June 10, 2024

35 things I’ve learned in my 35th year

We’re back around the sun once again for another birthday this week, and I’m back to share a bunch of things I learned during this lap.

Just like last year, these aren’t life lessons. Indeed, they’re not really lessons at all. They’re just some fun, largely inconsequential facts I’ve picked up in my travels. (One additional freebie: I'm not calling these factoids since “factoid” was initially coined to mean something that looks like a fact but isn’t necessarily true.)

  1. Jurassic Park only shows dinosaurs on screen for 15 minutes of its 127-minute runtime.
  2. There are only four people still alive who have walked on the moon: Buzz Aldrin, David Scott, Charles Duke, and Harrison Schmitt. Duke is the youngest, at 88 years old.
  3. A Rubik’s cube has 43 quintillion possible combinations, but it was once marketed as having “over 3 billion combinations” because it is easier to understand.
  4. 18% of visitors go into debt to visit Disney World. (Though 71% of those say they don’t regret it.)
  5. Rain falling in New York and rain falling in Alberta, over 1,600 miles away, will meet in the Mississippi River.
  6. “Coffee” and “chocolate” are basically the same word in every language. “Tea,” “pineapple,” and “orange” are pretty close to universal too.
  7. The United States has more than 4,000 military bases, which, if added all together, would be about the size of Kentucky.
  8. AirPods are so popular that if they were a separate company, they would be in the Fortune 500, with annual revenue somewhere between $10 and $20 billion. At the low end, that is more than Airbnb, JetBlue, or eBay.
  9. We see tigers because they’re fruit colored. We evolved an extra color receptor to help us distinguish between unripe and ripe fruit, coincidentally allowing us to distinguish the orange of a tiger’s fur from the greenery of the forest. Their prey, without that color receptor, is not so lucky.
  10. UPS puts its hands on approximately 6% of the United States’ GDP.
  11. The average Blockbuster Video store would have 6,000 or more different movies. Netflix has, at most, about 4,600 movies streaming.
  12. Today, 75% of the world’s food supply is generated by just twelve different plants and five different animals. (The plants: wheat, rice, sugarcane, corn, soy, potatoes, palm oil, cassava, sorghum, millet, groundnuts, and sweet potatoes. The animals: chicken, cattle, buffalo, pig, and goat.)
  13. Half of all beef is consumed by just 12% of the US population.
  14. The Nutcracker alone accounts for 48% of all revenue for US dance companies.
  15. Geologists and paleontologists often lick rocks to help identify fossils, which are slightly stickier to the tongue.
  16. As recently as 1990, only 5% of Americans had a passport. Today, 48% have one.
  17. Ernest Hemingway only used 59 exclamation points in his entire career.
  18. Paul Giamatti’s dad was the former MLB Commissioner and President of Yale.
  19. Twice as many women get tattoos as men: 39% of women and 21% of men have tattoos.
  20. Taco Bell is named after Glen Bell. Leatherman is named after Timothy Leatherman. Main Street in San Francisco is named after Charles Main. Baker’s Chocolate is named after Walter Baker. German chocolate cake is named after Samuel German. Mars, the candy, is named after Franklin Mars. Burpees are named after Royal H. Burpee. Pilates is named after Joseph Pilates. Juneau, Alaska is named after Joe Juneau.
  21. The term “patch” for a software update comes from the pieces of tape used to physically patch over punch holes on old paper-based computer programs.
  22. Registrations of .ai domains netted the tiny nation of Anguilla $32 million in 2023, representing 10% of their GDP.
  23. More than half of NYC residents live in buildings older than 1947. Including me!
  24. Arkansas is the only state that produces diamonds.
  25. Maryland is the only state with no natural lakes.
  26. Only 5% of babies are born on their due dates.
  27. “Nana” and “Papa” are the most popular nicknames for grandma and grandpa in the US. 44% of people call their maternal grandma their favorite, while just 7% call their paternal grandpa their favorite.
  28. Italians have a term for old men who spend their time watching construction sites, “umarell.”
  29. The median age of an MTV viewer is 51.
  30. Dr Pepper is now America’s second most popular soda, just ahead of Pepsi.
  31. In any given set of real-world numbers, you’ll see 30.1% of them start with a “1” in the first digit, 17.6% with a “2,” and so on until just 4.6% start with a “9.” This peculiar distribution, which is found everywhere from national populations, river lengths, mountain heights, stock prices, and more, is known as Benford’s law.
  32. About 17,600 meteorites hit Earth every year, but humans only typically witness 5 of them.
  33. There’s no such thing as a tree, at least from an evolutionary and genetic standpoint. We call tall woody plants “trees,” and we call “wood” the stuff that comes from trees. Most plants we label as trees are barely related to each other – it’s just that things that look like trees keep evolving independently. Similarly, check out carcinization.
  34. The cost of e-commerce returns doubled from 2020 to 2022. Returns now cumulatively cost about as much as we spend on public education – $816 billion.
  35. Costco sells more hot dogs than every MLB stadium combined.


About the Author

Ben Guttmann ran a marketing agency for a long time, now he teaches digital marketing at Baruch College, just wrote his first book (Simply Put), and works with cool folks on other projects in-between all of that. He writes about how we experience a world shaped by technology and humanity – and how we can build a better one.

Get my new book, it just came out.

Read Next

Got it. You're on the list. 🍻
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Ben Guttmann
Copyright Ben Guttmann
Privacy Policy