The Quick 10: 10 Things We Got from Texas


1. Deep-Fried … Anything?
Salty, pretzel-like pockets filled with Guinness and deep-fried? I’d try it. The ravioli-shaped Fried Beer debuted last year at the Texas State Fair, alongside deep-fried frozen margarita, and the year before, deep-fried butter. Before that, the fair boasted deep-fried latte, cookie dough, Coca-Cola, Pop Tarts, lemonade and chocolate. No word yet on Deep-Fried Lipitor.

2. Dr Pepper
In the 1880s, Charles Alderton developed the 23-flavored soft drink in Morrison’s Old Corner Drug Store in Waco. The origin of Dr Pepper’s name is hazy – some think the “pep” is for pepsin, and others believe it refers to the early marketing of the soda, which like most others was called a “brain tonic” or “energizing tonic.” What we do know for certain is that the period after “Dr” was dropped in the 1950s for stylistic reasons.

3. Mary Kay Cosmetics
In 1963, Mary Kay Ash launched her company, Mary Kay Inc., in Addison. Today the company operates in 35 countries and boasts $2.8 billion in annual earnings. GM estimates that they have produced about 100,000 of the signature pink Cadillacs for top-earning Directors or Nationals.

4. Networked ATMs
Though previous versions of self-service banking machines existed, most required single-use tokens or paper vouchers and were only designed to dispense a fixed amount of cash. The first incarnation of the modern, networked ATM came in 1969, from Dallas and a guy named Donald Wetzel. He headed up Docutel, which until then had produced automated baggage-handling machines. In 1971, the company had developed the “total teller” model, which could take deposits, transfer money from checking to savings, savings to checking, get cash advances to from credit card, and take payment. Their patent was secured in 1973 and in 1995, the Smithsonian National Museum of American History recognized Wetzel and Docutel as the inventors of the networked ATM.

5. The Rodeo
Pecos, TX, claims to be the Home of the World’s First Rodeo, held on July 4, 1883. The event is still held every year on Independence Day, but the first official rodeo competition was held in Cheyenne, WY, in 1872. (Sorry, Texas.)

6. Jalapeno Jelly
Some enterprising and adventurous soul in Lake Jackson developed a mixture of jalapeno and bell peppers, sugar, gelatin and vinegar. Rather surprisingly (to me, anyway), it was a hit, and the concoction was first marketed commercially in 1978. Jalapeno jelly is a bit of, um… an acquired taste, but fans spread it on everything from biscuits to burgers.

7. Dynamic Random Access Memory (DRAM)
Perhaps one of computer technology’s more important developments, dynamic RAM, was invented by Dr. Robert Dennard of Terrell, TX, in 1968. The Intel 1103, the first piece of hardware incorporating Dennard’s design, was released by IBM in 1970. By 1972 it was the best-selling semiconductor memory chip in the world, completely obliterating the previous magnetic core technology.

8. Liquid Paper
Bette Claire Nesmith, single mother of Monkee Michael Nesmith and native of Dallas, was a part-time artist and the executive secretary at Texas Bank and Trust. The early-model electric typewriter she used at the bank made correcting mistakes extremely difficult, but she drew on her experience painting windows to come up with an easier method. Said Nesmith, “[W]ith lettering, an artist never corrects by erasing, but always paints over the error. So I decided to use what artists use. I put some tempera water-based paint in a bottle and took my watercolor brush to the office. I used that to correct my mistakes.” In 1956, she had a perfected formula, which she marketed under the Liquid Paper brand. In 1979, Nesmith sold the company to Gillette for $47.5 million.

9. The Most Powerful Laser in the World
After establishing the Texas Center for High Intensity Laser Science at the University of Texas at Austin (or UT), the research center developed and constructed a 1.1 petawatt laser, the most powerful currently in use. (Previously, a system installed at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory broke the petawatt barrier, but it was dismantled in 1999.) For a tenth of a femtosecond (or one tenth of one-trillionth of a second), the Texas Petawatt Laser’s pulse is as powerful as all the power plants in the US. Also, the beam reportedly “is brighter than sunlight on the surface of the Sun.”

10. The Adopt-A-Highway Program
For more on that, read fellow _flosser Scott Allen’s article, “Own the Road: A Brief History of the Adopt-a-Highway Program.”


Big Questions
Why Does Turkey Make You Tired?

Why do people have such a hard time staying awake after Thanksgiving dinner? Most people blame tryptophan, but that's not really the main culprit. And what is tryptophan, anyway?

