Random Fact Sheet #239 – Universe of 30 Curious Random Facts

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1Bobby Fischer

Bobby Fischer

Chess prodigy Bobby Fischer invented a chess variation which randomized the starting positions of the home row pieces to reward creativity over memorization.

2. "Baby Huey" was a 400lbs Chicago soul singer who died in 1970 at age 26 after releasing a single album. The album later became hugely influential on early hip-hop artists, eventually being sampled on hundreds of tracks over the past approximately 40 years.

3. In the 1940s hundreds of Guatemalans were infected involuntarily with syphilis by Johns Hopkins University, Bristol-Myers Squibb Co and the Rockefeller Foundation. A court case is underway to this day on behalf of 444 victims resulting in 83 deaths.

4. A German soldier named Artur Fischer survived Stalingrad on the last plane out. After the war, he went on to invent many ubiquitous items such as the synchronized camera flash and the plastic wall anchor and held over 1100 patents before dying at the age of 96.

5. Japanese have been wearing surgical-style masks since 1918 and it has become a part of social etiquette. It is also worn as a fashion item and it serves as defensive barriers due to social awkwardness. Total sales of disposable face masks in Japan amounted to ¥35.8 billion in 2018.

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6Mountain lions

Mountain lions

Because mountain lions usually wander the wilderness alone, scent scraping sometimes isn’t enough to locate each other for mating. A female mountain lion will ascend to a high elevation and call to a male by caterwauling, a loud blood-curdling screeching cry that can be heard up to 5 miles away.

7. Scientists have discovered what they think is the world’s oldest biological color. It is bright pink. These pigments were discovered after researchers crushed 1.1 billion-year-old rocks in the marine shale deposit beneath the Sahara desert.

8. When the Grand Canyon divided the local squirrel population, they evolved into two different species. Despite being separated only by the Colorado River and remaining extremely similar in appearance, they are now so genetically incompatible that they can no longer interbreed.

9. Exxon used to be known as Esso, a phonetic spelling of "S.O." for Standard Oil after it was forced to break up into 34 smaller companies. It is still widely known as Esso outside the US.

10. During the 1952 polio epidemic in Denmark, mortality was over 85% due to a shortage of respirators. Dr. Bjorn Ibsen invented a new kind of ventilator, proved it worked and then recruited thousands of volunteers to hand-pump them for weeks (they were fully manual). Mortality fell to 26%.

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11John Berry Meachum

John Berry Meachum

A former American slave named John Berry Meachum began teaching classes for black people on a steamboat in the middle of the Mississippi River to work around the state of Missouri's prohibition of black education.

12. Young children develop "theory of mind" earlier if they know two languages, and in older people, bilingualism can postpone the onset of dementia. Researchers say the statement that learning languages make people smarter has a sound scientific basis.

13. Honey Badgers are extremely intelligent and are therefore extremely hard to keep locked up in captivity.

14. Bill Gates' idea of a splurge was a used Porsche 911 after Microsoft went public that made him worth over $350 million before the age of 30.

15. Admiral J. Stockdale was shot down in Vietnam and held prisoner for 7.5 years, 4 of them in solitary. He endured captivity by drawing inspiration from Epictetus, a stoic and former slave who shrugged off even his own state of slavery as a natural inconvenience that should not concern him.

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16Hurrem Sultan

Hurrem Sultan

In the 16th century, a Ruthenian/Ukrainian woman was taken captive and brought to Istanbul as a slave. Her joyful spirit earned her a name Hurrem - "the Cheerful One”. She rose to become Suleiman's legal wife and "Queen of the Ottoman Empire" known in history as Hurrem Sultan or Roxelana.

17. The only major court decision based primarily on the 3rd amendment of the US Constitution was in 1982 when the US Court of Appeals ruled that housing National Guardsmen in a private residence without the owner’s expressed consent was unconstitutional.

18. In 1846, planet Neptune's exact location was predicted by three astronomers studying the eccentric orbits of several distant asteroids. The data hinted at the presence of a giant, distant planet. Neptune was found on the very first night of its hunt, only 1° off its predicted position.

19. In the wake of Hurricane Dorian, a Celebrity cruise ship rerouted to deliver food, water, and aid to survivors in the Bahamas. The kitchen staff made around 10,000 meals and guests volunteered to pack them.

20. The reason there are tags on mattresses that say "Do Not Remove Under Penalty of Law" is the result of laws that require that the contents of the mattress be listed on the label. These laws were passed in a time when many mattresses were filled with a variety of undesirable contents.

211952 Olympics

1952 Olympics

In the 1952 Olympics, Luxembourg won a gold medal which was so unexpected that the band did not know their national anthem and instead had to improvise and played gibberish.

22. The movie 'Seven Pounds' about a man (Will Smith) giving the gift of life to seven strangers, foregone the usual Hollywood premiere and instead chose Cleveland, Miami, Dallas, St. Louis, and Denver to premiere the film to raise funds for food banks in each region.

23. Feeling sick is part of the body's attempts to preserve energy for the immune system and make you act in a way that signals to nearby people that you need help.

24. In Scrabble, the word "OXYPHENBUTAZONE" is theoretically the highest possible scoring word, netting 1778 points. It has never been played.

25. In 1980, the New York Yankees traded player Brad Gulden to the Seattle Mariners for "a player to be named later." In 1981, the Mariners traded Brad Gulden back as the player to be named.

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