Duh! to #mindblown: 50 fascinating fun facts

It’s been said that with knowledge comes power — and what better time than the end of one year to boost your knowledge and power your way into a new one?

We’re here to help.

Global News presents an exhaustively researched but completely random collection of fun facts, useless trivia and other things that make you go “hmmmm.”

Use what you are about to learn all year round to enlighten, bewilder and befuddle your friends and loved ones. But, for goodness sake, use this newfound knowledge in small doses. No one likes a know-it-all.

Here, in absolutely no rational order, are 50 things our crack team of researchers (you mean just you? – ed.) found fascinating. Some of these facts will make you say “Duh! I knew that!” and some will leave you thinking “hashtag mind blown!”

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• Beer was a soft drink in Russia until 2013. In 2011, president Dmitry Medvedev signed a law that made beer an alcoholic beverage, allowing the government to control its sale and consumption. (Previously anything with less than 10 per cent alcohol was not regulated.) The law came into effect on Jan. 1, 2013.

• IKEA is Dutch. Although marketed as Swedish, the furniture chain is operated by INGKA Holding, which is headquartered in Leiden, Netherlands. The IKEA trademark and concept is owned by Inter IKEA Systems, a separate Dutch company owned by Luxembourg-based Inter IKEA Holding.

• If you write “umop apisdn” it will spell “upside down” when viewed upside down. Go ahead, try it. We’ll wait.

• Duncan Hines was a real man (he died in 1959 at the age of 78) and Chef Boyardee was named for founder Ettore Boiardi, but Betty Crocker, Uncle Ben and Aunt Jemima were only characters.

• Tom Cruise lived in Ottawa for three years beginning in 1971. Then known as Thomas Mapother, he lived in the Beacon Hill community and attended Grades 4 and 5 at Robert Hopkins Elementary School and Grade 6 at Henry Munro Middle School.

Tom Cruise, pictured in Toronto in 2014. Darren Calabrese / The Canadian Press

• It’s well known that Neil Armstrong was the first man to walk on the moon — but who was the last? His name is Eugene Cernan. The commander of the Apollo 17 mission stepped off the surface and into a lunar module in 1972. Cernan is now 80.

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• UK-based Unilever promotes realistic body images in its Dove “Campaign for Real Beauty” commercials but uses skinny female models to promote its Axe line of products to men. But wait, it gets better: Unilever owns ice cream brands Ben & Jerry’s, Klondike, Popsicle and Breyers — and also owns Slim-Fast.

A scene from an Axe commercial.

• Estelle Getty played Bea Arthur’s mother on The Golden Girls. Arthur was 14 months older than Getty.

• Your eyewear is Italian. Luxottica, based in Milan, controls most of the manufacturing and sale of eyewear. It owns LensCrafters, Pearle Vision, Sunglass Hut, Sears Optical and Target Optical as well as Ray-Ban and Oakley. The company also holds licenses to make virtually all designer eyewear, including brands like Chanel, Prada, Dolce & Gabbana, Burberry and Versace.

• The sorcerer in Disney’s 1940 film Fantasia is named Yen Sid, which is “Disney” spelled backwards.

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• The song “You’re a Mean One, Mr Grinch” was performed in the 1966 cartoon How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Thurl Ravenscroft — who was the voice of Tony the Tiger in those Frosted Flakes commercials.

• Strawberries are not berries (but bananas and watermelons are). Oh, and peanuts are not nuts (they’re legumes).

• It’s impossible to hum while holding your nose. (You’re trying it now, aren’t you?)

• Harvey’s does not use 100 per cent ground beef in its burgers. According to the fast food chain’s parent company, Cara Operations Ltd., a Harvey’s original hamburger patty is made of: beef, water, toasted wheat crumbs, salt, wheat flour, modified milk ingredients, hydrolyzed plant protein, onion powder, spices, sugar, dextrose, yeast extract and garlic powder. Harvey’s competitors McDonalds, Wendy’s and Burger King all use 100 per cent ground beef.

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• A normal piece of dry paper can’t be folded more than seven times.

• Barry Manilow did not, in fact, write his 1975 hit “I Write the Songs.” It was written by Bruce Johnston of The Beach Boys.

• Marriott hotels are owned by Mormons. The Marriott hotel chain (which includes brands like Ritz-Carlton and JW Marriott) is owned by Marriott International Inc. The company was founded by Mormon missionaries in 1927 and remains in the Marriott family (Bill Marriott is executive chair). The Mormon Church relies on tithing — in which followers pay 10 per cent of their income to the Church.

• Ride the subway, ingest human skin. According to research by biologists at the University of Colorado, published in 2013, about 15 per cent of air samples taken from several New York City subway platforms consisted of human skin.

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• The first character to speak in 1977’s Star Wars is C3PO.

• On the TV series Gilligan’s Island, the Professor’s name was Roy Hinkley and the Skipper’s name was Jonas Grumby. Their names were only used in the first episode. Gilligan’s full name was never made clear.

• Humans and spider monkeys are the only primates that do not have a baculum — a bone in the penis.

Superman was co-created by Canadian artist Joseph Shuster. Born in Toronto, he is a cousin of Frank Shuster, one-half of the beloved Canadian comedy duo Wayne and Shuster. Joseph passed away in 1992 at the age of 78.

• Forty is the only number whose letters appear in alphabetical order.

• The Star Trek theme has lyrics. Star Trek creator Gene Rodenberry exercised an option to write lyrics for composer Alexander Courage’s instrumental theme because he wanted half of the royalties. The lyrics were never used on the TV series.

