Random Miscellany: 60 things you never knew you didn’t need to know

In 1898, an author named Morgan Robertson wrote a book, “Futility, or the wreck of the Titan”, detailing a disaster in which an “unsinkable” liner, the Titan, sank in the North Atlantic after striking an iceberg, and caused great loss of life as a result of carrying too few lifeboats. Fourteen years later, fiction became reality when RMS Titanic sank.

The last English monarch to die in battle was Richard III in 1485 at Bosworth Field, having made the mistake of wearing his crown into battle.

William Buckland, who was the first person to identify and name a dinosaur, was noted for his attempt to eat every single animal, of which he considered bluebottle and mole to be the worst-tasting. Upon another occasion, he was at a stately home that contained the embalmed heart of Louis XIV of France. Upon hearing this, Buckland said that he had eaten many strange things, but never the heart of a king, and proceeded to rectify this by eating the heart raw.

It is believed that, due to the large prison population there, there are more rapes committed against men than against women in the United States every year

Belgian feminist Luce Irigaray once claimed that e=mc2 was a “sexed” equation, as it prioritised the speed of light over other, “more feminine” speeds.

In Biblical law, it is prohibited to boil a baby goat in its mother’s milk. In addition, if two men are fighting and the wife of one of the men grabs the other’s privates, her hand is to be cut off.

Roald Dahl is best remembered as a children’s author, but among his other exploits was writing the script for the James Bond film You Only Live Twice. The film was the first Bond to differ significantly from the source material, the only similarity was the names of the characters and the Japanese setting.

Most of the original research on the dangers of smoking was done by the Nazis. This fact was used by tobacco companies to smear anti-smoking campaigners

Rather than execution, William I of England preferred blinding criminals, as they would then remain in society as a visible deterrent to others.

During the Battle of Jaffa in 1192 against Saladin, Richard the Lionheart’s horse was killed by an arrow. Saladin ordered that one of his personal horses be sent across the line as a replacement

The five Marx brothers were Groucho, Harpo, Chico, Zeppo, and Gummo. Their real names were, respectively, Leonard, Adolph, Julius, Herbert and Milton Marx. A sixth brother, Manfred, died in infancy.

In the 1950s, most of the USA’s atomic bomb tests took place in Nevada, a few miles northwest of Las Vegas. As a consequence, hotels in Vegas advertised “bomb parties” on nights where a test was scheduled for dawn. Guests would spend the evening drinking cocktails before proceeding to a viewing area to watch the detonation.

Antarctica is the coldest, driest and windiest continent.

Despite the fact that they are technically a fruit, by US law, tomatoes are considered vegetables.

During one week in July 1943, Britain’s Bomber Command managed to kill more German civilians than the Germans managed in six years of bombing Britain.

Statistically, if you travel 25 miles in any direction in Papua New Guinea, you will cross a language barrier.

Between 1651 and 1986, Holland was technically at war with the Isles of Scilly.

There is an ongoing territorial dispute between the Vatican and Italy. The territory in question has an area of 180m2

Distilled alcohol was invented by Muslims.

The first official slave owner in Virginia, Anthony Johnson, was black.

The word “Kamikaze” literally means “Divine Wind”, a reference to the typhoon that smashed a Mongol fleet in  1281, saving Japan from invasion.

“Alan Smithee” was a directorial name attached to any Hollywood film that its original director disavowed, usually as a result of artistic differences with the studio. Mr Smithee is credited with over twenty films

The Phantom of the Opera is the most successful entertainment event in history, having grossed over $5 billion

Contrary to popular belief, the Dead Sea is not the saltiest body of water in the world. Don Juan Pond in Antarctica has more than twice the salinity levels, and is so salty that it remains liquid at -30 degrees.

During the Second World War, one of the most common non-combat causes of death for the Red Army was poisoning. This was because conscripts would often supplement their vodka rations with antifreeze intended for their tanks

Alaska is both the easternmost and westernmost state in the USA

In the 15th century, the Portuguese referred to Muslims as “rumes” This was derived from the Sultanate of Rum, which, ironically, took its name from Rome in Italy.

The longest mountain range on Earth is the Mid-Atlantic ridge. Almost all of its 40,000km length is underwater.

In the past half-century, over 50 dogs have jumped off Overtoun Bridge in Dumbarton, Scotland. The reason for this has never been established.

