"TIL when NASA used electronic computers for the first time - to calculate John Glenn's orbit around Earth - officials called on Katherine Johnson to verify the computer's numbers; Glenn had asked for her specifically and had refused to fly unless Johnson verified the calculations."
"TIL Joseph Bazalgette, the man who designed London's sewers in the 1860's, said 'Well, we're only going to do this once and there's always the unforeseen' and doubled the pipe diameter. If he had not done this, it would have overflowed in the 1960's (its still in use today)."
"TIL A Scottish woman was sentenced to death by hanging around 1721. Maggie Dickson was hung, declared dead, put in a wooden coffin and carted off. She woke up en route to the churchyard, the law said her sentence had been carried out and she lived another 40 years known as 'Half-hangit Maggie'."
"TIL Lithuania withdrew from the 1992 Olympics due to the lack of money after the fall of the USSR. The Grateful Dead agreed to fund transportation costs for the basketball team along with Grateful Dead designs for the team's jerseys and shorts. They went on to win the Bronze."
"TIL that Majel Barrett, the voice of the Starfleet computer on Star Trek, recorded an entire library of phonetic sounds before she died which allowed her voice to be used as the computer for future generations."
"TIL about the Danish Protest Pig. In the early 20th century, Danes living under Prussian rule were banned from displaying the Danish flag. To protest this, they bred pigs with a red and white color pattern similar to their flag. The breed is now called "Danish Protest Pig"."
"TIL: Firefighters use wetting agents to make water wetter. The chemicals reduce the surface tension of plain water so it’s easier to spread and soak into objects, which is why it’s known as “wet water.”"
"TIL Nicaraguan Sign Language is a sign language that spontaneously developed among deaf children in Nicaragua in the 1980s. It is of particular interest to linguists because it is believed to be to be an example of the birth of a new language, unrelated to any other."
"TIL of Diego, a tortoise whose high libido helped save his species. He & E5 (another male) brought the population from 15 to 2,000, and now the species is considered self-sufficient. After 80 years in captivity, Diego is now retired in the Galápagos, where he'll spend the rest of his life having sex."
"TIL on the set of Blade: Trinity, Jessica Biel was supposed to fire an arrow directly at the camera, so the camera was surrounded by Plexiglass except for a 2" x 2" square in front of the camera lens. Biel managed to shoot the arrow through the hole and destroy the $300,000 camera."
"TIL Tomohiro Nishikado, creator of Space Invaders, made the entire game himself. Not only was he its designer, programmer, artist, and sound mixer, but he also engineered the game’s microcomputer from scratch."
"TIL that at a 1976 Amsterdam chess tournament, Soviet grandmaster Viktor Korchnoi politely asked an English competitor how to spell the words "political asylum." He then went straight to a police station and announced that he wished to defect."
"TIL of a brawl involving 50 congressmen on the US House floor in 1858. It ended when someone knocked off a man's wig and the man accidentally put it back on backwards, causing both sides to laugh and stop fighting."
"TIL Noninvasive spinal stimulation enables paralyzed people to regain use of hands. A team of scientists reports that six people with severe spinal cord injuries — three of them completely paralyzed — have regained use of their hands and fingers."
"TIL a professional security tester named Jayson E. Street, was once hired to attempt to compromise the computers and networks of a bank in Beirut. He succeeded in the compromise and found several exploits, but was soon shocked to discover he had just robbed/hacked the wrong bank."
"TIL That a man in horse-drawn carriage was kicked out of KFC drive-through. He then went to a McDonalds and was served a Big Mac without anyone questioning his method of transport."
"TIL when pursued, kangaroos will lure the chaser to bodies of water. So they can hold their pursuer under and drown them."
"TIL in 1865, Charles Dickens was traveling home from France when his train derailed while crossing a bridge, and his car was left dangling from the tracks. He helped save stranded passengers and then climbed back into the dangling car to find a manuscript he was supposed to send to his publishers."
"TIL the idea of black holes was first proposed in 1783 by John Michell, calling them "dark stars" and proposing a method to detect them by looking for star systems that showed the gravitational effects of two stars, but only one star was visible, which is indeed how scientists look for them today."
