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12 bizarre articles you should read on Wikipedia’s 15th birthday

From nonsensical sentences and freak phenomena to conspiracy theories, Wikipedia has them all. To mark the online information source's 15th birthday, here are some really bizarre Wikipedia entries.

Wikipedia, birthday, odd, bizarre, conspiracy theories, freak phenomena, Space travel, Moon, Pauli effect, astronauts, fallen astronaut, laughter, hysteria, carl Jung, scrabble, Q, snowman, porn, five-second rule, animals, rain, longest name, latte
Wikipedia is full of random trivia you can use as conversation starters for your next social commitment. (In picture: Wikipedia logo, Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Remember the time you pulled out the dusty Britannica Encyclopaedia each time school projects came calling? Life changed drastically after Wikipedia graced our screens from January 15, 2001. On Wikipedia’s 15th birthday, and we pulled out a few entries from Wikipedia’s treasure trove of bizarre information for you.

Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo

This — believe it or not — is a grammatically correct sentence. The word ‘buffalo’ here has been used in all its three meanings — the city of Buffalo, the uncommon verb to buffalo (meaning ‘to bully or intimidate’ or ‘to baffle’), and the animal itself, buffalo. It can be paraphrased as ‘Bison from Buffalo, which bison from Buffalo bully, themselves bully bison from Buffalo’. For full linguistic breakdown, go here.

Cosmic latte

This is not yet another crazy flavour of coffee by enthusiastic brewers, or a product customised specifically for Space travel. Cosmic latte is the average colour of the universe. It was initially calculated to be greenish-white (ew), but later rectified to a slightly beige-ish white. The nomenclature faced competition from nine other crowd-sourced names. Yes, the name was inspired by a cup of latte at Starbucks. Wondering what it looks like? Try punching in #FFF8E7 in the colour picker the next time you doodle on Microsoft Paint.

*Colourless green ideas sleep furiously

Coined by philosopher Noam Chomsky, colourless green ideas sleep furiously is an example of a grammatically correct nonsensical sentence. There have been various attempts to extract a deep meaning, ranging from ‘nondescript immature ideas have violent nightmares’ to a commentary on jealousy.

*Longest name

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Hubert Blaine Wolfeschlegelsteinhausenbergerdorff Sr, is the ABBREVIATED name of a man who’s also known as Hubert Blaine Wolfe+585, Sr. It is a legitimate, record-holding surname with an actual meaning that tells a story of his ancestral shepherds and aliens.

*February 30

February 30 exists in most calendars — apart from the Gregorian calendar which we follow today — and was a real date in Sweden till 1712. In modern usage, it is used as a sarcastic reference for something that will never happen or be done.

*Rain of animals

Except for cats and dogs, a lot of other animals — like fish, spiders, frogs and toads — have rained upon humankind throughout history, some as close to home as Kerala, Jamnagar and even IIT Chennai. Plausable causes range from tornadoes to disoriented birds.

*Five-second rule

Lazy people rejoice! Feeling too lazy to pick up that spoon you dropped on the floor? Chill, you have a whole 5 seconds to make your move, before bacteria and other contaminants make their move. The five-second rule has been extensively studied as research in both public health and sociology. An episode of ‘Mythbusters’ on Discovery Channel found that other factors — like moisture, surface geometry and the location the food item was dropped on — were equally critical in contributing micro-organisms.

*Tanganyika Laughter epidemic

Now you know that laughter can cause death too. The village of Kashasha was seized by a mass laughter hysteria in 1962. It started with three schoolgirls and rapidly spread to other schools and nearby villages. Thousands of people were reportedly afflicted by this freak phenomenon.

*The miracle of 1511

This is one historical rebellion that the textbooks forgot to include. In the winter of 1511, the people of Brussels built 110 pornographic snowmen — and snow-women — as a protest against the political establishment, highlighting the wealth discrepancy between the ruling class and the peasants. We wonder how socialism would have shaped up if Karl Marx was born three centuries earlier.

*Scrabbler’s dream

Queen, quote, quite, quiet…isn’t it queer that all words starting with the letter Q are followed by U? Can you think of any that don’t? If can’t, there’s Wikipedia, of course.

*Pauli effect

No, this is not some Physics concept you failed to grasp in school, but an unfortunate series of events in which technical equipment developed a glitch each time physicist Wolfgang Pauli was present in the room. It occurred so many times that Pauli himself grew to be convinced of the Pauli effect. He even sought to unearth the reason by studying the relationship between Physics and psychology after corresponding with noted psychologist Carl Jung. You’ll recognise his efforts as ‘synchronicity’ if you’ve been dipping your legs in new-age wisdom…The Secret, anyone?

*Fallen Astronaut

How would an astronaut fall if there is no gravity in Space? The Fallen Astronaut is an aluminium figurine placed on the Moon in 1971 to commemorate astronauts who lost their lives during their mission of space exploration. It has a plaque next to it listing the names of 14 astronauts known to have lost their lives till then.