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• If you buy bread from any supermarket in the Loblaw Companies Ltd. collection of stores, there’s a good chance you’re buying bread from its parent company, George Weston Ltd. The company makes such bread brands as Country Harvest, D’Italiano, Wonder, Weight Watchers and Gadoua. It also owns ACE Bakery. It’s interesting to note, though, that Holts Cafés — located inside select Holt Renfrew stores (the retailer is owned by Loblaw’s Galen Weston) — serves sandwiches made with Poilâne bread that it imports from France.

• German Chocolate Cake is not German. It got its name from Sam German, who came up with a specific type of chocolate in 1852 for the Baker’s Chocolate Company.

• Wayne Gretzky was babysitting Robin Thicke when he found out he was traded from the Edmonton Oilers to the L.A. Kings.

Robin Thicke appears on Global’s The Morning Show. John R. Kennedy / Global News

• Ripley’s Aquariums in Toronto, Gatlinburg, TN and Myrtle Beach, SC are owned by the B.C.-based Jim Pattison Group, which also owns fish processing company Canfisco and the Gold Seal and Ocean’s brands.

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• The winner of America’s Got Talent does not, in fact, get a million dollars. The grand prize is actually “payable in a financial annuity over 40 years, or the contestant may choose to receive the present cash value of such annuity.” This means the winner can choose to get $25,000 a year for the next 40 years or take a lump sum of about $400,000 — all before taxes, of course.

• The “YKK” on your zippers stands for “Yoshida Kōgyō Kabushiki Kaisha,” which is Japanese for “Yoshida Manufacturing Shareholding Company.” It is the world’s leading maker of zippers.

• Both federal Liberal leader Justin Trudeau and his brother Alexandre Trudeau were born on Christmas Day (in 1971 and 1973 respectively). If he is elected prime minister, Justin will be the first one who was born in Ottawa.

• Singer Justin Bieber and actors Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams were all born at the same hospital in London, Ont.

Justin Bieber, pictured in December 2013. Getty Images

• New York Fries and Boston Pizza are Canadian. Based in Ontario, New York Fries operates in Canada as well as South Korea, the UAE, Bahrain, Hong Kong and Turkey — but not in New York. Boston Pizza, based in Alberta, operates only in Canada but has franchises called simply Boston’s: The Gourmet Pizza in the U.S. and Mexico.

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• In her two-year run at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Canadian singer Shania Twain performed 105 shows for a total of 337,500 people.

• The fear of snow is called chionophobia.

• American Apparel was founded in Montreal in 1989 by local entrepreneur Dov Charney. The retail chain was often promoted in Canada as “a majority-owned Canadian company.” Charney was terminated as CEO this year.

• You know famous twins Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen and Canada’s Shawn and Aaron Ashmore. But there are many other stars who have twin siblings. Among them are Scarlett Johansson (brother Hunter), Ashton Kutcher (brother Michael), Alanis Morissette (brother Wade), Kiefer Sutherland (sister Rachel) and Vin Diesel (brother Paul).

Ashton Kutcher, right, with his twin brother Michael. Getty Images

• No where in the nursery rhyme does it specify that Humpty Dumpty is an egg.

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• Adidas and Puma were founded by brothers Adolf Dassler and Rudolph Dassler — both one-time members of the Nazi Party. Adidas (which also owns Reebok and Rockport) and Puma remain based in Germany — although Puma is now owned by the same French company that owns luxury brands like Gucci, Balenciaga and Brioni. (Its chairman, François-Henri Pinault, is married to actress Salma Hayek.)

• The only continent without an active volcano is Australia. There are 21 volcanoes in Canada and 71 in the U.S. but don’t worry, only two have erupted since the beginning of the 20th century — California’s Lassen in 1915 and Washington’s Mount St. Helen’s in 1980.

• Legendary baseball player Babe Ruth hit his first professional home run on Sept. 5, 1914 in Toronto. Ruth was playing for the Providence Grays in a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs baseball club at Hanlan’s Point Stadium.

• “Alaska” is the only state that can be typed using only one row on your computer keyboard.

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• Contrary to common belief, Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) never said “Play it again, Sam” in the movie Casablanca, Darth Vader never said “Luke, I am your father” in The Empire Strikes Back, and Captain Kirk (William Shatner) never uttered “Beam me up, Scotty” in the TV series Star Trek.

• Amy Winehouse, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrisson, Brian Jones (of Rolling Stones), and Kurt Cobain were 27 years old when they died.

• On The Simpsons, Homer, Marge, Lisa and Maggie got their names from creator Matt Groening’s real-life parents and sisters.

• For many years, the Guinness Book of World Records erroneously named Toronto’s Yonge Street as the longest street in the world, stretching 1,896 kilometres north from Lake Ontario. In fact, Yonge Street is only 56 kilometres long.

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• Stacy Ferguson, better known as pop star Fergie, was the voice of Charlie Brown’s sister Sally on The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show in 1985.

• The letter “a” does not appear in the spelling of any numbers from one to 999.

• Kashi is owned by Kellogg’s and marketed as a “natural” alternative. But Kellogg’s admitted in 2012 that Kashi uses genetically-engineered, non-organic ingredients. “The Food and Drug Administration has chosen not to regulate the term ‘natural,'” reasoned spokesperson David DeSouza, who vowed Kashi products will contain “at least 70 per cent USDA organic certified ingredients” by 2015.

• The king of hearts is the only king in a deck of standard playing cards who does not have a moustache.

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