Two of the greatest upsides of the internet, in my opinion, are its ability to entertain us and put us right on track to learn something entirely new. We have the wealth of human wisdom at our fingertips, but we need constant reminders to hone our minds when we can just as easily spend the entire evening watching Netflix or reading about which celeb did what.
For me, the ‘Today I Learned’ community on Reddit is a constant reminder about how rich in information and full of knowledge our world really is. It is an online group that celebrates people learning something new every single day. So far, it has carved out a massive niche for its 26.3 million (soon to be 26.4 million) curious members who have a special place in their hearts for science and history. The TIL crowd helps keep me learning and, I hope, it’ll do the same for you, too, Pandas.
Scroll down for the newest TIL facts and trivia, upvote the ones that surprised you, and let us know in the comments about all the things that you recently learned.
Oh, and one of the best parts about these facts? We can totally repeat them during our lunch break and impress everyone with how brainy we are. Who doesn’t like random facts alongside their sandwich-and-tea combo, right? In case you need more interesting facts to fill your mind, you can always scroll through Bored Panda’s earlier articles featuring the TIL community. You’ll find them here, here, and here.
I wanted to get to grips with whether the internet is a force for education or a tool for distraction, as well as talk about how we can choose the direction of our further studies if we feel completely lost, so I reached out to Steven Wooding. A member of the Institute of Physics in the UK, Steven is also part of the Omni Calculator Project and helped create the Weird Units Converter (it’s a lot of fun for scientists and geeks alike). Read on for Bored Panda’s interview to see what Steven had to say.
TIL when Dr. Joyce Brothers was a contestant on The $64,000 Question the show’s sponsor Revlon tried to get rid of her because she didn’t wear makeup on air. She was asked increasingly obscure questions but was able to answer them all correctly and became the show’s first woman to win the top prize.
TIL that in 1867, an American businessman attended a reading of A Christmas Carol and was so moved by it, that he closed his factory on Christmas Day and sent every employee a turkey.
Steven, a member of the Omni Calculator Project team, told Bored Panda that the internet is something that’s neutral and more akin to a mirror than a tool that’s either inherently good or evil. “Of course it can be both,” he said.
“The internet reflects the world around it, so everything you find in the world will also appear on the internet. I see it as a great shortcut to information (gone are the days of having to visit a library) that can speed up your learning and ability to do things,” Steven said.
He added that if we feel like we’re unable to maintain our focus and keep getting distracted by all the potential entertainment we’re missing out on, we should “set aside specific times for studying and other times for fun.” Discipline and clear boundaries are key here.
TIL that the sirens from Greek mythology were never said to be beautiful, or even mermaids. Instead, they were strange human-faced bird creatures who lured men to their deaths by promising them wisdom and knowledge of the future.
TIL in 1999, Microsoft wanted the domain www.Windows2000.com but it happened to be owned by a guy called Bob. Luckily, Microsoft happened to own the domain www.Bob.com. They made a swap, with Bob receiving some “other considerations” as well!
TIL about the Edict of Salerno. In 1231 after noticing the rapidly rising cost of medicine, Emperor Friedrich II made it forbidden for doctors to double as pharmacists and the prices of various medicines were fixed so they could not rise further.
Steven also opened up about fighting back against burnout and apathy. In his view, we can become burned out when there’s far too much going on, as well as far too little. “I believe that burnout awaits us at the two ends of a graph in the shape of an inverted letter ‘U.’ The graph represents the level of difficulty of what we’re doing. If it is too high (e.g., we get too stressed, feel too insecure), we will eventually give up. But the same happens when the difficulty level is too low: when we’re doing exactly the same thing over and over again,” he said.
“My little secret for avoiding apathy is giving myself little challenges, difficulties, or assumptions that I need to stick to during my tasks. This way, I can polish my skills, avoid burnout, and (as a bonus side effect) get better results over time. Try to be conscious of ‘the burnout curve’—and adjust your life’s challenges so that they always hit somewhere near the top of the curve.”
