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Almost any domestic cat can run faster than Usain Bolt.

According to a 2015 poll conducted by Public Policy Polling, 30% of Republicans polled in favour of bombing the fictional city of Agrabah, featured in Disney’s Aladdin (1992).

Kali is the Hindu goddess of death, violence, sexuality and, motherly love.

In 2015, there were more days with a mass shooting than days without a mass shooting in the United States.

The Moon has earthquakes that last for up to 10 minutes. Because the Moon is so dry and dense, they earthquakes it vibrate like a tuning fork.

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About Albania

Albania is a country about which Maximilian Lambertz wrote in 1956: “The true history of mankind will be written only when Albanians participate in its writing.” Unfortunately, there are a number of things which remain unknown about this fascinating plucky little country that has been politically isolated for most of the past century. Here are some facts to remedy that:

  • The Albanians call Albania Squiperia.
  • Curiously, – from a western point of view – Albanians nod their head up and down to mean ‘no’, and shake it from side to side for ‘yes’.
  • At the time of writing, Albania, Armenia and Vatican City are the only European countries without a McDonald’s branch.
  • King Zog of Albania (who ruled between 1928-1939) was the only national leader in modern times to return fire during an assassination attempt.
  • In 1995, drivers in the Albanian city of Shkodra refused to pay a new traffic-light tax on the grounds that their city had no traffic lights.
  • Albania has never won a medal at the Olympics.
  • The Albanian language has several words for eyebrows. For example, a Vetullushe is goat with brown eyebrows.
  • The England cricketer C. B. Fry (1872-1956) – an interesting man who could jump backwards onto a mantelpiece from a standing position without losing his balance, held the world long-jump record, played in an F.A. cup final, and could speak several languages – was offered the throne of Albania, but turned it down.

Thanks to the Ancient Greeks

α. Democracy. The cherished idea flowered in the 6th century BC when power was first passed to the people. Or rather, the ten per cent of Athens’ population who classified as citizens – women, slaves and foreigners did not make the grade. The remainder, men of 18 years and over, were divided into local groups – the demoi – who were then represented on the city’s major council or parliament of 500 called the boule. In addition, 40 times each year the people (the ekklesia) met in their thousands to vote on issues of both foreign and domestic policy.

β. Love. Indeed, love is actually Greek. The Goddess of Love in Greek mythology is Aphrodite who was born in the sea off Cyprus, conjured from the foam produced by the severed genitals of Zeus’s grand-father, hurled there by his son. Not the most auspicious of starts in life, though Aphrodite subsequently thrived, going on to become not only the Goddess of Love but, in the eyes of the Spartans, also a Goddess of War. So, by default, she was the Goddess of Married Couples.

A Greek and an Italian argue over who has the superior culture.
The Greek: We built the Parthenon.
The Italian: We built the Coliseum.
The Greek: We gave birth to advanced mathematics.
The Italian: Yes, but we built the Roman Empire.
The Greek: We invented sex!
The Italian: That’s true, but we thought of having it with women.

γ. Philosophy. The entire canon of western thought: Marx, Descartes, Derrida are all balanced on the shoulders of three men. Aristotle (384-322 BCE), who stood on the shoulders of his master Plato (429-347 BCE) who was propped up by Socrates (469-399 BCE). The latter was a veteran of the Peloponnesian War and when he was sentenced to death by drinking hemlock, he showed future generations how to die with dignity.

δ. Geometry. The ancient phrase “Beware Greeks bearing gifts” was coined to describe the dubious present of the Trojan horse, and any school pupil baffled by Pythagoras’ theorem is likely to turn up his nose at their gift of geometry. The word is derived from the term geometria, meaning the measurement of the earth, a discipline which Euclid, who was actually from Alexandria in Egypt, first studied at Plato’s Academy. In case our weary pupil wishes to nurse any further grudges, mathematics was also the Greeks’ fault.

ε. The Secret Police. The Gestapo in Nazi Germany and the KGB of Stalin’s Russia can trace their antecedents to Sparta, the original military state. The heroics of the ancient warrior race are justly celebrated at Thermopylae. It was here that 300 Spartans held off a Persian army of 150,000, and left the moving inscription: “Go tell the Spartans, stranger passing by/That here obedient to their words we lie”. But their society was one of great cruelty. A percentage of the Helots – their slaves – were slaughtered each year and at night an elite group known as the kryptia would seek out and execute trouble-makers.