With a capacity of 150,000, the Rungrado May Day Stadium in Pyongyang, North Korea  is the largest in the world today. However, the Maracana Municipal Stadium in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, was once listed as having a capacity of 200,000. The (now-defunct) Strahov stadiumin Prague, Czech Republic, had a capacity of 220,000. This is dwarfed by the (technically not a stadium) Indianapolis Speedway, with a capacity of 257,325, and the (now-demolished) Circus Maximus in Rome, which seated 250,000

The last invasion of Britain took place in 1797 in Fishguard, Wales, by the French. Despite an overwhelming superiority in local numbers, the French force quickly surrendered. A number of French soldiers were captured by local women and locked in a church.

Nobel Peace Laureates Yasser Arafat, Menachem Begin, and Sean MacBride were respectively former heads of the PLO, the Irgun, and the IRA, three of the most notorious terrorist organisations of modern times.

Reaching a depth of over 230m at some points, the Congo is the deepest river in the world. Lake Baikal in Russia is the world’s deepest lake, at a maximum depth of 1,642m. The deepest point on Earth is Challenger Deep in the Marianas Trench, estimated at 10,916m deep.

Hollywood legend James Stewart, known for his roles in It’s a Wonderful Life and a number of Alfred Hitchcock films, enlisted in the United States Army Air Force as a private. After numerous attempts by the Army to use his celebrity status for PR purposes, he finally saw combat action in 1943, completing multiple bombing tours of Germany and accumulating numerous decorations, as well as rising to the rank of colonel. Following the war he stayed in the Air Force reserves, participating in missions over Vietnam, before retiring as a general, all the while keeping up with his acting career.

Legendary British authors CS Lewis and Aldous Huxley both died on November 22, 1963. Their deaths were almost completely unreported in the media, as they occurred on the same day as the assassination of JFK. Curiously enough, exactly thirty years later, on November 22, 1993, legendary British author Anthony Burgess died.

With a height of 7,570 metres, Gangkhar Puensum in Bhutan is the highest mountain in the world never to have been climbed. Up until the 1990s, there had been no successful expedition, and since 2003, mountaineering has been banned entirely.

The man who invented Zyklon-B, Fritz Haber, was Jewish.

The 1956 film the Conqueror was a biopic of Genghis Khan starring a horribly miscast John Wayne. It was filmed downwind of the United States’ primary nuclear test site. By 1981, of the 220 credited cast and crew, 91 had contracted cancer, of whom half died as a result, including Wayne.

The scientific name for the Brown Bear is Ursus Arctos, a portmanteau of Greek and Latin. Ursus is Latin for bear and Arctos is Greek for bear, meaning it translates as ‘bear bear’. The main subspecies, the Eurasian Brown Bear, is Ursus Arctos Arctos, or ‘bear bear bear’.

A common way to detect forgeries of paintings that ostensibly predate 1945 is to analyse the paint for traces of Caesium-137 or Strontium-90. Both of these substances only came into existence on Earth as a result of nuclear reactions, so if they are found in the paint, then the painting was made post-1945

There is a bridge over the Neretva River in Bosnia that has been blown up four times. The first two occasions were in the Second World War, firstly by the Yugoslav Partisans and then by the Luftwaffe. The Yugoslav government financed a lavish movie adaptation of these events. For the sake of realism, the director, Veljko Bulajic, decided to blow up the rebuilt bridge. Unfortunately, smoke from the detonation obscured the shot, so the bridge was rebuilt, then blown up again. The same problem occured, and the explosion shots were eventually filmed on a sound stage.

Neither haggis, kilts, nor bagpipes are originally from Scotland

Peter the Great of Russia was noted as being a keen amateur dentist, to the point that a rather cruel joke at court was to inform the Tsar that a courtier had a toothache, whereupon Peter would insist on having the unfortunate individual held down and removing a tooth, regardless of whether it was the aching tooth or whether they had a toothache in the first place

The character of Ebenezer Scrooge was largely based on a real person, 18th-century English politician John Elwes. Elwes was noted for invariably going to bed at sundown to save money on candles. His clothes were so shabby that he often received money from those who mistook him for a beggar, and his country house was largely derelict. A relative once had to move a bed into a different room to avoid a hole in the roof through which rain was pouring through.

