15 Riveting Items of Trivia That Fell Into Our Laps This Week
Comedian Tomoaki Hamatsu (nickname: Nasubi, meaning eggplant) accepted a challenge in 1998. He’d move in to an apartment, starting out with nothing, not even any clothes. He would spend the next year entering mail-in contests, first to win a pair of pants and then to get food.
He succeeded, despite some brushes with severe hunger and severe loneliness. The challenge, however, turned out not to be exactly he’d been led to believe. We’ll tell you the truth about it below, plus what it means if your belly button starts bleeding.
1. Race Against Time
At the first modern Olympics, they needed a single stopwatch at both the starting point and the finish line, for accuracy’s sake. That meant someone holding the watch had to race to the finish ahead of the competitors — on a bicycle.
2. Operation Belukha
Two thousand whales got trapped by ice in 1985, so an icebreaker ship went in to clear a path for them. It was no use; the whales refused to follow the ship through the new opening in the ice. And so, the ship played classical music through its loudspeakers. The whales now followed it to safety.
3. Navel Menstruation
It is possible to menstruate out through your belly button. It’s a symptom of umbilical endometriosis and is indeed a cause for alarm.
4. Cult Following
Until 1996, a group calling itself the Cult Awareness Network offered assistance to people leaving cults, and it labeled Scientology the top threat. Scientologists sued the group for all it had, and then the Church of Scientology bought the group and took over operations.
5. NASA Contractor
Slices of bread aren’t a good choice for astronauts, since bread sends messy crumbs everywhere. You know what works much better? Tortillas. Specifically, tortillas supplied by Taco Bell.
6. The Tax on Bricks and Tiles
You can tell when a building in England was built from the size of its bricks. In 1784, Britain started collecting a tax of bricks, to raise funds to fight against the American Revolution. Builders now switched to bigger bricks, so they’d use fewer bricks and owe less tax.
7. Pomp and Circumstance
The famous graduation tune only became associated with graduations because it played when the composer attended a Yale graduation to receive an honorary doctorate.
The first time we ever sent communications by bouncing a signal off a satellite was 1954. You might notice that this was years before the launch of Sputnik. That’s because the scientists weren’t using any artificial satellite. They were bouncing the signal off Earth's natural satellite — the Moon.
9. Nasubi’s Quest
A Japanese comedian accepted a challenge to move into an apartment with no belongings and obtain everything he needed by entering magazine contests. He knew this was for a TV show, but he was unaware that hidden cameras captured him live at all times, including when he was naked.
10. James Garfield’s Death
Though President Garfield was assassinated, he may well have died from his doctors feeding him rectally afterward, rather than from the shot. In fact, his assassin admitted to the shooting in court and still claimed to be innocent of murder because the doctors killed the man.
11. Athens Lunatic Asylum
Margaret Schilling went missing in December 1978, despite being committed to an asylum at the time. Sounds like she broke out, right? Nope: The following month, she was found dead in the asylum’s attic.
12. A Good Trade
A private investment firm bought the rights to all money from Chicago’s parking meters for 75 years. They paid $1.2 billion for this in 2008 and don't need to pay anything else. By 2021, they’d fully recouped their investment, plus $500 million more, and they’ll keep getting all the city’s parking fees for another 60 years.
13. Anton-Babinski Syndrome
Doctors have recorded a couple dozen cases of something called visual anosognosia. These patients are legally blind, and yet, they are unaware of it. They hallucinate enough information to cover up their loss of vision, and they refuse to believe they can’t really see.
14. The Truth About Snakes
Boa constrictors suffocate their prey, we’ve all been told. Turns out that’s not true. Instead, they cut off the prey’s circulatory system. Death comes either way, but no, the snake doesn’t squeeze the windpipe.
15. Performance Not-Enhancing Drugs
Geir Helgemo, the world’s top-ranked player, was stripped of his title in 2019 when authorities realized he’d been taking drugs to boost his testosterone. This was quite a serious response, considering that the sport in which Helgemo was a champion was the card game bridge, in which testosterone offers no known advantage.