A recent article on BuzzFeed caused me to think about things that seem strange but are actually true. The article was titled: “Common Knowledge Practices That Have Become Obsolete Over Time.” It focused on things that whippersnappers find difficult to believe actually existed. 


An example is something that seems sort of ridiculous in retrospect. “In the '60s, I was in grade school, and the Cold War was still going on. As part of our war drills, my class would practice hiding under our desks and covering our heads. As if doing that would matter amid a nuclear war."


Taking pictures with your phone is commonplace now. It was not always so simple. “When it came to taking pictures, we were careful about what pictures we took because processing them was expensive. If your pictures came back blurry, overexposed, or just plain horrible, there was nothing you could do but be disappointed." (


That BuzzFeed list set me off on a quest for more oddities. For instance, do you know why tennis balls are yellow? “By the early 1970s, many television networks had made the transition from broadcasting in black and white to color. In 1972, neon-yellow tennis balls were introduced to the sport in order to be more visible on color TV sets. The vibrant hue made it easier for viewers at home to follow the action on their screens.” (


Seeing those yellow tennis balls was easier for some people than for others. “Researchers estimate that some 300 million people around the world are colorblind, most of them male. On the opposite end of the spectrum are those with an exceedingly rare genetic condition that allows them to see nearly 100 million colors. It’s called tetrachromacy, or super vision. Because of the way the condition is passed down via the X chromosome, the mutation occurs exclusively in women.” 



Another oddity about eyes is that all blue-eyed people are likely descended from a single ancestor. “Scientists estimate that between 6,000 and 10,000 years ago, the eye color of all Homo sapiens was brown. Sometime during the Neolithic expansion in Europe, an individual was born with a mutation to the OCA2 gene. This gene code caused this person’s eyes to turn blue. Because blue eyes can only form as a result of this mutation, scientists theorize that all blue-eyed people — about ten percent of the world population — are a relative of this original lone blue-eyed ancestor.” (


We all might not share the blue eyes gene, but in another way we are all alike. We're just a big bag of french fries. “Most of the interactions we have with potatoes revolve entirely around preparing them for our plates. However, there are occasions when the starchy spuds have more scientific uses — such as helping researchers test and tweak Wi-Fi signals.”


Say what? High tech taters? Yup! “Potatoes can act as stand-ins for human bodies.  While our bodies are made up of about sixty percent water, potatoes are loaded with about eighty percent. All of that water impacts just how well we can connect to the internet — Wi-Fi signals are transmitted through radio waves, which are easily absorbed by water. Even the water inside a potato (or the human body) can reflect the signal back and weaken its strength.” 



Spuds aside, the human body is an amazing mechanism. A recent brain surgery case proved this. “Brain surgeries are particularly delicate. In many cases, the person is kept awake so doctors can best evaluate and protect their dexterity. For one man named Christian Nolen, things went a step further. Knowing he was a talented guitarist, his doctors requested him to play his instrument on the operating table.” (


Talk about the ultimate guitar solo! “The musician was put to sleep at the beginning of the open craniotomy, and was deliberately woken up halfway through. After being handed a guitar, Nolen performed some Deftones songs and his guitar playing ended up being key to protecting his brain.” See at:


There is also some medical pioneering going on in the animal kingdom. “A first-of-its-kind anti-aging tablet for dogs is now being tried out in elderly pets across the country — and so far, these old dogs love their new drugs. The new STAY study is one of the largest, most diverse dog aging studies of its kind.”


If you have a loyal Fido, this is great news. “The goal is to determine whether Loyal's newly-developed medication, called LOY-002, will extend dog lifespans. The company is hoping to boost dogs' lifetimes by at least an extra year.”



Some strange things are destined to become world records. They may even make the pages of the Guinness Book. Even that book has a strange history. “In 1954, Hugh Beaver, the managing director of the Guinness Brewery, began research on a new book of records meant to help settle pub arguments.”


British drinkers were sloppy, so the early books took that into account. “The first issue was intended as promotional material for the Guinness Brewery, so 1,000 copies were laminated to protect against potential beer spillage.” (


The Guinness Book was a hit. “By Christmas of 1955, the Guinness Book of Records achieved bestseller status in the United Kingdom. The company released the first U.S. edition in September the following year, and by 1964, the book had sold more than a million copies worldwide.” 


By the way, you don't make any money for setting a Guinness record. Guinness doesn't cover any of the expenses or provide any equipment. Your strange but true record is on your dime. 


Jim Neff is a local columnist. Read Neff Zone columns online at and