The 10 Most Bizarre Objects That Have Fallen to Earth

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iStock

Rain, snow, sleet—we're accustomed to getting drenched or otherwise inconvenienced by precipitation falling from the skies. But occasionally, circumstances force people to deal with far more unusual threats from above. Check out 10 times the clouds parted and allowed for an almost Biblical forecast of golf balls, chains, and other things umbrellas just weren't built to handle.

1. GOLF BALLS

Golf balls are piled up on a golf course

Meteorologists have sometimes described foreboding hail storm projectiles as being "golf ball sized," but there was at least one time in history where actual golf balls rained down on an unsuspecting populace. In 1969, residents of Punta Gorda, Florida, were pelted with the sporting good staple, necessitating clean-up on streets, lawns, and gutters. No one was sure what exactly caused the incident, although some observers theorized that a nearby tornado near the Gulf of Mexico managed to scoop up balls from a course and then deposited them over the area.

2. NON-DAIRY CREAMER

Powdered coffee creamer is shown dissolving in a cup of coffee

Depending on the timing and whether you had an open container of coffee, residents of Chester, South Carolina could get their beverage flavored on the go. In 1969, a nearby Borden factory had issues with its exhaust vents. All clogged up, they wound up emitting powdered creamer into the air, which would dispense over the town and collect on surfaces to make for a milky, sticky nuisance when it got wet. Borden eventually fixed its workplace issues. (It also paid a small fine.)

3. MONEY

An assortment of euro notes is pictured

Surprisingly, this phenomenon isn't restricted to gentlemen's clubs. In 2007, a resident of Worms, Germany stopped her car to collect a small storm of paper euro notes that were swirling around her. Despite the enigmatic source of the cash, the woman felt it was best to report it to area police.

4. THE MYSTERY GLOBE

A translucent globe sits in a field

It’s been an inciting incident for many 1950s B horror movies: A mysterious gelatinous orb falls from the sky, seemingly harmless but soon to transform into a man-eating glob of alien aggression. Fortunately, no one was devoured when a large, gooey, translucent globe dropped into a resident's yard in Miami in 1958. Observers said it had a honeycomb design and pulsated as though it were alive. One brave police officer stuck a finger into it without any consequence. Before it could be studied further, the mass just dried up.

5. A CAMERA LENS

A camera lens is shown reflecting light

We're not quite sure what home insurance companies say when you file a report saying a two pound camera lens has just come crashing through your roof, but homeowner Debbie Payne probably found out. In 2011, a Canon camera lens burst through her home, leaving a cratered rooftop and other damage. Called to investigate, the Federal Aviation Administration said that such an object falling from an aircraft was possible but hard to prove. Payne lived just 200 feet from an elementary school and said she was grateful the projectile didn't land there.

6. HAZELNUTS

A pile of hazelnuts are pictured

In 1977, a British couple were strolling down a street in Bristol when the husband, Alfred Wilson Osbourne, heard a click and thought buttons had fallen off his coat. He quickly realized the clatter on the pavement wasn't a clothing malfunction but a shower of hazelnuts, which were falling down all around him. After a brief pause, another man experienced the same odd nut fall in the same spot. You'd expect a looming hazelnut tree to be the cause, but none were reported to be in the area. And even if there had been, it was March—far from hazelnut season.

7. CANDY

A candy assortment is pictured

Residents in Lake County, California were surprised to see clumps of sugar raining down over two days in September 1857. The candy portions were about a quarter-inch in size and seemingly edible: Some of the residents there made syrup from the phenomena.

8. MUD

A child in rain boots stomps through the mud

In 1901, editors of Science magazine recorded an account of a mud shower in Easton, Pennsylvania courtesy of a reader from Lafayette College who wrote in to describe the incident. "Window glasses on the western exposure of houses were covered with thousands of drops of dirty water," he wrote. Under a microscope, he observed "little membranous bags containing grains of dust." Some theorized a dust storm had mixed with precipitation to create a brown deluge of filthy rain.

9. A RED HOT CHAIN

A length of chain is pictured

Detritus from aircraft is not an uncommon source of falling objects, but it's hard to conceive of what an 18-inch length of chain would be doing in a plane. In 1959, a man named Wallace Baker was working a bulldozer in Missouri when the chain fell on his equipment. That would be plenty unusual, but what astounded Baker was the fact that the chain was so hot it was glowing. When he tried to pick it up, it burned his work gloves. No source was ever located.

10. HUMAN WASTE

A man looks up

The most unfortunate of all rain substitutes is actually not all that uncommon: Some models of airplane toilets discharge wastewater in such a way that leaking contents create freezing globs of poop that break free of the aircraft and plummet to the ground below. In 2015, a Levittown, Pennsylvania girl's Sweet 16 party was interrupted when poop showered over the festivities. Joe Cambray, the girl's stepfather, told People that "we just got done with the cake" when the feces flew.

All images courtesy of iStock

8 Surprising Facts and Misconceptions About Recycling

iStock.com/KatarzynaBialasiewicz
iStock.com/KatarzynaBialasiewicz

If you pat yourself on the back for just remembering to separate the recycling or haul that big blue bin to the curb each week, you're not alone. Despite the strides we appear to be making toward eco-consciousness as a country, we have a long way to go in helping the Earth, as evidenced by our complicated relationship with recycling. These facts about the most prevalent of the three Rs will make you pause the next time you throw anything away.

