Mishegas: Some, uh, nutsy factual findings via Harper’s

I’m not criticizing Harper’s. Oh no! The magazine gives me such pleasure and bewilderment. (I love bewilderment. It leads to…things.)

So I’m devoted to their Findings page (the very last in the mag’s hard copy) which collects and bunches together some startling facts about us, our planet and our universe.

Some months, though, I feel as if I’m reading either deep satire or dystopian something or other. December 2023 was one of those months. And I have questions.


As the U.S. population ages, old people are committing more crimes.

What types of crimes? I’d like to hear about the more splashy ones. And what is the definition of “old people”? If 70 is the new 50, is “old” 90?

Overall, though, this is a positive fact: old people are spry enough to commit crimes. Good, isn’t it? It certainly makes getting old seem more inviting. I might try it.


Functional MRI scans revealed that lonely Game of Thrones fans do not fully distinguish between real people and characters from the show.

I wonder if this unfortunate fact derives only from Game of Thrones. Are there any other series similarly identified by MRI?

Are these people lonely, first, or do they become lonely from watching Game of Thrones? Somebody really should get a hapless viewer of all 134 episodes of the Turkish omnigenre Black Money Love into that machine but it won’t be me. No no no no.


Sadists are harder to startle.

Oh. Why? And what was the title of the scientific study financed by what non-profit or governmental agency — and which government — which produced this fact? Any other such curious tidbits out of this study? Could this fact link to the previous Game of Thrones one? Lonely sadists…


Now here’s a wonderful, life-affirming piece of intelligence:

Fifteen percent of American children report using logical reasoning to disprove the existence of Santa.

Hurray kids!!! What percentage of their parents have descended into depression and/or have left home wearing the Santa suit? (And a MAGA hat.)


Of course, Harper’s conveys some animal news:

In the Netherlands, researchers captured pied flycatchers who were migrating back from Africa and drove them by night to Sweden, farther north than they would usually fly, to offset the effects of an earlier spring.

What at first glance seems like a darling animal rescue is, upon second glance, actually an authoritarian anti-immigrant action, like kidnapping. Did anyone ask the pied flycatchers if they wanted to migrate to Sweden? Did anybody ask Sweden if this was OK?

How were the flycatchers captured? Where were they stowed in the cars?

Whenever I’m trending toward liking the Dutch, some fact like this comes along to make me glower.


The harassment of porpoises by Southern Resident orcas over the past six decades may be the result of social bonding, hunting practice and mismothering behavior.

Sure, blame the mom.


How about some science?

[C]rime scene investigators were advised to update their techniques to account for the gunshot residue of eco-friendly ammunition.

I’m sure I saw Bill Petersen discover and apply this on C.S.I.


And maybe this one is the oddest:

Scientists warned against anthropomorphizing trees.

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2 Responses to Mishegas: Some, uh, nutsy factual findings via Harper’s

  1. Susan Thaler says:

    Be watchful for busloads of pied flycatchers heading to NYC and thence to the suburbs. How unfair! (To the flycatchers, of course.)

    • Naomi says:

      As always, you make me laugh. It does raise the question how our mayor will handle flycatchers. His chaotic response to real needy people doesn’t offer a sanguine prospect. Still, since you live in what could be considered a Swedish suburb of (New) Amsterdam, I do believe the flycatchers will be gratified — as will the population, given what they catch. And presumably eat. I’m not sure, though, whether the “pied” part of their name is their prey. I should look this up before they arrive in your arboreum.

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