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The Mega Book of Useless Information

The Mega Book of Useless Information

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by Noel Botham

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Did you know that fingernails are made from the same substance as a bird’s beak? That cigarettes contain honey? Or that a ferret will die if it cannot find a mate? For anyone fascinated by the trifling, or just plain desperate to know the answers to the most bizarre of questions, this volume is packed with a bevy of utterly useless data drawn from every


Did you know that fingernails are made from the same substance as a bird’s beak? That cigarettes contain honey? Or that a ferret will die if it cannot find a mate? For anyone fascinated by the trifling, or just plain desperate to know the answers to the most bizarre of questions, this volume is packed with a bevy of utterly useless data drawn from every imaginable area of knowledge. Tidbits include the finding that the amount of heat your body emits in 30 minutes is enough to bring half a gallon of water to a boil, and such nuggets as the fact that there are more than 30,000 diets on public record, and that the only animals that can get sunburn are pigs and humans. Humorous and alarmingly trivial, this is a fun look at all the things you never thought you would need to know.

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John Blake Publishing, Limited
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
4.80(w) x 7.40(h) x 1.80(d)

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The Mega Book of Useless Information

An Official Useless Information Society Publication

By Noel Botham

John Blake Publishing Ltd

Copyright © 2010 Noel Botham
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-85782-929-7


The World and Its People

• Kemo Sabe means 'soggy shrub' in Navajo.

• Napoleon carried chocolate on all his military campaigns.

• In 1973, Swedish confectionery salesman Roland Ohisson was buried in a coffin made entirely of chocolate.

• Someone's gender can be guessed with 95 per cent accuracy just by smelling his or her breath.

• On average, Elizabeth Taylor has remarried every four years and five months.

• Pontius Pilate was born in Scotland.

• When he was young, Leonardo da Vinci drew a picture of a horrible monster and placed it near a window in order to surprise his father. The drawing was so convincing that, upon seeing it, his father believed it to be real and set out to protect his family until the boy showed him it was just a picture. Da Vinci's father then enrolled his son in an art class.

• Ten per cent of Star Trek fans replace the lenses on their glasses every five years, whether they need to or not.

• Ancient Romans at one time used human urine as an ingredient in their toothpaste.

• People who are lying to you tend to look up and to the left.

• The middle name of Jimmy Hoffa is Riddle. The legendary American union figure disappeared without trace on 30 July 1975.

• Boys who have unusual first names are more likely to have mental health problems than boys with conventional names.

• One in three consumers pays off his or her credit card bill every month.

• Pop star Justin Timberlake's half-eaten French toast sold for over $3,000 on eBay.

• One in three snakebite victims is drunk. One in five is tattooed.

• Michelangelo was harshly criticized by a Vatican official for the nudity in his fresco The Last Judgement, which hangs on the walls of the Sistine Chapel in Rome. In retaliation, the artist made some changes to his work: he painted in the face of the complaining clergyman and added donkey's ears and a snake's tail.

• More than 50 per cent of lottery players go back to work after winning the jackpot.

• Children who are breast-fed tend to have an IQ seven points higher than children who are not.

• Male hospital patients fall out of bed twice as often as female hospital patients.

• Fewer than ten per cent of criminals commit about 67 per cent of all crime.

• We inhale about 700,000 of our own skin flakes each day.

• A pickled snake bit Li of Suzhou, China, when he opened a bottle of rice wine.

• As his body was never found, a German court officially declared Hitler dead as recently as 1956.

• More than 50 per cent of the world's population have never made or received a telephone call.

• The average human eats eight spiders at night during their lifetime.

• All the chemicals in the human body have a combined value of approximately £4.

• Smokers eat more sugar than non-smokers.

• In ancient Sparta, Greece, married men were not allowed to live with their wives until they turned 30.

• Dorothy Parker wanted 'This is on me' inscribed on her tombstone.

• Half the world's population is under 25 years of age.

• In 1994, Chicago artist Dwight Kalb sent US talk-show host David Letterman a statue of Madonna, made of 180lb (82kg) of ham.

• The people killed most often during bank robberies are the robbers.

• An exocannibal eats only enemies, while an indocannibal eats only friends.