ς. Ostracism. To be ostracised from a group or, as it is described today, “sent to Coventry”, is a Greek invention, which required the spurned party to depart from the city walls and live in exile. This law of banishment was first introduced in 508 BC but was first used almost 20 years later in 487 BC. The term is derived from ostraka the fragments of pottery on which the unfortunate nominee’s name was inscribed.

ζ. The Marathon. What a poor Athenian messenger tackled out of necessity, millions now do for fun. Following the battle of Marathon at which the Greeks broke the Persian army, losing just 192 men to their opponents 6,000, a messenger was dispatched to run the 25 miles back to Athens to announce the city’s salvation and their success. It was a feat he doggedly achieved before dying of exhaustion.

η. Alexander the Great. Before Colin Farrell dyed his hair blond and slipped into a leather skirt, a young Greek (well Macedonian actually) led an army of 40,000 infantry and 5,000 cavalry on a mission to conquer the known world. Today the battle tactics and wisdom of Alexander, who was a pupil of Aristotle, are studied by business leaders who adore his direct approach. When faced with the riddle of the Gordian Knot, which prophecy decreed could only be unravelled by he who would rule Asia, Alexander paused for a second before slicing it in two.

θ. The Olympic Games. The first gathering of top athletes drawn from the Hellenic world was in 776 BC and afterwards, every four years, they would return to Olympia to compete for crowns of wild olives in events such as chariot racing, wrestling, boxing and the pentathlon. There is no mention in recorded history of a competitor being banned for steroid abuse.

ι. The Muse. Artistic success in ancient Greece was not 1 per cent inspiration and 99 per cent perspiration. Instead, creative ideas were bounteous gifts bestowed by the Muses, a group of nine goddesses who were each responsible for a particular endeavour. They were Calliope (epic poetry), Clio (history), Erato (lyric poetry), Euterpe (the flute), Melpomene (tragedy), Polyhymnia (hymns), Terpsichore (dance), Thalia (comedy) and Urania (astronomy).

“Two thousand summers have imparted to the monuments of Grecian literature, as to her marbles, only a maturer golden and autumnal tint, for they have carried their own serene and celestial atmosphere into all lands to protect them against the corrosion of time.”

– Henry David Thoreau

ια. Bawdy Comedy. Some 2,500 years before Frankie Howerd and Sid James, the Greek world had its own ‘Carry On’ star in the shape of Aristophanes (450-388 BC). The playwright attacked the establishment’s sacred bulls with scandalously sexual plays that mocked both politicians and the city’s elite with a merciless wit.

ιβ. Public Jury. The system of trying the accused by a jury of his peers first took place in Athens. A full participation in the political and criminal process began after male citizens turned 30, at which point they were eligible to serve on juries or stand for election as a magistrate. Each day potential jurors would gather at the Athenian Agora, the market place, where they were picked by lot.

ιγ. History. As in the fields of philosophy, medicine and mathematics, the father of history was also a Greek. Herodotus of Halicarnassus wrote his famous “histories” in the 5th century BC. This recounts the expansion of the Achaemenid empire under its kings Cyrus the Great, Cambyses and Darius I the Great. It also records for posterity the actions of the Spartans at Thermopylae.

ιδ. The Hippocratic Oath. The pledge made by modern physicians that they will, in essence, ‘do no harm’ is attributed to the Greek physician, from the island of Kos, who in the 5th and 4th century BC laid the foundation stones of scientific medicine by freeing medical study from the constraints of philosophical speculation and superstition.

ιε. Hades/Hell. Hades was controller of the Kingdom of the Dead and the brother of Zeus. In many ways the Christian concept of Hell, as an underground lair ruled by the Devil, is an appropriation of the Greek myth.

