A date’s running behind. The lunch line’s a mile long. It’s laundry night. Yes, waiting—and the often excruciating boredom that comes with it—is an unavoidable part of life. Luckily, there’s a cure: knowledge. At your fingertips, there exists limitless knowledge. (The term “Wikipedia rabbit hole” isn’t a thing for no reason, after all.) And if you focus on the fun stuff, time is sure to fly by.
Whether you’re interested in stuff as scary-sounding as the “Hotel of Doom” or as cutesy as the bird who earned a knighthood, you needn’t look far to stumble upon a treasure trove of fascinating facts. Herein, we’ve combed the Internet to find the absolutely most fascinating. Whether you need to kill a few minutes or an entire hour, here’s the best place to start. And for more amazing facts to pass the time, check out these 50 Random Facts That Will Simply Astonish You.
Clouds are extremely heavy.
The expression “Light as a cloud” couldn’t be further from the truth.. At ½ gram per cubic meter, the weight of cumulus clouds can really add up when you consider how long and wide they can get.
There’s a precise speed where jogging becomes running.
You might think the two are basically the same thing, but according to conditioning coach Mike Antoniades, in an article for BBCSport, jogging means moving at “speeds less than 6 mph.” Any faster than that, and it’s technically running.
Goosebumps are caused by a muscle.
Arrector pili muscles, fan-shaped muscles at the base of each hair, are responsible for goosebumps—which contract when the body is cold in an effort to generate heat and cause a person’s hair to “stand up straight” on their skin. And for more random medical knowledge, read up on the 50 Fancy Medical Terms for Common Things.
There’s a peak cuteness for puppies.
A study comparing how people viewed the “cuteness” of dogs found that most reached their highest levels of cuteness when they reached the ages of six to eight weeks old. Though it varied slightly depending on the species, as National Geographic explains: “Jack Russell terriers peaked at 7.7 weeks, cane corsos at 6.3 weeks, and white shepherds at 8.3 weeks. All three breeds showed an uptick in cuteness when they reached 30 weeks old, but it’s unclear why.” And if you’re on the fence about getting a dog, here are 15 Amazing Benefits of Adopting a Pet.
Fried maple leaves are a popular snack in Japan.
Known as momiji, maple leaves collected from the ground, preserved in salt barrels then fried in tempura style sweet batter are an unexpectedly delicious and beloved seasonal snack in Japan. And for fascinating trivia, check out these 100 Facts That Will Make You Say “Wow!”
The sharpest memories are from early adulthood.
Called “the reminiscence bump,” this psychological concept holds that as adults reflect on events of their lives, they remember more events from their teens and twenties than from any other time in their lives. According to psychologist Dan McAdams of Northwestern University, this phenomenon grows out of the fact that this period of one’s life is important in shaping one’s identity or “life story.” And for more on the mind, don’t miss the 35 Crazy Facts about Your Memory.
There is a Species of Jellyfish that Never Dies
Known as Turritopsis dohrnii—or colloquially, the immortal jellyfish—this animal is able to revert back into its adolescent state after going through adulthood, and repeats this process for all eternity. And for more strange tales about our favorite creatures, check out these 50 Amazing Animal Facts.
Princeton University’s First Graduate Student Was a U.S. President
Princeton University has been around since 1746, but the school didn’t start officially awarding doctorates until 1879. And though it took more than a century for the university to officially begin graduate studies, it actually had its first graduate student back in 1771. His name was James Madison—the fourth President of the United States.
A cruise ship crashed so much it had to rename.
The Norwegian Dream suffered a series of troubles over its 14-year lifespan that led many to believe that it was cursed. In August 1999, it collided with a container ship on the way to Dover, England. Eight years later, it hit a barge while leaving Uruguay. In November 2005, a passenger died while snorkeling on board when the ship was anchored. It’s no wonder the ships owners eventually renamed the disaster-prone vessel.
People in Medieval England had rap battles.
Before rap battles, there was “flyting,” a type of trading of insults that was popular from the 5th to the 16th centuries in England and Scotland. As Atlas Obscura describes it, “Participants employed the timeless tools of provocation and perversion as well as satire, rhetoric, and early bathroom humor to publicly trounce opponents,” and even society’s elite would join in these battles of wits.
The official bird of Redondo Beach, California, is the Goodyear Blimp.
In 1983, the coastal city adopted a resolution to make the legendary aircraft the official city bird, even presenting a plaque to a team from Goodyear Airship Operations to commemorate the decision.
Marilyn Monroe’s dress sold for millions.
