Did you know that New York City has its own indigenous species of ant and that it’s called the ManhattAnt? Did you also know that history’s most successful pirate wasn’t a bearded, eyepatch-wearing man but a woman? And did you know that humans actually have the power to smell rainfall before it arrives? If you answered “no” to any of those, then congratulations! You’re in for a huge treat, because here we’ve compiled 100 totally random and fascinating facts that will leave you feeling astonished. So read on, and remember that not one but two golf balls have been hit on the moon wit a makeshift six iron.
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Victorians once used leeches to predict the weather.
George Merryweather was a Victorian doctor and a fan of poetry. In fact, it was in a poem that he found the inspiration to build the Tempest Prognosticator, a kind of barometer powered by leeches. The three-foot-tall contraption was as beautiful as it was intended to be useful. The brass and mahogany structure held 12 glass vials in place, each of which contained a single leech. If it was going to rain soon, the leeches would slither to the top of the vial. By the end of his project, Merryweather had grown so attached to his leeches, he swore that they had befriended him. Unfortunately, only a few of them were actually successful at predicting the weather. Others, he wrote, were “absolutely stupid.”
Your funny bone is actually a nerve.
The name “funny bone” comes from the humerus bone, which connects the shoulder to the elbow. However, that’s not the source of the tingling sensation you feel when you bump your elbow just right. It’s actually the result of the humerus bone coming into contact with the ulnar nerve, which is responsible for telling the brain about feelings in the ring and pinky fingers.
The chief translator of the European Parliament speaks 32 languages fluently.
Since 2002, the Greek translator Ioannis Ikonomou has been the chief translator of the European Parliament. With 32 languages under his belt, he merits the position. He initially moved to Brussels to be an interpreter, a valuable position in the EU capital, but after he learned all 12 official languages of the EU, he kept going and now speaks even more, including Bengali, Swahili, and Turkish.
The most requested funeral song in England is by Monty Python.
A survey of funeral directors by Co-operative Funeralcare (per the BBC) found that the most frequently requested song to play at funerals in the United Kingdom is “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” by Monty Python, from their irreverent comedy classic Life of Brian. It beat out Frank Sinatra‘s “My Way.”
Research shows that all blue-eyed people may be related.
At least, they may share the same distant ancestor. After studying the DNA of blue-eyed individuals from Scandinavia, Turkey, Jordan, and India, Danish researchers found that they all had identical gene sequences for eye color. They believe this trait comes from a single individual, called the “founder,” whose genes mutated between 6,000 and 10,000 years ago. Before that, everyone had varying shades of brown eyes.
Charles Darwin’s personal pet tortoise didn’t die until recently.
Okay, technically she wasn’t his pet, but after his tour of the Galapagos Islands, Charles Darwin brought back a five-year-old tortoise he named Harriet. She outlived her adopter by 124 years, ultimately making it to a whopping 176 years old. Harriet lived out her final years as part of the family of Steve “Crocodile Hunter” Irwin in Australia, until she passed away in 2006.
The average person will spend six months of their life waiting for red lights to turn green.
Driving can be a fun and liberating activity—until you get stuck at a red light, that is. The National Association of City Transportation Officials says that the average time spent waiting at a red light is 75 seconds, accounting for approximately 20% of all driving time. That’s a whole lot of time doing nothing and just another reason to switch to public transportation.
A bolt of lightning contains enough energy to toast 100,000 slices of bread.
If you consider that each bolt of lightning contains more than 5 billion Joules of energy, then the average 1,000-watt, two-slice toaster could be powered for 84,000 minutes with just one strike. That’s just enough time to toast about 100,000 slices of bread, bagels, English muffins—whatever you prefer.
President Lyndon B. Johnson owned a water-surfing car.
Always the joker, Lyndon B. Johnson would surprise guests at his Texas ranch by driving them down the hill in his Amphicar, claiming the brakes had gone out. Once it hit the lake, their panic would subside when they realized the car had been designed to function in water.
David Bowie helped topple the Berlin Wall.
While David Bowie‘s trio of albums recorded in Berlin are considered among his best work, it’s not the only legacy he has in the German city. In 1987, his performance of “Heroes” in front of the Reichstag as part of the Concert for Berlin, was loud enough and close enough to the wall to be heard in East Berlin (where such music was forbidden). It sparked a police crackdown, and, according to The Guardian, “Many of the eyewitnesses claim that the violent police crackdown on the third night of the concerts… were crucial in changing the mood against the state.”
Cherophobia is the word for the irrational fear of being happy.
No, it’s not the fear of Cher, as the name might lead you to believe. It comes from the Greek word “chero,” which means “to rejoice.” People who suffer from cherophobia are often afraid, cripplingly so, of doing anything that might lead to happiness. This includes participating in fun activities and rejecting opportunities that may lead to positive outcomes.
You can hear a blue whale’s heartbeat from two miles away.
