Monthly Archive: August 2013

The French Lumberjacks Who Couldn’t Stop Jumping

In 1878, George Miller Beard, a US neurologist, was in the northern part of Maine and observed odd behavior from the French-Canadian lumberjacks who were nearby. They jumped at loud, surprising noises and would obey any order given unexpectedly, without hesitation. To this day, it is still debated whether this is a neurological disorder or whether it is simply a psychological condition.

Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow Didn’t Start Any Fires

The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 was responsible for over 100 deaths and millions of dollars in damage. It became known as one of the largest disasters in US history, and even more incredible was the fact that such an enormous disaster was caused by a lone cow kicking over a lantern … except it wasn’t. As it turns out, no one knows for sure who started the blaze, and an unscrupulous reporter simply invented the cow story for the sake of an eye-catching headline.

The Man Who Built 2,500 Libraries

After selling his company in 1901 and amassing a fortune equivalent to over $75 billion today, Andrew Carnegie devoted most of the rest of his life to philanthropy, specifically the building and funding of public libraries. By the time of his death in 1919, he had spent over 90 percent of his wealth on charity and had a hand in the construction of 2,509 different libraries, with locations in the US, the UK, Canada, and even Fiji. He had a firmly held belief the wealthy needed to share their fortune for the betterment of mankind.

US Prison Laborers Are The New Slaves

Since the late ’70s, US prisons have provided corporations with cheap, plentiful labor in the form of incarcerated people, most of whom earn less than $5 a day. Nearly one million prisoners are made to produce a variety of items including, somewhat ironically, bulletproof vests for the police. Companies known to participate in the program are Chevron, AT&T, Starbucks and, perhaps least surprisingly, Wal-Mart.

The Invention Of Liquid Paper

Bette Nesmith Graham, an executive secretary for a bank chairman, saw a need and filled it — she invented liquid paper, which would make the lives of office workers and students everywhere more manageable (and make her rich). Her background as an artist gave her inspiration to paint over mistakes.

The Greatest Farter In The History Of The World

Joseph Pujol, also known as Le Petomane, had a unique talent: He could fart as often as he wanted because he had complete control of his anal muscles. After discovering his talent and realizing that others found it hilarious, he began to perform for audiences. Before long he was headlining at the Moulin Rouge in Paris, and was one of the most popular acts in France at that time.

Humans Are Far Less Empathetic Than They Used To Be

According to a comprehensive study from the University of Michigan, we care about others 40 percent less than people in the 1980s did, with the biggest drop-off in empathy occurring after the year 2000. Reasons for this drop in empathy is anyone’s guess, but the increase in media (both social and mainstream) and violent video games have been trotted out as the likely suspects.