74 Facts for 202012/30/2020
Each day, our editors collect the most interesting, striking or delightful facts to appear in articles throughout the paper. Here are 74 from the past year that were the most revealing.
By Times Insider Staff
Illustrations by Clay Hickson
1. Japan’s legal system has a 99 percent conviction rate.
Carlos Ghosn, at Home but Waiting for the Next Move
2. Fishing remains the United States’ second most dangerous profession, after logging.
Overtaken by Frigid Seas, Hours From Help, There Was Little Chance of Survival
3. McSorley’s Old Ale House, established in 1854 in the East Village, served beer to Abraham Lincoln and John Lennon.
After 190 Years, the ‘Most Famous Bar You’ve Never Heard of’ Avoids Last Call
4. The Lehigh Valley in Eastern Pennsylvania is within an eight-hour drive of one-third of American consumers.
What the Rebirth of This Old Steel Center Means for Trump
5. Dog the Bounty Hunter met Beth Chapman, his late wife, in 1986 when he posted her bond after she shoplifted a lemon.
Dog the Bounty Hunter Is Hunting Alone
6. The ginkgo is the oldest surviving tree species, having remained on the planet for some 200 million years.
The Secret That Helps Some Trees Live More Than 1,000 Years
7. Around 1,000 to 4,000 orchid plants are used to make a single kilogram of salep, a beloved drink in Turkey that is like a cross between hot chocolate and rice pudding.
For Many U.S. Turks, Salep Is Beloved but Elusive
8. In Thailand, the military has staged 18 coups since the end of the absolute monarchy in 1932.
Thai Soldier in Mass Shooting Had Business Clash With His Commander
9. About 95 percent of Egypt’s population lives on about 4 percent of the land, a green belt roughly half the size of Ireland that follows the Nile as it snakes through the desert, then fans out into the Nile Delta.
As Egypt’s Population Hits 100 Million, Celebration Is Muted
10. Twice a day, the low tide of the River Thames drops the water level in some areas by as much as 20 feet.
Mudlarks Scour the Thames to Uncover 2,000 Years of Secrets
11. In the 1960s, concertgoers at the rock promoter Bill Graham’s Fillmore theaters in New York and San Francisco were greeted with barrels offering free apples.
In Trippy Times, Bill Graham Took Care of Reality
12. For decades after the birth of modern photography in 1839, one of the most common uses of the technology was a professionally shot photograph of a dead family member.
The iPhone at the Deathbed
13. The Scott Paper Company was the first company to introduce toilet paper with cardboard rolls, back in 1890.
My Tireless Quest for a Tubeless Wipe
14. Fearing they would face a shortage of wood for coffins after the first aerial attack on London in World War II, officials in the British Home Office believed they would have to bury thousands of people in cardboard or even papier-mâché.
How Churchill Brought Britain Back From the Brink
15. According to a 2008 study by the United States Institute of Peace, nearly 90 percent of women in Afghanistan will experience some form of domestic abuse in their lifetime.
They Killed Their Husbands. Now in Prison, They Feel Free.
16. At one concert in Vienna in 1808, his last public appearance as a pianist, Beethoven unveiled the Fifth Symphony, the “Pastoral” Sixth, the Fourth Piano Concerto and “Choral Fantasy.”
Review: Beethoven’s Biggest Concert, Now With Heat
17. One study, published in Nature Climate Change in March, found that more than half of the world’s sandy beaches could disappear by the end of this century.
The Original Long Islanders Fight to Save Their Land From a Rising Sea
18. In the 24 years since they appeared together in “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick got engaged, married and had three children, but did not act together.
Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker Spend the Night Together
19. The summit of Mount is Everest is about the size of two Ping-Pong tables.
After Deadly Jam on Everest, Nepal Delays New Safety Rules
20. Samsung was founded in 1938 as a shop selling vegetables and dried fish.
Samsung: The Tech Monster That Conquered the World
21. When the ants of the species Myrmecina graminicola encounter danger while on a slope, they tuck into a ball and roll away, the only ants known to move in this way.
These Ants Have a Revolutionary Escape Strategy
22. Years after Wyatt Earp’s famous turn at the O.K. Corral, in Tombstone, Ariz., he rambled around Los Angeles as an unpaid consultant for silent cowboy movies.
Richard Prince: This Ain’t No Retrospective, It’s a Rodeo
23. In Finland, a tradition of getting drunk at home in your underwear is so commonplace that there’s a word for it, “kalsarikännit.” The rough translation is “pantsdrunk.”
