Cyclopedia of Factoids - The Letter N

Entries written by Sam Vaknin for the Links and Factoids Study List


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Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon did invade Britain.  During the Irish rebellion of 1798, in September, a sizable French fleet got close to the shore of Ireland but was dispersed by a storm.  A part of the flotila went back to France but other French ships landed invading troops on the shores of Ireland and Wales.

These surrendered to superior British forces later on.  The costs of the Irish war and Napoleon's impending threat across the channel forced the British government to introduce the first income tax in British history.

Another attempt by the French, in 1804, with 100,000 troops was aborted.



Narcissism is a pattern of traits and behaviors which signify infatuation and obsession with one's self to the exclusion of all others and the egotistic and ruthless pursuit of one's gratification, dominance and ambition.

According to the legend of Narcissus, this Greek boy fell in love with his own reflection in a pond. Presumably, this amply sums up the nature of his namesakes: narcissists. The mythological Narcissus was rejected by the nymph Echo and was punished by Nemesis, Consigned to pine away as he fell in love with his own reflection.

Most narcissists (75%) are men.

NPD is one of a "family" of personality disorders (formerly known as "Cluster B").

Other members: Borderline PD, Antisocial PD and Histrionic PD.

NPD is often diagnosed with other mental health disorders ("co-morbidity") - or with substance abuse, or impulsive and reckless behaviors ("dual diagnosis").

NPD is new (1980) mental health category in the Diagnostic and Statistics Manual (DSM).

There is only scant research regarding narcissism. But what there is has not demonstrated any ethnic, social, cultural, economic, genetic, or professional predilection to NPD.

It is estimated that 0.7-1% of the general population suffer from NPD.

Pathological narcissism was first described in detail by Freud. Other major contributors are: Klein, Horney, Kohut, Kernberg, Millon, Roningstam, Gunderson, Hare.

The onset of narcissism is in infancy, childhood and early adolescence. It is commonly attributed to childhood abuse and trauma inflicted by parents, authority figures, or even peers.

There is a whole range of narcissistic reactions - from the mild, reactive and transient to the permanent personality disorder.

Narcissists are either "Cerebral" (derive their narcissistic supply from their intelligence or academic achievements) - or "Somatic" (derive their narcissistic supply from their physique, exercise, physical or sexual prowess and "conquests").

Narcissists are either "Classic" - see definition here ( ) - or they are "Compensatory", or "Inverted" - see definitions here: ( ) .

NPD is treated in talk therapy (psychodynamic or cognitive-behavioral). The prognosis for an adult narcissist is poor, though his adaptation to life and to others can improve with treatment. Medication is applied to side-effects and behaviors (such as mood or affect disorders and obsession-compulsion) - usually with some success.


According to the historian Suetonius, Emperor Nero (37-68), fifth Emperor of Rome from AD 54 to 68, was a fan of murder. Clad in disguise, he assaulted passing pedestrians in back alleys, stabbed them repeatedly, and dumped the bodies into the sewer. When he was almost killed by one of his would-be victims, he surrounded himself with armed bodyguards who overcame any unexpected resistance.


Nero's original name was Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus. When Agrippina the Younger married her uncle, Emperor Claudius I, she convinced him to adopt the child and he acquired his new name, Nero Claudius Caesar Drusus Germanicus. Nero married his stepfather's daughter, Octavia. He was declared Emperor at the tender age of 17. Nero promptly had his mother poison Claudius' son, Britannicus - but his first five years were marked by the moderating influence of Burrus, the prefect of the Praetorian Guards, and the philosopher Seneca, his tutor.


Nero abolished the pernicious habit of secret trials, put the affairs of the state at the hands of a nascent bureaucracy, and made the Senate more independent. He forbade bloodshed in public circus contests, abolished capital punishment, reduced taxes and allowed slaves to sue their unjust masters. He initiated competitions in poetry, drama, and athletics. He pardoned plotters and authors of scathing epigrams against him. Claudius, by comparison, has executed 40 Senators for treason. Nero even helped the Jews - a scourge of the Roman empire - and rehabilitated disaster-stricken cities.


But then there was a marked - and mysterious - change for the worse. Nero murdered his mother, who criticized his mistress, whom he later married, having executed Octavia. Burrus died, probably poisoned. Seneca retired to his estate.


Two thirds of Rome burnt to the ground in July 64. Nero was in Antium at the time - 60 kilometers away. He did not burn the city, he did not play the violin, or the lyre while it burnt. It is dubious whether - as Tacitus and Suetonius claim - he blamed the few Christians in Rome for the conflagration, let alone persecuted them.


