Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Useless Trivia: Why Writers Love It

Ask any writer where the ideas come from, and you'll get a wide range of replies. An idea for a story, character, or novel can originate just about anywhere. The world is full of inspiration, and truth is truly stranger than fiction.

One of the richest sources for inspiration is trivia - facts from ordinary to strange that can spark a plot, define a character, help a writer solve a story dilemma, or add touches of fascination to a manuscript. So, in celebration of useless information, here is a random list of facts for you. Enjoy!

* In the weightlessness of space, a frozen pea will explode if it comes in contact with Pepsi.

* The increased electricity used by modern appliances is causing a shift in the Earth's magnetic field. By the year 2327, the North Pole will be located in mid-Kansas, while the South Pole will be just off the coast of East Africa.

* The idea for "tribbles" in "Star Trek" came from gerbils, since some gerbils are actually born pregnant.

* The trucking company Elvis Presley worked at as a young man was owned by Frank Sinatra.

* The only golf course on the island of Tonga has 15 holes, and there's no penalty if a monkey steals your golf ball.

* Legislation passed during WWI making it illegal to say "gesundheit" to a sneezer was never repealed.

* Manatees possess vocal chords which give them the ability to speak like humans, but don't do so because they have no ears with which to hear the sound.

* Polar bears can eat as many as 86 penguins in a single sitting.

* You can get blood from a stone, but only if contains at least 17 percent bauxite.

* Silly Putty was "discovered" as the residue left behind after the first latex condoms were produced. It's not widely publicized for obvious reasons.

* Approximately one-sixth of your life is spent on Wednesdays.

* The sport of jai alai originated from a game played by Incan priests who held cats by their tails and swung at leather balls. The cats would instinctively grab at the ball with their claws, thus enabling players to catch them.

* A cat's purr has the same romance-enhancing frequency as the voice of singer Barry White.

* The typewriter was invented by Hungarian immigrant Qwert Yuiop, who left his "signature" on the keyboard.

* The volume of water that the Giant Sequoia tree consumes in a 24-hour period contains enough suspended minerals to pave 17.3 feet of a 4-lane concrete freeway.

* King Henry VIII slept with a gigantic axe.

* In 1843, a Parisian street mime got stuck in his imaginary box and consequently died of starvation.

* Touch-tone telephone keypads were originally planned to have buttons for Police and Fire Departments, but they were replaced with * and # when the project was cancelled in favor of developing the 911 system.

* Human saliva has a boiling point three times that of regular water.

* Watching an hour-long soap opera burns more calories than watching a three-hour baseball game.

* Until 1978, Camel cigarettes contained minute particles of real camels.

* To human taste buds, Zima is virtually indistinguishable from zebra urine.

* A team of University of Virginia researchers released a study promoting the practice of picking one's nose, claiming that the health benefits of keeping nasal passages free from infectious blockages far outweigh the negative social connotations.

* Never hold your nose and cover your mouth when sneezing, as it can blow out your eyeballs.

* Centuries ago, purchasing real estate often required having one or more limbs amputated in order to prevent the purchaser from running away to avoid repayment of the loan. Hence an expensive purchase was said to cost "an arm and a leg."

* Coca-Cola was the favored drink of Pharaoh Ramses. An inscription found in his tomb, when translated, was found to be almost identical to the recipe used today.

* If you part your hair on the right side, you were born to be carnivorous. If you part it on the left, your physical and psychological make-up is that of a vegetarian.

* Although difficult, it's possible to start a fire by rapidly rubbing together two Cool Ranch Doritos.

* It is nearly three miles farther to fly from Amarillo, Texas to Louisville, Kentucky than it is to return from Louisville to Amarillo.

* The Venezuelan brown bat can detect and dodge individual raindrops in mid-flight, arriving safely back at his cave completely dry.


Marta Stephens said...

LOL These are so cool!!

I've made a note to not be in Kansas in 2327 and not get near a polar bear dreassed in a tux. :)

Thanks for this bit of fun!

Jodi Lee (Morrighan) said...

Some of those are just downright scary... ;)

Kim Smith said...

I love stuff like this!!

Warren Adler said...

It's the odd anecdote at a dinner party, a newspaper story, a line in someone else’s novel, an overheard remark, a face in a crowd, a television show, a movie, a gesture, a long buried memory. There is no telling when, where and how ideas are born.

Aaron Paul Lazar said...

So true, SW. Lately ideas have been pummeling my brain from...er...my wife's television programs. I hate to admit it, but there have been a few nuggets of "what if's" coming from Lifetime movies lately! Ha. I usually put my earphones on when she's got these movies on, but once in a while a cool idea will grow from a casual listen.

Warren - well said. Ideas spring from living, period.

Anonymous said...

dude, check your fact checker. you have more than a few myths in there, such as: no penguins in the arctic and no polar bears in the antarctic.

s.w. vaughn said...

Anonymous, you're correct - I did realize there were a few duds in this list, after I posted it. Alas. I was in a bit of a hurry that morning...

No such person as our friend Qwert, for example. I'm sure there are more myths on this list. I shall hunt them down!

(Though perhaps, regarding polar bears, some enterprising scientist introduced one to a flock of penguins, just to see what would happen. :-)