Every year, we collect our favorite stories, fun facts, and innovations from the previous 12 months. In 2023, we learned about some amazing space discoveries, a few hard-working robots, and enough awesome animal news to get you through the winter. Read on for all the fun facts we learned last year, adapted from an episode of the List Show on YouTube.
1. The world’s largest onion was grown in 2023.
The world’s biggest onion, which was grown and shown in 2023 at the Harrogate Autumn Flower Show, weighed just under 20 pounds—imagine making a Bloomin’ Onion out of that.
2. For a few months in 2023, Jupiter held the title for having the most moons in our solar system.
Following the verification of several new Jovian moons in February, astronomers determined that Jupiter had 95 moons. But by May, Saturn had knocked the bigger gas giant off its throne. The International Astronomical Union—the same folks who took Pluto down a peg back in 2006—recognized more than 60 new moons orbiting Saturn, bringing its total to 146. In addition to having the greatest number of moons, Saturn's lunar satellites are some of the most tantalizing to researchers hoping to discover more about Earth’s neighbors.
3. A huge geyser was spotted on Enceladus.
Enceladus is covered in ice, and in 2023 we saw new evidence of its liquid interior. The James Webb Space Telescope recorded a geyser of water vapor breaking through the frozen surface and erupting 6000 miles into space. Its height was nearly 20 times greater than the moon’s diameter. The plume was the largest geyser ever spotted on Enceladus, and it gave us a fascinating look at how Saturn’s rings form. It takes the moon 33 hours to orbit the gas giant, and if a geyser is spraying in that period it leaves a trail of vapor that feeds Saturn’s rings. Experts are also hopeful that the plumes contain microscopic lifeforms, but evidence supporting that theory has proven hard to collect.
4. Experts theorized that ‘Oumuamua is a comet.
When ‘Oumuamua suddenly appeared in the inner solar system in 2017, and then left it just as rapidly, astronomers weren’t sure what to make of the cigar-shaped object. It moved a lot faster than a typical asteroid, and it didn’t leave a trail that would suggest it was a comet. Certain Harvard astrophysicists even proposed it could be an alien probe. In March of 2023, however, two ‘Oumuamua experts from Cornell and UC Berkeley said they believe it’s a comet after all—just one without a tail of gas and dust. They theorized that the interstellar visitor is powered by bursts of hydrogen from its icy core, which are released from the ice by the sun’s radiation. The amounts of gas are so small, they don’t show up as a tail, but they can still propel ‘Oumuamua through space.
5. Scientists declared a lake the defining site of the Anthropocene.
A lake in Canada beat out Australian coral reefs, a Polish peat bog, and the Antarctic ice sheet as the defining site of the Anthropocene, according to scientists tasked with pinpointing its start. Crawford Lake near Toronto is small but deep, and the sediment that collects at its bottom stays put. Those layers of mud reveal evidence of the dawn of a new geologic era characterized by human impact—specifically, the sediments trapped fallout from nuclear tests in the 1950s, which the researchers say is the dividing line between the earlier Holocene and the proposed epoch. The lake also shows carbon particles from fossil fuel use and nitrates from agricultural runoff. If Crawford Lake’s nomination is approved by a higher-up group of geologists, it will receive a marker identifying it as ground zero for our brave new world.
6. A 2022 volcanic eruption was found to have produced the most intense lightning ever observed ...
In June 2023, we learned that the 2022 volcanic eruption in Tonga was not only one of the strongest on record, but also produced the most intense lightning ever observed. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai eruption set off a “supercharged” thunderstorm that sparked almost 200,000 lightning flashes within its plume of smoke and ash. At the peak of the storm, there were more than 2600 bolts per minute, and some reached as high as 19 miles into Earth’s atmosphere.
7. … and that the eruption affected the ozone layer.
If that wasn’t incredible enough, scientists have also suggested that it affected the ozone layer. According to New Scientist, Australian researchers determined that the hole in the ozone layer was bigger in August than it should have been, which they blamed on large amounts of water vapor turning into clouds and providing a surface on which chlorofluorocarbons reacted with ozone. We’re sure to learn even more about this spectacular eruption as researchers continue to analyze data.
8. A new extinct species of penguin was discovered.
Known as “Wilson’s little penguin,” Eudyptula wilsonae was described in a paper published in June. The animal’s modern-day relatives, little penguins/kororā, is an adorable species that lives in New Zealand and other countries. According to Bob Yirka of Phys.org, the newly discovered species is the “oldest-known extinct little penguin.”
9. Hank the Tank was caught.
Since February 2022, Lake Tahoe, California, has been terrorized by what authorities said was a male black bear responsible for 28 break-ins. They named the bear Hank the Tank. In 2023, though, they discovered that the break-ins had actually been perpetrated by three black bears, with the largest number—21—being attributed to a female officially known as 64F. “Hank,” who pulled off her capers with cubs in tow, was linked to her crimes via DNA. There are plans to relocate her to a sanctuary in Colorado.
10. The first-ever crocodile virgin birth was recorded in 2023.
Parthenogenesis is the ability to reproduce in the absence of sperm. It’s been observed in a handful of species, including some birds and reptiles. But in 2023, the first-ever crocodile virgin birth was recorded. It actually happened back in 2018, when a croc in a Costa Rican zoo delivered 14 eggs despite having not been around other crocs for 16 years. They took seven promising eggs and artificially incubated them, and while none of them hatched, one egg did contain a non-viable fetus, making this the first observable proof the species is capable of an extraordinary evolutionary ability.
