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Archive for the ‘Edutainment’ Category

Useless Facts

More useless facts for inquiring minds.

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— According to NASA, 100 tons of material from space strikes the Earth every day. About once a month, an asteroid the size of a golf cart lands somewhere on the planet.

— In 1886, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s wrote his first short story about master sleuth Sherlock Holmes. In that original story, the main characters were “Sherringford Holmes” and his sidekick “Dr. Ormond Sacker.”

— When photographers set up cameras in the wild to capture images of tigers, cheetahs, snow leopards, etc., they often mark the location with the fragrance Obsession for Men by Calvin Klein. A study at the Bronx Zoo found that big cats are more attracted to Obsession than to any other scent tested.

— The only insect that can turn its head is the praying mantis.

Praying mantis

— Clarence Thomas became a Supreme Court Justice in 1991, and he quickly established a reputation for reticence; he rarely speaks or asks questions during oral arguments. In February 2016, Thomas asked a question during a court session for the first time since February 2006.

— The tongue is the only muscle in the body that is attached at only one end.

— In 1953, the National Hurricane Center began using female names to identify Atlantic tropical storms. Previously, storms were named using the phonetic alphabet (Able, Baker, Charlie). In 1979, the naming system was modified again to include male names in the mix. The first “male” storm was Hurricane Bob, which formed in the Gulf of Mexico in July 1979.

— Displayed in the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California is a portrait of Reagan made out of 10,000 jelly beans.

Jelly beans

— The first American movie to show a toilet and feature the sound of a toilet flushing was Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho in 1960.

— As Christopher Columbus approached Haiti on his first voyage in 1493, he claimed that he saw three mermaids surface near the Niña. The ship’s journal reported, “The Admiral said he quite distinctly saw three mermaids, which rose well out of the sea, but they were not so beautiful as they are said to be, for their faces had some masculine traits.” Historians say he probably saw manatees.

— James Madison, the fourth U.S. President (served 1809-1817) was 5′ 4” tall and weighed 98 pounds.

— Dogs are able to perform the familiar full body shake because their skin hangs loose. In a four-second shake, a wet dog can eliminate up to 70 percent of the water in its fur.

Dog Shaking Off Water

 

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Useless Facts

More useless facts for inquiring minds.

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— The thin strip of paper protruding from the top of a Hershey’s Kiss is called a niggly wiggly.

— The board game Clue (known in the UK as Cluedo) was invented in 1944 by a British musician, Anthony Pratt, as a diversion for people waiting it out in London air raid shelters.

— In the 1983 “Dirty Harry” movie Sudden Impact, Clint Eastwood snarled, “Go ahead, make my day.” The phrase was later voted #6 of the top 100 movie quotes of all time. In truth, the line was first used in the 1982 film Vice Squad by Gary Swanson, who sneered, “Go ahead, scumbag, make my day.”

— In 1972, Andy Warhol released a rather ghoulish print of Richard Nixon with “Vote McGovern” beneath it. Warhol was audited by the IRS every year from 1972 until he died in 1987.

Vote McGovern

— Opera singer Luciano Pavarotti, a superstitious fellow, was obsessed with finding a bent nail backstage before every performance. Usually, a stagehand was assigned to scatter a few bent nails between the dressing rooms and the stage to make sure Pavarotti found one.

— Only two animal species wage war on their own kind: humans and ants.

— In 2014, the Food and Drug Administration banned the importation of certain classic French cheeses that contain high levels of bacteria. The ban affects such soft, unpasteurized cheeses as Roquefort, Brie, and others that depend on bacteria to create the desired flavor and consistency.

Critics of the ban point out that cheese lovers have consumed these products for centuries with no ill effects. The FDA has stood firm, however. Today, the only Roquefort you can get legally in the U.S. is made from pasteurized goat’s milk. Most agree that, compared to the real stuff, it sucks.

— In 1996, to celebrate the production of the one hundred billionth Crayola crayon, TV’s Mister Rogers poured a ceremonial batch of limited-edition “blue ribbon” crayons. They were wrapped in foil and quickly became collectibles.

Mr. Rogers

— The Bronx, one of the five boroughs of New York City, is named after the Bronx River, which flows south through the borough. Originally, the river was called “Bronck’s river” after Jonas Bronck, who settled the area in 1639, but the name evolved to Bronx.

Rafflesia arnoldii, a plant found in the Indonesian rain forests, is called the “corpse flower” because it emits an odor disturbingly similar to that of decaying flesh. It’s also the largest flower on earth, with blooms up to three feet wide.

— When you speak, you spray microscopic saliva droplets into the air. On average, you spew about 2.5 droplets per word or 300 droplets per minute.

— The motor scooter, a type of motorcycle with a flat platform for the rider’s feet, was invented in 1946 by the Italian manufacturer Piaggio. WWII had left Italy’s economy and roads in ruins, so Piaggio created the Vespa, an efficient, low-cost mode of transportation for the masses. Vespa is Italian for wasp.

Vespa

 

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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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