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Fifty Amazing, (but Completely Useless), Facts

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1361998.  Tue Oct 27, 2020 8:04 am Reply with quote

crissdee wrote:
suze wrote:
That article asserts that the gun in question was a ".45 Colt British service revolver". The Colt 45 was an American bullet, which makes it an unlikely choice for a British service revolver. Wouldn't Bond's original service weapon have been a Webley, just as Dr Watson's was?

It might well have been a Webley, but it could have also been in .45 Colt calibre. It was far easier for us to rebore Webleys to take the new ammo, than for the US factories to retool for .455 Webley or .38 Webley, so we got .45 Colt Webleys

Just for the sake of completeness, if anyone but me is interested, here is an example of things going the other way.

1368082.  Sun Dec 13, 2020 11:49 am Reply with quote

If this is the thread for debunking "fascinating facts", I'd be interested to know how many of the following are true in a list of "39 surprising things Queen Elizabeth II owns". I don't think it's anything like 39!

Here are my judgements:

1. "All the Swans on the River Thames" - false. She only owns the ones not owned by the Vinters and Dyers livery companies, as determined at the annual "swan-upping" ceremony (see ).

2. "A Pair of Dorgis" - true, I assume.

3. "All the Dolphins in the United Kingdom" - not sure. A 1324 statute is cited which classes whales and sturgeons as "royal fish". Wikipedia says that the definition was extended to porpoises and dolphins in Ireland, but not elsewhere.

4. "Nearly All of London's Regent Street" - only true in a technical sense. As the article says, it's part of the Crown Estate, which though legally owned by the Queen is effectively Government property.

5. "Half of the UK's shoreline" - Crown Estate (see 4).

6. "Six Royal Residences" - two of them belong to the Queen personally, but the others are Crown Estate.

7. "More than 200 Launer Handbags" - true as far as I know.

8. "A private ATM" - surely this belongs to Coutts Bank rather than the Queen? (Coutts Bank, being part of RBS group, is now largely taxpayer-owned, but that's incidental.)

9. "The Best Seat in the House at Wimbledon" - false. The Royal Box belongs to the All-England Club; the Queen and other guests have to be invited (see ).

10. "The Tower of London" - again, only true in a technical sense. "The palaces in Historic Royal Palaces’ care are all owned by The Queen 'in Right of Crown'. This means that Her Majesty holds the palaces in Trust for the next monarch and by law cannot sell, lease or otherwise dispose of any interest in the palaces" (see ).

11. "150,000 Works of Art (Many of them Priceless)" - held in trust, as the article says.

12. "Queen Victoria's Sketchbook" - as 11 (I assume).

13. "A Winning Team of Race Horses" - true as far as I know.

14. "A Car Collection Worth More Than $10 Million" - true as far as I know.

15. "A Tiara Covered in 1333 Diamonds" - presumably held in trust (it was made for George IV).

16. "A Massive Fabergé Collection" - true as far as I know.

17. "Westminster Abbey" - it's a "royal peculiar", which means it's responsible directly to the Queen rather than to any diocese. Does that mean that the Queen owns it? I didn't think so, but I'm not sure who does.

18. "Hyde Park" - part of the Royal Parks, hereditary possessions of the Crown. Since they're technically private property, I'll let them have this one.

19. "A Gold Record" - true, and actually quite surprising!

20. "A Bat Colony" - in Balmoral Castle, so presumably true.

21. "The World's Largest Clear-Cut Diamond" - part of the Crown Jewels, owned by the Queen "in right of the Crown".

22. "Three Crown Dependencies" - self-governing possessions of the British Crown. Does the Queen "own" them? Could she sell Jersey to France if she was a bit hard up? I don't think so.

23. "An Aberdeen Angus Cow" - true, I imagine.

24. "Two Tortoises From the Seychelles" - true.

25. "Her Own Flag" - true, but so what? I could create my own flag if I wanted to.

