Category Archives: Trivia

What is the Most Expensive Coin in the World?

alex atkins bookshelf triviaBefore the advent of credit cards, debit cards, and bitcoin, there was time when currency and coins were king. And if you are lucky enough to inherit a coin collection, you should immediately check to see if you own the most expensive coin in the world — the 1794 Flowing Hair dollar. What is is worth? That coin sold for more than $10 million ($10,016,875 to be precise) at auction in January 2013. Now that’s serious coin, my friend!

So what makes the Flowing Hair dollar so valuable? The Flowing Hair is extremely rare, of course; it was the first dollar coin issued by the national mint of the United States federal government (the Philadelphia Mint). Some numismatists (coin collectors) believe that the coin was touched by George Washington. Although the dollar coin was authorized by the Coinage Act of 1792, the silver coin was not produced until 1794; a second production was authorized in 1795.

The Flowing Hair dollar coin, based on the Spanish dollar, was designed by engraver Robert Scot. On the front (obverse), the coin features a bust of Liberty facing right, with long flowing hair falling on her neck. The reverse of the coin features an eagle with elevated wings, surrounded by a wreath. The coin measures 39 to 40mm in diameter and weighs 26.96 grams. Only 1,758 Flowing Hair dollar coins were produced during an initial production (October 1794) and an additional 3,810 coins in May 1795. In October of 1795, the rather stoic bust of Liberty was replaced by a more refined, feminine bust of Liberty designed by artist Gilbert Stuart based on what is believed to be a profile of socialite Ann Willing Bingham; this coin is referred to as the Draped Bust coin. The Draped Bust coin has sold at auction between $4.1 and $2.3 million.

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For further reading:

What is the Longest Movie Title?

alex atkins bookshelf moviesFilm directors know that although a long movie title stands out in a list as an outlier, it does not necessarily translate to success at the box office. The constraints of marketing material, and the mindset of the average moviegoer, prefer shorter, more memorable movie titles. Besides, the film will be referred to using an abbreviated title anyway. But that hasn’t stopped movie directors from releasing films with really long titles — perhaps, to prove that they can. Here is a list of notable movies with the longest titles:

Night Of The Day Of The Dawn Of The Son Of The Bride Of The Return Of The Revenge Of The Terror Of The Attack Of The Evil, Mutant, Hellbound, Flesh-Eating, Crawling, Alien, Zombified, Subhumanoid Living Dead — Part 5
Directed by James Riffel; released in 2011
41 words; 177 characters

Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines or How I Flew from London to Paris in 25 hours 11 minutes
Directed by Ken Anakin; released in 1965
20 words; 85 characters(85)

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
Directed by Sacha Baron Cohen; released in 2006
12 words; 72 characters

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
Directed by Stanley Kubrick; released in 1964
13 words; 56 characters

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
Directed by Migeul Arteta; released in 2014
10 words; 50 characters

The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain
Directed by Christopher Monger; released in 1995
12 words; 47 characters

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What is the Longest Novel Ever Written?
What is the Longest One Syllable Word in English?
What is the Longest Song Title?

For further reading:

How Often Do People Check Their Phone?

alex atkins bookshelf cultureCell phone addiction is a very real problem; it even has a name: nomophobia. A person with nomophonia obsessively checks his or her cell phone and feels anxious when not connected to the internet. And losing a smartphone causes absolute panic — increased heart rate, difficulty in breathing, and overwhelming anxiety. Watching a person look for their lost cell phone is like watching a junkie tearing their room apart to find their missing stash. It isn’t pretty. And every parent knows that taking away is cell phone is the most draconian punishment for an adolescent; it is considered the nuclear option. But we digress — researchers have found that increased smartphone use leads to increased narcissism as well as an increase in level of cell phone addiction that paradoxically leads to loneliness, moodiness, and jealousy. That’s right — all those happy, laughing emojis in the realm of the zestful social network do not necessarily lead to a happy, fulfilling life. In the past few years, several studies have provided insight into mobile phone addiction; here are the sobering statistics about how often people check their phones [insert startled emoji]:

The average person checks his or her phone 85 times per day

The average person checks his or her phone every 5 minutes.