The blue whale is the largest animal on the planet, weighing up to 150 tons and measuring up to 90 feet long. Naturally, an animal this massive would have an equally huge heart. Roughly the size of a small car, the blue whale’s heart weighs about 1,300 pounds. To move blood through its colossal body and arteries, its heart beats so powerfully, you can hear it from two miles away. You just might miss it, though, as its heart only beats eight to 10 times per minute.
Nearly 30,000 rubber ducks were lost at sea in 1992 and are still being discovered today.
Over 25 years ago, a cargo ship traveling from Hong Kong to the United States accidentally lost a shipping crate in the Pacific Ocean. Inside that crate were 28,000 rubber ducks unwittingly about to embark on many long journeys across the globe. As rubber ducks continue to pop up on shores from Australia to Alaska, they’ve enlightened our understanding of ocean currents. Some have made it all the way to the Atlantic Ocean while others have been found frozen in Arctic ice.
There’s a Manhattan-specific ant.
On Broadway medians between 63rd and 76th streets, biologists discovered a new species of ant. They named it ManhattAnt, naturally. Hey, if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere.
The inventor of the frisbee was turned into a frisbee after he died.
“Steady Ed” Headrick invented the frisbee in the 1950s, then went on to create the sport of disc golf in the 1970s. When he died in 2002, his final wish was to have his ashes turned into—what else?—a frisbee. His son said it was his father’s dream that they play with him after death and that he might even accidentally end up on someone’s roof.
There’s a bridge exclusively for squirrels.
To provide safe passage to squirrels attempting to cross the N44 motorway, Netherlands officials built a rodent-only bridge. While it may have been a kind-hearted gesture, it might not have been the most economically sensible one: costing £120,000, over a two-year span the bridge was used by just five squirrels in two years. “In 2014 three squirrels, and in 2015 two squirrels, were spotted on the bridge,” the government said in a statement.
Subway footlongs aren’t always a foot long.
The New York Post measured the actual length of Subway footlongs in New York City and found they averaged 11 inches, not 12. The sandwich chain commented, “With regards to the size of the bread and calling it a footlong, ‘SUBWAY FOOTLONG’ is a registered trademark as a descriptive name for the sub sold in Subway Restaurants and not intended to be a measurement of length.”
The controversial issue was even taken to court, where the judge ruled in Subway’s favor, saying most sandwiches are in fact one foot long, but “due to perfectly natural and unavoidable vagaries in the baking process, a very small fraction of sandwiches fell about a quarter-inch shy of 12 inches.”
Marie Curie’s notebooks are still radioactive.
The mother of modern physics was known for her work with radioactive materials and the discovery of elements like polonium and radium. Unfortunately, her research took a hefty toll on her health, leading to aplastic anemia, which caused her death. The exposure to radioactivity didn’t just affect her, it also affected most of her belongings, including her clothes, furniture, and books. Now, more than a century later, Marie Curie‘s notebooks have to be stored in a lead box, as they are still radioactive (and will be for another 1,500 years!).
One in three divorce filings include the word “Facebook.”
That was the case in 2011, according to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, though that number has likely risen since. “We’ve had instances where they pull up Facebook in the course of a deposition,” divorce lawyer Marian Rosen told ABC News. “Once it’s out there for the world, it’s very difficult … to erase from the past. There are going to be trails that can be followed.”
Blood banks in Sweden notify donors when blood is used.
Blood donors receive a text message when their blood is used to help a patient. “We get a lot of visibility in social media and traditional media thanks to the SMS,” Karolina Blom Wilberg, a communications manager at the Stockholm blood service, told HuffPo. “But above all we believe it makes our donors come back to us, and donate again.”
Instead of saying “cheese” before taking a picture, Victorians said “prunes.”
We say “cheese” because the word leaves us with a big smile on our faces, but if Victorian-era folk were to see our gleeful expressions, they’d scoff. Once upon a time, smiling in photos was considered undignified and reserved for the poor and the drunk. To retain a more serious look in their photos, they would say “prunes,” a word so dull, the chances of it inciting a smile were slim to none.
Roosters have built-in earplugs.
Considering a rooster’s call can reach 140 decibels or louder, it might leave one to wonder how the rooster itself keeps from going deaf when that noise is coming right out of its beak. It turns out, the farm fowl have built-in earplugs. Researchers found that when a rooster opens its beak to crow, its external auditory canals close off, preventing sound from coming in and doing any damage.
The Netherlands is so safe, it imports criminals to fill jails.
The Netherlands has enjoyed a steady drop in crime since 2004, and has become so safe that it’s closed down one jail after another—23 prisons shut their doors since 2014. To help mitigate the job losses that this has created, the country has taken to importing prisoners from other countries, bringing 242 inmates from Norway in 2015.
One journal published a fake paper about Star Trek.
