100 Facts That Will Make You Feel Instantly Smarter
Dropping this knowledge will boost your confidence.
“I have no special talent,” Albert Einstein once remarked. “I am only passionately curious.” And here’s the thing: You should be, too. After all, tons of experts say that maintaining a healthy dose of curiosity about the world around you will help sharpen your mind, make you happier, strengthen your relationships, and even improve your productivity.
So, if you want to set yourself on a path to reaping those benefits—and, in the process, arm yourself with all sorts of fascinating facts and trivia that will make you feel like a total genius and boost your confidence—read the 100 facts we’ve compiled right here. They’re fun, they’re interesting, and they’re guaranteed to fan the flames of your curiosity.
There Are More Card Combinations Than There Are Atoms on Earth
Maybe don’t blame your bad luck at the poker table on your gambling abilities; there are more ways to arrange a deck of cards than there are total atoms on the earth! If a card deck is shuffled properly, there’s a pretty high chance that it comes out in an arrangement that has never existed before, because a deck of 52 cards has an astronomically large number of permutations. (Put simply: It’s a 69-digit number that begins with 80.)
Crows Can Recognize Individual Human Faces and Hold Grudges
It’s probably best not to get on a crow’s bad side. According to one study—plus tons of anecdotal evidence from wildlife biologists—the highly intelligent birds are capable of remembering individual human faces, even if those who have wronged them wear a disguise.
So how do crows show their distaste? They scream.“The birds were really raucous, screaming persistently,” said one volunteer in the crow study. “And it was clear they weren’t upset about something in general. They were upset with me.” Sounds intense!
Readers Are More Likely to Agree With an Essay if it’s Printed in Baskerville Font
Some fonts are pleasing to the eye while others irk readers for one reason or another. But it turns out that the fonts we like (and don’t like) influence us more than we may know. In an experiment for the New York Times, readers who were shown an essay in Baskerville were more likely to agree with whatever it was arguing than if it was presented in any other font. Readers were least likely to agree with statements made in fonts like Comic Sans and Helvetica.
Lungs Are the Only Human Organ That Can Float on Water
Every day, the average human breathes around 22,000 times and, according to the Lung Foundation of Australia, no matter how hard a person exhales, their lungs will still have about one liter of air lingering inside, which makes the organ buoyant enough to float on water. No other organ in the human body has the same ability.
Ancient Pompeii Had Take-Out Restaurants
There are days when you’re not in the mood to cook for yourself, which is why grabbing takeout is such a great option. And apparently, the residents of ancient Pompeii felt the same way. Before the city was destroyed by the disastrous eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD, most people who lived in the area didn’t have a home kitchen and instead took advantage of shops called “popinae” that offered prepared food like porridge, ham, and stew. And in the same way we can peruse menus on the walls of McDonald’s or Burger King, Pompeians could check out painted frescos that featured the meals that they could order.
Chicago Is Sinking at a Similar Rate to Venice
You may have heard that Venice is sinking, but so is Chicago—and it’s going down just as quickly. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the city in Illinois is getting one to two millimeters lower every year (that’s four to eight inches every century). For comparison, Venice is also sinking at a rate of two millimeters per year.
The phenomenon is due to a glacial melt that happened around 10,000 years ago and led to some areas popping up after the weight of the ice was removed (consider what would happen if you squeezed one end of a tube of toothpaste; the other end would pop up). Now, the ground is settling again, which means its sinking back down.
Scientists Made Music Especially for Cats
Cats apparently appreciate music as much as we do, but they don’t necessarily like the same tunes as humans. That’s why scientists from both the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and the University of Maryland worked together to compose “cat-centric music.” Charles Snowdon, the lead author on the study explained, “We looked at the natural vocalizations of cats and matched our music to the same frequency range, which is about an octave or more higher than human voices… And since cats use lots of sliding frequencies in their calls, the cat music had many more sliding notes than the human music.” What they came up with is a song called “Cozmo’s Air.”
Africa Is the Only Continent With Land in All Four Hemispheres
As you (hopefully!) already know, planet Earth is divided into four hemispheres: north, south, east, and west. But only one of the eight continents can lay claim to being located in all four, and that’s Africa. The continent is also the second largest (the first being Asia).
Déjà Vu Is Just Brain-Processing Lag
Though it hasn’t been 100 percent proven, it’s a consensus that déjà vu results when there is a split-second delay in transferring information from one side of the brain to the other, so your brain, overall, gets the information twice, essentially processing the event as having happened before. Think of it like your mind glitching and opening the same web browser twice.
‘J’ Is The Only Letter That Doesn’t Appear on the Periodic Table
If you run through the list of elements found on the periodic table—hydrogen, helium, oxygen, magnesium, titanium, copper, and all of the others—there’s only one letter missing: ‘j.’ That is unless you’re looking at a periodic table from countries like Norway, Poland, Sweden, Serbia, or Croatia, which use the name “jod” for iodine.
People in Medieval Times Walked Different Than We Do Now
Back in medieval times, shoes were basically thin strips of leather that covered the foot and didn’t provide much protection at all. Because of this, people walked the same way we naturally do when we’re barefoot: toe first, which allows us to test the surface in front of us and puts less stress on our knees. Frankly, it’s how humans walked for millennia before modern-day shoes came along, which keep our feet much safer so we can step down harder with our heels first.
Family Members Share a Smell
The natural smells of any two family members are similar, which is why the average person doesn’t find family members attractive. Research out of the University of Utah even showed that subjects are more averse to family members’ scents than to strangers’ scents. Basically, this is Mother Nature’s way of decreasing genetic mutations caused by inbreeding.
Green “Emerald Icebergs” Exist
It’s hard to imagine icebergs as anything other than gigantic snow-white mini-islands floating around the coldest places on Earth. But for years, scientists have been baffled by the occasional “emerald iceberg.” And while the color may seem odd, glaciologist Stephen Warren of the University of Washington has climbed up one of the frozen chunks to get a closer look.