Recently, the iconic sparkly dress that Marilyn Monroe wore to serenade President John F. Kennedy on his birthday sold for a staggering $4.8 million at auction. This piece currently holds the world auction record for the most expensive article of clothing ever sold, beating out the record previously held by…another one of Monroe’s dresses.
The original Back to the Future time machine was a fridge.
The DeLorean was not always the way Marty McFly was supposed to travel to the past. As Slashfilm explains, in the original draft of Back To The Future, the time machine was attached attached to a refrigerator, and “taken to the Nevada desert test site for the atomic bomb, where it was strapped into the back of a truck and driven into the atomic explosion in order to harness the power from the nuclear explosion. Marty had to climb into the fridge as the truck barreled towards ground zero.” And for more crazy film facts, check out these 50 Iconic Movie Roles That Almost Went to Someone Else.
There’s a Starbucks cup in every scene of Fight Club.
It has nothing to do with the plot whatsoever, but because director David Fincher was so annoyed with the ubiquity of the coffee chain, he decided to poke some fun at them by featuring a Starbucks cup in every scene in the movie (save for the final one).
A penguin has a knighthood.
In 2008, a penguin living in the Edinburgh Zoo, named Nils Olav III was knighted. The penguin is the mascot of the King of Norway’s Guard, making it a special figure for the country’s military and the knighting of this particular one an opportunity to celebrate the relations between the two countries. It went over so well, that in 2016, he was promoted to Brigadier.
There’s a 3,500-year-old song.
Known as “Hurrian Hymn No. 6,” the music, inscribed in cuneiform on clay tablets, were excavated from the ancient city of Ugarit (in today’s northern Syria), dating back to 1400 B.C. You can actually listen to the tune, performed on lyre, by composer Michael Levy. It’s not exactly Top 40 material, but still an interesting listen.
The Twitter bird has a name
Larry. Supposedly, the blue bird was named after former NBA player Larry Bird, who used to play for co-founder Biz Stone‘s home-state team, the Boston Celtics.
There is a Museum of Failure.
Boasting “a one of a kind international collection of more than 100 innovation failures,” the touring Museum of Failure features displays on such bad ideas as Harley-Davidson perfume, Colgate beef lasagna, and Google Glass.
Just 18 Out of 1 Million LEGO Pieces Are Defective
The molds manufacturing process of LEGO bricks is so accurate and effective, that just 18 out of 1 million are found to be defective, according to the company.
Fish-and-chips gelato is a thing.
The fast food shop Kailis garnered a good bit of publicity a few years ago when it turned two great things into one weird thing—fish and chip gelato. Reports of its taste were not as bad as one might expect, but that’s likely because, as one person put it, it “didn’t taste like fish and chips.”
Dolphins go on killing sprees.
We think of dolphins as fun-loving and friendly, but when they don’t get sexually satisfied, they can get pretty nasty. Scientists have found that young male dolphins go on the attack, killing fellow porpoises, when they are sexually frustrated. And people may think dolphins are loving creatures, but the mammals are actually one of the 30 Adorable Animals That Are Actually Deadly.
The youngest Olympian was 10 years old.
According to Olympic records, the youngest athlete to ever become a medalist in the Olympics was Greek gymnast Dimitrios Loundras, who finished third at the 1896 Olympic Games when he was ten-and-a-half years old. That’s right: He was still counting half years.
Loch Ness contains more freshwater than all of England’s lakes—combined.
The second-largest lake in Scotland, with a surface area of 22 square miles and depth of 788 feet, Loch Ness holds more fresh water than all the lakes of England—and Wales—combined. If any body of water could play home a giant mythical sea monster, it’s this one.
A mailman made a castle in France.
Le Palais Ideal is an 85-foot-long, 33-foot-high castle 30 miles south of Lyon made from rocks that a 19th-century French postman picked up during his mail route over the course of 34 years. Despite having precisely zero formal architectural training, he built the massive structure himself, complete with pillars, grottoes and flying buttresses—and visitors still go out to view it today.
There’s an underwater postbox in the Pacific.
According to the Guinness World Records, the Japanese fishing town of Susami houses the world’s deepest underwater postbox. Situated 10 meters underwater, the box gets anywhere from 1,000 to 1,500 pieces of mail every year—though depositing mail in the box requires a diving suit, water-resistant postcards, and a special oil-based paint marker.
Zero G fire burns blue and round.
