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March 1, 2006
• Hawaii holds more marriage licenses for couples from outside of Hawaii than actual residents of the islands.
• The average IQ of people who solve daily Sudoku puzzles is 5 points higher than those who solve daily crosswords.
• Congress has drafted in advanced a dozen laws and three constitutional amendments in preparation for the invention of the first fully conscious artificially created robotic human.
• Working adults in middle class economic brackets spend more money each week on coffee purchased at outlets such as Starbucks and Tully's than they do on any other food products prepared outside the home.
• Professional ballet dancers typically undergo 7 years of physical therapy after they retire.
March 2, 2006
• The Space Shuttle Discovery contains exactly 22 million screws. A special plaque with 852 screws was placed on board to reach this precise number.
• Near the end of his life, Winston Churchill admitted to close friends that he only smoked a pipe “to look tough.”
• The world’s smallest scale replica of the Eiffel Tower is less than a millimeter high.
• People are 50 times more likely to die in a restaurant bathroom than in an airliner accident.
• Since 1989, pigeons in Vatican City have outnumbered human residents by 210 to one.
March 4, 2006
Basque, And Ye Shall Receive
The inspiration for today's article comes from an e-mail from Elizabeth Cohen of Yellow Springs, Ohio. Elizabeth writes:
What can you tell us about the Basques?
Well Elizabeth, as most of our readers already know the Basques are an ethnic group indigenous to the western Pyrenees mountains. Their country is split between France and Spain, with the mountains forming the border between the two halves. They play over 40 variations of a game called "Pelota", ranging from Jai-Alai games like Cesta Punta to Raquetball games like Pala. Basques speak their own language, which they call "Euskara" (literally Basque for "way of speaking"), and it is unrelated to any other language in the world.
- The Basque genome is an elusive one, believing to have north African origin, in what is now northwest Libya. The closest living relatives of the Basque people are the Elan, a nomadic tribe of Mizrahi Jews inhabiting the Egyptian steppe. Basques are nine times more likely than their French and Spanish neighbors to develop rheumatoid arthritis, and one third as likely to develop gout or astigmatism.
- It is believed that the Basques were the first proponents of organized games of chance, after a primitive casino consisting only of dice games was unearthed during a dig in Lapourd in 1923.
- More Basques live in hillside villages and towns than do any other group anywhere else in the world, with the exception of Mongolia. After numerous incursions into Basque territory in the early 14th century, King Eneko III grew tired of waiting to return to his palace at Pamplona and had another built into a hillside in Aquitane. Since then, more and more settlements emerged on hills, until as of 2003 the area of 137 of the estimated 155 major Basque villages are build on terrain that is 51 percent hills. Only 11 exist on flat land.
- More hats are manufactured by hand in the seven district of the Basque Country than anywhere else in the world. Five out of every seven hats produced are black.
- Basques were one of the first European groups to discover surfing, with the slowly sloping beaches on the Bay of Biscay providing excellent wave height. Basques surfed year-round on very flat teardrop-shaped boards as early as 950, and at least one Basque monarch is believed to have died while surfing. The word for this activity in Basque is "Urmugitukara", or "way of moving on water".
- The Basque language has more Xs per sentence than any other language using the roman alphabet (Highland Siberian has a more frequent occurrence of the X sound, but it is represented by a different Cyrillic letter).
- The Basque region of Bizkaia (Biscay) is home to the oldest instance of Parliamentary Democracy. In 1125, a group of village elders banded together with the common goal of limiting the power of King Ieffa II. They demanded an audience at the royal palace alone, and were never heard from again.
Further recommended reading:
- A Brief History of the Basque Country, Michael Glass (1973)
- Euskal Herria, or A Hiking Tour of Europe's Best Kept Secret, Brian Dreher (1989)
- Euskal Like Me: One Basque's Return Voyage, Xare Hernani (1992)
March 5, 2006
• 90 percent of American brown bears are allergic to bananas.
• Recent studies indicate that people who eat at least one serving of microwaved food per week are less likely to contract Parkinson’s disease.
• In one year, Americans will unknowingly consume enough industrial-grade steel, plastics, glass, and rubber to build three Mazda Miatas.
• The mouth of an average vegetarian contains about twice the odor-causing bacteria than that of a non-vegetarian.
• In 2004, 300 American adults suffocated in their sleep on their own bedding.
March 6, 2006
• The Associated Press has over 15,000 obituaries of living people on file for immediate release when the subject dies.
