125 Interesting Facts About Practically Everything
These random fun facts will entertain, enlighten, and totally blow your mind.
Our editors and experts handpick every product we feature. We may earn a commission from your purchases.
Interesting facts you’ll want to share with everyone
Random fun facts catch us off guard in the best possible way. They’re unexpected or unusual bits of knowledge from the worlds of science, history, and pop culture that delight and entertain us—and anyone we share them with. But these interesting facts aren’t just amusing pieces of information that will make you a whiz at answering trivia questions: They’re legitimately fascinating, and once you get started, you’ll want to keep reading until your curiosity is satisfied.
Whether you’re into weird facts that almost don’t sound true (but totally are), random trivia, science trivia, animal trivia, movie trivia, and/or book trivia, you’ll find plenty of new information here. And if you’re looking for trivia questions for kids to entertain them during a family dinner or a long road trip, we’ve got plenty of those, too!
Get Reader’s Digest‘s Read Up newsletter for humor, cleaning, travel, tech and fun facts all week long.
Fact: The world’s oldest wooden wheel has been around for more than 5,000 years
It was found in 2002, approximately 12 miles south of Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, and is now housed in the city’s museum. Radiocarbon dating was used to determine the wheel’s age, which is somewhere between 5,100 and 5,350 years old. Closer to home, these are the oldest tourist attractions in every state.
Fact: Dead skin cells are a main ingredient in household dust
Here’s an interesting science fact for you: According to researchers at Imperial College London, humans shed around 200 million skin cells each hour—and they have to go somewhere when we’re indoors. If the idea of skin dust isn’t sitting well with you, you should know that a report from the American Chemical Society found that a skin oil called squalene naturally helps reduce indoor ozone levels by up to 15 percent.
Fact: Sudan has more pyramids than any country in the world
Not only does Sudan have more pyramids than Egypt, but the numbers aren’t even close. While 138 pyramids have been discovered in Egypt, Sudan boasts around 255. Next, see if you can answer these real Jeopardy! questions about geography.
Fact: The bumblebee bat is the world’s smallest mammal
Weighing in at 0.05 to 0.07 ounces, with a head-to-body length of 1.14 to 1.29 inches and a wingspan of 5.1 to 5.7 inches, the bumblebee bat—also known as Kitti’s hog-nosed bat—is the smallest mammal in the world, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. To see this tiny bat for yourself, you’d have to visit one of a select few limestone caves on the Khwae Noi River in Kanchanaburi Province of southwest Thailand. Here are more of Earth’s tiniest creatures that play a big role in the environment.
Fact: The circulatory system is more than 60,000 miles long
If a child’s entire circulatory system—we’re talking veins, arteries, and capillaries—were laid out flat, it would stretch for more than 60,000 miles, according to the Franklin Institute. By the time we reach adulthood, our bodies have become home to approximately 100,000 miles of blood vessels. That’s just one of the mind-blowing facts that sound made up (but aren’t).
Fact: There are parts of Africa in all four hemispheres
For people whose education was largely focused on the Western world, it may be surprising to find out exactly how huge the continent of Africa is. For instance, it spans all four hemispheres and covers nearly 12 million square miles. Here’s another interesting fact: Do you know the only city that straddles two continents?
Fact: The cornea is one of only two parts of the human body without blood vessels
The cornea is the clear part of the eye that covers the pupil and other parts of the eye. Cartilage and the cornea are the only types tissue in the human body that do not contain blood vessels, according to scientists at the Harvard Department of Ophthalmology’s Schepens Eye Research Institute. Your eye also has some other bizarre features you probably didn’t know about. Next, find out which is the rarest eye color in the world.
Fact: The world’s first animated feature film was made in Argentina
Even if you know a lot of Disney trivia, you might assume that the honor of first animated feature film belongs to Walt Disney’s 1937 movie Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. But 20 years earlier, a full-length animated feature film was made in Argentina. It was a political satire called El Apóstol made up of 58,000 drawings and had a running time of 70 minutes, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.
Fact: German chocolate cake was invented in Texas
The “German” part of German chocolate cake comes from an American man—not a European country. Specifically, it’s named after Sam German, who in 1852 created the formula for a mild dark baking chocolate bar for Baker’s Chocolate Company, which was subsequently named Baker’s German’s Sweet Chocolate. Fast-forward to June 13, 1957. The Dallas Morning Star published the recipe for the cake, invented and submitted by a reader identified as Mrs. George Clay, according to What’s Cooking America.
Fact: Marla Gibbs continued to work as a flight attendant for two years after being cast on a hit TV show
Prior to taking her place on the stoop of 227, Marla Gibbs played the housekeeper Florence on The Jeffersons (a spin-off of All in the Family). In a 2015 interview, Gibbs told the Washington Post that despite it appearing as though she had gotten her big break, she kept her job as a flight attendant for American Airlines for two more years—just to be safe.