26. "Four Guinness World Records" - surely not. She holds the record for world's oldest reigning monarch, she doesn't own it. When she dies it'll automatically pass on to Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei (according to Wikipedia).

27. "A Gold Blue Peter Badge" - I can believe that!

28. "The British Seabed" - Crown Estate (see 4)

29. "An Offshore Wind Farm" - ditto

30. "The Continental Shelf" - ditto

31. "All of Scotland's Gold Mines" - Crown Estate Scotland

32. "25,000 Acres of Forest" - Crown Estate

33. "Trafalgar Square" - ditto

34. "Queen Victoria's Wedding Dress" - part of the Royal Collection, held in trust by The Queen as Sovereign for her successors and the nation. It is not owned by her as a private individual (see ).

35. "Henry VIII's Armour" - ditto.

36. "Queen Elizabeth II's Own Tartan" - true, I suppose, as it can only be worn with the Queen's permission.

37. "Millions of Square Feet of Retail Space" - Crown Estate

38. "A Baptismal Font" - Royal Collection

39. "A National Collection of Mulberries" - in the garden at Buckingham Palace, and planted at the Queen's personal request, but clearly not her personal property, as the word "national" indicates!

1368091.  Sun Dec 13, 2020 12:42 pm Reply with quote

It's a mental floss piece so not worth the paper it wasn't written on.

1368097.  Sun Dec 13, 2020 1:34 pm Reply with quote

It was one of those things that Firefox gave me that are "recommended by Pocket". I don't usually take much notice of them but occasionally browse some of the articles if I'm bored. If they're all as inaccurate as that one I don't think I'll bother any more!
1388003.  Sat Aug 21, 2021 11:59 am Reply with quote

Here are 50 more facts doing the rounds online:

1. Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire and Colorado all have higher average snowfall than Alaska.

2. In Hungary the word 'hello' can also mean 'goodbye'.

3. King James II of Scotland is the last twin to succeed to any British throne.

4. Crocodiles are known to exist in the Sahara desert.

5. Gorillas are famous for picking up frogs and then petting them.

6. MI6's Q branch developed an exploding safe to destroy any secret documents quickly.

7. Croatia has its own sphinx, brought to Split by a Roman emperor.

8. Before 1925, in the field of astronomy, a date began at noon rather than midnight.

9. The Atacama experienced a rare period of rainfall in 2015, resulting in colourful flowers blooming all over the desert.

10. The Taj Mahal has been camouflaged three times - in World War Two, in 1971 and after 9/11.

11. You can take a train from Vancouver, British Columbia to Vancouver, Washington, USA.

12. In Uganda, children who lose their teeth give them to a Tooth Rat rather than a Tooth Fairy.

13. The first VCR was made in 1956 and was the size of a piano.

14. NASA's Curiosity Rover on Mars has a built in oven.

15. The Arab world's only Jewish museum is in Casablanca.

16. All letters addressed to Santa in the US go to Santa Claus, Indiana.

17. Tom Cruise split with all three wives when they were 33.

18. When Queen Elizabeth II took King Abdallah of Saudi Arabia for a ride in her Land Rover on the Balmoral estate she drove so fast that he implored his translator to tell her to slow down and concentrate on the road.

19. When filming Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, Ewan McGregor kept imitating the noise of the light sabre during his fights.

20. The first German to die in World War Two died in combat whilst leading Chinese fighters.

21. In 585 BC a solar eclipse occurred in the middle of a battle between the Lydians and the Medes - they promptly ceased fighting and signed a peace treaty.

