John Steinbeck and PigasusAuthor John Steinbeck, best known for his epic novel The Grapes of Wrath, used to often add a symbol next to his name when signing things. This symbol was a pig with wings, whom Steinbeck called "Pigasus." The flying pig was a reminder that although earthbound, it was good to aspire to something higher. Sometimes Steinbeck would add in Latin, "Ad Astra Per Alia Porci" ("to the stars on the wings of a pig").
Practice Suicide RunsOn November 18, 1978, Jim Jones, leader of the Peoples Temple cult, ordered all his followers living in his Jonestown compound to drink poisoned grape-flavored punch in order to commit mass suicide. On that day, 912 people (including 276 children) died in what has become known as the Jonestown Massacre. How could one person convince over 900 others to commit suicide?
Well, Jim Jones had been planning to carry out this "revolutionary act" of mass suicide for quite some time. To ensure full compliance, Jones had staged practice runs, called "White Nights," in which he would order everyone to drink what he told them was poisoned punch. After everyone had stood around for about 45 minutes or so, he would then tell them that this had been a loyalty test.
The Dots in Pac-ManWhen the Pac-Man video game was released in 1980, it quickly became an international sensation. As kids and adults alike moved the pie-shaped Pac-Man character around the screen, they tried to eat up lots of dots without themselves getting eaten by ghosts. But how many dots were they trying to eat? It turns out that each level of Pac-Man had the exact same number of dots -- 240.
Lincoln Logs Created by Frank Lloyd Wright's SonLincoln Logs is a classic children's toy that has been played by millions of children for decades. The toy usually comes in a box or cylinder and includes both brown "logs" and green slats for roofs, which children use to build their own frontier house or fort. Despite playing with Lincoln Logs for hours and hours as a child, you might not know that they were created by John Lloyd Wright, the son of famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright, and were first sold by Red Square Toy Company in 1918.
It would be easy to assume that Wright got the idea for Lincoln Logs by visiting an old log cabin, but that is not the case. Wright was in Japan helping his father build the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo when the idea for interlocking pieces struck him.
It would also be easy to assume that the name "Lincoln Logs" refers to U.S. President Abraham Lincoln's log cabin, but that too is not the case. The name "Lincoln" actually refers to the discarded original middle name of John's father, Frank Lloyd Wright (he was born Frank Lincoln Wright).
"Lenin" Was a PseudonymRussian revolutionary Vladimir Ilich Lenin, also commonly called V.I. Lenin or just plain Lenin, was actually not born with that name. Lenin was born as Vladimir Ilich Ulyanov and didn't begin using the pseudonym of Lenin until the age of 31.
Up until that age, Lenin, still known as Ulyanov, had used his birth name for both his legal and illegal activities. However, having just returned from a three-year exile in Siberia, Ulyanov found it useful to begin writing under a different name in 1901 in order to continue his revolutionary work.
Brad Pitt and the IcemanWhat do Brad Pitt and the Iceman have in common? Tattoos. Although the 5,300-year-old mummified remains of the Iceman, known as Otzi, was found with over 50 tattoos on his body, most of them were simple lines. Brad Pitt on the other hand had an outline of the Iceman's body tattooed onto his left forearm in 2007.
Juan Peron's HandsWhile serving his third, non-consecutive term as President of Argentina, Juan Peron died on July 1, 1974 at age 78. His rule had been controversial, with many adoring him and others reviling him. After his death, his body was injected with formaldehyde and interred at La Chacarita Cemetery in Buenos Aires. In 1987, grave robbers opened up Peron's coffin, cut off his hands and stole them, along with his sword and cap. The robbers then sent a ransom letter asking for $8 million to return the hands. Once the desecration was discovered, Peron's body was sealed behind a bulletproof plate and 12 heavy-duty locks. On October 17, 2006, Peron's body was moved to a mausoleum at Peron's country home in San Vicente, just outside of Buenes Aires. The grave robbers have never been found.
Catch-18Joseph Heller's famous novel, Catch-22, was first published in 1961. Set in World War II, the book is a comic satirical novel about bureaucracy. The phrase "Catch 22" in the novel is used to denote the vicious circle of military bureaucracy. The term "Catch 22" has made it into mainstream usage to mean any two choices that are mutually dependent (for example, which came first: the chicken or the egg?). <p> However, the term we now know as "Catch 22" was almost "Catch 18" for Heller had originally chosen <i>Catch-18</i> as the title of the book. Unfortunately for Heller, Leon Uris published his <i>Mila 18</i> novel just before Heller's book was to be published. Heller's publisher didn't think it would be good to have two books out at the same time with "18" in the title. Attempting to come up with another name, Heller and his publisher considered Catch-11, Catch-17, and Catch-14 before deciding on the title we all know, Catch-22.
Insulin Discovered in 1922Medical researcher Frederick Banting and research assistant Charles Best studied the islets of Langerhans in the pancreas of dogs at the University of Toronto. Banting believed that he could find a cure for the "sugar disease" (diabetes) in the pancreas. In 1921, they isolated insulin and successfully tested in on diabetic dogs, lowering the dogs' blood sugar level. Researcher John Macleod and chemist James Collip then began to help prepare insulin for human use. On January 11, 1922, Leonard Thompson, a 14-year-old boy who was dying of diabetes, was given the first human experimental dose of insulin. The insulin saved his life. In 1923, Banting and Macleod were awarded the Nobel Prize for their work on discovering insulin. What was once a death sentence, people now diagnosed with diabetes can live long lives thanks to the work of these men.
Why Is Roosevelt on the Dime?In 1921, when Franklin D. Roosevelt was stricken with a bout of polio that left him partially paralyzed, there were no organizations to lend support. Although Roosevelt had the money for the very best treatments for himself, he realized that there were thousands of others who did not. Also, at the time, there was no known cure for polio. In 1938, President Roosevelt helped establish the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis (which later became known as the March of Dimes). This foundation was created to help care for polio patients and to help fund research to find a cure. Funding from the March of Dimes helped Jonas Salk discover a vaccine for polio.
Soon after President Franklin D. Roosevelt's death in 1945, the public started sending letters to the United States Treasury Department requesting that Roosevelt's portrait be placed on a coin. The dime seemed the most appropriate coin because of Roosevelt's ties to the March of Dimes. The new dime was released to the public on Roosevelt's birthday, January 30, 1946.
The Nickname "Tin Lizzie"Priced so that the average American could afford it, <a href="http://history1900s.about.com/od/1920s/p/henryford.htm">Henry Ford</a> sold his Model T from 1908 until 1927. Many also may know the Model T by its nickname, the "Tin Lizzie." But how did the Model T get its nickname?
In the early 1900s, car dealers would try to create publicity for their new automobiles by hosting car races. In 1922, a championship race was held in Pikes Peak, Colorado. Entered as one of the contestants was Noel Bullock and his Model T, named "Old Liz." Since Old Liz looked the worse for wear (it was unpainted and lacked a hood), many spectators compared Old Liz to a tin can. By the start of the race, the car had the new nickame of "Tin Lizzie." To everyone's surprise, Tin Lizzie won the race.
Having beaten even the most expensive other cars available at the time, Tin Lizzie proved both the durability and speed of the Model T. The surprise win of Tin Lizzie was reported in newspapers across the country, leading to the use of the nickname "Tin Lizzie" for all Model T cars.