A few random facts can go a long way. After all, one fun fact has the power to change a boring conversation into an awesome one. But that’s not all! Research has shown that learning new things provides a positive boost to your brain, and can even increase your overall happiness and well-being.
So if fun facts are what you’re looking for, you came to the right place. Here at Factinate, we like to think that’s our bread-and-butter. We spend all day researching new bits of fun trivia for our loyal readers, because we truly believe there’s nothing more important in life than developing a curious mind.
And so, for your viewing pleasure, we’ve gone ahead and collected some of the most outrageous, most mind-blowing, and most fun facts we’ve ever learned, all in one handy-dandy list. Here they are…
1. The Tallest Mountain On Earth?
You thought Everest was big…
When measured base to summit (rather than from sea level to summit), Mauna Kea in Hawaii is the tallest mountain in the world. It’s technically bigger than Everest…but most of it is under water.
2. Orange, In Fact
The fruit orange isn’t named after the color; it’s the other way around. Before the late 15th century, orange was considered a shade of red.
3. Curious Carrots
During World War II, British intelligence spread the rumor that the Royal Air Force pilots enjoyed superior night vision because they ate copious amounts of carrots. Spoiler: it was a total lie. The truth was the RAF was using their newly invented radar to spot German planes in the dark. It was a massive military secret, and in order to keep German intelligence “in the dark” they made up the carrot fact.
Just to be clear, vitamin A in carrots is good for eye health…it just probably won’t help you detect enemy airplanes in the dark.
4. Use Protection
The oldest condoms ever found were made from animal and fish intestines. One particular example found in Sweden was crafted from pig intestine, and is thought to have been made around 1640 AD.
5. The Truth About Chameleons
Chameleons don’t change their color to blend in with their environment. Color change is a critical part of chameleon communication: they use colors to signal moods, aggression, territorial behavior, and intention to mate.
6. Seconds From Sickness
On average, every adult human has two to nine pounds of bacteria in their body.
Not sure if that fact counts as fun, or disgusting… It’s a good piece of trivia, though.
7. The Case Of The Curious Mummy
Found in 1991 in the Ötztal Alps, Ötzi “the Iceman” is the earliest natural human mummy ever found in Europe.
Ötzi was alive from sometime between 3400 and 3100 BCE. The most surprising thing about him? He had tattoos! And not just a couple…researchers have identified a total of 61 different tattoos covering his body. That means he’s not only the oldest tattooed person ever found, but also (probably) one of the oldest ancestors to today’s Brooklyn hipsters.
The tattoo ink itself was produced from ash or soot and is believed to have been used as a form of pain relief.
8. How (Not) To Get Rich
You may have heard of a little Internet outfit called Google? They’re kind of a big deal.
But what you probably don’t know is that in 1999, when Google was still little more than a search engine, the founders offered to sell the company for one million dollars, to another company called Excite. The geniuses at Excite saw the opportunity, considered the potential..and promptly turned it down. Good thinking there, fellas.
9. How Dangerous Are Sharks?
Sharks have a vicious reputation, but it isn’t really deserved. Statistically speaking, 4 times as many people are killed each year by vending machines than are fatally bitten by sharks.
Turns out Jaws would be much scarier if there was a giant Coke machine in the water.
10. The Long Arm Of The Law
There is a basketball court above the American Supreme Court. It’s known as the Highest Court in the Land. Basketball is strictly prohibited when the court is in session as you can hear it through the ceiling.
And people wonder why the courts are backed up? Ruth Bader Ginsbeg is busy dunking on Samuel Alito.
11. Brain Power
The human brain is a wickedly powerful computer. It’s so fast, that if it were an electronic computer (like your phone or laptop), it would be able to perform38 quadrillion (38 thousand-trillion) operations per second.
12. The Perfect Mate
If life is getting you down at all, here’s a fact specifically designed to cheer you up: Seahorses are monogamous lifemates that travel in pairs while holding each other’s tails.
There is a swirl of garbage in the Pacific Ocean, roughly the size of Texas. It’s known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
While it’s often described as “an island of garbage,” the GPGP is more accurately seen as something like garbage soup: a massive portion of the ocean with a high concentration of plastics, sludge, and other debris.
It’s disgusting. But no reason to despair! There are a number of wildly innovative and interesting proposals to clean up the patch. Here’s hoping they work out!
14. Early Stitches
One form of prehistoric surgery used ants to sew up wounds.