11. A 2023 study found that crocs are attracted to babies’ cries.
Speaking of crocs, if your infant falls into a crocodile-occupied river, you better hope they don’t cry. An August 2023 study found that crocodiles are attracted to the cries of human, bonobo, and chimpanzee babies. It’s thought the vocalizations of a helpless infant in distress probably sound like an easy meal. One crocodile did attempt to protect the source of the cries—which, in the study, was a speaker and not an actual helpless child—from other curious crocs.
12. We discovered that humans and horses have a long history.
According to one March 2023 study, people may have been riding horses 5000 years ago. Horse-drawn chariots, meanwhile, didn’t enter the archaeological record until about 1000 years later. Researchers analyzed human skeletal remains from various sites around southeastern Europe for telltale signs in the legs, pelvis, and backbones—all areas known to show the physical toll of horseback riding.
13. Some of the biggest aquatic attack stories in 2023 involved not sharks, but orcas.
In 2023 we learned that pods of the black-and-white dolphins got too close for comfort with several boats off the coasts of Spain, Portugal, and France. They mainly swam around the vessels and booped the rudders. But according to records covering the past few years, there have been 250 cases of orcas causing damage to a boat, 60 cases of serious damage, and four sinkings. For now, only the orcas living around the Iberian peninsula have demonstrated this behavior, but scientists still aren’t sure why the animals are so keen on messing up people’s booze cruises.
14. Sea lions got aggressive in 2023.
It’s not just orcas that got combative in 2023: Sea lions in California have also been acting out—but in this case, scientists think they know the reason. In 2023, a harmful algae bloom produced a ton of the potent neurotoxin domoic acid in the waters. Fish ate smaller creatures that consumed the algae, then the sea lions ate the fish. Domoic acid poisoning can make a lot of animals behave unpredictably: A similar algae bloom off California in 1961 is thought to have caused flocks of seabirds to act erratically, which is rumored to have influenced Alfred Hitchcock's film The Birds.
15. We learned about a really big fan of the movie Titanic in 2023.
A Florida-based editor named JD has set a goal of collecting 1 million copies of Titanic on VHS, which consisted of two tapes because the movie clocks in at three hours and 15 minutes. JD—who apparently started collecting around a decade ago—has more than 2581 copies as of late 2023.
16. Greta Gerwig made history with Barbie.
Greta Gerwig’s Barbie opened with a bang, raking in an impressive $162 million in the U.S. during its opening weekend. The momentum didn’t slow down from there: The Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling-led film has since earned more than $1.4 billion. It has also given Greta Gerwig the title of history’s highest-grossing female director.
17. A funeral home started selling Barbie-themed coffins.
The Alpha and Omega Funeral Home in Ahuachapán, El Salvador, started selling pink Barbie-themed coffins to capitalize on the Barbie craze—and as of early August 2023, 10 people had purchased them to be their future final resting places.
18. Swifties in Seattle caused seismic activity.
How many Swifties does it take to generate the same seismic activity as a 2.3-magnitude earthquake? About 70,000, give or take. That’s what happened at Taylor Swift’s two back-to-back concerts in Seattle over the summer. It wasn’t just the fans’ dancing that caused the ground shakes—the booming sound system itself played a role, too. But still: It’s probably best not to ever underestimate the power of Swifties.
19. A library book was returned 119 years after it was due.
In order for libraries to work, borrowers need to respect the window of time they have to read and return a book. And most do. But every now and again, a title will disappear for 119 years. In 1904, someone checked out An Elementary Treatise on Electricity by James Clerk Maxwell from the New Bedford Free Public Library. It wasn’t returned until 2023, when it surfaced as part of a donation pile at West Virginia University Libraries. No one knows where the book went in the interim, but it’s now back where it belongs.
20. Tons of new words got added to the Oxford English Dictionary.
The Oxford English Dictionary added hundreds of new entries in 2023. Here are a few of our favorites: Groomzilla is the male counterpart to bridezilla, which made it into the OED back in 2009. And while the meaning of the term comfort-wear is pretty obvious, the OED traces it back to at least 1903 to describe a woman in slippers and a housecoat. The phrases spider sense and spidey sense also made the dictionary. Spidey sense is obviously Spider-Man-related, but spider sense predates our favorite webslinger by nearly 50 years and originally meant “the ability of certain people to sense nearby spiders.”
21. A Tudor-era book was discovered hiding in plain sight.
In 2023, Alison Palmer saw a 16th-century prayer book—a Book of Hours published in 1527—at the University of Cambridge, and it looked very familiar … just like a book featured in a circa 1533 Hans Holbein portrait of Thomas Cromwell, chief advisor to Henry VIII (who sentenced Cromwell to death). A team of experts reviewed the evidence and concluded it was the same book in Cromwell's portrait. It was among the volumes left to Cromwell’s secretary, Ralph Sadleir, and it came to Cambridge through the wife of the secretary’s grandson. According to a press release, the bejeweled tome “is thought to be the only object from any Tudor portrait to survive to this day.” Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn each owned their own edition of the book.
22. A document thought to be a forgery was shown to be the real deal.
Famous documents are occasionally found to be forgeries. In 2023, the opposite occurred. Graduate student and Mental Floss contributor Vanessa Braganza was perusing Harvard University’s Widener Library when she spotted a copy of The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia by Philip Sidney on the shelf. It was donated to Harvard in 1913 after businessman Harry Elkins Widener died on the Titanic and left behind his personal library. Elizabethan author and Philip Sidney’s sister Mary Sidney Herbert was thought to be the book’s original owner, but in the 1940s, Harvard’s rare books librarian William A. Jackson claimed it was a forgery. Harvard accepted his argument until 2023, when Braganza proved it really was from the 16th century. The university was pleased to hear it had owned an authentic piece of rare literature all along.
