40 Mind-Boggling Facts That Prove Truth Is Sometimes Stranger Than Fiction

When you’re caught up in your daily routine, it’s easy to forget what an odd place the world can sometimes be. But when you learn that one particular U.S. president was also a wrestling champion, that most power outages in America are caused by an unlikely culprit, and that a famous superstar sparked a chain reaction that ultimately led to the creation of Google Images, you’d have to agree that life can actually be stranger than fiction sometimes. To prove that point, let’s take a look at these facts and more…

40. No dogs allowed

During the early days of exploration on Antarctica, dogs played a pivotal role in dragging people around the continent on sleds. In fact, huskies ensured that Roald Amundsen’s expedition became the first to ever make it to the South Pole in 1911. But fast-forward to the present day and you won’t see any dogs in Antarctica. That’s because they were outlawed in 1993 to prevent them inadvertently infecting the indigenous seal population with foreign diseases.

39. Silly money

What’s the biggest bill of U.S. currency you’ve ever seen? Given that the most valuable one circulated nowadays is $100, anything larger is a real rarity to stumble across. But over the years, some extremely large denominations have been issued. You might possibly have seen a $500 bill at some point in your life, but how about one worth $100,000? For less than a month in the mid-1930s, such a note really was printed: it bore the visage of President Woodrow Wilson.

38. Attack of the bunnies

After one particular military campaign had come to a successful conclusion, Napoleon Bonaparte felt like hunting some rabbits to celebrate. So, his subordinates gathered several hundred of the creatures – some even say thousands – and set them loose. But rather than fleeing the scene, the bunnies supposedly attacked. A number of the furry beasts made their way towards Napoleon himself, climbing onto his body and scratching at him. Napoleon, the mighty military genius, was forced into ignoble retreat.

37. Royal swans

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There’s an old law in Britain stating that all wild swans in England and Wales actually belong to the Queen. The bizarre ruling dates back to the medieval era, a time in which swans were considered a luxury. It’s still in place today, as is an annual tradition in which every swan on the River Thames is counted. The monarch is then informed of the tally.

36. The most bootylicious of flies

Beyoncé is famous for a lot of things, but she isn’t usually associated with taxonomy. Yet it turns out that a species of horsefly with a dazzling, golden butt bears her name. Bryan Lessard was the first to formally label the insect, and he later explained his thinking behind the moniker. He said, “It was the unique dense golden hairs on the fly’s abdomen that led me to name this fly in honor of the performer Beyoncé, as well as giving me the chance to demonstrate the fun side of taxonomy – the naming of species.”

35. Brush your teeth afterwards!

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It’s fair to say that your dentist wouldn’t be pleased to learn you’ve been gorging on cotton candy. After all, it’s basically just pure sugar. That makes it all the more surprising to learn that one of the treat’s two inventors was actually a tooth doctor himself. While John C. Wharton was a confectioner, his partner William Morrison practiced dentistry.

34. Letting the cat out of the bag

During the 1400s a bizarre edict was issued by Pope Gregory IV. The head of the Catholic Church had supposedly come to perceive black cats as agents of the Devil, so he commanded that they be killed. This cruel act is said to have made contemporary outbreaks of bubonic plague worse, as it meant more disease-carrying rats were scampering around Europe.

33. The jewel of… Barcelona?

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The Eiffel Tower is perhaps the most recognizable symbol of Paris, a towering and celebrated structure reaching into the sky in the middle of the French capital. But if things had worked out differently, then it would actually have called another city its home. The edifice had initially been intended for Barcelona, Spain, but it was rejected for being too unseemly.

32. Elephantine clouds

Look up at the clouds and you see white, fluffy things that seem to weigh nothing at all. In actual fact, though, clouds are heavy. Consider a run-of-the-mill cumulus cloud that you’d generally see floating in the sky. On average, these things have a mass of roughly 606 tons – which is equivalent to about 100 elephants.

31. Snow is falling

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They say that the Inuit people possess about 50 terms related to snow, which isn’t surprising when we consider how significant a part this form of precipitation plays in their lives and culture. But you might be shocked to learn that Scots have about eight times that many. Examples include “skelf,” “snaw” and “sneesl.” In order, these terms mean “a large snowflake,” “snow” and “to begin to rain or snow.”

30. Ready to rumble

Abraham Lincoln is remembered today for many things, but his successful wrestling record is barely ever mentioned. Yet it turns out that he was quite a fighter in his day. In a total of 300 competitive matches, Lincoln lost on only one single occasion. That’s a pretty good run of form.

29. Ticklish rodents

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If you happen to be a particularly ticklish person, you’re not alone. Not only are some people more susceptible than others, but it turns out that rats can be sensitive in this way, too. And when they’re tickled, the rodents can even start laughing – just as humans do. So, it turns out that we’re not so different.

