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The Dogon people of Mali rub fried onions on their bodies as perfume.

The sweet, seedless navel orange was discovered in the mid-1800s on a single branch of a sour orange tree in a Brazilian monastery. The fruit even has a ‘belly-button’ – hence its name.

Britain is the only country in Europe that allows children to stop studying history at 13.

The Bulgarian word for beans is ‘bob’.

Tony Blair once told Des O’Connor that when he was 14, he stowed away on a plane from Newcastle to the Bahamas. In Newcastle airport’s 61-year history, there has never been a flight to the Bahamas.

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Henry IV of France promoted green parks in Paris. He is responsible for a street called the Street of the Bridge of Cabbages.

10,113 Americans insured themselves against giving birth to the messiah at the millennium.

The 10th President of Nigeria (that is, the 3rd President of the Fourth Nigerian Republic), was called Goodluck Jonathan.

Scorpions navigate by starlight.

More than 50% of the world’s languages are located in just eight countries: India, Brazil, Mexico, Australia, Indonesia, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, and Cameroon.

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Moacir Barbosa Nascimento


In the final game of the 1950 World Cup, an honest mistake by a man called Moacir Barbosa condemned him to spend the rest of his life being vilified by millions.

The tournament’s last game saw Brazil and Uruguay engaged for the right to call themselves World Champions. Before the match began the Brazillian national team – known locally as the Seleção – were given solid gold watches stating: ‘For the World Champions’.

“Football is the ballet of the masses.” – Dmitri Shostakovich

Only one player has achieved the dream of all Brazilians – scoring in a World Cup Final for the Seleção on home soil at the famed Maracana stadium. A minute into the second-half Albino Friaça Cardoso realised that fantasy. It was his only goal for Brazil. It was to be the only goal Brazil scored that fateful day. The Uruguayan jet-heeled right winger, Ghiggia from Montevideo, surged down the line crossing the ball for Schiaffino to equalise past Barbosa. Thirteen minutes later, Ghiggia surged down the line again. This time he was to ruin Moacir Barbosa’s life forever.

Footage exists of 4.33pm, 16th July 1950: the worst moment of all Barbosa’s days on earth. What is a second in a lifetime of existence? For Moacir this instant would shape the rest of his 50 years.

“The first World Cup I remember was in the 1950 when I was 9 or 10 years old. My father was a soccer player, and there was a big party, and when Brazil lost to Uruguay, I saw my father crying.” – Pele

The official attendance was 173,850 – some say 200,000 – making it the largest football crowd ever. Yet they all fell quiet at Barbosa’s error. As Ghiggia said years after his goal that won Uruguay a World Cup: “Only three people have silenced the Maracana: Sinatra, Pope John-Paul II and me”. It was said without any fear of contradiction.

Brazilians – never opting for stoicism when flamboyant exhortations suffice, variously described the defeat as ‘the greatest tragedy in Brazilian history’.

For Moacir Barbosa, 16th July 1950 was not an exercise in extravagant self-flagellation: it started a living nightmare. He was never forgiven. Life treated him harshly. He never played for Brazil again. People spat at him or abused him. He was denied coaching jobs after he retired. Having black skin didn’t help in a racially-divided country.

Once he visited the Seleção to wish them well. He was denied, fearing bad luck. He was even refused a commentator’s job.

After his wife died a friend revealed “he even cried on my shoulder – until the end he used to always say: ‘I’m not guilty. There were 11 of us.’”

An elderly Barbosa lamented, ‘In Brazil, the most you get for any crime is 30 years. For 50 years I’ve been paying for a crime I did not commit. Even a criminal when he has paid his debt is forgiven. But I have never been forgiven.”

In 2000, penniless and close to death, he recalled his memory of 1970 – in the year when the greatest-ever Brazil team won the World Cup, a mother pointed him out to her child in a market saying: ‘Look at him. He was the man who made all of Brazil cry’.

Heart failure caused Moacir Barbosa to die in 2000, aged 79. Some say it was a broken heart that killed him.

Linguistic Diversity


According to the Swedish linguist Mikael Parkvall: ‘Languages are very unevenly distributed among the countries of the world.’ He lists the world’s countries with the largest number of languages:

  1. Papua New Guinea [823]
  2. Indonesia [726]
  3. Nigeria [505]
  4. India [387]
  5. Mexico [288]
  6. Cameroon [279]
  7. Australia [235]
  8. DR Congo [218]
  9. China [201]
  10. Brazil [192]
  11. United States [176]
  12. Philippines [169]
It’s curious how the linguistically most diverse country in the world is Papua New Guinea – because it’s also the place with the biggest biodiversity anywhere, one of the last places in the world where new species get discovered regularly. It leads one to wonder whether there could there be a single explanation for both phenomena?

Candiru


Candiru also known as Cañero, toothpick fish, or vampire fish, are a number of genera of parasitic freshwater catfish in the family Trichomycteridae; they all are native to the Amazon River. Although some candiru species have been known to grow to a size of 41 cm in length, others are considerably smaller.

These smaller species are known for an alleged tendency to invade and parasitise the human urethra; however, despite ethnological reports dating back to the late 19th century,the first documented case of the removal of a candiru from a human urethra did not occur until 1997, and even that incident has remained a matter of controversy.

