28 Little-Known Facts That People Wish Others Knew About, And I've Gotta Say, I Will Never Forget Some Of These For As Long As I Live

·14 min read

Over on r/AskReddit, u/Just_Free_Tea recently asked, "What is a fact that you think barely anyone else knows?"

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As someone who is obsessed with fun facts and trivia, I was all ears.

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Here are 28 little-known facts, from the unexpected shape of raindrops to the serial killer who recorded popular audiobooks:

1."The nuke stockpile in Washington State is guarded by trained dolphins that seek out and clamp a balloon on unfamiliar divers." —u/Gothsalts

dolphin jumping out of the water

The Navy has been training dolphins for mine clearing, force protection, and recovery missions since 1967. In the case of the nuclear stockpile, dolphins are trained to place a buoy on offenders using their mouths. The dolphins then drag the diver to the surface for capture. Over 25% of the United States's nuclear warheads are kept at Naval Base Kitsap, located just 20 miles outside of Seattle.

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2."Raindrops don’t fall in the drip shape popularly conveyed. They fall in the shape of tiny parachutes or hamburger buns." —u/CBGville

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Raindrops form in a round shape, but as they fall, the speed causes the raindrop to morph into a hamburger shape, with a rounded top and flattened bottom.

3."American serial killer Edmund Kemper recorded over 5,000 hours of audiobook narration between 1977–87. If you're into audiobooks, you might've been read to by a 6'9" self-described 'bumblebutt' who killed eight people, including his mother." —u/SnowMiser26

Kemper in his jail uniform

While serving his sentence for eight murders, Edmund Kemper began working with the Blind Project, a campaign developed by the California Department of Corrections to both create audiobooks for blind people and rehabilitate prisoners. Through the Blind Project, Kemper recorded over 5,000 hours worth of audio, including the audiobooks for popular titles like Flowers In The Attic and Star Wars.

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4."Boanthropy is a psychological disorder in which a person believes they are a cow and try to live their life as one. Medical explanations suggest late-stage syphilis as one of the causes." —u/j451k4

cows

Those who suffer from boanthropy, which falls under the diagnosis of clinical lycanthropy, or the belief that one has transformed into an animal, often walk on all fours, eat grass, and refuse to speak. King Nebuchadnezzar II of the Neo-Babylonian Empire is believed to have suffered from boanthrophy. While there is not a known cause, scientists have linked the disease to liver disorders or general paresis, which is typically caused by late-stage syphilis.

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5."The Dutch national color is orange, but the flag is red, white and blue striped, because the dye they used for orange faded fast at sea, while red did not." —u/3xTheSchwarm

dutch flags in the street

The Dutch flag originally was orange, blue, and white, and was even designed by William of Orange, who was known as the father of the Netherlands. During the War of Independence, Dutch soldiers wore orange uniforms, and the original design of the flag was flown. Once the war ended, the orange on the flag was swapped for red for a few reasons. People noticed the orange would fade to red in the sun, so they decided to change the color to avoid confusion. Additionally, the 1654 English-Dutch defense treaty banned anyone from the House of Orange from becoming the head of state, so the flag was likely changed to reflect that.

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6."Hans Zimmer was the keyboard player on 'Video Killed The Radio Star.'" —u/Kryodamus

7."Before being born, two of the four chambers of a baby's heart are not used, they're actually bypassed! There's no need to pump deoxygenated blood to the lungs when in the womb because the lungs aren't breathing air yet, and so are not supplying oxygen." —u/whomp1970

close up of a baby's feet in the hospital

While in the womb, a fetus receives all life support from the umbilical cord. There are two shunts in the fetal circulatory system that allows oxygenated blood to bypass developing body parts like the lungs and liver. At birth, once the umbilical cord is clamped, the reduction in pulmonary pressure causes the shunts to close.

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8."The sound used for a dolphin in nearly every single TV [show] and movie is actually the same Kookaburra bird recording." —u/HFXmer

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In the 1963 movie, Flipper, which follows a young boy who befriends an injured dolphin, sound effect specialists used a sped-up kookaburra laugh to replicate a dolphin noise. It's now been used in thousands of shows and is frequently heard in SpongeBob SquarePants as a censoring effect.

9."The Jews were expelled from Spain in the 1400s. No Jewish children were born again in Spain until 1966." —u/RifleShower

In 1492, Catholic monarchs, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella expelled all Jewish people from Spain. About 300,000 Jewish people living in Spain had to convert to Catholicism, flee the country, or risk being killed in the Spanish Inquisition. In January 1966, the first Jewish child native to Spain in nearly 500 years was born.

