100 Things We Learned in 2022
There’s no better way to wrap up 2022 than by sharing a whopping 100 things team Mental Floss learned this year, from interesting AI developments to unintentional art heists—and, of course, the results of the 2022 Kids’ Mullet Championships.
1. Bees are legally fish in California.
Did you know that bees are now legally classified as fish in California? Conservationists appealed for this classification as a creative new way to save the Golden State's bees.
Basically, the California Endangered Species Act protects endangered or rare birds, mammals, fish, amphibians, and reptiles—not insects. But elsewhere, California law defined fish as “wild fish, mollusks, crustaceans, invertebrates, or amphibians.” Since all insects are invertebrates, it seems that they should be classified as fish in the code, too.
The logic might not pass scientific muster, but in May 2022, an appeals court ruled that insects are indeed fish in the eyes of California law. The decision has paved the way for bees and other at-risk insects to gain access to protections they wouldn’t otherwise qualify for.
2. There's a new largest freshwater fish in town.
This year, we discovered the world’s largest freshwater fish. And no, it wasn’t a massive bee. The Mekong River is home to some of the world's biggest freshwater fish species, and in June, a new specimen took the crown as the biggest around. Fishermen in Cambodia came upon an enormous freshwater stingray and quickly alerted biologists, who rushed to a small island in the river to examine it. The pancake-shaped fish measured 13 feet long, including its venomous barbed tail, and weighed 661 pounds. It surpassed the former record holder, a Mekong catfish weighing 646 pounds. After being measured, the jumbo fish was safely released.
3. Octopuses are using our trash for shelter.
Meanwhile, in the oceans, we discovered that octopuses are making the best of a bad situation. A study published this year shows evidence of the cephalopods using cans, bottles, and other undersea litter as makeshift shelters. They’ve also been observed laying eggs in human-made containers and donning the garbage as armor when shuffling across the seafloor. They may be fine sleeping in trash, but even octopuses have standards. The study found that they prefer intact containers to broken ones. And in case it wasn’t clear, this is not an endorsement of throwing garbage in the ocean. I’m sure octopuses would agree.
4. Crustaceans hold the key to a renewable battery component.
When you think about renewable energy, your mind might go to wind or solar. But maybe it should instead land in a dumpster outside a Red Lobster. In a 2022 issue of the journal Matter, we learned about a team that created a key battery component out of chitosan, a derivative of chitin, which can be readily found in the exoskeletons of crustaceans. The chitosan serves as an electrolyte in the battery, which transports positively charged ions between the anode and cathode. Other battery electrolytes take far longer to break down than the biodegradable chitosan.
5. Scientists documented the first evidence of orcas killing a blue whale.
Orcas have long been known to stalk blue whales, and this year scientists proved that some of those hunts are successful. A study published in January described a pod of 12 to 14 orcas off Australia’s west coast attacking and eventually killing an adult blue whale in 2019. Yes, even an animal twice as large as the largest killer whale couldn’t fend off the organized predators. So, maybe it's no surprise that killer whales are also known to scare off great whites, and even, on occasion, to hunt and kill them.
6. Dolphins taste pee to identify friends.
When greeting friends, humans hug or shake hands, dogs sniff each other’s butts, and dolphins … sip each other’s pee. In May 2022, researchers at the University of St. Andrews published a study in Science Advances explaining that dolphins use urine to determine if their friends are around. The captive animals in the study would spend three times as long taste-testing the pee their friends had left behind as opposed to urine from stranger dolphins. How did researchers glean such insights? Well, to start, as the study explains, “Dolphins were trained to voluntarily provide urine.”
7. Protein-rich human urine is polluting the environment.
Human urine is a different story. It turns out our relentless pursuit of gainz may be hurting the environment. Thanks in part to fitness fanaticism, Americans consume a lot of excess protein—which then winds up in urine in the form of the nitrogen-rich compound known as urea. According to an international team of researchers, all that nitrogen is winding up in wastewater, and then in our waterways where, according to the paper, it “can have negative environmental consequences, such as eutrophication, toxic algal blooms, and hypoxic dead zones, and result in unsafe drinking water supplies.” Experts believe we should try not to overdo it on the protein in order to be both health- and environmentally-conscious.
8. AI can predict (almost) every protein structure.
Speaking of protein, a Google-owned AI company recently announced that an AI tool called AlphaFold could predict the structure of almost every known protein. That’s over 200 million varieties in total. A protein’s structure is important for its function in cells, and scientists often use this information to develop drugs that target proteins’ actions. Until now, it would usually take scientists several weeks and a big bucket of money to figure out the structures of just one organism’s proteins. While not perfect, with AlphaFold’s open-access database, as one researcher remarked at the announcement’s press briefing, “we can just download all the models.”
9. An AI-generated image won an art competition.
AI isn't just good at science—it’s good at art, too. Good enough to win an art competition, at least. Jason M. Allen created his digital painting titled “Théâtre D’opéra Spatial” using Midjourney, an artificial intelligence program that interprets text as imagery. The piece placed first in the Colorado State Fair’s contest for emerging digital artists, which stirred up controversy in the art world. As one non-AI-enthusiast noted, the artificial intelligence Allen used “ … explicitly trained on current working artists,” leading some to view it as a form of indirect plagiarism. In response to accusations of cheating, Allen told The New York Times, “I’m not going to apologize for it [...] I won, and I didn’t break any rules.” We assume the AI program wasn’t available for comment.
10. The Mona Lisa got to eat some cake (sort of).
Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa might be the best-known human-made artwork of all time, which for some means it’s the most deserving of having cake thrown on it. In May, a man dressed as an elderly woman arrived at the Louvre. He entered in a wheelchair and then tried to smash the bulletproof glass covering the painting. When that didn’t work, he smeared cake all over the glass and urged bystanders to think of the Earth. It was vandalism with a message, though it wasn't totally clear what that message had to do with Leonardo da Vinci’s work.
Fortunately, the Mona Lisa was undamaged, and is still sitting there, not smiling (if you thought she had a grin, maybe watch our episode of The List Show about the Mandela Effect and the tricks memory can play).
11. Looted art worth over $13 million was seized from the Met.
Meanwhile, in Manhattan, investigators were seizing looted cultural artifacts from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Valued at more than $13 million total, the 27 artifacts, including a $400,000 statue of a Greek goddess and a $1.2 million drinking cup, were confiscated under three search warrants in February, May, and July. This wasn’t the first time the Met had displayed stolen artifacts. In 2017, the Met purchased a stolen golden-sheathed Egyptian coffin from the same illegitimate exporters they bought some of the 27 looted artifacts from. The stolen items were returned to their countries of origin in September.
