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16 Facts That Will Warp Your Perception of Time

Compared to the amount of time the universe, or even life, has been around, humans really haven't been around for that long. Don't believe us? Read on.

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president john tyler

The 10th President of the United States…

…has living grandchildren. John Tyler was born in 1790 and was inaugurated as president in 1841. He had children with his second wife pretty late in his life, including a son, Lyon Gardiner Tyler, who was born in 1853. Lyon also had children in his later years: Lyon Tyler Jr. was born in 1924 and Harrison Tyler was born in 1928. Both are still alive today. Here are some more surprising facts about U.S. presidents.

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Maudie Celia Hopkins

The last American Civil War widow…

…passed away only ten years ago. Maudie Hopkins was born in 1914, long after the end of the Civil War, but she married a man 67 years her senior. His name was William M. Cantrell, and he had fought for the Confederacy. He died in 1937. Hopkins lived to be 93 and passed away in 2008.

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printing press_weird time facts
goran cakmazovic/Shutterstock

When the first printing press was invented…

…the Roman Empire still existed. Johannes Gutenberg began work on the device that would revolutionize publishing in the late 1430s. The first printing press was completed in 1440. The Roman Empire, meanwhile, was not dissolved until 1453. This was the year when the Ottoman Empire conquered Constantinople, the capital of the Eastern Roman (or Byzantine) Empire—only two years before the mass production of the Gutenberg Bible began.

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guillotine_weird time facts

The last criminal execution by guillotine in France…

…occurred the year the first Star Wars movie was released. The execution of Hamida Djandoubi, who was convicted of killing his girlfriend, on September 10, 1977, marked the final time a criminal was officially executed by guillotine in France. Three-and-a-half months previously, Star Wars: Episode IV (then just called Star Wars) had hit theaters. Then, learn some fascinating facts about things that will happen in the next minute.

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queen elizabeth greets president obama

During her reign, Queen Elizabeth II…

…has seen 13 different American presidents. She was crowned Queen in 1952, during the presidency of Harry Truman, the 33rd president. And that’s during her reign alone. She’s been alive for 16 presidents, since she was born in 1926, during the presidency of Calvin Coolidge.

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wright brothers_weird time facts
Everett Historical/Shutterstock

The New York Times predicted that humans wouldn’t be able to fly for at least a million years…

…in 1903, the same year that the Wright Brothers would later fly their plane. The New York Times commented on a disastrous failed flight attempt by a man named Samuel Pierpont Langley. In October 1903, in an editorial called “Flying Machines Which Do Not Fly,” the Times made this now-infamous declaration: “the flying machine which will really fly might be evolved by the combined and continuous efforts of mathematicians and mechanicians in from one million to ten million years.” More like one to ten weeks. In December of that very year, the Wright Brothers launched their first successful flights in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Curious to know more about the other 49 states? Here are some state facts that everyone gets wrong.

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wrigley field
Kathryn Seckman Kirsch/shutterstock

Before their win in 2016, the last time the Chicago Cubs won the World Series…


…the Ottoman Empire still existed. The last time this team won the world series before their historic 2016 win, they actually set a pretty impressive record. The Cubs became the first team to win two World Series. Of course, it would then be 108 years until they would win again. Their two previous wins were in 1907 and 1908. The Ottoman Empire, meanwhile, lasted until 1922, when it was replaced by the Turkish Republic.

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oxford_weird time facts

Oxford University has been around…

…longer than the Aztecs—much longer. Oxford is the oldest university in the English-speaking world. The Aztecs founded the city of Tenochtitlán, which would become the heart of their empire, in 1325. People were teaching at Oxford as long ago as 1096. The “Ancient Aztecs” may not seem so ancient anymore. Learn the truth about more science and history facts that everyone gets wrong.

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harvard_weird time facts
Jon Bilous/Shutterstock

Harvard University has been around…

…since before Sir Isaac Newton published his Laws of Motion. Professors at this prestigious Boston university have been teaching science since before scientists knew that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. The university was founded in 1636, making it the oldest higher learning institution in the United States. Newton, meanwhile, published his Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica, containing his Laws of Motion, in 1687.

