Fun Facts About Our World #9

March 31st, 2014
Fun Facts About Our World #9:

Psychokinesis is the alleged ability to move objects with the mind. Many humans have claimed to have this talent, but their claims have all been widely disputed, mostly by magicians who can perform the same feats without a claim to Psychokinesis. Some of these individuals, like Uri Geller, have been outright exposed as frauds. Yet still, some people keep believing.

One person who was never debunked, lived her entire life in the Soviet Union. Her name was Ninel Kulagina. A frontline fighter in the Russian Red Army at 14, she was wounded once by a German shell fragment. Recovery was a long and arduous process, and she was very upset and angry over the way she felt.

She said, “One day when I was very upset, I was walking by the cupboard when suddenly a jug moved to the end of the shelf, fell, and smashed to bits.” She claimed that lights would turn on and off, doors opened and closed, dishes moved on tables, and more. She was very frightened, thinking that it must be ghosts. Later, she said, she felt the power was coming from inside her.

Several Soviet doctors examined her and more than 60 films were made of her performing her feats. She could do them even while in a locked cage across the room. Instruments attached to monitor her heart and aspiration showed she was under considerable stress, and now she is thought to be the real deal.

So, what do you believe? Hoax or real?
~Danielle Sainte-Marie

Fun Facts About Our World #8

March 14th, 2014
Fun Facts About Our World #8:

Is it really true that if you fall from a great height you will be dead before you hit the ground? In a 1944 bombing raid over Germany, Royal Air Force Gunnery Sergeant Nicholas Alkemade jumped out of his plane at 18,000 feet. The plane had been hit and was a blazing wreckage, so he figured he would jump out, die in the fall, and that this would be better than burning to death.

But, he was conscious the whole way down! And, rushing towards the earth at 120 mph sent him into a panic—but then he crashed through a thick forest and young pine trees, springy growth, and finally into snow, which all helped break his fall. He landed, amazingly enough, uninjured and conscious.

In August, 2004, South African Christine McKenzie was skydiving when she had a fail of her main chute and her reserve chute. She fell 11,000 feet into electrical wires, which broke her fall and allowed her to live. She wasn’t even electrocuted! She suffered a fractured pelvic bone and some bruising and is already jumping again.

In July, 2012, two Russian base jumpers went up to a 400 foot pylon and jumped off it. One buddy filmed the other, and the rest was Youtube history. That’s because the first guy to jump didn’t have his chute fully open, so he slammed into the snow below at a near free-fall rate. His buddy couldn’t believe what he had witnessed, and it took him a few seconds to turn off the camera. He expected to go down the pylon and find his friend’s twisted, dead body.

Instead, he found his friend talking about how his body hurt. He had fractured his legs, vertebrae, and pelvis, but is walking again!

So, no, the old adage that you die before you hit the ground from a long fall is just not true. Of course, that can happen, but I suggest you be more practical. If you are ever caught in a free-fall, aim for something that can break your fall!
~Danielle Sainte-Marie

Fun Facts About Our World #7

March 7th, 2014
Fun Facts About Our World #7:

The curious origins of particular words…

Assassin is a word that means “a user of hashish,” and comes from the Arabic word Hashshishin. For 200 years the sect known as Assassins terrorized the Middle East. They were religious fanatics who murdered under the influence of drugs.

Candidate is a word that means “a person dressed in white.” In ancient Rome, when a person was seeking office, he wore an immaculately white toga to show his intentions were pure.

Firemen were originally known as “fire starters.” They went into coal mines dressed in wet rags and used a torch to ignite pockets of air that contained methane, so that the workers for the day would be safe from explosions. Because they saved lives in this manner, they became known as “putting out fires,” and history pretty much lost their real connection of starting as many fires as they could!

Jargon is a word that is an insult, not a compliment. When someone says, “Stop using all that internet jargon,” they are really saying, “Stop making the twittering noise a bird makes.”

Quiz has no real meaning, and is a word that was made up to satisfy a bet. In 1780, a Dublin theater manager named Daly was bet that within 24 hours he couldn’t introduce a new word to the English language. So, he spent the whole night chalking the word “QUIZ” on walls all over the city, and the next day the new word had everyone pondering its meaning. Since no one could figure it out, the word became associated with puzzles or the asking of someone the meaning of something.

