50 Intriguing “Today I Learned” Facts That You Probably Didn’t Learn In School (New Pics)Interview With Expert
"True education is a kind of never-ending story – a matter of continual beginnings, of habitual fresh starts, of persistent newness," said J.R.R. Tolkien. And it's true: there's no age cutoff for continually learning new things about the world. We can discover something new and interesting every single day.
This process has never been easier thanks to the Internet. We can learn new fun facts or interesting things from any field: history, languages, math – you name it. The Today I Learned subreddit is a wonderful place to share such not-so-common tidbits of knowledge with others. So check out our new selection of fascinating facts, pandas, and upvote those you find the most interesting.
Bored Panda reached out to two podcasts that are about interesting facts. The first creator is Steve Silverman, author of the Useless Information podcast. Steve shares interesting, lesser-known stories from history. The second trio that was kind enough to share their expertise was the creators of the I Should Have Known podcast – Tanner, Andi and Sups. You can find short interviews with them below!
TIL that instead of using his Make-A-Wish for something for himself, 13-Year-old Abraham Olagbegi used his wish to feed the homeless in his neighborhood for a year.
Steve traces back the origins of his podcast to the '90s. "I first became interested in these quirky facts and stories when I started teaching high school science in the early 1990s," he tells Bored Panda.
"I quickly realized that my students loved this kind of stuff, so I purchased a few books that others had written. This was before the World Wide Web, so online research wasn't an option. I was an early adoptee of the web, and for lack of any better ideas, I decided to take some quirky stories that I knew and place each one on a separate web page."
The I Should Have Known trio first started out as a pub trivia team. "When our local pub quiz shut down, we took up the mantle and started researching our own fun 'did you know' facts," Sups, Andi and Tanner tell us.
TIL a sheepdog named Casper fought for over 30 minutes against 11 coyotes who were threatening his flock, killed 8 of them, and survived with a severe neck wound and a missing tail.
TIL: A woman born with birth defects caused by Chernobyl including 6 toes, webbed fingers, no thumbs, leg 15cm shorter than the other, and missing some organs, won a gold medal in the paralympics for cross-country skiiing.
Their podcast’s premise is particularly interesting. They describe it as a trivia podcast that can't be trusted. Each week, either Sups, Andi or Tanner present their listeners with four big facts on a topic, but one of those facts is a lie. The audience then can try to guess which one is false.
“When we decided to create our show, we knew we wanted to stand out from other podcasts and leave our audiences with something more. So we put our full effort into researching our trivia to make sure it's vetted and as double-checked as possible. Especially because the other two hosts will be grilling us to find the lie among our facts!"
The creators of I Should Have Known reveal the secrets of being professional trivia masters: "Foster creativity to ask weird questions like 'Are birds dinosaurs?' Build diligence in research so you're not just taking Google's or an AI's word as gospel. And develop empathy so you can actually teach your audience something fun and new without boring or stumping them."
TIL in 1963, a 16-year-old sent a 4-question survey to 150 well-known authors (75 of which replied) in order to prove to his English tutor that writers don't intentionally add symbolic content to their books.
TIL During the 1800s, Hawai‘i became one of the most literate nations in the world with over 90% of the population able to read and write. Even King Kamehameha III proudly declared, “He aupuni palapala ko‘u” (“I have a kingdom of education”)
TIL that Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum awarded its 10th million visitor with the chance to spend one night in the museum alone. The winner slept underneath Rembrandt's "The Night Watch".
The content of the Useless Information website and podcast has shifted as time went on. Steve admits that the topics he covers are those that he personally finds interesting. "Over the years, I have greatly expanded my research and tend to focus on obscure human interest stories that occurred between 1900 and 1965," he says. "I like to joke that it is simply a hobby that got a bit out of hand."
TIL Aretha Franklin required that she be paid in cash before any performance. The cash went into her handbag and the handbag either stayed with her security team or would rest on the piano during her onstage performance.
TIL Michelin started reviewing restaurants so people would travel farther and wear out their tires, increasing their sales.
TIL A hiker was lost on a mountain for 24 hours and ignored calls, texts, and voicemail messages from rescuer teams because he didn’t recognize the phone number.
Since he's such a veteran, the means of finding content have also changed a great deal. Most of the stories Steve covers come from old newspapers, which he loves to read. "Years ago, the only way to do this was to go to the library and load up reels of microfilm," he adds. "But now all it takes is a few clicks of a mouse button to pull up some old articles."
TIL Michael Schumacher donated $10 million to the victims of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. It was the highest individual donation made in the disaster that killed more than 220,000 people. Schumacher's bodyguard Burkhard Cramer, and Cramer's two sons, were killed in the tsunami.
