Let’s Get Smarter!

When I was a kid, I had a teacher who told me that a good day was going to bed smarter than when you woke up.  She was right.  Even though, in the 21st century, we have the wisdom of the ages in our pockets, the act of learning is good for the psyche, the ego, the mind, body and soul.  It feels good.  To that end, here is a bunch of useless information than won’t change the world, but it will make you feel good about yourself.  Enjoy!

Mona Lisa has no eyebrows.  No biggie!  It was just the fashion at the time of the painting.

Since the advent of commercial passenger airlines in the 1920s, the entire population of planet Earth has never actually been on planet Earth — all at the same time.

Unless you’re a hopeless egomaniac, the rest of the world sees you as a lot more attractive than you see yourself.

American astronaut Charlie Duke left a photograph of his family on the Moon in 1972.  It’s still there.

Computer malfunctions are called “bugs” because the first one was caused by a real bug crawling around in the equipment.

The laws of probability alone dictate that there are at least 4,000 undetected serial killers in the world.

Statistically, in times of stress (war, recession, famine, natural disaster, etc.) there are more male births than female.

When you close your eyes, the colour you see isn’t black – it’s a unique shade called eigengrau.

Birds do not pee — ever.  They do other things when they are flying around up there – so be careful – but they don’t pee.

On average, people have 5 secrets that they’ve never told anyone – and usually only one of those is about someone else.

If you’re overwhelmed by downloads, uploads, Skype, Messenger, Zoom, streaming and on and on and on.  If you can’t (don’t wanna) understand what half the icons on your Smart phones are for.  If you long for the days when your VCR flashed 12:00, 12:00, 12:00.  Then you suffer from a real condition called Technostalgia.

The largest dressmaker in the world is Mattel.  The folks who make clothes for Barbie.

There are more Lego mini-figures in the world than there are humans.

Dactylolysis is a medical condition that causes toes (one at a time) to spontaneously fall off.  It only happened to men and it’s very, very rare, but tonight, when take your slippers off – give ‘em a count – just in case.

Prosopagnosia is a cognitive condition that inhibits facial recognition.  People who suffer from it simply don’t recognize the faces of their friends and family — and in some severe cases, don’t even recognize themselves.

And one of my favourites:

Retail companies spend more on advertising in January.  This is to counteract all the New Year’s Resolutions everybody makes.

Different Thoughts?


Recently, a lot of very smart people have been quietly studying the next impossible question: which came first, language or culture?  Like the chicken and the egg conundrum – Uh, good luck solving that riddle — it does bring up an interesting concept.  Does language affect the way we look at the world?  Or, more precisely, do people who speak different languages think differently?

Wow!  This is a huge question that scholars are going to be pondering for years, but the simple answer is … yes.  Let me try to explain without sounding like some kind of philological fascist.

Every language has words that simply do not translate because every culture has concepts that don’t.  For example, the Hawaiian language has no word for “weather*.”  Why?  When your weather is consistently Paradise 2.0, you just don’t need an uncountable noun to describe it.  Meanwhile, in all Inuit languages, there are dozens of different words for snow.  They describe every variant imaginable in a world where survival depends on what kind of white stuff Mother Nature is throwing at you.  Both these linguistic imperatives make sense in their own neighbourhood, but they don’t to each other.  Hawaiians and the Inuit have totally different concepts of weather, and their language reflects that.

Likewise, every time I go to France, it takes me a couple of days to realize I’m not getting bad service in restaurants.  The problem is my concept of lunch is completely different from the French dejeuner.  The words mean exactly the same thing but … they aren’t.  In North America, we treat lunch as a necessary nuisance that’s done and gone, but in France it’s an important cultural ritual that can take a couple of hours.  Even though the words translate perfectly– one to one– they mean wildly different things.

But it’s not just cultural differences that influence language.

English has a ton of prepositions, but let’s just use “in” and “on.”  In Spanish, “in” and “on” are the same word: “en.”  Spanish speakers don’t differentiate.  They don’t think that way.

The Russians have a word “toska” which is kinda/ sorta,/maybe religious longing, but not really – uh — so much as a feeling of loss without knowing what is lost.  But you kinda have experience it to know what it feels like.

Hygge, fernweh and forelsket are also words that simply don’t translate into English.  It’s not that English speakers don’t have the same feelings as Danes, Germans or Norwegians; it’s just that we don’t think that way.

I don’t believe culture precedes language, but I do believe that, as a culture evolves, people simultaneously adapt their language to accommodate it.  Once that happens, the actual words tend to veer away from their objective meaning.  They get loaded up with information that’s specific to the speaker.  Words are the tools we use to express our thoughts, and sometimes those thoughts are incomprehensible to an outsider.  That’s why anybody who knows anything about language will tell you that to learn a language properly, you must first understand the culture.


*In contemporary usage, Hawaiians have borrow the Chinese word “huan” which loosely translates as change.

Super-duper Smart People


My whole life has been a lie — and so has yours!  Unless you’re some super-duper scientist, you’ve been living under the delusion that the Earth has only one moon — conveniently called “The Moon.”  You’re wrong.  Our planet actually has two moons, and the second one is called Cruithne.  You didn’t know that, did ya?  Well, don’t feel bad ’cause neither does anyone else outside the super-duper scientist community.  But wait: there’s more!  The reason you and I and everybody else have never heard about Cruithne is another bunch of super-duper scientists thought about it for a while and called “Bullshit!”  They say that this other moon isn’t really a moon; it’s a NEO (Near Earth Object) and, apparently, there are thousands of them flying around out there.  Nerd wars!

The truth is, it doesn’t matter if the Earth has one, two or a thousand moons.  Aside from screwing up some romantic song lyrics and making the horoscope people look like idiots, what difference does it make?  Not much!  The important thing, however, is we have a crew of super-duper smart people sitting around all day, thinking about smart stuff — like whether a space rock the size of a golf course is a moon or not.

Here’s the deal: 500 years ago (1518) if you mentioned the Earth revolved around the Sun, you’d have been burned as a heretic.  (Galileo and his buddy Copernicus barely missed getting the crispy critter treatment for saying exactly that — 25 years later.)  But you don’t have to go back that far.  Less than a hundred years ago, if you told people a moldy cantaloupe could cure everything from pneumonia to blood poisoning, they’d have found a straitjacket and put you in it.  Hell, 30 years ago we only had one moon!  My point is, who knows what absolute facts will be proven wrong 500, 100 or even 30 years from now?

Ordinary people, like me, don’t know anything about microbes or moons or any of the other billions and one things scooting through our universe.  We need super-duper smart people to think about that stuff and figure it out for the rest of us.  People like Da Vinci, Newton, Madame Curie, Einstein and good old what’s-his-name who discovered Cruithne in 1986.  These are the folks who, throughout history, changed the human race from a bunch of thugs with thumbs into the dominant species on this planet.  And if it weren’t for them, we’d still be dancing around the campfire and howling at the moon — whichever one you fancy.

BTW, it’s been generally decided that 3753 Cruithne is not a moon, but for a while there, it looked like we’d all be singing “By the light of the silvery Cruithne.”