Most Ridiculous Facts About America
America is known for quite a few things worldwide: the sheer size and economic power of the place, diverse landscapes, cultural melting pots, some of the best food anywhere, insane politics and a heaping dose of patriotism.
Some of America’s claims to fame boil down to stereotypes or assumptions, but when you take a population of 328 million spread across nearly 3.8 million miles, sometimes the truth is going to be even stranger than the fiction.
These are the craziest, most ridiculous true facts about America and Americans, from fascinating facts about the country to the odd things Americans believe.
Two Percent of Americans Believe the World Is Flat
The Flat Earth theory has received heavy coverage, but believers are much scarcer than you might be inclined to think.
According to a 2018 YouGov poll, only 2 percent of Americans are absolutely convinced that the Earth is flat (and that every single organization on the globe plane has been trying to trick them, apparently).
The poll, which asked 8,125 U.S. adults the question that most kindergarteners could correctly answer, also found that 5 percent of people were a little skeptical about the planet's shape. Overall, only 84 percent of people said they always believed the world was round.
We Don’t All Talk at the Same Speed
From 2013 to 2015, the Marchex Institute studied more than four million phone calls placed from consumers nationwide. And it turns out, we don’t all speak at the same pace — not even by a long shot.
Depending on where you live, you either talk way faster or way slower than the national average. Oregon is the fastest-talking state, with its denizens saying six words for every five words those from the "slower" states, followed by Minnesota and Massachusetts.
On the flip side, the South talks the slowest, with Mississippians talking even slower than other neighboring states. Louisiana and South Carolina came in 49th and 48th with their Southern drawls.
It Costs 2 Cents to Make a Penny and 7.53 Cents to Make a Nickel
Every year, the U.S. government spends millions of dollars to mint coins that cost more to produce than they're worth.
In 2018, "taxpayers lost about $85.4 million from penny production and $33.5 million from nickel production" — $118.9 million combined, according to GovTrack Insider.
That's why the penny is being phased out of production. The last batch of pennies will be minted in 2023.
Decommissioned Russian Warheads Fuel Our Power Plants
Where does a tenth of the electricity Americans use come from? If you said "nuclear warheads from Russia," you’d be correct.
In the 1990s, Phillip G. Sewell, then working for the U.S. Department of Energy, was looking for ways to work with Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union. During his trip to Russia, he visited abandoned military facilities that stored thousands of decommissioned warheads.
Letting uranium sit around, unguarded, seemed like a bad idea. Sewell and the U.S. government eventually got Russia to agree to sell 500 tons of bomb-grade uranium since the country’s nuclear industry was in dire need of a funding boost.
According to NPR, the U.S. paid $17 billion for the nuclear material and the last shipment of bombs was shipped to the US in 2013, 20 years after the deal was made.
The Oldest Flag in the United States Says 'Conquer or Die'
There were flags in the United States used prior to the Revolutionary War, like the British Empire’s, but the very first American flag is the Bedford Flag. This flag was carried by the Bedford Minutemen of Bedford, Massachusetts, during the Battles of Lexington and Concord of 1775. Those battles were the first military battles of the Revolutionary War.
The flag is made of red silk and features a hand with a sword, three cannonballs and a gold ribbon inscribed with the Latin words "vince aut morire," meaning "conquer or die."
It isn't known exactly who made the flag and when, but it was made as early as 1720.
An American Built His Entire House Out of Newspaper
In 1922, Mr. Elis F. Stenman built his entire summer home out of newspaper — as a hobby.
At first, Stenman, the man who also designed the machine that makes paper clips, was first going to use newspaper just as good insulation, but then decided to make the entire house from it.
When he was done with that, he also made all of the intricate furniture inside from newspaper as well. The home is located in Rockport, Massachusetts, and you can visit it for a $2 admission. That's less than the cost of most newspapers.
Let's hope housing prices stabilize so we don't have to follow in Stenman's inky footprints.
One in Four Americans Believe the Sun Revolves Around the Earth
Think you were bad at astronomy? Even if you flunked that class, chances are you know that it's the Earth that revolves around the sun.
A whole 26 percent of people didn't know the answer when asked. The question came from a 2012 survey of 2,200 by the National Science Foundation, which released the report in 2014.
But in 2005, only 66 percent of Europeans answered the same question correctly.
There Are Two Towns With Only One Single Resident
Located 60 miles from the nearest Walmart, Monowi, a tiny village in Boyd County, Nebraska, has only a single resident: Elsie Eiler (pictured).
Now in her late 80s, Eiler has lived in the town for well over 20 years. Her husband, Rudy, died in 2004. He was the only other person living in the 0.21-square-mile town.
