The First Book of Factoids First Published on the Links and Factoids Study List

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Electronic Mail
Both Electronic Mail and Instant Messaging were available as early as 1965. Queen Elizabeth of Britain sent her first email in 1976.

Users were sharing files - by placing them into common directories - even earlier (in 1961). The system was known as CTSS (Compatible Time-Sharing System). It was modified by Louis Pouzin, Glenda Schroeder, and Pat Crisman, Tom van Vleck and Noel Morris at the beginning of 1965 to include a MAIL command. Van Vleck and Morris also wrote an instant messaging tool into the software. An unknown hack added a "You've got mail" alert facility. Other timesharing systems - such as SDC and BBN - also included e-mail by autumn 1965. The military deployed AUTODIN (commissioned in 1962) and SAGE with full e-mail capabilities by 1966.

But these were same-machine e-mail applications. They could not connect different computers. ARPANET, a unit of the Department of Defence in the United States, was the first to achieve inter-connectibility.

Ray Tomlinson of ARPANET sent the first recognizable e-mail message in 1971. It was addressed to himself and read: "Testing 1-2-3". He then followed with a message to all ARPANET users with instructions on how to use the convention username@hostname.

At first, the use of the word "mail" was contentious as the Postal Office was thought to have a monopoly on sending personal notes and messages around. But the Postal Office, not realizing the importance of e-mail, did not object to the newly coined moniker e-mail.


Iraq and Jordan were once one country under a united Hashemite throne. The two monarchs - Hussein of Jordan and Faisal II of Iraq - created a federation in 1958. It lasted a few months - until Faisal II of Iraq was deposed and killed in a military coup.


Syria and Egypt proclaimed in a federation in February 1958. It lasted till September 1961. It was called the United Arab Republic (UAR) and had the hallmarks of a unitary state: single flag and anthem, shared armed services and common foreign policy. Egypt retained the name - UAR - until 1971.


Ukraine was nominally independent even during the heyday of the Soviet Union. It maintained its own delegation to the United Nations, for instance. The USSR was a federation between Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and the Transcaucasus with a formal right to secede granted to each of the constituents.


Lagos - today, a state within Nigeria incorporating the largest city in the country and, for a long time, its capital - was made a separate British colony in 1886. It was administered from Freetown, Sierra Leone. Nigeria is a federation of 36 states and a federal capital territory (similar to the United States).


Texas (originally, Tejas) was an independent republic between 1836 and 1845. It was recognized by the United States and by many countries in Europe - though not by Mexico, from which it seceded. Its annexation by the USA led to the Mexican War between Mexico and the United States.


For centuries, Hawaii was a monarchy. The last queen, Liliuokalani, was deposed in January 1893. An independent republic was declared and immediately sued for annexation. The republic survived 5 years as an independent entity and was annexed by the United States in 1898.


Filibuster is a term common to all the procedural techniques employed by members of a legislature to delay legislation they oppose. Thus, filibuster includes the introduction of dilatory motions, intentional absence from the assembly to prevent a quorum, or lengthy speechmaking. Even speeches completely unrelated to the issue are allowed. Filibustering members hope to kill a legislative initiative or obtain concessions from the majority.

In the United States, members of the House of Representatives cannot filibuster as debate there is limited in time. At the behest of President Woodrow Wilson, cloture rules were adopted by the U.S. Senate in Rule 22 in 1917 (and amended in 1949, 1959, and 1975). Debate now can be limited to a further 30 hours with the vote of three-fifths (originally two thirds) of the full Senate membership. In the British House of Commons, cloture was introduced in 1822 and requires at least 100 affirmative votes.

In August 1957, Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina spoke for 24 hours and 18 minutes in opposition to a civil rights measure. This is the American filibuster record. In 1964, a group of southern senators led by Russell Long of Louisiana extended the debate on the Civil Rights Act for 74 days.

Filibuster is originally a Dutch word meaning "pirate, hijacker". In Spanish "filibustero" meant "freebooting" and applied to 16th century privateers. Irregular military adventurers, mercenaries and guerrilleros in the 19th century were also called "filibusters".