Michel Ney was one of Napoleon’s marshals, noted for his near-suicidal bravery. At the battle of Waterloo, he had six horses shot from under him while charging British guns. Following Napoleon’s defeat, a court sentenced Ney to death by firing squad. Ney’s final request was that he be allowed to give the order to fire. His last words were, “Soldiers, when I give the command to fire, fire straight at my heart. Wait for the order. It will be my last to you. I protest against my condemnation. I have fought a hundred battles for France, and not one against her … Soldiers, Fire!”[

Footballer Jimmy Greaves was due to sign for Tottenham Hotspur from AC Milan for £100,000 in 1961. However, neither the player nor Spurs’ manager, Bill Nicholson, were happy with the prospect of the first transfer to break six figures, so AC Milan agreed to knock £1 off the fee, meaning he sold for £99,999

In the Second World War, the British Special Operations Executive carried out a number of bizarre missions against the Germans. One of these involved passing vast amounts of itching powder to resistance movements in Europe, who used it in various textile factories manufacturing German uniforms. Among their most notable successes were when a German U-Boat returned to port after the crew became convinced they had contracted a skin disease, and the hospitalisation of a number of German soldiers based in Norway after the Resistance managed to have powder put in army-issue condoms.

Saudi Arabia is unique in being the only country named after its ruling family, the only country where women are forbidden from driving, and the only country where crucifixion is still practiced.

Thieves once attempted to rob the Spanish house of Hollywood hardman Dolph Lundgren. After tying up his wife and children, the intruders proceeded to search the place for valuables, before seeing a family photo and realising they had made a terrible mistake, then fleeing without taking anything.

Karl Marx’s last words were “Last words are for fools who believe they have not yet said enough”

Paro Airport is Bhutan’s only international airport. However, the landing is so hazardous that there are only eight pilots licensed to land there.

Contrary to popular belief, Napoleon’s invasion of Russia in 1812 wasn’t defeated by the winter. Far more men were lost in the summer through a combination of desertion, disease, starvation, suicide and battle casualties than died during the winter months.

Despite its name, the Northern Line is the southernmost of the London Underground lines.

Though it is the highest mountain in the world, Mount Everest is not an overly dangerous climb anymore. For every 100 people who successfully ascend, statistically there will be 5 deaths, a low figure considering the amount of amateurs who attempt the climb. In contrast, the fatality/success ratio for K2, the second highest mountain is about 24/100, and for every 100 people who successfully ascended Annapurna, the tenth highest, there are 38 who went up but never made it back.

World War II was the deadliest conflict in history, with an estimated death toll of 70 million. It also contained the deadliest battle in history (Battle of Stalingrad or Siege of Leningrad, depending on how it’s counted), the deadliest shark attack (the sinking of the Indianapolis) and the deadliest crocodile attack (the battle of Ramree Island)

The highest scoring seven-letter word in Scrabble is QUARTZY. Placed across a triple word score with the Q on a double letter score, it will get 164 points.

The landmark chariot race in the 1925 version of Ben Hur wasn’t staged. In order to achieve a realistic feel, director Fred Niblo had the stuntmen race for real and offered $100 to the winner, a fortune at the time. As a result, at least one stuntman and dozens of horses died during the filming of the race.

British doctor Harold Shipman is the most prolific serial killer of all time by proven victims, with at least 218 deaths ascribed to him. However, Colombian Luis Garavito is suspected of up to 400 murders, with 138 confirmed victims. Finnish sniper Simo Hayha is credited with 505 confirmed kills in a three month period fighting the the Soviet Union in 1939/40. However, all these figures are dwarfed by Russian NKVD member Vasily Blokhin, who personally executed most of the 7,000 victims of the Katyn Massacre in a four-week period in 1940, and is believed to have killed tens of thousands of people over the course of his career in the NKVD.

The average smartphone contains a higher percentage of gold than the equivalent weight in gold ore.

The maximum possible break in snooker is generally 147, however under exceptional circumstances it is possible to score a break of 155, if a foul resulting in a free ball occurs before any red has been potted. The only tournament break exceeding 147 was a 148 in the qualifying for the 2004 UK Championships, and only one instance of a 155 break has ever been recorded, in a practice game in 2005.

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By gregbowler

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