Fact: The Philippines consists of 7,641 islands
The Philippines is an archipelago, which means it’s made up of a group of islands—7,641 islands, to be exact. That figure does not include the thousands of sandbars and other landforms that emerge during low tide.
Fact: A one-way trip on the Trans-Siberian Railway involves crossing 3,901 bridges
Not only is the Trans-Siberian Railway the longest railroad in Russia, but it’s also the longest one in the world. The journey takes seven days, during which time passengers pass through eight different time zones and cross 3,901 bridges.
Fact: The Golden Girls was supposed to have a different theme song
That’s right: Instead of Andrew Gold’s iconic “Thank You for Being a Friend,” the show’s producers wanted to use Bette Midler’s song “Friends,” according to Jim Colucci, author of the book Golden Girls Forever: An Unauthorized Look Behind the Lanai. But the rights to the Divine Miss M’s song were too expensive, and the rest is sitcom history.
Fact: There’s enough gold inside Earth to coat the planet
Turns out, there’s quite a bit of gold on—or, really, in—our planet: 99 percent of the precious metal can be found in the Earth’s core, Discover Magazine reports. How much is there? Enough to coat the entire surface of the Earth in 1.5 feet of gold.
Fact: Cleveland was once the country’s fifth-largest city
Data from the 1920 U.S. census indicates that Cleveland, Ohio, was one of the most heavily populated cities in the country, behind only Detroit, Philadelphia, Chicago, and New York City. Today, these are the largest cities in the world.
Fact: Human beings can use only a small fraction of Earth’s water
In school, we were taught that most (specifically, 71 percent) of the planet’s surface is covered in water. While that’s true, humans can use only 0.007 percent of that water, according to National Geographic. That’s because only about 2.5 percent of Earth’s water is fresh water, and only 1 percent of that is accessible. The rest makes up glaciers and snowfields. By the way, have you ever wondering why we can “smell” snow?
Fact: Wally Amos is responsible for making more than just cookies famous
You may be familiar with Wally “Famous” Amos, thanks to his packaged chocolate chip cookies. But before he worked his magic on the sweet treats, he was in the business of making people famous, Biography reports. He discovered and signed folk duo Simon & Garfunkel and was a talent rep for acts like Diana Ross, Sam Cooke, and Marvin Gaye.
Fact: The brand name Spam is a combination of “spice” and “ham”
This is one of those interesting facts you probably thought you knew but actually didn’t. Contrary to American mythology, Spam is not an acronym for “Scientifically Processed Animal Matter” or “Shoulder of Pork and Ham,” Eater reports.
Fact: It takes a drop of water 90 days to travel the entire Mississippi River
Spanning 2,340 miles, the Mississippi River is the third-largest watershed in the world. That’s one long stretch of water. So long, in fact, that it takes one drop of water approximately 90 days to travel its entire length.
Fact: People once ate arsenic to improve their skin
You’ve probably heard about how a lot of the Victorians’ favorite cosmetics were riddled with arsenic, but it gets worse. There were also products on the market in the late 19th century, like Dr. James P. Campbell’s Safe Arsenic Complexion Wafers, that were meant to be eaten. They claimed to get rid of freckles, blackheads, and other “facial disfigurements.” Admit it: That’s one of the most interesting facts you’ve learned in a while.
Fact: The first person processed at Ellis Island was a 15-year-old girl from Ireland
On January 1, 1892, Annie Moore was the first passenger to disembark at Ellis Island on its opening day. She had traveled to the United States with her two younger brothers aboard the SS Nevada after departing from Queenstown, Ireland (now known as Cobh). Another amazing fact? The busiest day at Ellis Island was April 17, 1907.
Fact: Japan has one vending machine for every 40 people
Japan is thought to have one of the highest densities of vending machines in the world, with one for every 40 people in the country. While most sell various types of beverages, others feature ice cream, noodles, and disposable cameras.
Fact: Lemons float, but limes sink
Because limes are denser than lemons, they drop to the bottom of a glass, while lemons float at the top. Out of all these random fun facts, this one’s been in front of our faces (or rather, in our glasses) this whole time! Check out these other things to wonder about that you likely never thought of before.
Fact: Professional athletes used to perform in vaudeville during the off-season
Before today’s big-league salaries, professional baseball and football players often had to take on jobs during the off-season, The Atlantic reports. Some of them took advantage of their name recognition and hit the vaudeville circuits, doing everything from comedy routines to reciting poems. Babe Ruth even sang—if you could call it that. Frankly, many of the athletes had no business being on stage, but it’s not like it was against the rules.
Fact: The first time the word “period” was used on TV in reference to menstruation was 1985
It came via a line in a Tampax commercial: “Feeling cleaner is more comfortable. It can actually change the way you feel about your period.” And the actor who made pop culture history was Courtney Cox of Friends fame.
