1.During Ken Jennings' 2004 Jeopardy winning streak, Jennings appeared on so many episodes that he had to start making up anecdotes about his life because he had run out of fun facts to tell when the contestants were introduced on each episode.
2.If you're a Stranger Things fan, then you might recall Project MK-Ultra being name dropped in an episode or two. MK-Ultra was a secret mind-control project led by the CIA, with an end goal of developing methods to get information out of enemies as the Cold War dawned. Much of the project hinged on human experimentation, most of which was illegal. Test subjects were given high doses of LSD, often without their knowledge. They also were subject to sensory deprivation, hypnosis, electroshock, and other forms of abuse.
MK-Ultra lasted 20 years, from 1953 to 1973. While many of the files that revealed the extent of the project were destroyed by the CIA during the Watergate scandal, some information was made public in 2001. The Duffer Brothers, who created the Netflix series, said they decided to use real-life elements like MK-Ultra in the show to give it a more realistic feel. "We wanted the supernatural element to be grounded in science in some way,” Matt Duffer told Rolling Stone.
3.For more than 50 years, many public schools required male students to participate in swim class completely naked because fibers from their bathing suits would clog the pool's filters. This was phased out in the late 1960s and early 1970s as more advanced filtration systems were developed.
4.Harold Shipman was a British doctor who murdered over 250 of his patients. As a child, Shipman had always demonstrated an interest in medicine, and he became a doctor in the 1970s. In 1975, it was discovered that he had been writing himself fraudulent prescriptions for opiates and went to rehab. By 1978, Shipman was once again practicing medicine and became a respected doctor in his community.
In 1998, an 81-year-old woman who was in good health was found dead just hours after Shipman had made a routine house call. Her family was stunned when they found her entire estate had been left to Shipman, who told authorities that no autopsy was necessary. By 2000, Shipman had been convicted of murder, and an investigation into his practice was launched.
Officials found that Shipman had killed an estimated 250 people, beginning in 1971. He typically would inject patients with diamorphine, and would then sign a death certificate saying they died of natural causes. While there was never a clear reason why Shipman killed his patients, some thought he was a proponent of euthanasia for elderly people, while others believed it was to avenge the death of his mother, who frequently was injected with morphine after being diagnosed with lung cancer. Shipman died by suicide in 2004 while in prison.
5.Gene Simmons, of KISS fame, was a sixth grade teacher in Harlem for six months in the early 1970s. Simmons said he quit teaching because he realized that he loved being in front of people and wanted to pursue music so he could be on stage in front of thousands, instead of a classroom of 30.
6.Despite the fact that tons of movies and shows stage scenes in alleys in New York City, there are actually very few alleys in Manhattan. When developers were planning the city's grid in 1811, they wanted to maximize the amount of area available for development, so they didn't include any alleys. Most of the alleys that exist in the city today were put there by property owners who wanted a side entrance to their homes.
7.Lobsters' bladders are located in their heads. This means that they essentially pee out of their faces. In fact, the crustaceans, who use scent as a form of communication, pee in each other's faces when they need to chat.
8.On the morning of 9/11, Stephen McArdle, an FBI informant who was wearing a wire, met a city official suspected of bribery for breakfast at the World Trade Center Marriott. His wire remained on for the entirety of the attacks, creating what is believed to be the only uninterrupted audio recording of the attacks. Both McArdle and the city official survived.
9.During a world tour at the height of Nirvana's fame in 1992, the band chose Calamity Jane, an all-woman band, as their opening act. The crowd at their show in Buenos Aires booed the women and even threw mud at them during their performance. This angered Kurt Cobain so much that he decided to retaliate, and he swapped the setlist to include songs most of the crowd wouldn't know to get his revenge. He even teased the audience with the opening notes of their hit, "Smells Like Teen Spirit," then refused to play the rest of the song.
10.The Manhattan Project, the massive effort during which the United States developed nuclear weapons during World War II, was so secretive that most of the employees had no idea what they were even working on, just that it was an incredibly important project. One laundry woman's entire job was to hold an instrument up to uniforms and note when she heard a clicking noise. Turns out, the instrument was measuring the levels of uranium trapped in the fiber of the clothing.
In fact, many of the workers were in the dark for so long that they only put together what they had been doing once they heard about the bombing of Hiroshima on the radio. The level of secrecy both helped the United States advance their weapons over other countries and allowed decisions to be made faster, by eliminating the need for multiple opinions and perspectives on issues.
11.While I always think of parrots as the OG talking bird, it turns out that ravens are actually pretty talented as well! Ravens that spend lots of time around humans can learn an average of 100 words. They are also better at mimicking sounds than parrots, and can do everything from sirens to animal noises.