Unlike the red-orange flickering of flames we see on Earth in normal gravity conditions, in zero gravity conditions, flames burn completely different. As ZME Science explains: “The spherical flame is fed by the slower process of diffusion, so the flame occurs at a border between fuel and air; effectively the entire surface of the flame is the ‘bottom,’ reacting with fresh air close enough to the fuel source to combust, in a rough sphere. Because exhaust gases like CO2 can’t leave the combustion area, by the same dictum, the outward diffusion of combustion gases can limit the inward diffusion of oxygen to an extent that the zero gravity flame will die a short time after ignition.”
All of George Foreman’s sons have the same name.
Things probably get a bit confusing around the Foreman household, seeing as all of the boxer’s sons are named George Edward—and there are five of them. When asked why they all have the same name, Foreman said, “I named all my sons George Edward Foreman so they would always have something in common. I say to them, ‘If one of us goes up, then we all go up together, and if one goes down, we all go down together!'” And for more absurdities in Tinseltown, check out the 50 Crazy Celebrity Facts You Won’t Believe Are True.
The filling in Kit Kats is made from damaged Kit Kats.
All those Kit Kat bars that are somehow imperfect during production—due to air bubbles, weirdly shaped wafers or some other issue—are not thrown away or given away, but instead ground up into a fine paste and turned into a filling that’s then incorporated back into the production process to create new, perfect bars.
Female kangaroos have three reproductive parts.
In order to perpetually work on continuing their lineage, female kangaroos are equip with two uteri and three vaginas (with the outside two being connected to the uteri and the middle vagina devoted entirely to giving birth). The same goes for koalas.
King Tut owned a meteorite dagger.
King Tutankhamen had lots of cool toys, but one of his most intriguing may have been a dagger, discovered in his tomb in 1925, made of meteoric metal. It wasn’t until recently that scientists were able to confirm that was, in fact, the material with which it was made, using a technique called portable X-ray fluorescence spectrometry. They determined that its composition of iron, nickel, and cobalt, “strongly suggests an extraterrestrial origin.”
Cute animals are more likely to be endangered.
Research finds that the most “charismatic animals”—such as lions, tigers, elephants, giraffes and other beloved creatures—are more likely to face threats to their survival. As the study’s author puts it, “Unknowingly, companies using giraffes, cheetahs, or polar bears for marketing purposes may be actively contributing to the false perception that these animals are not at risk of extinction, and therefore not in need of conservation.”
Liechtenstein has just one jail.
It’s hard to imagine a country sans crime, but it actually does exist. Liechtenstein, wedged in between Austria and Switzerland, has a total prison population of just ten people in its single prison, and any criminal requiring a sentence of more than two years is sent to Austria.
The art of Bambi was inspired by Chinese landscape paintings.
The backgrounds in Disney’s Bambi were inspired by landsape paintings of the Song dynasty. It was an innovation by the film’s lead artist, the Chinese immigrant Tyrus Wong. Despite its celebration as an animation classic, Wong himself, according to the New York Times, “endured poverty, discrimination and chronic lack of recognition, not only for his work at Disney but also for his fine art, before finding acclaim in his 90s.”
There’s a management concept asserting: Everyone is incompetent.
Developed by Canadian “hierarchiologist” Laurence J. Peter, this idea works this way: a person who is competent at their job will eventually be promoted to a more senior position, which generally requires them to master different skills. If they are promoted to a position where they aren’t very capable at those new skills, they will remain there and not be promoted. Therefore, “In a hierarchy, every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence.”
The first interracial TV kiss was on Star Trek.
While being mind-controlled by aliens, Kirk and Uhura (played by William Shatner and Nichelle Nichols, respectively) made television history by having the first-ever interracial kiss in a 1968 episode of the Star Trek television series.
There’s only one human organ that naturally regenerates.
Of all the organs in the human body, the liver is the only that can regenerate. As researcher Richard Bowen explains, “The liver has a remarkable capacity to regenerate after injury and to adjust its size to match its host. Within a week after partial hepatectomy, which, in typical experimental settings entails surgical removal of two-thirds of the liver, hepatic mass is back essentially to what it was prior to surgery.”
Lemurs get high on bugs.
That sounds like a weird title of a rock album, but it’s true. In the jungles of Madagascar, lemurs get a buzz by chomping down on a particular species of millipede that causes toxins to release, leading them to salivate and appear intoxicated. Besides getting them high, the bugs may also have another positive effect: acting as an insecticide.
Neil Armstrong Once Threatened to Sue His Barber for Selling Off His Hair
In 2005, Neil Armstrong threatened legal action against his barber, who had made an estimated $3,000 by selling his famous customer’s hair. The barber refused and both the hair and the barber’s comb and scissors went on sale on Amazon in 2016 for $38,611.
During World War II, Peru and Ecuador had their own tiff.