Fingerprints were first used to identify criminals in Bengal, India in the 1890s. The London Metropolitan Police introduced them in 1901. The Illinois Supreme Court was the first to rule that fingerprints are admissible as evidence. The FBI currently holds the fingerprints of more than 80 million people, close to 40 million of them in a computerized database.


In January 2002 a federal judge in Pennsylvania ruled that fingerprint examiners testifying in his courtroom will have to convince the jury that fingerprints discovered in the scene of a crime belong to specific defendants. In other words, fingerprints are no more reliable than other types of evidence. The claim that the error rate in matching prints is zero has never been proven scientifically.


Latent prints lifted off crime scenes with the application of special chemicals or ultraviolet light are often incomplete or indistinct. The matching of prints requires an overall "impression" of similarity (in other words, it is an art, not a science). The minimal number of points of similarity required in more demanding jurisdictions varies wildly and arbitrarily from one jurisdiction to another.

It was Francis Galton, a 19-century statistician, who pegged, in 1892, the probability that the prints of two individuals would match at 1:64 billion. This calculation was based on 35-50 "Galton details" - features related to ridges in the fingerprint.
In forensic practice, only 8-16 such points are used. No one knows to calculate the probability of matching fragments of two individual fingerprints - though most fingerprints recovered from crime scenes are partial.
In the case of Byron Mitchell, in 1998, two latent prints were said to substantiate his guilt. The FBI sent the latent prints and Mitchell's inked fingerprints to the laboratories of 53 state law enforcement agencies. Of the 35 that bothered to respond, fourteen failed to find a match for one of the two latent prints. America’s National Institute of Justice (an arm of the Department of Justice) is conducting a study of the reliability of fingerprinting - finally.

Fleming, Ian

Ian Lancaster Fleming (1908-1964), the author of the James Bond 007 novels, was the grandson of a Scottish banker and the son of a Conservative MP (Member of Parliament). His father died in the first world war. In his will, he bequeathed his property to his widow on condition she never remarries.

Ian's youth was inauspicious. He was expelled from Eton following a sexual liaison with a girl. He left Sandhurst without obtaining an officer's rank, having been caught violating the curfew. He continued his education in Kitzbuhel, Austria, in Munich and in Geneva where he studied languages. But the chain of disappointments continued apace. He failed in a Foreign Service exam and had to join Reuters as a journalist. There he successfully covered a spy trial in Russia (1929-32).

He then joined a British investment bank as a stockbroker and moved to live in a converted temple in Belgravia, a fashionable district of London, where he entertained the members of the Le Cercle Gastronomique et des Jeux de Hasard.

In 1939, Fleming took on an assignment for The Times in Moscow - in effect a cover. He was spying for the Foreign Office and later for Naval Intelligence where he attained the rank of Commander.

During the second world war, he worked from room number 39 in the Admiralty building in Whitehall as assistant to Admiral John Godfrey. He was involved in the evacuation of Dieppe in 1940, in the smuggling of King Zog out of Albania and in setting up the Office for Special Services, the precursor of the CIA.

As commander of the 30th Assault Unit, he sometimes operated behind the German lines, trying to secure important documents and files from destruction. But, mostly, he directed the Unit's operations from London.

When the war was over, he built a house - Goldeneye - in Jamaica. He worked for the Kemsley group of papers and vacationed every winter in the island.

While awaiting the divorce of one of his numerous paramours - the pregnant Lady Anne Rothermere - the 44 years old Fleming wrote "Casino Royale" published in 1953. It was the first of 12 James Bond thrillers, translated to 11 languages and with total sales of 18 million copies. James Bond novels are now being authored by a new generation of writers.

In 1961, John F, Kennedy, the newly elected president, listed a James Bond title as one of his favorite books. Many movie plots were loosely based on Fleming's novels and have grossed, in total, more than $1 billion. The 007 trademark was merchandised and attached to  everything, from toys and games to clothes and toiletries.

