QI: A selection #8

Here is another selection of trivia that I have picked from the QI column in the Telegraph:

Marriage exists in all known human cultures. The state of polygyny (husbands having more than one wife) occurs in 84 per cent of human societies, but, even in wholly polygynous cultures, approximately 90 per cent of human beings actually live in monogamous relationships. The average length of a British marriage is 11 years and six months, which is about the same as it was for 12th century peasants (though their marriages tended to end through the death of one of the partners rather than divorce).

The coldest temperature ever recorded on Earth is-128.56F(-89.2C), at Vostok station inAntarcticain 1983. The coldest inhabited city is Yakutsk, the capital of the republic of Yakutiain the Russian Far East (formerly part of Siberia). Its average January temperature is about-40F(-40C), and it has been known to dip to-83.2F(-64C). The 200,000 residents have learnt to cope with the cold: no one wears metal-rimmed glasses outside because the metal will stick to and tear the skin on the face, and cars are left running so their engines don’t seize up. Yakutia is almost the size of India; if it were an independent country it would be the eighth largest in the world. It crosses three time zones but is home to fewer than a million people.

Since 1959, it has been legal to marry a dead person in France, provided you can prove the wedding was already planned. The law was introduced following the Malpasset dam disaster in which 421 people died. Irene Jodard appealed to President de Gaulle for permission to marry her fiancé, who had drowned. Around 20 posthumous marriages are approved by the French president each year.

The internet is now used by two billion people – a little under a third of the world’s population. What are they using it for? According to Clifford Holliday, author of Internet Growth 2006, 75 per cent of web traffic is file sharing, of which 69 per cent is video and 33 per cent music. Email only accounts for nine per cent. And the internet isn’t “mostly” porn: in 2006, the US Department of Justice hired statistician Philip B Stark, of the University of  California, to find out how much of the web was sexually explicit. He discovered that only 1.1 per cent of the websites indexed by Google and MSN fell into that category.

Larry Page and Sergey Brin met at Stanford University in 1995. A year later they start collaborating on a search engine, which they called BackRub. In 1997 they decided they needed a new name and came up with Google, a misspelling of googol. A googol is 10100, or one followed by a hundred zeros in decimal representation. Its official number name is 10 duotrigintillion. The term “googol” was suggested in 1938 by nine-year-old Milton Sirotta, who was out walking with his uncle, the mathematician Edward Kasner (1878-1955).

The most prolific author of all time is Philip M Parker, a professor of management science at INSEAD. He created an algorithm that takes information from the internet and aggregates it into book form. He now has 107,000 books listed against his name on Amazon. Many of them are targeted at extremely specialised niches: The 2009-2014 World Outlook for 60-milligram Containers of Fromage Frais won the Diagram Prize for oddest book title of the year in 2008.

Guinness is red, not black. When drinking a pint, hold it up to the light: it will show up as a deep ruby colour.

Pocahontas, the American Indian princess, was the first American to be buried in Britain. Baptised a Christian and renamed Rebecca, Pocahontas was brought to Englandin 1616, living in Brentford with her husband, John Rolfe, and son. She was used as a walking advert for the Virginia Company to show potential colonists how charming the American Indians could be. Pocahontas died as she and her family were setting out to return to Virginia, and was taken ashore and buried at Gravesend. Her many descendants include Nancy Reagan and Wayne Newton, the Las Vegas entertainer, who is trying to recover Pocahontas’ remains for reburial in Virginia.

The nickname Gotham for New York City long predates its use in the Batman comic strip in 1939. It was coined by the writer Washington Irving in his journal Salmagundi, which satirised New York life and politics. He probably borrowed it from the English village of Gotham in Nottinghamshire, which was famous for the supposed stupidity of its inhabitants. The name means ”an enclosure where goats are kept’’ from the Old English gat ”goat’’ and ham ”home’’. The English locals pronounce it ”Got-em’’, with a hard ”t’’ rather than a soft ”th’’.

In 1857, Central Park became the US’s first landscaped park. More gunpowder was used to clear the area than was used at the battle of Gettysburg in the American Civil War and several villages were removed. It covers 840 acres– making it eight times larger than the Vatican.

According to Oxford Online’s survey of more than a billion words, 95 per cent of the most commonly used 100 words in the English language are of one syllable. The exceptions are “about”, “person”, “other”, “only”, “after” and “because”.

Going barefoot is best for your feet, joints and overall posture. A South African study in the podiatry journal The Foot, in 2007, studied 180 modern humans from three different population groups (Sotho, Zulu, and European) and compared them to 2,000-year-old skeletons. The researchers concluded that people had healthier feet and posture before the invention of shoes. The Zulu, who often go barefoot, had the healthiest feet of the modern humans.

White cars are the safest kind of car. Black cars have a 12 per cent higher risk of crashing; grey cars have a 11 per cent higher risk; silver vehicles 10 per cent; and blue and red, seven per cent. On the other hand, white cars are 60 per cent more likely to get covered in bird droppings, according to a 2005 study by Bristol University. Ornithologists suggest this might be self-defence, because the birds associate the colour with predators.

There is only one species of dog. All dogs, no matter how different in appearance or size, can breed with each other. Other single species include the horse, koala, aardvark and … coconut. 

The eccentric Rev F W Densham, drove out his congregation at Warleggan church by continually picking quarrels with them. The final straw came when he painted the inside of his ancient church with garish red and blue stripes. Deprived of a congregation, Densham filled his church with cardboard cut-outs to represent them and continued to take services. He also built an 8ft-high, barbed-wire fence around the rectory to keep out intruders. Densham died in 1953, having subsisted for many years on nettles and porridge.

You can’t tell anything about a man from the size of his feet. In 2002, nurses at St. Mary’s Hospital and University College Hospital in London measured the foot size and penis length of 104 men and found there was no link between the two.

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One Response to QI: A selection #8

  1. Alberto says:

    Interesting trivia.

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