Sure, you may know a lot. But as much as you think you know, there’s a whole lot more you don’t know. That’s right: the Socratic Paradox is alive and kicking, even in this age of instant, accessible, unlimited information.
From surprising facts about paradigm-shifting historic moments to deep secrets about how, exactly, your body functions, there’s much that can still blow your mind. Don’t believe us? Give it a whirl: Here are 50 facts that might make you rethink how much you know—and, crucially, how much you think you know. And for even more facts sure to shock you, check out 50 Mind-Blowing Things That Have Happened This Year Already.
In this video, you can see two adorable sea otters holding hands while they nap at the Aquario de Sao Paulo in Brazil. And that wasn’t a one-time thing. Experts say sea otters hold hands so they do not lose each other while asleep. Often, sea otters will float in groups (called rafts). These marine mammals are native to the northern and eastern North Pacific Ocean and they’re the largest members of the weasel family.
Scientists have found that caffeine caused a “widespread increase of resting brain entropy (BEN).” Entropy is a vital part of brain function. As well, a high level of entropy indicates high information processing capacity. According to this research, 60 caffeine-free healthy subjects took a 200 mg caffeine pill. After, both cerebral blood flow (CBF) and resting fMRI were taken. The data showed that caffeine reduced CBF in the whole brain but increased BEN across the cerebral cortex. To cure your caffeine craving, check out The 15 Best Coffee Makers on the Planet.
Language experts have suggested that cows have regional accents just like humans. According to BBC, this phenomenon was first detected by dairy farmers who noticed that their cows had different moos, depending on what herd they came from. This has also been seen before in birds! The farmers who first noticed this said it may have been the result of the intimate bond between them and their animal companions. Very mooo-ving indeed. And for more ways the animal kingdom will blow your mind, check out these 50 Amazing Animal Facts.
Yes, people literally took time to experiment how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop. Students at Purdue University, The University of Michigan, and Swarthmore Junior High School all took on the challenge to see if they could finally answer the question. But each experiment drew different conclusions—so we may actually never know how many licks it truly takes to reach the center of a Tootsie Pop.
The face of the well-loved rum brand actually existed. He was a Welsh privateer who fought alongside the English against the Spanish in the Caribbean in the 1660s and 1670s. His first name was Henry and was knighted by King Charles II of England. His exact birth date is unknown, but it was sometime around 1635. He died in Jamaica in 1688, apparently very rich. He spent his final years drinking with his men, running his estates, and telling all his war stories.
Years of research by scientists shows that elephants feel emotions such as joy, anger, grief, altruism, compassion, stress, and love. It has even been said that the emotional attachment elephants experience towards family members may even be comparable to that of human beings. This research suggests that these large land mammals do not solely focus on survival. They also act on feeling. (There’s no research that suggests their minds can be blown, however.)
Ever notice how pretty much every barn you see is painted red? It’s because, originally, choices for paints, sealers, and other building materials were extremely limited. As such, farmers hundreds of years go would seal their barns with linseed oil and add a variety of things, such as rust. This was an effective sealant and turned the mixture red in color. When more paint became available, many farmers chose to continue to paint their barns red in honor of tradition.
Judy Sheindlin (whom you may know as Judge Judy) brings in around $47 million a year. And according to CNBC, it’s because she flat out asked for it. Sheindlin said that every three years, when she is up for renegotiation with CBS, she brings an envelope that contains a card with her demands written on it; she refuses to engage in salary negotiations with executives. If you’re looking for a pay raise at work, you may not want to take the Judge Judy’s very blunt approach. But hey, knowing your value, like she clearly does, is a good place to start.
If you want to be super technical, the real term is octothorpe. In terms of etymology, the ”octo-“ refers to “eight,” which is in reference to the points on the symbol. However, where “-thorpe” stems from is still up for debate. Some believe it was named after Olympian Jim Thorpe. Others do not agree and argue that it was just a random suffix. You’ll never look at Instagram and Twitter octothorpes the same way now.
