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100 things we didn't know last year

08:04 UK time, Friday, 30 December 2011

Family holding up scorecards with 10s

Interesting and unexpected facts can emerge from daily news stories and the Magazine picks out such snippets for its weekly feature, 10 things we didn't know last week. Here's an almanac of the best of 2011.


1. Birds binge drink.
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2. Bald people grow the wrong type of hair - so fine it's invisible to the naked eye.
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3. Aristotle is thought to have been the last individual to know everything that was known at the time.
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4. Women's tears reduce sexual desire in men.
More details (Guardian)

5. President Kennedy's famous line "Do not ask..." was inspired by the headmaster of his prep school.
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Wedding of Charles and Diana

6. Princess Diana had two wedding dresses - one a back-up design in case her first choice was revealed before the big day.

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7. Huskies can smell thin ice.
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8. JD Salinger was a fan of Tim Henman.
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9. Good cops are better at getting confessions than bad cops.
More details (Daily Mirror)

10. The average hug lasts three seconds.
More details (Daily Telegraph)

11. Cattle once regularly swam between Hebridean islands.
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12. Elton John has no mobile phone.
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13. Incan brides had to peel a potato to prove they would be a good wife.
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Postie with bundle of letters secured by red rubber bands

14. UK postal workers get through two million red rubber bands a day.

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15. Artist LS Lowry was a debt collector.
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16. The ransom paid to release Richard the Lionheart, captured in 1192 on his return from the Crusades, was the equivalent of about £2bn in today's money.
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17. People with full bladders make better decisions.
More details (Daily Telegraph)

18. Chickens feel empathy.
More details (Daily Telegraph)

19. About 40% of skyscrapers due to be completed in the next six years will be in China.
More details (Economist)

20. St Patrick's Day is a national holiday in Montserrat.
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21. Sharks go to the cleaners.
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22. More than 90% of UK schoolchildren study Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck.
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23. YouTube's first video was called "Me at the zoo".
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24. The average person uses 20,000 words, with another 40,000 in reserve.
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25. One in six people live in India.
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26. The word "loo" dates from medieval times, thought to have derived from the warning shout of "gardez l'eau!" given by those tipping chamber pots out the window.
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27. Seat belts are banned on some roads.
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28. Male humpback whales play "Chinese whispers" across 6,000km.
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Dogs licking lips while looking at a canine treat

29. Dogs watch how nice people are to others to work out whom to approach to beg for food.

More details (Daily Mail)

30. Swearing relieves pain.
More details (Daily Telegraph)

31. A rare version of God Save the Queen by the Sex Pistols is the most valuable record of all time.
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32. French police are currently allowed 25cl of wine or a small beer with their lunch while on duty.
More details (Daily Telegraph)

33. Transparent typewriters are sold to prisons, to avoid the risk of hidden contraband.
More details (The Daily Feed)

34. The perfect nap lasts 26 minutes.
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35. New York taxis used to be red and green, but in 1907 were all repainted yellow to be visible from a distance.
More details (Daily Telegraph)

Special Forces dog and soldier in parachute training

36. It costs $60,000 to train a Navy Seal dog - like the one that accompanied US special forces on the Bin Laden operation.

More details (The Times)

37. Humans stare longer at people with bad reputations.
More details (Daily Telegraph)

38. There are only two beret factories left in France.
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39. It is illegal to sell moon rocks in the US.
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40. "Dong xuan" means frozen garlic in China, but winning an election in Taiwan.
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41. Heart disease is less common among religious people.
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42. Vultures are better than sniffer dogs at searching large, overgrown areas for dead bodies.
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Golfer taking a swing

43. The odds of scoring two hole-in-ones in the same round of golf are 67 million-to-one.

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44. Chimps can outperform eight-year-olds in solving problems.
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45. Women don't see Porsche drivers as marriage material.
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46. The yellow brick road leads to a car park.
More details (Wall Street Journal)

47. Sonic the Hedgehog's shoes are based on Michael Jackson's footwear in the Bad video.
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48. Half of Britons have German blood.
More details (Daily Telegraph)

49. The US only got its first roundabout in 1990, in Nevada.
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50. The male water boatman insect sings with its penis.
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Hotdog with mustard

