Famous Obscure Facts More People Should Know About

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The world is full of facts ‘ some we think we know and even some facts that challenge the way we think we see the world are not actually true. Every day, research shows us that we were wrong about a certain situation. Here is a sample list of some interesting facts that most people did not realise.

1. Not All Pirates Were Men

When we think back to the age of sail and specifically Piracy, we tend to think of Blackbeard, Charles Vane and Benjamin Hornigold. Those are the most famous but few people realise that they all lived the same time as two notorious female pirates: Anne Bonney and Mary Read. Read spent most of her piracy career pretending to be a young boy and she went by the name James Kidd. When captured, both women escaped hanging by claiming to be pregnant. Read died in prison of a fever and there is no record of Bonney’s execution ‘ it’s likely her father paid a ransom.

2. Two Dogs Survived the Titanic

Despite that thousands of people died in the worst maritime disaster of all time, leading to sweeping changes in international standards and law with regard to safety at sea, it is surprising that two of the nine dogs who were making the journey actually survived the sinking and were rescued by the Carpathia. The two dogs were a Pomeranian and a Pekingese and nothing is known of what happened to them after their rescue.

3. Anorexia in Men

We tend to think of eating disorders as a purely female issue that affects men so rarely that it isn’t worth wasting too much in the way of time and resources on. Recent evidence has shown that men have always been at as much risk as women and that figure is growing against the increasing tendency of the media to push the perfect male body. What’s more, steroid abuse has always been at the core of body dysmorphic disorder but it is rarely recognised as such when we focus so much on associating eating disorders with starvation.

4. How Fast Does Light Travel?

The speed of light is around 300,000 metres per second, or around 186,000 miles per hour, and it is the fastest known speed in the universe ‘ used as the one constant for measuring how far certain stellar bodies are from the Earth. However, light does not always travel at this speed and researchers at Harvard in the 1990s managed to slow it down to around 38mph ‘ a fairly average speed for most vehicles.

5. Earthquakes Shorten Days

As you get older, do you wake up every morning thinking the days are flying by? Do days seem shorter now than when you were a kid? That’s probably psychology at work but the fact is that the effects of earthquakes do speed up the planet’s rotation ‘ marginally. The Fukushima earthquake shorted the day by 1.8 microseconds and the devastating 2004 earthquake in the East Indies shortened the day by a (relatively whopping) 6.8 microseconds.

6. Las Vegas

‘The City of Sin’ as it is called is home to some strict laws. Despite what Hollywood presents us, prostitution is not legal within the city. It is however legal elsewhere in the state ‘ in those counties with populations under 400,000. The alcohol laws are more relaxed but the laws on drinking in public are complex. It must be in a glass container, have no label identifying it as alcohol and if you go anywhere near a church or school with it, you are likely to be arrested.

7. Alexander VI

Rodrigo Borgia ‘ considered so vile a pope that his successors attempted to obliterate his name from history, was surprisingly responsible for some great humanitarian acts. Following the expelling of Jews from Spain, and later Portugal, when they arrived at the border of the Papal States he decreed that they should be permitted to live in Rome ‘without interference from any Christians’, to practice their faith and go about any business they desired. He was also a great patron of the arts and education.

8. The Asteroid Belt

Asteroid belt
Perhaps fuelled by the scene from The Empire Strikes Back, most people believe that the asteroid belt between Earth and Mars must be a hazardous, densely packed rocks that any craft passing through needs to carefully avoid being struck by everything. It is true that there may be close to a million objects in the belt but in truth, the width and depth of the belt means that it is unlikely you will see one when passing through. They are so spread apart that any human traveller is unlikely to realise when they enter or exit.

9. The United Kingdom is Not a Monarchy

royal parade_iStock_000015637069XSmall
When a form of government is classed as a ‘monarchy’ it means that the laws are made by the Crown, which includes the King or Queen and his or her council of advisors, which would include any number of unelected nobles. In the UK, the laws are made by Parliament which is elected in a First Past the Post system. The winner in each constituency is sent to Parliament and the party with the largest number of MPs becomes the government party but all elected MPs get to vote on legislation. The monarch only signs into law any legislation passed by the Parliament and doesn’t actually make any laws. The UK then is a ‘Parliamentary Democracy’.

10. The Maya invented Hot Chocolate

We know that South America was the origin of cocoa and when introduced to Europe and their colonies, it became the luxury substance. We’d be forgiven for thinking that hot chocolate was an invention of European powers but it turns out that heating cocoa beans and drinking them in liquid form was an invention of the Maya. The drink would have been very bitter as they did not have sugar sweeteners. Extra flavour came from spices, especially chilli.


We think we know so much about the world, but facts such as those above challenge our social norms and what we think we know. Some facts are repeated so often that they become common knowledge. The ‘fact’ that Hitler was a vegetarian is not actually true. Next time you hear somebody state a fact, make sure to check whether it is true!

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