Best of ‘Best of Wikipedia’

These are all Wikipedia entries culled from the fascinating blog Best of Wikipedia. I’m blatantly ripping this idea off of Andrew Sullivan, but I thought it was interesting enough to re-do and compile my own list of most intriguing Wikipedia pages.

Semantic Satiation
Semantic satiation (also semantic saturation) is a cognitive neuroscience phenomenon in which repetition causes a word or phrase to temporarily lose meaning for the listener, who can only process the speech as repeated meaningless sounds.

Reductio ad Hitlerum
Reductio ad Hitlerum or reductio ad Nazium (dog Latin for “reduction or argument to Adolf Hitler or the Nazis”) is an ad hominem or ad misericordiam argument, and is a formal fallacy in logic. The name is a pun on reductio ad absurdum. The phrase reductio ad Hitlerum was coined by an academic ethicist, Leo Strauss, in 1953. Engaging in this fallacy is sometimes known as “playing the Nazi card”, by analogy to playing the race card. [similar to Godwin’s Law]

Gruen Transfer
In shopping mall design, the Gruen transfer refers to the moment when a consumer enters a shopping mall, and, surrounded by an intentionally confusing layout, loses track their original intentions. Spatial awareness of their surroundings play a key role, as does the surrounding sound and music. The effect of the transfer is marked by a slower walking pace and glazed eyes.

Photic Sneeze Reflex
Photic sneeze reflex is a genetic autosomal dominant trait, which causes sneezing when exposed suddenly to bright light, possibly many times consecutively. It is also referred to as photic sneeze response, sun sneezing, photogenic sneezing, the photosternutatory reflex, being photo sensitive, allergic to the sun, ACHOO syndrome, and Achooism, named after the sound made when sneezing, along with its related backronym Autosomal dominant Compelling Helio-Ophthalmic Outburst syndrome. The condition affects 18-35% of the human population. [including me]
Petrichor
Petrichor (from Greek petros “stone” + ichor “the fluid that is supposed to flow in the veins of the gods in Greek mythology”) is the name of the scent of rain on dry earth. The term was coined in 1964 by two Australian researchers, Bear and Thomas, for an article in the journal Nature.
Borborygmus
Borborygmus also known as stomach growling, or rumbling, is the rumbling sound produced by the movement of gas through the intestines of animals, including humans. The word borborygmus is an onomatopoeia for this rumbling.
Paresthesia
Paresthesia is a sensation of tingling, pricking, or numbness of a person’s skin with no apparent long-term physical effect. It is more generally known as the feeling of “pins and needles” or of a limb “falling asleep” (although this is not directly related to the phenomenon of sleep). In some cases, rocking the head from side to side will painlessly remove the “pins and needles” sensation in less than a minute.
Mamihlapinatapai
Mamihlapinatapai is a word from the Yaghan language of Tierra del Fuego, listed in The Guinness Book of World Records as the “most succinct word”, and is considered one of the hardest words to translate. It describes “a look shared by two people with each wishing that the other will initiate something that both desire but which neither one wants to start.” [There’s a beautiful example of this in 500 Days of Summer]
Anyway, check out Best of Wikipedia for more on Shm-Reduplication, The Acoustic Kitty project, and many other fascinating, obscure factoids.

4 thoughts on “Best of ‘Best of Wikipedia’

  1. Just FYI, although I didn’t learn of it on Best of Wikipedia, I’ve also been intrigued recently by Benford’s Law. It basically states that in most number sets the odds of the first digit being one isn’t 1:9 at all; in fact the first digit will be a one 30% of the time.

  2. i thought everyone sneezed when exposed suddenly to sunlight. and i’m glad to know i’m not the only one whose eyes glaze over in the mall. all i needed was to find a pair of… ooooh free hunan chicken sample.

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