The ongoing festival of oneupmanship to get into Guinness World Records never stops, and 2015 was rife with impressive feats. Here are 15 records that, for now, stand alone.
1. LONGEST HUMAN TUNNEL TRAVELED THROUGH BY A SKATEBOARDING DOG
Who set the record? Otto, a 3-year-old bulldog from Peru. Through how many people's legs did Otto skateboard?30 people’s legs. Where else has Otto skateboarded? Into our hearts.
2. FASTEST TIME TO SOLVE A RUBIK'S CUBE
Who set the record? Maryland teenager Lucas Etter. How fast did he solve that Rubik’s Cube? The 14-year-old did it in 4.904 seconds. Is there a robot that can do it faster?Of course there is.
3. HEAVIEST SUMO DEADLIFT
Who set the record? Greg Austin Doucette, a Canadian strongman. How heavy was his deadlift?9130 kilograms (roughly 20,128 pounds) Could he beat you up? Yes, he could beat me up.
4. LONGEST BICYCLE
Who built the record-setting bicycle? Dutch cycling organization Mijl Van Mares Werkploeg How long is this bicycle?35.79 meters (117 feet, 5 inches) Is it easy to ride? Yes, "just don't turn any corners," says Mijl Van Mares Werkploeg founder Frank Pelt.
5. WORLD'S OLDEST NEWLYWEDS (AGGREGATE AGE)
Who got married? George Kirby and Doreen Luckie How old are they? George was born June 13, 1912, and Doreen Kirby was born September 6, 1923. This makes their combined age on the day of their wedding (June 15, 2015) 194 years and 280 days. Are you crying? Something just got stuck in my eye.
6. MOST LIT CANDLES HELD IN MOUTH
Who put all those lit candles in his mouth? Dinesh Shivnath Upadhyaya How many candles did he put in his mouth? 15, for a minimum of 30 seconds. Try this at home? Do not try this at home.
7. LONGEST COCONUT WHEELIE
Who did this wheelie? Ricardo “Per Canguru” de Souza Amaral, from Brazil. For how long did he wheelie?33 meters (108.3 feet) Gnarly? Totally.
8. MOST PULL-UPS IN A MINUTE.
Who did all those pull-ups? Singapore’s Yeo Kim Yeong. How many pull-ups did he do?43 Did he train? Yes, four times a week for almost six months.
9. LARGEST BABY CRAWL COMPETITION.
Where did these babies crawl? On a 10-foot course in a Yokohama, Japan shopping mall. How many babies crawled?601 Will any of those 601 babies remember this achievement? Probably not.
10. SHORTEST COW
Who is the shortest cow? Manikyam is the shortest cow. She is from Kerala, India. How short is she?61.1 centimeters (24.07 inches), "from the hoof to the withers." Does she make up for in spunk what she lacks in height? Yes.
11. FARTHEST DISTANCE COVERED BY A QUADRUPED ROBOT
Who is this robot? Xingzhe No.1, created by a team from the College of Automation of Chongqing University. How far did this robot run?134.03 kilometers (83.28 miles). It ran nonstop for 54 hours and 34 minutes. What is it running from? Only Xingzhe No.1 knows.
12. LONGEST JOURNEY IN MINECRAFT
Who made the journey? Kurt J. Mac, and his journey is ongoing. How far has he traveled? As of April, Mac journeyed over 2,097,152 blocks, which is the equivalent of 2097.15 kilometers (1303.1 miles). This is 16.78 percent of the way to the edge of the game's map. How long until he reaches the end? Twenty years, according to some educated guesses.
13. TIGHTEST REVERSE PARALLEL PARK
Who pulled off this parking feat? Stunt driver Alastair Moffatt. How tight was this spot? Starting in reverse, he "performed a dramatic J-turn, then a handbrake turn" before sliding into the narrow spot, leaving just 34 combined centimeters between his Mini Cooper and the cars parked in front of and behind him. Back-up cameras used: None.
