25 Things You Didn't Know You Could Do With Peanut Butter

iStock
iStock

Most people know peanut butter as a staple from their childhood lunches or something that gets stuck to the roof of their mouth. But its applications extend far beyond the lunchbox. From making repairs around the home to making precious gemstones, here are some surprising things you can do with the protein-packed spread.

1. MAKE A GLOW-IN-THE-DARK SCIENCE EXPERIMENT

Hand holding green laser pointer.
Sarah Sotin, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

If you ever need something to do during a power outage, try experimenting with a sealed jar of peanut butter and a laser pointer. The crushing and heating process used to make peanut butter produces phenols, organic compounds that absorb light. Exposing fresh peanut butter to the violet light of a laser pointer will cause the phenols to glow green for a few seconds at a time.

2. GET YOUR MORNING CAFFEINE FIX

Jars of caffeinated peanut butter.
STEEM

Peanut butter doesn't normally contain caffeine, but a serving of STEEM peanut butter packs more than a cup of coffee. Because it takes our bodies longer to absorb peanut butter than liquid coffee, the company claims that the caffeinated version of the treat offers a longer lasting energy boost than straight java—and will do it without any of the jittery side effects.

3. TURN IT INTO DIAMONDS

Tweezers holding a diamond.
iStock

Peanut butter isn't considered a high-end product, but subject it to the extreme conditions of the Earth's mantle and that could change. A researcher in Germany successfully made a synthetic diamond using peanut butter as his source of carbon. The substance had to be squeezed with pressure 1.3 million times that of our atmosphere before a diamond was formed. But don't expect the peanut butter diamonds to be studding engagement rings anytime soon: The results were puny and impure compared to what's sold in jewelry stores.

4. REMOVE GUM

Girl blowing bubble gum with a brick wall behind her
iStock

Maybe you fell asleep with gum in your mouth, or you blew a bubble that was just too big for your own good. Whatever the reason, odds are that you've gotten gum stuck in your hair at one point or another. In such cases, peanut butter has prevented many unwanted trips to the hairdresser. The oils in the product make gum less pliable and sticky, therefore easier to massage out of hair. The quick fix also works to free gum from other surfaces like clothing.

5. TREAT HICCUPS

Woman eating peanut butter with a spoon.
iStock

Peanut butter is one of the lesser-known purported hiccup cures, but some people swear by it. The idea is that slowly consuming something thick and gooey like peanut butter will break up your swallowing and breathing patterns and dispel the hiccups. It also sounds way more enjoyable than holding your breath or standing on your head.

6. FEED ASTRONAUTS

Half-eaten peanut butter sandwich.
iStock

Dining options are limited on the International Space Station, but even in space peanut butter sandwiches make an appearance on the menu. Assembling the meal up there isn't as easy as laying out the components on your kitchen counter. Instead of a jar, the peanut butter astronauts eat is stored in a flat-packed squeeze tube.

7. MAKE BAIT FOR FISH

Man fishing in a lake.
iStock

Forget fancy lures: According to some experienced fishermen, peanut butter sandwiches make some of the best bait for catching codfish, catfish, carp, and bluegill. Prepare it on stale bread and garnish it with birdseed or garlic to make it especially irresistible.

8. REPAIR SCRATCHES

DVD with scratches.
iStock

Depending on how long you’ve been holding on to it, your favorite CD or DVD likely has a scratch or two. But there's no reason to retire your scuffed-up discs for good: All you need is some peanut butter to extend the lifespan of your collection. Lightly rub the damaged surface with the peanut butter, set it down for a short while, and then remove the excess with a cloth. The scratches will still be there, but the oils from the peanuts will temporarily fill them in and smooth them out. You can also try the trick with your scratched-up wood furniture.

9. GET A HORSE TO "TALK"

Horse with its mouth open.
iStock

Before the age of CGI, the makers of the sitcom Mister Ed used a much simpler method to get their equine star to "talk." The producers claimed that when they put peanut butter in the horse's mouth, he would move his lips to try to get it out. They dubbed the dialogue over this footage to create the illusion of a talking horse. (Though according to one theory, a wire attached to the horse's head was the primary source of the special effect.)

10. USE IT AS SHAVING CREAM

Razor sitting on the edge of a bath tub.
iStock

If you're open to mixing up your grooming routine, consider swapping your shaving gel with peanut butter. It's cheaper, works just as well, and, as a bonus, nourishes your skin with natural oils. Give it a shot if you don't mind smelling nutty and delicious for the rest of the day.

