At a certain point numbers begin to lose meaning. The human mind isn’t good with large numbers and the vastness of large numbers and what they represent becomes too diffuse and too vague for us to conceptualize. That’s part of the reason why guessing how many jellybeans are in a jar is such a reliable game. People will vastly miscalculate large numbers. But the sheer number of all sorts of things, and not just jellybeans, are around us all the time. And many things exist in some surprising numbers.
10. Beetles Make Up About a Quarter of All Identified Life on Earth
In 2011, scientists estimated there were about 8.7 million different species living on Earth. Of those, around 1.5 million species have been identified and given a name. And of those, beetles make up 25%. That means, of 1.5 million species, around 350,000 to 400,000 of them are just beetles.
From an evolutionary standpoint, this makes sense. Most beetle species have been around since the Jurassic period, meaning they’ve achieved success in part because they are very adaptable and well suited to live in all kinds of conditions as they are. They hit the evolution jackpot, so to speak.
9. There Are Over 120,000 Kinds of Rice
You could make a strong case that rice is the most popular food in the world. In 2021/2022, 520 million metric tons of rice were consumed worldwide. Americans eat about 20 lbs of rice per person every year. If that seems like a lot, compare it to Asia where the average person eats 220 lbs per year. So a lot of rice is being eaten, that’s a given. But the sheer variety of rice is even more remarkable.
Most of us know things like arborio rice, jasmine rice, basmati rice and a few others. There are, however, over 120,000 kinds of rice in the world. The International Rice Genebank holds genetic material from 132,000 different kinds of rice and related genera.That means you could eat a new kind of rice every single day for over 360 years. If you wanted to fit it all into your lifetime, you’d probably need to try about 6 different kinds a day, then you’d only have to spend 60 years on the job.
8. Sign Language Is Not Universal, There are Hundreds of Variations
Communication is a cornerstone of civilization and there are over 7,000 spoken languages in the world. That means, sometimes, communication can be difficult if we’re not all on the same page.
Some people may think that this is less of an issue for those who have hearing loss as sign language can bridge that international language gap by allowing people from any culture to communicate but that’s not the case. While not as diverse as spoken languages, there are still over 300 kinds of sign language used in the world.
Interestingly enough, the differences in sign language don’t follow the lines of spoken language. American Sign Language is different from Auslan sign language in Australia and British Sign Language in the UK, even though verbal communication is mostly all done with the same language in those three places.
7. There Are Over 1,800 Kinds of Cheese
If you’re a cheese fan you probably already know and enjoy an abundance of varieties. Most grocery stores will offer up a few dozen cheese varieties from cheddar to emmental to gouda and havarti and more. But even cheese speciality shops that have hundreds of varieties available still fall short of showing the whole picture. Around the world you can find over 1,800 varieties.
You can search through databases of them based on country of origin, the milk used to make them or even the texture of the finished product.
6. Apples Come in About 7,500 Varieties
Google “best apples for making pie” and you’ll find plenty of articles offering up dozens of different options. It’s probably been an ongoing debate since apple pie was invented. There are plenty of options which people choose for reasons ranging from sweetness to tartness to firmness and more. But throughout all of those articles, you’ll probably just find a few dozen different apples at most. And that’s kind of odd considering there are actually 7,500 different kinds of apples to choose from.
Of course most of us only know a couple dozen at most which is why the range is so limited, even though 2,500 of those numerous apples are grown in the US alone. It’s just that consumers are accustomed to a limited variety and introducing new ones tends to take time and some marketing before people get on board. Also, while there are a huge variety of apples grown in America, many are grown only in limited areas or small farms so the whole supply for a second may be extremely limited. Without larger farms giving space to new crops, most people will probably never get to try them.
5. There Are Over 30 Types of Screw Drivers
Have you ever been working on a project with someone and they ask you for a screwdriver? And then you have to go through what type of screwdriver they mean? A few of them are fairly well known like Phillips, slot or Robertson. But what do you call a six-pointed star? That’s a Torx of some kind, though there are sub-varieties. And ones that look like an hourglass? That’s a clutch.
There are over 30 types of screws and drives that are in popular usage, though obviously some are more popular than others. Wikipedia has a page that aggregates most of them if you ever come across something and don’t know what you’re looking at.
