50 More Awesome Facts (About Everything)

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istock

We can’t put down National Geographic Kids’ new book 5,000 Awesome Facts (About Everything) 2. Here are 50 more of our favorite awesome facts from its pages.

1. Black bears sometimes hibernate in the tops of trees.

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2. The first organized baseball game was played in Hoboken, New Jersey, U.S.A., in 1849.

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3. Tokelau, a group of remote islands in the Pacific Ocean, receives 100 percent of its electricity from solar energy.

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4. All cats were considered sacred in ancient Egypt. If you killed a cat, you could be sentenced to death.

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5. Some of the first flags on pirate ships were red, not black.

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6. The most common gift on Father's Day is a necktie.

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7. More board games are sold in Germany than anywhere else on Earth.

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8. Lancaster, Pennsylvania, was the U.S. capital for the shortest period of time—1 day: September 27, 1777.

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9. Some kangaroos that lived 12,000 years ago were the size of rhinoceroses.

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10. Nightshades are often thought of as very poisonous plants, but tomatoes, eggplants, and potatoes are all part of the nightshade family.

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11. Human babies cannot taste salt until they are 4 months old.

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12. You can buy jam infused with sand from the Great Pyramid at Giza, Egypt.

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13. Male pandas do a handstand while peeing to mark trees.

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14. There are close to 400 lakes under the ice in Antarctica, including one with an area nearly as big as North America's Lake Ontario.

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15. Giant crystals as long as a school bus can be found 1,000 feet (305 m) underground in Mexico's Cave of Crystals.

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16. There's a device that uses sound waves to put out fire.

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17. If Earth were the size of a grain of sand, the sun would be the size of an orange.

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18. Golf balls were once made out of solid wood.

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19. Frogs and salamanders can breathe through their skin.

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20. The Dead Sea is not entirely dead. Halophile microbes thrive in the salty waters.

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21. According to a 2012 survey, the second most favorite topping in the United States is a fungus: mushrooms!

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22. Flying the U.S. flag upside down signals extreme distress.

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23. The first horses were the size of Siamese cats. They were the smallest horses that ever lived.

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24. Only about 100 people speak Latin fluently.

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25. The word "brassiere" comes from the military word meaning "arm guard" in old French.

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26. A single cornflake shaped like the U.S. state of Illinois sold at an online auction for $1,350.

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27. Uranus only has 2 seasons- summer and winter. Each lasts 42 Earth years.

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28. The heart is so strong it can squirt blood up to 30 feet (9 m).

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29. It's an Italian tradition to wear red underwear for good luck on New Year's Eve. People in Latin America wear yellow to bring happiness and prosperity.

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30. Two billion people on Earth eat insects as part of their regular diet.

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31. Green eyes, found in only 2 percent of the population, are more common in females than males, and among celebrities than the general public.

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32. An 11-year-old girl from England is credited with naming Pluto in 1930.

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33. Blood makes a loop around your body more than 1,000 times a day.

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34. Slowworms look and move like snakes, but they're actually legless lizards.

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35. Barbers were also surgeons in the Middle Ages. Some say the poles outside their shops were colored red for blood, blue for veins, and white for bandages.

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36. In Ancient Greece, it was believed that a person could be transformed into a werewolf by eating human flesh.

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37. People who fear Friday the 13th suffer from friggatriskaidekephobia.

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38. Worms eat their weight in food every day.

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39. Researchers think the entire face of the Great Sphinx of Giza was once painted red.

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40. In 1963, a cat named Felix became the first feline in space.

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41. Pirates had bedtimes too! On Captain Bart Roberts' ship, "lights out" was 8 p.m.

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42. The corpse flower, named after its unfortunate smell, can take up to six years to bloom—thankfully!

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43. An elephant's skin can be an inch (2.5 cm) thick in places.

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44. All Scandinavian countries have a cross on their flags.

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45. Camels originated in North America, but became extinct on the continent 10,000 years ago.

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46. Venus spins backwards on its axis.

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47. It takes less than 1 minute for blood to travel all around your body.

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48. A man in the United Kingdom holds the world record for putting on the most pairs of underpants in 1 hour: 144!

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49. It would take a snail nearly 4,575 years to circle Earth.