14. FASTEST 100 METER SPRINT ON ALL FOURS
Who sprinted, bear-like, so fast? Kenichi Ito of Japan. He reclaimed his record after it was broken in 2014. How fast did he scamper? Ito covered 100 meters in 15.71 seconds. Why didn't he compete in the record-breaking baby crawl? Disqualified: not a baby.
15. MOST SLAM DUNKS IN ONE MINUTE
Who was dunking? Zeus McClurkin of the Harlem Globetrotters. How many times did he dunk?Fifteen times. It was one of seven world records set by the Globetrotters in 2015. The others are: Farthest kneeling shot made blindfolded; longest shot made backwards; most three-pointers made in one minute by a pair of players; longest-ever underhand shot; longest duration spinning a basketball on the nose; and farthest blindfolded hook shot. Number of cool records set by the Washington Generals in 2015: Zero.
In 1998, HBO—then a network that had not yet completely broken through with hits like The Sopranos and Sex and the City—decided to take on its biggest project ever: a massive 10-hour World War II miniseries executive produced by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks. Three years, more than $100 million, and thousands of work hours later, Band of Brothers was brought to the world. The true story of a single paratrooper company making their way through the last year of the war in Europe, Band of Brothers dwarfed other TV dramas of its era with its budget, its cast, its effects, and its extraordinary attention to period detail. The result was one of the most acclaimed World War II dramas ever filmed.
So, from the sheer scale of the production to the cast’s boot camp to some actors you may have forgotten about, here are 10 things you might not have known about Band of Brothers.
1. THE BUDGET WAS UNHEARD OF AT THE TIME.
When Band of Brothers began its journey to the screen in the late 1990s, one of HBO’s chief concerns in agreeing to produce the series was its budget. Today, in the age of Game of Thrones, it seems natural for the network to foot the bill for such an epic, but at the time the amount of money called for was almost unheard of. When discussions first began, it became clear that the miniseries would cost at least $125 million to produce, which meant $12 million per episode. That’s a figure that dwarfed even the most prestigious and popular TV dramas at the time, and it didn’t even factor in the massive marketing budget (at least $15 million) the network was considering to promote the event. So, what convinced HBO to put up the money? A number of factors, but having Hanks and Spielberg on board certainly helped.
''I'm not saying they didn't bat an eye,'' Hanks toldThe New York Times in 2001. ''Oh, they did bat an eye. But the reality is this was expensive. You had to have deep pockets. And HBO has deep pockets."
2. JEEP HELPED PROMOTE IT.
The promotional campaign for Band of Brothers was almost as massive as its budget, with HBO attempting to draw the curiosity of as many non-subscribers as possible. One of the ways they achieved this was by forming the network's first ever partnership with another company to launch a series of commercials. That company was Jeep, which was celebrating the 60th anniversary of its signature vehicle at the time. The classic military Jeep figures prominently in Band of Brothers—it appears more than 1000 times throughout the series—so it was a natural fit.
Together, HBO and Jeep shot a series of six commercials tying into the series, filmed on Utah Beach in Normandy, France (not a place commercials are usually allowed to shoot). The spots aired on broadcast television, allowing HBO a rare chance (at the time) to get its products before an audience that large.
3. IT CAUSED SOME CONTROVERSY IN THE UNITED KINGDOM.
Though Band of Brothers was largely well-received by audiences both in the United States and abroad, it did cause some controversy in the United Kingdom before it even aired there. According to The Guardian, the furor was stirred up by The Daily Mail, which published a condemnation of the miniseries for its lack of British soldiers. The series, of course, is meant to follow a single company of American troops as they navigate the last year of the war in Europe, but that didn’t stop The Daily Mail from decrying the show’s narrow focus. The publication called forward various British veterans who declared Band of Brothers "an absolute disgrace and an insult to the millions of brave Britons who helped win the war,” the implication being that the series essentially depicted only Americans as winning the war in Europe. The controversy, while noteworthy, was short-lived.
