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Useless Information

Because of the presumed dangers posed by alternating current (due, in large part, to Thomas Edison's negative advertising campaigns), American presidents were not allowed to turn on electric lamps until President Grover Cleveland bravely turned the gold master key that lit up the Columbian Exposition in 1893. Until then, presidents were required to ask White House servants to turn on the lights.

A tuxedo's cummerbund should face up so you can slide your opera tickets into the notch. However, fashion magazines and motion pictures often photograph it the opposite way because it is felt it looks better. Since this type of innocuous grooming detail is usually passed on by father to son, studies have shown that the way a man points his cummerbund is a surprisingly reliable predictor of one's socioeconomic background.

Nicola Tesla, the true father of radio and science's perennial Man of Mystery, had an intense aversion to women's earrings—particularly pearls. However, according to his biographer, Margaret Cheney, "jewelry with the glitter of crystals or sharp-planed facets intrigued him." In addition, he wrote that he was unable to touch other people's hair "except perhaps at the end of a revolver."

On the other hand, Erwin Schröndinger, the twentieth-century scientist who postulated that the world was an indeterminate realm hinging on a matrix of uncertainties, discovered an important element of wave mechanics while sitting in an Alpine hotel with two pearls stuffed in his ears. An old Viennese girlfriend was with him at the time, but it is not known whether he touched her hair.

Strangely, while Schröndinger theorized about indeterminancies, Tesla was an avowed determinist who called humans "meat machines."

The use of vinegar in Indian dishes from the coastal region of Goa reflects the influence Portuguese colonists had on the region. (The Portuguese ruled the region for four centuries and are credited with bringing hot peppers from the New World to Asia in the sixteenth century.) Likewise, today's perrenial favorite, Mulligatawny Soup, was created three hundred years ago to meet the British colonists' demand for a separate soup course.

The Queensbury rules, which—among other things—insures boxers are evenly matched by weight categories, were created by John Sholto Douglas, 9th Marquess of Queensbury. Douglas was also the father of Oscar Wilde's most famous lover, Alfred Douglas, and it was the father's virulent attacks on Wilde that ultimately led to Wilde's imprisonment for committing indecent acts.





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