15 Tomes of Trivia We Checked Out This Week

Don’t do what this one guy did with a fish
15 Tomes of Trivia We Checked Out This Week

“As we know, there are known knowns,” said Donald Rumsfeld in 2002. “There are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”

The following facts, for most of you, qualify as unknown unknowns at the moment. But in a matter of minutes, they will all become known knowns. 

The Anti-Fun Law

The first campaign finance law goes back to 1811. Maryland banned alcohol sales on Election Day. Specifically, they wanted to keep candidates from buying alcohol and using it to bribe voters. 

Record Not Found

The Nation of Islam — the group made most famous by Louis Farrakhan — was founded by Wallace Fard Muhammad. No one knows what happened to him. The last record of him was in 1934, and then he disappeared.

Smooth Brains

Koalas aren’t too bright. The love eating eucalyptus leaves, but if you take some of these leaves and lay them flat on a table, a koala won’t reach for them. It can’t recognize what they are. 

Tom Cruise’s Origin

You see a bunch of people wearing Wayfarers in 1980s movies. That didn’t reflect the fashion of the time — it caused the fashion of the time. Ray-Ban signed a huge product placement deal across those dozens of movies. 

Fire With Fire

To fight mosquitos, we are turning to mosquitos. One especially large type of mosquito feeds on the larvae of other mosquitos, and doesn’t drink blood, so they’re useful pest-control agents. 

The Eyes Have Nothing

According to people called iridologists, it’s possible to learn many details about someone’s health simply by examining the iris of the eye. These iridologists are charlatans; if one approaches you, run in the opposite direction. 

Going What?

When you split a bill, you might call that “going Dutch.” That doesn’t reflect any actual Dutch custom but is instead an English insult leveled against the Dutch. Some Spanish speakers have their own idiom for this restaurant practice. They call it “paying American style.” 

Chaste Lashes

Women have plumped their eyelashes for thousands of years. One explanation comes from Ancient Rome. Back then, people believed that if too many of someone’s lashes had fallen out, it indicated the person had had an excessive amount of sex

Caught in Your Throat

A man died in 1998 after his friends dared him to swallow a live fish. Perhaps he could have managed a particularly small fish from a bowl, but this one measured five inches. The attempt was “stupid,” according to police. 


Finland has hosted wife-carrying competitions since the 1800s. First prize is the husband’s weight in beer. Everyone agrees this is a good idea, and so the contests have now spread worldwide. 

We Have No Bananas

A fruit cocktail might sound like a vague term that can mean just about anything. The government would say otherwise. According to the USDA, a fruit cocktail must contain at least two percent cherries, at least six percent diced pineapple and no more than 45 percent diced pears. 

Space, In Suffolk

In 2005, with news spreading about the future of space tourism, a reality TV show offered to send contestants into space. These contestants spent five days in a simulator in England, being told they were in space. Naturally, the production had to reject any applicants who knew much about space science. 

Disease Mad Libs

If you suffer from particularly bad luck, you may come down with tapeworm cancer. No, that’s not when your tapeworm gets cancer and dies. It’s when the tapeworm gives you cancer. 

Mmm, Soggy Popcorn

Before Kellogg’s debuted Corn Flakes, people had an alternative corn-based breakfast cereal. They would pour popcorn into sweetened milk. They swore it was delicious. 

The Trouble With Telomeres

The ends of your chromosomes get shorter and shorter as you age, so there may be a fairly low upper limit to the human lifespan, no matter what we do to fix other diseases. Or, maybe there isn’t — maybe we’ll figure out how to stop these bits from shortening, and we’ll live forever. 

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