Tryptophan is an amino acid that the body uses in the processes of making vitamin B3 and serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate sleep. It can't be produced by our bodies, so we need to get it through our diet. From which foods, exactly? Turkey, of course, but also other meats, chocolate, bananas, mangoes, dairy products, eggs, chickpeas, peanuts, and a slew of other foods. Some of these foods, like cheddar cheese, have more tryptophan per gram than turkey. Tryptophan doesn't have much of an impact unless it's taken on an empty stomach and in an amount larger than what we're getting from our drumstick. So why does turkey get the rap as a one-way ticket to a nap?

The urge to snooze is more the fault of the average Thanksgiving meal and all the food and booze that go with it. Here are a few things that play into the nap factor:

Fats: That turkey skin is delicious, but fats take a lot of energy to digest, so the body redirects blood to the digestive system. Reduced blood flow in the rest of the body means reduced energy.

Alcohol: What Homer Simpson called the cause of—and solution to—all of life's problems is also a central nervous system depressant.

Overeating: Same deal as fats. It takes a lot of energy to digest a big feast (the average Thanksgiving meal contains 3000 calories and 229 grams of fat), so blood is sent to the digestive process system, leaving the brain a little tired.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at

More Details Emerge About 'Oumuamua, Earth's First-Recorded Interstellar Visitor

In October, scientists using the University of Hawaii's Pan-STARRS 1 telescope sighted something extraordinary: Earth's first confirmed interstellar visitor. Originally called A/2017 U1, the once-mysterious object has a new name—'Oumuamua, according to Scientific American—and researchers continue to learn more about its physical properties. Now, a team from the University of Hawaii's Institute of Astronomy has published a detailed report of what they know so far in Nature.

Fittingly, "'Oumuamua" is Hawaiian for "a messenger from afar arriving first." 'Oumuamua's astronomical designation is 1I/2017 U1. The "I" in 1I/2017 stands for "interstellar." Until now, objects similar to 'Oumuamua were always given "C" and "A" names, which stand for either comet or asteroid. New observations have researchers concluding that 'Oumuamua is unusual for more than its far-flung origins.

It's a cigar-shaped object 10 times longer than it is wide, stretching to a half-mile long. It's also reddish in color, and is similar in some ways to some asteroids in own solar system, the BBC reports. But it's much faster, zipping through our system, and has a totally different orbit from any of those objects.

After initial indecision about whether the object was a comet or an asteroid, the researchers now believe it's an asteroid. Long ago, it might have hurtled from an unknown star system into our own.

'Oumuamua may provide astronomers with new insights into how stars and planets form. The 750,000 asteroids we know of are leftovers from the formation of our solar system, trapped by the Sun's gravity. But what if, billions of years ago, other objects escaped? 'Oumuamua shows us that it's possible; perhaps there are bits and pieces from the early years of our solar system currently visiting other stars.

The researchers say it's surprising that 'Oumuamua is an asteroid instead of a comet, given that in the Oort Cloud—an icy bubble of debris thought to surround our solar system—comets are predicted to outnumber asteroids 200 to 1 and perhaps even as high as 10,000 to 1. If our own solar system is any indication, it's more likely that a comet would take off before an asteroid would.

So where did 'Oumuamua come from? That's still unknown. It's possible it could've been bumped into our realm by a close encounter with a planet—either a smaller, nearby one, or a larger, farther one. If that's the case, the planet remains to be discovered. They believe it's more likely that 'Oumuamua was ejected from a young stellar system, location unknown. And yet, they write, "the possibility that 'Oumuamua has been orbiting the galaxy for billions of years cannot be ruled out."

As for where it's headed, The Atlantic's Marina Koren notes, "It will pass the orbit of Jupiter next May, then Neptune in 2022, and Pluto in 2024. By 2025, it will coast beyond the outer edge of the Kuiper Belt, a field of icy and rocky objects."

Last week, University of Wisconsin–Madison astronomer Ralf Kotulla and scientists from UCLA and the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) used the WIYN Telescope on Kitt Peak, Arizona, to take some of the first pictures of 'Oumuamua. You can check them out below.

Images of an interloper from beyond the solar system — an asteroid or a comet — were captured on Oct. 27 by the 3.5-meter WIYN Telescope on Kitt Peak, Ariz.
Images of 'Oumuamua—an asteroid or a comet—were captured on October 27.

U1 spotted whizzing through the Solar System in images taken with the WIYN telescope. The faint streaks are background stars. The green circles highlight the position of U1 in each image. In these images U1 is about 10 million times fainter than the faint
The green circles highlight the position of U1 in each image against faint streaks of background stars. In these images, U1 is about 10 million times fainter than the faintest visible stars.
R. Kotulla (University of Wisconsin) & WIYN/NOAO/AURA/NSF

Color image of U1, compiled from observations taken through filters centered at 4750A, 6250A, and 7500A.
Color image of U1.
R. Kotulla (University of Wisconsin) & WIYN/NOAO/AURA/NSF

Editor's note: This story has been updated.


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