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eiffel tower_weird time facts
Viacheslav Lopatin/Shutterstock

The Eiffel Tower was opened to the public…

…the same year as Nintendo was founded. Construction of the Eiffel Tower took place from 1887 until 1889. In March of the latter year, the monument became open to the public as part of a celebration honoring 100 years since the French Revolution. The year Fusajiro Yamauchi founded Nintendo (albeit as a playing card company) in Kyoto, Japan: 1889. We bet you didn’t know these other facts about the Earth either.

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constitution_weird time facts
Billion Photos/Shutterstock

The oldest living person in the United States…

…was born closer to the date the Constitution became effective than to today. Delphine Gibson is 114 years and six months old (as of February 17, 2018), and she currently lives in Pennsylvania. She was born on August 17, 1903, 114 years and five months after the United States Constitution took effect on March 4, 1789. As of January 2018, Gibson has been alive longer than the time between the date the Constitution took effect and her date of birth. Here are some other surprising facts about America.

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pyramids_weird time facts
Dudarev Mikhail/Shutterstock

When the Great Pyramids of Giza were being built…

…woolly mammoths were still living. You might lump woolly mammoths together with dinosaurs, as extinct animals that were around ages ago. But the tusked pachyderm ancestor actually shared the globe with humans. The last population of mammoths lived on Wrangel Island, located off the coast of Russia in the Arctic Ocean, and didn’t go completely extinct until around 2000 BC. Construction of the Great Pyramid of Giza took place hundreds of years before that, from 2580 to 2560 BC.

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fax machine_weird time facts
Piyapong Wongkam/Shutterstock

When the first fax machine was invented…

…people were still traveling the Oregon Trail. Today, when people joke about the fax machine being “old technology,” they probably don’t fully realize just how true that is. Covered wagons were heading out west in the mid-nineteenth century, with the first major wagon train hitting the trail in 1843. That same year, a Scottish inventor named Alexander Bain received a patent for a machine he’d developed called an “Electric Printing Telegraph.” This machine was the direct predecessor of the fax machines that were a staple of office buildings everywhere in the late twentieth century.

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dinos_weird time facts
jaroslava V/Shutterstock

Stegosauruses were older to Tyrannosaurus Rexes…

…than T. Rexes are to us. Yup, dinosaurs roamed the earth for way longer than you may have thought. The spiky-backed herbivore Stegosaurus thrived in the land that would become North America around 150 million years ago, in the late Jurassic period. It and the Tyrannosaurus Rex were far from contemporaries. According to Smithsonian, the bipedal predator didn’t rear its toothy head until about 80 million years later, in the Cretaceous period, approximately 67 million years before today. The Cretaceous period is the period that also saw the heyday of the velociraptor and the triceratops. So it seems Jurassic Park, a film featuring mostly Cretaceous dinos, is something of a misnomer. Find out about more science facts you never learned in school.

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whale_weird time fac

There are most likely whales alive today…

…that have been alive since before Moby-Dick was published. Bowhead whales can live for over 200 years, one of the longest lifespans for any species of mammal. Moby-Dick was published in 1851, 167 years ago. Some whales born before this novel was released probably still have a good three decades of life left.

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pluto_weird time facts
Vadim Sadovski/Shutterstock

From the time Pluto was discovered until the time Pluto lost its planet status…

…it didn’t even complete one orbit around the sun. Poor, poor Pluto. The tiny demoted planet was discovered, and named an official planet, in 1930. Its status was downgraded to that of “dwarf planet” in 2006, 76 years later. The amount of time it takes Pluto to revolve fully around the sun? 248 Earth years. So not only did Pluto not complete an orbit around the sun during its time of planethood, it won’t complete one until well into the next century. The year 2178, to be exact. Want to learn more wacky trivia? Check out these surprising facts about…well, just about everything.

[Sources: Cracked.com, Buzzfeed, Vsauce]

Meghan Jones
Meghan Jones is a word nerd who has been writing for RD.com since 2017. You can find her byline on pieces about grammar, fun facts, the meanings of various head-scratching words and phrases, and more. Meghan graduated from Marist College with a Bachelor of Arts in English in 2017; her creative nonfiction piece “Anticipation” was published in the Spring 2017 issue of Angles literary magazine.