22. Fire fighting and kite flying were featured events at the 1900 Olympics.

23. Juneau is larger than the entire state of Delaware.

24. St. Edward's Crown has only been used by six monarchs since the restoration of 1660.

25. A steep learning curve means that the subject is easy to learn - not hard.

1388007.  Sat Aug 21, 2021 12:19 pm Reply with quote

Number 20 is an interesting one, it seems to refer to the death of a German killed by the Japanese in China in 1937, before the axis powers tripartite agreement in 1940. The date of the start of WWII pretty much depends on who you talk to, most will agree to 1939. Some will take it as far back as 1935 and the Italian invasion of Abyssinia.
1388011.  Sat Aug 21, 2021 12:43 pm Reply with quote

In addition:

26. Guinea-pigs and hamsters will happily eat their own young if stressed.

27. The top US Navy command was called CINCUS.

28. Israel is the only country to revive an unspoken language and use it as its national tongue.

29. Over 70% of Haiti's beaches are still virgin.

30. The letter A is an upside-down ox-head - its from an ancient Egyptian symbol of an ox.

31. It is illegal in Salem, WV to eat candy less than half an hour before church service.

32. The urine of ginger-haired boys was prized in medieval Europe for making stained glass.

33. Tiramisu literally means 'pick-me-up' because two of its ingredients are coffee and cocoa.

34. Until 1954 stop signs were yellow.

35. The largest brick building in the Americas is located on an uninhabited island 68 miles west of Key West.

36. The 20th of September is an official holiday in China called 'Love Your Teeth Day'.

37. When a male bee climaxes its testicles explodes and it dies.

38. Space invaders was so popular it Japan that it is reported that it caused a national coin shortage.

39. A tiger's legs are so powerful that they can remain standing even when dead.

40. Professors during the Vietnam War inflated students' grades in order to help them avoid the draft.

41. A month after the atomic bomb struck Hiroshima Typhoon Ada struck the prefecture killing c. 2000 people.

42. All astronauts have to learn how to speak Russian and all cosmonauts have to learn how to speak English.

43. Red is the first colour that a baby sees.

44. Pigeons sometimes backflip when flying.

45. The French used to call their doughnuts Pet de Nonne which means Nun's Farts.

46. Over half the world's cork is produced in Portugal.

47. Hitler's private train was called Amerika.

48. Elephants use dirt as sunscreen.

49. 'Ona' in the Venetian dialect means the female sexual organ or someone who isn't very bright.

50. Hong Kong uses seawater to flush toilets.

1388018.  Sat Aug 21, 2021 2:12 pm Reply with quote

41 is Ida not Ada

1388048.  Sun Aug 22, 2021 7:27 am Reply with quote

Ooh, we've not had one of these lists for a little while!

1. is too broadly defined to mean very much. But for instance, yes, Bangor ME seems more snowfall per annum than Utqiagvik (formerly Barrow) AK. The High Arctic doesn't see very much precipitation, just as Antarctica doesn't. Anchorage AK gets plenty of snow, though.

2. Hungarians really do use helló, a loan from English - and yes, it can mean either "hello" or "goodbye". It's rather slangy and older Hungarians pretend not to understand it, perhaps in the same register as something like "yo" in English.

They also use szia - pronounced exactly like cya, tho not a loan from English - with the same two meanings. That one is a better bet should you ever be in Hungary. So yes, true.

3. is true.

4. is true. As you'd expect, the crocodiles live at oases - but it is not unknown for dead crocodiles to be found in the sands, suggesting that they don't actually know that they need water. A paper

5. seems only to be mentioned in trivia lists, not serious gorilla sources, so it may be struggling. Goliath spiders, on the other hand, really do keep pet frogs. Frog doesn't taste very nice and frogs eat ants - which spiders find a nuisance - so why not.

6. This was claimed as true in an article in the Daily Telegraph (22 Sep 2010). MI6 isn't given to commenting in public on precisely what it does, so that's probably the best we can do.

7. is true.

8. is true. A statement on the matter from the time

9. is true. I'm not expecting to grow flowers in the desert, it was once said, but in a flowering in the Atacama occurs about once every five years. A freight train makes its way through the fuchsias in 2015

10. is true.

11. used to be true, but the Cascades train which serves Vancouver WA now runs only between Portland and Seattle.

12. is well known to the Interwebs, though serious sources for it appear thin on the ground.