ις. Argos. Richard E Grant’s spaced out rock star may pronounce it as ‘Argoose’ and believe the catalogue shop in which your Tefal kettle comes sliding down a conveyer belt is, in fact, a chic designer outlet, but he’s wrong. The real Argos was a settlement to which Greeks in the ‘Golden Age’ choose to transplant the court of Agamemnon, the King of Mycenae and the destroyer of Troy.

ιζ. Doric Architecture. The evolution of Greek architectural styles took place during the 7th and 6th centuries BC. At the time the majority of buildings in Ancient Greece used limestone but the nearest quarry to Athens produced marble, and the result was the temple to Athena Parthenos or Athena the Virgin. This is known today as the Parthenon, on which the architects, Callicrates and Ictinus, perfected the Doric columns.

ιη. The Screw. The little metal device beloved by B&Q devotees across Britain was invented by Archimedes, a Greek mathematician, who lived during the 2nd century BC. The author of Archimedes’s Principle, a law of physics relating to buoyancy and specific gravity, discovered the screw while developing a device that would draw water from ships to prevent them sinking.

ιθ. Homer. The finest poet of ancient times was said to have been born in Izmir, in what is now Turkey. He has traditionally been credited with writing two of the greatest works of world literature, The Iliad and The Odyssey, which together tell the story of the Trojan war. Latterly it has been suggested that he did not even exist, and that these epics were the combined work of various oral storytellers.

κ. Tragedy. The Greeks were not the first society bedevilled by foul deeds and atrocities; they were, however, the first to shout about it. The theatrical Greek tragedy began with the dithyramb, a choral song in honour of Dionysus, but it was Aeschylus (525-456 BC) who developed the form from one actor to two. Sophocles (496-406 BC) added a third player and scripted the Theban plays that tells the story of Oedipus who murdered his father, married his mother, and went on to became the first soap opera star.

“So again we have learned something, instead of making a cheap joke about the Greek civilisation upon which everything around us depends, from electricity to clothes to democracy and logic and philosophy and everything we take for granted and is so dear to us.”

– Stephen Fry

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The 23rd tallest tree in the world is called Adam.

Depiction of Dorando Pietri staggering across ...

Depiction of Dorando Pietri staggering across the finish line of the 1908 Olympic marathon, unfortunately for him, he was later disqualified

In chess, the Shannon number is an estimated lower bound on the game-tree complexity (the total number of possible games that can be played) which is estimated to be at least 10123. As a comparison, the number of atoms in the observable universe is estimated to be between 4×1079 and 1081.

Charles Hefferon, a South African runner who competed in the Marathon in the 1908 Summer Olympics. Hefferon was in the lead until, with just a few miles to go, he drank a glass of champagne offered to him by a well-meaning fan. He promptly slowed down and was overtaken by other runners.

The night before his first race at the 1972 Olympic Games, legendary swimming champ Mark Spitz almost decided to shave off his famous moustache. However, when a Russian coach started giving him a hard time about sporting facial hair, Spitz joked that the moustache made him swim faster by keeping water away from his mouth. Spitz kept his moustache and went on to win 7 gold medals at the Games. At the next Olympics, all the Russian swimmers were sporting moustaches.

According to the Talmud, the central text of mainstream Judaism, Adam only lasted 12 hours in the Garden of Eden.

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Strange Former Olympic Sports

Quite a number of events have come and gone during the run of the modern Olympics. When you add them up, it makes up quite an odd list of activities. In fact, most of them weren’t even sports.

Thomas Hicks running the marathon at the 1904 ...

Thomas Hicks running the marathon at the 1904 Summer Olympics.


Nowadays reserved for picnics and summer camps, tug-of-war was an actual Olympic sport. From 1900 to 1920, the Olympic tug-of-war was an eight-on-eight battle and would be won when one team pulled the rope six feet. Britain won the gold medal twice. In 1908, their gold medal team consisted entirely of London police force employees.

Poodle clipping

The second modern Olympic games in 1900 in Paris featured an event called poodle clipping. For this event 128 competitors assembled at the Bois de Boulogne, a park in western Paris. A giant crowd of 6,000-plus watched as they competed to see who could trim the most poodles’ fur in a two hour period. The gold medallist was 37-year-old Avril Lafoule from Auvergne, France, who clipped 17 poodles.

