15 Trivia Tidbits for Saturday, May 25, 2024

Autopilot can kill you, especially if you’re in a fighter jet
15 Trivia Tidbits for Saturday, May 25, 2024

Why is north at the top of maps? It seems like an arbitrary choice. You’ll sometimes see the map of a building or a theme park oriented so some direction other than north is at the top, but with larger maps, north at the top is standard.

Some people think this is about northern countries trying to emphasize their own importance, but that’s not the whole story. For a long time, northern countries placed east at the top, and in fact the very word “orientate” means “face the east.” Find out the real explanation below, along with a suggestion about what you can do with your pet bear. 

Attack of the Munchies

A Popeyes employee last year got a little indiscreet when it came to his drug dealing. He worked the drive-through and passed his phone number to anyone who came by smelling of weed. Things then went a little too far when he shot one customer (unsuccessfully) seven times.

Damn Dirty Apes

In Ethiopia, monkeys have domesticated wolves to kill for them. These primates make use of the stronger, dumber animals, a relationship we thought only humans were capable of forging.

Fax and Logic

Faxes are so rare that they’re automatically assumed to be legit. When a Kentucky prison received one demanding that they release an inmate, they accepted it as binding, even though it was full of grammatical mistakes — and had been sent by the inmate’s associates from a nearby grocery store.

Ghost Plane

The F-16’s flight computer had a dangerous bug at one point. The plane flipped with acceleration so strong that the plane could bear it but the human body could not. Then, it was programmed to continue flying, upside-down and containing a corpse, forever. Thankfully, this was caught during a simulation.


In the 1890s, you could buy the following device, which promised spot reduction on your chin. The chin reducer, which did not work, cost “only” $10. That’s around $350 today. 

You just don’t get many ads offering effacement nowadays 

Then One Foggy Christmas Eve

After they finished making the 1964 special Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, an employee took the puppets home. They stayed in storage for 40 years, till the employee’s nephew found them — and brought them to Antiques Roadshow to get appraised. 

Classic Dad Joke

Spare a thought for Greg Gingrich who visited the Grand Canyon with his daughter in 1992. As a joke, he pretended to lose his balance and fall off the edge. He slipped in the wrong direction and actually fell off the edge and died. 

Choking on Poop

If you keep a bunch of birds as pets, that may not be the best for your health. You’re bound to inhale enough poop particles to gain a little hypersensitivity pneumonitis, a condition referred to as bird-fancier’s lung

Laziness Is a Virtue

Making your bed may look tidy, but it doesn’t really keep your bed clean. Tightening bedclothes traps moisture and allows mites to flourish, something far less possible in an unmade bed. 

The Mouse Myth

The stereotype that mice love cheese goes back thousands of years. We have a Roman philosopher writing about a mouse eating cheese back in the first century, as part of a letter on the subject of logic. And yet, mice do not really have any special taste for cheese and are no more attracted to it than to any other food. 

Marcus Ganahl

Peanut butter is a much better bait. 

Customer Retention

A company from Delaware, a manufacturer of analytical glassware, received some unwanted attention thanks to the rise of the internet. Reluctantly, they changed their branding. Up till this point, they had been known as Analtech.

The Inner Bomb

After an explosion, you can be poisoned by your own body. You may experience traumatic rhabdomyolysis, in which your muscles get starved of oxygen, they fill your blood with bad stuff and this shuts down your kidneys.


People started drawing maps with north at the top because of compasses. A compass needle’s two ends point north and south, so the map should put one of those on top, so you can navigate with a map and compass. The reason mapmakers picked north rather than south is because they also navigated with the North Star.

Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm

Before crash test dummies, we had crash test bears. Live animals were considered more ethical than human cadavers, since no human consented to this test before dying. We eventually stopped using bears because we figured we’d extracted all the data from them that we could.

Upper Limit

Mathematician Paul Erdös was challenged to give up amphetamines for one month. At the end, he declared, “You’ve showed me I’m not an addict. But I didn’t get any work done. I’d get up in the morning and stare at a blank piece of paper. I’d have no ideas, just like an ordinary person. You’ve set mathematics back a month.”

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