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Mr. Smarty Pants Knows 1,059 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.

January 17, 2019


Woody Guthrie wrote a song in 1950 about his experiences renting an apartment in Brooklyn from Fred Trump Sr., called "Old Man Trump."

U.S. coal use dropped 4% in 2018 to a level not seen since 1979, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

A 2016 survey from thrift retailer Savers estimated that Americans discard 81 pounds of clothing a year, most of which could be donated or recycled. That's a jaw-dropping 85% of our wardrobes. Americans throw out 13 million tons of textiles a year, accounting for 9% of total nonrecycled waste.

A new, noninvasive way to determine a penguin's gender is to measure beak thickness. Males have thicker beaks than females.

According to The San Antonio Express-News, the latest train robbery in Texas occurred at San Antonio's Brackenridge Park on July 18, 1970, when two attackers, later determined to be U.S. Army soldiers stationed at Fort Sam Houston, brandished guns, forced the park's recreational "Old No. 99" miniature locomotive to a stop, and emptied 75 passengers of wallets, purses, cameras, watches, and jewelry.

January 10, 2019


A mudlark is a person who scavenges in river mud for objects of value.

Starfish usually have five arms, but some species may have as many as 40. Each arm has an eye at its tip.

According to the Transportation Security Administration, in 2017, a record 3,957 firearms – nearly 11 a day – were discovered in carry-on bags at airport checkpoints across the country, a 17% increase from the previous year. Of the guns uncovered in 2017, 84% were loaded.

Elvis Presley got his name from his dad, Vernon Elvis Presley.

According to a study by stuffed animal retailer Build-A-Bear, up to 40% of adults sleep holding stuffed animals. According to the Atomik Research group, more than half of those polled say they've owned a stuffed animal for more than 20 years. More than 70% of those respondents said they were never going to get rid of their fluffy friend.

January 3, 2019


The name of Johnny Carson's ventriloquist dummy was Eddie.

The polio vaccine was developed using cells unknowingly donated by Henrietta Lacks, a black woman from Baltimore.

Scientists from Sweden's Uppsala University have produced DNA evidence that women Viking warriors fought alongside or even commanded their male counterparts in the Swedish Viking Age.

Fewer than half of Americans now believe the death penalty is fairly applied in the U.S., according to the 2018 annual Gallup crime poll of U.S. adults.

Research by The Economist in 2012 found that the average British size-14 pair of women's trousers was more than 4 inches wider at the waist than a size 14 in the 1970s, and over 3 inches wider at the hips. This means a 2011 size 14 fits like a former size 18.

December 27, 2018


According to psychic Betsey Lewis, Pope Francis may resign in 2019.

According to psychics Craig and Jane Hamilton-Parker, a Trump family member will have a near-fatal accident in 2019 and Donald Trump will be taken ill. It won't be life-threatening, but maybe something like a perforated bowel.

According to psychic Jeanne Mayell, technological discoveries bridging quantum physics will be made in 2019.

According to one interpretation of Nostradamus, people will be able to speak to animals in 2019. "The pigs will become brothers to man," wrote the prophet.

According to psychic Judy Hevenly, Simon Cowell will be knighted in 2019.

December 20, 2018


According to Axios, China bought nearly 138,000 factory robots in 2017 – that's about 36% of all factory robots in the world last year, and nearly as many as bought by Japan, South Korea, the U.S., and Germany combined.

According to one bowling trivia expert, Harry Truman is the only U.S. president to appear on the cover of a bowling magazine.

In the original Brothers Grimm story, Snow White was asked to be the seven dwarfs' cleaning lady. Disney turned her into a princess.

What is the longest straight line on Earth you can walk without getting your feet wet in a lake, sea, or ocean? Start in Shitangzhen, a Chinese coastal city just south of Shanghai, and walk east. Then arrive about six miles north of Greenville on Liberia's Atlantic coast. Total travel is 8,443 miles.

Arnold Schwarzenegger and Wilt Chamberlain used to lift weights together.

