100 Astonishing Facts Guaranteed to Give You a Childlike Sense of Wonder
Get ready to be reminded that the world is an amazing place.
If there’s one thing most kids have in abundance, it’s a sense of awe. As a child, everything is new—but that wide-eyed wonder definitely fades over time. It turns out, however, that maintaining a sense of awe is incredibly beneficial for your mind, body, and soul. According to one 2015 study published in the journal Emotion, people who reported feeling amazed on a regular basis even tended to have better overall health.
To help restore your childlike wonder, we’ve rounded up 100 fun facts that will make you feel like a kid again. So park your cynicism at the door and read on to be reminded how awe-inspiring our world really is.
There is a reservoir of water in space that holds 140 trillion times the amount of water in Earth’s oceans.
NASA has found some pretty incredible things in space, and that includes a floating reservoir of water that holds the equivalent of 140 trillion times all the water that’s in Earth’s oceans. What makes it even more amazing is the fact that the reservoir surrounds a giant black hole. More than 12 billion light-years away from Earth, the reservoir is more proof “that water is pervasive throughout the universe,” says NASA’s Matt Bradford.
The word “muscle” comes from a Latin term meaning “little mouse.”
Bend your arm at the elbow and flex. What do you see when you look at your bicep? The ancient Romans thought that a flexed bicep resembled a tiny rodent, which is why they called it a “muscle,” a word derived from the Latin term for “little mouse,” according to Merriam-Webster.
Tic Tacs are named after a sound.
When Ferrero was deciding what to name its iconic mini mints back in 1970, it didn’t name them after the original “orange” and “fresh mint” flavors, or even just call them, well, mints. Instead, the brand explains on its website that “the «tic» and the «tac» heard when the iconic little box is opened and closed inspired the name.”
Dr. Seuss wrote Green Eggs and Ham as part of a bet.
The Cat in the Hat was published in 1957 and used a mere 225 words to tell the titular quirky feline’s fantastical story. However, the book’s author, Dr. Seuss, topped that feat with even fewer words when his editor, Bennett Cerf, bet him that he couldn’t write a book using 50 words or less. Green Eggs and Ham hit bookstores three years later and uses exactly 50 words.
Peanuts can be used to make dynamite.
Obviously, peanuts are a tasty snack. But did you know they could also be used to make dynamite? Peanut oil can be extracted and turned into glycerol, which can then make nitroglycerine, an unstable explosive substance used in dynamite. In a safer state, glycerol is also used for soaps, creams, and various food products.
The largest volcano in the solar system is three times taller than Mount Everest.
Mount Everest is the tallest mountain on Earth, reaching 5.5 miles into the sky. However, you’d need to stack three Everests on top of each other in order to create something as massive as Mars’ Olympus Mons, the largest volcano in the solar system. The enormous volcano is 16 miles tall and stretches 374 miles wide (approximately the same size as the state of Arizona), according to NASA.
An 11-year-old came up with the name “Pluto.”
In 1930, the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) was struggling to come up with a name for a newly-discovered planet. They considered Minerva, Zeus, Atlas, and Persephone—but it was 11-year-old Venetia Burney who suggested the name Pluto, inspired by the God of the underworld. When Burney’s idea eventually reached the RAS with the help of the girl’s connected family—her librarian grandfather knew many astronomers—they loved it and ultimately decided to use the suggestion.
Armadillos swallow air to become buoyant when they swim.
When armadillos go swimming, they don’t need a flotation device to keep them from sinking—they are the flotation device. To stay afloat, the creatures swallow air to make themselves buoyant, according to the Library of Congress. However, they also have another option, which involves expelling air so they can sink and walk across the bottom of a body of water. Stunningly, armadillos can hold their breath for six minutes or more.
Trees in Australia receive love letters via email.
The city of Melbourne, Australia, wants to take care of its trees—so much so that in 2013, they assigned each one an email address so that the public could report any problems that they noticed (like dangerous branches).
However, instead of sending messages about issues, people began writing love letters to the trees. “My dearest Ulmus,” one note began, according to The Atlantic. “As I was leaving St. Mary’s College today I was struck, not by a branch, but by your radiant beauty. You must get these messages all the time. You’re such an attractive tree.”
Where The Wild Things Are was supposed to have been about horses—but the illustrator couldn’t draw them.
Maurice Sendak’s Where The Wild Things Are is a beloved picture book from 1963 that was inspired by the author’s own childhood. But it wasn’t always about the so-called “wild things.” The book was originally going to be about a young boy who finds himself in a land filled with wild horses. Although Sendak’s editor loved the idea, there was one problem: Sendak, who was also the book’s illustrator, couldn’t draw horses. However, he was able to draw “wild things”—and so the entire premise of the book changed.
On Mars, sunsets are blue.
