Life’s a never-ending lesson in the best way imaginable. If you’re even slightly curious about the world and have an open mind, you can quite literally learn something new every single day. And I don’t know about you, dear Pandas, but I’m on a roll and I don’t plan to stop my worldly education any time soon.
Probably the best place to learn something new is the ‘Today I Learned’ subreddit that boasts 25.1 million members and has been enlightening netizens with interesting tidbits of trivia ever since it was founded in the ancient year of 2008. We’re huge fans of the TIL community and we’ve written about them in so much depth, you could stack our articles up to the Moon and back… probably. You’ll find Bored Panda's most recent articles about them right here, over here, as well as here.
Lenore Skenazy, the president of Let Grow and the founder of the Free-Range-Kids movement, went in-depth with Bored Panda in an interview about staying curious, continuing to learn independently, and engaging with the world as we grow, despite the hardships. "I’ve been wondering this myself: How to stay curious when hit by 'the blahs?' Next to Covid (and in great part thanks to Covid) the blahs are the most catching virus around. You get tired and bored by being tired and bored, talking about being tired and bored, and succumbing to them. Unfortunately, the whole thing is self-reinforcing: A feeling of listlessness leads you to scroll through your social media of choice, which makes you feel more blah, leading you to scroll some more, etc."
TIL of Adolfo Kaminsky, a 18 year-old French forger who faked IDs for Jews during WWII. He once worked for 3 days straight to make papers for 300 children until he passed out. He kept his work a secret - his own daughter only learned the details while writing a book about him.
TIL: Researchers taught African grey parrots to buy food using tokens. They were then paired up, one parrot given ten tokens and the other none. Without any incentive for sharing, parrots with tokens started to give some to their broke partners so that everyone could eat.
TIL: Late wrestler Bam Bam Bigelow once saved three children from a burning house and 40% of his skin was left with second degree burns forcing him to retire and hospitalized for two months. Bam Bam said he had "no regrets" of his act of courage, as long as all three kids were safe.
Lenore was very upfront about what we have to do to get our lives in order and bring a bit of fire back into our lives: "So before you can become curious again, you have to do the hard part: Get off the couch! Force yourself out the door. Why? Because beyond your four walls, things are never exactly the same. Weather, animals, people, sounds, smells, clouds—they’re all swirling about."
She continued: "Ask yourself to start noticing new things. I did that this morning with a friend. We took a walk around our neighborhood and started looking for interesting details in the homes and buildings we passed. It went from a walk down streets we’d seen a million times to a sort of treasure hunt. And the big thing we were really hunting for? Curiosity! When you’re curious you’re alive again—noticing, thinking, making connections. You can’t do that if there’s no new information coming in. So your first step is to force yourself out of a rut by leaving the house (harder during the pandemic, but not impossible)."
TIL that Shakuntala Devi from India, also known as the human computer, gave the 23rd root of a 201 digit number in 50 seconds. The answer was verified at the US Bureau of Standards by the UNIVAC 1101 computer, for which a special program had to be written to perform such a large calculation.
TIL that in Moscow, packs of stray dogs will sometimes send out a smaller, cuter member to beg for food, apparently realising it will be more successful than its bigger, less attractive counterparts.
TIL in the months before his sudden death, former Mythbuster Grant Imahara built a fully animatronic Baby Yoda. Having spent 3 months of his personal time designing, programming, and 3D printing the project, he intended to bring it to hospitals to cheer up sick children.
Aiming for new goals and sparking a desire to learn new things also requires leaving our entrenched routines behind and trying something new. Lenore pointed out that we all have the power to learn new skills and pick up new hobbies during the endless lockdowns. "Think of something you’d like to be able to say you’ve been working on, especially once life returns to normal: 'Well, I wasted a lot of that free time I had, but at least I started...' Or, 'At least I learned…' For my sister, she’s taking ballet online. For my husband, he’s learning film editing. For me it’s… oh God! I better come up with something fast! Um…let’s say I will learn how to create a Clubhouse program. Ok? (You can check in with me in a few weeks.)"
So start off by going outside "if only to get your blood flowing," then "think of someone whose skill at something you envy," and "take the first small step toward that skill." According to Lenore, even a tiny step is enough because you break the ice of the inertia. "Do not worry if you are taking that first step as simply something you’re doing thanks to social pressure, or for someone other than yourself. Change is change—the motivation doesn’t matter."