Fact: McDonald’s once made bubblegum-flavored broccoli
This crazy McDonald’s fact will have your taste buds crawling. Unsurprisingly, the attempt to get kids to eat healthier didn’t go over well with the child testers, who were “confused by the taste.”
Fact: Some fungi create zombies, then control their minds
The tropical fungus Ophiocordyceps infects ants’ central nervous systems. Once it has been in an insect’s body for nine days, it has complete control over the host’s movements. According to National Geographic, it forces the ant to climb trees, then convulse and fall into the cool, moist soil below, where fungi thrive. Once there, the fungus waits until exactly solar noon to force the ant to bite a leaf and wait for death.
Fact: The first oranges weren’t orange
The original oranges from Southeast Asia were a tangerine-pomelo hybrid, and they were actually green. In fact, oranges in warmer regions, such as Vietnam and Thailand, still stay green through maturity. Speaking of which, ever wonder which “orange” came first: the color or the fruit? We found out!
Fact: There’s only one letter that doesn’t appear in any U.S. state name
Can you guess the answer to this random fun fact? You’ll find a Z (Arizona), a J (New Jersey), and even two X’s (New Mexico and Texas)—but not a single Q.
Fact: A cow-bison hybrid is called a beefalo
You can even buy its meat in at least 21 states.
Fact: Johnny Appleseed’s fruits weren’t for eating
Yes, there was a real John Chapman who planted thousands of apple trees on U.S. soil. But the apples on those trees were much more bitter than the ones you’d find in the supermarket today. “Johnny Appleseed” didn’t expect his fruits to be eaten whole but rather made into hard apple cider.
Fact: Scotland has 421 words for snow
Yes, 421! Some examples: sneesl (to start raining or snowing); feefle (to swirl); and flinkdrinkin (a light snow).
Fact: Samsung tests phone durability with a butt-shaped robot
People stash their phones in their back pockets all the time, which is why Samsung created a robot shaped like a butt to “sit” on their phones to make sure they can take the pressure. Believe it or not, the robot even wears jeans.
Fact: The Windy City nickname has nothing to do with Chicago’s weather
If you live in Chicago, you might already know this random fact, but we’re betting most other people don’t. Chicago’s nickname was coined by 19th-century journalists who were referring to the fact that its residents were “windbags” and “full of hot air.”
Fact: Peanuts aren’t technically nuts
They’re legumes. According to Merriam-Webster, a nut is only a nut if it’s “a hard-shelled dry fruit or seed with a separable rind or shell and interior kernel.” That means walnuts, almonds, cashews, and pistachios aren’t nuts either. They’re seeds.
Fact: Armadillo shells are bulletproof
In fact, one Texas man was hospitalized when a bullet he shot at an armadillo ricocheted off the animal and hit him in the jaw. That’s a totally true animal tidbit. These animal “facts,” however, are false.
Fact: The longest English word is 189,819 letters long
We won’t spell it out here, but the full name for the protein nicknamed titin would take three and a half hours to say out loud. While this is, by far, the longest word in English, the longest word in the Oxford English Dictionary has 45 letters, and the longest made-up word has just 28. Just a few more interesting facts for your next cocktail party!
Fact: “Running amok” is a medically recognized mental condition
Considered a culturally bound syndrome, a person “running amok” in Malaysia starts with a period of brooding and then commits a sudden, frenzied mass attack.
Fact: Some octopus species lay 56,000 eggs at a time
On average, a giant Pacific octopus will lay 56,000 eggs at the end of a pregnancy, over the course of about a month, NPR reports. At first, these new babies float through the surrounding water unattached to one another or their mother. But then the mother gathers each egg—which is about the size of a grain of rice—and weaves them into braids, allowing her to keep an eye on everyone at the same time.
Fact: Cats have fewer toes on their back paws
Like most four-legged mammals, cats have five toes on the front, but their back paws only have four toes. Scientists think the four-toed back paws might help them run faster. Here are more purr-fectly fascinating facts about cats.
Fact: Kleenex tissues were originally intended for gas masks
When there was a cotton shortage during World War I, Kimberly-Clark developed a thin, flat cotton substitute that the army tried to use as a filter in gas masks. The war ended before scientists perfected the material, so the company redeveloped it to be smoother and softer, then marketed Kleenex as facial tissue instead.
Fact: Blue whales eat half a million calories in one mouthful
Just try to wrap your brain around the second part of this animal fact: Those 457,000 calories are more than 240 times the energy the whale uses to scoop those krill into its mouth.
Fact: That tiny pocket in jeans was designed to store pocket watches
The original jeans had only four pockets: that tiny pocket, plus two more on the front and just one in the back.
