“The Eye of Africa”


Early space missions that passed over the featureless Sahara were surprised to see a 30-mile eye staring up at them. No one’s quite sure what it is. It’s too flat to be a crater or a volcano. If it’s simply an uplift laid bare by erosion, why is it so nearly circular? For now they’re just calling it the Richat Structure.

People Who Have Been Cremated

People who have been cremated:

  • Neville Chamberlain
  • Wyatt Earp
  • Albert Einstein
  • W.C. Fields
  • Sigmund Freud
  • Greta Garbo
  • Adolf Hitler
  • Henry James
  • John Maynard Keynes
  • Rudyard Kipling
  • Timothy Leary
  • Nelson Rockefeller
  • Carl Sagan
  • Dr. Seuss
  • George Bernard Shaw
  • Percy Bysshe Shelley
  • John Steinbeck


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.

“The Witch of Wall Street”


If Ebenezer Scrooge were a woman, he’d look like this. Hetty Green (1834-1916) amassed more than $100 million as a shrewd businesswoman, but today she’s remembered mostly for her breathtaking stinginess.

Born into a Massachusetts whaling family, Hetty was reading financial papers to her father at age 6 and keeping the family books at 13. She inherited $7.5 million on her father’s death, and reportedly married only to keep her relatives at bay (she made her fiance sign a prenup). When her husband divorced her and then died, she moved to Hoboken and basically went nuts.

Legends say she never heated her house or used hot water; that she wore one old black dress; that she rode in an old carriage. Rather than pay rent, she sat on the floor of New York’s Seaboard National Bank and ate only oatmeal heated on the office radiator, and she would travel thousands of miles to collect a debt of a few hundred dollars.

Almost no expense was worthwhile. Her son’s leg had to be amputated when she tried to treat him at home. She herself refused treatment for a hernia because it cost $150.

When she died, at age 80, she may have been the richest woman in the world. Unfortunately, you can’t take it with you.

Found Poetry

William Whewell was a giant of 19th-century science, but he may have missed his true calling. Someone pointed out that his classic Elementary Treatise on Mechanics contains the following poetic sentence:

And hence no force, however great,
can stretch a cord, however fine,
into a horizontal line
that shall be absolutely straight.

Then again, maybe not: Whewell quietly changed the wording in the next edition.

Max Beerbohm noticed a similar happenstance in the first edition of his collected works:

‘London: John Lane, The Bodley Head
New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.’
This plain announcement, nicely read,
Iambically runs.