01 January 2009

100 Things I Didn't Know Last Year

At the start of last year, I came across a very interesting article from BBC News Magazine Monitor. Each week the site's writers compiled a list of ten things which they did not know the previous week; their list published on January 1, 2008 pulled together one hundred of the more notable items from those weekly lists. Intrigued by the concept, I not only started reading the site's lists each week but also began to put together one of my own.

My list follows, with the facts presented in the order I learned them in 2008 and, where applicable, a link to the source of my newfound knowlege:
  1. The FBI no longer believes that legendary bank robber D.B. Cooper was an experienced parachutist because, amongst other considerations, he didn't notice that his reserve chute was intended only for training and had been sewn shut. (Yahoo! News)
  2. When President Lincoln was assassinated at Ford's Theatre, the president was accompanied by his wife and a young engaged couple, Major Henry Rathbone and Clara Harris. During a fit of insanity in 1883, Rathbone killed Harris, who was by then his wife of more than sixteen years, and was confined for the remainder of his life in an asylum for the criminally insane. (Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer)
  3. The Apple iPod was so named due to the prototype device's similarity in appearance to the EVA Pods in Stanley Kubrick's film 2001: A Space Odyssey. (Wikipedia)
  4. If you want to emigrate to North Korea, you need to send "your complete CV, copy of your passport and certificates to korea@korea-dpr.com". (Positive Liberty via Prettier than Napoleon)
  5. For every ten dollars the price of a barrel of oil increases, the United States Air Force's annual operating costs increase by $610 Million. (GovernmentExecutive.com via WorldwideStandard.com)
  6. In 1985, the mayors of Rome and Carthage signed a peace treaty which officially ended the Punic Wars, 2,248 years after the Romans burned Carthage to the ground in 146 B.C. (Military History Podcast)
  7. Google Calculator can perform conversions and other calculations using the Potrzebie System of Weights and Measures, a system defined in a 1957 issue of Mad Magazine. (Google Blogoscoped)
  8. Pizza Hut restaurants in Japan offer a "Crab & Shrimp Mayo King" pizza which includes snow crab, shrimp, broccoli, onion, and corn. (Trademork.com)
  9. The Astrologer Magazine abruptly ceased publication in December 2007 "due to unforeseen circumstances beyond our control". (Neatorama via The Consumerist)
  10. Prior to 1870, fire alarm boxes were kept locked to prevent false alarms from being raised. At the start of the great Chicago fire, a neighbor of the O'Learys was unable to gain access to an alarm box and no alarms from the vicinity of the fire were registered until the fire had grown out of control. (Schneier on Security)
  11. Disneyland's Matterhorn mountain was originally conceived to cover a support tower for the now-discontinued cable car ride; Walt Disney felt that the uncovered tower was "unsightly" and detracted from the atmosphere in Fantasyland. (Disneyland "Walking in Walt's Footsteps" Tour)
  12. One month before the company's IPO, the top three executives of Google made a pact to work together for twenty years. (Reuters via Engadget)
  13. In Japan, Cheetos are available in strawberry and chocolate varieties. (Consumerist)
  14. The still-unfinished and unoccupied 3,000 room gray concrete Ryugyong Hotel in Pyongyang, which has cost approximately two percent of the North Korean GDP to build, is so hideous that the government airbrushes it out of photographs and official guides pretend it's not there when pointing out the city's skyline. (Esquire and Daily Mail via Reason Online)
  15. In an evolutionary response to ivory hunting in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, significant percentages of elephants -- fifteen percent of females and nine percent of males -- are now born without tusks, versus only one percent of elephants overall in 1930. (io9)
  16. The substance now known as Play-Doh was originally a wallpaper cleaning product; when Americans switched from coal-burning furnaces to oil-fueled ones, demand for the cleaner lagged and the manufacturer re-branded the substance for sale as a children's craft item. (Mental Floss)
  17. The Pirate Bay, a Sweden-based BitTorrent index site notorious for its connections to pirated films and music, has its corporate offices in the same building as Sweden's copyright agency. (Gizmodo)
  18. As the 2007 NFL season wound down, ESPN.com provided sixteen sets of expert projections for all division and wild-card winners. None predicted that the Giants would reach the Super Bowl or even had the team making the playoffs. Princess, a camel at the Popcorn Park Zoo in New Jersey, predicted that the Giants would win the Super Bowl and finished 9-2 with her playoff predictions overall. (Tuesday Morning Quarterback)
  19. A thirteenth-century Scottish law permits women to propose marriage on February 29 during leap years and establishes modest penalties for eligible men who refuse such proposals. (What About Clients?)
  20. A 1986 British National Space Centre policy prohibits involvement by the United Kingdom in manned space flight missions. [Slashdot]
