15 Gusts of Trivia That Tinted Our Sky This Week
“To know that we know what we know, and to know that we do not know what we do not know, that is true knowledge.”
Copernicus wrote those words. Or maybe it was Confucius. Or maybe this was a quote intentionally invented to be ridiculous and was falsely attributed to famous thinkers. We know that we do not know for sure. But we do know some other facts. Here are 15 of them…
1. The Wrong Calendar
Russian athletes showed up for the 1908 Olympics 12 days late. Britain had recently switched over to the Gregorian calendar (the one we use today), while Russia was still using the 2,000-year-old Julian calendar and got their dates wrong.
2. Beat the System
The band Vulfpeck released a bunch of brief silent songs on Spotify. The goal was to have fans leave these silent tracks on in the background, forcing Spotify to pay the band royalties. Before the service wised up, the band made 18k.
3. The Bridge Gamble
Tacoma paid $8,000 for an insurance policy on its Tacoma Narrows Bridge. The agent who sold it to them, Hallett French, figured there was no chance the bridge would collapse, so he skipped on filing the paperwork and just kept the $8,000 for himself. The bridge collapsed four months after it opened. French went to jail.
4. Lights Out
Airplanes dim the lights soon before landing. That’s because they want your eyes to be adjusted to the darkness for when the plane crashes.
5. The Great Torpedo Scandal
Quite a few torpedoes that the U.S. fired during World War II were duds. The Navy learned about the issue early on but didn’t respond. Testing the torpedoes cost so much that they figured it was best to skip that process.
6. Arthur Demoulas v Arthur Demoulas
In 2014, Market Basket’s CEO, Arthur Demoulas, was forced out by his brother, who was also named Arthur Demoulas. Employees were so angry that they led a successful boycott that cost the chain tens of millions.
7. All the Live Long Day
When railroad workers went on strike, President Harry Truman came up with a solution: punish them by drafting them all into the military. Congress rejected the idea. Let’s “hang a few traitors, make our country safe for democracy,” he wrote in a speech.
8. Ups and Downs
In 1933, Syria banned yo-yos. The country was experiencing a drought, and people had recently started playing with yo-yos, so it seemed likely that some causal relationship linked these two events.
9. Mom Got Scared
When a Pennsylvania kid left his doctor a voicemail, and the receptionist heard the words “shooting some people outside of the school,” she called it in, leading to school lockdowns county-wide. The kid had actually said, “Shooting some b-ball outside of the school.” He was quoting the Fresh Prince theme song.
10. All the Stops
The phrase “pulling out all the stops” comes from church organs. Stop knobs are parts of the pipe organ, and pulling them all out leads to maximum air flow.
11. The Doubt Point
A proposed punctuation mark called the doubt point can show that you’re unsure about something. It also has a counterpart called the certitude point, for when you’re deeply sure about something.
12. Great Balls
Some Japanese convenience stores keep orange balls of dye next to the register. The cashier can throw these at robbers or at their cars to mark them.
13. Rest in Peace, Norma Jean
In 1972, a circus was traveling through the Illinois town of Oquawka when a bolt of lightning killed their elephant. The circus just packed up and left, leaving the town to deal with the 6,500-pound carcass.
14. Rot in Hell, Ken McElroy
In theory, half the town of Skidmore, Missouri, should have seen who killed Ken Rex McElroy in 1981. Prosecutors couldn’t get any of the dozens of supposed witnesses to say a word. The guy had been the town bully, and no one liked him.
Famous British criminal Charles Bronson took a librarian hostage during one of his prison stints. Bronson demanded a helicopter, among other things. Then the librarian farted. Bronson was disgusted and released him.