46 Weird Facts Most People Don’t Know
Prepare to have your mind blown.
Flamingos bend their legs at the ankle, not the knee
They essentially stand on tip-toe. Their knees are closer to the body and are covered by feathers.
Roller coasters were invented to distract Americans from sin
In the 1880s, hosiery businessman LaMarcus Thompson hated that Americans were tempted by hedonistic places like saloons and brothels. So he set out to straighten up one of the most immoral places he could think of: Coney Island in New York. There, he built America’s first roller coaster to give New Yorkers some good, clean fun—away from seedier pastimes.
Ice pops were invented by an 11-year-old by accident
In 1905, an 11-year-old boy named Frank Epperson left soda powder and water outside overnight with its wooden stirrer still in the cup. The mixture had frozen in the chilly nighttime weather, and so the Epsicle was born. He sold the treat around his neighborhood and a nearby amusement park and even patented the recipe. Years later, he changed the name to Popsicle because that’s what his kids called their pop’s concoction. And if you liked that tidbit of info, you won’t want to miss these 18 history lessons your teacher lied to you about.
Sloths can hold their breath longer than dolphins can
A woman was elected to Congress before women’s suffrage
American women were given the right to vote in 1920, but Jeanette Rankin became the first woman in the U.S. federal office in 1916. Here are 15 more fascinating facts you never learned about America.
Supermarket apples can be a year old
Those fresh apples aren’t all that fresh, per say. They’re usually picked between August and November, covered in wax, hot-air dried, and sent into cold storage. After six to twelve months, they finally land on your grocery store shelves. Here are 21 common food myths that are wildly untrue.
It’s impossible to hum while holding your nose
You just tested it, didn’t you? Normally, when you hum, the air is able to escape through your nose to create the sound, and of course, it can’t do that when you’re holding it shut.
Octopuses have three hearts
Squids do too. One pumps blood to their whole systems, and two are dedicated just to the gills. Learn the truth behind 12 science trivia questions people always get wrong.
People used to say “prunes” instead of “cheese” when having their pictures taken
In the 1840s, a big—dare we say, cheesy—grin was seen as childish, so one London photographer told people to say “prunes” to keep their mouths taut. And that look predated today’s “fish face” selfie by, oh, about 180 years. Incidentally, the first selfie was really invented in 1839 by this guy.
Most wasabi paste isn’t real wasabi
Wasabi is expensive, so most companies use horseradish instead. Real wasabi is actually milder than what you’ve been getting with your sushi.
Michelangelo wrote a poem about how much he hated painting the Sistine Chapel
One translation of the poem he sent to his friend begins:
I’ve already grown a goiter from this torture,
hunched up here like a cat in Lombardy
(or anywhere else where the stagnant water’s poison).
Doesn’t sound like he was too thrilled with his task. These are the secret messages you can find in the world’s most famous paintings.
In the Philippines, McDonald’s serves spaghetti
The pasta comes with a beef tomato sauce and a piece of “McDo” fried chicken.
Dunce caps used to be signs of intelligence
Thirteenth-century philosopher John Duns Scotus believed that a pointed cap would help spread knowledge from the tip to the brain, and his “Dunsmen” followers wore them as a badge of honor. In the 1500s, though, his ideas became less popular and the meaning of the Duns cap was turned on its head, becoming something of a joke. Here are 14 more words you didn’t know were inspired by real-life people.
Adolf Hitler was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize
Don’t worry, the Swedish politician who sent the letter of nomination in 1939 meant it ironically and withdrew his nomination. In an even more ironic twist, Hitler had banned Germans from accepting the awards four years before his own name was thrown in the ring.
Lobsters taste with their feet
Tiny bristles inside a lobster’s little pincers are their equivalent to human taste buds. Meanwhile, lobsters’ teeth are in one of their three stomachs.
The inventor of the Internet regrets the URL setup
Tim Berners-Lee, who created the main software of the World Wide Web, admitted he regrets one thing: Adding “//” after “https:” in a web address. It was standard for programming but didn’t serve any real purpose, and when looking back in 2009, he said leaving it out would have saved time and space. We guess we can forgive him. Don’t miss these 11 keyboard shortcuts that make web browsing 10 times easier.
The British royal family is named after Windsor
You’d think Windsor Castle was named after the House of Windsor, but it’s the other way around. The royal family changed its name from Saxe-Coburg-Gotha in 1917 so it would sound less German and chose Windsor because they had ties with the English town.
3 Musketeers bars got their name because they used to come with three flavors
The original 3 Musketeers bars of the 1930s came in three-packs, with a different nougat flavor in each: vanilla, chocolate, or strawberry. World War II rations made that triple threat expensive, so the company cut down to one. These vintage candy ads will make your sweet tooth long for the past.
The Empire State Building has its own ZIP code
The shortest war in history lasted 38 minutes
Universal History Archive/Shutterstock
When the sultan of British-protected Zanzibar died and a new one took over without British approval in 1896, the Brits were not happy. Tension escalated when Sultan Khalid bin Barghash refused to step down, but the British warships spent less than 40 minutes bombarding the palace before Khalid fled, marking the (very quick) end of the Anglo-Zanzibar War.
