15 Smatterings of Trivia That Juiced Our Brains This Week
This week offered scary rumblings in the news, leading to fears of an upcoming banking crisis. Clearly, we are entering a new world when money is worthless. What will the replacement currency be in the new society that emerges? Knowledge. The currency will be knowledge. So, here’s some knowledge for you. Treasure it.
1. The Chosen One
Yao Ming is so tall because of a government plot to breed a basketball star. The Communist Party encouraged two basketball celebrities to marry, and then special doctors attended upon the resulting child to further foster his height.
2. Icelandic Law
In 2015, Iceland discovered they still had a law on the books saying that if any Basque from Spain entered the country, they should be killed on the spot. This law was 400 years old, and Icelanders generally agreed that it was best to repeal it.
3. Vote for Al
New York Governor Alfred Smith ran for president in 1928 using the slogan “Make your wet dreams come true.” This was a reference to his plan to repeal Prohibition. Alfred Smith did not win the election that year.
4. Phrenology Etymology
The words “highbrow” and “lowbrow” come from phrenology. If your brow is high, you’re smart, said this debunked science. This is also the origin of “well-rounded,” which doesn’t simply mean that you’re all-round good but that your skull is good and spherical.
5. The Shy Microbiologist
Sperm cells were first observed by Antonie van Leeuwenhoek. He didn’t want to admit to masturbating or explain why he was so interested in semen, so he sought to bury his discovery.
6. Japan’s Wind Phone
The “wind phone” in Ōtsuchi invites mourners to come and talk into it, as though talking to the departed. Some would say that talking to real living people is a better way to move on, but the phone has worked for some 30,000 people so far.
7. A Smooth Belly
Surgery as a baby may leave you without a belly button. This won’t have much of a consequence on your life. Unless you become an underwear model like Karolina Kurkova, in which case companies will photoshop a belly button onto you the rest of your life.
8. The Egg Hunt
A three-year-old told his father that he’d found a dinosaur egg outside. His dad laughed, of course, but it turned out that the weird shard that the kid had found really was a part of an egg from the Jurassic era.
9. Return of the Revenge
The pirate Richard Worley had a ship called New York’s Revenge. A bigger ship that sailed alongside apparently had this ship’s back. It was called New York’s Revenge’s Revenge.
10. The Technology of My Time
Tchaikovsky's “1812 Overture” includes bells and a cannon. That’s how it was composed, and that’s how it’s often performed. But originally, the tech didn’t exist to perfectly synchronize the cannon the way the piece was written. It took 70 years, long after Tchaikovsky died, to play it as intended.
11. Annie Robinson
A first-class stewardess on the Titanic survived but later died by throwing herself off a different ship. Maybe it was PTSD; maybe it was survivor’s guilt.
12. The Bee Myth
“Scientists have proven bees can’t fly,” says one famous bit of wisdom about the limits of science. Scientists never proved anything like that. In 1934, someone calculated that bees can’t fly using fixed-wing aerodynamics, but that didn’t disprove bee flight. It just proved bees flap their wings.
13. Money, Money, Money
ABBA were famous for their distinctive costumes. They never liked them. They wore these garments because under Swedish law, they received tax deductions for buying costumes rather than clothes, where “costumes” were defined as something that can’t be worn on the street.
14. Michel Vaujour
A French prisoner fooled guards in 1986 by wielding nectarines that he claimed were grenades. He made his way to the roof, where his wife picked him up using a helicopter.
15. Boston Corners
One day in 1853, an Irish gang staged an illegal prizefight in a corner of Massachusetts. It went for 36 rounds and led to a riot, which the state was unable to quell. The town got so angry that they asked that New York receive jurisdiction over them, and Massachusetts said sure and let the town go.