Fast facts

Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday, April 12, 2004

Things you always never wanted to know

  • Arteries got their name (literally "windpipe") when the Greek physician Praxagoras thought they carried air. In corpses, they are usually empty.

  • The giant sequoia tree's wood is practically useless as timber. The tree is so brittle that, when it falls, it often cracks both lengthwise and across into fragments fit only for use in pencils.

  • In 1891, when Whitcomb L. Judson, a Chicago inventor, patented what would later become the zipper, he wanted to save people the trouble of buttoning and unbuttoning their shoes. He called his invention the "clasp locker and unlocker for shoes."

  • In one of the first law codes in history, handed down by Hammurabi, king of Babylonia, the penalty for medical malpractice was to cut off the doctor's hands.

  • Samuel Langhorne Clemens was not the first American author to use the name Mark Twain. The name, a steamboat pilot's term, was first used as a pen name by another Mississippi River pilot, Isaiah Sellers, who wrote newspaper articles.

  • In the first 183 years of U.S. history, the country had no vice president for a sum of 37 years and 159 days, almost one-fifth of the time.

  • On his inauguration day in 1829, Andrew Jackson had to climb over a wall and enter the Capitol from the basement in order to avoid boisterous mobs that thronged the building in celebration.

  • Dec. 25 was not celebrated as the birth date of Christ until the year 440.

  • It's nearly impossible to drown in the Dead Sea or in the Great Salt Lake. Because of the salinity, objects floating in the lakes are so buoyant that it's difficult to get them under the surface.

  • There is a salt mine in the Polish town of Wieliczka that has been in operation for nearly 1,000 years.