Although lurid anecdotes of attacks on humans abound, very few cases have been verified, and some alleged traits of the fish have been discredited as myth or superstition. Evidence is quite convincing, though not conclusive.

The earliest published report on this candiru attacking human hosts comes from German biologist C. F. P. von Martius in 1829, who never actually observed it, but rather was told about it by the native people of the area, including that men would tie a ligature around their penis while going into the river to prevent this from happening.

In 1836 Eduard Poeppig documented a statement by a local physician in Pará, known only as Dr. Lacerda, who offered an eyewitness account of a case where a candiru had entered a human orifice. However it was lodged in a native woman’s vagina, rather than a male urethra. He relates that the fish was extracted after external and internal application of the juice from a Xagua plant.

Another account was documented by biologist George A. Boulenger from a Brazilian physician named Dr. Bach, who examined a man and several boys whose penises had been amputated. Bach believed this was a remedy performed because of parasitism by candiru, but he was merely speculating as he did not speak his patient’s language. American biologist Eugene Willis Gudger noted the area the patients were from did not have candiru in its rivers, and suggested the amputations were much more likely the result of having been attacked by piranha.

It was thought that the fish was attracted to urine, as the candiru’s primary prey emits urea from its gills, but this was later discredited in formal experimentation. Indeed, the fish appears not to have any response to any chemical attractants, and primarily hunts by visual tracking.

To date, there is only one documented case of a candiru entering a human urinary system, which took place in Itacoatiara, Brazil in 1997. In this incident, the victim, a 23 year old man claimed a candiru literally jumped from the water into his urethra as he urinated while thigh-deep in a river. After traveling to Manaus on October 28, 1997, the victim underwent a two-hour urological surgery by Dr. Anoar Samad to remove the fish from his body.

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Nobody Knows


Nobody can tell the age of a lobster. Obviously newborns are smaller than mature lobsters, but when the animal has acquired a full-grown size it becomes virtually impossible to determine its age. Lobsters also change their panzer which doesn’t help.

Because of its location almost literally on the continental divide we do not know whether rainwater that falls in North Tuotion Creek in the US state of Wyoming flows to the Atlantic or the Pacific Ocean.

Brazil nuts come from a South American tree

Bertholletia Excelsa or Brazil Nuts

Why do the Brazil nuts always rise to the top in a packet of mixed nuts? We do not know. – note that the same is true for certain kinds of muesli. This is called the Brazil nut effect.

It impossible to identify different species of mussel except when examining the specific animal’s genome – weight, colour and size are no indication of the variety of mussels.

Moths are attracted to light, but we do not know why. Moths are positively phototactic. They seem to be charmed by any bright light in the dark. Some types of moths are known to migrate, and it’s possible that the small lights in the night sky give them navigational clues. However, no theory has been able to provide a conclusive solution.

Nobody knows how dinosaurs had sex. While the most common theory is that they did it like reptiles and birds do it today using a cloacal sack, no sexual organs survive because the flesh has all rotted away. We have only been able to sex dinosaurs in the last 15 years.

Nobody knows how the rings of Saturn formed. There are two main theories. One is that it is the remains of a moon that was destroyed, but as the rings are made of ice and moons are made out of rock this seems unlikely. The other theory is that it is something to do with the formation of the planet itself and something may have spun off it in some way. The structure of the rings is held by the moons, some of which are inside the rings and are known as shepherds.

We do not know what variety of lettuce was served upon the Titanic. There were 7,000 heads of lettuce saved from the ship.

The Whirlpool Galaxy (Spiral Galaxy M51, NGC 5...

The Whirlpool Galaxy, or Spiral Galaxy M51, NGC 5194. It is a classic spiral galaxy located in the Canes Venatici constellation.

There is no absolutely official definition of a galaxy. There are scientists trying to come up with one. Amongst them are Duncan Forbes of Swinburne University in Australia and Pavel Kroupa of Bonn University in Germany. They launched an online survey to research and discuss the possible definitions. Based on the results there is already one new galaxy which fits their definition, which is a globular cluster, Omega Centauri.

Nobody knows how placebo sugar pills work, but they definitely do work, even when you tell the patient that it is a placebo. It is also shown that the more pills you take the better the condition gets and a fake injection is better than taking the pills.

No-one knows what a fish’s basihyal (the median element or bone at the ventral point of the hyoid arch) is for.

The rules to the games Milking cromock, Laugh and ly downe and Hanikin can’st abide it are no longer known to anyone. We only know about these games because they were made illegal as they were used for gambling. However, we do know that Laugh and ly downe and Hanikin can’st abide it are card games. Other games include Guile bones, Noddy board, Penny prick and Hide under hat. In 1938 a priest wrote to The Times newspaper complaining about a pub in Weymouth which had tortoises racing each other with little toy jockeys on their backs.

No-one knows why blindfolded people cannot walk in a straight line. This was first discovered in amoebas by Asa Schaeffer, and he wondered if it was the same in humans, so he blindfolded a friend and asked him to walk in a straight line in a country field. His friend just walked in a clockwork spiral until he hit a tree stump.

No-one knows exactly how many piano tuners there are in the UK – not even the British Association of Piano Tuners. Their best guess is between 1,000 and 10,000. This is partly because there are few full-time piano tuners.

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