  21. Google observed Israel's Earth Hour celebration by changing the background of its homepage from white to black although, on most LCD monitors, rendering black actually consumes more energy than white. (Valleywag)
  22. Keith Richards cuts his own hair and never eats cheese. (GQ)
  23. A secret unit of the East German People's Army was tasked with producing pornographic films for the general staff. (Telegraph.co.uk via QandO.net)
  24. Edwin Webster Sanborn, a Dartmouth graduate, bequeathed a significant sum to the college but conditioned the gift on the English department providing a daily tea service to its faculty and students at a nominal charge; Dartmouth continues to serve tea each day in the building named for Sanborn, at a cost of ten cents per cup. (New York Times)
  25. Charles Babbage, who designed the Victorian-era Difference Engines now recognized as precursors to modern computers, also invented the locomotive cowcatcher. (io9)
  26. To prevent anti-Chinese protests, the Olympic torch relay in Jakarta, Indonesia consisted of carefully-selected torch bearers running laps inside a stadium in front of an invitation-only crowd. (USA Today)
  27. Approximately 70,000 years ago, a series of severe droughts in Africa nearly caused the extinction of humanity; at one point, researchers believe that only 2,000 humans remained, living in small isolated groups. (Associated Press)
  28. Stern Pinball, based near Chicago, is the only manufacturer of pinball machines remaining in the world. (Gizmodo)
  29. On May 3, 1978, Gary Thuerk sent the first Spam e-mail message -- a promotion for a new computer product. The message reached more than fifteen percent of the e-mail addresses then in existence. (Business Technology)
  30. During the Cold War, the government of Great Britain had analyzed and was highly concerned about the probability of a severe tea shortage should the British Isles be attacked in a nuclear war. (BBC via Charon QC)
  31. 99% of the data from a damaged hard drive recovered from the wreckage of the Space Shuttle Columbia was found to be usable and was used to complete an experiment to study the way xenon gas flows in microgravity; the results of the long-delayed experiment were published in a scientific journal in April. (Engadget)
  32. Spanish Dictator Francisco Franco rigged the vote in the 1968 Eurovision Song Contest so that a Spanish performer prevailed over England's Cliff Richard. (AFP via Reason)
  33. Amongst the weaponry at the Unites States' disposal in the Iraq War are concrete bombs. These bombs are not necessarily designed to destroy concrete targets; rather, these are made out of concrete, making their use something like dropping a large rock on a target. (Moment of Truth in Iraq)
  34. The children's online social environment Club Penguin adds approximately 500-1,000 words to its chat filters each day, attempting to keep up with new slang. (Boing Boing)
  35. When developed in 1873, blue jeans were known as "waist overalls". (Wired)
  36. The Astronomical Unit, a standard unit of measurement for interplanetary distances, grows by approximately seven centimeters annually, but there is no generally-accepted scientific explanation for the change. (Science Journal)
  37. Pitcher Rick Sutcliffe's only career stolen base came when someone advised Sutcliffe, standing on first after a single, that guest Chicago Cubs play-by-play announcer Bill Murray had bet color commentator Steve Stone a case of beer that Sutcliffe would steal second base. (Kansas City Star)
  38. The Village People's "Y.M.C.A." became a sports stadium anthem in 1996 when members of the New York Yankees' spring training grounds crew decided to dance along to it during their on-field work, to liven things up during an exhibition game. (Spin via Deadspin)
  39. Landlocked African nation Malawi has a navy comprised of 225 sailors but no ships, whereas its similarly-landlocked African neighbor Botswana has a navy with two vessels but no sailors. (Economist.com)
  40. Giraffe meat and milk have been declared to be kosher. (Breitbart.com via The Moderate Voice)
  41. Getting a song stuck in one's head results from a glitch in the auditory cortex and can be resolved either by listening to the entire song or doing math. (Wired)
  42. Researchers believe that Brazilian soap operas, which highlight "small and stable middle-class families that were much smaller than the traditional Brazilian family" were in part responsible for a decline in the Brazilian fertility rate from 6.3 to 2.3 during the period from 1960 to 2000. (Freakonomics blog)
  43. A bronze monument honoring the enema has been installed at the Mashuk-Akva Term spa in Zheleznovodsk, Russia; the statute is of a bronze syringe bulb held by three angels. (Associated Press)
  44. A survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found that 21% of self-declared atheists reported that they believe in God. (Michelle Malkin)
  45. The first grocery item scanned using a UPC code was a pack of gum in a store in Troy, Ohio on June 26, 1974. (Wired)
  46. Three pounds of bees can be delivered via USPS for approximately three dollars or a colony of bees can be rented for between ten dollars and $180, depending on the season. (Slate)
  47. An official "Fear Forecast" panel comprised of four children -- aged six, eight, ten, and fourteen years -- rate each episode of "Doctor Who", advising how scary each will be. (BBC)