11. ESCAPE FROM PRISON

Cell doors in a prison hallway.
iStock

A group of prisoners at the Walker County Jail in Alabama were able to escape confinement using nothing but peanut butter and some clever deception. After smearing peanut butter on the numbers above their cell so it matched the number of the door leading outside, the inmates asked a new guard to let them into what they claimed to be their cell. From the control room, he inadvertently opened the front door and the escapees were able to walk right out. Despite the breakout, peanut butter sandwiches are still served at the prison.

12. REMOVE STICKERS

Price sticker on green background.
Alex Liivet, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Peanut butter works the same magic on hard-to-peel stickers as it does on gum. Once you have your new purchase, peel off as much of the price sticker as possible and scrub away the stubborn residue with a dab of peanut butter. Peanut butter is also a great nontoxic way to remove stickers and glue from produce.

13. COOK SAVORY DISHES

Ramen in a bowl on a table.
iStock

It's no secret that peanut butter shines in sugary treats, whether in a cupcake or a candy bar. But peanut butter works just as well as a savory ingredient. If you have a jar in your pantry, you can add a dollop to punch up your instant ramen, or use it as a thickener in sauces or stews.

14. PREVENT DISEASE

Tools for making a peanut butter sandwich spread out on a table.
iStock

You may already know that peanut butter is a great source of fiber and protein, but according to one study, the health benefits of eating the snack while you're young may extend to later in life. Researchers from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and Harvard Medical School found that women who consumed peanut butter on a regular basis between ages 9 and 15 decreased their chances of developing benign breast disease by age 30 by 39 percent.

15. BUILD A BIRD FEEDER

You may remember this one from summer camp—to build a cheap bird feeder at home, all you need is a pine cone, some peanut butter, bird seed, and string. Cover the pine cone in the peanut butter before rolling it in the seed to coat it. Use a string to hang it up from a nearby tree branch and watch the birds in your backyard gather to enjoy the homemade treat.

16. USE IT AS FROSTING

Cupcake with peanut butter frosting.
iStock

Looking for a more nutritious alternative to sugary frosting? Peanut butter makes the perfect topping for your baked goods. Spread it on chocolate cupcakes, cookies, or even doughnuts.

17. KEEP PETS OCCUPIED

Dog chewing a toy.
Alan Levine, Flickr // Public Domain

If dogs love one thing more than playtime with their humans, it's peanut butter. The ingredient can be used to make a toy that your pet won't rip apart or get bored with after two minutes. Get your hands on a Kong or a similar hollow, rubber chew toy and fill it with a generous spoonful of peanut butter. While your dog spends the afternoon figuring out how to get it out, you can enjoy a few hours of peace and quiet.

18. MAKE EDIBLE SCULPTING DOUGH

Sticking a finger in a jar of peanut butter.
iStock

Peanut butter is messier than real Play-Doh, but it's also a lot tastier. Mix half a cup of it with one cup of powdered sugar and two tablespoons of honey to get a material that's the perfect consistency for rolling, shaping, and squeezing. And once your creations are complete, they can make a wholesome post-playtime bite.

19. MAKE MEDICINE MORE APPEALING

Dog being fed peanut butter.
iStock

This trick is a favorite with parents of pets and kids. Before giving a pill to a dog, cat, or young child, hide it in a gob of peanut butter. The medication they turned their noses up at moments ago suddenly becomes a lot easier to swallow.

20. GET A POST-WORKOUT PROTEIN BOOST

Lacing up shoes before a workout.
iStock

Fueling up right after exercising is essential to replenishing your energy stores and repairing and building up muscles. Peanut butter is one of the best foods you can include in your post-workout snack. The carbs, fats, and proteins in a serving are exactly what your body needs after being pushed to the limit.

21. QUALITY TEST PRODUCTS

Open jar of peanut butter.
iStock

The world's most perfect jar of peanut butter is produced by the federal government. At a price of $220 for a 6-ounce jar, the National Institute of Standards and Technology sells the flawless spread to food manufacturers developing their own peanut-based products. By testing "Standard Reference Material No. 2387" in the lab, they can see how the vitamin, mineral, and aflatoxin levels in their own peanut butters stack up.

22. BUILD A 444-POUND PEANUT BUTTER CUP

Peanut butter cups on a table.
iStock

In 2015, a Los Angeles-area candy shop lined a plastic kiddie pool with melted chocolate and filled it with peanut butter in an attempt to break the world record for largest peanut butter cup. The monstrous confection ended up weighing 444 pounds. Afterwards, it was broken up into smaller pieces and sold to raise money for charity.