Fire fighting

The 1900 games also featured fire fighting; an event in which a fire was lit and had to be put out as quickly as possible. In the volunteer competition, the winner was a team from Portugal; in the professional division, the winner was a group of fire-fighters from Kansas City.

Solo synchronized swimming

From 1984 to 1992 the games featured the solo synchronized swimming event. Instead of synchronising to a partner, the solo swimmer synchronized to music. Points were awarded to the most elegant performance.

Delivery van driving

The 1900 Paris Olympics featured a ton of different motor races, including delivery van driving. The French got all three medals, although, curiously, their names are not on record. The motor racing events also included small cars, large cars, seven-seat cars, trucks and taxis. Except for a US silver and a German bronze, the French dominated the event winning every motor race medal.

Plunge diving

At the 1904 Olympics in St. Louis, there was an event called plunge diving. A diver would stand stationary on the edge of a pool, then, from that stand still, jump as far as possible. Once the athlete got underwater, they could swim forward for up to 60 seconds. Only five people competed and all of them were from the US And, like most of the events on this list, plunge diving was a one-and-done event, never appearing again.

Live pigeon shooting

There’s only been one Olympic event in history where animals were intentionally harmed. Live pigeon shooting went down at those absolutely absurd 1900 Paris Olympics.The goal of the event: shoot and kill as many pigeons as possible. More than 300 pigeons were shot and killed for this event. Leon de Lunden of Belgium won the event with 21 kills. It was the first and last time animals were killed for an Olympic event. At the Paris games that year, there was also a shooting competition centered around shooting running deer, except those were moving cut-outs, not actual animals.

Swimming obstacle race

This is another 1900 Paris event which took place in the river Seine. First, competitors had to swim to a pole, then climb up it, then slide down it. Then they’d swim toward some boats, which they had to climb over. After that, more swimming to more boats, but this time they had to go under. Overall, they’d swim 200 meter, with a lot of climbing in between. Frederick Lane of Australia won the swimming obstacle race, completing the course in 2:38.4. It turns out he also won the 200-meter freestyle at the Paris Olympics in 2:25. In other words, all the pole and boat climbing only slowed him down by 13 seconds.

Rope climbing

Rope climbing featured in four Olympics: 1896, 1904, 1924 and 1932. It was incredibly simple: fastest climb to the top wins.

Hot air ballooning

And one more from the 1900 Olympics for good measure. During the Paris Olympics, they held several hot air ballooning events, including distance, duration, elevation and targeted stopping. The French competitors won every single event.

A Salute To Unbreakable Records

All records are a reminder of a unique feat, but they are made to be broken. Be that as it may, some records have become virtually unattainable; a number them are listed below. Not everyone will agree about their invincibility, but these records have stood the test of time up until the time of writing, and most of them are likely to remain the gold-standard.

Of course there are many omissions, and this list is in no way written in stone; some of these records may indeed be broken in future – nothing is certain.

Margaret Court’s grand slam record

Margaret Court won 62 grand slam tennis titles in her career (24 singles, 19 doubles and 19 mixed doubles). Why is it highly probable that this record will never be broken? There have been plenty of players with the capacity to overhaul Court, but the modern game makes doubles play far less important to players. There has been only one player since with both the talent and the desire to break the Australian’s record; Martina Navratilova came close with 59 before she ran out of steam, eventually retiring in 2006.

New York Yacht Club’s winning streak

In 1851, the schooner America won a yacht race around the Isle of Wight for the New York Yacht Club, and the America’s Cup was born. After that, the NYYC did not relinquish the trophy for an astonishing 132 years, until Australia II beat Liberty by four races to three in the water off Newport, Rhode Island.

Australia rejoiced and the then prime minister, Bob Hawke, told his country: “Any boss who sacks anyone for not turning up today is a bum.” The longest winning streak in any sport had come to an end. The longest winning reign since is seven years. The record is safe.

Don Bradman’s Test batting average

Bradman was not popular with his Australia team-mates, so they were probably grateful he spent so much time in the middle. The Don is so far ahead of the rest it is ridiculous to contemplate anyone surpassing his Test average of 99.94. A player is considered accomplished if he averages the far side of 40; 50-plus and you are in the company of the greats. Across a 20-year career, and even without weaker Test nations – Bangladesh, Zimbabwe – from which to plunder, Bradman excelled. The next best average is 60.97, by Graeme Pollock. Says it all, really.