The sunsets we know are typically mellow yellow or fiery pink. But if we lived in Mars, we’d witness blue sunsets, as seen in a series of images snapped by NASA’s Curiosity rover in 2015. As Mark Lemmon, a scientist who worked on the Curiosity team, explained to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, “The colors come from the fact that the very fine dust is the right size so that blue light penetrates the atmosphere slightly more efficiently.”
There’s a Russian village where every resident is a tightrope walker.
Traversing a highwire may seem like a relatively uncommon ability. However, there’s one Russian community where it’s a perfectly normal thing to be able to do. In Tsovkra-1—a small, secluded village in the southern republic of Dagestan—everyone who’s physically able can walk on a tightrope in a tradition that’s existed for more than 100 years. It’s even taught in school to the village children. Even though only 400 people still live in the region, at least 17 tightrope walkers from the area have found fame in circuses due to their impressive aerial abilities.
Domino’s Japan trained reindeer to deliver pizza.
Back in 2016, Domino’s Japan wanted reindeer to be doing more than just pulling Santa’s sleigh—they wanted the animals to deliver pizzas to hungry customers. The company released a video of employees tying pizzas to the animals’ backs and said customers would be able to track their pies via GPS.
The world record for the tallest stack of doughnuts included more than 3,000 of the treats.
Measuring almost 5-feet tall, the tower was made up of 3,100 doughnuts. According to Guinness World Records, “The stack was designed on a number of different software products to ensure its structural integrity. Organizers even enlisted the help of a structural engineer and an architect to propose ideas. [They] concluded a pyramid shape would give them the best combination of stability and height.”
Benjamin Franklin was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame.
Benjamin Franklin wasn’t only a skilled writer, politician, and scientist—he was also an avid swimmer. Franklin began swimming as a child in Boston, which led to one of his first inventions: the wooden hand paddle. His enthusiasm for the sport continued throughout his life and was so well-documented that he was eventually given an honorary induction into the International Swimming Hall of Fame.
Only two national flags have the color purple on them.
Those two countries are Dominica, which uses purple in its flag’s central image of a Sisserou Parrot, and Nicaragua, which includes a purple stripe in a rainbow that’s featured on the National Coat of Arms at the center of the flag.
There’s a shrimp-like creature that makes an aluminum armor to protect itself.
The pressure of the deep sea is so intense that it would crush the bodies of most critters that live on land—but the creatures who live down there need some protection too. That’s why Hirondellea gigas, a small, shrimp-like amphipod, form a layer of aluminum hydroxide gel to cover its exoskeleton, acting as armor.
Your dog knows when someone isn’t trustworthy.
You may be able to tell when your furry BFF is thrilled to see you, but your dog probably knows even more about you and other people than you do about them. Not only do dogs have innate instincts to protect their humans, but a 2015 study published in the journal Animal Cognition suggests that pups can even tell if a person is untrustworthy based on their behavior.
Mount Rushmore cost less than $1 million to create.
Featuring the faces of former presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt, Mount Rushmore was designed and supervised by sculptor Gutzon Borglum and his son Lincoln Borglum (who took over after his father passed away) between 1927 and 1941. And while the highly recognizable landmark was both a massive (covering two-square miles) and complicated project, it cost just $989,992.32 to erect (adjusted for inflation, that’s about $17 million).
The shortest scientific –ology word is “oology”
Scientists and researchers who work in the field of oology are experts in the reproductive processes of our flying friends. Oology is the shortest -ology in science and is a subset of ornithology, the study of birds. Ornithology is a subset of zoology, the study of animals.
More than 800 languages are spoken in Papua New Guinea.
It’s hard to imagine anyone being able to speak—or even understand—all of the 850-plus languages that are spoken in Papua New Guinea. And in reality, most people don’t. Many of the languages in the country—such as Nihali—are only spoken and understood by a few thousand people in the world. Still, the sheer number of languages that exist in Papua New Guinea (more than 800 of which are indigenous languages), make it one of the most linguistically diverse countries in the world.
The majority of polar bears live in Canada—not in the Arctic.
There are an estimated 22,000 to 31,000 polar bears around the world, according to the World Wildlife Fund. And while you can find the beasts in a range of countries in the Arctic circle, including Denmark (Greenland), Norway, Russia, and the United States (Alaska), the majority of them—around 60 to 80 percent—are located in Canada.
The smallest unit of measurement in the universe is the Planck length.
If you want to find the very smallest things around, you’d need to track down something that’s the size of the Planck length. At a mere 1.6 x 10-35 meter across, which is the equivalent of around a millionth of a billionth of a billionth of a billionth of a centimeter (a decimal point followed by 34 zeroes and a one), it’s the smallest possible size of anything in the known universe.