The average person spends about five hours a day using apps and web browsing

At least 50% of smartphone use occurs in burst of 30 seconds or less (researches call this “rapid mobile phone interactions”)

37% of people carry a back up battery on a daily basis

14% of people carry a back up cell phone on a regular basis

14% of people carry a portable charger on a daily basis

The average person touches their phone 2,617 times a day

The average person clicks, taps, or swipes their phones 5,427 times a day

Americans between the ages of 18 to 24 check their phones about 74 times a day

Americans between the ages of 25 to 34 check their phones about 50 times a day

Americans between the ages of 35 to 44 check their phones about 35 times a day

Americans who are deceased check their phones 0 times a day (just checking to see if you were paying attention)

Americans collectively check their phone 8 billion times a day

81% of Americans check their phones while dining out at restaurants

26% of Americans ages of 18-24 text message immediately after waking up (before checking email)

Most common daily smartphone activities of the average person: text messaging, website browsing, voice/video calls; email

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For further reading:

How Much Do You Love Your Pet?

atkins bookshelf triviaWhen it comes to Americans and their pets, it is truly a love story for the ages — and the wallets. Pet owners are very generous with their affection; according to the American Pet Products Association, in 2016 Americans spent more than $63 billion on their pets. And there is a lot of love to go around — about 54% of households in the U.S. own a dog (about 78 million dogs) and 43% of households own a cat (about 85.8 million cats). Dog lovers, in particular, view their dogs as actual members of their families (i.e., the dogs appear in family portraits and their name is signed on greeting cards). In honor of National Puppy Day, here is a statistical snapshot of how much Americans love their dogs:

Throw birthday parties for their dogs: 1%

Talk to their dogs on the phone: 33%

Allow their dog to sleep in bed at night: 42%*

Buy their dogs Christmas gifts: 55%

Walk their dog every day: 56%

Include their dogs in family portraits: 58%

Have a coat or sweater to keep their dogs warm: 60%

Sign their dogs names to holiday and greeting cards: 70%

Curl up with their dog to watch television: 87%

Give their dog treats every day: 88%

Speak to a puppy using high-pitched baby talk: 100%

*In a survey, Novosbed, a mattress company, found that 71% of pet owners let their pets (dogs and cats) sleep in bed with them. 43% let their pet sleep with them every night; 5% grant that privilege only when their significant other is out of town. 52% of pets sleep at their owners’ feet, while 23% of pets sleep right next to their owners. 14% of pet owners let their pets sleep under the covers; 11% share their pillows.

Read related post: What is the Smartest Breed of Dog?
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The Best Movies for Dog Lovers
Best Dog Novels
Best Quotes About the Loss of a Pet Dog

What Famous Authors Name Their Pets
Epitaph to a Dog
The Best Movies for Dog Lovers
Chaser, The Smartest Dog in the World
Why Was Charles Schulz’s Comic Strip Called Peanuts?

For further reading: Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader Dog Lover’s Companion by the BRI

How Much Would Darth Vader’s Suit Really Cost?

When it comes to villains in modern times, there is no character more iconic, more evil than Darth Vader — with his menacing dark helmet, creepy mechanical breathing apparatus hidden behind imposing body armor, flowing black cape that cuts through the air like a knife. And then there is the foreboding Darth Vader theme that follows him wherever he goes (composed by the legendary John Williams): “BOM-bom! Bom bom bom BOM-bom! Bom bom bom BOM bom! Bom bom bom bom…” You get the picture. When you see Darth Vader, you don’t have to be a total Star Wars geek to wonder, what would Darth Vader’s super evil suit cost if you built it in real life? And we’re not talking about those very high-end, detailed costumes that you can buy for Halloween (that can cost as much as $,1000; a movie-quality replica — the Anovos Premier Line Darth Vader costume — can cost as much as $6,000). Thanks to the inquisitive and clever folks at, wonder no more. The cost of Darth Vader’s suit would cost a cool $18.3 million. That’s quite a bit more than an original Darth Vader costume from “The Empire Strikes Back” that was valued at about $250,000 by Christie’s auction house back in November, 2010.

Here’s the a breakdown of Vader’s black suit of evil:

Helmet: $600,00
Similar to the mounted display of the F-35 helmet, it features augmented reality functionality (night vision, navigational capability, and advanced targeting)

Base suit: $12 million
Similar to a pressurized NASA space suit

Prosthetic legs and left arm: $180,000
Spoiler alert: in one of the films, Darth Vader loses some limbs in a battle with Obi Wan Kenobi

Lifetime maintenance for prosthetic limbs: $5.4 million
Prothetic limbs require yearly maintenance

Breathing apparatus: $45,000
In order to breathe, Vader must utilize a heart and lung machine

Voice: $1,000
Vader’s voice is modified by a high-end voice synthesizer

Read related posts: The Most Expensive Movie Props
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For further reading:

How Rock Bands Got Their Names 4

atkins-bookshelf-musicSome rock band names are very clever, and some are just plain odd. Regardless of how they sound, all were inspired by a magazine, toy, sexual terms, or even a passing comment. Below are a few interesting band names and their origins (some might earn an MA rating):

Goo Goo Dolls: The band was named after a toy, a Goo Goo Doll, that was featured in an ad in the magazine True Detective.