12. New York museums must now disclose which artworks were stolen by Nazis.
New Yorkers took another measure to address stolen art this year. Thanks to a new law signed by Governor Kathy Hochul, the state will require museums to disclose when they know that a displayed artwork was looted during the Nazi era. The new law is intended to make it easier for those who rightfully owned the art to have it returned to them. New York museums will now have signage on affected items that show their status as stolen works.
13. The Musée Picasso experienced an accidental burglary.
For an exhibition at Paris’s Musée Picasso, artist Oriol Vilanova hung a royal blue jacket on the wall and filled its pockets with postcards of Picasso’s works. The idea was for museum visitors to interact with the installation: thumbing through the postcards and even removing the jacket from its hook if they liked.
But one 72-year-old woman didn’t realize the jacket was a piece of art. So she took it home and had it shortened by nearly a foot to better fit her. The unwitting criminal eventually returned to the art show and luckily got off with a warning. A good rule of thumb to avoid finding yourself in a similar situation? Don’t steal people’s jackets.
14. Original pieces of Notre-Dame Cathedral were unearthed during renovations.
This year, the French agency responsible for rebuilding Notre-Dame after its devastating fire announced it had found a treasure trove of items underneath the cathedral’s floor. Archaeologists discovered some missing sections of a 13th-century wooden screen that had once separated Notre-Dame’s choir from the public; other parts of the screen found in the 19th century are now in the Louvre. Workers also unearthed graves of apparently high-ranking people. Scientists threaded a camera into an almost completely intact, human-shaped lead coffin and revealed the body inside, with the head seeming to lay on a pillow of some kind. The restorations on the iconic cathedral continue for a potential reopening date in 2024.
15. The shipwreck of the HMS Gloucester was found after more than 300 years.
This year, it was announced that the shipwreck of the HMS Gloucester, which sank off the coast of Norfolk in 1682, had finally been found. It had actually been spotted back in 2007, but it took some time to verify and secure the wreck.
The sinking of the Gloucester was a pretty significant event back in 17th-century England. The future King James II was on board and barely escaped with his life. He’s probably also at least partly to blame for mandating the course that caused the vessel to crash into sandbanks, leading to the deaths of more than a hundred people. His political enemies used the disaster to drum up opposition to his rule—you know, “If he can’t steer a ship, how can he steer a country?!” It wasn’t enough to keep him off the throne, though he didn’t last too much longer. He reigned for three years before getting deposed.
16. Ernest Shackleton’s famed Endurance wreck was also found.
When polar explorer Ernest Shackleton’s ship, Endurance, was crushed by sea ice and sank in Antarctica in 1915, he and his crew managed to escape to some ice and then an uninhabited island. With rescue unlikely, Shackleton and a small outfit then sailed across 800 miles of dangerous ocean in a rowboat, hiked across a previously unmapped glacier, and returned to save his men. It’s one of the most heroic and well-known survival stories from the golden age of polar exploration, but one mystery remained: Where exactly was the Endurance?
In March, a British team using remotely-operated underwater vehicles discovered the ship’s final resting place on the Antarctic seabed, about 10,000 feet below the icy surface. The Endurance was upright and in amazing condition—even the ship’s name was clearly visible on the stern. The shipwreck will remain undisturbed, but the discovery team is planning “educational materials and museum exhibits” about the find.
17. Receding rivers revealed prehistoric stone circles and Nazi warships.
Europe’s severe drought this past summer revealed long-lost artifacts of its history. The water level in a section of the Danube in Serbia got so low that it exposed the wrecks of Nazi warships that had sunk in 1944, still full of unexploded bombs and ammunition. Parts of a bridge thought to be built for the emperor Nero emerged from the Tiber River in Rome. In Spain, the remains of a town intentionally flooded for a reservoir in 1963 rose out of the water virtually intact, while the Dolmen of Guadalperal, a prehistoric stone circle dubbed the “Spanish Stonehenge,” was revealed by another receding reservoir.
18. New evidence supports the belief that ancient Romans used chamber pots.
When researchers tested a hard crust built up inside a 1500-year-old ceramic pot unearthed in Sicily, they found eggs of whipworm—an intestinal parasite. In other words, an ancient Roman likely deposited the eggs along with other waste in the purported port-a-potty. As minerals from other fecal matter and urine accumulated and solidified over time, the eggs got sealed in.
19. New York City did not lose its last pay phone.
May 23, 2022, was supposedly the end of an era for New York City. On that day there was a ceremony for the removal of the city’s last remaining pay phone. City officials were there, artifacts were marked to be sent off to museums (where, with any luck, they could get cake thrown on them)—it was a whole thing.
Except, as The Payphone Project put it, this event was a “fake news lie canard spectacle.” And they said you couldn’t use four consecutive nouns to describe a pay phone-related ceremony.
There are a number of reasons that the celebrated pay phone wasn’t the last one in town: there are still private pay phones as well as four phone booths and possibly some other phones that officials just missed. So if your phone runs out of charge, and you’re in the right place, you can still make a call. Provided you can find change.
20. Some of the world’s earliest recordings were heard again for the first time in a century.
Before streaming and even before records, wax cylinders were the preferred method for recording music or voices. Because they’re so fragile, surviving cylinders don’t usually get played. But in April, the New York Public Library got a machine that could safely handle them. It’s called the Endpoint Cylinder and Dictabelt Machine and it allowed the library to play cylinders from its collection, including some unlabeled recordings found in a box in 2016. The cylinders are now being digitized so future generations can hear what was happening in the world way back when.
21. Apple retired the iPod touch.
Speaking of sounds from way back when, the era of the iPod officially came to an end in May, when Apple announced that it was discontinuing the iPod touch. They were still making those?
22. Elton John's "Your Song" is the best classic rock song to fall asleep to.
Some classic rock songs help you rock and roll all night. Others will rock you … right to sleep. Topping the latter list is “Your Song” by Elton John. The data comes from a study by UK sleep guide website Mornings, which used classic lullabies to create a “sleep song scale” that factored in metrics like tempo and time signature. Other classic rock songs that scored high include Led Zeppelin’s “Going to California” and Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here.”
23. A tablecloth covered in The Beatles’ “acid-inspired” doodles was auctioned off.
The Beatles left behind a mess in their makeshift dressing room before their final paid concert on August 29, 1966. During their pre-show meal, they splattered their tablecloth with food and marked it up with doodles and signatures. The 56-year-old linen features “acid-inspired“ sketches from John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, George Harrison, and Joan Baez, who had joined the Fab Four for dinner that night. Starr’s autograph is visible in black ink and Harrison’s appears in red. McCartney’s signature is missing, but there is an inscription reading “did not lay a hand on this table“ with an arrow beneath the name Paul McCartney pointing at it.