Fact: Turkeys can blush
When turkeys are scared or excited—like when the males see a female they’re interested in—the pale skin on their head and neck turns bright red, blue, or white. The flap of skin over their beaks, called a snood, also reddens. By the way, this is why the president pardons a turkey every Thanksgiving.
Fact: Most Disney characters wear gloves to keep animation simple
Walt Disney might have been the first to put gloves on his characters, as seen in 1929’s The Opry House, starring Mickey Mouse. In addition to being easier to animate, there’s another reason for the gloves: “We didn’t want him to have mouse hands because he was supposed to be more human,” Disney told his biographer in 1957.
Fact: The man with the world’s deepest voice can make sounds humans can’t hear
The man, Tim Storms, can’t even hear the note, which is eight octaves below the lowest G on a piano—but elephants can.
Fact: The current American flag was designed by a high school student
It started as a school project for Bob Heft’s junior-year history class in 1958, and it only earned a B-minus. His design had 50 stars, even though Alaska and Hawaii weren’t states yet; Heft figured the two would earn statehood soon and showed the government his design. After President Dwight D. Eisenhower called to say the design was approved, Heft’s teacher changed his grade to an A.
Fact: Thanks to 3D printing, NASA can basically email tools to astronauts
Getting new equipment to the Space Station used to take months or years, but the new technology means the tools are ready within hours.
Fact: Only a quarter of the Sahara Desert is sandy
Most of it is covered in gravel, though it also contains mountains and oases. And here’s another geography fact that everyone gets wrong: It isn’t the world’s largest desert. Antarctica is.
Fact: There were active volcanoes on the moon when dinosaurs were alive
Most of the volcanoes probably stopped erupting about a billion years ago, but NASA findings have suggested there might still have been active lava flow 100 million years ago, when dinosaurs were still roaming.
Fact: Dogs sniff good smells with their left nostril
Dogs normally start sniffing with their right nostril, then keep it there if the smell could signal danger, but they’ll shift to the left side for something pleasant, like food or a mating partner. If you’re a dog lover, you’ll want to know these other fascinating facts about dogs.
Fact: Avocados were named after reproductive organs
You’ll never look at avocados the same way again. Indigenous people of Mexico and Central America used the Nahuatl word āhuacatl to mean both “testicles” and “avocado.” The fruits were originally marketed as “alligator pears” in the United States until the current name stuck.
Fact: T. S. Eliot wore green makeup
No one is sure why the poet dusted his face with green powder, though some guess he was just trying to look more interesting.
Fact: The word “fizzle” started as a type of fart
In the 1400s, it meant to “break wind quietly,” according to the English Oxford Living Dictionaries. These other dictionary facts will make you realize just how interesting these big books are.
Fact: Human noses and ears get bigger as we age
It’s pretty common to see the claim that our nose and ears are the only parts of our body that keep growing as we age, but that’s not exactly true. Our nose and ears stop growing along with the rest of our body, but thanks to the weight of gravity, both parts continue to lengthen over time, according to the Discovery Channel.
Fact: No number before 1,000 contains the letter A
But there are plenty of E’s, I’s, O’s, U’s, and Y’s.
Fact: The # symbol isn’t officially called hashtag or pound
Its technical name is octothorpe. The “octo” means “eight” and refers to its points, though reports disagree on where “thorpe” came from. Some claim it was named after Olympian Jim Thorpe, while others argue it was just a nonsense suffix.
Fact: The French have their own name for a French kiss
Something extra interesting about this kissing fact? The word hasn’t been around for long. In 2014, galocher—meaning to kiss with tongues—was added to the Petit Robert French dictionary.
Fact: You can thank the Greeks for calling Christmas “Xmas”
In Greek, the word for “Christ” starts with the letter Chi, which looks like an X in the Roman alphabet. If you’re fascinated by this fact, you’ll be equally transfixed by the history of these Christmas symbols.
Fact: Movie trailers originally played after the movie
They “trailed” the feature film—hence, the name. The first trailer appeared in 1912 and was for a Broadway show, not a movie.
Fact: Mercedes invented a car controlled by a joystick
The joystick in the 1966 Mercedes F200 showcase car controlled speed and direction, replacing both the steering wheel and pedals. The car could also sense which side the driver was sitting in, so someone could control it from the passenger seat.
Fact: H&M actually stands for something
This is one of those interesting facts you’ve probably never thought about before. The clothing retail shop was originally called Hennes—Swedish for “hers”—before acquiring the hunting and fishing equipment brand Mauritz Widforss. Eventually, Hennes & Mauritz was shortened to H&M.
Fact: The U.S. government saved every public tweet from 2006 through 2017
Starting in 2018, the Library of Congress decided to only keep tweets on “a very selective basis,” including elections and those dealing with something of national interest, like public policy.
Fact: The CIA headquarters has its own Starbucks, but baristas don’t write names on the cups
Its receipts say “Store Number 1” instead of “Starbucks,” and its workers need an escort to leave their work posts.
