Who Painted It: Hitler or Churchill?
I can probably pick out a Manet from a Monet, or a Picasso from a Dali. I had a much harder time picking out a Hitler from a Churchill. Take the Quiz: Hitler or Churchill?
The Only Deceased Jockey to Ever Win a Race
In 1923, stable hand Frank Hayes somehow convinced one of the owners to let him ride at Belmont Park. To everyone’s amazement, he and the horse, Sweet Kiss, won. Unfortunately, Hayes didn’t live to see it. He died mid-ride from a heart attack, though his body somehow stayed upright through the finish. [by Rob Lammle]
Photos of President Reagan With Various...
President Reagan attending the Bob Hope Salute to the United States Air Force 40th Anniversary celebration with Kirk Cameron, Phyllis Diller, Lucille Ball and Emmanuel Lewis at Pope Air Force base in Fayetteville, North Carolina. 5/10/87. [Source: Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.]
Mike Tyson on Michael Flatley
“i think he’s the best dancer in the world—and one of the world’s greatest athletes. And I’m not just talking about sex!” [From Michael Flatley’s autobiography, Lord of the Dance]
Glad We've Got That Cleared Up
From Wikipedia: “Jägermeister does not contain deer or elk blood.”
You Can't Patent the Sun
Shortly after Jonas Salk’s polio vaccine breakthrough, legendary journalist Edward R. Murrow sat down with the scientist for an interview. At one point, Murrow asked Salk who owned the patent on the vaccine, and Salk responded with one of the most famous quotes of his career: “Well, the people, I would say. There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?” Salk wasn’t just being generous with...
New shirts in the mental_floss store!
An early name for ping-pong was “wiff-waff.”
The Time Larry King Crashed Into John F. Kennedy
When Larry King was still fairly new to Miami in 1958, he got into a little fender-bender. While that fact is unremarkable, the other motorist in the accident was an up-and-coming politician: Senator John F. Kennedy. According to King, Kennedy angrily asked him, “Early Sunday morning, no traffic, not a cloud in the sky, I’m parked — how could you run into me?” In King’s...
The Plastic Pink Flamingo Was Invented by a Guy...
A Brief History of the Plastic Pink Flamingo
In 1977, Bill Cosby earned his doctorate in education from UMass. His dissertation was titled, An Integration of the Visual Media via “Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids” Into the Elementary School Curriculum as a Teaching Aid and Vehicle to Achieve Increased Learning.
Chad and Barbie Soper of Rockford, Michigan, have three kids. They were born on 08/08/08, 09/09/09, and 10/10/10.
Uncle Phil Was Shredder
The voice of Shredder in the old Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon was James Avery, better known as Uncle Phil from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Uncle Phil has actually displayed his booming voice in quite a few animated shows, including voicing the late Junkyard Dog in Hulk Hogan’s Rock ‘n’ Wrestling. (In that cartoon, Brad Garrett played Hulk Hogan.)
In 2000, The New York Times reported that Queen Elizabeth II keeps a Big Mouth Billy Bass on the grand piano at Balmoral Castle.
He Took a Polaroid Every Day, Until the Day He...
Jamie Livingston took a Polaroid every day from March 31, 1979, through October 25, 1997. In 2008, Chris Higgins went through the photos. [On the list of most popular mentalfloss.com stories, this is #4.]
We Concede You've Never Wondered, But It's Kind of...
Rowland Hussey Macy played more of an active role in designing his company’s logo than most founders do. Before Macy, a Nantucket native, got into the dry goods business, he worked on a whaling ship that sailed off of the island. At some point during his whaling days, Macy got a red star tattooed on his hand, and the star later became his store’s logo when he opened his first New York ...
How (A Different) Booth Saved (A Different)...
In 1863 or 1864, young Robert Lincoln was traveling by train from New York to Washington during a break from his studies at Harvard. He hopped off the train during a stop at Jersey City, only to find himself on an extremely crowded platform. To be polite, Lincoln stepped back to wait his turn to walk across, his back pressed to one of the train’s cars. This situation probably seemed harmless...
“Jay” used to be slang for “foolish person.” So when a pedestrian ignored street signs, he was referred to as a “jaywalker.”
Tom Selleck was the honorary captain for the 1984 Men’s Olympic Volleyball team.
In 1987, Don Mattingly set the single-season record for grand slams with 6 — the only 6 he hit in his 14-year career.
If You're the Kind of Person Who Wears T-Shirts,...
Now’s a good time to stop by the t-shirt aisle of the mental_floss store. Now through Monday, all our shirts are on sale for $14.90. Use the code SUMMERSTYLE before checkout.
Alaska is so big you could fit 75 New Jerseys in it.
Strange Things Wal-Mart (Temporarily) Banned
In 1995, a Miami-area Wal-Mart pulled this shirt from its racks after consumer complaints. The shirt, which featured the character Margaret from Dennis the Menace, ran afoul of “the company’s family values,” so it went back to the stock rooms. Eventually more reasonable, non-Stone Age heads prevailed, and the shirt made it back onto the shelves after three months in limbo. [by Ethan...
Number of bananas, in millions, a single Wal-Mart grocery distribution center can store: 4 Number of bananas the National Zoo in Washington D.C. buys annually to feed its animals: 7,692 Number of years it would take the animals at the National Zoo to eat the number of bananas in a single Wal-Mart grocery distribution center: 520 Number of Wal-Mart grocery distribution centers: 38 [by Haley...
Woodpeckers Have Insanely Long Tongues
[Image Credit: Hilton Pond Center]
Now With Foot Action!
