25 Things You Might Not Know About Harry Potter

It's going to get very spoilery in here, so only watch this if you've read the books and seen the movies. Or if you never plan on doing either, in which case you're making a terrible mistake. Transcript courtesy of Nerdfighteria.

1. Hi, I'm John Green. Welcome to my salon. This is mental_floss on YouTube. And did you know that in 2005 a doctor conducted a study to see if children had fewer trips to the emergency room immediately after Harry Potter books were released? And he was right.

In the weekends after The Order of the Phoenix and The Half-Blood Prince were released, there were half the amount of children at the E.R. in John Radcliffe Hospital compared with weekends directly before. It probably had something to do with the fact that, you know, they were all sitting on the couch reading all weekend rather than getting into trouble.

2. Okay, let's start with the books and move on to the movies. So the idea for Harry Potter came to J.K. Rowling when her train was delayed for four hours and the long wait gave her the right amount of time to develop the idea, you know, "Wizard school."

3. As you've probably heard, Rowling's manuscript got rejected about five times before it was finally published. The main complaint was that it was too long for children. I don't know what the problem is. The books actually seem quite small to me.

But of course it did get published, so let's talk about it.

4. J.K. Rowling and Harry Potter share the same birthday, July 31.

5. But that's not the only similarity she shares with a character. Rowling's favorite character is the otter, and that, of course, is Hermione's patronus. Interestingly, Ron's patronus is a Jack Russell Terrier, a breed of dog that likes to chase otters.

6. Rowling based the dementors in Harry Potter on her experience with depression. She's described depression as the, quote, "Cold absence of feeling," which is how dementors are presented.

7. In a 1999 interview for People magazine, Rowling announced that the last word of the series was going to be "scar." But the last word of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is actually "well," which gives me hope for a Book Eight.

8. The love potion Amortentia smells different to everyone, depending on what they like. In the book, Hermione won't say out loud the third thing she smells in the potion, but Rowling has claimed that it's Ron's hair.

To me, that potion would smell like Ron Swanson. Whiskey, sawdust and breakfast food.

9. Many fans, including myself, do not understand why Hedwig had to die. But according to Rowling, the loss of Hedwig represented a loss of innocence and security. She has been almost like a cuddly toy to Harry at times. Voldemort killing her marked the end of childhood. Well yeah, but I don't want childhood to end, J.K. Rowling.

10. "Expecto Patronum" is Latin for "I await a protector." And that's not the only Latin phrase you can find in the series. Like Bellatrix, as in Bellatrix Lestrange, means "Female warrior." It makes sense, considering that Rowling was a classics major.

11. Speaking of names, Rowling found a lot of bizarre plant names for the series in a 17th Century book about herbs titled Culpepper's Complete Herbal.

12. Originally, Arthur Weasley was going to die at the end of The Order of the Phoenix, but then Sirius Black took his place, leaving Weasley to survive... to see one of his sons die and another lose an ear.

13. Stephen King once described Dolores Umbridge as the greatest make-believe villain to come along since Hannibal Lecter. And coming from someone who wrote about an evil car, that is high praise.

14. The driver and conductor of The Knight Bus, Stanley and Ernie, were named after Rowling's grandfathers.

15. J.K. Rowling is the first person ever to become a billionaire for book writing, and also the first book-writing billionaire ever to cease to be a billionaire by giving away so much money to charity.

16. All right, let's move on to the movies. Back in 2000, when Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone was being cast, Frankie Muniz and Haley Joel Osment were rumored to be in the running for the part of Harry.

17. Steven Spielberg wasn't interested in making the films. He said, I purposely didn't do the Harry Potter movie because for me, that was shooting ducks in a barrel. It's just a slam-dunk. It's just like withdrawing a billion dollars and putting it into your personal bank account.

So instead, he and Haley Joel Osment went off and made AI, and that didn't put a billion dollars in anybody's personal bank accounts.

18. When Rupert Grint auditioned for the films, he attempted to stand out by performing a rap.

19. Another person who auditioned for Ron? Tom Felton. He actually tried out for both Harry and Ron before getting cast as Malfoy.

20. As happens whenever you get a large group of children together, there was an outbreak of lice during the filming of The Chamber of Secrets.

21. And when they weren't getting lice, the kids would sneak candy onto the set. The robe pockets were so big that child actors would stick sweets and even drinks in them. Tom Felton takes credit for starting this trend, so he's to blame for the pockets eventually getting sewn shut by the wardrobe department.

22. Shirley Henderson, the actress who played the 14-year-old Moaning Myrtle, was 36 while filming The Chamber of Secrets. The Moaning Myrtles, by the way, is the name of one of my very favorite wizard rock bands. Other standout wizard rock artists include Draco and the Malfoys, Harry and the Potters, and The Whomping Willows.