“What is most amazing is not their color but rather their clarity, because they have no bubbles,” he told IFL Science. “Ordinary icebergs originate as snow; as the snow is compressed under its own weight into ice, the air in the snow is closed off as bubbles. So glacier ice contains numerous bubbles, and icebergs are bright and cloudy.” After taking samples from the jade-colored iceberg, Warren found that the color was due to the fact that the bergs were made of marine ice instead of glacial ice, and contained more iron oxide than typical ice.
Red-Eye in Photos is a Reflection of Your Blood
When the flash of a camera goes off, the eye isn’t prepared for the sudden influx of light, and the pupil doesn’t have time to restrict. You’re likely using flash in dark lighting, so your eyes have dilated to adjust to the dark room. When the flash goes off and the photo is taken, your eyes are still dilated, so the light reflects off of the red blood vessels of the choroid, which is the layer of connective tissue in the back of the eye that nourished the retina.
Princess Leia’s Hair in Star Wars Was Inspired by Real Mexican Rebels
Star Wars may have taken place “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away,” but the movie-makers responsible for coming up with Princess Leia’s iconic hairstyle for the film were inspired by some very real-life warriors. In particular, the soldaderas, or the female Mexican rebels who fought against the dictatorship of Porfirio Díaz around the beginning of the 20th century. It’s believed that director George Lucas may have based Leia’s double buns on a picture of Clara de la Rocha, who was a colonel in the Mexican Revolution. And as further proof that Clara was the main inspiration behind Leia’s buns, a famous photo of her is now archived at the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, which was founded by George Lucas himself.
An Archaeologist Discovered a 5,000-Year-Old Brewery in China
Kicking back with a pint isn’t as modern as you might think. In 2016, archaeologists in the Central Plain of China discovered “beer-making tool kits” in underground rooms that were built between 3400 and 2900 B.C.E. The equipment included funnels, pots, jugs, and a pottery stove. Scientists used the residue they found inside of the tools to deduce the 5,000-year-old beer recipe, which they published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences.
Astronauts Grow Up to Two Inches in Space
While astronauts are floating around in space, they aren’t subjected to the pressure of Earth’s gravity. As a result, the vertebra in their spines can expand and relax, which means their bodies stretch up to three percent taller. That means that someone who’s six feet tall could grow up to two inches while they’re in space. However, the additional height is only temporary. When astronauts return to Earth, they shrink back down to their normal size within a few months.
The FBI Once Investigated a Song for Two Years
As far as national security goes, songs are typically fairly harmless. But back in the 1960s, parents across the country became upset by a rumor that claimed the song “Louie Louie” by The Kingsmen contained inappropriate subliminal messages. The FBI stepped in and spent more than two years putting the tune through various audio tests. And despite producing a 120-page report, the feds merely concluded that the song is “unintelligible at any speed.”
There Have Been Two Sets of Semi-Identical Twins
You probably know about identical twins (when two babies result from the same fertilized egg) and fraternal twins (when a women releases two eggs and they’re both fertilized), but did you know that semi-identical twins also exist?
Only two pairs have ever been identified and the most recent pair was a boy and a girl born in Brisbane, Australia, just a few years ago, according to research published in the New England Journal of Medicine. “The Brisbane twins are likely the result of one egg being fertilized by two sperm cells, resulting in three chromosomes,” writes IFL Science. “These three chromosomes were equally divided into two bunches of cells that then became two embryos.”
Fish Skin Can Be Used to Heal Burns
In Brazil, doctors lacking the supplies doctors in the United States might use are instead utilizing tilapia skin to bandage and treat second- and third-degree burns. The fish skin reportedly cuts down on healing time, reduces the need for pain medication, and helps with scarring due to the abundant amount of collagen proteins. Scientists from Nanyang Technological University in Singapore have also discovered that, in general, fish scale-derived collagen can help heal wounds.
Armadillo Shells Are Bulletproof
In 2015, a man in Texas tried to shoot an armadillo that he found wandering around his yard and got quite a surprise: armadillo shells are bulletproof. The unlucky fellow made this discovery when he fired his gun and the bullet ricocheted off of the animal only to hit the man in the jaw which he had to have wired shut when he was taken to the local hospital. There’s no word on how the armadillo fared after the incident, but he’s probably just fine.
Four Seconds is the Perfect Length of Time to Dunk Your Oreos in Milk
If you like to enjoy the classic combination of milk and cookies, but hate when your cookie gets too soggy, you’re not alone. That’s why researchers at Utah State University conducted tests to determine the ideal length of time you should let your cookie soak in milk. The result? Four seconds. That timeframe is backed up by a professor of physics at the University of Bristol who came up with a complicated equation years earlier that determined the ideal length of dunking a British biscuit was three-and-a-half to five seconds.
The Number of Kangaroos in Australia Has Nearly Doubled in Recent Years
It’s easy to get a kick out of kangaroos thanks to their impressive hopping abilities, but Australia is facing a problem when it comes to the multiplying marsupials. In recent years, the number of kangaroos has nearly doubled down under, from about 27 million in 2010 to almost 45 million in 2016. In order to deal with the population that’s quickly gotten out of control, experts are encouraging residents to, er, eat the kangaroos.
Charles Darwin Frequently Ate the Animals He Studied
The “Father of Evolution” Charles Darwin always had a taste for unusual cuisine—he was even a member of The Glutton Club while a student at Cambridge University. And according to io9, “He ate the iguanas he studied on the Galapagos. He ate armadillo, which he claimed tasted like duck. He ate puma. The lesser rhea, known to scientists as Rhea darwinii, got its name because Darwin sent the few bits of it he hadn’t eaten to London.” Foodbeast explains that the scientist had been enjoying the large flightless rhea bird for Christmas dinner.
