What Are Those Squiggles of Tar You See on Roads?

Harry Wedzinga/iStock via Getty Images
Harry Wedzinga/iStock via Getty Images

Driving through towns can provoke a series of questions. Why is this person going so slowly? Does anyone own that dog? What are those brightly colored balls doing on those power lines? And why do roads appear to be covered in squiggles of tar?

The arterial lines are a common sight on paved roadways, spreading indiscriminately through the lanes. They’re part of the seemingly endless cycle of keeping roads in operable shape.

The tar (actually a polymer mix) is applied to asphalt that has developed cracks due to normal wear and tear from traffic. Sometimes this is due to the volume of vehicles passing over roads. Other times, seasonal weather changes can cause the pavement to contract. Different kinds of cracking can occur, from fatigue cracking—which typically requires a comprehensive resurfacing—to reflection cracking that happens as a result of the concrete and asphalt layers shifting. Edge cracking is the wear you see along the margins of the road.

The filler is typically the most effective and quickest method of resolving the cracks before they become a road hazard—costing about $2500 per mile, compared to $60,000 per mile for a brand-new surface.

While halting a massive crack in its tracks is fine for cars, motorcycles are another story. Because the squiggles create a slightly raised bump, two-wheeled vehicles need to be careful about running over them. Bikers have a derisive term for the patch jobs: tar snake.

In addition to changing the surface, the mix can become slick in bad weather, leading motorcyclists to lose control of their bikes. They can also allow for foreign objects to “sink” into their pliable material, creating further hazards. It’s advisable for bike enthusiasts to slow down when they see the lines coming up in their path.

The tar squiggles are different from the black rubber tubes you often see on roadways, which are used by officials to measure traffic.

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The ChopBox Smart Cutting Board Has a Food Scale, Timer, and Knife Sharper Built Right Into It

ChopBox
ChopBox

When it comes to furnishing your kitchen with all of the appliances necessary to cook night in and night out, you’ll probably find yourself running out of counter space in a hurry. The ChopBox, which is available on Indiegogo and dubs itself “The World’s First Smart Cutting Board,” looks to fix that by cramming a bunch of kitchen necessities right into one cutting board.

In addition to giving you a knife-resistant bamboo surface to slice and dice on, the ChopBox features a built-in digital scale that weighs up to 6.6 pounds of food, a nine-hour kitchen timer, and two knife sharpeners. It also sports a groove on its surface to catch any liquid runoff that may be produced by the food and has a second pull-out cutting board that doubles as a serving tray.

There’s a 254nm UVC light featured on the board, which the company says “is guaranteed to kill 99.99% of germs and bacteria" after a minute of exposure. If you’re more of a traditionalist when it comes to cleanliness, the ChopBox is completely waterproof (but not dishwasher-safe) so you can wash and scrub to your heart’s content without worry. 

According to the company, a single one-hour charge will give you 30 days of battery life, and can be recharged through a Micro USB port.

The ChopBox reached its $10,000 crowdfunding goal just 10 minutes after launching its campaign, but you can still contribute at different tiers. Once it’s officially released, the ChopBox will retail for $200, but you can get one for $100 if you pledge now. You can purchase the ChopBox on Indiegogo here.

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Why Are Common Graves Called Potter’s Fields?

Graves in potter's fields are sometimes marked with blank headstones or crosses.
Graves in potter's fields are sometimes marked with blank headstones or crosses.
vyasphoto/iStock via Getty Images

For centuries, regions around the world have maintained common graves called potter’s fields, where they bury unidentified victims and impoverished citizens who couldn’t afford their own cemetery plots. The term potter’s field has been around for just as long.

The earliest known reference to a potter’s field is from the Gospel of Matthew, which historians believe was written sometime during the 1st century. In it, a remorseful Judas gives the 30 silver coins he was paid for betraying Jesus back to the high priests, who use it to purchase a “potter’s field” where they can bury foreigners. It’s been speculated that the priests chose land from a potter either because it had already been stripped of clay and couldn’t be used for farming, or because its existing holes and ditches made it a particularly good place for graves. But Matthew doesn’t go into detail, and as the Grammarphobia Blog points out, there’s no evidence to prove that the original potter’s field was ever actually used for its clay resources—it could’ve just been a parcel of land owned by a potter.

Whatever the case, the term eventually caught on as English-language versions of the Bible made their way across the globe. In 1382, John Wycliffe translated it from Latin to Middle English, using the phrase “a feeld of a potter,” and William Tyndale’s 1526 Greek-to-English translation of the passage featured “a potters felde,” which was altered slightly to “potters field” in King James’s 1611 edition.

Around the same time, a new definition of potter was gaining popularity that had nothing to do with pottery—in the 16th century, people began using the word as a synonym for tramp or vagrant. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, it was first written in a 1525 Robin Hood tale, and William Wordsworth mentioned it in his 1798 poem “The Female Vagrant.” It’s likely that this sense of the word helped reinforce the idea that a potter’s field was intended for the graves of the unknown.

It’s also definitely not the only phrase we’ve borrowed from the Bible. From at your wit’s end to a fly in the ointment, here are 18 everyday expressions with holy origins.

[h/t Grammarphobia Blog]