51. California has drawn up a legal definition for the hot dog.

More details (Daily Mail)

52. The UK's Speaking Clock still receives 30 million calls each year.
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53. Stick insects can go without sex for a million years.
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54. Cows have best friends.
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55. Apple has more cash than the US government.
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56. Uganda's national anthem is the world's shortest.
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57. There are poisonous rats.
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58. A hole dug in the ground qualified as a private members' club in Wales.
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59. A shorter than average tongue makes it more difficult to speak Korean.
More details (The Sun)

60. Singing sparrows are actually trading insults.
More details (Daily Mail)

61. Asda Illustrated is the UK's top-selling magazine.
More details (Press Gazette)

Harry, Ron and Hermione

62. Mr Men author Roger Hargreaves was the third best-selling author of the last decade, topped only by JK Rowling and Dan Brown.

More details (Metro)

63. The average Briton suffers 726 hangovers in a lifetime.
More details (Daily Mail)

64. Steve Jobs patented designs for two glass staircases - now used in many Apple stores.
More details (New York Times)

65. Getting married increases the risk of putting on weight.
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66. The world's atmosphere is worth £4.3 quadrillion, going by the air we breathe in and the price of CO2.
More details (Metro)

67. In 1941 state surveys in the UK asked how many bras women owned.
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68. Crocodiles go off their food when stressed.
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69. The Queen's swans get flu jabs.
More details (Daily Telegraph)

70. Women remember men with a deep voice more than those with a high voice.
More details (Daily Mail)

71. Australians have a third choice when describing their gender on passport applications.
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Woman yawning

72. Yawning cools down the brain.

More details (Huffington Post)

73. MI5 used to have special kettles kept solely for steaming open envelopes.
More details (Reith Lecture)

74. Facebook remembers all the devices you've ever used to log in, and who else has used that same device.
More details (Forbes)

75. Letters addressed to Kabul include directions - there are few street names and numbers, and no postcodes.
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Preston Bus Station

76. Preston bus station is on this year's list of at-risk cultural heritage sites, along with the Nazca Lines in Peru and a Greek cemetery.

More details (Daily Mail)

77. The first e-book, back in the 1970s, was the US Declaration of Independence.
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78. One in six mobile phones in Britain is contaminated with poo.
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79. Piranhas bark.
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80. There is a decrease in natural births on Halloween and an increase on Valentines Day.
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81. Alice Cooper runs a Bible class.
More details (Daily Mail)

82. Staffordshire town Burton upon Trent now has its own perfume, Eau de Burton, with hints of football boots and Branston Pickle.
More details (Burton Mail)

83. Polar bears have a surprisingly weak bite, while giant pandas have a very strong one.
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84. Rival rugby teams face a fine if they stray over the half-way line while the All Blacks perform the haka.
More details (Daily Telegraph)

85. Horses with distinctive black-and-white leopard-like markings roamed Europe 25,000 years ago.
More details (Wired)

Scottish poppies in Field of Remembrance

86. Scottish remembrance poppies have four petals and no leaf, unlike the more common two petals and a single green leaf.

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87. Jimmy Savile and Margaret Thatcher celebrated New Year's Eve together 11 years in a row.
More details (Daily Telegraph)

88. Thierville in Normandy did not lose any service personnel in France's last five major wars.
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89. Many Afghans associate the number 39 with pimps.
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90. Until 1912 there was no set design for the Stars and Stripes.
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91. In the fifth and sixth decades of life, you are less likely to die over the coming year than at any other time in your life.
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92. Facebook users average 3.74 degrees of separation.
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93. The world's only sex school is in Austria.
More details (Daily Mail)

94. Wasps recognise each other's faces.
More details (Nature)

95. You are given a lottery ticket if you clean up dog poo in New Taipei City in Taiwan.
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School crossing sign

96. The girl on the classic British road sign "children going to or from school" is based on a school photo of its designer Margaret Calvert.

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97. Alcohol tastes sweeter when loud music is playing.
More details (Daily Mail)

98. Hairy limbs keep bed bugs at bay.
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99. Lakes can be given village green status.
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100. Fish walk.
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