Monday, April 12, 2010


Ancient Greeks enjoyed take-out food and the remains of what we would consider "fast food" shops have been found in ancient ruins - the main difference between then and now is that there were no chain restaurants or standardized menus

Each domestic cow emits 105 pounds of methane per year

Some octopuses differ in size so greatly that the father will never grow to be be larger than an acorn, meanwhile the mother will mature to be the size of a human being (150 lbs or so)
Some species of bamboo grow three feet per day

In April 1974, 148 tornadoes swept the southern and mid-western portions of the United States

The pupil of an octopuses eye is rectangular

The North Atlantic gets one inch wider every year

Deserts cover 1/7 of the earth's surface

The word "windchill" is supposed to indicate how cold it feels - a windchill temperature is actually a calculation of how cold it would have to be to cause the same rate of heat loss from your skin if there no were no wind blowing - windchill approximates how cold it feels because the rate of heat loss corresponds with skin temperature, and skin temperature is what our nerves sense, but weather forecasters use the unusually high skin resistance of the 95th percentile of humans to measure windchill and therefore tend to over-estimate how cold it feels to most people

Some Biblical scholars believe that Aramaic (the language with which the ancient Bible was written) did not contain an easy way to say "many" and used the term that has come down to us to mean "forty" - which would mean that in several passages, such as "forty days and forty nights" the Bible is referring to "many" rather than a precise duration of time

A popular urban myth is that dropping a penny from a high place, such as from the top of a tall building, could kill a pedestrian below - in reality, a combination of its shape and wind friction means that tossed even from the 1250-foot high Empire State Building in New York City, the penny would travel fast enough merely to sting an unlucky passerby below

About 80% of amputees report sensations of warmth, itching, pressure, and pain emanating from the missing limb - most scientists have narrowed down the explanation to just two competing theories:  one idea is that the nerves where the limb was severed create new connections to the spinal cord and continue to send signals to the brain as if the missing limb were still there; another idea is that the brain is "hard-wired" to operate as if the body were fully intact, as if the brain were essentially maintaining a "blueprint" of the body with all the parts attached

The United States government will not allow postage stamps to portray a living person

"Jingle Bells" was originally written to be a Thanksgiving Day carol for Americans in 1857 - it is now an international Christmas carol

Albert Einstein's brain was smaller than the average male of his generation (this is because he was smaller than the average male)

A new baby typically results in about 1000 hours of lost sleep for parents in the first year of the baby's life in Western societies that now do not include extended families and kinship structures - in other parts of the world, where childcare is shared among many relatives and kin residing in or near each other, parents of newborns do not lose more than 100 hours of sleep in the first year as responsibilities are rotated among several caregivers

An ATM machine now exists at McMurdo Station in the Antarctic where the largest wintertime population is about 200 people

A medieval female physician, Dame Trotula of Salerno, is believed to be the first female gynecologist

An earthquake on December 16, 1811 caused parts of the Mississippi River to flow backwards

One year after graduating from college, women earn $.80 cents to every dollar male graduates are paid, and over the next ten years she'll earn 69% of her male colleague's wages - after adjusting for hours, occupation, parenthood, and other factors known to impact earnings, research indicates that one-quarter (or 25%) of the wage gap remains "unexplained"

It was during the Hundred Years War (which actually lasted 116 years) that direct taxation was introduced- a British invention designed to finance its war with France

Every human sheds about 40 pounds of skin in the lifetime

Among the many words invented by Shakespeare:  Assassination, Bump, Lonely, Bloodstained, and Mountaineer

The Universe contains over one billion galaxies - over 100 billion stars are in our Milky Way galaxy

About 25% of the world's population speak at least some English

The blood bank was invented by African-American physician Dr Charles Drew in 1940

36% of the population of New York City was born outside the United States, most coming from Latin America (18.9%), Asia (8.6%), and Europe (7%)

Odds that an adult American will do crossword puzzles once a week are 1 in 12.78

Even though most people say they’re against cheating, in 2001 the IRS came up short by about $290 billion  - they estimate that a full 30 to 40% of people are falsifying their filings

In March, juries in Smith County and Matagorda County in Texas sentenced Henry Wooten and Melvin Johnson III to 35 years and 60 years in prison, respectively, for possessing small amounts of drugs (but enough under Texas law to allow jurors to infer an intent to distribute). Wooten, 54, had 4.6 ounces of marijuana (same penalty as for 5 pounds), and Johnson had 1.3 grams of crack cocaine (about half the weight of a U.S. dime). (Wooten's prosecutor actually had asked the jury for a sentence of 99 years)

In January, Aretha Brown, 66, who has lived in the same house in Callahan, Florida. (pop. 962) for 30 years, suddenly became unable to leave her yard unless she crawled between CSX railroad cars blocking her access to the road. Tracks had always been in place, but the railway only began storing train cars on them this year. CSX told the Florida Times-Union that it would soon build Brown an access road to the street

Seventh-grader Rachael Greer was suspended from River Valley Middle School in Jefferson, Indiana., in February, even though she apparently did exactly what her parents and the school want kids to do ("just say 'no'" to drugs). When a classmate handed her a prescription pill in gym class, she immediately handed it right back.  Nonetheless, an assistant principal, after investigating the incident, suspended her for five days because she had touched the pill. (He expressed regret but said it is school policy)

A recent epiphany caused millionaire Austrian businessman Karl Rabeder, 47, to be depressed about his wealth, and by February, he was in the process of giving it away--an estate worth the equivalent of about $5 million. Two luxury properties are for sale, with proceeds going to charities he established in Central and South America, and he plans to move into a small hut in Innsbruck. "Money is counterproductive," he told a reporter. "I had the feeling I was working as a slave for things that I did not wish or need."

In March, on duty on opening day of the jail at the new Adair County judicial center in Columbia, Kentucky, sheriff's deputy Charles Wright accidentally locked himself in a cell and was fired after he tried to shoot open the lock

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