Random #286 – 50 Fascinating Random Facts

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26Nan Britton

In 1927, Nan Britton, the mistress of US President Warren G. Harding, claimed that her daughter, Elizabeth, had been fathered by Harding, and maintained this despite skepticism until her death in 1991. in 2015, DNA testing confirmed Elizabeth was indeed Harding's daughter.


27. Buster Keaton's famous stunt when a building facade collapses on him, with an open window fitting perfectly around his body, used no trickery. The facade weighed two tonnes, and the mark on the ground telling him exactly where to stand to avoid being crushed was a nail.


28. The iconic riff to Rage Against The Machine's "Killing in the Name" was conceived while guitarist Tom Morello was giving a student a guitar lesson. He then stopped the session to record the part.


29. Old houses in the USA could have hundreds of old rusting razor blades between the walls. This is the result of a safe solution designed to dispose of blades after being used, which was to drop them in a slot in the wall.


30. The Habsburg ruler, Charles II of Spain, who had been born the son of an uncle-niece relationship, was described by historians as "short, lame, epileptic, senile and completely bald before 35, always on the verge of death but repeatedly baffling Christendom by continuing to live."


31Winter solstice

The song ‘The Most Wonderful Time of the Year’ mentioning “scary ghost stories” is from the pre-Christianity pagan belief that the winter solstice, being the longest night, was when the dead could most easily return.


32. Shaquille O'Neal earned a doctorate degree in education in 2012. His doctoral project explored how business leaders use humor in the workplace.


33. In 1844, during a pleasure cruise on a US steamship (USS Princeton), a ship's gun exploded, killing the US secretary of state, secretary of the Navy, and four other high-ranking federal officials. The disaster killed more top US government officials in a single day than any other tragedy in American history.


34. The Pigeons typically seen in cities are really Rock Doves, and the Doves released at weddings are really Homing Pigeons. Pigeon and Dove are interchangeable terms.


35. Charles-Henri Sanson, who was the Master Executioner under King Louis XVI, was responsible for executing 2,918 people. In April of 1792, Sanson became the first executioner to use the guillotine. Less than a year later, he would use it on King Louis XVI himself during the French Revolution.


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36Adriana Caselotti

Adriana Caselotti only made six movies, but half of those movies became all-time classics: Snow White, The Wizard of Oz, and It’s a Wonderful Life.


37. Harry Melling who played Dudley Dursley in the Harry Potter films lost so much weight in the 3-year gap between the fifth and seventh films that he was nearly recast due to being “unrecognizable.” He had to wear a fat suit for his final appearance as the character.


38. Peanuts start out as flowers above ground. They then wilt, and the remaining peg goes back into the ground and turns into a peanut.


39. When taking an oath of office, Kentucky officials have to swear they have never fought a duel with deadly weapons.


40. José Arturo Castellanos Contreras was a Salvadoran army colonel, and diplomat who, while working as El Salvador’s Consul General for Geneva during World War 2 helped save up to 40,000 Jews and Central Europeans from Nazi persecution by providing them with false papers of Salvadoran nationality.


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41Charley Pride

American singer Charley Pride couldn’t make the majors in baseball, so he did something even more improbable. He became the first black superstar in country music.


42. Before its release in 1993, Jurassic Park was shown to 200 London school children ages 8-11. They overwhelmingly enjoyed the film and no ill effects were reported from schools or parents, earning the film a "PG" rating in Britain. Meanwhile, the American rating for the movie was "PG-13."


43. Gino Bartali not only won the Tour de France twice but also saved 800 Jewish lives during World War 2 by smuggling counterfeit identity papers in his bike’s handlebars. 


44. No matter the language, we all exchange information at 39 bits/second, suggesting a biological limit. Languages that are lower information density are spoken fast (Spanish & Japanese) while denser languages are spoken more slowly (Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese).


45. There is a deepsea crab named after the metal band "Metallica" because its habitat contains all kinds of metals and to raise awareness of the effects of deepsea metal mining.


46Falernian wine

Falernian wine was the most renowned wine in ancient Rome. In Pompeii, a price list on the wall says “For one [coin] you can drink wine, For two you can drink the best, For four you can drink Falernian.”


47. In the 9th century A.D., a Viking named Halvdan carved his name on marble in Hagia Sophia. The runes he carved reads "Halvdan was here" which are still visible today. 


48. The “Pilgrim Army” was a group of 15000 crusaders who were blown off course to the holy land and made to stop in Portugal where the King convinced them to help defeat the Moors in return for anything they could plunder. The majority elected to retire in Lisbon afterward.


49. NASA’s upcoming Dragonfly mission (launching in the year 2027) will launch a nuclear-powered drone weighing half a ton to Saturn’s moon Titan. This nuclear drone will fly around on Titan, scouting its terrain while searching for complex and prebiotic chemistry.


50. Silver foxes were selectively bred for domestication in the 1950s in order to study evolution. As with dogs, the ears started to droop as a physical manifestation of docility, and some even started vocalizing barks like dogs.

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