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35 Random Facts About Everyday Items

I interact with any number of screens each day. In fact, I’m looking at one right now while getting distracted by the smaller screen on my phone and the bigger screen across the room with a news ticker on it. Did you know, however, that there are objects humans use every day that aren’t screen-related? Toothbrushes and forks, to name a few.

Can you name any others?

Wow. If you mentioned any of the things on the following list, there are probably a few facts you didn’t know about them. For instance, did you know that vaccines don’t actually alter your DNA? Someone on Youtube just made that up! Huh. The more you know.

Here are some mindblowing facts about objects you interact with every day:


1. Glasses that fit on your face were invented in the 1200s.

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It’s true. I always pictured a monocle used around the late 1800s at the ol’ opera house or whatever, but apparently glasses as we know them today were around in since 1284 or so. The Italians did it first, and then the Spanish added ribbon so the little frames would stay on your face. I, for one, would like them to bring back the pince-nez. But my glasses will have to do for now.

2. Pencils are that yellowish-gold because it represents royalty in China.

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Back in the 1890s when not everyone made pencils with the finest graphite from China, manufacturers wanted consumers to know where their pencils came from. The authentic Chinese graphite pencil was advertised by using the Chinese color for royalty: yellow.

3. Salt and Pepper have a long weird history of becoming the two spices left on the table.

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Before salt (the only rock humans eat), became known ubiquitously as “table salt” its use was nearly universal in human history. According to Bill Bryson, prehistoric man would light torches and stick them in the ocean, wait for the water to evaporate, and voila! Sea salt. Humans had myths about salt having something to do with fertility and used it as currency.

Pepper, on the other hand, was a much more recent luxury. In fact, it was once rare and rich people would show their wealth by hoarding the stuff and adding it to recipes that must have been awful. There was once a third ever-present spice on the dinner tables of the rich, but no one bothered to write down what it was. Maybe mustard seed? Maybe bigger clumps of salt? Who knows. No one wrote it down. Salt and pepper stuck.

4. A gallon of gas contains a lot of calories.

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If you’re trying to watch your figure, don’t drink gasoline. Also, don’t huff it. Put it in the car and that’s it. Scientists studying the efficiency of the human body compared to the efficiency of a gas engine found that a human being could bike roughly 912 miles on the energy contained in one gallon of gasoline. Move over, Cliff Bars! There’s a new game in town.

5. Forks were once thought to be a tool of the Devil.

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According to a Gizmodo article, forks were considered unhygienic and a tool that went against God’s creation of your hands. Feed thyself, heathans! The mini-pitchfork is only used by the Beast himself. If God wanted us to use utensils, why didn’t he make them part of our body like Edward Sccissorhands? QED. Forks are bad.

6. Napkins started out as lumps of dough.

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It makes perfect sense if you don’t think about it even a little. The Spartans, known for being laconic and kicking people down wells or whatever happened in 300, came up with the concept of wiping your face and hands with an “apomagdalie. Later, people used slices of cooked bread. I love it when you can eat the dishes, so this is my dream.

7. Smartphones are smart enough to plan a moon landing.

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I mean, you’re not smart enough to make that happen, but that’s all right. The important thing is to know your limitations and to know that your phone barely has any by comparison. The Apollo Mission was achieved using a computer the size of a classroom and it still couldn’t do 1/1,000,000th the number of simultaneous equations an iPhone 6 can. Take that, NASA! I just sent a picture of my penis to the moon and back in seconds.

8. The reason your pen cap has a hole in it is to stop you from choking on it.

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Speaking of not being that smart: the hole in the top of the pen cap is there to stop you from dying while chewing on it.

9. Toothbrushes were around in the 1400s and made out of bamboo.

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Someone in China made it happen. That person put boar bristles on the end of some bamboo so people could stop chewing random sticks. The bristles remained boar’s hair until 1938 when nylon brushes were introduced.

10. Erasers came about roughly 200 years after pencils.

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If you made a mistake before the 18th Century, I think you had to lick it off the page. A guy accidentally dropped some rubber on a document and saw the pencil line was removed. He thought he was using a damp piece of bread at the time, which is what he used to erase stuff before inventing what we use today.

11. Toasters were invented in 1905, but didn’t really take off until sliced bread came around in the 20s.

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If my source is to be believed, sliced bread became popular in 1933. But I like to believe it was 1928, the year after they built the Cyclone.

12. Zippers are named after the noise they make.

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In 1923, these “fasteners” were added to some B.F. Goodrich boots, but people liked the sound they made. The term “zipper” is onomatopoetic.

13. Webcams were invented by lazy people who wanted to check a coffee pot from their desks.

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Necessity is the mother of invention but also laziness. If you, ahem, love people using webcams today, you have a team of computer scientists at The University of Cambridge to thank. They were so sick of leaving their desks to see if their coffee pot was ready that they set up a live stream from a camera to their computers so they could check from their seats.

14. Albert Einstein is the reason your fridge doesn’t kill you.

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It’s true. My man built the Big One, and then helped designed a fridge with fewer moving parts inside. There are tons of toxic elements within a refrigerator that would often spill out and poison people.

15. Chocolate used to be considered medicine.

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Laughter is supposedly the best medicine, but I’d like to go back in time when doctors were prescribing Nutella for all manners of illness. Cocao wasn’t discovered by Europeans until the 1500s, but once it was, it was used to cure fevers and melancholy. It works on one of those.