To help expose how easily false or flawed research could make its way into supposedly peer-reviewed journals, an anonymous biologist managed to get a paper about one of Star Trek‘s most infamously silly elements accepted by four journals and published in the American Research Journal of Biosciences. The biologist explained that he did so “to expose predatory journals that claim to offer peer-reviewed open-access publications but will publish anything for a fee.”
The world’s largest pyramid isn’t in Egypt.
The Great Pyramid of Cholula, located in Cholula, Puebla, Mexico, is the largest pyramid in the world and—with a base four times the size of the Great Pyramid of Giza—also happens to be the largest monument ever constructed. Part of the reason it’s not better known is that it’s partially buried under a mountain.
Coke saved one town from the Great Depression.
Well, sort of. As the country was reeling from the Great Depression, a local, trusted banker in the town of Quincy, Florida, urged anyone who would listen to invest in Coca-Cola stocks, then selling at $19 per share. Many followed his advice, and when the company’s stock boomed as he’d promised, others followed. Soon, at least 67 inhabitants (in a town of fewer than 7,000) had become “Coca-Cola millionaires,” making Quincy the richest U.S. town per capita.
We may have already had alien contact.
In 1977, a volunteer for the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence received a 72-second-long signal from a distant star system, 120 light years from Earth. It was loud and sent from a place that had yet to be visited by mankind, so the guy who received it wrote “Wow!” next to the original printout of the signal. It continues to be known as the “Wow! Signal.” Researchers have since suggested that the noise was picked up from a passing comet.
Yes, you can smell rain.
Weather patterns produce distinct smells, and one of these is a lightly pungent scent of ozone that springs from fertilizers and can be carried in a thunderstorm’s downdrafts from higher altitudes, alerting those with sensitive noses that the rain is about to fall.
London cabbies have to memorize literally everything.
If you take a taxicab in London, you can expect the driver to know exactly where they are going, since they are required to take a series of tests known as The Knowledge. These require them to study 320 routes and 25,000 streets, not to mention 20,000 landmarks and places of public interest—estimated to take as long as four years to fully complete.
There was a secret Baseball Hall of Fame inductee.
In 1988, a bar owner visiting the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, made a surreptitious addition to the honorees, slipping a photo of his dad wearing a baseball uniform into one of the glass cases. It remained there for six years before anyone detected that it did not belong there.
Dolphins have actual names.
Early in life, a dolphin creates a unique vocal whistle that allows it to be identified by other dolphins in its pod. A team of researchers at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland found that the animals responded when their specific call was played back to them.
Superman helped take down the KKK.
In the 1940s, the popular Adventures of Superman radio program ran a 16-episode series, incorporating the findings of activist Stetson Kennedy, who had infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan but couldn’t get local authorities to use the information to crack down on them. The creators of the Superman show used Kennedy’s spy secrets to help tell the story of the “Clan of the Fiery Cross,” exposing the organization to the public and earning it widespread mockery and condemnation.
A wild dog is the most successful predator in the animal kingdom.
The apex predator with the highest kill rate is not the lion, the cheetah, or the wolf, it’s the African wild dog. According to researchers, these lean, big-eared canines are noted for having a kill rate of 85%, while peregrine falcons get 47% of their targets and lions get just 17 to 19%. Another animal with surprisingly high kill rates? Domestic cats, which kill more than 30% of their targets.
Medicine bottle foil seals exists because of poison.
Those annoying foil seals on the top of medicine bottles were put in place after a rash of poisonings occurred in 1982, in which seven people in the Chicago area were killed after ingesting Tylenol laced with potassium cyanide.
Tons of countries celebrate their independence from the U.K.
The British Empire grew ridiculously large before scaling back down. Some 62 countries eventually declared their independence from the empire, 48 of which celebrate an Independence Day from the United Kingdom.
RELATED: The 60 Most Interesting World Facts You’ll Ever Hear.
Sears used to sell houses.
Before every city had a Walmart, most Americans got their stuff from mail-order catalogs, such as Sears. Among its many, many offerings were so-called “kit houses,” or entire homes that were shipped on a train. You had to assemble the house yourself using the 75-page instruction book. It was like Ikea on steroids.
There’s an encrypted monument outside the CIA.
A sculpture outside CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, fittingly includes un-cracked codes. Created by artist Jim Sanborn, the Kryptos sculpture features four inscriptions, three of which have been cracked, but the forth is still a mystery. (Though in 2010 the artist offered one clue: The letters NYPVTT are an encryption of the word BERLIN.)
Manhattan tap water isn’t kosher.
Tiny crustaceans have been detected in the tap water of New York City, and while these creatures pose no health threat, they technically disqualify the water from being considered kosher.
Timothy Leary busted out of prison.
That may be a dramatic way of putting it. In fact, the psychedelics advocate, serving a sentence for marijuana possession, simply walked away from the minimum security prison in which he’d been placed in September 1970 by changing out of his prison uniform at a nearby gas station.
