150 Facts That Will Make You Say “Wow!”
If daddy long-legs aren't spiders, what in the world are they?
Few things spice up your day quite like learning a new, perspective-shifting bit of knowledge—something that makes you rethink a long-held assumption, or question a spurious textbook, or even start doubting every lesson and lecture and Wikipedia page you’ve gleaned information from. In other words, a fact that makes you say, “Wow!” Herein, we’ve gathered a whopping 150 that are guaranteed to do just that. So read on, and be astonished! And for more of life’s secrets, don’t miss the 40 Facts So Funny They’re Hard to Believe.
Tomatoes Contain Nicotine
While we’ve all heard that fruits and vegetables are packed with nutrients you probably weren’t aware that tomatoes also contain…nicotine? In fact, studies have shown that eating nicotine-rich things like tomatoes and peppers can actually help reduce your chances of getting Parkinson’s disease. And to discover more foods you should definitely be consuming, check out The 50 Best Foods for Your Brain.
Humans Are the Only Animals with Chins
“If you’re looking across all of the hominids, which is the family tree after the split with chimpanzees, there [are] not really that many traits that we can point to that we can say are exclusively human,” Duke University’s James Pampush told NPR. “[T]hose animals all walked on two legs. The one thing that really sticks out is the chin.” While other animals have jaws, no others besides humans have the little section of bone on the lower jaw that juts past the teeth.
A Woman Convicted of the Death Penalty Was Released When She Survived
Edinburgh-local woman Margaret Dickinson was hung in 1736 for killing her baby after it was born. But after her body was tossed onto a cart to be taken away, she awoke and, since Scots Law prohibited punishment being meted out twice, she was free to go. And for similarly bizarre stories, don’t miss 30 Crazy Facts That Will Change Your View of History.
The Ampersand Used to Be the 27th Letter of the Alphabet
A combination of the cursive letters for “e” and “t” (forming the Latin word et, meaning “and”), the “&” symbol was for decades included in the alphabet, after “z.” It didn’t get its official name until 1837.
Camel Humps Are Devoid of Water
Camels’ humps are not for storing water: they’re for insulation and food storage. The hump is almost all fat, which regulates body temperature and serves as an alternative fuel source when they’re wandering for days at a time with no food in sight. So where do they store their water? Right in their bloodstream.
A Bear Became a War Hero in the Polish Army
During World War II, Poland’s 22nd Artillery Supply Company of the 2nd Polish Corps counted a 440-pound Syrian bear named Wojtek among its ranks. He came to them as a cub and was raised as a pet, drinking milk from a bottle, then beer. He would help carry munitions and was eventually made an official soldier when the army reached Egypt, where pets were not allowed (but soldiers were). And if you think that’s adorable, don’t miss these 40 Amazing Animal Facts.
France Has More Time Zones Than the U.S. or Russia
It might not seem like a huge country compared to those others, but France has islands scattered all over the globe. Altogether, its territories fall into 12 distinct time zones, compared to Russia’s nine and America’s six.
The United Kingdom Is the World’s Most Tornado-Prone Country
When you think of the UK, tornadoes likely aren’t the first thing that comes to mind. But according to the National Climatic Data Center, the UK has more tornadoes relative to its land mass than any other nation. So while Argentina, Bangladesh, New Zealand, and Japan—as well as America’s famous tornado alley in the midwest—all suffer from tornadoes, there’s nothing quite so classically British as a tornado, old chap.
A Stranded Sailor Once Let His Hands Freeze Into Hooks to Allow Him to Better Swim to Shore
When a sailor named Howard Blackburn found himself in freezing temperatures far from shore in Newfoundland and without mittens, he knew his hands would freeze. But to still be able to use them, he reached down and “picked up the two oars and squeezing my fingers around the handles, held them there until I could no longer move my fingers. I knew then they were frozen stiff.” It allowed him to row to continue rowing and eventually make it to shore.
Spices and Herbs Are Different
Spices come from every part of a plant aside from the leaf; herbs are the leaf itself. A spice should be added to food and/or roasted before and during cooking, while herbs should be added at the very end because they release flavor faster.
Yes, You Can Feel When Someone is Looking at You
It’s called “gaze detection,” and it’s the sense your brain uses when it feels someone staring at you. Research has shown that certain brain cells fire in response to when someone is staring right at you, but not when the observer’s gaze is averted just a few degrees to the left or right of you (which causes different cells to fire instead). We’ve evolved with this ability in order to sense potential threats, as the direct gaze is a symbol of dominance.
A Soccer Game Once Sparked a War Between El Salvador and Honduras
Literally known as The Football War, this 1969 Central American skirmish took place as a wide range of tensions roiled between the two countries. But the thing that sparked it was a series of games between the two in which tensions grew more intense until Honduras finally cut off diplomatic ties with its neighbor. Two weeks later, El Salvador invaded.
Eels Have Two Jaws
The second is hidden in their throat and kicks in when the animal bites down on its prey, pulling it down further into its throat. The result is like something out of a sci-fi movie.
When You “Speak” Inside Your Mind, Your Throat Says Each Word
NASA scientists have been working on a machine that can read the nerve signals in the throat that control speech when humans talk. They found nerve sensors located under the chin, near the Adam’s apple, that communicate between the brain and the voice box. According to the researchers, these sensors be read by a computerized processor that would be able to transmit the signals into words. (In other words, NASA is on the brink of being able to read your mind.)
Onions Make You Cry Because They Release Acid
Onions have an enzyme called lachrymatory-factor synthase, which converts amino acids in the onion into sulfenic acid. The sulfenic acid becomes unstable when the onion is being cut and breaks apart into thiosulfonate (that’s the onion’s odor) and syn-propanetriol-s-oxide (the gas that makes you tear).
It’s Hard to Make Swords as Strong as the Vikings’
You’d think with all our technological developments that it would be easy to recreate weapons the Vikings made hundreds of years ago. Turns out, not so much. NOVA looked at modern swordsmiths trying to re-create “Ulberfht swords” made of crucible steel. They managed to pull it off, but just barely. Turns out the ancient Vikings were pretty skillful engineers.
Police Horses in Toronto Have Their Own Trading Cards
Like baseball players or Pokémon, the four-legged members of the Toronto Police Service mounted unit get their own deck of trading cards. The passion project of a pair of horse enthusiasts, the effort puts out a deck of cards every other year, with one of the pair taking pictures of the horses and the other designing the cards.
