Skip To Content

    18 Facts I Learned This Week That Absolutely Blew My Dang Mind

    I'm kind of obsessed with the fact that candy companies lobbied to change the date of Daylight Savings.

    1. Before machinery was developed that made the knife-making process easier, knife grinders in France used to have to painstakingly grind the blades against sandstone wheels to sharpen them.

    These workers, known as "yellow bellies," because of the yellow color of the dust from the grinder, would lay on their stomachs to work because it was found to be the best position to maintain control, and it prevented back pain. The job required absolute precision, because if the grinders lost control, the pressure of the wheel would shoot the sharp blade at their faces. The workroom had to be kept freezing cold, so the men were encouraged to bring their dogs to lay on their legs to keep warm while working.

    2. The Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest might now be a Fourth of July tradition, but it allegedly began as a competition for immigrants to prove their dedication to America. The hot dog stand opened in 1916, which according to Nathan's, was also the year of the competition that started it all. On the Fourth of July, four Irish immigrants gathered at the stand to see who could eat the most hot dogs to prove their patriotism. While many are dubious of this claim, ESPN tells the story every year during their airing of the contest. The first officially sanctioned event was held on July 4, 1972, and has been held every year since.

    3. While many consider The Wizard of Oz to be the first Technicolor film, The Toll of the Sea, which was filmed in Technicolor, made its debut 17 years before Dorothy and the gang followed the yellow brick road. The Toll of the Sea starred Anna May Wong, a 17-year-old Chinese American, and marked the first time an Asian actor received top billing in a Hollywood production. Wong went down in history as the first Chinese American movie star. Her career spanned film, TV, and radio.

    A Technicolor movie poster of three women in a garden

    4. In 1930, a crew rotated the Indiana Bell Telephone Company headquarters by 90 degrees while the employees continued working inside. The crews shifted the building 15 inches an hour, using mostly hand-operated jacks. The entire process ultimately took about a month to complete. Inside the building, everything remained business as usual. All 600 employees still came to work, and there was no interruption to gas, heat, electricity, water, sewage, or telephone service. Shifting the headquarters allowed the company to build a second building to accommodate for the growing business.

    A vintage photo of a building

    5. After the Prohibition, members of the mafia and other organized crime groups turned to plastic surgery to remove their fingerprints and change recognizable elements of their faces in order to evade arrest. In the 1930s, Joseph Moran traveled around the world, removing fingerprints and repairing bullet wounds so the mobsters could avoid hospitals. This turned out poorly for Moran. After bragging about his new gig, his body was found washed up onshore in Ontario, with his hands and feet chopped off.

    A black and white photo of a man in a fedora

    Other mobsters DIY-ed the surgeries, using hydrochloric acid to scrape their prints. Some even turned to mutilating their fingers. These attempts often did not work. In some instances, the outer ridges of the fingerprints remained, while in other cases, the procedures didn't go deep enough to fully destroy all of the print's layers. These partial prints were often enough to still identify the criminals.

    6. In 1972, Italian singer Adriano Celentano released "Prisencolinensinainciusol." The song is complete gibberish, with completely improvised lyrics meant to mimic the way English sounds to non-native English speakers. While the song didn't make much of a splash at first, Celentano performed it several years later on an Italian TV show, and the song quickly shot to the top of the charts. Celentano wanted to test a theory he had that Italians would love any song that sounded like English, even if it had no meaning at all. Some even consider "Prisencolinensinainciusol" one of the first rap songs ever released.

    7. Turns out the Academy can be a pretty harsh crowd! The process for choosing the nominees for Best Documentary was formatted a bit differently than most of the show's procedures up until the mid-'90s. Academy members volunteered to be on the documentary nominating committee and gathered in a theater, armed with flashlights. Each movie was given 15 minutes to dazzle the audience. At the 15-minute mark, if the viewer wasn't enjoying the film, they turned their flashlight on and shined it at the screen. If the majority of the lights went on, they moved on to the next movie.

    The practice ended after the 1994 awards, when Hoop Dreams, which is often thought of as one of the best documentaries of all time, was turned off after 15 minutes. People were so angry about this snub that the Academy eliminated the flashlight rule the following year, but didn't form a legitimate documentary committee until 2001.

    A grey movie poster for Hoop Dreams

    8. According to cybersecurity company Hive Systems, there’s an algorithm that determines how long it would take a hacker to guess your password, combining the length and type of characters included to figure out exactly how long until your precious password is revealed. BRB, changing all of my passwords to be 18 characters, considering it would allegedly take a hacker 438 trillion years to solve it!

    9. Despite the fact that all eight members of the Titanic's band died during the ship's 1912 sinking, Roger Bricoux, a 21-year-old cello player, wasn't officially declared dead until 2000, 88 years after the tragedy. Bricoux, who was French, was even called a war deserter after he failed to show up for service during World War I. The French Association of the Titanic was eventually able to clear Bricoux's name. The musicians notably continued playing for as long as they could in order to keep passengers calm. It's been estimated that they played for two hours after the ship struck the iceberg.

