100 Mind-Blowing Facts We Bet You Didn’t Know
No level of education will prepare you for this cerebral explosion.
As the old saying goes, the more you know, the more you realize you don’t know. Yes, the Socratic Paradox is alive and kicking, even in this age of instant, accessible, unlimited information. From surprising facts about historic moments to deep secrets about how your body functions, there are so many little-known pieces of information that have the potential to blow your mind. Don’t believe us? Give it a whirl: Here are 100 facts that might make you rethink how much you think you know.
“umop apisdn” is “upside down” spelled upside down.
Go ahead and flip whatever device you’re reading this on upside down and check out those first two words again. You’ll see that “umop apisdn” does indeed spell “upside down” using totally different letters of the alphabet.
If you fold a piece of paper 42 times, it would be thick enough to reach the moon.
Yep, you read that correctly. According to Gizmodo, all it takes to verify this is some simple math. If you fold a piece of paper in half, it doubles in thickness. And if you fold it in half again, it doubles in thickness again. With that type of exponential growth, it would take just 23 folds for a 1/10-millimeter piece of paper to be one kilometer thick and 30 folds for it to be thick enough to reach outer space (100,000 kilometers). Unfortunately, the world record for the number of folds is 12.
There is always a Shakespeare play being performed somewhere in the world.
There is always a performance of a William Shakespeare play happening in one time zone or another. For instance, there was an average of 410 professional Shakespeare productions every year between 1959 and 2015, according to the World Shakespeare Bibliography. And while some of these performances are one-time deals, others can run the entire year—which suggests there are enough around the world to fill every hour of every day.
Every mammal has the same number of neck vertebrae—except for two.
Whether it’s a giraffe, a mouse, or a human, each mammal has exactly seven vertebrae in its neck. But there are two exceptions to this rule: sloths and manatees. Two-toed sloths have five to seven neck vertebrae and three-toed sloths have eight or nine; manatees have six, according to 2011 research published in BioMed Central.
There is a world record for the largest collection of miniature books.
India’s Sathar Adhoor has a book collection that is surprisingly huge, especially considering the fact that it’s made up of teeny tiny versions of literature. Adhoor is the owner of the world’s largest collection of miniature books, which includes 3,137 unique miniature books. (An official “miniature book” can be no larger than three inches in height, width, or thickness.)
The word “oxymoron” is an oxymoron itself.
According to Merriam-Webster, an oxymoron is “a combination of contradictory or incongruous words.” They use “cruel kindness” to illustrate their point. But the dictionary could have also used the word “oxymoron” as an example—since it turns out this word is an oxymoron itself. “Oxymoron” is derived from the Greek word “oxys,” meaning “sharp,” and “moronos,” meaning “dull” or “stupid.”
The human heart beats more than 2.5 billion times in the average lifetime.
Your heart may beat faster when you’re excited and could slow down when you’re relaxed, but in most cases, it tends to keep a regular pace. In fact, most human hearts beat an average of 60 to 70 times per minute and 100,000 times per day. That’s about 35 million times a year and more than 2.5 billion times during an average lifetime, according to PBS.
In the 16th century, hundreds of of people were afflicted by “the dancing plague.”
In July 1518, a woman in Strasbourg known as Frau Troffea began dancing in the street, seemingly unable to stop until she collapsed of exhaustion. Soon, more people were struck by this strange urge to dance. By August, some 400 people had been affected—and as a result, a few died of heart attacks and strokes, according to History.
Weirder still, there was no clear cause or explanation for the condition. John Waller, a historian who wrote The Dancing Plague, believes the phenomena might have been a result of the fact that the people of the time believed in a saint who had the power to make people dance. That belief, combined with the rampant disease and famine of the time, could have driven believers to dance to their graves.
Oxford University is older than the Aztecs.
The Aztec civilization of central Mexico was born in 1325 with the founding of the city of Tenochtitlan. That seems like a long time ago—and it was. But you’d have to go back even further to witness the founding of Oxford University, which started as a learning hub as early as 1096. By 1249, the university had established itself as an educational institution with “halls of residence,” which still stand today.
Minnesota has more shoreline than California, Florida, and Hawaii combined.
When you think of places that boast plenty of shorelines, your mind probably goes straight to the coastal states. But Minnesota, the “Land of 10,000 Lakes” (or, more precisely, 11,842 lakes), actually has more shoreline than Hawaii, California, and Florida combined, according to National Geographic.