13. is true. Photo

14. is true. It's for conducting chemical analyses, not for feeding the Martians.

15. appears to be true, although there is a current proposal to create a Jewish Museum in Alexandria.

From that first third, this particular list of "amazing facts" looks to be rather more firmly based in fact than many such lists which do the rounds.

More later.

1388065.  Sun Aug 22, 2021 9:47 am Reply with quote

I want to know about 39. I started looking it up and got distracted...

1388073.  Sun Aug 22, 2021 1:51 pm Reply with quote wrote:
8. Before 1925, in the field of astronomy, a date began at noon rather than midnight.

This practice lives on in modern space science and engineering.

It's still common to use reference points based on Julian Dates, which count number of Astrononmical Days since noon on 1st January 4713 BC by the proleptic Julian calendar.

Spacecraft mission time thus might be represented as a number of seconds or nanoseconds since the "J2000 Epoch", defined as Julian Day 2451545.0 or 12:00 pm on 1st Jan 2000 by the Gregorian calendar.

This can be an irritating source of errors if software developers forget to include the 12 hours offset when converting to UTC time, but there's something to be said for not starting a new Epoch until one has had a chance to get breakfast and a coffee.

1388074.  Sun Aug 22, 2021 2:10 pm Reply with quote

16. is true. Santa Claus IN was originally called Santa Fe, but there was already a Santa Fe in Indiana and so the US Post Office required it to change its name - and it chose Santa Claus. Or so the story goes. (The Guardian, 9 Dec 2017)

17. How do you define when a couple split? If you go by the dates of the divorces, Mimi Rogers was 34 by the time of her divorce from Mr Cruise. So false.

18. A diplomat's memoir published in 2012 asserts that this thing happened in 1998, and King Abdullah did confirm that it really happened. But he didn't become King until 2005, so when it happened he was but Crown Prince.

19. This story is well known to the Interwebs, and the source for it is an interview that Mr McGregor himself gave to Loaded (Nov 1998). But this was an unplanned interview that Mr McGregor gave at a motorbike race, not a formal interview with a publicist telling him what to say. Was he having a laugh?

20. has been covered by Efros above. By the usual reckoning, WWII hadn't started yet.

21. comes from Herodotus (Istoríai, ~430 BC). But even in his own time Herodotus was considered a bit of a tabloid hack, and serious historians tend not to believe everything that he says. Not proven.

22. is true. The 1900 Olympics weren't very well organised, and even now there is no real sense of what were and were not "official" Olympic competitions. The fire fighting and the kite flying did happen, but the winners are not on most lists of Olympic medalists.

23. is true, because the City of Juneau was amalgamated with the surrounding Borough - a sort of "Juneaushire", if you will - in 1970. Parts of the City and Borough are 100 miles from downtown Juneau.

24. is true. It's rather heavy, and monarchs from Anne to Edward VII chose not to use it.

25. is mathematically true, but that is not how the expression is normally used.

26. is false. This behaviour has been recorded, but it's rare and cannot be described as "happy".

27. is true. It said to have been an Admiral named Ernest King who considered this acronym best changed after Pearl Harbor, and so CINCUS became COMINCH in late 1941.

28. is true, although it's not really something that "Israel did". Rather, it's a thing that Jewish people did from about 1820 onwards, and which Israel adopted.

29. was a travel agent's estimate published online, and the term has no formal definition so it's fairly meaningless.

30. is probably true.

31. concerns supposed American city laws, a topic with which I am thoroughly bored. I'll believe it when someone provides a proper source.

32. is said to be true. The stained glass artist at Canterbury Cathedral told David Dimbleby so in a documentary.

33. is true.

34. refers to the US, not to Britain, but is true there.

35. depends how you count. The building referred to is Fort Jefferson, a US Naval base which was never finished and is now a National Monument.

The Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee FL - a college American football stadium, like many of the biggest stadiums - claims to contain more bricks, but doesn't cover as a large a footprint. There is currently a campaign for that stadium to be renamed, because Doak Campbell was a white supremacist.

