FASCINATING FACTS: 50 RANDOM FACTS FOR YOU RANDOS
1. Richard Feynman
Richard Feynman taught himself trigonometry, advanced algebra, infinite series, analytic geometry, and both differential and integral calculus at the age of 15. Later, he jokingly cracked the safes with Atomic Secrets at Los Alamos by trying numbers he thought a physicist might use.
2. A woman named Ebbie Tolbert was born around 1807 and spent over 50 years as a slave. She got her freedom at the age of 56. She lived long enough so that at the age of 113 she could walk to the St. Louis polling station and registered to vote.
3. “The Whole Shabangs” potato chips are available almost exclusively to the US Prison system commissaries. Ex-cons consider these chips to be the best chip out there, and a high-point of their incarceration. Many end up dismayed and disappointed at their lack of availability “on the outside.”
4. A key symptom of depression is anhedonia, typically defined as the loss of ability to experience a pleasure. It is a core feature of depression, but it is also one of the most treatment-resistant symptoms. Researchers have found that experimental antidepressant ketamine acts on this region, helping explain why this drug may prove effective at treating anhedonia.
5. In the Breaking Bad episode “Ozymandias”, the show’s producers secured special permission from the Hollywood guilds to delay the credits (which would normally appear after the main title sequence) until 19 minutes into the episode, in order to preserve the impact of the beginning scene.
“Fat Bottom Girls” and “Bicycle Race” by Queen were released together on a double A-sided single and refer to each other. Near the end of Fat Bottomed Girls, Mercury shouts, “Get on your bikes and ride!” Bicycle Race reciprocates with the lyric “fat bottomed girls, they’ll be riding today.”
7. Around 2.5 billion years ago, the Oxygen Catastrophe occurred, where the first microbes producing oxygen using photosynthesis created so much free oxygen that it wiped out most organisms on the planet because they were used to living in minimal oxygenated conditions.
8. In 2015, a 37-year-old Lancashire businessman underwent MRI scan for suspected bladder cancer after he found blood in his urine. Doctors instead found out that he had a full set of female reproductive organs with a fully functioning uterus, ovaries and even a cervix. Because he had ovaries it is possible he could produce eggs, and since he had a uterus it is conceivable he could even carry a baby himself. Medical staff advised him to have the organs surgically removed, even though it could trigger the menopause.
9. Stephen Hawking once sent his Ph.D. student away with a very hard problem – finding exact rotating black hole solutions of Einstein’s equations with a cosmological constant – and was stunned when he came back a few days later with the solution.
10. In the 1820s a Cherokee named Sequoyah, impressed by European written languages, invented a writing system with 85 characters that was considered superior to the English alphabet. The Cherokee syllabary could be learned in a few weeks and by 1825 the majority of Cherokees could read and write.
In a medical first, a mother who received a uterus transplant in 2016 from a dead donor gave birth to a healthy baby in December 2017. After five months of the transplant, the uterus showed no sign of rejection, ultrasound scans were normal, and the woman was menstruating regularly. The fertilized eggs were implanted.
12. During World War 2, Russian soldiers took “heat pills” that kept them warm in the winter. However, they would also lose weight despite eating well. 2,4-dinitrophenol spikes metabolic rate as potential energy is lost as heat. It is banned as a weight loss aid in USA as overdose can cook people to death.
13. The American College of Pediatricians is a group that links pedophilia to homosexuality and promotes “conversion” therapy. Their name is intended to confuse people and associated them with the American Academy of Pediatrics, the professional association of pediatricians.
14. Abercrombie & Fitch offered $10,000 to cast members of “The Jersey Shore” if they’d agree to stop wearing the brand on the show.
15. Many non-English languages have no concept of a spelling bee because the spelling rules in those languages are too regular for good spelling to be impressive.
16. Nellie Bly
In 1887, a reporter named Nellie Bly talked her way into an insane asylum in New York and published her experience after ten days in the asylum. She claimed many of the patients seemed completely sane and the conditions were horrid. This led to NYC budgeting $1,000,000 to care of the insane.
17. A man was snorkeling off the coast of South Africa when an enormous Bryde’s whale scooped him up in his mouth headfirst. The man felt pressure on his body but soon realized he was too big for the whale to swallow him whole which was “kind of instant relief.” The whale spat him out unharmed.
18. Olives are essentially inedible when picked. It takes an extensive curing process for them to become edible, with no history of how an inedible fruit became such a popular fruit.
19. Simon & Garfunkel’s first album was so unsuccessful on the charts that the duo split. Their producer took one of the songs from the album, overdubbed/remixed it without their knowledge or permission, and “The Sounds of Silence” became a hit. The duo made four more albums.
20. “Häagen-Dazs” was completely made up by its Polish Jewish founders to sound Danish. The umlaut (¨) does not even exist in Danish and neither does the “zs” letter combination.
Chess960 is a game created by Bobby Fischer which uses the same board and pieces of regular chess, but randomly shuffles the home row to prevent players from relying on memorized strategies and instead rely on their own creativity.
22. In the US, production of alarm clocks was allowed in 1944, despite them containing brass needed for war materials, because workers kept missing their shifts due to a critical alarm clock shortage.
