Completely Random Facts of the Week – Issue 84

August 3, 2017

facts header84In this week’s facts edition: Underground University Tunnels, A Salt Salary, Keeping Skyscrapers Still, A Huge Circular Lake, and The Origin of Panic.

OhioStateUniversityHallUnderground University Tunnels

Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, has a vast network of underground tunnels running underneath the campus that were first constructed as early as the 1920s. The utility tunnels run around eight miles in total length and go to 136 buildings on the campus. The tunnels hold steam pipes, wiring, and anything else that needs to be run underground, and only about 20 utility workers have the credentials to go inside. Once a year, graduating seniors are allowed to go on a guided tour of the tunnels. Many universities and colleges have underground tunnels that serve the same purpose as Ohio State’s tunnels. One of the other large tunnel systems resides at UCLA and is reported to be around six miles in total length.  Source, Source, Source

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A Salt Salary

The word “salary”, which as everyone knows means compensation or payment, has its origins from Roman times and also has something to do with salt. A Roman soldier was either given a certain ration of salt as their payment, or they received a payment to buy salt, food, or anything else they needed. No one knows for sure. Either way, the payment to Roman soldiers was known as a “salarium”, and the Latin word for salt is “sal”. The “salarium” paid to soldiers eventually became what we now as the word for getting paid; “salary”.  Source, Source, Source

Manicouagan Reservoir

A Huge Circular Lake

The Manicouagan Reservoir is a lake in central Quebec, Canada, that lies in the remnants of an impact crater that occurred about 214 million years ago.  The lake is in the shape of a ring and is so huge that it can be seen from space. Because of its shape and where it is located, some call it the “eye of Quebec”.

When the crater was formed, the impact resulted in rock being liquified as deep as five miles. The heat was so great from the impact that it took the rock anywhere between 1,600 to 5,000 years just to cool.

The Manicouagan Reservoir is 60 miles wide and has a peak in the middle called Mount Babel, a leftover of uplifted rock from the initial impact. The lake was flooded in the 1960s after a dam had been constructed to produce hydroelectric power. This resulted in the lake being formed into its circular shape. Source, Source, Source, Source

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Keeping Skyscrapers Still

Skyscrapers around the world are being built taller than ever before, but as the height increases, the amount the building moves at the top also increases. This can make a gusty day at the top of the building a potentially stomach churning experience. These skyscrapers can sway many feet under certain conditions from side to side, and anyone inside in the upper portions of the building will feel the effects.

To make sure the occupants of these floors are comfortable, developers of some of the world’s tallest buildings install dampeners to counteract this movement. Some of these dampening systems, also known as a tuned mass damper, consist of steel balls or plates that weigh 300 to 800 tons which are attached to the building by springs or pistons. Some dampening systems even use tons of water as the damper instead of steel. This type of system is known as a slosh tank or slosh damper.

When the building is hit by a strong wind, it begins to sway, and the damper, which can be steel weight or water, move in the same direction but by a smaller distance than the building swayed. This helps to reduce the overall distance the skyscraper sways and pulls the building back to its original position. These tuned mass dampers don’t add any structural stability to the skyscraper since it is already designed to sway a certain amount. It simply makes it comfortable for people to be in the upper reaches of the building and not feel unsettled every time a stiff wind blows.

Most tuned mass dampers are hidden from the public somewhere in the upper floors of the building. One exception to this is Taipei 101, the tallest building in the world in 2004 at 101 floors until it was eclipsed by the Burj Khalifa in Dubai in 2009. Taipei 101 uses its damper as a tourist draw and is the only one in the world that can be viewed by the public. Its damper is a huge sphere that weighs 660 tons and consists of 41 layers of five inch thick steel plates. The steel ball is positioned between the 87th and 92nd floors and counteracts the effects from wind and earthquakes. It hangs from thick steel cables at the top and is attached to the building by huge hydraulic shock absorbers at the bottom. Source, Source, Source

Pans pipeThe Origin of Panic

The word “panic” comes from the Greek god Pan, the deity who has legs and horns of a goat and the upper body of a man who is usually seen playing pan pipes. It was believed that Pan caused mysterious woodland sounds that put crowds of people in fear and frightened animal herds. It was first used as an adjective from the late 1500s to the 1600s to describe fear or terror. In the early 1700s, the word’s meaning changed and began to be used as a noun. It wasn’t until the late 1800s that the word began to be used as a verb, the way we use it today. Source, Source

That’s it for another edition of the Random Facts of the Week. Check out more fun facts here.

About the author 

Daniel Ganninger - The writer, editor, and chief lackey of Knowledge Stew, the author of the Knowledge Stew line of great trivia books, and editor of Fact World and the Knowledge Stew sister site on Medium. I hope you find things here to annoy those around you with your new found knowledge.

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