Family Reference Books: Time-Life Books History and Trivia Part 2

About the Time-Life series of books, a look at the history and some facts and trivia culled from them.


Nothing is more individual than a finger-print. The FBI has 169 million fingerprints on file, and there are "no 2 so similar that an expert cannot readily tell them apart."

A human being spends 1/3 of his or her life sleeping. Of the time spent sleeping, 1/5 of it is spent dreaming. The average person starts to have a dream about every 90 minutes, and in 8 hours of sleep, a single dream can last as long as 45 minutes.

"Tossing a coin is an exercise in probability which everyone has tried: Calling either heads or tails is a fair bet because the chance of either result is one half. No one expects a coin to fall heads once in every 2 tosses, but in a large number of tosses the results tend to even out. For a coin to fall heads 50 consecutive times, it would take a million men tossing coins 10 times a minute and 40 hours a week--and then it would happen only once in every 9 centuries."

From various volumes of Life Nature Library

The healthiest period of a human being's life is between the ages of 5 and 15. Resistance against infectious diseases continues well into the 20s. From the 30s onward this body efficiency decreases.

"A single squirrel may hide away 20 or more bushels of food divided into many small caches, although it may not find and eat a tenth of that reserve before spring."

Among the oldest living things are the sequoia trees. They live 3,000 years or more. They owe their longevity to the thickness of their bark (which can be 2' thick), to the tannin the bark contains which fends off insects, and to their fibrous consistency that makes them almost fire-proof. Only 3 things can hurt a grown sequoia: climate change, earthquakes, erosion. A sequoia is usually not fully mature until it is 300 years old.

"One large kangaroo, at a single desperate bound, is reported to have cleared a pile of timber 10 1/2' high and 27' long."

A ruby-throated hummingbird has 940 feathers. A Plymouth Rock hen has 8,325 feathers. A whistling swan has 25,216 feathers.

"Every recorded measurement of a large mountain may be from half a dozen to a few hundred feet in error. The point is emphasized by the way the 1st 'official' height of Mount Everest was arrived at in 1852. Measurements were made from 6 places. All were different, the lowest being 28,990' and the highest 29,026'. When all 6 were averaged, the figure came to exactly 29,000'. Unwilling to publish what they thought would seem like an estimate rather than an exact figure, the surveyors arbitrarily added 2' to make the official figure, 29,002', sound better. It turned out to be 26' higher when measured by a party of Indians in 1954. Whatever its exact height, Everest is the world's highest mountain."

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