74 Things That Blew Our Mind in 2022

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The writers on The Atlantic’s Science, Technology, and Health desks have learned a lot this year. Our coverage of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has continued, but this year, more so than in 2020 and 2021, we’ve also had the chance to report on topics that have filled us with awe and delight. Though the past 12 months have not been free of concerns about infectious disease, climate change, and even nuclear war, we’ve embraced more fascination and curiosity in our coverage this year, and we wanted to share and reflect on some of the most compelling tidbits we’ve stumbled across. We hope you find these facts as mind-blowing as we did.

  1. Days on the moon are hot enough to boil water, and nights are unfathomably cold, but at least one spot on the lunar surface stays a pleasant 63 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Actually, snakes do have clitorises.
  3. Scientists don’t know where the virus in the smallpox vaccine came from.
  4. Sour or curdled milk is often perfectly safe to consume.
  5. The bone of a mastodon named Fred preserved memories from its life 13,200 years ago.
  6. The most common phrase on Facebook in several French-speaking countries is “Have a nice day!”
  7. Most people with diabetes should not receive insulin as a first-, second-, or even third-line treatment.
  8. There might not be a theoretical limit to the height from which a cat can fall and survive.
  9. Beyond a certain temperature—as low as 95 degrees, by some estimates—fans do more harm than good.
  10. About 10 percent of the bills introduced in Congress in the past two years have been titled with reverse-engineered acronyms, including the ZOMBIE Act.
  11. The notes your doctor writes about you probably don’t look the same now as they did a year and a half ago.
  12. It takes at least seven years to train the muscles and tendons in your elbow that will make you a great arm wrestler, according to the arm wrestler Jack Arias, who was in the 1987 arm-wrestling movie Over the Top with Sylvester Stallone.
  13. American Express started making metal cards in 2004 because of an urban legend about its most exclusive card being titanium.
  14. The first-of-its-kind electric Hummer weighs as much as an ambulance and accelerates like a Formula 1 race car.
  15. Woodpeckers have small brains, which is why they can smash their heads against trees unharmed.
  16. A toaster-size device inside a rover on Mars can convert Martian air, made almost entirely of carbon dioxide, into breathable oxygen.
  17. Parrot theft is weirdly common.
  18. Lactose-intolerant people have been throwing back dairy for thousands and thousands of years.
  19. The provision in the Affordable Care Act that requires health insurance to cover contraception does not require coverage for vasectomies.
  20. Pawpaws tend to stay green throughout their life cycle, so in order to tell if they’re ripe, you have to individually caress every fruit on a tree.
  21. The metal that makes up a nickel has long been worth more than the coin itself.
  22. The Presidential Fitness Test was developed because the federal government worried that postwar children were too soft to defeat communism when they grew up.
  23. The iPhone is the only major Apple product that doesn’t support charging with the now-ubiquitous USB-C cable.
  24. The oldest clam ever lived to 507.
  25. The word sure was once pronounced more like syoor.
  26. Some of YouTube’s earliest hits got popular thanks to “coolhunters,” a group of editors who individually picked videos for the site’s homepage.
  27. In 1918, California conscripted children into a week-long war on squirrels.
  28. Some baby cameras feature artificial intelligence that will recognize when your baby’s face is covered or when the baby has coughed.
  29. Extreme heat and specific pressure conditions on WASP-96b, an exoplanet about 1,150 light-years from Earth, mean that rock can condense in the air like water does on Earth, producing clouds made of sand.
  30. In 2021, a full quarter of single-family homes sold in America went to buyers with no intention of living in them, such as house flippers, landlords, Airbnb hosts, and other investors.
  31. Apple has released 38 distinct models of the iPhone since 2007.
  32. Slurpees and Icees are the exact same “frozen carbonated beverage,” sold under different trademarks.
  33. The agricultural revolution is a myth.
  34. Hypoallergenic dogs are also a myth.
