25 Twitter Accounts That Will Make You Smarter
Make no mistake, mentioning this Mashable list here is absolutely shameless self-promotion. But there are some other pretty great accounts you might want to follow, too. See the list: 25 Twitter Accounts That Will Make You Smarter [Or just go follow @mental_floss]
7 Schools Where Streaking Is An Organized Sport
At some schools, stripping down is a serious sport. Here are seven colleges that place streaking on par with other organized athletic endeavors.
Amazing Harry Potter Facts for His 32nd Birthday
Getty Images In the Harry Potter universe, the famous boy wizard was born on July 31, 1980, which would make him a man wizard in his early thirties. (J.K. Rowling’s birthday is also today.) To celebrate his 32nd birthday and her 47th, here are some Potter-related facts from the mental_floss Amazing Fact Generator. 1. Michael Jackson wanted to do a musical version of Harry Potter and proposed...
The Story of Grant Wood's American Gothic, and How...
While American Gothic is as recognizable as the Mona Lisa, few people know the story of Grant Wood and how the piece unraveled his life.
The Olympic Swimmer Who’d Never Been in an...
Getty Images To bring the Olympic spirit to developing nations in the late 1990s, the Olympic Committee allowed a small number of “wild card” athletes to join the Games. But because they didn’t have to go through any qualifying rounds to compete, not all of the contenders arrived prepared. One such athlete was a swimmer from Equatorial Guinea named Eric Moussambani. When Moussambani arrived at...
This Week's Most Popular Stories
1. 9 Intriguing Excerpts From Old FBI Files * 2. Why Doesn’t Team USA Dip the Flag at the Opening Ceremonies? * 3. 14 Creative Divorce Cakes * 4. 5 Scientist Screw-Ups to Remember Next Time You Bungle Something * 5. Alton Brown Is Our New Food Columnist! * 6. Words Redefined: 37 Notable Entries in The Devil’s Dictionary * 7. 18 Bizarre Self-Proclaimed Capitals of the World * 8....
Getty Images After the ceremonial doves were released at the 1988 Seoul Games, many flocked to the torch cauldron just before it was set ablaze.
Why Won’t Team USA Dip the Flag at the Opening...
Getty Images For the last 100 years, the Olympic spirit has come with an asterisk for the United States. It’s not doping. It’s not underage gymnasts. In fact, if you’re not looking closely, you’ll miss it at the Opening Ceremonies: the United States will be the only country that refuses to dip its flag when passing the host country. What’s the story?
The 21 Countries With One Olympic Medal
Twenty-one countries have won just one Olympic medal. Here are the stories of the national heroes who brought those medals home.
How an 18th-Century Mutiny May Help Explain...
On April 28, 1789, sailors aboard the HMS Bounty wrested control of the ship from their commanding officer, Lieutenant William Bligh. The mutineers sent Bligh and the members of the crew loyal to him off in a lifeboat in the South Pacific, then set sail to some nearby islands for new lives in a tropical paradise. Over 220 years later, their actions may help researchers unlock the mysteries of...
"Divorce Cakes" Are a Thing
We’ve discussed geeky wedding invitations, dresses, and photos. But with so many marriages not lasting forever, the market for “divorce cakes” is alive and well. See More: 14 Creative Divorce Cakes
Words Redefined: 37 Notable Entries in The Devil's...
Ambrose Bierce was a celebrated journalist, storyteller and, above all, cynic. Bierce had a barbed wit, and he often used it to kick American culture square in the teeth. In 1911, he published The Devil’s Dictionary, a partial lexicon that sardonically redefines over 1000 words. Here are some of our favorites: 1. Academy, n. A modern school where football is taught. 2. Achievement, n. The death...
Meet Our New Food Columnist
We are giddy to announce Food Network star Alton Brown is coming on board! He’ll be writing a food/history column. There he is on the cover of our new issue. This is going to be great. Obligatory Plug: You can pick up mental_floss wherever brilliant/lots of magazines are sold. Or you can get a free issue here.
Who Said It: Sheldon Cooper or Stephen Hawking?
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Delightfully Geeky Wedding Invitations
Lots More: 15 Delightfully Geeky Wedding Invitations
On Her Way to Becoming the First U.S. Woman in...
