Monday, May 9, 2011


In Europe, the act of crossing one's fingers has several meanings, most commonly "protection" or "good luck." In Paraguay, the gesture is offensive

Lightning kills more people in the US than any other natural disaster: an average of 400 dead and 1,000 injured yearly - Globally, residents of Cuba have a greater chance of being struck by lightning than any other country in the world

The Roman Emperor Nero married his male slave Scorus in a public ceremony - the marriage occurred after Nero had his second wife murdered and the slave, who resembled his first wife, castrated

Water has a greater molecular density in liquid form than as a solid - this is why ice floats 

A “fruit machine” is the British term for a slot machine, often called a “one-armed bandit” in the US

It may take longer than two days for a chick to break out of its shell 

In 1935, the police in Atlantic City, New Jersey, arrested 42 men on the beach. They were cracking down on topless bathing suits worn by men  (Pictured below is an advertisement for a popular men's one-piece swimsuit, called the "Y-Back," circa 1936)
The oldest individual to win a medal in the Olympics was Oscar Swahn. He won a silver medal in shooting for Sweden in 1920. He was 72 years old  

Every day, 8.5 million tons of water evaporates from the Dead Sea, on the border between Israel and Jordan

The first minimum wage in the United States, of twenty-five cents, was established by Congress in 1938 

To survive, most birds must eat at least half their own weight in food each day

The DeKrote Garbage Museum in New Jersey, one of the only museum's devoted to human waste, invites visitors to "walk through a bright cavern formed by a jumble of trash hanging from the walls and ceiling." Some critics have observed that the garbage on display at the museum gives off no characteristic odor, which is unlike the average solid waste landfill   

Tea was not introduced into the U.S. colonies until 1714

BAND-AID Brand Adhesive Bandages first appeared on the market in 1921. However, the little red string that is used to open the package was not added until 1940  (Pictured below is an original tin for adhesive Band-Aids by the Johnson & Johnson Company, circa 1925)

In music, a hemidemisemiquaver is a sixty-fourth note

In 1952, CBS made computer history by being the first to use a computer, the UNIVAC I, to forecast the U.S. presidential election (Pictured below famed American news broadcaster Walter Cronkite, a UNIVAC I operator, and a network executive look over printouts of polling station results from around the country)
A local ordinance in Atwoodville, Connecticut prohibits people from playing Scrabble while waiting for a politician to speak

Between ages 30 and 70, a nose may lengthen and widen by as much as half an inch and the ears may be a quarter-inch longer - due to the fact that cartilage is one of the few tissues that continue to grow as we age

Automaker BMW of Germany announced testing in December of a new technology ("flash projection") in which an ultra-bright light sears the company logo into a viewer's vision, where it lingers even if the viewer subsequently closes their eyelids tightly 

Because two different laws operate, New York state prisoners, when they win lawsuits against guards who have injured them, keep the entire amount of the award, but when New York state mental patients win similar lawsuits, the hospitals can claim a large portion of the money back, as repayment for the daily cost of providing "care." The New York Times reported in December 2010 that the dual system is unique to the state 

A 26-year-old man was arrested in San Pablo, California, in December 2010 and accused of stealing a taxi after tricking the driver into momentarily exiting the cab. The man then drove to a Department of Motor Vehicles office, where he attempted to register ownership of the car

In January, Saudi officials detained a vulture from Tel Aviv University (part of endangered-species research), calling it a spy and alarming its Israeli handlers that the bird might face a gruesome execution as an espionage
agent. Then, a day later, Iran reportedly detained an Arab-American woman crossing its border from Armenia--after discovering a "spy microphone" in her teeth. (A week later, she was allowed to travel to Turkey.) In December, after an Egyptian woman was killed by a shark at a Red Sea resort, the local governor in Egypt accused Israel's spy agency, Mossad, of releasing "attack sharks" in order to stifle tourism 

Vietnam veteran Ronald Flanagan, in the midst of expensive treatment for bone cancer, had his medical insurance canceled in January because his wife mistakenly keyed in a "7" instead of a "9" in the "cents" space while paying the couple's regular premium online, leaving the Flanagans two cents short. Said the administrator, Ceridian COBRA Services, that remittance "fit into the definition in the regulations of 'insufficient payment'" and allows termination. (Ceridian said it warned the Flanagans before cancellation, but Ron Flanagan said the "warning" was just an ordinary billing statement that did not draw his attention.) 

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