28. Ketchup pick-me-up

Ketchup is undoubtedly a popular condiment, but have you ever considered using it as a medicine? Because about a century-and-a-half ago doctors were known to prescribe the stuff to patients suffering with a range of afflictions. From indigestion to jaundice, ketchup was said to do the trick.

27. The almighty turkey

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Nowadays, turkeys are more likely to be associated with Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner than anything else. But about 2,300 years ago they were actually worshipped by the people of the Mayan civilization. The birds were strongly linked with the culture’s deities – and they were treated in a manner befitting such a connection.

26. For more than walking

As human beings, we use our feet for getting around the place – but not for much else. Lobsters, on the other hand, use theirs for walking and for tasting. Each of their pincers is lined with bristles that serve a similar purpose to the taste buds that are on our tongues.

25. Job dissatisfaction

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It turns out that even geniuses have days on the job that they’d rather avoid. While he was completing the Sistine Chapel, for example, artist Michelangelo penned a piece of poetry expressing his displeasure for the task. Translated to English, an extract reads, “I’ve already grown a goiter from this torture, hunched up here like a cat in Lombardy.”

24. Tiger troubles

A little over a century ago, an estimated 100,000 tigers were spread around the Asian continent. Now, only a fraction of that figure remains. Most tigers, in fact, are actually now based in the United States, held in captivity. About 3,900 wild tigers are thought to roam today, but anywhere from 5,000 to 10,000 are in American zoos. It’s quite a grim statistic.

23. It takes guts

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You might look at a sea cucumber and think that it’s a pretty vulnerable creature. But in actual fact, it has a very dramatic defensive mechanism indeed. If a sea cucumber is threatened, it may fire its own guts at its enemy. This might seem like a pretty silly move, but the lost organs are not only toxic to most predators, but they can actually be regrown by the creature. So, it’s not a totally self-destructive act.

22. Ashes to ashes, chips to chips

In 1966 Fredric Baur was responsible for developing the cylindrical Pringles container that we all recognize today. He was so proud of his invention, it seems, that he actually requested that his ashes be placed in a tube following his death. So, after he passed away aged 89, his family ensured that his wish was fulfilled.

21. Holy cow!

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Did you know that there’s a mental disorder in which sufferers become convinced that they’re bovine? It’s called boanthropy, and it even appears in the Old Testament. In the Book of Daniel, the leader of the Neo-Babylonian Empire is said to have been stricken with the condition. King Nebuchadnezzar, the text says, “was driven from men and did eat grass as oxen.”

20. A deep breath

Sloths aren’t generally known for their feats of athleticism, but they do possess one particularly impressive ability. The creatures are able to reduce the rate at which blood is pumped around their bodies to the point that they can survive 40 minutes without taking a breath. And if you’re not impressed by that, consider that dolphins can only go for ten minutes.

19. The one with the Californian studio

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The sitcom Friends was inexplicably bound with New York, the city in which it was set. But the crazy thing is that the show was actually shot in California, completely on the other side of the country. Every single season was filmed on the Warner Brothers Ranch in Los Angeles.

18. A latte please, and hold the cockroach

Cockroaches can inspire terror at the best of times, but it’s even worse for people who are allergic to them. Some people can react really badly to proteins found within the scuttling insects. Disturbingly, individuals might think that coffee provokes their allergies. But in actual fact, it’s bits of crushed cockroach that have been caught up in the grinding process.

17. A lotta presidents

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The Queen of England has been around for a long time. Born in 1926, she’s seen the world change dramatically over the decades. A nice way of putting this into perspective is to say that, in all likelihood, Joe Biden will be the 17th person to hold the American presidency in the Queen’s lifetime. Calvin Coolidge was the first.

16. Squirreling away

If you ever find yourself at home as the lights go out, you can probably blame a squirrel. While there are a range of reasons for a power outage to occur, gnawing interference by the bushy-tailed rodents is a bigger issue than anything else. Recognizing this fact, the American Public Power Association has even created The Squirrel Index to monitor outages caused by the critters.

15. A quick trip to space

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It’s a bit of a hullabaloo getting to space, given that you need to hitch a ride aboard a rocket. But let’s imagine you had a flying car capable of traveling skyward at 60mph. In that case, you’d make it beyond the Earth’s atmosphere in roughly an hour. That’s not bad going.

14. The doom jellyfish

No jellyfish sting is particularly pleasant, but some are undoubtedly worse than others. If you ever get nicked by an Irukandji jellyfish, for example, then you’re in for a very, very rough time. Such a sting can induce symptoms like a sore head, nausea and, bizarrely, an extreme sense of doom. Speaking to ABC Radio back in 2007, a biologist named Lisa Gershwin elaborated. She said, “Patients believe they’re going to die and they’re so certain of it that they’ll actually beg their doctors to kill them just to get it over with.” Horrifying.

