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The mental_floss Guide to the NCAA Tournament: The South

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We're going region by region, giving you one fun fact about each team in the tournament.

(1) Kentucky
Kentucky got its royal blue team color from a piece of clothing. In 1891 the school needed a set of team colors before a football game against in-state rival Centre College. After some debate, the students settled on blue and yellow. (The yellow would change to white a year later.) Only one question remained: what shade of blue would they use? According to the school, football letterman Richard C. Stoll pulled off his royal blue necktie and suggested the squad use its hue. His classmates agreed, and UK had its blue.

(16) Western Kentucky
Western Kentucky has an odd rival: Italian TV company Mediaset. In 2004 Western sued the company, which was founded by former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, for ripping off its popular mascot, Big Red. Several of Mediaset's shows had used a mascot named Gabibbo, who in some photos looked like Big Red had grown a hilarious mustache and raided Cap'n Crunch's closet. Despite the similarities, courts found in favor of Mediaset.

(8) Iowa State
Peanut whiz George Washington Carver went to Iowa State. He later taught there.

(9) Connecticut
If you’re an aspiring puppeteer in search of a master’s degree, you’ve got one choice: the University of Connecticut. UConn has been offering classes in puppetry since 1964, and the school now says it’s the only institution in the country that offers MA and MFA options for puppet arts.
(5) Wichita State
The Shockers get their name from students who used to shock (harvest) wheat for money. Pep club members were called “Wheaties.”

(12) Virginia Commonwealth
VCU has three campuses: two are in Richmond, and the third is in Doha, Qatar.
(4) Indiana
Indiana’s Bloomington campus is home to the Little 500, a 50-mile bicycle relay race founded by Howard “Howdy” Wilcox in 1951 as a means of raising scholarship money for working students. Wilcox based the race on the Indianapolis 500, which his father won in 1919.

(13) New Mexico State
New Mexico State has a Chile Pepper Institute. They sell their own hot sauce, Holy Jolokia, to help fund research and education. They also maintain a chile library.
(6) UNLV
There are some serious fundraising benefits to being a university located in Las Vegas. As a foundation board member at UNLV, Frank Sinatra organized two benefit shows for the university in the 1970s. In 1983, he helped commemorate the opening of the Thomas & Mack Center – an 18,500-seat arena – by performing at the opening along with Dean Martin and Diana Ross.

(11) Colorado
Colorado is located in Boulder, but it could have been established in Cañon City. When given the choice of being home to the University of Colorado or the Colorado State Prison, Cañon City officials chose the prison. They reasoned it would be better attended.
(3) Baylor
Former US Representative Tom DeLay was expelled from Baylor for vandalism after painting Baylor colors onto buildings at Texas A&M.

(14) South Dakota State
Oreo ice cream was developed at the SDSU Dairy Plant.
(7) Notre Dame
Notre Dame boasts the oldest college band in continuous existence in the United States. The “Band of the Fighting Irish” is also the only college band to feature a section of Faltos – alto horns in the key of F.

(10) Xavier
The University allows professors to forgo the standard alphabet grading system and instead assign a “Vanished Failure” to any student who doesn’t attend class enough.
(2) Duke
Before going with Blue Devils, Duke considered the nicknames Blue Eagles, Royal Blazes, Blue Warriors and Polar Bears. Bonus Fact: mental_floss magazine was founded at Duke University in 2001.

(15) Lehigh
Lehigh was almost named “Packer University” in honor of its founder, American railroad pioneer Asa Packer. When Packer gave the $500,000 and 60 acres in 1865 for the establishment of the university, it was the largest donation of its kind to any educational institution in America.
(Previously Eliminated) Mississippi Valley State
Mississippi Valley State’s most famous graduate is Hall of Fame wide receiver Jerry Rice. Nicknamed “World,” Rice teamed with Delta Devils quarterback Willie “Satellite” Totten to form “The Satellite Express” and set numerous NCAA passing records. MVSU’s football stadium was renamed Rice-Totten Field in 2000.

See Also...

The mental_floss Guide to the NCAA Tournament: The West

Your esteemed fact-finding crew: Jamie Spatola, Stacy Conradt, Ethan Trex, Colin Perkins, Scott Allen and Meg McGinn. They'll be back with another region this afternoon.

Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
A Chinese Museum Is Offering Cash to Whoever Can Decipher These 3000-Year-Old Inscriptions

During the 19th century, farmers in China’s Henan Province began discovering oracle bones—engraved ox scapulae and tortoise shells used by Shang Dynasty leaders for record-keeping and divination purposes—while plowing their fields. More bones were excavated in subsequent years, and their inscriptions were revealed to be the earliest known form of systematic writing in East Asia. But over the decades, scholars still haven’t come close to cracking half of the mysterious script’s roughly 5000 characters—which is why one Chinese museum is asking member of the public for help, in exchange for a generous cash reward.

As Atlas Obscura reports, the National Museum of Chinese Writing in Anyang, Henan Province has offered to pay citizen researchers about $15,000 for each unknown character translated, and $7500 if they provide a disputed character’s definitive meaning. Submissions must be supported with evidence, and reviewed by at least two language specialists.

The museum began farming out their oracle bone translation efforts in Fall 2016. The costly ongoing project has hit a stalemate, and scholars hope that the public’s collective smarts—combined with new advances in technology, including cloud computing and big data—will yield new information and save them research money.

