Monday, January 10, 2011


The first person to patent an artificial heart prototype also invented the retractable ball point pen: Paul Winchell, ventriloquist who co-hosted the 1960s children's television show “Winchell – Mahoney Time”

In the 1980s Winchell, concerned about the starving African people, developed a method to cultivate tilapia fish in tribal villages and small communities. The fish thrives in brackish waters, which made it particularly well suited for sub-Saharan Africa  (Winchell appeared before a US Congressional Committee with several other celebrities, including actors Richard Dreyfuss and Ed Asner, and Dr. Henry Heimlich. The Committee declined to finance a pilot program for the tilapia aquaculture project (in Africa) because it required digging a well into non-potable water, which the Committee felt was not advisable)

In the Asian, African and Latin American countries, well over 500 million people are living in what the World Bank has called "absolute poverty" - Worldwide, every 3.6 seconds someone dies of hunger

At certain points during a baseball pitcher’s delivery, the pitcher’s arm is rotating at approximately 7,000 degrees per second—the equivalent of rotating your arm all the way around 70,000 times an hour

Ludwig Van Beethoven originally dedicated his 3rd symphony to Napoleon. However, when Napoleon took the crown out of the Pope’s hands and crowned himself emperor, Beethoven was so disappointed in him that he changed the dedication to “Heroic Symphony, Composed to Celebrate the Memory of a Great Man”

The device used to measure your foot at a shoe store is called a Brannock Device

Ancient Greeks used tatoos to brand spies, Romans used them to mark slaves, and Japanese used them as a signal that someone was available for marriage

Author Alex Haley was forced to pay Harold Courlander more than half a million dollars after losing a plagiarism suit over Roots - Courlander wrote seven novels, his most famous being The African, published in 1967. The novel was the story of a slave's capture in Africa, his experiences aboard a slave ship, and his struggle to retain his native culture in a hostile new world. In 1978, Courlander went to the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of New York, charging Alex Haley had used a 100-word segment from his novel.
After a five-week trial in federal district court, Courlander and Haley settled the case, with Haley making a financial settlement of $650,000. Haley conceded that three brief passages in his book had apparently come from Courlander's The African

The highest spot on earth is not Mt. Everest; if we define the “highest spot” as that which is closest to the moon, stars, etc. Mt. Chimborazo in Ecuador is an incredible 1.5 miles higher due to the oblate spheroid shape of the earth

Outside North and South America, the only alligators found in the wild are in China

Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, once sworn political enemies (though after retirement they became quite friendly), died on July 4th of the same year 1826 (America’s 50th anniversary) 

The term "couch potato," used to refer to someone who gets little exercise, is the legal property of Robert Armstrong, who trademarked it in 1976 

In 1924, Alvin Kelly sat atop a flagpole for 13 hours, inspiring copycats across the country to replicate his feat (to varying degrees of success) - pole-sitting became a fad among teens and young adults in the US in the 1920s through the 1940s - occasionally today some still attempt to set new records
Pictured:  Alvin "Shipwreck" Kelly sits atop a pole for 13 hours, 13 minutes
 The Haskell Free Library and Opera House straddles the Canadian and Vermont border. The actors perform in Canada while most of the audience sits in the United States. There is even a painted line running through the building

An elephant’s trunk has up to 150,000 muscles

Black-eyed peas aren’t peas, but beans, and coffee beans aren’t beans, but seeds

The flashes of colored light a person may see after rubbing their eyes are called “phosphenes” - the phenomenon is caused by applying pressure to the eye, which mechanically stimulates the cells of the retina.    The experience of phosphenes is often called "seeing stars" and can be caused by a blow to the head, sneezing, a heavy and deep cough, low blood-pressure, and many other physical conditions
Cosmopolitan started as a family magazine in 1886, later transformed into a literary magazine with issues including stories by Henry James and Theodore Roosevelt and covering topics like climbing Mount Vesuvius and the life of Mozart - the magazine, also known as Cosmo, became a women's magazine in the late 1960s -
its current content includes articles on relationships and sex, health, careers, self-improvement, celebrities, as well as fashion and beauty - it is printed in 34 languages and distributed in over 100 countries

Under US federal law, garment tags that contain the use-and-care instructions must last the lifetime of the garment

The consistency of your ear wax is genetic

When Mad Cow Disease caused a slump in burger sales in 2005, several Japanese McDonald’s franchises enticed customers by replacing Ronald McDonald with a svelte female with shoulder-length red hair, a yellow dress, and red high-heeled shoes

History’s shortest war lasted 38 minutes between Great Britain and Zanzibar

The Golden Hamster is native to Syria. In fact, all hamsters in captivity today can trace their roots back to the original litter discovered in 1930 by archaeologist Aaron Abrahams

Donald Denney and his father (also named Donald Denney) concocted a plan on the telephone for Dad to smuggle the son a ball of black-tar heroin into his Colorado prison (for eventual resale) during visiting hours, to be passed through the mouth by a deep kiss from a female visitor. However, Dad could not find a woman with a clean-enough record to be admitted as a visitor. Still enamored of the plan, however, the father decided to be the drug mule, himself, and inserted the packaged heroin into his rectum for later transferral to his mouth (even though the eventual deep kiss would be awkward). The Denneys were apparently unaware, despite audio warnings, that all the son's phone calls were being monitored, and in September, prison officials were waiting for the father, with a body-cavity search warrant, as he entered the prison 

David Winkelman, 48, was arrested in Davenport, Iowa, in September on a misdemeanor warrant, still sporting "The Tattoo."  In late 2000, Winkelman, reacting to a radio "contest," had his forehead inked with the logo of radio station KORB, "93 Rock," because he had heard on-air personalities "offer" $100,000 to anyone who would do it. Winkelman had the tattoo done before checking, however, and the disk jockeys later informed him that the "contest" was a joke.  Winkelman filed a lawsuit against the station, but it was dismissed. Ten years later, the "93 Rock" format has expired, but Winkelman's forehead remains busily tattooed

New York City artist Sally Davies offered in October 2010 the latest evidence of how unattractive today's fast foods are to bacteria and maggots. Davies bought a McDonald's "Happy Meal" in April, has photographed it daily, and has noted periodically the lack even of the slightest sign of decomposition.  Her dog, who circled restlessly nearby for the first two days the vittles were out, since then has ignored it. (Several bloggers, and filmmaker Morgan Spurlock, have made discoveries similar to Davies's.)  Food scientists "credited" a heavy use (though likely still within FDA guidelines) of the preservative sodium propionate but also the predominance of fat and lack of moisture and nutrients--all of which contribute to merely shrinking and hardening the burger and fries

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