Zebras’ Stripes Are for Repelling Insects
In one experiment, scientists placed zebra look-alike coats on regular horses and compared the result to “real” zebras. They found that flies that would normally be attracted to the horses seemed to be extremely thrown off when attempting to make a landing. However, the horse’s heads—which weren’t dressed up in zebra stripes—still attracted flies.
The Placebo Effect Still Works When You Know You Took a Placebo
Scientists have found that the placebo effect does not have to rely on the person not realizing they’ve taken a placebo. In a study from Harvard University and the University of Basel, those who unknowingly took a placebo supposed to relieve pain and those who knowingly received the dummy drugs both showed relief from pain.
John Wilkes Booth’s Brother Saved Lincoln’s Son
In 1864 or 1865, actor Edwin Booth pulled the president’s son, Robert Lincoln, back from a train as it was starting to move and the young man found himself pressed up against it. Robert Lincoln would recall how “I was twisted off my feet, and had dropped somewhat, with feet downward, into the open space, and was personally helpless, when my coat collar was vigorously seized and I was quickly pulled up and out to a secure footing on the platform. Upon turning to thank my rescuer I saw it was Edwin Booth, whose face was of course well known to me, and I expressed my gratitude to him, and in doing so, called him by name.” Abraham Lincoln would be assassinated by Booth’s brother months after the incident.
Ants Refuse “Medical” Assistance When They Know They Are Mortally Wounded
To avoid wasting the colony’s resources, seriously injured ants will refuse the help of “paramedic ants” that would usually try to help them. As National Geographic explains, “The dying ants refused to cooperate, flailing their legs around when probed or picked up, forcing their helpers to abandon them.”
States Have Their Own Treason Laws
We think of treason as a federal crime, but many states have their own treason laws—and their enforcement tends to be harsher than the national laws. No American has been executed for treason against the federal government of the United States, though five people convicted of treason against individual states have faced execution.
The Loudest Sound On Record Was a Volcanic Eruption in 1883
That would be the Krakatoa volcano, near Indonesia, which, after having been dormant 200 years, erupted in an ear-bursting blast that shot ash 20 miles into the air and triggered multiple tsunamis. It produced a sound that was heard 3,000 miles away, in the central Australian island of Rodrigues.
The President of Food For The Poor Is Named Robin Mahfood
Sometimes you are just born to do something. The president and CEO of nonprofit hunger relief organization Food For The Poor is none other than Robin Mahfood.
Reruns Help Your Brain Relax
Watching your favorite shows and movies, re-reading your favorite books, and listening to your favorite music over and over actually has benefits: it puts your mind in a state of ease. As humans, we have a limited pool of mental resources. When we’re overwhelmed, we begin to have less self-control and less motivation for the tasks at hand. When you watch a rerun or listen to your favorite tunes, you don’t have to exert effort to control what you’re thinking, which means your brain can do a quick mental reset.
The Word “Robot” Originated From Czech Word for “Slave”
The word “robot” appeared in English in the 1920s, according to the Online Etymology Dictionary, based on the Czech word “robotnik,” which meant slave, and which itself was rooted in the Old Church Slavonic word for servitude, “rabota.” That fact should be especially ironic once we reach singularity and the robots become our overlords. And for info on how far we actually are into the robotic revolution, learn the 20 Types of Artificial Intelligence You Use Every Single Day And Don’t Know It.
During Kidney Transplants, Doctors Usually Just Add the Additional Kidney Without Removing Either of the Other Two
We imagine a kidney transplant would involve swapping out the unhealthy kidney for the healthy one. In fact, in most cases, surgeons will leave the kidney inside the patient’s body and add the healthy kidney somewhere near their pelvis. And for more amazing kidney hacks, see the 20 Warning Signs Your Kidneys Send You.
There’s a Name for that Feeling You Get When You’re High Up and Think About Jumping
Whether at the top of an insanely tall building or looking over a steep drop from the highway, you’ve probably had that weird moment where you ask, “What if I jumped?” It turns out, you’re not alone—so much so, that there is actually a name for the phenomenon; it’s the “Call of the void” or “the high place phenomenon.”
In 1973, a Detroit Tiger Brought a Table Leg to the Plate
After three strikeouts, “Stormin” Norman Cash walked out to the plate with a table leg he had grabbed from the locker room, ready to swing. “Why not? I won’t hit anyway,” he responded when the umpire asked what he was doing, before tossing the leg aside.
The AIDS Quilt Is the Largest Folk Art Piece in the World
Started in 1986, by gay rights activist Cleve Jones, by 2016, the quilt (officially titled the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt) measured 1.3 million square feet and weighed an estimated 54 tons.
U.S. Cities Had “Ugly Law” Until the 1970s
A number of cities had “ugly laws” on the books prohibiting those deemed “diseased, maimed, mutilated or deformed in any way, so as to be an unsightly or disgusting” from being seen in public. Most eventually repealed these laws, though Chicago was the last, repealing in 1974. And for more city secrets, see The 50 Most Exhausted Cities in America.
Loch Ness Holds More Fresh Water Than All of England and Wales’ Waterways Combined
That includes all of the country’s rivers and lakes, considering the loch is 23 miles long and about a mile wide…and deep enough for a massive sea creature.
Harry Truman Refused to Get on Disneyland’s Dumbo Ride
When visiting the recently opened theme park in 1957, President Harry S. Truman, a staunch Democrat, did not want to be photographed sitting on an elephant, the symbol for the rival Republican party, so he refused to board the flying elephant ride. It may also have just been that he was nervous about heights.
“Truman Show Delusion” Is a Thing
People have actually been diagnosed with “Truman Show Delusion.” Named after the 1998 film starring Jim Carrey, this phenomenon was defined in an issue of Cognitive Neuropsychiatry as “a novel delusion, primarily persecutory in form, in which the patient believes that he is being filmed and that the films are being broadcast for the entertainment of others.”
Elephants Have Prehensile Genitalia
Like its trunk, the elephant’s procreative organ is prehensile. As one onlooker to the phenomenon describes, “As we watched in baffled amusement (and the faintest tinge of inadequacy), he used his penis to prop himself up, swat flies from his side and scratch himself on his stomach. David Attenborough never showed us that.”
