The world is a crazy place and it’s full of totally weird facts about all sorts of things – science, art, history, the human body and Beyoncé! We’ve compiled 50 of the very best of these random facts to tell your friend and seriously impress them with your random knowledge. See if they knew that Robinson Crusoe was based on a true story, or that 10% of the world is left handed! Which random fact is your favourite?
1. You can’t lick your own elbow. Go on, try.
It’s impossible, right? Well, maybe if you’re a special contortionist or something you might be able to do it, but generally most people just aren’t build to bend that way! We wouldn’t recommend trying it anyway. You can lick someone else’s elbow – if you really want to.
2. Every country in the world used to be part of one big continent called Pangea
Have you ever wondered how the world got to look the way it does? Well, millions of years ago, every continent was actually part of one giant continent (known as a supercontinent) called Pangea. It slowly split apart into the continents and countries we know today, but once upon a time everything was squished together, and bits of the world which are now thousands of miles apart were right next to each other!
3. Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein in 1818
For a book that’s all about science and inventions, Frankenstein is surprisingly old. In fact, the author wrote it all the way back in 1818, over 200 hundred years ago, when she was just 19! The idea came to her in a dream during a storm while she was on holiday – with Lord Byron, no less, a famous poet of the day who was known for being a bit gothic and weird. Frankenstein has continued to enthral readers ever since then, and it’s timeless ideas have inspired hundreds more books and films!
4. There are tiny parasites that live in your eyelashes
Sorry to break it to you, but it’s true. Thousands of tiny microscopic parasites live in your eyelashes and eyebrows, and there’s nothing you can do about it. Don’t worry – you can’t feel or see them and they don’t do any harm. These eyelash mites are called Demodex mites, and they eat your dead skin! Yuck! Everyone has a small amount naturally, so don’t bother them and they probably won’t bother you!
5. A baby beaver is called a kitten
Aw! Lots of baby animals have funny names. Seal babies are pups (like puppies!), a baby whale is called a calf (like cows!) and a baby echidna is called a puggle! Apart from being very cute, beavers have very strong teeth with iron in them! That’s why they can gnaw through whole trees!
6. The tallest ever recorded woman was 7ft 7inches tall
Sandra Elaine Allen, who was born in 1978 and died in 2008 was reportedly the tallest ever woman, coming in at an incredible 7ft 7 tall! Sandra was from Chicago in the USA, and although her height made her famous, it also caused her lots of health problems and sadly died aged only 53.
7. There are at least 40 disused or abandoned Underground stations in London
When the London underground was first built in the 19th century, there were a lot more stations in the middle of London than there are today. Where did those stations go? Well, no where! They’re still there, underground and abandoned, waiting to be reopened. Abandoned stations include King William Street, British Museum and Lords. Next time you’re on the Tube, have a look out of the window and see if you pass any of them!
8. A pineapple is called an ‘ananas’ in over 30 languages – but not English
That’s right – pick a language, and the word for pineapple is probably ‘ananas’ – or something like it, at least. Why didn’t English go for the same thing? Well, it’s thought that the word ‘pineapple’ refers to their resemblance to a pinecone, while the apple bit refers to the fruit inside. If you think that’s weird, you should see how they grow – not on trees, but on little shrubs in fields!
9. There are at least 54 African countries
We say at least because it tends to change, but there are a LOT of countries that make up this huge continent. The biggest one is Algeria in North Africa, whilst the smallest is the Seychelles, a collection of islands off the East African coast. As well as this, there are over 2000 languages throughout the continent! Do you speak any of them?
10. Bananaphobia is…you’ve guessed it, a fear of bananas
Bananas might sound like an odd thing to be scared of, but there are loads more weird phobias out there that are a bit odd, including: bibliophobia (fear of books), Koumpounophobia (fear of buttons) and trypophobia (fear of holes!) Are you scared of anything strange?
11. About 10 percent of the worlds population is left handed
No one is quite sure why left handers exist. Some people think it may be genetic, others think it may be to do with how the baby behaves in the womb. Either way, about 10% of the global population is left-handed, and southpaws show up in all cultures and countries. Famous lefties include Leonardo Da Vinci, Napoleon, Bart Simpson and Prince William.
12. Tea used to be so special and expensive in Europe that it was locked in special boxes
Tea is everywhere today, and you’ve likely had a cup before you’ve read this article! But in the 16th and 17th centuries when it was starting to be imported from China to Europe, tea was so fancy and expensive that people who could afford it would lock it away in special boxes so it wouldn’t get stolen! Can you imagine locking away your Yorkshire Gold?
13. Wrestling is one of the oldest sports in the world
Depictions of wrestling in art go back thousands of years and have been found in cave paintings. It was also popular in ancient Greece, and it was even a sport in the original Olympic games. Modern athletes might not have enjoyed it though – you had to participate in all events naked!