TIL: In 1956, France banned the serving of alcohol to children under the age of 14 in the school canteens. Prior to that, school children had the right to drink half a litre of wine, cider or beer with their meals. In 1981 France implemented a total alcohol ban in the country’s schools.
TIL Ernie Hudson, who played Winston Zeddemore in the Ghostbusters movies, was rejected from a role in the Ghostbusters cartoons because they thought he didn't sound like Winston Zeddemore.
Andi, Tanner and Sups believe that people are naturally drawn to learning. "There's something about being stuck in school and being forced to memorize facts that don't interest us which dampens our curiosity. But if you can deliver interesting nuggets of knowledge and make them relatable to your audience, you find that people can't get enough."
"And then the added bonus with our show is that listeners want to see if they're right. They love to hear the hosts poke holes in the facts and then guess along with them to check their understanding."
TIL that in his final years as US president, Woodrow Wilson was too sick to govern. His wife Edith kept his sickness secret, taking over so many duties she was essentially president. She hid Wilson's paralysis by covering his left side with a blanket.
TIL: Author Roald Dahl helped invent a new brain shunt that saved thousands of children after his own baby son suffered a brain injury.
TIL Rockstar hired real-life gang members and ex-convicts in GTA V to voice some of the characters. They also gave them the freedom to improvise the script and say what they would say in real life, to make the dialogue more realistic and authentic.
In Steve Silverman’s mind, there's nothing really surprising about our hunger for learning podcasts such as his. "People love things that are out of the ordinary," he believes. "We like movies with surprising plot twists, books with unexpected endings, and so on. The same is true of being told interesting facts and stories."
The phrase that is now the name of his website and the podcast came from one of the kids Steve was teaching. "A student had told me that I knew more 'useless information' than anyone else, so I placed that title on the main page and have been using it ever since."
TIL Winston Churchill had a doctor's note to drink "unlimited" alcohol in prohibition America (1932).
TIL A breakthrough in kidney stone treatment will allow them to be expelled without invasive surgery, using a handheld device. NASA has been funding the technology for 10 years, and it's one of the last significant issues in greenlighting human travel to Mars.
TIL that an unplugged microwave carries enough residual current to kill you, even if it's been unplugged for months. So never try to repair a broken microwave unless you know how to discharge the capacitor
It comes as no surprise that Steve is quite a popular pick for a team on a trivia night. Yet he remains humble: "I am the first to admit that there are huge gaps in my knowledge." He says his focus is less on trivia – he's more interested in telling true stories.
"An example of trivia is knowing how many men have walked on the moon (12 men), but I consider myself to be a storyteller. The more unusual and obscure the stories are, the better."
TIL real doctors from USC Medical Center were recruited to play the doctors who try to save E.T. because Spielberg felt that actors talking about technical medical matters didn’t seem natural.
TIL that John F. Kennedy's patrol boat was rammed by a Japanese destroyer. After a 3-mile swim to an island, he and his crew survived on coconuts for 2 days. Rescued by two islanders, their message etched on a coconut shell became a paperweight on JFK's desk.
TIL a man found a winning lottery ticket worth $24 million in an old shirt just two days before it expires.
Jimmie Smith, a 68-year old New Jersey man who discovered a winning New York Lotto ticket in an old shirt hanging in his closet.
The ticket was purchased on May 25, 2016 and the winner had one year to claim the prize.
Smith checked his tickets in May 2017, after seeing a news story about the unclaimed jackpot.
He claimed his prize just two days before the deadline, on May 23, 2017.
It would be criminal to have four trivia masters at my disposal and not ask them their favorite facts. When asked about his favorite story that he covered, Steve has to dig in deep. He has written about so many that it's hard to choose only one. "A number of people have told me that their favorite of all the podcast episodes that I have ever recorded was one titled 'The Woman with the X-Ray Camera,' Steve tells us.
TIL average onset of menstruation for girls in 1840 was age 17. In 2000 it was 12 years old.
TIL calories in food are measured by exploding a dehydrated food in an oxygen filled canister surrounded by water. The explosion of the food item gives off energy that heats the surrounding water. The increase in temperature of the water is how we calculate calories.
TIL: North Korea shot down a US spy plane in April 1969, an enraged Nixon allegedly ordered a tactical nuclear strike and told the joint chiefs to recommend targets. Henry Kissinger spoke to military commanders on the phone and agreed not to do anything until Nixon sobered up in the morning.
