Monday, September 7, 2009


African elephants are the largest of all elephants with adult females weighing about 8,000 pounds and males weighing about 15,000 pounds -- the largest on record was an adult male that weighed 24,000 pounds -- an adult can be taller than a school bus and weigh as much as four cars, and have eyelashes the size of an adult human hand

Five popular foods that contain trace amounts of cyanide: cassava root, sorghum, spinach, almonds, and lima beans

Average number of words in a modern novel: 60,000

Blennophobia: Intense, unwarranted fear of slime

Recipe for slime: 2 cups water, 1/2 cup cornstarch, food coloring -- bring water to a boil in medium-sized saucepan; add food coloring and cornstarch while stirring constantly; remove from heat and allow to cool (do not eat)

Forty-one states and territories in the United States are at moderate to high risk for earthquakes -- Alaska experiences the largest number of large quakes each year, most located in uninhabited areas -- the largest earthquakes felt in the U.S. were along the New Madrid Fault in Missouri, where a three-month-long series of quakes from 1811 to 1812 included three that registered larger than a magnitude 8 on the Richter scale; these quakes were felt throughout the eastern U.S.

The first known find of a dinosaur fossil in the United States was in 1787, when Dr. Casper Wistar found a thigh bone in Gloucester County, New Jersey

Insects have existed for about 400 million years, and over time diversified into an estimated 5 million living species, dwarfing the diversity of all other animals combined

Albert Einstein did not speak fluently until about age 9, but by age 7 he was speaking out loud by quietly uttering the sentence to himself first and then only slightly audibly repeating the statement to whomever he was speaking

As a professor at Princeton, Einstein was known to wear the same suit everyday -- he actually owned several suits that were each exactly the same, which he later claimed enabled him to save time when choosing what to wear each day

The British Isles is the geographical name for the large group of islands- more than 6,000- off the northwest European coast, the two largest being Great Britain and Ireland (United Kingdom refers to four regions with differing amounts of autonomy: England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland)

The North Pacific Subtropical Gyre is a slow, clockwise-spinning ocean current that stretches from the west coast of North America to Japan -- the gyre is home to two gigantic swirling masses of garbage, collectively known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch -- the Eastern Garbage Patch is located between Hawaii and California; the Western Garbage Patch is between Japan and Hawaii -- together they contain more than 100 million tons of garbage, about 90% of it plastic

Hagfish are long, tubular sea creatures that were long thought to be a kind of eel but are actually their own class of fish (some biologists believe that they are so unique, they should not even be classified as fish) -- 65 species of hagfish are found in cold ocean waters around the world and range in color from gray to blue or pink -- hagfish have no fins, no scales, no stomach, no jaws, a partial skull, no vertebrae, five hearts, and extremely poor eyesight

The first ten domain names ever registered: (March 15, 1985) (April 24, 1985) (May 24, 1985) (July 11, 1985) (September 30, 1985) (November 7, 1985) (January 9, 1986) (January 17, 1986) (March 3, 1986) (March 5, 1986)

Marriage by any other name...
  • Hypergamy: marriage into a higher social group
  • Adelphogamy: marriage between siblings
  • Deuterogamy: a second marriage after divorce
  • Digamy: a second marriage after the death of a spouse
  • Matrilocal: a married couple living close to the wife's parents
  • Patrilocal: a married couple living close to the husband's parents
  • Opsigamy: a marriage late in life
The anatomical juxtaposition of two orbicularis oris muscles in contraction is otherwise known as a kiss

COLD SHOULDER: First recorded use of this phrase appeared in the novel The Antiquary, by Sir Walter Scott, published in 1816 -- etymologists disagree on its origin, with some arguing that Scott invented the term to refer to someone being dismissive and others arguing that it comes from the Middle Ages when dinner guests who stayed too long were given a "cold shoulder" of meat rather than a cooked one as a hint that it was time to leave

The Six Flags Amusement Park chain first opened in Arlington, Texas in 1961 and was named for the phrase "six flags over Texas" that referred to the six different governments that have ruled the state: Spain (1529-1685, 1690-1821), France (1685-1690), Mexico (1821-1836), Republic of Texas (1836-1845), Confederate States of America (1861-1865), United States of America (1845-1861, 1865-present)

Scientific name for the outermost layer of human skin: Stratum Corneum (also known as the "horny layer")

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) uses cryptonyms, or code names, to identify different countries, organizations, people, and entities in internal documents so as not to arouse suspicion or expose state secrets if the documents were ever leaked, lost or stolen -- here are some real-life cryptonyms that were leaked:
  • AMQUACK: Che Guevara
  • AMTHUG: Fidel Castro
  • KMFLUSH: Nicaragua
  • PBPRIME: United States
  • ODUNIT: U.S. Air Force
  • ODOATH: U.S. Navy
  • LCPANGS: Costa Rica
  • KUFIRE: Intelligence
  • KUGOWN: Propaganda
  • Smith (England)
  • Johnson (England)
  • Williams (Wales)
  • Brown (England)
  • Jones (Wales)
  • Miller (Scotland)
  • Davis (England)
  • Garcia (Mexico)
  • Rodriguez (Mexico)
  • Wilson (England)
The 2000 Census listed 151,671 different surnames in the United States -- the only name in the top 100 not of European or Latin American origin: Nguyen, at #58, which is the most common surname in Vietnam

Before air travel, jet lag was unheard of, but the same physical phenomenon was referred to as "boat lag"

Of the more than 180 nations that issue their own currency, the United States is the only one whose paper money is all the same size

Paraguay has no coinage, only paper currency

Scientific term for the rumbling sound your stomach makes: Borborygmus (It's actually caused by fluid and gas moving in the intestines, not in the stomach -- borborygmus is an onomatopoeic word, meaning that it was formed by imitating what it attempts to describe)

Over the last two centuries, several countries have declared themselves neutral; they choose not to enter into any foreign war on any side, hoping thereby to avoid invasion, and to provide a "neutral" location where conflicts might be avoided or halted by diplomatic means -- the following seven neutral nations are members of the United Nations, all but one have standing armies, and most participate in United Nations peacekeeping missions:
  • Austria -- Neutral since 1955
  • Costa Rica -- Neutral since 1949, the same year it became the first modern nation to abolish its army
  • Finland -- After WWII Finland, which borders the former Soviet Union, declared neutrality to alleviate Cold War tensions
  • Ireland -- Neutral since gaining independence in 1922 but unlike most other neutral nations it allows foreign military aircraft to fly over the country and to refuel at some Irish airports
  • Sweden -- Has not fought a war since the Napoleonic War of 1814, making it the longest-running neutral nation
  • Switzerland -- Neutral since 1815, making it the second longest-running neutral nation
  • Turkmenistan -- Neutral since it gained independence from Russia in 1992 -- it has a standing army but does not participate in U.N. peacekeeping missions

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