15 Pearls of Trivia We Collected This Week
If you’re running an airline, there are plenty of things you can do to save some money. You might hold off on that latest order of new planes. You might fire a bunch of people. Or, you could simply refrain from giving passengers teaspoons, which they don’t use anyway, and save $300,000 a year. Similarly, you could stop printing menus, saving $50,000.
Or you could do something even more trivial, and save even more. Find out what below, along with an instructional tale on why you should be careful what trash you pick up.
When Abraham Lincoln was practicing law, he was cross-examining a witness who claimed to have seen the defendant “by the light of the Moon.” Lincoln now pulled out an almanack to prove the Moon wasn’t big enough that night to see by.
Down with Buttons
The push button — that thing you press, like on a doorbell or a machine — was invented in the 19th century and attracted a lot of controversy. It took so much less effort than levers or pull chains that people feared it would lead to an atrophy of human skills.
Violate Your Warranty
In 2006, Sony introduced a free service to engrave buyers’ names on items like laptops. In two years, they figured they profited $1 million by rendering these items ineligible for returns.
Nature Always Wins
The most biodiverse spot in Britain is an industrial waste site. It’s an abandoned oil refinery, with so many different kinds of soil that people compare it to a rain forest.
The Geek Show
The word “geek” originally referred to a type of carnival worker. He bit heads off chickens, after the live chicken show. It was not a terribly skilled job.
The Futurama theme song is based on The Troggs’ “Wild Thing.” It’s a reworking of a French instrumental piece called “Psyché Rock,” which was based on “Wild Thing,” and the throughline from “Wild Thing” is still obvious once you know what to listen for.
In the 1800s, it was common for art galleries to let patrons in to watch the paintings being varnished before being officially unveiled. They literally watched paint dry. It was more exciting than it sounds, apparently.
The Irish Giant
Charles Byrne, 7-foot-6, asked to be buried at sea. The British Museum instead kept his remains and displayed his skeleton publicly. They still display it today.
Forensic Electric Network Frequency Matching
When we record audio of anyone in many places outside, power lines add a background hum. This hum varies so much that it can be used to exactly identify the person’s location.
Cool, New Toy
A 10-year-old in Mexico City found a radioactive capsule at a dump. He took it home, without knowing what it was. It killed him, his mother and his sister.
The airline industry had a recession in 1993, and airlines tried a bunch of new measures to save money. Delta stopped including a decorative leaf in every salad. This alone saved them $1 million that year.
RIP, Best Town
For years, we’ve had fun pointing out that there is a town in Austria called “Fucking.” Sadly, this is no longer so. Since 2021, the town has officially been known by the amended name of “Fugging.”
The Old Bonsai
A 300-year-old tree survived the Hiroshima bombing in 1945. Three decades later, Japan gifted it to the U.S. during the 1976 bicentennial. The donor didn’t attach any explanation of the tree’s history, and no one in America knew it until the guy’s grandchildren came to visit in 2001.
Conflict of Interest
David Camm spent 13 years in prison for killing his family. Part of the issue here was that the man who prosecuted him and falsified evidence also worked as an attorney for the actual murderer.
Most Powerful Judge
A California judge, angry that several jurors didn’t show up thanks to heavy rain, said, “I hereby order that it cease raining by Tuesday morning.” Which is silly, but this was followed by the state’s second-longest drought ever, which lasted five years. Then the judge said, “It is ordered that rain shall fall in California beginning February 27, 1991.” The drought soon ended.