This is a really interesting book. In my experience, there aren't many such general Q&A books that are fully accurate. I haven't found this book to be so either, but it was the best of its kind that I've come across. Of course, I haven't checked all the information in it, but I did try to check the most surprising answers. Here are some of the most interesting facts I've gleaned from this book: Contrary to what I had assumed, not all of Antarctica is covered with snow and ice. There are areas there called the Dry Valleys which haven't seen any precipitation whatsoever for 2 million years, due to winds reaching 200 mph which evaporate all moisture from the air. NASA tested their equipment for a Mars probe there. All the plague epidemics that came to Europe from Asia started with a Mongolian species of marmots which is particularly susceptible to this bacteria. They give the disease to fleas which give it to rats which give it to humans. Actually, just a year ago there was a case of a Chinese road construction worker who shot, cooked and ate a marmot, soon felt ill and was rushed to the hospital where he died from plague - not being a local he didn't know about the dangers of marmots. What most surprised me is that apparently nobody there is calling for the wholesale extermination of marmots. Here, in the US, the far more harmless wolves, coyotes and black bears are treated like public enemies, and in China and Mongolia apparently people are content just to try to be careful with the animals that can give them the plague! The first steam engine in the world was invented by an Alexandrian called Heron or Hero in 62 CE. His contemporaries viewed it as an amusing, but useless novelty. (He also discovered the formulas to calculate the area of a triangle and other 2- and 3-dimensional figures). The telephone was apparently invented by an Italian-American Antonio Meucci in 1860. He couldn't afford to pay for a definitive patent and filed a one-year renewable notice of an impending patent, but later on, badly injured when a ferry's boiler exploded and living on charity, he couldn't afford even to renew that. He sent sketches and working models to the Western Union telegraph company, but didn't get a response from them and was later told that they had been lost. When Bell, who had shared a laboratory with him, filed a patent for a telephone, Meucci sued, and fraud charges were initiated against Bell, but then Meucci died and the lawsuit was dropped. In 2002 a vote in the US House of Representatives declared Meucci the inventor of the telephone. (However, this book says that the vote took place in 2004, and implies that Bell worked in the Western Union lab where Meucci sent his documents and from where they "mysteriously disappeared.") Penicillin was first discovered by a French army doctor Ernest Duchesne in 1897. He saw Arab stable boys deliberately trying to cultivate mold on saddles, and they explained that it helps cure horses' sores. Duchesne conducted research, identified the mold as Penicillum glaucum, and used it to cure typhoid in guinea pigs and kill colonies of E.coli. He wrote a report to Institut Pasteur which ignored it (Pasteur himself had died 2 years previously). Military duties prevented Duchesne from promoting his discoveries more vigorously, and then he died at 28 from tuberculosis - an illness later cured with antibiotics! When Alexander Fleming had rediscovered penicillin in 1928, his findings were also ignored till World War II started, and the pressing need for antibacterial drugs prompted Ernst Chain and Howard Florey to work to isolate the active compound within the mold (which Fleming had been unable to do). Production of penicillin began in 1942; in 1945 Fleming, Chain and Florey received the Nobel Prize. In 1949 Duchesne was honored posthumously, but remained in obscurity. There are 3,000-4,700 tigers in India and 12,000 tigers kept as private pets in the USA, with 4,000 living in captivity in Texas alone (both in zoos and as pets), and 500 tigers, lions and other big cats "in private ownership" just in the Houston area. Apparently, the success of zoo and circus breeding programs has brought the price of tigers down to $1,000 per cub which has placed them within reach of an average American pet owner! Only 17 states don't allow private ownership of tigers. But on the bright side of things, if tigers become extinct in the wild (as the authors expect they will), there'll be enough stock in the US to restore them to the jungles once/if people wise up. And speaking of humans' impact on the planet, the single largest man-made structure is now a rubbish dump in Staten Island, NY, which trumps by volume the Great Wall of China and at its peak was higher than the Statue of Liberty by more than 80 feet. It was closed in 2001 and is "being flattened and landscaped into parkland and a wildlife facility." (The dump's area is 4.6 square miles, and it's called Fresh Kills, after the Dutch word kil for "small river.") In ecological good news, it looks like cotton clothes may be replaced by nettle ones in the not-so-far future. Nettles don't require the massive watering that cotton does and can grow in any climate and without pesticides. Apparently, nettles were widely used to make cloth in Europe before the 16th century, when they were eclipsed by cotton because cotton was easier to harvest and spin, but today's technology has evolved enough to make fibers from nettles without too much trouble. If some species of ribbon worms get fragmented into small pieces, each piece becomes a new worm, and a species of freshwater flatworm regenerates into two full-sized worms if split lengthwise or crosswise. And speaking of curious methods of reproduction, I knew that hens can lay eggs without roosters, albeit unfertilized eggs from which no chicks will emerge, but now I've learnt that there are turkeys which lay eggs and have chicks without males. Apparently, usually unfertilized eggs have only half the chromosomes (from the mother) and don't develop into chicks, but in some turkeys the chromosomes in such a case sometimes double themselves, and then a chick does develop. Turkeys which have such a proclivity have been bred to the point that it has become their stable characteristic. The resulting chicks are only half-clones of their mothers, because they've only got a half of their mothers' genes (multiplied by two). In fact, they are all (infertile) males, because in turkeys it's the males who have the same gender chromosomes (ZZ). The authors of this book also claim that the first modern Olympics took place in Much Wenlock, Shropshire, in 1850, under the initiative of a surgeon William Penny Brookes, and quickly attracted athletes from all over the country. In 1865, Brookes helped establish the National Olympian Association which held its first Olympic Games in 1866 at the Crystal Palace in London, but his attempts to organize an international Olympian Festival in Athens in 1881 failed. In 1889, he invited Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the organizer of an International Congress on Physical Education, to see the Games in Much Wenlock and thus inspired him to start a global Olympic movement. Much of this is confirmed in the 2010 edition of Britannica and elsewhere, although in 1859 the first international Olympic Games were held in Athens, while all the Games organized by Brookes were of national character. (The 1896 Athens Olympics was the first one organized by IOC, and thus the first official one.) Lloyd and Mitchinson further maintain that America was really named after Richard Ameryck from Bristol who was the chief investor of John Cabot's second transatlantic voyage because there's a reference to the continent in the Bristol calendar of that year where the name America was first used; no copies of this calendar survived, but "there are a number of references to it in other contemporary documents." However, there's no bibliography in this book, and personally I couldn't find any confirmation of this. So whether Martin Waldseemüller was mistaken in attributing the name to Vespucci on his map - the first one ever to use it - remains to be seen. They also write that Aristarchus of Samos, born in 310 BCE, was the first person to embrace the heliocentric system, which he did, and that "he also calculated the relative sizes and distances of the earth, moon, and sun," which he also did, except that his calculations were (very) incorrect, which they don't mention. There's also a curious statement in this book that "the fumes from your car's exhaust (when combined with sunlight) create far more ozone than anything on the beach." I didn't know what to make of this, since all the references to car exhaust and ozone I could find on the Internet implied the opposite relationship, as one would expect. They also claim that the Theory of Relativity was discovered by Galileo rather than Einstein, without offering any evidence, aside form the fact that Galileo was a proponent of heliocentric system. And they say that Henry VIII didn't really have 6 wives because he annulled his marriages with some of them instead of divorcing them, which means that from the legal point of view these marriages never happened, rather than that they were terminated, but that's just splitting hairs, in my opinion. Still, inaccuracies in this book seem to be rare, and I did learn lots of interesting information from it which I wouldn't have been likely to find out otherwise.