by Kathy Wolfe

Tidbits isn’t short on the facts this week! Stay with us as we bring you the details on the longest and shortest of all kinds of things.

You might think that Russian author Leo Tolstoy’s epic historical novel “War and Peace” would be the world’s longest book with 587,287 words. But it’s not even close to “Remembrance of Things Past,” published in 1913 by Marcel Proust. It’s a book of this French author’s recollections of childhood and young adulthood, and reflections on the pursuit of truth and the meaning of life. It not only consists of nearly 1.3 million words, it contains some very long sentences, the longest being 958 words.

      Out of the 206 bones in an adult human body (which make up 15% of body weight), the longest is the femur, the only bone in the thigh. Stretching from the hip to the knee, the femur is typically nearly 20 inches (50 cm) long in adults, and all other leg bones are attached to its bottom portion. It’s also the body’s strongest bone, supporting the weight of the body and helping a person move. The shortest bone is the stirrup bone, also known as the stapes. Located in the middle ear, it’s about 3 mm long in an adult, and is essential for transmitting sound vibrations from the outer ear to the inner ear. It was reportedly discovered in 1546 by a professor at Italy’s University of Naples.   

Some marriages just don’t last! Actor/comedian Eddie Murphy remained married to Tracey Edmonds for only two weeks in 2008. Nicolas Cage and his make-up artist wife Erika Koike made it four days after their Las Vegas wedding in 2019. Cage revealed that both he and his wife were intoxicated at the time and that he “lacked understanding of his actions.” Britney Spears was married to her first husband Jason Alexander for a mere 55 hours in 2004. Yet none of these short-term unions can match a couple from Kuwait who were married just three minutes before the bride demanded a divorce from the judge who had just married them. Apparently, the new bride tripped on her way out of the courthouse, and rather than coming to her aid, her new husband called her “stupid.” And that was the end of that!

    The world’s longest beard has a home at the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of Natural History. Measuring 17 feet, 6 inches (5.33 m) in length, the beard belonged to North Dakotan Hans Langseth, who died in 1927. Langseth was a Norwegian immigrant who was 19 years old when he signed up to compete in a local beard-growing competition. He kept the beard growing after the conclusion of the contest until his death at age 81. It was Lanseth’s final wish that his beard be preserved after his death. Following his open-casket funeral, his children cut the beard off, leaving 12 inches (30.5 cm) to be buried with him.    Canadian resident Sarwan Singh has longest beard on a living person with whiskers measuring 8 feet, 3 inches (2.54 m) as of March, 2023.

Most lighthouses range in height from 33 feet (10 m) to 208 feet (63 m). Devon, England’s Berry Head Lighthouse is nowhere near that. This active lighthouse, in operation since 1906, stands just 16 feet (5 m) tall.

China has the world’s longest bridge, covering a distance of about 102.4 miles (164,800 m). The Danyang-Kunshan Grand Bridge required 10,000 contractors working for four years to complete its span. The El Marco Bridge between Portugal and Spain, with a length of just 10.4 feet (3.2 m) is the shortest international bridge in the world.

      Ninth U.S. President William Henry Harrison is noteworthy for the shortest presidency in U.S. history, just 31 days. It was a cold, wet day on March 4, 1841, the day of Harrison’s inauguration. He defied the weather by leaving his coat and hat behind, riding on horseback in the chilly conditions to the ceremony. Once there, he delivered the longest inaugural address in the country’s history, standing in the cold for nearly two hours. He worsened the situation with a long walk each day, often in inclement weather. Twenty-four days after his inauguration, he came down with a vicious cold, and on April 4, illness took Harrison’s life, the first U.S. President to die in office. Although it was proclaimed that his illness was caused by bad weather, it was later speculated that Harrison very likely died of septic shock from typhoid, due to the White House’s water supply being downstream from public sewage.   

    The Dutch Caribbean island of Saba is home to the world’s shortest commercial airline runway in the world, just 1,312 feet (400 m) long, just a shade longer than an aircraft carrier. Of that, only 900 feet (274 m) are usable. Located at the island’s Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport, the runway has sheer drop-offs into the sea at each end. China’s Qamdo Bamda Airport in the Himalayan Mountain range has the world’s longest paved runway, measuring 18,045 feet (5,500 m). It’s easily able to handle the 10,200 feet (3,100 m) of runway required for a fully-loaded Boeing 747-8 to take off.

    A 21-year-old Iranian man named Afshin Ghaderzadeh has been declared the world’s shortest living man, standing just 2 ft., 1.6 inches (65.24 cm) tall. His birth weight was just 1.5 lbs. (700 grams), and he now weighs in about at 14.3 lbs. (6.5 kg). Thirty-year-old Jyoti Amge of India is the shortest living woman in the world, measuring 2 feet, 0.72 inches (62.8 cm) tall, shorter than the average two-year-old.   

    The world’s shortest war took place in 1896 between the United Kingdom and the Sultanate of Zanzibar. The British Empire wanted Zanzibar to be completely under British rule. The Sultan was pro-British, and died very suddenly in suspicious circumstances. His nephew, suspected of assassination, quickly moved into the palace, declaring himself ruler. The British Empire attacked, killing approximately 500 Zanzibar men and women. The entire conflict lasted between 38 and 45 minutes.

There’s some debate as to which is the shortest river in the world. Great Falls, Montana has laid claim with its Roe River, running 201 feet (61 m), but Lincoln City, Oregon, disagrees, citing its “D” River at just 120 feet (36.5m). Yet new data points to the Reprua River in the Republic of Abkhazia on the coast of the Black Sea, just 59 feet (18 m) long. How can these even be called rivers? In order to be classified as such, a river must have constant flowing water received from upland sources, ending in seas, lakes, or wetlands. These short streams of water all qualify.