Discover Magazine is dedicated to taking scientific topics and talking about them in ways that I can understand them. I’ve always enjoyed reading the magazine because it is like the scientific version of National Geographic.
My favorite column has always been on the back page, called "20 Things You Didn’t Know About Everything." Unlike the loftier articles in Discover, this column takes an everyday thing, like duct tape, and delves into every aspect of it. Even if you know a lot about the subject, there is bound to be something you didn’t know before reading the column.
Like all good things, the editors at Discover Magazine decided to broaden their horizons and take the popular little column and turn it into a book. Discover's 20 Things You Didn't Know About Everything takes some of the most popular and unique subjects and digs deeper into them, and the results are outstanding.
For example, here are 20 things I didn’t know before reading this book:
1. The average person will blink about 6,205,000 times a year or about 17,000 times a day. It is knowing little facts like that which will make you popular at cocktail parties.
2. The queen in a bee hive is a virgin. When she does her mating flight, she will be inseminated by several drones. The mating kills the drones because his entire phallic area is torn from his body to remain inside the queen. Yes, read that again. Be happy Marquis de Sade never knew that little fact.
3. Ancient Egyptians and Indians used crocodile and elephant dung as contraceptives. I have to think that the smell was the best deterrent. Women living in the Middle Ages wore amulets filled with mule earwax and weasel testicles to prevent pregnancy. How big were these amulets, I wonder?
4. Ancient warriors were adept at using unique weaponry. The Chinese sent burning monkeys running towards their opponents during battle. Ancient Macedonians sent flaming pigs squealing at the Persian elephant troops, causing the elephants to panic and crushed the Persian army under foot in the ensuing chaos.
5. Going on a flight soon? Worried about terrorists? Never fear, the Air Marshals are there to keep us safe. Or are they? Exact numbers are classified but some experts estimate fewer than 5% of flights are covered by air marshals. An investigation by the Department of Homeland Security in 2002 uncovered 753 instances of air marshal misconduct in an eight month period.