On the contrary, he sheltered the homeless and rebuilt Rome with strict fire precautions. His contemporaneous notoriety had to do with the fact that he appeared as an actor, lyre player and charioteer in religious dramas all over the empire, sometimes absent from Rome for as long as 15 months at a time.


Following a coup and assassination attempt, he executed 18 of the 41 conspirators - including his beloved Seneca. He kicked his wife to death, murdered Statilia Messalina's husband and wed her and finally - faced with a rebellion of his legions - he fled Rome and committed suicide.


New Economic Policy (NEP)


Mikhail Gorbachev (1931- ) was not the first to introduce Perestroika - the economic liberalization of the communist system along capitalistic lines.


During the Russian civil war (1918-1922) the Bolsheviks implemented what they called "War Communism" (1917-1921), the militarization of the economy. Between 1916 and 1920, industrial output plunged by more than four fifths. Grain harvests in both 1920 and 1921 disastrously dwindled, leading to widespread famine, claiming five million lives. A series of rebellions of sailors broke out, most famously in the Krohnstadt naval base.


To counter the party's loosening grip on power, Vladimir Lenin (1870-1924) introduced the New Economic Policy (NEP). Trade was liberalized, as were industrial and agricultural production. Peasants were allowed to sell surplus produce on the open market and taxes were made proportional to net output.


In stark departure from communist ideology, farmers could lease land and hire laborers. The state embarked on an ambitious privatization program of small and medium-size enterprises, though it maintained control of the finance, transportation, heavy industry, and foreign trade sectors (the "commanding heights", as they were called at the time).


In 1921-2, Lenin re-introduced money to re-monetize the economy which consisted of barter, quotas, and centrally issued economic directives. Within less than 7 years, production in many parts of the economy reverted to pre-revolutionary levels. Nor did the NEP die with Lenin. It continued for 4 years after his death in 1924.


But the policy was not without its faults.


NEP was characterized by inflation and the need to cap the prices of non-agricultural goods. Peasants hoarded grain for speculation purposes. A black market in goods was developed by Nepmen - private traders. Communist party General Secretary Joseph Stalin (1879-1953), reinstated agricultural production quotas in 1929, collectivized all arable land, and criminalized private trading in 1930. In 1928, he promulgated the first Five-Year Plan (1928-1932) and central planning replaced market mechanisms. The NEP was dead.

New World Screwworm Fly

The bestselling thriller "The Dante Club" opens with a particularly gruesome murder committed with an unusual weapon: a very rare insect – the New World Screwworm Fly (Cochliomyia hominivorax).


Hominivorax in Latin means "Man-Eater", the name given to the fly by Dr. Coquerel, the French Imperial Navy medical doctor who discovered it, busy devouring colonists on Devil's Island, in French Guiana, off the coast of Brazil, in 1859.


These are bluish-green flies with three longitudinal black stripes across the thorax. The insect's face is orange-brown.


As opposed to virtually all other types of maggots, these fly's larvae cannot feed on carrion (dead tissue). Instead, they burrow into the live flesh of warm blooded creatures, such as livestock, or humans.


The female mates only once in her lifetime, when she reaches 3-4 days old. Two days later, and during the next 30 days, she lays up to 5000 eggs (usually 2000-3000). These are divided to "lots" of up to 500 eggs per single sitting.


The female deposits the eggs near body orifices with mucous membranes or adjacent to fresh wounds, even the tiniest (such as a tick bite).


The eggs hatch in 12-21 hours. Within the next 24 hours, the tiny maggots embark on their destructive mission.


The Merck Veterinary Manual describes these killing machines thus:


"The parasitic larvae are tapered and have mouth hooks at the narrow end and breathing spiracles at the wide end. Body segments are ringed with spines. Fully grown larvae can be as long as 1.5 cm. Larvae are often identified by their “wood screw” shape and appearance and can be distinguished from the larvae of the facultative myiasis-producing flies by the darkly pigmented tracheal tubes on the dorsal aspect of the posterior end of the third-stage larva. These tubes can be easily visualized through the larval cuticle."


They gnaw their way into their victim, tearing and digesting morsels of tissue and the resulting malodorous, reddish-brown wound fluid as they go along.


As the flesh around them withers, insects whose larvae subsist on carrion are attracted to the writhing organism. The wound becomes a veritable zoo of various kinds of parasitic insects.


