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Archive for the ‘Edutainment’ Category

Useless Facts

More “Useless Facts for Inquiring Minds.”

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— For the last 10 years of his life, Ludwig van Beethoven was completely deaf, yet he continued to compose music. To compensate for his loss of hearing, he worked seated on the floor in front of a legless piano, so he could feel the vibrations.

— Jimmy Carter was the first U.S. president born in a hospital.

— In 1958, international jewelry kingpin Harry Winston donated the fabled Hope Diamond to the Smithsonian Institution. The 45.52-carat mega-diamond, which is worth $250 million, was packed in a plain brown wrapper and sent by first class mail at a cost of $145.29. The postage was $2.44, and the rest was for $1 million in insurance.

— The world’s fastest land insect is the Australian tiger beetle, which can skitter at 5.6 MPH. Compare that to the speed of the average spider (1.1 MPH) and house mouse (8 MPH).

Australian Tiger Beetle - fastest running insect

— A “capitonym” is a word that has a different meaning, and sometimes a different pronunciation, depending on whether or not it is capitalized. Examples:

August (the month)
august (majestic)

Cancer (the constellation)
cancer (the disease)

March (the month)
march (as in forward, march)

Mercury (the planet)
mercury (the chemical element).

Polish (from Poland)
polish (furniture polish)

— When Bill Clinton won the 1992 presidential election, the first telephone call he took was from President Bush. The 2nd call was from Vice President Quayle. The 3rd call was from Whoopie Goldberg.

— Buckingham Palace in London, the home of the Queen and a symbol of the British monarchy, has 775 rooms. 78 are toilets.

— Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, the founders of Ben & Jerry’s, originally intended to open a bagel shop. When they discovered the high cost of bagel-making equipment, however, they went to Plan B, an ice cream parlor. The business opened in an old gas station in Burlington, Vermont, in 1978.

Ben and Jerry's

— Roy Sullivan (1912-1983), a ranger at Shenandoah National Park, survived being struck by lightning seven times, more than any person known. The strikes happened between 1942 and 1977, mostly while he was on duty in the park, a storm-prone area in a storm-prone state.

Naturally, Sullivan got spooked when bad weather threatened, and often he would leave the area. The lightning got him anyway. Several of the strikes set his hair on fire, so he carried a container of water with him at all times.

— Based on scientific research, the 10,000 laborers who built the Great Pyramids of Giza in Egypt subsisted on a diet of meat, bread, and beer to keep them healthy and productive. Massive bakeries and great herds of sheep, goats, and cattle were maintained near the work sites. The daily rations included the equivalent of about a dozen 12-ounce bottles or beer per man.

— In 1907, teenagers James Casey and Claude Ryan borrowed $100 to start the American Messenger Company in Seattle. They employed several other teens to make deliveries with bikes and on foot. Business was good, and by 1913, they purchased their first delivery vehicle, a Model T Ford.

In 1919, the company expanded to Oakland, California, changed its name to United Parcel Service, and hasn’t slowed down since.

— The full name of the Spanish artist Picasso (1881-1973) was Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso. The names were in honor of assorted relatives and saints.

Picasso

 

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More “Useless Facts for Inquiring Minds.”

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— 90 percent of Earth’s population lives in the Northern Hemisphere.

— Eric Clapton is the only musician named to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame three times. He was inducted in 1992 as a member of The Yardbirds, in 1993 as a member of Cream, and in 2000 as a solo performer.

— Female African elephants are pregnant for 22 months before they give birth, the longest gestation period of any mammal.

— For decades, the helmets worn by pro football players were plain brown leather with no markings. That changed in 1948 with the Los Angeles Rams. Rams halfback Fred Gehrke, who was an industrial design artist in the off-season, sold management on the idea of painting the helmets dark blue with yellow ram horns.

Rams helmet

— The Greek philosopher, engineer, and mathematician Thales (624-546 BC) is famous for trying to explain the natural world through science instead of mythology and religion. Thales calculated the heights of the pyramids by measuring the length of their shadows at the moment when the length of his own shadow was equal to his height.

But Thales lived in olden times, when science was pretty spotty. He believed, for example, that life exists in magnets, as evidenced by their power to attract and repel.

He also believed that all living things are connected through a “world soul,” which is a lot like George Lucas’ concept of The Force.

— Arizona, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands don’t do Daylight Savings Time.

— Abraham Lincoln is the only President with a U.S. patent registered in his name. In 1849, Lincoln patented a device to lift a boat over shoals or other obstructions in a river without unloading the cargo. It consisted of a series of air bladders affixed to the boat. Inflating the bladders lifts the vessel enough to clear the obstruction. The device was patented, but never manufactured.