23. Conservators found a hidden image under a René Magritte painting.
René Magritte’s 1943 painting The Fifth Season isn’t among his most lauded paintings, but as we discovered in 2023, it harbored a secret: Under the two men holding frames on a street was the image of a woman—possibly the artist’s wife. It was found by conservators at the Royal Museums of the Fine Arts of Belgium using infrared reflectography. If you look hard enough, you can find evidence of it in the painting.
24. Chipotle is testing a new robot.
In 2022, Chipotle introduced a chip-making robot named “Chippy,” and last year, we learned Chippy will have a friend: The company announced that they’re currently testing a robot named “Autocado,” which slices, cores, and peels avocados so human employees don’t have to. It could potentially cut the time it takes to make a batch of guacamole in half, so consider this a win for people behind and in front of the counter.
25. An iOS update finally got rid of that ducking autocorrect.
We’ve all been there: You’re on your iPhone, typing out a heated text complete with f-bomb, when that f-bomb morphs into the d word: duck. But in fall 2023, Apple finally issued an autocorrect update in iOS17. As Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering, put it, “In those moments where you just want to type a ducking word, well, the keyboard will learn it.”
26. We may have gotten a step closer to flying cars in 2023.
We’ve been hearing about flying cars since well before The Jetsons. But we hopefully got closer to that reality when Alef Aeronautics received permission from the FAA to test its Model A car, which is the first flying automobile that can be parked on the ground in a conventional parking spot. Alef expects it to be available in 2025 for a bargain $300,000. But don’t reserve it just yet: It has a lot of testing to be done.
27. A super-reflective white paint was developed.
In 2023, The New York Times reported that scientists had developed a paint so white and reflective that 98 percent of the sun’s rays bounce right off it. The coating was developed by a team at Purdue University led by mechanical engineering professor Xiulin Ruan. The idea is to use the paint on rooftops, where it would do its ray deflecting thing and keep items cooler inside the buildings. According to the scientists, the paint is as much as 8°F cooler than the air around it during the day; at night, that number drops to as much as 19°F cooler.
28. Wawa debuted its pizza.
This summer, Wawa—the uber-popular convenience store—added a new item to its menu: Pizza. Like the chain’s hoagies, you choose between a couple of sizes and pile on the toppings you prefer. The pizzas are served from 4 p.m. to 3 a.m. and are made fresh in dedicated pizza ovens, which means around a 20 minute wait. Don’t even ask what’s in the sauce—that’s proprietary.
29. July 2023 was really, really hot.
According to scientists, July was most likely the hottest month ever recorded in human history—a fact that was declared on July 27th. “We don’t have to wait for the end of the month to know this,” United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said. “Short of a mini-ice age over the next days, July 2023 will shatter records across the board.”
30. In 2023, heat waves in Italy got some ominous names.
In Italy, the founder of a popular weather website has been naming heat waves since 2012. In 2023, he picked names like Cerberus, a.k.a., the dog that guards the underworld in Greek mythology. According to the BBC, temperatures across Italy were well above 100 degrees.
31. Leprosy made headlines in Florida in 2023 ...
Leprosy (a.k.a.Hansen’s disease) cases have been increasing in the central part of the state, and health experts fear the infectious disease could become endemic to Florida—meaning that it’s permanently established in that area. Previously, most leprosy cases in the U.S. originated through carriers traveling from other parts of the world.
32. … As did malaria.
Malaria is also on the rise in the Sunshine State, as well as Texas and Maryland. Seven cases were recorded across Florida, and like the recent leprosy outbreak, they were locally acquired rather than imported from overseas.
33. Nintendo closed some of its e-shops.
In March 2023, Nintendo permanently closed down their 3DS and Wii U e-shops. While this does mean that no new software can be downloaded onto these consoles, both the Wii U and the 3DS are still able to access the internet.
34. The world’s oldest bodybuilder was crowned.
Age is just a number. For Jim Arrington, it’s 91. That might also be the number of reps he pumps out as part of a bodybuilding regimen. Arrington was actually crowned the world’s oldest bodybuilder by Guinness World Records when he turned 83. Seven years later, he was still getting his swole on, so Guinness declared him the reigning record holder.
35. The most popular wedding songs were revealed.
A group gift platform called Givetastic crunched the numbers on 100,000 wedding-related Spotify playlists to determine the most popular wedding song. Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)” took the blue ribbon, followed by “Marry You” by Bruno Mars. The Killers’ “Mr. Brightside” also made the list.
36. American Girl’s debuted ‘90s-era historical dolls.
In 2023, American Girl debuted two new dolls in its historical collection: Isabel and Nicki Hoffman, fraternal twins growing up in Seattle during the 1990s, making elder Millennials feel very old indeed.
37. Guinness gave out a record for the world’s most expensive ice cream.
If you want to eat the world’s most expensive ice cream, which Guinness World Records crowned in 2023, you better have some seriously deep pockets. Japanese ice cream company Cellato charges a whopping $6696 for its decadent dessert. Its ingredients include decorative gold-leaf shavings, a rare white truffle, Parmigiano Reggiano, and sake lees.
38. There was an important update to the Henrietta Lacks story in 2023.
Lacks—a Black woman—visited Baltimore’ s Johns Hopkins Hospital in February 1951, where a piece of cancerous tissue was removed from her cervix. Those cancerous cells were cultured and labeled “HeLa”—and, in contrast to the other cells researchers had tried to culture, they didn’ t die. Instead, they divided and divided and divided. These immortal cells were distributed, mass produced, and commercialized, all without the knowledge or permission of Lacks, who had died in October and was buried in her unmarked grave, or her family, who didn’ t learn about the cells until 1973.
