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90 Obscure Reasons to Celebrate

70 years - Newscripts celebrates its platinum anniversary. Credit: Theo Gray/periodictable.com

70 years – Newscripts celebrates its platinum anniversary.
Credit: Theo Gray/periodictable.com

While C&EN celebrates 90 years, the Newscripts column (or News-Scripts, as it was originally known) is also marking an anniversary that’s an integer of 10. The column debuted on July 10, 1943.

For seven decades the Newscripts gang has been on the lookout for news that, as Newscripts Grand Master Ken Reese put it, “favors the chemical over the nonchemical, the scientific over the nonscientific, the grotesque over the normal.” Mostly we spend a paragraph or two on these, but occasionally just a sentence will do.

And so there is the Department of Obscure Information. DOOI’s sentence-long factoids have been steadily supplying Newscripts readers with cocktail party fodder even before Reese took the reigns of the column in 1967. To mark C&EN’s 90th anniversary, we thought we’d give you 90 of these gems that have appeared over the years. Each day this week, we’ll add 19 18 new items to this space.

Here’s Monday’s batch:

1) An old Arkansas cure for boils was to swallow buckshot every morning for nine days. (December 21, 1953)

2) The per capita consumption of coffee in the U.S. is 10 or 12 times as great as that of other English-speaking countries. In England, on the other hand, the per capita consumption of tea is 10 times as great as that of even China. (October 21, 1957)

3) In the 1967 “World Almanac,” the ACS Priestley Medal is listed right under the Pillsbury Baking Contest. (November 25, 1968)

4) The specific gravity of a tomato appears to be an indication of its ripeness. (December 9, 1968)

5) The second U.S. citizen to receive a Nobel Prize was charged with 129 infractions of the rules at the U.S. Naval Academy. (July 21, 1969)

6) An inch of rain falling evenly on 1 acre of ground is equivalent to about 27,205 gallons of water. (July 21, 1969)

7) American Oil’s No. 3 flare at Texas City, Tex., was reignited recently by a flaming arrow. (March 23, 1970)

8) Texas A&M will install an Astro Turf football field with an underground sprinkling system. (April 6, 1970)

9) The address of Reliable Chemical Co. is 10 Mothball Terrace, Passaic, N.J. (April 13, 1970)

10) The world’s largest one-piece molded polycarbonate part is an 11-pound snowmobile hood. (May 18, 1970)

11) The national average home electric rate in January 1969 was $18.03 for 1,000 kwh. (June 1, 1970)

12) The infrared heat detectors in the boa constrictors head are accurate to within 0.001 °C. (June 8, 1970)

13) The American Waterways Operators, Inc., has published a 108-page book entitled “Big Load Afloat.” (June 15, 1970)

14) The gopher’s incisors grow as much as 12 inches per year. (September 14, 1970)

15) The salivary glands of the short-tailed shrew contain enough poison to kill 200 mice. (November 30, 1970)

16) The last salmon was caught in the lower reaches of the Thames, in England, in 1833. (March 22, 1971)

17) The average annual base pay in the Polish chemical industry in 1969 was 2,432 zlotys. (April 26, 1971)

18) Females earned 0.83% of the B.S. degrees in engineering awarded in the U.S. in the 1968–69 academic year. (May 31, 1971)

19) Fresh garlic is an effective preservative for unrefrigerated, fresh-ground camel meat. (June 14, 1971)

From Tuesday:

20) The tail feathers of chickens appear to act as sensing organs for microwave radiation. (June 14, 1971)

21) About 1.5 teaspoons of styrene will make a 5-inch by 8-inch meat tray. (August 16, 1971)

22) The male American finfoot carries its chicks in a pouch, like a flying kangaroo. (October 4, 1971)

23) The U.S. produced 700 million pounds of peanut butter in 1968. (January 24, 1972)

24) More than 60% of the state of New Jersey is farmland or forest. (January 31, 1972)

25) Sulfuric acid was discovered by a Persian, Abu-Bekr-Ahhasses, ca. 940 A.D. (February 14, 1972)

26) Ransom paid for release of a kidnapping victim is tax deductible. (April 3, 1972)

27) Geophysicists measure slight, nonseismic fault motion in the earth with a device called a creep meter. (October 23, 1972)

28) The human optic nerve contains 1.2 million nerve fibers. (February 26, 1973)

29) The urine of Antarctic fish contains no glyocproteins. (April 23, 1973)

30) Pomeranian dogs have been known to attempt the herding of bugs. (June 4, 1973)

31) U.S. Forest Service horses in the Portland, Ore., logging area of the Cascade Mountains may be required to wear canvas diapers to avoid polluting the water supply. (June 18, 1973)

32) Sorbitol cost about $800 per pound in 1923. (June 25, 1973)

33) Bull sperm remains alive at room temperature in coconut milk for up to 14 days. (July 16, 1973)

34) The tomato was not eaten in Philadelphia until 1829. (October 1, 1973)

35) The first cardiac pacemaker weighed almost 16 pounds and had a spring motor. (December 24, 1973)

36) The state of Tennessee was originally the state of Franklin. (February 4, 1974)

Wednesday’s offerings:

37) An estimated 18 million piano and organ keys were made in this country in 1972. (April 15, 1974)

38) The hawks in West Germany’s Wuppertal Zoo eat 24,000 mice annually. (April 29, 1974)

39) The mineral spurrite is found only in Ireland and west Texas. (June 10, 1974)

