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Mr. Smarty Pants Knows 948 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.

December 1, 2016

Researcher Patrick Krill says the rate of depression among lawyers is about three times higher than in the general U.S. population.

According to University of Copenhagen researchers, a genetic mutation about 10,000 years ago is the cause of all the people with blue eye color.

Barney Gumble on The Simpsons was based on the Crazy Guggenheim character on The Jackie Gleason Show played by Frankie Fontaine.

Computer engineer Raymond Tomlinson sent the first email in 1971 on ARPANET, the predecessor of the internet. He is responsible for selecting the @ symbol for email addresses, and it stuck, despite a brief period in the Eighties when some service providers tried using exclamation points and percent signs instead.

Gallerie, a store in Osaka, Japan, recently held a "fuckin' sale" (that's what their English signs said), but quickly corrected the faux pas. It was a pun on fukubukuro: "lucky bags." It's a New Year's tradition for Japanese retailers to put last year's overstock into grab bags and sell them at a discount.

November 23, 2016

Socks are the most requested clothing item at homeless shelters. To be hygienic, they have to be new.

The Ghent Altarpiece, also known as The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, is the most stolen work of art in history. In its entirety or in part, it has been stolen seven times, and has been at the center of no fewer than 13 crimes and mysteries.

A recent report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics shows that the arrest rate for older American adults is higher than it was 20 years ago. The current generation of younger adults are being arrested 23% less frequently than their elders.

Luciano Pavarotti used to demand that there be no noise backstage or distinct smells anywhere near him. He also demanded a golf cart be supplied.

"Supplicant" means "one who earnestly beseeches; a humble petitioner."

November 17, 2016

In 1981, Medicare and Medicaid accounted for 9.5% of all federal outlays. In 2001, that number had jumped to 25%. A combination of CHIP, marketplace subsidies, Medicare, and Medicaid accounted for 25% in 2015.

The swastika was used as the official national marking of the Finnish Air Force and Tank Corps between 1918 and 1945.

Due to her offscreen loathing of her TV husband, Vivian Vance (Ethyl) refused to do an I Love Lucy spin-off with William Frawley (Fred).

In 2015, women working full time in the United States typically were paid 80% of what men were paid.

Norman Mailer coined the term "factoid" in his 1973 biography of Marilyn Monroe, but said it wouldn't be considered a fact because the suffix "-oid" usually means "resembling, but not really a member of some category." In her 2012 piece in The Atlantic about the word, Alexis C. Madrigal suggested a more appropriate term may be "factlet." Suffixes aside, "factoid" has come to mean "a brief, interesting fact."

November 10, 2016

108, the number of years between World Series wins by the Chicago Cubs, is also the number of stitches in a baseball.

They've got kosher marijuana in New York.

The last surviving border marker for the Republic of Texas is 10 miles southeast of Deadwood, Texas, on FM 31. Dating back to 1840, the granite marker is a nine-inch square and sticks up about four feet from the ground. One side is engraved with "Merid. Boundary, Established A.D., 1840," one is engraved with "U.S." and one is engraved with "R.T." for Republic of Texas.

Some believe soba tastes better if you slurp it while eating it and it's even better if you slurp it all at once. Soba are Japanese buckwheat noodles served in broth or with dipping sauce.

Queen Elizabeth I's teeth turned black because she ate too many sweets.

November 3, 2016

The first photo of Earth was taken on Oct. 24, 1946 from a Nazi-built V-2 rocket launched by American scientists at the White Sands Missile Range.

As a tribute to The Day the Earth Stood Still and Return of the Jedi, to obtain the Necronomicon in the cult classic Army of Darkness, Bruce Campbell's character Ash had to say, "Klaatu barada nikto."

Only two people signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4, John Hancock and Charles Thomson. Most of the rest signed on August 2.

László Bíró, a Hungarian Jew, invented the ballpoint pen in 1931 and obtained a French patent for it in 1938. Bíró fled Hungary before World War II, eventually settling in Argentina. In 1945, he sold his patent to French aristocrat and entrepreneur Marcel Bich, whose company, Bic, modified the casing to create one of the world’s best known and enduring examples of postwar modernist industrial design.

