Random Fact Sheet #309 – Fact Feast: 35 Intriguing Facts to Satisfy Your Curiosity

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1Spiders Strumming Webs

Spiders Strumming Webs

Spiders tune their webs like guitar strings, tightening and loosening strands so that they can read the different frequencies caused by intruders and determine where/how big the intruders are, if they are predator or prey, or if they’re just a potential mate flirtatiously strumming their strings.

2. Neuroscientists have found evidence to suggest feeling powerful dampens a part of our brain that helps with empathy. Even a small amount of power can have this effect on someone.

3. The role of Hannibal Lecter was turned down by Sean Connery, Al Pacino, Robert De Niro & others. Silence of the Lambs would go on to be the third film in history to win all “Big 5” Academy Awards & upon release in 1991 on VHS, became the most rented film in the United States.

4. The explosion that led to the Chernobyl nuclear accident was chemical in nature, driven by gases and steam generated by the core runaway, not by nuclear reactions. No commercial nuclear reactor contains a high enough concentration of U-235 or plutonium to cause a nuclear explosion.

5. The CIA once secretly owned a Swiss company called Crypto AG. It was a communications and information security company that maintained offices all over the world and sold products with secret backdoors for the US government and key allies.

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Unlike terrestrial mammals, whales do not have a connected mouth and respiratory system. They do not and cannot breathe through their mouths.

7. Guitarist Eddie Van Halen was half Indonesian and his family immigrated to the United States because of how badly his mixed-race parents were treated in the Netherlands.

8. Alaska is not the least populated state of the US. It has more people than Vermont and Wyoming.

9. In 2016, a research ship was named The “RRS Sir David Attenborough.” An internet poll to suggest a name for the ship ended up with the leading entry being “Boaty McBoatface,” but the Science Minister wanted a “more suitable name” and chose a different name from the poll’s choices.

10. In 1816, 147 shipwrecked Frenchman were stuck adrift on a makeshift raft when their captain cut the rope towing them. It took only 3 days for them to resort to cannibalism and only 15 survived to be rescued after 13 days. The aristocrat captain hadn’t sailed in 20 years and the incident was 100% avoidable.

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11Pillow Fighting Tournament

Pillow Fighting Tournament

Japan holds an annual national pillow fighting tournament. The pillow fighters start by pretending to sleep on futons, but when the whistle sounds, they spring to their feet and race to get a pillow. It’s a mix between dodgeball and chess, teams throw pillows at each other while protecting the ‘King.’

12. The human foot is uniquely advantageous for endurance running. Having entirely front-facing and short toe length decreases the amount of mechanical work required to push off the ground, thereby reducing the metabolic cost.

13. Over half of the psychology studies fail the reproducibility test, i.e., most times different researchers can’t replicate results using the same methodology used in the original study.

14. The “All persons fictitious” disclaimer that appears in the end credits of films and TV shows is the result of a libel case brought against MGM that had produced a film suggesting that a Russian princess had been seduced by Rasputin.

15. Stephen Hawking used a single cheek muscle to communicate. A sensor attached to his glasses detected these movements which in turn moved a cursor on a screen that utilized predictive text. Much of this text was personalized to Hawking and was based on phrases he had previously used.

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16Mazda Suitcase Car

Mazda Suitcase Car

In the 1990s, a group of Mazda engineers created a suitcase “car” from a large Samsonite suitcase and a pocket bike. The suitcase car took just a minute to assemble and had a top speed of 30 km/h (18.46 mph).

17. Harry S. Truman was among the poorest U.S. presidents, with a net worth much less than $1 million. His financial situation contributed to the doubling of the presidential salary to $100,000 in 1949. In addition, the presidential pension was created in 1958 when Truman was again having financial hardship.

18. In May 1942, a South African Air Force squadron got lost and landed in the Libyan Desert. They broke compasses to drink the alcohol but one man shot himself from stomach pain. They sprayed themselves with fire extinguishers but this made their skin erupt in blisters. There was only one survivor.

19. Dogs can wear braces on their teeth. When a 6-month-old Golden Retriever named Wesley wasn’t able to fully close his mouth and chew well, he was fitted with braces by, Dr. James Moore AKA “The Doggie Dentist.” As with people, dental problems for dogs can lead to other, more serious health issues.

20. Old fire houses had towers constructed to hang the fire hoses up to dry. Canvas hoses had to be dried thoroughly to avoid deterioration.

21Douglas DC-3

Douglas DC-3

In 1957, a Douglas DC-3 ran out of fuel while flying over Missouri. All onboard bailed out, only to discover later that the plane had gone on to land itself perfectly in a cornfield.

22. A woman named Katherine Rawls dominated women’s swimming in America during the 1930s, winning 33 national titles. During World War II she switched to flying as a member of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP). “Katy” ferried B-25 and B-26 bombers across America, as well as P-51 and P-63 fighters.

23. Diggerland USA is an amusement park that has multiple locations around the world and offers not only standard amusement park fare like rides and food, it also allows young people to actually operate heavy machinery like bulldozers, excavators, and more.

24. The US Army has historical protocols associated with using a sword to cut the cake. Traditionally, the oldest and youngest soldiers are chosen to cut the cake in some ceremonies as a way of linking the past with the future. Swords dating from the Revolutionary War are often used at such events.

25. Acclaimed poet Maya Angelou was the first African-American female to operate a streetcar trolley in San Francisco and she got her license to do so at age 16.

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