Fact: Giraffe tongues can be 20 inches long
Their dark, bluish-black color is probably to prevent sunburn.
Fact: There’s only one U.S. state capital without a McDonald’s
Montpelier, Vermont, doesn’t have any of those Golden Arches. It also happens to have the smallest population of any state capital, with just 7,500 residents.
Fact: Europeans were scared of eating tomatoes when they were introduced
Scholars think Hernán Cortés brought the seeds in 1519 with the intent of the fruits being used ornamentally in gardens. By the 1700s, aristocrats started eating tomatoes, but they were convinced the fruits were poisonous because people would die after eating them. In reality, the acidity from the tomatoes brought out the lead in their pewter plates, and they actually died of lead poisoning.
Fact: Humans aren’t the only animals that dream
Studies have indicated rats dream about getting to food or running through mazes. Most mammals go through REM sleep, the cycle in which dreams occur, so scientists think there’s a good chance they all dream.
Fact: The inventor of the microwave appliance received only $2 for his discovery
Percy Spencer was working as a researcher for American Appliance Company (now Raytheon) when he noticed that a radar set using electromagnetic waves melted the candy bar in his pocket. He had the idea to make a metal box using microwaves to heat food, but the company was the one to file the patent. That was in 1945, and he received a $2 bonus but never any royalties. Check out the most important invention the year you were born.
Fact: The Eiffel Tower can grow more than six inches during the summer
The high temperatures make the iron expand.
Fact: Glitter may have originated on a ranch
According to local lore, a man by the name of Henry Ruschmann from Bernardsville, New Jersey, invented glitter by accident in 1934 while working on a cattle ranch. The New York Times reports that in the popular origin story, Ruschmann, a machinist, was trying to find a way to dispose of scrap material by crushing it into tiny pieces. Plastic went in, glitter came out, and the rest is commonly accepted as history.
Fact: Frankenstein’s Creature is a vegetarian
Both Victor Frankenstein and Creature are fictional characters in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. In the classic novel, Creature says, “My food is not that of man; I do not destroy the lamb and the kid to glut my appetite; acorns and berries afford me sufficient nourishment.” This is one of the interesting facts you should definitely share with your vegetarian friends!
Fact: Medical errors are a top cause of death
According to a Johns Hopkins research team, 250,000 deaths in the United States are caused by medical error each year. This makes medical error the third leading cause of death in the country.
Fact: Sloths have more neck bones than giraffes
Despite the difference in neck length, there are more bones in the neck of a sloth than a giraffe. There are seven vertebrae in the neck of a giraffe, and in most mammals, but there are 10 in a sloth’s. While they’re on your mind, here are some adorable sloth pictures you totally need to see.
Fact: Ancient Egyptians used dead mice to ease toothaches
In Ancient Egypt, people put a dead mouse in their mouth if they had a toothache, according to Nathan Belofsky’s book Strange Medicine: A Shocking History of Real Medical Practices Through the Ages. Mice were also used as a warts remedy in Elizabethan England.
Fact: Cap’n Crunch’s full name is Horatio Magellan Crunch
He’s also been called out for only having the bars of a Navy commander, but the so-called cap’n held his ground on Twitter, arguing that captaining the S.S. Guppy with his crew “makes an official Cap’n in any book!”
Fact: Paint used to be stored in pig bladders
The bladder would be sealed with a string and then pricked to get the paint out. This option wasn’t the best because it would often break open. American painter John G. Rand was the innovator who, in the 19th century, made paint tubes from tin and screw caps.
Fact: Humans have jumped farther than horses in the Olympics
The Olympic world record for the longest human long jump is greater than the world record for longest horse long jump. Mike Powell set the record in 1991 by jumping 8.95 meters, and the horse Extra Dry set the record in 1900 by jumping 6.10 meters. Speaking of random fun facts about the Olympics, do you know what the Olympic rings symbolize?
Fact: The Terminator script was sold for $1
James Cameron is the award-winning director of movies like Titanic and Avatar. In order to get his big break with The Terminator, he sold the script for $1 and a promise that he’d direct it. Of course, this movie has some of the most famous movie quotes of all time in it.
Fact: Pigeon poop is the property of the British Crown
In the 18th century, pigeon poop was used to make gunpowder, so King George I confirmed the droppings to be the property of the Crown. If you’re interested in facts about the royals today, we’ve got plenty of those too.
Fact: Onions were found in the eyes of an Egyptian mummy
Pharaoh Ramses IV of ancient Egypt had his eyes replaced with small onions when he was mummified. The rings and layers of onions were worshipped because people thought they represented eternal life. This aligns with the reason for mummification: to allow the pharaoh to live forever.