Primarily practiced in the Americas, people would hold an ant above an open wound and wait for it to bite the skin with its pincers. Once bitten, the head would be removed so that the pincers would stay in place as a stitch.
This one is hard to believe, but it’s true:
Your mother was already carrying the egg that became you when she was born. You were late to the party.
16. A Fishy Fact
Once a year, in the Honduran city of Yoro, it rains fish.
It’s aptly named the Lluvia de Peces (or Rain of Fish). In May or June every year, like clockwork, a torrential rainstorm rolls through town. In its wake, a mass of living fish can be found in the streets.
The phenomenon was confirmed by a National Geographic team in the 1970s…but whether or not the fish are literally raining from the sky is still unknown. Some scientists believe the fish could be carried into town by waterspouts or water tornadoes, which drop their strange parcels over land when they run out of steam. Whatever the explanation, we hope the residents of Yoro like seafood.
17. Ancient Light
A photon takes 200,000 years to travel from the sun’s core to its surface. It takes only 8 minutes for it to hit your eye from the surface.
18. Sting Or Bite?
A mosquito has 47 teeth. These teeth are located at the end of their proboscis and are used not used to chew food like our teeth. They are used to cut through the skin or layers of protective clothes. Either way, they can buzz off.
19. Core Values
President John Quincy Adams approved a plan to send one-hundred men to the Arctic so they could burrow to the center of the Earth and meet the secret civilization of people who (allegedly) lived inside. Did we mention this plan also involved sleighs to be pulled by reindeer? It was proposed by an army officer named John Cleves Symmes Jr., who was convinced the Earth was hollow and wanted to establish trade with the races who inevitably resided inside its core. Quincy approved the plan, but Andrew Jackson assumed office before it took action. Not unreasonably, Jackson vetoed this state-funded journey to the center of the Earth.
20. Fun Fact (Unless You’re A Whale)
The loneliest creature on earth is a whale that has been calling for a mate for two decades. Researchers identified the whale’s abnormally high call over 20 years ago. The unknown whale is called ‘lonely’ because it communicates at a frequency not used by any other whale in the North Pacific, and so far, it has never received a response.
21. What Once Was Rad
How about a fun name?
Sonic the Hedgehog’s full name is Ogilvie Maurice Hedgehog.
22. Like Snowflakes
Tigers have striped skin as well as fur.
A tiger’s stripes are like fingerprints-no two have the same pattern.
Take my word for it, though. Please don’t get close enough to confirm this. Seriously. Please.
23. Icy Irony
Many expensive perfumes contain whale poop. More specifically they contain ambergris, which is a waxy substance produced in the intestines of sperm whales. The fragrance is iconic; some say it’s like bottling the smell of the ocean breeze through a 5-star hotel window.
24. Glutton For Punishment
More people in the world today suffer from obesity than from hunger.
Which is probably not the best way to share things. Aren’t we supposed to learn sharing in kindergarten?
25. Say Cheese
Mice can fit through a hole the size of a ballpoint pen. They’re sneaky little rascals.
In other news, I now carry a chair around to stand on at all times.
26. Tall, Dark, and Handsome
Lot’s of people think women desire men who are “tall, dark and handsome,” but evolutionary psychology research has stated that women are actually most attracted to status parameters. Status parameters can include wealth, positions of power, and social standing.
Men, on the other hand, select more for fertility indicators such as youth and beauty.
That said, it’s important to remember that evolutionary psychology is only one lens to examine this complex topic. Furthermore, evolutionary psychology relies on the presumption that we’re products of our evolution and that baser, more animal instincts can govern our behaviour. This may be true sometimes, but we’re also pretty darn smart monkeys with a large prefrontal cortex capable of advanced thought and reasoning. We can choose to go against our instincts. We can learn to be attracted to – and even love – people that don’t meet evolutionary criterion.
27. Peel Me
Bananas share 50% of their DNA with humans. You’re looking a little yellow there.
28. Chill Out
The human body gives off enough heat in 30 minutes to bring a gallon of water to a boil.
29. What’s The Deal With Airplane Food?
Our sense of taste and smell are cut down by 50 and 20 percent during flights.
Apparently, this is the reason that airplane food always tastes like cardboard. But that’s a pretty convenient excuse for the airlines, don’t you think?
30. Beat The Odds
Statistically, 54 million people who are alive right now will die within 12 months.
