30 Astonishing Facts Guaranteed to Give You Child-like Wonder
Surprising tidbits that remind you that the world is an amazing place.
Too often we adults lose sight of the fundamental fact that our world is a truly amazing and utterly magical place. But do you know who doesn’t lose sight of planet Earth’s awe-inspiring glory? Children.
When you were young, you used to view with world with a wide-eyed wonder that is—tragically—all too fleeting in this life. To help you reclaim it, we humbly offer up 30 fun facts that will make you feel like a kid again. So park your cynicism at the door and read on—and remember how special our little floating blurb orb in this giant universe really is. And for some amazing knowledge—which you can drop on your friends—check out these 40 Random Obscure Facts That Will Make Everyone Think You’re a Genius.
Cows Have Best Friends
Cows may seem like simple creatures, but they are surprisingly social creatures that can experience complex emotions. Among these is a close friendship, which a researcher from Northampton University discovered could have an impact on the animals’ health.
“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,” the researcher told the Daily Mail. And for more great tidbits about your favorite animals, check out these 40 Amazing Animal Facts.
At the Equator, You’re Actually Moving at 1,000 Miles an Hour
It might seem like you’re standing still, but you’re actually flying around in circles. Of course, if you were to stand on one of the Earth’s poles, you wouldn’t be moving at all.
A Chameleon’s Tongue Is Twice as Long as Its Body
The sticky tongues of these creatures are roughly twice the length of their bodies (in humans, it would be like having a tongue that measured 10 to 12 feet). A chameleon also has one of the fastest tongues in the animal kingdom, as this video demonstrates.
The World’s Most Toxic Mineral Is Called Cinnabar
With a name that means “dragon’s blood,” it makes sense that you wouldn’t want to mess with this stuff. The main ore of mercury, it forms near volcanoes and has forms bright red crystals that serve as warning signs for those who might pick it up to stay away. And for more dangerous things you should avoid, here are 15 Dangerous Diet Fads You Should Avoid at All Costs.
Hippos’ Mouths Are Large Enough to Fit a Child
Hippos might seem like pretty jovial creatures, but you don’t want to mess with them—especially if you’re less than five feet tall. An adult male hippo’s mouth is two feet long on average and can open up to 150 degrees, stretching up to four or five feet in length—enough to fit a short human or tall child.
Reindeer Eyes Change Color by Season
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 the sensitivity of its vision increases. While it’s golden in the summer, it shifts to dark blue in the winter to “increase the scatter of reflected light,” according to ScienceNews. Amazing!
Some Parts of Earth Have Less Gravity Than the Rest of the Planet
A swath of land in northern Canada has been found to have unusually low gravity—where someone weighing 150 pounds would be a tenth of an ounce lighter. The reason for this difference, according to researchers who studied it, is that “20,000 years ago, Ice Age glaciers pressed down on the area’s crust like a person sitting on an extremely viscous waterbed. The weight of all of that ice forced the mantle rocks to ooze slowly sideways. Then the ice melted—rapidly enough the crust hasn’t yet fully bounced back.” And for more on earth, check out the 30 Craziest Facts About Planet Earth You Never Knew.
Sharks Have “Smell Stereo”
You’re no doubt familiar with sharks’ ability to detect even small amounts of blood in the water from as far as a quarter mile away, but you may not realize that it is due to their use of their noses as a “smell stereo.”
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 they head that way in search of prey.
Holding a Sneeze Can Be Dangerous
An older brother or troublemaking buddy at school probably told you when you were younger could be dangerous or even deadly. But it turns out they aren’t wrong. Earlier this year, researchers published a report in medical journal 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 recommended. It “should be avoided, as it may lead to numerous complications.”
Snakes With Two Heads Exist—and They Fight Each Other for Food
Just the fact that some snakes are born with two heads is pretty incredible but add to that they are actually two distinct creatures that have to both work in concert with one another but also see each other as competition.
As National Geographic explains: “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.”
Image via Wikimedia Commons
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 about the magnetic poles: “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.
A Pack of Chihuahuas Once Terrorized a Town in Arizona
They don’t seem like the most intimidating creatures, but a pack of Chihuahuas struck terror into the town of Maryvale, AZ. About 6,000 calls were made to local Animal Control about the pack of pint-sized animals before they were finally wrangled.
14 Percent of Los Angeles Is Parking Lots
You knew Los Angeles is a car-dependent city, but probably didn’t realize just how dominant automobiles were 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, the Earth is not a perfect sphere: “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
These animals can work on their tans without having to worry about getting burned since their skins naturally secrete an oily red substance that acts as a moisturizer and sunblock (though the red color sometimes makes viewers believe they’re sweating blood).
Male Seahorses Bear Their Young
It’s the only animal on Earth where the male produces the kids. The female deposits her eggs into the male’s “brood pouch” where he fertilizes it, carrying them to term until fully formed, tiny seahorses pop out.
The Loudest Animal Relative to Its Size Is a Water Bug
The loudest known animal (relative to its body size) in the world has a very modest size. The water boatman species Micronecta scholtzi, measuring just 2 millimeters “sings” at a level of 105 decibels, or roughly the volume of a pounding jackhammer. What’s even more interesting about this creature? It makes this chirp by rubbing its penis against its belly.
Image via Wikimedia Commons
The Loudest Animal, Period, Is a Sperm Whale
While the blue whale is the largest animal in the world, and often (erroneously) credited with being the loudest, that distinction actually goes to the sperm whale. 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.
Oyster Gender Is Fluid
Oysters can change genders once or more during their lifetimes.
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 one of their tongues alone can weigh as much as an adult elephant.
Dogs Can Learn Up to 165 Words
We usually stop after sit, stop, 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. For more tricks on getting a jiffy (or 60) out of every day, check out the 20 Best Ways to Give the Gift 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 almost $1 million a year for the privilege. There’s even a term for China’s habit of use of the creatures as gifts to foreign countries: Panda diplomacy.
The Woolly Mammoth Survived to 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, it turns out that mammoths still walked the Earth, Russian paleontologists discovered. 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. 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.
Bloodhounds Are Great Marathoners
At least one particular bloodhound, named Ludivine, was, joining in a half-marathon in Alabama where she ran the whole 13.1 miles and finished seventh place.
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.”
Fleas 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. Researchers used cameras to film the microscopic actions taken by the bugs, and found that rather than using their knees or upper legs, almost all the action happened in their feet and lower legs. For more on bugs, check out 5 Amazing Benefits of Eating Bugs.
Earth Is 4.54 Billion Years Old
Give or take a few million years, that’s the age that researchers have come to, using radiometric analysis to figure the age.
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