Completely Random Facts of the Week – Issue 88

February 28, 2018

random facts of the week textIn this week’s random facts edition: One Miraculous Berry, A Town Hidden On Purpose, The World’s First Webcam, Queen Elizabeth’s Many Dogs, and the Infamous Golden Sombrero.

the miracle fruit berry on the plantOne Miraculous Berry

It’s known as the miracle fruit or miracle berry, but this berry is properly known as Synsepalum dulcificum. It has an interesting trait. When someone eats the berry, foods that usually taste sour begin to taste sweet.

The berry comes from West Africa and was not well known outside its native habitat though it has been known about since the 18th century. The reason is because the berry rots quickly, thus making it difficult to export . Attempts were made in the 1970s to get an extract of the berry approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as a sugar substitute, but the effort ultimately failed when it was classified as a food additive. It can now be purchased through multiple websites in tablet or powder form, by the berry, and you can even purchase your own miracle fruit plant. They are pricey, however. One website lists that a 20-pack of berries will run you $29.50.

The miracle fruit turns food from sour to sweet because of a protein called miraculin. This protein binds with the taste buds of the tongue and activates the sweet receptors, especially when the pH is low like it is in sour foods. The effect lasts about 30 minutes to an hour before it wears off.  Source, Source, Source

street scene of bolinas californiaA Town Hidden On Purpose

The residents of the small beach town of Bolinas, California, just north of San Francisco, don’t particularly like to have visitors. So much so that over the last 20 years the road signs that indicated the mileage and direction to the town have mysteriously disappeared. The longest a road sign lasted was 36 hours, and the signs disappeared so much that the highway department stopped replacing them.

Bolinas is a town of 1,620 people that doesn’t have a mayor or a city hall, and the public-utility board hasn’t allowed a new water meter permit since 1971. The town has so far quashed further development, but it remains to be seen if the residents will be able to keep it that way forever. Source, Source, Source

the black and white picture of a coffee pot on webcamThe World’s First Webcam

In 1991, the world’s first webcam was introduced at the University of Cambridge in England. The gray-scale Philips camera displayed a rather mundane item – a coffee pot. The pot was located in the main computer laboratory known as the Trojan room. While it appeared to be a boring item for a camera to be looking at, the coffee pot was an important part of the staff’s everyday life.

The idea came about because researchers, who were often working on a different part of the floor or another floor altogether, would arrive to the Trojan room only to find that the coffee pot was empty. Dr. Quentin Stafford-Frasier and Dr. Paul Jardetzky installed a camera to solve the problem of knowing if the coffee pot was full or empty. The camera grabbed an image three times every minute, and the two researchers wrote software so the images could be displayed on the internal computer network.

It wasn’t until 1993 when the coffee pot made its appearance onto the worldwide web and became a global hit. The camera ran for 10 years until it was finally turned off in 2001, and the last image was the hand of a scientist switching off the aging server. The last coffee pot used on the webcam was auctioned off for £3,350 to the German news website Spiegel Online. Source, Source

A welsh corgi sittin on the beach under a blue skyQueen Elizabeth’s Many Dogs

Queen Elizabeth II has an affinity for corgis. So much so that she has owned over 30 of the breed. Her first corgi was named Dookie, and was brought home by her father when she was seven in 1933. When she was 18 in 1944, she received a corgi named Susan who also accompanied her on her honeymoon with Prince Philip. She has had 14 generations of dogs traced from Susan by her side in her lifetime.

The Queen treats them as family, and as such, the dogs receive the royal treatment. They live in the Corgi Room and sleep in elevated wicker baskets. They are also fed by a gourmet chef. The Queen had been involved in the dogs’ breeding and care but decided to end her breeding program in 2015. The last two remaining corgis with her are named Willow and Holly, and she had no plans to introduce any new dogs to Buckingham Palace. Source, Source, Source, Source, Source

Mexican straw sombrero hat on white background.

The Infamous Golden Sombrero

In baseball, a golden sombrero is the term given to a player that has struck out four times in a single game. The term comes from hockey’s hat trick, the feat when a player scores three goals in a single game. A batter that strikes out three times is given just a sombrero, but when they do it four times, it becomes a golden sombrero. When a player strikes out five times in a game, it is called a platinum sombrero, and when it is done a dreaded six times in a game, the player receives a titanium sombrero.

Ryan Howard is the player with the most golden sombreros to his credit in his career at 27. The most in a season was seven by Dick Allen in 1968. Sammy Sosa had the most platinum sombreros during his career at four, and eight different players have the honor of the titanium sombrero, striking out six times in a game. All the games these players were involved in went into extra innings, however.

Two players have even gone beyond the levels of the sombrero. In 1981, during the longest game ever played in professional baseball between the Pawtucket Red Sox and Rochester Red Wings, Russ Laribee struck out seven times. The game did happen to be 33 innings and lasted eight and a half hours. Laribee was 0-11 with seven strikeouts. But that isn’t the most strikeouts in a professional game. Khalil Lee of the Class A affiliate of the Kansas City Royals struck out eight times in a single game during a 21 inning contest in 2017. Lee went 1-9 in the batter’s box but at least his team won the game. He has been the only player to get two golden sombreros in a single game. Source, Source, Source

That’s it for another edition of the Random Facts of the Week. Check out more fun facts here or a few past issues:

Issue 87
Issue 86
Issue 85

About the author 

Daniel Ganninger - The writer, editor, and chief lackey of Knowledge Stew, the author of the Knowledge Stew line of great trivia books, and editor of Fact World and the Knowledge Stew sister site on Medium. I hope you find things here to annoy those around you with your new found knowledge.

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