In short, we need to challenge ourselves to stay engaged in whatever project we’re doing. However, it can take some work to find the right balance that doesn’t stress you out or make you bored.
TIL Danish has about 40 different vowel sounds and is so hard to learn that Danish children on average know 30% fewer words at 15 months than Norwegian children and take two years longer to learn the past tense
TIL that many birds do not breed very well in small flocks and that Zoos use mirrors to help increase reproduction
TIL astronaut Bruce McCandless floated in space completely unattached to anything, 320 feet away from the space shuttle with only a nitrogen jetpack back in 1984.
For any of you Pandas who love learning but aren’t sure what direction to take your education further, know that you aren’t alone. I’ve been exactly where you are. I had a few radically different directions I wanted to pursue at university, and it took a while for me to narrow down my options.
Steven suggests picking the subject that interests you the most because you’ll spend several years studying it. In this case, you really should listen to your heart. “Don’t choose based on things like the job you could get, as you’ll always be wishing you were doing the thing that really interests you,” he warned.
“If you have no idea, ask yourself what subject at school did you enjoy most? Or what other activity do you find yourself doing? Can that be a starting point as to what to study at university?” Steven shared some of the questions that we should pose that, hopefully, will help us come to an informed decision about our future.
During an earlier interview, I learned all about, well, learning from child independence expert Lenore Skenazy, the president of Let Grow and the founder of the Free-Range Kids movement. She told Bored Panda that, nowadays, we have a far narrower understanding of what learning is than we did before, as a species. She also believes that it’s not really learning that we fall in love with, it’s the activities and topics that interest us, that we’re the most passionate about. That, in turn, makes us want to know more about them.
“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 said.
TIL in the 1950s, a researcher was designing army airplane seats for an ‘average’ pilot based on measurements from 1000s of airmen, only to discover this theoretical ‘average’ he’d derived wouldn’t fit any of them. This realization led to adjustable seats, foot pedals, helmet straps, and flight suits
TIL that Cinderella isn’t a real name but was just a nickname for Ella who would be covered in cinders due to having to sleep by the fireplace to keep warm or clean ashes. Most other versions have different variations on a name relating to ashes.
TIL that in 1992, six visitors to a dinosaur exhibition in the Memphis Zoo demanded a refund after discovering it did not contain living dinosaurs
“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,” Lenore explained to Bored Panda in an interview.
These days, when most of us think of learning, we think of teachers, classrooms, and students. In other words, formal education. But this isn’t how we did things for most of our 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,” the expert said.
TIL Queen Victoria personally admired Harriet Tubman and gifted her a silk lace & linen shawl in 1897. It is now on display at the national museum of African-American history & Culture
TIL at David Niven’s funeral, the largest wreath was from the porters at Heathrow Airport with a card reading “To the finest gentleman who ever walked through these halls. He made a porter feel like a king.”
In Lenore’s opinion, “learning comes automatically” when we fall in love with something that we consider to be interesting or absolutely essential for us right now. What’s more, we shouldn’t be too picky about what form our learning takes, as long as it helps us get to our end goal quicker. In other words, the internet can be a perfectly viable tool for learning. If we use it correctly.
“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 said, noting that Socrates himself hated the idea that folks exchanged memorizing things for writing them down.
“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!” Lenore told Bored Panda.
TIL that the reason many Hanna Barbera characters had collars and ties was to save money on animation. Separating the head and body allows the body to remain static while the head is animated. This made it so a seven-minute cartoon only required around 2,000 drawings, as opposed to the usual 14,000
What’s more, the expert firmly believes that children need to have time to goof off and have fun. “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!”
It’s vital that kids get some time to do what they want without adult supervision and intervention so they can develop their social-emotional skills like patience, curiosity, frustration-tolerance, and focus. They’ll also figure out what they’re interested in without having adults push their personal interests on top of them. The result? A curious growing mind that wants to learn more about the world.
TIL according to the head of MI6, if James Bond was real, he would be unable to work for British intelligence because he lacks the required emotional intelligence, respect for the law and teamwork abilities.
TIL that corned beef is named for the large grains of rock salt (also called “corns” of salt) that are used to treat the meat.
TIL Viking women’s faces were more masculine than today’s women, while Viking men’s faces looked more feminine than today’s men, with a less prominent jaw and brow ridges. The ambiguous facial features mean that it is difficult to decide upon a Viking skeleton’s sex based on the skull alone
TIL that “No Country For Old Men” had to suspend production because the crew for “There Will Be Blood” was testing pyrotechnics in the same area and created too much smoke.
TIL that Brussels Sprouts have been selectively bred over the last few decades to taste less bitter, indirectly lessening their anti-cancer properties.
TIL of Arthur Stillwell, a young Kansas City entrepreneur who built over 3000 miles of railroad, and founded over 40 towns, and developed a way to to ship live oysters by train, all because the voices in his head told him to.
TIL in the midst of Greenland’s pristine landscape lies a U.S. Air Force base which was abandoned in 1947 and everything was left behind; dilapidated vehicles, asbestos-laden structures, and 10,000 leaking fuel barrels. The Inuits who live in the region call the rusted remains “American Flowers”.
TIL jazz guitarist Pat Martino suffered a near-fatal seizure in 1980 which left him with amnesia and no recollection or knowledge of how to play the guitar. He re-learned how to play the instrument, and resumed his performing and recording career in 1987 until his death in 2021.
TIL that when Leslie Nielsen died, ESPN published an obituary for Enrico Pallazzo, the umpire he played in The Naked Gun
TIL that an underachieving Princeton student wrote a term paper describing how to make a nuclear bomb. He got an A but his paper was taken away by the FBI.
TIL that in No Time to Die, the cobbled streets of Matera, Italy did not have sufficient grip for the film’s opening car chase. The crew got around this by pouring Coca-Cola all over the road, making it sticky, and allowing the drivers to perform the stunts.
TIL that one town in Scotland celebrates Halloween on the last Friday of October instead of the 31st since there’s no school or work (for most) the next day.
TIL: when St. Jerome translated the Bible to common Latin, he made the forbidden fruit an apple as a pun.
TIL that when Niccolo Tartaglia found a formula to solve certain types of cubic equations, he did not publish his findings. However, Tartaglia wrote a 25 line poem explaining the formula and shared it with another mathematician, Girolama Cardano, who went ahead and published it himself.
TIL there are 17 monarchies in the world ruled by a Queen, 16 of those are Queen Elizabeth II
TIL in 1972, The Los Alamos National Laboratories patented a nuclear tunnel boring machine, claiming it could reach depths of 18+ miles. It uses molten lithium to melt through rock, leaving behind a tunnel with a glass-like finish.
TIL that during World War 1, the American Expeditionary Forces tried to make the French treat Black soldiers in accordance with Jim Crow laws ”due to concerns that black soldiers and officers working with the French were being treated with too much “familiarity and indulgence.”
TIL that in 1952, Stalin proposed German reunification under a “neutral and democratic” government, but was turned down by the West. It is still debated whether the offer was a bluff, a trick, or a genuine missed opportunity for reunification.
TIL that in 1859 a 2 hour telegraph conversation between Portland and Boston was able to be had without the use of any battery power. This was due to an aurora borealis generating enough electric current in the telegraph wires.
TIL the biggest and oldest bald cypress tree in the world was burned down by a 26-year-old Sara Barnes who lit a fire inside the tree to see the meth she wanted to smoke. It was the 5th oldest tree in the world at over 3500 years old age.