Between 5 and 9 days later, the fully developed larvae abandon what is left of the host and fall to the ground  (spill over from the wounds) to pupate in the surface soil. Depending on the temperature, this takes anywhere from 7 days to 2 months.


Following massive eradication programs carried out in 1958-9, the insect is to be found only in Central and South America and in some Caribbean islands. Treatment with "smears" containing ronnel and lindane are effective in checking the process and preventing further infection.


Newton, Isaac

Isaac Newton (1642-1727), the father of modern physics and mathematics, was an avowed and dedicated alchemist, mystic, theologian, and astrologer. He was a bad student and his mother wanted him to become a farmer. He was admitted to Trinity College at Cambridge as a "subsizar" - i.e., on condition that he performs certain domestic services.


The story of the apple is not a legend. It was recounted by Newton himself when he was old. He said the falling apple made him think about the movement of the moon around the earth.


Newton's work was so savagely criticized when it was first published that, for a few years thereafter, he ceased publishing altogether.




The word nightmare is the private name of a medieval female demon that attacked sleeping people. "Mare" means goblin in Old English.


Nobel Prizes


The Nobel prizes are awarded on December 10.

In 1911, the Polish-French scientist, Marie Curie, became the first person to win a second Nobel prize for the discovery of radium & polonium. Her second prize was in Chemistry. She won her first Nobel prize in physics only eight years earlier, in 1903.


Marie Curie was also the first woman to win the prize and a member of the first couple, together with her husband, Pierre, to win the coveted award (in 1903).


Linus Pauling won the Nobel prize in chemistry in 1954 and The Nobel prize for Peace in 1962.


North Pole


The compass rarely points to the North Pole. In California it is off by up to 18 degrees. The Pole itself is responsive to local variation in the magnetic field and it wanders: in 1900 it was situated in Canada, in 2000 in Greenland. It is now heading for Siberia and had already shifted 750 km between 2001 and 2019.


The Pole’s polarity reverses occasionally and there have been periods in history when the compass’s needle pointed to the south. In caves and subterranean passages, it sometimes still does even today.




Some companies have at least nine lives, it would seem. Nokia was founded in southwestern Finland, in 1865, by a mining engineer, one, Frederik Idestam, as a wood-pulp mill. An eponymous town formed around it. Independently, the Finnish Rubber Works took on the town name in the 1920s, having been established there in 1898.


The Nokia rubber company acquired  Finnish Cable Works - another enterprise located in Nokia since 1912. In 1967, the three became the Nokia Group. In the 1980s, Nokia took over Mobira, Salora, Televa and Luxor of Sweden and became a consumer electronics group - manufacturing televisions and such.


Nokia continued with its acquisitions spree and, in 1987, bought the consumer electronics operations and part of the component business of the German Standard Elektrik Lorenz, the French consumer electronics company Oceanic, and the Swiss cable machinery company Maillefer. It proceeded to become the largest Scandinavian information technology company by digesting Ericsson's data systems division. In 1989, Nokia emerged as a leader in the cable industry in Continental Europe by purchasing the Dutch cable company NKF.


During the 1990s the consolidated group refocused on the mobile phone market and divested all its other businesses.


Number Notation


The United States does not use the metric system. But this is not the only confusing difference between the USA and Europe.


The hierarchy of numbers is universal: million, (milliard), billion, trillion, quadrillion, quintillion, sextillion, septillion, octillion, nonillion, decillion, undecillion, duodecillion, tredecillion, quat(t)uordecillion, quindecillion, sexdecillion, septendecillion, octodecillion, novemdecillion, vigintillion.


In the American system of notation (the short scale), each number is a thousand times the preceding number. Thus, one billion is a thousand times one million and one trillion is a thousand billions. Yet, in the (erstwhile) English, French, and German system (the long scale), each number is a MILLION times the preceding one! Thus, while a vigintillion is written as a 1 followed by 63 zeros by the Americans - it is followed by no less than 120 zeros in Germany!


The United Kingdom and other English-speaking countries have recently reverted (or, should we say "converted") to the short scale (American system).


Googol is universally 1 followed by 100 zeros. Googolplex is 10 to the power of googol.


To exacerbate matters, decimals are written in the form 1.23 in the United States, 1·23 in the United Kingdom, and 1,23 in continental Europe. Thus $14,100 is 14 thousand US dollars in the United States - but only 14 dollars and ten cents in Vienna.


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