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Archive for the ‘Edutainment’ Category

Useless Facts

More “Useless Facts for Inquiring Minds.”

● Pink Floyd’s 1973 album The Dark Side of the Moon was so popular, it remained on the record charts for 962 weeks — over 15 years.

● Six of the eight planets in the solar system rotate counter-clockwise, the same as the Sun. The exceptions are Venus, which rotates clockwise, and Uranus, which rotates clockwise while tilted on its side. For the record, the former planet Pluto also rotates clockwise and tilted.

● Disney World has 46 rides.

● Dolphins have the ability to go without sleep by resting half of their brains while the other half remains on duty. The halves then switch places. Studies have shown dolphins doing the resting thing for as long as two weeks before taking an actual full-on snooze.

● When the piano was invented in Italy in 1698, it was called a fortepiano or pianoforte. In Italian, piano and forte mean soft and loud, respectively, a reference to the volume level depending on how hard the keys are struck.

● In the 1963 film Cleopatra, Elizabeth Taylor changed costumes 65 times.

Nephophobia is the fear of clouds. It usually manifests after a scary incident involving a storm, hurricane, or tornado. Nepho is Greek for cloud.

● On average, an ear of corn has 800 kernels arranged in 16 rows. For reasons undetermined so far, the ears almost always have an even number of rows. An odd number is rare.

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Useless Facts

More “Useless Facts for Inquiring Minds.”

● Richard Burton, who starred in the 1984 film “1984,” died in 1984.

● Ninety Mile Beach in New Zealand is only 55 miles long. It is misnamed because European settlers in the mid-1800s could traverse the beach on horseback in three days, and horses typically covered 30 miles a day. They failed to account for sand slowing their progress.

● 250 languages are written and read from left to right, 12 from right to left.

● In Hawaiian, the word ukulele means jumping flea.

● The Province of New Jersey, an English colony that preceded the American Revolution, granted women the right to vote in 1776. But in 1807, as a US state, New Jersey reverted to the old system wherein only white men could vote. Classy.

● In America, 375 slices of pizza are consumed per second.

● 45 men have served as US President. Only 12 were elected to a second term.

● The only member of ZZ Top who doesn’t have a beard is Frank Beard.

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Corvids

One special memory of my raft trips down the Colorado River through Grand Canyon is the behavior of the ravens living along the river. When we camped each night, their goal was to steal food, and they often worked in pairs to do it. Several times, I saw a raven dance and squawk to draw attention while another bird snatched unguarded food.

Ravens are members of the corvidae family, as are crows, rooks, jays, and magpies. Most experts consider corvids, especially crows and ravens, to be the most intelligent of all birds.

Scientists say that, despite having a brain the size of a pecan, they possess the reasoning ability of a seven-year-old human. True, one’s reasoning ability at age seven is a work in progress, but that’s still impressive.

In several experiments, crows quickly learned to drop stones into containers of water to raise the water level, either to get a drink or to bring food into reach.

They also regularly use twigs or sticks as tools, and they will drop nuts onto a highway so passing vehicles will crack the shells.

A family of crows usually consists of about a dozen birds. They are highly social and use a variety of caws and clicks to communicate. They use separate calls to tell their fellows that a threat is from a person, cat, hawk, or whatever.

Crows not only can recognize individual human faces, but also have the capacity to inform later generations about known threats.

In 2011, a team at the University of Washington trapped a dozen crows while wearing “caveman” masks. The crows were tagged and released and thereafter left alone.

For the next five years, researchers walked a designated route near the trapping site, some wearing the caveman masks and some not.

Initially, the team noted that the crows showed alarm and scolded people wearing the caveman mask 26 percent of the time. After 15 months, the figure was up to 30 percent. After three years, it rose to 66 percent. The researchers concluded that the crows were informing their peers and offspring that caveman humans are dangerous.

Conversely, crows will be nice to you if you’re nice to them. Instances have been recorded of crows bringing gifts — pebbles, sticks, etc. — to people who feed them.

Some 40 species of crow exist around the world. The one you’re familiar with probably is the American crow, although the fish crow and Tamaulipas crow also live in North America.

Thanks to their brain power and adaptability, crows are doing quite well as a species. Experts say their numbers over the last 40 years grew about 20 percent per decade. Their estimated breeding population now stands at some 27 million.

Impressive and interesting animals. And certainly not birdbrains.

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More “Useless Facts for Inquiring Minds.”

● Thomas Edison held a total of 2,332 patents worldwide. Today, the president of a semiconductor lab in Japan holds the world record — 5,843 patents and counting.

● English has more words than any other language.

● The average human sheds some 600,000 particles of dead skin per hour, or about 1.5 pounds per year.