14. The average temperature on Venus is 462 degrees Celsius, or 864 degrees Fahrenheit
Venus is one of the hottest planets in the solar system, largely due to its position near the sun, but also due to the fact that it’s atmosphere is made up of a lot of carbon dioxide, which traps the sun’s heat. This makes Venus even hotter than mercury, which is nearer to the sun! Venus’s average temperatures are way above what human being could handle, so if you’re hoping for a Venus colony to be set up any time soon, you may be disappointed!
15. About 69% of Japan is covered in forest
Japan is known for being a densely populated country, with Tokyo being its most densely populated city. However, what you may not know is the reason for this density is because most of the country is covered in forests! Yup, Japan is about two thirds forest, and forests have long been part of Japanese art and culture, including forest bathing – the idea of walking through a forest and bathing in its peacefulness. Sounds nice!
16. There is no wind on the moon
Have you ever wondered what it’s like on the moon? Well, apart from there being no oxygen, it’s pretty still. So still in fact, that every footprint ever made by an astronaut on the moon is still there! That’s right, there’s no wind on the moon, so everything stays exactly the same, which must be pretty eerie! If you look at the flag planted by American astronauts you can see that a pole is making is stick out – because there’s no wind to wave it around!
17. Queen Elizabeth I of England wore a wristwatch
It might seem hard to believe, but all the way back in Elizabethan England people had wristwatches! Or rather, very wealthy people like the queen did. Watches were a relatively modern invention at the time, and lots of people still used the sun to tell the time. Described as an ‘arm watch’, Elizabeth’s watch was given to her by a courtier called Robert Dudley in 1571. Snazzy!
18. Bessie Coleman was the first black person to earn an international pilot’s license
Bessie Coleman was born in 1892 in the USA and in 1921 became the first black woman and first Native American to earn a pilot’s license. She soon became famous and flew all around the world, taking lessons from a French ace pilot. Sadly, she died in a plane crash aged just 34, but cemented her place in history with her incredible accomplishments.
19. Hawaiian pizza doesn’t come from Hawaii
Sorry to spoil it, but Hawaiian pizza doesn’t come from Hawaii – or even from Italy. Like most of the popular pizza recipes out there, this was dreamt up in North America – in Canada, to be precise, by a Greek immigrant called Sam Panopoulos in 1962. He liked the idea of having a dish that was sweet and savoury, and since pineapples were grown in Hawaii, the name stuck!
20. The Scots have 421 words for snow
You may have heard that Inuit peoples in Northern Canada have lots of words for snow, but the Scots come close behind! These include ‘snaw’, ‘sneesl’, ‘driffle’, ‘feefle’, ‘fyoonach’ and ‘skelf’ among many others, as well as lots of other weather related words. Well, there certainly is a lot of weather in Scotland!
21. Hippopotamus means ‘river horse’ in Greek
Hippos are some of the coolest (and most dangerous) animals in the world, but did you ever wonder where their slightly weird name comes from? Well, it’s Greek – from ‘hippo’ meaning ‘horse’ and ‘potamus’ – ‘of the river’. They aren’t related to horses at all, which makes you wonder why they got the name – maybe the ancient Greeks hadn’t seen many other animals?
22. You breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide
Ever wondered why trees are so important? It’s because they balance out all the breathing we humans do! Human being inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide – and trees do the opposite! They breathe in carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen! The reason we do this is because we need oxygen for energy – the carbon dioxide is more like a waste product we need to get rid of. Now you know!
23. The Aboriginal people of Australia have lived there for over 50,000 years
You may recognise parts of Aboriginal culture from things you’ve seen like boomerangs, digeridoos, wall paintings and their sacred place Uluru rock. Over half a million Australian’s identify as Aboriginal, and keep their culture alive through song, dance, and clothing. Sadly, many parts of Aboriginal life have been harmed by colonisation, but now more than ever they are fighting to have their way of life preserved and respected.
24. A blue whale’s heart weighs 400 pounds!
The blue whale is the biggest animal in the sea. It’s also the biggest animal on the planet, and it’s ALSO the biggest animal to EVER live! Yup, bigger than all the dinosaurs,m giant sloth and wooley mammoths! A creature that big needs a big heart to keep it going, and the blue whale heart is 400 lbs! That’s about 4 of your, give or take!
25. Jamaica’s women’s bobsled team debuted in 2018
It may sound a bit crazy, but Jamaica has a bobsled team! Despite being completely snow free, Jamaica is home to a popular past-time called box car racing, which is similar to bobsledding but on wheels. The men’s bobsled team has been around since the 80s and competed in several Olympics games (and was immortalised in the film Cool Runnings) but the women’s team only debuted in 2018. Let’s hope they do well!
