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Mr. Smarty Pants Knows 964 results

Mr. Smarty Pants Knows is a weekly humor/trivia column by R.U. Steinberg that has appeared weekly in The Austin Chronicle since September 1988.

March 23, 2017

The U.S. presence at Guantánamo dates back to 1902, when Cuba was granted independence.

The theremin was invented as part of Soviet research into proximity detectors.

"Echo Boomers" are taking over the economy, according to Christopher Matthews of Axios. This group is also known as Generation Y and millennials, and includes people born in the Eighties or Nineties.

After Cesar Romero was cast as The Joker on the Batman TV series, Frank Sinatra expressed an interest in the role.

Precursors to chess originated in India during the Gupta Empire. There, its early form in the sixth century was known as caturanga, which translates as "four divisions (of the military)": infantry, cavalry, elephantry, and chariotry.

March 16, 2017

In CB radio lingo, Memphis, Tenn., is called Fort God because of Bellevue Baptist Church, a large church just outside the city.

Steve Bannon once wrote a hip-hop musical set during the L.A. riots and based on the Shakespearean play Coriolanus, according to his Hollywood writing partner, Julia Jones, quoted in The Daily Beast.

Oscar Hammerstein II lost part of a finger during a baseball game while he was playing first base for Columbia University's freshman team.

Executive orders from Presidents Obama and Trump were signed using custom gold-plated pens made by Cross, which is based in Providence, R.I., although most of the manufacturing is done in China. The preferred model is the felt-tipped Century II.

Black rhinoceroses live 35-50 years. White rhinoceroses live 40–50 years.

March 9, 2017

The Original Dixieland Jass (sic) Band recorded the first jazz record ever on Feb. 26, 1917.

According to The Wall Street Journal, soon there will be fewer than 2 million farms in America for the first time since pioneers moved westward after the Louisiana Purchase of 1803.

John Belushi's last meal was a bowl of lentil soup at the Rainbow Bar and Grill on Sunset Boulevard. Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe met there in 1952.

The predominant type of carrots are orange because Dutch growers cultivated them in the 17th century as a tribute to William of Orange.

George McJunkin (1851–1922) was an African-American cowboy, amateur archaeologist, and historian in New Mexico. He discovered the Folsom Site in 1908, which showed that people had inhabited North America since at least 9000 BCE, some 7,000 years earlier than previously thought.

March 2, 2017

A cargo container measures 40 feet long, 8.5 or 9.5 feet high, and 8 feet wide, and can hold as much as 29 tons in its 2,000 cubic feet.

West Point cadets hold annual cyberwar games in full fatigues to simulate fighting the enemy online.

Thomas Harman, a 16th-century magistrate, wrote about thieves' cant, a secret language used by criminals. In his book, A Caveat or Warning for Common Cursitors, Harman said the phrase, "Byng we to Rome vyle to nyp a bounge, so shall we have lower for the bowsing ken" means "Let's go to London and cut a purse, so we shall have money for the alehouse."

Lucille Ball was afraid of birds.

The Brooklyn Dodgers were so named in the 1890s because the team's field in Eastern Park was bordered on two sides by trolley tracks. "Trolley dodger" was a pejorative term Manhattanites used for residents of Brooklyn.

February 23, 2017

The longest rubber band chain measured at 10,855.6 feet not stretched, and was achieved by Pavitra Patro in Gujarat, India, on May 31, 2016.

The coin-operated newspaper box was invented in 1947 by George Hemmeter. In the newspaper box heyday, Kaspar Wire Works in Shiner, Texas, dominated the U.S. market for manufacturing them. With newspaper boxes on the decline, most publications these days choose to refurbish old boxes, rather than buy new ones.

Scientists used to think female sea turtles lay about 3.5 clutches of eggs per year. New research suggests the true number may be twice as high.

Pianist and jazz singer Hazel Scott was the first African-American woman to have her own television show. The Hazel Scott Show premiered on July 3, 1950, but was canceled that September following her investigation by the House Un-American Activities Committee.

Abraham Lincoln was a prolific wrestler and is enshrined in the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.

February 16, 2017

"America First" was the name of the pro-Nazi group led by Charles Lindbergh that fought FDR to keep America neutral between Britain and Hitler's Germany.

