These Truths Are Stranger Than Fiction

With fake news making tabloids practically obsolete, it is easy to become jaded and start being skeptical at the slightest strange news story, even if it’s only somewhat unbelievable. However, while there are a lot of fake or exaggerated stories going around, there will always be some crazy stories that are actually true. As they say, the truth is stranger than fiction…

10. Russians Claim Plankton Was Found Growing On The Outside Of The ISS

Recently, Russian Cosmonauts reported that a sea plankton, and one that isn’t found on Earth, was found growing on the outside of the International Space Station. While NASA initially reported that they hadn’t heard any such thing, the Americans and Russians do not always immediately share information, and it was later learned, after a spokesman from NASA said we were mainly testing near exhaust vents and such — and not on the windows where it was said to be found — that it was found by cosmonauts, by chance, during a routine spacewalk. 

The plankton growing on the ISS may sound unbelievable, but it is not the first organism to survive in space, or where it theoretically shouldn’t. Scientists have found so-called extremophiles of various sorts living things in places beneath the ocean, deep beneath the arctic ice, and even in space before, although it was the first time this type of particular plankton was found. The truth is that the ISS actually has a lot of polluting gases around it due to all of its activity, and needs some cleanup on the outside in general. Likely, the constant pollution (and even heat and chemicals coming off of the station, and the other activity around it) help extremophiles thrive in a place where most organisms couldn’t survive at all. 

9. Some Jellyfish Can Age Backwards, Then Forwards Again, Multiple Times In Their Life 

One jellyfish, dubbed the immortal jellyfish, is usually the size of about a pen tip, and can turn from a medusa back into a polyp, and then back again, although it can only do this so many times in life; no creature is truly immortal. However, more recently, scientists have found an even stranger regeneration method in something called the Moon Jellyfish. This jellyfish, when studied, did something similar (but even more bizarre) and scientists are not sure if it is using the same, or at least a similar, method. 

Essentially, a Chinese scientist took what appeared to be a dead Moon Jelly, and put it in a tank to see what would happen. Three months later, a polyp and then more emerged from the body, and they started growing into medusae. The original body seemed to finally sink to the tank bottom, but only after polyps from it had appeared in a reverted state, and grown back into medusae, the fully adult form of a jellyfish. He also found that when overfed or hurt, the Moon Jelly was forming calluses that then turned into polyps, from which multiple clones of the original jellyfish burst forth. While there is still a lot more studying to be done, the genetics of jellyfish are fascinating, and could likely help us in all kinds of medical applications if we could truly understand their DNA and how they function. 

8. Some People Have Extra Functioning Kidneys And Can Drink More 

Many people are convinced that they simply, genetically, can drink a lot more than their friends. For many people, this is just silly bragging, and what they actually have is an alcohol problem. However, science has shown that something strange really could potentially give you an edge on how much you can drink compared to others. Some people are actually born with extra kidneys due to a defect where they split off from the main ones while developing in the womb. Only about one in a million who have 1-2 of these extra kidneys actually have fully functioning ones, and if they aren’t fully functioning, they can be dangerous as they can cause urine flow backup. 

However, some do have fully functioning extra kidneys, which theoretically gives them a lot more ability to process toxins in general, although more studies are needed to see just how effective this is at helping the body neutralize toxins and especially process alcohol without getting as drunk or as poisoned as fast. Two brothers from Latvia may not have had formal studies done on their alcohol consumption abilities, likely as it would be hard to make such a study ethical for health reasons, but they have been confirmed to have extra functioning kidneys, and both have (anecdotally) drank their friends under the table their entire lives. 

7. Arthur Conan Doyle Turned Into A Paranormal Believing Nutcase Later In Life 

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was knighted for his contributions to literature, and is considered one of the greatest literary giants of all time. He brought us Sherlock Holmes, considered to be the greatest fictional detective, and people were so attached to the character that when he killed him off, fans wore black armbands on the streets and were so upset that he decided to write him back to life. Sherlock Holmes is considered the most rational detective, always explaining away the spiritual explanations, and never allowing a  fact to be twisted to suit a theory. 

Unfortunately, while Sherlock Holmes may have been an incredibly rational (if fictitious) person, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was not. Doyle had a close friendship with Harry Houdini, a man who was known for his incredible abilities to escape from anything, and considering their respective careers, it would seem a close match for friendship. But things soon soured. Doyle became obsessed with the spiritual and occult, and lost a lot of reputation believing a hoax about fairies, which many may know as the Cottingley Fairies. On top of that, he started conducting seances, told Harry Houdini he believed he was using magic, and refused to believe that he was not, even after Houdini showed him some of his secret methods. This made it rather hard for the friendship to continue, and they remained mostly at odds after that. 

6. Doctors Used To Believe A Tobacco Enema Could Help Someone After Almost Drowning

First used as a holistic treatment by First Nations in the American continents, the practice of tobacco smoke enemas made its way to England, where it soon became a trendy treatment to save people who were half drowned. They would pull people out of the Thames, and then apply a tobacco smoke enema in an attempt to save them (normal resuscitation methods would then be used if the tobacco smoke enema failed). This method started to become so trendy that it moved into other parts of the medical field. 

Soon it had become a treatment du jour for everything from colds to cholera outbreaks. Unfortunately, it could also be dangerous for the practitioner performing the enema. If a bellows was used to perform the enema, and the practitioner inhaled at the wrong time, they could end up aspirating the cholera virus themselves — and get extremely sick — while trying to use a thoroughly ineffective medical “treatment” to help someone else. Once it was discovered that nicotine is actually bad for your heart, the tobacco enema fell out of fashion, and stopped being a method to “save” people from drowning. 

