Monday, December 27, 2010


'Lincoln Logs’, the popular toy, was invented by John Lloyd Wright, son of famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright

Sulfuric Acid is the most produced chemical in the U.S.  - It is soluble in water in all concentrations, and has many applications from being used in automobile batteries to lawn fertilizer

In 1941, the U.S. government banned silk stockings because Japan cut off America’s silk supply during World War II, and the government needed the material to produce parachutes for its military paratroopers

A cat’s ability to see well at night is due to its taptum, a membrane that reflects the light from the back of the cat’s eye

It is illegal to enter the Houses of Parliament in a suit of armor

Despite the horrific display, nearly two-thirds of those who were on board the Hindenburg survived its 1937 fire and destruction as the German airship was attempting to dock with its mooring mast near Lakehurst, New Jersey  (Pictured below the fire has barely engulfed half of the zeppelin, but in the end the entire airship would succumb to the flames)

Duct tape was developed in 1942 for use by the U.S. Army as a waterproof sealing tape for ammunition boxes - NASA engineers and astronauts have used duct tape in the course of their work, including in some emergency situations. One such usage occurred in 1970, when the square carbon dioxide filters from Apollo 13's failed command module had to be modified to fit round receptacles in the lunar module, which was being used as a lifeboat after an explosion en route to the moon. A workaround was made using duct tape and other items on board Apollo 13, with the ground crew relaying directions to the spacecraft and its crew. The lunar module CO2 scrubbers started working again, saving the lives of the three astronauts on board

http:// (in web URLs) stands for Hyper Text Transfer Protocol - URL stands for Uniform Resource Locator, and in common usage is often referred to as a website's "address"

Tuesday Island, Wednesday Island, Thursday Island and Friday Island all exist in the Torres Strait off the coast of Australia

Robert Lincoln, son of President Lincoln, was saved from a railroad accident by Edwin Booth. Edwin was the brother of Abraham Lincoln’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth, and he saved the life the younger Lincoln shortly before his brother would go on to assassinate of the President.  Booth shoved Lincoln to safety from falling off a train platform while the train was in motion

The male Satin Bower Bird, found on the east coast of Australia, builds its bower (ground nest) with twigs and then decorates the nest with blue (sometimes yellow or shiny) objects it finds to attract a mate. Many people who live nearby have found long lost objects in the bowers such as car keys, toys, clothes pegs, and anything it finds and can carry back

In the 16th century, gin was referred to as “mother’s ruin” because people thought it could induce abortions

The first Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue featured model Babette March on the cover sporting a modest two-piece. The issue came out in January of 1964

A yellow baseball (thought to be more visible to batters, fielders and spectators) was tested in a 1938 college game in New York City, between Fordham and Columbia

Richard Hollingshead of Camden, New Jersey, built the first drive-in theater in his driveway in 1933. The theater consisted of a sheet strung between two trees and a movie projector mounted to the hood of his car. The setup was reportedly inspired by his mother: she was a large woman who was uncomfortable in the seats at regular movie theaters

Bridgestone Corporation, maker of the Bridgestone tires, is a Japanese company. The name is derived from founder Shojiro Ishibashi’s last name, which translates literally to “stone bridge”

Several of the founders of the United States warned against allowing banks to be established - Thomas Jefferson even referred to them as being more dangerous than standing armies

Charlie Chaplin once entered in a Charlie Chaplin look-alike contest in a theater in San Francisco - he lost

Once planted, peach seeds can grow nectarine trees (and vice versa)

Only about one-fifth of the world’s largest desert, the Sahara, is covered with sand; the remainder is made up of rock formations

Edible "dirt" has recently appeared on the menus of several of the world's most renowned restaurants (e.g., the top-rated Noma in Copenhagen, Shakuf in Tel Aviv, Gilt in New York City). "People are really wowed to see dirt on their plates," said Gilt's head chef.  Actually, the "dirt" only looks and feels like dirt. Each chef creates signature tastes from dried or charred powders with the appearance and consistency of sand, soil, or ash--from a base of plants, vegetables, or eggs, or even dried beer. Said a reviewer, "These chefs are reminding people where food actually comes from"

Police in New Albany, Indianana, arrested two alleged counterfeiters in August but believed that a much bigger operation was in play.  Subsequently, the Indiana State Police made a public plea for informants, focusing on the people most likely to be cheated by counterfeit money: local drug dealers. "What we are asking today," said ISP Sgt. Jerry Goodin, "is we want all the drug dealers to call us. We want to get all of your information and exactly what happened in [any of your dealings]." Goodin added, "Trust us"