Under the laws of quantum physics, this would be the size of quantum foam, or the tiny wormholes that give space a foam-like structure. (If this is beyond you, don’t worry: You’d probably need a very advanced degree to fully understand that concept.)
The first breakfast cereal had to be soaked overnight before it could be eaten.
It’s probably safe to assume that when you reach for your favorite cereal in the morning, you can simply pour some in a bowl and start eating it. But in order to consume the first manufactured breakfast cereal, which was created in 1863, you had to soak it in milk overnight just to make it edible. The cereal was made of graham flour that had been baked into brittle cakes, then crumbled up and baked again. Not surprisingly, “it was not an immediate success,” according to The New York Times Magazine.
The Eiffel Tower was inaugurated the same year Nintendo was founded.
You might assume that Paris’ Eiffel Tower is much older than Nintendo, a company famous for manufacturing popular video game systems. But in reality, the iconic Parisian landmark was inaugurated the very same year that Nintendo was founded: 1889. While the tower was being formally introduced to the public at the World’s Fair, Nintendo was being launched in Kyoto by Fusajiro Yamauchi as a playing card company.
The world’s largest Barbie collection includes more than 15,000 dolls.
In 1996, Bettina Dorfmann received her first Barbie—a Midge doll, in fact. By 1993, she was collecting Barbies seriously. And in the 26 years since, she’s managed to get her hands on more than 15,000 different versions of the iconic doll, including a rare original Barbie from 1959. On top of collecting the iconic toy, Dorfmann also runs a hospital for broken Barbies where she fixes or replaces broken limbs and untangles matted hair.
A former NASA scientist invented the Super Soaker.
NASA scientists are responsible for some incredibly impressive accomplishments—and NASA engineer Lonnie G. Johnson is no different. Johnson not only aided in the development of the U.S. Air Force’s stealth bomber program, according to the Daily Press, but he also invented the top-selling Super Soaker water gun in the 1980s. He reportedly made so much money from the toy that he was able to fund his own research and development company, which focuses on clean energy.
One type of bat spends more than 80 percent of each day sleeping.
And you thought you were tired. The little brown bat is a big sleeper—so much so that Guinness World Records even deemed it “the king of nappers.” When observed in captivity, these bats have reportedly slept for 19.9 hours straight. That’s right: These flying mammals can spend more than 80 percent of the day snoozing!
A 26-sided shape is known as a rhombicuboctahedron.
Even if you break it down to rhombi-cubo-octahedron—which kind of sounds like short-form for a rhumba-dancing Cuban octopus squadron—the word is just about as hard to say as it would be to draw. That’s because a rhombicuboctahedron is a polyhedron that has eight triangular faces and 18 square faces. Add them all up and you have a snazzy-looking shape with 26 sides.
Great white sharks are so scared of killer whales that they’ll avoid an area for up to a year after spotting one.
The majority of humans may be afraid of great white sharks, but it turns out that the toothy swimmers are just as freaked out by killer whales. In fact, a 2019 study published in the journal Nature suggests they’re so terrified of the predators that they’ll avoid an area for up to a year if they spot one in the vicinity.
In a press release, the study’s lead author Salvador Jorgensen explained, “When confronted by orcas, white sharks will immediately vacate their preferred hunting ground and will not return for up to a year, even though the orcas are only passing through.”
The longest tennis rally lasted more than 12 hours.
Italian athletes Simone Frediani and Daniele Pecci earned the world record for the longest tennis rally ever on June 11, 2017, when they played for more than 12.5 hours, starting at 6:23 a.m. and finishing at 7 p.m. During the rally, which consisted of 51,283 strokes, the athletes both wore water-filled backpacks that they could drink from to stay hydrated.
The first pieces of gold at Fort Knox arrived by mail.
Fort Knox was initially built as a bullion depository, meaning that its purpose was to securely hold a fortune’s worth of gold for the U.S. Over the years, it has definitely lived up to its reputation of being an impregnable facility. However, the very first gold that arrived at Fort Knox in 1937 wasn’t particularly well-protected: It was simply delivered by mail. According to the United States Mint, “The gold was too heavy to fly in, so it was mailed there by train through the Post Office Department, today’s United States Postal Service.”
Honey is essentially bee vomit.
Honey is sweet, rich, and oh-so-delicious. It’s also regurgitated by bees. When a bee takes nectar from a flower, the tiny creature stores it in its “crop,” an enlargement at the back of its esophagus, where the nectar mixes with enzymes. “A nectar-foraging bee returns to the hive and pumps out the nectar to a receiving bee,” says extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of The University of California, Davis.
After being mixed with enzymes, “The nectar is passed to processing bees that blend the incoming nectar loads, mix them together, then pump out a bit of solution,” he says. After some of the liquid in the solution evaporates, it’s once again taken into a bee’s crop and further mixed before it’s finally deposited into a comb where it will become the honey you know and love to eat (but maybe not so much now).
