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Fascinating True Stories from the Flip Side of History

Tag Archives: 1959

More Intelligent People Have Gout

On June 30, 1959, a UPI article discussed how two US government scientists, Dewitt Stetten, Jr. and John Z. Hearon, were studying the relationship between gout and intelligence.

Gout is caused by the accumulation of crystals of uric acid in bone joints. A theory was put forward in 1955 that the uric acid also stimulated the brain. You can see where this is going: Those with gout should be smarter.

So, Stetten and Hearon decided to test out this theory. They went to the Army Recruitment Center in Fort Dix, NJ and measured the uric acid levels in 817 men. Next, they compared the results of these tests to the “Army Classification Battery,” a group of psychological tests given to test for intelligence and other abilities.

The two found that there was a slight correlation between uric acid levels and high intelligence. The two didn’t make any definite conclusions, but did recommend that further studies be done. The press was quick to point out that nineteen times as many men have gout than women, so that would naturally mean that there are nineteen intelligent men for every intelligent woman. I can tell you, just from my years of teaching, that is definitely not true. No scientific study needed prove that.

The Gout by James Gillray
1799 caricature "The Gout" by James Gillray. From Wikipedia.
 

Moons of Mars Made by Martians

On May 1, 1959, it was reported that Soviet scientist Iosif Shklovsky had found evidence that the two moons of Mars, Phobos and Deimos, may be artificial. In other words, they may have been placed in orbit by Martians.

Shklovsky had studied data that had been collected by others and concluded that Phobos, in particular, was most likely hollow inside with what could be something like a thin sheet metal exterior. Its behavior could not be explained by comparing it to any known natural satellite in our solar system. Instead, it behaved much like the artificial satellites that man had placed in orbit around Earth. The logical conclusion was that Martians had placed the two moons into orbit some two or three million years prior.

Further study later determined that the data that Shklovsky used to make these predictions, which he did not collect himself, had systematic errors. It’s not that Shklovsky did bad science – the whole Martian idea excluded – it’s just that he had really bad data to work with.

A number of space probes have since been sent to study these two moons. Today we are certain that they are solid, naturally made, and very similar to many of the asteroids out there.

Color image of Phobos
Color image of Phobos taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter on March 23, 2008. NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona image.
 

Vote Cacareco

In October of 1959, it was reported that a female rhinoceros named Cacareco had won the San Paolo municipal council election in a landslide, having received in excess of 100,000 write-in votes. She was immediately disqualified on the grounds that she had been on loan to the Sao Paolo zoo from the Rio de Janeiro zoo and was therefore not a resident of Sao Paolo.

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He Liked to Hear the Glass Tinkle

On the evening of June 2nd of 1959, New Orleans police received a call from a man who claimed to have smashed a window on Bourbon Street.  Five minutes later the police received another call that he had smashed another window at a nearby music store.  Both times, the police responded quickly, but the man was already gone.  

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Lookout Falls from Tree

On Sunday, August 30th of 1959 four men decided to crack the safe at the Bellevue Cooperative Bank in the West Roxbury neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts. 33-year-old John J. Storis was chosen to be the lookout while the other three men worked on the safe inside the bank.  Then, Storis saw a police cruiser and panicked. Perched in a tree, he fell to the ground and then ran to his car to signal the others with its headlights.

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