For most of us, history was a subject that we never took seriously, since most of the stories were either too long or boring. But, these facts are neither long nor boring. Here, we have collected some cool things that were never taught in school. Some of these historical, cultural, and wildlife facts that National Geographic has shared with us is something you might find interesting.
1. This is a pyramidion, the top end of one of the Egyptian pyramids.
The uppermost piece or capstone of a pyramid is called “pyramidion”. The tip of a pyramid and also the tip of an obelisk is called ben-ben. Egyptians used the same word to describe a cone-shaped bread. For Egyptians, capping the pyramid with the pyramidion was of great importance. It was a sacred act that was only performed at the completion of the structure.
The ben-ben stone (from approximately 1840 B.C.) was discovered in the temple of the Phoenix. Ancient Egyptians considered the Phoenix to be a sacred bird who had the ability to create and resurrect. According to archaeologists, this particular ben-ben was located on the top of Amenemhat III’s pyramid. The inscriptions on the stone translate to:
“May the face of the king be opened so that he may see the Lord of the Horizon when he crosses the sky; may he cause the king to shine as a god, lord of eternity and indestructible.” (source)
2. Under the right conditions, colorless rainbows can be formed. They are called fogbows.
Have you ever seen a rainbow when it wasn’t raining? Then the chances are that you have witnessed a fogbow. This ghostly rainbow differs from its multi-colored cousin and is an extremely rare phenomenon. In the case of a rainbow, the water droplets are large enough to act like a prism and reflect a small fraction of sunlight within the drop and bend light in a specific direction towards the viewer. However, the suspended droplets within the fog are much smaller, far too small to reflect and refract sunlight towards us.
In such conditions, the light is diffracted from these tiny droplets, clashing together to form a haze of white or gray. They are only visible when there are very small drops, with the radius of up to 0.05 mm, present in the atmosphere and the sun is up against your back. Fogbows also only appear near fields, mountain valleys, coasts or lakeshores. (source)
3. GPS or Global Positioning System is free for the entire world at the cost of the American taxpayers’ expense.
GPS is a crucial part of our lives today. We use it almost every day on our phones to find our way around. Most people are familiar with the concept of using a GPS system but these days, many take it for granted. GPS helps us in a variety of ways. When a person is missing or stranded, GPS devices help pinpoint their exact location for search and rescue efforts. Besides location and navigation, it is also used to track animal behavior and territories. For instance, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration uses the technology to learn about whales, sharks and other animals.
However, the funds to keep the GPS service alive throughout the world comes from the American taxpayers’ expense. All GPS program funding comes from general U.S. tax revenue and the bulk of the program is budgeted through the Department of Defense, which has primary responsibility for developing, acquiring, operating, sustaining, and modernizing GPS. According to TIME, the annual operating cost of the Pentagon’s Global Positioning System is $750 million. The constellation of 24 satellites that is capable of telling anyone and everyone where they are in this world costs over $2 million a day. (source)
4. The red-factor canary, when fed a special diet, can change color.
The red-factor canary appears to be just like the other canaries, but with one special trait; the owner can influence the color of their bird. You may have heard that flamingos are white unless they are fed brine shrimp or other pigmented foods — this is true, and the same holds for the red-factor canary. The canary was named for its place of origin, the Canary Islands.
According to PetFactor, there are special pigments located in a canary’s wings, that are responsible for their color. Depending on the source of light and the type of food they consume, the feathers develop different tinges. Yellow canaries consuming red pepper will turn orange or completely red. This natural way of color-feeding is purportedly better for the canary’s overall health, since artificial foods are known to cause damage to their liver. (source)
5. The Vatican had a musical composition that was played once a year and was strictly forbidden from being copied. In 1770, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart heard the song once, went home, and transcribed the entire piece from memory.
Allegri’s Miserere, composed in 1638 by the Sistine Chapel Choir, is one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever written. The piece of music stayed within the walls of the Vatican for years, and if it wasn’t for a young Mozart, the world may have never heard it. Miserere was so good that the Pope forbade anyone from transcribing it, and only three copies were made: one for the Holy Roman Emperor, one for the King of Portugal, and one for an eminent music scholar.