Fact: Abraham Lincoln was a bartender
You know that the 16th president of the United States fought for the freedom of slaves and the Union, but what you didn’t know is that he was a licensed bartender. Lincoln’s liquor license was discovered in 1930 and displayed in a Springfield liquor store. According to Wayne C. Temple, a Lincoln expert, Congress wanted to fire Ulysses S. Grant in 1863 because he drank a lot, and Lincoln’s response was to send Grant a supply of whiskey. Here are more facts about U.S. presidents even history buffs don’t know.
Fact: Beethoven never knew how to multiply or divide
The renowned pianist went to a Latin school called Tirocinium, where he was taught some math but never learned multiplication or division—only addition. Once, when he needed to multiply 62 by 50, he wrote 62 down a line 50 times and added it all up.
Fact: Japan released sushi-inspired Kit Kats
For a limited time in 2017, Tokyo’s Kit Kat Chocolatory shop made three types of the chocolate bar that were inspired by sushi but didn’t actually taste like raw fish. The tuna sushi was raspberry, the seaweed-wrapped one tasted like pumpkin pudding, and the sea urchin sushi was the flavor of Hokkaido melon with mascarpone cheese. All were made with puffed rice, white chocolate, and a bit of wasabi.
Fact: An espresso maker was sent into space in 2015
Coffee lovers will appreciate this interesting space fact: Samantha Cristoforetti was the first astronaut to get a warm and cozy piece of home sent to her while in orbit. The Italian Space Agency worked with Italian coffee manufacturer Lavazza to get the coffee capsules into space.
Fact: An employee at Pixar accidentally deleted a sequence of Toy Story 2 during production
Ed Catmull, the cofounder of Pixar, wrote in his book, Creativity Inc., that the year before the movie came out, someone entered the command ‘/bin/rm -r -f *’ on the drive where the files were saved, and scenes started deleting. It would have taken a year to recreate what was deleted, but luckily another employee had a backup of the entire film on her laptop at home.
Fact: Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Ron Wayne started Apple Inc. on April Fools’ Day
The three technology innovators signed the documents to form the Apple Computer Company on April 1, 1976. But the company was not fully incorporated until January 3, 1977. Thirty years later, the company was renamed Apple Inc. and is no joke. In 2018, Apple became the country’s first trillion-dollar company. Of course, computers have come a long way over the years—here’s what computers looked like the decade you were born.
Fact: The inventor of the tricycle personally delivered two to Queen Victoria
In 1881, Queen Victoria was on a tour on the Isle of Wight when her horse and carriage could not keep up with a woman riding a tricycle. Intrigued by the bike, the queen proceeded to order two. She also asked that the inventor, James Starley, arrive with the delivery. Though you might associate tricycles with toddlers, Queen Victoria made them cool among the elite at the time.
Fact: Your brain synapses shrink while you sleep
Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for Sleep and Consciousness studied mice to observe what happens to their brains while they sleep. Dr. Chiara Cirelli and Dr. Giulio Tononi found an 18 percent decrease in the size of synapses after a few hours of sleep. Don’t worry, though—this nighttime brain shrinkage actually helps your cognitive abilities. Speaking of your mind, did you know that these brain myths aren’t true?
Fact: A waffle iron inspired one of the first pairs of Nikes
Bill Bowerman was a track and field coach in the 1950s who didn’t like how running shoes were made. He first created the Cortez shoe but wanted a sneaker that was even lighter and could be worn on a variety of surfaces. During a waffle breakfast with his wife in 1970, he came up with the idea of using the waffle texture on the soles of running shoes. Waffle-soled shoes made their big debut in the 1972 U.S. Olympic track and field trials in Eugene, Oregon.
Fact: Boars wash their food
National Geographic reported that at Basel Zoo in Switzerland, zookeepers watched adult and juvenile wild boars pick up sandy apples and bring them to a nearby creek in their environment to wash before eating. Though some items like sugar beets were eaten without the human-like behavior, the boars brought a whole dead chicken to the creek to wash before chowing down. One ecologist called this a “luxury behavior.” Find out which other animals are the smartest.
Fact: Baseball umpires used to sit in rocking chairs
People have been playing baseball since the mid-19th century. In the early days, umpires would officiate the games while reclining in a rocking chair located 20 feet behind home plate. By 1878, the National League also declared that home teams must pay umpires $5 per game.
Fact: The first commercial passenger flight lasted only 23 minutes
In 1914, Abram Pheil paid $400 (which would be $8,500 today) for a 23-minute plane ride. The Florida flight flew between Saint Petersburg and Tampa, where only 21 miles of water separate the cities. Pheil, a former mayor of Saint Petersburg, and the pilot, Tony Jannus, were the only passengers. This momentous flight paved the way for air travel as we know it. Speaking of which, here are some airplane facts you’ve always been curious about.
