From Kitty Fisher to Rasputin

2014-03-16

in Geek stuff, Internet matters, Writing

This website is highly entertaining. Here are a few Quite Interesting nuggets:

  • “A famous 18th century courtesan named Kitty Fisher used to distribute pictures of herself small enough to be concealed in the lid of a snuffbox… Fisher led a sensationally dissolute life; Casanova relates that she once ate a thousand-guinea bank note on bread-and-butter.”
  • “Another famous kidnap victim who did not display Stockholm Syndrome was Julius Caesar. Kidnapped by pirates and then ransomed, he raised a fleet, pursued and captured the pirates, and then crucified them, as he had told them he would while in captivity – a promise the pirates had taken as a joke.”
  • “Normal healthy sleepers wake up between 15 and 35 times every night.”
  • “The only other animal with a clear-cut menopause followed by many more years of life is the killer whale.”
  • “Each individual part of a Saturn V rocket had a 99.9 per cent reliability rate, which means that on a good flight, roughly 6,000 of the 6,000,000 parts were expected to fail.”
  • “Buzz Aldrin was the second man to walk on the moon, but was the first human being to celebrate Holy Communion away from the Earth, and the first to urinate on another world. He still keeps his Apollo 11 travel expenses receipt framed on his living-room wall: ‘Cape Kennedy, Fla. – Moon – Pacific Ocean. Amount claimed 33 dollars and 31 cents.’ Buzz had jokingly tried to claim for 880,000 miles at 8 cents a mile. NASA replied with an invoice for one Saturn V rocket, ready for travel, at $185,000,000.”
  • “The best-selling work of fiction of the 15th century was The Tale of the Two Lovers, an erotic novel by the man who later became Pope Pius II.”
  • “The US ban [on subliminal messaging] is a Federal Communications Commission rule rather than a law, and in 1978 they waived it so that police in Wichita could send a subliminal message to a serial murderer called ‘the BTK Killer’ to turn himself in, hidden in a news broadcast. It didn’t work; he was eventually caught in 2005 by other means (irritated that the police had failed to link one of his murders to him, the Killer called them to ask whether it was possible to trace someone from a floppy disc. The police said ‘Er – no’, so he sent the disc, and they tracked him down by Googling the metadata it carried).”
  • “Vitamin A is really toxic; we use it in anti-wrinkle creams because it actually kills the top layer of skin, making it look fresher. Too much, however, can be fatal.”
  • “In general, the only members of the UK armed forces who can wear a full beard are the Royal Navy. A sailor who wants to do so must submit a form requesting ‘permission to stop shaving’. He is then allowed up to two weeks to ‘grow a full set’. At this point he must present himself to the Master at Arms (the senior Service policeman in any ship or unit) who will decide if his beard looks stupid or is respectably full enough to be permitted.”
  • “Professor Con Slobodchikoff of Northern Arizona University has spent 30 years studying prairie dog behaviour… The result was the first dictionary of Prairiedogese, in which the different calls could be decoded – first by computer but eventually by ear. Not only could the prairie dogs differentiate between hawks, coyotes, badgers and humans, they could also differentiate between short and tall humans and even what colour shirt they were wearing. (Interestingly, they couldn’t tell male from female). Not only is Professor Slobodichikoff’s work the first successful attempt to decode a rodent language, it is probably unique among mammals.”
  • “In some countries, being a criminal doesn’t exclude you from having to pay tax… Of course, if you have to pay tax on an illegal action, you can theoretically claim expenses against it. In 2005, a bank robber in the southern Dutch town of Chaam was able to subtract the cost of his gun from his fine. The judge accordingly reduced the fine from $8,750, the amount stolen from the bank, to $6,500.”
  • “In fact, the autopsy didn’t show any poison in Rasputin’s stomach at all and what seems likeliest is that Rasputin was beaten and stabbed and then shot twice. Then, upon finding that he still had a pulse, a third man shot him in the head. What killed Rasputin was being shot through the forehead, which would kill anyone… Another interesting facet to the affair is the suggestion that it may have been an MI6 officer that killed him; the only man present with the sort of revolver which would have fired the fatal bullet was a British Intelligence officer called Oswald Rayner. MI6 had been involved in planning Rasputin’s death, worried that he was going to persuade the Tsar to pull Russia out of World War I and probably lose it for Britain. It is possible that British Intelligence actively ordered Rasputin’s death. Unfortunately, there’s no way of knowing for sure because Rayner burnt all of his papers before his death in 1961.”

See also: baby cages

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