Getting Tipsy at Home in Your Underwear
24. In Britain, the BBC is nicknamed “Auntie” for its staid and reliable reputation.
How the Beleaguered BBC Became ‘Comfort Food’ in a Pandemic
25. Some 42 percent of American adults — nearly 80 million people — live with obesity.
Obesity Linked to Severe Coronavirus Disease, Especially for Younger Patients
26. King Saud, Saudi Arabia’s second king, fathered 53 sons and 57 daughters with numerous wives and concubines.
After a Year of Silence, a Jailed Saudi Princess Appeals for Help
27. Before the Industrial Revolution, the principal sources of noise were thunder, church bells and cannon fire.
Loud, Louder, Loudest: How Classical Music Started to Roar
28. Off the coast of the Bronx, Hart Island, now home to a cemetery for the homeless and for unidentified bodies, was once the site of city jails, a Civil War prison camp and an insane asylum for women.
How Covid-19 Has Forced Us to Look at the Unthinkable
29. Rats must gnaw, and constantly, because their sharp, hard incisors grow continuously throughout their lives — around four or five inches a year.
Oh, Rats! Finally Moving Your Car? You May Get a Surprise.
30. George Washington survived smallpox, malaria (six times), diphtheria, tuberculosis (twice) and pneumonia.
What the History Books Won’t Tell You About George Washington
31. If they were a country, cows would rank as the world’s sixth-largest emitter of methane gas, ahead of Brazil, Japan and Germany.
The Business of Burps: Scientists Smell Profit in Cow Emissions
32. Disney’s eight movie studios controlled 40 percent of the domestic box office in 2018.
For Walt Disney Co., a Stricken Empire
33. In May, Elon Musk and his girlfriend, Claire Boucher, the musician known as Grimes, had a child and named him X Æ A-12.
Tesla Owners Try to Make Sense of Elon Musk’s ‘Red Pill’ Moment
34. Richard Scherrer, the engineer listed first on the patent for Lockheed’s F-117 stealth aircraft, had moonlighted in the 1950s to design some of the rides at Disneyland, including Dumbo the Flying Elephant.
Looking at War Across 2,500 Years
35. Fungi can be trained to eat cigarette butts, used diapers, oil spills and even radiation.
Whether You’re Making a Meal or Cleaning an Oil Spill, There’s a Fungus for That
36. In March, as the coronavirus pandemic intensified, Americans bought two million guns, the busiest month for sales since January 2013.
Father of School Shooting Victim Takes On Smith & Wesson
37. There may be trillions of species of virus in the world. Of them, a few hundred thousand kinds are known, and fewer than 7,000 have names.
Monster or Machine? A Profile of the Coronavirus at 6 Months
38. Brooks Brothers, which Henry Sands Brooks founded in Manhattan in 1818, is the oldest apparel brand in continuous operation in the United States.
Brooks Bros., ‘Made in America’ Since 1818, May Soon Need a New Calling Card
39. Black women, on average, earn 64 cents for every dollar a white man earns, according to research from the Economic Policy Institute.
The Stark Racial Inequity of Personal Finances in America
40. A study on voting behavior by the economist Enrico Cantoni found that a quarter-mile increase in distance from a polling booth reduced voting by 2 to 5 percent.
For Racial Justice, Employees Need Paid Hours Off for Voting
41. “Gone With the Wind” is still the highest-grossing film of all time, adjusted for inflation.
The Long Battle Over ‘Gone With the Wind’
42. Over the past five years in Minneapolis, the police have used force against Black people at seven times the rate it has been used against white people.
Policing in America Is Broken and Must Change. But How?
43. Only a certain peanut bred for the proper size and the look of its shell makes the cut for the ballpark trade. It’s called the Virginia, grown in that state but also in the Carolinas, Texas and, to a lesser degree, New Mexico.
Ballpark Peanuts, a Classic Summer Pleasure, Have Been Benched
44. Ghulam Sarwar Khan, the Pakistani aviation minister, told Parliament in June that of around 860 pilots working for Pakistani air carriers, 260 had fraudulent licenses.
Suspension From European Airspace Is Latest Blow to Pakistan’s Troubled Airline
45. The word “homosexuality” was coined by the Austro-Hungarian writer Karl-Maria Kertbeny in 1869.
Overlooked No More: Karl Heinrich Ulrichs, Pioneering Gay Activist
46. “Brave New World,” Aldous Huxley’s 1932 science fiction novel, is set in a future with chemical birth control, mood stabilizers, genetic engineering, videoconferencing and television.
‘Brave New World’ Arrives in the Future It Predicted
47. We breathe roughly 25,000 times a day.
Breathe Better With These Nine Exercises
48. The self-storage industry got its start in the 1960s, when swelling consumerism led Americans to buy more stuff than they had room for.
Americans Hunker Down, Threatening the Self-Storage Industry
49. At 17, Lucille Ball left her upstate New York high school for Broadway, only to be told: “You just don’t have it. Why don’t you go home?”
The ‘Wildcat’ Episode, or, Did Broadway Love Lucy?