Some Trees are Fire-Resistant
The bark of older Redwood and Sequioa trees builds up over time to protect them from the elements. The bark, which may be up to one foot thick, contains tannin, which provides protection against fire and fungus. Tannin solutions are actually used regularly in contracting wooden buildings to mitigate any potential for fire damage.
Picasso’s Full Name Was 23 Words Long
Picasso is one of the most famous names in the art world. But it turns out his real name was actually a little longer than what we’re used to hearing. In fact, it was a lot longer. The painter’s full name was Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Martyr Patricio Clito Ruíz y Picasso.
Bruises Change Color Because They’re Losing Oxygen
A bruise is caused by bleeding under the skin; tiny capillaries (blood vessels) are crushed, which expel blood that’s trapped under the skin. Initially, the bruise will just look red because the blood is still oxygen-rich. Within one to two days, the blood begins to lose its oxygen, turning purple.
Then, after three or more days, bruises will start to turn green, yellow, or grey thanks to compounds called biliverdin and bilirubin that break down the hemoglobin to absorb the “good stuff” (such as iron) for the body to use. The rest of the waste is eventually purged from or absorbed by the body.
The First Use of “OMG” Was in a Letter to Winston Churchill in 1917
If you text “OMG” to your friends, you might think that’s you’re using a modern acronym. But it turns out that the first appearance of the three-letter expression was in a letter to Winston Churchill in 1917. Lord Fisher, an admiral and naval innovator, wrote to the British Prime Minister and was obviously excited about a possible honor for himself and those in his line of work. He wrote,“I hear a new order of Knights in on the tapis—O.M.G. (Oh! My God!)—Shower it on the Admiralty!”
Archaeologists Have Identified a 2,000-Year-Old Tattoo Needle.
Before archaeologists decided that a cactus spine tool was, in fact, the earliest evidence of tattooing in the U.S. Southwest, the peculiar object was merely seen as an “odd-looking little artifact,” according to National Geographic. Made from prickly pear cactus spine needles and a handle carved from lemonade sumac, the item was then bound with yucca fiber and the tips dipped in dark pigment in order to produce body art around 2,000 years ago. That’s 1,000 years earlier than historians previously thought that the art had first been practiced in the area.
Dogs Really Can Smell Your Fear
Your parents probably told you that dogs can sense fear. But did you know the way they do that is by smelling it? If it seems like your puppy pal is always aware of your mood, it’s because their highly sensitive nose does, in fact, alert them to your emotional state. According to Psychology Today, dogs can not only tell when you’re happy, but they can also smell human fear by picking up “chemosignals,” which are body odors produced in human armpits.
The Most Relaxing Song Ever Is “Weightless” by the Marconi Union
If you need to relax, try putting on “Weightless” by the Marconi Union. A study led by David Lewis-Hodgson, Ph.D., of Mindlab International, found that the tune is the “most relaxing song on Earth,” reducing listeners’ stress and anxiety by 65 percent. The song was so successful when it came to chilling people out during the study, that Lewis-Hodgson warned: “‘Weightless’ was so effective, many women became drowsy and I would advise against driving while listening to the song because it could be dangerous.”
If You Removed the Empty Space from Atoms, All of Humanity Could Fit Inside an Apple
An atom is more than 99 percent empty space. Plus, atoms are ridiculously tiny—for an idea of how small, exactly, know that just one strand of your hair is about 1 million atoms thick. This is all to say if you were to take out all of the empty space in atoms, and then compress all of the atoms so they were physically touching, all of the human beings on the planet would be about the size of an apple.
The Most Popular Movie Theater Snack in Colombia is Roasted Ants
While most people in North America grab a bag of popcorn when they go to the movies, that’s not the case everywhere. For instance, if you were to see a film in Colombia, you could try out roasted ants called “hormiga culona.” And if you’re heading to the theater in Norway, you can enjoy dried reindeer meat.
Phobophobia Is the Fear of Phobias
There are plenty of things to be afraid of, including heights, small spaces, and, of course, spiders. But there are people who actually have a phobia about phobias themselves, which is technically called phobophobia.
The Eiffel Tower Can Grow More Than Six Inches During the Summer
The Eiffel Tower in Paris is made up of more than 7,300 tons and 1,063 feet of iron. But during the summer heat, the structure’s metal expands, which means that it can grow more than six inches in height during the sizzling season.
Canadians Say “Sorry” So Much That a Law Was Passed So That an Apology Can’t Be Used as an Admission of Guilt
Canadians are well-known for being incredibly polite, perhaps even to a fault. That’s why in 2009, the province of Ontario passed the “Apology Act,” which states that saying “sorry”—which can be an expression of sympathy or regret—can’t legally be considered an admission of guilt or fault.
You’re Not Really Seeing Black in a Pitch-Black Room
What you’re seeing is “igengrau,” which is “dark light,” often referred to as “brain grey.” It’s the completely uniform dark (almost black) gray background that many people report seeing in the absence of light. Some people prefer to call what they see “visual noise” because what they’re seeing is an ever-changing field of tiny white and black dots.
YouTube Was Founded on Valentine’s Day and Started as a Dating App
Nowadays, YouTube is the place to go for makeup tutorials and mukbangs, not to mention toy reviews and streams from the top gamers. But when the site was founded on Valentine’s Day in 2005, it was meant to be a dating app where singles could upload video profiles. Years later, YouTube cofounder Steve Chen explained, “We always thought there was something with video there, but what would be the actual practical application? We thought dating would be the obvious choice.”
Presidents Day and Martin Luther King Jr. Day Are The Only Federal Holidays to Commemorate Birthdays
While there are 10 federal holidays in the U.S., only two celebrate birthdays. Presidents’ Day, which takes place in the U.S. annually on the third Monday in February, was started as a celebration of George Washington’s birthday, who was born on February 22, 1732. Martin Luther King Jr. Day is held on the third Monday of January, which falls close in date to his actual birthday on January 15 and was observed for the first time on January 20, 1986, three years after President Ronald Reagan made the holiday official.