TIL that for 18 months, a village in Wales was mystified as to why their broadband internet crashed at 7am every morning, until engineers "picked up a large burst of electrical interference" springing from one dude turning on his very old TV.
TIL in 1992, a California middle school ordered teachers to cover up all "obscene" words in Fahrenheit 451 with black marker before issuing copies to students. The school stopped this practice after local newspapers commented on the irony of defacing a book that condemns censorship.
TIL Winchester Cathedral was built on marsh and was on the verge of collapse as it sunk into the earth. A diver named William Walker worked alone in pitch-black water for five years, eventually putting down 25,000 bags of concrete, 115,000 concrete blocks, and 900,000 bricks to save its foundation.
However, the internet is a double-edged sword and it can sometimes be easy to get lost between what's fact and what's fiction. You have to be very wary of fake news as you surf the net. Lenore shared some of her insights about this, too.
"When you’re reading an article that seems to be so shocking that you’re amazed this is the first time you’re hearing about it, take a short phrase from the piece and Google it. I did this yesterday—I was reading about a girl not allowed to take her anti-epilepsy drug at school because it contained CBD, even though she had a prescription! Turns out the article, dated March 2021, was actually a story re-published in its entirety from three years ago. That’s why no one else was talking about it—it was literally not news. So if something strikes you as fishy, go fishing," she said.
TIL about pack horse librarians that serviced the Appalachian communities (e.g., rural Kentucky) in the mid 1930s to early 1940s who were mostly women who rode on horses or mules to deliver library books to remote communities during the Great Depression.
TIL John Krasinski wore a wig in season 3 of The Office so he could film Leatherheads. Krasinski pitched the idea to the producer who rejected it because it would be too obvious. John, who was wearing the wig during the meeting, told him it wouldn't be, took off the wig, and was granted approval.
TIL Billy Joel got into an argument with a younger man about what the worst era to be young in was. The younger man told Joel that at least he got to grow up in the 50s when "nothing happened." Flabbergasted, Joel began listing the events of the 50s, which later became "We Didn't Start the Fire".
"As for whether or not your fishing will lead you to disinformation rather than the truth, try not to fish blindly. If you’re curious about crime stats, for instance, look these up on a government website, not some random blog," Lenore explained, adding that if you find something very hard to believe, look up the story on Snopes that tracks down whether or not popular, shocking stories are true or made up.
"The nonprofit I run, Let Grow, has its own myth-busting page, investigating fears and rumors about children’s safety," Lenore pointed out. "So that’s a source you can trust, too! Stay curious. Stay skeptical without being cynical. And if something sounds too good—or too terrible—to be true, check it out!"
TIL a doctor reviewed the injuries sustained by Marv and Harry in Home Alone 1 & 2, and concluded that 23 of the injuries would have resulted in death.
TIL that the stick -- a small tree branch -- was inducted into the (U.S.) National Toy Hall of Fame in 2008. Organizers called it one of the world's oldest toys and said sticks "promote free play -- the freedom to invent and discover."
TIL that the F.B.I. and C.I.A. recruit heavily from the Mormon population because they are usually cheaper to do a security clearance on, they often speak another language from their mission trips and they usually have a low risk lifestyle.
TIL that during the sinking of the RMS Titanic, many passengers refused to evacuate, insisting they were safer on the ship than in the tiny lifeboats. Chief baker Charles Joughin eventually took it upon himself to forcibly drag reluctant passengers onto the deck and hurl them into the lifeboats.
TIL about Kiyoshi Shimizu, a Japanese journalist that helped solved a series of child kidnaping cases and released an innocent man from further prosecution. He also helped solved the murder of Shiori Ino which led to the changes to legal treatment of stalking in Japan
TIL Alexander Fleming’s mold could not produce penicillin fast enough for mass production; itwasn’t until 15 years later that lab worker ‘Mouldy’ Mary Hunt tested a moldy cantaloupe in a grocery store and discovered the strain that is used to produce all penicillin today
However, embarrassment has its positive quirks. So the next time you’re blushing because you found out you weren’t aware of some fact about the world, you can remember this and feel better. “One thing that’s interesting about embarrassment is that, for as much as we might experience it as painful in the moment, it’s actually very socially adaptive. Being embarrassed signals to other people that you care about what they think. And that actually draws people in to you,” Vanessa, from Cornell University, said.