There’s a word for tapping someone on the opposite shoulder from behind to fool them.
If you’ve ever tapped someone on the opposite shoulder in order to attempt to trick them, then you’ve done what people living in Indonesia would call “mencolek.” But no matter what you call this, it will still probably make the person on the receiving end of the gesture groan in response.
Beavers have transparent eyelids so they can see underwater.
Beavers have plenty of amazing features that help them thrive, including webbed feet and a powerful tail. But the large rodents also have transparent eyelids so that they can shut their eyes and still see underwater.
There’s a “floating rainforest” in the sea.
When most people think of rainforests, they picture massive jungles filled with trees and critters. However, somewhere in the Sargasso Sea sits the so-called “Floating Rainforest” that consists not of greenery or land, but of seaweed.
According to Smithsonian, each strand of brown Sargassum marine algae can grow to be the length of a school bus. When they become matted together in the water, the masses—or “forests”—of algae can be as large as several football fields. The seaweed is not only impressively long and large, but also provides the perfect place for a diverse collection of animals to live—not unlike an actual rainforest!
Arkansas hosts the annual World Championship Duck Calling Contest.
If you’re skilled at quacking like a duck, then you should consider heading to Stuttgart, Arkansas. That’s where the Annual World Championship Duck Calling Contest is held. Founded in 1936 and taking place every Thanksgiving week, contestants must first win a sanctioned preliminary state or regional duck-calling contest before being able to compete in the main event. The winner takes home the title of World Champion Duck Caller as well as a prize package worth more than $15,000.
There’s such a thing as a fear of buttons.
Those who suffer from koumpounophobia will do their best to avoid anything and everything to do with buttons—looking at them, touching them, wearing clothing affixed with them, even thinking about them. If you suffer from this affliction, you’re repulsed by buttons of every shape, size, color, and material. Anecdotal evidence, according to The Guardian, suggests that one in every 75,000 people lives with this phobia. But only one case study (from 2002) has ever been done.
The first TV commercial didn’t air until the 1940s.
On July 1, 1941, the L.A. Dodgers were playing the Philadelphia Phillies in New York at Ebbets Field. And while the game was surely exciting on its own, those who were watching at home on the NBC-owned WNBT (which is now WNBC) also saw another exciting historical moment: the very first TV commercial shown in the United States.
As reported by WJCT News, the ad cost just $9 ($4 in air charges and $5 in station charges). And it was disarmingly simple: Over a silhouette of the continental United States, a watch face pops up, and a voiceover says, “America runs on Bulova time.” (Today, of course, America runs on Dunkin’.)
Singapore plans to build floating burbs.
With a fast-growing population of nearly 6 million people—all of whom must cram on a mere 719 square kilometers of land—Singapore needs more space than ever. And, according to a report in Hakai magazine, they’re working on plans to create that space on 40 floating rafts.
The individual pieces would each be about the size of a baseball diamond and weigh more than 7.5 metric tons. Constructed in a grid, each piece will be tethered to the seabed about 18 meters below, helping them stay in place.
The stars and flashes of light you see when you rub your eyes are called “phosphenes.”
Rubbing your eyes a little too hard might leave you seeing stars. According to Troy Bedinghaus, OD, of Verywell Health, these stars are called “phosphenes.” He explains: “The optic nerve translates this pressure into various images. Pressure phosphenes can remain for a few seconds after the rubbing stops and the eyes are opened, allowing the phosphenes to be seen.”
There is a fish with transparent bones.
There are some pretty extraordinary creatures living down in the deep sea. Take, for instance, the Antarctic blackfin icefish. Not only does this creature lack scales and have transparent—yes, see-through—bones, but it’s also unique in that it doesn’t have red blood cells or hemoglobin pigments for transporting oxygen. In other words, its blood is not red, but white.
Tarantula bites are about as painful as bee stings.
Despite their incredibly scary reputation, it turns out that tarantulas have a bite that is about as painful and as venomous as a bee sting. And according to Burke Museum, “None of the North American species or those commonly kept as pets are considered to pose even a mild bite hazard.”
Apparently, “Hollywood is squarely to blame for these spiders’ toxic-to-humans reputation. Tarantulas are large, photogenic and many are easily handled, and therefore they have been very widely used in horror and action-adventure movies.”
Tree seeds were taken into orbit and planted as “Moon Trees.”
When astronaut Stuart Roosa, a former U.S. Forest Service smoke jumper, orbited above the moon during the Apollo 14 mission in 1971, he brought with him hundreds of seeds from five different kinds of trees: Loblolly Pine, Sycamore, Sweetgum, Redwood, and Douglas Fir.