Byron Nelson’s 11 in a row

If golfers like Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus or Tiger Woods could not touch this record, it is unlikely someone else will in the near future – remember, Woods’s best is six in a row.

In 1945, Byron Nelson won 18 events on the PGA Tour, including 11 consecutively. As the Texan landed only five major championships, he is just off the top table when it comes to all-time greats, but in the final year of the Second World War, between the Miami Fourball and the Canadian Open, he was simply untouchable. He later said that having an incentive helped: “I could see the prize money going into the ranch, buying a tractor, or a cow.”

Wayne Gretzky’s career points total

Wayne Gretzky, New York Rangers.

Wayne Gretzky, playing for the New York Rangers.

In ice hockey, just about any individual National Hockey League record worth thinking about is held by ‘The Great One’, but the one that probably no one will ever break is his career points total. In a career that spanned 1978-1999, and included 1,487 regular-season games, the Canadian amassed 2,857 points (894 goals plus 1,963 assists).

His nearest challengers are Mark Messier (1979-2004) – who, in nearly 300 games more, was a little under 1,000 points behind – and Joe Sakic, who retired on 9 July, a mere 1,216 points shy of Gretzky’s record.

Frankie Dettori’s seven winners

To ride three winners at a single meeting is considered some achievement – even at an evening meeting at Wolverhampton in February – ride all seven on the card is remarkable.

The fact that Dettori did it at Ascot, in top-level races, makes this one of the great records in any sport. Bookmakers still cringe at the mention of 28 September 1996, when Dettori’s 25,095-1 accumulator – which started on Wall Street and ended on Fujiyama Crest – bit them. “God was on my side,” the jockey told a rapturous Ascot, having leapt from the saddle after the final race.

Heather McKay’s 16 British Open victories

In her career on a squash court McKay lost only twice. That’s twice. The defeats came in 1960 and 1962, and then the Australian scented nothing but victory until she retired from tournament play in 1981.

In 16 appearances at the British Open (the world’s premier tournament at the time), she never even lost a game. Only twice did an opponent score more than six points (games are won with nine) against her, and her opponent in the 1968 final, Bev Johnson, failed to win one. McKay didn’t let up after retirement, winning world titles in the over-45 and over-50 categories.

Preston North End’s perfect Double

In the Premier League era, the Double is not the rarity it once was. Since Sky financed football’s equivalent of the Big Bang in 1992 – giving rise to the Big Four – it has been achieved five times. Before then – and there was such a time – the double had been managed five times in 103 years. Preston North End were the first club to do it, and the style of their accomplishment will probably never be equalled. In the 1888-89 season, the Lancashire club (staffed mainly by Scottish players) went unbeaten in the League and didn’t concede a goal in the FA Cup.

Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak

It seams highly unlikely that anyone will get near DiMaggio’s hitting streak – in layman’s terms, the number of consecutive games in which he took at least one base hit. It may not sound that tough but, in baseball batting, a 35% hit rate is considered a huge success.

To give you some idea of the size of this streak: prior to DiMaggio’s effort for the New York Yankees in 1941, the best streak was 44 games by “Wee” Willie Keeler in 1897; the best since is also 44, by Pete Rose in 1978.

Wilt Chamberlain’s 100 points in a game

Chocolate isn’t the town of Hershey’s only claim to fame. Only 4,124 were in the Hersheypark Arena to see the NBA game between the Philadelphia Warriors and the New York Knicks on 2 March 1962, and there was not a television camera in sight. Chamberlain spent the night before the game with a lady friend (he had lots) and didn’t get much sleep; he also enjoyed a big lunch with friends before the game, so how he went on to score 100 points is little short of a miracle. The next best single-game score in NBA history is 81, by Kobe Bryant in 2006.

Montreal Canadiens win five straight Stanley Cups

One word can describe the Montreal Canadiens in the late 1950s: dominant.