The colorful piece of memorabilia went to auction in October of this year, where it sold for almost $89,000.
24. Lizzo played James Madison’s crystal flute.
In 2022, we found out both that James Madison had a crystal flute and what that flute sounded like, thanks to Lizzo and Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden, who helped arrange the unusual opportunity. The pop star played a few notes on the instrument at her September 27, 2022 concert in Washington, D.C.
The instrument was made by clockmaker Claude Laurent and given to Madison in 1813 to commemorate his second inauguration. In addition to being incredibly rare, the flute also has a wild history: It was said to have been presented to Madison by the Marquis de Lafayette (though this is likely a myth) and may have been one of the things Dolley Madison grabbed on her way out of the White House after the British set it on fire in 1814. The instrument eventually ended up in the hands of Madison's stepson, who gave it to a doctor in his will, likely to settle his debts. Lizzo likened playing the instrument to “playing out of a wine glass” and noted later that it was “so hard to play.” For a 200-year-old instrument, it sounded great.
25. Mariah Carey tried to trademark the phrase Queen of Christmas.
Earlier this year, we found out that Mariah Carey’s legal team submitted a trademark request for the phrase Queen of Christmas that would cover its use in everything from dog clothing to cocktail shakers. The motion didn’t sit well with two other longtime Queens of Christmas. One is Darlene Love, who earned the title during her decades-long tradition of performing her signature song “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” on David Letterman’s late-night show. The other is full-time holiday singer Elizabeth Chan, who filed a formal declaration of opposition with the trademark appeals board. In November, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board ruled against Carey, meaning the Queen of Christmas title is up for grabs!
26. There’s a millipede named after Taylor Swift.
Entomologist Derek Hennen earned the honor of naming a newly discovered millipede after being the first to spot it in Tennessee’s Fall Creek Falls State Park. So he settled on Nannaria swiftae. Nannaria is the genus of “twisted-claw millipedes.” Swiftae, meanwhile, is a nod to none other than Taylor Swift—one of Hennen’s favorite musicians. Gives a new meaning to the song “Shake It Off.”
27. High school students discovered two new scorpion species.
This year, two California high school students used the community science platform iNaturalist to discover two new scorpion species with the help of Dr. Lauren Esposito. They named one Paruroctonus conclusus—from the Latin word for “confined,” since the creature occupies a pretty small region. The other is Paruroctonus soda—not a nod to the soft drink, sadly, but to the scorpion's habitat: California's Soda Lake.
28. Twitter suggested names for a hypothetical Uranus mission.
Uranus has long been the butt of planetary jokes. In September, the Twitter account Ice Giant Missions—which is not affiliated with NASA—asked the public to come up with a name for a hoped-for mission to the planet. Such a mission is a priority for NASA in the coming decades, which currently refers to the project with the name Uranus Orbiter and Probe. But many Twitter users avoided low-hanging fruit and came up with some wholesome ideas to label the hypothetical mission: Caroline, after astronomer Caroline Herschel; Ymir, a frost giant of Norse mythology; Olympus, home of the Greek gods; and even Tenzing Norgay, after one of the first two mountaineers to summit Mount Everest.
29. Scientists have a new theory about Saturn’s rings.
Saturn has long intrigued astronomers, largely for two interesting features. One: its mysterious, beautiful rings; and two, its very noticeable 26.7 degree tilt. This year, a team of scientists came up with a theory that might explain both. They believe that, approximately 160 million years ago, one of Saturn's moons became unstable and moved too close to Saturn, tearing it apart. This sudden change in gravity might have pulled Saturn from Neptune's gravitational grasp, leading to the tilt. And the broken-up moon, which they have poetically dubbed Chrysalis, would then have provided the icy debris that make up Saturn's rings. We should note, this idea is very much in the “potentially interesting” stage rather than an established fact, but it is pretty cool.
30. NASA started analyzing moon samples from 50 years ago.
This year, NASA finally got around to analyzing samples collected from the moon 50 years ago. NASA had decided to keep these moon rocks sealed until improved scientific techniques were available to them. Ahead of the agency’s planned return to the moon later this decade, it decided to open them up. By studying the samples, NASA hopes to optimize its protocol for retrieving similar materials on future missions. If the Artemis program stays on schedule, the U.S. could land astronauts on the moon in 2025—which would mark NASA’s first crewed lunar mission since 1972’s Apollo 17, when the old space rocks were originally brought to Earth.
31. The James Webb Space Telescope snapped the deepest photos of the universe.
Move over, Hubble—there’s a new telescope in town. In July, NASA unveiled the first spectacular images from its James Webb Space Telescope, currently in orbit about 1 million miles away from Earth. The spacecraft’s giant mirror can grab much more available light than Hubble’s, meaning it can see farther into deep space and thus further back in time—about 13 billion years back, in fact. Viewers who tuned into NASA’s live reveal of the telescope’s first images saw a galaxy cluster whose light has been traveling towards Earth since the Big Bang and a shot of the Carina Nebula with countless baby stars, among other mind-blowing sights.
32. An MIT study shows that we can generate oxygen on Mars.
While the Webb telescope looked into the past, researchers at MIT and their colleagues came up with a tool that could help foster our future on Mars. As reported in the journal Science Advances in August, the lunchbox-sized Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment, or MOXIE, has proven itself capable of producing oxygen on the Red Planet for more than a year. MOXIE pumped out O2 across seven experiments in different atmospheric and environmental conditions, showing that we can use materials from another planet to theoretically help sustain human life.
33. Scientists discovered a star graveyard.
This year, scientists revealed the first map of what they've dubbed the “galactic underworld.” Essentially, they have charted an area of the universe that is a graveyard for dead neutron stars and black holes that have been flung from our galaxy. The “underworld” stretches three times the height of the Milky Way.
34. NASA crashed a spacecraft into an asteroid—on purpose.
Speaking of things that sound like science fiction: NASA’s DART, which stands for Double Asteroid Redirection Test, completed its mission, which involved flying straight into an asteroid. The DART program is NASA’s attempt at protecting Earth from the possible threat of an asteroid impact. The craft is meant to push the celestial object the slightest amount off its path in order to avoid a direct collision with our beautiful blue marble. The mission proved to be a success in regards to aiming a spacecraft at a relatively small object flying through space and was shown to have changed the orbit. Scientists are now focusing on how to improve the technique, but fingers crossed we never have to use a DART-like project for real.