German Chocolate Cake Wasn’t Named After Germany
While German Chocolate Cake sounds like something that could originally hail from Berlin or Munich, it wasn’t named after its country of origin. Instead, it was named after baker Sam German, not the man behind the recipe, but the fellow who invented the chocolate in the cake. In 1852, German, who was either American or English—not German—came up with a kind of baking chocolate for the Baker’s company who named it after him, i.e. “German’s Chocolate.” When a woman in Texas used the chocolate for her cake recipe and submitted it to a Dallas newspaper, her dessert was deemed “German’s Chocolate Cake” thanks to the German’s chocolate that was used. In time, the ‘s’ was dropped and it became German Chocolate Cake.
There’s A Person Buried on the Moon
There’s only one human who’s made the moon their final resting place. Eugene Shoemaker was considered one of the founders of planetary science and after a career filled with stellar accomplishments, he spent his days traveling around the world to study impact craters. When he passed away in 1997 during one of his trips, his wife, Carolyn, who had once discovered a comet with her husband, sent his ashes to the moon in a metal cylinder that was inscribed with a quote from Romeo and Juliet: “And, when he shall die/Take him and cut him out in little stars/And he will make the face of heaven so fine/That all the world will be in love with night/And pay no worship to the garish sun.”
Composer Oscar Hammerstein II Was the First Person Named “Oscar” to Win an Oscar
In 1941, composer Oscar Hammerstein II won his first Academy Award for Best Original Song thanks to the lyrics he wrote for “The Last Time I Saw Paris” from the film Lady Be Good. When he took home the award, he became the first person to win who also shared a name with the award’s statue. According to Portable Press, he’s still the only Oscar to ever win an Oscar. Thankfully, he won a second Best Song award in 1945, so at least this one Oscar has two Oscars to his name.
Watching a Horror Movie Prior to Viewing Art Enhances the Experience for Most People
When researchers exposed a group of people to five different conditions—some participants watched a horror video while others saw a happy clip, some did a little exercise while others did twice as much, and the fifth group did nothing at all—the majority of those involved had the same reaction afterward when viewing art, except those who had watched the scary video. The study found that those who had seen the horror scene rated the art they were later shown as “sublime” and were able to appreciate it more than those who had not been left fearful.
“Treppenwitz” Is the German Word for Thinking of a Comeback When It’s Too Late
The next time you think of the perfectly witty response hours—or even days—after someone says something snarky to you, you’ll know what to call the frustrating experience. “Treppenqitz” is the German word for thinking of a comeback too late. According to Mental Floss, “the French have a word for this, too: esprit de l’escalier—literally, ‘the spirit of the staircase.’” Um, okay.
There Are No Rhyming Words for Month, Bulb, Wolf, Walrus, Rhythm, Husband, or Woman
Unless you get a little creative with your pronunciation, you won’t find any rhyming words in the English language for month, bulb, wolf, walrus, rhythm, husband, or woman. That is unless you choose to consider old-timey words that are no longer in use, such as culb, the little known 17th-century word for a snippy reply, and smitham, which apparently refers to fine-malt dust or powdered lead ore.
The University of Karueein Is the World’s Oldest Educational Institution
Located in Fez, Morocco, the University of Karueein (or University of Al Quaraouiyine) was founded all the way back in 859 AD. It has continued to operate for more than a thousand years, which earned it the Guinness World Record for “Oldest higher-learning institution, oldest university.” In 1963, it was incorporated into Morocco’s modern state university system; nearly 8,000 students enroll each year.
IKEA Is an Acronym Which Stands for Ingvar Kamprad Elmtaryd Agunnaryd
IKEA is well-known for the Swedish names given to the brand’s popular products, but the store’s name itself is just as interesting. In 1943, when founder Ingvar Kamprad, who was 17-years-old at the time, was given money from his father as a reward for doing well in his schoolwork, the teen decided to start his own business. He used his own two initials (I and K) as well as the first letters of the name of the farm and village where he grew up, Elmtaryd (E) and Agunnaryd (A). Put them all together and you have IKEA.
The Elephant’s Closest Relative Is a Guinea Pig-like Creature
If you were to guess what sort of animal is the elephant’s closest relative, you might try thinking of something large with an elongated nose. But you’d be way off of the mark. Instead, you’d need to take a look at the rock hyrax, a small rodent-like mammal that lives in Africa and the Middle East. While the two animals seem like they have nothing in common, they descend from a common ancestor and both have tusks and flat nails. They also have another closely related mammal relative: the manatee.
An Optical Illusion Can Make the Moon Appear to Go Backward
On March 6, 2019, NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, which is in orbit around Earth, captured a strange phenomenon in space when they watched as the moon was crossing in front of the sun, then suddenly seemed to stop before it began to move backward. According to NASA, the unusual optical illusion was due to the fact that “a celestial object appears to move backward because of the way that different objects move at different speeds at different points in their orbits.” The same effect occurs when you’re driving and pass a slower car—it will appear to be going backward for a moment as you move ahead.
Vikings Gathered to Make Legal Decisions in Community Meetings Called a “Thing”
We have all kinds of words for important gatherings where networking happens and decisions are made: meetings, conferences, conventions, assemblies, legal proceedings. But back in the days of the Vikings, communities would come together to decide on laws and conduct cases (as well as hand down judgments) at gatherings called a “Thing.”
The Man Who Invented the Rubik’s Cube Couldn’t Solve It at First
When professor Ernő Rubik invented the Rubik’s Cube in 1974 to teach his students about 3-D geometry, even he couldn’t solve the puzzle he had created. He said it was like “staring at a piece of writing written in a secret code. But for me, it was a code I myself had invented! Yet, I could not read it. This was such an extraordinary situation that I simply could not accept it.” Despite his initial inability to take down his own toy, he eventually learned to master the cube and could solve the puzzle in under a minute.