One of the weirdest Mr. Potato Head items ever produced was a battery-powered massage unit shaped like the spudman.
70 Years Ago Today: The Nazis Invaded the Soviet...
In preparation for Operation Barbarossa, the German military stockpiled 91,000 tons of ammunition, half a million tons of fuel (40% of all fuel available to Germany at the time), and 600,000 trucks and 750,000 horses to carry supplies. [More on Operation Barbarossa: How the plan came together, and how it fell apart.]
Mr. Clean has a seldom-used first name—”Veritably.” It came from a “Give Mr. Clean a First Name” promotion in 1962.
The Drunk-O-Meter: A Cash Cow for Indiana...
Sure, as a product name, “Drunk-O-Meter” doesn’t have quite the same understated seriousness of “breathalyzer,” but the Drunk-O-Meter did the same job. In 1931 Indiana University professor Rolla N. Harger created the Drunk-O-Meter as a device to test the sobriety of drivers. Suspected tipplers breathed into a special balloon, and Harger’s device got a reading on how much they’d had to...
Just a Penny! It's a Steal!
In 2000, a New Jersey man admitted he’d opened 2,417 accounts using 16 PO boxes to fleece Columbia House and BMG out of 26,554 CDs. [More: It’s a Steal! How Columbia House Made Money Giving Away Music]
Food chemist William A. Mitchell helped invent Tang, Cool Whip and Pop Rocks.
For the New Year’s Eve countdown in Brasstown, North Carolina, a live possum is lowered from the roof of a Citgo just before midnight.
“You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” was sung by Thurl Ravenscroft, who was also the voice of Tony the Tiger.
In the mid-1960s, Slumber Party Barbie came with her very own “How to Lose Weight” book. One of the tips included was “Don’t eat.”
What the Sun-Maid Raisin Girl Really Looked Like
Her name was Lorraine Collett Petersen.
How Your Grandparents Were Warned About STDs
One of many warnings in LIFE’s “Old-School Anti-STD Posters” gallery.
Kurt Vonnegut was once Geraldo Rivera’s father-in-law. Rivera’s marriage to Edith Vonnegut ended in 1974.
Random Moments in Shaving History
Later in life, razor mogul King Camp Gillette became a strong proponent of utopian socialism. He planned a community in Arizona in which engineers would rationally orchestrate all activity. Gillette even offered Teddy Roosevelt $1 million to serve as president of this planned utopia in 1910, but Roosevelt declined. [Read more on the History of Shaving, by Ethan Trex]
Two Readers Demonstrate The Asymptotic High Five
As I’ve said before, the asymptotic high five is the closest thing mental_floss has to a secret handshake. Choreographed by Senior Editor Jenny Drapkin, it’s fun and nerdy and allows us to greet each other when we’re sick. Readers Kerri and Paul were kind enough to demonstrate it. With a graph and everything! Consider adding this to your high-five arsenal. You can get the t-shirt...
The Vulcan Salute's Jewish Roots
Only in America can a little boy grow up to be a good Jew and a good Vulcan. Star Trek’s famous hand salute—the V formed between the ring finger and middle finger—actually comes from an ancient Jewish gesture of blessing called the kohane. But the story of how the two are linked goes back to a young Leonard Nimoy, who played Spock in the original TV series. While attending Orthodox services as...
Cure Your Hangovers—With Bacon!
Ah, bacon. For years, we’ve devoured it in all its crispy glory without worrying about the side effects. But now, scientists at Newcastle University’s Centre for Life have given us a new reason to gorge on the stuff. They say that when it comes to hangovers, bacon is a miracle drug. In fact, the study found that bacon is most effective when united with bread in sandwich form. The protein in...
Would a Dingo Really Eat Your Baby?
You’ve probably heard someone say “Maybe the dingo ate your baby” in a fake Australian accent. Here’s the story of the court case that gave birth to the quote.
There Really Was a Granny Smith
In 1868, Maria Ann Sherwood Smith found something odd in her apple orchard. Smith, who had immigrated to Australia from England, had a strange new type of apple growing near her creek bed. She thought that the apple might have been a mutation of a French crab apple that was popular Down Under, and she thought it was tasty enough to share it with neighbors. Although she died just two...
The Dairy World's Reaction to Margarine
Butter was big business, and the notion that a cheaper substitute, even one made in part with milk, might storm the market terrified dairy farmers. They didn’t take the threat lying down, though, and convinced legislators to tax margarine at a rate of two cents per pound—no small sum in the late 19th century. Dairy farmers also successfully lobbied for restrictions that banned the use of yellow...
In 1999, Furbies were banned from the National Security Agency’s Maryland headquarters. It was feared the toys might repeat national security secrets.
Obsessive nose picking is called Rhinotillexomania.
When it was patented in 1970, the computer mouse was known as the “X-Y Position Indicator for a Display System.”
Ferris Bueller's Day Off: The 25th Anniversary...
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off hit theaters on June 11, 1986. We’ve decided to celebrate the film’s 25th anniversary with a quiz. How well do you remember the antics of Ferris, Cameron and Sloane? Take the Quiz: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
River Phoenix’s birth name was River Bottom. The family later changed their name to Phoenix.
The One-Arm Dove Hunt
One afternoon in 1972, friends Jack Northrup and Jack Bishop were having lunch at their local drugstore in Olney, Texas, when they realized that the strangers next to them were eavesdropping. The pair, both amputees, had a reputation for mischief. Rather than get upset, the “One-Armed Jacks” decided to have some fun. Northrup and Bishop began talking loudly about their hunting adventures with...