Martha Stewart once said, “If you learn something new every day, you can teach something new every day.” An excellent place to follow Miss Stewart’s advice is the subreddit r/TodayILearned. With an impressive 27.4 million members, Today I Learned (or TIL for short) is a source of infinite knowledge for curious readers. Since 2008, users have been gathering to share interesting facts they just learned about anything and everything, and we want to pass some of the knowledge along.
Whether you’re looking for conversation starters to impress your colleagues or pointless fun facts to whip out at parties, TIL is the place to be. We’ve gathered some of the most interesting facts that have recently been shared on the page, so you can definitely learn something today. And when you’re looking to continue your education even more, check out some of Bored Panda‘s previous TIL publications here, here, and here!
TIL that Alan Turing (cryptographer responsible for breaking the Nazi Enigma code during World War II) was also an Olympic-level runner and he developed a new field of biology out of his fascination with daisies
Mark Twain famously said that “truth is stranger than fiction”, and this subreddit seems to support that claim. Learning interesting facts is more than pure entertainment, though. Acquiring knowledge is actually like exercise for our brains. According to Health Navigator, keeping our brains active can “improve cognitive functions such as concentration, attention to detail, memory recall and problem solving”, as well as reduce risk of dementia.
Harvard Health Publishing even has an article titled “Train Your Brain” encouraging readers to take up a new hobby or practice a challenging activity to keep their brains in good shape. “Eventually, your cognitive skills will wane and thinking and memory will be more challenging, so you need to build up your reserve,” says Dr. John N. Morris of the Institute for Aging Research. “Embracing a new activity that also forces you to think and learn and requires ongoing practice can be one of the best ways to keep the brain healthy.”
TIL about Theo van Gogh, Vincent’s younger Brother, whose unfailing financial and emotional support allowed his brother to devote himself entirely to painting. He also died 6 months after his brother’s suicide and today they are buried next to each other at the cemetery of Auvers-sur-Oise
TIL dogs “play sneeze” when they’re feeling excited or playful. “Play sneezes” mean your dog is having a good time and indicate to other dogs that their behavior is only play
TIL Virgin Atlantic kept having passengers steal their popular salt and pepper shakers. Instead of removing them from the plane, they placed the words “pinched from Virgin Atlantic” at the bottom. The shakers then became dinner table conversation pieces and free advertisement
Even physical activities can help improve our cognitive abilities when combined with mental requirements. Many sports have complex rules to keep in mind and are more than simple physical exercises. Swimming, for example, is obviously a full-body workout, but it also requires mental stamina as well. Swimmers must stay mindful of their breathing techniques, stroke execution, kicks, speed and more. But if you don’t consider yourself an athlete, have no fear. Creative outlets such as painting, sculpting, writing and learning a new language are also excellent ways to keep your brain active.
TIL Tommy Davidson, comedian and actor from “In Living Color,” was abandoned in a pile of trash at eighteen-months-old. He was rescued and adopted by a white family
Dr. Morris states that the task itself is not as important as the commitment to it. He lists three rules of thumb to keep in mind when choosing a brain-enhancing activity. The first rule is that it must be challenging. But not everyone is required to reinvent the wheel. Dr. Morris mentions the possibility of delving deeper into an existing skill. “You don’t have the challenge of learning something new,” he says. “But rather the challenge of increasing your skill set and knowledge.”
TIL that songwriter Joni Mitchell only released a greatest hits album, “Hits”, on the condition that she released a “Misses” album to go with it
TIL that Harry Houdini had skepticism of anything mystical and had intense anger at miracle workers, spiritualists, and mediums that preyed on vulnerable people
The next rule Dr. Morris states is that whatever task is chosen must be complex. “A complex activity not only strikes a match of excitement, but forces your brain to work on specific thought processes like problem solving and creative thinking.” Don’t choose anything that allows you to go on auto-pilot. Lastly, he shares a rule many of us are familiar with: practice makes perfect. “You can’t improve memory if you don’t work at it,” says Dr. Morris. “The more time you devote to engaging your brain, the more it benefits.”