Though the battles between the Axis and Allies powers get most of the historic interest, in the midst of World War II, another war unfolded. That would be the War of ’41, between Ecuador and Peru, which was sparked by accusations that Ecuadorians had been moving in on the Peruvian territory of Zarumilla, leading the Peruvian president to form a military unit to push back against its long-time rival. Though accounts differ on who fired first, the war lasted about half a year until January 1942, when Peruvian forces withdrew.
Winston Churchill Was Hit By a Car During a New York Visit
Talk about a poor way to welcome a visitor. During a lecture tour in the U.S. in December 1931, Winston Churchill was struck by a car while crossing Fifth Avenue and nearly killed. He would describe the experience in The Daily Mail, in an article dictated from his hospital bed: “I felt it on my forehead and across the thighs. But besides the blow there was an impact, a shock, a concussion indescribably violent. Many years ago at ‘Plugstreet’ in Flanders, a 4.2 shell burst in a corner of the little room in which we were gathered for luncheon, reducing all to dust and devastation. This shock was of the same order as the shell explosion. In my case it blotted out everything except thought.” Fortunately, he would soon recover.
Ancient cats once led to the extinction of ancient dogs.
The tension between cats and dogs goes back millennia. According to researchers, some 20 million years ago, ancient cats and dogs battled for scarce food, and the cats won out. “When various species of cats first appeared in North America, there was a steep decline in the number of canine species in the same area,” as Daniele Silvestro, a computational biologist at the University of Gothenburg and lead author of a paper on the subject, explained to Quartz.
A 10,000-year clock is being built.
Created by a quirky American inventor and backed by Jeff Bezos (to the tune of $42 million), the 10,000 Year Clock is being built under a mountain in the middle of a Texas desert, which will tick just once every year, with a hand that moves once a century and a cuckoo that emerges every 1,000 years. Its purpose is to make “long-term thinking more common.”
Your liver’s size fluctuates.
A team of Swiss researchers studying mice found that their liver cells swelled and contracted up to 40 percent along with the daily activities of the mice. Though evidence is limited as to whether the same happens in humans, once study from 1986 found a variation of about 20 percent between day and night—presumably related to the fact that the liver is not working as hard when a person is sleeping.
A jockey once won a race post-mortem.
In 1923, Frank Hayes was hailed the victor at a race at Belmont Park in New York. The only problem? The jockey had suffered a heart attack and died in the middle of the race, so he wasn’t exactly able to celebrate his victory.
The “Tallest Man in the World” saved a pair of dolphins.
The long arms of Mongolian herdsman Bao Xishun—who at 7′, 8.95″ was the tallest man in the world in 2006—saved the day when a pair of dolphins were found to have swallowed plastic shards that other instruments were unable to extract from their stomachs. Bao’s unusually long arm proved a more effective tool and saved the lives of both creatures.
The Eagles’ stadium once had a courtroom.
Veterans Stadium, where the Philadelphia Eagles once played, included a stadium courtroom and jail to handle the team’s notoriously rowdy fans. As a former judge for the so-called “Eagles Court” explained, “Eagles Court was a lot of fun and it served a purpose. One of the interesting facts that came out of Eagles Court was that 95 percent of the people arrested were not from Philadelphia. But Philadelphia was getting broad-brushed as the city with horrible, horrible fans.”
The longest skid mark was six miles long.
According to Guinness, the honor of having the longest continuous tire skid on a road was earned by Norman Craig Breedlove, whose jet-powered Spirit of America went out of control at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah in 1964. At almost six miles long, the record remains on the books.
The tallest empty building is North Korea’s “Hotel of Doom”
Stretching 105 stories into the sky, construction on the pyramid-shaped Ryugyong Hotel began in 1987 and stopped in the early 1990s due to economic depression. Though attempts to finish and open the building for business have been made in fits and starts, the hotel (which was originally intended to house five revolving restaurants and 3,000 to 7,665 guest rooms) remains unoccupied and earned the nickname, “Hotel of Doom.” And for more fascinating facts about our modern day monoliths, learn the 40 Crazy Facts about the World’s Tallest Buildings.
Viking men work makeup.
Vikings were some of the toughest dudes in history, but also cared about their appearance enough that makeup was a standard part of their look. According to the National Museum of Denmark, “A Spanish Arab who visited Hedeby around the year 1000 described how both men and women in the town wore make-up to look younger and more attractive.”
An astronaut was allergic to the moon.
It might seem like he was in the wrong line of work. Harrison Schmitt, from the Apollo 17 mission, found out that he had a severe allergy to moon dust. And for more about the final frontier, check out these 21 Mysteries about Space No One Can Explain.