Sally Ride passed away today at age 61. When she made her first space flight in 1983, she was both the first American woman and the youngest American to make the journey to the final frontier. Both of those distinctions show just how qualified and devoted Ride was, but they also opened her up to a slew of absurd questions from the media. Journalist Michael Ryan recounted some of the sillier...
From 1912 to 1948, Art Competitions Were Part of...
Getty Images Here’s a look back at the fine art competitions that originated in ancient Greece and were revived as part of the modern Olympics from 1912 to 1948.
5 Scientist Screw-Ups to Remember Next Time You...
Even scientists make mistakes. Unfortunately for them, their screw-ups tend to have more serious ramifications.
Remembering the Aurora Twelve
Getty Images In the days after a mass murder, we try to make sense out of the senseless, and that often takes the form of fixating on the killer. Instead, let’s remember those who were lost.
Last Week's Most Popular Stories
In case you weren’t obsessively refreshing mentalfloss.com all week, here’s what you missed: 9 of the World’s Most Ridiculously Secure Safes and Vaults * 5 Things You Didn’t Know About U.S. Army Special Forces * How Did Nickelodeon Make Green Slime? * What Happened to Bob Ross’ Paintings? * 40 Awesome Tributes to Breaking Bad * Is It Really Illegal to Remove Your Mattress Tag? * 10...
Olympic Uniforms for the 2012 Opening Ceremonies
When the London Olympics open on July 27th, the Parade of Nations will be our introduction to the 2012 athletes. What each team wears to the Opening Ceremonies is the stuff of much conjecture, drama, pride, gossip, and criticism. Here’s what some of the teams will be wearing.
Intriguing Excerpts From Old FBI Files
Under J. Edgar Hoover, everybody who was anybody had an FBI file. Here are some interesting things we found while poking around their archives.
What Is "Old Book Smell"?
“A combination of grassy notes with a tang of acids and a hint of vanilla over an underlying mustiness” is how an international team of chemists describes the unique odor of old books in a study. Poetic, sure, but what exactly causes it?
Planning for the Moon Disaster That Never Happened
Today is the 43rd anniversary of the lunar landing. Here’s the speech President Nixon would have delivered had Apollo 11 not made it home. Text:[[MORE]] IN EVENT OF MOON DISASTER: Fate has ordained that the men who went to the moon to explore in peace will stay on the moon to rest in peace. These brave men, Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin, know that there is no hope for their recovery. But...
The Full Names of One-Name Stars
From A-Z, here are the full names of some of your favorite mononymous celebrities, and the reasons they dropped the rest of their names.
How Did Nickelodeon Make Green Slime?
Getty Images Another big question. What was in that stuff?
Is It Really Illegal to Remove Your Mattress Tag?
Spoiler Alert: It is not. But here’s why that warning is on there in the first place.
What Happened to Bob Ross' Paintings?
Bob Ross said he made over 30,000 paintings in his lifetime. If he didn’t sell them, where did his army of happy clouds go?
Cashew Nuts Grow Out of Crazy Apples
File this under Seems Like a Hoax, But Isn’t: cashew nuts grow from the bottom of “cashew apples.”
How Americans Spend Their Money
Last year, Americans spent $10.7 trillion shopping. Here’s what portion of that went to beer, Twinkies, dollar store items, pet Halloween costumes, and more.
Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Sad Readers
Sad news, detectives. Donald J. Sobol, the creator of Encyclopedia Brown, passed away on July 11 at the age of 87. Sobol wrote 28 books starring 10-year-old Leroy Brown, with the next one, Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Soccer Scheme, scheduled to come out this fall. In honor of Sobol, here are a few interesting facts about everyone’s favorite reasonably priced detective. (25 cents plus...
The Brilliant Wu-Tang Marketing Plan
Getty Images One of the most important singles in hip-hop history wasn’t great, or even particularly good. In fact, it was terrible. Even the most die-hard hip-hop fans probably haven’t heard “Ooh I Love You Rakeem,” the title track of Prince Rakeem’s 1991 debut EP, and there’s a reason for that. Prince Rakeem, a cartoonish, vaguely international ladies’ man, was a character foisted on rapper...
Facts About Every Student From the 30th Story of...
Louis Sachar’s Sideways Stories From Wayside School series is still a favorite of elementary-age kids, 34 years after the first book hit the shelves. Each of the three books features 30 chapters — one for each floor of the Wayside School building — and each chapter (usually) features one student. Here are a few facts about each of the 30 students in Mrs. Jewls’ class on the 30th story.