Wedding a person is a serious gamble, and we all know that, right? But, did you know that the words “to wed” mean “to wager a bet?” Now that’s a bit intimidating…
~Danielle Sainte-Marie

Fun Facts About Our World #6

March 5th, 2014
Fun Facts About Our World #6:

The year was 1907: in Dublin Castle’s Bedford Tower there was a safe, and that safe contained what was collectively known as the Irish crown jewels: the Star and Badge of the Order of St. Patrick.

These jewels were made of emeralds, rubies and diamonds, and were presented to the nation of Ireland by William IV in the 19th century. They were literally the treasure of Ireland, and were watched over by four men: Sir Arthur Vicars, his nephew Pierce Mahoney, and two assistants, Francis Shackleton and Francis Bennett-Goldney.

The jewels were on someone’s thievery list, and the plan to take them unfolded in a bizarre way. Some may think that the series of events before the crime point to the thief, but those events also may have been a way to frame one or all of the four men. For example, on June 28th, Vicars said that his key to the tower’s main door had vanished. Five days later a cleaning woman found the main door unlocked. On July 6th, the door to the repository where the jewels were kept was now suddenly unlocked too. But, the jewels were still safe.

Bait and switch? It’s possible, because on the afternoon of July 6th a castle porter named Stivey entered Vicars room while Vicars and Mahoney were examining the gold and enamel detail of the collar for the Order of St. Patrick (the collar is not to be confused with the jewels themselves). Vicars gave Stivey a safe key and ordered Stivey to put the collar with the jewels. Stivey then returned and cried, “My god, the crown jewels are gone!” It would have taken ten minutes for the thief to unscrew the jewels from their seatings.

All the men associated with the crime met terrible fates; or did they? Bennett-Goldney died in a car accident, and Mahoney died mysteriously while out shooting, alone. Shackleton went to jail for defrauding an old woman, and when he was released, he seemed to vanish off the face of the earth. Stivey, too, just disappeared one day and was never seen again. Vicars was shot to death in his garden and a note was pinned to him that read, “Spy. Informers beware. IRA Never Forgets.”

No trace of the jewels were ever found. Were they broken down and sold that way? Does someone out there have an old brooch with an emerald from the famed Irish crown jewels? It is very possible!

There were a lot of irregularities with the case. Scotland Yard had a prime suspect, but their report was suppressed by the crown. Stivey never should have been handed the key to the safe, and Vicars was known to get drunk. One time, Vicars woke up with the jewels around his neck. Was this a warning? Or a way to begin the framing of Vicars?

There was also rumored to be a complicated financial relationship between the four men. Arguing over money had been heard on two occasions by the staff. Then, to add to the complications, an IRA loyalist once told his friends on his deathbed that he had stolen the jewels, then replaced them, just to make a political statement. But, he said, they were reported stolen even though he had replaced them. He suspected Vicars had seen they had been taken and then returned, and decided to steal them for himself.

Whatever happened, this is a fascinating piece of history and another fun fact about our world!
~Danielle Sainte-Marie

Fun Facts About Our World #5

March 4th, 2014
Fun Facts About Our World #5:

Dolphins are such amazing bottle-nosed mammals, and their history in helping humans in distress is legendary.

But, dolphins also help each other when one is in distress. Traveling in schools of about a thousand, if one dolphin becomes injured, the rest of the school will not leave that ailing dolphin behind. Although they have no vocal chords, they do have at least 32 distinct sounds made by forcing air past the valves and flaps located just beneath their blowholes. A dolphin that is injured makes a sound like a whistle, rasp and groan, and then others come to its aid. They nose the dolphin to the surface where it can get some air, and then they support it until it recovers. Dolphins have been known to support a stressed creature like this for four days, taking nursing shifts with other members of the school!

This instinct to nudge another to the surface comes from birth, because the newborn baby dolphin has to be nudged to the surface by its mother to draw its first breath. That is why many, many humans who were drowning suddenly felt a dolphin moving them to the surface where they could draw air. Dolphins save seals, and even dogs too! If a dog swims too far out in the ocean, a dolphin will sometimes show up and give it a lift back to shore!

You see, dolphins can hear underwater sounds from an extraordinary 15 miles away. Sometimes, ships cutting the water make a series of groans and creaks, and the dolphins take this to mean that the ship is alive but in distress. That is why dolphins sometimes begin leading the ship to land. They see it has reached the surface, but now they figure it must need land to rest. The thing is, sometimes those ships really are in dire straits, and so dolphins have been credited with saving many a nautical vessel and its crew.

So, today let’s pay our respects to the incredible dolphin: the mammalian nurse and lifeguard of the ocean!
~Danielle Sainte-Marie