Most birds don't have penises. However, ducks, geese, swans, and large flightless birds like ostriches and emus do.

In the 1850s, Karl Marx was a reporter for The New York Daily Tribune.

Butter was used in religious practices by the Sumerians, some theories say as early as 3500BC. Churning milk into butter was seen as magic, and milk was related to birth and lactation. One Sumerian text says, "The rocking of the churn will sing for you … thus making you joyous."

According to Nature, in childhood, you have more than 30 billion fat cells in your body, and that number remains essentially the same for the rest of your life. You gain weight by filling fat cells with fat and you lose weight by emptying them.

February 9, 2017

When he was starting off in comedy, Stephen Colbert had to learn how to play baritone horn in six days.

According to one expert, to get rid of an earworm, repeat the last two stanzas of the song in your head to bring closure to it. Other experts say chewing gum or phoning a friend works. The scientific term for earworm is "involuntary musical imagery."

The USS Enterprise (CVN-65), the world's first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, was decommissioned on Feb. 3, 2017.

The North American wolverine, the largest member of the weasel family, relies on deep snow to den and reproduce.

According to the Social Security Administration, in 2015, the 32nd most popular female baby name in the U.S. was "Alexa," a name you can now hear in homes all across America because it's used to address computers. In 2014, the name was 63rd most popular.

February 2, 2017

Emus have been known to go for weeks without eating.

Sarah Silverman thought her first comedy performance at age 17 in Boston was awful.

According to a new study published in Proceedings of the National Acad­emy of Sciences, densifying cities could cut emissions more than doing energy retrofits on buildings. Researchers found that people living and working in smaller units consume less energy, meaning lower emissions.

When a villain was up to no good in an old silent or talkie movie, the song often played in the background was "Mysterioso Pizzicato." Historians aren't sure if it was composed by J. Bodewalt Lampe or J.S. Zamecnik. Silent film director Ernst Luz said the piece should be used "for such dramatic action, usually quiet, wherein the ensuing action is in doubt."

Scientific studies of toe length ratio first appeared in the late 19th century when British anthropologists wondered why ancient Greek and Roman statues had longer second toes than big toes.

January 26, 2017

Your chances of being injured by a grizzly bear in Yellowstone National Park are about 1 in 2.7 million, according to the National Park Service.

At her Dec. 29, 1971 concert at the Las Vegas Hilton, Barbra Streis­and wore a white lace gown with a red underskirt and a white choker.

Before the 1972 U.S. Supreme Court decision Eisenstadt v. Baird, only married people could legally possess contraceptives, and could only get them from doctors or pharmacists. When Baird lectured at Boston University in 1967, he gave a condom and contraceptive foam to a student, thus committing a felony according to the Massachusetts chastity law at the time.

In April 1918, California schoolchildren were urged by the state's Commission on Horticulture and Rodent Control Division to wage a war on squirrels, seen as a pest that destroyed food and crops. Children were recruited to sprinkle rodenticide outside squirrel burrows. By the time Squirrel Week ended, children had killed 104,509 squirrels.

According to Wikipedia records, the majority of selfie-related deaths have taken place in India.

January 19, 2017

When water droplets hit a larger body of water, they bounce because a layer of air gets caught between the two surfaces.

According to Better Homes and Gardens, cookies crumble because the recipe may contain too much flour, not enough fat, or the wrong kind of fat; overbaking; or the type of cookie sheet used.

According to, Franklin Roosevelt met with Winston Churchill in Casablanca on Jan. 14, 1943, about two weeks after watching, over the New Year holidays, the recently premiered movie named after that city and starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman.

Our planet is being monitored by aliens from Andromeda, according to Alex Collier (whose real name is Ralph Amigron).

According to anthropometrics specialist L.E. Eubanks in Social Progress, the Venus de Milo isn't perfect. "Any woman with a 26-inch waist and a 39-inch bust should have an ankle larger than 7.4 inches."

The above is information that Mr. Smarty Pants read in a book, magazine, or newspaper; heard on the radio; saw on television; or overheard at a party. Got facts? Write to Mr. Smarty Pants. Why not visit
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