers. The Great Wall is composed of walls averaging a height of six to seven meters, and also features ditches and natural barriers such as rivers or mountains. See for privacy and opt-out information.

Mar 23

1 min 48 sec

Published in a specialized newspaper, a recent article echoes a Taiwanese study, which claims the consumption of wine would protect against Covid-19. Unfortunately for all our wine drinkers out there, this claim is anything but true. The study insists on the role of two natural components of wine, tannins, a biochemical found in grape skin or seeds, and polyphenols, an organic compound found in many plants. In addition to their antioxidant virtues, polyphenols are believed to disrupt the spread of the virus responsible for Covid-19. As for its part, the tannin would make it more difficult for the virus to penetrate our cells. See for privacy and opt-out information.

Mar 22

2 min 17 sec

The strange phrase "zero stroke" refers to a mental disorder that seems quite astonishing, earning it’s position in today’s You’ll Die Smarter episode, and not on a health podcast. So what is it all about? Zero stroke is a suspected mental disorder, diagnosed by doctors in Germany during the hyperinflation in the Weimar Republic (between 1921 and 1924). And this disorder was mainly characterized by the urge of patients to write endless rows of zeros. Yes, the number 0. How can this urge be explained? See for privacy and opt-out information.

Mar 21

2 min 44 sec

The global symbol for "Peace and love" was invented in 1958. It was created at that time by the British graphic designer Gerald Holtom as part of protests against a nuclear weapons factory. This graphic designer, a graduate of the Royal College of Arts in London, was very involved in the movement. Holtom proposed that the protesters carry flags and posters with his logo during a peaceful march. This march had around 5000 people and took the protesters on a walk from Trafalgar Square in London to the town of Aldermaston, home to the famous atomic weapons research plant. See for privacy and opt-out information.

Mar 18

1 min 42 sec

The protests in Tiananmen Square were immortalized by a photo that has become iconic. You may have seen this famous photo depicting a man with plastic grocery bags in his hands and standing in front of a line of tanks.  See for privacy and opt-out information.

Mar 17

2 min 16 sec

You may have heard that, over time, couples end up looking alike. It has been said that by living together and sharing common activities, the faces of couples begin to resemble one another. This resemblance of couples who have been living together for a long time is a common statement, and sometimes supported by psychologists. See for privacy and opt-out information.

Mar 16

2 min 8 sec

Have you ever noticed that most male pilots are clean-shaven? Or if they have facial hair it is often a simple moustache? In fact, it is extremely rare to see a male airline pilot with a full beard, and there is a very special reason for this. And it has nothing to do with fashion. Let me explain. See for privacy and opt-out information.

Mar 15

2 min 3 sec

I’m sure you’re familiar with revolving doors. These types of doors that work like a turnstile are often found at the entrance of department stores and large hotels. Consisting of several wings, usually glazed, the user pushes a wing, causing the entire door to turn. By walking with the turning wings, the user then exits the dial on the other side. Interestingly, the direction of rotation doors is usually counter-clockwise.  See for privacy and opt-out information.

Mar 14

2 min 42 sec

Yes it did, but also no, it didn’t. Before we get into specifics, what was the red phone? The red phone was said to be a direct line of communication between the Pentagon and the Kremlin in Russia, set up in August 1963 after the Cuban missile crisis of the previous year. This episode was, as you may know, a kind of paroxysm of the Cold War. The Americans and Russians were never as close to war as they were when Moscow pointed missiles from Cuba at the United States.  See for privacy and opt-out information.

Mar 11

2 min 4 sec

You may have noticed that maintaining eye contact while speaking can be difficult, even though verbal processing seems like it should be independent. Still, many people frequently look away from their conversers while chatting. So is there an interference between the two processes? Well actually, yes. There is scientific evidence supporting that it is more difficult for us to look someone directly in the eye when having a conversation.  See for privacy and opt-out information.

Mar 10

2 min 13 sec

You may have experienced this feeling: you are stuck in a traffic jam or at the bank, in a line that doesn't move forward. You find yourself thinking that you made the wrong choice, and if you had chosen a different line or lane, it would be moving faster. Two medical researchers in Canada have looked at this phenomenon to see if there is any validity to this feeling. Is there a psychological basis for it, or is it the result of real observation? The result: this thought comes from an illusion of bad luck.  See for privacy and opt-out information.

Mar 9

2 min 15 sec

Tea bags are by no means new inventions, but their origins may come as a surprise to you. Contrary to what you might expect, we don't owe the invention to the famous tea-loving British Isles, but actually to an American. Tea bags date back to 1908. Technically speaking, it was a little earlier, 5 years prior, that a patent was filed for the first silk tea bag. But these tea bags were initially used for tasting. They were used to present small samples and to preserve the flavor of the tea leaves. See for privacy and opt-out information.

Mar 8

2 min 19 sec

The “Wicked Bible,” also known as the “Sinner’s Bible” is the reprint of the King James' Bible published in 1631, in London, by the royal printers Barker and Lucas. This English translation of the Bible was made at the request of James I of England, and this Bible replaced the previous authorized version at the time, becoming the standard Bible for the Church of England.  See for privacy and opt-out information.

Mar 7

2 min 24 sec

Champagne is a sparkling wine produced from 3 grape varieties: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. It benefits from an appellation of controlled origin, which means that it can only be produced in a specific geographical area and according to specific regulations. And to drink it, there are also rules. Not binding, of course, but there are specific ways of drinking it in order to fully appreciate this drink. Among them, and perhaps the most well know, relates to the glass, as champagne is intended to be drunk in flutes, not in classic wine glasses.  See for privacy and opt-out information.

