Little known and silly facts your thing?
Giddy excitement is yours for the taking as January the 4th marks WORLD TRIVIA DAY.
There’s nothing trivial about trivia if you’re an enthusiast of amusing yet useless information. Yet trivia has always been a ‘reader beware’ proposition. Mix one part urban legend with two parts impossible-to-prove-or-disprove ‘old wives tale’ then add in a liberal dose of exaggeration for extra spice and voila! There you have it…a perfect morsel of mind candy that may or may not have it’s base in fact. In the era of fake news you can bet a decent fiver this ‘truth is secondary to entertainment’ phenomena is even more a thing.
The old adage about never letting truth get in the way of a good story applies
equally even more so to trivia. Try this fun ‘fact’ for example – nearly 3% of Antarctic glaciers consist of penguin urine. Not 4%. Not 2%. But exactly 3%. Like it’s been measured. Accurately. Probably has been measured for all I know. But measured how?
Some degree-qualified ‘scientist’ melted down a portion of glacial ice, analyzed the water content and found a level of penguin urine present that amounted to 3% of its volume. They then extrapolated from that figure that precisely 3% of all Antarctic glacial ice consists of penguin Budweiser. Well, that’s me guessing how the factoid might have been originally born anyway.
Speaking of which, it was American novelist Norman Mailer (1923 – 2007) who first coined the term ‘factoid’ back in 1973. Today the term refers to a piece of trivia or ‘fun fact’ but back then it had almost the opposite meaning. Mailer invented the word to describe a piece of information that isn’t true…but becomes accepted as true if enough people hear it or read it.
An example of this would be the commonly held belief about Mount Everest being the highest peak in the world. In actual fact the dormant volcano Mauna Kea in Hawaii is the world’s highest mountain – when measured from it’s underwater base. Ok, that’s probably a technicality but you get the point about the disputability and all-round rubbery-ness of a lot of so-called ‘facts’.
Doesn’t matter. If it’s fun you crave then the world of trivia can be a goldmine rich for the plundering. The following ‘facts’ are, I like to think, possibly a bit more believable and, going that one step further, maybe even verifiable than some other preposterously imaginative bits of trivia out there doing the rounds, but as usual… reader beware. And remember… knowledge is power (the power to make others feel stupid) – except when it comes to trivia!
Who knew that when you flip a coin, physics, not probability, determines how it will land. American mathematician Persi Diaconis (1945 – ) found that a coin is slightly more likely to land on the face that was up when you flipped it.
The way a coin lands is not ‘random’; in fact it’s easy, Diaconis contends, who, in addition to being Professor of Mathematics and Statistics at Stanford University is also a former professional magician, that with a little practice anyone can manipulate a coin flip so that it lands the way they want it. What’s more, if you’re spinning a coin, it’s more likely to land tails up, since the heads side weighs slightly more.
Yessiree, ‘Go’ – all of two letters of it – is a grammatically correct English sentence. And for the grammar geeks, it’s only a sentence if it’s used as a command, then ‘you’ is the understood subject. Alternatively if you’d rather a sentence with a separate word as the subject, ‘I am’ is the shortest sentence, with three letters. Clear? Good. Don’t want to have to repeat all that!
Ever told someone you’d be back in a ‘jiffy’? You were definitely lying.
Though the English language has adopted it to mean ‘a short amount of time,’ it actually is a scientific term. In the physics world, a ‘jiffy’ is the time it takes light to travel a centimetre in a vacuum or around 33.4 picoseconds. (A ‘picosecond,’ meanwhile, is a trillionth of a second.) Now you know!
Someone was having a little fun when they came up with this. Technically, a ‘mickey’ is 1/200th of an inch. The speed can be measured in ‘pixels per mickey’, referring to how many pixels the cursor on the screen moves when the physical mouse is moved one mickey. Really.
The precious ball of fluff (if you’re a cat lover) pictured above is called a ‘Munchkin cat’ and, like the corgi and the dachshund, its short legs and long body are the results of a genetic mutation. The technical stuff is if a cat possesses the autosomal dominant gene, which causes the leg bones to grow shorter, it can pass the trait on to its kittens. You heard it here first. Or maybe you didn’t.
Although they probably won’t grow back completely or to their original size. Not sure if that’s a comforting thought or not.
And finally, couldn’t resist finishing off with a dollop of homespun trivia.
The name of this blog – SCENIC WRITER’S SHACK – contains exactly 18 letters. Through a god-freakin’ coincidence that also happens to be the exact same number of letters in four of my all-time favorite movies – FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE (1963) – FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE (1965) – THE TOWERING INFERNO (1974) – and ESCAPE FROM ALCATRAZ (1979).