But Fleming was also renowned for his non-fiction: tomes like "The Diamond Smugglers" and his "Atticus" column in The Sunday Times where he served as foreign manager (1945-9). He successfully branched into children's literature with "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" (1964), also made into a movie.

Ironically, his mother died and left him a fortune in 1964 - when Fleming was already wealthy and dying. The trip to her service may have done him in. His son committed suicide in 1975 and his wife died in 1981. He left behind one heir: James Bond.

Foreign Accent Syndrome

The brains of stroke victims play odd tricks on them. A small group of stroke survivors develops a speech impediment known as "Foreign Accent Syndrome". In the first known case, in 1941, a Norwegian woman spoke in a German accent. All the elements of pronunciation shift - pacing, rhythm, intonation, and stress. The New York Times cites the case of a BBC producer in London who spoke in a Scottish - or, at any rate, foreign - accent. The impediment is aided and often completely cured through speech therapy.

French Revolution

The monarchy was far from absolute prior to the French Revolution. Laws had to be approved by the regional parlements - and, increasingly frequently, were not. King Louis XVI abolished the parlements in May 1788. This led to widespread attacks on royal officials and emissaries, civil disobedience, and a tsunami of pamphlets against the king's despotism. The revolution started, therefore, much before July 1789.

The disaffection cut across class lines. Many noblemen spoke for the commoners. French nobleman Honoré Gabriel Riqueti, Comte de Mirabeau, for instance, sought to be elected to the Estates-General, a consultative assembly not convened since 1614, as a delegate of the "third estate" (people who were neither aristocrats, nor clergy).


The revolution itself may have been set off by a misunderstanding.


The representatives of the third estate joined forces with dissenting delegates from the other two estates to form the National Assembly. One day, officials of the king locked the regular meeting place of the Assembly in order to prepare it for an address by the king. The members of the Assembly wrongly concluded that they are about to be crushed.

On June 20, they regrouped in an indoor tennis court and vowed not to disband until France had a constitution and the king's powers are drastically curtailed. This became known as the "Tennis Court Oath".


On July 14, 1789 crowds stormed the Bastille - a fortress prison in east Paris - in response to ominous movements of royal troops in and around the capital. Contrary to later myths, the Bastille was virtually decommissioned and housed, at the time, only seven aging inmates. They missed the Marquis de Sade by weeks. He was moved from the Bastille to the Charenton lunatic asylum in 1789, after having incited the crowds outside his window in the impregnable fort.


Gandhi, Mahatma

Many myths abound about Gandhi, Mohandas Karamchand known as Mahatma "Great Souled") Gandhi (1869-1948).

He was NOT born to a poor Indian family. His father was dewan (chief minister) of Porbandar, the capital of a small principality in Gujarat in western India under British suzerainty. He later became dewan of Rajkot.
He married at the age of 13 and was a mediocre student. In his adolescence he defied his repressive environment by petty thieving, meat eating, smoking, and professed atheism.
Until the age of 18 He spoke very little English. His main language was Gujarati.
He wanted to be a medical doctor - more precisely, a surgeon. His family forced his to study law.
His first political activity was as a member of the executive committee of the London Vegetarian Society.

He went to South Africa because he couldn't find work in India. He was a poor lawyer, in both senses of the word. He suffered from stage fright.

The "Encyclopedia Britannica" describes his first days there:
"Africa was to present to Gandhi challenges and opportunities that he could hardly have conceived. In a Durban court, he was asked by the European magistrate to take off his turban; he refused and left the courtroom.
A few days later, while traveling to Pretoria, he was unceremoniously thrown out of a first-class railway compartment and left shivering and brooding at Pietermaritzburg Station; in the further course of the journey he was beaten up by the white driver of a stagecoach because he would not travel on the footboard to make room for a European passenger; and finally he was barred from hotels reserved "for Europeans only." These humiliations were the daily lot of Indian traders and labourers in Natal who had learned to pocket them with the same resignation with which they pocketed their meagre earnings."