Every odd number has an “e” in it.
If you ignore even numbers for a moment and simply look at the odd ones—one, three, five, seven, nine, eleven, thirteen, etc.—you’ll notice that every single one has the letter “e” in it.
People used to think that some lambs grew on trees.
The “Vegetable Lamb” was thought to be an animal that grew from the Lamb Tree in the region of Tartary, an area that eventually became Europe and Central Asia. The special plant came in two different varieties, according to medieval texts (the myth has been traced back to the year 436). One grew newborn lambs inside of pods and another produced a lamb that was attached to a stem by its bellybutton. The lambs were apparently hunted (or gathered?) for their flesh, which tasted like fish and sweet blood. Yum?
“Shemomechama” is a Georgian word meaning “I accidentally ate the whole thing.”
If you’ve ever had the intention of enjoying a nibble or two of your favorite treat but ended up devouring every last bit, then you should add “shemomechama” to your vocabulary. The Georgian word, which doesn’t have an English equivalent, translates to “I accidentally ate the whole thing.”
The world’s most expensive hot dog costs $169.
The Tokyo Dog food truck in Seattle, Washington, charges $169 for their “Juuni Ban,” making it the world’s most expensive hot dog. The hot dog includes smoked cheese bratwurst, butter Teriyaki grilled onions, Maitake mushrooms, Wagyu beef, foie gras, shaved black truffles, caviar, and Japanese mayonnaise on a brioche bun.
There’s a desert in Canada.
When you think about Canada, you probably imagine acres of forests and lots of snow. But it turns out there’s also a desert in the Great White North. According to The Star, “the grasslands and bald hills outside the town of Osoyoos are an extension of the Sonoran Desert that runs as far south as Mexico and creeps north to form Canada’s only arid desert.” The area in British Columbia is home to 100 rare plants and 300 creatures that can’t be found anywhere else in the country, such as painted turtles, scorpions, lizards, and pygmy horned toads.
A barista set a world record for making 420 cappuccinos in an hour.
If you’re heading to your local coffee shop and need your drink ASAP, then hopefully you’ll end up with a barista like Liza Thomas. The Australian woman set a world record when she made 420 cappuccinos in just one hour. According to Guinness World Records, “Liza’s attempt had the added pressure of taking place in public, with fellow colleagues and café goers watching her every move and enjoying the cappuccinos, which were given away as she made them.”
Stars don’t really twinkle.
“Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” may have led us to believe that the massive celestial bodies that appear in the night sky are sparkling, but it turns out that the flashing we see is merely a “space mirage.” The light that emanates from stars is steady and constant, but Earth’s atmosphere interferes with what we witness, which is why they appear to twinkle.
Armadillos almost always give birth to identical quadruplets.
Having multiple babies at one time is normal for the Nine-Banded Armadillo. This creature, which can be found throughout the Americas, almost always gives birth to quadruplets, and each newborn pup is identical to its siblings.
Betty White is older than ballpoint pens, trampolines, and sliced bread.
Actress Betty White was born on January 17, 1922. That means the Hollywood icon is older than plenty of things, including ballpoint pens, trampolines, microwaves, electric razors, instant coffee, garages, traffic signals, rubber tires, frozen food, sunglasses, and even sliced bread.
The first time a toilet appeared on TV was in 1957.
In the early days of television, there were much stricter rules about what you could and couldn’t show onscreen. That’s why Leave It to Beaver ran into a problem in 1957 when one script included the show’s main characters keeping their pet alligator in a toilet tank. The issue was that they weren’t allowed to show a toilet on TV, according to the Standards and Practices department. Ultimately, they reached a compromise: The show could feature the toilet tank as long as the bowl remained out of the shot.
A queen termite can live up to 50 years.
Termites are industrious little creatures capable of building massive structures for their extensive colonies. But that’s not the only remarkable thing about them. The queen termite can also live up to 50 years, which is the longest lifespan of any known insect, according to Smithsonian. For comparison, worker and soldier termites live just one to two years.
Newborn babies don’t cry tears.
On top of sleeping, eating, and pooping, babies spend plenty of their time crying. However, while they may scream and wail, newborns don’t shed tears. That ability takes a while to develop, which is why parents won’t start to see actual teardrops form until their baby is between two weeks and three months old.
There are more than 6,000 species of grass.
