Life + Outdoors » Field Notes

What Ain't So



James Bond's favorite drink was champagne (neither shaken nor stirred). He imbibed 65 glasses in the books and movies, compared with 40 vodka martinis. Unless you combine bourbon and scotch whiskies (my father-in-law is having a fit) for 95 total.

If you like fine legal distinctions, you can claim there are 46 states in the United States. Legally, Virginia, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts are commonwealths, not states.

The nearest star isn't Proxima Centauri, whose light takes about four years to reach us. It's the Sun, eight light minutes away.

Harry S. Truman's full middle name is S, because his parents wanted to honor both his grandfathers, Anderson Shipp Truman and Solomon Young. It's always formally followed by a period.

Just two galaxies are visible to the naked eye, not billions and billions: our own Milky Way plus the Andromeda Galaxy, over 2 million light years away. Add two more if you're in the Southern Hemisphere, where the Magellenic Clouds (dwarf galaxies orbiting the Milky Way) are visible.

A Welshman, not the Frenchman Nicolas Oresme, nor the Italian Leonardo Fibonnaci, gave us the equal sign (=). Robert Recorde (1512-1558) was a physician and mathematician from Tenby, Wales. After an illustrious career, he was sued and died in debtor's prison.

The first person to circumnavigate the globe wasn't Ferdinand Magellan (he died en route). It may have been the remains of his crew, led by Juan Sebastián Elcano. Or Enrique de Malacca, "Henry the Black," Magellan's Malaysian slave, who accompanied the Portuguese navigator on all his voyages. The question hinges on whether Enrique made it home after being left on Cebu in the Philippines in 1521, still 1,500 miles short of Malacca (present day Melaka in western Malaysia), which he'd left 10 years earlier.

Johannes Gutenberg wasn't the inventor of movable type for printing. That honor goes to the Chinese innovator Bi Sheng, around 1050, who used ceramic tablets. The oldest existing metal movable-type book is the last volume of the Jikji, a Korean Buddhist anthology, dated to 1377. Gutenberg's system — which required far fewer symbols! — was invented independently around 1450.

Prayer doesn't correlate with improved surgical outcomes. The largest study on intercessory prayer (Templeton Foundation/Herbert Benson, 2006) based on 1,802 coronary artery bypass patients, showed major complications and 30-day mortality rates in 52 percent of those who received prayer and 51 percent of those who did not receive it.

America may not have been named after Portuguese navigator Amerigo Vespucci. The name of rival candidate, Richard ap Meryk (1455-1503), anglicizes to Amerike. As a wealthy merchant and high sheriff of the English port city of Bristol, he sponsored Venetian Zuan Chabotto/John Cabot's voyage to Newfoundland (or Maine, maybe) in 1497.

Sauerkraut and lemons, not limes, were standard issue to British sailors to prevent scurvy, which is caused by a deficiency of vitamin C. Weight-for-weight, limes (whence "limey" for a Brit) contain half the vitamin C of lemons.

Barry Evans ( would rather be a limey than a lemony. Or a sauerkrauty.

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