35. Nichelle Nichols’s ashes will be sent into deep space.
In July, we learned that Nichelle Nichols, who played Lieutenant Uhura on the original Star Trek, died at the age of 89. After her groundbreaking performance on the show, Nichols served as an ambassador for space exploration, encouraging women and people of color to get involved in STEM fields. And her association with space lives on. Her ashes will be taken aboard a Vulcan rocket and blasted into space.
36. Tom Hanks was in the running to play the next Doctor.
The sci-fi space TV show news doesn’t stop there. This year, we found out that Peter Capaldi, who played The Twelfth Doctor on Doctor Who, lobbied the show's producers to get Tom Hanks to make an appearance as a new incarnation of The Doctor. Hanks, unfortunately, said no—both because his schedule wouldn't allow for it, and because he thinks an American stepping into the lead of such an iconic British show would cause outrage.
37. The world’s oldest practicing doctor turned 100.
If you want the secret to a long life, ask a doctor. Not THE doctor, THIS doctor: Howard Tucker, MD. Dr. Tucker turned 100 this year, and he’s still practicing medicine as a neurologist in Cleveland, Ohio. Tucker, who’s a veteran of World War II and the Korean War, made it into the Guinness World Records last year, when he became the oldest practicing doctor just shy of his 99th birthday. He credits avoiding retirement for his longevity. If that doesn’t impress you, then consider Tucker also took the bar exam and passed it—at the age of 67.
38. Doctors in Canada can prescribe a national park pass to patients.
The old adage, “if exercise came in a pill, every doctor would prescribe it,” is a pretty good chestnut. But in Canada, doctors can come pretty close. Physicians and medical professionals in four provinces can prescribe annual passes to the country’s national parks as a means of alleviating conditions in patients that could benefit from some fresh air and relaxation. Best of all, the passes are free. Residents can, of course, go without a doctor’s approval, but it’ll cost about $72 Canadian, or around $55 U.S.
39. Walking at least 3800 steps each day may reduce your risk of dementia.
If you think walking is just an easy way to get to the market, think again. A study published in JAMA Neurology looked at over 78,000 people in the UK who had a walking regimen and then followed up with them for up to seven years. The result? Walking at least 3800 steps daily reduced the risk of dementia by 25 percent, while walking 9826 steps lowered risk by 50 percent. If you can’t do volume, aim for speed. Walking at 112 steps per minute at a brisk pace for 30 minutes cut the chances of dementia by 62 percent.
40. Neighborhood dog walks can lower crime rates.
A study out of The Ohio State University and the University of Texas at Austin found that neighborhoods with a lot of dog owners had lower incidences of crimes than burbs without. Why? One explanation focuses on the fact that dog owners go for walks, which can promote more community involvement. It’s not just the dog patrolling the area, but the dog owner that seems to be the deterrent.
41. The Bernese mountain dog is the worst breed to share a bed with.
As any dog owner knows, not all dogs are great bedtime buddies. Trying to sleep next to a larger four-legged friend is a lot less peaceful than curling up beside a mellow, pint-sized pup. This summer, the Secret Linen Store set out to find the absolute worst dog breed to share a bed with. They analyzed over 100 popular breeds and rated them based on how badly they shed, drooled, barked, and how much energy they have. According to their data, Bernese mountain dogs make the worst bedmates. They’re huge, loud, energetic, and famously shed a lot.
42. The best dog breed to share a bed with is much smaller.
If you’re curious, the same analysis concluded that the best breed to share a bed with is the Maltese.
43. Pebbles the chihuahua unseated TobyKeith as the oldest living dog.
Most dogs that earn a record for being the world’s oldest hold onto that title for the rest of their lives. That wasn’t the case with TobyKeith, a Floridian chihuahua named the oldest dog on Earth by the Guinness World Record committee in April 2022. At 21 years old, TobyKeith had lived well past the life expectancy for his breed. News of his achievement reached Bobby and Julie Gregory of South Carolina, the owners of an even older dog named Pebbles. After confirming the toy fox terrier's age of 22, Guinness rescinded the record from TobyKeith and named Pebbles the new world's oldest dog in May 2022. Sadly, Pebbles passed away in October, passing the title back to TobyKeith.
44. Cats use catnip as insect repellent.
If you give a cat some catnip, there’s a good chance they’ll start rolling around on the floor with their eyes wide. It can make them pretty high! But according to a study published in iScience in July, the high isn’t the only reason you’ll often see cats rubbing their faces in or chomping on the herb. Catnip contains molecules called iridoids that plants use to ward off insects. When a cat rolls around in and chews the plant, it releases a lot of its iridoids, essentially covering the kitties with natural insect repellent.
45. Mosquitoes are attracted to certain people.
Another study taught us a little more about why mosquitoes refuse to leave some people alone every summer. There are a lot of folk beliefs about why some people seem to get more mosquito bites than others, but scientists recently tried to put some hard science to the problem.
First off, the researchers found that the mosquito-magnet effect is very real—in the “mosquito thinks you’re delicious” beauty pageant, one person, Subject 33, was found to be over 100 times as attractive to the insects as the least attractive people in the dataset. This preference was stable for long periods of time. The scientists ultimately concluded that the attractive people produced more carboxylic acids, which they explain is then turned by skin bacteria into our body odor.
But why carboxylic acids? According to Scientific American, the researchers speculate the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes used in the study like preying on humans. We produce a lot of carboxylic acids compared to other animals, so the compounds might just be a giant bullseye telling mosquitoes they’ve found a human. If that you human is you, no one would blame you for digging into some catnip.
46. Smell has a considerable effect on social interaction.
Next time you go to a networking event, make sure to smell your armpit before you enter the room—not just as a last-minute deodorant check, but for a hint on whom you might connect with. A team from the Weizmann Institute of Science looked into the effect that smell has on forming social relationships and came away with two interesting takeaways: Both a so-called “electronic nose” and a team of very brave volunteers found that pairs of instant friends smell more alike than randomly-joined pairs; and the E-Nose data, when analyzed in a computational model, actually was able to predict, with roughly 70 precent accuracy, whether two randomly selected strangers would have a positive or negative social interaction.
47. Testosterone can turn some gerbils into “super partners.”
A fair amount of scientific literature is devoted to the role that testosterone plays in aggression, but this year we learned that the hormone can also encourage prosocial behavior, in the right context. A pair of neuroscientists from Emory University (a married couple who conceived of the study over a glass of wine) helped conduct an experiment on Mongolian gerbils—animals known to form lasting couples and even cuddle after the female becomes pregnant.
When they injected the males with testosterone, researchers expected that cuddling behavior to decrease, but it actually had the opposite effect, turning them into “super partners,” in the words of one of the co-authors. The elevated-testosterone gerbils were also more receptive to an “intruder” gerbil—until, that is, they were given another testosterone injection, at which point they became more aggressive. The researchers speculated that testosterone may play a role in facilitating quick changes in behavioral dispositions.
