Learning doesn’t stop the moment you get your diploma. Finishing kindergarten with flying colors? Acing middle school? Graduating high school? Finishing college? Getting your mitts on that coveted PhD that proves you always had it in you? They’re all amazing accomplishments, but they pale in comparison to what matters the most: keeping the spark of curiosity alive as you grow up and get older.
The ‘Today I Learned’ online group on Reddit is a community that celebrates lifelong learning, knowledge, and showing off our collective curiosity about the world. In short, for any Harry Potter fans out there (probably most of you Pandas, right?), it’s probably the most Ravenclaw place on the internet. A whopping 26.3 million fact-loving redditors call it their home and help make the internet a more enlightened place.
We’ve collected some of the most interesting and intriguing facts for you to enjoy today, as featured on TIL. Make sure you’ve got your thinking caps on before scrolling down, Pandas! Upvote your fave facts and don’t forget to share the best ones with your friends. Knowing stuff is great, but it becomes brilliant the moment you share the wisdom with others, whether it’s via social media or at a fancy dinner party.
Author and child independence expert Lenore Skenazy helped Bored Panda understand how to fall in love with learning and how it’s related to the things we’re most interested in. Lenore is the president of Let Grow and the founder of the Free-Range Kids movement. You’ll find her brilliant insights about how we’ve all “narrowed down our idea of what learning” and how “our species is built to learn” below, Pandas, so be sure to read on.
PS—For those of you whose curiosity can’t be sated with just these facts, don’t worry, we’ve got dessert. Take a peek at Bored Panda’s earlier articles about the wonderful TIL community here, here, and here.
TIL Agatha Christie has outsold Stephen King and J.K Rowling combined by about 2 billion books.
“How do you fall in love with learning? You don’t. You fall in love with something that you love to do— drawing, kicking a ball, playing make-believe, walking in the woods, reading…,” Lenore, the president of Let Grow, told Bored Panda in an interview via email.
“All of those things involve learning. If they didn’t, you’d be bored and you’d stop doing them. Instead, as a kid AND as an adult, you get into something and do it because each time you get a little better, or try a slightly different technique. In a game, you’re ALWAYS thinking and learning because the ball never comes to you in exactly the same way twice. In the woods, there’s always something new to look at, climb or poke. In play, you have to react to the other person. And you pick up a book to fall into another world and learn all about it,” she explained that part of what makes us love certain activities is that we’re constantly improving and learning. Bit by bit.
According to Lenore, we’ve narrowed down what our idea of learning really is. Nowadays, learning is most closely associated with school and formal education, but this goes against the grain of what was true for most of human history. “We think it’s what happens in a classroom, and the proof is on a test. Considering that most humans didn’t even HAVE school till maybe 100 or 200 years ago, that’s very strange. The species had to be smart enough to survive and it did so by learning to farm, raise kids, fish, build boats—you name it. Our species is built to learn. Curiosity and drive turn that superpower on.”
TIL the ancient Egyptians developed the first recorded early pregnancy test, whereby a woman would urinate on a bag of wheat or barley and, if the bag started sprouting, it indicated a pregnancy. In 1963, researchers measured the test as being 70% accurate.
TIL Mice do not have a special appetite for cheese, and will eat it only for lack of better options; they actually favor sweet, sugary foods. It is unclear where the myth came from.
Lenore put it simply that in order to fall in love with learning, you have to fall in love with something that’s either interesting to you or essential. “The learning comes automatically,” she said.
I was curious whether keeping our kids surrounded with books at home can be a plus. Lenore noted that we shouldn’t discount other learning resources either. “Having books at home can help a child find new things to fall into—but so does YouTube. Remember: every new technology is distrusted at first,” she pointed out that Socrates hated the idea that people had started writing down ideas instead of memorizing them.
“So yes books are great. But don’t ignore all the skills, hobbies, facts, and new things kids can learn online as well. If you’re worried about the bad stuff, install some filters. But learning from a podcast or DIY video is still LEARNING. Think of all the things you have learned since your formal schooling ended. Learning doesn’t only take place in a classroom or book!” she said.
TIL that even though Henry Heimlich demonstrated his signature maneuver thousands of times throughout his life he never got the chance to use it in an actual emergency until he was 96 when he saved a woman in his nursing home from choking on a burger
TIL A duet sung by Freddie Mercury and Michael Jackson remained unfinished because Mercury walked out of the recording. He couldn’t tolerate Jackson bringing his pet llama into the studio
TIL In 2019, a potato chip factory in Hong Kong found a World War I grenade in a shipment of French-grown potatoes, just as the potatoes were going through their processing machines.