For over 100 years, the music remained a secret; until 1770, when a young Mozart arrived at the Vatican for Easter. The pope had planned for an amazing day filled with celebrations, but what he hadn’t planned was for Mozart’s trip and his presence at the Vatican. The Wednesday service went on as planned and the choir sang the Miserere. A few hours later, Mozart returned to his lodgings, sat down and wrote the entire piece out from memory, perfectly.
After having transcribed the piece, the young Mozart went back to St Peter’s to make a couple of corrections and the Vatican’s secret was out in public. The feat earned Mozart a celebrity status and an invitation to an audience with Pope Clement XIV. He was also awarded the Order of the Golden Spur by the Pope himself. (source)
6. The tradition of brides carrying bouquets at weddings isn’t as romantic as you imagine. The tradition began in 15th century to mask the smell of body odor.
In the 15th century, brides had a very distinctive odor. According to Huffington Post, June was the most popular time of year for weddings because people took their annual baths in May. The annual bath consisted of a big tub of hot water where the man of the house got the nice, hot, clean water. Then, other male members of the family take a dip, followed by the women.
So, the theory is that even though people bathed (once a year), the women often got the filthiest water to clean themselves. This often lead to the tradition of carrying a bouquet, in order to mask any potential stench. Hence the custom today of carrying a bouquet when getting married. (source)
7. There is an island called “Just Room Enough” where there’s just enough room for a tree, and a house.
Just Room Enough, an island in NY, is one of the smallest islands in the world, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. During the 1950’s, the Sizeland family bought Hub Island. They then planted a tree and built a little cottage that took up almost every leftover square inch of dry land. They renamed their new property “Just Room Enough Island”, for obvious reasons.
The family planned to make the cottage their private little weekend getaway. However, when word got out of the cute island, it was flocked with visitors from all around the world. Today, the island is a popular attraction for tourists cruising the river. According to the Washington Post, there’s little room for error in the island. One long step outside the house and you will be swimming. The island is no bigger than a tennis court. (source)
8. Deaf people who are schizophrenic see hands signing to them in their heads.
The first symptom of schizophrenia is hearing voices in your head. As time goes by, the voices get louder and demanding. Earlier, it was believed that deaf people who were schizophrenic, encountered auditory hallucinations. However, recent research shows that people who were not born deaf are the only ones able to experience true auditory hallucinations. When it came to people who were deaf at birth or who had never heard speech in their life, the voices were “soundless” and in the form of sign language. (source)
9. Cheetahs cannot roar. They can only meow, purr, and chirp.
They might be the fastest animals on Earth but there’s one thing they certainly cannot do; roar! Yes, it might come as a surprise but cheetahs, unlike lions and tigers, cannot roar. Cheetahs purr, bleat, bark, growl, hiss and chirp but they don’t roar and they don’t tweet. Many of their vocalizations are totally unlike those of any other cat. Roaring is made possible by a special two-piece hyoid bone in the throat. All of the non-roaring cats like the cheetah have a one-piece hyoid bone. Only four cats can roar: the lion, tiger, leopard and jaguar. (source)
10. Scientists discovered that every 23,000 years, the Sahara turns from a thick forest into a desert.
According to a work published in the current issue of Nature Geoscience by Robert Korty, associate professor in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences, along with colleague William Boos of Yale University, as little as 6,000 years ago, the vast Sahara Desert was covered in grassland. The study on precipitation patterns showed that the desert received plenty of rainfall, but shifts in the world’s weather patterns abruptly transformed the vegetated region into some of the driest land on Earth.
“We know that 6,000 years ago, what is now the Sahara Desert was a rainy place,” Korty adds.
Korty also believes that his findings could help predict better when it comes to future rainfall patterns in parts of the world. The study also shows that the change in Sahara occurs every 23,000 years, which helps the plants and animals to flourish. (source)