It seems like only yesterday that we dredged the back vaults of our list-writing brains to give you ten facts that sounded like they couldn’t possibly be true, but were. And what a list that was, huh? Full of crazy, once-in-a-lifetime facts of the sort you’re unlikely to witness ever again, the sort of tales that could only come once in a blue…
No. Hold on, now. You mean we’ve got a whole other list of impossible facts lined up? And this one features a levitating city, 20 million tons of unclaimed gold lying right under our noses, and a mouse that literally screws itself to death? Jeez, we’ve really got our work cut out for us on this one, haven’t we?
10. Chicago Was Once Raised 6 Feet (and no-one noticed)
There are some facts that you instinctively know are BS, even if you’re not sure why. The idea that someone once managed to make the city of Chicago levitate 6 feet in the air without anyone noticing is definitely one such fact. For one thing, it’s impossible. For another, well, just listen to what you’re saying. You might as well claim the Moon is made of cheese.
Well, sorry, but we’re about to completely mess with your perception of how reality works. On New Year’s Eve 1855, the Chicago Board of Sewage Commissioners tasked engineer E.S. Chesbrough with finding a solution to the city’s regular cholera outbreaks. Chesbrough decided the easiest option would be to hike the entire city out its swamp, 6 feet into the air.
It was known as the Raising of Chicago, and it was completely literal. To get the city out the cholera-infested swamp it sat on, hundreds of men jacked up the streets using massive screws, filled in the space beneath them, and called the result ‘ground level’. The work carried on for 20 years, and was often completely mad. There are stories of whole hotels being hoisted up into the air, and not a single person inside them realizing it was happening.
Nor was it a temporary fix. The Chicago you see today is the ‘raised’ version. That’s right: Chicago is still levitating today, and no-one living there has ever noticed.
9. Irish Traffic Police Accidentally Invented their own Supervillain
Not so long ago, the name Prawo Jazdy struck fear into the hearts of Ireland’s traffic cops. A Polish immigrant, Mr. Jazdy was also the most prolific petty-criminal the Garda had ever encountered. Over the course of two short years, he racked up over 50 speeding tickets in every part of the island. Stranger still, he’d never been caught.
It gets weirder. Mr. Jazdy was a master of disguise. Sometimes he’d be dressed as a middle-aged man when he was stopped. Other times he’d be dressed as a young woman. Irish traffic cops found he’d given them a different driver’s license every time they’d stopped him. He’d given 50 different home addresses, and 50 different dates of birth. Eventually, a special task force was assigned to catch this international man of mystery.
At which point a native Polish speaker joined the Garda’s traffic division. He took one look at Mr. Jazdy’s file and probably fell down laughing. Y’see, Prawo Jazdy wasn’t a supervillain. He wasn’t even a person at all. Prawo Jazdy is Polish for ‘driver’s license’.
According to the BBC, Ireland’s confused traffic cops had spent 2 years writing up tickets for different Polish drivers under the assumption that they were all the same person. The mistake was finally discovered in 2009, to the embarrassment of all.
8. The State of Maine Has More Black Bears than Black People
The northeasternmost state of the US, Maine is one of the most-rural places in America. With a population of 1.33 million, it’s not the emptiest state, but it’s definitely kinda lonesome. It’s also one of the whitest places in the whole of the States. How do we know this? Because according to data from both the state of Maine and the US Census, Maine has more black bears than it has black people.
Seriously, it ain’t even close. The last US Census recorded roughly 19,000 African-Americans living in Maine. A couple of years before, the state of Maine estimated its black bear population at roughly 36,000. In other words, there are roughly two black bears for every single black person in Maine.
That’s a crazy figure, especially if you grew up in a big city, or in the South, or on the West Coast, or, well, anywhere but Maine. Nationally, black people make up 13.2% of the US population. In Maine, they make up just 1.4%. By contrast, if black bears were people, they’d make up 2.7%.
7. Congress Name-Checks Hitler Seven Times a Month
Godwin’s Law states that the longer an argument goes on, the greater the chance of someone bringing up Hitler. It further states that, the minute Hitler comparisons are invoked, the conversation becomes worthless. Which, when you think about it, is the perfect way of describing Congress. Both parties have been engaged in a never-ending argument for decades now, and both have essentially become worthless. We know this because they just can’t stop bringing up Hitler.
The nonprofit Sunlight Foundation tracks all words in the official Congressional record for their Capitol Words project. The database stretches back to 1996, and contains millions of words. In 2015, they crunched the numbers for Hitler, and found Congress name-checked the Nazi dictator an average of seven times a month.
Hitler has been compared in Congress to Saddam Hussein, to global warming, to modern China, to Gaddafi’s Libya, to Sudan, to Iran, to ISIS, to the cloning of human beings, to the American military, and (bizarrely) to the Founding Fathers. No other dictator even comes close. The high point came in 2003, when Hitler was mentioned 93 times in a single month.
Republicans mention Hitler slightly-more often, with 57% of mentions to the Dem’s 43%. But, as the Daily Dot pointed out, no party has yet been known to mention Godwin’s Law.
6. We Still Have No Idea How Many People Chernobyl Killed
On April 26, 1986, the nuclear reactor at Chernobyl, Ukraine, exploded. The resulting meltdown killed 31 people more-or-less instantly, and poisoned millions of square miles of land. At the time, the World Health Organization estimated the disaster would ultimately cause 4,000 deaths from radiation-induced cancer. Over 30 years later, we’re still guessing. Depending on your source, Chernobyl caused anywhere from a mere 53 deaths, to over half a million.
The trouble is Chernobyl blew radiation over such a vast area, no one really knows how many excess fatal cancers in Europe, Asia and Africa are due to the accident. The UN estimates around 16,000. The Russian Academy of Sciences estimates up to 200,000. The Ukraine National Commission for Radiation Protection calculates 500,000.