It’s impossible to overstate the impact of Lacks’s immortal cells—as Bettye Kearse wrote in a piece about Henrietta for MentalFloss.com, her cells were “central to the development of vaccines and many medical advances. By 2017, HeLa cells had been studied in 142 countries and had made possible research that led to two Nobel Prizes, 17,000 patents, and 110,000 scientific papers, thereby establishing Henrietta’s role as the mother of modern medicine.” And many people—though not the Lacks family—made money off of those cells.
Some of Henrietta’s heirs eventually sued Thermo Fisher Scientific, a biotech firm, accusing them of profiting from the HeLa cell line without compensating her family. That lawsuit was settled in 2023; the amount wasn’t disclosed. Afterward, Lacks’s grandson, Alfred Lacks Carter, Jr., said, “It was a long fight—over 70 years—and Henrietta Lacks gets her day.”
39. Lacks was also honored with a statue.
40. The Food and Drug Administration approved the first new drug in 20 years to treat Alzheimer’s disease.
Leqembi, its brand name, slowed the progression of the disease by about five months in an 18-month clinical trial, but it comes with high risks for serious side effects, such as brain bleeding and death. It also can’t stop disease progression completely nor repair cognitive function. But it gives hope to Alzheimer’s patients and their families, who still have very few therapeutic options. Dr. Joanne Pike, president and CEO of the Alzheimer’s Association, hailed the decision, saying, “This treatment, while not a cure, can give people in the early stages of Alzheimer’s more time to maintain their independence and do the things they love.”
41. The oldest evidence for the parasite Giardia duodenalis was found.
Archaeologists working in Jerusalem in 2023 pulled 2500-year-old feces out of two ancient toilets and discovered evidence of Giardia duodenalis, a parasite that can cause something akin to dysentery—specifically, according to LiveScience, “a cyst wall protein that is produced and released by G. duodenalis.” It’s the oldest evidence of the protozoan discovered so far.
42. In 2023, we learned about one of the world’s earliest cases of brain surgery.
Archaeologists working in the ancient site of Tel Megiddo in northern Israel discovered the graves of two high-status brothers who lived during the Late Bronze Age, roughly 1550 to 1450 BCE. The skeletons showed signs of chronic disease—possibly leprosy, also known as Hansen’s disease—which given that they lived to their early 20s, alongside other lines of evidence, suggested that the brothers were elite individuals who had access to quality food and medical care during their lives. The skull of the older brother, who was between 20 and 40 when he died, also displayed a hole cut with a human-made beveled instrument. This type of cranial surgery, called trephination, was used in the ancient world to relieve sinus pressure and other ailments, but evidence for it being performed in the Near East is rare.
43. A highly-detailed 3D scan of the wreck of the Titanic was released in 2023.
The wreck of the Titanic has been disintegrating on the bottom of the North Atlantic for more than a century, and its decay has accelerated in recent years. In May, the underwater mapping company Magellan Ltd. and Atlantic Productions released a stunning “digital twin” of the entire ship and its 15-square-mile debris field to preserve them for all time. The mapping team used robotic submersibles to scan the legendary ocean liner over the course of six weeks with super-high-definition equipment. Then, they knit the images together to create a 3D digital model. It is so detailed that you can even read part of the serial number on one of the ship's three propellers.
44. In August 2023, we learned that a man bitten by a stray cat contracted an unknown infection.
His arm and fingers became enlarged and swollen, but when doctors analyzed the tissue samples from his wounds, they found an organism they hadn’t seen before. Researchers came in to sequence the bacteria, and found that while it appeared to be a streptococcus-like organism giving the man such a violent reaction, it was actually a never-before-documented globicatella species.
45. We found out that vaccines are beneficial to bee health.
American foulbrood, a destructive disease that affects honeybees, can now be prevented in the pre-pupal stage with a vaccine created by biotech company Dalan Animal Health. It works by having worker bees ingest dead Paenibacillus larvae cells (the bacterium responsible for American foulbrood), which they then pass on to their queen. While the vaccine is under conditional approval, it’ll hopefully be leagues better for both bees and beekeepers than the previous alternative: burning the infected bees and hives.
46. There were important updates on the sea spider front.
Did you know that there aren’t just land spiders—there are also sea spiders? And that we recently got our first look at one type of them mating? In 2023, during an expedition by the Ocean Exploration Trust, scientists captured footage of a type of sea spider mating for the first time. The researchers announced in a study released in June 2023 that these particular sea spiders were from the genus Colossendeis, which had a leg span of over a foot; analysis of the footage showed a pair of spiders, one on top of the other. The female used specialized legs to manipulate her eggs. Why is this important? In the words of lead study author Georg Brenneis, University of Vienna zoologist, “This is the first time humans have ever witnessed this behavior ... At this stage, people believed [sea spiders of the Colossendeidae group] may have a completely different reproductive biology to their relatives. But this video unmistakably shows that at least their mating follows typical sea spider fashion.”
47. One Florida town was overrun by bunnies.
Dozens and dozens of friendly, domesticated bunnies are populating the yards, driveways, and roads of Jenada Isles. It’s a pretty adorable problem to have, but it’s still a problem: The rabbits could dig holes in yards and chew on wires, and the animals—which stem from a group illegally released by a breeder who moved out of the area—could feel the ill effects of Florida’s heat. One resident, Alicia Griggs, has started a GoFundMe to capture and relocate the rabbits.
48. T. Rex might not have had such prominent chompers.
Anyone who’s seen The Land Before Time remembers, Tyrannosaurus rex are known for their sharp teeth. But those fatal pearly whites may not have been as prominently displayed as we thought. New research has suggested T. rex’s teeth were concealed by a fleshy, lip-like tissue. People tend to depict T. rex in a crocodile-like way; it’s why we popularly imagine them with a mouthful of protruding teeth. A 2023 study, however, showed that T. rex choppers don’t have the kind of outer-tooth erosion crocodile teeth do, suggesting they were likely protected by lips.