23. Before the Deathly Hallows book was released, J.K. Rowling gave Alan Rickman some hints about Snape's true feelings so that he could properly play the character. This sometimes caused confusion on set when a director would ask Alan to do something and he would respond, "No, no, no, I can't do that. I know what is going to happen and you don't."

24. In the end credits of The Goblet of Fire, there's a note that reads, "No dragons were harmed in the making of this movie."

25. And finally, I return to my salon to tell you that Prisoner of Azkaban director Alfonso Cuarón asked Emma, Rupert and Daniel to write essays about their characters. Emma turned in a 16-page essay, Daniel's was one page long, and Rupert never turned it in at all.

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[Images and footage provided by Shutterstock.]

11 Easy Ways to Be Greener on Earth Day

iStock/yacobchuk
iStock/yacobchuk

Kermit got it all wrong: It is easy being green. Committing to go green doesn’t have to mean a 10-mile walk to work or abiding by "if it’s yellow, let it mellow"—you can make a difference by making small adjustments that add up to big change. Here are 11 ideas to get you started for Earth Day.

1. Use your dishwasher to go green.

It may seem counterintuitive, but your dishwasher is way more energy- and water-efficient at washing dishes than you are, as long as you’re running a full dishwasher. According to one German study, dishwashers use half of the energy and a sixth of the water, not to mention less soap. So, don’t feel guilty about skipping the sink of sudsy water, or about not pre-rinsing before loading up the machine—you’re actually doing the environment a favor by firing up your dishwasher.

2. Switch to online bill paying and use less paper.

Not only is it convenient to pay all of your bills with a click or two, it’s also an easy way to go green. One study found that the average U.S. household receives 19 bills and statements from credit card companies, banks, and utilities every month. By switching to online statements and online bill pay, each American household could save 6.6 pounds of paper per year, save 0.08 trees, and not produce 171 pounds of greenhouse gases. Not bad for simply clicking a few "receive online statements" boxes.

3. Opt out of junk mail and catalogs.

While you’re paring down the amount of stuff that arrives daily in your mailbox, visit Catalog Choice to opt out of various mailers you don’t want to receive. So far, the nonprofit organization says they have saved more than 500,000 trees, over 1 billion pounds of greenhouse gas, more than 400 million pounds of solid waste, and approximately 3.5 billion gallons of water.

4. Plant a tree so Earth Day is Every Day.

Planting trees is obviously great for the environment, but if you’re strategic about it, it can help you reduce your energy costs and use less fossil fuel. According to ArborDay.org, planting large deciduous trees on the east, west, and northwest sides of your house can shade and cool your home during the warmer months, even slashing your air conditioning costs by up to 35 percent.

5. Turn off the tap while you're standing at the sink.

If you leave the tap running while you tend to your pearly whites, you’re wasting approximately 200 gallons of water a month. Just turn the tap on when you need to wet your brush or rinse, instead of letting H20 pour uselessly down the drain. The same goes for anyone who shaves with the water running.

6. Go thrifting for clothes and housewares.

Take some advice from your old pal Macklemore and hit up some thrift shops—and that goes for whether you’re getting rid of clutter or adding more to your home. Buying and donating to thrift stores and second-hand shops means you’re recycling, supporting your local economy, and saving money. In fact, by some estimates, every item of clothing donated reduces 27 pounds of carbon emissions.

7. Get a houseplant to clear the air.

And grab a little guy for your desk at work, too. House plants and desk plants have been proven to improve your mood and raise productivity, but they also purify the air by removing volatile organic compounds (VOCs) found in homes and offices. They also absorb carbon dioxide and increase the humidity. Low-maintenance plants include pothos, spider plants, jade, various succulents, and peace lilies.

8. Get scrappy with Art and crafts.

Cut up paper that has only been used on one side and use it to scribble reminders, notes, grocery lists, etc. Or flip it over for any kids you know to color on. (You can color on it, too, if you want.)

9. Put your caffeine fix to work for the Earth.

Your coffee likely traveled thousands of miles to arrive in your pantry, so get good use out of it. Use your grounds to mulch plants that love acidic soil, like roses, evergreens, and rhododendrons. If your garden problems tend to be less about the dirt and more about the things that live in it, certain garden denizens hate coffee—namely ants, slugs, and snails. Sprinkle grounds in problem areas to deter them.

10. Enlighten yourself to Energy Savings.

Compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs—the spiral light bulbs) may cost more upfront, but they’ll save up to $57 over the life of the bulb. More importantly, they use 70 percent less energy than traditional bulbs and installing them is as easy as screwing in a light bulb. (Insert joke here.)