Cold water is just as cleansing as hot water.
When using modern detergent, clothes will be equally clean whether warm or cold water is used. There is one major difference: warm water uses much more energy (about 75% of the energy used for a load of laundry comes from warming the water).
Incan people used knots to keep records.
Instead of handwritten notes, Incan people used knots tied on pendants and cords to do their accounting. Called quipu, the types of knots and their location relative to the top of the cord would modify the meaning of the apparatus. About 600 examples of quipu have been discovered so far.
A U.S. Park Ranger once got hit by lightning seven times.
That would be Roy Cleveland Sullivan, a park ranger at the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, who between 1942 and 1977 was struck by lightning on seven different occasions, earning him an entry in the Guinness Book of World Records and the nickname “Human Lighting Rod.” He survived all of them and lived to the age of 71.
Water bottle expiration dates are for the bottle, not the water.
After a while, the plastic will start leaching into the liquid.
Queen Elizabeth wouldn’t sit on the Iron Throne.
When Queen Elizabeth paid a royal visit to the set of Game of Thrones in Northern Ireland, she refused to sit on the Iron Throne for legal reasons. As series co-creator David Benioff told Esquire, “Apparently the Queen of England is not allowed to sit on a foreign throne… This is an esoteric rule we didn’t know about until that moment.”
A hiker found and returned an ancient wallet.
Halfway up a glacier in the Andes, hiker Ricardo Peña found a wallet. It belonged to an Uruguayan rugby player who had been in a 1972 plane crash in which all but 16 passengers died. As it turned out, the wallet belonged to one of the survivors. Peña tracked him down and returned the wallet, more than three decades after its loss.
South Koreans are four centimeters taller than North Koreans.
A researcher from Sungkyunkwan University in Seoul found that North Koreans are four centimeters shorter on average than South Koreans, pointing to malnourishment, economic stagnation, and lack of immigration as reasons for the difference.
Animal shelters are slammed on July 5.
It makes sense: Many pets run away from home out of fear of July 4th fireworks.
The world’s most successful pirate was a woman.
The 19th-century Chinese pirate Ching Shih, a former sex worker and widow of fearsome pirate Cheng I, became a hugely successful pirate in her own right, succeeding her husband and eventually commanding more than 1,800 pirate ships and 80,000 men (the secrets she’d learned about her powerful clients at the brothel also came in handy).
There may be treasure in Virginia.
A set of coded texts known as the Beale Ciphers (as they were originally acquired by a prospector named Thomas Jefferson Beale in the early 1800s) are said to reveal the location of a massive treasure: approximately $43 million in gold, silver, and jewels. Of the three texts, one has been cracked, revealing that the treasure is in Bedford County, Virginia. Where exactly it is within that county remains unknown.
A sea lion once saved a man.
A man named jumped off San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge but survived despite breaking his back. While it seemed he would not be long for this world, a sea lion came to the rescue, swimming beneath him and keeping him afloat until the coast guard arrived.
Rich Russians hire fake ambulances.
While “ambulance chaser” might be an insult in the United States, Russians take their selfish use of emergency vehicles to a whole other level by hiring “ambulance taxis”—luxuriously appointed ambulances they hire for $200 an hour that will blast their sirens to speed the passenger through traffic.
Milk wagons gave us roadway lines.
Considered “the most important single traffic safety device,” the painting of lines down the center of roads was devised by Edward Hines in 1911 when he saw the dotted drippings from a leaking milk wagon and struck on the concept.
Pandas fake pregnancy for better care.
A Chinese panda named Ai Hin was believed to be pregnant (showing signs like an increased appetite and less movement), and zookeepers ensured she was well taken care of with extra food, a single room with air conditioning, and more. But then they realized she was not pregnant at all. Researchers believe it may have been a deliberate fake out in order to get the better treatment and treats.
Businesses once didn’t see the value of diaper stations.
Though diaper-changing stations are now a common sight in public places, that was not always the case. When the founder of Koala changing tables first tried selling them to businesses, he was met with total disinterest. But thanks to a marketing push depicting a woman changing a diaper on a gross bathroom floor, he started changing minds. “We had to make them feel guilty,” Jeff Hilger told Fortune. This tactic worked, and soon McDonald’s, Target, and other major chains were asking to have them installed.
Beloved children’s book author Roald Dahl was a spy.
Though best known as the author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach, the author also put in time as a spy for the British Security Coordination gathering intelligence during World War II. One of his specialties was using his charm to seduce society ladies, possibly for intelligence gathering, possibly for his own enjoyment.
NASCAR drivers can lose up to 10 pounds in sweat due to high temperatures during races.
During a race, the temperature inside a race car regularly reaches up to 170° due to engine activity and traction. Despite ventilation systems that blow cool air into the seats, the helmet, and near the feet, the heat can still lead drivers to lose between five and 10 pounds in sweat during each race. Excessive sweating can lead to focus problems and slower reflexes, which is just one of the factors that makes this sport so dangerous.