You may think of grass as a relatively boring plant, but there are more than 6,000 different species of grass, which is the name that we tend to use to refer to the Gramineae plant family. According to All About Lawns, “bamboo is a grass and so are the plants that make sugar, liquor, bread, and many other staples.”
1816 was known as “the year without a summer.”
In April 1815, Mount Tambora in Indonesia experienced the biggest volcanic eruption in human history. The event, which lasted an unimaginable two weeks, blew countless tons of dust, ash, and sulfur dioxide into the Earth’s atmosphere. That blanket of ash shielded the planet from the sun, which led to “the year without a summer.” According to USA Today, parts of New England saw heavy snow falling in June and a deadly frost set in during July and August.
An entire Lord of the Rings set washed down a river during a flood.
The Lord of the Rings film trilogy included plenty of stunning sets, but there’s one we never got to see. At the end of the first movie, The Fellowship of the Ring, there was supposed to be a scene where the main characters face off against orcs while on the river.
“We had all kinds of action planned with boats flipping over … and Legolas’s boat afloat as it bucks and tosses, while the Elf—standing with a foot on each of the gunwales—would be firing arrows at the attackers,” director Peter Jackson said, according to Mental Floss. However, before it could be filmed, a flood, which caused a state of emergency in Queenstown, New Zealand, swept through and washed the entire set down the river.
The average cloud weighs an estimated 1.1 million pounds.
Clouds may look like giant fluffy puffs of cotton, but they’re actually quite hefty. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the average cloud weighs around 1.1 million pounds (551 tons). Despite their immense weight, “that ‘heavy’ cloud is floating over your head because the air below it is even heavier—the lesser density of the cloud allows it to float on the dryer and more-dense air.”
Human teeth are just as strong as shark teeth.
A shark’s teeth might be more feared, but human teeth are just as strong. According to a 2012 study in the Journal of Structural Biology, the enamel on a human wisdom tooth is just as hard as the enameloid coating on shark teeth. Both are made of mineral crystals bound together with proteins, which prevent teeth—shark and human, alike—from shattering under a sudden impact.
The smell of chocolate makes people want to buy romance novels.
When you think about romance, you might imagine champagne and roses, sweet music, and even sweeter treats. And you’re definitely not alone. So many people associate the smell of candy with a lovey-dovey vibe that research published in 2013 in the Journal of Environmental Psychology found that the smell of chocolate in a bookstore makes people want to buy romance novels.
Cleopatra lived closer in time to the invention of social media than to the construction of the Great Pyramid at Giza.
Cleopatra is undeniably one of the most famous rulers of Egypt. And yet, she actually lived closer to the invention of social media than to the construction of the great pyramid at Giza. The queen died in 30 B.C., while the great pyramid at Giza was built around 2560 B.C. That means that the pyramid was completed more than 2,500 years before Cleopatra’s time.
Multiple species are named after Harry Potter books.
The Harry Potter books continue to inspire fans from all walks of life, including the scientists who are responsible for naming newly discovered creatures. That’s perhaps how we’ve ended up with the Harryplax severus crab (named after Harry and his professor Severus Snape), the Eriovixia Gryffindori spider (which looks like the sorting hat used at Hogwarts), the Dracorex Hogwartsia dinosaur fossil (which translates to the “dragon king of Hogwarts”), and the Clevosaurus sectumsemper lizard fossil (named for a spell that was cast in the books).
The fax machine was invented before the Civil War.
While fax machines may seem old school, they’re actually way older than you thought. The machines, which were originally called “chemical telegrams,” were invented by Alexander Bain in 1843. That was decades before the telephone, which received a patent in 1876, and the American Civil War, which started in 1861.
The largest scoop of ice cream weighed more than 3,000 pounds.
I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream! And fans of the chilly treat will surely squeal over the largest scoop of ice cream ever, which weighed 3,010 pounds. In June 2014, Kemps Dairy Cedarburg, Wisconsin, served up a strawberry flavored scoop that measured nearly 6 feet by 6 feet. It took around 733 household containers of ice cream to create the massive serving, which was put together by five nationally ranked snow sculptors before being handed out to attendees at the Cedarburg Strawberry Festival in Wisconsin.
The human nose can detect more than one trillion smells.
In the past, scientists believed that humans could only smell around 10,000 different scents. However, according to a 2014 study published in Science, we may actually be able to detect around one trillion smells. “People have been talked into this idea that humans are bad at detecting smells,” said neurobiologist Leslie Vosshall of Rockefeller University in New York City, who led the study. Incredibly, it seems like we’re not so bad at it at all!
