It’s good to get a little freaked out every now and then. Stepping out of your comfort zone, in any way, can expose you to new ideas and help you see the world in new, potentially better ways. And there’s no better way to freak yourself out than by upending your grasp on knowledge.
For instance, what if you discovered that an animal known for its coloring turned out to not actually be that color? Or what if you learned that a particularly inhumane execution method from the Middle Ages stuck around until the late 20th century? With that in mind, we’ve cobbled together 30 startling facts like this, little bits of trivia that are sure to freak you out—or, at the very least, make you raise an eyebrow. And more eerily awesome facts, check out the 30 Amazing Facts That Will Change the Way You View the World.
Flamingos Turn Pink From Eating Shrimp
You might think these bright birds are born that color, but it turns out flamingos are a living adage: they are what they eat—and they eat pink shrimp. “Flamingos are born with gray plumage. They get their rosy hue pink by ingesting a type of organic pigment called a carotenoid,” explains Smithsonian. “They obtain this through their main food source, brine shrimp, which feast on microscopic algae that naturally produce carotenoids. Enzymes in the flamingos’ liver break down the compounds into pink and orange pigment molecules, which are then deposited into the birds’ feathers, legs and beaks.” And for more wild trivia out of the animal kingdom, check out these 40 Amazing Animal Facts.
Carrots Were Originally Purple
Though the root vegetable is as closely identified with the color orange as anything else (including oranges), carrots were originally purple. This variety originated in the region of what is now Afghanistan and spread throughout the Persian Empire, until the 16th century when, according to the Carrot Museum, “The western, orange carrot probably arose in Europe or in the western Mediterranean region through gradual selection within yellow carrot populations. The Dutch landraces Long Orange and the finer Horn types, first described in 1721, were an important basis for the western carrot cultivars grown at present all over the world.”
France Didn’t Stop Executing People by Guillotine Until 1977
We think of this beheading instrument as something from the distant past, but the French were using the guillotine up until the same year Saturday Night Fever and Star Wars were released. The last person to be executed by guillotine was Tunisian agricultural worker Hamida Djandoubi, convicted of the kidnapping, torture, and murder of a woman, who lost his head on February 24, 1977.
It Rains Diamonds on Saturn and Jupiter
Some distant planets sport some serious bling. Atmospheric data indicates that the gaseous planets of Saturn and Jupiter experience hail storms of diamonds, due to lighting storms that turn methane into soot, which hardens into graphite then diamonds as it falls. One scientist told the BBC that the biggest diamonds would be about a centimeter in diameter—or “big enough to put on a ring.”
Alaska Is Both the Most Western and Eastern State in the U.S
It’s crazy but it’s true: Alaska is the most western state, with its Aleutian Islands stretching to the edge of the Western Hemisphere at the 180-degree line Longitude. But the islands also stretch past the 180-degree line of Longitude toward the Russian Federation into the Eastern Hemisphere. And for more wild state trivia, check out The Craziest Fact About Every U.S. State.
In Welsh Folklore, Corgis Transported Fairies
No wonder the Queen loves corgis. In Welsh legend, a pair of corgis were said to tow the carts and carriages of fairies and also help them ride into battle. “The diminutive dogs were perfect for herding cows,” as Mental Floss adds. “Their short stature kept them out of the way of flying hooves when they nipped at angry cows’ heels.” And for more trivia on these adorable pups, learn the 15 Fascinating Facts About Royal Corgis.
The Size of Your Social Circle Is Related to Your Brain’s Size
A scientist at Oxford discovered that the size of a person’s “orbitomedial prefrontal cortex” (the part of a brain that that identifies other people’s moods and personalities) can predict the size of that person’s social circle. The average prefrontal cortex averages out to around 147.8 friends in a social network.
Fake Smiles Can Kill You
It turns out that faking happiness can hurt your health. Researchers looked at the behavior of bus drivers—a profession where people are required to have many at least kind of friendly interactions throughout the day—and discovered that these people withdraw from their work while putting on a smile for show, and that that could have long-term deleterious health effects.
Vampire Bats Drink Half Their Body Weight in Blood
That’s every time they feed. Dracula’s favorite friends slurp up an ounce of blood every meal, which takes about 20 to 30 minutes. Quite impressive for a creature that weighs only two ounces. Their stomach linings absorb the liquid as fast as possible to avoid weighing them down too much when they take flight.
A Jellyfish’ Mouth Is Also Its Anus
Garlic Actually Attracts Vampires
Well, not real vampires, but close: One experiment found that leeches attach themselves to a hand smeared with garlic in 14.9 seconds, compared to 44.9 seconds to a hand without. So if you’re trying to keep real-life bloodsuckers at bay, garlic actually is your answer.
Craving Ice Is a Symptom of Iron Deficiency
If you like crunching ice after you finish your soda, you might be suffering from anemia. Also known as “pagophagia,” the compulsive eating of ice may not just be a nervous tick, but a way of cooling inflammation in the mouth caused by a lack of iron. So if you like chomping down on those cubes, get thee to a doctor, stat.
An Octopus Has Three Hearts
Two of their hearts work just to circulate blood past the octopus’ gills, with a third to keep the blood moving through its organs. (The third heart stops beating while the animal is swimming, which can be exhausting—and a good reason why they tend to crawl rather than swim).