He agrees to share it with us and our readers. "It's about a young woman named Pearl Lusk who is hired in 1946 by a detective to follow a woman suspected of being a jewel thief," Steve begins. "Pearl is told that the thief keeps the jewels hidden under her dress, so the detective hands Pearl a camera that can take X-ray images."
Steve continues the story: "Pearl kneels down to shoot an image, and suddenly a loud bang is heard, and the suspect falls to the ground. What Pearl didn't know was that a shotgun was hidden inside the supposed camera. And there was no detective or jewel thief. It was simply a jealous husband who tricked Pearl into shooting his estranged wife."
TIL that women are traditionally prohibited from entering a sumo ring. This tradition is so strictly enforced that in 2018 two women were asked to leave the ring even though they were preforming CPR on a man who collapsed in one.
TIL An otter squeezed through gates into a classical Chinese garden at night in downtown Vancouver and ate 11 prized koi fish. Traps baited with raw chicken and salmon were set up but otter was never caught.
TIL that 80% of animals found in Madagascar exist nowhere else on earth.
The I Should Have Known trio loves off-the-wall, kooky trivia. "For our show, the more unbelievable, the better," they claim. "The real fun is when you get listeners to question everything, even things you never thought to question!"
The creators recall a recent in-person trivia night the three of them hosted. "We had a 50:50 question that was just ridiculous. 'Which is heavier: the heaviest recorded capybara or the heaviest player to compete in the 2018 FIFA World Cup?' The teams loved debating how big a capybara could possibly get, employing calculations and getting into heated discussions.
The Guinness World Record for the biggest capybara (which is also the biggest rodent) lists it as 130 lbs. But some sources like the Mammalian Species Journal mention one all the way up to 200 lbs!" However, the answer is still the soccer player Roman Torres – he weighs 218 lbs.
TIL in the 1980s, NASA had a 1-900 number which charged $2 for the first minute and $.45 for each additional minute. It allowed callers to listen in on a mission status report and mid-flight press conferences, and thousands of them heard the Challenger explosion in real-time.
TIL that Skoda test their car horns 150,000 times for the European car market. For the Indian market the horns are tested 500,000 times due to the increased use of car horns in India. One study carried out at major intersections in Indian cities found that a horn sounds every three seconds.
TIL that, to avoid predators, when the glass frogs are asleep, they remove nearly 90% of their circulating blood cells, storing what is essentially their entire circulatory system in one organ and resulting almost transparent
Don’t hesitate to check out both podcasts if you’re interested in unusual and captivating facts and stories! If you like the unusual premise of the I Should Have Known podcast, you can support them on Patreon as well as follow them on Instagram.
TIL that when Roger Bannister became the first person to run a mile in under 4 minutes, he was working as a doctor in the NHS. On the day he broke the record, he had already worked a morning shift at St Mary's hospital in London, and then caught the train to Oxford where he ran the race.
TIL Terry Pratchett had all his unfinished works destroyed by steamroller after his death.
TIL you can die eating a diet of rabbits without another source of fat because they are so lean. It's called protein poisoning, aka Rabbit Starvation.
TIL that the majority of men in Germany sit down to urinate.
TIL The bronze doors of the Pantheon are the original doors from 2000 years ago.
TIL that the Guinness World Records no longer recognize the fattest animal as a record in order to prevent compulsive overeating.
TIL that philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre once took mescaline and imagined himself attacked by sea creatures. For years afterward, he suffered from intrusive thoughts about crabs and persistently thought crabs were following him around.
TIL the sun loses over 4 million tons of mass every second as energy.
TIL there is a town in Alaska called Whittier where nearly the entire population lives in one building along with all of the town's public facilities.
TIL one of the co-creators of Keurig machines was diagnosed with caffeine poisoning due to his daily 30 to 40 cup coffee habit.
TIL that Cassowary meat is so tough that people were told to cook it with a stone in the pot. "When the stone is ready to eat, so is the Cassowary."
TIL that 61% of US troops killed in Vietnam were under the age of 21. The overall average age was 23.
TIL Tina Fey got her chin scar at age 5 when a stranger randomly entered her yard while she was playing and slashed her face.
TIL that it is impossible to copy, scan, or Photoshop currency on most modern equipment. Modern copiers and scanners, as well as image processing programs, can identify patterns on the notes and will cease processing the image.
TIL in the small town of Norwood Ontario in 1957, some teenagers opened several fire hydrants simultaneously as a prank and caused the towns can-shaped water tower to be crushed inward like a tin can. It remained in use for 35 years and the town became infamous for its crushed water tower.
TIL Michael Jackson's pet chimpanzee Bubbles is still alive, and lives in the Center for Great Apes sanctuary in Florida, where his care is paid for by Jackson's estate.
