15 Trivia Tidbits for Saturday, May 11, 2024

15 Trivia Tidbits for Saturday, May 11, 2024

“If a man empties his purse into his head,” said Ben Franklin, “no man can take it away from him. An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.” And this was a guy who knew what he was talking about. After all, he also said, “In all your Amours, you should prefer old Women to young ones. Because as they have more Knowledge of the World and their Minds are better stored with Observations, their Conversation is more improving and more lastingly agreeable.”

So, if you want to invest in yourself, or date Ben Franklin, you need some more knowledge. Read on then, to learn how the Endangered Species Act made cars run worse, and to learn how Dumbledore was a troll right to the very end. 

Social Anxiety

When a hiker went missing in 2021 in Colorado, authorities started their search by repeatedly trying to call his phone. He saw their calls but neglected to answer them. He ignored them because he didn’t recognize their number

Mascot Horror

What happens when an earthquake hits a zoo? It might break through enclosures, releasing wild animals. At Tobe Zoological Park in Japan, they prepare for this by running drills featuring an escaped lion. The lion is played by a man in a cartoonish lion costume

Cloud of Fear

During the Gulf War, a British commando sent the following message back to headquarters: “Sir, the blokes have just nuked Kuwait!” The blokes hadn’t, but the U.S. had deliberately dropped some bombs so visibly huge that they’d scare people into thinking something like that had happened. 


Paramedics checking patients’ reflexes employ something called the “trauma handshake.” This involves sticking two fingers up the patient’s butt, without warning. There is probably no need for this, say many doctors. 

Chicken of the Sea

If sea urchins make for great sushi, where are the land urchins? A land urchin (or rather just an “urchin”) was what people used to call hedgehogs. The sea urchin is named after them, since both are spiky. It’s better than the other name sea urchins had: “whore’s eggs.” 

Frédéric Ducarme

That name just sounds painful for everyone.

The Power of Mushrooms

An experiment in the 1960s gave prisoners psilocybin, based on the theory that it would permanently change their personalities and keep them from reoffending. Early results claimed the drug worked, though that may have been because the experimenters were all high. 

Second Amendment Rights

In 1991, the oldest person in the world was found to be living in a mental institution. She’d been there for 75 years. Staff there doubted that she’d justly been confined there. One of the reasons for her 1909 committal was that she’d been “showing her arms inappropriately.”

Grace, Space and Pace

Britain used to have an automaker called SS Cars, whose logo was the initials “SS” in front of a bird’s wings. This iconography became distasteful thanks to Germany and World War II, so they switched to a new name: Jaguar

My Debt Will Go On

A couple weeks after the Titanic sank, the father of the band’s violinist received a message. It was a bill from the White Star Line, charging him for his dead son’s uniform. 

What’s Up, Clark?

Rabbits are no fans of carrots. This stereotype comes entirely from Bugs Bunny. Bugs Bunny, in turn, only eats carrots because the first Bugs cartoon did it as an homage to Clark Gable eating one in It Happened One Night.

Columbia Pictures

In 1934, eating a carrot was the definition of cool.


When you were young, Brussels sprouts had a reputation for being gross, but they don’t anymore. Your tastes didn’t change — the sprouts did. Scientists bred a new version of the plant that’s less bitter. 

How to Guard a Life

In 2012, Florida fired a lifeguard for saving a drowning victim who was outside the lifeguard’s allotted zone. Someone in his own zone might have needed help in the meantime, his employers argued. No one in his zone did, in fact, need help in the meantime.

The Well-Organized Mind

Actor Richard Harris lived in London’s Savoy Hotel at the end of his life. When they carried him out of the hotel, to take him to the hospital where he’d die, he made it a point to troll terrified diners in the hotel restaurant, by yelling at them, “It was the food!”  

Secret Ingredient

We used to get oil from whales, as you probably know. This practice lasted a lot longer than people realize. Car transmissions were lubricated with oil from sperm whales right into the 1970s. Then, when we switched to non-whale alternatives, transmissions started breaking down more often. 

A Life Well-Lived

An Australian decided to spell out each number from one to one million, on his typewriter. The project took him 16 years. Why did he do this? That is a good question. 

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