• Only 20 percent of suit jackets are hung on suit hangers.
• The average resume contains 2.54 grammatical errors.
• Two thirds of the world's heads of state are related within three generations to another head of state.
• Theonion.com receives more hits per day than all the local news websites in the state of Ohio.
March 8, 2006
• The city with the highest female-to-male ratio in the united states is Fort Wayne, Indiana, with 1.7 to one.
• Though not enforced, in Boulder, Colorado it is illegal for cigarette smokers to adopt cats or dogs.
• The Internal Revenue Service employs the world’s largest three-hole punch. It is capable of punching through six feet of paper per cycle, at cycles 12 times per minute. It was custom built for them at a cost of $12.6 million.
• NBC has begun broadcast of the sitcom "Friends" via narrowband radio transmission to Alpha Centauri.
• 81 percent of surveyed professional hairstylists have fantasized at least once of stabbing a client in the back with sharp shears.
March 10, 2006
• Camels are born deaf. They do not gain a sense of hearing until they are six months old.
• It takes 10,000 calories of energy to produce one bag of M&Ms--nearly double the caloric energy of the candies themselves.
• Tigers only defecate at night.
• There is a three in five chance that over the course of his or her life, a British citizen will contract some form of warts from a public handrail.
• Four out of ten municipal bus drivers in Pittsburgh are convicted felons. Of these, two are on parole.
March 12, 2006
• An average worker ant will walk over four miles during its lifetime, while an average queen ant will walk no more than four feet during her lifetime.
• One per every three deaths of household fish is caused by over-feeding.
• “Heavy duty" zipper seal plastic bags are three times more likely to leak than generic bags.
• There are 47 icons on the average Windows desktop, of which only four are used regularly.
• The South American nation of San Marco is home to more Hercules beetles than mosquitoes.Please refer to the Fact Check Forum for more information on this fact.
March 14, 2006
• If all the teeth that are extracted by dentists in North America per year were strung together, they could form a mouth large enough to eat Los Angeles in one bite.
• The convention of raincoats being yellow stems from a Mayan belief that yellow garments would ward off evil rain gods and restore control of the heavens to the sun.
• Only 27 percent of people will sleep on the same pillow for over 2 years.
• Former president Richard Nixon was an avid weightlifter and could bench press 220 lbs.
• Based on a precedent set in Montana v. Idaho, if a crime is committed on a state line, jurisdiction goes to the state with the oldest charter.
March 16, 2006
• The term "wingman" stems from the short story "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" by Richard Matheson which was later adapted to an episode of "The Twilight Zone" by the same author.
• In the two weeks following Mardi Gras, over 3.4 million tons of beads will be collected and recycled.
• 82 percent of the cost of a modern computer pays for less than one percent of its total mass.
• A study conducted by the Wrigley Chewing Gum Company concluded that most people will spit out a stick of gum within ten minutes of chewing, regardless of long-lasting flavor.
• The first recorded use of a blog dates back to 1774, when Samuel Adams detailed his account of the Boston Tea Party in a little known journal which he titled "The Boston Log." Amongst friends and colleagues he would refer to it as his "blog."
March 18, 2006
Lost in Translation
When the people of the world speak as many languages as we do, things are bound to get a little garbled as they make their way around the globe. A number of notable examples of modern popular mythos have been altered significantly during their integrations into foreign cultures, and here are a few examples for your enlightenment:
- Due to popular demand for the film but governmental concern over its message, George Lucas's Star Wars was redubbed and recut by the Soviet Ministry of Information in 1981. In this altered version, Luke is reluctant to resist the Empire because he knows that their goals are virtuous, but is strongarmed into it by a conniving and cowardly Obi-Wan Kenobi, who commits suicide at the hands of Darth Vader rather than lead the rebellion against the Empire himself. Luke finally becomes indoctrinated, and leads an attack run against the Death Star, from which he does not return. The final shot of the film is of four additional Death Stars, and the implication of many more, underscoring the futility of Luke's fight against a government whose only goal is to protect its citizens. Interestingly, the name of this loving empire's weapon remains more or less unchanged, translating roughly to "Star of Murder".
- Similarly, Austrian Neo-Nazis screened in 1979 an altered version of "Guess Who's Coming To Dinner?", edited to underscore their belief in the genetic inferiority of blacks. This was mostly illustrated through editing of Sidney Poitier's scenes to make him appear to have awkward table manners.