Playboy magazine has long published an audio edition, and the Library of Congress produces a text edition in Braille. However, as a Houston Chronicle reporter learned in August, a Texas organization (Taping for the Blind) goes one step further, with volunteer reader Suzi Hanks actually describing the photographs-- even the Playmates and other nudes. "I'd say if she has large breasts or small breasts, piercings or tattoos," said Hanks. "I'll describe her genitalia. I take my time describing the girls." "Hey, blind guys like pretty, naked girls, too!"

Doctors from the University of California, San Diego, and the University of Washington announced in September that they could just as well handle certain brain surgeries by access not in the traditional way through the top of the skull but by drilling holes in the nose and, more recently, the eye socket. (Since classic brain surgery requires that the top of the skull be temporarily removed, the breakthroughs mean fewer complications.) These innovations follow on the inroads in recent years in performing kidney-removal and gall- bladder surgery not by traditional abdominal incisions but through, respectively, the vagina and the anus 

Monday, December 20, 2010


Christian Hernandez, 21, making his big-time bullfighting debut at Plaza Mexico in Mexico City in June 2010, ran from the ring trembling in fear at the first sign of his bull. He was then coaxed to return, but once again fled and immediately submitted his resignation. Though Hernandez was contrite ("I didn't have the ability. I didn't have the balls."), he was arrested for violating his contract and released only after he paid a small fine

Rafflesia flowers can measure 3 feet across -- the biggest flowers of any plant. They are also the smelliest flowers, reeking of rotten meat. This is a trick designed to attract flies for pollination  (Pictured below a hiker poses next to a Rafflesia, which provides perspective on size)

American chemist Robert Hare discovered that a blowpipe flame acting upon a block of calcium oxide - which is lime - produces a brilliant white light that could be used to illuminate theater stages.  His invention was used for many years, and hence the phrase "Living in the limelight" which has come to mean 'living on stage' or as a celebrity with no privacy

All dogs are the same species, meaning that (notwithstanding the obvious physical challenge) a Chihuahua and a St. Bernard could procreate - all dogs genetically diverged from wolves about 15,000 years ago, which coincides with the time at which researchers believe domestication by humans began  (Pictured below are four "Labradoodles- dogs resulting from the mating of a Labrador Retriever and a Poodle)

Goerge Washington and Thomas Jefferson were both redheads

Hawaii is the only U.S. state that grows coffee

Skid Road orignated in Seattle. The road, Yesler Way, was used during the late 1800s to haul (skid) logs to Yesler saw mill at the bottom of the hill. It became a rather seedy district eventually, hence the term Skid Road - in modern American parlance, Skid Road has turned into "skid row" and refers to a seedy and dangerous part of town where indigent people engage in illegal activities such as drug use

Geologists believe that about half the unmined gold in the world is in South Africa

The fastest two-legged creature on Earth is the ostrich, which can reach 45 mph over short distances

Mapmakers will often insert a tiny piece of incorrect information in their maps to prevent the illegal reproduction of their work. Called a “copyright trap,” the fake text might be a bogus street name or even the mapmakers’ initials hidden in the corner of a city park - the fictitious information will then be called a "park trap" or "street trap" - (Pictured below is an example of a "street trap" using initials CL)

Chinese Checker is not Chinese. It was created in the US to circumvent the patent for a popular boardgame called Halma, invented by a Boston surgeon named George Howard Monks

The first American TV show to use “open captions,” that is, captioning for the hearing-impaired available on all TVs, was PBS’ The French Chef

In 1667, the Dutch purchased Manhattan for the low price of $24, but then traded it to England for the South American country of Suriname

The distance from the eastern tip to the western tip of the state of Texas is greater than the distance from New York City to Chicago

In order to better survive the cold, polar bears have evolved to have black skin, thick blubber, and hollow, translucent hair that trap heat. Polar bears are so well-insulated that they are almost invisible under infra-red light

Only 1% of all the readily accessible water on earth is drinkable

A sardine is not a species of fish, but a name that can apply to many small varieties of pickled fish, including herring and pilchard