Elsie is the town's mayor, bartender and librarian. She maintains the Rudy Library, which contains 5,000 books. It was founded in memory of her late husband.
There's another town with only one resident, this one across the country. Hibberts Gore, Maine, is a 640-acre, unincorporated county with a single resident: Karen Keller.
Keller doesn't like attention. When people started to take notice of this curious little town and its single resident, Keller told the Sunday Salon, "These people from these big papers come. Why? What have I done? It’s a bunch of lines on a map. Nothing else. What have I accomplished? What have I ever done to make anyone’s life better? What good for the planet? What good for people? What good for anybody? Why? It’s hogwash. It’s a crock."
Americans Are as Likely To Believe in Bigfoot as in the Big Bang
While Americans don't believe that Bigfoot started the Big Bang (although it wouldn't surprise us), they're about as equal to believe in one or the other.
That's according to the 2014 Chapman University Survey on American Fears, which found that roughly 20 percent of Americans believed in the Big Bang. That's about on par with the number who believe in Bigfoot.
There's a Town Where Almost Everyone Lives Under One Roof
If a single-horse town seems too lonely, how about something a bit more claustrophobic? In the town of Whittier, Alaska, almost all of the village's 318 residents live in one building.
Sounds weird? Well, it is. You see, Whittier was once a military port during World War II, with a 14-story, 150-bedroom building named the Begich Tower. It was constructed in 1957 and used for housing military families. The town is only accessed through a one-lane mountain tunnel that closes at night, or by sea.
According to NPR, the brutal 60-mile-an-hour winds and harsh winters were one big reason why everyone sheltered under one roof. The Begich Tower includes a police station, a post office, a market, doctor's office, a convenience store and a church.
The United States of America Could Have Been the United States of Earth
Wisconsin congressman Lucas M. Miller served just one term in the House of Representatives, from 1891 to 1893. While there, he proposed renaming the country the United States of the Earth. And he was just a bit of an imperialist
Miller argued that renaming the country would make it so "it is possible for the Republic to grow through the admission of new States into the Union until every Nation on Earth has become part of it.''
Interestingly, the resolution also said that the "House and Senate would vote by electricity."
Almost One in Four Americans Don't Know Who the U.S. Declared Independence From
For most people, the Fourth of July is a day spent relaxing, watching fireworks, and maybe doing some barbecuing with a beer in hand. Most of us know why we're celebrating. Most of us.
According to a 2010 Marist poll, 20 percent of people polled had no idea who we were fighting during the American Revolutionary War. Some people guessed France, China, Mexico, Spain or Japan.
And another 6 percent polled were unaware that America had fought any kind of Independence War at all.
A Fast-Food Joint Is One of Our Biggest Employers
According to the best-selling 2014 book, "Fast Food Nation," McDonald's had 420,000 workers around the world, employing roughly one in eight people in America.
The burger chain has since significantly lost that number of workers, and now employs "only" 200,0000 people.
Americans Waste Up to 40 Percent of the Country's Food Supply Every Year
There's a lot of cheap food and a lot of choice in America, but that comes at a cost. Americans waste about 1.4 billion tons of food each year, or 30-40 percent of the nation's food supply.
That's about $161 billion worth of food, or $1,500 per person.
Hawaii and (Most of) Arizona Don’t Observe Daylight Saving Time
Daylight savings times is a weird concept. Some people believe it was invented by the Germans in World War I. Others think it was done by America to buy farmers more working hours. And National Geographic says it was actually George Hudson, an entomologist from New Zealand who devised the clock switching plan in 1895 to give him more bug hunting time.
But whether it was for farmers, Germans, or bugs, we all dutifully set our clocks back and then forward again every year. Right?
Nope. Arizona (mostly) and Hawaii don’t observe daylight savings, so while you jump forward into a disorienting fake time once a year, tourists drinking Mai Tais in Honolulu and baseball players training in Scottsdale don’t.
However, the Navajo Nation in northeastern Arizona does. Make sense?
Dallas and Fort Worth Have Become a Megaplex
American publications love to have people from other countries try to name U.S. states because the results are usually pretty funny. But they may have a hard time pinpointing locations because the spacing doesn’t always make a ton of sense.
Enter Dallas and Fort Worth, once two cities in North Texas, now just the namesake of "DFW" or simply, "The Metroplex."
Today, DFW comprises 13 entire counties and 10 cities. It’s larger than Connecticut and Rhode Island combined — stretching 9,286 miles.