5. “Alice In Wonderland” Was A Satire On Modern Mathematics 

Alice and Wonderland is one of the most well known stories of all time, partly because of the Disney cartoon, but the story of Alice going to a strange world where things don’t really make any sense has been popular in book form since the 1800s. As we know, in Alice the world has all sorts of anthropomorphic animals, and all the rules of physics seem to have mostly gone out the window. People and things change size a lot, and Alice is constantly upset at how little the world around her makes sense. Most people assume that the story is about drugs, was written on drugs, or some combination of both. 

However, the truth is far stranger, but makes sense once you hear it. The author, Lewis Carroll, was using a pseudonym. His real name was Charles Dodgson, and he was a mathematics professor at Oxford University. He didn’t use drugs, and didn’t really believe in using them either. He actually wrote the novel as a satire on modern mathematics. They were starting to use things like irrational numbers or imaginary numbers and he found the whole thing ridiculous, and offensive to his more conservative mathematical sensibilities. Using a fake name to protect his reputation worked almost too well, though, as the real message behind his novel ended up mostly lost to history. 

4. In Some Parts Of Northern Sweden, You Say Yes By Sucking Your Teeth 

In most parts of Sweden, people say yes with a simple “Ja” (pronounced “Yah”), which is just the Swedish word for yes. However, not everyone in Sweden actually says “Ja” in order to say yes, and in a move that confuses much of the world as well as the rest of Sweden, the nation’s Northerners have their own way of saying yes… where they aren’t really saying anything at all. More accurately, it could be said they are making a sort of sound that indicates yes. They draw in a sharp intake of breath through pursed lips, that sort of sounds like sucking your teeth. 

This slight sucking or slurping like sound, indicates yes without any other indicators necessary, although many will also accompany it with a shrug of the shoulders, which to some people makes even less sense for an answer in the affirmative. For those who are interviewed about this strange way of saying yes, they seem able to not take it too seriously, and understand why others find it amusing, but at the same time they also seriously argue that it is a more efficient way of saying yes. They feel it takes less energy, as it doesn’t require the vocal chords to get into the action to make the teeth sucking sound for yes. While it is arguably an efficient method, it is unlikely that the rest of Sweden, and especially the rest of the world, will be taking it up as a habit anytime soon. 

3. The United States Supreme Court Ruled Against Science: Tomatoes Are Vegetables

Many people are not aware of how controversial the simple tomato can really be. Back in 1893, a case came before the Supreme Court called Nix Vs. Hedden. A seller of produce named John Nix was being hit with a 10% tariff on his tomatoes, and was sick of paying the tax. Vegetables at the time were being hit with the tariff, but fruits were not. Knowing that botanically scientists consider the tomato a fruit, he decided to take his case all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States. 

Unfortunately, the Supreme Court did not see things his way, and in the majority opinion, written by Justice Horace Gray, the Supreme Court opined that while botanically tomatoes may indeed be fruit for the purpose of scientific classification, that they were not used the way people used fruits. He pointed out that in terms of what we eat them with, and the general methods of preparation, it was for all intents and purposes used as a vegetable. This led the Supreme Court to argue with science not on the merits of taxonomy, but rather rule that science could take a flying leap because the United States wanted its tax revenue, and the spirit of the tariff law was to tax vegetable like products with that sweet, sweet 10% tax. 

2. High Heels Were Invented For Men, And Pink Was Meant For Boys 

Today, we typically think of high heels as entirely a footwear for women. Not only that, but high heels are also seen as an impractical choice, meant only to make yourself look taller, or look better in general, and not actually good for your feet, or useful for any real applications. However, the truth is that high heels were originally invented for Persian soldier (who were very much men) use while riding horses in the 15th century. Visiting Europeans actually brought the trend back home, and wore them both as a fashion statement and as a way to look taller and intimidate their rivals. 

As for the color pink, while many people think it should be entirely for women, this was made up in incredibly recent years, and caught on mostly in American and some other Western popular culture and mindsets. Before the early 1900s in America, there wasn’t even any conception that colors such as pink, or light blue, should be for boys or for girls. However, an early JCPenney catalog, that was trying to help influence early parents’ buying choices, suggested that light blue was the feminine color and should be for girls, and pink was a more masculine color that should be for boys. This did not catch on, obviously, as history ended up the other way around, but it shows that about 100 years ago, no one really thought either color meant anything about how masculine or feminine you were. 

1. Nuclear Bombs Have Been Tested Thousands Of Times Since Hiroshima And Nagasaki

Many people think of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as one of the most significant events in history. And it was, as it was the first and only time that atomic bombs have been deployed against an actual human population. However, the truth is that while they may have been only used on civilians once, they have been tested many, many times since then, by multiple different countries, and many of the bombs tested were much bigger than the ones used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This has released an incredible amount of radiation over the years, and it’s hard to calculate what effect it has had in totality on our planet. 

Eight nations have tested over 2,000 nuclear bombs, in about a dozen different test locations, since the day the bombs were dropped on two heavily populated Japanese cities. As can be imagined, the United States and Russia detonated many of these, but the Chinese also tested a significant number, as did the French, and the UK used Australia and its surrounding waters to test a lot of nuclear weapons. North Korea, Pakistan, and India have also all tested nuclear bombs, but can count the amount of launches on one hand, so their nuclear footprint is insignificant compared to the rest of the nuclear nations.

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