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Swimsuit issue stars Albert Einstein

Magazine of fun facts branches out ... a little

By Todd Leopold

Mental Floss
The swimsuit issue of Mental Floss.

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• See Mental Floss' swimsuit issue on CNN Headline News,  Wednesday, 10 p.m. ET

(CNN) -- Let Sports Illustrated have Vendela and Tyra Banks. Mental Floss will take Eleanor Roosevelt and Salvador Dali.

The magazine, devoted to providing facts and information in an entertaining setting, is putting out its first swimsuit issue.

"Our goal from the beginning has been to blur the line between education and entertainment," said Will Pearson, publisher and co-founder of the magazine. With swimsuit issues so popular among periodicals, Pearson and his crew decided "why not have one with our goal of education?"

So Mental Floss' swimsuit issue is a little different. The magazine features a dozen figures from the arts, culture, science and politics -- from the Beatles to Albert Einstein to Mao Zedong -- and accompanies photos of them in swimwear with a variety of fascinating facts about their lives and influences.

For example, surrealist artist Dali -- pictured in plaid shorts and a long-sleeved shirt with black and white splotches -- used to wear a homemade scent of fish glue and cow manure. And Mao liked to drive a van with "Ambulance: Donated by the New York Chinese Laundrymen" written on the side.

These sorts of tidbits and stories have earned a growing circulation for Mental Floss. Pearson says the magazine, which originated out of conversations and bull sessions at Duke University, has 10,000 subscribers and distributes 70,000 copies to newsstands -- not bad for a publication that's not even two years old. The magazine has a regular segment on CNN Headline News.

Of course, a photo of Eleanor Roosevelt in swim clothes -- she's wearing a kind of shift -- may not be everyone's cup of tea. Then again, says Pearson, he hopes Mental Floss lives up to its name.

Let the other publications have the eye candy: "We wanted facts as bold as the images," he says.

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