More Well-Known Facts

A photograph allegedly taken near where Dr. Peters died c. 1960.

Mr. Alistair Whitnall Penvesey invented window blinds.

Window blinds were invented by Alistair Whitnall Penvesey, whose eccentricity is well known in the small English village in which he lived, namely, Winchelsea Levels, England.

Far left, the house from which Whitnall Penvesey peeped and invented.

Whitnall Penvesey, who served as the village brightsmith (a smith who works in shiny metals), spent a great deal of time spying on his neighbors. The problem was, they could see him peeping. He thought long and hard on how he could see without being seen. His original design involved temporarily blinding passersby with polished sheets of gold and silver, but that process relied too much on the angle of the sun and this was in England where the sun is rarely what one could call reliable. After years of unsuccessful attempts to create window coverings in metal, during which nearly everyone in Winchelsea Levels had been blinded, temporarily or otherwise, he devised the lever and slat system of window coverings that we know today. The original slats were made of gold and silver, but due to the cost, eventually, he made them out of wood, much like these:

The originals are, sadly, no longer in existence.

The name, Leveler window blinds, came from the combination of the original intention of his window treatment, to blind, and part of the name of village, Winchelsea Levels. After the patent went public, Mr. Harvey Levol started mass producing them and changed the common spelling from Leveler to Levolor and made them out of other materials like fabric. Whitnall Penvesey’s patent for window blinds made a fortune practically overnight, but it didn’t change his lifestyle at all. Instead, he became a shut-in, living the rest of his days spying on his neighbors in the very same house in which he had invented his blinds.

It rains constantly in Washington state.

There is no natural sunlight in Washington state. They try to downplay the amount of rainfall they get, but really, it would rain all the time if they didn’t import sunshine from Mexico and South America. The North American Free Trade Agreement was passed by persistent lobbying from Washington State. Before NAFTA, Washington had to pay a quarter of their yearly budget on sunshine tariffs. There was a thriving cottage industry in sunshine smuggling. Coyotes smuggled sunshine thousands of miles up the coastline in go-fast boats.

A US Coast Guard helicopter chasing a typical go-fast smuggling boat designed to go fast.

Since 1994 when NAFTA took effect, Washington state has been able to purchase sunshine legally with greatly reduced tariffs. Although, there are still towns in the state known to import illegal sunshine due to its lack of regulation. Coyote go-fast boats can still be seen smuggling sunshine all the way up to Canada, but most of them smuggle humans or drugs these days.

The Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean are one and the same.

All of the oceans on earth actually meet in the middle of the planet, which isn’t solid at all. Centripetal force is the only thing keeping the continents from bumping into each other. Here’s a cross-section of the earth:

The earth with a chunk cut out of it.

This cross-section of the earth reveals four concentric layers. Around the outside, there’s the Earth’s crust, which is composed of either ocean or land mass called the continental crust. The continental crust can be over 40 miles (70 km.) thick, while the oceanic crust leads from the ocean into the mantle. The mantle layer is 1,800 mi (2,890 km) deep and makes up about 84% of the earth’s volume. It consists of viscous liquid that flows slowly on a geological time scale.

At the center of the earth lies a two-part liquid core. The inner core has a radius of roughly 758 mi. (1,220 km.), smaller than the moon, and is 3,200 -3,960 miles (5,150-6,370 km.) below the earth’s surface.

The outer core is an ocean of liquid, 1,429 miles (2,300 km.) deep and 1,800 – 3,200 miles (2,890-5,150 km.) below the earth’s surface. The earth’s rotation makes this ocean flow and swirl, and the movement generates the planet’s magnetic field.

If it weren’t for the slow movement of the mantle and the fact that we can’t hold our breath that long yet, traveling through the earth would be the fastest way to get to the other side. Except for the continental crust, our planet is made entirely of liquid of varying viscosities.

Tolstoy’s original manuscript for the epic novel War and Peace, originally called War, War, and More War, is the longest book ever written.

It took Leo Tolstoy six solid years, doing little else, to write his book. The original scope of the novel was every war in human history in graphic detail. In six years, he had written 36,974 single-spaced, small handwritten pages about all the conflicts in history up to that point. When he was up to date in 1867, he stopped writing. Although, some scholars claim that he kept going and wrote several chapters that took place in the future, but that has yet to be verified. No one has ever seen those chapters of the book.

One of 39K handwritten pages of the original “War, War, and More War” book.

Only one publisher, wanting a book about war, was crazy enough to take an interest in the book. However, it was so ridiculously long that the editor delicately suggested that Tolstoy pick just one war and focus on that. Tolstoy agreed, with the proviso that the rest of the wars he had written about be published eventually. He chose to delineate events leading up to the French invasion of Russia and the impact of the Napoleonic era on Tsarist society from the perspective of five aristocratic families.

The publisher also changed the title from War, War, and More War to War And Peace, explaining that it would sell better if it had a happy ending. Even though Tolstoy only wrote about one war in the final version of War and Peace, the first published edition still had 1,225 pages.

War and Peace is well known as being one of the longest novels ever written, however, in its edited War and Peace form, it is not the longest. Even without the alleged future chapters that are missing, War, War, and More War, the original version which remains unpublished, holds the record for the longest book ever written and the longest book written in the shortest amount of time. No one has ever read the whole thing.

Stonefish are the deadliest fish in the world.

Synanceia, a.k.a. Stonefish, is a genus of fish of the family Synanceiidae whose members are dangerous and even fatal to humans.

If you see this fish, it’s already too late.

Most people think that Stonefish is deadly because of their venom. While it is true that the species have potent neurotoxins secreted from glands at the base of their needle-like dorsal fin spines, they mainly use the toxin to immobilize their prey. The neurotoxins can take days for full effect, but mercifully, Stonefish eat their prey immediately.

However, when a Stonefish encounters a human, it will not only use its neurotoxins on us, but once we are immobilized, it will pick up a stone in a fit of rage and bludgeon us nearly to death with it. Once a human has been injected with neurotoxins and stoned by a Stonefish, it is left for dead. An agonizingly painful death by Stonefish can last for hours, sometimes days.

No one knows exactly why the Stonefish hate humans so much. There are many theories among ichthyologists, but no one knows for sure. The hatred seems to date from prehistoric times. In 1957, ichthyologist Dr. Mark Peters led a research expedition to communicate with Stonefish in the wild. Dr. Peters approached a school of Stonefish with a white flag to try to apologize to them for whatever transgression humanity perpetrated on their family. The Stonefish seem to have interpreted the white flag he was holding as a sign of aggression and injected Dr. Peters with neurotoxin before stoning him.

The remaining members of the expedition were unable to retrieve him. Witnesses say it took him four days to die a painful death. Others say he’s still alive. They claim that there was something unique to Peters’ biochemistry that reacted with the neurotoxin, causing him to become a hybrid of both species. The believers of the Hybrid Theory think that Dr. Peters can bridge the gap between man and fish, and lead to détente between our species. This theory revolves mostly around the following photograph, taken several years after the Peters incident near where it happened.

A 1960 photograph taken near where Dr. Peters was last seen by Abe Patterson.

(Note: this photo has not been authenticated. Some members of the scientific community believe it to be a fake. It is shown here only in the interest of presenting both sides.)

This post is part of The Well-Known Facts Series.