  35. Reindeers’ eyes change color—from blue to gold, and then back to blue again—twice a year to cope with the Arctic’s strange light schedule.
  36. If current trends hold, half of the world’s population could be nearsighted by 2050.
  37. A 2006 effort to automatically take down internet pornography by detecting repetitive noises ended up catching a lot of tennis videos.
  38. Some minerals in rechargeable batteries can be recycled indefinitely.
  39. Julius Caesar reportedly announced his conquest of Gaul via pigeon.
  40. The Japanese makers of Hi-Chew candy were persuaded to push into the mainstream American market because of the candy’s enduring popularity among missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who had returned home after time in East Asia.
  41. Secondhand-smoke inhalation causes more than 41,000 deaths annually in the U.S., more than some flu seasons.
  42. The Microsoft Excel World Championship: (1) exists, (2) streams on ESPN3, and (3) is legitimately exciting.
  43. Saturn’s trademark rings will disappear in about 300 million years.
  44. But, on the bright side, Neptune has rings too.
  45. China’s zero-COVID policy may be largely responsible for gas prices falling from a March peak to below $4 a gallon in August.
  46. Polar bears in Southeast Greenland are homebodies.
  47. The world’s best chess player, Magnus Carlsen, has, by one calculation, a 98 percent chance of losing and a 2 percent chance of drawing against the world’s best chess-playing computer program; victory is basically impossible.
  48. Earlier this year, Moonbirds NFTs—basically colorful little pixelated owls—generated $489 million in trading volume in their first two weeks of existence.
  49. In 1975, the average grocery store stocked 65 kinds of fruits and veggies. By 1998, that number had reached 345.
  50. Octopuses all over the sea starve for years on end while brooding.
  51. Government spending on climate change over the next decade could end up more than double what Democratic senators predicted for the Inflation Reduction Act.
  52. Robusta coffee—whose taste has been likened to “rotten compost … with a hint of sulfur”—can actually be delicious.
  53. Journals can be big business: One collector sold a diary from a 1912 Machu Picchu visitor and another by an 1868 Missouri River traveler for about $9,000 each.
  54. There is such a thing as a reformed parasite.
  55. In Wordle, just one correct letter in the right spot and one in the wrong spot can eliminate 96 percent of possible solutions.
  56. A major obstacle to meeting the United States’ clean-energy goals is that we have to double the rate at which we build the giant cables that transmit power between regions.
  57. Little kids who grew up amid intense COVID restrictions might have different microbiomes than those born several years earlier—and whether that’s good or bad is unclear.
  58. Militaries are developing swarms of starling-size drones that will be able to fly and attack together with the use of artificial intelligence.
  59. Psychedelics seem to quiet a network in our brain that is most active when we focus on ourselves.
  60. The cryptocurrency exchange FTX, once valued at $32 billion before a spectacular collapse, used QuickBooks for accounting.
  61. A product needs to be just 10 percent cocoa to be called “chocolate” by the FDA.
  62. Gophers … might … farm?
  63. While asleep, teeth-grinders can clench down with up to 250 pounds of force.
  64. In 2021, 95 of the United States’ 100 most-watched telecasts were sporting events.
  65. You can pay hundreds of dollars an hour for cow-hug therapy.
  66. Male widow spiders will somersault into a female’s mouth to be cannibalized while they’re mating.
  67. Ninety percent of people report having at least one memory in which they can see themselves as if watching a character in a movie.
  68. Offices are designed to be inefficient.
  69. Climate-minded architectural firms in Senegal are pushing the country to reclaim mud construction.
  70. Rats can learn to play hide-and-seek, and they have fun doing it.
  71. A cat kidney transplant costs $15,000.
  72. The Apollo 11 moon lander will sit on the moon for millions of years because there’s no wind or water to erode it away.
  73. Your smart thermostat mostly exists to help the utility company, not your wallet.
  74. The cocaine-eating bear that died in 1985 and inspired the upcoming film Cocaine Bear is stuffed, mounted, and on display at a mall in Lexington, Kentucky.



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