- Being one of the most popular films in history, "Gone With The Wind" has been dubbed in 23 different languages, and subtitled in over 80. As such, one of its most famous lines has been somewhat convoluted throughout the years:
- Javanese: With honesty, Scarlett, I do not care at all. (Indonesia)
- English (Singaporean): Frankly, my dear, I am indifferent. (Though Singapore's official language is English, Singaporean law prohibits verbal profanity of any kind in film. Therefore, an additional dub was required to secure a national release.)
- Flemish: Truthfully, my beloved, I don't give two damns. (Belgium)
- Hazara: Honestly, I cannot care. (Afghanistan)
- Somali: Very frankly, dearest, I do not give a damn. (Somalia)
- Russian: Truthfully, I cannot give you beans. (Russia. To "give beans" is a russian idiom meaning "to care deeply".)
- The Bill Murray film "Groundhog Day" is believed to be a holy resource in Nepal, and the Tibetan Government-in-Exile considers it a "divinely inspirational reflection on the cyclical nature of existence". The film is subsequently banned in China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong.
- Although his works have been successfully translated into a number of European and Asian languages, only three editions exist of Stephen King novels translated into African dialects. This is due to the unusually large number of noun classes possessed by many African languages. "The Shining" is an example, wherein the titular object (an ability of extrasensory perception) does not conform to the noun classes found in Bagu, in which all things are either vapors, liquids, plants, four-legged animals, and other animals.
- Despite its popularity in much of Central and South America, the television show "Cheers" is not shown in Chile or Peru, as the most of the main characters' names (Cliff, Norm, and Carla, among others) are all profanities in the indigenous Incaic languages.
March 20, 2006
• The word "gullible" is the most frequently looked-up word at Dictionary.com
. According to the FAQ, the web site owners suspect that it is largely the result of people being duped with the classic "did you know that 'gullible' isn't really a word?" gag.
• Despite having written the screenplay for Beyond the Valley of the Dolls
, Roger Ebert gave the film "two thumbs down" citing, among other reasons, "insipid writing" and "zero-dimensional characters".
• At exactly -40°, the temperature at which the Celsius and Fahrenheit scales are equal, digital thermometers do not work due to a "divide by zero" error.
• It is estimated that James K. Polk was the least fit of all U.S. Presidents, having a BMI (Body Mass Index) of 43.7, which is considered morbidly obese.
• The momentum of the Nile River is so strong that at one point in Sudan, it flows slightly uphill for 1.6 kilometers.
March 21, 2006
• Orthodox vegans typically spend only coins since U.S. paper currency has animal oils in the ink and a credit card's plastic is manufactured with animal fats.
• Jaleel White, who played Steve Urkel on the hit '90s comedy Family Matters
, scored a perfect 1600 on his college SAT.
• The Korean phrase for "CD-ROM" literally means "sex place," apparently a mistaken translation from the phonetically-similar "seedy room."
• According to a recent article in Nature
that detailed MRI testing while subjects took an intelligence test, the old adage seems correct: people of average intelligence used 10.6 percent of their brains. People with an IQ of 130 or above used 14.2 percent. No testing was done with other groups.
• In 2005, Germans bought more copies of Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf
than Americans did of Bill Clinton's My Life.
March 22, 2006
• Grover Cleveland's most common gifts to White House visitors were sets of cufflinks engraved with his portrait.
• The total number of romance novels purchased in America in one year equaled the number of orgasms American women have each day.
• 0.04 percent of magazines are recycled into collages.
• In a sensory survey of household goods, the only smell participants consistently identified with feelings of "happiness" was packing tape.
• The NASA Commission on Xenoanthropology concluded in 1981 that the biggest barrier to contact with another civilization is likely the high rate at which technological cultures destroy themselves.
March 24, 2006
• Until 1963 three percent of the white frosting used in Oreo cookies was whale blubber.
• An average person has $4.03 worth of gold in their body. Dolphins have the highest naturally occurring amount of gold; each has on average $8.67 worth of this precious metal.
• Sugar is used as an official currency in 3 countries.
• There is an estimated $6.25 billion worth of treasure at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.
• Less than 20 percent of items sold in antique shops can be properly classified as antiques, according to the definition used by the North Atlantic Antique Collectors' Guild.
March 25, 2006
By The Numbers
Since the concept of number and quantity entered the analytical mind of man, various numbers have been considered to be "lucky" and "unlucky". In the United States the number 13 is considered unlucky for a myriad of reasons dating back to biblical times (thirteen people were present at the Last Supper, for example). As a result many old buildings do not have a thirteenth floor, preferring to name the floor after the twelfth floor the fourteenth.