TIL until 1971, the Government of Canada assigned all Inuit people a number in lieu of a surname and issued each a leather disc with the number that had to be carried at all times or sewn into clothing
TIL researchers found that double-decker bus drivers were twice as likely to have heart attacks as their bus conductor colleagues. The drivers sat for 90% of their shifts, the conductors climbed about 600 stairs a day
TIL televangelist Pat Robertson had extensive business with West African warlord Charles Taylor, who “has been found responsible for aiding and abetting as well as planning some of the most heinous and brutal crimes in recorded human history” and sentenced to 50 years for crimes against humanity.
TIL of Conrad Veidt, a top 1920s German actor whose wife was Jewish. He refused to renounce her and even claimed to be Jewish in solidarity. In Hollywood, his acting contract said if he played a Nazi, he must be a villain (like he was in Casablanca). He also gave his life savings to the war effort.
TIL that when he was 8, George Carlin’s aunt worked for the publisher of the Sunday newspaper funnies. Through his aunt, Carlin gained early access to the comics and would impress his classmates by predicting each week’s stories.
TIL that Canadian filmmakers were planning to make a Canadian adaption of the James Bond movies with Ryan Reynolds playing James Bond.
TIL of Kim Hyon-hui, a North Korean spy who was captured by South Korea. She agreed to cooperate after being taken on a tour of Seoul and discovering that the South was vastly more prosperous than the North
TIL in 1960, high school and college students of Petersburg, Virginia would undergo training to prepare them for sit-in harassment. In the course they were subjected to antagonisms like: smoke-blowing, hair-pulling, chair-jostling, coffee-spilling, hitting with wadded newspaper, along with epithets.
TIL ‘Dragon Ball’ creator Akira Toriyama hated the Hollywood live-action movie ‘Dragon Ball: Evolution’ so much, it compelled him to create new content; “I got angry about the live-action movie, (I) re-wrote an entire movie script.”
TIL the world record deepest scuba dive was performed by Ahmed Gabr, a special forces officer on the Egyptian army. Ahmed reached a depth of 1090 ft. Although he was able to reach this depth in approximately 12 minutes, it took almost 15 hours for him to surface safely.
TIL that when Michael Keaton was originally announced as Batman, 50,000 fans mailed letters to Warner Bros in protest and ripped up publicity materials at comic conventions
TIL of Eduard Bloch, an Austrian Jew who was granted special protection by Hitler. Bloch was Hitler’s childhood physician and when Hitler’s mother needed cancer treatment, he charged reduced rates.
TIL Microsoft lost $4 billion with the original Xbox console since it had a manufacturing price far more expensive than its retail price
TIL that when Hugh Hefner died the Playboy Mansion became the property of neighbor Daren Metropoulos who bought the estate in 2016 for $100 million. He reportedly struck a deal with Los Angeles officials that will permanently protect it from demolition, even from future owners.
TIL that the Japanese couldn’t keep up with American armor in the later stages of WWII, so they developed a suicidal anti-tank explosive called a Lunge mine.
TIL the armonica which Benjamin Franklin invented in 1761 (and some believed caused madness) owes its disorienting sound due to the way we perceive and locate sound. Above 4khz we use loudness for location. Below 1khz we use phase differences. The armonica (1-4khz) is in a range the brain is unsure.
TIL The longest confirmed tank kill in history was recorded in 1991 when a British Challenger-1 tank with the callsign 11B fired at an Iraqi main battle tank from a distance of more than 5,100 meters – just above three miles – with a Depleted Uranium round.
TIL the record for fastest NYC – LA “Cannonball Run” drive was done in a 2016 Audi S6 modified to mimic a Ford Taurus and add a 45-gallon trunk-mounted fuel cell. The drive was done by Arne Toman and Doug Tabbutt in 25 hrs, 39 min. with an average speed of 112 mph and top speed of 175.
TIL that historically, polio was not widely fatal. 72% of all infections were asymptomatic; 24% resulted in mild illness; 1-5% resulted in more serious but short-term symptoms. But polio was still feared, due to the