49. Props got nabbed from the set of the new Beetlejuice movie.
It seems only fitting for mysterious hijinks to ensue during production of the Beetlejuice sequel. Two props disappeared from set: a lamppost with a pumpkin-shaped top, and a 150-ish-pound abstract sculpture designed by Catherine O’Hara’s character, Delia Deetz, in the original film.
50. In 2023, fans of Beyoncé and Jay-Z were given the opportunity to live like hip hop royalty.
An architectural salvager auctioned off many items from the superstar couple’s rented home, including their lights, sconces, and French doors. The reseller also offered Jay and Bey’s bidet for an asking price of $2400. Fans didn’t need to travel to a fancy auction house to bid on the pop culture artifacts—they were listed on eBay and sold to the highest bidders.
51. Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers were discontinued.
Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers were all set to celebrate their 100th birthday in 2024: They hit the market way back in 1924. Sadly, the company decided to discontinue them instead. The crispy, slightly bittersweet wafers were the choice cookie for icebox cakes, where they softened to perfection between layers of whipped cream. Bakers have suggested using Oreo Thins, Goya Maria Chocolate Cookies, or Dewey’s Hot Cocoa Cookies as replacements. Or you could skip the cookies altogether and just mainline whipped cream straight into your mouth.
52. The site where Caesar was stabbed opened to the public.
Rome is packed with ancient historical sites—but due to funding issues, not all of them have been open to the public. Take, for example, the square where Julius Caesar was stabbed. Caesar’s heir, Augustus, declared the square a cursed place after the dictator’s murder. Thousands of years later, the square was discovered after 20th-century Italian dictator Benito Mussolini had parts of Rome razed to search for ancient archaeological sites. The space wasn’t opened to the public until June 2023.
53. Quotes from an interview with Martin Luther King, Jr., seem to have been altered.
Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcom X didn’t always see eye to eye. MLK had even famously criticized Malcom X to the journalist Alex Haley—or so we thought. But it turns out Haley reportedly fabricated some of the quotes from that famous 1965 Playboy article. A journalist named Jonathan Eig made the discovery after finding what appears to be an unedited transcript during his archival research. Based on what the unedited transcript shows, Haley took some of MLK’s words out of context, and also made up some of the quotes.
54. In 2023, we found out that it’s possible to live in the home of a former Queen of England.
At least it is if you have $2.9 million. In June, the former home of Anne of Cleves—Henry VIII’s fourth wife—went up for sale. Theirs wasn’t exactly a love story for the ages: Henry, having split with one wife, beheaded another, and lost yet another after childbirth, agreed to wed the German-born Anne supposedly after seeing her portrait. When he got a look at her in person, though, he apparently yelled “I see nothing in this woman as men report of her!” Was it because of the portrait? Probably not—the better guess is that it was Henry’s ministers who played up her beauty. He married her anyway, but their union lasted just six months before it was annulled. Anne might not have done it for Henry in the looks department, but they did get along and remained close. He also gifted her a lot of property, including a house called Wings Palace. After she died in 1557, its ownership reverted back to the crown before it became a private residence. The five-bedroom, three-bathroom house’s history dates all the way back to 1095, but it has the most modern amenities, including heated floors and an updated kitchen.
55. Henri Matisse’s home was also for sale in 2023.
Henri Matisse’s former apartment—a two-bedroom, four-bathroom abode spanning 1700 square feet that sits atop the iconic Régina building on the French Riviera in Nice—hit the market for $2.7 million in May. Matisse, who lived there for about 10 years, also used the apartment as a studio, where he created cutouts after suffering some health issues.
56. We got some insight into minstrel comedy.
We know minstrels had some jokes, but because a lot of their material was passed down via oral tradition, we didn’t really know what their jokes were. That’s changed thanks to a comedy routine found within a 15th-century manuscript in 2023. The minstrel’s comedy routine includes a bunch of acts, including a preacher’s satirical sermon about the virtues of drinking a lot.
57. A plot to assassinate Queen Elizabeth II was revealed.
In 1983, Queen Elizabeth II visited the U.S. amidst the Troubles, a 30-year-long conflict between Protestants and Roman Catholics in Northern Ireland over whether or not the country would become part of Ireland proper or remain part of the U.K.—and papers released in May 2023 revealed that the FBI and Secret Service uncovered a plot to assassinate the queen while she traveled the country. Apparently, around a month before Liz was due to be in San Francisco, police learned about a man who claimed his daughter had been killed by a rubber bullet in Northern Ireland and that “he was going to attempt to harm Queen Elizabeth and would do this either by dropping some object off the Golden Gate Bridge onto the Royal Yacht Britannia when it sails underneath, or would attempt to kill Queen Elizabeth when she visited Yosemite National Park.” The Secret Service apparently walked the Golden Gate Bridge, but it’s unclear if any other steps were taken to protect the monarch, or if an arrest was made.
58. The official history of Queen Elizabeth I was called into question.
William Camden wrote the official history of Queen Elizabeth I’s reign in the years after she died. His work was a foundational text for historians of the period, but Camden didn’t quite record an unbiased history. New transmitting light technology has revealed the contents of pages full of crossed-out or covered-up text, showing how Camden self-edited his version of history to curry favor with James VI and I—the king who reigned after Elizabeth I. He even included a fabricated bit about how the late queen had declared James her heir before dying.
59. In 2023, we found out what an original Bob Ross painting will cost you.
And it’s not cheap. Most of Ross’s paintings are owned by Bob Ross, Inc., but this one was donated by the artist, who hosted The Joy of Painting on PBS from 1983 to 1994, to the Virginia-based PBS studio where that particular episode had been filmed. A studio volunteer picked up the painting for $100 max at auction and held on to it before selling it to a gallery that sells a lot of Ross paintings. They were asking $9.8 million for it.