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50. Your brain generates enough electricity to power a lightbulb!

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For more incredible facts like these, pick up 5,000 Awesome Facts (About Everything) 2, in bookstores now or available online here.

All images courtesy of iStock.

11 Facts About the Library of Congress

Thomas Jefferson Building of the LOC. Image Credit: TheAgency via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0
Thomas Jefferson Building of the LOC. Image Credit: TheAgency via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

For more than two centuries, the Library of Congress (LOC) and its staff have served as invaluable resources for American legislators. But their mission isn’t limited to U.S. politics. The Library of Congress catalog includes iconic films, historical documents, and your tweets about lunch. In short, it's a cultural treasure. Here are 11 facts worth knowing about the Washington, D.C.-based establishment.

1. The Library of Congress is the nation's oldest cultural institution.

Founded in 1800, the Library of Congress is America’s oldest federal cultural institution. It was established by the same bill that officially moved the capital from Philadelphia to Washington D.C. The library was conceived of as a resource available exclusively to members of Congress, containing "such books as may be necessary for the use of Congress." That remains the case today, though citizens can read books on site or request them at their local library through an interlibrary loan.

2. Thomas Jefferson helped rebuild the Library of Congress catalog after a fire.

Not long after it was established, tragedy struck the Library of Congress: Its contents were destroyed when the Capitol Building was set on fire by British troops during the War of 1812. Approximately 3000 books (mostly law-related) were lost in the blaze, but luckily a friend of Washington D.C. owned a collection that was even bigger. Thomas Jefferson’s personal library comprised well over 6000 volumes, making it the largest library in the country at the time. He agreed to sell all of his books to Congress for $23,950 in 1815. Jefferson's contributions significantly expanded the scope of the library, by including books on art, science, and philosophy. (The increased diversity of the collection was a subject of criticism at the time, to which Jefferson responded by saying "there is in fact no subject to which a member of Congress may not have occasion to refer.”) Sadly, the library met with another tragedy when a second fire tore through it on Christmas Eve 1851, burning two-thirds of Jefferson’s contribution.

3. James Madison first proposed the Library of Congress.

Seventeen years prior to the LOC's official formation, James Madison proposed the idea of a special library for Congress. He planted the idea as a Continental Congress member in 1783 when he suggested compiling a list of books to which lawmakers could refer. As president, Madison approved the purchase of Jefferson’s personal library in 1814.

4. It makes Congress's job a lot easier.

Members of Congress drafting legislation don’t necessarily need to do the nitty-gritty research themselves: There’s a whole team [PDF] of lawyers, librarians, economists, and scientists employed through the Library of Congress to do it for them. Established in 1914, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) is a legislative department within the LOC responsible for supporting lawmakers through every step of the lawmaking process. Based on what’s asked of them, CRS employees supply House and Senate members with reports, briefings, seminars, presentations, or consultations detailing research on the issue in question. The CRS is currently staffed with 600 analysts. In any given year, a single researcher responds to hundreds of congressional requests.

5. It's the largest library on Earth.

With over 164 million items in its inventory, the LOC is the world’s largest library. In addition to the 38 million books and other printed materials on the premises, the institution contains millions of photographs, recordings, and films. It also houses some record-breaking collections: more maps, comics, newspapers, and phonebooks can each be found there than any other place on Earth. The whole thing is stored on about 838 miles of bookshelves.

6. The Library of Congress contains some surprising items.

The Library of Congress is home to an eclectic collection, with books ranging in size from a tiny copy of “Ole King Cole” to a 5-foot-by-7-foot photo book filled with color images of Bhutan. Some items, like a Gutenberg Bible and a rough draft of the Declaration of Independence, feel right at home in the historic library. Others, like Rosa Parks’s peanut butter pancakes recipe, are a bit more unexpected. Additional noteworthy artifacts include Bob Hope’s joke collection, George Gershwin’s piano, and the contents of Abraham Lincoln's pockets the night he was shot.

7. The Library of Congress owns materials from around the world.

The Library of Congress isn’t solely dedicated to American documents. The institution possesses materials acquired from all around the globe, including 3 million items from Asia and 10 million items in the Iberian, Latin American, and Caribbean collections. Over half of the books in their inventory are written in a language other than English. In total, over 460 languages are represented, and their end goal is to eventually have at least one item from every nation. The LOC also maintains overseas offices in New Delhi, India; Cairo, Egypt; Islamabad, Pakistan; Jakarta, Indonesia; Nairobi, Kenya; and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to acquire, catalog, and preserve items that might be hard to access otherwise.

