15 Pockets of Trivia We Ferreted Out This Week
Here’s the final question from one episode of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire that aired in 2001: A number one followed by one hundred zeros is known by what name? That’s not a very hard question. The answer’s a “googol,” and if you didn’t know that, well, that should be an incentive for you to go out and learn everything you don’t currently know, in hopes of winning big money.
More interesting than that question, however, were the events that surrounded that episode. Find out about them below, along with the mystic secret of what bulla bulla means.
Sober as a Judge
The first person ever to be removed from office in the United States following impeachment was John Pickering. He was a judge accused of issuing bad rulings due to being habitually drunk.
Huddled for Warmth
In 2001, three men in the country of Georgia were in the forest gathering firewood, when they found three cylinders that seemed to emit heat. They gathered around them for warmth. The cylinders contained strontium-90, giving them all radiation poisoning.
Those removable covers on hardback books (“dust jackets”) were originally disposable. They sealed the book shut, so once you bought one and were ready to read, you broke the seal then threw the dust jacket away.
People’s ears are so distinct that they can be used to uniquely identify us, like a less precise kind of fingerprint. In 2012, German police linked a burglar to $660,000 worth of thefts by analyzing the ear prints he left on doors.
The Storm of 1900
A hurricane hit Texas in 1900, killing some 8,000 people. There were so many bodies that normal burial wasn’t practical, so they loaded up barges with corpses and dumped them at sea. Only problem was, the sea washed those bodies right back to shore...
In 2000, the British Navy saved money by denying live ammunition to recruits. Instead of firing for real, the recruits just yelled, “Bang!” The measure saved £5 million but was not popular with the public.
The U.S. government set off sonic booms around Oklahoma City for six months in 1964, to see what would happen. They’d have continued for longer, but residents complained about what the hell was happening to them.
The Cougher’s Tale
A Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? contestant cheated his way to the top prize in 2001, apparently with the aid of a confederate who coughed to signal correct answers. This helper was named Tecwen Whittock, and a company later tried to market a cough medication under the name “Tecwen Relief.” Whittock stopped this by trademarking his name.
Rumors spread in 2008 that a soccer team in Congo was using witchcraft to win a game. The teams started fighting, police intervened, fans tried to stop the police, and in the end, 13 spectators were crushed to death.
A dozen American POWs were in Hiroshima, and the atomic bomb killed them. Obviously, there were plenty of potential bombing targets that contained no Americans at all. The government didn’t acknowledge these deaths for 40 years.
Many centuries after people freely bathed naked or in swimsuits that looked something like bikinis, they switched to “bathing gowns” that covered their whole bodies. In the 17th century, women wore gowns of stiff canvas that filled with water, preventing the clothes from showing off their figure.
Save the Wales
During the Falklands War, a British warship felt spooked by something in the water and fired three torpedoes. The targets weren’t submarines but three whales. “I think I’ll join Greenpeace,” said a crew member afterward.
When a store throws a bunch of products loose in a bin, this is a strategic sales technique. IKEA calls it bulla bulla. Seeing them arranged like that convinces you they’re a bargain, regardless of the actual price.
Volcanic eruptions created a new island off the coast of Iceland: Surtsey. Scientists exploring it were baffled to find a tomato plant growing there. It turned out to have come there because an earlier scientist passed a bowel movement while visiting the island.
In the 1960s, visitors to Malaysia would sometimes have “SHIT” stamped in their passport before being denied entry. This meant they were suspected of drug use and stood for “suspected hippie in transit.”