The Wonderful World of Completely Random Facts — Issue 12

Daniel Ganninger
Apr 19 · 5 min read

Third Place in Nuclear Weapons

France has the 3rd largest stockpile of nuclear weapons in the world, behind Russia and the US. France has 300 nuclear warheads, just in front of the United Kingdom with 225 warheads. This pales in comparison to the numbers of the US at 4,804 warheads and Russia with 4,480 warheads, however. At its peak, France had over 500 nuclear warheads in 1991–92, while the US in the 1960s and Russia in the 1980s had over 30,000 nuclear warheads at their peaks. France started its nuclear program in the 1960s in response to the Suez crisis and the escalating Cold War. At least it seems everyone is going in the right direction since those peaks — down.

A Weather Event That Occurs Mostly in the United States

There is a weather phenomenon that occurs in the United States more than anywhere else on Earth. The US experiences about 75% of the world’s tornadoes. A tornado, of course, is a rotating column of air that moves very fast. It occurs because of a difference in pressure. At the center of a tornado is very low pressure, and at its edge is high pressure. This pressure difference between the two gives it incredible speed. A tornado that doesn’t reach the ground is called a funnel cloud, and a tornado that develops over water is called a waterspout.

A tornado’s intensity and strength are measured after it has done its damage. This is determined using the Enhanced Fujita Scale (EF). There are six categories to the EF Scale. EF0 has wind speeds up to 85 mph, while the strongest, EF5, has wind speeds at over 200 mph. In addition, there are three types of tornadoes-weak, strong, and violent. These are based on the damage the tornado has caused and how long it lasts.

Weak tornadoes are usually less than ten minutes and would be an EF0 or EF1. The majority of tornadoes are in this category. Strong tornadoes go 20 minutes or longer and are usually in the EF3 category. Violent tornadoes are the most deadly and have wind speeds greater than 205 mph, and can last over an hour. They’re in the EF4 and EF5 categories. Most of the tornadoes that occur in the US happen in the central part of the country, affectionately known as Tornado Alley.

Kontizas Dimitrios/Wikimedia

Where did Base Jumping Come From?

Base jumping is actually BASE jumping, an acronym referring to four categories of fixed objects from which one can jump — building, antenna, span, and Earth. The term was originally used by Carl Boenish in the late 1970s when he and another group of men began jumping and filming jumps made off El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. When a jumper has completed all four categories, they receive a BASE number. The system began in 1981 with Phil Smith being BASE #1, Phil Mayfield BASE #2, Jean Boenish BASE #3, and Carl Boenish BASE #4. These four are considered the pioneers in base jumping. There are currently over 2,000 people with a BASE number, and 402 have perished while BASE jumping as of March 2021.

A Rough Opening Day

A 1997 comedy movie called “Trojan War” was made for $15 million but only made $309 in ticket sales. What the movie is about hardly matters, but you can probably deduce from the title what product they were referring to. It has absolutely nothing to do with the Trojan War or Helen of Troy, by the way. While other movies have made even less at the box office than this one, the amazing aspect is its budget of $15 million. It was seen in one theater for one week and then pulled. We can only fathom a guess why. Did you see it? I doubt you did.

The First Vending Machine

The world’s first vending machine dispensed holy water in the first century AD. It was the work of Hero of Alexandria, an engineer and mathematician. When a person inserted a coin in the machine in a slot at the top, it hit a metal lever. This would open a plug attached from a line on the other end of the lever due to the weight of the coin. A certain amount of holy water was then dispensed. When the coin dropped off, a counterweight caused the plug to be reinserted, and the flow stopped. Simple and effective.

Why the need for a holy water dispensing machine? According to John Humphrey, a Greek and Roman studies professor at the University of Calgary, from an article in Smithsonian Magazine, the machine was made “because people were taking more Holy Water than they were paying for.”

Come back again for more Completely Random Facts here on Fact World. For more fun fact articles, travel on over to Knowledge Stew here on Medium.

Fact World

A Wonderful World of Completely Random Facts by Knowledge Stew

Daniel Ganninger

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The writer, editor, and chief lackey of Knowledge Stew and the Knowledge Stew line of trivia books. Connect at and

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