1. The United States's recycling rate is low—really low.

Figures from the Environmental Protection Agency show that America recycles about 34.7 percent of the garbage it produces. (The world's top recyclers—Germany, Austria, Wales, and South Korea—report a rate between 52 and 56 percent.) But Mitch Hedlund, founder and Executive Director of the organization Recycle Across America isn't even sure the recycling rate often quoted is accurate because there is so much junk mixed in with actual recyclables.

Recycle Across America is currently working to encourage the use of standardized labels for recycling bins to eliminate the confusion over what actually belongs in these receptacles. "If the U.S. gets the recycling number up to 75 percent, which we believe is completely possible once the confusion (over what to place in the bins) is removed, it will be the CO2 equivalent of removing 50 million cars from the roads each year in the U.S. and it will create 1.5 million permanent new jobs in the U.S. (net)."

2. Proper recycling can result in monetary savings.

Businessman stepping on green squares with recycling symbols
iStock.com/Rawpixel

While Hedlund admits the idea of providing universal labels clearly stating what should be placed in the bins is a simple one, it's making a serious impact on those who have jumped on the bandwagon. "Many schools are seeing dramatic increases in their recycling levels since using the society-wide standardized labels on their recycling bins," she says. "For instance, in the pilot program at Culver City schools in Los Angeles [County], their recycling levels doubled when they started using the standardized labels and the materials they were collecting in their recycling bins were so much less contaminated with garbage." Another story, she says, is that "as a result of a donation from Kiehls (who makes a donation to Recycle Across America each April in the sum of $50,000), all of the schools in the San Diego Unified School District and San Diego County started using the standardized labels. San Diego Unified School District reduced their landfill hauling fees by about $200,000 (net) in the first year."

3. Recent changes from China have severely impacted the recycling industry.

Until 2018, China took 40 percent of the United States's recycled paper, plastic, and metal. But in January of that year, China imposed strict new rules on the levels of contamination (think food or other garbage mixed in with the recyclables) it's willing to accept—standards American cities are largely unable to meet. Because of that, and a lack of suitable destinations closer to home, many cities have been forced to incinerate or stockpile recyclables until they can find a better solution.

4. Only 9 percent of plastic is recycled in the U.S.

The nation recycles less than 10 percent of its plastic, compared to 67 percent for paper materials, 34 percent for metals, and 26 percent for glass. And China's restrictions have especially affected plastic—while exports of scrap plastic to China were valued at more than $300 million in 2015, they amounted to $7.6 million in the first quarter of 2018, down 90 percent from the year before.

5. Clothing can be recycled, but it rarely is.

Clothing at a garage sale
iStock.com/alexeys

Unfortunately, most curbside haulers don't accept textiles, and America has a serious problem with old clothes ending up in the trash. In 2019, the nation is on track to throw away more than 35 billion pounds of textiles, according to the Council for Textile Recycling—almost double the number from 1999. On the plus side, some cities have set up drop-off points for unwanted clothes, and there are a variety of ways to sell or donate unwanted items. Some brands, including Eileen Fisher and Patagonia, have also introduced buy-back programs for their items.

6. Aluminum is the world's most-recycled packaging product.

Crushed aluminum cans
iStock.com/hroe

Nearly 70 percent of aluminum cans are recycled internationally, according to Novelis, a leader in rolled aluminum products and recycled aluminum. Aluminum is infinitely recyclable without degrading, meaning it can be reused in a way completely different from what it was in its previous life, or recast into its original form. Not only is aluminum the world's most-recycled product, it's also the most profitable and the most energy-efficient. Using recycled aluminum instead of virgin materials saves about 95% of the energy, compared to 60% for paper and 34% for glass [PDF].

7. That soda can you're drinking from could find its way back to you more quickly than you think.

According to Novelis's research, an aluminum can that is recycled can be back on a grocery store shelf within 60 days [PDF]. That's a seriously speedy turnaround.

8. Scrap recycling is big business.

While the words scrap recycling might have you humming the Sanford & Son theme song, it's far from being a junkyard industry. According to the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI), in 2017 U.S. scrap recyclers processed more than 130 million tons of scrap metal, paper, plastic, glass, textiles, and more—material that was sold back to industrial consumers in the U.S. and around the world, generating close to $18 billion in export sales. All told, scrap recycling was a $117 billion industry in 2017 [PDF].

This list first ran in 2015 and was updated by Mental Floss staff in 2019.

From Cocaine to Chloroform: 28 Old-Timey Medical Cures

YouTube
YouTube

Is your asthma acting up? Try eating only boiled carrots for a fortnight. Or smoke a cigarette. Have you got a toothache? Electrotherapy might help (and could also take care of that pesky impotence problem). When it comes to our understanding of medicine and illnesses, we’ve come a long way in the past few centuries. Still, it’s always fascinating to take a look back into the past and remember a time when cocaine was a common way to treat everything from hay fever to hemorrhoids.

In this week's all-new edition of The List Show, Mental Floss editor-in-chief Erin McCarthy is highlighting all sorts of bizarre, old-timey medical cures. You can watch the full episode below.

For more episodes like this one, be sure to subscribe here.

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