23. USE IT AS CONDITIONER

Woman brushing her hair in the mirror.
iStock

You don't have to wait to get gum stuck in your hair to lather it up with peanut butter. The oils and nutrients it contains make it a great natural alternative to leave-in conditioner. Just work it into your hair, allow it to sit for a while, and wash it out to find vibrant, lustrous locks underneath.

24. MAKE A FACEMASK

The same properties that make peanut butter a nourishing hair treatment also make it a soothing face mask. A peanut butter facial works best on dry skin and shouldn't be applied to faces that are already oily.

25. SHINE LEATHER

Hand cleaning a leather sofa.
iStock

Your dull leather is only a few dabs of peanut butter away from looking as good as new. Rub it into the material you want to shine by making tiny circles with your fingers, then use a towel or washcloth to wipe it off. The polishing hack also works on leather shoes.

9 Facial Reconstructions of Famous Historical Figures

A facial reconstruction of King Richard III unveiled by the Richard III Society in 2013
A facial reconstruction of King Richard III unveiled by the Richard III Society in 2013
Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Why look at a painting of a historical figure when you can come face to face with one? Forensic facial reconstruction using scans of skeletal remains allows researchers to create 3D models of the face through a combination of science, history, and artistic interpretation. The results may be somewhat subjective, but they’re fascinating anyway. Here are nine facial reconstructions of famous people.

1. Richard III

In 2012, King Richard III’s skeleton was found below a parking lot in Leicester, England, where in 1485 he was hurriedly buried after dying in battle. A reconstruction (above) shows a young man, only 32 years old, with a gentle, approachable face. It’s a far cry from the child-murdering villain portrayed by Shakespeare and other writers. One thing they said does seem accurate, however: The skeleton had a curved spine from scoliosis, suggesting that Richard’s humpback may have been real.

2. Bach

J.S. Bach’s bust has sat on innumerable pianos for centuries, but he only posed for one portrait in his lifetime. So this reconstruction of his face—which was taken from a bronze cast of his skull—offers an interesting glimpse into the man beneath the 18th century wig. You get the same thick neck, underbite, and stern brow you see in the painting, but the reconstruction’s friendly, confused stare lacks the soul of the real man … and his music, for that matter.

3. Shakespeare

Apparently, no one knows anything about Shakespeare for sure—his hair color, his sexual orientation, how he spelled his name, whether he liked his wife, etc. Some people aren’t even sure whether he wrote his plays or not. So this rendering, taken from a death mask found in Germany, is bound to be controversial. But if it is Shakespeare, it’s pretty intriguing. It shows a man who suffered from cancer and had a sad, soulful face.

4. Dante

Maybe it’s because The Divine Comedy dealt with the ugliness of sin that Dante Alighieri is usually depicted as unattractive, with a pointy chin, buggy eyes, and enormous hooked nose. But a reconstruction done from measurements of the skull taken in 1921—the only time the remains have been out of the crypt—reveals a much more attractive Dante. The face has a rounder chin, pleasant eyes, and smaller nose than previously thought. It’s a face with character.

5. King Henri IV

The mummified head of France’s King Henri IV was lost after the French Revolution until a few years ago, when it showed up in a tax collector’s attic. In his day, Henri was beloved by everyone except the Catholic fundamentalists who murdered him in 1610. The hard-living king looks a bit old for his 56 years, but there’s a twinkle in his eyes. What the model cannot show, however, was how much the king stank—apparently he smelled of ”garlic, feet and armpits.”

6. Cleopatra’s Sister

Cleopatra hated her half-sister Arsinoe IV so much she had her dragged out of the temple of Artemis and murdered. In 2013, researchers said they had discovered what may be Arisone’s body, based on the shape of the tomb, carbon dating, and other factors. The resulting facial reconstruction shows a petite teenager of European and African blood. And yeah, maybe this is closer to what Arsinoe would look like if she were trapped in The Sims, but since Cleopatra’s remains are long gone, this may be the closest we get to knowing what she looked like.

7. King Tut

King Tutankhamun, whose famous sarcophagus has traveled far more than the “boy king” did in his 19-year lifetime, had buckteeth, a receding chin, and a slim nose, according to 3D renderings of his mummy. His weird skull shape is just within range of normal and was probably genetic—his father, Akhenaten, had a similarly shaped head. Tut’s body also had a broken leg, indicating he may have died from falling off a horse or chariot.