The longest word in the English language is pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanocon- iosis.
Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis is, sadly, a lung disease that’s caused by inhaling fine ash or sand dust. And with 45 letters, it’s also the longest word in the English language. It’s followed by pseudopseudohypoparathyroidism, which has 30 letters, and floccinaucinihilipilification, which has 29 letters.
Humans share 60 percent of their DNA with bananas.
It may seem like humans are vastly different from the rest of the beings on Earth, but when you take a look at our DNA, we have a lot more in common with other animals—and foods—than you might expect. Humans share more than 60 percent of their DNA with bananas—the same percentage we share with both chickens and fruit flies.
Playing Portal 2 is better for your brain than brain-training games like Lumosity.
If you use brain-training apps like Lumosity or have been thinking about trying one out, you might want to consider giving the video game Portal 2 a shot. That’s because a 2014 study published in the journal Computers & Education found that the puzzle-solving video game is actually better for your brain than apps that are specifically designed to sharpen your cognitive abilities, including problem-solving, spatial skills, and even your level of persistence.
Neutron stars can spin at a rate of 600 rotations per second.
Neutron stars can rotate up to 60 times per second after they’re first formed. That rate can increase to more than 600 times per second when things really get rolling (or rather, spinning).
“Kummerspeck” is the German word for the weight you put on from emotional eating.
At times, when you’re sad or stressed, picking up your favorite takeout or indulging in a delicious dessert can be a simple way to make yourself feel a little better. But if you overindulge in too many treats, then you might notice a little “kummerspeck,” which is what Germans call the weight you put on due to emotional eating. Hilariously, it literally translates to “grief bacon.”
President Ulysses S. Grant was arrested for speeding on a horse.
Ulysses S. Grant may have been the 18th president of the United States, but that didn’t mean that he always followed the law—even while he was in office. The skilled equestrian enjoyed traveling at high speeds, which was illegal. When Grant was caught going at a so-called “furious pace,” he was given a firm warning by policeman William West. Although Grant apologized, he was caught speeding the very next day by the very same officer. As a result, he was arrested and taken to the police station where he was booked and fined for his offense.
Your mouth produces about one liter of saliva a day.
You may find that your mouth gets a little dry when you’re nervous. But on most days, you produce about one liter of saliva.
Scientists found nearly 1,500 new bacteria species in belly buttons.
When a team from North Carolina State University took a look at what was inside the belly buttons of 60 different people, they found a “rain forest” of microscopic life. In total, they identified 2,368 bacterial species, 1,458 of which may be new. According to National Geographic, the belly button of “one science writer, for instance, apparently harbored a bacterium that had previously been found only in soil from Japan—where he has never been. Another [volunteer], who hadn’t washed in several years, hosted two species of so-called extremophile bacteria that typically thrive in ice caps and thermal vents.”
Human bodies give off a tiny amount of light that glows.
Being a human that glows sounds like something out of a superhero movie. But it turns out that all bodies emit a tiny amount of light. “The human body literally glimmers,” wrote researchers from the Tohoku Institute of Technology in a 2009 study that appeared in PLoS One. While it’s pretty cool to think of our bodies shimmering like a diamond, the scientists also explained why we can’t see the shiny sheen, writing, “The intensity of the light emitted by the body is 1,000 times lower than the sensitivity of our naked eyes.”
According to The Guardian, this glow is “the result of highly reactive free radicals produced through cell respiration interacting with free-floating lipids and proteins. The ‘excited’ molecules that result can react with chemicals called fluorophores to emit photons.”
The largest turtle ever recorded weighed more than a ton.
The largest and heaviest turtle ever recorded was a leatherback that washed ashore in the United Kingdom in September 1988 after it had drowned when it was trapped in a fishing line. Around 100 years old when it was found, the turtle was almost 9 feet long and weighed 2,016 pounds.
The gold in Earth’s core could cover the planet in a knee-high layer.
Down in Earth’s core, there’s a stash of gold that sank to its current location when the planet was was still in a molten state. In fact, there’s so much of the precious metal down there that if it were to cover the surface of the planet, it would create a layer that was about 13 inches thick.
A million seconds is about 12 days while a billion seconds is about 32 years.
A million dollars may sound almost as good as a billion, but that’s only because the average person has no concept of the staggeringly vast difference between the two amounts. However, The New York Times breaks it down for us by using time as an example. “It would take almost 12 days for a million seconds to elapse and 31.7 years for a billion seconds,” according to a 1986 article. Yeah, that’s a BIG difference. On top of that, “a trillion seconds would amount to no less than 31,709.8 years.”
Americans thought tomatoes were poisonous until the early 19th century.
Back in the 1700s, people deemed tomatoes “poison apples.” That’s because tomatoes are highly acidic, and so when European aristocrats ate them off their pewter plates, the food leached lead from the dish and passed it on to the diner. That resulted in lead poisoning, which could sometimes lead to death, according to Smithsonian. The “poison apple” myth prevailed in Britain and its North American colonies for more than 200 years, until it was dispelled in the early 18oos.
Radioactive particles from the Cold War were found in the deepest parts of the ocean.
We’re well aware of the destructive power of nuclear bombs. But now scientists have discovered another lasting consequence of the deadly force. Findings published in 2019 in Geophysical Research Letters revealed that radioactive particles that originated from atomic bomb tests between the 1940s and the 1960s were detected in crustaceans that live in the deepest part of the ocean, the Mariana Trench.
According to Smithsonian, “from 1945 to 1963 the United States and the Soviet Union (with a little help from the United Kingdom and France) detonated nearly 500 nuclear bombs, 379 of which exploded in the atmosphere. These tests dramatically increased the amount of carbon-14 on our planet. The Test Ban Treaty of 1963 put a stop to most atmospheric and underwater tests, and carbon-14 levels in the atmosphere started a slow return to normal—though they are still higher than pre-nuclear levels—as ocean waters and land-based life absorbed carbon from the air.”
Pieces of the same metal become permanently stuck together if they touch in space.
If you’re on Earth and want to attach two pieces of metal to each other, you’ll need some pretty intense heat to do the trick. But in space, two pieces of metal will permanently be stuck together if they simply touch thanks to something called “cold welding.” The freezing fusing phenomenon was discovered during 1965’s Gemini IV mission when astronauts were temporarily unable to close a hatch after a spacewalk because the door’s metals had fused when exposed to space.
Viagra can help plants stand up straighter and last longer.
Viagra may typically be prescribed to humans, but it also gives plants a boost, helping them stand up more erect and last longer. According to Israeli scientist Ya’acov Leshem, from Bar-Ilan University, flowers that had been given Viagra “looked much fresher [and] their [color] remained longer.”
Butterflies taste with their feet.
While you might think that a butterfly’s transformation from a caterpillar is the most amazing thing about them, it’s not the only incredibly cool fact about the tiny creature. For instance, thanks to sensors located at the end of their skinny little legs, butterflies taste with their feet.
Otters hold hands while they sleep.
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).
There is a shape with 19 sides.
You probably think you know a lot about shapes. Squares have four sides. Hexagons have six sides. Polygons have lots of sides. But do you know there’s a shape with 19 sides? In fact, it’s called an enneadecagon or a 19-gon.
Cows moo in regional accents.
Language experts have suggested that cows have regional accents just like humans. According to the BBC, this phenomenon was first detected by dairy farmers who noticed that their cows had different moos, depending on what herd they came from. Very mooo-ving indeed.
Scientists cannot determine how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pops.
Yes, scientists literally took the time to deteremine how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop. According to the candy’s official website, students at Purdue University and the University of Michigan 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 Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop.
Captain Morgan is based on a real person.
The face of the well-loved rum brand actually existed. According to Captain Morgan’s website, Sir Henry Morgan was a Welsh privateer born sometime around 1635 who fought alongside the English against the Spanish in the Caribbean in the 1660s and 1670s. He was knighted by King Charles II of England and 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.
Elephants are capable of complex thought.
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 toward family members may be comparable to that of human beings.
Barns weren’t always intentionally red.
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. It was an effective sealant, but it 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.
Judge Judy makes $47 million a year.
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 and refuses to engage in salary negotiations with executives. This very blunt approach may not work for everyone, but hey, knowing your value, like she clearly does, is a good place to start.
The hashtag (#) symbol isn’t actually called a hashtag.
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. You’ll never look at Instagram and Twitter octothorpes the same way now.
The “H” and “M” in H&M stem from its hunting and fishing roots.
Ever wonder what the clothing retailer H&M’s initials actually stood for? Well, the Swedish company, which was founded in 1947, was originally called Hennes, which translates to “Hers.” In 1968, Hennes acquired the brand Mauritz Widforss, which sold hunting and fishing equipment. As a result, the company then became Hennes & Mauritz. Finally, in 1974, the brand shortened its name to H&M, as we know and love today.