60. Beethoven’s hair provided insights into his health.
No one is totally sure what killed composer Ludwig Van Beethoven at age 56 in 1827, but a new analysis of his hair has provided some answers. A total of around 10 feet of his hair was examined using DNA testing. Researchers found that Beethoven had a genetic predisposition to liver disease and also suffered from hepatitis B. Scientists were also able to determine that he didn’t suffer from lactose intolerance or a gluten allergy despite having stomach ailments. While the cause of death remains ambiguous, it’s pretty amazing what we can learn from his locks nearly 200 years later.
61. A new national monument was designated.
In 2023, President Joe Biden created the Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni – Ancestral Footprints of the Grand Canyon National Monument in Arizona, which consists of 917,618 acres spread out over three locations around the Grand Canyon that contain sites important to Indigenous tribes in the area, including the Havasupai and the Hopi. The phrase Baaj Nwaavjo translates to “where Indigenous peoples roam” and i’tah kukveni means “our ancestral footprints” in Havasupai and Hopi, respectively. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland said that the new monument “makes clear that Native American history is American history. This land is sacred to the many Tribal Nations who have long advocated for its protection, and establishing a national monument demonstrates the importance of recognizing the original stewards of our public lands.”
62. A proclamation was signed assuring Emmett Till will be receiving national recognition.
The horrific 1955 murder of the 14-year-old shocked communities across the country, and was a major event in the Civil Rights Movement. Now, he and his mother will be recognized at three sites across Mississippi and Illinois as the Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley National Monument.
63. Part-human kidneys were grown in pigs.
In 2023, scientists in China grew part-human kidneys in pig embryos. To do it, the scientists switched off the cells that would have made the pig embryos develop their own kidneys, then added modified human stem cells to nearly 200 embryos, which were then implanted into pigs. When they checked in 28 days later, five of the embryos had grown kidneys composed of up to 65 percent human cells. Getting to this point took five years, and there’s still a long way to go—it’s believed that any kidney that would potentially be implanted into a human could not contain any pig cells at all because the organ would then be rejected by the body. And there are plenty of ethical issues, too.
64. That’s not the only research that took place on the pig/kidney front in 2023.
On July 14, 2023, surgeons at NYU Langone Health performed a xenotransplant, taking a genetically modified kidney from a pig and transplanting it into a man on a ventilator who had been declared braindead. On August 16—32 days later—the kidney was still working, and the study continued until mid-September 2023. This could have huge implications: According to a press release, there are more than 100,000 people in the U.S. on the transplant list. Dr. Robert Montgomery, chair of the Department of Surgery and director of the NYU Langone Transplant Institute, who performed the surgery, said that “There are simply not enough organs available for everyone who needs one …. Too many people are dying because of the lack of available organs, and I strongly believe xenotransplantation is a viable way to change that.”
65. Scientists were able to successfully build new technology that allowed a paralyzed man to walk again.
The team built a “digital bridge” between the brain and the spinal cord that reestablished the broken communication between the two. The man is now able to walk, climb stairs, and even “traverse complex terrains,” in the words of the researchers.
66. The world’s tallest poison ivy plant was found in Canada.
Paris, Ontario, resident Robert Fedrock was out for a walk on his property when he spotted a towering poison ivy plant that ultimately measured a whopping 68 feet—as tall as two school buses stacked end to end. In June 2023, Guinness World Records named it the world’s tallest poison ivy plant. Fedrock got a case of poison ivy during his investigation, but presumably, it was worth it.
67. Sesame Street debuted the first Filipino American muppet in 2023.
TJ is a spirited 4-year-old boy who loves basketball, dancing, and making his baby sister laugh. He’s also learning Tagalog with his grandmother’s help. His family moved to Sesame Street from California.
68. Super Nintendo World opened in Universal Studios Hollywood.
The theme park opened in February. Highlights include dining at Toadstool Cafe, riding in an augmented reality Mario Kart course, and playing challenges to win coins, like Mario Party without the danger of ending friendships. Maybe.
69. The original voice of Mario retired …
The Super Mario Bros. Movie came out in April 2023 with Chris Pratt as the title character. Charles Martinet, the original voice actor for Mario, made a cameo appearance. However, in August, Martinet announced that he would be retiring from voicing the beloved red plumber.
70. … but took on a special new role.
But Nintendo announced that Martinet would be granted the unique, official title of “Mario Ambassador.” His responsibilities are “traveling around the world sharing the joy of the Mario family and being able to continue meeting with all of you wonderful fans who I absolutely cherish the most.”
71. We found out the best time to go to the bathroom on an airplane …
If you get nervous about going to the bathroom on long flights—with the horror of walking down the cramped aisle and finding the tiny toilet occupied, then forced to stand there awkwardly as flight attendants squeeze by you—we have good news. In 2023, a former flight attendant gave her advice for the ideal times to plan your bathroom trip with no competition. She recommends going right when the pilot turns the seatbelt sign off, or, right before the beverage service starts. According to her, you’ll be in the clear.
72. … And how to avoid awkward odors.
Her second piece of advice? Ask the flight attendants for a packet of coffee grounds. If you hang them up in the bathroom, they will soak up any uncomfortable smells.
73. Research published in 2023 suggests that our brains may perceive silence and sound the same way.
For the study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers adapted common auditory illusions to test how people reacted to stretches of silence. The quiet illusions had the same effect as the noisy ones, which could mean the brain processes a lack of noise as if it were sound.