Fact: The world’s first novel ends mid-sentence
The Tale of Genji, written by Murasaki Shikibu in the 11th century, is considered the world’s first novel. After reading 54 intricately crafted chapters, the reader is stopped abruptly mid-sentence. One translator believes the work is complete as is, but another says we’re missing a few more pages of the story.
Fact: The French-language Scrabble World Champion doesn’t speak French
New Zealand native Nigel Richards memorized the entire French Scrabble dictionary, which has 386,000 words, in nine weeks to earn his title. He has also won the English World Scrabble Championship three times, the U.S. national championships five times, and the U.K. Open Scrabble tournament six times. This comes 20 years after a 28-year-old Richards first played the game. Don’t miss these other random fun facts about your favorite games, including the addition of these 500 words to the official Srabble players dictionary.
Fact: A woman called the police when her ice cream didn’t have enough sprinkles
The West Midlands police in England released a recording of a woman who called 999 (the U.K. version of 911) because there were “bits on one side and none on the other,” she says in the recording. She was even more upset when the ice cream truck man did not want to give her money back.
Fact: Uncle Ben’s rice was air-dropped to World War II troops
German chemist Erich Huzenlaub invented a process of parboiling rice to keep more nutrients in the rice and lessen the cooking time. The “Huzenlaub Process” had another unexpected benefit: It stopped bug infestations. The quick-cook, bug-free rice was a big advantage during World War II, and converted rice (as it was then known) was air-dropped to American and British troops. After the war, the company rebranded itself and became Uncle Ben’s Original Converted Brand Rice, named after one of the company’s best rice suppliers. The product hit grocery store shelves in 1947.
Fact: The British Empire was the largest empire in world history
The British Empire was most powerful in the 1920s, when it controlled 23 percent of the world’s population and approximately 13.7 million square miles of territory—or nearly a quarter of the Earth’s land area, according to a report from Statista. If you love these interesting facts, test your knowledge with another 100 history trivia questions.
Fact: South American river turtles talk in their eggs
Turtles don’t have vocal cords, and their ears are internal, so scientists believed that turtles were deaf and didn’t communicate through sounds. But research has found that turtles actually communicate at an extremely low frequency that sounds like “clicks, clucks, and hoots” that can only be heard through a hydrophone (a microphone used underwater). These sounds even come from the egg before the turtle hatches. Researchers hypothesize that this helps all the turtle siblings hatch at once.
Fact: Penicillin was first called “mold juice”
In 1928, bacteriologist Alexander Fleming left a petri dish in his lab while he was on vacation—only to return and find that some liquid around the mold had killed the bacteria in the dish. This became the world’s first antibiotic, but before naming it penicillin, he called it “mold juice.” Here are more accidental discoveries that changed the world.
Fact: The first stroller was engineered to be pulled by a goat (or animal of similar size)
William Kent, a landscape architect, invented the first stroller for the third Duke of Devonshire in 1733. But upper-class parents were hardly expected to put effort into transporting their children around, so Kent designed his model to be pulled by a small animal, like a goat.
Fact: May 20, 1873, is the “birthday” of blue jeans
According to the Levi Strauss company, this was the day that Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis, the innovators behind the sturdy blue jeans we all love, got a patent on the process of adding metal rivets to men’s denim work pants. The pants were called waist overalls until 1960, when baby boomers began calling them jeans. And FYI, this is why blue is the most popular denim color.
Fact: 170-year-old bottles of champagne were found at the bottom of the Baltic Sea
The bottles of bubbly are believed to have been traveling from Germany to Russia during the 1800s when they sank to the bottom of the sea, according to New Scientist. It turns out that the bottom of the sea, where temperatures are between two and four degrees Celsius, is a great place for wine aging. Wine experts sampled the champagne and described it as “sometimes cheesy” with “animal notes” and elements of “wet hair.” Mmm.
Fact: The MGM lion roar is trademarked
At the start of any movie made by the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studio, the iconic lion roars at the audience. While MGM has gone through several iterations of lion mascots, the sound of the roar is always the same. The company trademarked the “sound mark” with the United States Patent and Trademark Office in the 1980s. Believe it or not, these famous phrases are also trademarked.
Fact: Neil Armstrong’s hair was sold in 2004 for $3,000
The lucky buyer, John Reznikoff, holds the Guinness World Record for the largest collection of hair from historical celebrities, reports NBC. But Armstrong’s lawyers threatened to sue Marx Sizemore, the not-so-lucky barber who cut the former astronaut’s hair; they said he violated an Ohio law that protects the rights of famous people. Sizemore said he wouldn’t pay, and Reznikoff said he wouldn’t give back the hair but that he’d donate $3,000 to charity.
Fact: Irish bars used to be closed on Saint Patrick’s Day
You might associate Saint Patrick’s Day with wearing green and drinking so much you think you actually see leprechauns. But until 1961, there were laws in Ireland that banned bars from opening on March 17. Since the holiday falls during the period of Lent in the heavily Catholic country, the idea of binge-drinking seemed a bit immoral.