4. THE PRODUCTION WAS MASSIVE.
Band of Brothers, a 10-hour miniseries set entirely during World War II, would be a massive undertaking even now, but it was particularly gargantuan when it was produced. Some figures that prove just how big it was: According to the documentaryThe Making of Band of Brothers, the production required 2000 American and German military uniforms; 1200 vintage costumes (that’s not counting the newly made ones); more than 10,000 extras; more than 14,000 rounds of ammunition a day; and 500 speaking roles. The special effects alone were so massive that, by the time the third episode was completed, the production had already used more pyrotechnics than Saving Private Ryan, which is particularly impressive given that much of the first episode is taken up by boot camp sequences.
5. IT WAS LARGELY FILMED IN ONE LOCATION.
The story of Band of Brothers takes the men of Easy Company across half the European continent, through several different countries and even seasons. Despite the vivid depiction of all of these varied places on the journey, the miniseries (aside from certain location shoots) was largely filmed in one place. Thanks to a large tax break from the UK government, the production was headquartered at the Hatfield Aerodrome, an old British aerospace factory that had been converted into a massive, 1100-acre backlot. The various hangars from the factory were used to house the costumes, props, weapons, tanks, and other equipment used to shoot the series, and some hangars even housed various sets.
6. ONE VILLAGE SET PLAYED NEARLY A DOZEN DIFFERENT TOWNS.
Because Band of Brothers was mostly shot on the Hatfield backlot, the crew had to make certain accommodations to portray much of Europe in a small space. One key factor was the 12-acre village set constructed on the lot. A set that size is a massive undertaking anyway, but to depict the various places Easy Company visits, the village had to be constantly redressed to show England, Holland, Belgium and other locations. In all, the village ended up playing 11 different towns throughout the miniseries.
7. THE BASTOGNE SEQUENCES WERE ACTUALLY FILMED INDOORS.
One of the most harrowing segments of Band of Brothers takes place in the sixth episode, “Bastogne.” Caught in the middle of the Battle of the Bulge and low on supplies, Easy Company faces its toughest challenge yet as they try to hold off a massive German force even as they’re starving and freezing to death. It’s a powerful episode, but most of the time the actors were faking the hardship. The sequences in which the company is huddled down in foxholes, scrounging for whatever food and medicine they can get, were largely filmed on a massive indoor set constructed in one of the hangars at Hatfield. The production used real trees and numerous fiberglass trees (which could be broken apart to simulate German shells) to create the forest, and paper mixed with various polymers to create artificial snow. It’s estimated that more than a third of a million pounds of paper were used to make snow throughout the sequence, and it took four weeks to completely cover the set.
“It’s the biggest amount ever used on one set, for anything,” snow effects supervisor David Crownshaw said. “It should be in the Guinness Book of Records.”
8. THE GUNS WERE THE REAL THING.
Every major character in Band of Brothers wields at least one firearm throughout the entire production, and many of the men of Easy Company are never without their trusty M1 Garand rifles. The World War II-era weapons were key to the production, and Hanks and Spielberg insisted on authenticity, so they went to an arms dealer and picked up 700 authentic period weapons for the production. Numerous other guns (including pistols largely kept in holsters) were made of rubber, but very often when you see the men of Easy Company firing their rifles at the enemy, they were firing the real thing.
9. THE CAST INCLUDES SEVERAL YOUNG ACTORS WHO WENT ON TO BECOME MAJOR STARS.
Because Band of Brothers includes hundreds of speaking roles, including dozens of American soldiers, the production had to recruit a virtual army of young actors, many of whom were relatively unknown at the time. If you go back and watch the series now, you’ll see several young faces that are now recognizable as major movie stars. Among thenow-big names: James McAvoy, Tom Hardy, Simon Pegg, Michael Fassbender, Colin Hanks, Dominic Cooper, and Jimmy Fallon.
10. THE CAST TRAINED TOGETHER, AND BONDED, IN A 10-DAY BOOT CAMP.
To develop a better understanding of the military culture their characters were involved in, and to get them in the right physical and mental shape for the miniseries, the cast portraying Easy Company embarked on an intensive 10-day boot camp before shooting, training 18 hours a day under the watchful eye of Captain Dale Dye.