• Howard Hughes, the American billionaire businessman, aviator and film producer, never once attended a board of directors meeting, or any sort of meeting, at any of the companies he owned.

• Although Howard Hughes had 15 personal attendants and three doctors on full-time duty, he died of neglect and malnutrition, caused by his intense desire to be left alone.

• King Louis XIV of France established in his court the position of 'Royal Chocolate Maker to the King'.

• The Nestlés haven't run Nestlé since 1875.

• Astronauts get taller when they are in space.

• When a person is wide awake, alert, and mentally active, they are still only 25 per cent aware of what various parts of their body are doing.

• It has been estimated that men have been riding horses for over 3,000 years.

• The make-up entrepreneur Elizabeth Arden's real name was Florence Nightingale Graham, but she changed it once her company became successful at the beginning of the 1900s.

• Heavyweight boxing champion George Foreman has five sons named George; George Jnr, George III, George IV, George V and George VI.

• A five-and-a-half-year-old weighing 250lb (113kg) was exhibited at a meeting of the Physical Society of Vienna on 4 December 1894. She ate a normal diet and was otherwise in good health but she wasn't able to sweat.

• People who have computers in their homes tend to watch 40 per cent less television than average.

• A German soldier was riding in the back seat of a World War I plane when the engine suddenly stalled and he fell out of his seat while over two miles (3 km) above ground. As he was falling, the plane started falling too, and he was blown back into his own seat by the wind and was able to land the plane safely.

• Queen Elizabeth I named a man as the 'Official Uncorker of Bottles', and passed a law that stated all bottles found washed up on beaches had to be opened by him and no one else, in case they contained sensitive military messages. The penalty for anyone else opening a bottle was death.

• Afraid of growing old, Countess Bathory of Hungary became convinced that if she bathed in the blood of young girls, she could stay young for ever, and so for ten years she drained the blood of imprisoned girls so that she could take 'blood baths' in a huge iron vat. After one intended victim escaped, the King of Hungary ordered his soldiers to storm her castle. When they found many dead and some still-alive bodies, they locked the countess inside her room and bricked up the entrance, leaving only a small opening through which she was given food until she died.

• People overwhelmingly tend to marry partners who live near them.

• Charles Darwin cured his snuff habit by keeping his snuffbox in the basement and the key for the snuffbox in the attic.

• Voltaire drank between 50 and 65 cups of coffee every day.

• Manfredo Settala (1600–1680) is the only person in all recorded history to have been killed by a meteorite.

• Rembrandt died penniless with a friend coming up with the £2.85 it cost to bury him.

• Young children are poisoned by houseplants more often than by detergents and other chemicals.

• An Indian emperor was given four wives when he inherited the throne at the age of eight.

• Riverdance star Michael Flatley is also an accomplished concert flute player, a champion boxer and a chess master. He has been listed by the National Geographic Society as a 'Living Treasure'.

• Pablo Picasso has sold more works of art individually costing over $1 million than any other artist, with 211 Picasso pieces topping the million dollar mark, well ahead of the 168 Pierre-Auguste Renoir works.

• When there is no one else waiting to use a public phone, callers average 90 seconds' talking, but if someone is waiting, the callers average four minutes per call.

• Men more often dream about their male heroes, bosses, friends or role models than about women.

• Howard Hughes became so compulsive about germs that he used to spend hours swabbing his arms over and over again with rubbing alcohol.

• In 1949, Jack Wurm, an unemployed man, was aimlessly walking on a California beach when he came across a washed-up bottle containing this message: 'To avoid confusion, I leave my entire estate to the lucky person who finds this bottle and to my attorney, Barry Cohen, share and share alike. Daisy Alexander, June 20, 1937.' It was not a hoax and Mr Wurm received over $6 million from the Alexander estate.

• W C Fields used to open savings accounts everywhere he went. He put over £500,000 in 700 different banks but couldn't remember where many of his accounts were.

• Railroad worker Phineas P Gage was working with some dynamite that exploded unexpectedly and a metre-long iron bar weighing 13lb (6kg) went clear through his brain. He remained conscious, but was unable to see out of his left eye. After a while, his sight returned and he fully recovered.

