Random Fact Sheet #255 – 40 Facts That Will Surprise Even the Most Knowledgeable

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A device called a 'Teasmade' was popular in the 60s and 70s in the UK. It was an alarm clock which also made tea, ensuring that it was ready by the time the alarm rang.

2. In 1783, grandmaster Philidor played and won three chess games simultaneously while being blindfolded. Witnesses signed affidavits since they doubted future generations would believe such a feat was possible.

3. In the 1920 Presidential election (the first where women were allowed to vote), only 36% of eligible women turned up at the polls, partly due to barriers like poll taxes and literacy tests, both of which are now illegal.

4. UK Royal Navy's Astute-class nuclear-powered submarines can purify their own air and water and run on nuclear fuel. Despite this, its endurance is limited to only 90 days due to breakfast storage capacity for 18,000 sausages and 4200 Weetabix.

5. North Koreans are especially proud of Kim Jong Il for his "inventions". One of them is the Gogigyeopbbang or double breaded meat, which is essentially a hamburger.

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A merino sheep named Shrek escaped his enclosure in New Zealand and evaded shearers for six years by hiding in caves. When he was found, his fleece contained enough wool to make suits for 20 large men.

7. The reason backseat windows in cars don't roll all the way down is not in fact for child safety, but because there isn't room in the car door to fit the full window due to the wheel well.

8. The hooded pitohui is one of the only known birds to be toxic. This bird’s feathers contain one of the most potent neurotoxins known to science. They are toxic because of the beetles they eat. Its feathers give off homobatrachotoxin which has previously only been found in the skin of poison dart frogs, and handling them can cause numbness.

9. In 1254, Möngke Khan, grandson of Genghis, hosted a religious debate between Christian, Muslim, and Buddhist theologians. The debate ended with the Buddhists sitting silently as the Christian and Muslim debaters sang loudly at each other. Then they all got drunk.

10. A 13-year study analyzing 17,000 traffic deaths in 12 cities found that cities that had protected bike lanes with physical barriers between bikes and motorized traffic had 44% fewer overall traffic deaths than the average city without them. Painted line bike lanes had no improvement on safety.

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11Limb lengthening surgery

Limb lengthening surgery

In Italy, it's very common for dwarfs to undergo painful limb lengthening surgery (that involves repeatedly breaking bones and pulling them apart over the course of 2-3 years) due to societal pressure. 90% of Italian dwarfs undergo the procedure (in the rest of Europe, the rate is around 8%).

12. If an alpha male chimpanzee relies on intimidation and aggression in order to keep his status, then a coalition of chimpanzees will attempt to overthrow the alpha male.

13. After World War 2, a small electronics shop was built in a bomb-damaged department store in Tokyo. The company, Tokyo Telecommunications Engineering Corporation, had only $530 and 8 employees. The company invented Japan's first tape recorder Type-G recorder and, in 1958, changed its name to Sony.

14. Alligators are scared of humans and it's usually safe to swim in most alligator-infested waters. A 2010 report tallied all the reported alligator attacks over the 81 years from 1928 to 2009. It found there were only 24 deaths from alligators in the United States, most of them in Florida.

15. The first scientist named in history was En Hedu’anna, the chief astronomer-priestess of Ur. She lived around 2300 B.C., the only daughter of the great empire architect Sargon of Akkad, and called the Shakespeare of the ancient world as her works were studied for 500 years or more after her death.

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16Postern of Fate

Postern of Fate

A Canadian study found that Agatha Christie's later-written novels (Postern of Fate) had a 30% reduction in vocabulary and other possible signs of Alzheimer's Disease.

17. Early in his stand-up career Steve Martin once took the entire audience next door to a McDonald's and ordered 300 hamburgers only to then change the order to 'one small fries.'

18. The main cause of the “lump” in your throat when you cry is because the autonomic nervous system responds to all types of crying as stress. In turn, this opens the glottis to allow more oxygen into the lungs. When we swallow, the glottis must close, creating the “lump.”

19. There is a school in India named Veena Vadini School that teaches children to use both hands. This school is also known as "The ambidextrous school". The students from this school can write six different languages and two different languages simultaneously.

20. Elvis Presley recorded over 600 songs throughout his career and did not write a single one of them on his own.

21Paul McCartney

Paul McCartney

Paul McCartney was arrested in Japan for bringing 8 ounces of Marijuana into the country in 1980. After spending 10 days in jail he was released without charge and immediately deported.

22. Harry Houdini invited his friend Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to the annual meeting of the Society of American Magicians in 1922. Doyle set up a projector and shocked them all with footage of live dinosaurs on screen. It was actually a clip from the upcoming 1925 film The Lost World based on his novel.

23. Ornithologists often use Cheetos to study behavior in crows. Along with being easy to spot, they’re also one of the birds’ favorite snacks. 

24. Lake Tahoe at one time was named Lake Bigler in honor of the popular third governor of California. However, once it was revealed that Bigler was a Confederate sympathizer during the US Civil War, his name was removed from the lake and renamed Tahoe.

25. British General Charles O'Hara had the unfortunate "distinction" of surrendering not only to George Washington at Yorktown, but Napoleon Bonaparte at Toulon as well. 

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