He was about to sail to London when he read about a bill to deprive the Indians of their right to vote. He decided to stay. It is in Johannesburg, South Africa that his first civil disobedience ("Satyagraha") campaign was staged - not in India.

Gandhi's life was at peril many times. He was almost lynched in Durban as early as January 1897. He was assassinated in 1948.

He was not a pacifist. Nor was he anti-British. When the Boer war broke out, he organized a volunteer corps of 11,000 Indians to defend the British colony of Natal.

There is much more here:,_Mohandas_Karamchand,_Mahatma/

Gein, Edward Theodore ("Ed" or "Eddie") - WARNING! Graphic Descriptions!
Also known as The Butcher of Plainfield, The Plainfield Butcher, The Mad Butcher, The Plainfield Ghoul.
A serial killer who served as the inspiration to numerous films, among them Psycho, The Silence of the Lambs, Maniac, Three on a Meathook, Deranged, Ed Gein, The Movie, and the Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
He was born on August 27, 1906 in La Crosse, Wisconsin and lived with his domineering and fanatically religious mother, Augusta, and his older brother, Henry, on a 195-acres family homestead outside Plainfield, Wisconsin. His father, George, a no-good alcoholic, and much despised by Augusta, died in 1940, aged 67. His brother abruptly followed suit in 1944, aged 43 (he died in a mysterious and suspicious brush fire). Ed's mother passed away a year later, on December 29, 1945, aged 67. Ed remained all alone and subsisted on Federal farm subsidies and his occasional bouts as the community's itinerant handyman and babysitter.
After his mother died, Ed sealed the upper floor as a shrine, and lived in a single room by the kitchen. He accumulated a library of anatomy books, porn magazines, horror and adventure novels, historical accounts of the Nazi medical experiments in Auschwitz and elsewhere, and medical encyclopedias. At night, he performed rudimentary surgeries on exhumed and decomposing female bodies about whose death he learned from the obituaries in the local paper. His semi-retarded friend Gus helped him dig up the graves, including, reportedly, the body of Ed's own mother.
Even at this early necrophiliac phase, Gein kept the victims' internal organs and draped himself with the flayed skins or fitted them onto a tailor's mummy. Around the house, he wore women's panties stuffed with excised vaginas. Contrary to rumor, he did not have sex with the bodies. They smelled too bad, he explained.
Gein wondered what it feels like being a woman and fantasized about gender reassignment. He was not shy about his collections and even showed them to visitors. For many years, Ed and his shrunken heads have been the butt of morbid local jokes. Once he told a a sawmill owner named Elmo Ueeck that Mary Hogan, one of his victims, is not missing. "She is at my farm right now" - confessed Ed sheepishly. No one paid any attention to the shy recluse.
When Gus was committed to an old people's home, Ed's supply of corpses dried up. To replenish it, he proceeded to murder a string of women who were in their mid to late fifties (he denied having killed young girls who vanished without a trace throughout the area starting in 1947). Bernice Worden was dragged from her hardware store on November 16, 1957 together with her cash register and $41 in cash (Ed said he was planning to return the money, he just wanted to learn how cash registers work).
Her son, Frank, the deputy-sheriff, suspected Gein. A day later, captain Lloyd Schoephoester and the sheriff, Art Schley, found her at Gein's house, hanging upside down from a meat hook, beheaded, and gutted. Her intestines and head were discovered in a box, nails driven through her ears. Her heart rested on a plate in the living room.
A search throughout the grisly, trash and junk ridden house yielded ten preserved skins from human heads, a rug consisting of the skin from a woman's upper torso, a belt with embedded female nipples, a chair, a drum, and a wastebasket upholstered in human skin, a soup bowl made from the crown of a skull, lampshades fashioned from human flesh, a table resting on human shinbones for its legs, and a refrigerator stocked with bits of female anatomy (Ed denied the cannibalism charges levied against him). Other artifacts made of human skins (and the occasional sown-off nose) included a purse, bracelet, a sheath for a knife, and leggings. A pair of human lips were sewed onto a string (a curtain pull).
Skulls crowned the four bedposts in Gein's room. Trophies - human heads stuffed with newspapers - were pinned to the walls, flanked by nine death masks made of the original faces of dead women. A shoebox contained nine female genitalia including one painted silver (presumably his mother's). Finally, Gein peeled the breasts off one of his victims to make himself a "mammary vest". He wore it - and other garments made from human female skin - when he pretended to be his own mother.
All in all, the house and the surrounding land contained the remains of 15 bodies but Gein himself admitted that he had murdered only two - Worden and Mary Hogan, a tavern keeper on December 8, 1954. They were both shot in the head. The police found eight bodies in the local graveyard that were exhumed and mutilated by Gein. All body parts found belonged to female adults.

