There are certain facts that are so staggering or downright strange that they sound completely made up.
Take, for example, the story of Mike the Headless Chicken, who lived without a head for 18 months in the mid-1940s. Or consider the fact that human children don’t develop kneecaps until they’re about three years old.
Reddit user jcvks recently started a thread in which people shared facts that seem implausible but are actually true. Below, we rounded up some of the most surprising ones, along with a few interesting nuggets from previously published articles on INSIDER, Business Insider, and elsewhere on the web.
There are more tigers in captivity in the US than in the wild worldwide.
Based on the best available data, the World Wildlife Fund and Global Tiger Forum estimate that around 3,890 tigers exist in the wild today. According to the US government and conservation groups, around 5,000 to 10,000 tigers are privately owned in the US alone.
A typical cumulus cloud weighs about 1.1 million pounds.
Peggy LeMone, a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, did the maths for Metal Floss in 2013. According to LeMone, an average cumulus cloud – the fluffy ones you typically see on a sunny day – has a water density of half a gram per cubic meter and a volume of one billion cubic meters. When you calculate the cloud’s total water content, you end up with 500,000,000 grams of water, or about 1.1 million pounds.
Pineapples take about two years to grow.
It takes about 18 to 36 months from the time they are planted for pineapple plants to yield fruit that you can harvest and consume.
China used more cement in three years — between 2011 and 2013 — than the US did in the entire 20th century.
This factoid is so staggering, Bill Gates once blogged about it after historian Vaclav Smil featured the statistic in his book, “Making the Modern World: Materials and Dematerialization.”
According to estimates from the US Geological Survey, the US used 4.5 gigatons of cement between 1901 and 2000. Compare that with the 6.6 gigatons of cement China used between 2011 and 2013, according to data from the International Cement Review.
Cheetahs can’t roar. They can only meow like domestic house cats.
As Stephen Mills explained in BBC Wildlife Magazine, only four “big cats” can roar: lions, tigers, leopards, and jaguars. These species, all of which belong to the Panthera genus, have a ligament in their voice box that can be stretched to create a “larger sound-producing passage and thus a wider range of pitch.”
In “small cats” like cheetahs, the “fixed structure” of their voice box limits the range of sounds they can produce. While they can purr continuously, they cannot roar.
Maine is the closest US state to the continent of Africa.
The easternmost point in the contiguous US is a peninsula called West Quoddy Head in Lubec, Maine. Located about 3,154 miles from El Beddouza, Morocco, West Quoddy Head is also the point in the US that’s closest to Africa.
Scientists who work with cockroaches often become allergic to preground coffee.
According to entomologist Douglas Emlen, cockroaches that infest “large piles of coffee beans” are often just ground up instead of removed, since it would be too difficult to eliminate them completely. In the US, the Food and Drug Administration allows a certain amount of “insect filth” to be included in coffee and other foods, as long as it doesn’t exceed a pre-established percentage.
Thus, since it’s actually pretty common for researchers to develop acute allergies to the specimens they study, entomologists who become allergic to cockroaches do indeed also become allergic to things like preground coffee and chocolate.
A woman named Violet Jessop survived the sinking of both the Titanic and its sister ship, the Britannic.
Nicknamed “Miss Unsinkable,” Jessop was a stewardess and nurse on the White Star Line’s trio of Olympic-class passenger ships. In addition to surviving the Titanic and Britannic disasters, Jessop was also aboard the trio’s third sister ship, the Olympic, when it collided with a British warship in 1911.
Around the world, many militaries have trained combat dolphins to perform dangerous tasks, like locate underwater mines.
The Russian Navy, for example, once trained dolphins and other aquatic mammals to attack warships and enemy combat divers. For over 50 years, the US Navy also trained dolphins and sea lions for various missions. In 2014, the US Navy announced plans to replace its Marine Mammal Program with a “new generation of robotic mine hunters,” starting in 2017.
The Holy Roman Empire still existed when the US was founded.
On July 4, 1776, the Second Continental Congress met in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to declare their independence from Great Britain and create the United States of America. It wasn’t until three decades later that the Holy Roman Empire was dissolved, when the last Holy Roman Emperor, Francis II, abdicated his throne in 1806, following a military defeat by the French under Napoleon Bonaparte.
More time separates Tyrannosaurus rex from Stegosaurus than T. rex from humans today.
Stegosaurus roamed the Earth about 150 million years ago, during the Jurassic period of the Mesozoic Era, or “Age of Dinosaurs.” According to the US Geological Survey, Stegosaurus had already been extinct for approximately 80 million years when Cretaceous dinosaurs such as Tyrannosaurus rex first appeared about 67 million years ago.
In short, 80 million years separated Stegosaurus from T. rex, while 67 million years separate T. rex from us – that’s a pretty mind-blowing difference of 20 million years.
Nintendo was founded in 1889.
As INSIDER’s Jacob Shamsian previously explained, Nintendo actually dates back to the late 19th century. Before becoming the gaming giant it is today, it got its start as a humble Japanese card game company.
Nearly the entire continent of South America is located east of Florida.
Without looking at a map, you may think Brazil is located somewhere directly south of Florida. However, nearly the entire South American continent is east of Florida – with a few exceptions in Ecuador and Peru, Reddit users malmad and JazzFan418 pointed out.
Bananas are berries, but strawberries are not.
According to botanists, true berries are simple fruits that stem from a single flower with a single ovary and typically have several seeds. This includes kiwis, pomegranates, eggplants, and, yes, bananas. Strawberries, on the other hand, stem from a single flower with more than one ovary, which makes them aggregate fruits, along with raspberries and blackberries.
Sharks predate trees.
As Smithsonian Magazine reported, Archaeopteris, the earliest species that scientists can classify as “tree,” lived about 350 million years ago. Sharks, however, can be traced back 50 million years earlier, appearing in the fossil record some 400 million years ago.
Cleopatra lived closer to the release of the first iPhone than she did to the building of the pyramids of Giza.
As INSIDER’s Megan Willett explained, the pyramids of Giza were built between 2550 B.C. and 2490 B.C, by historians’ estimates. About 2421 years later in 69 B.C., Cleopatra, the last active Pharaoh of Ancient Egypt, was born. She died at the age of 39 in 30 B.C.
Apple cofounder and then-CEO Steve Jobs debuted the first iPhone in 2007, only 2037 years after Cleopatra’s death.
Anne Frank, Martin Luther King Jr., and Barbara Walters were all born in the same year.
Anne Frank was born June 12, 1929. Martin Luther King Jr. was born January 15, 1929. And Barbara Walters was born September 25, 1929.
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