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    21 Facts I Learned This Week That Shocked, Surprised, And Simply Fascinated Me

    TBH, I'm just glad the real creator of Batman finally got the credit he deserved!

    1. There are 293 ways to make change for a US dollar. The various ways include every denomination of coin, including not only the standard pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters, but half-dollars, which have typically only been produced for commemorative reasons since 2002.

    2. During the Apollo 17 mission in 1972, Eugene Cernan, who was the last astronaut to walk on the moon, was preparing the lunar rover to take footage of the spacecraft's departure when he decided to kneel down and trace his daughter Tracy's initials into the moon dust.

    In the years following the mission, Cernan said that he wished he had carved his daughter's name into the rock instead of just tracing it into the dust. In 1984, Cernan saw a painting depicting Apollo 17 by Alan Bean, who was a fellow astronaut. Bean had painted "Tracy" on one of the rocks. Cernan was touched by this effort, and the rock has been known as Tracy's Rock ever since.

    3. The etymology of the Cesarean section, or C-section, is a source of debate, but it's commonly credited to being named after Julius Caesar. Some historians even think he might have been the first child ever born by C-section. In the 1500s, babies who were born via C-section were believed to have great strength, and in some instances, mythical powers.

    4. Woody Harrelson's father was a professional hitman who spent years in prison. When Woody was 7 years old, Charles was convicted of killing a Texas grain farmer. He was given a 15-year sentence but was released for good behavior in 1978 after serving 10 years. Just a year later, Charles was hired by drug lord Jimmy Chagra, who faced a life sentence for drug smuggling. Chagra paid Charles $250,000 to take out US District Judge John H. Wood Jr., who was presiding over the case. Wood was known for giving harsh sentences in drug cases and had earned the name "Maximum Wood" due to how often he handed down life sentences.

    On May 29, 1979, Wood was killed with a gunshot to the back outside his home in San Antonio, Texas. It marked the first time a sitting US federal judge had been assassinated. After an intense manhunt, the FBI arrested Charles. Woody, who was in his late teens, knew nothing about his father's crimes until he heard broadcasters mention a murder trial involving Charles V. Harrelson. In 1981, Charles was handed two life sentences for Wood's murder.

    During his trial, Charles claimed that he had assassinated John F. Kennedy. No one believed him, and he later said that he made up the story in "an effort to elongate my life," thinking it would launch another investigation. Despite this, Lois Gibson, a forensic artist, believes that Charles was one of the "three tramps," a group of suspicious men who were seen shortly after Kennedy's assassination and have since been linked to several conspiracy theories about their involvement.

    Even after being sentenced, Woody decided he wanted to have some sort of relationship with Charles. He didn't necessarily see him as a father figure, but as a friend. "I was born on his birthday," Woody told the Guardian. "They have a thing in Japan where they say if you’re born on your father’s birthday, you’re not like your father, you are your father, and it’s so weird when I would sit and talk with him. It was just mind-blowing to see all the things he did just like me." Woody even spent more than $2 million on legal fees to get his father a new trial after Chagra was acquitted of conspiracy charges. The attempt didn't work, and Charles spent the rest of his life in prison. He died in 2007.

    5. You might have thought that a legendary residence like the White House would have been among the first homes in the world to use electricity. However, the Iolani Palace actually beat it to the punch! In 1887, the palace became the first landmark in Hawaii to use electric lights. Just before converting to electricity, King Kalakaua traveled to New York City to meet Thomas Edison, one of the leaders in advancements in electricity.

    6. Believe it or not, bears are actually considered some of the most intelligent land animals, with scientists even comparing their intelligence to that of primates. Their brain power really kicks in when it comes to evading predators and hunters. Grizzly bears have been spotted covering their own tracks and have been known to hide behind rocks and trees.

    7. Stephen Hillenburg, the creator of SpongeBob SquarePants, was actually a marine biology teacher before turning to animation. As a child, Hillenburg was fascinated by the ocean, and he taught marine biology before deciding he wanted to focus on animation and filmmaking instead. After earning a degree in animation, Hillenburg worked on Rocko's Modern Life while trying to develop a show of his own.

    After a Rocko's Modern Life writer saw Hillenburg's drawings of sea creatures, he realized he could bring his love of the ocean into his current career. "It started me thinking, if I'm going to do a show, I would do it about these invertebrates and these crazy animals that exist in the ocean, and it would be the perfect fusion of the things that I did," he said. "It was that moment where I said, maybe I should pursue this, you know, go down this path." While the show was not an initial hit, it has since brought in billions in revenue and has become one of the longest-running animated series.

    8. You definitely already knew blue whales were massive creatures, but I had no clue that baby blue whales emerge from the womb weighing three tons! They gain about 200 pounds a day during their first year of life. By the time they become fully grown adult whales, they weigh about 150 tons.

    9. In 1921, president Warren G. Harding developed the Veterans' Bureau and appointed Charles Forbes to serve as the bureau's first director. As director, Forbes was in charge of millions of dollars, most of which was supposed to help build veterans' hospitals, provide veterans with continuing education and vocational training, and aid veterans who had been injured in combat. Instead, Forbes supposedly received financial kickbacks from the construction companies he hired, sold supplies that were slated for the hospitals and pocketed the money, and partied the entire time he was supposed to be scouting out hospital locations.

    A picture of a monocle-wearing Charles Forbes reading a very long piece of paper

    In the two years he served, Forbes embezzled $2 million from the bureau. Of the 300,000 veteran insurance claims he received, he only accepted 47,000 of them. When Harding found out about Forbes' extensive theft and mismanagement, he told Forbes that if he resigned from his position, he could escape to Europe to avoid prosecution. Forbes agreed, but returned to the United States soon after and paid Harding a visit at the White House. When Harding saw Forbes, he was apparently so enraged that he tried to strangle him, shaking him "as a dog would a rat." By 1924, Forbes was indicted and served about 20 months in prison.

    10. Bet you weren't expecting corn to be one of the many culprits behind super humid summers! Corn sweat, or water vapor released from its leaves, can make humidity levels increase by up to 15%. Corn adds about 4,000 gallons per acre of water vapor to the atmosphere every day.

    11. In 1972, Bridget Loves Bernie debuted on CBS. The sitcom, which was based on both a play from the 1920s and a radio play from the 1940s, followed a wealthy Catholic woman who marries a Jewish cab driver who is an aspiring playwright. The show was an instant hit and became the highest-rated new TV show of the 1972–73 season.

    Despite its success, the show was quickly canceled due to backlash. Several Jewish organizations said the show made a mockery out of the Jewish faith, while others' chief complaint was "its treatment of intermarriage in a favorable and desirable light." Meredith Baxter, who played Bridget, said members of the show received bomb threats because of the subject matter. After hearing the criticism, CBS decided to pull the plug on the sitcom. "Intermarriage is on the rise, nevertheless," David Birney, who starred as Bernie, said months after it ended. "The threat doesn’t come from a harmless show such as ours, but from within.”

    12. While you probably knew that houseflies make noise by flapping their wings, you might not have known that the noise is always in the key of F. The average housefly flaps its wings about 190 times a minute, which the human ear hears as a frequency of a pitch along the F scale. Bumblebees and honeybees also buzz on the F scale.

    13. In 1993, the band Soul Asylum released the song "Runaway Train." The song, which had been written in just one sitting by band member Dave Pirner, became a hit for the band, so they decided to capitalize on the song's success with a music video. Instead of filming a typical music video, the band decided to use it as an opportunity to show the names and pictures of missing children.

    Columbia Records initially vetoed the idea, but ended up permitting it in the end. Soul Asylum partnered with The Center for Missing and Exploited Children to make the video, which ended with the message: "If you’ve seen one of these kids, or you are one of them, please call this number." Several versions of the video were made for other countries, featuring different missing children. “They did a version in Canada, and they did a version in England, and it really kinda caught on in a public service announcement sort of way," Pirner said. "Its heart was really in the right place."

    View this video on YouTube

    Columbia Records / Via

    As a result of the video, 25 of the 36 children who had been featured were found, and many of them were reunited with their families. “To me, I couldn’t believe you could actually transcend the music video and have it cross over into real life," Pirner said. "It was a really cool experience to realize that — wow! — there is the potential for entertainment to have a positive effect on the real world. And that’s something that probably doesn’t happen enough."

    14. Looks like even royals have some peculiar pet names for their significant others! Prince Philip allegedly called Queen Elizabeth II "cabbage" and "sausage." While it's unclear where the sausage name came from, it's speculated that "cabbage" refers to the French phrase "mon petit chou," which means "my darling," but technically translates to "my little cabbage."

    15. Story Musgrave, who commanded the crew that successfully repaired the Hubble Space Telescope, is the most formally educated astronaut. Before becoming an astronaut, Musgrave served as a Marine, where he completed his GED. After leaving the Marines, he went on to earn six academic degrees, including bachelor’s or master’s degrees in mathematics, operations analysis, chemistry, literature, and physiology, and a medical degree from Columbia University.

    This expertise caused Musgrave to be hand-selected by NASA in 1967. During his training, he helped develop space suits, life-support equipment, air locks, and maneuvering equipment that would be used for space walks. In addition to his space career, Musgrave also served as a trauma surgeon at Denver General Hospital while working for NASA. Musgrave ultimately went into space six times and is the only person who has flown on all five space shuttle orbiters.

    16. A zebra's stripes are believed to be bug repellent, protecting the animals from blood-sucking insects. The stripes also act as camouflage, with the wavy pattern blending in with the movement of grasses, distracting predators. Speaking of predators: Lions, who are zebra's main opponent, are colorblind, so the distinctive black and white pattern of a zebra's coat doesn't stick out to them.

    17. The creation of Batman was not without drama! Bob Kane, who provided the art, and Bill Finger, who was a writer, developed the concept for Batman together. Finger was behind some of the caped crusader's most iconic elements: his suit, secret identity as Bruce Wayne, and Gotham City were all Finger's invention. Despite Finger's contributions, Bob Kane was the only person credited in the comic books.

    Bob Kane wearing a Batman T-shirt in front of a wall of Batman art

    In 1939, Kane developed the initial concept for Batman. When Finger caught wind of the concept, he came up with the details that turned Batman from a generic superhero into the beloved character. It's even believed that Finger, with the help of Jerry Robinson, created the Joker, which Kane also took credit for. Even though the creation of Batman was clearly a collaborative effort, Finger's name never appeared on any Batman-related material, and he never saw any profits from his work. He died in 1974.

    As Batman proved to be an enduring success, the Finger family attempted to gain recognition for Bill's creation. In 1989, Lyn Simmons, Finger's wife, wrote a letter to Warner Brothers asking them to posthumously credit Finger in the movie Batman. They declined because they didn't want to involve themselves in a legal matter. Finger's only son, Fred Finger, recorded an interview and personally reached out to DC Comics to ensure his father would finally receive his deserved credit. In 2014, Athena, Finger's only grandchild, won the fight against Warner Brothers. In October 2015, Finger's name appeared in the credits of a Batman comic for the first time.

    18. Did you know that a reindeer's eye color changes depending on the season? In the summer, reindeer typically have golden eyes, but in the winter, they shift to a blue shade. The color change helps them capture more light during the dark winter months.

    19. While making Jurassic Park, Steven Spielberg wasn't going to use CGI technology at all. Instead, his team had planned on using stop-motion effects with incredibly realistic dinosaur models and puppets crafted by Stan White. Despite this plan, several filmmakers wanted to test out CGI, which was gaining steam in Hollywood, and created a computer-generated T-Rex. When an executive came to the office to check out the film's progress, she was shown the CGI version. She loved it, and Spielberg decided that the movie would use some CGI, in addition to the planned stop-motion.

    Spielberg even ended up rewriting the end of the film to include a scene that would truly show off the T-Rex. He didn't want to go too overboard on including CGI because it would have pushed the film's planned release back by nearly a year. Once completed, the movie contained just over 14 minutes worth of dinosaur scenes, but it's estimated that only about a third of them use CGI. In 1994, Jurassic Park won the Oscar for visual effects.

    20. Plants are able to communicate with each other by releasing chemical compounds in the air. Trees give off repelling chemicals to ward off bugs that can damage their bark, while plant leaves begin emitting volatile compounds when they're being eaten. It is believed that when other plants sense these compounds, they begin producing chemicals that they can use to defend themselves.

    21. And finally, Wilma Mankiller was the first woman to be elected principal chief of the Cherokee Nation and the first woman to serve as the leader of a major Native tribe. Under her leadership, the tribe experienced unprecedented growth. Mankiller was born in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, which is the capital of the Cherokee Nation, but moved to San Francisco with her family after her father was offered a job as part of a government effort to relocate Native Americans, which she described as her "own personal Trail of Tears." Mankiller became involved in activism when a group of Native Americans took over the federal penitentiary on Alcatraz Island to demonstrate the suffering of their people.

    From there, she became heavily involved in Native causes and the women's rights movement. She moved back to Oklahoma in 1977, where she developed programs that improved access to water and housing for the Cherokee Nation. By 1985, she had been elected principal chief and served for 10 years. During her tenure, Mankiller fought for improvements in education, healthcare, and housing. The population of the nation doubled, infant mortality declined, and education levels rose. She piloted an agreement between the Cherokee Nation and the Environmental Protection Agency. In 1998, she received a Presidential Medal of Freedom.

    Wilma smiling as she has her medal put around her neck by president Bill Clinton