8. It preserves America's most important films.

Since the National Film Preservation Act was passed in 1988, 700 "culturally, historically, or aesthetically" significant films have been selected for the LOC archives. Up to 25 entries are chosen each year by a board of industry professionals, and the only rule is that submissions must be at least 10 years old. Beyond that, they can be anything from beloved comedy blockbusters like Ghostbusters (1984) to health class classics like The Story of Menstruation (1946). Pieces added to the National Film Registry are kept in a climate-controlled storage space where they can theoretically last for centuries.

9. The Library of Congress serves patrons of all abilities.

In 1931 the Library of Congress launched The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS). Today the service offers free Braille and audio books, either through digital downloads or physical deliveries, to people with visual impairments or other issues that limit their reading abilities. Offerings include a wide array of books and magazines, as well as the world’s largest collection of Braille music. NLS librarians are currently undertaking the painstaking process of scanning every sheet of Braille music onto their computer system. Once that project is complete, the National Library Service’s entire collection will be fully digitized.

10. Only three librarians of Congress have been actual librarians.

When nominating someone to head the largest library in the world, presidents rarely choose actual librarians. They’re more likely to select a scholar, historian, or some other veteran of academia for the job. Of the 14 Librarians of Congress we’ve had, current title-holder Carla Hayden is one of just three to come into the role with prior librarian experience. (She is also the first woman and the first African American to hold the job.) On top of running the world’s largest library, Hayden is also responsible for managing relations with Congress, selecting the Poet Laureate, and overseeing the U.S. Copyright Office.

11. It receives every public tweet you write.

The government isn’t just responsible for cataloging tweets coming out of the White House. In 2010, Twitter agreed to donate every public tweet in its archive to the Library of Congress. That amounts to several hundred million tweets a day. In addition to documenting the rise and fall of #dressgate and live tweets of The Walking Dead, the archive would also act as an invaluable data source for tracking language and societal trends. Unfortunately, that archive isn’t much closer to being completed than the day the deal was announced. The LOC has yet to develop a way to organize the information, and for the past seven years, unprocessed tweets have been have been stored out of sight on a server. There’s still no word on what the next step will be, but that might change with the newest Librarian of Congress. Unlike her predecessor, Carla Hayden is known for taking a digital-forward approach to librarianship.

Merriam-Webster Just Added Hundreds of New Words to the Dictionary—Here Are 25 of Them

iStock.com/xxz114
iStock.com/xxz114

The editors of Merriam-Webster's dictionary know better than most people how quickly language evolves. In April 2019 alone, they added more than 640 words to the dictionary, from old terms that have developed new meanings to words that are products of the digital age.

Entertainment fans will recognize a few of the new words on Merriam-Webster's list: Buzzy (generating speculation or attention), bottle episode (an episode of a television series confined to one setting), and EGOT (winning an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony) have all received the dictionary's stamp of approval.

Some terms reflect the rise of digital devices in our everyday lives, such as unplug and screen time. Other words have been around for centuries, but started appearing in new contexts in recent years. According to Merriam-Webster, snowflake can now mean “someone who is overly sensitive," purple can describe an area split between Democrat and Republican voters, and Goldilocks can mean “an area of planetary orbit in which temperatures are neither too hot nor too cold to support life."

You can read 25 of the new words below. And for even more recent additions to the dictionary, check out Merriam-Webster's list from last September.

  1. Bioabsorbable

  1. Bottle episode

  1. Bottom surgery

  1. Buzzy

  1. EGOT

  1. Garbage time

  1. Gender nonconforming

  1. Geosmin

  1. Gig economy

  1. Go-cup

  1. Goldilocks

  1. On-brand

  1. Page view

  1. Peak

  1. Purple

  1. Vulture capitalism

  1. Qubit

  1. Salutogenesis

  1. Screen time

  1. Snowflake

  1. Stan

  1. Tailwind

  1. Top surgery

  1. Traumatology

  1. Unplug

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