There are certain mind-blowing facts that are self-explanatory. But, on the other hand, there are others that are so awesome that they seem fake. They seem like obvious exaggerations. But sometimes, even if they look exaggerated, these facts are actually true. We bring to you 10 such facts that seem exaggerated but are actually true!
1. When the height of Mount Everest was calculated for the first time, a couple of feet was added to the actual height because the team figured nobody would believe that it was exactly 29,000 feet.
Since 1715, various attempts have been made to calculate the exact height of the highest peak of the mighty Himalayas. While some attempts failed due to the inability to get access to the mountains, others failed because the calculations did not take into account external factors such as light refraction. It was only in 1852 that an Indian mathematician, Radhanath Sikdar, identified Everest as the world’s highest peak.
Sikdar used trigonometric calculations based on James Nicolson’s measurements, a previous surveyor. His calculations were reportedly verified by Andrew Waugh, the British Surveyor General of India. It took Waugh and his staff two years to verify the calculations taking into account light refraction, barometric pressure, and temperature changes. The official findings were released finally in 1856.
As per the calculations, Kanchenjunga was declared to be 8,582 m (28,156 ft). Mount Everest, previously known as Peak XV, was given the height of 8,840 m (29,002 ft). In reality, the actual height of Mount Everest was calculated to be exactly 29,000 ft (8,839.2 m). But while releasing the data to the public, two feet was added to 29,000 feet to make it seem more realistic. Sometimes, Waugh is playfully credited as being “the first person to put two feet on top of Mount Everest.” (source)
2. Canadians purchase roughly 24% of all Kraft Dinner boxes sold globally, each week.
Kraft’s Mac and Cheese was one of the best innovations back in 1937. Putting grated cheese and pasta together came as a blessing for the Canadians at the time of the war. Moreover, many Canadian homes did not have refrigerators at that time. So, a shelf life of 10 months immediately created a captive market for the product. Kraft sold 50 million boxes during the war.
Still today, the Kraft Dinner of Mac and Cheese continues to be the national dish of Canada. According to an estimate, each week Canadians purchase 1.7 million of the 7 million boxes of Kraft Dinner that are sold globally. On an average, each Canadian consumes 3.2 boxes of Kraft Dinner each year, which is 55% more than Americans. Kraft Dinner is the most popular grocery item in the country! (source)
3. Canada and Denmark are in a territorial war over an uninhabited island and they have been leaving bottles of alcohol for each other for over 30 years.
A war has been raging on for 30 years for a barren and desolate island located far in the Arctic North. The island, Hans Island, does not possess any natural resources but two countries, Canada and Denmark, are fighting over it.
The island is basically a loophole in the international law. According to the law, any country can claim any territory that lies within 12 miles of their shore. Technically, Hans Island is within 12 miles of both the Canadian and Denmark shores. Hence, the dispute. Now the two countries have been playing a “whiskey war” over the island for almost 30 years.
Whenever the Danish military goes to the island, they leave behind a bottle of schnapps, an alcoholic beverage from Denmark. Similarly, when the Canadian forces go to the island, they leave behind a bottle of Canadian club, along with a sign that says, “Welcome to Canada.” As of 2016, a plan is underway to turn Hans Island into a shared territory between the two countries. (source)
4. Neutron stars are so dense that if you dropped a gummy bear from one meter away it would hit the surface in a microsecond with the force of 1,000 nuclear bombs.
Neutron stars are formed when a star dies at Type II Supernovae stage. All the layers of the dying star are removed by the Supernovae except the hard iron core. The iron core then collapses to about 20 km in diameter. Even though it has shrunk in size, it still consists of 1.5 to 5 times the mass of the Sun. Imagine how dense it would be to have compacted such an extreme mass into such a small space. To compare, the iron core would so dense that if it was the size of a teaspoon, it would weigh 100 million tons. Moreover, the crust of the iron core would be 100 billion times stronger than steel.
The iron core is engulfed with so much gravity that the protons and electrons fuse together and ultimately destroy each other. The only things left behind are the neutrons. So, if a gummy bear was dropped from one meter above the surface, it would strike the surface in exactly one microsecond at around 7,000,000,000 km per hour. This would create a force equal to 1,000 nuclear bombs! (source)
5. Before America gained independence, all the ants in the world weighed about the same as all the people in the world.
In the 1994 book Journey To The Ants, Edward O Wilson, a Harvard University professor, and Bert Hoelldobler, a German biologist, claimed that all the ants in the world weighed a much as all the humans. This estimate was based on a calculation by C. B. Williams, a British entomologist. Williams had earlier calculated that the number of living insects on earth at a given moment was one million trillion. Ants constitute one percent of this figure. This means that there are 10,000 trillion ants at any given point of time. Now, each ant weighs on an average one to five milligrams. “When combined, all ants in the world taken together weigh about as much as all human beings,” wrote Wilson and Hoelldobler.
