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11 Facts About Potato Chips for Your Next Snack Break

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They're the perfect snack food, but how well do you really know the chips you're munching on? 

1. Their famous origin story may not have happened. 

According to culinary legend, the potato chip was born when Saratoga Springs, N.Y. chef George Crum presented the first plate of chips to Cornelius Vanderbilt in 1853. Crum was trying to get back at Vanderbilt, who kept insisting that his french-fried potatoes weren’t thin enough. Sick of having the dish sent back, Crum sliced a fresh batch of potatoes paper-thin, cooked them until they were too crisp to be picked up by a fork, and had them brought out to Vanderbilt, expecting to get a rise out of him. Instead, the railroad tycoon loved the dish, and a new tradition was born. But as some sources have noted, this story is probably more folk tale than fact. 

2. “Chips” came before “crisps.” 

The story of Crum and Vanderbilt may be folklore, but make no mistake: Americans own the naming rights to this beloved snack (there is an 1822 British recipe for “potatoes fried in slices or shavings,” but those were sliced a quarter of an inch thick, or just shaved into the oil). Chips really do trace their roots back to Saratoga, and so all successive iterations were beholden to the original “Saratoga chips,” which eventually reached a national audience thanks to one Nashville-based Herman Lay. 

3. They were nearly a casualty of World War II.

When the United States entered World War II, potato chips were declared a “nonessential food” that had to halt production immediately. Manufacturers balked at the idea, and protests convinced the War Production Board to back down. Thanks to these potato chip-loving patriots, potato chips sold better during and after the war than they ever had before.

4. We owe a debt to Laura Scudder, potato chip queen of California. 

Before potato chips were mass-produced and marketed around the world, they were sold in bulk in mom-and-pop shops, where they were served out of wooden barrels or scooped from behind glass counters. It took one enterprising California woman to come up with the concept of pre-bagging the chips, both for freshness and transportability. Laura Scudder, who had opened a potato chip company in 1926, worked hard to perfect her idea. Originally made of waxed paper that was ironed by hand into grease-resistant packets, those first potato chip bags were the forerunners of today’s crinkly foil sacks. 

5. Pringles aren’t potato chips. 

They’re potato crisps. The cans of perfectly shaped snacks ran afoul with traditional chip makers almost as soon as they appeared on American shelves in 1968. The Potato Chip Institute International, a Cleveland-based representative of hundreds of chip makers, came out swinging against Pringles since Procter & Gamble’s new snack was made from, among other ingredients, dried potatoes rather than fresh spuds. The “potato chip war” remained hot for nearly a decade, with the Institute standing by its definition that a potato chip was a “slice of fresh, raw potato, deep fried in vegetable oil, salted, and packaged.” Eventually P&G gave up the fight and started calling Pringles “potato crisps.” 

6. There’s more than just “air” in those bags. 

Potato chip bags are only partially filled for a reason: The additional space adds cushioning to prevent breakage. The bags are also pumped full of nitrogen, which helps keeps the product fresher before opening. 

7. “Crispy” and “crunchy” aren’t the same thing. 

Professor William E. Lee of the University of South Florida may be the world’s top potato chip scientist. After years spent studying the unique crunch of potato chips and other salty snacks, by the early '90s Lee had established himself as the authority on what makes a chip satisfying to bite into. Lee has found that the sound of chomping on chips contributes to the pleasure you get from your snack. In the study “Analysis of Food Crushing Sounds During Mastication,” he found that chip eaters maximize the amount of sound they’re creating with each bite. Eaters who wore headphones that kept them from hearing the crunch of their chips grew bored with the snack more quickly. One important note: things that are crunchy tend to produce louder sounds and a much longer lasting sensation—they're generally still hard after 10 chews (like tortilla chips, for example). Crispy textures, on the other hand, last only a few bites and result in much higher-pitched noises.

8. They helped an Olympian on her way to greatness. 

Jackie Joyner-Kersee, possibly the greatest female athlete in history, came from humble beginnings before dominating college basketball and both the women’s heptathlon and long jump in multiple Olympic Games. Before she was decorated with a slew of gold, silver, and bronze medals, she was a nine-year-old who had recently come in last in her first race. Still, she swore to her friends she was going to make the Olympic track and field team someday. 

The future champion wanted to start practicing immediately, but she didn’t have a soft landing place for her leaps. So she enlisted her sisters’ help and got creative. The siblings began visiting a local park to fill empty potato chip bags with sand. They ferried these loads home to create a makeshift jumping pit. 