• In November 1972, student skydiver Bob Hail jumped from his plane then discovered that both his main parachute and his back-up parachute had failed. He dropped 3,300 ft (1,006 m) at a rate of 80 mph (129 kph), and smashed into the ground face first. A few moments after landing, however, he got up and walked away with only minor injuries.

• Comedy team Abbott and Costello had an insurance policy to cover themselves financially in the event they had an argument with each other.

• A Japanese priest set a kimono on fire in Tokyo in 1657 because it carried bad luck. The flames spread until over 10,000 buildings were destroyed and 100,000 people died.

• Taxi drivers in London are required to pass a training test based on The Blue Book, with preparation for this test taking between two and four years. Of ten drivers who start, eight or nine drop out before completion.

• The most children born from the same mother, at one time, were decaplets. Born in Brazil, in 1946, eight girls and two boys were delivered.

• The most popular topic of public speakers is motivation at 23 per cent, followed by leadership at 17 per cent.

• One lady had her husband's ashes made into an egg timer so that, even in death, he can still 'help' in the kitchen.

• The most popular form of hair removal among women is shaving, with 70 per cent of women who remove hair doing so by this method.

• All pilots on international flights identify themselves in English, regardless of their country of origin.

• The disgraced Lord Jeffrey Archer once worked as a deckchair attendant during the holiday season in Weston-super-Mare in Somerset.

• Karl Marx rarely took a bath and suffered from boils most of his life.

• Early students of forensics hoped that by photographing the eyes of murder victims they would see a reflection of the murderer lingering in the victim's eyes.

• Some odour technicians in the perfume trade have the olfactory skill to distinguish 20,000 odours at 20 levels of intensity.

• Each morning more than a third of all adults hit their alarm clock's 'snooze' button an average of three times before they get up. Those most guilty of snatching some extra sleep are those in the 25–34 age bracket, at 57 per cent.

• Teenagers often have episodes of anger and negativity in which they slam doors and scream tirades, most of these lasting an average of 15 minutes.

• Adults spend an average of 16 times as many hours selecting clothes (145.6 hours a year) as they do on planning their retirement.

• Iraqi terrorist Khay Rahnajet, didn't pay enough postage on a letter bomb. It came back with 'return to sender' stamped on it. Forgetting it was the bomb; he opened it and was blown to bits.

• Peter the Great hated the Kremlin, where, as a child, he had witnessed the brutal torture and murder of his mother's family.

• The shortest human on record was Pauline Musters of the Netherlands. She measured 12 inches (30cm) at her birth in 1876, and was 23 inches (58cm) tall with a weight of 9lb (4kg) at her death in 1885.

• Two German motorists each guiding their car at a snail's pace near the centre of the road, due to heavy fog near the town of Guetersloh, had an all-too-literal head-on collision. At the moment of impact their heads were both out of the windows when they smacked together. Both men were hospitalized with severe head injuries, though their cars weren't scratched.

• About 18 per cent of animal owners share their bed with their pets.

• Two animal rights protesters were protesting at the cruelty of sending pigs to a slaughterhouse in Bonn. Suddenly the pigs – all 2,000 of them – escaped through a broken fence and stampeded, trampling the two helpless protesters to death.

• Couples who diet while on holiday argue three times more often than those who don't; and those who don't diet have three times as many romantic interludes.

• Two out of every three women in the world are illiterate.

• In Britain, two women were killed in 1999 by lightning conducted through their under-wired bras.

• Women who snore are at an increased risk of high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.

• Astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin ate roast turkey from foil packets for their first meal on the moon.

• About 24 per cent of alcoholics die in accidents, falls, fires or suicides.

• US Army doctor D W Bliss had the unique role of attending to two US presidents after they were shot. In 1865, he was one of 16 doctors who tried to save Abraham Lincoln; in 1881, Bliss supervised the care of James Garfield.

• King John did not sign the Magna Carta in 1215, as he could not write his name. Instead he placed his seal on it.

• Notorious bootlegger Al Capone made £34,000,000 during Prohibition.

• One in ten people admit that they would buy an outfit intending to wear it once and return it.

• Only 29 per cent of married couples agree on most political issues.

• It is estimated that 74 billion human beings have been born and died in the last 500,000 years.