48. COVID-19 vaccines affected some people's menstrual cycles.
The COVID-19 vaccine actually was messing up some people’s periods, according to a study published in September. It confirmed the findings of an earlier study—and the experiences of many people who reported changes to their menstrual cycles on a popular period-tracking app. The new paper examined that data and found those who received one COVID-19 dose had a cycle that averaged about a day longer than usual. Those that got both vaccine shots within one menstrual cycle saw their cycles lengthen, in some cases by eight days or more. While researchers don’t know the reason, the paper’s authors said the changes didn’t affect fertility.
49. A new mathematical framework can predict how cells change over time.
This year we also learned more about the exciting possibilities unlocked when mathematics and biology join forces. A team of scientists created a machine-learning framework they call Dynamo to predict how cells change over time. By looking at the underlying genetic activity and developing equations to map that activity onto cell expression, Dynamo was able to make accurate predictions about future cell transitions. This could lead to insights around how stem cells develop and how blood cells differentiate. As one of the researchers said, “We want to be able to map how a cell changes in relation to the interplay of regulatory genes as accurately as an astronomer can chart a planet’s movement in relation to gravity, and then we want to understand and be able to control those changes.”
50. Some monkeys use tools for self-pleasure.
We’ve long known that humans aren’t the only primate—or other animal, for that matter—to use tools. But in 2022, we learned that some monkeys use tools for some not-safe-for-work purposes. According to a paper published in the journal Ethology in August of this year, scientists found that some macaques masturbate by rubbing or tapping stones around their genitals. People had noticed the macaques in Indonesia’s Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary would often gather stones for no clear reason. But after observing the macaques for the study, the researchers came up with their “sex toy hypothesis.”
51. There’s water hundreds of kilometers beneath Earth’s surface.
About 410 to 660 kilometers beneath Earth's surface is the transition zone, which separates the upper and lower mantles. It had long been theorized that water may be present in the area, and this year a very rare diamond from Botswana helped confirm it. The precious stone was formed in the transition zone, and it carried a few bits of mantle minerals along with it; those minerals contained water. As one of the study’s co-authors explained, the discovery “brings us one step closer to Jules Verne's idea of an ocean inside the Earth.” Not exactly an ocean you can swim in, though. More like a solid ocean of hydrous rock.
52. Plesiosaurs lived in freshwater, marking a win for Nessie believers.
Nessie believers rejoiced this year when a new study supported the long-standing theory that some species of plesiosaurs lived in freshwater as well as oceans. A team of researchers found evidence of several of the aquatic reptiles living in freshwater rivers before the species was wiped out. According to some believers in cryptozoology, the Loch Ness Monster is really a descendent of prehistoric plesiosaurs. The new research bolsters those claims, in a way, though it notably doesn’t explain how the creatures would have gotten into the Scottish lake, which is only about 10,000 years old.
53. The largest pterosaur of its era was discovered on Scotland’s Isle of Skye.
A study published this year detailed the discovery of the largest pterosaur of its era. Dearc sgiathanach, which translates to “winged reptile” or “reptile from Skye” in Scottish Gaelic, lived in the Middle Jurassic. Fossils found on Scotland’s Isle of Skye indicate a wingspan stretching 8 feet. Though it wasn’t as big as the giraffe-sized flying reptiles of the later Cretaceous period, it would have dominated the skies 170 million years ago.
54. Volcanic winters paved the way for T. rex.
It’s long been assumed that all Late Triassic dinosaurs lived in warm environments, but new research published this year counters that. An international team of scientists found that the separation of Pangea 201 million years ago could have triggered a volcanic winter. This may have wiped out large species lacking built-in insulation, such as giant crocodile-like animals, while allowing feathered dinosaurs to thrive. Millions of years later, with less competition from non-dinosaur reptiles, dinosaurs like Tyrannosaurus rex were able to dominate the Cretaceous period. So next time you giggle at a scientifically accurate depiction of T. rex, remember those feathers served a purpose.
55. Researchers claimed to discover the identity of Australia’s Somerton Man.
This year, DNA researchers broke new ground in a long-standing mystery. DNA from the Somerton Man, an unnamed figure whose body was found on an Australian beach in 1948, has been linked to a man named Carl Webb. Derek Abbott, an Australian professor of biomedical engineering, and Colleen Fitzpatrick, an American genetic genealogist, used biological remains obtained from the man’s death mask to make the identification. Carl Webb was born in 1905 in Victoria—the same Australian state the Somerton Man was suspected to be from—and he enjoyed writing and reading poetry, linking him to the page from the poetry book discovered in the Somerton Man’s pocket. The DNA evidence alone doesn't close the case, but it certainly brings researchers closer to cracking it.
56. Velveeta martinis exist.
Over the summer, Velveeta teamed up with BLT Restaurant Group to concoct the “Veltini.” It’s basically a dirty martini made with Velveeta-infused vodka and garnished with Velveeta shells and Velveeta-stuffed olives. The rim is also dripping in—you guessed it—Velveeta.
According to The Takeout’s Shaan Merchant, who tried the cocktail, it didn’t take long for the Velveeta’s fat and chemical components to separate within the vodka. This, he wrote, “[left] the drink with clumps made up mostly of cheese product fat residue, and other sections that were just sodium-citrate-infused martini.” Not exactly liquid gold.
57. Pumpkin spice Cup Noodles also exist … and they have fans.
We also learned about pumpkin spice Cup Noodles, which debuted in limited quantities last year. They were apparently so popular with consumers that they deserved a comeback. In a blog post acknowledging just how wild the combination of pumpkin spice and noodles is, Nissin Foods—which owns Cup Noodles—went a step further than even that, suggesting, "For the full pumpkin spice experience, top it with whipped cream for the quickest, tastiest and most outlandish pumpkin spice in-a-cup experience you never knew you needed!"
58. Friends’s Central Perk is about to become real.
If you’d rather get your pumpkin spice fix in the form of a latte than a cup of noodles, you might soon be able to sip one on the iconic orange couch from Friends. This year, Warner Bros. announced their plan to open a chain of Central Perk coffee houses modeled after the fictional café. In a statement, Warner announced that the locations will be “imbued with the same heart and soul as the iconic setting from the series … Central Perk Coffeehouse will be a place for fans (and friends) to slow down and come together over great coffee and eats.” They intend to open the first location sometime in 2023.