Yawning is biological air conditioning.
Originally thought to be a social cue, a series of experiments actually suggests a different reason for this bodily function. As Andrew C. Gallup, Ph.D., a postdoctoral research associate at Princeton University, told WebMD, 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 forces a downward flow of spinal fluid and blood from the brain. The air breathed into the mouth cools these fluids.
Our taste buds grow up with us.
Ever wonder why spinach became easier to eat as you grew older? Or maybe it was anchovies or olives. Whatever the food, a 2015 survey conducted by Butterkist revealed some insights as to why this might be, as The Telegraph reported.
According to Butterkist’s research, each person is born with approximately 10,000 taste buds that are replaced around every two weeks. However, as we 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 we were younger to become more palatable as we age.
Cats sleep more than half of their lives.
If you’re a cat owner or just a cat lover, you’ve probably noticed that kitties sleep… a lot. And you’re not mistaken. According to the National Sleep Foundation, cats spend more than 60 percent of their lives sleeping. Every day, cats usually sleep about 15 hours.
There’s a Starbucks for spies.
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. According to The Washington Post, it’s listed as Store Number 1 on receipts, and its baristas must go through extensive and rigorous interviews and background checks. In order to leave their post, they must be escorted by agency “minders.” Oh, and—as you might have guessed—names aren’t written on the iconic cups.
Cap’n Crunch has a full name.
According to CNN, the cereal box character Cap’n Crunch’s real name is Horatio Magellan Crunch. His ship has a name, too—the S.S. Guppy.
Scotland has more than 400 words for “snow.”
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 underwent a project to compile a Scots thesaurus, called the Historical Thesaurus of Scots. Some words include: “snaw” (snow), “sneesl” (to begin to rain or snow), and “skelf” (a large snowflake).
The inventor of the microwave wasn’t trying to create a microwave.
The microwave is an example of a brilliant invention that was 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 a “sort of electric whistle that … 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.
Chicago’s nickname has nothing to do with its weather.
Sure, the city gets cold in the winter and wind definitely plays a role in that, but the nickname The Windy City has nothing to do with that. According to the Chicago Historical Society, 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, referring to this particular designation of people as “full of hot air.”
Peanuts aren’t actually nuts.
Despite the “nut” in its name, peanuts aren’t actually nuts. They’re legumes! Other types of legumes include lentils and peas. Oh, and walnuts and almonds aren’t nuts either—they’re stone fruits!
Whales swallow half a million calories in a single mouthful.
Or, specifically, around 457,000 calories, according to a 2011 review of research published in the Journal of Experimental Biology. Many whale species take in oversized mouthfuls of ocean water and filter out the krill and other small ocean life for consumption using their baleen plates. They’re the Michael Phelps of the ocean world. (The swimmer has been said to eat 12,000 calories a day.)
The majority of the Sahara Desert is covered in gravel.
There’s a year-round ice hotel.
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. Now, there is also ICEHOTEL 365, a permanent structure that includes 20 luxury suites and a large ice bar that serves champagne. This one can be visited year-round and is cooled by solar panels during the summer.
Movie trailers used to screen after the feature film.
This is why they’re called trailers—because they used to “trail” the main attraction. The first trailer premiered 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 reins.
George Washington never actually lived in Washington, D.C.
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, and Philadelphia. John Adams was actually the first U.S. president to live in D.C. The reason Washington never lived in The White House? He died before the establishment was finished.
Giraffe tongues are nearly two-feet long.
Giraffe tongues grow up to 18 to 20 inches. These appendages have to be sizable to navigate around the long spikes of the Vachellia and Senegalia plants they typically consume for sustenance.
Greeks and Romans used to use crocodile dung as skincare.
The ancient Greeks and Romans believed that crocodile feces was beneficial for the skin and frequently used the substance as an early anti-aging treatment. According to plastic surgeon Dr. Terry Dubrow, the substance was frequently combined with mud to create face masks.
More people drown in deserts than die of thirst.
One would think that dying of thirst and dehydration would the leading cause of death in the desert, but surprisingly, it’s drowning, according to the United States Geological Survey. Though precipitation in the desert is infrequent, when it does rain, it comes on suddenly and very heavily. Since deserts don’t have water drainage systems in place, and the rains fall too fast for the dry, clay-like soil to absorb the rainfall, water overflow becomes excessive. This also results in quicksand and sandstorms, which can lead to drowning by sand.
