In life, do you ever wonder why things are the way they are? If so, then you have come to the right place. For instance, do you know why plastic bottles have those little numbers on them? Or why our eyes turn red in pictures when we use a flash? Like those, we have gathered a list of some unusual yet eye-opening facts about anything and everything. So, store these away for future trivia nights.
1. The person who designed the current flag of the United States was a 17-year-old high schooler, as part of a school project. He received a B- for his work.
In 1958, 17-year-old Robert G. “Bob” Heft was given an assignment for his American History class in Lancaster, Ohio. At the time, there were only 48 states in the union but Heft had a hunch that Alaska and Hawaii would soon join. So, Heft ambitiously set out to create his own version of the flag. His teacher however, was unimpressed and gave him a B- for his effort. Heft was really upset that someone who stapled five leaves to a paper received an A, while he spent more than 12 hours dissecting the flag his parents received as a wedding gift and sewing it himself to create a new one.
His teacher however, informed him that if the U.S. government officially adopted his design, then he would bump up the grade. Heft took it as a challenge and in August 1959, 21 letters and 18 phone calls later, he received a call from then President Dwight D. Eisenhower, inviting Heft to see his creation hoisted up the flagpole. On July 4, 1960, the 50-star flag was officially raised over Fort McHenry in Maryland. Bob Heft later become a teacher himself and stood proud by his design until he passed away in 2009. (source)
2. The red-eye effect in pictures is caused because the eye is unprepared for the sudden influx of light. So, the flash of light reflects off the blood vessels in the back of the eye and back to the camera, before the iris muscles can contract, thus resulting in red-eye effect.
Basically, when a camera flash hits an eyeball in a dark environment, some of the light often reflects off the blood vessels in the back of the eye and back to the camera, before the iris muscles can contract. This is what causes the red-eye effect. Modern cameras are equipped with technology that, when activated, fires off quick flash bursts before the actual flash. This causes the iris muscles to contract before the photo is captured, thus eliminating the glowing red eyes. Another interesting fact is that the red-eye effect can be used to detect problems with eyes at an early age. For instance, if you take a picture of a young child with the flash on, and the red-eye appears only in one eye, and a bright white pupil in the other eye, then you should seek immediate help. According to experts, this could be a sign on retinoblastoma. (source)
3. Chocolate contains the same chemical that your brain produces when you fall in love.
Chocolate contains a chemical called Phenylethylamine (PEA), which is the same chemical released by your brain, when you fall in love. At the same time, chocolate contains many compounds, some of which can get right to the heart of pleasure by increasing the brain’s level of serotonin, the feel-good brain chemical. Serotonin plays a major role in positive mood, emotional health, sleep, appetite and other physiological functions.
PEA, or phenethylamine, is a chemical which occurs in chocolate in small quantities. It however, stimulates the nervous system and triggers the release of endorphins. Our brains also release PEA, which is the same chemical that is released when we fall in love. PEA also has the ability to increase heart rate and blood pressure, as well as create feelings of euphoria; making people feel happy and loving. (source)
4. The expiration date on a water bottle is not for the water, but rather the bottle. Once the expiration date passes, the bottle will start leaching chemicals into the water and contaminating it.
It makes no sense that water comes with a shelf-life. Manufacturers not only use the “use-by” date to keep track of the sales, but also because it is subject to laws requiring expiration dates on all consumables. Although the water inside does not go bad, once the bottle passes its expiration date, the plastic bottle starts leaching chemicals into the water. According to Live Science, the leaching chemicals won’t render the water toxic, but makes it less than “mountain spring fresh”. (source)
5. Volvo gave away the 1962 patent for their revolutionary three-point seat belt for free, in order to save lives.
More than half a century ago, Volvo came up with a safety innovation that has saved countless lives. The invention was so excellent, that it landed in every single vehicle in the world. The three-point seatbelt was invented by Nils Bohlin, a Swedish engineer who worked for Volvo. On July 10, 1962, the United States Patent Office issued patent number 3043625 to Nils Bohlin, for the three-point safety belt to be used in cars. Until a federal law was enacted in 1966, it wasn’t mandatory to have seat belts in cars, so most manufacturers just used lap belts, which offered no upper body protection.
Volvo found that the three-point seat belt design had the potential to save lives, so, instead of licensing their patent and making billions, the company opened up the patent to the public so that all manufacturers could use it. Even today, the design by Nils Bohlin is used in cars all around the globe. According to a study conduced by Volvo in 2009, it was estimated that more than 1 million people have been saved by the three-point seatbelt. (source)
6. Airplane food tastes bad because of dry air and low pressure, which significantly reduces the sensitivity of your taste buds by around 30%.
It’s a common assumption that airline companies serve bland or unappetizing food but it’s certainly not their fault. According to Russ Brown, director of In-flight Dining & Retail at American Airlines, at 30,000 feet, the sense of smell and taste are the first things to go. “Flavor is a combination of both, and our perception of saltiness and sweetness drop when inside a pressurised cabin”, says Brown. At about 30,000 feet, humidity is less than 12%, which is actually drier than most deserts. According to a 2010 study conducted by Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Building Physics, the combination of dryness and low pressure is what reduces the sensitivity of your taste buds to around 30%. (source)
7. Blood donors in Sweden receive a ‘thank you’ text when their blood saves someone’s life.x
In order to counter shortages in blood supply, Sweden is using a new technology that sends automatic text messages to donors when their blood is being used to save a life. When a person donates, they receive a ‘thank you’ text but when it’s being put to use, they get another message that they are helping someone who is desperately in need. The technology was established to give donors more positive feedback about helping their fellow citizens; encouraging them to donate again. (source)
8. An average computer keyboard carries 20,000 times more bacteria than a toilet seat.
Most people assume that their smartphones and computer keyboards are cleaner than toilet seats. A new study however, shows the exact opposite. According to a study conducted by CBT Nuggets, the most bacteria-laden item of all was the ID badge, which had 243 times more bacteria than a common pet toy. The computer keyboard won the second prize for containing the most bacteria, with 38% being gram-positive cocci. (source)
9. There is a genetic mutation which is responsible for causing Brussels sprouts to taste very bitter for some, while they can taste pleasant for others.
The TAS2R38 gene is responsible for controlling one’s taste sensitivity. According to The Guardian, this gene makes a protein that interlocks with a chemical called PTC (phenylthiocarbamide) and gives the taste sensation of bitterness. This gene is the reason why some people hate sprouts, while others love them. The discovery was made by Arthur Fox in 1938, who himself did not have the TAS2R38 gene. One day, Fox was working in his laboratory and pouring powdered PTC into a bottle when the chemist next to him started complaining about the odor. Fox was intrigued by this, since he was unable to smell the odor while his co-worker could.
So, Fox conducted a series of experiments using his family and friends where he made them taste PTC and recorded their reactions. From his study, he learned that the ability to detect PTC was very tightly linked to people’s genetics. So, if you have the gene, you are someone who hate Brussels sprouts, but if you love the Brassicaceae family of vegetables, then you do not contain a working copy of the TAS2R38 gene. (source)
10. Kleenex tissues were originally intended for gas masks.
Every day, millions of people use Kleenex tissues for their allergies or to remove their makeup. Today, we use them as disposable tissues but did you know that they were first introduced not for nose blowing, but as cheap paper-based liners for gas mask filters during the First World War? During WWI, cotton was needed for bandages and field dressings, so the material used to develop Kleenex tissue was used as filters for the gas masks. Following the war, The Kimberly Clark Corporation marketed its own paper tissues as disposable face towels for make-up removal. It was a huge success and the rest is history. (source)