Completely Useless Facts of the Week – Issue 25

March 7, 2015

uselessfactsheader25The weekly collection of useless and fun facts.  In this week’s edition: Dial-Up Internet, Splenda, Jackie Chan, Fake BMW Car Noises, and BASE Jumping


The crackling sound from a modem as it dialed-up the internet was a common sound heard in the 90’s, and that same service is still used by a number of people today.  The internet service provider, AOL, from the old, “You’ve got mail” ads, continues to offer dial-up services, and as of 2014, AOL had 2.3 million subscribers continuing to use that method to get connected to the internet.  On average the subscription costs $20.46 per month, and it represents one-third of AOL’s overall sales.  What is more remarkable is that it generated $155 million in profit for the company compared with its ad business that brought in $144 million.

The reasons for the large amount of people continuing to use dial-up is unknown, but a number of theories have been bounced around.  One theory is that people just forget they have it.  Another suggested it could be senior citizens that are comfortable with this method of connecting they learned in the 90’s, and it meets their purposes now.  Yet another suggests it could simply be cost.  Broadband connections can be expensive, and those without the money simply can’t afford to upgrade.  It’s also thought that since broadband is not available everywhere, this may be the only method people can use to connect to the internet.  One thing is for certain, AOL continues to make a tidy profit off the service even though its subscriber base has declined year after year.  For some people, the “You’ve got mail” slogan still rings true.  Source, Source, Source

4407061831 19cd558b0f zIn 1976, the artificial sweetener Sucralose (which is Splenda) was discovered when a pair of researchers from Queen Elizabeth College in England named Shashikant Phadnis and Leslie Hough, were researching sucrose with scientists from an agriculture business called Tate & Lyle.   Hough had asked Phadnis to “test” the chlorinated sugar compound they were working on.  Phadnis misheard the words and thought Hough had asked him to taste the compound.  He did in fact taste it, and luckily found that it was very sweet (and not deadly).  Tate & Lyle patented the discovery in 1976 and gave it the product name Splenda.  Sucralose was approved for use by Canada in 1991, Australia in 1993, New Zealand in 1996, the U.S. in 1998, and the European Union approved it in 2004.  Splenda has since become the number one best selling artificial sweetener on the market.  Source, Source

Jackie Chan by Gage Skidmore
Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia

Jackie Chan, the 60-year old actor from Hong Kong and famous for performing all his own stunts, has spent almost his entire life making movies.  He has made at least one movie a year for 52 years.  His first film was Big and Little Wong Tin Bar when he was eight in 1962.  Since then he has appeared in over a hundred films.  He holds the world record for the most takes in one scene at 2,900 for a film he directed in 1982 called Dragon Lord, and he also holds two other world records: one for most credits on a film, with fifteen different titles on Chinese Zodiac, and another for the most stunts by any stuntman.  Source, Source

800px 2012 BMW M5 2012 DCSome automobile owners have been lied to by their cars.  The roar of the engine as the accelerator is stomped down isn’t really the powerful sound of the car’s engine, it’s just a lip-synced version.  One of those in particular is the BMW M5.  The interior of the BMW M5 is so quiet that BMW installed a digital recording of the engine’s noise that is played through the car’s speakers so owner’s can hear the roar of the V8 engine’s sound as they drive. BMW linked the stereo system and the digital signal processor to the engine’s computer.  This mimicked the sound of the real engine with a processed twin-turbocharged V-8 engine sound through many different RPM’s and vehicle speeds.  BMW isn’t the only car company doing this.  Ford has done it with the Mustang, as has Volkswagen, Lexus, and Porsche with some of their automobiles.  The thinking by the car companies may be that buyers perceive the quietness of the car’s ride and engine noise as a less powerful car, so they end up not buying.  Who knows if that’s really the case, but what the better question may be is how well does the stereo actually play music.  If factory stereos had as much effort put into them as fake car sounds did then the car companies might have a stronger selling point.  Source, Source

800px BASE Jumping from Sapphire Tower in Istanbul
Kontizas Dimitrios/Wikimedia

Base jumping is actually B.A.S.E jumping, an acronym referring to four categories of fixed objects from which one can jump – building, antenna, span, and Earth.  The term was originally used by Carl Boenish in the late 1970’s when he and another group of men began jumping and filming jumps made off El Capitan in Yosemite National Park.  When a jumper has completed all four categories, they can receive a BASE number.  The system began in 1981 with Phil Smith being BASE #1, Phil Mayfield BASE #2, Jean Boenish BASE #3, and Carl Boenish BASE #4.  These four are considered the pioneers in base jumping.  There are currently over 1,800 people with a BASE number, and 97 have perished while BASE jumping as of February 2013.   Source, Source

Another edition of the Useless Facts of the Week is complete. Remember to annoy those around you with your new found knowledge.

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About the author 

Daniel Ganninger - The writer, editor, and chief lackey of Knowledge Stew, the author of the Knowledge Stew line of trivia books, and editor of Fact World and the Knowledge Stew sister site on Medium, our ad-free subscription sites (you can find out how to join below). I hope you find things here to annoy those around you with your new found knowledge.

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