74. Disposable diapers were used as a building material.
Researchers in Japan have discovered the benefits of using disposable diapers in the construction of concrete houses. Apparently shredded diapers can replace a large chunk of the sand used in concrete construction without reducing its strength. This actually has great implications for the environment, including reducing the waste of non-recyclable diapers and hopefully cutting down on the carbon emissions from concrete construction.
75. A recipe for space yeast was nearly perfected.
In an attempt to solve the problem of supplying food for long-term space missions, it was found that the secret ingredient for making yeast while in space is … astronaut breath. “Astronaut breath, water, yeast starter, electricity, a rolling pin and we can make it happen,” Stafford Sheehan, a finalist in the NASA-sponsored Deep Space Food Challenge, told NPR. The challenge’s goals were “create novel and game-changing food technologies or systems that require minimal inputs and maximize safe, nutritious, and palatable food outputs for long-duration space missions, and which have potential to benefit people on Earth,” according to its website.
76. We found out what seismic activity sounds like.
A scientist and a musician teamed up to create music out of Yellowstone’s seismic data, and now you can listen to it. The scientist, Domenico Vicinanza, is a particle physicist who developed a computer program that takes the data from seismic activity generated by the supervolcano and turns it into sheet music, and flutist and musicologist Alyssa Schwartz plays that music.
77. Ötzi the Iceman may have been bald.
Ötzi, a roughly 5300-year-old mummy found in the Ötztal Alps in 1991, may have had more in common with many of today’s middle-aged men than we thought. Researchers recently resequenced the ancient man’s genome and discovered that he carried gene variations for male-pattern baldness. That doesn’t prove that Ötzi actually went bald during his lifetime, but there is some compelling evidence to support the theory: Although his remains were in remarkably good condition when unearthed, there was barely any hair on his head.
78. The face of a passenger who died on the Vasa was reconstructed.
The Swedish warship Vasa would have been one of the most beautifully constructed and powerful royal vessels in history—if it hadn’t sunk before it even left Stockholm Harbor in 1628. About 30 people died in the disaster. But just as the Vasa was raised from the water to become a popular tourist attraction, the face of one of its victims has been recreated by artist Oscar Nilsson. DNA was sequenced from bones recovered from the shipwreck to find clues to the person’s appearance. The facial reconstruction reveals a pale-skinned woman with blue eyes, blonde hair, and a strong jaw. The Vasa museum team nicknamed her Gertrud.
79. In 2023, scientists found what may be evidence of ancient cannibalism.
A 1.45 million-year-old shin bone of a Homo sapiens relative unearthed in northern Kenya had nine cut marks on it that were confirmed to be from a handmade, stone tool. “The information we have tells us that hominins were likely eating other hominins at least 1.45 million years ago,” paleoanthropologist Briana Pobiner said. “There are numerous other examples of species from the human evolutionary tree consuming each other for nutrition, but this fossil suggests that our species’ relatives were eating each other to survive further into the past than we recognized.” According to a press release about the discovery, the cuts alone aren’t enough to unequivocally declare this a case of cannibalism, but the researchers do think that’s the most likely explanation.
Also, it might not technically be cannibalism at all because, as the press release notes, “cannibalism requires that the eater and the eaten hail from the same species” and because the scientists can’t determine which species of hominin this shin bone belongs to, “it is also possible this was a case of one species chowing down on its evolutionary cousin.”
80. A 50-year-old shipwreck was discovered in April 2023 ...
In October 1973, Blythe Star—a coastal freighter en route to King Island from Hobart, Australia—began taking on water. The crew of 10 abandoned ship and spent more than a week adrift in an inflatable raft before the survivors landed on the Forestier Peninsula in Tasmania. Three of the men wandered around in the jungle until they came across a person who was able to take them to a nearby town. Seven of the crewmembers survived the ordeal, but the Blythe Star was lost without a trace until researchers studying underwater landslides confirmed the location of the wreck off the coast of southwest Tasmania in April 2023.
81. … And a much older wreck was found in July.
Just a couple months later, in July, researchers found an Ancient Roman shipwreck near the port of Civitavecchia. The wreck dates back to the 1st or 2nd century BCE and its cargo hold is full of hundreds of sealed amphore. The researchers think the ship might have originated in Spain, in which case those amphore may be full of things like olive and figs. They’re currently making plans to conduct more research.
82. Archaeologists discovered the “Stonehenge of the Netherlands.”
In June 2023, Dutch archaeologists announced that, over five years of digging in a town called Tiel, they’d discovered what they dubbed “Stonehenge of the Netherlands”: a religious site created 4000 years ago that included three burial mounds, the largest of which measured 65 feet in diameter and served as a burial mound-slash-solar calendar. They also found a single glass bead in one of the graves, which is a big deal—glass wasn’t made there at the time, and further analysis showed that the bead had come all the way from Mesopotamia. According to University of Groningen professor Stijn Arnoldussen, “Things were already being exchanged in those times. The bead may have been above ground for hundreds of years before it reached Tiel.”
83. We may have found the oldest known phallic object.
We’ve known that the ancient Romans wore phallic objects for good luck, but in 2023 we may have discovered the oldest known phallic object. A 42,000 year old vaguely penis-shaped object was dug up in Mongolia back in 2016, but scientists finally examined it closely in 2023 and noticed specific carvings and grooves that convinced some that it’s supposed to represent a phallus. Others think it’s more of a blob.
84. The grave of one of Maryland’s earliest colonists was opened.
In 2023, archaeologists working in Historic St. Mary’s City, Maryland, opened the grave of one of the first Europeans to colonize the future state: a 5-foot-tall boy, probably around 15 years old, with a broken leg. He may have come on the Ark or the Dove, which came to the future Maryland in 1634. Finding the remains was a pretty big deal, according to Travis Parno, director of research and collections, who told The Washington Post that “This is someone who was here in the first years of the settlement, the vanguard of the Colonial invasion … Someone nobody wrote about. It’s a period that we have such little documentation on.”
