from the world's big
20 incredible facts that people recently tweeted
This Twitter thread may provide all the education a person needs.
- A simple question on Twitter resulted in an avalanche of mind-blowing answers.
- What else are we supposed to do with all of these stray bits of information?
- Sciency, helpful, and ridiculous — we've got 'em all.
On January 27, educator, organizer, and writer Brittany Packnett Cunningham tweeted a simple question: "What's the most random fact you know?" It turns out people know a lot of random things — the replies have been stunningly informative, amazing, and ridiculous. Here are 20 of the best facts shared:
1. A tarantula's best friend
The Colombian tarantula keeps tiny frogs as pets to protect their spider eggies from pests aka the froggies are lil spider pups— Ashley (@aNippz) January 28, 2020
So many thoughts. Interspecies slavery? Frog mills?
2. The snap
When you snap the sound comes from your finger hitting your palm— Jacqueline (@DacolinDudley) January 28, 2020
This might make you feel better if you're one of the many people incapable of doing the African Finger Snap once explained and demonstrated by Lupita Nyong'o.
Mind = blown. Did her folks do this on purpose?
4. Blood stains
If you get a drop of blood on clothing, you can remove it spitting on it. Only works if it’s your blood and your spit, though, because the enzymes need to match. Just a little bit of Professional Seamstress trivia.— Megan #wwdd? Odett (formerly Kidical Mass DC) (@Megan2Wheels) January 28, 2020
This is both amazing and cool. Custom-coded saliva just for your own personal use.
5. Not to worry
The stickers on fruit are made to be edible, just in case.— Tammy Howe (@thowe555) January 28, 2020
Are we the only ones who worry about this? Also, if you don't remove the label before washing the fruit, good luck getting it off.
6. In the event of alligator
If you are attacked by a gator and your arm is in its jaws, push, don't pull. If you can push the flap open at the back of its throat, water rushes in and it starts to drown and will open jaws, hopefully releasing you.— Anika Noni Rose (@AnikaNoniRose) January 28, 2020
7. Listen carefully
When you hum a song, the sounds comes out of your nose— Jared Palmer (@jaredpalmer) January 28, 2020
Hmmm, mmm, mmm. Whaddya know!
8. The nipple rule
most mammals have twice as many nipples as their species' average litter size (e.g. humans mostly have 1 kid at a time, but 2 nipples), this is colloquially referred to as the 'half nipple rule'— Anarcho-Bobcat (@AnarchoBob) January 28, 2020
except opossums, which for some reason have an odd number of nipples
Today is not the day nature stops being weird.
9. Your final sensation in space
If you were ever ejected into space, the last thing you’d feel before losing consciousness is the saliva on your tongue beginning to boil— Jay Kristoff (@misterkristoff) January 29, 2020
(The boiling point of liquids is lower when air pressure is lower. In vacuum, your body heat is enough to boil the spit in your mouth)
Grim, but fascinating. Let's not do this.
10. Dotting your “i”
The dot above an i is called a tittle.— ηєωт, GIFmeister General (@newtnewtriot) January 28, 2020
Because of course.
11. Not who you think they are
Roly poly bugs/pillbugs aren’t insects, they’re crustaceans, more specifically isopods, the only ones likely to be anywhere near your average North American backyard. They have giant sea-floor cousins that can grow up to a foot and a half long but look basically the same.— Megan Romer (@meganromer) January 28, 2020
12. Vegans beware
Artificial raspberry and strawberry flavoring comes from the anal glands of a beaver.— Stephanie ”I Need ❄️” Nelson (@stephanienels) January 28, 2020
While this is true, the resulting flavoring is so expensive to produce that it rarely gets used in foods. Check the label for castoreum. While you're there, keep an eye out for carmine, which is commonly used as a red coloring for food. It's made from crushed beetles.
13. Stand back or run away
Male dolphins can ejaculate as far as 10' and with such force it can kill a human if that human was foolish enough to attempt zoophilic relations with dolphin.— dr. kittens not kids (@kittensnotkids) January 28, 2020
Marine researchers must be very dedicated.
14. Or maybe just swim as fast as you can
Maybe keep your horses away from the ocean.
15. The fine grain of time
No matter how fast our brain can process information, it can never be fast enough to experience the actual present moment. Everything we experience is in the past.— bioethics402 (@jacob_dahlke) January 28, 2020
Of course "now" is a difficult concept to really comprehend. The moment you notice it, it's gone, as the tweet suggests.