Dye, a former Marine and Vietnam veteran who came to Hollywood after he left the military to become a technical advisor, served as the senior military advisor on the production and also portrayed Colonel Robert Sink in the series. Dye led the boot camp and even helped direct key battle sequences in an effort to get the cast as close to real soldiers as possible. According to the men who portrayed Easy Company, the experience brought them closer together, and made them more like a real unit.
“You hit walls in boot camp," Scott Grimes, who played Sergeant Malarkey, said. "You hit these personal mental, physical walls that you have to go over, basically. There were guys the first night at boot camp that cried themselves to sleep that I was there for, and they were there for me.”
In addition to boot camp, the Easy Company cast also undertook a version of paratrooper training to ensure authenticity. Among the challenges: jumping out of a mock-up plane fuselage, while strapped to a harness simulating a parachute, from a height of 40 feet.
We’ve been learning a lot from reading National Geographic Kids’s book 5,000 Awesome Facts (About Everything!) 2. If you need a great conversation starter, here are 50 of our favorite awesome facts from the book.
1. IN 1889, THE QUEEN OF ITALY, MARGHERITA SAVOY, ORDERED THE FIRST PIZZA DELIVERY.
2. YOU CAN BUY EEL FLAVORED ICE CREAM IN JAPAN.
3. IT'S CONSIDERED RUDE TO WRITE IN RED INK IN PORTUGAL.
4. ALTHOUGH THE BOBCAT IS RARELY SEEN, IT IS THE MOST COMMON WILDCAT IN NORTH AMERICA.
5. A CAT'S TAIL CONTAINS NEARLY 10 PERCENT OF ALL THE BONES IN ITS BODY.
6. GECKO FEET HAVE MILLIONS OF TINY HAIRS THAT STICK TO SURFACES WITH A SPECIAL CHEMICAL BOND AND LET THEM CLIMB WALLS AND HANG ON BY JUST ONE TOE.
7. THE TERM "ASTRONAUT" COMES FROM GREEK WORDS THAT MEAN "STAR" AND "SAILOR."
8. THE CALCIUM IN OUR BONES AND THE IRON IN OUR BLOOD COME FROM ANCIENT EXPLOSIONS OF GIANT STARS.
9. THE NILE CROCODILE CAN HOLD ITS BREATH UNDERWATER FOR UP TO TWO HOURS WHILE WAITING FOR PREY.
10. JELLYFISH, OR JELLIES AS SCIENTISTS CALL THEM, ARE NOT FISH. THEY HAVE NO BRAIN, NO HEART, AND NO BONES.
11. THE CHINESE GIANT SALAMANDER CAN GROW TO BE 6 FEET (1.8 M) LONG, MAKING IT THE LARGEST SALAMANDER IN THE WORLD.
12. PEOPLE REPORTEDLY PREFER BLUE TOOTHBRUSHES OVER RED ONES.
13. SOME PEOPLE USED TO BELIEVE THAT KISSING A DONKEY COULD RELIEVE A TOOTHACHE.
14. SCIENTISTS SAY THAT THE BEST TIME TO TAKE A NAP IS BETWEEN 1 P.M. AND 2:30 P.M. BECAUSE THAT'S WHEN A DIP IN BODY TEMPERATURE MAKES US FEEL SLEEPY.