Indians spend 10+ hours a week reading, more than any other country in the world.
Social media and digital consumption have become so overwhelmingly popular in most parts of the world that it’s easy to forget that for some people, reading is still a primary form of entertainment. According to a 2017 study, the average Indian spends 10 hours and 42 minutes per week reading. Compare that to America’s five hours and 42 minutes per week. The other countries filling out the top five are Thailand, China, the Philippines, and Egypt.
The Aurora Borealis has a sister phenomenon in the southern hemisphere called the Aurora Australis.
The Northern Lights get a lot of hype, often stealing the spotlight from the Southern Lights, which are visible from New Zealand, Tasmania, and Antarctica. Aurora Australis, like Aurora Borealis, occurs when solar particles collide with gases in Earth’s atmosphere. Also like the northern lights, the best time to see this magnificent light show is in the winter— southern winter, of course. March through September are prime viewing seasons.
Pineapples were named after pine cones.
Christopher Columbus first saw pineapples while exploring the island of Guadeloupe in 1493, but the first recorded reference to a fruit of this name wasn’t until 1694. Because of its spiky exterior, a different group of European explorers named it “pineapple” after the equally spiky pine cone. Later, in the 20th century, the pineapple earned its official scientific name, “ananas cosmosus,” which literally translates to “excellent tufted fruit.”
A California woman tried to sue the makers of Cap’N’Crunch after she learned Crunch Berries were not real berries.
Jeanine Sugawara was devastated when she cracked open a box of Cap’N’Crunch Crunch Berries cereal to find that there wasn’t a single berry in the box. Feeling “tricked” by the cereal company, she sued Quaker Oats, who owns Cap’N’Crunch, on the grounds of false advertising. The complaint was quickly dismissed when the judge reminded her that there is no such thing as a “crunchberry.”
Cap’N’Crunch’s full name is Horatio Magellan Crunch.
And his ship is called the S.S. Guppy. Being named after the famous explorer Ferdinand Magellan isn’t the only little-known fact about the cereal celeb. Other fun trivia about the captain includes that he comes from a far-off island known as Crunch Island, where he has his own monument called Mount Crunchmore. Horatio’s biggest secret is that he’s not really a captain. Just look at his uniform, and you’ll see he actually wears the stripes of a commander.
Apple briefly had its own clothing and lifestyle line in 1986.
Though these cheesy graphic tees would be a hit today, they were a miserable flop when Apple first presented them in 1986. During Steve Jobs’ brief hiatus from Apple, the successful tech company decided to see just how far their fans’ love could stretch. Apparently, it wasn’t far, as The Apple Collection’s branded apparel, accessories, and lifestyle goods were a commercial flop. Sunglasses, lapel pins, and the original $35 Apple Watch are just a few of the goods they couldn’t sell.
The IKEA catalog is the most widely printed book in history.
With more than 200 million copies in circulation every year, the IKEA catalog surpasses the Bible, the Quran, and the Harry Potter series to earn the title of the world’s most-printed book. The annual catalogs are usually around 350 pages and vary in each of the 72 regions in which it’s distributed. For example, catalogs in Saudi Arabia only feature men in their photos.
3 Musketeers bars had three flavors until wartime rations made it too difficult to access vanilla and strawberry flavoring.
If you’ve ever wondered why the delectably fluffy 3 Musketeers bars were named, it’s because when they were first invented in 1932, they came in three breakable pieces. Not only were they made for sharing between three people, but they came with three different flavors in each bar: strawberry, chocolate, and vanilla. They also had a slogan inspired by Alexandre Dumas‘ classic novel: “All for one, or one for a couple of others!” When World War II rations made it difficult to get ahold of strawberry and vanilla flavoring, the chocolate company pivoted to the bar we know and love today.
Crocodiles are one of the oldest living species, having survived for more than 200 million years.
Scientists still aren’t sure how, but crocodiles managed to outlive dinosaurs by 65 million years. In fact, crocodiles have always been so well-designed for survival, that modern crocodiles are hardly different than those found in fossils. Just a few theories about how they’ve managed to survive so long are crocodiles’ ability to go long periods without eating, their ability to survive in land and water, and the fact that they can adjust to cold temperatures easily.
Bacon’s saltiness isn’t natural—it comes from curing and brining.
Though pork naturally contains some sodium (as does any meat), the saltiness we love about ham, bacon, and any number of pork products is actually the result of curing and brining processes. After the raw meat has been left to soak in salt or salt water, it becomes dehydrated, flavored, and preserved. This is also the process that creates salami, pepperoni, and other cured meats.
There was a fifth Beatle named Stuart Sutcliffe.
