Random Fun Facts That Will Amaze You - Part 8
Coming up are some amazing facts that will blow your mind. Get ready to be amazed.Knowledge
They say curiosity killed the cat, but it’s natural to want to find out more about the world around us; after all, that’s probably why you’re reading this article in the first place, right? Rest assured, these weird and wonderful nuggets of information are sure to satisfy that craving for now.
Why Are There Stones on Railway Tracks?
Crushed stones under the tracks are not just for aesthetic purposes. Also, they have an official name: a "ballast". It’s all part of a clever system designed to hold everything in place while up to 1 million pounds of pure power hurtle over the tracks above.
Laying miles of steel tracks directly onto the ground would be a total engineering nightmare. They would be subject to all sorts of external risk factors including heat expansion and contraction, ground vibration, precipitation build-up in bad weather, and plant growth from beneath.
The ballast is part of a clever solution to this problem that has been in place for over 200 years now. First, a foundation is built to prevent flooding on the tracks, and then a load of crushed stone is deposited on top. Next, a line of wooden beams or ties is laid followed by more stones.
Their sharp edges stop them from rolling over each other, and that helps to hold everything in place when the steel rails are laid end-to-end on top. The ballast distributes the load of the ties, which in turn supports the load of the train on the tracks.
The tracks themselves are only held together by clips because bolts would buckle and break thanks to heat expansion. There you have it: a centuries-old process that facilitates movement over thousands of miles with the help of a few stones!
What are Those Floaty Things in Your Eye?
We’ve all seen them at some point: those little, squiggly translucent worms that seem to float across your field of vision, but what are they? The thing is, they seem to dart away the moment you try and focus on them, which means figuring out what they actually are is pretty darn difficult.
Rest assured, they’re not really alive. They’re officially known as eye floaters and the good news is that you can totally just ignore them most of the time. Most floaters are small flecks of a protein called collagen, which is part of a gel-like substance in the back of your eye called the vitreous. As you get older, the protein fibers that make up the vitreous shrink down to little shreds that clump together.
The shadows these fibers cast on your retina, which is the light-sensitive tissue at the back of your eye, are what causes the floaters to appear. Floaters can appear at any age, but you’re more likely to start noticing them between the ages of 50 and 75. Still, it’s better than actually having tiny worms swimming around in your eyes.
In Ancient Greece, Throwing an Apple at a Woman Was Considered a Marriage Proposal
Popping the question these days involves getting down on one knee and flashing a pricey rock, but in Ancient Greece all you really needed to do was reach for the nearest fruit bowl. To find out where the whole “apple throwing” thing first started, let’s turn to the pages of Homer’s Iliad.
Eris, the goddess of discord, was pretty peeved that she hadn’t been invited to Peleus and Thetis’ wedding, so she decided to do what any logical woman would: throw a golden apple into the wedding party. The apple bore the inscription “for the most beautiful one”. Naturally, a scuffle broke out between the three goddesses at the wedding over who could grab it first.
Eventually, it was left to Paris of Troy to pick a winner; the same Paris who started the whole Trojan War because he was chasing a married woman. The incident became known as the judgment of Paris, and the apple as the Apple of Discord.
The goddesses all tried to bribe him, but it was Aphrodite who promised the best reward: a certain Helen of Sparta. And no one could beat that. Since then, it was considered “sacred to Aphrodite” to throw an apple as a declaration of love and to catch it as a symbol of acceptance. What do you think, should this long-lost custom make a comeback? Apples are much cheaper than engagement rings after all.
Napoleon Was Once Attacked by a Pack of Rabbits
After signing the Treaties of Tilsit which marked the end of the war between Russia and France in July 1807, Napoleon was in the mood for a celebration. Instead of reaching for a pinata or just cracking open a cold one with the boys, he called for a full-blown hunting party.
Napoleon asked his Chief of Staff Alexandre Berthier to traipse around the countryside and round up some bunnies, but little did he know it would come back to bite him, literally. Berthier reportedly collected somewhere between several hundred and 3000 rabbits, stuck them in a cage in a field, and prepared to release them.
But when the rabbits were set free, they didn’t just scamper away, they charged in the direction of the hunting party instead. At first, it all seemed pretty funny, but in no time the bunnies had completely swarmed Napoleon, causing him to seek refuge in his carriage, which was also quickly surrounded by the critters.
Besieged and outnumbered, the party had no choice but to wave their white flag and retreat from their fluffy adversaries. Apparently, Berthier was kind of lazy and just bought the rabbits from local farmers instead, which meant they certainly weren’t afraid of humans (especially ones as short as Napoleon).
Why are Public Toilets U-shaped?
Here's something you probably never noticed before, but totally will from now on: public and private toilets are shaped differently. Before you go looking for square-shaped public toilets, this only applies to the seats. Specifically, public toilets have open-ended U-shaped seats, while the one in your bathroom at home probably has a seat that goes all the way around.
You might assume that using less plastic is more cost-effective for public restrooms, but there’s actually a more important reason for this difference: hygiene. Two-pronged, open-fronted toilet seats are actually required by the plumbing codes adopted by most public authorities in the U.S.
That’s because, if you’re a dude, the U-shaped seats give you a little more breathing room, which means you’re less likely to touch the seat with your junk. It also means there’s one less area you could accidentally splash pee on, and it gives the ladies a more comfortable wiping experience at the same time.
Why Do Cats Blep?
If you’re a cat owner, you might understand this but if you have absolutely no idea though, a ‘"blep" (as the internet has kindly named it) looks a little something like this:
Basically, if your cat sticks its tongue out and forgets to put it back in its mouth, it’s blepping. It might look totally unintentional, not to mention outrageously adorable, but science says otherwise. According to animal behavior consultant and cat expert Amy Shojai, blepping is actually related to the way cats investigate their surroundings.
The scientific name for this mouth agape face is the Flehmen response, which cats use to collect pheromones on the tongue. When these are transferred to the internal scent mechanism or vomeronasal organ on the roof of their mouth, they can detect the sexual status or other information about other cats.
Pretty much any interesting scent can be explored by blepping. That means that when your cat looks like it has forgotten how its tongue works, it’s actually just being a fluffy little detective.
Why There Are No Mosquitoes At Disney World?
Disney World might be the most magical place on Earth and part of that magic is that you’re unlikely to leave the park with a single mosquito bite because there aren’t any mosquitos there. Disney World is located slap-bang in the middle of swampy Florida, which should be teaming with flying insects, but there’s a smooth undercover operation called The Mosquito Surveillance Program in place to keep them at bay.
Firstly, there are carbon dioxide traps all over the park: Once they catch bugs, the team can quickly analyze how best to eradicate the population. Furthermore, Disney has another secret weapon: an army of sentinel chickens.
While the birds go about their daily lives in coops all over Disney World, their blood is constantly monitored for mosquito-borne diseases like West Nile Virus. Although the chickens can’t actually get sick, the Disney team can use the chickens to locate the offending insects and deliver a swift blow to wipe them out.
There’s a Caterpillar That Freezes Itself Solid
The frozen Arctic probably isn’t the ideal environment for a caterpillar; unless you’re a Woolly Bear caterpillar, that is. This bizarre creepy-crawly starts feeding on vegetation the moment it hatches in Autumn, but by the time the Arctic winter hits, the inevitable happens: it freezes solid.
For most animals, including humans, that would be game over. But, when Spring finally comes back around, the caterpillar defrosts and continues munching away like nothing ever happened. It does this by producing cryoprotectant in its tissues, which allows it to freeze its heart, followed by its gut, and finally its blood.
Some winters in the Arctic can last 11 months, which means it will thaw and eat for just one month before freezing again. Although some Woolly Bears have been known to survive as many as 14 winters, when they finally metamorphose into the tiger moth they ironically have only a few days to find a mate before they die.
How do Astronauts Scratch Their Noses?
Being an astronaut comes with its own set of unique challenges, but something you might not have thought about is how to scratch an annoying itch when you’re covered head-to-toe in a bulky spacesuit. Surprisingly, astronauts do have a few options when it comes to nose-scratching.
In fact, most space helmets have a small patch of Velcro on the inside for this very purpose. Besides this, the helmets are also fitted with a foam block known as a ‘Valsava device’ which astronauts use to block their noses when they readjust pressure. This block can also come in handy as an improvised scratching post in times of need.
In 2011, Endeavour shuttle astronaut Andrew Feustel found himself in a rather sticky situation when some of the chemicals used to prevent fogging inside the helmet got in his eye. Thankfully, he was able to use the Valsava device to relieve the irritation and continue his spacewalk. Next time you have an annoying itch, just think, it could be worse.
How Long Should You Dunk an Oreo?
Oreos were clearly made for dunking but if you want an optimum treat-eating experience, how long should you dunk for? In 2016, members of Utah State University’s Splash Lab conducted a very serious experiment to find out. The team held cookies halfway in 2% milk for increments from ½ second to 7 seconds and weighed the Oreo to measure how much milk had been absorbed.
In just 1 second, the Oreos absorbed 50% of their potential liquid weight, which had increased to 80% in 2 seconds. The number then flatlined for one second, until the cookie had absorbed all of its potential milk within 4 seconds.
What does mean for all the dunking aficionados out there? Basically, holding your Oreo in milk for any more than 5 seconds won’t allow it to absorb any more milk, it will just go soggy and drop off into the glass, which no one wants. Three seconds is more than enough to saturate the cookie, and any more risk-taking might cost you your precious Oreo.
A Woman Drilled a Hole in Her Head to Gain Superpowers
It's technically possible to give yourself superpowers without being bitten by a radioactive spider; all you have to do is drill a hole in your own skull! Believe it or not, that’s exactly what British woman Amanda Feilding did way back in 1970, and she lived to tell the tale.
Before taking an electric drill to her own skull, Feilding got herself all clued up on the ancient practice of "trepanation", which claims that the old hole-in-the-head trick is a gateway to higher consciousness. The idea is that blood flow to the brain is reduced when the cranial bones fuse during infancy, meaning that adults have a limited capacity for knowledge and understanding.
Fielding believed that creating a calculated opening in the skull would act as a "release valve" to restore a greater flow of blood and cerebrospinal fluid to the brain. In the film Heartbeat in the Brain, Fielding documented her own trepanation on camera.
Although she lost nearly a pint of blood, she wrapped her head in a scarf, ate a steak to replace lost iron, and then went out to a party.
50 years later, there is still no medical evidence to support these claims about trepanation, and as far as we know, no one has seen Amanda Fielding flying or shooting laser beams from her eyes just yet.
I hope you were amazed at these weird and wonderful trivia facts. If you want to find out more interesting facts, you might want to take a look at our whole fun facts series. Thanks for reading.