Leatherback sea turtles have fleshy backward-pointing spines in their throats so that jellyfish, their favorite food, can be swallowed more easily - (Pictured below is the open mouth of a leatherback sea turtle that washed ashore in Provincetown, Massachusetts)

The term “Continental breakfast” was coined to differentiate between the fried eggs, bacon and beans (served in a typical English breakfast) from the dainty pastries, coffee and juice offered throughout the rest of Europe

Divorce is illegal in the Philippines - Even when Filipinos divorce elsewhere, the divorce is not recognized in the Philippines legal system

The arms of condemned prisoners are swabbed with alcohol prior to lethal injection in order to keep the area sterile

"Dog tags" that are worn by American military personnel are always worn in pairs in case of death of the soldier or officer; one tag remains with the body, and the other is sent to Mortuary Affairs - the identification tags are called "dog tags" because of their resemblance to the tags that many pet owners use for their dogs - (Pictured below is a set of identification tags used for a member of the American military)

The Sun's total lifetime as a star capable of maintaining a life-bearing Earth is about 11 billion years - Nearly half the time has passed

The once popular dog name “Fido” is from Latin and means “fidelity”

Incan soldiers invented the process of freeze-drying food. The process was primitive but effective – potatoes would be left outside to freeze overnight, then thawed and stomped on to remove excess water

Winnie, from Winnie the Pooh, was named after a bear at the London Zoo. The animal had been born in Canada but brought to London in 1914 as the mascot of a Canadian regiment 


Monday, December 13, 2010


Charles Lindbergh was named Time magazine’s first “Man of the Year” in 1927. But what turned into an annual tradition for the publication actually started as an apology: Time had embarrassingly left Lindbergh off the cover after his landmark solo flight and “Man of the Year” was their apology

Before finishing his education, earning a doctorate, and inventing the sport basketball, Dr. James Naismith was a high school dropout

Wood frogs are freeze-tolerant and spend winters frozen on land, only to thaw in the spring and begin their breeding process in vernal ponds
A frozen Wood Frog waits for the Spring thaw
During a severe windstorm or rainstorm, the Empire State Building may sway several feet to either side

The official term for the pincerlike claw of a crab, lobster, or scorpion is a "chela"

The hum of a hummingbird comes from the super-fast beat of the wings. The smallest ones beat their wings the fastest — up to 80 times per second. Even the slower beat of bigger hummingbirds (20 times per second) is so fast you can only see a blur

If the skin of a 150-pound person were spread out flat, it would cover approximately 20 square feet    

Goosebumps are caused by a muscle called the arrector pilli muscle as an involuntary reaction to cool air, or to fright, that raises the skin and body hair

The Wright Brothers’ first successful flight on December 17, 1903 covered a distance of about 120 feet - shorter than the wingspan of a modern 747. They earned at least 15 honorary college degrees for the achievement, despite that fact that neither graduated from high school, and were awarded a special Congressional Gold Medal

While females are the ones who carry the gene for Hemophilia, except in the rarest of cases, only males can actually have the disease which makes their blood unable to clot

Fifty years ago in the US, the average man first became married at 23, and the woman at 20 - Today, those ages have increased to 27 and 25, respectively

The popular game Bingo was originally called “Beano” because players used beans to cover the numbered squares

In 1914, Henry Ford doubled the daily wage for his factory workers (from $2.40 to $5 - the equivalent of offering workers about $115 daily in today's dollars) while cutting their daily work hours from nine to eight - this increased loyalty and reduced employee turnover that saved training costs, and increased productivity from workers who became "expert" in their positions

Henry Ford, father of the modern assembly line and mass production, was awarded 161 US patents for his various inventions - his introduction of the Model T Automobile revolutionized transportation globally.  Ford openly claimed to admire Adolph Hitler, and Hitler in turn hung a life-size portrait of Ford next to his desk - in 1938, the Nazi government awarded Ford the Grand Cross of the German Eagle, the highest medal for foreigners
(Pictured:  Henry Ford is presented with Grand Cross of the German Eagle, a medal and honor created by Nazi dictator Adolph Hitler)

The former Rolling Stones’ bassist, Bill Wyman, began a relationship with thirteen-year-old Mandy Smith, when he was forty-seven. They married six years later in 1989, but divorced after less than two years. Not long after the divorce, Bill’s thirty-year-old son, Stephen, married Mandy Smith’s mother, Patsy, age forty-six

The word “jumbo” is a term taken from the name of one of P.T. Barnum’s large circus elephants