A member of the ‘Original Six’, the Montreal Canadiens have won 24 Stanley Cups, by far more than any other NHL organization. That is a jaw-dropping accomplishment by itself, but not to be outdone is this: the Habs winning five straight Cups from 1955-56 to 1959-60.

The New York Islanders came close. They won four straight Cups in the early ’80s. Since then, no team has ever won more than two in a row. Today, there are too many teams to be able to string together five straight cups like the Habs did.

Boston Celtics win eight straight NBA Championships

current logo 1996–present

Boston Celtics logo

Today, two or three championships in a row is called a dynasty. Not for the Boston Celtics. From 1959-66, the Boston Celtics simply dominated the NBA.

This record will most probably never be broken. Since the Celtics’ run of eight in a row, there have been three three-peats. The Chicago Bulls did it twice in the 90’s and the Lakers did it once from 2000-02.

Nadia Comaneci becomes the youngest gold medallist

In 1976, Comaneci became the first gymnast to score a perfect 10 at the Olympics in a move that was so unexpected, the score board didn’t have enough places to display the 10. That feat has been repeated, most notably by American Mary Lou Retton in 1984.

However, Nadia won her three gold medals when she was 14 years old, making her the youngest gymnast to win a gold medal. Today, gymnasts have to be a minimum of 16 years old to compete, which cuts out any potential competition in that field to Nadia’s young feat.

Oscar Swahn becomes the oldest medallist to date

It’s a record that hasn’t been broken since 1920 when 72-year-old Oscar Swahn won a silver medal in a shooting competition called “Team 100-meter running deer, double shot,” — the same year he set the record for being the oldest athlete to compete in the Olympics. The Swedish shooter competed in three Olympic games during his life, winning three gold, a silver and two bronze medals during his Olympic career.

Usain Bolt’s 100-meter record

Runners tend to shave off another hundredth or two of the 100 meters at the Olympics, but have we finally seen the lowest limit? Usain Bolt’s 9.69 seconds at the 2008 games in Beijing looked like a record with a chance to stand – until Bolt himself beat it with his 9.63-second run to the gold medal in London. Now, is this the record that will stand the test of time?

Monaco: most Summer Games without a medal

The small principality located on the French Riviera has participated in 18 Summer Games with no medals to show for it. And with a medal-less eight Winter Games, that brings the country’s total to 26 total Olympic Games without winning a gold, silver or bronze.

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The Silver Medal Psyche

“I think if I was an Olympic athlete, I would rather come in last than win the silver, if you think about it. You know, you win the gold, you feel good. You win the bronze, you think, well, at least I got something. But you win that silver, that’s like congratulations, you almost won. Of all the losers, you came in first of that group.”

Jerry Seinfeld

Jerry Seinfeld may actually be on to something here. A group of psychologists actually studied the effects of winning silver versus bronze, and they found out that, on average, taking the bronze is much more satisfying than getting silver.

The reverse side of the medals of the 2008 Sum...

The reverse side of the medals of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing

We all know the gold medal winners are quite elated. That’s almost a given. But Tom Gilovich, the chairman of Cornell’s psychology department, argues that bronze winners are actually happier than people who get silver.

The bronze medallist realizes what they have, a medal, and compares that to what they almost did not have. They’re one step away from no medal. And that feels good. So it fosters a psychology of ‘Well, at least I have a medal,’ whereas the silver medallist is one step away from the coveted gold, and that fosters a psychology of: ‘Oh, if only. If only I’d done this slightly different.’

In research based on the expressions of silver medallists, Gilovich found that they were significantly less happy-looking than the bronze medallists, and that was verified also in terms of how they looked on the medal stands later on. Videotaped interviews of the athletes conducted in the studio after the event were also studied. Results based on this material showed on the part of bronze medallists: ‘at least I got this medal,’ whereas the overall commentary on the part of the silver medallists was: ‘if only…’

The research team of Gilovich was unable to track how long the average medallist senses a regret for failing to win the gold medal. However, Gilovich mentions an account of a long-distance runner who was well ahead and then faded at the end and got the silver medal and later said, when he was 92 years old, that a day doesn’t go by when he doesn’t think of how he let the gold slip away.

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