Holidays are here again, and freeways across the country will soon be filled with people heading home to see family and friends over the festive season.
But let’s be honest – we all know how hard it can be to make conversation with people you haven’t seen for yonks. There’s only so many times you can agree that, yes, you have gotten taller since you were a child, and sure, Aunt Doris does look nice in her hideous festive jumper. And let’s not even touch on politics.
What you need is some small talk. Some trivia that can get you through the holiday reunion and convince your family you’re more interesting than you feel mid-food coma.
Well, you’re in luck. Writer Nicole Cliffe took to social media yesterday to ask people for their “fav weird fact”, and the hive mind of Twitter did not disappoint.
The responses poured in. There were lots of animal facts:
It's true – woodpeckers slam their faces into tree trunks at speeds of up to 7 meters per second – that's 15 miles per hour – and suffer a deceleration of 1,000g in the process. But thanks to their long, freaky tongues that split in two and wrap around their brain, they are protected from traumatic brain injury – something known to specialists as "slosh mitigation" (really).
If birds aren't your thing, how about cats?
Yes, just like your fuzzy feline at home, cougars purr and even meow. Check it out for yourself.
The ability to purr or roar comes down to a cat's vocal chord anatomy. Lions, tigers, leopards, and jaguars all have a flexible ligament in their voice box, and can roar. Every other species – including cheetahs, servals, and of course Tiddles at home – can only purr.
This one isn't technically true – it's not sweat. What people call a hippo's "blood sweat" is actually a mysterious tincture that acts as a skin moisturizer, water repellent, and antibiotic.
But if animals aren't your thing, there's the ever-popular genre of "people screw up beyond comprehension thanks to being dumb".
Yup. On April 14, 1945, the Nazi submarine U-1206 started flooding. Water got into the batteries, causing them to leak chlorine gas, and the boat was forced to come to the surface, where it was promptly bombed by British patrols. The cause of the flooding was traced back to misuse of the toilet. So whoever gave the crew that extra shot of coffee that morning, the free world thanks you.
There were medical facts:
True. Yes, like an amorous demon in a musical Buffy episode, St Vitus's Dancing Plague forced people to twist and jive, medieval style, until they collapsed from exhaustion.
And (if you forget your silphium) you can always buy your children toys from the world's largest tire manufacturer.
A few people piped in with some linguistic factoids.
Even the dictionary got involved.
And many more, from pop culture to pineapples.
Some are just bonkers.
Fact check: true.
More examples can be found at the original tweet, but if that isn't enough for you, you can click here to find out the science facts that actual scientists want you to know, or here for facts even experts think are bonkers. Or if you just live for drama, click here, or here, or here to find out "facts" that are just plain wrong. Go on. Start a fight over the turkey this year. For science.