Skip To Content

    21 Things I Learned This Week That Are Mind-Blowing, Astonishing, And 100% True

    Did you know the iceberg that sank the Titanic was actually photographed?

    1. This photograph of an iceberg — which is believed to be the iceberg that sank the Titanic — was taken on April 15, 1912, from the deck of the SS Prinz Adalbert. Though the Titanic sank in the early hours of that same day, no one on this liner was aware of the tragedy despite being only a few miles south of where the sinking occurred. Passengers on the Prinz Adalbert claim that this particular iceberg had a large strip of red paint on it, so one of them snapped a photo:

    2. A UK-based artist and musician named George Aquilla Hardy designed a photorealistic portrait of what George Washington might look like if he lived today, and it looks unbelievably real:

    George Washington in a suit and tie

    3. This is how big a harpy eagle's claw is:

    4. Ravens are extremely intelligent animals. In fact, they've managed to outperform human toddlers in certain experiments where their ability to solve complex puzzles and delay gratification was put to the test. Out in the wild, ravens have developed a special relationship with wolves that has helped these incredible animals survive in very harsh and unforgiving climates:

    5. Robert Hanssen was a special agent for the FBI and a counterintelligence operative who turned out to be a double agent for the Soviet Union and arguably the biggest traitor in US intelligence history. For over two decades, he supplied the Russians with classified information in exchange for cash and diamonds — and some of the classified material he shared resulted in the arrest and execution of sources and spies who were living in the Soviet Union. Because he worked in counterintelligence, he was always privy to information that might incriminate him, which allowed him to stay one step ahead of investigators until he was finally caught in 2001. Hanssen was sentenced to life in prison without parole, where he remains to this day.

    6. The flower pictured below is called a zinnia, and in early 2016 it became the first flower ever grown in space. This was an important milestone because on deep space expeditions (like to Mars, for example), the ability to garden will be essential for survival:

    7. Though the photos below are fake, they are a somewhat accurate illustration of what really happened on BA Flight 5390 from Birmingham, England, to Malaga, Spain. When the plane's windshield spontaneously blew out at 23,000 feet (7,000 meters), the abrupt change in air pressure also blew out the door to the cockpit. The captain was about to be sucked out of the plane when a heroic flight attendant jumped in and grabbed his waist. He held onto him for dear life until the co-pilot was able to land the plane safely:

    8. Unsinkable Sam, who was originally on a Nazi battleship but who ultimately defected to the Allies to accompany the Royal Navy, was a cat who used three of his nine lives during World War II on battleships that were sunk during combat. After the war, he settled in Northern Ireland to live out the rest of his life peacefully — as a cat should:

    9. Galileo Galilei, who was the first person to use a telescope to study the moon and who publicly endorsed the highly controversial Copernican theory that the Earth and other planets revolve around the Sun, died in 1642 while under house arrest for committing heresy in the eyes of the Catholic Church. In 1737, his body was exhumed and moved to Florence, Italy. During the transfer, "admirers" removed three of his fingers and a tooth and placed them in jars. In 1905, two of the fingers mysteriously went missing — and they stayed missing for a whole century, until they were brought to auction at the Museum of the History of Science in Florence, which would be renamed Museo Galileo, where they're now on display:

    If you're feeling brave and want to take a closer look at one of the fingers, click here.

    10. Ken Allen was an orangutan who lived his entire life in San Diego Zoo. Ken was a master of deception and a gifted escape artist from a very young age. When he was still living in the zoo's nursery, he would take apart his pen and wander around at night. Then, when morning came, he would put his pen back together to fool the zookeepers into thinking he'd never left. He managed to escape so many times that people started calling him Hairy Houdini:

    11. This is Freddie Oversteegen, a Dutch resistance fighter who took up arms against Nazi occupiers in the Netherlands during World War II. Freddie and her older sister would use dynamite to take out bridges and railways, smuggle Jewish children out of concentration camps, and meet Nazis in bars so that they could lure them out into the woods and shoot them. When asked how many she killed, she responded, "One should not ask a soldier any of that." Freddie died in 2018 at the age of 92:

