12 Technically Advanced Bits of Trivia We Noodled Out in a Competitive Duet With Squinty Local Boy
There we were, on a canoeing trip out in the country with the boys, when we started getting a little friction from the locals. I was tuning my guitar at a gas station, belting out some intriguing bits of trivia, as is my wont, when a funky little critter of a local boy — this kid was about 90 percent forehead — started mimicking my factoids. One thing led to another, and we started volleying these advanced trivia tidbits back and forth for a few minutes. I think this bodes pretty well for our trip!
Facebook Pulled the Plug on Two Chatbots When They Made Up Their Own Language
In 2017, they were trying to use their A.I. to train itself to become a better chatbot. But it started spontaneously communicating in a made-up language, at which point Facebook decided “things got out of hand.” Before they shut it down, the bots reportedly became “incredibly crafty negotiators,” which sounds ominous.
An Olympic Rower Stopped to Let a Family of Ducks Pass (And Still Won)
Bobby Pearce had an incredibly dominant run at the 1928 Olympics. In the quarter finals, a family of ducks wandered into his lane during his one-on-one race, so he stopped for a few seconds to let them pass. He was already so far ahead, he easily beat his competitor — and the six other rowers in the other quarterfinal heats.
The CIA Speaks in Code via Shoelaces
Agents need a way to communicate silently, and according to declassified Cold War documents, they had intricate signals involving shoelaces, buttons and ribbons on packages to exchange information covertly.
Only One Species Has Ever Been Brought Back From Extinction
Unfortunately, it’s also the only species to go extinct twice. The penultimate Pyrenean Ibex died in 2000. In 2003, scientists successfully cloned a living animal, but it died within a few minutes of its birth.
The Grateful Dead Funded a Post-Soviet Lithuanian Basketball Team (And They Almost Won)
After the Soviet Union dissolved, the Lithuanian National Basketball Team couldn’t afford to participate in the 1992 Olympics. When the band heard about it, they decided to help pay for the team’s travel and gear. They won third place, and wore custom Grateful Dead shirts (tie-dyed with the colors of the Lithuanian flag) to accept their medals.
Remember Isaac Newton’s Whole Apple Thing? That Apple Tree Is Still Alive and Well
Though the story as we know it is a bit apocryphal, Newton did say in his lifetime that a falling apple helped inspire his theory of gravity. Pieces of an apple tree from Newton’s home have been grafted and replanted, and one currently lives in a courtyard at the University of York.
Captain Cumming Wrote With Jizz
Captain Sir Mansfield George Smith-Cumming was the head of the British Secret Service Bureau during World War I, and pioneered the use of semen as invisible ink. His agents started saying “Every man his own stylo,” which is awesome, but they had to stop the practice because their letters fucking stunk.
A Second Burger Is Healthier Than a Side Order of Fries
One nutritionist says that, aside from just consuming fewer carbs, the protein of that second burger will take longer to digest than the starch of the fries, keeping you from craving more food soon after your meal.
A Boston College Janitor Saved $700K on Tuition
Fred Vautour put BC’s policy of free tuition for the children of staff to the test. It’s a very exclusive school, and Vautour was biting his nails waiting to see if his oldest daughter made the cut in 1998. By 2016, all five of his kids got in, saving him $700k.
A JetBlue Flight Attendant Went Out in a Blaze of Glory (Briefly)
In 2010, Steven Slater hit his breaking point on a flight from Pittsburgh to New York. Upon landing, he grabbed the microphone and announced, “I’ve been in this business for 20 years. And that’s it. I’ve had it. I’m done.” He grabbed a couple of beers, and deployed the emergency slide to make his dramatic exit. But then his badassness started to tarnish: He realized he had to climb back up to grab his bags. Later that night, he was arrested. And he was ordered to pay $10,000 — those emergency slides aren’t cheap to install.
Britain Has Picked a Fight With About 90 Percent of the World
The Brits have battled with 171 of the current 193 U.N. member states.
The Swedish Navy’s Accidental Forest
The Visingsö Oak Forest was planted around 1830, when the Swedish Crown decided to build a gigantic navy after seeing how messy things got during the Napoleonic Wars. By the time the trees were big enough to harvest — 150 years later — wooden ships were well out of fashion. So now they just have a gorgeous forest of 300,000 gigantic oak trees.