8. Copernicus

Nicolaus Copernicus, who challenged the belief that the sun revolved around the earth, died in 1543 at age 70. When his body was found in 2006 in a Polish church and confirmed by matching DNA to strands of his hair left in a book, the Polish police used their forensic laboratory to make this portrait. They made sure to include Copernicus’s broken nose and the scar above his left eye. Who knew that the Father of Astronomy looked so much like the actor James Cromwell?

9. Santa Claus

The remains of St. Nicholas, i.e. Santa Claus, have been in a church in Bari, Italy, since they were stolen from Turkey in 1087. This reproduction, taken from measurements of his skull, reveal that St. Nicholas had a small body—he was only 5’6”—and a huge, masculine head, with a square jaw and strong muscles in the neck. He also had a broken nose, like someone had beaten him up. This is consistent with accounts of St. Nicholas from the time: It turns out that Santa Claus had quite a temper.

A version of this list was first published in 2013.

11 Fun Facts About Them!

Joan Weldon and James Arness star in Them! (1954).
Joan Weldon and James Arness star in Them! (1954).
Warner Home Video

In the 1950s, Elvis was king, hula hooping was all the rage, and movie screens across America were overrun with giant arthropods. Back then, Tarantula (1955), The Deadly Mantis (1957), and other “big bug” films starring colossal insects or arachnids enjoyed a surprising amount of popularity. What kicked off this creepy-crawly craze? An eerie blockbuster whose impossible premise reflected widespread anxieties about the emerging atomic age. Grab a Geiger counter and let’s explore 1954's Them!.

1. Them!'s primary scriptwriter once worked for General Douglas MacArthur.

When World War II broke out, the knowledge Ted Sherdeman had gained from his career as a radio producer was put to good use by Uncle Sam, landing him a position as a radio communications advisor to General MacArthur. However, the fiery conclusion of the war left Sherdeman with a lifelong disdain for nuclear weapons. In an interview he revealed that upon hearing about the 1945 bombing of Hiroshima, he “just went over to the curb and started to throw up."

Shifting his focus from radio to motion pictures, Sherdeman later joined Warned Bros. as a staff producer. One day he was given a screenplay that really made his eyes bug out. George Worthing Yates, best known for his work on the Lone Ranger serials, had decided to take a stab at science fiction and penned an original script about giant, irradiated ants attacking New York City. "The idea appealed to me very much,” Sherdeman told Cinefantastique, "because, aside from man, ants are the only creatures in the world that plan to wage war, and nobody trusted the atomic bomb at that time.” (His statement about animal combat is debatable: chimpanzee gangs will also take organized, warlike measures in order to annex their rivals’ territories.)

Although he loved the basic concept, Sherdeman felt that the script needed something more. Screenwriter Russell S. Hughes was asked to punch up the script, but died of a heart attack after completing the first 50 pages. With some help from director Gordon Douglas, Sherdeman took it upon himself to finish the screenplay. Thus, Them! was born.

2. Two main ants were built for the movie.

Them! brought its spineless villains to life using a combination of animatronics and puppetry, courtesy of an effects artist by the name of Dick Smith. He constructed two fully functional mechanical ants for the production, with the first of these being a 12-foot monster filled with gears, levers, motors, and pulleys. Operating the big bug was a job that required a small army of technicians who’d pull sophisticated cables to control the ant’s limbs off-camera. These guys worked in close proximity and often crashed into each other as a result, prompting Douglas to call them “a comedy team.”

The big insect mainly appears in long shots, and for close-ups, Smith built the front three quarters of a second large-scale ant and mounted it onto a camera crane. During scenes that required swarms of ants, smaller, non-motorized models were used. Blowing wind machines moved the little units’ heads around in a lifelike manner.

3. Them! features the Wilhelm Scream.

Fifty-nine minutes in, the ants board a ship and one of them grabs a sailor, who unleashes the so-called "Wilhelm Scream." You can also hear it when James Whitmore’s character is killed, and the sound bite rings out once again during the movie’s climax. Them! was among the first movies to reuse this distinctive holler, which was originally recorded three years earlier for the 1951 western Distant Drums. Since then, it’s become something of an inside joke for sound recording specialists. The scream has appeared in Titanic (1997), Toy Story (1995), Reservoir Dogs (1992), Batman Returns (1992), the Star Wars saga (1977-present), all three The Lord of the Rings movies (2001-2003), and countless other films.