“So blushing, burying your head in your hands, laughing, acknowledging how embarrassing something was, are all totally healthy ways to react,” Bohns said that we should embrace embarrassment instead of shying away like a lot of us instinctively want to do.
However, there’s a flip side to this. There’s an unhealthy way to react to embarrassment, too. “The unhealthy way to react is to pretend you’re not embarrassed, that you didn’t make a mistake, or to get angry. Those things undo the positive effect that embarrassment typically has on other people by conveying insincerity and pushing people away rather than drawing them in.”
TIL that there are more than 1,300 stone rings across the British Islands and Stonehenge is only the most famous of them.
TIL Research shows that viewing online Cat media (i.e. pictures and videos) is related to positive emotions. It may even work as a form of digital therapy or stress relief for some users. Some feelings of guilt from postponing tasks can also be reduced by viewing Cat content.
TIL the man who Mount Everest is named after, George Everest, didn't want the honor of having the world's tallest mountain bear his name. He pointed out his name was difficult to write or pronounce in Hindi and all previous Himalayan peaks were officially given indigenous names.
Meanwhile, Lenore told Bored Panda during an earlier interview that school is actually a fairly new development and things were done very differently for much of our history as a species.
“In the United States, for instance, school only became compulsory a little over 100 years ago. Previously—for hundreds of thousands of years of human history—kids learned simply by watching, copying, helping, and playing,” Lenore explained to Bored Panda.
“In other words, they’d hang around the adults, see how they made things like baskets and arrowheads, they’d ask questions, noodle around, and try to copy what their elders were doing. They’d also help out as soon as they could—fetching things, tracking animals, whatever—and in between they’d be playing with a group of mixed-age kids. All these activities were fueled by curiosity,” Lenore said.
TIL After crashing, a driver in German was fined for using Tesla touchscreen wiper controls, under the same rules as using a phone while driving. The German court decided touchscreen car controls should be treated as a distracting electronic device.
TIL Frank Sinatra was hired by Life Magazine as a ringside photographer for the Muhammad Ali & Joe Frazier Heavyweight Boxing match, "The Fight of the Century", that took place 50 years a go today, March 8, 1971. One of his photos was good enough to be the cover of the magazine.
TIL many Chinese medical tourists who go to South Korea for inexpensive and high quality plastic surgery have difficulty re-entering China due to their passports photos not matching their new face post op.
“You were motivated to learn what the bigger kids in your group knew, too, because they were so cool. Your entire day consisted of observing and practicing the stuff you needed to know— skills and games. If you weren’t curious, you weren’t going to enjoy life, or succeed at it.”
Modern schooling, however, focuses on compliance rather than curiosity. “One reason kids might seem less curious today is because most of their education, inside and outside of school, doesn’t require self-motivation, it requires compliance. The drive is extrinsic, not intrinsic. Kids fill out worksheets because they have to, not because these seem interesting, or have any immediate connection to the ‘real’ world,” Lenore told Bored Panda.
TIL Basque (a language spoken near the Spain/France border) is a language isolate; not only is it NOT a Romance language, it's not even an Indo-European language. It is the only surviving Pre-Indo-European language in Western Europe.
TIL before synthetic plastics were invented, a substance called Hemacite was widely used to make everything from roller skate wheels to doorknobs. Its ingredients are blood and sawdust.
TIL the first country to recognize Greek independence was not any of the western powers, but Haiti, who alledgedly sent 25ton of Coffee beans to finance their rebellion.
The very same mentality of focusing on compliance and doing as we’re told can be seen in extra-curricular activities, too, which can snuff out our inner motivation. “Learning soccer means doing the drills the coach assigns, as opposed to tagging along with the older kids and working hard to get good enough so that they’d start letting you play. The key to curiosity, then, is giving kids enough free, unstructured time for them to find something they love to do for its own sake—not for a grade, or coach,” the expert said.
TIL: Vodka doesn't have to come from potatoes, it can be made from anything which will ferment. Even grass, or salmon and old newspapers. Vodka just needs to be a clear spirit distilled to 190 proof.
TIL despite being depicted on California's flag, the California grizzly bear has been extinct since 1924.
TIL that staying awake for more than 24 hours brings deficiencies in performance equivalent to having a blood alcohol level of more than 0.10. Most western developed countries consider 0.05 BAC as the threshold for intoxication.
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