There Are Multiple Versions of the “Mona Lisa”
The “Mona Lisa” may be the most famous painting in the world, but she’s not actually an original. There are multiple copies of the “Mona Lisa” all thought to be painted by Leonardo da Vinci, though some may have been made by his students who were attempting to copy their master’s work as practice. Along with the “Mona Lisa” in the Louvre, there’s also the “Isleworth Mona Lisa,” the Prado Museum La Gioconda “Mona Lisa,” the Hermitage “Mona Lisa,” Salaì’s “Mona Lisa,” and even a nude version. Oh my!
The Pillsbury Doughboy’s Name is Poppin’ Fresh
If you’ve always called the cute little creature who promotes pre-prepared pastry goo the Pillsbury Doughboy, then you’re not necessarily wrong about his moniker. But he happens to have a specific name: Poppin’ Fresh. He also has a wife named Poppie Fresh and two children, a son that goes by Popper and a daughter known as Bun Bun. There’s also the grandparents, Granmommer and Granpopper, as well as Uncle Rollie. And if that wasn’t enough, the family has a dog called Flapjack and Biscuit the cat.
Bagpipes Were Probably First Used In Ancient Egypt, Not Scotland
Bagpipes may be one of the most recognizable symbols of Scotland, commonly seen with kilt-clad musicians who play songs about Loch Lomond. But the origin of the instrument has been traced all the way back to ancient Egypt where, in 400 B.C.E., the “pipers of Thebes” used instruments made from bone and animal skin. The bagpipes may have then made their way over to Scotland in the hands of Roman invaders.
Nettle Pudding Is One of the Oldest Recipes in the World and Goes Back 8,000 Years
If you like to tackle old-school recipes, then how about trying out the oldest known recipe in the world? Researchers at the University of Wales Institute tested an ancient recipe for nettle pudding, which dates back around 8,000 years. Although nettles are a plant that your parents may have warned you to stay away from as a child, according to researcher Dr. Ruth Fairchild, when it’s cooked with ground-down barley and water, “the sting goes out of it.”
Violet Jessop Survived Three of the Largest Ship Disasters in History
Violet Jessop may be one of the luckiest or unluckiest women in history, depending on how you look at it. The ocean liner stewardess not only survived the sinking of the Titanic in 1912, but she was also present during the Olympic ship collision in 1911 and on board during the sinking of the Britannic in 1916 (coincidentally or not, the Olympic and Britannic were the Titanic’s sister ships). Miraculously, none of the disasters could take Jessop down and she lived to be 83, passing away in 1971.
One Type of Turtle Can Survive Months Under Ice by Breathing Out of Its Butt
Not all creatures head to warmer climates when the weather gets colder, and that means they need to adapt to the changing conditions. And while bears get cozy in caves and bees nuzzle up in their nests, painted turtles deal with their ponds freezing over, which restricts their access to the air above the water, by breathing through their butts (specifically, their cloaca orifice). Thanks to a process called cloacal respiration, the turtles are able to get oxygen directly from the water around them.
The Reason the Leaning Tower of Pisa is Tilted is the Same Reason It’s Still Standing
If you’ve ever wondered why the Leaning Tower of Pisa is tilted, it’s due to the soft soil beneath the building’s surface. And while that might have frustrated the people who constructed the landmark, according to Phys.org, engineers have figured out that the soft soil is partially what protects the building from earthquakes. The tower’s height and stiffness as well as the softness of the soil found at the building’s foundation “causes the vibrational characteristics of the structure to be modified substantially, in such a way that the Tower does not resonate with earthquake ground motion.”
The First Movie Ever to Release a Soundtrack Was Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
There are plenty of classic film soundtracks that movie-lovers and music-lovers alike can enjoy. But the very first film to ever commercially release a soundtrack was Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. The movie came out in 1937 while the soundtrack—called (get ready for it) Songs from Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (with the Same Characters and Sound Effects as in the Film of That Title)—was released in January 1938 and included tracks like “I’m Wishing,” “Whistle While You Work,” “Heigh-Ho,” and “Someday My Prince Will Come.”
The Mayan and the Aztec People Used Cocoa Beans As a Form of Currency
Today, we can pay with cash, credit, or debit, but back in the times of the ancient Mayan and Aztec people, they used cocoa beans as currency. The precious seeds were also a valued commodity that could be traded for other goods. According to the Museum of the National Bank of Belgium, about 10 beans could buy you a rabbit.
The Name “LEGO” Is an Abbreviation of the Danish Words “Leg Godt” Which Mean “Play Well”
The name “LEGO” is so well-known you’ve probably never stopped to think about where the seemingly random word comes from. But according to the company itself, “LEGO” is an abbreviation of the Danish words “leg godt,” meaning “play well.” They say, “It’s our name and it’s our ideal.”
Sweat Doesn’t Smell
The smell of sweat is caused by the presence of bacteria on your skin that breaks the sweat coming out of your pores down into acids. Deodorants, which are antibacterial and often contain alcohol, work by killing the bacteria on your skin that does this. Antiperspirants, on the other hand, work by forming a gel that temporarily plugs the sweat glands on your skin, blocking them and reducing the amount of sweat that seeps through.
The Andromeda Galaxy Has a Star That Explodes Every Year
Some pretty amazing things happen over in Andromeda, which is the galaxy right next to our own Milky Way. That includes the M31N 2008-12 star, which is actually a “recurrent nova.” That means it erupts regularly, shedding a shell of its outer layer into space approximately once a year, according to the journal Nature.
