15 Sweet Servings of Trivia We Learned This Week
Here’s something you can try. Bend your wrist slightly. Now, touch your pinky and thumb together tightly. As you flex, a tendon in your forearm will press against the skin. But do you see just one tendon pressing up, or two? And do you perhaps see two in one arm but only one in the other?
No, we’re not just making you do something ridiculous to see if you will. This test reveals something. Read on to find out what, and also to learn the tale of Sweden’s Steel Grandpa.
1. The Jilted General
At the wedding of Ambrose Burnside (the Civil War general after whom sideburns are named), the minister asked the bride if she’d marry him. “No siree, Bob, I won't,” she said, before leaving. She was later caught carrying loads of drugs and was accused of spying for the Confederacy, after which Burnside arrested her.
2. Pale Fire
We’re fortunate that fire emits light. It needn’t. Methanol, for example, burns with an invisible flame, and if more things did, fire would be a bit harder to detect.
3. A Traffic Accident
Before traffic lights used electric bulbs, one stoplight in 1869 used a gas lamp. The gas pipe had a leak and filled the entire tower with gas instead of just the lamp. It ultimately exploded, burning a cop’s face.
4. Cleveland’s Yacht Hospital
Grover Cleveland had surgery on a boat, under the cover of a fishing trip. He had mouth cancer, but he figured that if the public learned about the operation, Wall Street would panic.
5. Space Tears
Crying works differently in space. Without gravity pulling your tears down off your eye, the fluid forms liquid balls that stay on your eye. This then stings you, giving you something additional to cry about.
6. Honey Thieves
In 2015, three Florida men conspired to steal honey from a hive. Thirty thousand bees attacked them, sending them to the hospital. The city ordered the bees to be left alone for 24 hours so they could calm down.
7. Steel Grandpa
In 1951, Sweden denied Gustaf Håkansson’s application to compete in the Sverigeloppet, a thousand-mile endurance bike race. They turned him down because he was 66 years old. He biked it anyway, and he placed first.
8. The Hungry Dobermans
When farmer Rudolf Rupp went missing, police interrogated his wife and children, who confessed to chopping him up and feeding him to dogs. His body later turned up in a car that he’d crashed. They’d given false confessions. Prosecutors went on pursuing the case anyway.
9. Neither Snow Nor Rain
The Titanic carried a bunch of sacks of mail. As it sank, five postal clerks resolved to save as much mail as possible. All five clerks died.
10. The Washington Mooonument
Construction on the Washington Monument paused for 20 years. They ran out of money, then the Civil War kicked in. During the pause, it stood half-finished, and cattle grazed around it.
11. Who Are You?
For the 2012 Olympics closing ceremony, the organizers thought maybe they could get Keith Moon from The Who to perform. They reached out to the band’s publicists and learned that Moon had died in 1978.
12. Hind Legs His Weapons
Central Park Zoo had a rabbit named Bunch in 1917. It fought dogs, bit people’s ankles, then got into the ape enclosure and fought an orangutan — and won.
13. Palmaris Longus
Do you have a big tendon visible in your forearm, in the wrist right under the palm? Most people do, but around a tenth of people don’t. It’s redundant in modern humans, and we appear to be evolving to lose it.
In 1998, a new type of VHS tape debuted. It could store 50 gigabytes, vastly more than DVDs and as much as a Blu-Ray disc. It didn’t take off.
15. A Gram Is Easier
Brave New World warned of the dangers of people taking drugs to escape their worries. But as the years went by, Aldous Huxley chilled out a little about that. He even requested LSD on his deathbed, bathing him in happiness in his final moments.