Gein quickly became a cult figure and the butt of moralizing folk tales and "Geiners", macabre jokes. His farm and belongings were put on the block in a much-publicized and controversial auction. On March 20, 1958, the house burned to the ground as a result of probable arson. "Just as well" - muttered Gein when he learned of the conflagration. His Ford Sedan 1949 was displayed in carnivals and fairs by an entrepreneurial businessman for many years.

Gein spent a decade in an insane asylum but finally was judged competent to stand trial. The trial started on November 7, 1968 and the jury found him guilty but criminally insane. He was committed to Central State Hospital (for the Criminally Insane) at Waupon, Wisconsin and moved in 1978 to the Mendota Mental Health Institute. He was a model patient. There he died on July 26, 1984 of cancer and respiratory and heart ailments and was buried next to his mother in the Plainfield cemetery. His grave was desecrated by vandals.

Is glass an inorganic solid material - or a highly viscous liquid?


At room temperatures, glass is an elastic solid. The source of the confusion is its unusual atomic structure. Glass indeed starts its life as a molten liquid. But when it cools, the atoms do not form crystals. Instead, they are arranged randomly, fully reflecting their distribution in the liquid. This property of homogeneous continuity is called viscosity.


So, why do some scholars insist that glass is really a liquid?


Solid glass "remembers" its previous state as a fluid. It, therefore, acts as though it were a solution - as though various materials, such as soda, lime, and silica - were added and diluted in a solvent. As opposed to most solids, pure, non-commercial, glass has low density (i.e., large interstitial spaces between its atoms). Such "holes" are typical of liquids.


Why is glass transparent if it is, indeed, a solid?


According to the Encyclopedia Britannica (2003 edition), electrons in glass molecules are confined to specific energy levels and cannot absorb and reemit photons (i.e., light). This is why visible light travels through glass unhindered. It is not absorbed. Glass molecules are so tiny compared to ordinary lightwaves that they also do not absorb them when they traverse the glass sheet.
Gorky, Maxim
Maxim Gorky (1868-1936) is widely considered a Bolshevik author, closely allied with the likes of Lenin and Stalin. But this is far from the truth.


Gorky's real name was Alexei Maximovich Peshkov. He chose the pseudonym "Gorky" - "bitter" in Russian - to describe his early experiences from the age of eight as a menial worker. In his late teens he attempted suicide. The bullet pierced his lung, rendering him susceptible to Tuberculosis for the rest of his life.


Between 1899 and 1906 Gorky lived in St. Petersburg and participated in the activities of the Social Democratic Party. When it split in 1903, he, indeed, supported the Bolsheviks financially - though he never joined them formally. He was a strong critic of Lenin. Partly to avoid his wrath, he exiled himself to Capri, Italy in 1906.


Moreover, though he upheld the Bolsheviks' anti-war stance, he opposed the 1917 October Revolution (the Bolshevik coup against the post-Tsarist Social Democratic government). So damaging was his criticism of Lenin's dictatorial ways and the illegitimacy of the Bolshevik regime that his work was censored from July 1918 onwards.


Gorky left Russia in 1921 and lived in Sorrento, Italy until 1928 when he was lured back by a lavish celebration of his 60th birthday. The year after, he relocated permanently to Russia. In 1938, certain senior Soviet figures - like Nikolai Bukharin and Genrikh Yagoda - were accused of murdering him in 1936, while under medical treatment.

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