Ever wonder what the clothing retailer H&M’s initilas actually stood for? Founded in 1947, the Swedish company was originally called Hennes, which translates in Swedish to “Hers.” In 1968, Hennes acquired the brand Mauritz Widforss, a company that sold hunting and fishing equipment. Hennes then became Hennes & Mauritz. Finally, in 1974, Hennes and Mauritz decided to shortened their name to H&M, the brand you know (and, per each annual quarter’s earnings report, love) today.
Originally thought to be a social cue, a series of experiments actually suggests a different reason for this bodily function. According to Andrew C. Gallup, Ph.D., a postdoctoral research associate at Princeton University, the reason for yawning might be that it cools the brain. The stretching of the jaw to yawn increases blood flow in the neck, face, and head. In conjunction with that, the deep intake of breath during this forces a downward flow of spinal fluid and blood from the brain. The cool air breathed into the mouth cools these fluids.
Ever wondered why spinach became easier to eat as you grew older? Or maybe it was anchovies or olives. Whatever it might be, a new survey has some insights as to why this might be. The reason? Each person is born with approximately 10,000 taste buds that are replaced around every two weeks. However, as get older and time progresses, these taste cells aren’t replaced, and those numbers start to decrease. This causes flavors that were too intense when you were younger to become more palatable as you age.
If you’re a cat owner or just a cat lover, you’ve probably noticed that this animal sleeps, and that they sleep a lot. And you’re not mistaken. According to Veterinary Hub, cats spend 70 percent of their lives sleeping. Per day, cats usually sleep anywhere from 13 to 16 hours. They are most active during dawn and dusk.
When you’re a CIA agent, it’s extra important to stay caffeinated. Enter: The world’s most top-secret Starbucks. But this isn’t your regular Starbucks. It’s listed as “Store Number 1” on receipts. According to a few officers, though, it’s “Stealthy Starbucks.” Baristas must go through extensive and rigorous interviews and background checks. In order to leave their area, they must be escorted by agency “minders.” Oh, and names aren’t written on the iconic cups. And if you find yourself at this (or any) outpost of the ubiquitous chain, know that This Off-the-Menu Starbucks Order is the Most Hardcore Way to Start Your Day.
According to CNN, the cereal box character Cap’n Crunch’s real name is Horatio Magellan Crunch. Oh, and he has a ship, too, and it’s called the S.S. Guppy. The cereal was first launched in 1963. Today, the brand can be found all over and has a variety items available to the public besides just cereal.
Winter is coming, and what better way to prepare than by learning all 421 Scottish words for “snow.” This was discovered when academics at the University of Glasgow when they underwent a project to compile a Scots thesaurus, called the Historical Thesaurus of Scots, which will be published online. Some words incude: “snaw” (snow), “sneesl” (to begin to rain or snow), and “skelf” (a large snowflake).
Another example of a brilliant invention stumbled upon when the inventor was trying to create something totally different. In this case, Raytheon engineer Percy Spencer was testing a radar magnetron (which Popular Mechanics describes as “sort of electric whistle that instead of creating vibrating sound creates vibrating electromagnetic waves”). As he was experimenting with improving the level of the magnetron tubes, he realized that the peanut cluster bar he’d had in his pocket had melted. After testing the mechanism with an egg and corn kernels, he’d realized he’d stumbled on something potentially far more useful than the problem he was supposed to be solving.
Sure, the city gets cold in the winter and wind definitely plays a role in that, but The Windy City nickname has nothing to do with that. The term “Windy City” was first coined by 19th-Century journalists to describe the people who find themselves in the city’s elite. It was meant as a criticism, as they were referring to this particular designation of people as “full of hot air.”
Despite the “nut” in its name, peanuts aren’t actually nuts. They’re legumes! If you take it from Merriam-Webster, a nut is a “hard-shelled dry fruit or seed with a seperable rind or shell and interior kernel.” Other types of legumes include lentils and peas. Oh, and walnuts and almonds aren’t nuts either, if you want to get extra technical.
Or, specifically, around 457,000 calories. According to LiveScience, blue and some other whale species eat by taking “enormous mouthfuls of water and filtering out their meals; often tiny crustaceans called krill, using plates of baleen made of keratin, a protein found in hair, fingernails and feathers.” They’re the Michael Phelps of the ocean world. (Phelps has been said to eat 12,000 calories a day.)