When he returned to Earth, the seeds were planted throughout the U.S. and around the world in order to grow into what were affectionately deemed “Moon Trees.” If you’re interested in seeing one in person, you can find a list of the trees as well as their locations on NASA’s website.
A cow-bison hybrid is called a “beefalo.”
Cows and bison may not be the most common mates in the animal kingdom, but there are times when the two creatures are cross-bred. When that happens, the hybrid offspring is called a “beefalo” (beef = cow and buffalo = bison).
Pittsburgh is the only city where every sports team (NFL, NHL, MLB) has the same colors.
Black and gold are beloved colors in Pittsburgh, especially for sports fans who proudly wear them whether they’re rooting for their NFL team (the Steelers), their NHL team (the Penguins), or their MLB team (the Pirates). According to The Witchita Eagle, the inspiration for the choice of color is “pretty simple—they are the colors of Pittsburgh’s flag, which is based on the coat of arms of William Pitt, the 18th century British prime minister for whom the city is named.”
A chameleon’s tongue is twice as long as its body.
According to National Geographic, the sticky tongues of chameleons are roughly twice the length of their bodies. (For humans, this would be like having a tongue that measured 10 to 12 feet long). A chameleon also has one of the fastest tongues in the animal kingdom. Quite the combo!
Hippos’ mouths are large enough to fit a child.
Hippos might seem like jovial creatures, but you don’t want to mess with them—especially if you’re shorter than five feet tall. An adult male hippo’s mouth is two feet long on average and can open up to 150 degrees. That’s just enough to fit a short human or a tall child.
Goats have accents.
If you were born and raised in England, your English probably sounds very different than that of someone who comes from, say, the southern United States—and the same thing goes for goats. In 2012, researchers from Queen Mary’s School of Biological and Chemical Sciences at the University of London studied baby goats from when they were just starting to socialize and found that the little animals eventually began to sound like each other. NPR reports the scientists believe that the accents help the goats recognize others from their own area and single out strangers.
The world’s largest falafel weighed 164.80 pounds.
Falafel fans might find it hard to believe that there could ever be too much of the deep-fried deliciousness, but even they might find themselves overwhelmed by the world’s largest falafel, which was served up on July 28, 2012, at a hotel in Amman, Jordan. The falafel was made of 177 pounds of chickpeas, 11 pounds of onion, and 4 pounds of fresh parsley. It took 10 chefs to create the 164.80-pound patty that was 51 inches in diameter.
Lightning can heat the air it passes through to 50,000 degrees.
In addition to electricity, lightning also brings with it an unbelievable amount of heat. In fact, lightning can heat the air it passes through to a sizzling 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit, which is five times hotter than the fiery surface of the sun, according to the National Weather Service.
If you heat up a magnet it will lose its magnetism.
The right magnets can exert a force powerful enough to crush bone. However, all it takes is a little heat to render them useless. While cold makes magnets stronger, extreme temperatures can significantly reduce their magnetism, according to Sciencing.
A relative of the T-rex stood just 3-feet tall and weighed 90 pounds.
Tyrannosaurus rex dinosaurs were giant creatures that roamed the Earth more than 60 million years ago. However, an early Tyrannosaurus rex relative, the Suskityrannus hazelae, that lived around 92 million years ago was a mini version of its big cousin and weighed about the same as a big dog. To put the difference of size into a bit of perspective, the T. rex’s skull was around the same length as the Suskityrannus’ entire body (about five-feet long).
Your brain is sometimes more active when you’re asleep than when you’re awake.
Even when you fall into a deep sleep, the activity inside your head is still buzzing in order to keep your body running while processing your subconscious thoughts. That’s why your brain is indeed sometimes more active when you’re asleep than when you’re awake, according to National Geographic.
England has more tornadoes per square mile than any other country in the world.
America definitely experiences its fair share of dangerously blustery weather, but you’d have to take a look at a totally different part of the world to find the country that gets more tornadoes per square mile than anywhere else. England is hit by an average of 34 tornadoes each year, which is about 2.2 per 3,861-square miles. They often strike an area between London and Reading, making the Thames Valley the region’s “Tornado Alley.”
The word kimono literally means “a thing to wear.”
When you hear the word “kimono,” you probably think about the traditional Japanese garment that’s been worn for hundreds of years. But if you translate the word literally, you need to break it down to its Japanese roots. “Ki” means “wear” and “mono” means “thing.” Therefore, “kimono” means “a thing to wear.”
The world’s oldest still-operating library has been open since 859 A.D.
Al-Qarawiyyin is a library in Fez, Morocco, that opened way back in 859 A.D. However, for much of its history, the library remained off-limits to all but a few academics from the University of Al-Qarawiyyin where it’s located. Its collection includes a 9th century Quran written on camel skin as well as a 10th century account of the Prophet Muhammad’s life. In 2016, the library was completely opened to the public.
