The world is a crazy place. Even the most ordinary, boring, everyday stuff can turn out to have a weird backstory—or do something you had no idea it could.
But there are dangers out there, too. Your cell phone is infested with bacteria (see below) and traces of the bubonic plague have been found in the New York City subway. It turns out, when you dig a little deeper, things that you’ve taken for granted or that seem perfectly normal can surprise you. With that in mind, here are 20 weird little facts you’ll likely be surprised to learn. For more informative tidbits to get your mind racing, here are 10 Amazing Facts to Make You Smarter This Week.
Humans are the Only Animals That Enjoy Spicy Foods
It’s an evolutionary mystery that scientists have had trouble explaining, but humans are the only animals who actually enjoy eating spicy food. There does not seem to be any health benefits to eating painful peppers (though some research finds that it may fight off fungus), so the best reason some have suggested is the thrill factor—no different than the fact that we are the only animals that like rollercoasters and scary movies. And for some great tips on healthy eating, this is the Single Best Weight-Loss Hack You Can Do.
Humans Are Also the Only Animals Whose Brains Shrink
As we get older, our brains tend to shrink and can suffer from cognitive dysfunction like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. But as best researchers can tell, we are the only animals to whom this shrinkage happens. Tests on other animals have found no similar phenomena—even close evolutionary relatives like chimpanzees and rhesus monkeys. And for more facts about your body, here are the 40 Ways Your Body Changes After 40.
Potato Chips Cause More Weight Gain Than Any Other Food
A Harvard University study of more than 120,000 people found that potato chips were to blame for the gain of an average of 1.69 pounds per person over four years. Other fatteners: potatoes (1.28 pounds), sugar-sweetened beverages (1.00 pounds), and unprocessed red meats (0.95 pounds). And for more crazy facts about food, here’s Why Health Experts Want You to Avoid Lettuce in 2018.
That Fish is Probably Labeled Wrong
That salmon is probably not salmon. Researchers estimate that about one-third of all fish sold in restaurants and grocery stores is mislabeled—often to deliberately mislead consumers and get them to buy more expensive fish (getting tilapia while paying red snapper prices). Snapper was found to be mislabeled 87 percent of the time, tuna was mislabeled 59 percent. It’s far too common an occurrence to be a fluke.
Bananas Can’t Reproduce
The bananas we are all know and love, known as Cavendish, are in fact a hybrid of two other plant species. It has no seeds and has only been able to reproduce with the aid of farmers, who remove and transplant part of the plant’s stem in order to create our favorite yellow fruit. And for more on your favorite fruit, check out Why Bananas Are Curved.
It’s Impossible to Hum While You Hold Your Nose
For the same reason you can’t exhale while holding your nose and closing your mouth—to make the humming noise you have to pass air through your larynx. You can’t do that when no air can be exhaled. Still, seems pretty weird.
The Least Interesting Day in History was April 11, 1954
That, according to software developers True Knowledge. The search engine project collects facts, and of the more than 300 million facts it has collected, just two occurred on this date: a soccer player named Jack Shufflebotham died and a Turkish academic named Abdullah Atalar was born. And for more weird historical facts, here are the 28 Most Enduring Myths in American History.
Aldous Huxley and C.S. Lewis Died on the Same Day as JFK
The deaths of these venerable British writers (who died within about 10 minutes of each other) would seem newsworthy under most circumstances. But it was hard for the loss of the author of Brave New World or the Narnia series to garner much attention when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated within the hour. Conspiracy? You be the judge. And for more conspiracy theories, here are 20 U.S. Government Secrets They Don’t Want You to Know.
Bigger Forks Lead You to Eat Less
A study in the Journal of Consumer Research found that when diners were given smaller forks with which to eat their meals, they ended up eating less. According to the researchers, this is because the smaller forkfuls of food lead diners to “feel they are not making much of a dent in consuming their food, and, hence, satisfying their hunger.” And for more daily lifestyle hacks, here are 70 Genius Tricks to Get Instantly Happy.
Cell Phones Are Full of Bacteria
While it’s unlikely that they cause cancer or spark a fire at a gas station as popular lore might suggest, mobile devices have been found to be loaded with bacteria. According to some research by British scientists, the average cell phone carries 18 times more potentially harmful germs than the toilet handle in a men’s restroom. When was the last time you disinfected your phone?
The Longest-Living Insect is the Termite
Cockroaches may have been around since dinosaurs roamed the planet, but the termite queen lives longer than any other insect out there. Some scientists estimate that these obese and pretty disgusting critters live as long as 100 years.
Chewing Gum After a Meal Reduces Heartburn
It turns out the saliva that’s stimulated by chewing gum becomes more alkaline, effectively neutralizes the acid reflux that creates heartburn while soothing your esophagus.
Dogs Can Smell Cancer
They don’t call them “man’s best friend” for nothing. Researchers have found that dogs are able to pick up on a specific scent that cancer produces in a person—which is undetectable to humans. So if your dog is acting strange around you, it may be you who needs to get checked out by a physician. And if you’re looking to repay your canine’s kindness, Meet the Former Model Who Wants to Save Your Dog’s Life.
Bees Can Detect Bombs
If you thought that was impressive—bees are able to detect bombs with their tongues. Just as law enforcement uses dogs to sniff out explosives, bees can be trained to associate the scent with receiving food as a reward. So when the bee’s handler sees it extend its proboscis, they know they’ve got a bomb on their hands.
Boyfriends Do More Housework Than Husbands
A survey 17,000 people across 28 countries found that after marriage, the amount of time a man spends doing chores on a weekly basis decreases significantly.
The World’s Biggest Tire Producer is LEGO
The toy company produces approximately 306 million tires per year—far more than any other manufacturer in the world. They may be tiny toy tires, but the fact still stands.
The Longest Word You can Type With Just Your Left Hand is “Sweaterdresses”
For grammar sticklers who say that should include a hyphen (requiring you use your right hand), then the longest word is “stewardesses.” The longest word you can type with your right hand is the European wildflower “johnny-jump-up.” And for more goofy fun, here are 50 Puns So Bad They’re Actually Funny.
Naps Could Save Your Life
Research has found that a mid-day nap can make you more creative, focused, and fresh for the rest of the day. But one study also found that they can also reduce your risk of heart attack. Specifically, those who regularly nap were found to be 37 percent less likely to die from a heart attack or other coronary ailment than those who worked straight through the day.
You Sleep Deeper on a Hammock Than a Bed
Swiss scientists have found that the rocking motion from a hammock leads to nappers enjoying a longer period of “N2 sleep” and increased “slow oscillations” and “sleep spindles”—science jargon for “deeper sleep”—than those who sleep on a traditional bed. The rocking motion was also found to make the subjects fall asleep faster than a regular bed.
Newborns Don’t Shed Tears
Tear ducts don’t fully develop in infants until they are one to three months old, making it impossible for babies to shed actual tears. No wonder they have to express their emotions by crying loudly. And for more facts you might have missed out on, here are the 20 Things Your College Professor Won’t Tell You.
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