Denver International Airport Is Bigger Than Miami, San Francisco and Manhattan
If you asked most people how they’d tier landmass sizes in the United States, they’d probably say that states are the biggest, followed by cities, towns, and then infrastructure and buildings.
But that isn’t how it works in America. The Denver Internal Airport, the largest airport in the nation, is bigger than the cities of Miami and San Francisco as well as the island of Manhattan. And that’s not even that big of a claim to fame, either.
The Dallas-Fort Worth Airport (the nation’s second largest) is located in two counties and four cities and is also bigger than Manhattan.
Vampires Exist? Perhaps, Say 13 Percent of Americans
Some people are suckers for a good story.
According to a YouGov survey of 1,293 adults, 13 percent of Americans believe in vampires. We're not sure if that's bloodsucking vampires like Dracula or energy vampires like Colin Robinson from "What We Do in the Shadows," but it certainly shows a good chunk of people believe in the ancient myth.
Likewise, 46 percent of people believe that demons, ghosts and other supernatural beings either "probably" or "definitely" exist.
Many Americans Believe in UFOs
Is the truth out there? A whole bunch of Americans seems to believe so, with 33 percent of American adults believing that Earth has been visited by aliens.
Most of the believers come from the West — home to Area 51 and many other UFO sightings — where about 40 percent of residents polled there by Gallup believe in UFOS. Sixteen percent of all those polled claimed to have personally seen a UFO. And another third of Americans believe that the government knows more about UFOs than it lets on.
But, hey, maybe there's a reason for that. Look at what one former president had to say about UFOs.
Kansas Wheat Could Feed Everyone in the World for Two Weeks
Kansas is the largest wheat producer in the U.S. And we do mean the largest.
The state produces enough wheat each year to feed at least six billion people for about two weeks, according to the National Association of Wheat Growers. That’s enough to bake roughly 36 billion loaves of bread.
Even a single acre of Kansas wheat produces enough to feed 9,000 people for a day.
You Can See Western Michigan’s Lavender Labyrinth on Google Earth
Sure, you can see a lot of massive famous architectural landmarks from Google Earth, but not very many garden paths.
That is, unless you’re looking at western Michigan. Cherry Point Farm in Shelby houses this massive, purple labyrinth. It takes about an hour to walk to the center and the entire thing is made up of French lavender. You can visit for free.
There's a Town in Pennsylvania That Has Been on Fire for Over 50 Years
In 1962, in the coal mining town of Centralia, Pennsylvania, a coal-seam fire broke out underground, causing the nearly 1,200 residents to evacuate.
But the fire has never been entirely put out. Today, the fire has been smoldering underground for more than 50 years. Above ground, Centralia has turned into a ghost town, with most of the homes and businesses are no longer standing.
As of 2017, five people still lived there.
Oklahoma Has an Official State Meal
Sure, lots of places in the world have an official food, but Oklahoma — a state famous for no particular regional dishes — has an entire state meal.
On the menu: barbecued pork, chicken fried steak, sausage with biscuits and gravy, fried okra, squash, grits, corn, black-eyed peas, cornbread, biscuits, pecan pie and strawberry pie.
We’re sure if you ate even half that, it would be your last meal, but the Oklahoma Historical Society says the expansive menu represents the "traditional foodways of the South."
Even stranger? Much of the menu didn’t originate in Oklahoma. Chicken fried steak and likely pecan pie comes from Texas. Cornbread likely started with Native Americans near Mexico and parts of the South. And biscuits and gravy got their start in Southern Appalachia.
Americans Eat 100 Acres of Pizza Each Day
In 1905, Lombardi's, the first pizzeria in North America, opened in New York City. About 45 years later, after World War II, pizza started to really become America's favorite, deliciously cheesy, meal. In the 1950s, frozen pizza was so invented, while Pizza Hut, Little Caesar and Domino's all opened by 1960.
Fast-forward to today, and Americans absolutely love pizza. It's quick, affordable, and when done right, absolutely fantastic. We love pizza so much that, according to one survey, the pizza industry serves about 100 acres of pizza each day. That's about 350 slices of pizza ordered each second, with the average American eating 23 pounds of pizza each year.
A Good Chunk of Americans Support the Bombing of a Fictional Country
In 2015, Public Policy Polling inserted a rather amusing question into an otherwise typical public opinion poll: "Would you support or oppose bombing Agrabah?”
Agrabah, for those unfamiliar, is the fictional city from Disney's "Aladdin."
The result? Thirty percent of Republicans and 19 percent of Democrats voted yes on bombing Jafar's kingdom off the map. Maybe they felt America could do better in the magic carpet market?