Something described as ‘cordiform’ is heart-shaped

The purpose of gasoline rationing during the Second World War was not to conserve gas, but to conserve tires - The primary source for natural rubber at the time was Southeast Asia, much of which was under Japanese control

An intense lightning storm on June 14th around Monroe, Ohio, destroyed the iconic 62-foot-high statue of Jesus (the "King of Kings" structure of the Solid Rock Church) alongside Interstate 75. While townspeople mourned, it was also noteworthy what the lightning bolts completely missed: the large billboard, on the other side of the road, advertising the nearby Hustler Hollywood pornography store

Over the years, according to a June Chicago Sun-Times report, U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk of Illinois has freely used "swagger and braggadocio in talking about his 21 years of military service" as qualification for office. When one contrary fact after another about his record was pointed out by reporters, Kirk explained, "I simply misremembered it wrong." He admitted that, contrary to his numerous public statements, he was not actually "in" the Iraq Desert Storm war; did not actually "command the Pentagon War Room" when he was assigned there as a Navy Reservist; and was not actually once Naval "Intelligence Officer of the Year." He is now vying for the U.S. Senate seat once held by US President Barack Obama

Tony Chrum was the one apprehended for allegedly buying $160 worth of cocaine from a man who turned
out to be a police informant in Lincoln County, Mo., in May, but his brother, who is Winfield, Mo., police officer Bud Chrum, 39, was the mastermind. According to police and unknown to the informant, Bud had needed to replace 2 grams of cocaine from the police evidence locker because he had accidentally spilled something on it, and Tony agreed to help

"If Google told you to jump off a cliff, would you?" asked a Fortune magazine columnist, describing the lawsuit filed in May by Lauren Rosenberg, asking for damages of more than $100,000 against Google Maps after she was struck by a car. Rosenberg had queried the map service for a "walking route" between points in Park City, Utah, but a short stretch of the suggested route lacked sidewalks. Rosenberg was hit while walking in the street. Though Google and other map services "warn" users against walking in the street, Rosenberg's route was delivered on her small Blackberry phone screen

Britain's Crown Prosecution Service announced a proposed anti-social behavior order against Ellis Drummond, 18, to prohibit him from wearing low-slung trousers in public that allow his underwear to show, but Drummond challenged it in Bedford magistrates' court. In May, Judge Nicholas Leigh-Smith ruled that such an underwear-suppressing order would violate Drummond's "human rights"
(Pictured:  Drummond leaving Bedford magistrate's courthouse, after winning his right to wear low-slung pants that show off his underwear)

Monday, December 6, 2010


Located entirely within its own improvement district – the Reedy Creek Improvement District of Lake Buena Vista, Florida – Walt Disney World with its main attractions and resorts is twice the size of Manhattan. Every day, the guests of the resorts use an amount of linens that would take one person 40 years to clean - the landscaping crew puts over a half a million miles on the mowers cutting the grass of the 47 miles of WDW throughout the year, and in the last seven years, a single water-saving effort has taken place at the theme parks, which has meant a savings of about 2.5 billion gallons of water

The microwave was invented after a researcher walked by a radar tube and a chocolate bar melted in his pocket

Giant squids have been known to eat baby whales

One of the most popular of all urban legends asserts that the New York City sewer system is infested with deadly alligators. In the most popular versions, the animals were brought north from Florida by people who wanted to keep them as pets. When the gators started getting too big and violent, they were released into the sewers. This story dates back to the 1930s, when sensationalist newspapers started reporting countless stories of alligators being found in and around New York City, with some even claiming that police were making regular trips underground to hunt the creatures down

During sleep, fluid in the body tends to pool in low-lying areas, which is the main reason for waking up with puffy eyes

The first lotions and moisturizers date back to 3000 BC, when people in the Near East used whipped ostrich eggs and crocodile dung to keep their skin looking fresh

Kool-Aid was originally marketed as Fruit Smack from 1918 until 1927 by its original inventor, Edwin Perkins, who came up with the powdered concoction in his mother's kitchen in Nebraska with his wife Kitty - it is now owned by Kraft Foods and manufactured in Mexico

Holograms are images made using lasers; that said, if you make a hologram of a magnifying glass, the resulting image would also function as a magnifying glass

BIC estimates that it has sold more than 50 disposable ink pens every second of every day since 1950. In fact, in September 2005, the company proudly announced that it had sold its 100 billionth pen