Fred Flintstone grew a mustache in two episodes, “Latin Love” (1962) and “Fred el Terrifico” (1964).

October 27, 2016

Most star systems in the universe, but not ours, are binary systems, having two stars.

Marie Curie is the only person to date to have won the Nobel prize in both Physics and Chemistry.

Leonard Roy Harmon of Cuero, Texas, was the first African-American after whom a U.S. Navy ship was named. It was the now retired and scrapped USS Harmon, a destroyer that saw action in World War II, followed by training operations with submarines in the Panama Canal Zone.

According to, a 1969 track called "Amen, Brother" by the Winstons is the most sampled track in history. By its count, more than 2,000 songs have sampled a particular drum beat from it.

October 20, 2016

First marketed in 1889, the 78 rpm record is closer to the Civil War than it is to today. They were phased out by 1960.

Rob Zombie directed a recent Woolite commercial.

When burned, selenium gives off a smell like horseradish. Selenium, the chemical element with symbol Se and atomic number 34, was discovered accidentally in 1817 by Jöns Jakob Berzelius and Johan Gottlieb Gahn, who owned a sulfuric acid plant near Gripsholm, Sweden.

On the first day of the Chinese holiday Qingming, people dust off the graves of their ancestors and make burnt offerings including burning bank notes, replicas of iPhones, model houses, and fake gold bars.

Freeman Bernstein was a Vaudeville manager, boxing promoter, and card shark who in 1936 swindled the Nazis in a deal to sell them nickel.

October 13, 2016

The Chicago Public Library was created directly from the ashes of the great Chicago Fire in 1871.

The 1896 Armstrong Phaeton was a gas-electric hybrid horseless carriage (the old name for “automobile”). Designed by Harry Dey, the vehicle had a 6.5-liter two-cylinder gasoline fed engine, as well as a dynamo-wound flywheel to charge an on-board battery.

Deer are ruminant mammals. Ruminant means they’re even-toed, hooved, and chew the cud regurgitated from their first stomach.

Oliver Hardy (of Laurel & Hardy) loved the Brooklyn Dodgers.

According to BBC, gold Olympic medals are worth about $600, silver medals around $300, and bronze medals are only worth about $4. American Olympians are taxed on both the money they receive from the Olympic committee for winning and on the value of the medals.

October 6, 2016

It is believed the English folk song "Greensleeves" was written by King Henry VIII for his future queen, Anne Boleyn.

The leading cause of death in 1901, with almost 59,000 cases, was actually diarrhea, or other intestinal distresses. Not far behind was tuberculosis at 55,000. Pneumonia was third at 48,000.

According to Vox, teen pregnancy is at a major low. There were 22.3 births for every 1,000 girls 15 to 19 in 2015, down from 61.8 births in 1991.

According to The Atlantic, meerkats are the most likely mammals to kill their own kind, with 19.36% of meerkat deaths inflicted by another meerkat.

Texas blues legend Lightnin' Hopkins recorded more albums than any other bluesman and released at least one album a year throughout the Sixties and Seventies. And he overcame his fear of flying in 1964 so he could attend the American Folk Blues Festival in Europe.

September 29, 2016

A "sook" is a word used in Australia and New Zealand to describe a timid, cowardly person, especially a young person – essentially a crybaby.

According to Stanford professor Keith Humphreys, the most affordable university in the U.S. for students who get federal financial aid is the University of North Texas. However, some wealthy schools provide financial aid for low-income families, and therefore, Harvard is the most affordable according to a Washington Monthly analysis.

Brad Pitt was in Kickapoo High School golf, swimming and tennis teams, and speech and debate club (Springfield, Mo.) Angelina Jolie was teased at Beverly Hills High School and transferred to Moreno High School where she was a punk outsider.

Joseph Goebbels' wife, Magda, had a biological Jewish father, Richard Friedlander, who died in the Buchenwald concentration camp in 1939. She didn't try to help him.

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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