Fact: Nikola Tesla hated pearls
The electrical engineer paved the way for current system generators and motors; the way electricity gets transmitted and converted to mechanical power is thanks to his inventions. But despite his patience with scientific experimentation, he apparently had no tolerance for pearls. When his secretary wore pearl jewelry one day, he made her go home.
Fact: Thomas Edison is the reason you love cat videos
After inventing the kinetograph in 1892, Edison was able to record and watch moving images for the first time. He filmed short clips in his studio, some of which feature famous people like Annie Oakley and Buffalo Bill. But the real stars of these early videos are the Boxing Cats—adorable cats that he recorded in a boxing ring circa 1894. If you like cat videos, you’ll also appreciate these cat memes.
Fact: Brad Pitt suffered an ironic injury on a film set
In Troy, based on Homer’s Illiad, Pitt plays the brave (and buff) Greek hero Achilles. Legend has it that Achilles could not be defeated unless hit in his heel. (It’s where we get the term “Achilles’ heel,” meaning a vulnerable point.) While filming an epic battle scene, Pitt ironically hurt his Achilles tendon—an injury that set back the film’s production by two months.
Fact: Pregnancy tests date back to 1350 B.C.E.
According to a document written on ancient papyrus, Egyptian women urinated on wheat and barley seeds to determine if they were pregnant or not, reports the Office of History in the National Institutes of Health. If wheat grew, it predicted a female baby. If barley grew, it predicted a male baby. The woman was not pregnant if nothing grew. Experimenting with this seed theory in 1963 proved it was accurate 70 percent of the time.
Fact: Martin Luther King Jr. got a C in public speaking
The world remembers Dr. King as a leader of the Civil Rights Movement, and people often quote his “I Have a Dream” speech, which he delivered in 1963. Yet more than a decade before that legendary speech, while attending Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania, he earned a C in public speaking during his first and second term. Check out these other ironic “failures” of hugely successful people.
Fact: Bees can make colored honey
In France, there’s a biogas plant that manages waste from a Mars chocolate factory, where M&Ms are made. Beekeepers nearby noticed that their bees were making “unnatural shades of green and blue” honey. A spokesperson from the British Beekeepers’ Association theorized that the bees eating the sugary M&M waste caused the colored honey. Speaking of colors, find out what is the world’s ugliest color next.
Fact: Bananas glow blue under black lights
To the everyday eye under normal conditions, ripe bananas appear yellow due to organic pigments called carotenoids. When bananas ripen, chlorophyll begins to break down. This pigment is the element that makes bananas glow, or fluoresce, under UV lights and appear blue. While this is definitely among the most interesting facts about bananas, we have another one that will make you want to eat a banana every day.
Fact: Wimbledon tennis balls are kept at 68 degrees Fahrenheit
The temperature of a tennis ball affects how it bounces. At warmer temperatures, the gas molecules inside the ball expand, making the ball bounce higher. Lower temperatures cause the molecules to shrink and the ball to bounce lower. To make sure the best tennis balls are used, Wimbledon goes through more than 50,000 tennis balls each year.
Fact: Adult cats are lactose intolerant
Like some humans, adult cats don’t have enough of the lactase enzyme to digest lactose from milk, causing them to vomit, have diarrhea, or get gassy. Cats only have enough of that enzyme when they’re born and during the early years of their lives.
Fact: Albert Einstein’s eyeballs are in New York City
They were given to Henry Abrams and preserved in a safety deposit box. Abrams was Einstein’s eye doctor. He received the eyeballs from Thomas Harvey, the man who performed the autopsy on Einstein and illegally took the scientist’s brain for himself.
Fact: The Pope can’t be an organ donor
Pope Benedict XVI was issued an organ donor card in 1970. Once he ascended to the papacy in 2005, the card was invalid, reports the Telegraph. According to the Vatican, the Pope’s entire body must be buried intact because his body belongs to the universal Catholic Church.
Fact: A one-armed player scored the winning goal in the first World Cup
Héctor Castro, who accidentally cut off his right forearm while using an electric saw as a teenager, played on the Uruguay soccer team during the first-ever World Cup in 1930. In the last game between Uruguay and Argentina, Castro scored the winning goal in the last minute of the game. The final score was 4–2, making Uruguay the first country to win the World Cup title.
Fact: The world’s oldest toy is a stick
Think of how versatile a stick is. You can use it to play fetch with your dog, swing it as a bat, or use your imagination to turn it into a lightsaber. That’s why, in 2008, the National Toy Hall of Fame inducted the stick into its collection of amazing toys as, very possibly, the oldest toy ever. But wait—we aren’t done with interesting facts just yet! Next, check out these happy facts that will make your day a little better.
Additional reporting by Marissa Laliberte and Jayna Taylor-Smith.