The Library of Congress Is the Largest Library in the World
With more than 162 million items in no fewer than 450 languages, the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., is the largest library in the world. That’s according to both its shelf space and the number of books that is on them. And when it comes to other impressive libraries, the British Library (with more than 150 million items) comes in at number two, followed by the Library and Archives Canada (54 million items), the New York Public Library (53.1 million items), and the Russian State Library (44.4 million items).
There’s More than $1 Million of Hidden Treasure Somewhere in the Rocky Mountains
Do with this information what you will: In 2016, Forrest Fenn, a former Vietnam fighter pilot who’s also an art dealer and an author, claims that he hid a treasure chest in the Rocky Mountains that’s worth more than $1 million. Fenn told NPR, “No one knows where that treasure chest is but me. If I die tomorrow, the knowledge of that location goes in the coffin with me.”
If you’re interested in heading out to look for the treasure, Fenn provides a few hints to its location in his self-published memoir, The Thrill of the Chase, along with a supposedly clue-filled poem from the book he posted on Instagram. Fenn wrote, “All of the information you need to find the treasure is in the poem. The chapters in my book have very subtle hints but are not deliberately placed to aid the seeker. Good luck in the search.”
That Dimple In Your Wine Bottle Serves a Purpose
Also referred to as a “kick-up” or a “punt,” the dimple in the bottom of the wine bottle is a remnant from the past, when the bottles were made of handblown glass. If the glassblower didn’t push the seam of the bottom of the wine bottle up, it would not stand up straight (because there would be a lump).
Also, here’s a handy tip for burgeoning oenophiles: many experts say that if you’re shopping for affordable wines today, a deeper punt means it’s a nicer, tastier bottle of wine. So always be sure to run your hand underneath it before purchasing.
Polar Bears Run Faster Than Professional Football Players
Polar bears can run at 25 mph, jump over six feet in the air, and are nearly undetectable by infrared cameras due to transparent fur. (For reference, known that the fastest NFL player in 2018 was a running back who ran just over 22mph.) But don’t let this terrifying set of skills scare you. Polars, unlike most other bears, are not territorial or confrontational—unless provoked.
You Can Never Recall a Single Memory All By Itself
When you’re trying to recall a single memory, such as a smell or the look on a person’s face, that memory can’t be recalled in isolation. That was among the findings by a team of neuroscientists at the University College London, who found that when we try to remember one detail (for example, the color of shoes a friend was wearing last week), we bring with it a slew of other details (such as the place where we saw said friend wearing the shoes, their other clothing, et cetera.).
According to the researchers, this is because the brain’s hippocampus packages memories together and stores them, as if in some Amazon warehouse. And when we retrieve one memory, it brings along a whole range of other components.
Hotter Temperatures Are Turning Mummies into Black Goo
No, this isn’t some kind of ancient curse. Mummies preserved for more 7,000 years in Peru have been turning to black goo thanks to a major increase in humidity.
When Harvard scientists tested why, they discovered it’s because the microbes in the skin activate in high humidity, which is something that the people in ancient Peru never had to worry about, because of the dry desert atmosphere. However, recent changes in climate have brought fog to the region, thereby increasing the moisture in the air, thereby melting mummified human remains. Ew.
Alcohol Makes Your Body Think It’s Being Burned
Ethanol (alcohol) activates the vanilloid receptor-1 (VR1 for short), which is what your body activates at high temperatures (107 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, usually) to let you know that you’re getting burned. Alcohol lowers the temperature at which your VR1 receptors activate, so instead of alerting you when your temperature rises above 107 degrees, it does so when it hits 93 degrees. In other words, your receptors are telling you that your normal body temperature (98.6 degrees) feels like burning. It’s also why open wounds sting when you pour alcohol over them—and it’s why you get a burning in your throat when you pound a particularly potent shot. Break out the chasers, everyone!
People With Fatal Hypothermia Think They’re Overheating
This “paradoxical undressing” occurs in nearly half of all hypothermal deaths. It hasn’t been fully studied because it would be pretty unethical to do so, but there are two theories at this point:
- The nerves in blood vessel walls are paralyzed due to the cold, which leads to vasodilation (where blood flows more freely to the surface of the skin) giving the illusion of warmth.
- The vasoconstriction experienced in the first stage of hypothermia actually paralyzes the vasomotor center—which is what controls the sensations of body temperature in the whole body
It gets even weirder after that. Once undressed, the person will attempt to burrow into very small spaces. Finding bodies in states like this is why hypothermia deaths are commonly misconstrued as acts of violence. Yikes.
Espresso Isn’t Technically Coffee
We usually think of espresso simply as concentrated coffee, but it’s more complex than that. To officially be “espresso,” the drink must be made in a particular way—produced by pressurizing near-boiling water through finely ground coffee beans packed into cakes. If the drink is made any other way (in a stovetop pot or fancy pour-over method), it’s coffee. Even if it were to taste exactly like a shot of espresso, you can’t call it that unless it’s made through the pressurized method. In other words, espresso isn’t coffee.
You Exhale Fat When You Lose It
Breathe in, breathe out. While a few deep breaths don’t burn too many calories, this is how most burned-off fat exits our body. You may have thought it was through sweat, urine, or some other excretion, but the truth is, as we exercise or go about our day, most of the fat (84 percent according to some researchers) is converted into carbon dioxide and leaves our body through our lungs. The remaining 16 percent of the fat is converted to water, which leave through urine or sweat.
Yosemite National Park Made a Bid to Host the 1932 Winter Olympics
In the past, various U.S. cities have hosted the Olympics, including Los Angeles in both 1932 and 1984, California’s Squaw Valley in 1960, Atlanta in 1996, St. Louis in 1904, Lake Placid in 1980, and Salt Lake City in 2002. But back in 1932, Yosemite National Park wanted to host the international games.
After installing toboggan runs and an ice skating rink, the people behind Yosemite set their sights on the Olympics. However, due to the fact that the park lacked other facilities and California didn’t have a lot of experience with winter-related competitions, the games went instead to Lake Placid, New York.