Enough for now.

1388108.  Mon Aug 23, 2021 5:00 am Reply with quote

No 28 is technically not true unless you put the qualifier "not commonly spoken".

Hebrew was not only used for liturgical purposes, but also used by Jewish religious leaders in the Middle Ages as they travelled between different countries and had to communicate with Jewish communities elsewhere. The development of Yiddish and other similar languages was more for the wider community.

1388121.  Mon Aug 23, 2021 8:09 am Reply with quote

Thanks CB, that's interesting.

I have to confess that I'd never really considered how different Jewish communities spoke to one another before the revival of Hebrew. Central European Jewry in the Holy Roman Empire and later the Polish / Lithuanian sphere were speaking Yiddish by ~1000, but Sephardim wouldn't have understood it.

Sephardim in Iberia and North Africa were speaking Spanish at home and Arabic for posh - you'll know that Maimonides, who was Spanish, wrote in Arabic - but Ashkenazim wouldn't have understood either of those. Neither would they have known Latin; by then it was only really used by the Christian churches which, what with being Jewish, they did not frequent.

So Hebrew never fell completely out of use, but between ~500 and ~1850 when its revival began in Jerusalem there was probably nobody who spoke it as her first language.

Hebrew is often mentioned in linguistic texts as the only language to be brought back successfully from the dead. While this is not strictly true for the reasons that CB states, it's still a reasonable claim.

There could have been a parallel in India, where there was a movement to revive Sanskrit as the primary inter-communiy language of independent India. Gandhi never liked the idea. He considered Sanskrit "too Hindu" for the religiously diverse nation that he envisaged, and - much as he was careful not to say this in so many words - he preferred English as the language of inter-community intercourse. His own first language was Gujarati, so he didn't have the "Hindi Nationalist" interest that some of his successors have.

The idea still comes up from time to time, and there are Sanskrit-speaking villages. Governments since Gandhi have tried to de-emphasise English because it was the language of colonialism and have advocated Hindi as the primary inter-community language instead - but they have chosen not to notice that the Hindi of 2021 is a lot less Sanskrit and a lot more English than the Hindi of 1947.

1388132.  Mon Aug 23, 2021 11:42 am Reply with quote

Now, getting back to the Fifty Amazing Facts.

36. Love Your Teeth Day exists, but is not a holiday. Chinese people traditionally didn't brush their teeth and didn't visit dentists, and the government has been keen to convince the public that dentists are not just some Western money making scam.

37. is true.

38. Probably false. This story has been around for forty years, and was for a time said to have been invented by Martin Amis. He did write about it but wasn't the first, and Japan did increase production of 100 yen coins at about the right time but not for that reason. An essay which looks reasonably well researched here.

39. is well known to the Interwebs, but only on trivia sites. I can't find any proper big-cat-ologists saying so, so I am skeptical.

40. is more or less true, though it wasn't all professors at all universities. The point here was that you couldn't be drafted while you were a full time student, so sympathetic professors would bump fail grades up to keep the student in the school.

41. is true, except that - and as Efros notes - the typhoon was called Ida and not Ada.

42. is true as regards astronauts going to the International Space Station. Ultimate mission control for the ISS is in Moscow and speaks Russian, but English is said to be the language mostly used on board.

43. is true. Red has the longest wavelength, although I'll let one of the physicists around here explain why that makes it the first colour that babies recognise.

44. is true, and has been filmed. It is believed to have developed as a way of escaping from predators.

45. is true.

46. not quite. The cork industry body in Portugal claims a 49% share of the global market. (Source in Portuguese.)

47. was true until 1943, when he renamed it Brandenburg.

48. is true, and surely too well known for a list of this kind.

49. may well be true, but I can't find a source for it. Vèneto is said to have a vast number of unspeakably filthy curse words that locals are reluctant to explain to outsiders.

50. is true. Hong Kong is not the only territory which has a separate water supply of non-potable water for this purpose.


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