31. V Dub
A Volkswagen Beetle is the same size as a Blue Whale’s heart. Its arteries are wide enough to swim through.
That being said, we would advise you do not try to swim through a Blue Whale’s heart, just to see if this is true. Some things are better left undone.
32. Slow And Stupid
Sloths are sometimes known to grab their own arms instead of a tree branch, which can lead to fatal falls.
33. Time Is Money
Imagine how rich you’d be if you made a dollar every second.
Bill Gates is richer than that. In fact, if you made $1 every second, it would take 2,511 years for you to make as much as Ol’ Bill.
34. Bless You
You can’t sneeze in your sleep because the brain shuts down the reflex.
Anyone else wondering why we can’t just shut down that reflex all day?
35. Humans Of The Sea
Dolphins not only have names for each other, but they can call out for each other specifically.
Now I’m wondering if dolphins make up names for us well. “Chubby Naked Apes”, maybe?
36. The Big Apple
Roughly 1,600 people are bitten by other humans in New York City every year. I see now where the big apple nickname came from.
37. A Girls Best Friend
It rains diamonds on Saturn and Jupiter. When storms form, the planets produce lightning like here on Earth. lightning causes methane in the atmosphere to decompose, producing hydrogen and elemental carbon. As the carbon falls towards the planet, it may bond together forming graphite, and as the pressure builds up closer to the planet’s core, that graphite may be compressed into diamond. If you’re trying to save money on a wedding ring, I know a place.
38. City Of Metal Angels
There are more cars in Los Angeles than people. Go for the beaches, stay for the exhaust fumes.
39. Fun House
Bubble wrap was originally created as wallpaper. Every wall would be popped the first day!
Seriously though, sign me up.
40. Happy Accident
After WWII cocoa was extremely rare in Europe and was very expensive. An Italian pastry maker, Pietro Ferrero, wanted to extend his cocoa ration so he created a paste from hazelnuts and mixed in some of his precious cocoa. He formed it into a loaf and that could be cut into slices and served on bread. His son Michael improved the recipe and produced the first jar of Nutella.
41. We The North
The Northern Hemisphere holds 90% of the world’s population.
You might have missed it, but recently the high-end English jam company, Bompas and Parr, released a strange product called Occult Jam.
So why does that belong in a fun fact list? Well you’ve just got to look at the list of ingredients. Varieties include milk jam infused with Princess Diana’s hair, absinthe and pineapple jam with sand from the Great Pyramids or plum and oak jam with wood from the British warship The Victory, Lord Nelson’s flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar.
43. How Convenient!
The device you’re reading this on probably has a QWERTY keyboard. Many different arrangements were used by early typewriters, but QWERTY is the one that ended up sticking.
Strangely, one of the longest words that can be typed on a single row of a QWERTY keyboard is “typewriter.”
44. A Big Heart
The blue whale is the largest animal that’s ever existed—and it’s not even really close. A full-grown Blue weighs almost twice as much as the heaviest dinosaur.
An animal that big needs a serious heart to keep it going: The blue whale’s heart can be the size of a small car, weigh 1,300 pounds, and has vessels so large that a human could swim down them… although I imagine a Blue Whale would not be thrilled about that experiment.
45. Tennis Anyone?
Your lungs are filled with tiny sacs called alveoli that draw oxygen from the air you breathe into your bloodstream. In total, the average adult has around 600 million of these alveoli, and their combined surface area is roughly the size of a tennis court.
46. A Less Fun Fact
Aviophobia, or the fear of flying, affects millions of people.
But not only are plane crashes incredibly rare, they also aren’t even always fatal. In fact, between 1983 and 2000, 96% of people who were involved in plane crashes actually survived! It really is the safest way to travel.
47. Bit by Bitcoin
Satoshi Nakamoto is the inventor of bitcoin.
Nakamoto published a paper in 2008 that first described the currency, and released the first version of a bitcoin software client in 2009. But “Satoshi Nakamoto” is a pseudonym, and to this day no one knows who he or she is. The last anyone has heard from them was in 2011, and various sleuths have tried to uncover their identity (unsuccessfully) ever since.
48. Take the Stairs
The entire state of Wyoming has only two escalators, both in the city of Casper. They’re so rare that some Wyoming residents visit these escalators just for the novelty of it, with one of them describing it as “like riding a tilt-a-whirl, but only slower.”