    12. This is the Mauna Kea silversword, and it can only be found around Hawaii's Mauna Kea volcano. One of the reasons this plant is so unique is that it can live up to 30 years without ever blooming. When it finally does bloom, it lasts for only a short period and then the plant dies. The Mauna Kea silversword population has been ravaged by foraging animals, but efforts are underway to bring this remarkable plant back from the brink of extinction:

    13. Cassowaries are one of the few birds who have been definitively documented as having killed humans. These highly territorial flightless birds are very large (the second heaviest bird on the planet) and very fast (they can reach speeds of 31 miles per hour, or 50 kilometers per hour). Their go-to attack is a powerful kick with their razor-sharp claws, and their ability to jump high into the air ensures that kick will land in the deadliest possible spot:

    14. The Dyatlov Pass incident, in which nine experienced hikers were seemingly mauled to death, occurred on a snowy mountain called Kholat Syakhl. When their campsite was finally located, it was found in startling disarray. The tent, partially buried, had been cut open with a knife. The bodies, which were scattered about, had been brutalized; these hikers had died very violent deaths. But how? Though unsolved for over 50 years — spawning countless conspiracy theories including a yeti attack — science has finally gotten to the bottom of what actually (probably) happened. Recent research suggests that a small but powerful avalanche was most likely the culprit:

    15. Just how brilliant was Nikola Tesla? Unlike his contemporaries — and perhaps every notable inventor ever — Tesla claimed to never write his ideas down. Instead he would just think hard about a problem he wanted to solve, and his designs would eventually appear in his mind, fully formed. His groundbreaking alternating current motor, an invention so ahead of its time that it was used to power the world's first hydroelectric power plant (and is still used worldwide to this day), once existed only inside his head. The motors, he claimed, "were exactly as I imagined them. I made no attempt to improve the design, but merely reproduced the pictures as they appeared to my vision, and the operation was always as I expected.” One thing Nikola Tesla wasn't good at was business, and in 1943 he died a poor man inside the New York City hotel room he'd been living in:

    16. There's a species of parasite called Ribeiroia ondatrae, which can latch onto — and burrow itself inside of — tadpoles, and then cause additional limbs to grow as that tadpole develops into a frog. The evolutionary purpose of this terrifying phenomenon is that these many-legged frogs become easy prey for other animals, namely birds, making it much easier for this parasite to transfer hosts:

    17. Nickelodeon buried a time capsule in 1992, and it won't be opened for another 21 years:

    18. Lantern of Chagrin is an assisted living facility for seniors located in Ohio that was made to resemble an old town. This aesthetic provides patients with Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia a sense of stability, familiarity, and a degree of comfort:

    19. In Isernia, Italy, a marble head of Caesar Augustus — once part of a larger statue — was recently discovered by archaeologists. Augustus was the first Roman Emperor and the adopted son of Julius Caesar:

    20. When a new Las Vegas (not LA) homeowner was digging up his yard to install an in-ground pool, he found a fossilized horse skeleton that could be up to 14,000 years old. The careful excavation of this incredible discovery is ongoing, and Mr. Perkins' swimming pool is on hold for at least a few weeks (but he's thrilled about the horse):

    And last but certainly not least...

    21. World-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma plays on a cello that's almost 300 years old. It was made in 1733 by Domenico Montagnana, who was regarded as one of the world's best designers of cellos and violins (but especially cellos) in his lifetime. Ma nicknamed the instrument "Petunia." It was valued at around $2.5 million more than a decade ago and may be worth far more today. Once, in 1999, Ma accidentally left the cello in a cab, but he eventually managed to track it down after what must have been a very stressful, nerve-racking search:

    Yo-Yo Ma playing his 300-year-old cello

    Want to see what I learned last week? Click here to find out. And click HERE to see what I learned in April.