85. We found out some disturbing information about ticks.
Few creepy-crawlies can terrorize people as much as the humble tick, the tiny parasite that can transmit Lyme disease to humans. They can’t jump or fly, so we thought that they were very limited in how they could find prey. But a new study published in Current Biology in July demonstrated that ticks can travel through the air via static electricity, meaning they can latch on without needing to crawl on us first. They can clear under an inch, which for a tick is like several flights of stairs for a human.
86. Humans aren’t the only animals that like to get dizzy.
You probably spent time as a kid whirling around and around until you’re too dizzy to walk. Turns out humans aren’t the only ones to chase that head-spinning feeling. Great apes, such as chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans, also enjoy a good dizzy spell. It’s thought they could be chasing the high of an altered mental state.
87. Some species of jellyfish can learn.
A sign of intelligence in animals is being able to learn from past experiences and change behavior. Generally, this requires a brain. Jellyfish with no central brain would seemingly not have this skill, but in 2023, it was discovered that they do, in fact, learn and adapt from past experiences. Caribbean box jellyfish have figured out how to avoid obstacles. Sounds like an iPhone app in the making.
88. Gators who live near golf courses are at a disadvantage.
If you think that alligators who live in and around golf courses are the upper crust of gators, you’re sorely mistaken. A 2023 study from the University of North Florida found that alligators who live on golf courses have very different eating habits than those in natural environments, which can negatively affect them. In addition to the main result, which was that the golf course juvenile gators were eating more insects and arachnids, the gators living near golf courses were found to have ingested things like canned corn and a cheeseburger with fries. All of that, while tasty, is probably not great for gator health. Not to mention, the alligators living near golf courses are likely exposed to way more man-made chemicals.
89. AI had a big year.
ChatGPT—which stands for Generative Pre-trained Transformers, by the way—was technically launched in November 2022, but it really took off in 2023. It also accelerated the development of other large language model-based (LLM) AI tools, such as Google’s Bard, Baidu’s Ernie Bot, and Meta’s LLaMA. Whether or not it will replace all workers someday is still up for debate.
90. Researchers made progress in being able to translate brain signals into audible speech.
Using implants and AI, they were able to predict individual words a person was thinking and wanting to say with near-perfect accuracy. In the future, they hope to be able to predict full sentences and beyond.
91. A new innovation allows AI programs (like those used in robotics, not LLMs) to see in the dark.
HADAR, or heat-assisted detection and ranging, will allow machines to see even in pitch black conditions. So next time you’re playing hide and seek with a robot, just know that they might be cheating.
92. In 2023 it was found that the Earth tilted 31.5 inches to the east between 1993 and 2010.
Scientists believe the change in tilt was caused by pumping groundwater from the soil. “Earth’s rotational pole actually changes a lot,” Ki-Weon Seo, a geophysicist at Seoul National University and study lead, said in a statement. “Our study shows that among climate-related causes, the redistribution of groundwater actually has the largest impact on the drift of the rotational pole.”
93. Scientists discovered a very specific method of writing with ink in liquid.
It involves a nearly microscopic bead that manipulates pH levels in order to successfully write or draw in a liquid bath. Scientists really are just doing whatever they want, huh?
94. We found out that participating in genetic studies is a genetic quality.
According to scientists at Oxford’s Big Data institute, it turns out that being inclined to participate in genetic studies is a genetic quality. This inclination leaves “visible” footprints on the brain which can be passed down, leading to generations of people who are genetically more likely to participate in genetic studies.
95. The island nation in the best position for survival during a nuclear winter is New Zealand.
Per a recent study, it’s one of just a few island nations that could continue to produce enough food to feed its residents while the sun is blotted out and temperatures creep lower due to nuclear fallout. Honey, we’re moving to Oceania.
96. We now know more about Vlad the Impaler’s health.
Vlad III, a.k.a. Vlad the Impaler, is often cited as the real-life inspiration for Dracula. New research into Vlad’s letters have revealed what health conditions might have led to his vampire-esque manner, and they did it not by reading the letters but by using special chemicals to isolate proteins and peptides from Vlad’s skin and blood. Analyzing those proteins revealed that he could have been suffering from respiratory conditions and may have had haemolacria, which can make you cry literal tears of blood.
97. Rats were tickled for science in 2023.
While animal testing often comes off as a pretty unethical practice, one 2023 study showed that it doesn’t always have to be. In order to study the part of the brain responsible for laughter and playfulness, scientists went to rats and tickled them. According to Dr. Michael Brecht, professor of systems neurobiology and neural computation at Berlin’s Humboldt University, “Rats really love to be tickled.”
98. United Airlines is adding Braille signs to their planes.
United Airlines announced plans to be the first U.S. airline to offer Braille signs in their planes. This will hopefully help visually-impaired travelers find their seats much easier.
99. An unusual world record was set in Georgia in 2023.
The record for the World’s Largest Skeletal Chicken is held by Fitzgerald, Georgia. The huge metal chicken topiary stands 62 feet tall.
100. Scientists discovered that our elbows and shoulders might have developed as climbing tools for early apes.
Research into the climbing habits of different primates shows that chimpanzees with similar rounded shoulder joints and shortened elbow bones as us were able to climb down without, you know, falling to death. They climb downwards like a human descends a ladder, with their arm able to fully extend above their head. So now every time you bang your funny bone, you can thank your ape ancestors.
This story was adapted from an episode of The List Show on YouTube. Make sure to subscribe to Mental Floss on YouTube for new videos every week.