Everything from scintillating cocktail conversation to realistic writing to acing tests depends on it!
- Quartz can scratch glass—easily. It’s one of the few minerals that can. But gem stones topaz and corundum (mainly ruby and sapphire) can mark glass, too, being between the hardness of quartz (7) and diamond (10, the hardest of all).
- Of course, diamonds can cut glass, and can scratch virtually anything. Is there anyone out there who didn’t know that? I’ve often heard that in years gone by, women would authenticate their engagement ring stone by scratching a name or other inscription into window glass. Little did they know it might be quartz! Or zircon!
- Zircon is the oldest mineral found on earth, and it’s the only natural gemstone that can imitate diamond (hardness up to 7.5). It can mark glass, too.
Out of Breath
- The human body can function without air longer than you think. The current record for voluntarily going without oxygen is 11 minutes, 35 seconds for men and 8 minutes, 23 seconds for women.
- As a point of comparison, the average person can hold his/her breath for 30-90 seconds. FYI, Japanese pearl divers don’t have super lungs; they hold their breath for about two minutes per dive. And, yes, people can train themselves for longer breathlessness.
Weather: It’s Everywhere!
- Chicago has more sports events cancelled because of weather than any other U.S. city—but I couldn’t confirm that just now.
- Consider how weather could add tension to any sport that is played outdoors. Communities in regions prone to rain, snow, etc., residents tend to be more willing to play soccer in the rain or huddle around fire pits to watch an outdoor hockey game. Don’t forget heat and drought. And consider the implications of climate change.
- Similar considerations apply for outdoor concerts, plays, and lectures. Some instruments (brass, certain woodwinds, a few percussion types, and [shockingly] harps) can be played in the rain or cold if they are properly prepared and cared for after. The heavy stage makeup actors wear to withstand sweat and theatrical weeping will also stand up to rain.
- Death Valley is the hottest location in the U.S. (Marathoners have to bring extra shoes to replace all the pairs that will melt on the asphalt during the course of the race!)
- Phoenix, AZ, is the hottest city in the U.S.
- Fairbanks, Alaska is the coldest city in the whole country, but Grand Forks, ND, is the coldest in the continental U.S.
- The Yukon is the coldest region in the U.S. (Most items have to be shipped in refrigerated trucks to prevent them freezing in transit!)
- Mount Rainier has the most snowfall.
- Syracuse, NY is the snowiest city in the continental U.S.
- Mobile, AL, is the rainiest city in the continental U.S.
- All 10 of the rainiest cities are along the southernmost border.
- For all that Chicago is known as “The Windy City,” the windiest is actually Dodge City, Kansas. Indeed, Chicago doesn’t even make the top 10!
- The difference between a hurricane and a typhoon is a matter of geography.
- In the North Atlantic, central North Pacific, and eastern North Pacific, it’s a hurricane.
- In the Northwest Pacific, it’s a typhoon.
- In the South Pacific, it’s called a tropical cyclone. In fact, all are tropical cyclones.
- The weakest of these are tropical depressions; the next level up are tropical storms.
$ and € and £ and ¥
- The Value of a Dollar is actually the name of a great reference book.
- It gives the cost of goods and services as well as typical salaries/wages by year, starting in 1860 and still updated.
- Gas in Bath County, Virginia, cost ten cents per gallon in 1935. Ham was ten cents a pound as well.
- Over the last 20 years, U.S. annual inflation rate has varied between 0.1% (2015) and 3.8% (2008). The highest inflation rates, some in the thousands of percent, occur in third world and developing countries, including Venezuela, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Lebanon, and Argentina. Those who know these things blame the lack of a central bank, which allows for easier currency manipulation.
- In 2020, Wichita Falls, TX was the city with the lowest cost of living. The four lowest cost-of-living cities were all in Texas. However, the lowest cost of living state is Mississippi.
Gender and Orientation
- 120 males are conceived for every 100 females, but only 105 males are born for every 100 females. Sometimes called “male fragility”, the fact is that at every age and stage, males are more likely to die than females, as well as having more behavioral and developmental disorders.
- Physiologically, a newborn girl is 6 weeks ahead of a newborn boy. Females tolerate heat, cold, famine, and disease better than males. Speed and strength favor men, but endurance favors women.
- In 1/1500 to 1/2000 births, the newborn’s genitalia are so noticeably atypical that a sexual differentiation expert must be called in. What used to be called hermaphroditic is now part of a larger category termed intersex: 1 in 100 newborns have bodies that are not standard male or female.
- In the U.S., 58% of reported COVID deaths are male (per the CDC as of May 6). In England, Wales, and France, that figure is 60%. In Malaysia, it’s 78%.
- Research lags sexual identification, but I was able to find that similar numbers of men and women in the U.S. identify as LGB (3.5%). (8.2% report having actually engaged in same-sex sexual behavior.)
- Among LGB identifiers, a slight majority identify as bisexual, and the majority of those are women.
- 0.3% identify as transgender. Research in these areas is fraught with hurdles and problems.
Love and/or Marriage
- Predictions are that 40-50% of all marriages end in divorce. That number goes up to 60% of second marriages and 65% of third and fourth marriages.
- About 6% of couples who married and divorced later remarried each other. 72% of those remarried couples stayed together.
- Glynn Wolfe (1908-1997) was a Baptist minister who seems to hold the record for the most monogamous marriages (29). The shortest lasted 19 days, the longest 11 years.
- Britney Spears and Jason A. Alexander were married 55 hours. Long-time friends, they married on the spur of the moment in Las Vegas and agreed to an annulment just over two days later.
- But wait! That’s still 1100 times longer than the record (which still holds, as best I could determine). In 2019, a couple in Kuwait probably set the bar for the shortest marriage on record: 3 minutes. Leaving the courthouse, the bride tripped and fell. Her new husband called her ‘stupid.” She returned to the judge who had just married them and demanded a divorce.
- A bigamist marries a second (third, etc.) spouse while still married to someone else.
- Polygamy is the culturally/legally accepted practice of one man having several wives.
- Polyandry is the same, only it’s one woman with multiple husbands.
- The human skeleton renews approximately every 3 months.
- Human infants are born with 6 cranial bones and 2 holes in their heads (called fontanelles). The fontanelles usually close up within the first two months.
- In total, human infants are born with more than 300 bones. They fuse with age, resulting in adult bodies with only 206.
- The hardest bone in the body is the mandible/jawbone.
- Children develop both sets of teeth at the same time. Their baby teeth fall out as their permanent teeth grow downward.
- The hands and feet have over half of all the bones in the human body: 27 per hand and 26 per foot.
- The hyoid bone is the only bone in the human body not connected to another bone.
- Ancient Egyptians (about 3000 years ago) developed the first functional prosthetic bone, a big toe.
- Humans and other animals with internal bony skeletons are in the minority—only about 2% of animal species are endoskeletal.
- The average number of skeletons in the human body is technically more than one. (Pregnant women skew the numbers ever so slightly.)
- The femur is the longest bone in the human body, and one of the most researched in both human anatomy and forensic medicine.
Bottom Line: One of my greatest rewards for writing is learning new things. I want my facts to be right. Therefore, I do a lot of research—and therein lies the joy of coming across the unexpected. I recommend it!
Very Important Note: Be mindful of what you’re researching, where you’re researching, and what that research might look like to a stranger. Some topics will throw up a red flag in search engines or on monitorwd networks. You don’t want the FBI knocking on your door just because the explosion scene in your novel is chemically accurate!