    A newspaper ad that says all of the band members died on the Titanic with an arrow

    10. Before President Warren G. Harding took office, some of the United States' most important documents were at risk of total destruction. Papers like the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence were stored in direct sunlight at the State Department, causing the paper to deteriorate. Harding noticed this, and had the Constitution preserved in a glass case. The Constitution is now kept at the National Archives in Washington, DC, along with the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence.

    11. In 1976, Ben Masel, a cannabis rights activist, decided he was going to take advantage of a rule that prohibits someone from being arrested while voting. He smoked a joint while in the booth casting his vote in the 1976 presidential election, and ate the evidence to prevent being arrested for marijuana possession before leaving the booth. Masel was a fixture on the Wisconsin political scene for the rest of his life, where he fought for the legalization of marijuana. He was prepping for a run for US Congress when he died in 2011. He was arrested an estimated 137 times for his political involvement.

    12. While Daylight Savings used to happen in the last week of October, in 2007, there was a push to move the date to the first week of November. Why? Candy lobbyists were supposedly seeking an extra hour of trick-or-treat time. Their request was granted, and now, the clocks fall back after Halloween, allowing candy corporations to rake in that extra hour of sales.

    13. Secretariat has gone down in history as one of the greatest racing horses of all time, and some of his measurements are mind-boggling. While the typical horse's heart weighs 8.5 pounds, Secretariat's clocked in at 22 pounds. “We were all shocked,” Dr. Thomas Swerczek, who performed the horse's autopsy, told Sports Illustrated in 1990. “I’ve seen and done thousands of autopsies on horses, and nothing I’d ever seen compared to it.”

    A black and white photo of Secretariat racing

    14. Remember Bernie Madoff's 2008 arrest for the largest Ponzi scheme in history? Turns out the whole scandal could have been uncovered nearly a decade earlier, potentially preventing investors from losing billions. In 1999, Harry Markopolos, a financial analyst, was asked by one of Madoff's rival companies to develop a similar strategy to Madoff's. Markopolos quickly concluded that it was both legally and mathematically impossible that Madoff was getting the returns he was claiming. Markopolos immediately notified the US Securities and Exchange Commission, who brushed off his claims.

    Markopolos went back to the SEC in 2000, 2001, and 2005 with more evidence, but was ignored each time. It wasn't until Madoff's sons contacted the FBI about their father's financial fraud in 2008 that he was arrested. After the extent of Madoff's financial crimes were uncovered, the SEC conducted an internal audit to determine why the agency ignored all of Markopolos' legitimate claims. Madoff was given the maximum sentence of 150 years in prison, and died in jail in April 2021, at age 82.

    15. During the construction of Mount Rushmore, it was determined that there was room to add a fifth face to the monument. Soon after, a bill to include Susan B. Anthony was introduced to Congress in 1936. Rose Arnold Powell had been advocating for Anthony's inclusion for nearly a decade at this point, writing letters to then-president Calvin Coolidge and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. Roosevelt agreed with Powell and also lobbied for Anthony to be featured on the monument. Soon after the bill was introduced, another resolution passed that said funding would only be used for the carvings already in progress, effectively ruling out Anthony's inclusion.

    Gutzon Borglum, the lead sculptor on the project who thought that the inclusion of a woman on the monument went against his vision, came up with a compromise. He wanted to build a Hall of Records in a tunnel behind the mountain that would include historical documents like the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, as well as busts of figures who didn't quite make the cut on the mountain. The tunnel was never finished, but it played a big part in the plot for National Treasure: Book of Secrets.

    16. It's impossible to pinpoint exactly how old a sequoia tree is until it's cut down. Growth rings located on the cross-sections of the tree stumps reveal exactly how old a sequoia is. The older trees get, the closer their rings are, as the tree grows the fastest in the first 75 years of its life. Once a tree falls or is cut down, scientists can use the data gleaned from the rings to get an estimate on how old other trees in the area are. From these rings, it has been determined that sequoias often live for over 3,000 years, with the oldest on record being 3,210 years old, making the sequoia tree the oldest living thing on Earth.

    17. Ethiopia is truly living on another timeline. The country follows their own calendar, which is rooted in biblical stories. The calendar is seven years behind the traditional Gregorian calendar, based on the notion that Adam and Eve lived in the Garden of Eden for seven years. Most of the world switched to the Gregorian calendar, created in 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII, but Ethiopia was free of influences from the Roman church, and retained their own calendar. To this day, the country uses their 13-month calendar, with Pagume, the 13th month, having only five days. Many Ethiopians use both calendar systems interchangeably.

    18. While Hedy Lamarr was probably best-known for her acting, we also have to give her some credit for helping to lay the foundation for the creation of WiFi. After growing bored of Hollywood and frustrated by the idea that she was only famous for her looks, she pivoted to inventing, creating a cube that turned water into fizzy soda and a design for airplane wings modeled off of bird wings.

    At a party, Lamarr met composer George Antheil, where the pair bonded over their mutual love for inventing. They teamed up to create a frequency-hopping system, which manipulated radio frequencies to allow military torpedos to sidestep enemy interference. The government turned down the patent, and encouraged Lamarr to raise money for war efforts instead (she ended up raising $25 million, or about $340 million in today's money). Two decades later, the US Navy used the technology during the Cuban missile crisis, and it later went on to be the basis of GPS and wireless internet.