“When kids play without adult intervention (and what is doing a hobby but playing?) they learn all sorts of social-emotional skills we want them to have: Patience, curiosity, frustration-tolerance, focus. At Let Grow we encourage schools to start a Let Grow Play Club before or after school when kids have that crucial time to just figure out how to have fun and make something happen. (Our implementation guide for this is free, too.)” Lenore gave some great advice for school staff.
“Kids need some time to goof up, noodle around, and find their interests. You probably had a chance for all of that when you were young, before we decided that every moment should be ‘teachable’—as in, taught by a wise adult. If you thought you got something from your ‘wasted’ time, please assume your kids will too. Starting now!”
TIL Italy, France, and Brazil are not even in the top ten highest consumers of coffee. The Nordic countries dominate coffee consumption and are all within the top ten countries worldwide. Further, Finland (the highest consumer in the world) more than doubles the annual consumption of Italy.
TIL James Michael Tyler, who played Gunther the barista on “Friends” was originally meant to only appear as an extra; he remained on the show as he was the only actor there who knew how to operate an espresso machine.
A few months back, I reached out to the team at Age UK to understand lifelong learning, keeping our minds sharp and bright, and how we can facilitate it all as we grow older. Age UK is the country’s leading charity that wants to help everyone make the most of later life.
At the core of keeping our minds healthy lies the fact that we need to take the best possible care of our bodies. What’s more, we have to continuously explore new interests and keep ourselves socializing as much as we can.
“Hobbies add color and variety to all our lives so it’s good to help to inspire others to take up new interests. New hobbies and interests can help maintain social connections and reduce feelings of loneliness and it’s a great way to learn new skills. Taking part in social activities may help us to stay sharp in later life,” a representative of Age UK explained to Bored Panda during an interview.
TIL: The aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth has a reverse osmosis system capable of producing more than 500 tonnes of fresh, drinkable water from sea water per day.
TIL David Bowie considered becoming a Buddhist monk, & studied for a few months in 1967 before a Lama told him he should follow music instead. His ashes were scattered in Bali in accordance with Buddhist rituals
“If joining clubs and classes are not an option, or your loved one doesn’t feel ready to start going outside yet, there are still ways to help them engage with new hobbies. Making sure older family members have everything they need to take up or continue hobbies, such as arts and crafts or wool if they are a keen knitter, ingredients if they are a budding chef or even the right tools for DIYing, can help,” Age UK detailed how we can help seniors in our own lives stay interested in their hobbies. Having all the materials at hand means it’s more likely that you’ll do the activity you want to instead of putting it off.
“Doing activities together such as the gardening can be a great incentive too, or maybe help them research locally to see if there is a neighborly Book Club dial-in they could join. If your loved one finds it hard to stay physically active, or doesn’t know where to start, take a look at Age UK’s information on keeping active, which has ideas of activities for everyone. Even encouraging older friends and relatives to settle in with a favorite book or audiobook, do some cooking, listen to the radio while doing a puzzle, or tuning in to an afternoon radio play can help emotional wellbeing and mental health,” the Age UK representative explained.
TIL the International Space Station is the most expensive thing ever built by humanity at over 150 billion dollars over the course of its construction
TIL alpacas are being used as bodyguards in some turkey farms, since they instinctively accept the birds into their herd and scare off foxes.
TIL Hippos sleep underwater even though they breathe air. They automatically close their nostrils and surface to breathe every 3-5 minutes. This all happens unconsciously, even in their sleep.
“Having a hobby or learning new skills, whatever form they take, is important. And while for many they provide a nice way to spend spare time and an opportunity to interact with friends over a shared pursuit, for those with less social contacts it can give life a real sense of purpose and routine.”
We can also exercise our minds by doing mentally stimulating activities. Puzzles and games are great ways to keep our minds sharp while also having a boatload of fun. “If we want our brain to stay in peak condition, we should use it. In fact, one of the theories about reducing or delaying cognitive aging is referred to as the ‘use it or lose it’ theory. Research shows that things like learning languages helps keep us brighter as we age. It is just as important to look after your brain by exercising your thinking skills, as you would do physical exercise to look after your body.”
TIL When Assyrian priests saw a bad omen aimed at the King they used a ritual called The Substitute King. A commoner was found to replace the king while he went in hiding. The man lived as the king absorbing the evil spirits. When the omen passed the commoner was killed and the king returned.
