17 Fascinating Bits Of Trivia We Never Knew Before

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Vote up the facts that prove you really do learn something new every day.

In the age of the internet, it can be difficult to impress those around you with your endless fount of knowledge. But there are always more surprising facts to be found. Whether it's starfish sprouting new eyes or ancient rulers with a thing for poison, these surprising snippets will make you the belle of the trivia ball.

After all, what's a party without someone dropping in a non-sequitur about polydactyl cat populations? Some of these factoids are fun, some are strange, and some are pretty much pointless. Even so, we're glad we know them now.


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    Cats With Extra Toes Are More Prevalent In New England, As They Were Brought By Sailors Who Considered Them Lucky

    The average cat has 18 toes: four on each back paw and five on each front paw. Polydactyl cats, however, have extra digits on their front paws - they might have up to 10 additional toes, making it seem as if they have a whole other paw.

    Studies have shown a greater number of polydactyl cats in the Boston area than in New York or Chicago. The prevalence of these kitties in Boston likely dates back to the Puritans coming to America in the 17th century. Polydactyl cats were probably favored onboard ships because people considered them to be good luck. They were also supposedly better at catching mice and vermin - extra paws, extra prey.

    As polydactyly is an inherited trait, descendants of the Boston felines may have spread to other areas of New England on trading ships. Meanwhile, in Europe, the extra-toed cats are few and far between, as they were mostly wiped out in the Middle Ages due to a superstitious association with witchcraft.

  • It seems nonsensical that France's longest border with another country wouldn't be with a European nation. But France claims a region in South America that shares a 730-kilometer border with Brazil: French Guiana.

    Unlike some other nations with overseas territories, French Guiana is fully part of the country of France. It's considered the second-largest region of the country, and residents are French citizens. To differentiate between the continents, the part of France in Europe is referred to as "Metropolitan France."

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    Starfish Have Eyes, One At The End Of Each Arm

    Just in case starfish weren't strange (and awesome) enough, most species have eyes - one at the end of each arm. So while a five-armed starfish has five eyes, a 40-armed sun star has 40 eyes.

    Of course, these peepers aren't really comparable to human eyes. The tiny eyespots give the starfish only rudimentary vision. They can distinguish between light and dark and have a field of view extending about three feet, but they can't make out colors or finer details. However, because of the location (and multitude) of their eyes, starfish have a 360-degree view. Some species can even bend their arms into a 90-degree angle to use an eye like a periscope, while others can bend their arms completely backwards and look up. 

    Another famously cool trait of the starfish is its ability to regenerate limbs. It can lose four of its five arms and grow them all back. Of course, it's not only losing an arm, but an eye as well. But the newly grown arm will incorporate all the essential features of the old arm, including the eyespot. 

  • The Word 'Megadeath' Was Created For The High Death Rates Of Nuclear War
    Photo: Charles Levy / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain
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    The Word 'Megadeath' Was Created For The High Death Rates Of Nuclear War

    There is actually a word, "megadeath," which means one million deaths. This fact doesn't have a fun origin story, however: the word was first coined in the early 1950s, as a way to talk about the incredibly high death rates that a nuclear war could cause. 

    There's also an inverse word, "micromort," which is a unit of risk equal to a 1 in a million chance of dying.

  • Mithridates VI was King of Pontus (in modern-day Turkey) in the first century BCE. His aggressive foreign policy and frequent conflicts with the Roman Republic made him rightfully paranoid about plots against his life. 

    According to legend, Mithridates began ingesting small amounts of poison as a young man to build up an immunity to the toxins that might be used to assassinate him, thus earning himself the nickname "The Poison King." According to numerous ancient authors, including Pliny the Elder, Mithridates's side hustle in toxicology eventually paid off - he supposedly created a "mithridatium," or universal antidote to all known poisons.

    If that sounds a bit too magical to be true, it might be. No one knows the precise ingredients (there were allegedly 50) in his cure-all. Some theorize Mithridates only pretended to have such an antidote to dissuade would-be assassins. His built-up immunity to poison has also been questioned, as the likelihood of him accidentally killing himself or going into premature organ failure would be high.

    Still, Mithridates's demise is nothing if not ironic. Knowing Roman triumph was imminent, he reportedly poisoned his daughters and then attempted to poison himself, but failed. He then supposedly asked a servant to slay him with a blade. While his contemporaries mocked that he couldn't finish the job despite his obsession with poison, it's likely that the dose wasn't enough for Mithridates, who was a sizable man. Still others point to the failed attempt as proof of his built-up immunity.

  • George Washington Was The Second-Wealthiest US President After Donald Trump
    Photo: Gilbert Stuart / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    While the presidency is often considered a high-paying job, the annual salary is around $400,000. This amount puts the president within the top 1% of American earners, but it pales in comparison to salaries raked in by top-level business execs and CEOs. And while most presidents have been relatively wealthy individuals to begin with, there's a pretty big range when looking at their peak net worths.

    In the early days of the presidency, only land-owning white men were allowed to vote, which made politics more exclusively a wealthy man's game. When adjusted for inflation, George Washington's peak net worth was approximately $587 million, meaning he was more than halfway to being a billionaire. His vast Virginia plantation, Mount Vernon, was run by more than 300 enslaved people, and his wife had a significant inheritance from her first husband. He also made a higher salary than subsequent presidents; his pay accounted for 2% of the nation's annual budget in 1789.

    Meanwhile, 45th president Donald Trump took over his father's real estate company, which made him incredibly wealthy even before he became POTUS. With an estimated peak net worth of $3.1 billion, Trump is the richest president in US history as of 2021 (despite several business bankruptcies).

    On the other end of the spectrum, 24/7 Wall Street found Harry Truman to be the poorest American president. After returning from World War I, Truman opened a men's clothing store that eventually left him near bankruptcy. Following his presidency, he also turned down high-paying corporate positions, believing that cashing in on his name was beneath the presidential office.