In 1492, Catholic monarchs, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella expelled all Jewish people from Spain. About 300,000 Jewish people living in Spain had to convert to Catholicism, flee the country, or risk being killed in the Spanish Inquisition. In January 1966, the first Jewish child native to Spain in nearly 500 years was born.

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10."Since 1969, there have been more Popes (five) than head coaches of the Pittsburgh Steelers (three)." — u/Marco_Escuandola

pope and a football couch

There have been five Popes since 1969: Pope Paul VI, who served from 1963 until 1978; John Paul I, who served for only 33 days in 1978; St. John Paul II, who served from 1978 to 2005; Benedict XVI, who served from 2005 to 2013; and Francis, who is currently serving. Meanwhile, there really have only been three coaches of the Pittsburgh Steelers during that same period: Chuck Noll, who coached the team from 1969 to 1991, Bill Cowher, who coached from 1992 to 2006; and Mike Tomlin, who has been the team's coach from 2007 to present.

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11."Of all the US States, Maine is the closest to Africa. Seriously look at a globe, not just that flat oval map you saw in every classroom growing up. Africa is further north than you think, and Maine is further east than you think." — u/slytherinprolly

lighthouse

In Quoddy Head, a peninsula in Maine, the lighthouse marks the easternmost point in the United States, making it the closest state to Africa. Quoddy Head sits a mere 3,154 miles from El Beddouza, Morocco. The next closest point is Cape Cod, Massachusetts, which sits 3,332 miles from El Beddouza.

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12."The 'dog days of summer' refers to the time of the year when the dog star, Sirius, is brightest in the sky." — u/Personal_Return4940

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This term has origins in both Greek and Roman mythology. Sirius, known as the dog star, is brightest in the sky around late July in the Northern Hemisphere, rising alongside the sun. They believed that the combination of the two stars together is what made the days the hottest of the year, and called them the "dog days" to honor Sirius.

13."Acronyms are things that you can pronounce like a word, like POTUS, NASA, [and] PETA. Initialisms include things like CIA, DEA, [and] ASPCA." —u/Gavman04

FBI looking at a wall

Merriam-Webster defines "acronym" as "a word formed from the initial letter or letters of each of the successive parts or major parts of a compound term," while they define "initialism" as "an abbreviation formed from initial letters." They note that many words actually began as acronyms! Scuba, radar, and laser are all technically acronyms.

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14."1.7 billion years before modern humans evolved, a natural nuclear fission reactor was active underneath what is modern Africa." —u/ProbablyABore

nuclear plant

In the Oklo-reactor in Gabon, Africa, naturally occurring materials in two-billion-year-old rocks have sustained slow nuclear fission reactions. The reaction is similar to what occurs in a modern nuclear reactor. Scientists believe the reaction was caused by the weathering of magmatic rocks and bacterial activity, which caused a chain reaction with the uranium in the rocks. As the uranium decays, it produces other radioactive elements.

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15."The Eiffel Tower can be 15 centimeters taller during the summer due to thermal expansion meaning the iron heats up, the particles gain kinetic energy, and take up more space." — u/_quinn_06

Eiffel Tower in the distance of the city

If you want to see the Eiffel Tower in all of its glory, then you might want to plan a trip during the summer when the monument is at its maximum height! High temperatures not only cause the iron to expand, giving the tower a few added centimeters but also cause it to lean slightly away from the sun. When things cool down, the tower contracts, meaning it's often just a tad shorter in the colder months.

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16."[It] takes 1,200 pounds of pressure to break a healthy femur." —u/diet_pepsi_lover

person in hospital bed with a broken leg

While there are lots of factors involved, it generally takes 4,000 newtons, or about 900 pounds, of pressure to break a healthy femur. However, some femurs can withstand more force than others, and it's believed that the average healthy femur can handle between 10 and 15 times the person's body weight before breaking. Other factors include previous injuries, angle of the break, age of the bone, and the overall health of the person.

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17."Carrots don’t improve your eyesight. That myth has its roots in a World War II propaganda campaign." —u/bookiebakermusic

someone eating a carrot

While studies do show that carrots are good for your eyes, they don't improve your eyesight. So, how did the myth get started? During World War II, the British Royal Air Force created new radar technology that allowed them to detect German planes, even during the dark of night. They wanted to keep the new technology under wraps, so they created an elaborate tale that the pilots who were behind the newfound British success had been eating so many carrots that they were able to see the German planes at night.

