Random Fact Sheet #129 – The World in 40 Facts

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Psychologists are interested in magicians because they've been doing psychological experiments on humans for centuries and have built a lot of techniques. Tricks rely on manipulating expectations, misdirecting, and can influence decision-making – all things that intrigue psychologists.

27. After the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, thousands of hair stylists and alpaca farmers donated over 19 warehouses worth of cut hair to absorb the spilled oil.

28. In 2012, researchers observed something bizarre, a seal trying to court a King penguin as if it were a female seal. When this failed, he tore the penguin to shreds and ate it. This is called Misdirected Mating.

29. Phobos 1, the first Soviet probe sent to Mars’ moon Phobos failed due to human error. While the probe was still on its way to Mars, an impatient technician who didn't want to wait for his code to be proofread, unintentionally sent a command to the probe to shut down and there was no way to turn it back on.

30. The 1st Duke of Elchingen, Michel “Marshal” Ney, refused to wear a blindfold and was allowed the right to give the order to fire at his own execution.

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31Lt. Phillip Rasmussen

Lt. Phillip Rasmussen

Lt. Phillip Rasmussen was one of the few American pilots to shoot down a Japanese plane during the bombing of Pearl Harbor. He was flying an obsolete P-36A in his pajamas! After he was hit, he landed the P-36 without brakes, rudder or tailwheel, and with more than 500 bullet holes.

32. Most scientists thought stories of rocks falling from the sky weren't real until meteorites fell in Normandy, France in 1803.

33. Death Discs or Splatter Platters was a type of Pop music to emerge in the late '50s-mid '60s. Sung by teen artists, themes centered on tragic deaths and suicide. The sub-genre was seen as the first musical expression of a teen, especially teen female - angst.

34. At the time of her death the 116-years-old Elizabeth Bolden had 40 grandchildren, 75 great-grandchildren, 150 great-great-grandchildren, 220 great-great-great-grandchildren and 75 great-great-great-great-grandchildren.

35. Test chickens are used to find out where mosquitos are in Walt Disney World. The park caretakers strategically place groups of chickens around the park and regularly test them for mosquito-borne viruses to see where mosquitoes are in the park.

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36Watermelon War

Watermelon War

The Watermelon War was a riot that broke out in the Panama City in 1856. It all started when a drunken American didn’t want to pay 5 cents for a slice of watermelon. The riot led to the death of 15 Americans and 2 Panamanians.

37. ‘Dead Hand’ (aka ‘Perimeter’) was a Cold War era automatic nuclear defense system. If a large spike in radiation level was picked up within Russian borders, indicating nuclear detonation, the system would target many different foreign cities and launch nukes. It is believed to still be active.

38. In 2017, a 16-year-old Aussie teenager drove around Melbourne in a fake 'emergency' truck modded with over $100,000 worth of gear. He responded to emergencies on the road, going undetected for a long period of time having fooled authorities, pedestrians, and other traffic.

39. Between 1941 and 1942 the Soviets tried to train "Anti-tank dogs" to blow up German tanks. However, the dogs would usually run back into the trenches killing Soviet soldiers.

40. A man named Steve Fyffe who is blind from birth began training in martial arts at the age of 6 and now at the age of 68 ranks fifth dan in Aikido. According to him, “…if someone was foolish enough to attack me they’d be in for a shock. I can fight up to six people at a time. The hardest is four because they are coming at you from four different directions.”

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