Dead Women Can Give Birth
It’s very rare, but it has been known to happen. Called “Coffin Birth,” it’s a phenomenon that occurs when a pregnant woman delivers a child spontaneously after her death—due to gases that built up in the abdominal area, putting pressure on the mother’s uterus and forcing the baby out the birth passageway. (With modern embalming techniques, this doesn’t really happen anymore.)
A Chicken Can Live With Its Head (Mostly) Chopped Off
For 18 months in the early 1940s, Mike the Headless Chicken lived with most of his head cut off. As it happens, his owner, farmer Frank Lloyd, was looking to cook some chicken the night of his half-decapitation. Lloyd ended up missing the jugular vein and brain stem, allowing the bird to survive. The death-defying chicken is still the pride and joy of his hometown, Fruita, Colorado, where they hold an annual festival in his honor.
Shakespeare Invented the Name Jessica
Well, it can’t be proven that he invented it, per se. But the first written instance of the name is found in the Bard’s 1596 play The Merchant of Venice: Shylock’s daughter, an Anglicization of the biblical name Iscah.
A Parasite Destroys the Tongue of a Fish and Replaces Its Tongue With Its Own Body
Pretty much the creepiest creature ever. This isopod, Cymothoa exigua, enters a fish through its gills and attaches to its tongue. From there it severs the blood vessels connecting to the tongue (which causes it to fall off) and attaches itself to the stub that’s left, taking over the food consumption from that point forward.
Your Fish Is an Imposter
That fish you just bought is probably a fake. According to researchers, mislabeling of fish runs rampant, with about a quarter of fish being sold as something that they are not—yellowtail sold as mahi-mahi, shark that’s actually perch, and everything else that’s actually tilapia.
Zombie Spiders Exist
There’s a type of Costa Rican wasp that attacks a local org spider and paralyzes it. From there, it lays eggs in the spider’s abdomen. The spider wakes back up, until about two weeks later, when the larvae that are growing on the spider’s belly take over the spider’s brain, causing it to create a strange web. They then burst out of the spider and use the web to create their own wasp nest.
Microscopic Mites Live on Your Face
Don’t freak out, but your face is crawling with eight-legged, spider-like creatures. Fortunately, they are microscopic and impossible to see—but they’re mites with long, worm-like bodies residing in hair follicles and pores or sebaceous glands.
You Can’t Breathe and Swallow at the Same Time
It’s because both go through the pharynx.
You’ve Probably Consumed Dinosaur Waste
Bottled water ads might promote how fresh their water is, but don’t believe them: Anything you’re drinking today has been around for millions of years, recycled repeatedly through precipitation and, yes, evacuation. As the science YouTube channel, Curious Minds, points out, “This means that in every glass of water you drink, there is a lot of water which has already passed through a dinosaur and come out the other end.”
Australia Is Larger Than Pluto
You’d think a celestial body would be bigger than any country on Earth (even if that country is also a continent). But it turns out that’s not the case. Pluto measures 2,370 km across, compared to Australia’s 4,000-km diameter.
High Heels Were First Designed for Men
Though closely identified as a female fashion symbol, high heels were first designed for men. At the end of the 16th century, Persian-inspired style was all the rage in Europe, and heels were seen as being virile and masculine—and a great way to boost your height a few inches.
Image via The J. Paul Getty Museum
The Exorcist film set was haunted
Based on the book by William Peter Blatty, The Exorcist, released in 1973, stirred up quite a bit of controversy in the years surrounding its release. For starters, the set used as the home of Regan MacNeil burned to the ground when a bird flew into a circuit box. Not so surprisingly, the only room left standing was the one used for the exorcism. Not only did actors suffer multiple injuries during the filming of the movie, two of them actually died shortly after filming wrapped—actors that played characters who died during the film. To make matters worse, when the film premiered in Rome, lightning struck a 400-year-old cross atop a nearby church.
Mars Is Run by Robots
The Red Planet has no known alien life (and let’s hope it stays that way), but there’s plenty of action happening up there, with a population made up entirely of robots. These include robots such as NASA’s Curiosity rover, Odyssey, and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
There’s a Brewery in Japan That Makes Beer From Elephant Dung
The brewery, Sankt Gallen, produces a beer called Un Kono Kuro, made with coffee beans that have passed through an elephant. It’s a huge hit.
Men Can Get Erections After They Die
They can also ejaculate.
A Lizard Squirts Blood From Its Eyes as a Defense
An effective way to fend off predators is to freak them out, it seems. That’s the strategy of the horned lizard, which when it sees a coyote or similar predator, will squirt blood from its eyes into the mouth of the predator. It tastes disgusting and looks pretty gross too, ensuring that the predator retreats.
There’s a Mental Phenomenon That Causes You to See Monsters in Mirrors
Called the Troxler Effect, and discovered as long ago as 1804, it causes those who experience it to think they see something fearsome in the mirror just on the periphery of their vision—whether they say “Bloody Mary” three times or not. And for even more facts, check out these 50 Amazing Facts for People Who Can’t Get Enough Amazing Facts.
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