Women Have Adam’s Apples
The Adam’s Apple is the thyroid cartilage that surrounds the larynx. Contrary to popular belief, both women and men have it. It’s just more prominent in males because the larynx (voice box) is far larger in men (hence the deeper voices).
Firefighters Can Make Water Wetter
Firefighters have a few different tactics that they can use when facing a serious blaze—and that includes the ability to make water wetter. International Fire Protection explains that wetting agents can be used to increase the “penetration and spreading ability” of water, which is why the treated liquid is called “wet water.”
Archaeologists Have Tracked Lewis and Clark by Their Bodily Waste
Every school kid has heard of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Throughout the early 19th century, the explorers trekked across the U.S. from the East Coast to the Pacific Ocean. But while the explorers kept diligent journals, modern historians and archaeologists had for years struggled to piece together the precise locations their expedition encamped—information that would help future generations understand this historically crucial journey.
Then researchers came upon an idea for tracking their exact movements: analyzing toilet mercury.
As it happens, mercury-laced laxatives were a popular solution for treating constipation during the Lewis and Clark era, and traces of mercury can be detected centuries after they are deposited. So by testing old latrine sites along the route for mercury, researchers could determine which ones were, ahem, patronized by the famous adventurers, and which were the work of later (less laxative-happy) visitors. Altogether, some 600 sites have been connected back to the famed pair.
Dry Cleaning Isn’t Technically “Dry”
Your dry-cleaned garments are thrown into a giant front-loading washers with a liquid detergent. Yes, your clothes are completely immersed with a liquid solvent; it’s only called “dry” because there’s no water in it. Dry cleaning was originally discovered by someone who accidentally spilled petroleum all over his clothes—only to find out that it removed stains he couldn’t previously get out! Because petroleum is harmful to the environment with the amount of dry cleaning the world does, new solvents have been created over time.
Brain-Eating Monsters Exist
Naegleria fowleri is a free-living excavate form of protist typically found in warm bodies of fresh water. The amoeba in the water is entered through the nose, then travels from the nose to the brain where it destroys the brain tissue, invading the nervous system and consuming the brain. It has only been found in warm freshwater: lakes, rivers, and hot springs. Yeah… We’ll stick to the ocean for swimming.
Sound Travels Four Times Faster in Water Than in Air
Sound is a wave of alternating compression and expansion, so the speed of it depends on how fast it bounces back from each compression; the less compressible the medium it’s traveling through, the faster it bounces back. Water is about 800 times denser than air, so there are way more particles for waves to bounce off. Thus, sound is faster in water.
However, the density has the opposite effect on physical bodies (such as, say, a bullet). Physical matter encounters drag when in the water due to its density, as laid out by the drag equation, in the seminal An Introduction to Fluid Dynamics. It’s been proven that jumping into the water and swimming within three to eight feet of its surface will literally save you from catching a bullet (all those movies and crime shows you see people jumping into the harbor on the run have a scientific basis after all!).
There’s a Meaner Plant than the Venus Flytrap
Carnivorous, bog-dwelling plants called bladderworts can snap their traps shut in less than a millisecond, 100 times faster than a Venus flytrap. They’re rootless floating plants that have a yellow flower at the top and an insect-digesting bladder sac. They range in size from a few inches to a few feet long.
The Tiny Holes on Padlocks Are to Make Sure They Don’t Get Jammed
The tiny holes in padlocks serve a dual purpose: they allow any moisture that builds up inside to escape, and they allow you to add oil to the inner mechanisms to prevent rust and breakdown. Because padlocks are usually used outdoors, allowing the water to run out keeps the locks from rusting, and in colder climates keeps the lock from being literally frozen shut. If you’re ever having issues opening a padlock (with the legitimate key, of course—no break-ins!), stick some WD40 into the tiny holes and you should be able to open it without a problem.
Stars Are Made of Matter
You might imagine that a star—a giant ball of light and heat—contains zero matter and is made up entirely of energy. Almost! Stars don’t contain matter—gas, liquid, or solid—as we know it. Instead, they’re made up of plasma, a super-heated state of matter that humans can’t handle. (Lightning is also made up of plasma.)
You Probably Dream in Color
You’ve probably heard that “we only dream in black and white.” But new research has shown that monochromatic dreams were only the case because of black-and-white screen time. Nowadays, with the amount of time we all spend watching color videos—whether on TV or mobile devices—our brains tend to keep all colors in dreams. Only about 25 percent of people in one study reported dreaming in black-and-white.
The Supreme Court Houses a Basketball Court
The Supreme Court, the highest court in the land, is home to a basketball court on its roof (four floors up, to be exact), named, appropriately, the Highest Court in the Land. It’s smaller than a regulation-size court but provides a great sweat therapy session. In recent years, it’s been modified to include a gym and yoga studio.
An Archaeologist Discovered a 5,000-Year-Old Brewery in China
Kicking back with a pint isn’t as modern as you might think. In 2016, archaeologists in the Central Plain of China discovered “beer-making tool kits” in underground rooms that were built between 3400 and 2900 B.C.E. The equipment included funnels, pots, jugs, and a pottery stove. Scientists used the residue they found inside of the tools to deduce the 5,000-year-old beer recipe, which they published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences.
As Far as the Law is Concerned, Video Games Are Art
If your parents weren’t overly keen on the amount of time you spent playing video games as a kid (and maybe still do), you can justify your pastime with the fact that in 2011 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that video games are a form of art. In response to the issue of the sale of violent video games in California, the high court found that video games deserve the same First Amendment protection as books, comics, plays, and other artistic mediums.
Your Taste Buds Have an Average Lifespan of 10 Days
Adult taste buds, in general, turn over within eight to 12 days. Taste buds are clusters of polarized sensory cells embedded in the tongue, and there are three types—it’s the ones that are closer to the surface that have a shorter lifespan. That’s why, when you burn your tongue, it doesn’t take too long until you’re able to taste again.
