Monday, November 15, 2010


The first British bungee jump occurred on April Fool’s Day, 1979. Dressed in a tux and hugging a bottle of champagne, 33-year-old David Kirke did a back-flip off the Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol. The crowd, who thought they were witnessing a suicide attempt, watched him plunge 250 feet toward the Avon, but to their surprise, never saw him hit water when the bungee eventually flung him up and down instead - he was arrested for the stunt once untethered from the bungee cord

In the 1950s David Attenborough and a BBC film crew brought back footage of the "land divers" of Pentecost Island in Vanuatu, young men who jumped from tall wooden platforms with vines tied to their ankles as a test of their courage and passage into manhood.  A similar practice, only with a much slower pace for falling, has been practiced as the Danza de los Voladores de Papantla or the 'Papantla flyers' of central Mexico, a tradition dating back to the days of the Aztecs

The bikini style bathing suit was named for the Bikini atoll in the Pacific. When the suit debuted on July 5, 1946, it was named for the island on which nuclear testing was commenced by the US only 4 days earlier. The suit was so scandalous that a Parisian stripper, Micheline Bernardini, had to be hired to model it

The human bone most often broken is the clavicle (collar bone)

During the Great Depression couples could neither afford to become wed, nor to divorce - Not surprisingly, both numbers spiked highly following World War II.  In the United States during the current recession, divorce and marriage rates are both on the decline with the falling rates being taken as an economic indicator

Stephanie Kwolik invented Kevlar in 1965, the material used in bulletproof vests

When Disneyland opened on July 17, 1955, the 110°F temperatures melted the asphalt on Main Street and caused many high-heeled shoes to become stuck in the pavement

In 1557, European doctors recommended smoking to combat bad breath and cancer

The concept of “community service” as a form of probation originated in Alameda County, California, in 1966. It was first used as an alternative “punishment” for female traffic violators

Spiders use their silk in many ways. Aside from building webs (which each spider does on its first try, suggesting inherited behavior), some species of male spiders wrap food in silk and present these “presents” to females - (Pictured below is a large spider web shimmering in the sun with morning dew)

Not a single witch was burned at the stake after being convicted in the Salem witch trials - most were hanged

Nearly $40 billion in U.S. coins are currently in circulation

The first US president to earn a PhD was Woodrow Wilson - the first US president born in a hospital was Jimmy Carter

Marie Curie’s notebooks are still radioactive - she is the chemist and physicist who was the first person ever awarded two Nobel Prizes, the first female professor at the University of Paris, and the first to discover radium

During the year 1881, three men served as President of the United States: Rutherford B. Hayes, James Garfield and Chester A. Arthur

Blue eyes are the result of an ancient genetic mutation

Swearing to tell “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth” dates back to English Common Law. Interestingly enough, there were no penalties for perjury until the 1600s; prior to that time, it was believed that the fear of God’s wrath was enough to keep witnesses honest

Habitual singing causes the lungs to release leptin, a protein manufactured by the body’s fat cells that is involved in the regulation of appetite - This may partially explain why opera stars tend to be overweight

During World War II, Navajo Indians were inducted into the Marine Corps to become “code talkers” on the front lines. Navajo Code Talkers prove to have the only code that was never cracked during World War II

NBC was the first network to pioneer the “credit squeeze.” They started the trend in 1994 by showing the closing credit scroll in a split-screen format, with the right half of the screen filled with station promos and clips from upcoming programs

Only 17 existing paintings are attributed to famed artist Leonardo da Vinci

“Iron Eyes Cody” the famous Native American icon from the Keep America Beautiful public service announcements in the early 1970s was actually Italian

Ronald Reagan’s first Inauguration Day (Jan. 20, 1981) was the warmest January inauguration on record, at 55°F. When reelected, his second Inauguration Day (Jan. 21, 1985) was the coldest on record, at only 7°F

The Red Sea got its name from the occasionally extensive blooms of algae that, upon dying, turn the sea's normally intense blue-green waters to red

Two rats can become the progenitors of 15,000 rats in less than a year

Poi, a Hawaiian/Polynesian dip, is made by cooking breadfruit, sweet potatoes, bananas, or taro root until it is soft enough to mash with water in a bowl. Cooked taro is very firm and has to be mashed with a strong hand. In earlier times, a stone and a pounding board would be used to mash it. Traditionally, Hawaiians preferred to let poi stand for a few days until it fermented and turned sour

The National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame in Hayward, Wisconsin is shaped like a muskie

The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History houses the world's largest shell collection, some 15 million specimens. A smaller museum in Sanibel, Florida owns a mere 2 million shells and claims to be the world's only museum devoted solely to mollusks

Mother prairie dogs will nurse their young only while underground in the safety of the burrow. If an infant tries to suckle above ground, the mother will slap it

On August 12, 1895, Minnie Dean became the first woman to be hanged in New Zealand. Her crime was "baby farming." She would adopt unwanted babies for a certain fee and then dispose of them, a "service" she began in 1889. The police caught on to Minnie after six years and found her to be most certainly guilty when they dug up three bodies of infants in her flower garden
Ingrid Paulicivic filed a lawsuit in September against Laguna Beach, California, gynecologist Red Alinsod over leg burns she bafflingly acquired during her 2009 hysterectomy--a procedure that was topped off by the doctor's nearly gratuitous name-"branding" of her uterus with his electrocautery tool. Dr. Alinsod explained that he carved "Ingrid" in inch-high letters on the organ only after he had removed it and that such labeling helps in the event a woman requests the return of the uterus as a souvenir. He called the branding just a "friendly gesture" and said he did not know how the burns on Paulicivic's leg occurred  

Convicted Pennsylvania embezzler Lanette Sansoni pleaded guilty in August and agreed to reimburse the victim the remaining $200,000 of the $475,000 she had stolen. Judge Joseph Smyth then sentenced Sansoni to house arrest--for 21 years. She can remain out of jail as long as she works and contributes at least $750 a month for restitution 

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