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  • France on Random Most Surprising Things We Learned In 2022

    (#5) France

    • Country

    "'Til death do us part" doesn't have to be the final word for every couple in France: The country's Civil Code permits marriage to someone who is deceased.

    The law became especially popular after WWI due to the high number of men who were slain during the conflict and left behind fiancees. The most current form of the law goes back to 1959, after the Malpasset Dam in Fréjus burst and 423 people lost their lives. The pregnant fiancee of one of the deceased petitioned to be allowed to marry her deceased fiance to ensure her child’s legitimacy. France's National Assembly then passed a law allowing the president to authorize such marriages if certain conditions are met, such as evidence of a couple’s intention to marry before the passing of one of the parties, and a serious need for establishing such a partnership. 

    The law is used about a few dozen times each year. In 2017, for example, a French citizen asked to marry his partner who was slain in a terrorist incident. The marriage date was recorded as the day before the partner perished. 

  • Dragonflies on Random Most Surprising Things We Learned In 2022

    (#4) Dragonflies

    • Book

    Dragonflies have a 95% success rate in killing their prey, making them the most successful predatory hunters on the planet. In comparison, cheetahs have a 58% success rate, and lions are successful only 25% of the time. 

    Dragonflies' slender bodies, long, transparent wings, and multifaceted eyes make the insects ideal hunters. They can fly at speeds up to 30 miles per hour, and their wingspan and design offer the predatory insects agility and mobility their prey lack. Dragonflies are also equipped with multiple lenses and a vast field of vision, with brainpower that is evolved enough to course-correct as soon as they lose sight of their prey.

    This is excellent news for humans because dragonflies' most probable targets are pesky summer insects people try to avoid, such as mosquitoes and flies.

  • Skittles Don't Have Different Flavors, They Have Different Fragrances on Random Most Surprising Things We Learned In 2022

    (#10) Skittles Don't Have Different Flavors, They Have Different Fragrances

    Contrary to clever advertising strategies, people who eat Skittles don't actually experience “tasting the rainbow” with an array of flavors. Instead, Skittles engineers manipulate candy lovers' senses with colors and scents. 

    Flavoring individual varieties of candy is more expensive than adding coloring and fragrance, and human brains often can't distinguish the difference. According to neuroscientist Don Katz

    Skittles have different fragrances and different colors, but they all taste exactly the same.

    Katz blindfolded taste testers to prove the hypothesis and required them to wear nose plugs. When the scientist fed single skittles to the participants, they could only guess the candy flavor around 50% of the time. According to Katz, this proved that Skittles eaters remained dubious about which "flavored" candy they ate when color and smell weren't differentiating factors. 

  • Lightning Can Absolutely Strike The Same Place Twice on Random Most Surprising Things We Learned In 2022

    (#17) Lightning Can Absolutely Strike The Same Place Twice

    It's highly likely that lightning will strike in the same place more than once, especially if it hits an exceptionally tall and protruding object. The Empire State Building, for example, is struck approximately 25 times a year. 

    Also, just because the sky is clear doesn't mean that outdoor enthusiasts should ignore warning signs of an impending storm. If you hear thunder, lightning is close enough to become a physical danger - even if there isn't a cloud in sight. 

  • Squirrels Can't Die From Falling on Random Most Surprising Things We Learned In 2022

    (#8) Squirrels Can't Die From Falling

    Many squirrel species are tree dwellers, so it's easy to assume that falling from their high-branched abodes would be an inherent danger. However, the fluffy-tailed rodents, which usually weigh from 1 to 1 ½ pounds, are genetically designed to survive an unexpected plunge toward the earth - no matter the elevation. 

    Squirrels are small and light, and their stretchy bodies and bushy tails create a significant drag in the air, allowing them to glide (to a degree) before they safely land on the ground after a leap or fall. Because squirrels reach a low terminal velocity after just a few seconds and maintain the fall speed regardless of their initial height, they can safely drop out of the stratosphere or a local oak tree at roughly the same rate. 

  • In The 18th Century, Powdered Wigs Were A Popular Way For The Elite To Hide Their Syphilis on Random Most Surprising Things We Learned In 2022

    (#11) In The 18th Century, Powdered Wigs Were A Popular Way For The Elite To Hide Their Syphilis

    In the second half of the 18th century, powdered wigs became a major status symbol for the ruling class. Syphilis was the main cause of these wigs coming into fashion, as the disease was rampant in Europe during the period and affected more Europeans than the plague.

    With the hairline being an important symbol of status for men at the time, the syphilitic side effect that caused patchy hair loss and the graying of one’s hair obviously was a large concern. Wigs became the easy (yet expensive) fix for hiding the hairline.

    Once King Louis XIV of France and his cousin King Charles II began wearing them, the fashion quickly caught on with other members of the ruling class, courtiers, and eventually merchants. The white powdered wigs eventually fell out of favor, replaced by individuals simply powdering their own natural hair instead.

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