The Scottish painter and bassist Stuart Sutcliffe was an original member of the Beatles when they were just a club act in Hamburg, Germany. There, he met his fiancée, Astrid Kirchherr, and decided to stay behind to be with her. Only a year later, he suffered a brain hemorrhage and died at the age of 21. Meanwhile, his former bandmates would go on to become the most popular musicians in history. Over the years, many others have been given the title of the “Fifth Beatle,” including producer George Martin, PR manager Derek Taylor, and road manager Neil Aspinall.
The cracking sound your joints make is the sound of gases being released.
Some people love it and some people hate it, but what is it that makes joint cracking so loud? When joints are stretched, the pockets of gas that get trapped between them are released. When these bubbles of oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide escape, they might make a popping or cracking noise. Whether or not intentional joint cracking is bad for your health has yet to be decided. Some scientists say it harmless, while others say it may lead to osteoarthritis.
Your bones can multiply in density—times eight.
While most people are familiar with osteoporosis, which leads to brittle bones, you may be less familiar with the gene mutation LRP5. Those with the mutation have bones that are many times denser—up to eight, in extreme cases—than the average person’s, with cases of afflicted individuals walking away from car accidents and other impact injuries with no fractures or broken bones.
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The largest snowflake on record was 15 inches wide.
On Jan. 28, 1887, two years before Montana was even a state, U.S. Army personnel witnessed the strange sight of a frisbee-sized snowflake falling from the sky in what’s now Keogh, Montana. Snowflakes sometimes combine before reaching the ground, leading to large, thick snowflakes. Today, it remains the title holder for the Guinness World Record’s largest snowflake ever.
Scotland has more than 400 words for “snow.”
When linguists from the University of Glasgow compiled the first Historical Glossary of Scots, one of Scotland’s three official languages, they were blown away at the bountiful ways to express the concept of snow. Some of those words include “snaw” (snow), “feefle” (swirls of snow), and “flindrinkin” (a light snow shower). And that giant snowflake that fell in Montana? hat would be called a “skelf.”
A pig was once executed for murdering a child in France.
Before you roll your eyes, know that this happened during the Middle Ages, when animals were regularly tried for human crimes. One example of such a trial took place in the French village of Fontenay-aux-Roses in 1386. The defendant, a young pig, was arrested for attacking a baby’s face. When complications from the injuries ultimately killed the three-month-old, the pig was sent to jail and later, publicly executed after failing to provide a solid defense for its crimes. Naturally.
Someone tried to sell New Zealand on eBay but was stopped once the bid reached $3,000.
There’s an ongoing rivalry between Australia and New Zealand, but in 2006, one Australian man came very close to winning. In May 2006, he opened a bid on the e-commerce platform for the country of New Zealand. Bids started at $0.01. Bidding prices climbed all the way to $3,000 before eBay officials shut it down, adding “clearly New Zealand is not for sale.” Still, New Zealand was salty about the prank. The country’s foreign minister at the time even called it “nonsensical stupidity.”
A Canadian woman who lost her wedding ring while gardening found it 13 years later growing on a carrot.
Mary Grams always loved gardening, but not as much as she loved her husband. That’s why she couldn’t bear to risk breaking his heart by telling him she lost her wedding ring in the garden. Instead, she went out and bought a cheap replacement. More surprising than the fact that her husband never noticed the difference is the fact that 13 years after the incident, the ring resurfaced on a carrot growing in the very same garden.
The city of Boring has a sister city called Dull.
The Oregon city of Boring, named after founder William H. Boring, has claimed the village of Dull, in Perthshire, Scotland, as its sister city. Oregon’s governor named August 9 to be the official Boring and Dull Day throughout the state.
McDonald’s once tried to sell bubblegum-flavored broccoli to encourage kids to eat healthier.
It failed, obviously. For the last decade, McDonald’s has been incorporating healthier options into its menus. It now offers an entire array of salads and in 2011, it made it possible to swap fries for apples in Happy Meals. Before it decided on apples, though, the fast food chain experimented with a bunch of fruits and vegetables, notably, broccoli. But not just any broccoli. Aware that kids traditionally despise the waxy green veggie, McDonald’s engineered it to taste like bubblegum.
In the ’90s, North Korean teachers were required to play the accordion.
Famously mysterious North Korea is full of surprises, not the least of which is its cultural fondness for the accordion. The musical squeezebox is known as the “people’s instrument,” because its convenient size makes it ideal to take on marches. For years, the accordion has been taught in North Korean schools. It’s no wonder, then, why in the ’90s, teachers were required to pass an accordion exam to get the job, according to interviews from the book Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea.
The punctuation mark ?! is called an interrobang.
That’s right, the combination question mark-exclamation mark that so many of us overuse in text messages has a name. It was invented in the 1960s by an ad man named Martin Speckter who wanted to lend typographical form to the messages behind advertising campaigns that were both questions and exclamations. Think: “Got milk?!” or “Can you hear me now?!” The interrobang originally looked like this, “‽” but nowadays most people use its two root symbols instead.
