We spend a good chunk of our lives in school, learning things we may never use in our everyday lives. However, there are some facts out there that we know aren’t really going to get us very far on their own. These are some of the strangest, most pointless facts people know.
#1 Changing the Rules
During the Papal election of 1292-1294, the cardinals were taking a long time to select a Pope. A hermit wrote to the cardinals saying if they didn't choose a pope soon, God would be mad. The cardinals elected this hermit as Pope Celestine V. He initially refused and had to be dragged to Rome. He spent his entire papacy writing the rule that popes were allowed to resign. When he was finished writing it, he resigned.
#2 Seeing My Reflection
As you’ve probably seen in popular literature and movies, vampires can never see their reflections. Well, the reason why vampires can't see themselves in mirrors is because mirrors used to be made with a layer of silver inside. However, modern mirrors don't, meaning that vampires could look in the mirror now.
#3 Bird Milk
Pigeons, along with flamingos and penguins, produce milk. As in they produce a fatty, creamy fluid and exclusively feed their young on it for the first few weeks of their lives before weaning them, controlled by the hormone prolactin. It’s the same with mammals. I can't think of a single instance where knowing about bird milk will help me.
#4 All the Asteroids
Here’s something cool. If you took all of the asteroids in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter and mashed them together into a single big object, it would only amount to four percent of the mass of Earth's moon. The largest asteroid, Ceres, accounts for about one-third of the total mass of the asteroid belt.
#5 What I Want for Christmas
It’s kind of depressing when you think about it, but "a dad" is the tenth most popular Christmas list request for kids. It’s a statistic. One source I found for it was The Telegraph , which specifically cited a study of 2000 British parents. In some sources I’ve looked at with different populations, it’s even higher.
#6 Two Fingers
Disney park employees point with two fingers instead of one. The reason for this (that they tell you) is that pointing with one finger in other cultures is disrespectful. While that’s true, they usually avoid the part that Walt Disney himself used to point with two fingers. But, that was because he was always smoking. They actually go to great lengths to hide this and any official picture of him has the cigarette Photoshopped out. It only still exists in old videos because of how hard it was to not show that.
#7 Peace Treaty
There once existed an alleged theoretical state of war that lasted 335 years and 19 days. It was between the Dutch and an archipelago off the coast of southwest England called the Isles of Scilly. What's more, there were no casualties (because the Dutch forgot that they were at war with the Isles). It wasn't until a Scilly historian contacted the Dutch about the "war" in 1985, and received the information that the "war" was still technically ongoing, that a peace treaty was signed in 1986.
#8 Taking Care of Ticks
Opossums eat about 5,000 ticks in one season and help prevent the spread of Lyme disease. Thanks, only marsupial in North America! I also learned that it’s “opossums” as the context is a North American marsupial even though so many people colloquially say possum. I also learned the opossum has a couple of marsupial friends.
#9 Credit Card Numbers
Mastercard numbers start with the number five. Visa cards start with four. Discover cards (and store specialty cards) start with the number six. American Express cards start with the number three. Ah, thank you past me for working retail in high school. I don’t know where this would be useful, but I did learn it.
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#10 Hiding in Plain Sight
I think just about everyone knows there are a lot of dangerous things in Australia. Well, there's a poison ivy called Dendrocnide Moroides, also known as the Suicide Plant, because its sting hurts so much that people end their lives in an attempt to end the pain. The scariest part is that it looks like every other plant ever.
#11 Bunny Noises
Bunnies can honk and growl. They’re the cutest little sounds too! My bun Flopsy is a dwarf Holland lop with a slightly fawn coloring. She is extremely friendly and makes these sounds all the time. Her range goes from a deep little growl, a low-pitched honk, to a higher pitched, nasally “zoost zoost.” She also likes to demand food by thumping her feet at the base of the fridge.
#12 Prime Numbers
Most people know about Amazon "Prime," but they don't know Amazon's went public in '97, which is a prime number. Write out the full year as 1997, and it's still a prime number. Specifically, the IPO was on May 15, 1997. 5,151,997 (5/15/1997) is also prime. For you non-Americans, 15/5/1997 and 15/05/1997 create two more prime numbers 1,551,997 and 15,051,997.
#13 Clifton Bridge
The Clifton Suspension Bridge (Bristol) was built because a wine merchant left money in his will in trust to build a (at the time) pointless bridge. An act of parliament was required to alter the will to enable them to charge tolls. There are also lots of sites you can visit to learn more about civil engineering.