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18."The original red velvet cake didn’t use food coloring. The red color was a result of a chemical reaction between vinegar and dutch cocoa powder." —u/Dense_Calligrapher36

piece of red velvet cake

When vinegar and anthocyanin, a compound found in cocoa powder, combine, it results in a reddish-maroon color, which led to the popularization of red velvet cake. In the 1920s, Adams Extract, a food coloring company, was so enthused by this that they created a red velvet cake recipe that included a lot of food coloring, even though the original red velvet recipe achieved the hue on its own.

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19."None of the Founding Fathers of America knew what the fuck a dinosaur was." —u/AmerisaurausRex

painting of the founding fathers

While dinosaur bones and fossils had been discovered by the 1600s, most scientists agree that dinosaurs weren't fully understood until about 1842, when British zoologist, Richard Owen, coined the term.

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20."'Third World Countries' is a term taken from Cold War propaganda. The first world is America and her allies. The second world is the Soviets and their allies. The third world is everybody else. Over time it has been appropriated to mean 'poor countries,' but that’s not its original usage." — u/wheresmychin

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Historians credit French demographer, Alfred Sauvy, with coining the term "third world countries" in a 1952 article. After the fall of the Soviet Union, the first and second world terms largely disappeared, although the United States and other countries with powerful economies are occasionally still referred to as "first world." Today, academics recommend using terms like “developing countries” and “low and lower-middle-income countries” in place of "third world."

21."It actually used to be called Duck Tape because the polyurethane coating was waterproof like a duck's feathers." —u/Judoka229

Duck tape

When duct tape was invented in a factory during World War II, it was originally dubbed "duck tape" for a few reasons. The tape was made from cotton duck fabric, which is similar to canvas. The material also repelled water, much like a duck's feathers do. The tape became known as "duct" tape soon after its invention, as it was frequently used to wrap air ducts.

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22."The British trained seagulls to poo on the periscopes of enemy submarines." —u/swallowyoursadness

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The seagull plan began in 1915 when the British military tried to train seagulls to associate spotting a submarine with eating by feeding them through a fake submarine periscope. When this didn't work as intended, they tried to pivot by teaching the seagulls to poop on the periscopes, blinding the enemies. This plan was quickly abandoned as new developments in sonar research were made.

23."The chainsaw was originally invented to cut open the pelvis to assist in childbirth if there was a breech." —u/SaintCaspian

someone using a chainsaw to cut wood

In the 1800s, doctors were trying to find a quick and efficient way to save both the baby and the mother in the event of a life-threatening birth. Doctors used to use their hands or scissors to cut open the mother's uterus, but they found that it took too long, and often resulted in death. To combat this, Bernhard Heine created what resembles the modern chainsaw to use during childbirth, modeling it off of a similar invention that was developed 30 years earlier to widen the mother's birth canal.

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24."There are more Subway restaurants than there are McDonald’s." —u/According-Pool3427

subway sign

As of November 2020, there were 22,275 Subway locations in the US, compared to 14,428 McDonald's restaurants.

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25."Sauerkraut wasn’t invented in Germany. It was a primary source of food by the Chinese while building the Great Wall of China." — u/Dovahkiing12

someone scooping sauerkraut out of a jar

While you might associate sauerkraut with German cuisine, it actually originated in China. During the construction of the Great Wall of China, Chinese workers mostly ate cabbage and rice. In the winter, they would add rice wine to the cabbage to ferment it, thus creating sauerkraut.

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26."In Victorian England, they would clean chimneys by throwing a goose down it." —u/jordymills

someone cleaning a chimney

While Victorian England was full of people working as chimney sweeps, those who couldn't afford to have their chimneys professionally cleaned would turn to some DIY methods. While the most common method appeared to be throwing a chicken or goose down the chimney, others took a more humane approach by pulling bunches of holly through the chimney.

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27."The cigarette lighter was invented before the match." — u/golu_281105

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The first lighter was invented in 1823 by German chemist Johann Dobereiner, while English chemist John Walker developed the match three years later in 1826. The match was actually invented by accident: Walker was attempting to create a paste that could be used in guns when the wooden instrument he was using to mix the materials scraped against something and caught on fire.

28."The sun is actually white. At about 5,000K, it's brilliantly white, not yellow or red. The yellow sun is a product of atmospheric diffraction of light off of oxygen molecules, which also gives us a blue sky." —u/free_from_choice

the sun against a clear sky

If you want to get technical, the sun is actually every "pure color" that's on a prism. When all of these colors combine, it results in a white shade. People often say the sun is yellow or orange because of the way the atmosphere scatters light: when violet and blue light is scattered, the sun looks more orange.

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Do you have any little-known facts that you wish more people knew? Share them in the comments!