The patient in the game Operation has a name.
Now you’ll be able to tell everyone that the incision-filled patient in the Operation game is aptly named Cavity Sam.
The space between your eyebrows is called the glabella.
People likely don’t notice the space between their eyebrows unless they boast a natural unibrow. However, that particular section of flat bone that’s just above your nose and just below your forehead is called the glabella.
Shakespeare’s plays feature the word “love” about 10 times more than the word “hate.”
Of course, William Shakespeare wrote about both love and hate. However, he focused much more on the former than on the latter. In his plays alone, he used the word “love” 1,640 times and the word “hate” 163 times. And when it comes to Shakespeare’s complete works, “love” appears a total of 2,209 times, according to Open Source Shakespeare.
There was a flying dinosaur the size of a giraffe.
The pterosaurs had a 35-foot wingspan and could fly for thousands of miles, according to National Geographic. “Instead of taking off with their legs alone, like birds, pterosaurs probably took off using all four of their limbs,” paleontologist Michael Habib told The Telegraph. He says that by using their strong arms as “the main engines for launching instead of their legs,” it “may explain how pterosaurs became so much larger than any other flying animals known.”
There’s a single asteroid that’s worth $95.8 trillion.
Way up in space, there’s an asteroid by the name of 241 Germania that’s 100-miles wide and holds a heck of a lot of minerals. On Earth, those minerals, including hydrocarbons such as oil, would be worth around $95.8 trillion. That’s nearly the same amount as the annual Gross Domestic Product of the entire world.
Donkeys, dolphins, geese, ostriches, emus, llamas, and alpacas are all used as guard animals.
Dogs tend to make great guards animals, but they’re not the only creatures that can be used to keep people, cattle, and other valuables safe. Donkeys, dolphins, geese, ostriches, emus, llamas, and alpacas are also used as guard animals around the world to do everything from protecting simple sheep to patrolling harbors for the U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program.
The horse on the Wyoming license plate is named “Steamboat.”
If you live in—or have ever driven through—Wyoming, you might know that there is a horse featured on the state’s license plates. But this isn’t just any old animal. The horse’s name is “Steamboat” and he was a famous bucking bronco who thrilled fans from 1901 until 1914 during the frontier rodeo days.
The world’s most toxic mineral is cinnabar.
With a name that means “dragon’s blood,” it makes sense that you wouldn’t want to mess with this stuff. Cinnabar forms near volcanoes and could release pure mercury if disturbed or heated, which could lead to tremors, loss of sensation, and death.
Sesame Street is now a real place.
Sesame Street has been a beloved part of children’s lives ever since it premiered on November 10, 1969. That’s why, in May 2019, the city of New York made it a real place. So, if you live in the city that never sleeps and someone asks you, “Can you tell me how to get (how to get) to Sesame Street?” you can tell them that it’s at the corner of West 63rd and Broadway.
Smithsonian explains the significance of that particular spot, saying, “Since 1969, the non-profit Sesame Workshop, which produces the show, has been based on the block between West 63rd and West 64th at Lincoln Center.”
When a piece of bread is toasted, it’s called the “Maillard reaction.”
When you expose bread to heat, it gets a little harder and a little darker as it toasts. This transformation actually has a name: the Maillard reaction. “The browning process we call toasting is an example of the Maillard reaction, in which amino acids and sugars interact to produce the characteristic brown color, texture, and flavor we know as toast,” according to The Atlantic. “The Maillard reaction is also responsible for the deep flavors of browned barley in beer, roasted coffee, seared meats, and French fries.”
The clouds around the moon have a name.
If you’re ever out at night and happen to see a hazy halo of clouds surrounding the moon, you can tell anyone you’re with that you’ve spotted a “moonbroch,” which is a Scottish word for the weather-related phenomenon. The luminous clouds used to be popularly regarded as an omen of bad weather.
Cows have best friends.
Cows may seem like simple creatures, but deep down they are surprisingly social and can experience a complex range of emotions and relationships, including friendship. “When heifers have their preferred partner with them, their stress levels in terms of their heart rates are reduced compared with if they were with a random individual,” a researcher from the University of Northampton explained to the BBC.
Surfaces at the equator move much faster.
Though the Earth as a whole moves in a circular orbit, not all parts of the Earth rotate at the same speed. In fact, according to Scientific American, the surface of the Earth at the equator moves at 360 meters per second—or approximately 1,000 miles per hour—while the speed at the North Pole is effectively zero. (It only rotates once every 24 hours.)
A reindeer’s eyes can change colors with the seasons.
They may not actually fly, but there are some things that are magical about reindeer—specifically, their changing eye color. During the winter, part of the animal’s eyes change color as its vision sensitivity increases. While their eyes are golden in the summer, they shift to dark blue in the winter to “increase the scatter of reflected light,” according to ScienceNews. Amazing!