26. Alfred Hitchcock threw live birds at his lead actor Tippi Hedren in his horror film ‘The Birds’
Alfred Hitchcock was known for his unconventional directing style, which sometimes left his actors feelings a little frightened. In the horror film The Birds, for example, lead actor Tippi Hedren, who was scared of birds in real life, was made to walk into a storm of them, all swirling and screeching, which Hitchcock had thrown at her. The birds terrified her, and left her with loads of scratches. Apparently Hitchcock wanted to get a ‘genuine’ reaction out of her – sounds like he just needed to trust his actors more!
27. Yrausquin Airport on the Caribbean island of Saba is considered the smallest airport in the world
The airport is little more than a strip of runway on a rocky outcrop, and is considered the runway in the world, at only 400m! This means that bigger aeroplanes can’t actually land there, so you probably can’t go on a package holiday. Other tiny airports include Barra in Scotland, Charles Kirkconnell International Airport in the Caribbean, and Luang Prabang Airport in Laos.
28. The largest bone in the human body is the femur, also known as the thigh bone
Not only is it the largest bone in the body, it’s also one of the strongest, able to withstand a force of up to 1,800 to 2,500 pounds. The smallest bone in the human body, meanwhile, is the stapes, which can be found inside the ear, and which helps with transmitting sounds. All in all, you have over 200 bones in your body!
29. Red and yellow are supposed to make you hungry.
Have you ever wondered why so many fast food restaurants have a yellow or red colour scheme? It’s actually a clever bit of science – according to research, these colours are meant to stimulate your taste buds and make you hungry! Blue, on the other hand, is supposed to suppress hunger. This may be because there are almost no naturally blue foods in nature – even blueberries are purple!
30. Robinson Crusoe was based on a real man
Daniel Defoe, the author of Robinson Crusoe, based his story on a real castaway called Alexander Selkirk, who survived alone on an island after being shipwrecked for four years in the 17th century. Selkirk lived on the island for four years and four months, unlike Crusoe, who was there for a whopping 28 years! Let’s hope he brought enough sunscreen!
31. There is a festival in Spain where people throw tomatoes at each other
La Tomatin is a festival held every year in the town of Buñol in Spain and yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like. People get together and throw tomatoes at each other in the street! There isn’t really a reason behind it, apart from the fact that it’s fun! The rules are very strict to make sure no one gets hurt, and at the end of it the whole town has to clean up!
32. Beyoncé has an insect named after her
Scaptia beyonceae is a species of horse fly that was named after the pop star in 2011. It’s not entirely clear why the fly was named for her, although it does have a very prominent behind…Hmm, not as glamourous as it sounds, maybe.
33. Daniel Radcliffe was allergic to the contact lenses they used in the Harry Potter films, which is why Harry’s eyes aren’t green
Yes, you may have noticed that Harry doesn’t actually have green eyes, despite it being made very clear in the books. This is because Daniel Radcliffe found the contact lenses they gave him (his eyes are blue) too irritating! As long as his eyes were the same colour as his mothers, it didn’t really matter.
34. In China there is a dish called Bird’s Nest Soup
Yes, birds nest soup. As in, a birds nest. But it isn’t made from twigs – the nests used are made by Swifts, and are composed of bird saliva! This makes them very rich in protein and (apparently) full of flavour, which means the dish is very highly prized! They have been part of Chinese cuisine for over 400 years, but you probably won’t find it at your local Chinese restaurant! Would you eat a bird spit soup?
35. High heels, wigs, dresses and make-up have all been worn by men in different times in history through the world
We might think of these items as ‘girly’ today, but everything women wear has also been worn by men throughout history! Men in ancient times were much more likely to wear a tunic or skirt than trousers, whilst 17th century fashion favoured huge tall heels for men, the idea being that you would look taller and therefore more masculine. Everyone from the Celts to the Georgians wore make up, including face powder, rouge and eyeliner, and wigs were all the range a few hundred years ago in Britain – the bigger and curlier, the better!
36. The Victorians had a special code language using flowers.
The Victorians were into all sorts of weird ways to send messages, and flowers were no exception. The flowers you gave someone would send them a message, and people wrote whole books about which flowers meant what. For example, a bluebell could mean ‘humility’ while a yellow hyacinth meant ‘jealousy’! And we thought they just looked nice!
37. The deepest part of the ocean is the Challenger Deep
Located in the Mariana Trench in the Pacific ocean, the Challenger deep is about 36,200 feet deep, which is very VERY deep, much deeper than a human could ever dive safely. In fact, it’s so deep down there that barely anything lives there, because so little light and oxygen reaches it. There may be undiscovered animals down there, but so far we haven’t found them! Kinda spooky!
