Random Fact Sheet #263 – 30 Strange Facts That You Probably Didn’t Learn in School

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1Julie Andrews

Julie Andrews

When Julie Andrews received her damehood in 2000, Queen Elizabeth said to her that she’d ‘been waiting for this for a very long time.’ One of Julie Andrews’ earliest performances was at the age of 13, singing “God Save the King” before a then Princess Elizabeth.

2. When American businessman William Vanderbilt died in 1885 his fortune was worth over $300 billion in today’s dollars (which was more than the U.S. Treasury held at the time). In 1973, his heirs held a family reunion at Vanderbilt University, attended by 120 family members, and not one of them was even a millionaire.

3. The Colossus of Rhodes, one of the wonders of the ancient world, only stood for 54 years. It then fell over onto the land after an earthquake, where it was visited by tourists for over 800 years. 

4. Cats cannot taste sweet things because of a genetic deficiency. After analyzing two genes responsible for sweetness detection, scientists found that one was missing in cats, meaning they lack the ability to produce a protein for tasting sweetness.

5. Although red, yellow, and green LED lights have been widely available since the 1960s, blue and white LEDs did not exist until the 1990s. The people who invented the blue LED won the Nobel prize for it in 2014, as it finally allowed for them to display the full-color spectrum with LEDs.

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Cahokia was the largest pre-Columbia city in what is now the United States. Its pyramids and earthen mounds stood near present-day East St. Louis, Illinois. Around the year 1050, it had 30,000 people, making it larger than London or Paris at the time. It was abandoned by 1400.

7. Joseph and Jacob Loose, two brothers came up with competing cookies that were essentially the same - Hydrox and the Oreo. For years the Hydrox dominated, until the 1950s when Oreo increased the price and licensed it for use in other products, like Cookies & Cream ice cream.

8. A Philadelphia archivist and activist named Marion Stokes continuously recorded major US channels from 1977 to her death in 2012, eventually filling 9 apartments with 71,716 tapes. The collection is now being digitized by The Internet Archive. Most footage she recorded isn’t available anywhere else in the world and would have been lost forever if it wasn’t for her.

9. In the late 1800s, a woman named Madame Popova operated a murder-for-hire service in Russia that specialized in liberating married women from their cruel husbands for a fee. She murdered over 300 victims, by using poison, her own hands, a weapon, or hiring another assassin.

10. Due to Galileo's training in Renaissance art and an understanding of chiaroscuro (a technique for shading light and dark), he quickly understood that the moon shadows he was seeing were actually mountains and craters. From his sketches, he made estimates of their heights and depths.

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11How's my driving

How's my driving

A large study found "How's my driving" stickers reduced crashes by 22%. 80% of all the drivers never received a complaint. 10% of the total got only one call ever.

12. Canadian Parliament once discussed how the country would deal with a zombie apocalypse. Then Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird declared that “Canada will never become a safe haven for zombies, ever.”

13. A friar is a monk without a monastery.

14. A meteor storm in 1833 filled the sky with more than 72,000 meteors per hour.

15. California nut crime refers to the organized theft of nuts from the state, shipments of which can make up to $500,000. With California producing 80% of the world’s almonds, almond theft is particularly lucrative and has been linked to the funding of Pakistani terror groups.

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16Pierce and Pierce

Pierce and Pierce

The fictional characters Patrick Bateman (American Psycho) and Sherman McCoy (The Bonfire of the Vanities) are both employees of the same fictional company - investment firm Pierce and Pierce.

17. When Arnold Schwarzenegger was running for Governor in 2003, he was hit with an egg during a rally. Later during a speech, Arnold responded with “Now he owes me bacon.”

18. The mens' Olympic Javelin was modified in 1986 to reduce throwing distances. The longest throws were beginning to exceed the length of the field and were a danger to people in the stands. The new javelins only fly 90% as far as the previous design and all pre-1986 records have been nullified.

19. People live inside the Grand Canyon. Supai Village, the capital of the Havasupai Indian Reservation, boasts a population of a couple of hundred residents, is considered the most remote community in the continental US, and is the only place where mail is delivered and carried out by mule.

20. Owning a property doesn’t always guarantee that you own everything beneath the surface of that property such as oil, coal, or dinosaur bones. “Mineral Rights” can have a separate deed than “Surface Rights.”

21Carbon dioxide

Carbon dioxide

Carbon dioxide levels commonly found in classrooms and office spaces can decrease higher cognitive function by up to 50%.

22. Sacha Baron Cohen trained with an FBI interrogator before his conversation with O.J. Simpson for "Who Is America?" in the hope that he could trick OJ into confessing

23. American currency US-Dollar is indirectly named after the Czech town Jáchymov. The town's German name is Joachimsthal and the coins produced here were called “Thaler”. The Dutch called those coins “Daler”, which then later turned into “Dollar.”

24. American actor Tom Kenny was laughing so much during the recording of the Spongebob episode 'Sailor Mouth' that they had to record him while he lay on the floor of the sound booth.

25. Gerrymandering is named as such because a governor named Elbridge Gerry, in 1812, created a partisan district in the shape of a salamander.

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