The scale for measuring the spiciness of a food is called the Scoville Heat Index - The spiciest pepper has over 1,000,000 Scoville units

In Parrsboro, Nova Scotia, the world’s smallest dinosaur footprints were found in 1984 - They were made by a creature likely no larger than a robin

Omar Knedlik of Coffeyville, Kansas, invented the Icee (also called a Slurpee, Slush or Mr. Misty) in the late 1950s - The first flavor he offered was root beer

In the 1904 Olympics, an American gymnast George Eyser faired quite well with six medals even though his left leg was made of wood having lost his real leg after being run over by a train (Pictured below is the wooden leg he wore)

According to doctors, humans experience an average of 14 episodes of flatulence per day no matter their age, race, or sex, though some humans experience slightly higher rates of "passing gas" depending on diet

The use of a stethoscope to listen to your heart rate and breathing is called 'auscultation'

The longest continuous sidewalk in the world is along Bay Shore Blvd. in Tampa, Florida

The ‘Crows Nest’ on a ship (the basket near the top of the mast) used to actually contain a crow - The ships navigator would use one of the birds as a guide in bad weather, since they invariably head towards land

At the time of the Holy Roman Empire, light-color hair was associated with the barbarian women of Gaul and Germany who often ended up as slaves in brothels. Consequently, Roman law required all prostitutes to dye their hair blonde in order to distinguish themselves from “proper,” dark-mane women

Some cultures (especially those in sub-Saharan Africa) give their children names with meanings such as “ugly,” “disagreeable,” or “crippled,” to make them undesirable to demons

“Cleaner shrimp” feed off the parasites that live on fish. To attract passersby for a cleaning, the shrimp appear to do a little dance. Fish taken in by the shrimps’ choreographed moves will respond by “striking a pose,” which signals the cleaner shrimp to begin their feeding and cleaning

A researcher at California State University calculated that non-fiction writers live an average of 68 years, longer than their cohorts who write poems, plays, and fiction works

Disney once banned its park employees from wearing any facial hair. The only person allowed to wear face fuzz was Walt Disney himself until the ban was lifted in 2000 - today, male employees are allowed to have "neatly trimmed" moustaches

The proper name for a crash test dummy is Anthropomorphic Test Device - The first one was developed for the Air Force, not the automobile industry, and was used to test ejection seats  (Pictured below a "crash test family" shows the results of a low-impact crash - the lack of leg room for the back passenger would have resulted in massive injuries to ankles and legs of a real-life passenger)

Librarian Graham Barker, 45, of Perth, Australia, casually revealed to a reporter in October that his hobby of 26 years-- harvesting his own navel lint daily, just before he showers--has now won acclaim in the Guinness Book of World Records. His three-jar collection (a fourth is in progress) has been sold to a local museum.  His pastime, he told London's Daily Mail in October, "costs nothing and takes almost no time or effort so there is no compelling reason to stop." Barker, who also collects McDonald's tray liners, said he once did a "navel lint survey,"and "a handful of respondents confessed" to the hobby. "One guy might have persisted, but he got married, and his wife ordered him to stop"
In September, a judge in Kent County, Michigan finally ordered Howard Veal, 44, to prison to serve at least two years for failure to pay child support. He is more than $500,000 behind in payments to 14 mothers for the 23 children he has fathered. Authorities suspect there are even more 

French officials arrested a 54-year-old immigrant in September on suspicion of welfare fraud. They had recently begun to notice the man applying for government benefits for 55 children by 55 different mothers- authorities believe he has not fathered any children

Swiss artist Gianni Motti had been displaying (through the end of November) a bar of soap at Zurich's Migros Museum of Contemporary Art, claiming it was made from fat that had been liposuctioned from Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. Motti said a clinic employee had surreptitiously given him the fat following Berlusconi's treatment in 2004, but the clinic has denied any involvement 

The investigative journalism website, curious about the workers being hired in the mortgage industry's massive, rushed re-examination of home loans previously foreclosed upon but which may have been processed illegally, began scouring the classified ads in October and November. Result: Though most employers "preferred" college graduates with credit-industry experience, it was clear from the entry-level wages offered that many were accepted only with high school educations, with at least some barely familiar with the concept of mortgages. (One staffing agency, offering $10-$12 an hour, sought a "Supervisor of Foreclosure Department," but that position, also, required only a high school diploma)

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