59. Chipotle has a chip-making robot.
This year, we met “Chippy,” a robot arm that Miso Robotics built to churn out Chipotle chips. As of late September, Chipotle planned to test it out at a location in Fountain Valley, California. And before you lament the loss of those super salty chips in the bag, you should know that Chippy is programmed to season them a little unevenly.
60. A Taco Bell fan-favorite made a limited-time comeback
In late September, Taco Bell called on all fans to help decide which discontinued dish to bring back to its menu: the Double Decker Taco, or the eventual winner, the famed enchilada-burrito hybrid, the Enchirito. It amassed 62 percent of some 760,000 total votes, apparently having made waves on Taco Bell’s menu from 1970 to 2013. Taco Bell locations across the country offered it in November.
61. Italy lost its last Domino’s.
In other chain-restaurant news, Domino’s closed its last Italian location at the end of July, after facing rejection in pizza's birthplace. Domino’s had opened 28 locations in Italy by early 2020, and it aimed to bring an additional 850 stores to the market by 2030. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, Domino’s was hurt by social distancing measures as well as competition from other restaurants that began offering delivery options for the first time. According to the company, increased competition in this space is what did them in—not Italy’s distaste for American pizza.
62. The Eiffel Tower grew 20 feet.
The Eiffel Tower had a bit of a growth spurt this year. On March 15, a 20-foot antenna was fastened to its tip, taking the tower’s total height from 1063 feet to 1083 feet. It’s still not the tallest structure in France: there’s a Navy transmitting station that tops out at 1170 feet. But the antenna wasn’t meant to help break any records. Instead, to quote the Eiffel Tower’s website, it was to “improve the quality of digital radio coverage for Paris and the Île-de-France region.”
63. The USA Mullet Championships announced winners for its kids and teen competitions ...
The USA Mullet Championships, an annual event that began in 2020, recently hosted its Kids and Teen divisions. In the former category, for ages 1 to 12, 8-year-old Emmitt Bailey of Menomonie, Wisconsin, grabbed first place.
64. ... And we know how the winner wants to use his earnings.
Fittingly, he wants to spend his prize money—a cool $2500—on a go-kart.
65. Scientists developed a mathematical model for hair detangling.
Those who plan to compete in the Mullet Championships in the future might be pleased to know that a team of scientists developed a mathematical model to analyze how two hairs—or, more specifically, in their words, two “helically entwined filaments”—can best be untangled. The work was inspired, in part, by Professor L. Mahadevan’s experience detangling his daughter’s hair. The researchers are not, sadly, working on creating a better brush, but they are interested in possibly developing robotic hairdressers. They also hope to apply their insights to other fields, like textile manufacturing.
66. Physicists found the best way to craft a paper airplane.
Other lessons from the world of math just required playing with paper airplanes. OK, that might be a slight oversimplification. But a team of physicists did analyze the elements of the ideal paper airplane in a study released this year. They found that the precise center of mass was a critical component in successful paper airplane design, which is why paperclips can be so helpful in creating a high-flyer.
67. Four-day school weeks took a hit.
And if we want more generations of mathematical discoveries, we learned that a four-day school week might not be the best route to get there. A study from Oregon State University showed that students on a four-school-day-per-week schedule fared worse on standardized math tests than students on a traditional five-school-day schedule. Associate Professor Paul Thompson, the lead author of the study, did point out that these learning losses were minimized in four-day schools that provided extra learning opportunities like extended school days and other enrichment opportunities. But the data supporting a five-day week may come as bad news to our country’s adolescent slackers.
68. The last Salem witch trial victim was finally exonerated.
The Salem witch trials happened between 1692 and ’93. And even though we now know that the accused weren’t witches, the last victim wasn’t officially declared innocent until this past July, thanks to a Massachusetts teacher and her eighth-grade civics students. She had learned about Elizabeth Johnson Jr. in 2019 and, with her class, later petitioned state legislators to declare the accused witch as innocent, once and for all.
69. A preteen Prince supported a teachers’ strike.
When Matt Liddy, a production manager for the Minneapolis TV station WCCO, was looking at video footage of the city’s 1970 teachers’ strike, he noticed a familiar face. It was Prince—yes, that Prince—at age 11. The future superstar, known to his friends as “Skipper,” was being interviewed about his opinions on the strike. Prince was all for it, explaining that teachers deserved better pay and education opportunities because they put in so many extra hours.
70. Amazon’s Alexa can now mimic the voice of any person.
Amazon’s Alexa technology has progressed to the point where it can now mimic the voice of any person, living or dead. Whether or not they’ll make this option available to people depends on whether anyone wants it.
71. Americans can’t understand Tom Hardy.
According to a survey from Preply, Americans have a tougher time understanding Tom Hardy than any other celebrity. The Venom star’s garbled delivery is pretty famous: Vulture even once made a highlight reel called “Tom Hardy Needs To Learn How to Enunciate.”
72. MoviePass is back.
MoviePass, the all-you-can-watch-for-a-flat-monthly-fee service—which at one point allowed subscribers to see one movie per day for a mere $10 a month—was founded in 2011 and went under in 2019. But in summer 2022, the service was resurrected, this time with tiered pricing plans that go towards credits for seeing movies. There’s still a lot we don't know about how this iteration of MoviePass will work, but no matter what happens, there's one thing we know for sure—“heartbreak feels good in a place like this.”
73. An Oregon Trail movie musical is in the works.
With this year’s release of Uncharted and a trailer for HBO’s upcoming miniseries The Last of Us, it seems that video game adaptations are experiencing a bit of a boom.
So maybe it’s not a massive surprise that The Oregon Trail—every ’80s and ’90s kid’s favorite educational game—is set to hit the silver screen at some point in the near future. And folks, it’s going to be an original movie musical. It’s set to be written by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, the songwriting pair best known for La La Land, The Greatest Showman, and Broadway’s Dear Evan Hansen.
74. The DeLorean came back from the future.
Few cars are as iconic as the DeLorean, the stainless-steel gull-wing model made by automaker John DeLorean in the early 1980s that later served as Doc Brown’s time machine in Back to the Future. Earlier this year, DeLorean rights holder Joost de Vries unveiled a new prototype DeLorean, this one electric. It can reach 88 miles per hour in just 4.35 seconds. But you might need Biff’s sports almanac to afford one. If it comes out in 2024 as scheduled, the rumored retail price is $175,000.
75. Three Texas friends visited all 50 U.S. states in record time.
Three people took America’s most epic road trip this year. Texas residents Peter, Pasha, and Abdullahi attempted to break the record for fastest time to visit all 50 states. The previous record was held by two YouTubers who did the trip in five days and roughly 16 hours. This ambitious trio? Five days, 13 hours. Record acquired.