4. Leonard Nimoy makes an appearance.

In one brief scene, future Star Trek star Leonard Nimoy plays an Army man who receives a message about an alleged “ant-shaped UFO” sighting over Texas. He then proceeds to poke fun at the Lone Star State, because, as everybody knows, insectile space vessels are highly illogical.

5. Many different sounds were combined to produce the screeching ant cries.

Throughout the movie, the monsters announce their presence with a haunting wail. Douglas’s team created this unforgettable shriek by mixing assorted noises, including bird whistles, which were artificially pitched up by sound technicians.

6. Sandy Descher had to sniff a mystery liquid during her signature scene.

Like Steven Spielberg’s Jaws, Them! has a deliberate pace and the massive insects don’t make an onscreen appearance until the half hour mark. Douglas took credit for this restrained approach, saying, “I told Ted, let’s tease [the audience] a little bit before you see the ant. Let’s build up to it."

So instead of showing off the big bugs, the opening scene follows a little girl as she wanders through the New Mexican desert, listlessly clutching her favorite doll. That stunning performance was delivered by child actress Sandy Descher. Later, in one of the most effective title drop scenes ever orchestrated, a vial of formic acid is held under her character’s nose. Suddenly recognizing the aroma, the traumatized youngster screams “Them! Them!” Descher never found out what sort of liquid was really sloshing around in that container.

“They used something that did smell quite strange. It wasn’t ammonia, it was something else,” she told an interviewer. Still, the mysterious brew had a beneficial effect on her performance. “They tried to create something different and it helped me a lot with that particular scene,” Descher said.

7. Them! was originally going to be filmed in 3D and in color.

To hear Douglas tell it, the insect models looked a lot scarier in person. “I put green and red soap bubbles in the eyes,” he once stated. “The ants were purple, slimy things. Their bodies were wet down with Vaseline. They scared the bejeezus out of you.” For better or for worse, though, audiences never got the chance to savor the bugs’ color scheme.

At first, Warner Bros. had planned on shooting the movie in color. Furthermore, to help Them! compete with Universal’s brand-new, three-dimensional monster movie, Creature From the Black Lagoon, the studio strongly considered using 3D cameras. But in the end, the higher-ups at Warner Bros. didn’t supply Douglas with the money he’d need to shoot it in this manner. Shortly before production started on Them!, the budget was greatly reduced, forcing the use of two-dimensional, black and white film.

8. The setting of the climactic scene was changes—twice.

Yates envisioned the final battle playing out in New York City’s world-famous subway tunnels. Hughes moved the action westward, conjuring up an epic showdown between human soldiers and the last surviving ants at a Santa Monica amusement park. Finally, for both artistic and budgetary reasons, Sherdeman set the big finale in the sewers of Los Angeles.

9. Warner Bros. encouraged theaters to use Them! as a military recruitment tool.

The film’s official pressbook advised theater managers who were screening Them!& to contact their nearest Armed Forces recruitment offices. “Since civil defense in the face of an emergency figures in the picture, make the most of it by inviting [a] local agency to set up a recruiting booth in the lobby,” the filmmakers advised. Also, the document suggested that movie houses post signs reading: “What would you do if (name of city) were attacked by THEM?! Prepare for any danger by enlisting in Civil Defense today!”

10. The movie was a surprise hit.

Studio head Jack L. Warner predicted that Them!, with its far-fetched plot, wouldn’t fare well at the box office. So imagine his surprise when it raked in more than $2.2 million—enough to make the picture one of the studio's highest-grossing films of 1954.

11. Them! landed Fess Parker the role of TV's Davy Crockett.

When Walt Disney went to see Them!, he had a specific objective in mind: Scout a potential Davy Crockett. At the time, Disney was developing a new television series that would chronicle the life and times of the iconic frontiersman, and James Arness, who plays an FBI agent in Them!, was on the short list of candidates for the role. Yet as the sci-fi thriller unfolded, it was actor Fess Parker who grabbed Disney’s attention. Director Gordon Douglas had hired Parker to portray the pilot who ends up in a psych ward after an aerial encounter with a gargantuan flying ant. And while his character only appears in one scene, the performance impressed Disney so much that the struggling actor was soon cast as Crockett.

By the Texan’s own admission, his good fortune may’ve been the product of bargain hunting. “Walt probably asked, ‘How much would Arness cost?’ and then ‘This fellow [Parker], we ought to be able to get him real economical,” Parker once said.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER