15 Enlightening Spoonfuls of Trivia We Learned This Week
You can hire a private investigator to follow someone around and find out what they’re doing. But this costs a lot, and the information they come up with isn’t particularly interesting. A much smarter proposition would be to simply read the following list of facts. As for that husband you’re thinking of tailing, don’t worry, he’s not cheating on you. You have our word.
1. ‘The Lost World’
Arthur Conan Doyle attended a meeting of the Society of American Magicians, where everyone showed off their latest tricks. Doyle showed off a trick of his own: footage of the dinosaur film The Lost World, based on his book. No one there could figure out the trick (stop-motion photography).
2. An Overdue Book
In 2010, the New York Society Library informed Mount Vernon of an overdue library book. George Washington had borrowed The Law of Nations, and it had been due for return 221 years earlier. Mount Vernon returned the book.
The Royal Society of Chemistry has offered a £1 million prize to the first person who produces a truly chemical-free product. Depending on your definition of “chemical,” this would mean you have to manufacture a product that contains no physical matter at all, so it’s safe to say they won’t have to pay out the prize.
4. The Name Game
In 1923, Harry and Myrtle Kabotchnik petitioned to change their last name to Cabot. The Cabots were a famous rich Boston family, and half a dozen Cabots sued to stop the name change and protect their honor. The suits failed, and the Kabotchniks became Cabots.
5. Purring Engine
A Florida man heard a purring noise in his truck, so he dismantled the engine until he safely retrieved the culprit: a trapped kitten. A family adopted the kitten, and people who heard the story raised money to fix the guy’s truck again.
6. The Stonehenge Deed
Stonehenge used to be owned by one man, Cecil Chubb. He bought it as a gift for his wife, who didn’t appreciate the gesture, as she’d sent him to buy curtains. He later donated it to become public land, and as a reward, he received the title of First Baronet of Stonehenge.
7. Bad Directions
A passenger plane was directed to take a heading of “0270.” This meant 27.0 degrees, but the pilot thought this meant 270 degrees, a completely different direction. He crashed in the jungle, killing a bunch of people.
8. Terrorists Win
A Frenchman stabbed someone, for stabbing him. Sounds justifiable, possibly. Except, this first stabbing occurred in Counter-Strike. Having lost the fight in the computer game, Julien Barreaux spent six months tracking down his attacker and stabbed him in the chest, narrowly missing killing him.
9. More Cowbell
After living in Switzerland for 39 years, a Dutch woman applied for Swiss citizenship. Authorities rejected her application upon interviewing her neighbors and learning that she’d spoken against a famous Swiss tradition: Cows wearing bells on their necks.
10. Miss Baker
One of the first animals that America successfully sent to space and back was Miss Baker, a squirrel monkey. Unlike some animals, the trip didn’t hurt the monkey at all. She went on to set a record for living longer than anyone else from her species.
11. Dirty Code
In 1998, a video game called Secret Writer’s Society aimed to teach writing skills. It included a profanity filter, since the program was meant for kids. But when memory ran low, a bug made the game recite all the swears in the profanity list aloud, instead of reading the kid’s composition.
12. AAA Companies
As worries circulate about the U.S. defaulting on its debt, note that two companies are currently rated as less likely than the U.S. government to ever default. One is Johnson & Johnson. The other is Microsoft.
13. British Understatement
During the Korean War, a British brigadier requested American reinforcements by saying, “Things are a bit sticky, sir.” The Americans thought this meant they were holding up, rather than outnumbered 30,000 to 600. The Chinese killed 59 Brits and put the rest in camps for years.
14. Bike Safety
Denmark decided against a law mandating that bikers wear helmets. They figured such a law might discourage biking.
15. Assassin of Kings
For attempted assassination in 1757, Robert-François Damiens was sentenced to holding a burning stick, then getting his skin ripped off, then being burned with sulfur, then covered in molten lead, then dismembered by horses, then incinerated, then having his ashes discarded. Upon hearing the sentence, he said, “Well, it’s going to be a tough day.”