Some parts of the Earth have less gravity than others.
A swath of land in northern Canada was found back in 2007 to have unusually low gravitational pulls. The reason for this, according to Science, is because nearly 20,000 years ago, the weight of massive ice glaciers “caused some of the rock beneath to compress and sink, and in the process displace the underlying semifluid mantle.”
Sharks “smell in stereo.”
You’re no doubt familiar with a shark’s ability to detect even small amounts of blood in the water from as far as a quarter mile away. However, what you may not realize is that this is due to the animal’s ability to “smell in stereo.”
In one 2010 study published in Nature, researchers found that the beasts can detect tiny delays in the time it takes for a scent to reach one nostril compared to the other—even when it’s just a fraction of a second. This delay allows them to determine from which side the scent came and in response, they can head that way in search of prey.
Holding a sneeze can be dangerous.
An older brother or troublemaking buddy at school probably told you about this when you were younger, but it turns out they aren’t wrong. Earlier this year, researchers published a study in BMJ Case Reports that a 34-year-old Brit was hospitalized after attempting to contain his sneeze, trapping air in his trachea and essentially ripping a hole in the soft tissue of his throat. “Halting sneeze via blocking nostrils and mouth is a dangerous maneuver,” the report explained, noting it “should be avoided, as it may lead to numerous complications.”
Mysterious sand dune holes baffled Indiana for years.
For years, mysterious 10-feet deep sand holes kept appearing, then disappearing in dunes at a national park in Indiana. After multiple people—including a six-year-old boy—fell in, scientists discovered that the holes were formed when sand-covered trees decayed over time.
A 2016 study by Indiana University Northwest’s department of geosciences found that the trees were once covered in fungi that formed a cement-like substance that held its shape even when the tree rotted away. When the cement-like covering and the sand around it eventually gave way, it formed the holes.
There are snakes with two heads, which compete with each other for food.
The fact that some snakes are born with two heads is pretty incredible as is, but what about the added detail that these heads are actually two distinct parts that both work with one another and also see each other as competition?
As National Geographic explains of the non-venomous ladder snake Elaphe scalaris: “First the two heads have to decide they’re both hungry at the same time, and then they have to agree to pursue the same prey. Then they might fight over which head gets to swallow the prey. To make it even more complicated, since snakes operate a good deal by smell, if one head catches the scent of prey on the other’s head, it will attack and try to swallow its second head.”
The magnetic North Pole is moving.
Distinct from the geographic North Pole (which is exactly where you would expect it to be), the magnetic North Pole, used in compass navigation, is in northern Canada and moves about 10 kilometers a year. As Scientific American explains: “They move under the influence of the dynamo currents in the Earth’s core, as well as electric currents flowing in the ionosphere, the radiation belts, and the Earth’s magnetosphere.”
Jellyfish can sting even when they’re dead.
Jellyfish can be a nasty thing to encounter in the water, but they can be plenty dangerous when dead onshore as well. That was something a group of 150 swimmers discovered in 2010 at Wallis Sands State Park in New Hampshire, when the 40-pound body of a lion’s mane jellyfish floated through the water, stinging swimmers as it went.
Bloodhounds are great marathoners.
At least one particular bloodhound, named Ludivine, was! She joined in a half-marathon in Alabama where she ran the whole 13.1 miles and finished seventh place, CNN reported.
Nearly 15 percent of Los Angeles is parking lots.
You probably knew Los Angeles is a car-dependent city, but you may not have realized just how dominant automobiles are in shaping the cityscape. A report in the Journal of the American Planning Association put an exact number on this, determining that 14 percent of the city’s incorporated land is devoted to parking.
Earth is not all that spherical.
Or at least, it’s not exactly round. As NASA explains, “because of the force caused when Earth rotates, the North and South Poles are slightly flat. Earth’s rotation, wobbly motion, and other forces are making the planet change shape very slowly, but it is still round.”
Hippos produce their own sunblock.
Hippos can work on their tans without having to worry about getting burned since their skin naturally secretes an oily red substance that acts as a moisturizer and sunblock, according to the journal Nature. The red color sometimes makes onlookers believe they’re sweating blood, according to the San Diego Zoo.
Male seahorses bear their young.
It’s the only animal on Earth where the male produces the kids, according to National Geographic. The female deposits her eggs into the male’s “brood pouch,” where he fertilizes them, carrying them to term until fully-formed tiny seahorses pop out.
A blue whale’s tongue weighs as much as an elephant.
These giants of the ocean—the largest animals ever known to have lived on the planet—can weigh as much as 200 tons, so it probably should not be a surprise that their tongues alone can weigh as much as an adult elephant (nearly 3 tons).