This brings to mind quantum entanglement. Maybe particles don't really exist in multiple states at a time, but our ability to capture "now" is just so coarse it seems that way. Our idea of simultaneity may actually be a series of fine-grained moments rounded off into a single "now" that's large enough for us to perceive. Thus, we perceive multiple particle states as simultaneous but they're really not. Just saying.
16. Million billion
A million seconds is 12 days— Dr. M (@MaaloufMD) January 28, 2020
A billion seconds is 31 years
You've wondered, right? A perfect fact for the next conversation lull you need to fill.
17. Nuts in nature
Cashews grow on the bottom of a cashew apple. The apple is too perishable to export, so we only ever see the nuts. pic.twitter.com/ScAXAKNk6g— Drew Barth (@drewbarth) January 28, 2020
Also, we only see the nuts because some of the discarded parts of the plant are toxic.
18. Orange carrots
Oh, another:— Lynne Up North 🕷️ (@AndOrNorLyn) January 28, 2020
Carrots are orange because of a political statement.
Originally carrots came in multiple colors, including white, yellow, and purple, but orange ones were selectively bred by the Dutch as support for William of Orange, who led the the struggle for Dutch independence.
Censored vegetables, for goodness' sake.
19. Angular numbers?
The numbers we use today are based on drawings done by Phoenician merchants. Many of them were illiterate, so they added angles to a straight line and counted them instead. This picture explains it nicely: pic.twitter.com/iM51BGMGrq— Damski (@TuftyBall) January 29, 2020
Some researchers are skeptical about this origin story, especially when it comes to the symbol for zero.
20. How long you’ll remember all this
Within one hour, people will forget an average of 50 percent of info presented; 24 hours, an average of 70 percent of new info;and within a week, an average of 90 percent of it.— 2019Families2Investigate MLK/X/JFK Deaths (@jjconceptsinc) January 28, 2020
What was the first fact on this list?
Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti get stuck in an infinite wedding time loop.
- Two wedding guests discover they're trapped in an infinite time loop, waking up in Palm Springs over and over and over.
- As the reality of their situation sets in, Nyles and Sarah decide to enjoy the repetitive awakenings.
- The film is perfectly timed for a world sheltering at home during a pandemic.
In more than a dozen countries as far apart as Portugal and Russia, 'Smith' is the most popular occupational surname
- 'Smith' is not just the most common surname in many English-speaking countries
- In local translations, it's also the most common occupational surname in a large part of Europe
- Ironically, Smiths are so ubiquitous today because smiths were so special a few centuries ago
Meet the Smiths, Millers, Priests and Imams - the most popular occupational surnames across Europe.
Image: Marcin Ciura<p>Although very few people are smiths by profession these days, there are millions of Smiths by surname the world over. It's the most popular surname in Britain, Australia, New Zealand and the United States, as well as the second most popular surname in Canada and the fifth most popular one in Ireland. And they're a thriving bunch, at least in the U.S.: the 2010 Census (1) counted 2,442,977 Americans called Smith, 2.8% more than in 2000.</p><p>Curiously, 'Smith' also is one of the most popular surnames across most of Europe –translated in the various local vernaculars, of course. This map shows the most common occupational surnames in each country. By colour-coding the professions, this map shows a remarkable pro-smith consistency across Europe – as well as some curious regional exceptions.</p>
‘Smith’ popular throughout Europe<p>'Smith', in all its variations, is the most popular occupational surname throughout Europe. Not just in the UK, but also in:</p> <ul><li>Belgium (<em>Desmet</em>) and Luxembourg, (<em>Schmitt</em>);</li> <li>France (<em>Lefebvre</em>), Italy (<em>Ferrari</em>) and Portugal (<em>Ferreira</em>);</li> <li>Slovenia (<em>Kovačič</em>), Croatia (<em>Kovačevič</em>), Hungary (<em>Kovács</em>), Slovakia (<em>Kováč</em>), Poland (<em>Kowalski</em>), Lithuania (<em>Kavaliauskas</em>), Latvia (<em>Kalējs</em>) and Belarus (<em>Kavalyov</em>);</li> <li>Estonia (<em>Sepp</em>); and</li> <li>Russia (<em>Kuznetsov</em>).</li></ul>
‘Miller’ on top in many Germanic-language countries<p>'Miller' is the most popular occupational surname in many Germanic-language countries, but also in Spain and Ukraine (perhaps because the grain in both countries is mainly in the plain):</p> <ul><li>There's <em>Müller</em> (in Germany and Switzerland), <em>M</em><em>ø</em><em>ller</em> (in Denmark and Norway) and <em>Möller</em> (Sweden);</li> <li><em>Molina</em> (in Spain – the map also shows the most popular surname in Catalonia/Catalan: <em>Ferrer</em>, i.e. 'Smith'); and</li> <li><em>Melnik</em> (in Ukraine).</li></ul>