11. Make tracks instead of short car trips.

You don't have to cut out your daily driving entirely, but when you only have a few blocks, or perhaps just a mile or two to travel and don't need to transport anything bulky, consider walking or hopping on your bike. Walking on those short trips generates less than a quarter of the greenhouse gasses that are emitted by driving the same distance.

20 Black-and-White Facts About Penguins

iStock/fieldwork
iStock/fieldwork

Who is a penguin's favorite family member? Aunt Arctica! 

We kid! But seven of the 17 species of penguins can be found on the southernmost continent. Here are 20 more fun facts about these adorable tuxedoed birds. 

1. All 17 species of penguins are found exclusively in the Southern Hemisphere.

A group of penguins on an iceberg.
iStock/axily

2. Emperor Penguins are the tallest species, standing nearly 4 feet tall. The smallest is the Little Blue Penguin, which is only about 16 inches.

Three emperor penguins
iStock/Fabiano_Teixeira

3. The fastest species is the Gentoo Penguin, which can reach swimming speeds up to 22 mph.

A gentoo penguin swimming underwater
iStock/chameleonseye

4. A penguin's striking coloring is a matter of camouflage; from above, its black back blends into the murky depths of the ocean. From below, its white belly is hidden against the bright surface.

Penguins swimming in the ocean
iStock/USO

5. Fossils place the earliest penguin relative at some 60 million years ago, meaning an ancestor of the birds we see today survived the mass extinction of the dinosaurs.

Emperor penguins with chicks
iStock/vladsilver

6. Penguins ingest a lot of seawater while hunting for fish, but a special gland behind their eyes—the supraorbital gland—filters out the saltwater from their blood stream. Penguins excrete it through their beaks, or by sneezing.

Penguin swimming in the ocean
iStock/Musat

7. Unlike most birds—which lose and replace a few feathers at a time—penguins molt all at once, spending two or three weeks land-bound as they undergo what is called the catastrophic molt.

Gentoo penguin chick molting
iStock/ChristianWilkinson

8. All but two species of penguins breed in large colonies of up to one thousand birds.

A colony of king penguins
iStock/DurkTalsma

9. It varies by species, but many penguins will mate with the same member of the opposite sex season after season.

Two chinstrap penguins
iStock/Legacy-Images

10. Similarly, most species are also loyal to their exact nesting site, often returning to the same rookery in which they were born.

Magellanic penguin nesting in the ground
iStock/JeremyRichards

11. Some species create nests for their eggs out of pebbles and loose feathers. Emperor Penguins are an exception: They incubate a single egg each breeding season on the top of their feet. Under a loose fold of skin is a featherless area with a concentration of blood vessels that keeps the egg warm.

Penguin eggs
iStock/Buenaventuramariano

12. In some species, it is the male penguin which incubates the eggs while females leave to hunt for weeks at a time. Because of this, pudgy males—with enough fat storage to survive weeks without eating—are most desirable.

A group of emperor penguins and chick
iStock/vladsilver

13. Penguin parents—both male and female—care for their young for several months until the chicks are strong enough to hunt for food on their own.

Penguin chick and parent on a nest
iStock/golnyk

14. If a female Emperor Penguin's baby dies, she will often "kidnap" an unrelated chick.

Three emperor penguin chicks
iStock/AntAntarctic

15. Despite their lack of visible ears, penguins have excellent hearing and rely on distinct calls to identify their mates when returning to the crowded breeding grounds.

Gentoo penguins
iStock/Goddard_Photography

16. The first published account of penguins comes from Antonio Pigafetta, who was aboard Ferdinand Magellan's first circumnavigation of the globe in 1520. They spotted the animals near what was probably Punta Tombo in Argentina. (He called them "strange geese.")

A group of magellanic penguins on the seacoast
iStock/encrier

17. An earlier, anonymous diary entry from Vasco da Gama's 1497 voyage around the Cape of Good Hope makes mention of flightless birds as large as ducks.

A cape penguin in South Africa
iStock/ziggy_mars

18. Because they aren't used to danger from animals on solid ground, wild penguins exhibit no particular fear of human tourists.

Man videotaping a penguin in Antarctica
iStock/Bkamprath

19. Unlike most sea mammals—which rely on blubber to stay warm—penguins survive because their feathers trap a layer of warm air next to the skin that serves as insulation, especially when they start generating muscular heat by swimming around.

Penguin swimming in the ocean
iStock/Musat

20. In the 16th century, the word penguin actually referred to great auks (scientific name: Pinguinus impennis), a now-extinct species that inhabited the seas around eastern Canada. When explorers traveled to the Southern Hemisphere, they saw black and white birds that resembled auks, and called them penguins.

This story was first published in 2017.

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