Annnnd that it is the most adorably mid-Western statement ever made. No wonder we love the middle states.
49. Christmas in Vietnam
If you were listening to the radio in Vietnam in April, 1975, you might have heard a surprising song: Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas.” That’s because it was the secret signal for Americans to evacuate the country in an event called Operation Frequent Wind.
Speaking of White Christmas, here’s another fun fact: Bing Crosby’s ode to the holiday is actually the best-selling single of all-time. It’s true!
50. Half a Million on Your Head
The F-35 fighter jet is one of the most expensive military projects of all time. It’s estimated that by the time the project is finished, it will have cost $1.4 trillion. Clearly, no expense was spared at any point, and that includes in the pilot’s helmets: Each F-35 helmet costs a whopping $400,000.
51. Hope You Like Walking
In an effort to make the city more pedestrian friendly and to lower its carbon footprint, the city of Oslo in Norway has plans to ban all cars from entering the city center by 2019.
Though the revolutionary plan will allow, among other things, an enormous amount of real estate taken up by parking to be repurposed, many residents are understandably upset that such a big change is going to happen so quickly.
52. A Cat by Any Other Name
The cougar goes by more names than any other animal. You might know it as a puma, mountain lion, panther, catamount, or one of another 40 English, 18 native South American and 25 native North American names.
53. Dinner and a Show
The founder of the iconic Japanese restaurant chain Benihana was a man by the name of Rocky Aoki.
If you recognize that name, it’s because his son is DJ Steve Aoki. But although Rocky was a millionaire, he didn’t spread the wealth to his children. Since he came from nothing, he wanted his children to do the same, and never gave Steve any money to start up his record label.
54. Searching for Giants
The expedition of Lewis and Clark is famous for many reasons, but they had one goal you might not expect: Thomas Jefferson asked them to find a mammoth.
Turns out, Jefferson had a thing for mammoths (or, more accurately, American Mastodons). He was completely enamored with the extinct behemoths, and held out hope that they continued to live many miles away in the west of America. So when he sent Lewis and Clark out on their famous expedition, he told them to look for mammoths. What a discovery that would have been!
55. It’s-a-Me! Tom Hanks!
Tom Hanks was initially cast to play Mario in the 1993 movie Super Mario Bros. However, this was early in Hanks’ career, and the studio heads were concerned about his star power (no pun intended) and how much money he was asking for. The studio then replaced Hanks with Bob Hoskins, who they considered to be the more bankable star. The movie? Did not make bank.
The British Library has more than 150 million items, and that number keeps growing. Every year, more than 3 million items are added to the collection, meaning that 12km of shelves need to be added yearly to accommodate it all.
57. Smells Like… Deodorant!
When he set out to write “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” Kurt Cobain said that he was trying to write the ultimate pop song in the style of the Pixies.
He came up with the title when a friend of his (Kathleen Hanna, the lead singer of Bikini Kill) wrote the phrase “Kurt Smells Like Teen Spirit” on his wall. Cobain thought the sentence had a certain poetic ring to it, and the rest is history. Really though, Hanna just meant he smelled like Teen Spirit, a popular deodorant at the time.
58. Crocs of a Feather
Crocodiles and alligators are archosaurs, a classification they share with a surprising relative: birds. Crocodilians and dinosaurs both evolved from a common ancestor, while birds evolved from dinosaurs. That means that your pet Cockatoo is actually a closer relative to crocodiles than a lizard is.
I told you these would be fun facts, people!
59. Throwing Around The Pigskin/Cowskin
Despite the common nickname, NFL footballs are actually made from cow leather. That’s right: for every Tom Brady TD, poor ol’ Bessy has to lay down the ultimate sacrifice. unbelievably, it takes 3,000 cows to supply the league with footballs for just one season.
Shhhhhh. Nobody tell PETA.
60. Space Pharaohs
Scholars generally agree that the Ancient Egyptian empire lasted for thousands of years-which can be hard to wrap your head around. To put it in perspective, the Great Pyramid of Giza was built roughly between 2550 and 2490 BC, while Cleopatra took the throne in 51 BC. That means that Cleopatra’s reign was closer in time to the freaking moon landing than it was to the building of the Great Pyramid.
61. The Shrimp from Hell
The mantis shrimp attacks its prey by essentially punching them extremely hard. Their fist-like appendages can punch so fast that they can boil the water around them and split your finger to the bone.
