As Anaïs Nin once said, “The possession of knowledge does not kill the sense of wonder and mystery. There is always more mystery.” We never stop searching for knowledge, and the more of it we can collect the better. But as Anaïs said, there’s always more mystery; more out there for us to learn. Here are 42 random facts to help make life a little more mysterious and wonderful.
1. Candy McMan
McDonald’s once tried to make bubble-gum flavored broccoli. It was part of their initiative to get kids to eat healthier, and it didn’t work. It didn’t taste very good and kids—unsurprisingly—didn’t want to eat it. No wonder, I can’t imagine how you could make broccoli worse, but McDonald’s managed it.
2. No McDonald’s For You
Speaking of McDonald’s, it’s banned in at least nine countries: Bermuda, Iran, Macedonia, Yemen, Montenegro, North Korea, Zimbabwe, Bolivia, and Iceland. No flurries for any of these guys.
3. Orange Is the New Green
Oranges aren’t orange in the wild. They were originally green! If you want green oranges, you can still find them—Vietnamese oranges and Thai tangerines are still green on the outside.
4. Windy City
Chicago is called “the Windy City,” but it’s not because it’s actually windy in the city. In 1858, a reporter said that Chicagoans were windbags, or full of hot air. That reporter, from the Chicago Daily Tribune, wrote, “[a] hundred militia officers, from corporal to commander…air their vanity…in this windy city.” And thus a nickname was born.
5. Super Thick
The shell of an armadillo is bulletproof, so be careful before trying to shoot one of nature’s armored tanks. A man in Texas once tried, and was hospitalized when the bullet ricocheted off the armadillo and hit him in the face.
6. Super Long.
The longest word in the English language would fill 12 pages in the dictionary, and is way too long for me to type here. It’s a whopping 189,819 letters long. Comparatively, Mary Poppins’ “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” is only 34 letters long. The word—a technical scientific term—is usually called Titin for brevity’s sake.
7. Turkey Call
Gobbling is a way to attract potential mates, and so only male turkeys do it. Female turkeys—called hens—don’t gobble at all.
8. All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth
Cows don’t have their front teeth. They use their long tongues to pull grass into their mouths, and then chew it with their back molars.
9. I’m Walking Here!
In many cities, it’s against the law to cross the street unless you cross at a crosswalk. The term jaywalking comes from old-timey slang. “Jay” used to be a term for an idiot, or more specifically, a country bumpkin. So the term “jaywalking” came about as a way to describe people who weren’t familiar with crossing roads in the city. When it first came out, some people considered it a slur.
10. Posthumous Platinum Selling
Seven of rapper Tupac Shakur’s 11 platinum-selling records came out after he’d passed away. In 2007, Shakur made $9 million more than living rappers Eminem and 50 Cent. Whether or not Tupac’s still alive, his bank account is definitely still kicking.
11. Secret Garden
The world’s oldest living tree is a bristlecone pine, aptly named Methuselah, that’s 4,851 years old. We can tell you that the tree is in Inyo National Forest in California, but we can’t tell you much more than that—its location is a closely guarded secret, to protect it from harm. However, it may have some competition. Research has shown that another tree in the same grove might be older than 5,000 years, but its location is also secret.
In Switzerland, there is a service where you can rent a guinea pig in case one of yours dies. The service has really taken off, as in Switzerland it’s against the law to keep a guinea pig by itself. They are social animals and the country considers it cruel to keep one by itself.
13. Snake Sense
In China, scientists have used snakes to predict earthquakes. Snakes are super sensitive to vibrations in the ground and can feel a quake coming from 120km away. They can even predict them up to five days beforehand. Researchers set up cameras to watch a snake farm 24 hours a day to monitor for earthquakes, and they said it helped their predictions. Seems like we should be monitoring snake farms all over the world.
