The Man Who Survived Two Atomic Bombs

Tsutomu Yamaguchi survived two nuclear bombs

Tsutomu Yamaguchi could tell you stories about being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

He was working for Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, and on August 6, 1945 his work took him to the city of Hiroshima, Japan. At 8:15 a.m. the sky ignited with the explosion of the first atomic bomb to be used in warfare. The explosion ruptured his eardrums, blinded him temporarily, and left him with serious burns over much of his body.  Continue reading

Weird Wikipedia Articles

For a journey through the weird, wonderful, and entertaining, check out this excellent article from Bookshelf.


alex atkins bookshelf triviaWikipedia is no ordinary encyclopedia. Each month, more than 500 million unique visitors visit Wikipedia to read its more than 40 million articles written in more than 250 languages. The English version grows at a rate of 800 new articles each day. Compared to any written reference work, Wikipedia’s breadth is simply astonishing. But if you spend enough time browsing through this massive encyclopedia, you will come across some rather unusual or weird articles. Wikipedia even has a page that lists all of their “unusual articles” with this note: “There are over five million articles in the English Wikipedia. These are the ones that Wikipedians have identified as being a bit unusual. These articles are verifiable, valuable contributions to the encyclopedia, but are a bit odd, whimsical, or something you would not expect to find in Encyclopedia Britannica. We should take special care to meet the highest standards of an encyclopedia with these articles lest they…

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The President with 5 Stars Also Had Wings

President Dwight Eisenhower first president with a pilot license
President Dwight D. Eisenhower

If you are looking for a poster child for “overachiever” you might consider Dwight D. Eisenhower.

This Kansas farm boy rose from modest beginnings to become one of only five Americans to achieve the five-star rank of General of the Army and the only one of those to become President of the United States. (see note below) Continue reading

The Coin of the Realm — and Something Extra

Mongolia talking JFK 500 coin Palau holy water silver dollar
₮500 Mongolian coin (upper right) and the $1 Palau silver dollar (lower left)

Everyone likes money because of the value it has in itself. Coin collectors like certain kinds of money because of its rarity or historical value. Every once in a while currency comes around that is just plain fun.

In 2007 the nation of Mongolia chose to honor US President John F. Kennedy because of his role in the creation of the Peace Corps. The government produced a limited edition ₮500 coin (five hundred Tugrik is worth approximately 20¢ in US dollars) with JFK’s image and a tiny button that, when pressed, plays a recording of Kennedy’s famous “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech.

The next year the Pacific island nation of Palau chose to honor the 150th anniversary of the apparitions of the Virgin Mary at Lourdes with a special edition silver dollar. Each of the dollars contains a tiny vial of holy water from Lourdes, France.

Time Lords and Talking Cabbage

Doctor Who Tom Baker Talking Cabbage

Fans of BBC’s Doctor Who know that the Doctor has had quite the variety of companions since the show’s debut in 1963. He has had humans, Time Lords, aliens, a robot dog, and even a Cyberman head.

He almost had a sentient vegetable, as well.

When actress Louise Jameson, who played Leela, left the program in 1978, Tom Baker (the fourth Doctor) wanted to replace her with a talking cabbage. He envisioned his new companion riding around on his shoulder. BBC executives were not warm to the idea, however, and nothing came of it.

While he did not get anything nearly as exciting as a talking cabbage, Baker’s successor as the Doctor, Peter Davison, did wear a stalk of celery on his lapel.

Peter Davison, the fifth Doctor, wore celery as part of his trademark uniform.


Somewhere Over the Rainbow Dogs Make a Lot of Money

How much did Toto earn in The Wizard of Oz

The smallest actor in the movie The Wizard of Oz was Dororthy’s dog, Toto. The tiny pooch did not draw the smallest salary, however.

Each of the actors who played the Munchkins earned a weekly salary of $50 for their talents. Toto walked away with $125 per week.

Seed Sizes, Big and Small

epiphytic orchids Coco de Mer palm tree
(Left) A seed and mature specimen of the Coco de Mer tree. (Right) A seed pod containing thousands of seeds of an epiphytic orchid. Also pictured is a mature orchid plant.

When it comes to seeds, there is no standard size. Seeds are widely varied in shape and size. Consider the contenders for the extremes of seed size.

The world’s smallest seeds are produced by certain ephiphytic orchids. Seeds can be as small as 1/300th of an inch (85 micrometers). The weight of one of them is about 1/35,000th of an ounce (0.81 micrograms). By way of comparison, a typical grain of salt is about 300 micrometers in length. This tiny specimen can grow into a beautiful orchid that is known as an “air plant.” It does not grow on the ground in the dirt, but rather attaches itself to other plants, such as tree bark, and gathers moisture and nutrients from the air.

On the other end of the see spectrum is the massive seed of the Coco de Mer palm tree. The mature fruit can weigh up 66 pounds (30 kg) and can be up to 19.7 inches (50 cm) in diameter. The fruit, which requires 6–7 years to mature and a further two years to germinate, is sometimes also referred to as the Sea Coconut, Bum Seed, double coconut, coco fesse, or Seychelles Nut. The tree that springs from that massive seed can grow to be 112 feet (34 m) tall.