And those numbers keep climbing. One recent high-end estimate pegged the total number dead at nearly one million. If true, that would make Chernobyl the deadliest disaster in human history bar the catastrophic China Floods of 1931 (which may have killed up to 4 million). For comparison, the combined atomic bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima killed a maximum of 236,000. That’s right, the screw up of a bunch of Soviet engineers may yet turn out to be deadlier than the bloody endgame of the most-brutal war in human history.
5. Nintendo Existed at the Same Time as the Ottoman Empire
One is a modern Japanese entertainment company, best known for a certain, red-suited, Italian plumber. The other was a vast Islamic empire founded in the 14th century, that was ruled by sultans and once laid siege to Vienna in Austria. Both of these things existed at the same time for thirty three whole years.
The issue here is that Nintendo is way older than you probably imagine, while the Ottoman Empire didn’t fall apart till much later than you probably think. The Ottoman Empire only collapsed in 1922 as a result of losing WWI, after the Allies had carved up its territory for themselves. Nintendo, meanwhile, was founded way, way back in 1889.
At the time, Nintendo was a simple playing card company, with nary an Italian plumber in sight. That’s probably not surprising, as Italy had only been a unified state for less than 2 decades by that point, less than the time separating us now from the release of Titanic. Europe was still (mostly) ruled by the Prussians, Austro-Hungarians, Russians and Ottomans, and Britain had an empire that stretched all the way around the world. Meanwhile, Japan had only just left two and a half centuries of self-imposed isolation 35 years beforehand.
4. The Ocean Contains 20 Million Tons of (unclaimed) Gold
Imagine if you discovered a near-limitless supply of gold sitting right under your nose. All your worries would be over, right? Well, we’ve got some good news and some bad news for you. The good is that such a stash of gold really does exist, likely within easy driving distance. The bad is that its scattered over the entire ocean.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), our planet’s oceans contain a staggering 20 million tons of unclaimed gold. That’s enough to give every single person alive today 9 pounds of the stuff… or to just hoard it for yourself and become the richest person on the entire planet.
The trouble, sadly, is getting at it. Much of the oceans’ gold is distributed on a very, very fine level. As in, a single liter of seawater contains 13 billionths of a gram of gold. There’s just no way of extracting that, and the stuff that’s concentrated is equally hard to get at. The biggest gold deposits are buried a mile or two under the sea’s surface, and would require a massive mining operation to extract.
Still, if you go looking, you might get lucky. In 2015, the nation of Colombia discovered $1 billion worth of sunken Spanish gold sitting right off the coast of Cartagena.
3. The Biggest Quake in History Hit 23 on the Richter Scale
If you live in earthquake country, you’ll know anything above about a 4 on the Richter Scale is terrifying. The 2010 earthquake that leveled Haiti was a magnitude 7.0. The 1964 earthquake that nearly upended the whole of Alaska was 9.2. The largest in modern history was a 9.6 off the coast of Chile, and that caused 35 foot waves 6,200 miles from the epicenter.
But there’s actually an even-bigger earthquake on record. It went beyond standard measurements and hit a devastating 23 on the Richter Scale.
That estimate comes courtesy of NASA, who observed the quake in action. That’s right, thankfully for all life on Earth, the quake happened millions of lightyears away, at a star known as SGR J1550-5418. The ‘starquake’ was big enough to destroy everything in a 10 light year radius.
Starquakes are caused when the crust of a magnetar – a super, super dense neutron star that packs the mass of more than million Earths into an area the size of Manhattan – cracks. The resulting release of energy is one of the deadliest events in the universe. Any nearby planets would be wiped out instantly. One single, 20 minute quake releases more energy than our sun does in 20 whole years. Thank God we haven’t got any in our galactic neighborhood.
2. Antechinus Mice are so Sex-obsessed They Literally Screw Themselves to Death
You might like to think you’ve got going power in the sack. You ain’t got nothing on the Antechinus. A mouse-like marsupial found in Australia, the male is capable of mating for 14 hours straight. In mating season, guy Antechinus’s get so much action in that they literally screw themselves to death.
We don’t mean there’s some crazy biological mechanism that makes them die after reproducing. We mean they simply keep going for so long, and go so hard, that their bodies are destroyed by multiple stress injuries and they die of a failed immune system. Think about how you get more susceptible to disease if you’re tired and already injured, from playing football, say. Mr. Antechinus gets that times a million. Eventually, his stress levels rise so high that his immune system cuts out and he dies.
According to National Geographic, this malady infects every single male Antechinus. 11 months after birth, they become so desperate to mate that they wind up screwing for 3 weeks solid. They then die, and a new generation of boys are raised, who will also grow up to have a libido even Ron Jeremy would envy.
1. You Make History Every Time You Shuffle a Deck of Cards
Stop reading this for a second, and go find yourself a deck of cards. Got it? Right, now give that mother a shuffle and lay the cards in the order they come out. Congratulations, you’ve just done something completely unique in the whole of human history.
52 cards may not sound like much, but it creates an insane number of possible combinations. Highbrow British quiz show QI calculated the number at 52 factorial, which means 52 times 51, times 50, times 49… etc. Written out, it looks like this:
That’s a big number, but we’re not even close to describing just how insanely big. The QI ‘Elves’ phrased it like this: “If every star in our galaxy had a trillion planets, each with a trillion people living on them, and each of these people has a trillion packs of cards and somehow they manage to make unique shuffles 1,000 times per second, and they’d been doing that since the Big Bang, they’d only just now be starting to repeat shuffles.”
So there you have it. If you wanna make history, don’t cure cancer or invent a new device or conquer half the world. Just grab a pack of cards and get shuffling. We guarantee the results will be historically unique.