Random Fact Sheet #292 – Tapestry of Trivia: 45 Unexpected Facts

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1Great Smog of London

Great Smog of London

The Great Smog of London in 1952 was so bad that pedestrians couldn't even see their feet. Some of the 4,000 who died in the 5 days it lasted didn't suffer lung problems. They fell into the Thames and drowned because they could not see the river.

2. In the 90s, video game designer Kenji Eno learned he had blind fans, who played his games with great effort. So he designed a blank-screen game just for them: "Real Sound: Kaze no Regret." He made Sega send 1000 consoles (with the game) to blind people. It is still a popular game for the blind.

3. American astronomer Clyde Tombaugh discovered Pluto in 1930 and further investigated it across his lifetime. He died in 1997 aged 90, less than a decade before the New Horizons' launch to Pluto. To honor his wishes his ashes were launched inside the spacecraft, making it the longest post mortem fight ever recorded.

4. Bill Watterson, the creator of Calvin and Hobbes, refused to license his characters for toys or other products. He made an exception for a 1993 textbook, Teaching with Calvin and Hobbes, which is now so rare that only 7 libraries in the world have copies. A copy sold for $10,000 in 2009.

5. A 16-year-old student named Bruce McAllister in 1963 wrote to 150 authors to settle a dispute with his English teacher about textual symbolism. More than 75 replied, including Ray Bradbury, John Updike, and Saul Bellow. McAllister later became an acclaimed author and literature professor.

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6Erwin Kreuz

Erwin Kreuz

In 1977, a German tourist named Erwin Kreuz planned to visit San Francisco but accidentally disembarked early, and then spent days looking for the Golden Gate Bridge and other Bay Area landmarks in Bangor, Maine. Amused and touched, Maine residents turned him into a local celebrity.

7. Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are able to fly across the Gulf of Mexico, a distance of 500 miles, in one 20-hour non-stop flight. This requires more calories than the bird's weight, so they prepare by doubling their fat mass. They expend the entire caloric reserve during the flight.

8. Weird Al wrote "The Saga Begins" before Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace came out. He gathered most of the information from online leaks and was surprised at how accurate he was after seeing a charity pre-screen of the movie. He made minor alterations to the song after seeing it.

9. Composer Franz Liszt’s hotness is a matter of historical record. Such was his beauty, talent, and benevolence that the Hungarian pianist was said to bring about states of ‘mystical ecstasy’ and ‘asphyxiating hysteria’ in his fans. Many doctors felt he posed a public health risk.

10. Upon his death in 1977, jazz composer Paul Desmond left the rights to royalties for his performances and compositions, including "Take Five", to the American Red Cross, which has since received combined royalties of approximately $100,000 per year.

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90% of diamonds in the world pass through the Indian city of Surat in Gujarat state, before reaching the market. The diamonds are cut and polished here.

12. In the treeless tundra town of Nome in Alaska, its residents create their own Nome National Forest on the frozen sea out of their discarded Christmas trees. The tradition had fallen out of practice but has recently been reintroduced through pressure from the Mayor.

13. Russian President Boris Yeltsin once got so drunk at a state dinner that he drummed on Kyrgyzstan President Askar Akayev's bald head, using dinner spoons.

14. A BBC analysis of 19 chocolate products between 2014 and 2018, revealed that 18 of them had shrunk in size. The worst hit by ‘shrinkflation’ in the study was a four-pack of Snickers, which reduced by 28.1%, from 232g to 167g.

15. A young maidservant named Judith Catchpole in the colony of Maryland was tried in 1656 for witchcraft and killing her newborn child. The judge summoned an all-female jury, who determined that Judith did not kill her child - in fact, there were no signs that Judith had even been pregnant.

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16Tater tots

Tater tots

Food company Ore-Ida invented tater tots to make use of the leftover potato shavings from their French fries production.

17. African surgeons are often advised to treat hippo bites as a crushing injury rather than a penetration wound, due to the severity of damage to bones and internal organs. A majority of hippo attack survivors are left with a disability. Amputations are very common.

18. After the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, which killed 200,000 people, UN peacekeepers from Nepal were sent to the country. Sadly, the peacekeepers brought cholera with them leading to a massive outbreak that infected 800,000 people and killing at least 9000 people.

19. Charles Lindbergh may have been known as a legendary pilot but he was also a Nazi sympathizer and spokesperson for the America First Committee.

20. James Buchanan, the 15th President of the United States, is the only president to have military experience without having been an officer. He was a private in the Pennsylvania militia in 1814.

21Fast food restaurants

Fast food restaurants

Fast food restaurants frequently use Columbus, Ohio to test out new products because the demographics of the city closely resemble those of the country as a whole.

22. A 1992 Japanese TV show combined English lessons with gymnastic exercise programs. On the show, three gymnasts would perform synchronized exercises while chanting phrases like, "Hasta la vista, baby," "Spare me my life!", "I was robbed by two men!", and "I have a bad case of diarrhea."

23. A lot of people have died by following their GPS systems off cliffs, into lakes, and deep into the desert. These deaths are mainly attributed to “uncritical acceptance of turn-by-turn commands and paying more attention to the navigation system than what is in front of them.”

24. When Princess Diana died in 1997, the funeral's broadcast attracted an estimated 2.5 billion people worldwide, which makes it one of the biggest televised events in history.

25. German-American magicians Siegfried and Roy were fired from their first gig together for bringing a live cheetah on a cruise ship.

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