  48. Prince Charles' Aston Martin has been converted to run on biofuels -- specifically, unsold English white wine. (Gizmodo)
  49. A perfect score in Pac-Man is 3,333,360 points. Such a score has been achieved only once, by a man who described his six-hours-long game as "tremendously monotonous". (Wired)
  50. Onions are the only commodity for which futures trading is legally prohibited; the prohibition is the result of legislation introduced by then-Congressman Gerald Ford in 1958. (Fortune via The Club for Growth blog)
  51. The Saudi Arabian government runs a resort where it seeks to "de-militarize" radicals with presentations concerning Islamic law and counseling to help jihadists react less emotionally to current events; featured activities at the facility include swimming, ping-pong, and art therapy. (The Moderate Voice)
  52. Dueling pistols (using mannequins as targets) was an Olympic event in 1906 and rope climbing was an event in four different Olympic Games. (Deadspin)
  53. John Scopes, who was convicted in 1925 for illegally teaching evolution theory to his high school biology class, admitted after the famous "Scopes Monkey Trial" that although he had used a textbook which contained a chapter concerning evolution, he had skipped that chapter in his teaching. (Hit & Run)
  54. Each visiting country at the Beijing Olympics was provided a Chinese government-assigned elementary school to cheer its athletes. (Wall Street Journal)
  55. eBay does not permit the sale of secondhand underpants at its auction site. (Gizmodo)
  56. Nils Olav, a penguin who has been an honorary member and mascot of the Norwegian King's Guard for more than 35 years, was knighted by royal order in a ceremony involving 130 guardsmen. (BBC via The Debatable Land)
  57. Although the electronic touch pads in Olympic swimming pools are capable of accurate timing to 1/1,000th of a second, records are kept only to the nearest 1/100th of a second because current building technology is such that it cannot be guaranteed that each pool lane is precisely the same length. (Omega)
  58. When Celsius developed his now-familiar temperature scale, 0 degrees corresponded to the boiling point of water while 100 represented its freezing point; criticism from early adopters caused him to swap the values. (Five Equations that Changed the World)
  59. The Burj Dubai skyscraper, under construction in the United Arab Emirates, is so tall that construction crews' walkie-talkie radios don't have sufficient range to communicate from the upper floors to the lower ones. (Gizmodo)
  60. The athletes' village in Lake Placid, New York, site of the 1980 Winter Olympics, is now a correctional facility. (Slate)
  61. Toyota Motor Corporation began its existence as a textiles firm. (BBC World Service World Business Report)
  62. An international prize for the "Oddest Book Title of the Past Thirty Years" was presented to Greek Rural Postmen and Their Cancellation Numbers, a title which was selected over such early favorites as Proceedings of the Second International Workshop on Nude Mice and How To Bombproof Your Horse. (Reuters)
  63. Steve Jobs resigned from Apple in 1985 and returned to the company in 1997 on the same day -- September 16. (Wired)
  64. By law in Israel during the Jewish day of atonement, Yom Kippur, there are no radio or television broadcasts, airports and businesses are closed, and there is no public transportation. In recent years, secular Israeli teenagers have ridden bicycles en masse through the empty streets during the holiday, causing Yom Kippur to become colloquially known as the "Festival of Bicycles". (Wikipedia)
  65. New details revealed by the restoration of Leonardo DaVinci's The Last Supper suggest to some researchers that the supper in question depicts not lamb and bread but grilled eels garnished with orange slices, a popular dish at the time the painting was made. (The Food Section)
  66. Engineering analyses have established that in baseball a head-first slide is more effective than a feet-first slide, owing to several factors including more efficient placement of one's center of gravity and additional energy generated by legs when entering the slide. (Live Science)
  67. Since 2004, when the Federal prison system banned smoking, cans of mackerel have replaced packs of cigarettes as the de facto currency amongst prisoners. (Wall Street Journal)
  68. At the time, Commander Byrd's flight over the South Pole, rather than the stock market crash, was judged by the New York Times to be the biggest news story of 1929. (Wall Street Journal)
  69. During the baseball off-season, Cincinnati Reds manager Dusty Baker coaches his son's 10-and-under little league team in Roseville, California. (Associated Press)
  70. Heavyweight boxing champion Vitali Kitschko recommends wrapping bruised hands in urine-soaked diapers to reduce swelling after a fight. (Deadspin)
  71. The Bee Gees' "Stayin' Alive" provides an ideal rhythm to follow while administering CPR chest compressions to a heart attack victim, according to a recent medical study. (Reuters)
  72. Sculptor Auguste Bartholdi received an 1879 design patent for the Statue of Liberty. (Patently-O)
  73. The stick was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame in 2008, joining, amongst prior honorees, the cardboard box. (Associated Press)