Almost 15 percent of Earth’s Population Is Missing a Tendon
You can test if you are part of this exclusive group by holding your arm out and touching your thumb to your pinky. Likely you will see a raised tendon, that’s palmaris longus, a muscle that was once likely of use but no longer does much for us. Those without it are the minority who have evolved beyond it.
Almost All Serotonin Is Produced in the Gut
We think of serotonin as that neurotransmitter that makes us feel good and is released to our mind by various illicit substances. But in fact, more than 90 percent of serotonin is produced in our digestive tract.
Rival High School Coaches Once Conspired to Help a Player Break a Record
In 2003, high school quarterback Nate Haasis set a record for passing yardage, only to learn later that his own coach and the coach of the rival team had conspired to let it happen (in exchange for allowing the rival team score a touchdown). Haasis took the high road when he learned of what had happened, and rejected the honor.
You’d Need More than 700 Floppy Disks to Equal One Gigabyte of Storage
As storage solutions get continually more compact and efficient with each passing year, it can seem unbelievable just how far we’ve come. A one-gigabyte file is easily stored in the cloud these days. But back in the 90s and early 2000, we stored our files on things like floppy disks. And it would take 711 1.44 MB floppy disks to store one gigabyte. That’s a whole lot of floppy disks. Thank goodness for the cloud, right?
Babies Have More Bones than Adults
It’s true! While we’re born with about 300 bones, some of those fuse up as we age—which means by the time we’re adults we have just 206 bones. Our smallest bone is inside our ear while the largest is the femur. And for more amazing baby facts, check out the 20 Most Popular Baby Names Inspired By Movies.
House Flies Live About a Month or Two
Though the colloquial belief is that the common housefly lives just two to three days, in fact, the rather disgusting insect lives an average of one to two months, giving it plenty of opportunities to land on your food and make it gross.
Shaq Only Hit One Three-Pointer in His Entire Career
Over a 19-year career in which he scored 28,596 points, Shaquille O’Neal hit a three-point shot exactly once: On Feb. 16, 1996, in a 121-91 game between the Orlando Magic and Milwaukee Bucks. “I wouldn’t call him a good 3-point shooter, let’s put it that way,” as his coach Brian Hill said. “He could get the ball up there on the rim, but he wasn’t going to make too many of them.”
New Yorker Writer Joseph Mitchell Had Writer’s Block for 32 Years
After writing his piece “Joe Gould’s Secret” in 1964, the beloved New Yorker writer Joseph Mitchell never published another piece, yet he continued to go to work at the magazine’s offices every day. He produced no new writing until his death in 1996.
The Very First Search Engine Was Named Archie and Was Invented by Canadians
While it’s hard to imagine a world without Google, and while a few of us may even remember Ask Jeeves, back in the early nineties there were only a handful of fledgling search engines available to internet users. But the very first one was created in 1990 by a few students at McGill University in Montreal. Apparently, the rudimentary search engine was so popular that at one point it accounted for nearly 50 percent of all of the city’s internet traffic. Its inventors named it Archie—like archive but without the “V.”
Charlie Chaplin Released His First Sound Film 13 Years After the Talkie Was Invented
Chaplin was such a success in silent film, that he continued making them for years after “talkies” began to take off in popularity. Part of this was due to the fact that his silent films still made money, and part was due to his own lack of confidence in his skills in the new medium. When he finally did his first talkie, 1940’s The Great Dictator, it was a masterpiece that effectively silenced critics.
Man o’ War Only Lost One Race
Legendary racehorse Man o’ War ran in just 21 races over his career and won 20 of them. His only loss, in August 1919, was at the hooves of a competitor named, appropriately, Upset.
Nobody Born After 1935 Has Walked on the Moon
The last person to have the honor of walking on the moon was American astronaut Eugene Andrew Cernan, the eleventh and last person to walk on the moon (during the Apollo 17 mission). But it was Charles Duke, the tenth person to walk on the Moon, who was born the latest of anyone who’s ever walked on it—October 3, 1935.
Malaria Is Responsible for the Deaths of Half the Humans Who Have Ever Lived
It’s one cruel killer.
Roughly One-Third of Languages Spoken Today Are Endangered
There are a an estimated 7,097 languages spoken throughout the world today (839 spoken in Papua New Guinea alone), but because many of these are spoken by a small number of people they are considered at risk of extinction.
Crickets Can Help You Tell the Temperature
Though specifics vary, scientists have found that crickets chirp at different intervals depending on the temperature outside. They do so consistently enough that you can determine how warm or cold it is by counting the number of chirps over a particular interval and adding a set number to it (one popular formula from an old Farmer’s Almanac is to count the number of chirps over a 14-second interval and add 40 to it).
Possums Don’t Play Dead, They Pass Out
The creatures aren’t quite the skilled actors they are often portrayed as. Instead, they are just strategic wimps, falling into an involuntarily comatose state when they feel intense fear, which can last for hours, convincing any would-be predators that they are dead (they even emit a corpse-like smell to really sell the act).
Daddy Longlegs Aren’t Spiders
They don’t produce silk, have just one pair of eyes, and don’t have the narrow “waist” that spiders do. In fact, they’re more closely related to the scorpion than other spiders. (That doesn’t really make them less creepy, though.)
In 1925, Texas Held a Special Session of an All-Female Supreme Court
Since a case involved a fraternal organization of which almost all of Texas’ elected officials were members and had to recuse themselves, the governor eventually came to the idea of appointing a group of female supreme court justices, since the organization did not accept female members.
The Mayans Had a Goddess of Suicide by Hanging
Called Ixtab, she oversaw the heaven where those who hung themselves would go to in the afterlife.
Ben Franklin Left Thousands to Boston and Philadelphia—That They Couldn’t Touch for 200 Years
The man who coined the phrase “a penny saved is a penny earned” lived and died by the mantra. In his will, he left the cities of Boston and Philadelphia each 1,000 pounds sterling (worth about $4,500 at the time), with the caveat that they could not touch it for 200 years. Both followed his wishes and, in 1990, found that those few thousands were worth millions. And for more money secrets, see the 20 Crazy Facts You Never Knew About One Dollar Bills.
Ancient Egyptians Had a Bonus Month
The ancient Egyptian calendar was similar to our current one, with 365 days in a year and 12 months. But each was exactly 30 days, leaving five extra days at the end of the year. Instead of spreading those throughout the year, they just made it an “intercalary month” treated as separate from the rest of the year proper.