TIL “Terminal Lucidity” is the brief return of mental clarity or memory right before before death, in people who suffer from severe dementia and other neurological disorders
While you’re reading this list, remember that you’re doing something good for your brain. (Perhaps this time even counts as a workout!) Don’t forget to upvote your favorite interesting facts, and let us know in the comments something you recently learned!
TIL Queen Elizabeth has an official shoe-wearer who breaks in her shoes so they don’t give her blisters
TIL : Val Kilmer has lost his voice, quite literally. The only way we may hear speak again is through a computer program
TIL that the Aboriginal people of Australia have occupied the land for more than 60,000 years
TIL in 2011 a couple from Florida turned the tables and received a judgement against Bank of America for mistakingly foreclosing the family’s home and to cover subsequent legal fees. A court issued the family a writ of execution giving them permission to seize bank assets
TIL, while you can go any speed on the Autobahn when indicated by signs, the recommended speed is 130 km per hour. If you are in an accident going 170 km per hour and it could have been avoided at the lesser speed, you will be automatically partially or fully faulted for the accident
TIL there are at least 10 other men who left genetic legacies that rival Ghengis Khan’s, and we only know the name of one of them: Giocangga, a 16th century ruler and ancestor of the Qinq Dynasty.
TIL The Mapuche of South America were one of the very tribes successfully resisting Spanish control, staying independent for over 300 years. They called the Spaniards “New Incas”, because the successfully resisted the Incan Empire as well. They were only subjugated in 1883
TIL that wearing glasses actually increases a political candidate’s electoral success, despite many politicians avoiding them as they think it makes them look less attractive
TIL in 2006, William Shatner sold a kidney stone for $25,000 to an online casino. Shatner then donated all the proceeds to charity
TIL about the Gibson Nine, an Australian aboriginal family who were still living a traditional nomadic lifestyle in the outback until 1984, when they settled in a town. The children have gone on to have successful careers as painters, although one of them later returned to the desert
TIL in the 70’s and 80’s, dead acidic lakes were fairly common in the US, Europe and Canada because of acid rain. The acidity in lakes killed all microbes and aquatic life, resulting in crystal clear water that allowed the lake bottom to be visible
TIL in 1714 the British government offered £20K (~£2m today) to solve the longitude problem – which had cost thousands of lives due to a lack of ship positioning. John Harrison, a carpenter, took 40 years to make the perfect clock – his final version only lost 39.2 seconds over a voyage 47 days
TIL A century before Martin Luther, Jan Hus criticized the Catholic Church for selling of indulgences and church positions. Hus was invited to the Council of Constance, arrested, charged with heresy, and burned at the stake on 6 July 1415
TIL that in 2014 the state of Alabama paid $75,000 for the right to use the phrase “Sweet Home Alabama” on road signs at the state line
TIL Susan Sarandon, who play a cellist named Jane in “The Witches of Eastwick”, learned only after being cast that she would have to quickly learn how to play cello, and was told that she would be sued if she left the production
TIL that Charles Lindbergh’s son, Charles Lindbergh Jr., was kidnapped at 20 months old. The kidnapper picked up a cash ransom for $50,000 leaving a note of the child’s location. The child was not found at the location. The child’s remains were found a month later not far from the Lindbergh’s home
TIL that in 1940 Hitler decided to change the name of the battle cruiser “Deutschland” to “Lützow” recognizing that the sinking of a warship was a propaganda disaster if it bore the name of its country
TIL there is another photo, taken at a different angle, of the same famous Victory Day kiss in Times Square; unlike the original, the other photograph was taken by a government photojournalist on official duty, and is thus in the public domain and not protected by copyright
Note: this post originally had 57 images. It’s been shortened to the top 30 images based on user votes.