TIL in WW2, when Germans captured a British bomber tail gunner who claimed that he had jumped out of his plane at 5500m without a parachute, they investigated and confirmed his claim and gave him a certificate to confirm his story.
TIL Louis Braille invented the braille system between ages 12-15 after having been blind 7 years due to an accidental self-inflicted injury at age 5 that resulted in his own blindness.
TIL that the man who authored the NIST manual on passwords and recommended password changes every 90 days regrets doing so. Mandatory password changes on a scheduled interval are no longer recommended by NIST.
TIL of Natalia Grace, a 9-year-old orphan whose adopted parents claimed she was actually a 22-year-old sociopath.
TIL any person who succesfuly parachutes out of a failing aircraft is eligible to join the caterpillar club. You get a certificate as well as a caterpillar shaped pin and get to join their annual gatherings. People who escaped a failing aircraft with no parachute are denied entry.
TIL that when casting Walter White for Breaking Bad, the role was originally offered to John Cusack and Matthew Broderick. It wasn't until after they turned it down that the executives saw Bryan Cranston's X-Files episode and cast him for the role.
TIL Queen Elizabeth II and her husband were third cousins, both descended from Queen Victoria.
TIL Walt Disney used shell companies and fake names to acquire the land in Orlando that would become Disney World in 1971.
TIL that the famous “I’ll have what she’s having” line from the film "When Harry Met Sally” wasn't in the original script. Billy Crystal suggested it after he and Meg Ryan improvised the entire orgasm scene. The two were originally supposed to discuss "faking it" without an actual demonstration.
TIL when Rita Hayworth learned the atomic bomb that was scheduled to be tested at Bikini atoll would feature her likeness, she was offended. Her husband Orson Welles later recalled she was the angriest she had ever been thinking it was a publicity stunt orchestrated by the head of Columbia Pictures.
TIL that in 2009, hundreds of brightly-colored bird specimens were stolen from the Natural History Museum London. It was later found that a student had sold them online to be used for fly-fishing lures.
TIL: Crab Rangoons aren't related to Chinese cuisine, and were instead invented in an American Tiki bar by someone trying to give a new appatizer a suitably Asian sounding name, and then re-appropriated by Chinese-American restaurateurs as a staple appetizer.
TIL when Conan O'Brien reached a settlement with NBC over the Tonight Show drama, he was awarded $45 million, $12 million of which was for his staff who had moved with Conan to Los Angeles from New York when he left Late Night.
TIL the USS Kidd is the only US Navy ship permitted to fly the Jolly Roger.
TIL that both Al Pacino and Robert De Niro are two of the oldest fathers on record, fathering children at the ages of 83 and 79 respectively.
TIL the CG director of Silent Hill, Takayoshi Sako, created all the game's cutscenes by himself. He used the office's 150 computers to render the scenes after all the other employees left for the night. He also slept under his desk and lived at the office for the 3 years it took him to finish.
TIL Ninjas did not wear black on missions, because they would not blend in with the enviroment.
TIL when Cleopatra and Julius Caesar met and subsequently became lovers, she was 21 and he was 52.
TIL in 2005, Sothebys & Christies had to play Rock-Paper-Scissors over an art collection. Sothebys assumed it was random chance, so had no strategy. But Christies studied the game & asked two 11yo twin girls, who picked scissors: “Rock is way too obvious, and scissors beats paper.” Christies won.
TIL that gooning is a form of legal kidnapping in the US where a parent can hire someone to kidnap a kid they think is troubled at night to bring them to boarding school or behavior modification facility.
TIL pilot callsigns are assigned to you by your "buddies", inspired from something stupid you did/say, your name, or your physical appearance. e.g. "Rat" for someone short and ugly; "Alphabet" if your name is too long; "Caveman" if you enjoyed survival training too much.
TIL Argentina forced Mcdonald's in their country to sell the Big Mac at an artificially low price to improve their country's performance on the Big Mac index; effectively hiding their country's inflation.
TIL When Jimmy Carter left the White House, his secretary had transcribed over 5,000 pages from his personal journal. Carter waited a long time to publish his diary since it contains his unguarded impressions. "White House Diary", released in 2010, contains a quarter of everything he wrote.
TIL In 2012 Jimmy Zhong uncovered a coding error on the now defunct crypto market Silk Road that allowed him to withdraw more funds than he deposited. He stole 51,680 BTC ($3.4 Billion) and stayed anonymous for ten years before finally getting caught and arrested in '21 and was sentenced to 1 year.
TIL the Goodyear Airdock is so large it has its own climate. Temperature fluctuations create clouds and rain inside the structure.