38. The first ever sound recording was made in the 1850’s
We’re used to being able to capture every little sound on our phones and computers nowadays, but a few hundred years ago, that wasn’t the case. In fact, until the 1850s there was no way of recording sound at all! That all changed when scientific advancements started to develop inventions like the wax cylinder and the record, and now we can actually hear stuff from over 150 years ago! There is a bit of dispute as to exactly what the first recording was – some people think it was a recording of ‘Clair de Lune’ in 1860, but other people say that there are even earlier recordings!
39. Mariah Carey has a vocal range of 5 octaves
Mariah Carey is famous for her impressive pipes, but did you know they space a whole 5 octaves? An octave is a collection of notes between one pitch and another, and being able to sing through 5 of them is very remarkable and pretty rare! You can hear Mariah using her range on songs like ‘All I Want For Christmas is You’, where she goes very high! How high can you sing?
40. When the Eiffel tower was first built, the people of Paris thought it was hideous and ruined the city.
Nowadays, Paris has got to be one of the most sought-after destinations in the world. It was like that in the 19th century as well, but then something came along and threatened to ruin it. Yup, incredibly, when Gustav Eiffel first proposed his tower, Parisians were horrified and thought it would ruin the skyline of their beloved city! Nowadays it’s not only a must-see if you’re in Paris, it’s considered one of the most romantic places in the world!
41. There is a museum of witchcraft and magic in Cornwall
Witchcraft has been part of British culture for hundreds of years, and although it wasn’t always accepted, we’ve always been fascinated by the supernatural. If you’re really interested, there is a whole museum dedicated to witchcraft down in Cornwall, where you can see all sorts of spooky objects and artefacts that used to belong to witches! Cool!
42. Birds are the closest living relatives to dinosaurs
Believe it or not, reptiles are not actually the closest living thing we have to dinosaur. In fact, it’s another group entirely – birds! Yes, modern birds all evolved from a common ancestor which was also related to dinosaurs! That explains the eggs, the wings and the big scaly feet! Next time you see a bird, study the way it moves – does it remind you of a dinosaur?
43. Salvador Dali had a pet anteater
Salvador Dali was a pretty strange bloke, it’s fair to say. A member of the Surrealism art movement, Dali enjoyed shocking and surprising people. His other antics included painting melted clocks, making a lobster telephone and designing the Chupa Chups lolly wrapper!
44. K Pop stars train in special K Pop schools. Only a tiny handful of pupils ever make it in the industry
Kpop may look shiny and happy, but in reality its a very hard lifestyle. ‘Idols’, as their known , are picked at a young age and sent to special schools to train in singing, dancing and acting. If you don’t work hard enough to meet the right standards, you can be made to leave! Even though thousands of kids go through this system, only a very small number actually make it into the Kpop bands we all know and love. Would you have what it takes?
45. ‘Google’ comes from the word ‘googol’, which is the number 1 followed by one hundred zeros
The term ‘googol’ was first used in the 1920s, and is a term used in maths. Founded in 1998, the name was chosen because each 0 represents the possibilities of the search results. Good thing they decided on ‘Google’ and not ‘Goooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooogle’.
46. The most stolen food in the world is cheese
Who would have thought that cheese would be so popular? More popular than chocolate, chips, or anything fancier like truffles, apparently cheese goes missing from shops at an alarming rate! Apparently cheese is getting more expensive and thieves are looking to cash in on this. We can’t say we’d be super keen on buying second hand cheese, but clearly someone is!
47. The largest known diamond in the world was called ‘Star of Africa’ or the ‘Cullinan Diamond’.
‘Was’ rather than ‘is’, because after it was discovered it was then cut into lots of smaller diamonds. To be fair, it would be pretty heavy to carry around on a ring! The diamond was discovered in a mine in 1905 and surprisingly took a few years to sell! Maybe no one had any use for a massive diamond? Eventually, however, it was bought, and several of the smaller diamonds in made are now owned by the queen!
48. The driest place on earth is the Atacama desert in Chile, South America.
Deserts like the Sahara get a lot more fame, but it’s the Atacama that’s where its at if you’re looking for the driest place on Earth! As stated the desert is very, uh, dry, with lots of salt lakes, lava flows and sand. It looks pretty cool but we’re not sure if we’d like a holiday there…
49. Valentina Tereshkova was the first woman in space, in 1963
Valentina was a Russian cosmonaut (as opposed to an American astronaut) and engineer and the first woman ever in space. In 1963, age just 26, she embarked on a solo mission into space, orbiting the Earth 48 times and spending almost three whole days in space! She is still the only woman to have done a solo mission!
50. The ‘Fiji Mermaid’ wasn’t a real mermaid
In the 19th century, conman and ringmaster PT Barnum (Yes, that guy from Greatest Showman) was legendary for his oddities and spectactles. But many of them were fake. For example, the alleged ‘Fiji Mermaid’, which PT insisted was a real mermaid, was actually a dead monkey a dead fish sewn together. Yuck! PT why you gotta be so weird??