Clergy surnames rule in the Balkans<p>Catholic clergy must remain celibate, so 'Priest' as a surname is rare to non-existent throughout Europe. Except in the Balkans, where Catholicism is largely absent. Here, the Orthodox and Islamic clergies have passed on the title from father to son, eventually as a surname, to popular effect. Orthodox clergy are addressed as <em>papa</em> or <em>pope</em> (which means 'father' – so the surname rather redundantly translates to 'father's son'). Islamic teachers or imams are known by the Turkish/Persian term <em>hodzha</em>. An overview:</p> <ul><li><em>Popov</em> (in Bulgaria), <em>Popovic</em> (in both Serbia and Montenegro), <em>Popovski</em> (in Macedonia);</li> <li><em>Popa</em> (in Romania); </li> <li><em>Papadopoulos</em> (in Greece); and</li> <li><em>Hodžić</em> (in Bosnia-Herzegovina), <em>Hoxha</em> (in both Kosovo and Albania).</li></ul>
Landowners and other professions<p>Austria and the Czech Republic have different national languages but are neighbours and share a lot of history. Could that explain why they have a similar most popular occupational surname, for 'landowner'?</p> <ul><li><em>Huber</em> (in Austria) and</li> <li><em>Dvořák</em> (in the Czech Republic).</li></ul> <p>Just four professions, that wraps up all but five countries on this map. Those five each have their very own most popular occupational surname:</p> <ul><li><em>Bakker</em> (in the Netherlands): 'Baker'</li> <li><em>Kinnunen</em> (in Finland): 'Skinner'</li> <li><em>Ceban</em> (in Moldova): 'Shepherd'</li> <li><em>Avci</em> (in Turkey): 'Hunter'</li> <li><em>Murphy</em> (in Ireland): 'Sea Warrior' </li></ul>
Even more Smiths<p>Judging from the popularity of these surnames, your generic European village of a few centuries ago really couldn't do without a smithy. It was a much more essential craft even than that of the miller (or the baker, who put the miller's flour to good use) – except in the Balkans, where spiritual sustenance apparently sated a greater need. On the outskirts of <em>Anytown, Europe</em> live the shepherd and the hunter, the skinner and the pirate.<br></p><p>A bit too simplistic? Perhaps not simplistic enough. This map could have been dominated by even more Smiths. As the original poster explains, he always picked the most frequent version of an occupational surname, even if multiple variants point to a more popular alternative. </p><p>In the Netherlands, for instance, people with the surnames <em>Smit, Smits, Smid, de Smit, Smet </em>and <em>Smith</em> collectively outnumber those with the surnames <em>Bakker, Bekker, de Bakker</em> and <em>Backer</em>. So, the Netherlands could be considered another win for 'Smith' – except that the variant <em>Bakker</em> is more frequent than any other single variant.</p><p>Same story in Germany: added up, there are more people named <em>Schmidt, Schmitt, Schmitz </em>and <em>Schmid</em> than <em>Müller</em>. Ditto for Spain: <em>Herrero, Herrera </em>and <em>Ferrer</em> together outnumber <em>Molina</em>. Also in Finland, where <em>Seppä</em>, <em>Seppälä</em> and <em>Seppänen</em> together have a higher count than <em>Kinnunen</em>. </p>
Smiths in other cultures<p>'Smith' was a crucial occupation in other cultures too, judging from the familiar ring it has in these languages:<br></p><ul><li><em></em><em>Demirci</em> (Turkish)</li><li><em>Hadad</em> (Syriac, Aramaic, Arabic)</li><li><em>Nalbani</em> (Albanian)</li><li><em>McGowan</em> (Gaelic)</li><li><em>Faber</em> (Latin)<span></span></li></ul>
Other most popular surnames<p>Take note, though: 'Smith' may be the most popular surname in in the Anglosphere, this map does not mean to show that its variants in French, Russian and other languages also are the most popular surnames in the countries marked grey. They are merely the most popular <em>occupational</em> surnames.<br></p><p>As this sample of most common ones for each country shows, surnames can refer to a host of other things. Personal qualities or physical attributes, for example:</p> <ul><li>Russia: <em>Smirnov</em> ('the quiet one')</li> <li>Turkey: <em>Yilmaz</em> ('unflinching')</li> <li>Hungary: <em>Nagy</em> ('big')</li> <li>Italy: <em>Rossi/Russo</em> ('red', in northern and southern Italy, respectively)</li></ul> <p>Another option: the origin of the name-bearer (be it a place or a person):</p> <ul><li>Sweden: <em>Andersson</em> ('son of Anders')</li> <li>Slovakia: <em>Horvath</em> ('Croat')</li> <li>Kosovo: <em>Krasniqi</em> (refers to the Krasniq tribe and their mountainous home region)</li> <li>Portugal: <em>Silva</em> ('woodland')</li> <li>Latvia: <em>Bērziņš</em> ('little birch tree')</li> <li>Estonia: <em>Tamm</em> ('oak')</li></ul> <p>But sometimes, even for the most popular ones, the exact origin of the surname is lost in time:</p> <ul><li>Spain: <em>Garcia</em> (originally Basque, possibly meaning 'young', 'bear' or 'young bear')</li> <li>Finland: <em>Korhonen</em> ('hard of hearing' or 'dim-witted'; 'village elder'; 'proud'; 'upright'). </li></ul>