9. The world’s largest bag weighed as much as a small car. 

The marketing slogan is true: When it comes to the salty, crispy, fried temptation that is a potato chip, you can't eat just one. No one was in danger of doing so on September 13, 2013, when Corkers Crisps set a new world record for the largest single bag of potato chips. The bag measured 18 feet tall and comfortably housed more than 2,515 pounds of chips – all right, crisps – all of which were cooked in a single batch, as per Guinness World Record regulations, over a 17-hour period. Cambridgeshire locals would have had no shortage of snacks that day. 

10. Ridges are an engineering marvel. 

In response to consumers who wanted a heftier chip that wouldn’t break when dipped in various sauces, manufacturers introduced the ruffled chip, which is a full four times thicker than a standard chip —and a whole lot sturdier.

11. No flavor is too weird. 

With the wealth of flavored potato chips available today, it’s hard to imagine a past in which chips only came in one flavor: potato. Independent chip makers began seasoning their products sometime in the 1950s, and ever since, companies around the world have turned out varieties tailored to their local markets. 

In the U.S., that means bestsellers like barbecue and sour cream & onion, as well as offbeat options like buffalo wing, dill pickle, and Old Bay crab seasoning. Overseas, the sky’s the limit: the UK indulges in prawn cocktail and roast beef flavors, while Greece favors oregano. Japan does a brisk trade in soy sauce, seaweed, and butter potato chips, and countless other countries sell chips flavored with paprika, cassava, mint, mayonnaise, hoisin duck, and, of course, “Cajun squirrel.”

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15 Must-Watch Facts About The Ring
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DreamWorks

An urban legend about a videotape that kills its viewers seven days after they see it turns out to be true. To her increasing horror, reporter Rachel Keller (then-newcomer Naomi Watts) discovers this after her niece is one of four teenage victims, and is in a race against the clock to uncover the mystery behind the girl in the video before her and her son’s time is up.

Released 15 years ago, on October 18, 2002, The Ring began a trend of both remaking Japanese horror films in a big way, and giving you nightmares about creepy creatures crawling out of your television. Here are some facts about the film that you can feel free to pass along to anybody, guilt-free.

1. DREAMWORKS BOUGHT THE AMERICAN RIGHTS TO RINGU FOR $1 MILLION.

There were conflicting stories over how executive producer Roy Lee came to see the 1998 Japanese horror film Ringu, Hideo Nakata's adaptation of the 1991 novel Ring by Kôji Suzuki. Lee said two different friends gave him a copy of Ringu in January 2001, which he loved and immediately gave to DreamWorks executive Mark Sourian, who agreed to purchase the rights. But Lee’s close friend Mike Macari worked at Fine Line Features, which had an American remake of Ringu in development before January 2001. Macari said he showed Lee Ringu much earlier. Macari and Lee were both listed as executive producers for The Ring.

2. THE DIRECTOR FIRST SAW RINGU ON A POOR QUALITY VHS TAPE, WHICH ADDED TO ITS CREEPINESS.

Gore Verbinski had previously directed MouseHunt. He said the first time he "watched the original Ringu was on a VHS tape that was probably seven generations down. It was really poor quality, but actually that added to the mystique, especially when I realized that this was a movie about a videotape." Naomi Watts struggled to find a VHS copy of Ringu while shooting in the south of Wales. When she finally got a hold of one she watched it on a very small TV alone in her hotel room. "I remember being pretty freaked out," Watts said. "I just saw it the once, and that was enough to get me excited about doing it."

3. THE RING AND RINGU ARE ABOUT 50 PERCENT DIFFERENT.

Naomi Watts in 'The Ring'
© 2002 - DreamWorks LLC - All Rights Reserved

Verbinski estimated that, for the American version, they "changed up to 50 percent of it. The basic premise is intact, the story is intact, the ghost story, the story of Samara, the child." Storylines involving the characters having ESP, a volcano, “dream logic,” and references to “brine and goblins” were taken out.

4. IT RAINED ALMOST EVERY DAY WHEN THEY FILMED IN THE STATE OF WASHINGTON.

The weather added to the “atmosphere of dread,” according to the film's production notes. Verbinski said the setting allowed them to create an “overcast mood” of dampness and isolation.

5. THE PRODUCTION DESIGNER WAS INFLUENCED BY ANDREW WYETH.

Artist Andrew Wyeth tended to use muted, somber earth tones in his work. "In Wyeth's work, the trees are always dormant, and the colors are muted earth tones," explained production designer Tom Duffield. "It's greys, it's browns, it's somber colors; it's ripped fabrics in the windows. His work has a haunting flavor that I felt would add to the mystique of this movie, so I latched on to it."

6. THERE WERE RINGS EVERYWHERE.

The carpeting and wallpaper patterns, the circular kitchen knobs, the doctor’s sweater design, Rachel’s apartment number, and more were purposely designed with the film's title in mind.