Mar 4

2 min 3 sec

This characteristic is very old and actually dates back all the way from the 4th century. During this time is when we first see this distinctive hollowed style on the punt, i.e., the bottom of a bottle. The primary purpose of this hollowed punt is to ensure the stability of the bottle when it is placed upright. Why not just make it flat? Fifteen centuries ago, craftsmen were unable to make bottles with a perfectly flat punt, which caused some difficulty in standing them upright. Craftsmen decided to solve the problem by stabilizing them with a heavier concave base.  See for privacy and opt-out information.

Mar 3

2 min

Today the mask is highly recommended in many public places and often required. It is currently considered the best personal protective wear against the Covid-19 pandemic. However, you may have seen some people wearing two masks. Is this more effective? Actually, yes, it may be. This is what a scientific study shows in any case. According to this study, the superimposition of two masks could offer protection equivalent to that of FFP2 masks, which are to date the most effective device.  See for privacy and opt-out information.

Mar 2

2 min 6 sec

Before picking up their tickets, many passengers have probably wondered where the safest seat on the plane was. While there are no unbiased, official statistics about the safest seats on an airplane, there are small selection of studies show that some seats may be safer than others. For example, studies have been conducted for specialized publications that have looked into the question.  See for privacy and opt-out information.

Mar 1

2 min 4 sec

As far-fetched as it may sound, some plants can actually hear. In fact, it has been scientifically proven by researchers that plants are perfectly capable of setting up defense mechanisms responding to sound. They discovered that when the sound of a specific predators is played near the plant, their defense mechanism to fight against insects are triggered. Let’s look a little closer. These researchers first observed, how plants of the Arabidopsis genus, plants related to mustard and cabbage, reacted when a caterpillar nibbled at their leaves.  See for privacy and opt-out information.

Feb 28

2 min 28 sec

This strange feeling, this "sick joy" that we may feel when seeing the misfortune of others, has a name: Schadenfreude. This German word literally means "joy of harm". Having been adopted into the English language, it means "to rejoice in the misfortune of others". At first glance, this feeling may appear dangerously close to sadism. Thankfully, we are not all secret psychopaths, as Schadenfreude has a key difference: it’s purely passive.  See for privacy and opt-out information.

Feb 25

3 min 2 sec

Perhaps should is a strong word. Of course, you can do whatever you want when it comes to eating. Chopsticks, small forks, your hands, whatever. But, if you want to lose weight, the size of your fork just might matter. At least, that's the conclusion reached by researchers at the University of Utah. Not unlike many of the questions we answer on You’ll Die Smarter, human psychology is behind this phenomenon.  See for privacy and opt-out information.

Feb 24

2 min 24 sec

To begin, the title of our podcast is a generalization many of us are familiar with. Some British police officers actually do carry weapons beyond the traditional police baton. So exactly what is the situation? Let’s start with some numbers. In the UK, less than 5% of the police are armed. And these weapons are rarely used. For example, in 2017, out of 15,000 armed police operations, shots were fired only 7 times. See for privacy and opt-out information.

Feb 23

2 min 46 sec

To put it briefly, it saved money. But I think that answer is a little short for us. Let’s look a little deeper into the nitty gritty of why that is. To begin with, you should know that writing dates back to approximately 3300 years BC. This is the period from which the first traces of writing have been found in the temples of the cities of Uruk, now in present-day Iraq. At that time, the Sumerians wrote on clay tablets. But this writing was composed of pictograms or symbols representing a word or concept, not like the alphabetic writing we use today.  See for privacy and opt-out information.

Feb 22

2 min 10 sec

If you have a cat you may have seen this strange but hilarious reaction. House cats seem to have an irrational fear of the ever-threatening cucumber. When this common vegetable is placed next to a cat or they discover it by happenstance, they’ll often leap in the air in startlement.  See for privacy and opt-out information.

Feb 21

2 min 16 sec

The RMS Titanic, known as the unsinkable ship, struck an iceberg on April 14, 1912 and sank, causing the deaths of over 1,500 passengers. You are probably familiar with James Cameron’s famous 1997 film depicting this event. But this was not at all the first film devoted to this tragedy! See for privacy and opt-out information.

Feb 18

3 min 2 sec

You may recognize this hair color from popular media. Sitting between the realms of golden blonde and coppery red, this hair color is also referred to as “strawberry blonde.” But why do some people call it Venetian? How does it relate to city of lovers? Could it be a reference to the color of a Palace at La Serenissima? Or is Venetian a reference to the famous boats that sail the Grand Canal? See for privacy and opt-out information.

Feb 17

2 min 56 sec

The fear of clowns has a name: coulrophobia. While we don’t know the exact origins of the prefix “coulro”, there are some suggestions that it comes from an Ancient Greek word meaning “acrobat on stilts.” But this doesn’t explain the fear, does it?  See for privacy and opt-out information.

Feb 16

3 min 20 sec

Let's start by getting the elephant out of the room: the Bible has nothing to do with this list. The fact that the 7 deadly sins come from Bible is a misconception. The 7 deadly sins, also known as the 7 capital sins, came into existence far after the books of the Bible were written. The most modern portions of the Bible date around 165 BC, but the deadly sin are more recent, finding their beginnings in the 4th century. The first deadly sins were established by Evagra the Pontic, a monk and ascetic theologian living as a hermit in Egypt... See for privacy and opt-out information.

Feb 15

2 min 44 sec