#14 Coffin Corner
Planes can reach a point where they fly too fast and too slow simultaneously. If they wind up going too fast, they’ll actually exceed the airframe limits. On the other hand, if planes fly too slow, the air is not dense enough at this altitude to create lift, without more speed. It’s called the “coffin corner.”
#15 Rabbit Meat
Rabbit meat contains so little fat that if you don’t supplement it with other fats, you can get rabbit starvation. It's why a lot of fur trappers became inexplicably ill and some passed away in Canada in the 19th Century. It’s also why a lot of doomsday preppers will slowly starve after their personal disaster of choice occurs as they choose rabbits for a meat source.
#16 Accepting the Error
Ulysses S. Grant's middle name was Ulysses. His full name was actually Hiram Ulysses Grant, but a clerical error at West Point had his name as Ulysses Simpson Grant. He just accepted the error, and at West Point, went by Sam. As the story goes, he got that moniker because an upperclassman at West Point saw his name, abbreviated U. S. Grant, on a list of incoming cadets and joked that he was probably United States Grant. Another quipped that he must be the grandson of Uncle Sam, thus Uncle Sam Grant. Apparently, he didn't mind, in part because he'd gone by Ulysses as a kid, but was often called Useless by other children.
#17 German Subs
A German sub in WWII sank because the skipper didn't know how to flush the new toilet. It caused seawater to flood in and create chlorine gas when it came into contact with the ship's batteries. Even worse for them, when they surfaced, the Royal Navy had a ship right next to them. The Germans scuttled the ship and four men passed away before the remaining crew were captured.
#18 Resting Place
People from western Europe and America tend to lay their tongue on the roof of the mouth and behind the top teeth when relaxed. On the flip side, people from Eastern Europe will lay their tongue on the bottom of the mouth, behind their bottom teeth when relaxed. It’s definitely a pointless fact, but here we are.
#19 A Better Solution
Butter knives were created in 17th century France after nobles kept whipping out daggers and stabbing each other at dinner parties. I learned this randomly watching the History Channel right before a commercial break about a decade ago and it's stuck with me ever since. I've found at least 15 occasions to whip this little knowledge nugget out.
#20 Alien DNA
What’s cool is that octopuses have 33,000 protein-coding genes (humans have approximately 27,000). Additionally, their DNA has hundreds of genes that are completely unique and not shared with any other animals out there. Some scientists have actually described their genes as somewhat “alien” because of their genome.
#21 My German Brain
Bambi, in the original novels, was a roe deer. In the movie, he became a white-tailed deer because this species was better known by Americans. In the German movie, for some reason, they kept referring to Bambi as a "Reh," while in reality, he was a "Hirsch.” This resulted in one of the most iconic zoological misunderstandings in German animated movie history. For some reason, those two types of animals are both translated into the word “deer.” Many people also believed that "Rehe" was just female "Hirsche.” The word deer still confuses my German brain.
#22 Processed Food
Sloths have a digestive system to match their gruelling slow moving. It takes days for them to process and absorb their food. Their sole food source is leaves, which results in simple gut flora. This means that sloths don't pass wind. Rather, the methane that's produced by their gut flora is absorbed through the gut and into the sloth’s stream. They then breathe out the methane instead.
#23 A Hoot at Parties
An acronym is an abbreviation that is pronounced like a word and an initialism is an abbreviation where you say each individual letter. For example, NASA is an acronym because you say "Nah, suh." FBI is an initialism because you say "Eff, Bee, Eye." However, if you pronounce it "Fibi," it becomes an acronym. One of my hobbies is thinking of weird ways to say common initialisms so that they become acronyms. I'm a hoot at parties.
#24 Ira Gilligan
Gilligan (of Island Fame ) has the first name Ira. If I remember correctly, this fact was mentioned once in the pilot. This is also referenced in Arrested Development . If you’ve never seen it, the Bluth family's accountant is one Ira Gilligan who proceeds to embezzle funds and flee to a lavish island paradise.
#25 Valid Product Key
K22MD-4332P-BYBR3-JYPV3-7VFHW is a valid Windows 98 product key. I have it memorized to this day because, when I used to work the tech bench at Best Buy 20 years ago, we would put in the key for customers. It was quicker to memorize one (and not have to dig the license key book out of their box) and use the same one over and over. This was obviously before online MS product activation.