Why so many kinds? Some are proprietary. Some, like Torx, prevent cam out. Tri-wing let you apply more force. Phillips itself was designed to be better managed with screwdrivers than previous types.
4. There Are Over 350 Pasta Shapes
Americans eat nearly 6 billion pounds of pasta per year. Safe to say it’s a popular food item. And one of the most fun things about pasta is that you can change the shape and change the dish even though, technically, the ingredients are the same. Certain pasta shapes are better suited to certain toppings, sauces or preparations. Some are just kind of fun to eat.
Spaghetti and macaroni are two hugely popular varieties and there’s penne, rigatoni, fettuccine and so many others. How many exactly? Over 350. You can find a lot of them in online databases but they are still not fully exhaustive. Even the Wikipedia page for pasta only covered so many, though it has more than most.
Part of the problem is that many pasta shapes are variations of pre-existing ones, the way spaghettini is just a thinner version of spaghetti,for instance. And other types get different names from region to region so keeping track of everything can become difficult. Not to mention novelty pasta shapes, like the kind you might find in cans of Scooby Doo pasta at the grocery store.
3. There are 15 Kinds of Electrical Outlets Around the World
One thing people will always tell you if you’re going to travel internationally is to buy an adapter for your electronics because plugs in Europe or Asia or wherever you’re going are different. And the way it’s explained makes it sound like there are two kinds of plus in the world and that’s it. But there are actually about 15 types of electrical outlets in common usage in the world, depending not just on where you are but what the outlets are for.
In America alone there are multiple types even if we don’t always think of it. There’s Type A which features your standard two prongs but also Type B with a third prong for the ground wire. Both are 120V, typically. You’ll also find larger 3 and 4-pronged outlets for appliances like clothes dryers.
When you go international, you get into Type C, which is not grounded and found in Europe, Asia and South America and is up to 240V. Type D is from India, while H is in Israel and Type L is found in Italy and Chile.
2. There Are 19 Kinds of Ice
If someone asked you what kind of ice you like, chances are you’d consider the difference between cubed and chipped. But in science there are 19 recognized kinds of ice. The 19th kind was created in a lab back in 2021. These are 4-sided crystals and require super low temperatures and very high pressure.
The various other kinds of ice all exist in conditions you won’t find outside on a winter’s day. They can be made in labs or found out in space on other worlds under extreme conditions. They require extreme temperatures and pressures and form different crystalline structures that differentiate them from the ice we know here on earth. Ice 17, for instance, can be made at room temperature by squeezing water between 1 nanometer layers of graphene with pressures at about 10,000 atmospheres.
1. There Are Multiple Types of Twins
Most people likely either know twins or have at least come across twins at some point in their life. There are fraternal twins and identical twins and many parents like to make a big deal about dressing them alike or giving them similar names when they have the opportunity, at least when it comes to identicals.
Fraternal twins are also known as dizygotic twins. This occurs when two eggs are released and fertilized at the same time, so two babies grow together in the mother’s womb. Identical twins are monozygotic twins. That happens when one fertilized egg splits in two and essentially the same person from a genetic standpoint grows twice in the womb.
Those two types of twins are not the only ones, however, and it’s been proposed that there are a number of other twins that can occur.
Mirror image twins occur when the egg splits late, more than a week after conception occurs. The twins will develop as mirror images so that instead of being 100% identical, they are identical but opposite. So a mole on one twin’s left cheek would be on the other’s right.
Semi-identical twins, so rare that only two cases have been identified in the past, occur when a single egg is fertilized by two sperm. Technically, it’s supposed to be impossible. But it’s not. After fertilization, the egg splits the three sets of genetic material into two subsets and each develops separately. The result in one case was twins, a boy and a girl, developing as identical twins should have, but sharing only 84% genetic material.
Superfetation is another condition where something technically impossible still happens. In this case, the woman gets pregnant and then gets pregnant again. Your body is supposed to prevent this from happening naturally, but in some cases where assistive technology has been used to increase chances of becoming pregnant, the body’s natural defense against this was bypassed and a double pregnancy occurred. The children are technically not twins but the pregnancy works much the same for obvious reasons.
Superfecundation occurs when twins are born to two different fathers. It’s more common in animals but can happen in humans if a woman releases two eggs in a short amount of time and has sex with two different men to fertilize both in the same cycle. This can result in twins who look significantly different.
There are other potential twin types that have been proposed beyond these as well.