In the months before Beijingâ€™s 2008 Olympics, former restaurant owner Guo Zhangqi contributed generously to the cityâ€™s clean-up efforts by standing in a park and offering people the equivalent of US$0.50 for every dead fly, out of his own funds. His motto: â€śNo flies, new Beijing.â€ť
According to a Benedictine monk known only as Brother Bartholomew, MDMA â€śshould not be used unless one is really searching for God.â€ť Interviewed anonymously by journalist Nicholas Saunders, rabbis, Zen monks and theologians from Harvard Divinity School all admit to using MDMA to get closer to God.
Kampang Secondary School in northeast Thailand has installed a third restroom for the 10â€“20 percent of its male pupils who would like to be female. â€śThey used to be teased when they used the boysâ€™ toilets,â€ť the headteacher told the BBC. â€śSo they started using the girlsâ€™ toilets instead, but that made the girls feel uncomfortable.â€ť
In 1935, 500km north of Lebedyan in Moscow, Stalin commanded his architects to build a metro system that embodied the svetloe budushchee (â€śradiant futureâ€ť). Today, the Moscow metro is the worldâ€™s most-used metro system outside of Tokyo, with 2.4 billion riders.
In 2003, several US female soldiers died of dehydration while serving at Camp Victory, in Iraq. Despite the heat, they stopped drinking after 3pm, so as not to risk a trip to the latrines by night, as that was when the risk of sexual assault by fellow soldiers was highest.
When the first â€śCaution: Illegal Immigrants Crossingâ€ť signs were placed near San Diego in September 1990, they provoked a range of reactions. Some found them racist, as they resembled signs warning that animals might stray onto the road. Those fiercely against illegal immigration were furious, thinking it was an attempt to protect the lives of lawbreakers. Others thought the sign marked a safe place for immigrants to cross the highway.
Gelotophobia is the fear of being laughed at. Sufferers donâ€™t just dislike being mocked â€“ they scan their environment for signs of laughter, their faces turn stiff and wooden when laughed at (called â€śPinocchio-syndromeâ€ť), and they cannot distinguish between friendly play and ridicule.
If you live in the United States, your average meal contains ingredients from at least five foreign countries. Your chocolate snack, for example, most likely comes from cocoa beans grown in the Ivory Coast, which have then been shipped to North America and processed. Meanwhile, the Ivory Coast is today the worldâ€™s seventh biggest rice importer despite having 33,000 hectares of irrigated rice fields that, undercut by cheap imports from Asia, are being progressively left to rot.
Eat soft apples,â€ť Roman poet Martial suggested to a friend whose â€śharsh faceâ€ť suggested he needed urgent relief. The laxative effect of apples comes from sorbitol, a sugar alcohol also found in peaches, mint sweets, diet drinks, toothpaste and crabsticks.
â€śMore Koreans see fortune-tellers than see psychiatrists,â€ť according to Dr. Yoon Dae-hyun, a psychiatrist and official at the Korean Association for Suicide Prevention.
On average, six people are killed in road accidents in Kenya every day, and about 1,300 cyclists are involved in traffic accidents annually; in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, six people die in bike-related accidents every year.
Invented in China, unused by three out of four people worldwide, toilet paper is beloved most of all by Americans. They each use 21,000 rolls a year, 98 percent made from trees from virgin forest. If every US household replaced just one roll of virgin-fiber tissue with the recycled kind, 423,900 trees would be saved.
Paris has 2,400 kilometers of sewers and about 300 sewer workers; New York City has the same number for its 9,550-kilometer network. London has the largest and most intricate sewer system on the planet â€“ 48,300 kilometers in lengthâ€“ and fewer than 50 full-time flushers.
The first person to orgasm in a brain scanner was 54-year-old sex therapist Nan Wise, who masturbated for science inside an fMRI machine for 12 minutes. To avoid disrupting the scan, Wise trained herself to masturbate motionlessly with the help of a warning bell resting on her forehead.
From 1946 until 1989, farming in the Peopleâ€™s Republic of Poland was strictly controlled by the Communist government, and mass-produced agricultural machines were allotted to farms depending on their productivity levels. For poor farmers in the highlands of Poland, the huge machines permitted by the State were simply too large to operate on the local steep and narrow tracks. So they built their own.
â€śI have more fat than I can use,â€ť boasted Dr. Craig Alan Bittner, a Beverly Hills plastic surgeon, who claimed to run his two cars on â€ślipodieselâ€ť made from the love handles of his patients. In California, USA, this is illegal, and after a raid by the authorities on his surgery, Bittner fled to Bogota, Colombia, in December 2008.
If training and therapy are unsuccessful, one in 10 British pets will be given Prozac, according to The Guardian. At Toledo Zoo in Ohio, USA, Johari the gorilla receives daily doses, and at Calgary Zoo, Canada, Prozac has helped Misty the polar bear stop pacing. It comes in â€śbeef flavorâ€ť.
Over the past decade, the number of vehicles in China has doubled every three years â€“ from 5 million in 2000 to over 80 million in 2011.
Scatology is the study of or obsession with feces. When Wolfgang Amadeus Mozartâ€™s letters were examined for scatological references, experts found 45 mentions of buttocks or defecation, 21 of â€śshit,â€ť 19 of â€śass,â€ť and six of â€śpiddleâ€ť or â€śpiss.â€ť
In 1994, Puchkov went to sea in a homemade submarine. His destination was the island of Kronshtadt, a secure military base in the Gulf of Finland, 15km from St. Petersburg. Puchkov pedaled there undetected and then pedaled back. The whole voyage took 18 hours.
The World Health Organization estimates that 120,000 people died of cholera in 2007 and millions were infected, though countries only reported 4,013 deaths and 178,000 infections. People wonâ€™t report cholera because it carries a stigma â€“ it means you are dirty with diarrhea.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is an expanse of plastic waste the size of France that has massed in the Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and California. Most of it consists of small granules of plastic, called â€śnurdlesâ€ť.
Laughter begins with a characteristic series of short vowel-like notes. Each â€śhaâ€ť lasts about 75 milliseconds. Women, with higher-pitched voices, laugh at a frequency 506Hz higher than men (276Hz).
â€śDiarrhea is more complicated if you or someone in your family is sleeping with a relative. Then, a sheep is slaughtered. The shit is removed and mixed with herbs and water. Every family member family spits in it, drinks it and pours it around the compound. It works instantlyâ€ťâ€”Yahya Abdallah Kombe, 36, witchdoctor, Kilifi, Kenya
In the 1960s, psychiatrist Robert Heath tried to straighten out a gay prison inmate by electrically shocking his brainâ€™s pleasure center: the nucleus accumbens. A female prostitute stood by, ready to prove the experimentâ€™s success. But the prisoner went limp with shock-induced satisfaction.