Blue whale tongues can weigh as much as an elephant
The Eiffel Tower was originally intended for Barcelona
The Spanish city thought the design was too ugly, so Gustave Eiffel pitched it to Paris instead, as a temporary landmark during its 1889 International Exposition. French critics didn’t like it much either though. Don’t miss these 19 fascinating facts about the Eiffel Tower.
“Albert Einstein” is an anagram for “ten elite brains”
Universal History Archive/Shutterstock
Seems fitting. Check out these other 30 mind-blowing facts about the brain.
The world’s largest waterfall is underwater
Yes, there are waterfalls under the ocean. At the Denmark Straight, the cold water from the Nordic Sea is denser than the Irminger Sea’s warm water, making it drop almost two miles down at 123 million cubic feet per second.
Queen Elizabeth II has a stand-in to make sure the sun won’t get in her eyes
Ella Slack has a similar height and stature to the queen, so before big events, she’ll do a rehearsal to avoid any royal pains like the sun getting in Her Majesty’s eyes. Slack has been doing it for three decades but isn’t allowed to sit in the throne, so she has to squat above it.
Shadows are darker on the Moon
On Earth, the atmosphere scatters more sunlight, so our shadows aren’t too dark. But on the Moon, shadows are so dark that Neil Armstrong said he had trouble seeing where he was going. Don’t miss these other strange and spooky facts about the Moon.
Some sea cucumbers fight with their guts (literally)
When threatened, they’ll shoot out their internal organs, which are poisonous to predators. They’ll sometimes get rid of their entire digestive systems—but the organs grow back.
The Statue of Liberty used to be a lighthouse
About a month after the statue’s 1886 dedication, it became a working lighthouse for 16 years, with its torch visible from 24 miles away.
Strawberries aren’t berries
Neither are raspberries and blackberries, according to botanists. True berries stem from one single-ovary flower and have two or more seeds. Strawberries don’t fit that bill, but bananas, kiwis, and watermelon do. Quit falling for these other 51 facts that you’ve always believed but are actually false.
The U.S. treasury once printed $100,000 bills
Between December 18, 1934, and January 9, 1935, the notes with Woodrow Wilson’s face were issued to Federal Reserve Banks but never went out to the general public—which is probably for the best. Can you imagine losing that bill? Here are 15 more weird facts you never knew about American money.
A flock of ravens is called an “unkindness”
They’re also known as a “conspiracy,” which is equally creepy.
NASA uses countdowns because of a sci-fi film
The countdown Fritz Lang used to create suspense in the rocket launch scene of his 1929 silent film Frau im Mond didn’t just change film history—it also inspired NASA to use countdowns before its own blastoffs. It’s not exactly a race against the clock though. NASA can feel free to pause the clock to check mechanical difficulties. Memorize these other 24 astronomy facts you never learned in school.
There’s only one Shell gas station shaped like a shell
Courtesy Winston-Salem/Jay Sinclair
“Fancy riding” on bikes is illegal in Illinois
The world’s smallest wasp is smaller than an amoeba
The Megaphragma mymaripenne wasp has the same body parts as any other bug (brain, wings, eyes, and more) but is a fifth of a millimeter long, making it smaller than most amoebas, which are made of just one cell.
Some single-celled organisms are bigger than a wasp
“OK” most likely stands for fake words
In the 1830s, people jokingly spelled abbreviations incorrectly. One of the most famous: “All correct” turned into “orl korrekt,” and then of course into OK. Historians think it stuck because Martin Van Buren—known as Old Kinderhook, after his hometown in New York—supporters called themselves the OK Club when he was campaigning for reelection.
Queen Elizabeth II’s cows sleep on waterbeds
They apparently help ease the cattle’s pressure points.
British military tanks are equipped to make tea
There’s a boiling vessel inside so crew can make tea and coffee anytime—including during battle. How frightfully English.
ManhattAnts are an ant species unique to New York City
Biologists found them in a specific 14-block strip of the city.
Researchers once turned a live cat into a telephone
Princeton researchers Ernest Wever and Charles Bray took out a cat’s skull and most of its brain to connect the animal to electricity. When they spoke into the cat’s ear, the sound could be heard through a phone receiver in another room. The twisted experiment paved the way for cochlear implant developments. Don’t miss these other 18 cool science facts you never learned in school.
PEZ candy was invented to help smokers quit
The Austrian PEZ creator named the candies after the German word for peppermint (Pffefferminz). When they were introduced in 1927, they were round mints sold in tins, so you probably wouldn’t see a former chain smoker with a Mickey Mouse dispenser.
William McKinley was shot right after giving away his good-luck charm
Universal History Archive/Shutterstock
President McKinley always wore a red carnation for good luck but sometimes gave it out as a memento. When greeting the crowd in 1901, he handed a 12-year-old girl, Myrtle, his the bloom off his lapel, saying “I must give this flower to another little flower.” Minutes later, he was fatally shot by a man in the crowd.
You can see four states from the top of Chicago’s Willis Tower
From the top of the former Sears Tower on a clear day, you can see about 40 to 50 miles away—beyond Illinois and out to Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Don’t miss these other 50 interesting facts about basically everything.