Your Pencils Can Be Made into Diamonds
Science may be more glamorous than you think. Graphite can be transformed into diamond by applying a temperature of 3,000 degrees Celsius and pressure of 100,000 atmospheres. Graphite and diamond are two forms of the same chemical element, carbon. And this technique isn’t reserved for jewelry—diamonds are used for a variety of industrial applications, such as cutting tools to electronic devices.
There’s a Rock That Floats
You used the world’s only floating rock on your feet: yes, it’s pumice. Pumice is volcanic rock that is produced when lava erupts from a volcano, and then cools with a lot of small gas bubbles. Because of all the bubbles, it is less dense than water (and great for scrubbing away dead skin). However, if it’s in water for too long, it will eventually become waterlogged and sink.
Apologies May Be Way More Effective Than You Thought
A 2008 study of people who experienced medical malpractice revealed that 40 percent of them would not have filed a lawsuit if they had received an explanation and apology. And 90 percent of the patients who did file suit stated that it was because they wanted to prevent it from happening to anyone else.
What’s more, one 2017 study actually showed that hospitals that implemented a program tailored to answer the injured patient’s questions after the surgery and that compensated accordingly ended up reducing their costs greatly—instead of spending upwards of $200,000 per case, the liabilities were only about $75,000. However, despite the narrow scope of these studies (confined to the medical industry), doctor-patient relationships probably are not the only ones that can benefit from a simple apology now and then. Just saying…
There’s a Trick for Discovering a Two-Way Mirror
Walk up to the mirror and place your fingertip or nail against it. If the reflection of your finger directly touches your finger, it’s a two-way mirror; if there’s about 1cm of distance between your finger and the reflection, it’s not.
Fireflies Light Up to Flirt
As Marc Branham, an entomology professor at the University of Florida explained to Scientific American, the light itself is a result of so-called “cold light.” Oxygen combines with calcium, adenosine triphosphate (ATP), and the chemical luciferin, and light is produced with minimal energy being lost to heat. Fireflies mainly emit light to attract mates (via certain light patterns) or to defend territory (that’s why when you put them in a jar, they light up, as a defense mechanism).
There’s a Purpose to Those Tiny Pinholes in Airplane Windows
Those holes in airplane window are called “breather” or “bleed” holes. Airplane windows have three panes each, with the breather hole being in the middle to equilibrate between the cabin and the gap between the outside windowpanes—it helps alleviate pressure so that neither the outside nor inside panes crack.
Falling in Your Dream Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Does
The sense of falling involved in a dream actually comes from the brain falling asleep too fast and basically assuming it’s dying. There’s a part in your brain that’s essentially responsible for waking you up, and sometimes that wakes up a bit faster, or falls asleep a bit faster, than the rest of your brain. The common dream of being paralyzed is also related to this body-brain disconnect.
Black Holes Aren’t Black
They’re definitely dark, but they’re not black. Black holes are regions that exhibit such strong gravitational effects that nothing can escape from inside it; they basically “feed” off particles and electromagnetic radiation such as light, which we call “Hawking Radiation,” after Stephen Hawking, who proposed their existence.
Because black holes are constantly consuming matter, they give off a dark glow. Before his passing, Hawking expanded on the Black Hole theory by positing that instead of black holes existing, they are “apparent horizons,” which only temporarily holds matter and energy prisoner before eventually releasing them, albeit in a more garbled form.
It’s Not the Tip of the Whip That Makes the Cracking Sound
It was believed that the sound a whip makes is a result of the tip breaking the sound barrier because it moves faster than the speed of sound, but a study conducted at the University of Arizona has proven through calculation and experimentation that the crack of a whip comes from its loop traveling along the whip, gaining speed until it reaches the speed of sound and creates the crack. However, this doesn’t make the tip any less ominous; the tip reaches speeds upwards of 30 times the speed of the loop.
Hot Water Freezes Faster Than Cold Water
This phenomenon was discovered in the 1960s by a Tanzanian student who observed that a hot ice cream mix freezes faster than a cold mix in cookery classes. (Aristotle had talked about it ages before, but nobody really caught onto it.) Named the Mpemba effect, after the student, this effect still puzzles scientists near and far, as there’s still no definitive reason as to why it occurs (though many agree that it has something to do with bonds).
Frozen Trees Can “Melt from the Inside”
Mother Nature is capable of some pretty freakish phenomenon and that apparently includes trees that can melt from the inside out. A video from Evanston, Illinois, went viral in February 2019 when it showed an ice-covered tree that had started to thaw. The caption explains, “Over three days, the weather went from being 20 degrees one day to ice rain the next to 49 degrees on the third day, creating this ice melting phenomenon.” According to IFL Science, because some of the ice had pulled away from the trunk, melting water from the tree was able to flow between the clear ice and the bark beneath while the outer layer of ice remained frozen.
Sound Doesn’t (Really) Travel in Space
In space, there simply are no molecules (well, barely any) for sound to vibrate between. Or, rather, there are molecules—but they’re spread so far apart that a sound’s vibration is unable to reach them. The result is a really low frequency that’s barely discernible. So the famous movie tagline for the sci-fi horror film Alien was right all along: In space, no one can hear you scream.
Coffee Gets Decaffeinated by Going Into a Sauna
There are three main ways to decaffeinate coffee, all which involve moistening the green coffee bean within temperatures between 160 to 210 degrees Fahrenheit. The approaches vary in the solvents they use to pull the caffeine out of the coffee in order to achieve the 10mg or less of caffeine per serving required to be classified as “decaf” (regular coffee has anywhere from 50 to 75mg of caffeine per serving). Next, check out these 30 Random Facts That Will Make You Sound So Interesting.
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