Doritos are flammable and can be used as kindling.
If you’re ever in a bind, throw some Doritos on the grill and spark them up. Though you can make kindling out of nearly anything, the flavored corn chips are particularly handy because they’ll burn for a long time. In fact, most chips will serve as good fire starters because they’re made of flammable hydrocarbons soaked in oil, according to an investigation by The Star. The more covered in powdered flavoring they are, the longer the fire will last!
It’s illegal to own only one guinea pig in Switzerland.
In this alpine country, it’s the more the merrier when it comes to guinea pigs. Because the squeaking rodents are herd animals, they can get severely depressed when all alone. In an effort to enhance social rights for animals, Switzerland officially considers owning a single guinea pig an act of animal cruelty. For those who were already single guinea pig owners before the law was passed in 2008, rent-a guinea-pig businesses can provide your beloved fur ball with a pal.
In 2016, a Florida man was charged with assault after throwing a live alligator through a drive-thru window.
In perhaps the most Floridian attack ever, the deadly weapon of choice was an alligator. As 24-year-old Joshua James was being handed his drink at a Wendy’s drive-thru, he tossed a live 3.5-foot alligator at the attendant for absolutely no reason at all. As a result, he was charged with assault with a deadly weapon, possession of an alligator, and petty theft. He was also banned from all Wendy’s fast food restaurants.
American Airlines saved a boatload by removing a single olive from meals.
Three decades ago, American Airlines’ executives, looking to save money, removed the single olive that was included in every first-class meal. As reported by Jet Set on Bravo, this saved the airline an estimated $40,000 per year—in 1980s dollars.
Great Britain once had a Cones Hotline for people to report rogue traffic cones.
Under the guise of an initiative called The Citizen’s Charter, Britain set up a hotline aimed at improving public services, one traffic cone at a time. The Cones Hotline was launched in 1992 for citizens to report traffic cones on the road “for no apparent reason.” The policy was mocked both for being comically pointless and for being a waste of government money before it was disbanded in 1995. Its failure has inspired the term “cone syndrome,” which is used to describe policies that serve no real purpose.
Starbucks flopped Down Under.
While the green siren logo may be ubiquitous throughout the U.S., Starbucks did not have as much success in Australia. After opening dozens of locations throughout the continent beginning in 2000, low demand led it to close 70 percent of its locations, leaving just 23 cafes throughout the country, as reported by CNBC.
Why did it flop? According to Gartner research analyst Thomas O’Conner, the brand, “launched too rapidly and didn’t give the Australian consumer an opportunity to really develop an appetite for the Starbucks brand. They also moved into regional areas, into outer suburbs of major cities… it wasn’t an organic growth.”
The first written use of “OMG” was in a 1917 letter to Winston Churchill.
The days were dark during World War I when Europe was at war and world powers like Britain were mobilizing their forces. One celebrated British admiral of the Royal Navy had retired by 1917 when he wrote to Winston Churchill to share his take on the headlines of the day, some of which were so exciting, he wrote, “O.M.G. (Oh! My! God!).” How could he have known that the acronym he invented would go on to become one of the most-used phrases in the world?
Flamin’ Hot Cheetos were invented by a janitor.
Richard Montañez, working at the Frito-Lay plant in Southern California, pitched the idea of adding chili powder to regular Cheetos to the company’s CEO. Top brass liked the idea and, since its success, Montañez has risen up the company ranks and now serves as an executive for PepsiCo. Eva Longoria is even directing a movie about him.
The largest living organism is an aspen grove in Utah called Pando.
Blue whales may be the largest animals on the planet, but they aren’t the largest living organism. The Pando aspen grove is made up of 47,000 identical quaking aspen trees that cover 106 acres of Fishlake National Forest in Utah. The aspen grove is connected by a single shared root system and has been around for thousands of years. Unfortunately, Pando has been shrinking for decades due largely to human intervention and animal grazing. Only time will tell if conservation efforts will make a difference.
Melting glaciers make a fizzy sound called “bergy seltzer.”
The sound made by melting glaciers and icebergs is similar to the sound of fizzling soft drinks, which is what inspired the name “bergy seltzer.” It occurs when melting water frees tiny bubbles of air that have been trapped under ice for centuries. The sound is so loud that it can be used to determine the distance of icebergs at sea.
Flipping a shark upside down renders it immobile for up to 15 minutes.
If only the people of Amity, Long Island, had known this, the movie Jaws would have ended differently! It turns out that a shark’s Achilles heel is turning it upside down. Some species of sharks enter a state of tonic immobility due to the loosening of muscles and the respiratory system. The shock puts them into a trance that can make them look like they’re dead. About 15 minutes later, they’ll become responsive again and return to normal. Some killer whales even exploit this trait by forcibly flipping sharks so they can access prey more easily.