Smith popularity theory<p>So why exactly is Smith – and not Miller, for example – the most popular surname in many English-speaking countries? The theory propounded by historian C.M. Matthews in <em>History Today</em> (July 1967) probably also holds for the other-language variants so popular throughout Europe:<br></p><blockquote>"The reason for (the) multiplicity (of the surname 'Smith') is not so much that metal-workers were numerous as that they were important and widespread. On the skill of the smith, both rich and poor depended for the most essential things of life, the tools of husbandry and the weapons of hunting and war. Every community in the land must have one, every castle, every manor; and so distinctive was his trade that he would seldom need another name".<em></em></blockquote><p>That does not mean all people with the surname have a forefather who forged iron into weapons and farm tools. Especially in North America, 'Smith' was adopted by many people precisely because it was already common – as a secret identity or to blend in, for example by natives, slaves and immigrants.</p>
A recent analysis of a 76-million-year-old Centrosaurus apertus fibula confirmed that dinosaurs suffered from cancer, too.
- The fibula was originally discovered in 1989, though at the time scientists believed the damaged bone had been fractured.
- After reanalyzing the bone, and comparing it with fibulas from a human and another dinosaur, a team of scientists confirmed that the dinosaur suffered from the bone cancer osteosarcoma.
- The study shows how modern techniques can help scientists learn about the ancient origins of diseases.
Centrosaurus apertus fibula
Royal Ontario Museum<p>In the recent study, the team used a combination of techniques to analyze the fibula, including taking CT scans, casting the bone and studying thin slices of it under a microscope. The analysis suggested that the dinosaur likely suffered from osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer that affects modern humans, typically young adults.</p><p>For further evidence, the team compared the damaged fibula to a healthy fibula from a dinosaur of the same species, and also to a fibula that belonged to a 19-year-old human who suffered from osteosarcoma. Both comparisons supported the osteosarcoma diagnosis.</p>
Evans et al.<p style="margin-left: 20px;">"The shin bone shows aggressive cancer at an advanced stage," Evans said in a <a href="https://www.rom.on.ca/en/about-us/newsroom/press-releases/rare-malignant-cancer-diagnosed-in-a-dinosaur" target="_blank">press release</a>. "The cancer would have had crippling effects on the individual and made it very vulnerable to the formidable tyrannosaur predators of the time."</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"The fact that this plant-eating dinosaur lived in a large, protective herd may have allowed it to survive longer than it normally would have with such a devastating disease."</p><p>The fossilized fibula was originally unearthed in a bonebed alongside the remains of dozens of other <em>Centrosaurus </em><em>apertus</em>, suggesting the dinosaur didn't die from cancer, but from a flood that swept it away with its herd.</p>
Dinosaur fibula; the tumor mass is depicted in yellow.
Royal Ontario Museum/McMaster University<p>The new study highlights how modern techniques can help scientists learn more about the evolutionary origins of modern diseases, like cancer. It also shows that dinosaurs suffered through some of the same terrestrial afflictions humans face today.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Dinosaurs can seem like mythical creatures, but they were living, breathing animals that suffered through horrible injuries and diseases," Evans said, "and this discovery certainly makes them more real and helps bring them to life in that respect."</p>
Join the lauded author of Range in conversation with best-selling author and poker pro Maria Konnikova!
UPDATE: Unfortunately, Malcolm Gladwell was not able to make the live stream due to scheduling issues. Fortunately, David Epstein was able to jump in at a moment's notice. We hope you enjoy this great yet unexpected episode of Big Think Live. Our thanks to David and Maria for helping us deliver a show, it is much appreciated.