The world’s an interesting place, and sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. Sure it’s a cliche, but it’s true.
If you’re ready to have your mind blown, we’ve got you covered; these facts sound completely made up, but they’re actually legitimate (we checked).
1. Opossums are basically immune to snake venom.
Opossums are the only marsupial found throughout North America, and they’re thought to be one of the oldest mammal species. They’ve remained largely unchanged for thousands of years.
How? Well, for starters, they’re resistant to many deadly diseases, including rabies, thanks to an abnormally low body temperature (94–97 degrees F) that prevents viruses from spreading. Their blood contains a special peptide, a chemical that neutralizes snake venom.
“It was like a miracle, that this peptide really has this activity,” one scientist wrote in a report on the chemical. Opossums may be ugly (although that depends on who you ask), but they’re true survivors.
2. The McRib contains over 50 ingredients.
Whether you eat fast food or not, you’ve probably heard of the McRib. (As of this writing, it is not, in fact, back.) And whether you’ve consumed the sandwich or only watched its sauce drip from your pal’s mouth in a booth, you might be surprised how much more there is to it than pork and sauce.
If you can stomach it, check out our video about the McRib’s ingredients below:
3. The mummy of Ramesses II needed a passport to visit France in the 1970s.
This is either a sign of bureaucracy run amok or someone at customs having a bit of fun. Either way, when Ramesses II started deteriorating on display in 1974, Egyptologists decided to send him to France for an examination.
Ramesses was issued a passport, which listed his occupation as “King (deceased).”
He was reportedly received at a French airport with full military honors. After all, he was a king (deceased).
4. When you receive a kidney transplant, doctors don’t remove your old kidney.
Strange as it may sound, there’s not usually much of a reason to remove a diseased kidney. Instead, surgeons place the healthy kidney in the patient’s body then surgically connect it to the blood vessels and bladder.
As for the old kidneys, they leave them in place because it’d create unnecessary stress on the body to remove them. Cutting out a kidney can cause blood loss and could even increase the chances of an infection. Why take those types of risks when you don’t need to?
This isn’t true in every case, however. Cleveland Clinic notes that diseased kidneys might be removed due to a history of repeated infections, uncontrollable hypertension, or backup of urine. Still, the fact remains: In the vast majority of cases, if you receive a kidney transplant, you’re walking out of the room with three kidneys.
5. There are exactly two escalators in the entire state of Wyoming.
Well, technically speaking, there are four, since escalators come in sets of two.
As of 2013, there were only two “up” escalators and two “down” escalators in Wyoming. Both are located inside banks in the city of Casper, which boasts a population of about 56,000. Surprisingly, there aren’t any escalators in the state’s most populous city and capital, Cheyenne.
The Atlantic first reported this fact in 2008, then checked back again five years later to find the situation unchanged. As the article points out, that’s 0.000003467 escalators per capita.
Why aren’t there any more? Well, escalators come with hefty code requirements, and they’re expensive to maintain when compared with elevators and stairs. Given Wyoming’s low population density, there’s not really a reason for businesses to take on that extra expense.
Sue Goodman, a representative of the City Planning Office in Sheridan, Wyoming, put it much more succinctly: “In the Great Out West, I think land is probably cheaper. We spread out.”
6. The tallest mountain in the world is in Hawaii.
It’s not Mount Everest. Everest is an impressive 29,029 feet tall, but all of that is above sea level. Boring.
Hawaii’s Mauna Kea is over 33,000 feet tall from base to peak. Of course, most of that is underwater, but enough is above water to make this dormant volcano the highest point in Hawaii.
While we’re dishing out facts about mountains, here’s an especially interesting tidbit. Originally, surveyor Andrew Waugh calculated the height of Mount Everest to be exactly 29,000 feet, but he published its height as 29,002 feet.
Why? He was afraid that people would assume 29,000 feet to be an estimate. The number looked too clean, so he added a 2. A common joke among mountaineers is that Waugh’s survey makes him “the first person to put two feet on Everest.”
It’s probably a much funnier joke when you’re standing on top of a mountain.
7. President John Tyler still has living grandsons.
Not great-grandsons, mind you. Grandsons. One generation removed.
Tyler was, of course, the 10th President of the United States. Born in 1790, he fathered 15 children, including Lyon Gardiner Tyler, who was born in 1853.
Lyon Gardiner Tyler fathered Lyon Gardiner Tyler Jr. in 1924 and Harrison Ruffin Tyler in 1928. Currently, both men are still alive.
“Both my grandfather—the president—and my father, were married twice,” said Harrison Tyler in a 2012 interview with New York magazine.
“And they had children by their first wives. And their first wives died, and they married again and had more children. And my father was 75 when I was born, his father was 63 when he was born. John Tyler had fifteen children—eight by his first wife, seven by his second wife—so it does get very confusing.
“I really do not know—it’s amazing how families drift apart. When I was a child, I did know most of the descendants, but as you get more generations down the line, it’s hard to keep track of everybody.”
8. Martha Stewart got her start as a model.
She’s well-known for her cooking and homemaking talents, but Stewart has been in the limelight since the age of 15, when she began modeling to supplement her college scholarship.
She was even named Glamour magazine’s “Best Dressed College Girl” in 1961.
9. Scientists have isolated a bacterium as a contaminant in hairspray.
In 2008, Japanese researchers found evidence of bacteria living in hairspray. The bacteria, Microbacterium hatanosis, has only been found in hairspray, but that doesn’t mean that it lives exclusively in cosmetics. Instead, the current theory is that the bacteria is carried by one of the ingredients of hairspray, and it proliferates inside the bottle.
In any case, this species of bacteria might not be dangerous.
“Further testing will establish whether the species is a threat to human health,” said Dr. Bakir from the Japan Collection of Microorganisms in Saitama, Japan. “We hope our study will benefit the formulation of hairspray to prevent contamination in the future.”
10. The guy who invented the polio vaccine refused to patent it.
That would be Jonas Salk, and your eight-grade biology teacher would be angry if you didn’t immediately remember that name.
Salk tested his vaccine on a sample group that included himself, his wife, and his two sons, so he had invested quite a bit in his invention. Fortunately, it worked. Cases of polio decreased from 28,985 in 1955 to fewer than 6,000 in 1957.
As The New York Times reported in 1990, Salk wasn’t interested in patenting his vaccine. When reporter Edward R. Murrow asked Salk who owned the vaccine, Salk’s reply was immediate: “Well, the people, I would say. There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?”
But other researchers found this to be disingenuous, as Salk’s research was completed with National Foundation money. He couldn’t have patented it if he wanted to (although he might have been unaware of that fact).