5 Things You Didn't Know About the Green Berets
Getty Images This year marks the 60th anniversary of U.S. Army Special Forces, sometimes called the “Green Berets.” In hot spots around the globe, they’re often the first in and the last out. Experts in direct action and masters of unconventional warfare, Special Forces soldiers infiltrate foreign countries, provide humanitarian aid, raise armies, and train them for combat effectiveness. Here...
The Mental Floss Week in Review
In case you weren’t obsessively refreshing mentalfloss.com all week, here’s what you missed… 1. 17 Famous Literary Characters Almost Named Something Else * 2. 11 Product Names That Mean Unfortunate Things in Other Languages * 3. 10 Lines From Napoleon’s Love Letters That Sound Like Crazy Texts * 4. Why Does Getting Hit in the Testicles Hurt So Much? * 5. 5 Pop Culture...
40 Awesome Fan Tributes to Breaking Bad
“Pinkman and The Brain” by Le0Regulus at Reddit garyisyoudotcom at Reddit Lots More: 40 Awesome Tributes to Breaking Bad
31 Bizarre Foreign Titles for American Movies
Not every American film title translates well into other languages. To bridge the gap, foreign marketers take some very intriguing creative liberties.
Why Does Getting Hit in the Testicles Hurt So...
What causes such inconceivable pain?
How One Dad Got Lawn Darts Banned
Lawn darts, or Jarts, were all the rage in the 1980s. Here’s the story of how they were yanked from the shelves.
10 Lines From Napoleon's Love Letters That Sound...
“How happy I would be if I could assist you at your undressing, the little firm white breast, the adorable face, the hair tied up in a scarf a la creole.” Jealous tirades, 18th-century sexting, and more.
11 Product Names That Mean Unfortunate Things in...
Lots more here.
11 Commercials for Defunct '90s Food and Drinks
Back in the 90s, you could buy any of these things. You could get them all at the same time if you wanted. Now you can’t get any of these products in stores, but you can shell out too much cash for a 16-year-old bottle of Orbitz on eBay. Watch: 11 Commercials for Defunct ’90s Food and Drinks
11 Obscure Regional Phrases That Describe...
ETHAN MILLER/Reuters The way this summer is going, you’ll soon run out of ways to say, “It’s ridiculously hot.” Here are 11 phrases you can fall back on next time someone asks what the weather is like. For example, Hotter Than Dutch Love in Harvest.
Are Mermaids Real? Let's Ask the U.S. Government
Late last month, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration published a curious addition to its Ocean Facts section: “Are Mermaids Real?” Describing them as “half-human, half-fish sirens of the sea,” the post goes on to describe the various appearances of mermaids in folklore, from cave paintings to The Odyssey. However, NOAA comes to the final conclusion that “no evidence of aquatic...
11 Memories of Not-So-Modern Medicine
These items have vanished from medicine cabinets and doctors’ offices in the last few decades.
Blame the Media
From Truman Show Delusion to Paris Syndrome: 6 Disorders Caused By the Internet, TV, Magazines and Movies
Why Were CD Boxes So Big in the Early 1990s?
Image credit: Daniel R. Tobias/Wikimedia Commons From roughly 1988-1993, a CD came in what was called a longbox — 6 x 12”, cardboard and hollow. The longbox was a throwaway vessel that carried the smaller passenger of the jewel box-encased CD. Continue Reading
What Literary Characters Were Almost Named
Say hello to Sherringford Holmes, Stella Strong, and Count Wampyr. More: 17 Famous Literary Characters Almost Named Something Else
How People Kept Cool Before Air Conditioning
“People had other personal methods for keeping cool, such as hanging wet laundry in doorways, sleeping in refrigerated sheets, and keeping one’s underwear in the freezer.” More: Life Before Air Conditioning
Pop Culture Apocalypse Scenarios and How They...
If there’s one thing Independence Day taught us, it’s that Bill Pullman can give a pretty stirring speech. If there are two things the movie taught us, it’s that when extraterrestrials come, they won’t be looking for Reese’s Pieces. In 1960, astrophysicist Frank Drake estimated the requirements for detecting alien civilizations in the Milky Way. The Drake Equation examines such things as the...