December 13, 2018


Genghis Khan's Mongol horde probably had rampant hepatitis B, according to researchers at Cambridge University.

According to The New York Times, NASA researchers say the accelerated destruction of Borneo's forests for oil-palm cultivation contributed to the largest single-year global increase in carbon emissions in two millennia.

Japanese folklore describes a Namazu, a giant catfish that lives in the mud beneath the surface, that is restrained by Kashima, a god who protects Japanese people from earthquakes. When Kashima relaxes his guard, the catfish thrashes about, causing the ground to shake and crack.

Some cuckoos screech like hawks to frighten unsuspecting brooders away from the nests.

A recent study found that 25% of whites in the U.S. own guns; that compares to 14% of African-Americans and 16% of Latinos.

December 6, 2018


Baby otters wag their tails like dogs.

Cremating one body uses as much fuel as a 500-mile-plus road trip.

"The Great Turkish Bombard," also known as "the Dardanelles Gun," was a 17-foot-long bronze cannon designed and cast in 1464 by Munir Ali to fire balls of almost 25 inches. It weighed 16.8 tons. In 1807, 343 years later, Turkish forces fired it with deadly effect against the British in the Dardanelles campaign. In 1866, it was given by Sultan Abdulaziz to Queen Victoria as a present.

Dizzy Gillespie ran for president in 1964. He promised to rename the White House "the Blues House" and to put Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, and Malcolm X in his cabinet.

Six out of 10 Americans believe in an afterlife in which people are punished for evil deeds.

November 29, 2018


According to a 2013 survey by the retailer Intimacy, the average bra size in the U.S. is 34DD. Just 20 years prior, it was 34B.

The top three surnames in Texas are Garcia, Smith, and Martinez, according to

According to Science, there's a 31-kilometer-wide impact crater under the Hiawatha Glacier in Greenland, left by an asteroid that perhaps fell during the last ice age. Meltwater from the impact could have triggered a 1,000-year chill in the Northern Hemisphere. It would have melted as much ice as Antarctica has lost in the last decade from global warming.

The color "dragon's blood" owes its intense redness to resin secreted from trees growing on the islands of Socotra and Sumatra, especially the rattan palm and Dracaena draco.

The famous line "Follow the money" was coined by the late William Goldman in his screenplay of the Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein book about the Watergate scandal, All the President's Men (1976). Goldman also wrote the screenplays for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Princess Bride.

November 21, 2018


According to Yang, if you're walking down the road and no one else is around and you hear your name, don't answer because it may be a ghost attempting to steal your soul.

According to Science, modern Mongolians milk seven different kinds of mammals and get more than a third of their calories from dairy products, even though 95% of them are lactose intolerant. They consume various cheeses, yogurts, and other fermented products, using bacteria to digest lactose for them.

Caravaggio, El Greco, and Rubens preferred to use carmine, a color produced by Mexican cochineal – insects that swarm on prickly pear cacti – rather than crimson.

In 2016, Rome's Trevi fountain had coins tossed into it totaling over $1.4 million. Rome has the most fountains of any city in the world. Second place? Kansas City, Missouri.

French crows are being trained to pick up cigarette butts and other litter.

November 15, 2018


According to the book Texas Folk Medicine, by John Q. Anderson, an old folk remedy in Tarrant County for curing stuttering was to hit the patient in the mouth with the shank bone from a newly killed calf. In Navarro County, it was advised to never let babies see their image in a mirror before learning to talk, or you ran the risk of them growing up to stutter.

A Mexico City restaurant can't serve $27 tarantula tacos because the Mexican red rump tarantula is a protected species.

Some sculptures depict the person looking up and to the left. This is sometimes called a Lysippean gaze, named for the sculptor Lysippos, who did a sculpture of Alexander the Great with a similar look, supposedly looking off into the distance at the lands he was going to conquer.

Michelangelo depicted the forbidden fruit eaten by Adam and Eve as a fig, not an apple.

"Tear gas" is two words as a noun, one word as a verb, as in "He teargassed the crowd with tear gas."

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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