The fantastic world of trivia

From Lead to Gold

Few can escape the charm of fabulous information. In a world where (good) search engines kill the joy of speculation and debate by providing instant answers, some trivia stands out as a shining beacon for those seeking perpetual amusement.

I look at 5 examples, on route to discovering a ‘golden’ formula for amusing trivia.

Did you know?

No two snowflakes are alike.

Ok, this is the classic one. We’ve all heard this somewhere or the other. Most of us also believe it. I mean, what choice do we have — individually verify every snow flake?

But some people have studied this further and the verdict is similar i.e. we have the rare case of English being used to concisely express what maths can only declare in terms of probability.

The number of possible arrangements of the 10¹⁸ water molecules [in a snowflake] is such a large number that it dwarfs the number of atoms in the universe many, many times over. — HuffPost Science

In all likelihood — no chance of them being alike therefore, all chances of them being unlike. Other articles also express the same views. Frankly, even if we did not do all this analysis, who would’ve known? But good to see serious study being done about it. We can continue to appear smart by quoting this fact.

Did you know?

That no two grains of sand are alike.

This is the first cousin of the snowflake trivia. Once again, impossible to check. But popular posts add another dimension of thought: how do we define alike and indeed when is a crystal like another crystal?

Food for thought.

To see a world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wild flower Hold infinity in the palm of your hand and eternity in an hour. — William Blake

From sands we go to stars. This leads us to the ultimate in pointless comparative trivia — there are apparently 10 times more stars than grains of sand, according to one finding.

For those interested, according to one estimate the number of stars in the universe is: 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.

You can count the zeros at your leisure, while I move on to grander, much grander, much much grander, levels of trivia.

Did you know?

The furthest galaxy cluster is about 13 billion light years away?

Thirteen BILLION LIGHT YEARS!!! Who can even imagine that number? One light year is approximately 9,500,000,000,000 km.

Multiply that by 13,000,000,000 to get the answer.

Indeed the light from that galaxy cluster has literally taken eternity to get to us.

This is trivia at its stratospheric best. I mean, who cared? Who could even count?

Why do people spend time researching this?

Heaven only knows. Literally.

Did you know?

There over 50 Eskimo words for snow?

From the heavens, we once again come back down to Earth, via the sky of course. In the polar regions it is totally fathomable why subtle distinctions of a ubiquitous substance like snow would have different words for it.

While not taking anything away from the language and cultural contexts, from a purely numerical perspective, given that only about 35000 people speak Inuit languages, for the rest of the 7,000,000,000 people, this is another type of trivia that we accept at face value.

I guess, the real charm of trivia lies in being rare to source and even rarer to verify quickly.

This sets the scene for a speedy conclusion — with one last trivia.

Did you know?

Did you know, a flea can accelerate faster than a spaceshuttle?

The only thing more amusing than this fact is that people have actually gone and applied physics to then debate further. I guess trivia makes physics worthwhile in a way?

I mean what is the point of studying g forces, acceleration and Newtonian mechanics if we cannot apply it to something fun? Like the physics of the impossible free-kick.

Golden Formula

But when I look at the above examples, I feel we get close to the Golden Formula of amusing trivia. It has three parts:

  • interesting to know [yet]
  • questioned by few [because it is]
  • nearly impossible to verifiable

When these three come together, the alchemy is so potent, that we truly start to get gold from lead.

If you enjoyed reading, please clap — because it will bolster a rather useful trivia for me— Medium Stats :)