50. Bayes’s theorem is a device for rationally updating your prior beliefs and uncertainties based on observed evidence.
How to Think Like an Epidemiologist
51. After getting swallowed by a frog, the beetle Regimbartia attenuata can scuttle down the amphibian’s gut and force it to poop, emerging soiled but alive.
There Are Two Ways Out of a Frog. This Beetle Chose the Back Door.
52. Penicillin, which was discovered in 1928, would have vanquished the pneumonia that killed many people during the 1918 influenza pandemic.
In N.Y.C.’s Coronavirus Surge, a Frightening Echo of the 1918 Flu
53. The fist bump was reputedly popularized by Fred Carter, a high-energy N.B.A. player of the 1970s.
Will We Ever Touch (Professionally) Again?
54. Before taking what would become a famous photograph of Florence Owens Thompson known as “Migrant Mother” in 1936, Dorothea Lange drove 20 miles past the camp where Ms. Thompson was staying before deciding to turn around.
America at Hunger’s Edge
55. The beaches of Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago, are covered with “blubberstones” — gravel mingled with rendered fat, vestiges of the mass killings of seals and whales.
Grief and Geology Both Take Time in ‘The Book of Unconformities’
56. Martha Stewart, who has a line of CBD products, including pâte de fruit, was introduced to the palliative effects of cannabis by Snoop Dogg, a friend, at Comedy Central’s 2015 “Roast of Justin Bieber.”
Martha Stewart, Blissed Out on CBD, Rides Out the Pandemic
57. In the United States, prison life sentences have quadrupled since the 1980s.
Making Art When ‘Lockdown’ Means Prison
58. In Belgium, the wealthy Dutch-speaking region in the north and the poorer French-speaking region in the south each have their own governments, political parties and cultures.
After 2 Years of Paralysis, Belgium Forms a (Very Fragile) Government
59. Standard plastic will take 450 years to degrade in ocean water.
Why ‘Biodegradable’ Isn’t What You Think
60. Because of the atrocities of the Nazi era, Germany doesn’t maintain data on racial demographics.
Black Germans Say It’s Time to Look Inward
61. By one estimate, the K-pop group BTS adds more than $3.5 billion annually to South Korea’s economy.
BTS’s Loyal Army of Fans Is the Secret Weapon Behind a $4 Billion Valuation
62. News Corp controls about two-thirds of daily newspaper circulation in Australia.
Petition Targeting Murdoch Swamps Australian Parliament’s Website
63. The world’s population is expected to start shrinking in about 45 years.
Matthew Yglesias Thinks There Should Be ‘One Billion Americans’
64. A small contingent of the population carries a mutation that makes them immune to the odious funk that wafts off fish, according to a study published in the journal Current Biology.
People With This Mutation Can’t Smell Stinky Fish
65. Often, the screams we hear in movies and TV are created by doubles and voice actors. One stock scream is so well-used it’s got a name, the Wilhelm. It’s in hundreds of films.
They Scream! We Scream!
66. In the United States, 80,000 acres of wetlands are lost to development annually.
These Wetlands Helped Stop Flooding From Sandy. Now a BJ’s May Move In.
67. Cacerolazo, Spanish for casserole, is a form of protest involving pot-banging.
Make Some Noise and Move: A Choreographer Provides Instructions
68. Sports teams first visited the White House in 1865, when President Andrew Johnson welcomed baseball’s Washington Nationals and Brooklyn Atlantics.
Even With a New President, Sports at the White House Won’t Be the Same
69. Once rare off Southern California beaches, great white sharks are beginning to show up more often. The newcomers are mostly juvenile sharks, which prefer the warm waters closer to shore.
When Sharks Turned Up at Their Beach, They Called in Drones
70. Many stories have been told over the years about the inspiration for the song “Lola” by the Kinks. The group’s singer, Ray Davies, said it came from an encounter at the Castille Club, a Paris nightspot the group frequented.
Ray Davies on 50 Years of ‘Lola’
71. Underground, trees and fungi form partnerships known as mycorrhizas: Threadlike fungi envelop and fuse with tree roots, helping them extract water and nutrients in exchange for some of the carbon-rich sugars the trees make through photosynthesis.
The Social Life of Forests
72. The Olympic track star Rafer Johnson was a regular in Robert F. Kennedy’s presidential campaign entourage in 1968. Johnson helped to tackle Sirhan Sirhan after the assassin shot Kennedy at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles.
Remembering Rafer Johnson in a Long Year of Lost Sports Legends
73. John le Carré did not compete for, nor accept, book prizes. In 2011, when he was nominated for the Man Booker International Prize, he asked that his name be withdrawn.
John le Carré, a Master of Spy Novels Where the Real Action Was Internal
74. In Hawaiian, the word for salt is pa’akai, meaning “to solidify the sea.”
How to Collect Salt
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