2014.03.26 Ralph wants his tittles


That might go down as the oddest By the Way headline ever, but that's good because this entire column is just a collection of oddities.

My cousin-in-law Ralph probably hasn't made an appearance here since he got attacked by Ant Farm ants. I don't recall the details anymore. Did some joker at the Ant Farm factory place fire ants inside? It was a very painful experience for Ralph; a very funny experience for everyone else.

Last week Ralph sent a link to Dave Stopera's "77 Facts That Sound Like Huge Lies But Are Actually Completely True." Use these in your column, he told me, and he would own me. He's only going to get part of me because there isn't room for all 77 and some of them are not fit for family reading.

You might think that's the case with the word "tittle," but that's merely the word for the dot of an "i" and, I presume, of a "j." It also refers to a very small part of something, as in "We ate the last tittles of the cake and were still hungry for more."

Some of the facts are geographical:

• Maine is the closest U.S. state to Africa;

• Russia has a larger surface area than Pluto;

• New York City is farther south than Rome, Italy.

• Finland and North Korea are separated by one country.

More than one fact on the list relates to the Chicago Cubs:

• The last time the Cubs won the World Series, the Ottoman Empire still existed, American women didn't have the right to vote and Arizona and New Mexico didn't yet exist as states.

I enjoy the facts that show the scale of time, like this one: Cleopatra lived closer to the invention of the iPhone than she did to the building of the Great Pyramid. By the way, the pyramids were as ancient to the Romans as the Romans now are to us. And don't forget the great wooly mammoth. It went extinct about 1,000 years after the Great Pyramid was built.

Dinosaurs are great for amazements that relate to time. The difference in time between when Tyrannosaurus rex lived and when the stegosaurus lived is greater than the difference in time between Tyrannosaurus rex and now. The probability of drinking a glass of water that contains a molecule of water that also passed through a dinosaur is almost 100 percent.

There are several facts listed that show different forehead-slapping dimensions:

• There's enough water in Lake Superior to cover all of North and South America with one foot of water.

• For every human on Earth, there are about 1.6 million ants. It equals out in the end, because all of the ants together weigh about the same as all of us.

• Every two minutes, Earthlings take more photographs than the number of Earthlings living in the 19th century.

• If a hole were dug to the center of the Earth and a book were dropped into the hole, 42 minutes would pass before it reached the bottom.

• There are more stars in space than there are grains of sand on every beach on Earth. All right, that's enough of that. My forehead is getting sore.

There are facts about time—a million seconds is about 11 days, a billion seconds about 32 years, and a trillion seconds about 32,000 years—and there are odd food facts: strawberries are not berries; bananas, avocados and watermelon are. And back to time: Betty White is older than sliced bread.

Vending machines are twice as likely to kill you than a shark. Turtles can breathe out their butts. There's 10 times more bacteria in your body than body cells. Ninety percent of what we think of as us isn't human; it's fungi and bacteria.

Here's one for my wife: There are more public libraries in the U.S. than McDonald's restaurants.

If you shrunk the sun down to the size of a white blood cell and shrunk the Milky Way Galaxy down using the same scale, it would be the size of the continental United States. And that's just our galaxy. Ouch, this has to stop.

Go peacefully with this knowledge: When you were born, for that one brief instant, you were the youngest person in the entire world.