40) The new World Trade Center in New York City will have 43,600 windows, each 7.5 feet tall. (July 5, 1971)

41) Marconi’s maternal grandfather distilled Irish whisky commercially. (June 17, 1974)

42) The gum on a U.S. postage stamp contains 0.1 to 0.2 calorie. (October 28, 1974)

43) The caribou are the only members of the deer family with antlers on both sexes. (January 6, 1975)

44) The rhinoceros has no gallbladder. (February 3, 1975)

45) A 45-minute bicycle ride is required to consume the calories in a piece of apple pie. (July 11, 1977)

46) The average pH of Canadian beer is 4.16. (February 17, 1975)

47) More than 750,000 microwave ovens were sold in the U.S. in 1974. (September 22, 1975)

48) The American Chemical Society had 238 members in 1890. (February 23, 1976)

49) Humans have an average electrical resistance of about 2000 ohms. (July 5, 1976)

50) The estimated 9000 reporters who covered the Democratic convention in New York City consumed 29,800 sandwiches and 350 lb. of pretzels. (July 26, 1976)

51) The National Bureau of Standards measures time with an accuracy of about one second in 370,000 years. (February 7, 1977)

52) The average consumer in the U.S. is exposed to at least 2000 advertisements daily. (May 23, 1977)

53) Harvard College was started with the proceeds from the sale of 25,000 lottery tickets at $5.00 each. (June 27, 1977)

54) Hereditary blindness to shades of red or green is found in one of every 10 men in this country. (January 16, 1978)

Thursday’s installment:

55) The world population of the Socorro isopod inhabits 90 feet of iron drainpipe in New Mexico. (January 23, 1978)

56) In no year can Easter Sunday occur earlier than March 22 or later than April 25. (April 3, 1978)

57) In 1977 almost 40,000 people in the U.S. were treated in emergency rooms for chainsaw-related injuries. (May 15, 1978)

58) The longest known flight of a boll weevil is 45 miles. (July 3, 1978)

59) Wheat dust is believed to be 50 times as explosive as coal dust. (July 17, 1978)

60) National retail sales of waterbeds will exceed $500 million this year. (April 9, 1979)

61) The U.S. imported $24,000 worth of bagpipes in 1977. (May 28, 1979)

62) Spores of Clostridium botulinum can survive six hours at 212 °F. (July 2, 1979)

63) The most acidic rain measured to date had a pH of 2.4. (February 11, 1980)

64) The teeth of the adult bull sperm whale can grow 6 1/3 inches long. (March 3, 1980)

65) The calories in large apple can be worked off by reclining for 78 minutes. (March 24, 1980)

66) A 1000-pound ox secretes 50 to 60 liters of saliva per day. (April 14, 1980)

67) Chicken eggs turn at 10 to 15 revolutions per hour in the uterus. (January 5, 1981)

68) Crete is approaching Africa at the rate of about 4 cm per year. (February 2, 1981)

69) The adult human contains about 300 grams of sodium chloride. (April 6, 1981)

70) Migrating monarch butterflies travel up to 80 miles daily. (May 17, 1982)

71) A human’s finger joints will flex at least 25 million times in a lifetime. (June 7, 1982)

72) The leech’s visual system includes five pairs of eyes. (August 22, 1983)

Friday’s feast:

73) Red blood cells have an average diameter of about 0.0074 mm. (November 28, 1983)

74) Unstressed newborn humans cry at about 450 Hz. (February 23, 1987)

75) Compact discs used 23,000 metric tons of polycarbonate worldwide in 1990. (March 8, 1993)

76) People in the U.S. drink an average of 34 gal. of beer per person annually. (July 3, 1995)

77) A dog, over its lifetime, typically costs the family that owns in $7,450. (April 28, 1997)

78) At least 40,000 patients wake up unexpectedly during the 20 million surgeries performed annually in the U.S. (November 2, 1998)

79) About 1 g of ozone will neutralize the odor of a liter of hog manure slurry. (January 10, 2000)

80) A 3-oz serving of wild boar averages 136 calories and 3.8 g of fat. (June 12, 2000)

81) The average American spends 79 cents per day on prescription drugs and $1.10 per day on alcoholic drinks. (January 1, 2001)

82) The average human heart weighs 10 ounces and is 5 inches long and 3.5 inches wide. (April 16, 2001)

83) The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children carry no more than 10% of their weight in backpacks. (July 23, 2001)

84) Americans consume 28 lb. of french fries annually per capita. (March 25, 2002)

85) In 1902, 23,000 cars and 17 million horses were operating in the U.S. (January 27, 2003)

86) Red and yellow onions, but not white ones, contain quercetin.(May 26, 2003)

87) The eye of the giant squid can be up to 30 cm in diameter. (August 18, 2003)

88) PEZ candies were originally marketed as a way to stop smoking. In fact, the inventor designed PEZ dispensers to look like lighters, so PEZ users could flick their lighters and pop peppermints instead. (March 14, 2005)

89) A Canadian study has shown that Internet users make decisions about the quality of a Web page in just 50 milliseconds. (February 13, 2006)

90) Pop-up poultry timers, used to tell when your bird is done, were implanted into some 30 million turkeys last Thanksgiving. (February 20, 2006)

In an attempt to gather some attention on Twitter (or perhaps alienate the followers I already have), I’ll be tweeting the items too. Check it out by following @beth_halford.

 

1 Comment

  • Sep 9th 201311:09
    by Chemjobber

    That platinum looks slightly anthropomorphic, something like a rat or maybe a mole.

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