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Lost in Cyberspace

Useless Information Superhighway

© 2000 by H.B. Koplowitz

The Internet is called the information superhighway. But there's also a lot of useless information online. And proud of it!

"Useless Information" <> boasts of useless information on "stuff you never need to know but your life would be incomplete without." Like who invented the brassiere, or that Hedy Lamarr patented a technology basic to modern missile guidance systems and telecommunications. Well-researched and conversationally written by Steve Silverman, a science teacher at Chatham High School near Albany, New York, the collection has grown to more than 60 yarns on such topics as why Pez are called PEZ and Q-Tips Q-Tips; Edison contemporary Nikola Tesla, "perhaps the greatest mind since Leonardo daVinci"; and "The Coldest Profession," about an Antarctic breed of penguin that trades stones for sex.

Other tales fall into the category of word problems, such as a mathematical analysis of how fast reindeer would have to fly for all the good little boys and girls to get their presents on Christmas morning. The answer is not good news for Santa. According to the site, it would take 214,800 reindeer flying at 3,000 times the speed of sound, which would create so much wind resistance they would burst into flames and vaporize in less than a second, while Santa would be subjected to centrifugal forces 17,500 times greater than gravity.

Silverman has a good eye for the obscure. In an essay on the 1904 Summer Olympics in St. Louis -- the third modern Olympics, the first in the U.S., and held in conjunction with a World's Fair -- he also describes a sideshow-like "Anthropology Days" held at the same time for minority athletes, in which "costumed members of the uncivilized tribes" competed in such quasi-Olympian games as mud fighting, rock throwing, pole climbing and spear chucking. On a lighter note, ice tea was invented at the exposition when it got so hot the staff at the Far East Tea House couldn't give away their product, so they poured the hot tea over ice cubes. And when teen-aged ice cream vendor Arnold Fornachou ran out of paper plates, "he noticed that the guy in the next booth, a Syrian named Ernest Hamwi, was selling waffles. Arnold rolled one of Ernie's wafer-thin waffles up and invented the ice cream cone. Within ten years more than one-third of all ice cream was served in a cone."

"Useless Information" has a list of links to other useless Web sites like "The Butt Page -- Foreign Rectal Bodies" <>, which examines real and purported cases of things that got stuck up the ole wazoo. The site was created by Cynsa Bonorris, a Web engineer and co-host of the GenX Conference on the renowned discussion Web site "The Well" <>. The site uses medical records and other reports to document such cases as "Concrete Enema Mix," "So I Slipped in the Shower," "The 100-Watt Bulb and the Bottle of Whiskey," and "The Chronicles of Mistybutt," which actually has to do with the consequences of damp motorcycle seats. The case studies fall into two basic categories: "authentic" and "bogus." For instance, "Artillery Shell" and Impulse body spray bottle are authentic, while Barbie Doll and hand are said to be bogus. Also, "The Sad Truth About Gerbilling" concludes there is no truth to the old story about rodents and rectums.

Along the same lines is "World Sexual Records" <>, which documents such useless information as which race is the most endowed and who has the biggest boobs. The site was created by J. Means, a recent University of Texas engineering graduate, who documents the biggest, smallest, longest, shortest, etc. in such categories as human anatomy, deviant sexuality, prudery and law, the arts. love and marriage, sexual averages and unusual sexual terms.  Topics include most virgins deflowered, most "prolific" actor and actress and greatest streaker gathering.

"Why Ask Why" <> asks questions without answers. Called "Gallagherisms" because the comedian Gallagher uses them in his act, the page has conundrums submitted by people from all over the world. Examples include: Why are flotation devices under plane seats instead of parachutes; what does Geronimo say when he jumps out of a plane; and why do we sing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" when we are already there?

"Absurd Archive" <> looks at incredible gizmos actually patented in the USA. They include motorized ice cream, all-terrain stroller, bulletproof buttocks, diaper alarm, motorcycle airbag, trash burner/barbecue, portable pet potty and toilet landing lights, which are waterproof lights installed under the rim of a toilet, providing a safe landing when going to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Also included in the list is a portable nuclear fallout shelter.

The "Dead People's Server" <> lists the dates and causes of death of the famous, near-famous and no-longer-famous. Almost as bad as making the list for being dead is being added for being alive but so last week that people think you're dead. The site also maintains a list of celebrities erroneously reported dead and how the rumors started. Names on that list include Scott Baio, Richard Dawson, Bob Hope, James Earl Jones, Joe Piscopo and Abe Vigoda.

Finally, there's the "Lee Atwater Celebrity Dead Pool" <>, where the unfamous compile lists of the famous they think are about to croak. Under "fun facts and figures" is perhaps the most useless information of all, a ranking of which celebs have been voted most likely not to succeed.

copyright 2000 by H.B. Koplowitz, all rights reserved.

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