Sometimes the truth is just plain strange. Here are some interesting facts, curious truths and interesting trivia from the world around us.
V for Victory, Morse Code, and Beethoven's Fifth
During WWII, some trains in the UK would sound their train whistle as they approached a station with three short notes followed by a longer forth note on a lower-toned horn. The 'dot-dot-dot-daaaash' of Morse Code they were signaling is the letter "V" which also was used as short code for the word "Victory."
The Final Death from Smallpox Virus
On Sept 11th, 1978, the last death from smallpox occurred. Janet Park, a UKmedical photographer had been accidentally exposed to the smallpox virus it is believed in the previous month, in a laboratory accident in Birmingham Medical School in Birmingham, U.K. The head of the microbiology department, Prof. Henry Bedson, committed suicide because of the stress of this accident. (1)
Today small samples of live smallpox are safely sealed under secure conditions at Atlanta, Georgia and Moscow, Russia. Eventually, if these lone samples of active small virus are destroyed, this would be the first living organism intentionally brought to complete and utter extinction by man with that intent in mind. Furthermore, the world would not miss this.
Caffeine from Decaffeinated Coffee, No Longer a Waste Product
Coffee processing companies used to dispose of caffeine as a waste product in the making of decaffeinated coffee. Now, they sell this caffeine to pharmaceutical companies. (2)
Do You Swear to Tell the Truth, The Whole Truth and Nothing But the Truth?
The word "testimony" and "testify" comes the Latin "testis" (testicle) and when someone was called to bear witness, they had to take an oath by holding one hand up and the other over their testicles. One whom performs this ceremony and gave their truthful account is said to have testified.
There is a bizarre annual tradition in Milan, Italy whereby boys and men of a small town called Bagolino spend the final day of carnival touching and squeezing each others um, -private reproductive parts. Later, special porridge-like meals are served to the revelers. The entree is said to resemble large testicles. (3) And that is the truth.
India, 2001: Did it Rain Alien Life forms?
Beginning on July 25th, 2001 in a district of western India, a crimson red rain occurred off and on for over two months. While it had been suggested that this red coloration in the rain was airborne dust or local spores, local scientists Godfry Louis and Santhosh Kumar proposed that the red rain was due to an exploded comet dispersing extraterrestrial biologic material into the clouds. (3)
Analysis of the red water determined that the spores were of a local lichen-forming algae from the genus Trentepohilia. The red lichen grows everywhere in that region, on trees, bark, rocks, etc. Louis and Kumar should have just gone to White Castle and had burgers & fries.
Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, Semaphore Flags and the Peace Symbol of the 1960s
Before the hippies of the 1960s adopted the "Peace" symbol as their own, it was the official symbol for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) in 1958. The CND is an organization that opposes any military action that may lead to use of nuclear, chemical, or biologic weapons and were opposed the building of atomic power stations in Britain, a concern of the era. The design of the symbolic logo, which does resemble the footprint of a dove inside of a circle, allegedly derives its creation directly from the Semaphore Flag Alphabet for the letters "N" and "D" (Nuclear Disarmament.)
Graphic by author. Semaphore images sourced via http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flag_semaphore
There are two color-coded variations in Flag Semaphore. The red-and-yellow flags (called the "Oscar flag") are for use on sea, and white-and-blue combination for use on land (called the "Papa flag.")
The Ageless Wonder Woman
Does anyone remember this ABC television series Wonder Woman (starring actress Lynda Carter) which ran from the 1975-1979? If so, you might remember this bit of trivia. The first season began in the World War II era. The series was not picked-up by ABC, so it moved to CBS for the second season andthe format of the show was changed (but using the same actors) to the then-current era of the late 1970s. Ms. Carter's costume underwent some minor changes as well but time line discrepancy aside, we assume that she is immortal. Her 'man interest' Steve Trevor in season 2 is supposed to be the son of the WW II U.S. Intelligence Officer of the same name from the WW II era. The character was played by the same actor in the second season as well, Lyle Waggoner.
Spock's Half-brother was Almost Secret Agent 007
On the subject of television and motion pictures, the 1989 "Star Trek: The Final Frontier" has an interesting trivia tidbit. Spock's half-brother Sybok (played by Lawrence Luckenbill) in the original script was supposed to be played by veteran actor Sean Connery. Best known for his role as British Secret Agent James Bond, or 007 for short. But alas, Mr. Connery was currently unavailable. He was at that time working in another film, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
So, the people at Paramount hired actor Lawrence Luckenbill (whom in this film resembles Connery more than a little bit) to fill the role of Spock's half brother, and renamed the 'Paradise Planet' (a crucial plot destination) Sha-Ka-Ree. This is a tongue-in-cheek phonetic corruption of Sean Connery and done in his honor.
"Star Trek V: The Final Frontier" was roundly declared to be the worst of the Star Trek films and it was presented with several "Razzies" awards as a result. Reportedly, it was being hurried through production in order to be ready for the 25th Anniversary of the series.
The King is Dead. Game Over
In the strategy game Chess, the King does not really die but if cornered by an opponent whose impeding move would occupy the same space as the King, the game is over and "Checkmate" is declared. The word comes the a Persian phrase "ShÄ'h MÄ't" which means "The King is ambushed (helpless, or defeated.)" The misconception that this means "~is dead" is because Chess came to Europe via Islamic travelers, and the comparable Arabic word mÄ'ta does in fact mean "died" or "is dead." (5)
- Cite: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Janet_Parker
- Cite: http://www.allbusiness.com/consumer-products/food-beverage-products-nonalcoholics/11419137-1.html
- Cite: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_rain_in_Kerala
- Cite: (RAI UNO TV) http://www.lectlaw.com/tsex.htm
- Cite: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Checkmate