Four Months Adrift

In 1942, Chinese sailor Poon Lim survived 130 days drifting alone in the South Atlantic. A German U-boat torpedoed his ship and he climbed into a life raft. Lim stayed alive by catching rainwater in a canvas tarp and fishing with a bent nail. At first he counted the days by tying knots in a rope, but then simply began counting full moons. He reached Brazil in April 1943, 20 pounds lighter but able to walk unaided. “I hope no one will ever have to break that record,” he said.

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.

The Madness of Crowds

Countries with the densest populations:

  1. Monaco – 16,620 inhabitants per square kilometer
  2. Singapore – 6,389
  3. Vatican City – 2,093
  4. Malta – 1,261
  5. Maldives – 1,163
  6. Bahrain – 1,035
  7. Bangladesh – 1,002
  8. Barbados – 647
  9. Republic of China (Taiwan) – 636
  10. Nauru – 621

… and the least dense:

  1. Guyana – 3 inhabitants per square kilometer
  2. Canada – 3
  3. Libya – 3
  4. Mauritania – 2
  5. Iceland – 2
  6. Botswana – 2
  7. Suriname – 2
  8. Australia – 2
  9. Namibia – 2
  10. Mongolia – 1

Taken as a whole, the population density of the planet is 43 inhabitants per square kilometer.

Single-Border Countries

Countries bordered by only one other country:

  • Lesotho – by South Africa
  • San Marino – by Italy
  • Vatican City – by Italy
  • Qatar – by Saudi Arabia
  • South Korea – by North Korea (across the demilitarized zone)
  • Denmark – by Germany
  • The Gambia – by Senegal
  • Monaco – by France
  • Brunei – by Malaysia
  • Canada – by the United States
  • Portugal – by Spain
  • Dominican Republic – by Haiti
  • Haiti – by Dominican Republic
  • Brunei – by Malaysia
  • Papua New Guinea – by Indonesia
  • East Timor – by Indonesia
  • Republic of Ireland – by the United Kingdom

Alice’s Riddle

Everyone likes a good riddle. In Chapter 7 of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the Mad Hatter poses a famous one: “Why is a raven like a writing desk?” Lewis Carroll intended that it should have no solution, but puzzle maven Sam Loyd offered these anyway:

  • Because the notes for which they are noted are not noted for being musical notes.
  • Poe wrote on both.
  • Bills and tales are among their characteristics.
  • Because they both stand on their legs, conceal their steels (steals), and ought to be made to shut up.

In 1896, Carroll proposed an answer himself: “Because it can produce a few notes, tho they are very flat; and it is nevar put with the wrong end in front!” (“Nevar” is “raven” spelled backward.)

Belated Surrenders

For most Japanese, World War II ended in 1945. But not for some:

  • Shoichi Yokoi, a soldier in the Imperial Japanese Army, was discovered in a remote section of Guam in 1972. He had been hiding in an underground jungle cave for 28 years, refusing to believe leaflets that said the war had ended.
  • 2nd. Lt. Hiroo Onoda hid in the Philippines jungle for 29 years. He finally gave up in 1974, when his old commanding officer convinced him the war was over. He surrendered in his dress uniform and sword, with his Arisaka rifle still in operating condition, 500 rounds of ammunition, and several hand grenades.
  • The last holdout, Capt. Fumio Nakahira of the Japanese Imperial Army, was discovered on Mindoro Island in the Philippines in April 1980 — 35 years after V-J Day.

“It is with much embarrassment that I have returned alive,” Yokoi said on returning to Japan. He got $300 in back pay.