The loudest animal in the world is a sperm whale.
While the blue whale is the largest animal in the world and is often (erroneously) credited with being the loudest, that distinction actually goes to the sperm whale, according to the BBC. The clicks made by the sperm whale to communicate with others get as loud as 230 decibels, compared to the blue whale’s relatively modest 188 decibels.
But the loudest animal relative to its size is a water bug.
The water boatman species Micronecta scholtzi, which measures just two millimeters, “sings” at a level of 105 decibels, which is roughly the volume of a pounding jackhammer. What’s even more interesting about this creature? It makes this chirp via its genitals, according to National Geographic.
An oyster’s gender is fluid.
Oysters change gender over the course of their lifetimes. “Unlike other animals, this creature has no need for a mate. It has all the sexual equipment it needs right under its shell. The oyster is male in youth and female for the greater part of its life,” according to the Los Angeles Times.
Dogs can learn up to 165 words.
We usually stop after sit, stay, and roll over, but the average dog can actually learn as many as 165 commands. As Animal Planet explains, consistency is key: “If you call his meal ‘supper’ but your spouse calls it ‘dinner,’ the label for his nightly kibble might be fuzzy. But if everyone says ‘dinner,’ he’ll soon perk up anytime you’re discussing dinner plans.”
A “jiffy” is an actual unit of time.
Though it varies depending on what it’s measuring, a “jiffy” can be 1/60th of a second (in electronics), 1/100th of a second (in computer animation), or any number of other—usually very short—periods of time.
China owns all the pandas in the world.
But they are happy to share them, for the right price. Zoos and other organizations that get a panda on loan pay the country $760,000 a year for the privilege, according to The Guardian.
The woolly mammoth survived until Egyptian times.
The woolly mammoth stuck around much longer than many of us might imagine. When pyramids were being built in ancient Egypt, around 4,000 years ago, mammoths still walked the Earth, according to New Scientist. These were a particular type of mammoth—smaller, dwarf-sized ones that were better able to adapt to changing conditions. But still!
Chihuahuas have the biggest brains in the canine world.
Relative to their (admittedly small) size, Chihuahuas have the largest brains of any dog species, the Daily Mail reported. Of course, brain size and intelligence do not necessarily correlate, but it might partly explain why these dogs are known for being especially easy to train.
A pack of Chihuahuas once terrorized Arizona.
That big brain doesn’t mean Chihuahuas always use their powers for good. In 2014, a pack of Chihuahuas struck terror into the town of Maryvale, Arizona. About 6,000 calls were made to local animal control about the pack of pint-sized animals chasing children before they were finally wrangled.
“We compared the number of calls we got in 2013 from that area to similar areas in town and the calls from Maryvale were three times higher than surrounding areas,” a Maricopa County Animal Care and Control employee told Time. “Part of it is these animals aren’t spayed or neutered, so they’re out looking for a mate and are having babies, which also contributes to the problem.”
Elephants comfort each other with chirps.
When elephants are feeling stressed or upset, researchers have observed that their fellow pachyderms will calm them by caressing them with their trunks and offering “chirps of sympathy,” according to National Geographic.
Fleas can jump up to 100 times their body length.
Fleas can jump up to 100 times their body length, thanks to their use of shins and feet, according to NBC News. Researchers used cameras to film the microscopic jumps, and found that rather than using their knees or upper legs, almost all the action happened in their feet and lower legs.
There is a museum of bad art.
Located in Boston, Massachusetts, the Museum of Bad Art (MOBA), includes three brick-and-mortar galleries. According to its website, the pieces in MOBA “range from the work of talented artists that have gone awry to works of exuberant, although crude, execution by artists barely in control of the brush. What they all have in common is a special quality that sets them apart in one way or another from the merely incompetent. ”
There are 293 ways to make change for a U.S. dollar.
If you’ve ever held up a grocery store line trying to make change, then you know how long that process can take. According to the Mathematical Association of America, there are 293 ways to make change for a dollar (including using half dollars).
“Yosemite” means “some among them are killers.”
The name is derived from the Southern Miwok word “Yehemite,” which translates to “some among them are killers.” According to the Yosemite Online Library, that is believed to be how some native people in the area referred to the people who lived in Yosemite Valley.
Peanuts grow underground.
Unlike pecans and walnuts, peanuts grow underground as opposed to on trees. (P.S. that also makes peanuts legumes, not technically nuts.) They’re planted in early spring and harvested in the fall. Above ground, the plant creates a flower.
Earth is 4.54 billion years old.
Scientists have used radiometric analysis to figure our planet’s age. And—give or take a few million years—4.54 billion is the number researchers have come up with, according to the Washington Post. And if you’re not ready to pick your jaw up off the floor, here are 100 Mind-Blowing Facts We Bet You Didn’t Know.
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