62. How Do You Sing Along?
Spain’s national anthem has no words. It’s called the “Marcha Real” and it’s one of four anthems on earth that’s entirely instrumental (the other countries are Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, and San Marino).
63. No Expiry Date
Everyone’s had to deal with emptying a fridge of food that’s long since gone bad, but there’s one food that you don’t have to worry about: honey. Because of its unique makeup, it never spoils, and people have found pots of honey that are thousands of years old with the sweet stuff still perfectly preserved inside.
64. Watching the Universe
The static on your old TV set is actually caused in part by the Big Bang! Television static is caused by your antenna picking up radiation in the atmosphere. Much of it is known as the “cosmic microwave background,” which is leftover radiation from the formation of the universe. Next time you’re stuck watching static on TV, remember that you’re looking actually looking at part of the beginnings of our universe. Pretty cool right…
Who am I kidding, it’s still annoying.
It’s common knowledge that chess is a complicated game, but just how complicated is hard to imagine. In fact, there are so many different possible moves in a chess game that it isn’t even worth the huge amount of effort it would take to calculate it. But scientists can confidently say that there are far more potential chess games than there are atoms in the entire universe.
66. We Learn Fast
This is a great bit of trivia.
Before 1903, no human had ever achieved powered flight. But once we passed that barrier, progress started happening fast. Airplanes were used in warfare within a decade, and people had landed on the moon just 66 years after the first flight. Not bad considering people had been trying to fly for centuries.
67. Months of Traffic
Next time you’re stuck at a red light, try not to calculate how much time you spend there—it will only make you feel worse. Drivers spend an average of two days a year waiting at red lights, which adds up to about 4 months over the course of a lifetime driving if you live to be 75.
68. Smart Birdy
Along with dolphins and chimpanzees, the Eurasian magpie is right up there with the most intelligent animals on earth. The mirror test (the ability to recognize yourself in a mirror) is seen as an important test in animal intelligence, and the Eurasian magpie is the only non-mammal that has passed it. It also has one of the largest brain-to-weight ratios in the animal kingdom and has been observed using tools, working in teams, playing games, and grieving.
69. More Unique Than Unique
Inhabitants of Fort Keogh in Montana found snowflakes that were more than a foot across during a snowstorm in 1887. Some of the flakes were 15 inches wide, the biggest ever recorded.
70. Wealth Gap
If you combined the wealth of the 48 poorest nations on earth, they would still have less money than the world’s three richest people.
You’re right: I suppose that’s not really a “fun fact”. But we did promise mind-blowing trivia as well… and that is certainly astonishing.
71. I Wonder if They Tried Honking
The biggest traffic jam of all time happened in 2010 in China. Mostly taking place on China National Highway 110, it affected cars for over 60 miles. The jam lasted for more than 10 days, and some people were trapped in their cars for five days straight.
72. I Bet, I Bet, 50 Words or Less
OK, back to the seriously fun facts…
Green Eggs and Ham is one of the most popular children’s books of all time, and if you count them up, it uses exactly 50 different words. That’s because Dr. Seuss wrote it on a bet: his publisher bet Seuss $50 that he couldn’t write an entire book with 50 or fewer words.
73. Duck Money
Scrooge McDuck was named by Forbes as the richest fictional character in the world. They estimate his personal net worth to be $65.4 billion. They said he made his money in mining and treasure hunting, and that he kept most of his wealth, of course, in his gold coin swimming pool.
The smallest birds on earth are hummingbirds. Although they come in a variety of sizes, the smallest weighs as little as 2.4 grams. For comparison, a US penny weighs 2.5 grams.
75. Fluffy and Heavy
Clouds are made up of water vapor that’s collected in the atmosphere. Because they float in the sky, you might think that they’re light as a feather, but the average weight of a cumulus cloud (the really fluffy looking ones) is actually 1.1 million pounds.
76. Get Your Peafowl Straight
Peacocks are all male.
They’re actually a kind of bird called a peafowl, and the females are called peahens.
77. These Colors Do Fade
Red, white, and blue no more. In 2012, NASA confirmed that five of the six American flags planted on the moon by various lunar missions were still standing where they were. The catch? The flags don’t really look like American flags anymore. In the harsh radiation of space, and the bright sunlight on the moon, unfiltered by any atmosphere, the flags have been bleached completely white.