23. Radiotrophic fungi were discovered in 1991 growing inside and around the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in an environment in which the radiation level was 500 times higher than in the normal environment. This fungi converts gamma radiation into chemical energy for growth.
24. When the Prussians forbade the Danes from displaying their flag in the early 20th century, the Danes responded by creating a new breed of pig (Danish Protest Pig) that resembled the Danish flag and displayed it instead.
25. Robert Leonard the original bassist for the band ‘Sha Na Na’, after proofreading the band’s contracts, realized he had a knack for critically examining language. He returned to school, received his M.A., MPhil, and Ph.D. from Columbia University and now works as a forensic linguist.
26. Walter Jenkins
27. A 50-year-old woman named Violet Gibson attempted to assassinate Mussolini in 1927. She fired a gun once, but Mussolini moved his head and the shot hit his nose. She tried again, but the gun misfired. She was almost lynched by the crowd but was rescued by police and taken away for questioning.
28. Chiropractic was founded by a traveling religious miracle healer named Daniel David Palmer who believed that magnets could cure diseases. He was sent to jail in Iowa in 1906 for practicing medicine without a license. The American Medical Association later labeled chiropractors an “unscientific cult.”
29. In 2007, a Russian company named Rossiya broadcasted television footage showcasing the Russians planting a flag at the bottom of the ocean in the North Pole. A 13-year-old boy from Finland noticed some of the footage the station used was from the film Titanic.
30. Wolfgang Doeblin was a Jewish-German mathematician who started fighting for the French during World War 2 and committed suicide at the age of 25 after his company was surrounded. A sealed letter he sent to the French Academy of Sciences was opened in 2000, revealing he had already proven a famous result in stochastic calculus.
31. E.B. White
American writer E.B. White hated the Hanna-Barbera animated film adaptation of his novel Charlotte’s Web, saying “The story is interrupted every few minutes so that somebody can sing a jolly song. I don’t care much for jolly songs.”
32. Queen Victoria was raised under a strict system called the Kensington System, created by her mother and Sir John Conroy. Her first two requests, upon her accession, were that she should be allowed an hour by herself and that her bed should be removed from her mother’s room. She also banned Conroy.
33. J.R.R. Tolkien had been known to (as a practical joke) dress up as an ax-wielding Anglo-Saxon warrior and chase his neighbor down the street.
34. Hagfish slime expands by 10,000 times in a fraction of a second, it is 100,000 times softer than Jell-O and can fend off sharks.
35. When Alfred Hitchcock was five, his father sent him to the police with a note. The policeman looked at the note and locked him in jail for a few minutes. This experience left him with a lifelong fear of policemen and he wouldn’t even drive a car in case he got a parking ticket.
36. Paris Gun
The massive velocity of the Paris Gun used in 1918 meant that each shell fired had a larger diameter than the previous or the gun would blow up. The shells were numerically ordered by size from the factory to make sure you fired the right one.
37. Comedian-actor Harold Ramis successfully dodged the Vietnam draft by taking meth just before his physical.
38. The main purpose of a clapperboard in filmmaking is to synchronize picture and sound in post-production, and when out of sync it’s called ‘lip flap.’
39. In most US states it is illegal for a vehicle to pass a cyclist with less than 3 feet of space, and some states extend as high as 6 feet.
40. The first transcontinental trip across the United States in an automobile was accomplished in 1903. Two men and a dog used 800 gallons of gas and spent $8000 over 63 days to travel from San Francisco to New York in a car with no roof or windshield to win a $50 bet that they never collected.
42. Violinist Lili Haydn was allowed to choose her own name as a child, and for a time was known as ‘Helicopter.’
43. Vasa Syndrome is a term which is used when there are problems in communication and management that can cause projects to fail. It is named after the Vasa, one of the largest and most spectacular warships ever built, which sank in 1628 on its maiden voyage because it was too unstable to withstand a gust of wind.
44. Fans were so relentless in stealing the “Penny Lane” street signs that Liverpool switched to painting the street name directly on buildings rather than replacing them.
45. When dashboard lights were first used in cars they were called “idiot lights” because drivers were frustrated by the warning lights used in place of gauges, making it more difficult to detect issues early since they only activated after one occurred.
46. Linda Hazzard
In the early 20th century, “Doctor” Linda Hazzard killed at least a dozen of her patients, who coincidentally had just added her to their wills, by “treating” them with 30-40 day total starvation therapy. At first, she couldn’t be prosecuted because her patients signed up willingly.
47. Newborns with a vitamin D deficiency have a 44% increased risk of being diagnosed with schizophrenia as adults compared to those with normal vitamin D levels. The developing fetus is totally reliant on the mother’s vitamin D stores.
48. President William McKinley wore a red carnation in his lapel at all times as a good luck charm. During a public meeting in his second term, he took out the flower from his lapel and gave it to a 12-year-old girl. Minutes later, he was shot. He died a week later.
49. USC football player Marion Morrison, an early California bodysurfer, tore ligaments in his shoulder while riding the surf near Balboa Pier in 1926. Finished with organized sports, Morrison made his way to Hollywood and was renamed, John Wayne.
50. Bob Beamon had a lifelong goal of being the first athlete to ever pass 28 feet in a long jump. After the official measurement coming out to 29 feet and 2.5 inches in the 1968 Olympics, he became so full of emotion that his muscles literally began to collapse.