Male students at Brigham Young University in Utah need special permission to grow a beard.
BYU is the Mormon flagship university and has a number of other equally strict guidelines that ban premarital sex, tattoos, and alcohol, to name a few. Until 2015, it was against school policy for any student to grow a beard. Now, the guidelines have been adjusted to allow people with medical conditions, actors who need a beard for a role, and certain religious people to grow a beard if absolutely necessary.
When Koko the gorilla met Mister Rogers, she took off his shoes as she had seen him do on his TV show.
Koko, the beloved gorilla famous for her warm personality, love of cats, and ability to communicate through sign language had a favorite show: Mister Roger’s Neighborhood. When she finally met Mister Rogers for the first time, she recognized him right away and immediately helped him untie his shoes and take them off, just as she had seen him do on his show. In the same meeting, she also embraced him and cradled him in her arms to demonstrate that she loved him.
If you die alone in the Netherlands, someone will write you a poem and recite it at your funeral.
For those lonely folk who pass away with no next of kin and no one to claim them at death, there will be at least one person at their funeral: a poet. In response to these so-called “lonely funerals,” the country implemented the ritual of lonely funeral poems, in which poets research the deceased, write a poem in their honor, and recite it at the funeral. What started as a small project in Amsterdam has now grown into a country-wide competition.
In the 16th century, poets exchanged rap battle-like stylized insults in an act called “flyting.”
The word “flyting” comes from the Old English word for “quarrel.” Something like today’s freestyle rap battles, the purpose of flyting was to craft poetic insults so devastating to your competitor that they’d be too insulted to muster a comeback. One recorded exchange is known as The Flyting of Dunbar and Kennedie, in which Kennedie tells Dunbar, “You look like the crows already ate your cheeks; Renounce, rebel, your rhymes and sorry shrieks.” What a burn.
Astronaut Alan Shepard hit two golf balls on the moon’s surface.
On the Apollo 14 space mission in 1971, Alan Shepard became the first and only person to play golf somewhere other than Earth. He attached a six-iron head (which he’d smuggled onboard in a sock) to a piece of rock-collecting equipment and hit two golf balls while on the moon’s surface, hitting his second shot further than 200 yards.
Beauty and the Beast was written to help girls accept arranged marriages.
The original version of Beauty and the Beast was a 1740 story by French novelist Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve, in which the beast was a hideous combination of an elephant and fish. According to children’s literature academic Maria Tatar, the tale was written in order to encourage girls to accept arranged marriages, “for an alliance that required effacing their own desires and submitting to the will of a monster.”
The first rollercoaster was invented at Coney Island as a way to distract people from sinful activities.
Another inventor, LaMarcus Thompson, was disgusted by the debauchery of New York’s inhabitants. The saloons and brothels that were so popular in the late 1800s were a disgrace to Thompson, who wanted to provide a family-friendly sin-free way to have fun. Thus, the rollercoaster was born. He was inspired by the railroad tracks of the West, specifically one called the Mauch Chunk Switchback Railway, which featured a high-speed, 665-foot drop.
The German word “kummerspeck” means weight gained from emotional eating.
One of many words that are untranslatable in English is “kummerspeck,” which literally translates to “grief bacon” or “sorrow fat.” Bacon might not be your binge food of choice, but the idea remains the same. Whether you chow down on cured meats or ice cream during times of emotional crisis, kummerspeck adds insult to injury. It’s also proof that the idea of food as comfort is cross-culturally understood.
Continental plates drift at about the same rate as fingernails grow.
That is, about a millimeter a week. Tectonic plates, which divide the continents, drift because of the heat that pushes its way up to the surface from the Earth’s core. This is the same activity that causes earthquakes and volcanic activity. At the rate they move, the tectonic plates end up drifting between one and two inches each year.
Hitler’s nephew wrote an essay defaming the dictator, then moved to the U.S. and served in the Navy to fight his uncle.
William “Willy” Patrick Hitler was born in Liverpool to a British mother and a German father, the half-brother of Adolf Hitler. When Anglo-German relations started heating up due to his uncle’s flamboyance, Willy published an essay in Look magazine entitled “Why I Hate My Uncle.” As war broke out, he moved his family to the United States, where he tried to enlist in the U.S. Navy but was turned down. After the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, Franklin D. Roosevelt took a second look at Willy’s application and finally approved him to engage in the fight against the Nazis.
Brunch was originally invented to cure hangovers.
The favorite meal of millennials was invented in 1895 by an English writer named Frank Beringer, who published an article called “Brunch: a Plea” in Hunter’s Weekly newspaper. In his article, he described an alternative to the traditional Sunday dinner that he dubbed “brunch.” He argued that waking up early was no fun for those who had had wild Saturday nights and that brunch was the perfect place for folks to gather around noon, recount the tales of their wild nights, and enjoy each other’s company.
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