Secretariat’s time in the 1973 Kentucky Derby set a record that still stands: 1 minute 59.4 seconds. But few people realize he was actually accelerating throughout the race. His successive quarter-mile times were 25.2, 24, 23.8, 23.4, and 23 seconds.

On autopsy, it was discovered that his heart weighed 21 pounds, three times the size of a normal horse’s.

Hamlet in Klingon

Hamlet’s “to be or not to be” soliloquy, in Klingon:

taH pagh taHbe’. DaH mu’tlheghvam vIqelnIS.
quv’a’, yabDaq San vaQ cha, pu’ je SIQDI’?
pagh, Seng bIQ’a’Hey SuvmeH nuHmey SuqDI’,
‘ej, Suvmo’, rInmoHDI’? Hegh. Qong — Qong neH —
‘ej QongDI’, tIq ‘oy’, wa’SanID Daw”e’ je
cho’nISbogh porghDaj rInmoHlaH net Har.
yIn mevbogh mIwvam’e’ wIruchqangbej.
Hegh. Qong. QongDI’ chaq naj. toH, waQlaw’ ghu’vam!
HeghDaq maQongtaHvIS, tugh nuq wInajlaH,
volchaHmajvo’ jubbe’wI’ bep wIwoDDI’;
‘e’ wIqelDI’, maHeDnIS. Qugh DISIQnIS,
SIQmoHmo’ qechvam. Qugh yIn nI’moH ‘oH.

It either endures, or it does not endure. Now, I must consider this sentence.
Is it honorable, when one endures the torpedoes and phasers of agressive fate?
Or, when one obtains weapons to fight a seeming ocean of troubles,
And when, by fighting, one finishes them? One dies. One sleeps. One merely sleeps.
And when one sleeps, it is believed that one can finish the pain of the heart
And the thousand revolts which one’s body must succeed to.
We are certainly willing to initiate this way to finish life.
One dies. One sleeps. When one sleeps, perhaps one dreams. Well, this situation seems to be the obstacle!
What we can soon dream of, while sleeping in death,
Having thrown away from our shoulders the cargo of the mortal —
When we consider that, we must retreat. We must endure disasters,
Because this idea makes us endure them. It lengthens the life of the disasters.

Get Out of Jail Free

There’s no Marvin Gardens in Atlantic City. Most properties in Monopoly correspond to real locations in that town, but Charles Darrow accidentally misspelled Marven Gardens, a local housing area, when he created his homemade prototype of the game in 1935. The error persisted until 1995, when Parker Brothers formally apologized to the residents of Marven Gardens for the misspelling.

In 1974, San Francisco State University professor Ralph Anspach released a variant of the game called Anti-Monopoly, in which the board is “monopolized” at the start and players compete to return to a free market system. Parker Brothers tried to suppress Anspach’s game, essentially claiming a monopoly on the word monopoly. Apparently that was too much irony for the Supreme Court, which ruled in Anspach’s favor in 1983.

Roulette in the Age of Science

Albert Einstein said, “You cannot beat a roulette table unless you steal money from it.” He might have been surprised. Roulette wheels have subtle flaws, and in this technological age a sophisticated observer can make some serious money:

  • In 1873, British engineer Joseph Jaggers hired six clerks to study the wheels at the Beaux-Arts Casino in Monte Carlo. One wheel showed a clear bias, which Jaggers exploited to the tune of $325,000.
  • As early as 1961, mathematician Claude Shannon had built a wearable computer to find likely numbers.
  • By the late 1970s, a group of computer hackers known as the Eudaemons were frequenting casinos wearing computers in their shoes.
  • In the early 1990s, Gonzalo Garcia-Pelayo used a computer to analyze the roulette wheels at the Casino de Madrid. He won more than $1 million over a period of several years.
  • In 2004, a group in London was using a special laser cameraphone and microchip to predict a ball’s path, a technique called sector targeting. They won £1.3 million.

In both of the latter two cases, the casinos mounted legal challenges — and lost. If you’re not influencing the ball, the courts ruled, you’re not cheating. Modern casinos monitor their wheels to keep them as random as possible, but the long-term odds favor the engineers.

Bacon’s Universe

An actor’s “Bacon number” is the number of successive co-stars through whom he can be linked to actor Kevin Bacon (hence the game “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon”). For example, Elvis Presley has a Bacon number of 2: He appeared in Change of Heart (1969) with Edward Asner, who appeared in JFK with Bacon.

Surprisingly, most actors have a Bacon number of only 2 or 3. So far, of all the actors listed in the Internet Movie Database, only one can’t be linked at all: Fred Ott, who appeared by himself in two features released in the late 1800s.

Mathematically, Bacon isn’t even the most linkable actor — that honor belongs to Rod Steiger. The average Bacon number is 2.955; the average Steiger number is 2.679.


“I remember Tallulah [Bankhead] telling of going into a public ladies’ room and discovering there was no toilet tissue. She looked underneath the booth and said to the lady in the next stall, ‘I beg your pardon, do you happen to have any toilet tissue in there?’ The lady said no. So Tallulah said, ‘Well, then, dahling, do you have two fives for a ten?'” — Ethel Merman