● When viewed from the Earth, the Moon goes through eight phases as it progresses from new moon to full moon and back to new moon, as shown below. (The word gibbous refers to being more than half lighted, but less than full, which is the opposite of a crescent.)

● British author Agatha Christie (1890-1976) featured her famous detective Hercule Poirot in 33 novels, 50 short stories, and one play. Christie was honest about the character. She once described Poirot as “a detestable, bombastic, tiresome, egocentric little creep.”

● The word karaoke comes from the Japanese words karappo, which means empty, and oke, a shortened form of okesutura, which means orchestra.

● July 4 is the day in 1776 when the Continental Congress formally adopted the Declaration of Independence. However, the vote to do so took place on July 2. John Adams and several other founding fathers believed that we chose the wrong day to honor.

● The average adult bald eagle weighs 14 pounds and is about three feet long. Its wingspan, however, is a full seven feet.

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Useless Facts

More “Useless Facts for Inquiring Minds.”

● The working title of Margaret Mitchell’s novel “Gone With the Wind” was “Ba! Ba! Black Sheep.”

● When Homo sapiens appeared about 100,000 years ago, the species was noted for a smaller body and a larger brain. But even then, Neanderthal brains were larger than ours.

● In 5 BC, Rome became the world’s first city to reach a population of one million. The second city to reach that milestone was London — but not until 1800 AD.

● The majestic lion statues in front of the main branch of the New York Public Library are named Patience and Fortitude. They were carved from pink Tennessee marble and erected in 1911.

● At the US Constitutional Convention in 1787, the delegates thought it would be inappropriate to count a slave as a whole person when determining a state’s population. In their wisdom, they decided that a slave would count as 3/5 of a free citizen.

● The ionosphere, so named for the abundance of ionized atoms and free electrons within it, begins about 30 miles up and extends to the edge of space (roughly 60 miles above the planet’s surface). Radio waves bounce off the ionosphere, which is what makes radio communications possible.

● The body of an adult human contains about 100,000 miles of blood vessels.

● The tragic Dutch artist Vincent Van Gogh (poverty, depression, suicide) created almost 900 oil paintings, but sold only a few. The only one known by name was “Red Vineyard at Arles,” which was purchased by the sister of one of Van Gogh’s friends.

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More “Useless Facts for Inquiring Minds.”

● According to the US government, the average dollar bill remains in circulation for 6.6 years.

● Despite its name, the Spanish Flu of 1918 had no connection to Spain. During World War I, Spain remained neutral and did not observe a media blackout. Thus, it reported freely on the pandemic, which led most of the world to associate Spain with the flu.

● The heart of an adult blue whale weighs 400 pounds.

● The only species of penguin found north of the equator is the Galápagos penguin of, you guessed it, the Galápagos Islands. In this case, however, “north” is a stretch; the islands literally straddle the equator.

● Cornell University in Ithica, New York, offers a degree in Enology and Viticulture, which is the study of wine and wine-making and the science of grape-growing.

● The flags of 29 countries feature the colors red, white, and blue.

● A desert is an ecosystem that receives less than 10 inches of precipitation annually. About 20 percent of the earth’s surface is classified as desert.

● Apple trees are native to Asia, and they were not found in North America until early European colonists brought them here. Soon, apple pie became a symbol of American culture, as opposed to native cultures and later immigrants, who cooked apples in other ways. Hence the expression “as American as apple pie.”

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More “Useless Facts for Inquiring Minds.”

● The Toyota Corporation was founded in 1937 by Japanese inventor Sakichi Toyoda to manufacture automatic looms to weave cloth.

● The smallest bones in the human body are the malleus, incus, and stapes bones located in the middle ear. They carry external sounds to your brain.

● The people of Turkey drink the most tea annually, consuming about seven pounds of tea leaves per person. Ireland is in second place with about five pounds per person.

● A cria (Spanish for baby) is a young llama, alpaca, vicuña, or guanaco, all of which are Latin American relatives of the camel. Llamas and alpacas are domesticated, whereas vicuñas and guanacos are wild, but are protected as endangered species.

● Wayne Allwine, a sound effects specialist for Disney Studios, was the voice of Mickey Mouse for 32 years — from 1977 until his death in 2009. In 1991, he married co-worker Russi Taylor, the voice of Minnie Mouse.

● Sweden has not been involved in a war since 1814.

● English is the native language of 350 million people. English is the second language of two billion people.

● The first know automobile accident occurred in 1891 in Ohio City, Ohio, when John William Lambert lost control of his vehicle and hit a hitching post. Lambert was driving a Lambert, a gasoline-powered, three-wheeled vehicle of his own design. He went on to hold over 600 automotive patents, but the Lambert brand couldn’t keep up with Ford et al and fizzled.

