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Fifty Amazing, (but Completely Useless), Facts

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Jenny
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...

 
Leith
1388073.  Sun Aug 22, 2021 1:51 pm Reply with quote

duglasbell@hotmail.co.uk 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.

 
suze
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.

 
CB27
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.

 
suze
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.

 
suze
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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