• Thirty-nine per cent of people admit that, as guests, they have snooped in their host's medicine cabinets.

• Trying to prevent ageing, Charlie Chaplin, Winston Churchill and Christian Dior all had injections of foetal lamb cells. The process failed.

• In a test of Russian psychic Djuna Davitashvili's powers, a computer randomly selected a San Francisco landmark for her to predict. However, not only had she managed to predict it correctly six hours before it made the selection, Djuna also gave an incredibly detailed description of the site, though she was 6,000 miles away in Moscow at the time.

• A psychology student in New York rented out her spare room to a carpenter in order to nag him constantly and study his reactions. After weeks of needling, he snapped and beat her repeatedly with an axe, leaving her mentally retarded.

• The average person receives eight birthday cards annually.

• More than 50 per cent of adults say that children should not be paid money for getting good grades in school.

• Robert Todd Lincoln, son of Abraham Lincoln, was present at the assassinations of three presidents: his father's, President Garfield's, and President McKinley's. After the last shooting, he refused ever to attend a state affair again.

• Leonardo da Vinci wrote notebook entries in backwards script, a trick that kept many of his observations from being widely known until decades after his death. It is believed that he was hiding his scientific ideas from the powerful Roman Catholic Church, whose teachings sometimes disagreed with what Da Vinci observed.

• Peter the Great of Russia was almost 7 ft (2 m) tall.

• On his way home to visit his parents, a Harvard student fell between two rail-road cars at the station in Jersey City, New Jersey, and was rescued by an actor on his way to visit a sister in Philadelphia. The student was Robert Lincoln, heading for 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. The actor was Edwin Booth, the brother of the man who, a few weeks later, would murder the student's father.

• When a thief was surprised while burgling a house in Antwerp, Belgium, he fled out of the back door, clambered over a 9-ft (3 m) wall, dropped down and found himself in the city prison.

• A flower shop entrepreneur named O'Banion held the greatest ever funeral for a gangster in Chicago. The shop, at the corner of State and Superior Streets, was a front for O'Banion's bootlegging and hijacking operations. Ten thousand mourners were in attendance, and the most expensive wreath, costing $1,000, came from Al Capone, who had ordered that O'Banion be killed.

• When a thief was surprised while burgling a house in Antwerp, Belgium, he fled out of the back door, clambered over a 9-ft (3 m) wall, dropped down and found himself in the city prison.

• About 25 per cent of alcoholics are women.

• Levi Strauss was paid £3.35 in gold dust for his first pair of jeans.

• Adolf Hitler's third-grade school report remarked that he was 'bad tempered' and fancied himself as a leader.

• Robert Peary, discoverer of the North Pole, included a photograph of his nude mistress in a book about his travels.

• The first women flight attendants in 1930 were required to be unmarried, trained nurses, and weigh no more than 115lb (52kg).

• One of Napoleon's drinking cups was made from the skull of the famous Italian adventurer Cagliostro.

• When King Edward II was deposed from the throne in the 14th century, there were strict instructions that no one should harm him. To avoid leaving marks on his body when he was murdered, a deer horn was inserted into his rectum then a red-hot poker was placed inside it.

• Pamela Anderson is Canada's Centennial Baby, being the first baby born on the centennial anniversary of Canada's independence.


Excerpted from The Mega Book of Useless Information by Noel Botham. Copyright © 2010 Noel Botham. Excerpted by permission of John Blake Publishing Ltd.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Noel Botham is the chairman of the Useless Information Society and the author of several books, including The Best Book of Useless Information Ever, The Book of Useless Information, and The Ultimate Book of Useless Information.

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The Mega Book of Useless Information 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Funny and true
Momof4boysTC More than 1 year ago
My 12 year old son asked for this book for his birthday. His Social Studies teacher at school picks out interesting tidbits and shares them with the class and my son finds them interesting and humorus. I did not check out the book before purchasing it (my bad) and when it arrived I just happened to open it up to the chapter of "Rude Facts". This chapter is NOT appropriate for children. To solve the problem we stapled all sides of the chapter together with SEVERAL staples so that my son cannot read anything in it. We instructed him that if just one of the staples get removed, the book will be gone. So far, no problem. The rest of the book seems to be fine and he is enjoying it.