— The world’s largest rodent is the capybara, a semi-aquatic herbivore native to South America. Adults can be up to four feet long and two feet tall and can weigh 145 pounds. Capybaras live in groups of 10-20 and are excellent swimmers, having evolved webbed feet. Their closest relatives are guinea pigs (which, as you know, are not pigs. but rodents).

Capybaras

— Brian May, lead guitarist of the rock band Queen, was working on his PhD in physics when the band was formed in 1970. In 2007, he completed his studies at Imperial College in London, and he now holds a doctorate in astrophysics.

— The F. W. Woolworth Company was founded in 1878, and in the first half of the 20th century, grew to become one of the world’s largest retail chains. In 1997, Woolworth’s closed the last of its stores and became the Venator Group, which focused on the sporting goods market. In 2001, Venator morphed into Foot Locker.

— The first product imprinted with a bar code and electronically scanned was a 10-pack of Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit chewing gum. It happened in 1974 in Troy, Ohio. The 10-pack is now on display at the American History Museum in Washington.

— V8 Vegetable Juice, introduced in 1933, got its name from being a mixture of the juices of eight vegetables. Specifically, V8 consists of 87 percent tomato juice concentrate, to which is added a second concentrate that is a mix of juices from carrots, celery, beets, parsley, lettuce, watercress, and spinach. Salt and a spice extract also are added.

Water is removed to make the concentrates, then is added back to achieve the proper consistency. For the record, V8 juice is a nutritional dud, and a single glass contains more salt than an order of McDonald’s French fries.

V8

 

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More “Useless Facts for Inquiring Minds.”

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— In 2006, a 37-year-old Scottish man suffered an epic hangover that stands as the worst ever recorded. Over a four-day period, the man drank 60 pints of beer. Following a non-stop, four-week headache and steady loss of vision, the man went to an emergency room for help. It took six months of blood-thinning treatment to get rid of the headache and restore the man’s vision.

— In 1953, at age 10, Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones was a choirboy who sang at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.

— The deepest hole ever drilled is the Kola Superdeep Borehole in Russia. The Kola was drilled between 1970 and 1989, and it reaches 40,230 feet (7.62 miles) into the Earth. The Kola’s purpose is to learn stuff about the Earth’s crust.

— It’s a warm spring day, and you plop down in a field of shamrocks (a plant in the genus trifolium, “tri” meaning three) in search of a four-leaf clover. Your odds of success are one in 10,000.

Clover

— During World War II, with great numbers of men in uniform, some American sports teams faced a shortage of players. Thus, in 1943, the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles and Pittsburgh Steelers combined rosters and played as the Steagles. In 1944, Pittsburgh merged temporarily with the Chicago Cardinals and played as the Car-Pitts.

—  The largest bat in the world is the flying fox bat of Australia, with a wingspan of up to six feet. The smallest is the bumblebee bat of Thailand, which is smaller than a fingernail.

— Before John Glenn became an astronaut and a U.S. Senator, he was a Marine fighter pilot. During the Korean War, he flew 90 combat missions and earned the nickname “magnet ass” for the enemy flak he attracted. For a time, Glenn’s wingman in Korea was Ted Williams of the Boston Red Sox, who interrupted his playing career and returned to active duty in 1952-53.

— Statistics show that one-eighth of American workers, at some point in their lives, work for McDonald’s.

McDonalds

— Roy Sullivan (1912-1983), a ranger at Shenandoah National Park, survived being struck by lightning seven times, apparently an all-time record. The strikes happened between 1942 and 1977, mostly while he was on duty in the park, a storm-prone area in a storm-prone state.

Sullivan always got spooked when the weather was threatening, and often, he would try to leave the area. The lightning seemed to get him anyway. Most of the strikes set his hair on fire, so he began to carry a container of water with him at all times.

— Elvis Presley, Lenny Bruce, and Orville Redenbacher all died in the bathroom.

— In 2012, 60 Minutes and Vanity Fair conducted a poll that asked Americans who they would pick to compose a new national anthem. Bruce Springsteen came in first. Dolly Parton was second.

— In 1984, screenwriter Robert Townes was nominated for the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar for the film “Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes.” To protest the radically rewritten version of his script, Townes altered the film’s closing credits, removing his own name as screenwriter and adding “P. H. Vazak,” the name of his Hungarian sheepdog. The Academy never knew the difference.

Tarzan

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Useless Facts

More “Useless Facts for Inquiring Minds.”

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— In 2011, pro golfer Kevin Na set a PGA record, but not in a good way. On the 9th hole at the Valero Texas Open, he shot a 16, the most strokes on a par-4 hole in PGA history. He took a full 20 minutes to do it.

— The plastic caps on the ends of your shoelaces are called aglets.

