12 Hunky Bits of Trivia We’ve Photographed Nearly Nude for Our ‘Sexiest Facts of the Year’ Calendar
NASA’s $80 Million Typo
The Mariner 1 space probe had to be detonated five minutes after it was launched, when NASA noticed its trajectory was already way off. They later figured out that someone’s handwritten calculations included an R where there should have been an R̄ — that’s an R with an overbar on top, which has been described as “the most expensive hyphen in history.”
Alicia Silverstone Hates Diapers and Tampons
In her 2014 book, she advised against using tampons, saying, “Your chichi is the most absorbent part of your body.” She also said that diapers cause kids to become “out of tune with their bodies … because they get used to walking around in a toilet.” It’s best to just make your whole house a toilet instead.
People Thought the Post Office Would Morally Compromise Women
There was a whole moral panic that post offices would facilitate “the conversation of sickly-sentimental companions and clandestine correspondence with unprincipled men.”
Alfred Hitchcock Cast a Villain Specifically to Mock a Producer He Hated
David O. Selznick produced four of Hitchcock’s films, and Hitchcock hated working with him so much, he cast Raymond Burr as the villain in Rear Window because he thought the two looked alike.
The Glass King
King Charles VI of France’s nickname went from “The Beloved” to “The Mad” over the course of his reign. He suffered from the “glass delusion” — he had iron rods built into his clothes and wouldn’t let his servants come near him, in a desperate attempt to keep his body from shattering like glass.
The 2001 Anthrax Attacks Were Coming From Inside the House
Remember that time we all thought Al Qaeda was chasing 9/11 with biological warfare? Five people died, and 17 others were infected. Investigations determined it was almost definitely the work of Dr. Bruce Ivins, a government biodefense scientist who actually helped out in those very investigations.
There’s a Ghost Town in the Middle of New York City
North Brother Island sits between Rikers Island, Queens and the Bronx, and has served as a medical quarantine (Typhoid Mary used to hang out there a lot), veteran housing and a heroin rehab center for teens. The dilapidated little town has been sitting unused for decades, and has most recently been declared a refuge for herons.
Chicken Nuggets Are An Engineering Marvel
The meat industry was trying to solve two major problems in the mid-20th century: how to make meat stick together without being inside of a casing, and a batter that could be frozen and then deep-fried without peeling off. Cornell professor Robert C. Baker solved both with the invention of “chicken crispies.” He left his work unpatented so the world could benefit from his genius.
Dolphins Don’t Drink
Seawater is notoriously bad for hydration, what with all the salt and animal feces. But sea animals still need to get H2O into their bodies. Dolphins get all of their water from the food they eat, and fish absorb it through osmosis, while whales have specialized kidneys that allow them to drink and filter seawater.
Murphy’s Actual Law Is a Little Bitchier
Aerospace engineer Edward Murphy Jr. did make a pissy little remark after a rocket sled test went wrong in the late 1940s, but he didn’t say, “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.” He actually said, “If there are two or more ways to do something and one of those results in a catastrophe, then someone will do it that way.”
Pythagoras Said Sex Is Bad for You
He believed that sex saps a man of his strength. According to his rules, having sex before the age of 20 would stunt your growth, and older adults should stick to following a sex schedule if they really have to do it: “Keep to the winter for sexual pleasures, in summer abstain; they are less harmful in autumn and spring, but they are always harmful and not conducive to health.”
An English Meteorologist Tried to Fly a Hot Air Balloon to Space (And Almost Made It)
In 1862, James Glashier packed a hot air balloon with animals (and his assistant, Henry Coxwell), and tried to fly into the “aerial ocean.” Five miles up, his animals all froze to death. Six miles up, both men got the bends. At 11 miles, they both passed out, but Coxwell managed to pull the abort lever with his teeth, and they floated back down to Earth.