TIL of an Australian diver who befriended a baby shark. For years afterwards, whenever the shark would see him, she would swim up to him and demand cuddles
Have you picked up something new about growing to love learning keeping your minds active as you grow older, dear Pandas? Which of these TIL facts caught your attention the most? What have you learned recently that you can’t wait to share with everyone else? What’s something new that you literally learned today? For example, just this morning, I relearned something that I’d forgotten for a while: how much I love the sound of my shoes crunching over frosted grass, just as the sun’s coming up. It’s a different kind of knowledge, it’s very personal, but, I think, just as valid.
TIL 138 songs of Taylor Swift have entered the Billboard Hot 100, the all-time record for a female artist.
TIL that the Luna Moth only survives 6-7 days once reaching adulthood because it has no mouth and dies of starvation.
TIL inventor of the Murphy-Bed, William Lawrence Murphy (1856-1957), created his first hide-away bed as means to convert his one-room apartment into a parlour, specifically to host the company of his future wife. It was considered inappropriate at the time to for a woman to enter a man’s bedroom.
TIL that Velociraptors were the size of a turkey in real life, not 2m (6 1⁄2 ft) tall as they were portrayed in Jurassic Park movie.
TIL researchers were able to predict whether or not a couple will stay together with extreme accuracy based on one partner’s reaction to things that excited the other. For example, if a wife says “look at that beautiful bird” and the husband blows it off, that’s a strong indication they’ll divorce.
TIL Swedes have a national weekly eating plan. Thursdays are traditionally pancakes and split pea soup.
TIL: That most of the fake snow used in the 1980 Movie “The Shining” was repurposed from the ice planet Hoth scenes in “The Empire Strikes Back”.
TIL that the Icelandic government banned the stationing of black American soldiers in Iceland during the Cold War so as to “protect Icelandic women and preserve a homogenous national body”. After pressure from the US military, the ban was eventually lifted in the late 1960s.
TIL that Confederate soldier Willis Meadows survived a shot to the eye at the battle of Vicksburg. 58 years later, he randomly almost choked to death in his own home until he coughed up a 1 ounce bullet. It was the same one that lodged into his head years earlier.
TIL that the transformation of common metals into gold, a seemingly impossible goal attempted by alchemists for centuries, is now entirely possible using either a nuclear reactor or a particle accelerator. However, the process is so expensive that it is functionally useless.
TIL that in 1997, a 50-pound pumpkin was speared atop a tower at Cornell University, 173 feet in the air. It stayed in place for months. Alumni are still trying to figure out who did it without being noticed — and how.
TIL about the highly lethal, hallucinogenic and terrifying effects from consuming the attractive flowers of the Brugmansia (aka angel tears) plant, including a documented case of a young man who amputated his own penis and tongue after drinking only one cup of Brugmansia tea
TIL that the actor who played Charlie Bucket in the original Charlie and the Chocolate Factory never acted again, and grew up to be a veterinarian.
TIL that Curly from “The Three Stooges” saved and rescued more than 5,000 dogs during his lifetime. He used to bring stray dogs home and sheltered them until he found a home for them. When the Stooges was on tour, he found at least one stray dog a new home in every town he visited.
TIL that when Hattie McDaniel became the first black person to win an Academy Award (for her performance in “Gone with the Wind”) in 1940, she was seated at a segregated table at the side of the room
TIL city spiders are getting bigger, a study found that when spiders lived in urban areas they increased in size and had larger ovaries: Scientists have found increasing evidence that the selective pressures of city living are driving “physical and biological changes” in urban wildlife
TIL the watch made its migration from the pocket to the wrist during World War I, when soldiers were obligated to attach them to their arms for coordinated attacks, instead of fumbling in their pockets. Before then, the “bracelet watch” had mostly been regarded as a joke and “silly-a*s fad”.
TIL Switzerland has 7 simultaneous “presidents”, each with equal power. Every year they rotate control of 7 federal depts & who acts as “head of state” (e.g. when dealing with other countries). They come from various parties — right now it’s 2 conservatives, 2 liberals, 2 socialists, and a centrist
TIL there is an abandoned McDonald’s floating on a barge in Canada. The Mcbarge has been closed for over 30 years
TIL of Austin Tice, a freelance journalist and U.S. Marine Corps veteran who was abducted on August 14, 2012 while reporting on the civil war in Syria. He has since been missing for more than 9 years.