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Useless Facts

More “Useless Facts for Inquiring Minds.”

● Russia is massive, extending across eight time zones and bordering 14 other countries. But its economy is puny — roughly equivalent to the combined GDPs of Belgium and the Netherlands.

● The average automobile contains 30,000 parts, counting bolts and screws.

● The main ingredients of the spread Nutella are sugar, cocoa, and hazelnuts. A medium-size jar of Nutella (26 oz.) contains about 97 hazelnuts. Annually, 25 percent of the world’s hazelnut crop is used to manufacture Nutella.

● Europa, the fourth-largest of Jupiter’s 80 known moons, is slightly smaller than Earth’s Moon. Its surface is believed to be largely a crust of ice. Beneath it, scientists now think, is a liquid ocean that holds more water than all of Earth’s oceans combined.

● The first sharks evolved about 400 million years ago, which makes them 50 million years older than the earliest known trees.

● In the card game of whist, and in the game of bridge that evolved from it, a yarborough is a hand of 13 cards with none higher than a nine. The term is named for the 2nd Earl of Yarborough (1809-1897), who regularly bet 1000-1 against being dealt such a hand. He usually won; the probability of being dealt a yarborough is 1 in 1,828.

● The rubber band was invented in 1845 by Stephen Perry of the rubber manufacturer Messers Perry and Co., London.

● Polar bears have two layers of fur: a dense undercoat for insulation and a coarse, protective outer coat. Both layers are colorless. The bears appear white because the hairs are transparent, and they reflect all wavelengths of light instead of absorbing some and manifesting color. Polar bear skin is black, which absorbs sunlight for warmth. Mother Nature is a smart cookie.

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More “Useless Facts for Inquiring Minds.”

● When King James V of Scotland died in 1542, his daughter Mary Stuart became Queen of Scotland — at the age of six days old.

● Cheese is the world’s most commonly shoplifted food item.

● Every year, scientists discover about 18,000 new species of plants and animals, half of which are insects.

● In 1887, a partial skeleton of the three-horned dinosaur Triceratops was unearthed by geologist George L. Cannon near Denver. Dinosaurs being a bit of a new concept in those days, Cannon thought the bones were those of an especially large and unusual bison. Only after a third and more complete skeleton was found did Cannon see his mistake.

● The National Park System consists of 423 sites, 63 of which are full-blown National Parks.

Bonasa umbellus, the ruffed grouse, is a game bird native to Canada and the eastern US. Umbellus is Latin for umbrella or sunshade, referring to the bird’s showy neck plumage. Bonasa comes from the Latin words bonus (good)and assum (roasted).

● An ant can lift about 50 times its own weight.

● The word orangutan comes from the Malaysian words orang, meaning “person,” and hutan, meaning “forest.” It usually is translated as “man of the forest.”

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Useless Facts

More “Useless Facts for Inquiring Minds.”

● The first novel depicting time travel was “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” by Mark Twain, 1889.

● Alexander the Great had a favorite horse, Bucephalus, which meant “ox-head” because of a branding mark depicting the head of an ox. Bucephalus died in battle in 326 BC. Alexander buried him with full honors and founded the city of Bucephala in Pakistan as a memorial.

● All nine species of the flowering plant Datura are poisonous if eaten and can cause fever, hallucinations, psychosis, and even death. Datura also is known as thornapple, jimsonweed, devil’s weed, and hell’s bells.

● In October 1961, the Museum of Modern Art in New York opened an exhibit featuring works by Henri Matisse, and they managed to hang one of them upside down. It remained that way for 47 days until an observant visitor informed MOMA of the error. To be fair, the work in question, “Le Bateau” (the boat) is a simple paper cutout depicting a sailboat and its reflection, so…

● The Akita dog breed originated in Japan in the 1500s. In the past, Akitas were used to hunt elk, bear, and wild boar and often were the companions of samurai warriors.

● In informal use, a jiffy is a rough measure of time that means “real quick” or “right away.” Technically, however, a jiffy is a precise unit of time: how long it takes light to travel one centimeter in a vacuum. The answer, as determined by chemist Gilbert Newton Lewis (1875-1946) in the early 1900s, is one-trillionth of a second.

● C. S. Lewis, Aldous Huxley, and John F. Kennedy all died on November 22, 1963.

● The KattenKabinet is an art museum in Amsterdam dedicated to works that depicts cats. On display are paintings, sketches, sculptures, etc. by Picasso, Toulouse-Lautrec, Rembrandt, and others. The museum was founded in 1990 by Bob Meijer in honor of his cat J. P. Morgan.

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