Nope, not sand. Gravel. The Sahara, which is the largest desert in the world, is mainly comprised of gravel. It fills nearly all of northern Africa and it measure approximately 3,000 miles east to west and 800 and 1,200 miles from north and south. Its total area? 3,320,000 square miles. Safe to say, the Sahara is definitely somewhere you don’t to get lost. It would take forever to get out.
ICEHOTEL is a world-famous hotel and art exhibition made of ice and snow. It was founded in 1989 and it’s literally rebuilt every single year in the Swedish village of Jukkasjärvi—200 km north of the Arctic Circle. Now, there is also ICEHOTEL 365, a permanent structure that will include luxury suites and a large ice bar that serves champagne, as well as an ice gallery. This one can be visited year-round and is cooled by solar panels during the summer.
This is why they’re called trailers—because they used to trail the main attraction. The first trailer aired in 1912, but it was for a Broadway show (The Pleasure Seekers), not a movie. Gradually, trailers started spreading in popularity. Originally, they were produced by theaters themselves, but by 1916 movie studios took the reigns.
That’s right: The first president of the United States never actually lived in Washington, D.C. He lived in New York, the nation’s first capital. John Adams was actually the first U.S. president to live in D.C. The reason Washington never lived in The White House was because he died before the establishment was finished.
They grow up to 18 to 20 inches. (That’s a lot of tongue!) You think the length of a giraffe’s neck would help it reach all of its dietary needs, but this is not always the case. At times, the acacia leaves, which are a vital part of the giraffe diet, grow on the uppermost parts of branches of the tree, so those extra inches provided by the giraffe’s tongue really help it get all the food it needs to survive.
The ancient Greeks and Romans believed that crocodile feces had the power to slow down aging, so they’d fill their tubs with a mixture of warm mud and the reptile waste. They would sit in the tub for hours thinking it was a miraculous fountain of youth. The wealthy folks were also known to use this mixture to make face masks for the same anti-aging benefits.
One would think that dying of thirst and dehydration would the leading cause of death in the desert, but surprisingly, it’s drowning. Although precipitation in the desert is infrequent, when it does rain, it comes on suddenly and very heavily. Its streams, which are dry when it’s not raining, cause flash flooding due to the heavy rains. As deserts don’t have water drainage systems in place, and the rains fall too fast for the dry, clay-like soil to absorb, water overflow becomes excessive. This also results in quicksand and sandstorms, which can lead to drowning by sand.
Also referred to as the birthday problem or birthday paradox, this is based on a mathematical principle, which was first introduced by Harold Davenport who was known for his extensive work on number theories. As there are only 366 possible birthdays in a year, including February 29, and going under the assumption that each day has an equal chance of being a birthday, the 50 percent probability is reached when 23 people are gathered in the same room. With 70 people, it’s a 99.9 percent probability that two of them will have the same birthday.
Making jellybeans is a six- to 10-day process. First is boiling sugar and other ingredients to the right consistency for syrup, then flavor and color are added which is piped to the starch casting area. The cornstarch casts and heated syrup are squirted into tiny molds. When cooled, candy centers are dumped and cornstarch is recycled. The centers are then added to a hollow sphere rotating several hundred times per minute, and more sugar, flavor, and syrup are added, which forms the hard jellybean shell. Then a glaze of confectioner’s sugar is added to give it its glossy coat.
Towards the end of summer, when wasps are done providing for their queen, they like to feast on diverse types of foods, before the winter comes and they will die. The different foods they’ll eat include nectar, decaying flesh, live arthropods, spiders, honeydews and the some of the same foods humans eat. They will also feed on ripe and fermenting fruits which gets them drunk. When they are intoxicated, it makes them much more aggressive and more prone to attack any humans that are in their path.
Chinese emperors who wanted to extend their lifespan would take elixirs which were thought to bring on immortality. However, these elixirs actually contained mercury and arsenic and resulted in their deaths from poisoning. The first emperor to die from elixir poisoning was around 210 B.C.E., and the last was in 1735. Despite the well-known knowledge that immortality potions could be deadly, emperors continued to use the immortality elixir practice for two millennia.