76. Most Millennials live within 100 miles of their hometowns.
Boomers often joke that Millennials never move out of their parents’ houses. And while that may not be true, that generation isn’t exactly moving very far. According to researchers from the U.S. Census Bureau and Harvard University, 80 percent of young adults live within 100 miles of their hometown. Race and class were factors: White and Asian Millennials were most likely to fly a bit farther from the nest, as were those with wealthier parents.
77. Finland is the happiest country in the world for the fifth year running.
Finland was named the world’s happiest country for the fifth year in a row, per the United Nations’ 2022 World Happiness Report. Nordic nations dominated in general, with Denmark, Iceland, Sweden, and Norway also making the top 10.
78. But Switzerland is the “best country.”
U.S. News and World Report released its official 2022 rankings for best countries, and the top spot this year went to Switzerland. The rankings are based on 73 country attributes across 10 subrankings: Quality of life, Entrepreneurship, Agility, Social Purpose, Movers, Cultural Influence, Open for Business, Adventure, Power, and Heritage. Switzerland apparently knocked it out of the park, with high rankings across the board.
79. Icelandic horses will write your out-of-office message.
Iceland wanted to make travelers feel better about taking their PTO this year, so the country recruited some horses to help. For the “OutHorse Your Email” campaign, Visit Iceland built a giant, functional keyboard that horses could step on—excuse me, type on. Anyone could sign up for the Out of Office email service by submitting their name, email, and the dates of their vacation through an online form. The body of the automated message consists mostly of nonsense “written” by the horse of their choice—a good reminder that we should all probably take our away messages a little less seriously.
80. The most commonly leaked password is 123456.
And if you want to make your email password easy enough for a horse to guess, set it as 123456. According to an analysis by mobile security software company Lookout, that’s the password most commonly leaked on the dark web. It’s followed by 123456789, Qwerty, Password, and 12345. Also in the top 20 were DEFAULT, 0, and Iloveyou. Aww. But also: Change your password.
81. Victorians ghosted each other, too.
As part of a joint project to spotlight encrypted Victorian newspaper ads, Mental Floss contributor A.J. Jacobs helped crack the codes on a bunch of messages sent between lovers. One leading theme, as he told us earlier this year, was “WRITE ME BACK! Please! I haven’t heard from you and am freaking out.” A different kind of Victorian ghost story.
82. King Charles III used to write 2400 letters a year.
King Charles III has always been busy, even before he became king this September after the death of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II. During a financial briefing in June, it was revealed that the then-prince wrote more than 2400 letters a year. The letters were a mix of official business, like correspondence with various heads of state, as well as responses to the many members of the public who wrote to him.
83. A cipher linked to Katherine of Aragon may have been decoded.
Elsewhere in royal communication news, the British Museum has a curious collection of ciphers related to King Henry VIII. They’re all contained within sketches of jewelry and other decorations that were commissioned from the court painter, Hans Holbein. Vanessa Braganza, a Ph.D. candidate at Harvard and a contributor to Mental Floss, may have cracked the code for one of them. According to her research, one mysterious cipher spells HENRICVS REX (which means Henry the King) and KATHERINE.
Based on the time Holbein was at court, Braganza believes that the Katherine in question is Katherine of Aragon—the king’s first wife (and the first of three named Katherine). In that case, it means the design was likely created around the time Henry VIII was trying to ditch Katherine for Anne Boleyn. So Braganza theorized that it was Katherine, not the king, who commissioned the pendant, maybe as a way of asserting her place as the true queen.
84. Newly revealed letters show that Charles Dickens had a diva streak.
In August, a batch of personal letters written by Charles Dickens was publicly displayed for the first time. And they showed that the popular Victorian author had some pretty diva-like tendencies. In one, he ended a dinner invitation with a hefty flair of drama: “Say ‘no’ and I never forgive you.” In another, he complained about his town considering ending their Sunday postal service, and even threatened to leave over it. He wrote: “I should be so hampered by the proposed restriction that I think it would force me to sell my property here, and leave this part of the country.”
85. A tiny book by Charlotte Brontë was rediscovered.
This year, an unpublished book penned by Charlotte Brontë was rediscovered and put up for auction. Last seen more than 100 years ago, when it was bought at auction for $520, the tiny volume is smaller than a playing card and titled A Book of Rhymes by Charlotte Bronte, Sold by Nobody, and Printed by Herself. Inside are 10 poems written when Brontë was around 13 years old. The future Jane Eyre author kept it humble, writing that “The following are attempts at rhyming of an inferior nature it must be acknowledged but they are nevertheless my best.”
The book sold for $1.25 million to Friends of the National Libraries and was donated to the Brontë Parsonage Museum in Yorkshire. Chief curator Ann Dinsdale told The New York Times that “It is always emotional when an item belonging to the Brontë family is returned home and this final little book coming back to the place where it was written after being thought lost is very special for us.”
86. People will get really angry if you give Persuasion the Fleabag treatment.
This year we also found out how irritated Jane Austen fans will become when an adaptation strays too far from the source material. The Fleabag-ification of Netflix’s Persuasion adaptation—which included lines delivered to camera like “Now we’re worse than exes. We’re friends”—caused an uproar among Janeites, and critics weren't much kinder: As Constance Grady at Vox put it, “As an adaptation of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, it’s a disaster. Where Austen’s original is devastating in its restraint, this film is broad in its humor, shallow in its emotions, and ham-fisted in its characterization.” Ouch.
87. Truman Capote got fired from his position as a copy boy at the New Yorker—and Robert Frost may have been to blame.
Long before he found acclaim with works like Breakfast at Tiffany's and In Cold Blood, Truman Capote was just a lowly copy boy at The New Yorker. That is, until he ran afoul of Robert Frost and ended up in the celebrated poet's proverbial burn book. Accounts differ over how it all actually went down, but most agree that the offending incident took place in 1944 during Vermont’s annual Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. During Frost’s reading, Capote—either because of a fever or a pesky bug bite—ended up bent over and tried to sneak out. In response, Frost hurled a book at him. Capote claimed the flying literature struck him in certain retellings, while other times he claimed it didn’t. In some versions of the story, Frost proceeded to write a scathing letter to The New Yorker’s then editor-in-chief, who promptly fired the copy boy and future bestselling author.
88. A ghoulish group broke the world record for largest gathering of people dressed as vampires.
On May 26, 1369 people dressed as vampires convened at Whitby Abbey to celebrate the 125th anniversary of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The 13th-century monastery was an inspiration for the book. The event broke the Guinness World Record for largest gathering of people dressed as vampires; the previous mark was 1039. On the list of things that I personally learned this year: That there’s a Guinness World Record for largest gathering of people dressed as vampires.