Scissor Sisters: The pop group began as Dead Lesbian, then Fibrillating Scissor Sisters, before they settled on Scissor Sisters. The name is derived from the lesbian sex act in which a woman rubs her vulva against her partner’s vulva, their legs intersecting like two scissors (the formal name is tribadism, the slang term is tribbing).

Smashing Pumpkins: Vocalist and guitarist Billy Corgan explained that he was in someone’s kitchen and they were having a conversation about something, and he heard someone talk about smashing pumpkins, and he thought to himself “Oh, that’s a pretty good mythical band name, ha, ha.”

Steely Dan: Founding members Donald Fagen and Walter Becker named the band after a strap-on dildo, the Steely Dan III from Yokohama, mentioned in the novel The Naked Lunch (1959) by William S. Burroughs. Really. (Incidentally, the novel, a series of loosely connected vignettes, is told from the point of view of a William Lee, a junkie. The book’s title was suggested by Jack Kerouac. Naked lunch is the “frozen moment when everyone sees what is on the end of every fork.”)

Stone Temple Pilots: During their youth, the members of the band were huge fans of the STP motor oil stickers. They wanted a band name that contained those same initials and considered Shirley Temple’s Pussy and Stereo Temple Pirates, before settling on Stone Temple Pilots.

SuperTramp: The band was initially known as “Daddy” but it sounded to similar to another band, Daddy Longlegs. The band members chose Supertramp from the title of the book The Autobiography of a Super-Tramp (1908) by Welsh poet W. H. Davies.

Talking Heads: The band started out as The Artistics since three band members (David Byrne, Chris Frantz, and Tina Weymouth) were alumni of the Rhode Island School of Design. Founding member Tina Weymouth explains “A friend found the name in the TV Guide, which explained the term used by TV studios to describe a head-and-shoulder shot of a person talking as ‘all content, no action.’ It fit.”

Yes: Founding member and vocalist Jon Anderson initially suggested “Life” while bassist Chris Squire wanted “World.” Anderson explains “Yes got pulled out of the bag, I think. We wanted to display a strong conviction in what we were doing. We had to have a strong and straight title for the band.”




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How Rock Bands Got Their Names 1
How Rock Bands Got Their Names 2
How Rock Bands Got Their Names 3

For further reading: Rock Names: From Abba to ZZ Top by Adam Dolgins, Citadel Press (1998)

Who is the Fastest Reader in the World?

atkins bookshelf triviaAlthough the average person reads about 200-250 words per minute with a comprehension rate of 70 to 80%, some of the top contestants at the World Championship Speed Reading Competition read five times that — 1,000 to 2,000 words per minute with a comprehension rate of 50% or higher. But Howard Stephen Berg, of Mckinney, Texas, leaves even those speed readers in the dust — he reads more than 25,000 words per minute! Since 1990, he has been recognized as the fastest reader in the world by Guinness World Records and his record remains unchallenged. To put this speed into perspective, let’s compare how long it takes the average reader and the world’s fastest reader to read some lengthy reference and literary masterpieces:

The entire Oxford English Dictionary (1989 edition): 20 volumes; 21,730 pages; 59 million words
Average reader: 205 days
Howard Berg: 1.6 days

The entire Encyclopedia Britannica (2002 printed edition): 32 volumes; 33,000 pages; 44 million words
Average reader: 153 days
Howard Berg: 1.2 days

In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust: 7 volumes; 3,031 pages; 1,267,069 words
Average reader: 4.4 days
Howard Berg: 51 minutes

The entire Harry Potter series (U.S. edition): 7 volumes, 4,100 pages; 1,084,170 words
Average reader: 3.7 days
Howard Berg: 90 minutes

The King James Bible: 774,746 words
Average reader: 2.7 days
Howard Berg: 31 minutes

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy: 1,440 pages; 561,093 words
Average reader: 2 days
Howard Berg: 37 minutes

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Wikipedia by the Numbers
How Many Articles on Wikipedia?

For further reading: Super Reading Secrets by Howard Stephen Berg (1992)

Reading the OED: One Man, One Year, 21,730 Pages by Ammon Shea, Perigee (2008).
The Know-It-All: One Man’s Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World by A. J. Jacobs, Simon & Schuster (2005)

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