— Of the 32 football teams in the NFL, all have team mascots except the Jets, Giants, Raiders, Redskins, and Packers.

— During World War I, England’s Navy Minister Winston Churchill pushed for the creation of a “land boat” that could break through enemy lines and traverse difficult terrain. The result in 1915 was Little Willie, the world’s first military tank. Little Willie carried a crew of six, but its top speed was only two miles per hour. It overheated easily and couldn’t cross trenches.

In 1916, England unveiled an improved version, the Mark I (Big Willie), which also underwhelmed. However, by 1917, England had improved the design markedly, and 400 Mark IVs were rolled out. By the end of the war, the Mark IVs had captured 8,000 enemy troops and 100 artillery pieces.

mark-iv

— The Catholic religion espouses Seven Heavenly Virtues and Seven Deadly Sins. The virtues are faith, hope, charity, prudence, justice, courage, and temperance. The sins are pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath, and sloth. Hard to argue with that.

— Wisconsin calls itself “America’s Dairyland,” but California passed it decades ago as the country’s leading producer of dairy products. Wisconsin still makes more cheese, so that’s something.

— In December 1976, the British rock band Pink Floyd arranged for the construction of a 40-foot-long helium-filled balloon in the shape of a pig to use on the cover of its album Animals.

Inclement weather caused the balloon to break free of its moorings, and the pig drifted over Heathrow Airport, resulting in panic and cancelled flights. Eventually, an angry farmer reported that the balloon came down in Kent, frightening his cows.

— The average five-year-old asks about 400 questions per day.

Little girl with few paper euro banknotes

— In Hawaii, you are prohibited by law from carrying coins in your ear.

— Bohemia, a cultural region in central Europe, has been bounced around like a football for centuries. It began in the 800s as part of the Great Moravian Empire; split off as the Duchy of Bohemia; became part of the Holy Roman Empire; part of the Habsburg Monarchy; part of the Austrian Empire; part of Czechoslovakia; part of Nazi Germany; part of the Second Czechoslovak Republic; part of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia; and today, part of the Czech Republic. Stay tuned.

— Both Rogaine and Viagra were first developed as treatments for high blood pressure.

— While he was President, Ulysses Grant was ticketed several times for driving his horse-drawn carriage too fast around Washington. On one occasion, he was stopped for speeding down M Street and taken to court. He paid a $5 fine and was required to walk back to the White House.

grant-us

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Useless Facts

More “Useless Facts for Inquiring Minds.”

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— The automatic dishwasher was invented by Josephine Cochrane, a widow and socialite from Shelbyville, Illinois, who was angry because her servants were chipping her fine china. Her very successful company was later bought out by Hobart; which became KitchenAid; and is now Whirlpool. Cochrane is venerated as the founder.

— The physical feature that distinguishes birds from all other animals is the presence of feathers.  Feathers are unique to birds, and every bird has them.

— At ATMs in Vatican City, you can opt to conduct your transaction in Latin.

— The band Aerosmith has sold over 150 million albums, and they’re still touring after 46 years. Each band member is worth well over $100 million. However, most of their money didn’t come from album sales. It came from (and continues to come from) sales of the video game Guitar Hero: Aerosmith. The game has generated far more revenue than any of Aerosmith’s albums.

aerosmith

— In 1838, while leading his troops against a French invasion force, Mexican General Santa Anna was struck by a cannon ball and lost his left leg. He was fitted with a prosthetic cork leg.

Ten years later, during the Mexican-American War, an infantry unit from Illinois captured Santa Ana and confiscated the cork leg. He replaced it with a peg leg. Later in the war, the Illinois unit captured him again. Today, both legs are on display in Illinois museums, despite continuing demands by Mexico for their return.

— “Baby carrots” come in two varieties: genuine baby carrots and “baby-cut carrots.” The latter came first. In truth, they are merely ugly or misshapen carrots, destined to be thrown out, that are shaved down and passed off as a new “baby” variety. Sheer marketing baloney. However, they became so popular that farmers went on to create a line of real baby carrots with a small core, bright color, and a more sugary flavor.

— The most widely-consumed mushroom in the world is Agaricus bisporus. Young specimens with a closed cap are known as crimini or button mushrooms. When they grow to maturity, they’re known as portobellos. In the intermediate stage, when the cap is slightly open, they are baby portobellos.

Arachibutyrophobia is the fear of having peanut butter stuck to the roof of your mouth.

Arachibutyrophobia-

— Sixteen U.S. presidents have been elected to two terms in office. Then there was Franklin Roosevelt, who died during his 4th term, after which the country wisely made two terms the legal limit.

Those 17 presidents all served their terms consecutively except one: Grover Cleveland. He was President 1885-1889, then lost the 1889 election to William McKinley. He came back to defeat McKinley and serve again 1893-1897.