#26 Collector of Broken Things
The first item ever sold on eBay was a broken laser pointer. Upon the sale, the founder contacted the purchaser to make sure he understood it was, in fact, a broken laser pointer. The purchaser responded with something along the lines of, "I am a collector of broken laser pointers." But, I don’t know for sure as I’m paraphrasing.
#27 Kind of Insulting
The americano (three shots of espresso diluted with water) started during WWII when the Americans were in Italy. They thought that the Italian espresso was too strong and watered it down. The locals started calling it an americano as kind of an insult because the Americans couldn’t handle the full-strength stuff.
#28 Making the Switch
As far as I know, high heels were originally created for men and were legitimately advertised as riding shoes. Women started wearing high heels because they wanted that little bit of added masculinity. Meanwhile, men at the time had stopped wearing them altogether because they eventually became much too feminine.
#29 A Few Facts
I've got a few. Whenever the King of Swaziland rises from his seat, he must be greeted with cheers and gasps of admiration. A bacteria and virus are as different to each other as a giraffe and metronome. In the Kiribati language Gilbertese, the word for dog is “kamea” after hearing foreigners tell their dog to “come here.” There are also no moles in Ireland.
#30 Business of Ferrets
Many animals have collective group names specific to their species. Some of my favourites: A cackle of hyenas; a sloth of bears; a business of ferrets; a flamboyance of flamingos. If you happen to own maybe three or four ferrets, but not too many of the little scamps, then you are well-qualified to be a small business owner.
#31 Know Your Numbers
If you multiply any two-digit number (10-99) by 11, the answer is the total of the two numbers added together and placed in the middle of the original numbers. An example is 22X11= 242. 45X11= 495 and so on. If the sum of the addition is greater than 10, the same process just adds a 1 to the first digit of the new answer. Like this: 98X11= 1078. 75X11= 825. I hate and like that I know this.
#32 Going Missing
There was this Russian submarine during the Cold War, K129. This submarine was on a “war patrol” which meant the Russians weren’t messing around with whatever they had going on. The ship goes missing to the Russians, but not surprisingly the United States heard quite the explosion using a hydrophone.
The United States finds this submarine around 427 miles away from the islands of Hawaii and finds that two of the three missiles on board were ignited. The U.S. also found out later that there were 98 people on board, as opposed to the normal 83 or so supposed to be on board. Apparently, this was more crucial than the Cuban missile crisis because the submarine was so close to Hawaii and had ignited its missiles. Nobody knows what happened. If it was an accident on patrol, a misfire, or a Kremlin hijacking. So conspiracies are surrounding this. I find it pretty cool.
#33 North, East, West
Alaska is the most Northern, Western and Eastern state in the United States. Alaska is the most northern state in the U.S. for obvious reasons. It’s the most western state because it’s the furthest point on the Aleutian Islands is well west of Hawaii. Alaska is also the furthest east state because those same islands stretch across to the next hemisphere. It takes a second to wrap your brain around that, but just look at a globe.
#34 Afternoon Delight
A "matinee" is "a thing you do in the morning" (French). But in America, a lot of matinees are either around noon, or just in the afternoon. How did that happen? Well, back in those roaring ‘20s, the rich Americans would party late into the night and sleep through the entire morning. Then, they would do their "things to do in the morning" in the early afternoon and entertainment establishments had to change to keep their audience.
#35 Coming Full Circle
While filming the Wizard of Oz, the wardrobe department bought a coat from a local second-hand store to be worn by the actor who played the wizard in the movie. It turns out that the jacket was once owned by the author of the Wizard of Oz book Frank L. Baum as his name was found stitched into one of the pockets.
#36 Popular Potter
Obviously, Harry Potter was super successful. But, for short periods in time, two separate Harry Potter movies were the top-grossing movies of all time not to be directed by James Cameron. In addition to that awesome award, those movies were also the top-grossing movies of all time that originated from a series or franchise.
#37 Four Categories
Researchers have concluded that there are four types of inebriated people. There’s The Hemingway, whose personality stays the same. The Mary Poppins, who becomes sweeter and more outgoing. The Nutty Professor, who becomes an uninhibited attention-seeker. Lastly, there’s Mr. Hyde, who becomes far more hostile.