America’s Favorite Drink Got Healthier in 2013
Who says Americans are getting less healthy? While soda was the country’s most-consumed beverage for more than two decades, in 2013, bottled water took that title.
David Letterman Once Created a Scholarship for “C” Students
Never a star academic himself, the late-night TV legend created a scholarship in 1985 for telecommunications students who showed outstanding creativity, rather than academic excellence. To apply, they were asked to submit a creative project such as writing or interactive media.
During the Cold War, a Small West Virginia Town Requested Soviet Aid
In 1977, the mayor of Vulcan, West Virginia, frustrated by the lack of state support he’d received to replace a bridge, put out a request to the Soviet Union to help pay for it. Within the hour that a Russian journalist showed up to report on the story, the West Virginia Legislature released the $1.3 million funds to pay for the bridge’s replacement.
The CDC Has Urged Schools to Open Later
To help students overcome chronic sleep deprivation.
Medal of Honor Recipients Get Much More Than a Medal
It’s not just about the nice speech and medal for recipients of the Medal of Honor. They also get a $1,300 monthly bonus, a 10 percent raise in retirement pay, and, in some states, a special Medal of Honor license plate.
A Father Once Hired a Virtual Hitman to Kill His Son’s Videogame Character
Frustrated that his unemployed son spent all his time playing video games, a father in China hired a skilled player to kill off his son’s character. It didn’t work, though, as even when the son stopped playing he continued to show no interest in getting a job.
Coca-Cola Released Their Own Clear Drink
Soon after PepsiCo introduced Crystal Pepsi, Coca-Cola rolled out Tab Clear. Despite early success, like its competitor, the drink soon floundered on the market, and many believe it was a “kamikaze” stunt to hurt Crystal Pepsi by association.
“Genuine Leather” Is Actually Pretty Crummy
While that label might seem to imply something about a wallet or pair of boots’ quality, in fact, the term “genuine leather” is a formal phrase applied to leather that has a corrected (in other words, artificial) grain that gives it a more natural appearance. Leather buffs typically view it as of low quality.
Stephen Hawking Once Threw a Party for Time Travelers
In 2009 the theoretical physicist prepared canapés, champagne and a giant banner with the words “Welcome, Time Travelers” in hopes that any actual time traveler from the future might come back in time to attend. Sadly, no one showed up.
The Catholic Church Has Been Okay With Evolution Since 1950
While evolution is often characterized as being antithetical to Biblical teachings, the Catholic Church recognized Darwinian evolution going back to Pope Pius XII in 1950.
Angelina Jolie Once Hired a Hitman to Kill Herself
During a dark time in the actress’ younger days, she contemplated suicide but thought it might be easier on her family to have her life taken by someone else. So, as she told an interviewer in 2001, she hired a hitman who urged her to think about it for a month before going ahead with it. She thought better of it and decided against going through with the plan.
The Swimming Pool Aboard the Titanic Is Still Full
Bad joke. But the ship did have an impressive six-foot-deep, heated salt-water swimming pool for both swim workouts and spa-style relaxation.
Women Suffer Sports Concussions at Higher Rates Than Men
Researchers found that females playing high school soccer were about one and a half times more likely to suffer a concussion than boys playing high school soccer—and the concussions were likely to be more severe.
Nelson Mandela Was on the U.S. Terror Watch List Until 2008
This went back to 1986, when the Reagan administration condemned Mandela’s group, the African National Congress, for fighting against the apartheid regime of South Africa (which had supported the U.S. during the Cold War) through what it called “calculated terror” (it didn’t help that Mandela’s group also included a number of prominent Communists).
Kleenex Were Invented by the Military to Use in Gas Masks
Kleenex tissues may seem like an innocent invention designed to soothe snuffly noses, but in fact, it developed as a filter to put in gas masks during WWI. Originally called Cheesecloth UGG the paper filters replaced cotton ones after cotton was needed for bandages in the battlefield.
John F. Kennedy, Aldous Huxley, and C. S. Lewis All Died the Same Day
That would be November 22, 1963. Though you probably only remember that as the day of JFK’s assassination (apologies to English authors).
Of the First Five Presidents, Three Died on July 4th
John Adams and Thomas Jefferson both died on July 4, 1826—the 50th anniversary of the birth of the United States. The country’s fifth president, James Monroe, died five years later on July 4, 1831.
A Soldier Once Survived a Freefall of 22,000 Feet
Alan Magee, an American gunner during WWII survived a fall of 22,000 feet, without a parachute, when his B-17 was shot and caught fire. He passed out on the way down due to shock and a lack of oxygen that high up but woke up to find that he had fallen through the glass roof of the train station of a small German town. He was treated and became a prisoner of war for two years.
“Make Your Wet Dreams Come True” Was Once a Political Slogan
In 1928, as former New York Governor Al Smith ran for president against Herbert Hoover in the midst of the debate over whether alcohol should continue to be banned, Smith’s campaign figured his anti-prohibition (“wet”) stance should be promoted to those frustrated by the restrictions. So they produced some now-notorious buttons bearing the slogan “Make Your Wet Dreams Come True,” which carry a very different meaning today than they once did.
Area Codes Were Originally Based on Population Density
Developed in the era of the rotary phone, part of the planning behind area codes was to make those for major population areas be easiest to dial. So New York City got 212, Chicago got 312, and Los Angeles got 213. According to Atlas Obscura, “The largest and most prominent cities got the best codes, while smaller states had to drag the zero all the way around, almost as a punishment of sorts for not being bigger.”
Aluminum Was Once More Valuable Than Gold
Now that we use it to wrap our food, it might seem hard to believe that in the 19th century, this element was hugely valuable. When it was finally learned how the metal could be extracted, as Slate explains, “people adored Element 13’s color and luster, which reminded them of the sparkle of gold and silver—a brand-new precious metal. In fact, aluminum became more precious than gold and silver in the 19th century, because it was harder to obtain. The French government once displayed Fort Knox-like aluminum bars next to the crown jewels, and the minor emperor Napoleon III reserved a prized set of aluminum cutlery for special guests at banquets. (Less favored guests used gold knives and forks.) The United States, to show off its industrial prowess, even capped the Washington monument with a six-pound pyramid of aluminum in 1884.” Once innovators figured out how to extract it on an industrial scale, the market came crashing down. But for a while, aluminum was king.