78. Don’t Mess with the IRS
Al Capone was one of the most famous mob bosses, ruling the Chicago underworld, and making an estimated $100 million per year.
So what brings down a gang-lord like that? Mass murder? Corruption? Some other outrageous crime.
Nope. Turns out that Capone’s crimes only caught up with him because the IRS looked into his tax situation. He’d gone years without filing, and in the end, that’s the crime that did him in. He was given an eleven-year sentence for tax evasion, the longest tax evasion sentence ever given in the United States.
79. The Big Guys Can’t Jump
Elephants, rhinos, and hippos are some of the very few types of mammal that can’t jump.
While rhinos and hippos will occasionally get all four feet off of the ground while running, the elephant never does at all. Despite what Dumbo may have taught you, they stay firmly landlocked at all times.
Remember that next time you’re trying to have fun with an elephant: if you break out a skipping rope, you are really going to hurt their feelings.
80. Try to Name Them All!
English is a complicated language, and words like “set” and “run” don’t make it any easier. For years, set was considered to have the most meanings of any word, with the Oxford English Dictionary giving it 430 separate definitions in 1989. But according to OED’s chief editor John Simpson, the word “run” has surpassed it with a whopping 645 meanings as of 2011!
At least the word fun is simple!
81. Better Loot
Confederate cavalry commander James Ewell Brown “J.E.B.” Stuart once sent a telegram to Union General Montgomery C. Meigs complaining about the quality of the mules he had just stolen from Union soldiers. “Gen. Meigs,” he wrote, “will in the future please furnish better mules; those you have furnished recently are very inferior.”
82. A Fact About “Having Fun”
Skyn Condoms performed surveys to find out the sex habits of U.S. millennials by State. They learned that a surprising number of people from California, for example, had sex in a school. According to their findings:
- Millennials from Georgia were most likely to masturbate multiple times per day.
- More than half of the population of sexually active millennials from Kansas have had sex in a hot tub or pool.
- Millennials in Massachusetts were most likely to have had a one night stand.
- Millennials in New York were most likely to have a threesome.
And more fun stuff. See the source below for more. Naughty, naughty!
83. Poopy Time
Not such a fun fact: Toilet paper is so ineffective that using it to wipe your butt after you poop doesn’t even prevent health problems such as urinary tract infections. It simply doesn’t remove all the poop. There’s also research to suggest aggressive wiping with toilet paper can cause anal fissures and even hemorrhoids. Doctors recommend using wet wipes instead, which are far more effective at removing fecal matter.
84. Persistent Headaches
Headaches are nothing new. Neither is the use of salicylic acid, the active ingredient in aspirin. Derived from the bark and leaves of willow trees, salicylic acid was used as far back as 2000 BC by the ancient Sumerians to reduce inflammation. Writings from ancient Egypt attest to the use of willow in the treatment of pain, and the “father of medicine,” Hippocrates, recommended a willow bark tea for the reduction of fever.
85. Dressed for Success
Nowadays it’s mostly ladies who wear leotards, but the knitted garment was actually popularized by a man named Jules Leotard. A Frenchman born in Toulouse, Leotard also invented the flying trapeze, which explains his interest in one-piece exercise wear that would allow for maximum freedom of movement.
86. Onions in the Eye
The eyes of Pharaoh Ramses IV, who died in 1149 BC, were replaced with a couple of small onions during the mummification process. Ancient Egyptians associated the onion with mysticism and though them to possess magic powers.
87. Medicine That Could Make You Sick
In 2004, the US Food and Drug Administration approved the first live “medical device” for use on humans: maggots. Since the early 1990s, California physician Dr. Ron Sherman has been proving the ability of maggots to clean difficult wounds, prevent bacteria growth, and promote healing. Dr. Robert Kirsner, Director of the University of Miami Cedars Wound Center, reports that he employs maggot therapy in one out of 50 cases. You might not want to bring this up at a dinner party.
88. Explosive Information
You may know that the first fireworks date back to China’s ancient Han Dynasty, but the original purpose of these displays was not for entertainment, but to ward off evil spirits with the tumultuous noise.
89. Road Rage
Road rage didn’t begin with the invention of the automobile: Road rage actually occurs in the ancient Greek tragedy Oedipus Rex. The young Oedipus, while fleeing the city after learning that he is fated to kill his father and marry his mother, confronts a group of travelers on the road. An altercation ensues over the right of way, and Oedipus kills most of the travelers—including the man who is actually his biological father. It’s complicated.