But this statement is not true in current times, and not even when the duo published their book. There are 7.4 billion people today. Considering the average weight of 62 kgs, all humans would weigh a combined total of around 458 billion kgs. If there are 10,000 trillion ants in the world, with each ant weighing an average of 4 mg, then their total weight would be just 40 billion kg. This is nowhere near the estimate provided by Wilson and Hoelldobler.
Francis Ratnieks, Professor of Apiculture at the University of Sussex, believes that this estimate would have been true 2,000 years ago. But just after America gained independence in 1776, humans started putting on more weight than their ancestors. “We must also remember that humans are getting fatter all the time. We’re not just increasing in population, we’re increasing in fatness, so I think we’ve left the ants behind,” says Ratnieks. (source)
6. The speed of sound in the air is 741 mph, in water it’s 3,320 mph, and in a diamond, it’s 26,843 mph.
Sound waves consist of alternate compressions and expansions. So the speed of a sound wave is completely dependent on how fast the wave bounces back from the previous compression. In simple terms, the less compressible the medium is, the faster the waves bounce back. Moreover, the denser the medium, the slower the acceleration of the molecules which in turn slows down the compressions.
Air is highly compressible, whereas water is 15,000 times less compressible and 800 times denser than air. Hence, the speed of sound in water is higher than that of air. In case of a diamond, the speed of sound is so high because it is it highly incompressible but relatively light. This is the maximum speed that sound travels under normal conditions. (1, 2)
7. The easternmost point of Brazil is closer to Africa than it is to the westernmost point of Brazil.
The easternmost point of Brazil (mainland) is Ponta do Seixas and its westernmost point is Serra do Divisor. Brazil’s easternmost point is 1,826 miles from Freetown, Sierra Leone, which is located in West Africa. Surprisingly, Ponta do Seixas is 2,637 miles from Serra do Divisor. So, the easternmost point of Brazil is closer to Africa than its westernmost point. Hence, proved! (1, 2)
8. It is believed that 90% of U.S. dollar bills in the cities have Cocaine on it.
Yes, that’s true. But the reason four out of five bills have cocaine on them is NOT because the bills were used to snort cocaine. It is also NOT because the bills have passed through the hands of drug dealers. No, there is another reason behind this fact. Cocaine is a very fine powder. When a dollar bill contaminated with cocaine is processed through a counting machine, some traces of the drug are passed on to the other bills which came in contact with it. The same happens when a contaminated bill makes its way through an ATM. (source)
9. Between 2011 and 2013, China used more cement in three years than the US did in the entire 20th century.
This statistic is so unbelievable that it sounds fake. The fact sounds unbelievable because the 20th century was the time when the US built all its roads, bridges, dams, skyscrapers, and transportation networks. So let’s turn to the actual numbers to see if the fact holds true.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, between 1901 and 2000, the US utilized 4.5 gigatons of cement. On a more surprising note, according to the International Cement Review, China utilized 6.4 gigatons of cement between 2011 and 2013, which is just three years. That much cement can build a parking lot as big as Hawaii.
One reason for this immense utilization of cement can be attributed to China’s historic growth rate. China’s growth rate was much faster than US’s growth rate in the 20th century. Every year about 20 million Chinese residents relocate to cities. This number is more than the population of New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles combined. Moreover, many of the houses in the US are made from wood. But China suffers from a lack of lumber. Also, China has an enormous cement manufacturing industry! (source)
10. Shoelaces untie themselves because the knot is subjected to forces of up to 7G with every step that the wearer takes.
Although we deal with shoelaces getting untied by themselves all the time, the reason behind it has been studied for the first time. A team of researchers at the University of California led by Oliver O’Reilly, a mechanical engineer, were the first ones to study the reason behind this common occurrence. They devised a simple experiment to watch at a close range how the shoelaces get untied. A test subject was made to walk on a treadmill. Accelerometers were attached to her shoes that enabled the scientists to measure the acceleration, or gravitational force, acting on the knot with each step.
With the help of slow-motion video, the team discovered that there are two stages in which the knot comes undone. The first involves the gradual loosening of the knot with each step taken by the wearer. Next, there comes a sudden purge when the knot comes undone completely. What surprised the researchers was the gravitational force that was acting on the shoelace during each stride. The accelerometer measured a gravitational force of up to 7G. This is more than the force created by the most powerful roller coaster. O’Reilly explains, “The flapping motions back and forth actually increase inertial forces on the free ends. That exacerbates the imbalance. Then they pull through, and then the shoelace has failed.” (source)