15. BECAUSE THE SPEED OF EARTH'S ROTATION CHANGES OVER TIME, A DAY IN THE AGE OF DINOSAURS WAS JUST 23 HOURS LONG.
16. HUMMINGBIRDS' WINGS CAN BEAT UP TO 200 TIMES A SECOND.
17. THERE ARE MORE THAN 1200 WATER PARKS IN NORTH AMERICA.
18. A SEAHORSE CAN MOVE ITS EYES IN OPPOSITE DIRECTIONS—ALL THE BETTER TO SCAN THE WATER FOR FOOD AND PREDATORS.
19. TO COOK AN EGG, A SIDEWALK NEEDS TO BE 158°F.
20. A GROUP OF JELLYFISH IS NOT A HERD, OR A SCHOOL, OR A FLOCK; IT'S CALLED A SMACK.
21. IT WOULD TAKE 100 EARTHS, LINED UP END-TO-END, TO STRETCH ACROSS THE FACE OF THE SUN.
22. LESS THAN 1 PERCENT OF ANTARCTICA IS ICE-FREE.
23. THE HIGHEST WAVE EVER SURFED WAS AS TALL AS A 10-STORY BUILDING.
24. THE BEAGLE BRIGADE, USED IN 21 INTERNATIONAL AIRPORTS IN THE U.S., KEEPS A YEARLY AVERAGE OF 75,000 ILLEGAL ITEMS OUT OF THE COUNTRY.
25. SOME APPLES CAN WEIGH ABOUT AS MUCH AS A HALF GALLON OF MILK.
26. CORN IS GROWN ON EVERY CONTINENT EXCEPT ANTARCTICA.
27. UNLIKE MOST FISH, SEAHORSES ARE COVERED IN BONY PLATES INSTEAD OF SCALES.
28. YOU LOSE ABOUT 50 TO 100 HAIRS A DAY.
29. "ARMADILLO" IS A SPANISH WORD MEANING "LITTLE ARMORED ONE."
30. THE WORLD'S SMALLEST FRUIT—A UTRICLE—IS THE SIZE OF A SMALL ANT.
31. NEW JERSEY HAS THE HIGHEST CONCENTRATION OF SHOPPING MALLS.
32. KOMODO DRAGONS CAN DEVOUR 5 POUNDS OF MEAT IN LESS THAN A MINUTE. ANY EXTRA FAT THEY EAT IS STORED IN THEIR TAILS.
33. NOT ALL MOONS ARE DRY AND DUSTY LIKE OURS. JUPITER'S EUROPA HAS A LIQUID OCEAN UNDER AN ICY CRUST.
34. SOME VIKING CHIEFS WERE BURIED INSIDE THEIR SHIPS.
35. AT ANY MOMENT, CLOUDS COVER ABOUT 60 PERCENT OF EARTH.
36. ALL APES LAUGH WHEN THEY ARE TICKLED.
37. SPOTTED HYENAS CAN DIGEST SKIN AND BONES.
38. THE QUILLS ON AFRICAN PORCUPINES ARE AS LONG AS THREE PENCILS.
39. SCIENTISTS BELIEVE THAT PEOPLE WHO DREAM ABOUT AN ACTIVITY WILL ACTUALLY GET BETTER AT IT IN REAL LIFE.
40. YOUR HAIR CONTAINS TRACES OF GOLD.
41. IN JAPAN, INSTEAD OF A "MAN IN THE MOON," PEOPLE SEE A "RABBIT IN THE MOON."
42. DEPENDING ON THE SPEED OF THE WIND, SOME CLOUDS TRAVEL UP TO 100 MILES PER HOUR ACROSS THE SKY.
43. NAKED MOLE RATS ARE SOMETIMES CALLED SAND PUPPIES.
44. OPAL HAS BEEN DISCOVERED ON MARS.
45. GEORGE WASHINGTON LOVED EXPLORING CAVES.
46. IT TAKES A GALLON AND A HALF OF MILK TO MAKE A GALLON OF ICE CREAM.
47. THE TV REMOTE IS THE DIRTIEST ITEM IN A TYPICAL HOUSEHOLD, HOSPITAL, OR HOTEL ROOM.
48. THE HERCULES BEETLE CAN GROW BIG ENOUGH TO COVER AN ADULT HUMAN HAND.
49. THE FINEST QUALITY EMERALDS ARE MORE VALUABLE THAN DIAMONDS.
50. HEARING IS THE FASTEST HUMAN SENSE. A PERSON CAN RECOGNIZE A SOUND IN AS LITTLE AS 0.05 SECONDS.
For more incredible facts like these, pick up 5,000 Awesome Facts (About Everything!) 2, in bookstores now or available online at Amazon.