90. Hungry Anyone?
Bizarre behavior seems to run in the family. North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il, father of the current leader Kim Jong-un, proposed to alleviate hunger in his country by breeding giant, dog-sized rabbits. It didn’t work too well: the 12 original breeder bunnies were eaten at the leader’s birthday party in 2007.
91. Birds and the Bard
From swans and doves to turkeys and sparrows, the works of William Shakespeare contain references to various types of birds. In 1890, an American “bardolator” named Eugene Schieffelin decided to import every kind of bird mentioned in Shakespeare’s works not yet present in the United States.
Included in this group was the starling, and Schieffelin released 100 starlings in New York’s Central Park. The starling adapted well to its new environment, driving some indigenous birds to the edge of extinction. Thanks a lot, Eugene.
92. While You Still Have the Willies . . .
Children have always feared the dreaded bogeyman. One theory about the origins of the word will make your hair stand on end. During the Middle Ages, the term “buggy man” was used to describe a particularly grisly line of work. It was the “buggy man’s” job to collect the corpses of the victims of the Black Plague.
93. Extreme Candy
Remember that strangely appealing candy known as NECCO Wafers? Well, NECCO Wafers have been to the ends of the earth and back. It seems they were especially favored by polar explorers, who brought them along on their expeditions. Intrepid explorer Donald MacMillan brought them to the Arctic in 1913. In the 1930s, Admiral Byrd shipped over two and a half tons of NECCO wafers to the South Pole.
94. Button It Up
The first known buttons weren’t actually used to fasten clothing. Dating back 5,000 years, the most ancient buttons, discovered in the Indus Valley in modern-day Pakistan, were made of shell and were used for ornamentation rather than function.
95. Talk about Being Long-winded
Fidel Castro is immortalized in The Guinness Book of World Records for an impressive feat of endurance. The feat was neither athletic nor military, but in 1960 he did manage to talk nonstop for four hours and 29 minutes at the United Nations. Later, in 1986, he exploded that record, speaking for seven hours and 10 minutes at the Communist Party Congress in Havana. I want him for my next filibuster.
96. Don’t forget to . . .
Just because mummies look like they have terrible teeth, don’t think that a clean set of chompers is a new invention. Ancient Egyptians and Babylonians practiced good dental hygiene as far back as 3500 BC.
They fashioned brushing tools from twigs, and their toothpaste was made from powders containing burned eggshells, ashes, and ox hooves. The ancient Chinese chewed on aromatic sticks to freshen their breath, and later in the 15th century, they invented the first natural bristle toothbrush, comprised of pig hair and a bamboo handle. Europeans altered the design, going for a softer approach with horsehair and sometimes feathers.
97. Torture Treatment
Most people dread the idea of a cold shower—especially first thing in the morning. Research, however, indicates that taking a chilly shower has multiple health benefits. These include boosts to immunity, circulation, and the appearance of skin and hair. A shivery shower can also increase alertness, stimulate weight loss, and ease muscle soreness. Though it might sound counterintuitive, jumping into a cold shower eases stress over the long term and helps relieve symptoms of depression.
98. Just a Castaway
Messages in bottles evoke fairytale stories of fate and love, but the first known message sent in a bottle had far less romantic intentions. Tossed into the Mediterranean by the Greek philosopher Theophrastus in 310 BC, the purpose of the experiment was to study the flow of water currents.
99. Tooth Tales
It’s a time-honored tradition to hide children’s lost teeth under the pillow for the tooth fairy. The origins of this custom, however, involve the medieval practice of burying children’s teeth in the ground. The idea was that this would (somehow) cause permanent teeth to grow back in the children’s mouths.
Which is…kinda adorable? It’s like people from the Middle Ages figured out how plants worked, and then just hoped that everything else would grow like that too.
100. Sighing for the Wrong Reason
“The Bridge of Sighs,” the name given to the iconic bridge in Venice, suggests mystery and rapturous romance. However, the sighs referred to are anything but romantic. Built in the early 17th century to connect the old and new wings of the Doge of Venice’s prison system, the corridor arching over the Rio di Palazzo was dubbed “The Bridge of Sighs” because doomed prisoners could be heard sighing in anguish as they glimpsed their final view of the outer world before being led down to the dungeon. The name was given to the bridge by the famous poet Lord Byron in the 19th century.
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