If 23 people are in the same room, there’s a 50 percent chance that two share the same birthday.
Also referred to as the “birthday problem” or “birthday paradox,” this is based on a mathematical principle, frequently attributed to mathematician Harold Davenport. There are only 366 possible birthdays in a year, including February 29, and each day has an equal chance of being a birthday. Using these facts, Davenport figured out that when 23 people are gathered in the same room, there’s 50 percent probability that two share a birthday. With 70 people, it’s a 99.9 percent probability that two of them will have the same birthday.
It takes up to two weeks to make a jelly bean.
Making jelly beans can take up to 14 days, according to Jelly Belly. Think about this the next time you simply toss the flavor you don’t like.
Wasps are more likely to attack at the end of summer.
Toward the end of summer, when wasps are done providing for their queen and her offspring, they like to feast on energizing sugary foods and drinks in preparation for the wintertime. They will even feed on ripe and fermenting plant sap in order to “be inebriated,” as etymologist Donald Lewis explained to Slate. The problem? Once wasps are able to leave the nest and hunt for food, they are all the more available to sting you. One 2006 study published in the Journal of Family Practice found that August and September have the highest incidences of yellow jacket stings.
Several Chinese emperors died from taking an “immortality” elixir.
Chinese emperors who wanted to extend their lifespan would take elixirs that were thought to bring on immortality. However, these elixirs actually contained mercury, lead, and arsenic and resulted in their deaths from poisoning. According to historians, the first emperor to die from elixir poisoning was Qin Shi Huang around 210 B.C., and the last was Yongzheng in 1735 A.D.
Willie Nelson and Frank Sinatra made PSAs together on space.
Willie Nelson and Frank Sinatra were not only great friends but also collaborators. In the early 1980s, they did a series of PSAs to promote the benefits of space technology. “We do share the same feeling about space technology,” Sinatra said in one of the commercials. “What this casually dressed gentleman and I have found out and want you to know, is that a lot of what’s going on up there,” he continued… “Benefits all of us down here,” Nelson chimed in.
Adolf Hitler plotted to kill Winston Churchill with exploding chocolate.
The Nazis might be known for heinous war crimes and tactics, but assassination by chocolate is one evil plot that they’ve been able to keep relatively under wraps. In the 1940s, Adolf Hitler’s bomb-makers coated explosive devices with a thin layer of dark chocolate, then packaged it in black and gold paper in order to make it look fancy, Smithsonian reports. German secret agents were to place this “chocolate” in Winston Churchill’s War Cabinet dining room where he often ate his meals. However, the plan was foiled by British spies. Death by chocolate averted!
A chicken survived without a head for 18 months.
Back in 1945, a Colorado farmer named Lloyd Olsen beheaded a chicken in preparation for dinner. However, he somehow missed the bird’s jugular vein and left one ear and most of its brain intact. The result? A fully functioning headless chicken. The farmer charged guests 25 cents to meet “Mike the Headless Chicken,” as he was known, and soon the farmer and the bird were traveling all across the country so people could get a glimpse. The bird survived for 18 months by being fed a mixture of milk and water via his exposed esophagus.
There are 10 million tons of diamonds on Jupiter and Saturn.
In a 2013 study published in the journal Nature, 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. It’s possible that as many as 10 million tons of diamonds can be inside these two planets combined.
Nutmeg can be poisonous in large doses.
While a small dusting of nutmeg on top of egg nog or desserts is fine, large doses of the spice—around two to three tablespoons, to be exact—can be toxic and even deadly. While nutmeg poison cases are rare—only 32 cases were reported between 2001 and 2011, according to the Journal of Medical Toxicology—they are most common in teenagers who have taken it intentionally to test its toxicity. Nutmeg has also been used in prisons, where inmates ingest large amounts in order to get a “high” feeling.
The longest bout of hiccups lasted for 68 years.
An Iowan farmer by the name of Charles Osborne holds the world record for the longest continuous bout of hiccups at 68 years. According to BBC News, Osborne started out hiccuping about 40 times a minute, though eventually it slowed down to just 20 hiccups. He died in 1991, spending 70 percent of his 97 years hiccuping.
Horses cannot physically vomit.
