Nonsensical and sometimes not-so-nonsensical rants about what may or may not be going through my head. Try to liberalize your canvas of interpretation when reading these posts - you will go far...

Monday, September 20, 2010

Trivial pursuit

Have you ever wondered why keyboard keys are arranged in a particular, seemingly nonsensical order, so that the first line reads 'QWERTYUIOP'? If your answer is no, then you probably belong to the sane majority of people who generally don't spend much time musing and wondering about little details that have no relevance whatsoever in their daily lives. However, if you answered yes, then it is probably very important for you to know that there is a reason for this odd arrangement. When Christopher Latham Sholes and his colleagues invented the first practical  typewriter in 1873, they faced a problem with the type bars clashing together. To counter this obstacle, they re-arranged the keys so that the most used letters in English Language were positioned well apart. This design proved to be such a success that the same layout is used to this day on Keyboards, blackberrys, i-phones and other cellular devices.

I have had a strange fascination with trivia and general facts since I was a little girl. I was always asking questions that appeared irrelevant and absurd to others. For instance, I insisted on knowing how the chefs hat got its shape, which by the way, was originally designed by the great Italian Renaissance painter, Leonardo Da Vinci who was apparently, also an excellent cook! The hat was later redesigned by Alexis Soyer who starched the pleats so that the hat would stay uptight and give the chef's head some ventilation.
As a child, I would read volumes of Encyclopedia much to my grandfather's chagrin, who wanted me to spend every waking moment with my textbooks. Perhaps, he thought cramming my brain with 'useless' information would be a waste of time and precious brain cells. Little did he know that knowing that a chameleon's tongue is twice as long as its body or that butterflies cannot fly if their body temperature is less than 86 degrees, made it so much easier for me to understand Pythagoras theorems and T.S.Eliots, 'The Love Song of J.Alfred Prufrock.' 

Such seemingly useless factoids also help in explaining some things that we would not understand otherwise. For instance, an ostrich's eye is bigger than its brain; it is probably why they bury their heads in sand so that no one will notice how disproportionate their eyes are with the rest of their heads and we humans think that they are shying away from their problems, No, they're not; its just that they are a little more aware of their eyes than the rest of the animal kingdom. Talking about animals, did you know that milk of a hippopotamus is bright pink and that cows produce more milk when they listen to music. I wonder if this stands true about all genres of music or whether the quality of music matters? If the quality of music influences milk production patterns, do cows produce finest quality milk when listening to Beethoven's symphony or go on a strike when they listen to Jawad Ahmed's songs?

Another benefit about knowing trivia is that one gets to know the true potential of seemingly innocuous things. Peanuts are considered fairly healthy food but do you know that is one of the main ingredients of dynamite? Yes, the same dynamite that is used to blow things up! Similarly, according to trivia, a portion of the water we drink has already been drunk by someone else - possibly several times over! 

Needless to say, I have proven beyond doubt that I am a trivia junkie. And a proud and self professed one at that. If ever you pick up your phone to make a call and find yourself wondering, why Graham Bell chose to invent the telephone of all possible things he could have invented or befuddled at why Leonardo Da Vinci painted Mona Lisa with no eyebrows or want to know the lurid details of Nelson Mandela's divorce, you now know who to contact.