"TIL In high school, Donald Glover was voted "Most Likely to Write for The Simpsons." In 2006, Glover sent writing samples to David Miner, which included a spec script he had written for The Simpsons. Miner and Tina Fey were impressed by Glover's work and hired him to become a writer for 30 Rock."
"TIL of Frederick McKinley Jones - an orphaned black American who, in the 1930s when racial segregation was the norm, invented the first successful automatic refrigeration system for trucks. This lead to the development of supermarkets and better combat-zone medical supply."
"TIL that the oldest known domesticated dog remains are over 14,000 years old. The dog died young and is unlikely to have been much use to humans. Nevertheless, it was buried in an elaborate grave alongside two humans."
"TIL that the developers of the racing simulator game Assetto Corsa were attempting to find the source of what they believed to be a bug with the in-game traction control. In reality, the "bug" was the simulation accurately recreating a real world physics problem they were unaware of."
"TIL that during World War II, M&Ms were exclusively sold to the U.S. military. The candies were heat-resistant and easy-to-transport, perfect for American soldiers’ rations."
"TIL that a smell can recall emotional memories better than any other sense. A sense of smell is also linked to overall psychological well-being."
"TIL that Catherine Zeta-Jones was initially offered the lead role in Chicago, but turned it down in favor of playing Velma just so she could sing "All That Jazz.""
"TIL that sleight of hand artist Apollo Robbins was so proficient that he once managed to pick the pockets of 2 secret service agents assigned to former president Jimmy Carter. He managed to steal the forner president's itinerary, the keys to his motorcade and the badges of the agents."
"TIL about a psychological phenomenon known as psychic numbing, the idea that “the more people die, the less we care”. We not only become numb to the significance of increasing numbers, but our compassion can actually fade as numbers increase."
"TIL Lighthouses had different techniques for rotating the light, most being too slow, making the light less visible. Augustin Fresnel proposed a mercury flotation system in 1825. Despite some lenses weighing over 6,000 lbs. the design reduced friction, increased rotation, and ultimately saved lives."
"TIL that it used to be illegal in the United States for actors to wear military uniforms in a production that portrayed the military negatively, until the Supreme Court ruled in 1970 that this was a violation of the First Amendment."
"TIL Carl Stalling composed the music for many early Disney and classic Looney Tunes cartoon shorts, averaging one score a week during his 22 years at Warner Bros. The studio's 50-piece orchestra found Stalling's dynamic cartoon music far more challenging than the film scores they normally played."
"TIL Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini were friends at one point, however Doyle refused to accept Houdini performed using trickery and believed he had supernatural powers. Their friendship ended after Houdini exposed séance mediums who claimed to have powers to talk to the dead."
"TIL Andrew Thielen's info was fraudulently sold to debt collectors. Their conduct enraged him to the point of spending a years-long crusade to find the source that committed this fraud. Using the same intimidating tactics collectors tried to use on him, he worked his way to the man responsible."
"TIL children have more energy than endurance athletes. They have fatigue-resistant muscles and they recover faster than adults. Much of this stems from their ability to uptake and distribute oxygen, as well as synergize energy faster."
"TIL That when people first started using the telephone they would often yell into the wrong part, and when they did get on the phone, they had to figure out what to say to start a conversation: “Ahoy” was Alexander Graham Bell’s preferred option."
"TIL The last US Civil War Widow died in 2020. The practice of a young woman marrying an older man for his Civil War pension as a dependent was common practice in the early 20th century."
"TIL that Doctor Who briefly featured Kamelion, an android who was "played" by an actual robot. Unfortunately, the writers had to kill the character off when the robot's inventor, who was the only one who knew how to control it, died in a boating accident."
"TIL that a 14th century Moroccan explorer Ibn Battuta went as far as modern Indonesia, China, India, Russia, Central Asia, Balkans, Spain, Tanzania, West Africa and Maldives, and was by far the most well-travelled human before the modern era. He wrote an account of his travels, known as The Rihlah."
"TIL that drivers with more expensive cars are less likely to yield to pedestrians. A study has found that the likelihood of yielding goes down by 3% for every extra $1,000 in car value."
"TIL that in the last year of his presidency, Teddy Roosevelt rode a horse 100 miles in one day in order to prove that his new military physical standards (100 miles in three days) were not unreasonable."