This unlikely duo were not only great friends, but they also did a very unlikely collaboration together. In the early-1980s, they did a series of PSAs to promote the benefits of space travel. These two were so close that in September 2018, Willie Nelson released an LP titled My Way as tribute to his buddy, while Sinatra had called Nelson his favorite singer in 1978 after Nelson released his Stardust album.
While the Nazis are known for heinous war crimes and tactics, assassination by chocolate can be added to their list of crimes. Hitler’s bomb makers coated explosive devices with a thin layer of dark chocolate, then packaged it in black and gold paper, disguising it to look like fancy chocolates. German secret agents were to place this “chocolate” in Winston Churchill’s War Cabinet dining room where Churchill often ate his meals. Luckily, the plan was foiled by British spies with a warning letter that detailed this plan.
A Colorado farmer beheaded a chicken in 1945 but somehow missed its jugular vein and left one ear and most of its brain intact. The farmer charged guests 25 cents to meet “Miracle Mike” and “Mike the Headless Chicken,” which were names that this famous chicken was given. The bird survived for 18 months by being fed a mixture of milk and water which was inserted directly into his exposed esophagus with an eyedropper. And for more wacky local tales, check out The Weirdest Urban Legend in Every State.
In a study conducted in 2013, two scientists found that the high pressures inside Jupiter and Saturn’s atmospheres could turn carbon into chunks of diamonds. The study also noted that these diamonds can melt under extreme pressure and temperatures, which leads to the formation of liquid diamond raindrops. Researchers have noted that has many as 10 million tons of diamonds can be inside these two planets combined.
While a small dusting of nutmeg on top of egg nog or desserts is fine, if taken in large doses (2-3 tablespoons) it can be toxic and even deadly. According to toxicologists, side effects of nutmeg poisoning include an out-of-body sensation and a slow-down of normal brain function. The chemical responsible for its psychoactive potential is myristicin. While nutmeg poison cases are rare (only 32 cases reported between 2001 and 2011), they are most common in teenagers who have taken it intentionally and sometimes mixed it with other ingredients. Nutmeg has also been used in prisons, as inmates have been known to ingest large amounts to get a “high” feeling.
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, a farmer in Iowa had the hiccups continuously for 69 years and 9 months. In most cases, if someone has the hiccups lasting for more than a few days, it’s usually associated with an underlying medical condition, and that can range from arthritis to blood clots in the lungs. In the U.S. 4,000 people a year are hospitalized for chronic hiccups and 91 percent of those patients are men over the age of 50. And if you find yourself facing a seriously frustrating bout, here’s How to Get Rid of Hiccups For Good.
Horses have many physiological differences from other species which makes it impossible for them to vomit. Compared to other animals, horses’ lower esophageal sphincter is much stronger, making it impossible to open that valve under backward pressure from the stomach. Also, a horse’s esophagus joins the stomach at a much lower angle, so when the stomach is distended, it presses against the valve in such a way that holds it even more tightly closed. They also have a weak vomiting reflex, so the neural pathways that control vomiting in other animals are poorly developed in horses.
When Abraham Lincoln was elected to be President of the United States, he and his wife Mary decided that it would be difficult to bring the dog, Fido, to Washington due to all activity, travel, and continual noise which overwhelm the dog. So the Lincolns allowed for Fido to be adopted by close family friends. Unfortunately, Fido met a similar fate as Lincoln, shortly after Lincoln’s assignation. One day, Fido playfully put his dirty paws on a drunken man in the street and the guy stabbed the pup, leading to his unfortunate death.
Four out of five bills in the United States have traces of cocaine on it, but it’s not because four out of five bills were used to actually snort cocaine. It’s also not because the bills have passed through drug dealers’ hands. The reason behind this is because cocaine is a very fine powder and, when a contaminated bill passes through counting machines, ATMs, cash registers, and banks, it’s very easy for traces of cocaine to be passed onto other bills this way. And for more trivia on the cash in your pocket, here’s Why Quarters Have Ridges—And Other Amazing Money Facts.