13. J.Lo: singer, actor, tech muse

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Who’s the last person you’d guess was responsible for the creation of Google Images? Jennifer Lopez would surely be up there, right? But as former Google chief Eric Schmidt explained in a 2015 piece for Project Syndicate, that’s the truth. He wrote, “People wanted more than just text. This first became apparent after the 2000 Grammy Awards, where Jennifer Lopez wore a green dress that, well, caught the world’s attention. At the time, it was the most popular search query we had ever seen. But we had no surefire way of getting users exactly what they wanted: J.Lo wearing that dress. Google Image Search was born.”

12. You’ve got something on your face

Thanks to some vital research, we can say for sure that mustached folk are losing out when drinking their Guinness. A study organized by the stout producers found that, on average, a fellow with a ’tache who traps more than a pint’s-worth above their lips each year, assuming they consume roughly 180 drinks during that period. In total, this amounts to over 160,000 pints annually wasted in facial hair around the world.

11. Spy squirrels

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Given their cunning and acrobatics, it was only a matter of time before squirrels were put to use as spies. And in 2007 it seems that this really may have happened. That year, officials in the Iranian military reportedly detained 14 squirrels that were believed to have been undertaking covert operations, according to a report by British news broadcaster the BBC.

10. What’s in this whisky?

If someone ever pours you a glass of James Gilpin’s brand of whisky, maybe don’t accept it. Gilpin has type 1 diabetes, which has led him to create single-malt whisky using the urine of fellow diabetics. And in tribute to his pee donors, the resulting beverage is bottled and labeled with the contributor’s name. Cheers!

9. The vanishing butt

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Mnemiopsis leidyi – otherwise known as the warty comb jelly, sea walnut or simply the comb jelly – is a fascinating creature. But its most noteworthy feature revolves around, well, its butt. Basically, unlike any other animal known to man, the comb jelly has a derriere that comes into existence and then fades away again. Whenever it’s not in use, it can’t even be seen under a microscope.

8. The topsy-turvy route towards women’s suffrage

The road to women’s suffrage was tough, with women finally being permitted to vote across the United States in 1920. Incredibly, though, this was about four years after a woman had been elected to Congress for the first time. Jeannette Rankin had actually already become a congresswoman back in 1916.

7. Not so spoilt for choice

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If someone in your life seems to take forever in choosing a dish in a restaurant, then this fact may irritate you even further. It turns out that three-quarters of the food produced on Earth comes from only 12 varieties of plant and five types of animal. So, really, there isn’t that much choice on menus.

6. Navy SEALs – and dolphins

It emerged in 2017 that Russian forces had been conducting experiments involving seals, whales and dolphins. Basically, they were trying to train them to protect Russian territory. It sounds wild, but the United States has done similar things in the past. In the 1960s, for example, the Navy ran a training program for dolphins and sea lions.

5. It’s raining diamonds!

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A rainy day on Earth can often make one feel a little blue. If we were on Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune or Uranus, though, we’d have cause to celebrate a downpour. Conditions on these planets mean that it can sometimes rain diamonds. On Saturn alone, it’s estimated that more than $3 million-worth of the gemstone falls annually.

4. Bony feet

The human foot doesn’t account for much of our overall mass, proportionately speaking. But in terms of the number of bones it contains, it’s well ahead of every other body part. Across both the left and the right foot, there are 52 bones. So, when we consider that there are 206 in the entirety of the body, we can say that roughly 25 percent of our bones are in our feet.

3. Ahead of the curve

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You might think that a scoliosis diagnosis would spell the end of an individual’s aspirations to be an athlete. Well, Usain Bolt firmly disproves that. Speaking to ESPN Magazine back in 2011, the world’s quickest man explained, “My spine’s really curved bad. But if I keep my core and back strong, the scoliosis doesn’t really bother me. So I don’t have to worry about it as long as I work hard.”

2. Written in the stars

American presidents have plenty of serious decisions to make, so they organize a team of people to help them. But one former leader reportedly also looked to the stars for inspiration. According to The New York Times newspaper, Ronald Reagan was a believer in astrology who he even turned to the practice to help make decisions while he was in office. Reagan himself denied that his interest in astrology affected his administration’s policies – but can we be certain?

1. Radioactive bananas

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Bananas are full of potassium, which makes them a very important food. Potassium is a vital mineral that our bodies need to function, but it also has an interesting quality. It’s known to degrade, which ultimately means that bananas can be defined as radioactive. But before you start to panic, bear in mind that the level of radioactivity is incredibly low. You’d need to consume about 10 million bananas before you’d give yourself radiation poisoning, so there’s no need to remove them from your diet.

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