TIL that the US recorded Germany’s nuclear scientists (most of whom thought an atomic bomb was impossible) finding out about Hiroshima in 1945:
WEIZSÄCKER: I think it’s dreadful of the Americans to have done it. I think it is madness on their part.
HEISENBERG: One can’t say that. One could equally well say “That’s the quickest way of ending the war.”
HAHN: That’s what consoles me.
HAHN: I was consoled when, I believe it was WEIZSÄCKER said that there was now this uranium – I found that in my institute too, this absorbing body which made the thing impossible consoled me because when they said at one time one could make bombs, I was shattered.
WEIZSÄCKER: I would say that, at the rate we were going, we would not have succeeded during this war.
WEIZSÄCKER: It is very cold comfort to think that one is personally in a position to do what other people would be able to do one day.
HEISENBERG: There is a great difference between discoveries and inventions. With discoveries one can always be skeptical and many surprises can take place. In the case of inventions, surprises can really only occur for people who have not had anything to do with it. It’s a bit odd after we have been working on it for five years.
TIL in 1978 Emilio Palma was the first person born on Antarctica, making them the only currently living person that was the first person born on a continent
TIL Stephen Hawking found his Undergraduate work ‘ridiculously easy’ to the point where he was able to solve problems without looking at how others did it. Even his examiners realised that “they were talking to someone far cleverer than most of themselves”.
TIL that Gwyneth Paltrow marketed jade eggs for women to insert into their vaginas, and got sued for false claims and misleading information
TIL Texas A&M University offers a class on Texas Barbecue that teaches the history of BBQ, cooking methodology, flavorings and seasonings, and different types of BBQ. The class is offered in the fall and is held on Friday afternoons.
TIL: Teddy Roosevelt became president in 1901 upon the assassination death of William McKinley. But he was at Mount Marcy in the High Peaks of New York State. He had to be found in the middle of nowhere and brought to civilization to be sworn in. It became known as Roosevelts midnight ride.
TIL roughly 70% of businesses in Sicily still pay protection money to the Sicilian Mafia.
Frank Wills, the security guard who discovered the Watergate break-in that eventually led to the resignation of Richard Nixon, struggled with unemployment and poverty for the rest of his life. He died at age 52 of a brain tumour.
TIL a 25-barrel gun was used in an assassination attempt on the King of France in 1835. It fired over 400 projectiles at once and killed 18 people. The assassin was badly injured by exploding barrels, and tracked down by the trail of blood.
TIL sound travels at about 1,080 feet per second in a fog bank. Steamboat captains, rounding off to 1,000 feet for safety, would listen for the echo from their steam whistle to tell how far from shore they were in a fog. An echo heard 1 second after whistle means the boat was 500 ft from shore.
TIL: Scientists found microbes buried beneath the sea floor that divide once every 10,000 years and are as much as 100 million years old.
TIL that instead of taking their usual salaries for ”Twins”, Schwarzenegger and DeVito both agreed with the studio to take 20% of the film’s box office returns which resulted in them receiving the biggest paychecks of their film careers ( movie made $216 million worldwide)
TIL: Ariana Grande had the words ‘small charcoal grill’ tattooed on her hand in Japanese instead of her song 7 Rings due to missing characters.
TIL in 1957, five men stood directly underneath a 2-kiloton nuclear bomb detonated at 18,500 feet to demonstrate how safe it was. One looked up at the explosion through regular sunglasses. They all lived into their 70s or 80s
TIL that in 2004 at the Smithsonian, Walnut, a rare female White-Naped Crane, fell in love with a zoologist named Chris Crowe, who was able to rear her eggs without Walnut hurting other males. White-Naped Cranes are monogamous and stress easily so Chris must stay until he, or Walnut, dies.
TIL the lyrics at the end of ‘Sweet Child of Mine’ were literal. Axel Rose and his music producer were discussing what to do with the end of the song and Rose started saying to himself “Where do we go? Where do we go now?” The producer suggested singing that and that’s how it made it in the song.
TIL Psychologists found that interrogative self-talk, asking yourself a question about a future action increases the likelihood of it happening. For example, rather than saying “I’m going to the gym later.” You would say, “Will I go to the gym later?” It triggers more goal-oriented behavior.
TIL that after Reagan saw the nuclear war film THE DAY AFTER (1983) he wrote in his diary, “It’s very effective & left me greatly depressed. [We have] to do all we can to have a deterrent & to see there is never a nuclear war.” He later said it directly inspired the INF Treaty with the USSR.
TIL Jet Li didn’t want to star in the Matrix with fear that he would lose ownership of his martial arts moves when digitalized