The Owner of the Segway Company Died By Segway
Talk about dying for your job. Jim Heselden, a British businessman who bought the Segway company from its inventor in 2009 died a year later when his scooter went over a cliff and into a river near his Yorkshire estate, falling 30 feet to his death.
Pirates Wore Eye Patches to Give Them Better Below-Deck Vision
You probably assumed it was because they’d lost an eye and vanity led them to cover it up with the patch. Not so, it turns out. Jim Sheedy, a doctor of vision science and director of the Vision Performance Institute at Oregon’s Pacific University, explained to the Wall Street Journal that since pirates were having to move frequently from the bright conditions above deck to the extreme dark below, many “wore a patch over one eye to keep it dark-adapted outside.”
We Are Running Out of Helium for Balloons
Well, it’s not quite as dire as you may have heard, but helium is, in fact, a nonrenewable resource and when it is released it escapes earth because of how light it is. That being said, a huge reserve of helium was found just a couple years ago in Tasmania, so we should be alright for a while longer.
9/11 Is Closer to the Fall of the Berlin Wall Than Today
It might not seem that long ago, but just 12 years had passed between the fall of the wall and the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
“Buttload” Is an Actual Measurement of Wine
Some wineries and distilleries still use the antiquated term “butts” to refer to a full cask. It derives from the Medieval French word for boot, and, according to the Macallan distillery, is equivalent to 108 Imperial gallons.
Australia Once Lost a Prime Minister—and Still Hasn’t Found Him
That would be Harold Holt, the country’s 17th prime minister. He went swimming near Portsea, Victoria, in 1967 and was never heard from again. Of course, he likely drowned, but when a massive search operation failed to recover the body, he was declared in absentia and conspiracy theories remain about what might have really happened to him.
There Are More Public Libraries Than McDonald’s in the U.S.
That’s 16,766 libraries, compared to 14,146 McDonald’s restaurants (as of 2016). Just remember that next time you despair over our education system.
There Are More Ways to Shuffle a Deck of Cards Than There Are Atoms on Earth
Specifically, there are 80,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (that’s 67 zeros) ways to arrange a deck of 52 cards. As Yannay Khaikin explains, “Any time you pick up a well shuffled deck, you are almost certainly holding an arrangement of cards that has never before existed and might not exist again.”
Lemons Float in Water and Limes Sink
It has to do with density.
Less Time Separates Us from T-Rex Than T-Rex From Stegosaurus
If you believe all those dinosaur movies and shows, all the various prehistoric lizards were living together during the same era. Not so fast. As Smithsonian explains, “About 83 million years separated Apatosaurus from Tyrannosaurus and Allosaurus from Triceratops. The so-called Age of Mammals—which began when the non-avian dinosaurs were wiped out—has been going on for about 66 million years. Less time separates us from Tyrannosaurus rex than separated T. rex from Stegosaurus.”
A Strawberry Is Not a Berry
You can’t judge a fruit by its name. To technically be a berry, a fruit must develop from one flower that has one ovary. Strawberries have flowers with more than one ovary (as do raspberries). And for more amazing facts, see the 40 Random Obscure Facts That Will Make Everyone Think You’re a Genius
An Avocado Is a Berry
It’s a “single seed berry” to be precise. As UC Riverside’s Agriculture and Natural Resources helpfully explains: “There are two main classes of fleshy fruits: drupes and berries. Drupes are characterized by having a fleshy mesocarp but a tough-leathery or bony endocarp. They are said to have ‘stones’ or ‘pits’ rather than seeds (example: peaches). Also, a drupe usually has only a single seed. Berries, to the contrary, are characterized by having a fleshy endocarp, as well as mesocarp, and may have more than one seed
Hugh Hefner Is Buried Next to Marilyn Monroe
In the Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park cemetery in Los Angeles.
Michael Clarke Duncan Was Assigned to Be Notorious B.I.G.’s Bodyguard the Night He Was Killed
Before he was an actor, Duncan was a bodyguard for celebrities, ranging from Will Smith to Jamie Foxx. He had been hired to protect Christopher Wallace—who you may know by his more common name, Notorious B.I.G.—in March 1997. He switched assignments, only to find out later that his almost-client was shot and killed the night he would have protected him. It led Duncan to leave his work as a bodyguard and pursue acting.
Croissants Originated in Austria
Though we usually think of them as French, these flaky pastries originated as the Austrian kipfel. According to Smithsonian, it originated in 1683 to celebrate Austria’s victory over the Ottomans at the siege of Vienna: “The story follows that a baker, up early to make bread, saved the city when he heard the Turks tunneling underneath the city and sounded an alarm. The kipfel’s curved shape, said to mimic the crescent moon of the Ottoman flag, then would seem to pay poetic tribute to the indomitable spirit of a city that resisted a powerful invading force.”
On Venus, a Day Is Longer Than a Year
It takes 243 Earth days for Venus to spin around its axis (that’s what denotes a day) but it only takes 225 Earth days for it to travel around the Sun, meaning that a day on the planet lasts a bit longer than a year.
Researchers Are Attempting to Map Every Neural Connection in the Human Brain
The Human Genome Project is well-known, but researchers are currently undertaking the Human Connectome Project, aiming to completely map out the human brain’s neural connections in order to better understand its functions and connectivity. “Everyone knows that imaging isn’t equivalent to mapping every cell. There’s an endless expanse of potential detail that we still wish to know,” one of the scientists behind it told National Geographic. “But this [pattern] is a new piece on the chessboard.” He pauses. “And it really is a chessboard.”
The First President Born a U.S. Citizen Wasn’t Elected Until 1837
Though one of the few absolute requirements of anyone running for president of the United States is that he or she be a natural born citizen, none of our first seven presidents would have qualified by this rule. It wasn’t until Martin Van Buren, born into the newly created country of the United States in 1782 and elected president in 1837, that we had a natural-born president. Interestingly enough, he was also the first president for whom English was not his first language.
Only One Country Separates Finland and North Korea
That would be Russia.
The State of Wyoming Has Only Two Escalators
They are both located in banks in the city of Casper. After an exhaustive investigation, The Atlantic found none in Jackson Hole, Sheridan, or even the capital city of Cheyenne.