As of May 2018, the world population was estimated to be 7.6 billion, compared to the world’s population between 1960 and 1965, which was just over 3 billion. John F. Kennedy was President of the United States from 1960-1963, which means the world population has doubled since then, which was only a little more than 50 years ago. The world population is estimated to reach 8 billion by 2025.
In 18th century England, sugar was a valuable commodity which was consumed in excess. Because it was expensive, it was mostly enjoyed only by the rich and rotten and black teeth were a common result of eating too much sugar. Therefore, if someone had black teeth, they were considered to be wealthy, and it was a sign that distinguished the rich from the poor. Lower- and middle-class people would deliberately blacken their teeth to give the impression that they were rich.
There’s a fence in Australia named the Dingo Fence which stretches across 5,614 kilometers, which is longer than the 5,360 kilometers between Seattle and Miami. Not surprisingly, the Dingo Fence has earned the reputation as the longest fence in the world. The fence was built in the 1880s and completed in 1885. The purpose of the fence was to keep dingoes out of the fertile southeast part of the continent. The Dingo Fence stretches from eastern Queensland all the way to the South Australian coastline.
Almonds are a popular superfood which offer a host of health benefits, but what most people don’t know is that almonds are actually a hard-shelled fruit of the almond tree. This type of stone fruit is a member of the same family as peaches, apricots and plums. If you think about it, the pit of a peach does indeed resemble a large nut. Another interesting fact about almonds is that they were grown for thousands of years without having an official name, because botanists kept coming up with new names for it.
Twins Katie and Amy Jones-Elliot hold the Guinness World Record for the longest birth interval between two twins, being born 87 days apart. Their mother, Maria, went into labor four months early and gave birth to Amy. Katie was able to stay in her womb for three more months. But it was very risky and doctors didn’t know if Katie would survive. As Amy was born very premature, she fought for her life in an incubator during that time. Miraculously, both girls survived and are healthy today.
In 1923, jockey Frank Hayes took off on his horse, Sweet Kiss, at Belmont Race Track on Long Island, New York. Mid-race, Hayes suffered a heart attack and died. But Hayes’ body stayed in the saddle as Sweet Kiss was the first to cross the finish line, and Hayes had officially won the race. This was the only time in sports history in which a competition was ever won by a deceased person.
Of all the items that Walmart carries and sells, the best-selling item is bananas, and has been for several years. (Talk about a totally bananas fact…) As America’s largest retailer with 200,000 million shoppers a week, it’s surprising that bananas are the most popular item, but it’s true. Why bananas? According to a Walmart spokesperson, bananas are a hit because it’s an easy, healthy food to pack and eat, and very affordable.
When King Robert adopted the unicorn as Scotland’s national animal in the late 1300,s, the unicorn was believed to be a real animal during that time. It wasn’t until 1825 when scientist Baron George Covier disproved the mystical creature’s existence, and stated it was not feasible for animal with a split hoof to have a single horn emerging from its head. But as the Unicorn symbolizes nobility, purity, power and good luck, it remains as Scotland’s national animal today.
In a country where same-sex relationships are punishable by death, Iran not only performs the most gender reassignment surgeries in the world, right behind Thailand, but the country also makes these operations very accessible with health insurance companies covering the bulk of the cost. However, many gay men and women in Iran choose to have sexual reassignment surgeries to legitimize their sexual orientation, as gay relationships are considered a crime, but as transsexuals, they can exist under Iranian law.
Put a Pillow on Your Fridge Day is a real thing and celebrated in the United States and Europe every year on May 29, spanning back to the early-1900’s. The idea is simple—just place a pillow on top of your fridge to bring prosperity and good fortune into your life. The tradition started with putting a piece of cloth or linen from one’s bedroom on their larder, but as time went on and electrical refrigerators replaced larders, this tradition evolved too, and became Put a Pillow on Your Fridge Day. There’s even a Facebook page devoted to it. For more amazing facts sure to brighten your day, check out 50 Fun Facts About the World That Will Put a Smile on Your Face.
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