7. WATTS AND MARTIN HENDERSON HAD A FRIENDLY INTERNATIONAL RIVALRY.

Martin Henderson and Naomi Watts star in 'The Ring' (1992)
© 2002 - DreamWorks LLC - All Rights Reserved

The New Zealand-born Henderson played Noah, Rachel’s ex-husband. Since Watts is from Australia, Henderson said that, "Between takes, we'd joke around with each other's accents and play into the whole New Zealand-Australia rivalry."

8. THE TWO WEREN’T SURE IF THE MOVIE WAS GOING TO BE SCARY ENOUGH.

After shooting some of the scenes, and not having the benefit of seeing what they'd look like once any special effects were added, Henderson and Watts worried that the final result would not be scary enough. "There were moments when Naomi and I would look at each other and say, 'This is embarrassing, people are going to laugh,'" Henderson told the BBC." You just hope that somebody makes it scary or you're going to look like an idiot!"

9. CHRIS COOPER WAS CUT FROM THE MOVIE.

Cooper played a child murderer in two scenes which were initially meant to bookend the film. He unconvincingly claimed to Rachel that he found God in the beginning, and in the end she gave him the cursed tape. Audiences at test screenings were distracted that an actor they recognized disappears for most of the film, so he was cut out entirely.

10. THEY TRIED TO GET RID OF ALL OF THE SHADOWS.

Verbinski and cinematographer Bojan Bazelli used the lack of sunlight in Washington to remove the characters’ shadows. The two wanted to keep the characters feeling as if “they’re floating a little bit, in space.”

11. THE TREE WAS NICKNAMED "LUCILLE."

The red Japanese maple tree in the cursed video was named after the famous redheaded actress Lucille Ball. The tree was fake, built out of steel tubing and plaster. The Washington wind blew it over three different times. The night they put up the tree in Los Angeles, the wind blew at 60 miles per hour and knocked Lucille over yet again. "It was very strange," said Duffield.

12. MOESKO ISLAND IS A FUNCTIONING LIGHTHOUSE.

Moesko Island Lighthouse is Yaquina Head Lighthouse, at the mouth of the Yaquina River, a mile west of Agate Beach, Oregon. The website Rachel checks, MoeskoIslandLighthouse.com, used to actually exist as a one-page website, which gave general information on the fictional place. You can read it here.

13. A WEBSITE WAS CREATED BY DREAMWORKS TO PROMOTE THE MOVIE AND ADD TO ITS MYTHOLOGY.

Before and during the theatrical release, if you logged into AnOpenLetter.com, you could read a message in white lettering against a black background warning about what happens if you watch the cursed video (you can read it here). By November 24, 2002, it was a standard official website made for the movie, set up by DreamWorks.

14. VERBINSKI DIDN’T HAVE FUN DIRECTING THE MOVIE.

“It’s no fun making a horror film," admitted Verbinski. "You get into some darker areas of the brain and after a while everything becomes a bit depressing.”

15. DAVEIGH CHASE SCARED HERSELF.

Daveigh Chase in 'The Ring'
© 2002 - DreamWorks LLC - All Rights Reserved

When Daveigh Chase, who played Samara, saw The Ring in theaters, she had to cover her eyes out of fear—of herself. Some people she met after the movie came out were also afraid of her.

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European Space Agency Releases First High-Res Land Cover Map of Africa
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Land Cover CCI, ESA

This isn’t just any image of Africa. It represents the first of its kind: a high-resolution map of the different types of land cover that are found on the continent, released by The European Space Agency, as Travel + Leisure reports.

Land cover maps depict the different physical materials that cover the Earth, whether that material is vegetation, wetlands, concrete, or sand. They can be used to track the growth of cities, assess flooding, keep tabs on environmental issues like deforestation or desertification, and more.

The newly released land cover map of Africa shows the continent at an extremely detailed resolution. Each pixel represents just 65.6 feet (20 meters) on the ground. It’s designed to help researchers model the extent of climate change across Africa, study biodiversity and natural resources, and see how land use is changing, among other applications.

Developed as part of the Climate Change Initiative (CCI) Land Cover project, the space agency gathered a full year’s worth of data from its Sentinel-2A satellite to create the map. In total, the image is made from 90 terabytes of data—180,000 images—taken between December 2015 and December 2016.

The map is so large and detailed that the space agency created its own online viewer for it. You can dive further into the image here.

And keep watch: A better map might be close at hand. In March, the ESA launched the Sentinal-2B satellite, which it says will make a global map at a 32.8 feet-per-pixel (10 meters) resolution possible.

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

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