We Went to the Moon Before We Thought to Put Wheels on Luggage
The first piece of wheeled luggage was sold at Macy’s in 1970. It was invented by Bernard Sadow, who was inspired when wrangling his two large suitcases through the Puerto Rico airport. And for more life hacks, don’t miss the 30 Amazing Facts That Will Change the Way You View the World.
If There Are 23 Random People in a Room, there is a 50 Percent Chance That Two Share a Birthday
It Rains Diamonds on Saturn
Too bad it’s uninhabitable. When lighting storms strike on Saturn, it turns methane into carbon soot, which hardens as it falls to the ground, first into graphite, then diamonds. The high-value hailstones are, according to one researcher, “big enough to put on a ring, although of course they would be uncut.”
Clouds Turn Grey Because They Get Thicker
Generally, clouds are white and fluffy, and that’s because the water particles are spread widely apart, which allows light to pour through. When a cloud is about to pour rain, however, it gathers more water droplets and ice crystals, making it thicker, which prevents light from peeking through. The result is a darker shade of gray.
Placing A Ripe Banana Next To Fruits Will Ripen Them
As they ripen, bananas produce ethylene gas, a plant hormone that stimulates ripening. Not all fruits respond (for instance, citruses don’t), but for those that do, the gas causes ripening by triggering the genes in plants that regulate growth and decomposition (ETR1 and CTR1); the gas causes these to turn off, which cause other cells to turn on, leading the breakdown of cell walls, conversion of starches to sugars, and the disappearance of acids—all of which we simply call “ripening.”
Men Are More Likely to be Colorblind than Women
The most common gene for colorblindness is transmitted on the X-chromosome, which women have two of, compared to just one in men. The gene is recessive, so in a female, even if she has the mutated gene, the stronger, dominant X chromosome will “win” out. Conversely, if the male ends up with the non-dominant colorblind gene on his X chromosome, he will be colorblind, because he doesn’t have another X chromosome.
Tylenol Can Help Ease Emotional Pain, Too
Everyone loves acetaminophen for its ability to reduce physical pain, but did you know it can reduce emotional distress too? A study conducted at the University of Florida has shown that the pills regularly used to dim bodily aches and pains also dim activity in brain regions that process social pain. In scarier news, another study also showed a reduction in empathy among regular acetaminophen consumers, as well.
Female Dragonflies Sometimes Fake Death to Avoid Having to Mate
In a process called sexual death feigning, female dragonflies will literally stop mid-air and fall to the ground when an aggressive male dragonfly chases after them to mate. It really works (a majority of the time): biologists have confirmed that 60 percent of the female insects who fake their deaths were able to evade mating-crazed males.
Coffee Grounds Are An Amazing Ant Repellant
Have kids or pets in the house and don’t want pesticides on the counters? Try this trick out: Sprinkle coffee grounds (new or used) in the corners of your cabinets, counters, around pet food dishes, and anywhere else ants might pop up. Soon enough, your ant problems will go away: the ants are repulsed by the smell, and, even if they do eat it, the caffeine exposure will kill them.
Yes, The Egg Came Before the Chicken
Think of it this way: dinosaurs—ancestors of birds—were born from eggs for a really long time. At some point, a chicken-like avian produced an offspring with some sort of genetic mutation that caused it to cross from chicken-like to just chicken. Since this mutated chicken-like turned chicken creature came from the egg, we can definitively say that the egg came first.
Shaking Your Head Will Wake Up “Sleeping” Body Parts
Paresthesia (the clinical term for when your limbs fall asleep) is caused by your nerves being pinched, which restricts the communication between your nerve endings and the brain, so your brain and nerves can’t communicate feeling. If the paresthesia occurs in your arms, hands, and upper body, you can usually wake the appendages up by turning the head side to side, as it’s generally the nerves in the neck that become pinched, cutting the nerve communication channels from your upper body to the brain.
Tornadoes Are Invisible
According to the National Severe Storms Lab, a tornado is a narrow, violently rotating column of air that extends from the base of a thunderstorm to the ground. Because wind is invisible, it is hard to see a tornado unless it forms a condensation funnel made up of water droplets, dust, and debris. You don’t see the tornado—you see what the tornado picks up.
The Ovum Egg Is the Largest Human Cell And The Sperm Is the Smallest Cell
The gametes of each sex are on polar opposite ends of the cell-size spectrum, with the female ovum (the egg) being the largest cell in all of human biology and the male sperm being the smallest. The “largest cell” is about one millimeter in size—just visible to the naked eye, at roughly the width of a piece of hair (and that’s if you have good eyesight).
The Rich Used to Live on the Ground Floors, not Penthouses
When the Romans first built apartment homes (called insulae, at about nine to ten stories high), it was the wealthier folks that lived on the ground floors. The higher floors rarely had running water, nor did they have bathrooms. Imagine climbing up and down nine stories, every day, multiple times a day! It wasn’t until the elevator came around in the 1800s that penthouses and upper-floor units became status symbols.
Young Eggplants Looks like Eggs
Baby eggplants really do look just like large dark-colored eggs. And back in the 18th century, when the Europeans first named them, eggplants were more of a yellow color, not purple, so the name was even more fitting. Oh, and while we’re on weirdly named produce, the grapefruit (which looks nothing like a grape) gets its name from the way the fruits grow in clusters on the tree, like giant clusters of grapes.
There’s High-Speed Internet on the Moon
You can scroll through Instagram, post on Facebook, and even watch Netflix on the moon. Using lasers, NASA was able to establish transmission of data from Earth to the moon and back. The researchers achieved upload speeds of 19.44 megabits per second and download speeds of 622 megabits per second over the 384,633 kilometers between Earth and the moon.
Real Diamonds Don’t Show Up on an X-Ray Machine
There’s an easy way to find out if your sweetie’s a cheapie. Diamonds are made of carbon, which has a very low atomic number (six to eight, depending on grade). The lower the atomic number, the harder it is for an x-ray machine to “read.” Most x-ray machines are designed with a photon energy high enough that low atomic-number things—like carbon, or the oxygen in water—are fairly transparent, so that things like the calcium in bones (or the metal in weapons) show up more clearly.
Clouds Are Insanely Heavy
The average cumulus (the fluffy ones) cloud weighs 1.1 million pounds. So, at that weight, why don’t they just fall out of the sky? Because they’re relatively light compared to their surroundings: the cloud may weight a lot, but the mass of the air within the same space is approximately 1.1 billion pounds, making it 1,000 times heavier than the liquid.