89. The Brooklyn Public Library gave out free library cards to combat book banning.
In 2021, 1597 books were banned from libraries, schools, and universities, according to the American Library Association. This marked the highest number of attempted book bans in two decades. This year, in response, the Brooklyn Public Library launched their Books Unbanned initiative to help young people “read what they like, discover themselves, and form their own opinions.” This initiative allowed teens outside the state of New York to apply for free digital Brooklyn Public Library cards for the first time.
90. A California librarian found a lot of weird stuff in library books.
In physical library book news, we learned that some people use weird stuff as makeshift bookmarks. Sharon McKellar, a librarian at Oakland Public Library in California, is maintaining a digital repository of things left and then found in returned books. Dubbed Found in a Library Book, it’s a fascinating compilation: class photos, vintage vacation snaps, and some interesting illustrations courtesy of younger visitors. “Robot Daddy” is what it sounds like. “Mr. Poopy-Loopy Stinky Butt,” an epic (if rather crude) graphic novel, could be the beginning of an incredible film franchise.
91. There are way more ants on Earth than previously thought.
In a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers at the University of Hong Kong analyzed previous estimates of the planet’s population of ants, which encompassed all continents, biomes, and habitats. They came up with a count of 20 quadrillion ants on Earth, or roughly 12 megatons of dry carbon, about the same as 63,000 blue whales. Knowing how many ants share the planet with us is important for scientists to gauge the health of ecosystems and the species that call them home.
92. Internet misinformation is giving spiders a bad rap.
Fake news reaches some pretty far-flung corners—even those cobwebby ones in your attic. According to a study published in the journal Current Biology, internet misinformation is making spiders out to be much scarier than they really are.
After analyzing more than 5300 news articles published between 2010 and 2020 involving “spider–human interactions,” researchers found that 43 percent of them featured sensationalist language: Terms like nightmare, panic, murderer, and devil. Nearly half of all the stories contained actual errors. For instance, an article could include a photo of a spider that’s much bigger, hairier, and more dangerous than the one being discussed.
A misguided arachnid aversion can cause people to make some very poor choices in trying to keep their properties spider-free. On at least a few occasions, including two separate incidents in California, men have set their houses on fire while using blow torches to clear out spiderwebs. Um … don’t do that.
93. Over 14 percent of the world’s population has contracted Lyme disease.
Lyme disease may be more pervasive than previously believed. A meta-analysis found that out of 158,000 study participants, roughly 14.5 percent had contracted the tick-borne illness at some point in their lives. The numbers were highest in Central Europe, where one-fifth of the subjects had antibodies from the infection. Take that as a reminder to always check yourself for ticks after going for a hike—or, perhaps, anytime you leave the house.
94. Microscopic lung robots are in the works.
Microscopic robots that swim into your lungs and cure pneumonia sound like something out of a sci-fi novel, but this year we learned that we may be getting closer to that reality. Engineers from the University of California San Diego tested their microbots in mice lungs, helping the test subjects achieve a 100 percent survival rate from a particularly dangerous pneumonia-causing bacteria. Even cooler: the tiny robots are made of algae cells.
95. A chess robot broke a 7-year-old’s finger.
During a chess tournament in Russia, a 7-year-old participant was playing opposite some artificial intelligence that had a mechanical arm for making moves on a physical chess board. Instead of grabbing a game piece, the arm pinched the kid’s finger and broke it. Isaac Asimov tried to warn us this could happen. Sort of. Organizers of the event were quick to deny responsibility, saying the finger-snapping menace was being rented and even speculated the boy may have been rushing the robot.
96. A wild chess-cheating accusation was made.
That robot malfunction wasn’t the most outlandish chess controversy of the year. When World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen abruptly resigned near the start of a game against Hans Niemann in September, people immediately began speculating that the move was a response to allegations that Niemann had cheated in previous matches. A week later, Carlsen seemed to confirm those rumors in a statement, saying “I believe that Niemann has cheated more—and more recently—than he has publicly admitted.”
The most ridiculous chapter of the saga—which is very much still unresolved—developed, in part, on Reddit. Some users there speculated that Niemann might have used a remotely controlled vibrating sex toy to receive illicit, computer-generated chess tips during matches. This speculation is completely unsubstantiated. For his part, Niemann refuted the accusations, saying, “If they want me to strip fully naked, I’ll do it.”
97. Reusable contact lenses may be germier than disposable ones.
We learned of a risk associated with reusable contact lenses, thanks to a study led by scientists at the University College London and Moorfields Eye Hospital. A specific type of corneal infection is almost four times more likely in reusable contact wearers, compared to their disposable-lens-wearing counterparts. You don’t have to throw out your reusable contacts just yet—the condition still only affects less than 1 in 20,000 contact-users in the UK each year. But if you do favor reusable contacts, it may be worth devoting a bit more attention to proper hygiene—including washing your hands before switching out your contacts and avoiding water (like pools and the ocean) while your contacts are in.
98. A possible new “world’s heaviest potato” turned out to be a gourd.
The purported world’s heaviest potato just took a DNA test. Turns out, it’s 100 percent not a potato.
When New Zealander Colin Craig-Brown dug up a knobbly mass in his garden during the summer of 2021, he said this: “Holy snapping turtle teeth, what’s going on here?”
What he thought was going on was that he’d just unearthed a new Guinness World Record winner. The world’s current heaviest potato weighed just shy of 11 pounds. Craig-Brown’s challenger—named “Doug” for obvious reasons—tipped the scales at 17.4.
But after running tests on the potential tater earlier this year, Guinness World Records determined that it wasn’t a potato at all, but “the tuber of a type of gourd.” Though the Craig-Browns had never planted gourds, they had tried growing hybridized cucumbers—and they guessed that these may have once been crossbred with gourds.
99. We found out what Ryan Gosling’s Ken looks like.
Finally, 2022 was a big year for Barbie fans. Not only did we get a sneak-peak into the Greta Gerwig Barbie movie, but Mattel also released some new dolls for their Inspiring Women collection. An Ida B. Wells doll was released in January, and Jane Goodall got the Barbie treatment in July.
100. Madam C.J. Walker got the Barbie treatment.
The latest addition to this collection is Madam C.J. Walker, often credited as America’s first female self-made millionaire. The doll was designed with the help of Walker’s own great-great granddaughter, A’Lelia Bundles. According to Bundles, “[Mattel’s] design team graciously welcomed me throughout all steps of the process—from hair development to packaging—to capture and celebrate the legacy of this trailblazing Black businesswoman … I can’t wait for a new generation to be inspired by her story and to tell their own stories through a role model who came before them.”