As of today, more than 200,000 oracle bones have been discovered—around 50,000 of which bear text—so scholars still have a lot to learn about the Shang Dynasty. Many of the ancient script's characters are difficult to verify, as they represent places and people from long ago. However, decoding even just one character could lead to a substantial breakthrough, experts say: "If we interpret a noun or a verb, it can bring many scripts on oracle bones to life, and we can understand ancient history better,” Chinese history professor Zhu Yanmin told the South China Morning Post.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

6 Eponyms Named After the Wrong Person
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Salmonella species growing on agar.

Having something named after you is the ultimate accomplishment for any inventor, mathematician, scientist, or researcher. Unfortunately, the credit for an invention or discovery does not always go to the correct person—senior colleagues sometimes snatch the glory, fakers pull the wool over people's eyes, or the fickle general public just latches onto the wrong name.


In 1885, while investigating common livestock diseases at the Bureau of Animal Industry in Washington, D.C., pathologist Theobald Smith first isolated the salmonella bacteria in pigs suffering from hog cholera. Smith’s research finally identified the bacteria responsible for one of the most common causes of food poisoning in humans. Unfortunately, Smith’s limelight-grabbing supervisor, Daniel E. Salmon, insisted on taking sole credit for the discovery. As a result, the bacteria was named after him. Don’t feel too sorry for Theobald Smith, though: He soon emerged from Salmon’s shadow, going on to make the important discovery that ticks could be a vector in the spread of disease, among other achievements.


An etching of Amerigo Vespucci
Henry Guttmann/Getty Images

Florentine explorer Amerigo Vespucci (1451–1512) claimed to have made numerous voyages to the New World, the first in 1497, before Columbus. Textual evidence suggests Vespucci did take part in a number of expeditions across the Atlantic, but generally does not support the idea that he set eyes on the New World before Columbus. Nevertheless, Vespucci’s accounts of his voyages—which today read as far-fetched—were hugely popular and translated into many languages. As a result, when German cartographer Martin Waldseemüller was drawing his map of the Novus Mundi (or New World) in 1507 he marked it with the name "America" in Vespucci’s honor. He later regretted the choice, omitting the name from future maps, but it was too late, and the name stuck.


A black and white image of young women wearing bloomers
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Dress reform became a big issue in mid-19th century America, when women were restricted by long, heavy skirts that dragged in the mud and made any sort of physical activity difficult. Women’s rights activist Elizabeth Smith Miller was inspired by traditional Turkish dress to begin wearing loose trousers gathered at the ankle underneath a shorter skirt. Miller’s new outfit immediately caused a splash, with some decrying it as scandalous and others inspired to adopt the garb.

Amelia Jenks Bloomer was editor of the women’s temperance journal The Lily, and she took to copying Miller’s style of dress. She was so impressed with the new freedom it gave her that she began promoting the “reform dress” in her magazine, printing patterns so others might make their own. Bloomer sported the dress when she spoke at events and soon the press began to associate the outfit with her, dubbing it “Bloomer’s costume.” The name stuck.


Execution machines had been known prior to the French Revolution, but they were refined after Paris physician and politician Dr. Joseph-Ignace Guillotin suggested they might be a more humane form of execution than the usual methods (hanging, burning alive, etc.). The first guillotine was actually designed by Dr. Antoine Louis, Secretary of the Academy of Surgery, and was known as a louisette. The quick and efficient machine was quickly adopted as the main method of execution in revolutionary France, and as the bodies piled up the public began to refer to it as la guillotine, for the man who first suggested its use. Guillotin was very distressed at the association, and when he died in 1814 his family asked the French government to change the name of the hated machine. The government refused and so the family changed their name instead to escape the dreadful association.


Alison Bechdel
Alison Bechdel
Steve Jennings/Getty Images

The Bechdel Test is a tool to highlight gender inequality in film, television, and fiction. The idea is that in order to pass the test, the movie, show, or book in question must include at least one scene in which two women have a conversation that isn’t about a man. The test was popularized by the cartoonist Alison Bechdel in 1985 in her comic strip “Dykes to Watch Out For,” and has since become known by her name. However, Bechdel asserts that the idea originated with her friend Lisa Wallace (and was also inspired by the writer Virginia Woolf), and she would prefer for it to be known as the Bechdel-Wallace test.


Influential sociologist Robert K. Merton suggested the idea of the “Matthew Effect” in a 1968 paper noting that senior colleagues who are already famous tend to get the credit for their junior colleagues’ discoveries. (Merton named his phenomenon [PDF] after the parable of talents in the Gospel of Matthew, in which wise servants invest money their master has given them.)

Merton was a well-respected academic, and when he was due to retire in 1979, a book of essays celebrating his work was proposed. One person who contributed an essay was University of Chicago professor of statistics Stephen Stigler, who had corresponded with Merton about his ideas. Stigler decided to pen an essay that celebrated and proved Merton’s theory. As a result, he took Merton’s idea and created Stigler’s Law of Eponymy, which states that “No scientific discovery is named after its original discoverer”—the joke being that Stigler himself was taking Merton’s own theory and naming it after himself. To further prove the rule, the “new” law has been adopted by the academic community, and a number of papers and articles have since been written on "Stigler’s Law."


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