Two snakes entwined on a
sphere-capped rod

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Back in 1886, a man (John Pemberton) working at an Atlanta pharmacy added nut-flavored sugarcane syrup to a container of gas-saturated water. The nuts were from a kola plant and the gas was carbon dioxide. Coca Cola was born.

John Paul Jones was America’s first naval hero. He was born John Paul in Scotland (Kirkcudbrightshire) in 1747. At age 13 John had already worked on several sailing ships. He distinguished himself in 1768 when the captain and the first mate of his ship both died of yellow fever. Young John Paul took charge of the crew and was in command for hundreds of miles as the ship successfully made its way back to England. He moved to America in the 1770’s and adopted Jones as his last name. Subsequent to serving gallantly for the Revolutionary Navy, JPJ was recruited (1788) by Catherine the Great to command part of the Russian fleet. After resigning his Russian commission, John Paul Jones relocated to Paris where he died in 1792 at the age of 45.

That symbol of the medical profession that displays two snakes entwined on a sphere-capped rod is called a caduceus (a.k.a. Hermes’ staff).

There is an unusual monument in Barton, England. The shrine commemorates a fierce hailstorm that occurred on Tuesday July 3, 1883. No human fatalities were recorded, thousands of acres of crops were destroyed, nearly all windows in the region were shattered, and bird deaths numbered in the tens of thousands. Newsmen arriving late the following afternoon reported “drifts” of hailstones two feet high. Several of the bricks used to construct the Barton monument display damage sustained during the 1883 barrage. Most local outings scheduled for that particular Tuesday were either postponed or cancelled.

Some peculiarities about the number 42: The number of dots on a pair of dice is 42, the only number retired by every major league baseball club is 42, the number of Oreos in a one pound package is 42, the number of months allowed for the beast in Revelation is 42 (Rev. 13:5), the length in feet of the right arm on The Statue of Liberty is 42, the age of Elvis Presley at his death was 42, the (lifetime) total number of teeth of most canines is 42, the number of generations from Abraham to Jesus was 42, six times seven is 42 (I contributed that last one).

Well, check the weather when planning an outing near Barton – and have a really nice week.

James White is a retired mathematics teacher who enjoys sharing fascinating trivia. He can be reached at