Evidence Exists That the FBI Urged MLK to Commit Suicide
In 1964, the Federal Bureau of Investigation sent an anonymous letter to Martin Luther King Jr. with a recording of what it claimed were his sexual indiscretions and urging him to step down from his leadership role, decline the Nobel prize and/or commit suicide (yes, opinions vary about what exactly the letter was asking that he do). The plot was exposed in 1971 and has proved a constant embarrassment for the organization ever since.
Making Margaritas Can Give You Second-Degree Burns
There’s a condition called phytophotodermatitis that you get it if you spend too much time in the sun after handling limes, lemons, or even celery. Such produce items contain a chemical compound called furanocoumarin which, when in contact with exposed skin and sunlight, will cause a phototoxic reaction, resulting in what looks (and feels) like second-degree burns.
Idiot, Imbecile, and Moron are Clinical Terms
“Idiot” refers to someone with an IQ between 0 to 20; “imbecile” refers to someone between 21 and 50; and “moron” refers to anyone between 51 and 70. All of these terms were medical terms until October 2010, when S.2781 of the 111th Congress (or “Rosa’s Law”) mandated that the clinical term for any lower IQ-related issues be referred to as “intellectual disabilities.”
Nautical Mile Speed Is Measured by “Knots” because They Used Knots to Measure It
Back in the 17th century, sailors measured the speed of their ship by using a contraption called a “common log,” a coil of rope with equally spaced knots attached to a piece of wood. The piece of wood was lowered from the back of the ship and allowed to float behind it free from the coil it was attached on the ship. After a specific time had passed, the line was pulled in and the number of knots between the rope and the ship were counted. The speed would be the resulting number of knots.
Disney World is the Second-Biggest Buyer of Explosives in the U.S.
And that’s because fireworks count as explosives. The U.S. government is the only entity to buy more explosives than the happiest place on Earth. Disney keeps its numbers top secret, but some estimate they spend between $45,000 to $50,000 on explosives per show.
Dopamine Levels in the Brain Can Determine What Political Party You Choose
Highly dopaminergic individuals tend to work with the abstract, ideas, and the future, and tend to affiliate as liberals. Lower dopaminergic individuals tend to be content with how things are and tend to affiliate as conservatives.
Silence Helps Rebuild the Brain
When patients were exposed to prolonged silence (two hours or more at a time), brain scans revealed new cell growth in the hippocampus. In another study exploring the effects of different types of music on the brain, researchers found that the two-minute pause between the music actually induced more relaxation than any type of music. That’s right: silence really is golden.
“Gut Feelings” Have Psychological Merit
There are more neurons in your gut lining than there are in your spinal cord (that’s so your digestive system can work on its own without needing information from the brain). Those butterflies you get in your stomach when you’re overcome with emotion? That’s your stomach neuron system reacting.
To Scale, Saturn’s Rings are Thinner Than Paper
The inner circle of Saturn’s seven rings spans about 180,000 miles in circumference. But the rings are, at most, about 0.6 miles. Let’s do some math: at the thickest spot, that amounts to a thickness-to-width ratio of 0.0000033. A standard 8.5-by-11 piece of paper (which is 0.004 inches thick) has a thickness-to-width ratio of 0.00036—or more than a hundred times that of Saturn’s rings.
Saying “God Bless You” as a Response to Sneezing Came from the Days of the Plague
It became commonplace to say “God bless you” after someone sneezed back in Rome, when the bubonic plague was running rampant through Europe. A common symptom of the plague was sneezing, so the Pope at the time (Pope Gregory I) suggested saying “God bless you” to anyone who sneezed, in the hopes that prayer would save them from the deadly plague.
Mice Are Used for Medical Research Because of Logistical Size
It’s true that their genetic makeup closely resembles humans, but, realistically, chimps would be the better choice. Mice also reproduce much faster than monkeys, so it’s easier and faster to watch genetic mutations and toxicology effects over the course of generations, in comparison to other test mammals.
Your Stomach Could Dissolve a Razor Blade
Stomach acid (hydrochloric acid with a PH rating of 1-2) is strong enough to dissolve razor blades. So, if your stomach is so acidic, how does your body handle it? The truth is that your stomach would essentially eat itself if it didn’t generate its own protective lining daily. When your body is unable to produce the sugary and protein-filled mucus lining properly, you experience painful ulcers.
There Are More than Three States of Matter
Forget the three you learned about in grade school science (solid, liquid, gas). You’ll also find super-fluid liquids (liquids with a specific quality of zero viscosity), plasma (a gas made only of ions), and amorphous solids, among others. But most interestingly—and commonly—you’ll find colloids: the “in-betweens” that contain two or more forms of matter, like whipped cream, shaving foam, and butter.
Polishing Your Shoes Is Like Filling in Potholes
You’re not shining or buffing away uneven spots when polishing shoes—you’re just filling in the crevices. When you’re polishing a shoe, you’re just filling in the teeny-tiny scratches and holes with the shoe wax. So why does it get shiny? The filled-in spots then create an even, uniform surface, which reflects light more evenly.
A Sunburn Is Your Skin Cells Committing Mass Suicide
A sunburn is the result of your body forcing your skin cells to essentially destroy themselves (scientific term: apoptosis, or programmed cell death) in an effort to prevent further damage in the form of skin cancer, which can result from the damaged DNA in the burnt cells.
The Brain Itself Feels No Pain
Though the brain controls the pain you feel throughout the body, the brain itself has absolutely zero pain receptors, according to Allan I. Basbaum, a professor of anatomy at the University of California, San Francisco. That’s why craniotomy (brain surgery) can be done with the patient wide awake, which is incredibly useful for surgeons trying to map and locate the specific regions in the brain.
Sailors Created the Half-Staff Flag Mourning Tradition
The first record of a flag being flown at half-staff for mourning was on a British expedition to Canada in 1612, on which the captain was killed. The crew lowered the flag to make room for the invisible “Flag of Death.” This tradition caught on among sailors from across the seven seas and was truly solidified in 1799, when the U.S. Navy ordered all flags to fly at half-mast to mourn the death of George Washington. In 1954, President Eisenhower issued Proclamation 3044, standardizing the requirement for all Federal buildings.