12.If you've ever seen something advertised as "military grade" and thought it meant it was the best of the best, then I'm sorry to tell you that you've fallen prey to a marketing scheme. Military grade really just means that items meet certain guidelines set out to standardize the gear the US military purchases, and are often just the cheapest version of the product that can get the job done adequately.
13.When Jules Verne published Around the World in 80 Days in 1872, investigative journalist Nellie Bly became inspired to re-create the novel, which follows Phileas Fogg's attempt to circumnavigate the globe in just under three months. In 1889, Bly set out to travel the entire world in only 80 days, which was practically unthinkable during the time period.
Bly started her journey in America, then sailed to London in just under seven days. Once in Europe, she took a train to Paris to meet with Verne. After crossing Europe, Bly stopped in Egypt, went through the Suez Canal, made her way through Asia, and then made to Japan, where she embarked on the final leg of the trip: sailing across the Pacific Ocean to get to San Francisco. Bly ended up finishing the journey in only 72 days, beating the fictional record set in the novel.
14.When Rolls-Royce was developing the Ghost, they wanted the car to have a relaxing and quiet feel. Turns out, the engineers working on the car did their job a little too well, because passengers found the lack of noise to be disorienting. In fact, it even made some people feel sick. To combat the issue, sound engineers had to develop methods that harmonized normal car sounds, keeping with the relaxing feel while letting a little noise in.
15.In the 1940s, Shirley MacLaine played baseball on the boys' team at her Arlington, Virginia high school. She was so good that she actually set the school's home run record.
16.Beavers are actually born with the innate ability to build their dams. When beavers hear the sound of running water, their building instincts kick in. A study found that beavers would even build their dams in a dry area after hearing the sound of running water through a speaker.
17.When Gremlins was released during the summer of 1984, it was rated PG. Despite the PG rating, the movie included some pretty intense scenes, including one where the blended guts of a gremlin splatter all over the walls of a kitchen, and another where a severed gremlin head burns in a fireplace. Moviegoers who had taken their children to see the movie were horrified by the graphic scenes.
As a result, the Motion Picture Association decided to revamp their rating system, and developed the PG-13 rating to sit between movies rated PG and R. Filmmakers loved the new rating system, because it allowed them to put more graphic content in their movies that was once deemed too intense for the PG rating, while remaining tame enough to avoid the audience restrictions of the R rating.
18.In 1983, Michael Jackson and Freddie Mercury recorded three songs together at Jackson's private home studio. During the recording process, Mercury called Jim Beach, Queen's manager, and begged him to get him out of the recording session because Jackson had brought his pet llama into the recording studio. "I’m really not used to [the llama] and I’ve had enough and I want to get out," Mercury allegedly told Beach.
19.If you're terrified of murder hornets, you're not the only one. Asian bees have begun smearing their hives with animal waste to ward off the murder hornets. Scientists believe this is the first time honeybee species have demonstrated the ability to use tools to defend their homes.
20.Actor Burt Reynolds got so fed up with the National Enquirer printing lies about him that he sought out some rather stinky revenge. Reynolds, who owns about 100 horses, gathered as much horse poop as he could and loaded two massive nets full of manure onto his helicopter to dump on the tabloid's offices. The National Enquirer's Florida office was known for having a massive Christmas tree display, so Reynolds strategically planned to dump the manure on the tree on Christmas Eve. Reynolds recalled the story to the Guardian and said that ruining their Christmas tree "felt great."
21.Just when I thought puffins couldn't get any cuter, I learned that puffin parents tag-team the birthing process. Both adult birds each spend about six weeks incubating the egg of the baby puffling.
22.And finally, Julia "Butterfly" Hill is an environmental activist who lived in a tree for 738 days to protest the clearing of ecologically significant forests. After a near-fatal car crash in 1996, Hill began to reconsider what mattered to her, and found herself drawn to environmental causes. When she learned about the ways the Pacific Lumber Company's practices were damaging the environment, Hill decided to stage a protest.
From Dec. 10, 1997 to Dec. 18, 1999, Hill lived in a 1,000-year-old redwood tree named Luna. She lived on a 6-foot by 8-foot platform that was shaded by tarps, and she communicated via cellphone. Environmental activist groups provided her with supplies, as Hill dealt with inclement weather and illness. The Pacific Lumber Company would use loudspeakers and bright lights to attempt to force Hill down. After over two years in the tree, she reached a settlement with the company that guaranteed protection for the forest and also included a $50,000 grant for forestry research.