14. Yo Mama, So Old.
The world’s first “yo mama” joke is 3,500 years old. It was carved on to a Babylonian tablet that archaeologist J. J. van Dijk found in 1976. Unfortunately, the tablet has since been lost. Fortunately, van Dijk wrote the joke down: “…of your mother is by the one who has intercourse with her. What/who is it?” It’s not the best “yo mama” joke I’ve ever heard, but hey, you’ve gotta start somewhere.
15. Larry Bird
The little birdy mascot of twitter has a name: Larry! Some suspect that he’s named after Boston Celtics player Larry Bird.
16. Flat Earthers
Scholars in the Middle Ages didn’t think the Earth was flat; they knew it was round. Most theories about the earth being flat seem to have sprung up between 1879 and 1920. As historian Jeffery Burton Russel says, “With extraordinary few exceptions no educated person in the history of Western Civilization from the third century B.C. onward believed that the Earth was flat.” That we as a society believe that people from the Middle Ages thought the Earth was flat is just a modern myth.
17. Know When To Fold ‘Em
There’s a poker hand named after famous tennis player Anna Kournikova. The hand is an Ace-King offsuit, and it’s named for Kournikova because it looks great, but doesn’t win…just like Kournikova. Ouch…
18. Land of Elves and Fairies
The majority of Icelanders believe in the existence of Elves—at least, they did pretty recently. One survey done in 1998 found that 54.4% of the island believed in the mythical creatures. Icelanders believe these territorial beings would cause mysterious accidents if you stumbled onto their turf.
19. Sony’s First
Sony’s first invention was the electric rice cooker. Since it was essentially electrodes in the bottom of a wooden bucket, it wasn’t that great at cooking rice. Because it could never cook a good batch of rice, it was never released to the market. Now, this rice cooker sits in the Sony Archives in Japan.
20. Man’s Best Friend
While this may come as no surprise to dog lovers, dogs can tell from your voice if you’re happy or sad. They also have the ability to distinguish between laughter and crying.
21. German Checkers
Chinese checkers didn’t originate in China. The game originally was invented in Germany in the 1890s as a “modern” version of Halma…an American game that was only invented in 1883.
22. It’s Not Easy Being Green
It took some time for the Statue of Liberty to turn green. The statue was built in 1886, and by 1920 weathering had turned the copper statue green. Before then, it had been, well, you know what color copper is.
23. Homer the Genius
Homer Simpson discovered the mass of the Higgs boson particle 12 years before the particle itself was discovered. In the episode “The Wizard of Evergreen Terrace,” Homer is working out a math problem on a chalkboard. Writers for that episode point out that if you work out the equation on the board, you almost get the precise mass of the Higgs boson particle, by complete chance. Guess Homer really is s-m-r-t.
24. The Axe-Man Cometh
Between 1918 and 1919, a serial axe-murderer plagued the streets of New Orleans, Louisiana. On March 13, 1919, the Axeman wrote a letter to the people of New Orleans, telling them that he planned to go out on March 19th but would spare anyone who had a jazz band playing in their house. In his letter, he wrote, “I am very fond of jazz music, and I swear by all the devils in the nether regions that every person shall be spared in whose home a jazz band is in full swing at the time I have just mentioned.”
Consequently that night, dance halls playing jazz music were filled to the brim with patrons, and jazz bands were employed at houses around the city. The Axeman was true to his word, and actually didn’t kill anyone the night of the 19th.
25. Accountant Makes History
The first name ever recorded in history was found on a clay tablet from 5,000 years ago in modern-day Iraq. The name belonged to an accountant as he recorded a business deal for shipments of barley. His name was Kushim. One receipt, and Kushim the accountant made history.
26. Monty Python and the Dark Side of the Moon
British rock band Pink Floyd helped to finance Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Turns out the band loved Monty Python and often spent their downtime while working on The Dark Side of the Moon watching Monty Python’s Flying Circus. So when the comedians needed money for their first movie, Pink Floyd used the profits from their hit album and helped fund the project.
27. Land Lobster
Pill bugs aren’t bugs. They’re crustaceans that have adapted to living on land. They are the only crustaceans that have done this.
28. Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Before the 19th century, only poor servants, widows, and orphans ate lobster. At the time, it was actually considered cruel and unusual punishment to serve lobster to prison inmates more than once a week in the United States. Now lobster is often requested by prison inmates as a last meal in the United States. How the times change…
29. Heart Break Hurts!
According to a study done at the University of Michigan, the brain can’t distinguish between emotional pain and physical pain. Breaking your leg and breaking your heart feels the same to your brain.
30. Famous Trekkie
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a Trekkie. In fact, he convinced Nichelle Nichols, the first Lieutenant Uhura, to stay on the show. When the pair met, she told him she was leaving the show because she’d been offered another job. Dr. King asked her not to do it. He told her, “For the first time, we are being seen the world over as we should be seen.” His words left Nichols speechless and, of course, she stayed on the show.
Nichols said years later when Whoopi Goldberg had said how inspired she was to see a black woman on TV who wasn’t a maid, she knew Dr. King had been right.
31. I’m Walkin’ Here!
1969’s Midnight Cowboy is the only rated-X movie to ever win an Oscar. It won three Oscars as a matter of fact—Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay.
32. Seeing Eye Rodent
A blind man in Suriname once trained a capybara, the world’s largest rodent, as a guide animal.
33. White Hot
While our sun looks yellow because of Earth’s atmosphere, the star that keeps our little planet warm is actually white.
34. Girl or Woman?
Rumors about famous child actor Shirley Temple being a 30-year-old dwarf were so widespread that the Vatican felt like it had to step in. The Catholic church sent Father Silvio Massante to investigate these rumors, he clearly came back with the answer she was indeed a child.
35. Mickey La Souris
The most popular tourist destination in Europe isn’t the Eiffel Tower or Buckingham Palace. It’s Disneyland Paris.
36. Ancient Toy
Ancient Greeks had the yo-yo. We know they had this popular childhood toy because a young boy can be seen playing with one on a vase that dates back to 5 BC. This is the first known picture of a yo-yo.
37. Space Shark
Sci-fi 70s classic Alien was pitched to studios as “Jaws in space.” Speed was pitched as “Die Hard on a bus.” Just when we thought Hollywood was getting original…
38. Gump and Co.
Everyone knows Forrest Gump, which spawned the hit 1994 Tom Hanks movie, but most people don’t realize that it has a sequel. Winston Groom wrote Gump and Co. to cash in on Gump-mania. Due to a strange loophole, he received almost no money from the film, so the book served as a way to get what was his. The novel was printed in 1995, just a year after the movie came out, and (Spoiler Alert) it was bananas.
Gump and Co. features Jenny dying and becoming a ghost, Forrest solving the energy crisis by harnessing the power of pigs, getting locked up, rejoining the army, and capturing Saddam Hussein. Boy, he really gets up to a lot.
39. A Long Time Ago…
Mark Hamill played Mozart in the Broadway production of Amadeus. When the time came around for the movie to be filmed, Hamill tried to get the role of Mozart again for the movie, but director Milos Forman didn’t want to cast him. The director told Hamill, verbatim, “No, no, no, no, you must not to be playing the Mozart because the people not believing that the Luke Spacewalker was the Mozart.” If you ask me, I’m sure Luke Spacewalker would have made a fine Mozart.
40. Bless You.
The phrase “bless you” came from Pope Gregory the Great, who said “God bless you” when someone who had the plague sneezed. Boy, the plague really gave us a lot of common phrases, from ring around the rosy to bless you.
41. Drive-Thru Grieving
A funeral parlor in Japan has drive-thru services. Mourners are allowed to drive up, sign their name in a guest book, leave funeral money, and even light some incense for a prayer if they’re so inclined. The service was originally intended to help those with limited mobility.
42. The Roman Times
The first newspaper in the world was published in 59 BC in Rome. The journalists then must have been dedicated to publish anything, considering they didn’t have a printing press. That’s a lot of writing!