  74. On November 1, Microsoft stopped selling embedded licenses for its Windows 3.11 operating system, more than fifteen years after that version debuted. (Ars Technica)
  75. Spam e-mailers get only one response per 12.5 million messages sent, but even that low rate is enough to make them profitable. (TechRadar.com)
  76. A widely-distributed firefighting manual prepared by the Federal Emergency Management Agency contains a chapter on UFO preparedness. (io9)
  77. The author of a 2004 New Yorker profile of then-Senate-hopeful Barack Obama chose not to include interviewees' comments that Obama could be president someday, as he judged such comments to be "absurdly premature". (Kottke.org)
  78. In the audio version of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, narrator Jim Dale reads the book using 146 separate voices, a Guinness World Record. (The Seattle Times)
  79. Anticipating that rising sea levels will swamp its nation, the government of the Maldives is seeking to buy a new homeland in Sri Lanka, India, or Australia. (Guardian)
  80. James Bond is not English; his father was from Scotland and his mother was from Switzerland. (Wall Street Journal)
  81. Famed journalist Nellie Bly invented and patented the metal barrel upon which the modern 55-gallon drum is modeled. (Wikipedia)
  82. The Department of Veterans Affairs has authorized 36 different symbols for use on military headstones, including the Buddhist Wheel of Righteousness, the Mormon angel Moroni, an atomic symbol favored by atheists, and a Wiccan pentagram. (Wall Street Journal)
  83. A person can endure thousands of lashes without being killed if those lashings are administered correctly. (Slate)
  84. Musician Prince is now a celibate Jehovah's Witness. (USA Today)
  85. In 2008, Elvis Presley, dead for 31 years, earned $8M more than Justin Timberlake and $12M more than Madonna. (Forbes via Seattle Trademark Lawyer)
  86. The Wat Pa Maha Chedi Kaew Buddhist temple in Thailand was constructed using a million beer bottles. (Treehugger via Andrew Sullivan)
  87. Einstein's well-known mass-energy equivalence theory, represented by the equation e=mc2, has only recently been corroborated for the first time, by a team of French, German, and Hungarian physicists. (Agence France Presse)
  88. The support cables for China's Siduhe Grand Bridge, which will be the world's tallest when completed, were strung using rockets. (Gizmodo)
  89. Kevin Werbach, President-elect Obama's Federal Communications Commission transition chair, is a Level 70 Tauren Shaman in World of Warcraft. (Boing Boing)
  90. In an early version of the "Star Wars" saga, Han Solo was married to a wookiee. (io9)
  91. President Jimmy Carter installed solar panels at the White House; his successor, President Ronald Reagan, had them removed. (Slate)
  92. The "Yorik" skull used by David Tennant in Royal Shakespeare Company performances of "Hamlet" is an actual skull. Under the terms of his will, pianist Andrew Tchaikowsky's skull was willed to the company for use in performances. (Outpost Gallifrey)
  93. For sale only to restaurants and other food service operators, Kraft makes "Extra Heavy Mayonnaise" which has five times as many calories as reduced fat mayonnaise but which offers "superior binding and cling." (Tuesday Morning Quarterback)
  94. There are 613 commandments, or mitzvahs, in Judaism. (Aish.com via Slate)
  95. The film Memento was based on a true medical case. Henry Gustav Molaison had brain surgery to prevent seizures he'd suffered from since childhood; while successful in relieving the seizures, the surgery to his hippocampus left him unable to form new memories. (Minor Wisdom)
  96. Amounts donated to the government are considered tax deductible contributions to a qualified charitable organization and are thus tax-deductible. (Tuesday Morning Quarterback)
  97. Winston Churchill once wrote a work of alternate history in which the Confederacy won the Civil War. (io9)
  98. Tenants in the Fuggerei area of Augsburg, Germany pay an annual rent of one Rhein Guilder, equivalent to approximately $1.23; in exchange for this low rent, which has not been raised since 1520, they agree to pray daily for the souls of a family of German bankers. (Wall Street Journal)
  99. A leap second was added to the end of 2008 by the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service in order to synchronize the world's clocks with the Earth's slowing rotation on its axis. (Reuters)
  100. The Air Force's public affairs office has a detailed assessment flow chart, akin to a "rules of engagement" analysis, to determine when and how to respond to blog posts concerning the USAF-related matters. (Global Nerdy)

I'll post a link to BBC News Magazine Monitor's list of things it learned in 2008 once that list is available. Here's to an educational 2009!

UPDATE: The Beeb's list of 100 things they didn't know last year has been posted.

2 comments:

The Mommy Blawger said...

"eBay does not permit the sale of secondhand underpants at its auction site"
Nor used cloth diapers, for which there is a hot market.

Johanne said...

Wow, I didn't know those things as well. It was an interesting post. I didn't realize that President Carter looked that much ahead into the future the fact that he had solar panels installed in the White House. Too bad President Reagan had them removed.