On the other hand, the number seven is considered to be "lucky". There are seven days in a week, seven sacraments, seven sister colleges (Wellesley, Barnard, Mount Holyoke, Vassar, Smith, Radcliffe, and Bryn Mawr), and seven is the most likely sum to arise from the roll of two dice (though this is a losing roll in craps, making it decidedly unlucky).
Every culture has their own set of popular superstition, and a unique set of lucky and unlucky numbers:
- In Egyptian culture, 4,223 was an unlucky number because of the pictograms required to represent it (four thousand, two hundred, fifteen, and eight). When placed together, these pictograms presented a crude representation of a scene that could be interpreted as the murder of a young Pharaoh. This superstition fell into disuse with the conquer of the 26th dynasty and the acceptance of a base-ten system in the ninth century.
- 2 is considered an lucky number to both Greeks and Russians, as monarchs bearing that regnal number tended to be wise and benevolent. Similarly, 4 is considered unlucky number in Russian folklore (due largely to Ivan IV Vasilyevich, better known as Ivan the Terrible).
- 1605 is a lucky number in England and much of Great Britain, being the year Guy Fawkes' Gunpowder Plot to destroy the houses of Parliament failed. It is considered a supremely unlucky year for the Basques, as it was the year Henry III of France began the persecution of Basque orthodox christians and pagans.
- 7 was declared to be an unlucky number by King George III of Britain shortly before his death, because "it keeps showing up!" Interestingly, the King was officially declared insane and locked within Windsor Castle on July the Seventh, 1811.
- The Persian mathematician al-Kwarizmi considered 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, 17, 19, 23, 29, and 31 to be unlucky, due to their nature as prime numbers. However, 6, 28, 496, and 8128 were lucky, as they are "perfect numbers" (numbers whose divisors add up to the number: 1 x2 x 3=6, and 1+2+3=6).
March 26, 2006
• Nutritionists estimate that nine percent of Chinese food cravings are due to an addiction to monosodium glutamate.
• Since their debut in 1912, there have been a total of 993 different colors of Crayola Crayon.
• There are 30 million square feet of secret passages in the United States.
• St. Thomas Aquinas has been attributed with 214 miracles by the Catholic church. One of these miracles was the finding of a tax loophole that staved off an Iowa church's pending bankruptcy that the church's accountant found after praying to Aquinas.
• The U.S. Patent Office has 1,289 patents on file relating to the "entrapment of mice."
March 27, 2006
• The value of goods traded on eBay is larger than the gross national product of Denmark.
• President Gerald Ford's novel Marine-One
was largely based on his experiences during World War II. It later become the basis for the 1998 Steven Spielberg film Saving Private Ryan
• Since the moon's gravity is only one-sixth that of Earth's, it is possible to jump 36 (six squared) times higher there.
• Don McLean has reportedly written a lengthy note explaining the meaning of his song "American Pie", which is to be published following his death.
• The latest fad for Japanese schoolgirls is leaving the tags on their new clothes, including the price tag. They can even buy "tag protectors" for about 2300 Yen (about $3.75) to cover the tags when washing their garments.
March 28, 2006
• The Oxford English Dictionary (Unabridged)
is the only English dictionary that contains an entry for "pompitous", a word made infamous by The Steve Miller Band's song "The Joker". It is defined as the pluperfect tense of pompous.
• Scientists at NASA calculated that if a professional baseball pitcher were on the moon, they would be able to throw a baseball into orbit, due to the low gravity and lack of air resistance.
• In 1978, Gerald Ford became the only U.S. President to simultaneously have books on The New York Times'
bestsellers list for fiction (Marine-One
) and non-fiction (In My Time: The Importance of Being Gerald
• In the Dutch language, the restaurant idiom "let's go American" means to not leave a tip.
• It is estimated that the decrease in fuel efficiency due to car antennae balls is responsible for 6,500 extra barrels of oil being consumed per day in the United States alone.
March 30, 2006
• There are twice as many blinds sold in the US every year as curtains.
• Three out of seven Americans wake up with "mild to moderate" back pain.
• For a six month period in his early twenties, actor George Clooney taught drivers' education in Willmington, Wisconsin.
• During the building of the Panama Canal, 17 species of panda became extinct in an attempt to rid the area of disease causing mosquitoes.
• A person between the ages of 12 and 20 slams nine times more doors in a given year than people in any other age bracket.