Why can’t horses vomit? Well, according to Equus magazine, horses have much stronger lower esophageal sphincters than other animals, and this makes it impossible for that valve to open under backward pressure from the stomach.
Abraham Lincoln’s dog was also assassinated.
When Abraham Lincoln was elected president of the United States, he and his wife Mary decided that it would be a bad idea to bring their dog, Fido, to Washington, D.C. due to all the activity, travel, and continual noise.
The Lincolns allowed for Fido to be adopted by close family friends. Unfortunately, however, Fido met a similar fate to his former owner one day when he playfully put his dirty paws on a drunken man in the street, who responded by stabbing the pup fatally.
The world population has more than doubled since John F. Kennedy was president.
As of May 2019, the world population was estimated to be 7.6 billion. Between 1960 and 1965, when John F. Kennedy was president of the United States, the world’s population was just over 3 billion. That means the world population has more than doubled in about 60 years. And, according to the United Nations, the world population is estimated to reach 9.8 billion by 2050.
Black teeth were a sign of wealth in 18th century England.
In 18th century England, sugar was a valuable commodity that was consumed in excess. Because it was expensive, it was mostly enjoyed only by the rich and rotten, like Queen Elizabeth I. As a result, if someone had black teeth, a sign of eating too much sugar, they were considered to be wealthy. My, how times have changed.
There’s a fence in Australia longer than the distance between Seattle and Miami.
There’s a fence in Australia named the Dingo-Proof Fence, which stretches across nearly 3,500 miles, longer than the 3,330 miles between Seattle, Washington, and Miami, Florida. Not surprisingly, the Dingo-Proof Fence earned the Guinness World Record for being the longest fence in the world. This structure, which was completed in 1885, gets its name because it was intended to keep dingoes out of the fertile southeast part of the continent.
Almonds are part of the peach family.
Remember what we said about nuts? Well, almonds are actually the hard-shelled fruit of the almond tree. This type of stone fruit is a member of the same family as peaches, apricots, and plums. And if you think about it, the pit of a peach does indeed resemble a large nut.
The longest time between two twins being born is 87 days.
Twins Katie and Amy Jones-Elliot hold the Guinness World Record for the longest birth interval between two twins, being born 87 days apart. In 2012, their mother, Maria, went into labor four months early and gave birth to Amy, but Katie was able to stay in her womb for three more months. Miraculously, both girls survived and are healthy today.
A jockey won a horse race while dead.
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 his body stayed in the saddle as Sweet Kiss crossed the finish line—and won the race! So, even though he was dead, Hayes was still a winner (and a history maker).
Bananas are Walmart’s best-selling item.
Talk about a totally bananas fact! Of all the things that Walmart carries and sells, the best-selling item is bananas, and has been for several years, Vice reports. Why bananas, you ask? Well, a Walmart spokesperson explained to Business Insider that bananas are a hit because they’re an easy, healthy food to pack and eat, and very affordable.
Scotland’s national animal is the unicorn.
When Scotland featured the unicorn on its royal coat of arms in the 12th century, the creature was believed to be a real animal. It wasn’t until 1825 that scientist Georges Cuvier disproved the mystical creature’s existence, stating that it was not feasible for an animal with a split hoof to have a single horn emerging from its head, according to National Geographic. But, as the unicorn symbolizes nobility, purity, power, and good luck, it remains Scotland’s national animal today.
Iran performs more sex reassignment surgeries than most countries in the world.
Many LGBT people in Iran choose to have sexual reassignment surgeries since same-sex relationships are a crime in the country. Changing their sex, however, allows them to be in relationships with the people they’re attracted to.
As of 2008, Iran performs the second most sex reassignment surgeries in the world, right behind Thailand, according to the BBC. The country also makes these operations very accessible, with health insurance companies covering some of the cost.
May 29 is “Put a Pillow on Your Fridge Day.”
Yes, “Put a Pillow on Your Fridge Day” is a real holiday, celebrated in the United States and Europe every year on May 29, spanning back to the early 1900s. 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, the precursor to the fridge. But as time went on and electrical refrigerators came to be, this tradition evolved and became “Put a Pillow on Your Fridge Day.” There’s even a Facebook page devoted to it!
Lettuce is the only fruit or vegetable that is only sold fresh.
Think of the items in the canned, frozen, and cooked foods sections of your grocery store. Is there one fruit or vegetable that you never see? We’d bet that it’s lettuce. It turns out, the leafy green is the only piece of produce that is only sold fresh. And 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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