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.
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“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.
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.