#38 Longest Name in the World
The city name Bangkok is an abbreviation of the longest name for a city in the world. Its full name is Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Ayuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit.
#39 What’s Mine Isn’t Yours
There is an island that is actually claimed by both Denmark and Canada. Soldiers from both factions visit the island, take down the opponent's flag, and place a bottle of their country's schnapps or whiskey (respectively) beneath it. If you didn’t know, this whole thing has been going on for 30 or so years now.
#40 Monkey Hangers
The people of Hartlepool, England are colloquially known as Monkey Hangers. This is because during the Napoleonic Wars a French ship sank off the coast of North East England and the sole survivor was a monkey dressed as a French sailor (presumably for the amusement of the crew). The people of Hartlepool had never seen a monkey or a Frenchman, so they hung the poor little bugger, believing him to be a French spy.
#41 Don’t Like Mondays
The Boomtown Rats wrote a song in 1979 called "I Don't Like Mondays.” It's about a school crime that happened at an elementary school in San Diego. The context of the song was written in regard to what the 16-year-old female assailant (Brenda Spencer) said when asked why she did it. "I don't like Mondays, this livens up the day."
#42 Digesting Milk
Human bodies actually aren’t supposed to be digesting milk after the age of five. By then, most human beings stop producing the enzyme lactase, it’s a mutation in humans who do still produce the enzyme after that age. It’s why so many people are lactose intolerant and most people don’t even know that they are.
#43 Practical Roots
Many superstitions were created for practical reasons. Breaking a mirror is seven years of bad luck: mirrors used to be incredibly expensive, so the superstition made people more careful with them. Walking under a ladder is bad luck: walking under ladders is generally dangerous, as something falling off of the ladder could hit you. Spilling salt gives you bad luck: once again, salt used to be incredibly expensive, so the superstition prevents people from wasting it.
#44 Hating Every Second
When they were casting who to play Garfield for the live-action movies, Bill Murray was offered the part. He saw the script was written by Joel Coen of the Coen brothers. He didn't get far into the script before quickly accepting the part, purely because it was written by one of the Coen brothers. Little did Murray know, it wasn't written by Joel Coen, but by Joel COHEN with an H, who has absolutely no connection to the brothers at all. Because of that little mistake, he ended up hating every second of voicing Garfield in both movies.
#45 Funny Easter Egg
There's a scene in To Kill a Mockingbird where Boo Radley is talking to someone. Atticus Finch is in the background, subtly adjusting himself. Well, I guess he pinched himself too hard in his attempt to be quick and discreet, and his fingernail cut his private area. The actor can be seen letting out a mini wince of pain once he realizes what his carelessness led to. Pretty funny easter egg they left in.
#46 Honey Bee Don’t Care
According to all known laws of aviation, there is no way that a bee should be able to fly. Its wings are too small to get its fat little body off the ground. The bee, of course, flies anyways. Because bees don't care what humans think is impossible. Let’s please protect those adorable little fellows at all costs.
#47 Raising the Price
When Grey Goose Vodka was established, its sales were poor. After a while, they had the idea to raise their prices per unit and in a miraculous turn of events, their sales skyrocketed. Turns out, by increasing the prices, it made the product seem more luxurious. Since then, they’ve been one of the highest-selling liquors in the business.
#48 Reading Barcodes
A barcode has a left and right side. The numbers are represented differently on the left side than the right side. This means a scanner can tell if the barcode is being read upside down or not. Also, the last digit of a 12-digit barcode is a “check” digit. You take the first 11 digits and perform some operations on them and you should come up with the 12th digit.
#49 Road Rules
Cars aren’t supposed to turn right at red lights into oncoming traffic. Everyone always sees the closest lane open and cars coming down the mid and outer lane, so they think it’s okay to turn right into the closest lane. In fact, you’re supposed to wait until traffic is clear in all lanes before making a right on red. If you ever turn right into that lane and get into an accident with someone changing lanes from mid lane, it’s your fault, even if they clip you from behind.
#50 Loud Celebrations
Whenever Gaston Leroux, the author of The Phantom of the Opera (the original book, not the Broadway adaptation) would put the finishing touches on a novel, he'd leap outside and fire a volley off revolver shots. This was a signal for his wife and children, who would drop what they were doing and gather up all the crockery they could find, and throw them out onto the front lawn while banging pots and pans together.