TIL in 2011, the Kellogg's brand decided to add Vitamin D to all of its cereals in the UK due to the fact that 1 in 5 people in the UK were deficient in Vitamin D. A study in 2021 showed that 1 in 6 adults in the UK have low levels of vitamin D in their blood
TIL In 2014, Swiss Air Force could not intercept a hijacked airplane because the incident happened outside their working hours.
TIL In the 1970s, Irish banks went on strike -- so people made their own currency, and the pubs kept the country from falling into ruin.
TIL that Apple code-named the PowerMac 7100 “Carl Sagan.” Sagan sent a C&D letter, Apple complied, renaming it “BHA” for “Butthead Astronomer.” Settling out of court, the final name became “LAW” for “Lawyers are Wimps.”
TIL that the last television ever manufactured in the U.S. made its way off the assembly line in July 2005 at the former Magnavox production headquarters in Greeneville, Tennessee. The TV remains on public display in a history museum in the town.
TIL that as the USS Franklin was returning to Pearl Harbor for repairs after surviving multiple kamikaze hits, the captain refused to allow the harbor pilot to dock the aircraft carrier, wanting to do it himself. He proceeded to immediately crash the ship into the dock.
TIL that Starbucks incurred massive losses and failed miserably trying to expand into Australia.
TIL that the production team of "Elf" (2003) approached Macy’s to use their store for the film, but Macy’s declined as they didn’t like the idea that there was a fake Santa working in the store. Instead, the department store scenes were shot in the cafeteria of a mental hospital in Vancouver.
TIL in 2018 multiple Virginia towns banned trick or treating for anyone over the age of 12. For example, according to the Chesapeake, Virginia city code in 2018, violators could face a fine and up to 6 months in jail.
TIL due to being a Scientologist, Kirstie Alley decided not to reprise her role as Rebecca Howe on the Cheers spinoff Frasier, because Frasier is a psychiatrist.
TIL Ariana Grande gets less than 10% of the royalties for her 2019 single "7 Rings". Most of it goes to the estate of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, the songwriters of "My Favourite Things".
TIL it took 15 years and 5,127 prototypes before James Dyson shipped his first vacuum cleaner.
TIL Roald Dahl wrote "The Twits" because of his profound disgust for beards.
TIL: This year Belgian Customs destroyed 2,352 cans of Miller High Life because it had the word Champagne on them.
TIL the former CEO of Nissan fled Japan in 2019 by hiding in an audio equipment box.
TIL 4000 luxury cars, including Audi, Porsche, Lamborghini and Bentley models, are at the bottom of the ocean after the ship Felicity Ace sank
TIL the exercise paradox: hunter-gatherers who trek miles daily (or climb up trees) burn the same calories as much-less-active office workers and machine operators.
TIL about the "Rabbit Test," a human pregnancy test developed in 1931, in which urine from a female human would be injected into a female rabbit. The rabbit would be dissected and if its ovaries were enlarged then the human was likely pregnant (~98% certainty). The test was used into the 1970s
TIL one of the reasons LBJ didn’t pursue another presidential term 1969-1973 was because an actuarial committee (accurately) predicted he would die at age 64, when he would still be in office. He died 2 days after the 1973 inauguration.
TIL the ahead of the U.S. invasion of Grenada 40 years ago, the Pentagon "knew so little about the country, it had to plan the invasion using maps normally sold to tourists."
TIL it is virtually impossible to die from sinking to the bottom and suffocating if you get trapped in quicksand.
TIL that the U.S. Army disposed of banned chemical weapons and munitions through a program called CHASE (Cut Holes And Sink ‘Em) where the chemicals were loaded on a ship that was then purposely sank in the ocean.
TIL that until 1773, Harvard University graduates were ranked not by academic merit but according to their birth status or rank of their parents.
TIL there are 80,000 Americans living in Saudi Arabia, housing compounds with luxurious amenities, such as swimming pools and tennis courts. They are walled off and provide "some security and privacy from the country's strict Islamic code on matters of dress and social mixing."
TIL the original draft of the film "Being John Malkovich" had nothing to do with the actor himself. Upon being pitched the film, New Line Cinema founder Robert Shaye asked "Why the f**k can't it be called 'Being Tom Cruise?", a question that John Malkovich also asked.
TIL in 2006, Quiznos sent mystery shoppers to franchise stores and sued owners for not putting enough meat in a prime rib sandwich. The owners won a lawsuit against Quiznos, with the judge calling Quizno's meat-weighing exercise a "charade" to bolster its national ad campaign against Subway.
TIL, the average thru hiker on the Appalachian Trail spends $10,000 during their 5-month hike.