The Mascots of Elmer’s Glue and Borden Dairy Are Married
The Borden Company’s mascot Elsie, who appeared on its dairy products, eventually acquired an “all-American family” in 1940, including her husband, Elmer. When the company rolled out a new glue in 1947, the fact that it could be used to fix things around the house soon made Elmer, the helpful husband, an obvious mascot.
Barcode Scanners Read the White Bars
Not the black bars.
Lightning Can Strike the Same Place Twice
Whether it’s within 10 minutes or 10 million years, it’s statistically inevitable. (Exhibits A through ZZZ: skyscrapers with antennae, like the Empire State Building or the Willis Tower.) A lightning strike at any location does nothing to change the electrical activity in the storm taking place, which means double strikes are bound to happen.
Chocolate Is Scientifically Proven to Make You Happy
There are a few compounds you’ll find in your chocolate bar that have been linked to improved mood and even altered brain patterns: tryptophan, an amino acid that helps the brain produce serotonin (the neurotransmitter related to happiness and satisfaction); phenylethylamine, an adrenaline-boosting compound often dubbed the “love” chemical because it stimulates the feeling of falling in love; and theobromine, a compound proven to reduce stress reduction and increase relaxation.
Apples Are More Effective at Perking You Up Than Coffee
An apple has a crisp crunch that wakes you up with a high amount of vitamins, antioxidants, fiber, and phytonutrients. Instead of waking you up with caffeine, the average 12 to 13 grams of natural sugar in the apple is slowly released into the bloodstream, which wakes you up without the jitters that are commonly associated with caffeine. The glucose in the fruit is easily digested by the body to feed cells, providing slow and steady energy, and lasts for the entirety of the digestion process of the apple, rather than the quick spike and crash that results from a cup coffee.
Stop Signs Are Eight-Sided For Easy Recognition
The red is for attention, of course, but the shape of the sign was determined by the American Association of State Highway Officials to be the most recognizable. Signs used to not be reflective, so at night it was important for drivers to be able to make out the sign. An octagon is more noticeable than a circle or a square. In addition, the shape is recognizable for traffic traveling in any direction, allowing drivers to be more fully aware of the driving landscape.
Grandparents Who Babysit Live Longer
Grandparents who actively babysit and spend time with their grandchildren are proven to live longer. Taking care of kids keeps them physically and mentally active, and also helps to relieve stress. The feeling of being “needed” also plays a role for motherly and fatherly figures. And it’s beneficial for the kids, too! Spending time with nana and poppy provides emotional support and stability in the home.
Diet Drinks Get You Drunker, Faster
When the body consumes alcohol and a sugary mixer, the sugars act the same way as food would by delaying the stomach’s emptying and absorption of alcohol. There are no (or very little) sugars in diet drinks for the stomach to digest, so there’s virtually no buffer of time between alcohol consumption and alcohol intoxication. Studies have shown an 18 percent increase in intoxication for those who drank diet mixed drinks compared to those who drank sugary mixed drinks.
Alaska Is the Only State That Can Be Typed Out with One Row on Your Keyboard
Don’t believe us? Try it out yourself. And for more mind-blowing trivia, check out these 50 Incredible “Did You Know” Facts That Will Astonish Everyone.
You Can Spot a Liar by How they Answer Questions
When you’re asking questions to someone you think may be lying, pay attention not to what they say, but to how they answer. Truth-tellers tend to elaborate on answers with more detail the more you ask; liars will tend to stick with the same basic answers, repeating their responses over and over (and over and over) until you just drop the subject.
You Can Stop Crying and Wake Yourself Up with Your Eyelashes
It’s an age-old ballerina trick from when stage makeup would irritate the eyes, but you can use it in your day-to-day: to stop yourself from tearing up, look upward and to the left. In addition, if you wake up feeling groggy, you can instantly perk yourself up by lightly brushing your lower lashes with your fingertip. Try it tomorrow morning!
Pringles’ Aren’t Potato Chips
Pringles are hyperbolic paraboloids that are actually only 40 percent potato. They’re made up of rice, wheat, corn, and potato flakes, then pressed into a super-thin sheet and cut by a machine. The cuts then move to a mold, which presses them into their signature shape, and then they’re dropped into oil. That’s why, on the can, you can read, in small font, “potato crisps” (not “chips”).
Water-Repellant Clothes Work by Using Surface Tension
Water-repellent clothes are coated with a chemical compound called DWR (durable water repellent), which work by increasing the contact angle (the surface tension) created by water when it touches the fabric. By increasing the angle, a “spiky” surface is formed on the textile, making the water turn into tiny droplets when they make contact with it, so that the water rolls off. If and when the angle is flat (a low contact angle), the water droplets are flatter, so they spread out instead of rolling off.
A Pig Was Once Tried and Executed for Murder
In 1386, a particularly nasty pig was tried for the murder of a child in Falaise, Normandy, France. Those trying the hog determined it was guilty and sentenced it to be “mangled and maimed in the head and forelegs, and then to be hanged.” It was even dressed in a man’s clothes as it was trotted into the public square and hanged.
A Typhoon Hit Hiroshima a Month After the Bomb
Talk about a one-two punch. A month after the devastation of the atomic bombing in August 1945, Hiroshima was struck by Typhoon Ida, which killed an estimated 2,000 people in the prefecture. And for more historical facts you may not be aware of, don’t miss 30 Things in History Textbooks That Weren’t There Just 10 Years Ago.
Saudi Arabia Import Camels From Australia
Mostly just the ones for eating.
Steely Dan’s First Drummer Was Chevy Chase
Well, technically he played in a band with the two guys from Steely Dan for a few gigs in college. They would go on to play in a few more bands before forming Steely Dan and Chevy Chase would go on to Saturday Night Live.
The Most Unlucky Number is 42
In the digital world, at least, 42 is the most unlucky number for a fairly surprising reason. (It’s also the last number in the unlucky lottery numbers from LOST.) There’s a malicious zip file out there titled 42.zip, aptly named the “zip bomb.” It’s a scant 42 kilobytes in size, but once unzipped, it expands to 4.5 petabytes (or, for perspective, 4.5 million gigabytes), crashing any system it’s opened on. And for more astonishing numerical truths, here are 40 Facts About Numbers That Will Make You Feel Like a Mathematical Genius.
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