— Emil Krebs (1867-1930), a German interpreter and diplomat, was fully literate in 68 languages and had some knowledge of 120 more.

— In 1919, late in the 9th inning of a baseball game between Cleveland and Philadelphia, Cleveland pitcher Ray Caldwell was struck by lightning and knocked unconscious. After five minutes, Caldwell got to his feet and insisted on finishing the game. With his next pitch, the batter grounded out, and the game was over.

— In the 2006 film Cars, Paul Newman was the voice of Doc Hudson. Newman died in 2008. Cars was his last film and the highest-grossing of his career.

doc-hudson

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Useless Facts

More Useless Facts for Inquiring Minds.

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— Tigers have striped skin as well as striped fur.

— The common land snail, familiar to many as an icky garden pest, typically hibernates through the winter months. If conditions require, however, snails can remain asleep for up to three years.

— The average adult human sheds between 30,000 and 40,000 skin cells per hour, or about one million skin cells per day.

Ping-pong is a trademarked term in most of the world, which is why the term table tennis is used in the Olympics and elsewhere. Over the years, the game also has been known as flim-flam, whiff-whaff, and pim-pam. Supposedly, British soldiers in India invented the game in the 1860s.

ping-pong

— The real name of Sting, the British musician, is Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner. He earned the nickname Sting early in his career when he performed in a yellow and black sweater, and a band-mate remarked that he looked like a bee.

— Change for a dollar can be made in 293 different ways.

— Most regulation golf balls in the U.S. have 336 dimples. British golf balls have 330 dimples. Some special types have as many as 500.

— Before he got into acting, Steve Buscemi was a New York City firefighter. After the 9/11 attack, he worked as a volunteer and helped NYFD dig through the rubble at Ground Zero. He also helped in the clean-up after Super Storm Sandy in 2012.

buscemi

— The word with the highest score possible in Scrabble is oxyphenbutazone (a drug of some kind). The odds of getting to play this word are laughable, but if you did, and you covered three triple-word-score squares, it would be worth 1,778 points.

— Thomas Jefferson invented the swivel chair.

— Barbara Streisand is the only singer to have number-one-selling albums during the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s. During those five decades, she had nine albums at the top of the Billboard charts.

— In 1860 and 1861, before telegraph service was available, the fastest mail service to and from California was the Pony Express. It was a private business delivering letters and small packages between St. Joseph, Missouri, and Sacramento.

The service used riders on horseback and 157 relay stations. Horses were changed every 10 miles, riders every 100 miles. They covered the 1,900 miles in 10 days.

Over its 19 months of operation, the company lost $30.00 on every letter it carried.

pony-express

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Useless Facts

More Useless Facts for Inquiring Minds.

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— Beavers have transparent eyelids, which is convenient, since they spend so much time under water. They also have ear and nose valves that close automatically when they dive. A beaver can stay underwater for about four minutes.

— On an average day, the American people consume 18 acres of pizza.

— The Declaration of Independence was finalized on July 4, 1776. Thereupon, the original version was signed by John Hancock, President of the Continental Congress, and Charles Thomson, the Secretary. A Philadelphia printer then made 500 copies, which were distributed to all members of the Continental Congress.

Somehow, the original document was lost, so the delegates were called back to Philadelphia. On August 2, 1776, they signed a new copy of the Declaration. This time, for reasons unknown, Secretary Thomson was not invited to sign.

— Orville Wright’s first successful airplane flight on December 17, 1903, covered a distance of 120 feet. The wingspan of a Boeing 747 is 196 feet.

wright-brothers

— Almonds are members of the peach family.

— As a teen, British author Roald Dahl attended a fancy boarding school in England. While there, he and his fellow students often were used as taste-testers by the Cadbury chocolate company. Dahl said he dreamed of inventing a new chocolate bar that would “win the praise of Mr. Cadbury himself.” Dahl went on to write “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” and he references chocolate in other books.

— This sentence uses every letter in the alphabet: The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.

— All breeds of dog have pink tongues except the Chow-Chow and the Shar-Pei. Their tongues, for unknown reasons, are blue-black.

chow-chow

— The average person fall asleep in seven minutes.

— Each time the Supreme Court is in session, white quill pens are placed on the tables of the opposing counsels. This tradition dates back to the early days of the Court. The pens are no longer used, of course, but they are treasured by the lawyers as souvenirs of their day in court.

— The only English words that end in -dous are hazardous, horrendous, stupendous, and tremendous.

— The Northern Cardinal is the official state bird of Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia, and West Virginia (Don’t bother counting. That’s 7 states), making it the state bird champion. Runner-up is the Western Meadowlark, state bird in Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon, and Wyoming. (6 states.)

cardinal

 

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